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Soles of a Traveler

Posted on December 2nd, 2019

Dave!My boots and half of my Black Friday shopping spree bounty showed up today.

I have to say I'm more than a little sad to let my old boots go. I've literally been around the world in them (and the bottom of the world as well), so I am thinking of taking them to the local shoe shop to see if something can be done (they've been around these parts for 99 years!). With exception of the badly-worn soles they're in perfect shape and still look great. My new boots are nice too, I just think it's a genuine waste to toss out something if they can be repaired...

A photo of my new boots that look rugged in their forest green and balck... plus my old shoes which look nice except for the soles which are literally falling off the boot!

I gave up on wearing tennis shoes decades ago, much preferring a light hiking boot. They're more comfortable, easy to slip in and out of when you tie the laces low, and can be quickly laced up for those times you need good protection for your feet. For a traveler who can end up anywhere and everywhere they're everything I need. The last pair of non-dress-shoe shoes that I bought 25-30 years ago sit in my closet barely used.

As I mentioned, I had a few bucks left over from everything I was saving to buy, so I got a copy of the LEGO Jurassic World video game. I was surprised to see that when you order something LEGO, Amazon will put it in a cool LEGO Star Wars box...

An Amazon box with LEGO Darth Vader using The Force to lift LEGO bricks over a LEGO Stormtrooper!

An Amazon box with LEGO Darth Vader has imprisoned the LEGO Stormtrooper in a jail cell made of the LEGO bricks!

So clever!

In sadder news, the world received notice that BUB had passed.

She was such a sweet cat who faced a difficult life with an optimism that inspired a lot of people... and raised a lot of money and awareness for homeless pets. It was so very hard to follow along with her latest health crisis knowing that she was probably nearing her end... but, as always, she was doing her best to be happy and live her best life...

BUB the cat with her Dude... both when he got her in June of 2011 as a kitten, and before he lost her on December 1, 2019... she has a large growth on the side of her face that musy be painful, but she still looks happy!

I cannot fathom my life without Jake and Jenny, so my heart goes out to Mike Bridavsky and the loss he is suffering. I find it amazing how he was so dedicated to such a special cat, and grateful for the hundreds of thousands of dollars he worked tirelessly to raise in support of animals.

Rest in peace, BUB, you will be missed by a great many people.

   

In Blackest Friday

Posted on November 29th, 2019

Dave!And... my one shopping day of the year is here! Every month I put aside $100 for clothes and "other stuff" then wait until Black Friday to buy all the clothes and "other stuff" I need. $100 a month is quite a chunk of cash to not have in my pocket, but worth it when I end up with $1200 in November that magically becomes $2400 (or more!) on Black Friday thanks to all the sales and savings.

Below I refer to "Rakuten Cash Back" in a lot. Rakuten bought out eBates and have taken over their cashback operations. It's a pretty easy way to save even more money on Black Friday (or any other day) and you can sign up to get $10 right off the bat with my referral link right here.

And now? On with my Black Friday scores...

   
AKASO DASH CAM! • Reg. $66, Paid $38 (after Amazon cash back)
My previous dash cam was $20 and has lasted for four years before falling apart and going glitchy. As I mentioned, I am afraid to drive without one given how crazy distracted drivers are, so I was hoping hoping hoping I could get a nice one on sale. I was going to buy another $20 camera, but the cheap ones force you to remove the tiny memory card every time you want the footage. With a WiFi model like this you can just connect with your iPhone and grab the video directly. Handy! Plus... GPS! Worth the additional $18.

The AKASO dash cam which is a small wedge-shaped plastic doohickey with a small screen and some buttons.

   
SHOES! • Reg. $170, Paid $128
I should have bought shoes last Black Friday, but I thought I could get one more year out of the pair I have. I'm not rough on shoes... they usually last me four or five years... so a little Shoe Goo will keep them together right? They still look great... it's just the soles that are falling apart. But back in August the soles fell complete apart. My plan was to buy a cheap pair of $20 shoes, rip the soles off, then glue them on mine. This seemed extreme. Instead I used more Shoe Goo to piece everything together. It worked surprisingly well. But I needed new shoes. I would have loved to have found the same model I had before... but of course shoe companies don't do that. I also would have loved to have spent under $100... but of course the shoes I found that I liked weren't under $100. Oh well. It's still 25% off, which is better than nothing.

My bad-ass new shoes being all black and forest green.

   
ALEXA! Reg. $99 • Paid $33 (with trade-in and Amazon cash back)
I bought a SONOS One for my bedroom. It's absolutely fantastic, and fills the room with amazing sound. Problem is, the AirPlay 2 on it is glitchy as hell, which means the audio has constant drop-outs when I'm playing content from my Apple TV. And Apple TV keeps "forgetting" that the SONOS exists, so I am having to reconnect several times a week. It's maddening, because 95% of the time I'm using it for my television. And so I decided to get an Echo (3rd Gen.) which has a 3.5mm audio line-in that I can run directly from my television. I traded in the old Amazon Echo I have in the bathroom for $25, so it ends up being a $35 spend. No, the sound won't be as good as my SONOS One, but it's gotten good reviews for its quality and will be good enough... plus I can transfer the SONOS One to my upstairs bathroom, which will be amazing for listening to music each morning while I shower and get ready.

