Archive | March, 2014

Who says you can’t have fun playing with dog poop?

Bought the SKOOP-N-PAK in preparation for my visit to Colorado this May, where I’ll be semi-training with what I hope will be my future hearing dog.

One thing I can’t abide by is the thought of cleaning up after the dog on walks, using nothing but a mere trash bag to grab that ungodly fecal waste of smelly poopie. You know, sort of what it must be like to hug a hippie.

Anyhoo, to address that rather unpleasant part of everyday doggie care, I found out about… THE SKOOP-N-PAK!

Skoop-N-Pak Portable

When a bag won’t do to pick up their poo:

GET THE SKOOP-N-PAK!

When their steaming love bundles leave you all disgruntled:

GET THE SKOOP-N-PAK!

When you’re too snotty to clean up the potty:

GET THE SKOOP-N-PAK!

Sorry, I’m getting carried away with all the jingles here, but you gotta admit, they’re pretty catchy.

Psych going off the air? You know that’s right.

Psych could quite possibly be the best show I’ve ever watched.  After a quiet start waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back in 2006, I was hooked after initially watching a few episodes out of sheer boredom.  I saw so much of myself in both Shawn and Gus that I couldn’t stop watching, and before I knew it it, I had become a rabid fan.  Everything about the show was awesome.  The crazy and rapid fire one-liners, the constant (and often obscure) references to 80s’ pop culture, Shawn’s endless nicknames for Gus, and last, but certainly not least, the hilarious and even pithy interactions between the two.  They had given me some much needed laughs during some hard times, and though the show lost a lot of steam over the last two seasons, I’ll always fondly remember it as the show that never failed to lift my spirits even on a rainy day.

If you’ve never seen Psych, this might clue you in to its awesomeness, lifted from one of my favorite episodes:

Alas, as much as it’s sad to see the show go off the air, it seems to have lost something towards the end.  For the die-harders, I don’t think there may be any clearer example of this than watching the episode, Cloudy… with a Chance of Murder and comparing it to the remake of the same episode that was released earlier this year.  The former underscored everything I loved about Psych, while the latter revealed just about everything that went wrong with it the last few seasons.  Honestly, had they not changed the formula so much I suspect it could have made it ten years easy.  Maybe.

But alas, it’s time for them to go.  Thank you Shawn, Gus, Jules and Lassie for the great memories and the laughs.

Flip the Jackal Switch

“Flip the jackal switch, one more time…”

Review of Noah, and why American Christians might be the stupidest people on earth

I knew Noah was going to be a bad movie almost from the moment I read about it.  Which is fine.  After all, Hollywood’s propensity to produce mindless, godawful and oftentimes blasphemous flicks is something of an American tradition.

This particular film though affirms yet again my utter abhorrence of the typical American Christian, who have gone all in with the stupid.

I would imagine, maybe in a more ideal world, that Christians by and large would shun the movie and regard it as another one of Hollywood’s tired old attempts to exploit a biblical tale for the big bucks.  Or certainly, would at least refrain from playing a role in enabling movies like these to continue being made by actually paying to go see it.  Instead, we have some very naive Christian types who are not only enthusiastically waiting in anticipation to go see Noah, despite how badly it detracts from the original tale, but worse still, will probably think it to be entirely accurate.  Such reactions will strip away the veil of their professed Christianity and expose them for the absolute frauds that they are.

Consider this comment I read on Facebook about the movie:

I’m so tired of the idiotic protests of this movie. So what if it deviates from the biblical text? Darren Aronofsky is a genius and has yet to make a bad movie. Personally I can’t wait to see what he does with the story. I’ll take a passionate filming of the story by him over a lame, by-the-numbers “faithful” version any day, any time.

Maybe some day Christians will learn to revere Jesus the same way they revere dweeby Hollywood heathens like Aronofsky.  Maybe.

What really strikes me is hedonistic tone of the comment.  Apparently movies can be as blasphemous as one can imagine, and yet it’s all good as long as it was passionately made (and the audience sufficiently entertained).  The utter disregard for how such movies uncharitably portrays the nature and character of the God they profess to serve and love makes me wonder why they would even bother to call themselves Christians at all.

