This was kind of a fun, little introspective that I did on Instagram over the last week – admittedly I broke the rules a bit because I guess the original text says something about “no people, no descriptions,” but whatever.

I personally used it as an exercise to consider what seven unique things serve to define my life today, and so the following is what I ended up coming up with… 🙂

(in no particular order)

7 days, 7 black and white photos describing your life… (7/7) #blackandwhitechallenge #family

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Excessive Viewing

October 28, 2017 2:21pm
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One of the unique things that I’ve experienced as a parent is that we tend to watch the same movies over and over again in our house.

Case in point – I think I’ve seen The Lego Movie three times in the last 24 hours, and Moana at least twice … although once was this morning and I was still asleep for the majority of it.

Only with a toddler is it possible to have the conversation:

Dad: That movie was great – what do you want to watch next?

Kid: Toys!

Dad: We just finished watching Toy Story … the credits are literally still playing on the screen.

Kid: Toys!

Dad: Toys it is…

Admittedly we probably let our kids watch TV a little more than we should, but frankly there’s three of them and only two of us, and when one of us is incapacitated with work or whatever … hey, I’ll take any help that I can get! 😛

Besides, I don’t really paint TV as the terrible threat that a lot of people consider it to be because I’ve seen plenty of its pros firsthand. Sesame Street and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse have done a great job of supplementing and reinforcing what Christopher is learning with his letters and numbers and shapes and colors, not to mention speech, creativity, and gaining a better understanding of the world around him and how things work.

Yesterday he came into my office and I was drinking out of a bottle of water, and so he pointed to it and said, “Me try it!” and we had a fun, little (albeit wet) mishap of him trying to drink straight from a bottle, and regular water no less! All because of a Sesame Street song with various singing foods convincing Elmo to try something new.

And a big part of why I introduced him to The Lego Movie last night is because he’s gotten more and more into Legos in the last year, to the point where he’s not only playing with Duplos but also most of my own Lego sets which are several years above his age range. It was really awesome to look over and see him playing with his own in between watching scenes in the movie – I was finally able to capture a picture of it this afternoon…


If my kids were literally just vegging in front of the TV for hours on end not doing anything else, I might be more concerned, but they tend to watch a lot like Sara and I do. We’re almost always doing something else while we’re watching, and a lot of times I’ll just have it on in the background to listen to episodes of Shark Tank or something while I’m doing the dishes or other simple work. TV has way too much value to tune it out completely, and as long as the kids are getting something worthwhile out of it, I’m ok with that.

…even if it means watching Bolt for the fourth time in a row on the same day… :O

Toying with Contently

October 25, 2017 5:30pm
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For the longest time, I’ve been in search of a really good hub website to showcase all of the various things that I write. I ended up making one myself because I just never found anything that I liked – you can see it on the front page of this site – but it’s still not perfect.

My ideal option would be a WordPress theme that I can plug RSS feeds from all of my other sites into, and then it would aggregate everything that I write from everywhere all into one nice and pretty news feed.

A layout similar to what Pinterest looks like would be ideal, which is why I was kind of curious when I saw Contently mentioned on social media the other day, so I decided to check it out. The site is actually designed to host a portfolio for freelancers, so the display itself is very cool. The part I’m not crazy about is that it’s entirely manual because it’s meant to be a curated portfolio, so I had to enter URLs for every single article listed, as well as tweak the excerpts because it just grabbed the first X characters of each post…

I still like it from the perspective of creating a portfolio of my favorite work, so I took a few hours to scour all of my recent projects to find 30 – 40 pieces to fill it. And it was neat that I could include my books in it as well, although it kind of stands out that the site is designed for people working for mainstream sites because all of those boring, text file shapes at the top of my profile are supposed to be much larger “As seen in…” logos if I had work for any bigger sites like The New York Times or The Huffington Post.

I’m kind of surprised that they don’t grab a site’s favicon if it isn’t already a preferred outlet – would make for a nicer presentation…

I honestly don’t know if I’ll do anything else with it just because there’s not really much else to do, but if you’re looking for something to read, right now I think it’s a solid collection of some of my own personal favorites that you might enjoy reading as well!