An Amazon Echo cylidner plus a cutaway view showing the speaker array inside.

   
iTUNES! GIFT CARD • Reg. $100, Paid $70 (with Rakuten Sign-up Bonus)
As is my custom every year, I buy a $100 iTunes gift card at 20% off to cover the Marvel movies and sale movies I buy each year. I joined Rakuten and they gave me $10 cash back for my first purchase, so this year it was an especially sweet 30% off!

   
OUTDOOR NEST CAM! • Reg. $199, Paid $159
I have two camera systems. A wired system with local recording that has a battery backup and will run even with no power or internet... and a Nest cloud system which is constantly uploading footage to the internet. The Nest cameras are fantastic, but I was ready to ditch them all because the per-camera cloud service cost was absurdly expensive. But they made an announcement a while back that this would be changing to a much cheaper "bulk plan" where all cameras would be covered for one price. Given this, I decided to keep all my Nest cameras and replace a failed outdoor camera with another Nest. But not the new "Nest Cam IQ" which has the stupidest mounting requirements (DRILL A HOLE THROUGH YOUR HOUSE!), I got the original Nest Cam Outdoor. I budgeted to get it for $129, but the savings ended up being less steep than I had hoped.

The Nest Outdoor Cam which is a sexy white thing with a lens on it... and a butterfly on top.

   
HELLO! • Reg. $229, Paid $149
The first smart doorbell I had was the original "Ring" model. It was huge, but it worked well. Then Ring sent me an offer I couldn't refuse... a 4th generation smaller "Ring Pro" model upgrade for a fraction of the retail price. Sadly, it has never worked as well. But an even bigger problem with Ring is that it is SO slow. By the time they notify you that somebody has rang your doorbell, they've long gone. And trying to review the cloud footage is futile because it takes forever for it to upload and be available. Since my Nest cloud cameras are always available instantly and very quick to notify, I've wanted to get a Nest Hello doorbell replacement. Now that Google Nest is having a bulk deal on cloud services for multiple devices come 2020, this was a no-brainer.

The Nest Hello Smart Doorbell... looks like a small device with a button at the bottom and a camera lens at top.

   
PRESSURE COOKER! • Reg. $120, Paid $35 (after Rakuten cash back)
I already mentioned this one earlier this week. Thanks to a goof by a website (they switched the sale prices of the 6-quart and 8-quart for half-a-day) I finally got an Instant Pot (or, to be more accurate, an Instant Pot knock-off) for $35. SCORE! I bought this as a flawless egg cooker, but have ended up using it for lots of stuff. Not something I had planned on buying (or had budgeted for) but I was happy to find it.

My Best Buy Pressure Cooker Instant Pot Knock-Off.

   
UNDERWEAR! • Reg. $102, Paid $46 (after Rakuten cash back)
Half of my skivvies are literally falling apart. But I keep wearing them and repairing them because I need enough that I can do full loads of laundry. Fortunately, Old Navy had an EVERYTHING IS 50% OFF SALE plus free shipping on orders of $50 or more. I was able to get 10 pair of quality underwear, some socks, and a couple pair of touch-screen-friendly gloves for $51. Old Navy tends to hold up pretty good, so that was money well-spent. Especially since I earned $40 in SuperCash I can spend on more Old Navy, plus $5 cash-back from Rakuten, which means I am essentially getting all this for $6?!? (assuming I spend the $40).

Some cool Banana Republic underwear and socks!

   
CLOTHES! • Reg. $947, Paid $367 (after Rakuten cash back)
My favorite jeans, hands down, are Banana Republic slim-fit. They are comfortable, look good, and (most importantly) they last forever. Seriously, I have jeans from four years ago that look new. Unfortunately, my American Eagle jeans do not hold up as well and are needing to be replaced. I took Banana Republic up on their 50% off Black Friday offer and buy four pair. With the Rakuten cash back, they're knocked down to $41.25 a pair! SCORE! Then I headed over to The Gap and Banana Republic Factory for some dress shirts, T-Shirts, casuals, and gloves at 60% off off $480 plus $20-something in Rakuten cash back. Not too shabby.

Banana Republic slim-fit jeans on some guy with brown boots and a sweater shirt. And a long-sleeved poplin shirt on some other guy.

   
Grand total? $1025 spent for $2032 in merchandise. Or almost exactly 50% in savings. With tax adding $82, my total spend this year was $1107. So... woohoo! I've got $93 left!

I should keep it in the bank and roll it over for next year... but... the LEGO Jurassic World video game for Nintendo Switch is on sale for twenty bucks!

A scene from the LEGO Jurassic World video game showing LEGO characters in cars and motorcycles running from a LEGO T-Rex.

   
I guess I'll just blow the remainder on cocaine and hookers. Does anybody know where I can find cocaine and hookers for $70?

And so there it goes. I now have enough new clothes and toys to last me until next Black Friday. And until then... time to start squirreling away another $100 a month. Which never seems like much fun until today.

   

Bullet Sunday 616

Posted on June 16th, 2019

Dave!Okay, the time for revolution wasn't then after all, it's now... maybe... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Too! As a huge Miley Cyrus fan, I was very much looking forward to her episode in the new Black Mirror mini-season (just three episodes). I was not disappointed. Not only was her episode hilarious in all the right ways, it was surprisingly upbeat. Usually Black Mirror is about as dystopian bleak as it gets, but Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too? Not so much...

Miley plays "Ashley O," a huge pop star who ends up with a robotic doll that her fans can buy...

