Archive for the “Coolness” Category

By the time you read this, I’ll be home. I’m not the type of person to broadcast when I’m away from home because I’m not a fan of inviting bad guys to my house to have their way with it, knowing I’m going to be gone for a while. So, at the time of this writing, it’s 2.19.2017, 11:41pm, and I’m at a Holiday Inn Express in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in preparation for the cruise I will be starting tomorrow. (YOU WILL HAVE TO WAIT FOR WHERE BECAUSE IT WILL BE  A SURPRISE.)

While I’m not a fan of cruises, I’m going to have a blast on this vacation because most of my favorite family members are going along. My sister (Joy); my niece and nephew, Cheyenne and Cody, the former of which hates people as much as I do; my dad and some of his friends; my  uncle Leslie and aunt Fame; and tomorrow, my cousin Christopher and his lady Kaylin will be joining us as we all join the boat like one big family. I’m very much looking forward to it.

It is now 2:32am. I had popped a few Xanax and fell asleep for a bit on these VERY comfortable beds. Shit, for a Holiday Inn Express, I’m pretty goddamn impressed with these beds. However, that insomnia thing I mentioned in the last post? Yeah. Just because I’m taking a vacation doesn’t mean that fuck is.

Anywho, all things considered, this vacation is off to a fine start. I left my house separately from the rest of the family because I live closer to Baltimore, where were flying out off, than anyone else; plus, the cars were all filled up and I couldn’t ride with them if I wanted to. So I gathered up all the various ways I could use to get the airport. After all was said and done, I got it down to about $40 round trip. Rather than  arrange with those companies, I offered up the money to a few friends, who took me upon it. And Anne got me to BWI all safe and sound, get this, at about the same time as the rest of my family. They had just gotten in line and I was able to quickly join them.

It’s way late, so I’m just going to knock this out with some bullet points on the highlights:

  • We were randomly chosen to go through the quick lanes for checkin. This means we could keep our belts and shoes on!
  • My sister scored a free beer on the plane because I made the flight attendant laugh. Still waiting on that particular thank you.
  • When I left Maryland, my suitcase had two wheels; when I arrived in Florida, it had one. I went to the Southwest counter, and they took care of the problem RIGHT THEN by giving me a new suitcase. Right. Then. I cannot speak highly enough of the customer service I got from them.
  • As mentioned, most of my family was going to be on this trip. When we saw Leslie, my uncle, for the first time, he was closing intentionally closing the elevator on us. Those who know Big Les are not surprised by this.

That’s all for now. I’ll share more later!

 

 

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I’m really, really trying to do at least one update a month, and clearly I’m really, really failing. What’s even worse is I’m currently on vacation, so it’s not like I don’t have time right now.

Anywho, if it wasn’t obvious or if I never mentioned it, I love to read. I have more books than I know what to do with (and I’m actually in the process of giving (literal) boxes of them to friends of ones that I just know I won’t go back to, or I have it in the eBook format. Like stuff you’d find on the NY Times bestselling list; Harry Potter, John Grisham, just shit I don’t need on my bookshelves. I really just want harder-to-find books there (like first editions and ’70s and ’80s movie novelizations; my latest drug). Or novels I will no doubt re-read (like King).

My Kindle has made this possible more than anything else. I know that a lot of readers shit on the Kindle, saying things like, “A Kindle doesn’t have the feel of a real book!” and “You can’t smell the pages of a Kindle!” Well, I call bullshit. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing I would love more than to own a gigantic house where I would have a gigantic library, but I live in reality and you there is no good reason why I would need a physical copy John Grisham’s The Firm taking up valuable shelf space when I can have a Limited Edition of Joe Lansdale in its place.

One thing that’s been invaluable in building my eBook collection is Calibre, a free piece of software that is not just an amazing tool to organize your collection, but does a slew of other things, including grabbing and modifying metadata, covers, putting your titles in collections (like Jack Reacher #1, Jack Reacher #2, etc.) and much, much, MUCH more. In addition, you can connect to Calibre wirelessly as long as you have it running, and you can transfer books on the fly.

It gets even better. I have this app on my phone that gives me Google Play Store credit for answering little surveys (generally no more than five questions). Granted, it’s not a lot of money, usually between $0.12 and $0.26, but that really adds up. I was sitting on just over $30 in credit today when an email came through offering me $5 off any book purchase in the Play Store. After some Google searching and program downloading, I head to the Play Store and grabbed Paul Tremblay’s Disappearance at Devil’s Rock for basically free.

Now, because everyone has to be fighting, and everyone has to have their proprietary bullshit, you can’t just buy a book from Google and put it on your Kindle. However, if you do the following, you can very easily convert your purchase to read on your Kindle:

  1. Get the DeDRM tools from here, and follow the instructions on adding the plugin to Calibre
  2. Install Adobe Digital Editions and open the book you purchased and it will convert it to epub.
  3. Go back to Calibre and you’ll now be able to convert that epub to a version you can read on your Kindle.