Just how badly does this movie depart from the original story?  Here’s a few examples (based on one of the early scripts):

  • Earth is a scorched arid desert, with a gray gloomy sky that gives no rain – and all this, apparently caused by man’s “disrespect” for the environment.  Think Mad Max.

 

  • Noah is a vegan eating hippie pacifist who still somehow acquires mad ninja skills to vanquish the bad guys who dare pollute the earth with their existence and kills when necessary.  But again, he’s a peace loving pacifist.

 

  • God is never mentioned (the generic word “creator” used) nor does He speak or interact with anyone, instead Noah is warned of a flood in a series of hallucinations and dreams.

 

  • The movie includes a group of fallen angels called Watchers, who came down from heaven to help fallen humanity by granting them wonders of knowledge from magic to science to stars, metal, and fire.  When mankind turns that knowledge into weapons of war and tools of environmental devastation, God banished the Watchers to earth and turns His back on them.  Now, they reside as beings made from rocks/lava who resent mankind.  Fallen angels are rocks, now?

 

  • Noah’s construction of the ark begins with magic beans.  Seriously.

 

  • Noah’s belief is that the ark is meant to preserve the animals, not mankind.  He is the ultimate misandrist, going so far as to commit infanticide (he planned to kill his next grandchild if it turned out to be a female).  Because a human’s right to live must “be weighed against all creation.”  Al Gore would be proud.

 

  • The movie suggests that God’s will is for Noah’s family to perish as well, so it revolves around Noah agonizing over the decision (and attempts) to kill his grandchildren.  In the end he just can’t do it out of weakness of compassion.  The humanistic overtones is an example of the hubris of man (our propensity for compassion makes us superior to God).

How can any true Christian enjoy a movie like this?

To put this in a more proper context, imagine if Hollywood made a movie about your mother who loved you more than life itself.  But rather than portray her accurately, they use their creative license to depict her as a crack addict and prostitute who cycles through 8 different boyfriends a week, the kind of mother who only changes your diapers once every 6 months, if even.

What would your reaction be then?  Would you still be quick to defend, shrugging your shoulders and saying “So what if they made my mommy look like a ho?  At least they were PASSIONATE about making the movie!”

This ultimately is what I find so fundamentally wrong with Christians today.  They don’t identify closely with God, to the extent that He is not only real to them, but also family as well.  And when someone makes a movie that besmirches the character of Someone you love, well, it’s only natural to get upset about it.

But to get excited, enthusiastic, even happy about going to see a movie like this, and even worse, insulting those who don’t think it’s all that and a bag of gummy bears?  That tells me they they are not Christians, have no relationship with God, and are probably closet atheists.

I see too many like that, so many in fact that it’s one of the reasons why I don’t attend church.  I can’t in good conscience fellowship with those whose Christianity is a facade at best, a fraud at worst, and it’s maddening to constantly find myself part of a minority view, always at odds with the rest of the so-called flock.  Better to walk alone and let the blind continue to lead the blind.

Of mice and geeks

My 4 year old mouse (which came with my computer) finally bit the dust, so I’ve been using this opportunity to see if I can finally find a reliable wireless mouse.  I’ve tried the Logitech Anywhere MX, the M510, and will probably check out the M705 as well.  I’ve relegated my Anywhere MX to use on my MacBook because of its awesome ability to work on nearly any surface (even more so than other laser models), a welcome feature given the number of times I’ve had to use a newspaper as a makeshift mousepad every time a hotel I stayed at had a ceramic or glass desk.

But for some reason I never get good results using a Wi-Fi mouse for the desktop PC.  I don’t know if the 24-inch real estate makes the difference more obvious, or if I’ve just gotten too used to working with a plain old wired, optical mouse, but it always feels unnatural.  The M510 I’m trying now is pretty heavy (even when I take out one battery), and no matter how many times I adjust the speed, I’m always misclicking here and there.  Logitech also has this tendency to disable the scroll’s function as a middle button (in favor of using hyper scroll, yawn), so curling my finger to click the middle button has also been a minor aggravation for me.

Do others have trouble making a permanent transition from wired to wireless mouse use?  I’m kind of curious to know.  I’m going to check out Best Buy this weekend for Logitech’s wired M500 mouse (and their wireless M705) and see if maybe Microsoft has still been able to produce a few worthy alternatives.  Remember when the Intellimouse was all that and a bag of gummi bears?  I miss those days.