I don't know who was responsible for designing that robot, but it is the best thing ever. And it's tough to tell you exactly why that's the case without spoiling anything, so I will stay silent. Except to say that "Ashley O" has released a video for her awesome song On a Roll (a parody on Nine Inch Nails' Head Like a Hole)...

If you're a Black Mirror fan, you've probably already seen this. If not (and you have Netflix), this is the episode to watch. Especially the final third, which is genius.

   
• Jones! On the opposite end of the spectrum is the third (and final) season of Netflix's Jessica Jones, the last of their Marvel Studio tie-ins...

What can I say? It was 100% crap from start to finish. Instead of focusing on Jessica Jones, it got mired in endless bullshit centered around the supporting characters. NEWSFLASH: Nobody gives a shit about Hogarth, Trish, Malcolm, Zaya, Dorothy, Kith, Costa, or anybody else who isn't Jessica Jones. Especially when they are this boring. SUPPORTING CHARACTERS ARE SUPPOSED TO SUPPORT THE MAIN CHARACTER! The only supporting character who didn't irritate me because they actually had an interesting role that moved Jessica Jones' story forward was Erik Gelden. Surprisingly, they managed to retool the lame "Mind-Wave" from the comics and use him to good effect.

Originally I was sad that Netflix canceled all of their Marvel shows, but this lame-ass season (featuring a laughably absurd arc for Trish Walker) has me reconsidering. If this was what we were in for, maybe cancelation was for the best.

   
• Park! Welp, the new Jurassic Park LEGO sets are amazing...

Another LEGO mining for Samuel L. Jackson!

   
• Memorial. I had never seen this before...

Remarkable.

   
• America by Gaslight! An essential read.

   
• Katzenjammers! And now I close out this Bullet Sunday with one of the weirdest things you'll see all week...

Cats don't need any help being weird, but this certainly shows it's possible to make them even weirder than they already are.

   
And, on that note of the utterly bizarre, I'll see you next Sunday.

   

Bullet Sunday 615

Posted on June 9th, 2019

Dave!The time for revolution is now... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Lander! In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the first Apollo Moon Landing, LEGO has released this amazing new set...

LEGO Moon Lander Set!

It's pretty dope...

LEGO Moon Lander Set!

LEGO Moon Lander Set!

LEGO Moon Lander Set!

LEGO Moon Lander Set!

It's also $99, which seems totally worth it, if you've got that kind of money to burn.

   
• Saga! Speaking of LEGO... they've just announced that LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga will be released in 2020, combining all nine films in a single game...

I'm guessing that it will be the existing Star Wars games but with new material added at the end to close out the saga. Since it is being released for the Nintendo Switch, I don't mind that at all. I'd love to replay everything from the beginning.

   
• Lucifer! One of my favorite shows, Lucifer was cancelled, then picked up by Netflix. Apparently it did well enough that they are giving the show a fifth season to wrap everything up...

Lucifer Season 5!

Time to celebrate...

Lucifer Season 5!

It's a bit depressing that the show will finally be ending... but at least they have the opportunity to create an actually ending.

   
• Eighty-Four! Director Patty Jenkins released a teaser poster for Wonder Woman 84 this week. One year to go before we know whether this "Not A Sequel But a Reimagining" is going to be worth a crap...

Wonder Woman 84!

I'd like to think it will be, especially since Jenkins is back onboard, but it's really impossible to say. Why they would toss away a continuing story for some kind of soft reboot is puzzling. Unless it's because the DC Cinematic Universe was a pile of shit and they wanted to just bury that once and for all? 360-whatever days until we find out.

   
• Jedi Thrones! Well, this is pretty special...

Given what a massive disappointment the final season of Game of Thrones was, I'm happy to see anything that redeems the franchise, so I'll take what I can get. In the meanwhile, there's this interesting look at how things went South.

   
• Chase Dreams! One of the biggest surprises of the past year's television season was The Other Two, which was hilariously funny in places, despite kinda sliding late in the season...

Still, if you're bored and want something to watch over the summer, this is worth a look. It's pretty foul and definitely not a good fit for mixed company, but you can stream it for a limited time at Comedy Central.

   
• Fan! A bit of a different direction for MUNA here...

Can't wait for their new album in September!

   
Have a great Sunday!

   

The Keys of Onaconda Farr

Posted on March 26th, 2019

Dave!The first thing I did when I bought my house was to rip out the door locks so my keychain would be two keys lighter. My new locks are opened via keypads or via an app on my phone... no key required.

In case you haven't guessed, I am not a fan of keys. They are (literally) ancient technology that isn't necessary in this day and age. And yet I have loads of them. Most of my keys are at home in my safe. The only two I lug around with me are my car key and my office key. To carry them around more easily, I bought a minfig keychain at The LEGO Store. It looks like Greedo from Star Wars, but it's actually an ambassador from Greedo's planet named Onaconda Farr.

That was years ago.

After a while Onaconda Farr's face and clothes rubbed off. His antennae and ears also wore down. And, last week, one of his legs fell off(!).

So I found a replacement on eBay for $5 and ordered it last week. And now he has arrived...

LEGO Keychain!

So cool. Almost makes me not dislike keys so much.

And, oh yeah... today I drove back over the mountains from my Birthday Weekend celebration with my friends.

I was happy to see that there's still plenty of snow in the mountains. Perhaps it's enough that we don't have to worry about drought this summer? I certainly hope so...

Winter Mountain Pass!

Winter Mountain Pass!