I’m oversimplifying a bit (it took me a little trial and error, but I got it going), but once you got it down, it opens up some more possibilities when it comes to finding deals on eBooks.

Oh, and I recently started using my library card to “check out” eBooks too. I know, right!?! That’s how I read the latest Reacher novel.

I shit you not, sometimes I feel like Henry Bemis in Time Enough at Last.

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I’m not a volunteer. I’m glad there are people out there that do volunteer, but it’s not for me. I’m too lazy.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m heartless (I kinda am), but I do my good will in other ways. I donate money to causes I like. I donate my old clothes/books/furniture/etc. to the Salvation Army as opposed to throwing it out. I give to a few causes on Patreon. Now, granted, I’m getting something back either in the form of tax write offs and/or perks (in the case of Patreon), but I would still donate even if I didn’t get the tax benefit.

Recently, my employer has started this thing called Community Service. Well, it’s not really called that. We call it that. Or Volunforce. Basically all employees are now required to “volunteer” at least 25 hours a year for approved or pre-approved charities and events. I have a LOT of problems with this, which will be another blog post eventually, but as I told Joy, my sister, I’m really fortunate to truly love what I do as well as the people I work with, so if I have to do this, so be it. But, yeah, I do take issue with the idea of it. Anyway…

So far this year, I have 7 hours applied to the mandatory 25. This 7 was earned over in two 3.5 hour spurts volunteering for SOME (So Others Might Eat). Basically, I went to this place where they serve food to those less fortunate, not necessarily homeless, and helped out. There are a variety of jobs to do, such as serving food, taking out the trash, washing the dishes, or, what I did both times, serving coffee. It was an interesting experience all around. Once I learned out how to determine who wants coffee or tea (you just watch for the cups to be raised in the air), I was also told that the people getting the coffee or tea were only allowed to have at the most three sugars or three Sweet & Lows. I think this has to do something about addicts just wanting sugar, but I really didn’t care to ask. All I needed were the rules. I will say, though, those folks that want more than three will act like they don’t know that they can’t have more than three when they see a new face (mine).

Having never volunteered for something like this before, I didn’t know what to expect. But even so, some things surprised me. For instance, I was genuinely surprised on how these folks treated one another. Meaning, no food went to waste. I had expected that, for sure, but I figured it would be something along the lines of people taking with them what they didn’t finish, but that wasn’t the case. Instead, whatever food went uneaten was offered up to whoever wanted it. I don’t know why I found that surprising, maybe because I have such a low opinion of people anymore, but it was pretty…I don’t know. Touching, I guess. Here are some people that have far, far less than what I do, but I get this feeling that they are far, far less selfish than me. Don’t get me wrong, I freely admit I will always be selfish, and this wasn’t a life changing experience, but I was humbled a little.

I should also mention the first time I did the Volunforce for SOME, there was a dude that was dressed just like Raiden. It might have even been him, I was too in awe to ask.

The second time I did SOME, a guy called me over. He was standing against a wall, with no one to his right or left. He mumbled something to me.

“What?”

Mumble Mumble Mumble.

“I’m sorry, you have to speak up.”

Abramumble Mumblenight.

“One more time, brother.”

“I said you look like Abracadabra McKnight!”

“I don’t know who that is.”

“I know you don’t know who that is.”

At this point, the gentlemen turned to his right and started talking to the person that wasn’t there.

“I told you he wouldn’t know who you are.”

“No. No goddammit.”

“I know.”

He was getting mad at this person he was having (from my point of view) this one-sided conversation with, so I walked away.

I’m looking forward to my next SOME trip. I’m not going to lie, I do get a good feeling when I help out. But I also leave with some good stories. So win/win all around, I guess.

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I bought my first Keurig coffee maker years ago. Five or six at least. I loved it so much, I ended up buying one for my sister, one for my father, and one for my friend as Christmas gifts. It ended up flaking out after some years of use, so when it was time to get a new one, I reached out to Joy, my sister, to find me a coupon. Because if there’s a coupon, she’d find it.

After a day or two, she sent me an email on a stellar deal on a Keurig Vue. The (what I thought was the) latest and greatest Keurig. I ended up picking up the top-of-the-line model and once it arrived, I was very pleased with it. Sure, I could no longer buy K-cups (the new one used, er…Vue cups), but hey! New technology!