Update:  I’ve played around with the M510, MX Anywhere, M705 and finally the corded M500 mouse from Logitech (check their current mouse line here).  I find it interesting that the location of the sensor does seem to make a difference.  My clicking accuracy is far better when the sensor is positioned in the center rather than to the extreme side like I’ve seen in a lot of wireless mice lately.  That’s why I had a lot of difficulty with the M705 and M510, since I seem to be one of those geeks who pivot the mouse with their wrists rather than move the entire arm.  This difference doesn’t seem to be obvious when using a smaller screen such as on a laptop, but on jumbo monitors like mine it’s definitely noticeable.  Both had off center sensors so my pointer never seems to be precisely where I want it to be.  I’m sure after enough practice and time my muscle memory can adapt, but I’m not in the mood for change, so I opted to go with either the M500 or MX Anywhere (both of which have centered sensors).

Just to confirm I wasn’t imagining this, I went to Mouse Accuracy to test my click accuracy with all the mice I’ve tried, with interesting results.  When using mice with off center sensors my clicking accuracy was just a notch below 50%.  Using the M500 and MX Anywhere, my accuracy ranged from 80 to 90% instead.

I gotta say, I didn’t think I’d like the MX Anywhere, but it’s definitely growing on me, so much that I’m wondering if I should get a second one for the desktop, even though its smaller size makes it more appropriate as a mobile mouse.  The M500 is ok, but it has the downside of being corded and having a less resistant scroll wheel, which makes its use as a middle button a bit more cumbersome.  It’s a horse race for now, but it does look like the MX Anywhere might just win it by a nose.  Besides, I need to be moving past cords and going wireless wherever I can to reduce the cable jungle I’ve got going on in my home office.

Why I hate Long Island with all my heart and soul

Those people who talk about cities like Detroit being the worst places to live have clearly never been to Long Island.  Having been a lifelong native here, I can say without any shadow of doubt that this fish-shaped extension of sewage material, located due east of Manhattan, is one of the most intolerable, despicable, grimy, disgusting, vile, evil, filthy, overpopulated mounds of fecal matter to ever bedevil the history of man.

Map of Long Island and NYC boroughs

WELCOME TO HELL

After traveling to over 30 states in the past few years, I’ve come to believe that Long Island uniquely exemplifies everything that’s wrong with this country.  The exorbitant costs of living, the utterly corrupt police departments, the pothole riddled streets, a populace with disturbingly schizophrenic leanings, the high taxation, the list goes on and on.  In a way, you could say Long Island is the kind of place that offers all the downsides of New York City, with none of the upside.

Long Island natives have an unusual proclivity for bipolar behavior, a reality that made my time growing up here a less than pleasant one.  Hot one day, cold the next.  Nice one day, a stone of rudeness the next.  There was no consistency to the way people acted.  I thought it was just me, but my mother told me her experience had been the same when she was a child, having been a former NYC native before moving further out east to Suffolk County, and recalling how utterly bewildered she was as well by Long Islanders’ neurotic behavior.

I should mention, while Brooklyn and Queens is technically a part of Long Island, they are actually boroughs of New York City, retaining a distinctive difference in culture that remains separate from the suburban sprawls of Nassau and Suffolk County.  It is these two specific counties that make Long Island what it is, and to which I reserve my unrepentant, vitriolic hatred for.

It wasn’t just my mother and me who noticed the peculiar behavior of the natives.  Anyone I spoke to that was from out of town made the same observations:  “Man, people are crazy here.  Must be something in the water.”  It didn’t matter where they came from either.  I’ve met foreign exchange students, people from Europe, people from out of state, even people from nearby Manhattan, and their reactions were nearly always the same.  They ALL blamed the water too.

One of the things that clued me in to why Long Island natives were such a mentally unstable, psychotic bunch was a little factoid I learned back when I was taking Psychology 101 in college.  My professor had mentioned in passing that Long Island had the largest percentage of mental institutions per square mile than anywhere else in the country.  Literally.

Well, that certainly answered a few questions.

Over time I had to learn not to take the natives’ rude and unstable attitudes personally, but it was one of the reasons my introverted personality became even more introverted as I grew up.  I had very few friends during my childhood, filtering out the typical crazies, and holding on to the rare few whose minds were still sound for as long as I could.  The only thing crazier than Long Islanders are Long Islanders who are teenagers, and indeed, I met some of the strangest and most bizarre people I have ever met in my life during my high school years.  I remember one in particular during my junior year, a friend of my then best friend, who once got funky with his girlfriend’s mom in the backseat of her car… while her father filmed the whole thing from the front seat.