Winter Mountain Pass!

And now back to Real Life.

Such as it is.

   

Bullet Sunday 596

Posted on January 20th, 2019

Dave!Rejoice and be saved... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts now...

   
• Stuck In Your Head! Oh man, I cannot wait for February 8th!

And... it's stuck in my head! So good!

   
• Judas? Two of my favorite YouTubers are John Crist and Trey Kennedy. Every once in a while they collaborate on a video and the result is darn funny. Like their latest: If Bible Characters Had iPhones...

Here's another one that's entirely too funny...

More, please.

   
• Baroque! There's an artist named Christy Lee Rogers who is creating these stunning underwater photos that look like amazing baroque paintings...

Underwater Paining by Christy Lee Rogers

The article over at My Modern Met is a must-see.

   
• NEWS! Conservatives are outraged a gay couple is on the cover of ‘Parents’ magazine
“Mothers and fathers are seeing more and more similar examples of children being indoctrinated to perceive same-sex couples as normal, especially in the media,” an unsigned blog post on One Million Moms’s website says. — Oh dear. My eyes just rolled to the back of my head and are stuck there. I am typing this while blind, so please excuse any spelling mistakes.

If a same-sex couple is what you have for parents... and they love you, care for you, provide for you, and foster your growth into adulthood... THEN YOUR PARENTS ARE FUCKING NORMAL! Likewise, if you have only one parent (for whatever reason) and they are doing their best to provide the same? THAT'S A FUCKING NORMAL FAMILY TOO!

XXX

“It could be displayed in waiting rooms of dentist and doctor offices, where children could easily be subjected to the glorification of same-sex parents,” the blog post says.YES, GOD FORBID YOUR CHILDREN SEE A PHOTO OF A HAPPY FAMILY. THEY MIGHT THINK IT'S OKAY TO NOT BULLY THE KID WHO HAS TWO DADS!

   
• Dads! AND, YES, IT DOES OCCUR IN NATURE. IT IS ACCORDING TO GOD'S PLAN. AND ALL YOUR ENERGY HATING PEOPLE WOULD BE BETTER SPENT NOT BEING ASSHOLES. WHY NOT TRY BEING ACTUAL CHRISTIANS FOR ONCE?

Penguins are the best!

   
• Jesus Christ. When you lie, like, ALL THE TIME... it gets hard to keep your lies straight...

I mean, holy shit...

You know it's fucking bad when the Saturday Night Live parodies aren't as funny as our actual government...

This is just exhausting. I am physically and mentally checked out.

   
And... I'm done. DONE!

   

Behind the Scenes: LEGO Craig

Posted on January 3rd, 2019

Dave!Ages ago (when blogging was still a thing) I had "met" a guy named Craig on his blog, Puntabulous! It was one of the funniest things I've ever read and I became an immediate fan (so much so that I ended up guest-posting there). Sadly, Puntabulous! Has been lost to the ages (and the Wayback Machine has only spotty entries archived). Currently Craig's old site seems to have been poached by a Slovakian link farm or something, but we'll always have the memories!

Fast-forward nine years and I'm part of a gift exchange where, miracle of miracles, I get Craig's name. I'm never sure what I am supposed to buy for gift exchanges, so I decided to to mash-up some of his favorite things and make something for him (the only way I could be sure I wasn't getting him something he already had!). And those things are... LEGO, Power Rangers, Star Trek: The Next Generation, his boyfriend Steve, and his cabin.

Custom LEGO Craig posters it is then!

This is what I came up with...

LEGO Craig Posters

I am a huge fan of LEGO video games, so I thought I could just draw little minifies doing fun things and be done with it. Except it was a lot harder than it looked to get them looking "real" so I ended up downloading a 3D model that I could pose in Blender...

LEGO Craig Posters

LEGO Craig Posters

Then drop them into the layouts I had come up with...

LEGO Craig Posters

   
Power Rangers: Ninja Craig

I didn't know much about the Power Rangers except that they would scream "It's Morphin Time!" and transform from super-powered-ninjas into robot dinosaurs. Or something like that. After little Google research I found out there were loads of Power Rangers series. I liked the logo for Ninja Steel because I could turn it into Ninja Craig. All I had to do was drop in Steve Blue Ranger and Rita Repulsa, and, done...

LEGO Craig Power Ranger

At first I had the same generic helmets for both Rangers but, upon closer inspection, I noticed that all the Rangers had different helmets! This meant I had to go back and re-draw them to be accurate...

LEGO Craig Power Ranger

   
Star Trek: The Craig Generation

I'm more of a "original series" guy than a "Next Generation guy," but had seen all the episodes (of course), so it was easy to decide what I wanted to do...

LEGO Craig Power Ranger

I drew Craig as Number One, Steve as Data, and was planning on putting a LEGO Enterprise-D in the background. But I could never get it to look recognizable in simple LEGO form. Then I did some cyber-stalking and found a photo of Craig wearing a T-shirt that had the "LEGO Space" logo drawn as an X-Wing circling the Death Star...

LEGO Star Wars

Very cool! The original logo is the one I grew up with and looks like this...

LEGO Space Logo

It was made cool again when they introduced Benny in The LEGO Movie ...

LEGO Movie Benny SPACESHIP!

It was a simple matter to redraw it for Star Trek: The Next Generation like so...