That feeling didn’t last long. Turns out, Keurig had quietly discontinued the Vue in order to get out the new, superior Keurig 2.0. This sucker took the K-cups and one of its newest features was it now did carafes! Unfortunately, because of the more-or-less push out of the Vue machines, stores stopped carrying Vue cups, I could only buy them directly from Keurig’s online store. (In their defense, though, they have really good coupons come through email, so they are quite competitive price-wise with the regular stores). However, while I really can’t complain about price and availability of the Vue cups, the selection was (and still is) SO LIMITED. With the K-cup, you literally (literally, not figuratively…literally) have hundreds of options. With the Vue, you’re looking at 30 or 40 choices, and that includes hot chocolate and teas.

So, the other day, an email from Keurig comes through pimping their reusable filters (which allows the use of ANY ground coffee in the machines) for their Keurigs and Keurig 2.0s. See something missing? Yeah. So I took to Twitter and asked if they had plans to make the filters for the Vue. They replied unfortunately not, but they’d relay my message to customer service. I said thanks, please do that, because the selection was lacking. Then I get a direct message from them asking for my contact info, which I provided because I figured maybe they’d send me a coupon or complimentary box of Vue cups.

The next morning, at 8:30, my phone rings. It’s Keurig. The guy wants to talk about my complaint.

I explained to him while they make  a great product, I felt a little screwed because of how they handled Vue’s demise. Naturally, I didn’t blame him (and people who do that, blame the person who’s trying to find out the problem, suck), but the overall situation was kind of frustrating.

He understood, and did something I never expected, offered me a swap. My Vue for a new Keurig 2.0. Ho. Ly. Shit. To say I was excited and pleased was an understatement. I shit you not, I love this product. I always have. I love the ease of use, I love the variety of choices…it’s one of the favorite things in my kitchen. Listen, I buy decaf coffee only so I can drink coffee at night too.

There’s no doubt he was looking at my online account because he knew I had two machines and I even had submitted the serial number for the Vue incorrectly (I had to read it to him), so he could clearly see I was a faithful customer and wasn’t blowing smoke up his ass. Hell, just last month I spent $50 for some cups.

Long story short, I tweeted to them on Tuesday, and there was a damn 2.0 on my porch on Thursday. Like I said on Twitter, they have a customer for life right here.

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The toughest thing for me when it comes to writing a review for my site is the starting sentence or graph. Hell, that’s tough for most writers. But (again) for me, I find it far easier to jump right into a blog post (when I bother to do one) than to start the first words of a review.

As I was pondering how I was going to start the review for this book I recently finished, the words came to me rather quickly. It’s going to start with, “When I was a kid, my favorite things to read — before King became part of my library — were…” And as I was finishing that thought in my head, I realized not only was I happy with where that’s going to go, but I had the idea for a new blog entry as well.

When I was  kid, my favorite things to read — before King became part of my library — were Encyclopedia Brown, Choose Your Own Adventure, and anything Bigfoot, UFO, or Loch Ness. The latter three I’ll be discussing in said upcoming review, but the first two? Let’s talk about them now.

For those that didn’t have the luxury of growing up with Leroy “Encyclopedia” Brown, he was a kid that solved mysteries for $0.25 a day (plus expenses). I have to be honest here, I don’t remember any stories (c’mon! It’s been over 30 years, easy), but I do remember the solution for one because at the time it was so damn slick. I don’t recall what, exactly, Brown was investigating, I just remember it happened to do with a lady in white who was seen on the beach at night, BUT SHE LEFT NO TRACKS! Was she a ghost? Had someone murdered her, forever making her wander the last place she took a breath? It certainly was a mystery…and Encyclopedia Brown was on the case! Eventually, it turned out that whoever was walking on the beach in that white dress (seriously, I can’t remember) had put a piece of cardboard in the train (maybe it was a wedding dress) and it was weighted just enough that it was smoothing out the sand behind her, thus leaving no footprints. How genius is that? And that kid Brown, well he’s a smart cookie. As I was looking for pictures of covers, it appears that the series is still in print, so I’m pleased that a younger generation will get the same glee as me from reading these.


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When I wasn’t reading Encyclopedia Brown solving mysteries, I was tearing into Choose Your Own Adventure books. If you didn’t experience CYOA as a kid, well, I’m sorry your childhood sucked.

If you don’t know what a CYOA book is, it’s exactly what it sounds like…you choose your own adventure. Basically, you read a page or two, and then you make a choice. If you choose one way, go to page five. If you choose another, go to page nine. And you kept making choices until you ran out of them. Then you started all over. And these books were so popular, which was fantastic for us fans because there were TONS of them. Below are just a few of the titles, and you can see a nice sized picture of even more here.


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In addition to having a ton to choose from, the series’ popularity of course spawned knockoffs. The best of which were the Dungeons and Dragons’ Endless Quest books. It was like two of my favorite things got smashed together into something wonderful.


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I’m not the type to pine over the things I had in childhood, wishing I still had them. But, man, outside of all of my Star Wars toys (if only to sell), I would love to have all of these sitting on my bookshelf now.

   

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