Chris Hansen Peaks In

Why don’t you take a seat right over there…

When I discovered that (from the news no less) I decided then that I had more than enough exposure to the human race, and it was time to close ranks and isolate myself before The Crazy got me too.  Being a recluse was a small price to pay in order to preserve my sanity in an insane place.

This craziness also spills over into the roads too.  The irrational and inconsistent behavior of the motorists has led me to endlessly deal with traffic split up between drivers who like to go 40MPH (usually in the left lane) and those who like to go 80MPH, with nothing in between.  This is why people who drive in front of me are always going too slow while those behind me are always going too fast.  I get sandwiched these two extremes during my daily commute, such that I can never use cruise control even when the traffic is moving.  I’m not even dealing with the worst of it either due to working odd hours, so I’m able to commute without enduring LI’s infamous rush hour traffic.  Rush hour here is a whole ‘nother fresh set of hell that only drivers in Los Angeles could begin to understand.

Tank bulldozing on highway

I wish I could drive to work this way.

The overwhelming population and volume of traffic on Long island is so bad that most locals (including me) plan our outings based on traffic patterns.  Timing is everything, and if you miss your chance, be prepared to spend three times as much time on the roads as you originally planned to, dealing with every crazy with (and without) a driver’s license under heaven.  Only those who venture out at the crack of dawn or at 3AM will be spared the worst of the agony.

It’s even more unbearable in the summer, when school lets out and unleashes a horde of terrifying teenagers flooring mommy and daddy’s car into the red zone, along with a plague of old fogies arriving here from Florida to spend the summer and clog the roads with their Cadillacs, driving just as uber-slow as the teens drive uber-fast.

Until I started traveling to other states, I was always left with the impression that Long Island traffic wasn’t really unique, that it was just a fact of life for any area of the country with a heavy population density.  But now, having driven on roads in over 30 odd states, I can truthfully say traffic on Long Island is in a class of its own.

Drivers can be jerkwads no matter where you go, but what I learned from driving outside of Long Island was how more predictable and consistent motorists were.  Even more intriguing, if they saw you coming, especially in the left lane, they almost always moved out of the way.  On Long Island, I have to laugh at people who flashed their lights at cars ahead of them because it proved they were obviously from out of town.  The net result from flashing your lights is that the guy in front of you either blithely ignores you or slows down even more out of pure spite.  We have no fast lanes here, even when traffic is light, because there are always slow pokes cluttering up the roads and threatening the safety of everyone by literally driving BELOW the minimum speeds on parkways.  It results in a lot of frustrated drivers cutting in and out of lanes just to get around these virtual roadblocks, and it’s also why a pleasant cruise to nowhere in particular is always an impossibility.

Austin Powers in a Tight Spot

No room for cruise control here…

And even if Long Island wasn’t a traffic nightmare, there’s really no place for me to go.  Long Island is just… ugly.  The myriad number of towns here belie the reality that it’s all one big indiscriminate suburban sprawl of cement and congested roads.  There’s very little to distinguish one town/village from the next,  and because of that there’s very little sense of community too.   Instead, we have micro-cliques that either have their roots in childhood or are borne out of living in the same neighborhood for many years.  It’s very unlike the small towns and even cities that I’ve traveled to, many of which tend to have this “Cheers” like atmosphere, where everyone knows your name (and they’re always glad you came).  Social circles outside of Long Island seem less rigid and more open-ended, at least in my experience.  Rather than constantly being treated as an outsider (or where your existence isn’t even acknowledged), it’s relatively easy to seek out and become a part of new social groups, even as a newcomer.  There’s no drive to maintain a caste system in the way that I’ve seen here, and I think that may be partly due to Long Island’s proclivity for being indifferent and even hostile to strangers, no matter who they are, whereas I find there’s a higher sense of civility and overt friendliness nearly everywhere else, even in New York City.  It’s actually stunning to experience the sea change in behavior once you drive or take the train a mere 50 miles or so from the suburbs to downtown Manhattan, where some sense of normalcy and civility is restored.