LEGO Star Trek

   
Craig's Cabin

My original idea (shown in my sketch above) was to have LEGO Craig in a majestic pose while Steve was being surprised by a bear in the background. The LEGO bear is a rare piece that goes for big money on eBay, but I was able to find enough photos of it that I could probably draw it. Problem is, the LEGO bear is kinda hard to recognize in a cartoon drawing, so I decided to give poor LEGO Steve a break and attempt to draw Craig's actual cabin in LEGO back there...

LEGO Craig Power Ranger

It ended up looking pretty good once I got the LEGO studs on the roof panels. Then I added some happy little LEGO trees and happy little LEGO plants and I was good to go. But my favorite part is the plaid shirt "print" on LEGO Craig...

LEGO Star Trek

   

Fun!

Has me anxious for February 2019 to get here so I can see The LEGO Movie 2...

Who knew that LEGO DUPLO would end up being so evil?

   

LEGO Video Games: RANKED!

Posted on September 25th, 2018

Dave!As any long-time reader of this blog already knows, I am hopelessly addicted to the LEGO video games. They are mostly (fairly) simple puzzle games which involve looking for various objects and trying to figure out how to combine them to complete a task needed to advance in the game. Most all of the titles are really funny, even with the source material can be rather gory (I'm looking at you Jurassic World!). And that's the appeal. LEGO games are a mindless distraction from all the horrors of the world that I like to escape into from time to time...

And so... here's my ranking of all the console LEGO games I've played (I haven't played the latest LEGO online game, LEGO Worlds yet because I am hesitant to buy into an online game that could be set down like LEGO Universe was).

  1. LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham — Where do I even start? Dozens of awesome DC characters on amazing adventures that are far, far more entertaining than and DC movies hitting the screen. This is the Justice League people deserve to see, and it's a fun, hilarious, entertaining ride from start to finish.
  2. LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga — What's so fantastic about LEGO games like this is that they follow the general narrative of the movies... but add so much more. The "Complete Saga" has games covering everything from the original trilogy (mind-bogglingly good) to the crappy prequels (which are so much more fun in LEGO than the actual movies). Like most LEGO games, the vehicles are a mess to control and I don't have much fun on the spaceship missions, but everything outside of that is gold.
  3. LEGO City Undercover — When this game was first released, it was a Wii U exclusive. I didn't have a Wii U, so I just held tight and thought I would wait until it got released on other systems. Then I got to actually play the game at a friend's house. I was so absorbed into the massive city and all the clever missions that I had to have it. So I bought a Wii U just to play it. Expensive way to play a game, but worth it. The integration of the Wii U controller into the game was great, the levels are hilarious, and some of the challenges were more difficult than in other LEGO games. A winner all the way around.
  4. LEGO Dimensions — Blending so many licensed properties in a single game was a fantastic concept that worked exceedingly well. You start out with LEGO Batman, Gandalf (from The Lord of the Rings, and Wildstyle (from The LEGO Movie)... but you can add any other character you want from any other franchise to any Free Play mission you want. Want to team up The Wicked Witch of the West with Bart Simpson and Beetlejuice? Have at it. I loved LEGO Dimensions and bought every single set that LEGO released for it. Needless to say, I was gutted when they discontinued LEGO Dimensions. But I guess it's okay because I still have a ton of stuff left to explore on all the expansion packs I bought. Hopefully they won't shut down the servers before I have a chance to complete everything.
  5. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes — This is a fantastic game which feels inspired by the Marvel Studios movies, but encompasses all the Marvel characters. It's also massive. It feels like the entire city of New York has been recreated in LEGO form and there's just so much to see and do. With each new release the LEGO games just keep getting bigger and better. I can't imagine what LEGO: The Incredibles and LEGO DC Super-Villains are going to be like!
  6. LEGO Batman 2: DC Super-Heroes — Well, here we go. I had no idea how they were going to put powerful characters like Superman and Wonder Woman into a game and have it work (they are invulnerable and can literally fly anywhere, go anywhere), but they obviously put a lot of thought into that dilemma, because everything works flawlessly. I got this game on a Friday, then ended up playing all weekend and taking a vacation day at work on Monday because I was so absorbed in unlocking all the secrets hidden around Gotham City. Fantastic follow-up to the original game.
  7. LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens — I wasn't going to buy this one... I was going to wait until all of the new trilogy games were collected in a single game... but I couldn't resist. Hearing that all the characters were voiced by the original actors was compelling enough to make me buy in. I did not regret it. This is a hilarious parody with improved game-play from the earlier Star Wars games. As if that wasn't enough, it has levels that link Return of the Jedi to The Force Awakens which makes this a must-have game not just for LEGO fans, but for any Star Wars fan as well.
  8. LEGO Marvel's Avengers — A direct lift of Marvel Studios films of the day (Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Winter Soldier, etc.), this game doesn't feel as "open" as later games, but is still a heck of a lot of fun. All the characters are Marvel Cinematic Universe versions, which makes for a slightly different mindset than other games which are more tied to the comic books. That just made me love it even more, and I had a blast playing it.
  9. LEGO Ninjago Movie — I'm only half-way through this one, but I'm really enjoying it. I'm only barely familiar with the Ninjago franchise (I've never seen the movie but I have all the characters from the LEGO Dimensions game... but, fortunately, familiarity isn't required to play. Experiencing the game makes me really want to see the movie, so I guess that's as big an endorsement as you can get.
  10. LEGO Harry Potter (Years 1-4 and 5-7) — I am not a fan of the Harry Potter movies or books. I honestly don't get their popularity, because they seem like derivative works that rely on deus ex machine to tie up the endings of each story. That being said, the LEGO games are awesome. They seem a bit more "puzzley" than other games, and that worked to keep me interested through the entire series. I do think the game would have been enhanced if I had seen the films, but I was okay without it.
  11. LEGO Batman: The Videogame — I am a huge Batman fan and a huge LEGO fan, so I bought this game not knowing anything except it combined two of my favorite things. Before this, I had been playing the LEGO Star Wars games and liked them, but here is where I became obsessed. They got a lot right with the Batman franchise from the very start and everything that followed was gravy.
  12. LEGO Indiana Jones (Volume I and II) — The Indy Trilogy films were born to become LEGO games, and the result did not disappoint. I had a lot of fun roaming from adventure to adventure... so much so that I bought this game twice! Once on my Xbox 360 and once on my Nintendo DS handheld (which was surprisingly different than the console version). Released in two parts, I thought the second half was lacking compared to the first, but still enjoyed the whole game.
  13. Pirates of the Caribbean — This title felt way too much like "more of same" that we had been getting, but lacked the variety of games which preceded it. Despite all that, it was a lot of fun to play and looked beautiful. I lost interest in the movies after the first two, but this game kept me interested all the way through.
  14. LEGO Jurassic World — Putting Jurassic Park in a LEGO game is kinda a no brainer (the LEGO Dimensions pack was fantastic). What made this game shine was having the original actors voice all the characters. The game would have ranked higher on my list if there were more dinosaurs used as playable characters... otherwise it's just regular human after regular human. Sure they have unique skills, but still. If I have a serious complaint, it's the annoying as hell Compsognathus dino attacks which beseige you far too often to stay entertaining. By the end of the game I was thinking "Holy crap, did anybody beta test this?"
  15. LEGO Lord of the Rings — As a big fan of Tolkien's books and somebody who really enjoyed the Peter Jackson movie adaptations, I could not wait for this game to be released. And it was definitely worth the wait. Except... it kinda fell short when compared to the other LEGO games being released at the time (namely, LEGO Batman 2 and LEGO Marvel Super-Heroes). Even so, it was highly entertaining and had me absorbed from start to finish.
  16. LEGO The Hobbit — I thought that Perter Jacksons' absurdly drawn-out movie adaptation of the beautiful and simple story that's The Hobbit was way overboard. This should have been one movie... not three! That being said, if you're going to do a video game movie adaptation, you'd better finish what you started. In this case, they did not. The final Hobbit film (The Battle of the Five Armies) was supposed to be released as a downloadable content pack, but wasn't. How lame is that? The game didn't have a lot of variety in characters, but made up for it in other ways, which was nice... but lack of a finale kept the game from ranking high on my list. As it is, there's only two games left which disappointed me more.
  17. The LEGO Movie Videogame — I have no idea what went wrong, but this is one of the few LEGO games I was unable to complete. It was glitchy as hell, which was hugely disappointing given that this was a LEGO game about a LEGO movie and had so much promise. It's kind the height of irony that this is the game that failed so badly. In the LEGO games there are always little glitches that pop up... but none that kept me from enjoying the game like this one did.
  18. LEGO Universe — What a mess. I signed up to be an early beta tester because they were developing a MacOS X version of this MMPORG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game). Apparently it was running under emulation, so it was slow and glitchy in spots. Especially when a lot of characters were on-screen. Even so, I loved playing the cool missions and seeing what new insanity they would add to the game next. Until they stopped adding. And then shut down the servers so you couldn't play anymore. I mean, I know that each game has a shelf-life, but LEGO Dimensions felt as though it was shut down way before its time, and I'm still pretty raw about it.

That's a lot of LEGO games. And it doesn't even include the versions I've bought for my iPhone, iPad, Gameboy, and Nintendo DS! And next up? LEGO: The Incredibles! How awesome is that?

   

Bullet Sunday 565

Posted on June 10th, 2018

Dave!It's been yet another week full of hypocrisy and evil, but it's all good, because an all-new Bullet Sunday starts now...

   
• Two! I loved everything about the first LEGO Movie... except the ending. When they dropped into "The Real World," everything fell apart for me. With this in mind, I have mixed feelings about the sequel...

Yes, I'm excited to see it. But can we please just stick in the world of LEGO and let Chris Pratt be hilarious? That would be great, thanks.

   
• No Reservations. There wasn't much I didn't like about Anthony Bourdain. He was responsible for some highly entertaining television. He was a world traveler and advocate for better understanding and acceptance between cultures. He used his celebrity to advocate for worthwhile causes and draw attention to injustices. He was an incredible guest on any talk show he dropped by. He was somebody I liked and admired, which is why his death has hit me so hard. You will be missed, sir.

   
• Darkness and Light! I was never a fan of the Cloak & Dagger comic books. They all had the same story. Cloak & Dagger hunt down drug dealers. Cloak goes a little crazy because he's hungry. Dagger feeds him a light sandwich. Lather, rinse, repeat. On occasion they team up with other heroes, but their baggage is always the same. And now Freeform TV has created a Cloak & Dagger television show...

Marvel's Cloak and Dagger on Freeform

Now, I'm not saying that every super-hero show has to be packed with super-power fights... but there has to be something to make it interesting... otherwise it's just another boring TV drama I don't care about. And if the first two episodes of Cloak & Dagger are any indication, here's yet another boring TV drama I don't care about. Which is a shame, because the actors are very good.