Some people may disagree that Long island is ugly, citing its beaches, seaports and numerous parks.  The problem is whatever natural beauty it does offer is ruined by swarms of humanity who pollute the scenery everywhere they go.  There is no place in which you can truly feel like you can get away from it all (the traffic, the noise, the populace), except possibly the Hamptons, the seat of the uber-rich and ultra-privileged.  Even then, it’s telling that it requires a roughly 100 mile drive to the near edge of Long Island just to “get away” for the weekend.

And even if you COULD find a quiet place in the woods or a park to camp out, relax or otherwise take in the scenery, there’s still the matter of the ticks.  And more ticks.  And, my Lord in heaven, even MORE ticks.  Long island has in fact one of the highest incidents of lyme disease and tick infestation than anywhere else in the country.

THE TICK!

How YOU doin’?

Long Island’s economic climate is also a veritable cesspool of fail.  It follows the national trajectory of undermining and destroying the middle class (although in many respects it’s far ahead of the game than the rest of the country), making it true to its bipolar roots (either hot or cold, fast or slow) and economically, either rich or poor, with nothing in between.  Despite heavy taxation, the counties remain in massive debt, while the population density have pushed the astounding real estate market prices well beyond the reach of many first time home buyers.  I recently read a statistic that more than 55% of people ages 20-34 on Long Island STILL live with their parents.  There are not enough apartments to go around, and many are actually illegal dwellings due to not being up to code.  The irony is that most illegal apartments are actually habitable, but coding ordinances are designed more to bilk residents out of more money than for valid safety reasons.  As a result, apartments up to code often have exorbitant leasing costs.  A studio near where I work for example is currently going for $2,400 to $2,800 a month.  For a studio.  What it would typically cost to rent a four bedroom home in nearly any state would barely cover the expenses of living in someone’s basement here.  Outside of possibly San Francisco, Long Island has the most expensive real estate market in the country.

DiCaprio Smashes Glass Over Head

My polite response to my landlord’s decision to raise my rent by $400 a month.

Even more infuriating is witnessing the endless line of “Section 8” tenants who are able to live in luxury apartments for a third of the rent, and yet bringing down the quality of living for everyone by engaging in criminal behavior and refusing to clean up after themselves.  It’s one thing to live on the government dole as a result of falling on hard times, but it’s quite another to pick up a tax funded paycheck while running a drug cartel out of your living room.

And yes, I also blame Long Island for dampening my dating life as well.  Having given up on the local prospects, who range from the snooty, to the bizarre, to the outright insane, I tend to look for romantic prospects outside New York, yet the cultural/economic differences have often been difficult or even impossible to overcome.  Those who live in areas with costs of living at normal rates can’t seem to understand why most Long Islanders don’t already own their first homes by say, age 21.  It’s especially grating when so many rely on their parents’ wealth for their quality of living (something I never had the benefit of enjoying, and whose parents had to rely on me for financial support), and hence have no concept of what it’s like to endure true financial hardship.  I can’t relate to people who’s had it too easy or too good, whose concept of suffering is a barista mistakenly pouring soy milk instead of almond milk into her latte.   It creates a divide that makes it difficult for any girl residing outside the Long Island bubble to understand the life I’ve lived.  I might as well be living in a third world country.  Actually, given what a smelly landfill Long Island is, calling it a third world country probably wouldn’t be too far off the mark.

Demon Temptress

A typical Long Island girl.

I would have escaped this rock a long time ago, but circumstances have prevented me from doing so, year after agonizing year.  But… I think a door is finally starting to open.  I have assets and opportunities now that I didn’t have before, and I’ve been making the routine effort to apply for jobs in all the places and states I’d like to move to.  Whereas before finances were a major issue, now it’s just a question of securing a new job out of state, which unfortunately has gotten more difficult considering the economic climate we live in, but I’m hopeful.  I see major changes in the year ahead, and hope it will soon bring the day when I am finally released from the prison that is this hateful island.

UPDATE:  I HAVE BEEN “PAROLED!”  After years of plague and darkness, I have finally left Long Island once and for all!  YIPEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Please feel free to continue reading my blog for updates as I make the long overdue transition to a NEW life and a NEW home beyond “Wrong” Island!  

Millennium Falcon Hyperdrive

I’m outta here…

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