   
• You! Other than an occasional song here and there, I haven't given much thought to Maroon 5 in years. But now they've dropped a new video for their song Girls Like You that's packed with more guest-stars than you can shake a stick at.

Not a bad song at all. And if you're having trouble putting a name to all the faces, here's a link for you. And, as much as I like it, this is not going to displace my favorite Maroon 5 video...

And if that's not enough Maroon 5 for you... here they are covering Bob Marley's Three Little Birds...

'Cause every little thing gonna be alright.

   
• NEWS: With deal to close this week, Bayer to retire Monsanto name
Well of course they are retiring the Monsanto name! Monsanto is fucking evil incarnate, and people were finally waking up to it. But now? Bayer is just the aspirin people! Evil + Evil = Bigger Evil.

   
• A Red Letter Day! As my final bullet of the day, I leave you with one of my favorite Pet Shop Boys songs that's woefully under-appreciated... and highly relevant to my life as of late...

Doesn't get much more Pet Shop Boys than that.

   
So long until next Bullet Sunday!

   

Dubaya Dubaya Dee See

Posted on June 5th, 2018

Dave!And lo, Apple did unleash another World Wide Developer's Conference this week.

Given my rapidly diminishing enthusiasm for Apple, I wasn't the least bit compelled to drop everything and watch it live. Instead I made it my after-dinner entertainment tonight.

Here are my thoughts on the parts that stood out to me...

iOS AR
If there's a promise for the future of computing that most people can see coming, it's augmented reality. Apple has teamed up with Pixar to create the USDZ file format for AR Kit 2. This is a fascinating advancement, and the fact that Adobe has grabbed it by the throat and promised support for USDZ in Creative Cloud bodes well for the format. Craig Federighi demonstrated customizing a USDZ guitar and dropping it into reality at actual size so you can visualize exactly what it will look like in your space...

Apple iOS AR Kit

Federighi then demoed AR "Shared Experiences" where two people were playing the same game from their own perspective, and it looks pretty amazing...

Apple iOS AR Kit

But the coolest demo? LEGO!!! They've shown how their physical models can be recognized by AR Kit, then expanded upon with virtual "sets" which are interactive in AR space. Then they showed how two people could explore the space with their own characters at the same time as your real-life model comes alive...

Apple iOS AR Kit LEGO

You can even look inside the physical model to see what's happening inside of it. Kids are going to love this. Especially LEGO-loving BIG kids like me!

The future of AR is mind-boggling. You just know that Apple is developing a headset for full VR/AR envelopment. It will be cool to visit the world... real and imagined... from your sofa.

PHOTOS
I'm still sore from Apple discontinuing Aperture, but they're adding interesting features to Photos, including search, which I'm assuming is making use of their machine-learning algorithm. This will make it easy to dig through the bajillion images on my iPhone. Other features, like automatic image collaboration between iPhone users are also a step in the right direction.

SIRI
I use Alexa on my Amazon Echo dozens of times a day because she can do so much stuff. I rarely use Siri because she can't really do much of anything. Apple seems to be aware of this, and is attempting to make Siri more relevant and useful. A big step up is "Siri Shortcuts," which allows Siri to be customized for your life, and even monitor your habits and schedule to suggest ways she can help out. It's all nice, and will probably encourage me to use Siri more, but my primary use of a digital assistant is home automation. Unfortunately Apple is married to their shitty, shitty "HomeKit," which I gave up on. Maybe if they start allowing other automation interfaces... like my ISY... I'd be able to use Siri for many of the things I use Alexa for.

SCREEN TIME
It's kind of bizarre that Apple is advocating not using your iPhone so much, but once they sell you the phone, they probably don't care how often you use it. To that end, they've expanded what "Do Not Disturb" can do, added new features to slow or group Notifications, and even added "Screen Time" which can monitor and limit how much you use certain apps. Parents can use "Screen Time" to monitor, adjust, and allow/disallow apps on their kid's phones remotely... and restrict access to certain apps and sites. It's a great idea... but I wonder how many people will use it. They use their phone when they want to use their phone and it seems bizarre to set limits on that. Our lives are our phones now, for better or worse.

ANIMOJI
I rarely use Animoji. Apple adding the ability to stick your tongue out or customize Animoji to look like you with "Memoji" is probably not going to change that. It's fun, and very cool... but I don't see it getting much use from me...

Apple iOS Memoji

Being able to put an Animoji over your head and add stickers live for photos is an interesting spin, however...

Apple iOS Memoji

Maybe I'll be more apt to video chat if I can use an avatar like this and not have to worry whether or not I'm having a good hair day.

FACETIME
Group Facetime for up to 32 people at the same time is a pretty incredible technical achievement. The fact that Apple made the feature so smart is what makes Apple be Apple. When somebody starts speaking, they enlarge so you know who's doing the talking. You can also use Live Animoji or Live Memoji during Facetime calls. This would be a complete zoo, but an interesting one.

WATCH OS
I always like to see how Apple Watch is maturing but, until they find a way to make it thinner on my skinny arm, I'm just not interested... no matter how many cool and useful features get added. Kinda sad how Apple has resurrected the dreaded "push-to-talk" and is calling it "Walkie Talkie." I frickin' hate push-to-talk because I don't want to hear people shouting to each other over a phone (or watch) in public. Aren't phone calls irritating enough?

APPLE TV
I really like my Apple TV, but it's got a lot of problems that no amount of new features are going to fix. I can't tell you how many times I've had it lock up. Or be unable to stream a purchase. Or have the interface go all screwy for no reason. I reboot the dang thing so many times that I finally bought an electrical plug that I can control on my iPhone so I don't have to get up, unplug it, then plug it back in. When I contact Apple support, they tell me the problem is always, always, always my internet. So I switched from cable to fiber, which is ten times faster download speed. Still having problems. If bandwidth issues are such an AppleTV-killer, they need to have their apps be a lot smarter on handling it. None of the other apps on my AppleTV have any problems. Netflix, HBO, CBS, ABC, YouTube, Hulu... all of them just fine. So it's not the AppleTV hardware... it's Apple's software that's the problem. You'd think with billions of dollars Apple could get somebody to fix their shit, but no.

MOHAVE
"We love the Mac! — Tim Cook says this every time he presents the Mac at WWDC. He pretty much has to say it because Mac users aren't seeing it. I am almost to my breaking point with frustration at just how bad MacOS has gotten. Printing is so screwed up that it's almost impossible to get work done. Way too many times I end up having to put my work into a PDF and send it to a colleague so they can print it on their Windows machine. Apple can blame printer companies all they want, but it's their OS updates which cause things to break. And lately Apple introduced a huge bug which makes your mouse pointer unable to access menus if you go to the very top of the screen. You have to move the pointer down on the menu bar in order to get a menu to work. WHAT THE FUCK?!?? does ANYBODY bother to beta test this shit anymore? Who the fuck releases such obvious bugs into an OS update? Apple. That's who. They may "love the Mac" but they are constantly shitting all over it, so you'll have to excuse me for not believing them.

STACKS
Apple has been promising automated file stacking and organization for years... but the only place it was ever implemented was in the Dock. Now it's come to the desktop. This is a nice feature for people like me who make a huge mess out of their desktop on a daily basis. But this is the biggest new feature of the next MacOS X release? Stacks? Really? I don't give a shit how much Apple professes to "love the Mac" they are letting it stagnate to obsolescence, which is pathetic.

QUICKLOOK
Adding handy tools to QuickLook is nice, but they aren't very smart about where they are putting their efforts. What about the third party tool you have to buy in order to modify file dates and manipulate other file data? THAT'S WHAT THE FINDER SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO! But instead we get the ability to trim a video clip in the Mac file manager? WTF? Handy, yes, but is editing video something you really need to do on the desktop? Is opening up iMovie really so difficult? How about adding new file tools to the file manager? Revolutionary, I know.

NEWS
I actually use News on my iPhone, so I'm happy that Apple is bringing the app to my desktop.

HOME
I will say this again for those in the cheap seats... HomeKit is utter shit. Partly because AppleTV is totally inadequate as a hub for it. Mostly because it's so restrictive that anybody serious about home automation just doesn't give a shit about it. I tried HomeKit with my locks and couldn't wait to get rid of it. Unreliable, slow, and not nearly pervasive enough with manufacturers, Apple should just buy a company that actually knows how to do this and give up on their massive failure.

PRIVACY
Apple's continuing efforts to protect its users' privacy is admirable. No matter how far they go, it will never be far enough, but I'm grateful for what we do get.

ML
Machine Learning is one of those things that's incredibly useful, and the fact that Apple has been advancing in this area so rapidly is encouraging. And now they've created tools for analyzing datasets which make it easier than ever to get information into a machine learning environment. The possibilities here are mind-boggling, and one of the few exciting things to be happening in MacOS X. Whether it will get put to good use is anybody's guess.

MERGE
Here we go with "We love the Mac" again. This time in the context of the question "Is Apple merging iOS and MacOS?" The answer is "no," but Apple is bringing more of the tools from iOS to MacOS so that iOS apps can be ported to the Mac. Which is great for developers. If your app can run on a phone, pad, and desktop, then this is a big step forward to making it easier to get there.

SWIFT
I have a long programming history. I've coded in BASIC, Pascal, Modula-2, Assembler, JavaScript, Java, PHP, C, C++, Objective C, Ruby, Python, and probably a half-dozen others I've forgot about. I rarely have time to code now-a-days, but I'm intrigued by Apple's Swift programming language. There's a lot to like. It's relatively simple. It's relatively complete. It's relatively easy to debug. And holy crap is it fast. I definitely like it better than Apple's previous tool of choice, Objective-C, and it's maturing quickly. I don't think I'd want to write an app for iOS without it. Yes, there's a way to go yet, and Apple has shifted some major concepts which require re-coding... but overall it's a great environment to develop in, and it's only going to get better in time.

   
And that was the end of that. No new hardware released announced for the MacOS X side of things, which is hugely disappointing. Apple used to absolutely rule this arena. Even people who had to run Windows were buying Mac laptops to do it because they were just that good. But Apple doesn't seem to give a shit now... releasing "pro" equipment that's not what "pros" even want. Instead of true innovation we get a "touch bar" or some silly shit slapped on, which is just a weak effort to hide the fact that the base specs aren't much better than they were five years ago. Oh well. Apple had a good run, but I guess it couldn't last forever. Hopefully Adobe will port their software to Linux so I can switch away from Apple before they hit rock bottom.

Again.

Where's the ghost of Steve Jobs when you need him?

   

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