(Tip of the hat to Sara Benincasa whose post on Facebook about her own portfolio pointed me to Contently in the first place…)

Entertainment vs Politics

September 24, 2017 4:21pm
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I’ve never quite understood the arrogance with which some people cite that celebrities should stay out of politics.

Politics affects all of us whether we’re fast food workers or policemen or teacher or multimillion dollar actors and athletes, and just because they’re lucky enough to have a larger paycheck than the everyday man shouldn’t diminish their right to voice their own political concerns and beliefs.

I think what rubs me the wrong way the most about all those currently up in arms about the football players who’ve chosen to protest by either taking a knee or simply not coming out of the locker room during our national anthem is how crude these so called fans are towards a very real fear for the very people that they idolize. You would think that if someone who you religiously follow every game day took a few minutes before each game to speak out against something as serious as racial inequality and police brutality, then the least a fan could do is take a few minutes to listen.

…and not try to follow this bizarre, Republican talking point about how it makes them unpatriotic and disrespectful to deflect attention away from the real issue at hand…

Of course, Donald Trump came out tweeting all sorts of rage about how horrible these displays are, even calling for the team owners to take a stand and fire these individuals … which is A) ironic, considering the bile and hatred that he tweets on a daily basis, not to mention B) a gross interpretation of the 1st amendment to the Constitution … you know, the thing that soldiers actually fought and died for out on the world’s battlefield.

Now I don’t really care about what the President says because eight months plus an enduring campaign in, we know that his prerogative is to chant out whatever will best get his base riled up.

What I do care about, on the other hand, is his base who stands behind and believes in this mentality that patriotism is about unwavering allegiance and even more importantly, that police brutality is mostly something that black citizens bring upon themselves … blah blah blah … Chicago, black on black violence, etc, etc…

It shows that these people don’t care so much about our actual freedoms as they do about protecting a symbol of our freedoms … one that maybe doesn’t shine quite as brightly as some of us would like to think. But it’s easier to call a professional athlete spoiled and ungrateful across the Internet than it is to accept that racial inequality is still very much alive in this world – even if the only black people you ever encounter in your own little slice of rural America is the ones throwing the pigskin around on TV every Sunday for more money than you’ll ever see in your lifetime.

It says something when no matter how a group of people choose to protest, none of them are “acceptable” to you … protests in the streets are too violent, yet a silent protest before a game is deemed disrespectful. It says that you would prefer just to not hear about their protest at all, which is crude because this is a really important issue to someone you claimed to be a fan of, but it’s also frankly disrespectful to the freedom itself – so which is a grosser crime, making a silent protest of our national anthem or disregarding the very freedom that our national anthem represents???

Not everyone has the luxury to not care about politics, but the least you can do as an American is respect other people’s rights to care about politics themselves for a few minutes before they spend the next two hours risking life and limb to entertain you.

Dream Journal : Fragments

September 19, 2017 10:26pm
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It was a bizarre cross between a cub scout meeting and a D&D game, and we were trying to solve some sort of puzzle.

There were other groups “competing” at the same time as we were, but after a few steps of rolling dice we came to learn that the puzzle wasn’t solved by the results of each step, but simply by taking a step back to look at the steps themselves and how they related to each other. When we finally came to realize that “the answer” was Back to the Future, we ran upstairs to tell whoever was running the puzzle, only to find that it had all been a facade and we were lost in this strange, urban area once we left the basement behind…

* * * * *

For whatever reason, I was grocery shopping when the power went out at the store, and no one really knew what to do. All of the employees had randomly disappeared, leaving just a handful of us alone in the dark, empty store with things in our carts that hadn’t been purchased yet.

After much deliberation, I decided that the things I had would spoil either way, so I reluctantly walked out of the store without paying for them, only to be confronted with a very large, billboard-sized sign in the parking lot citing that food taken when the store had been abandoned was still stealing and considered to be a very bad crime.

By the time I had everything in my car, I was being chased by several police cars as I zipped through the darkened city, desperate for a place to hide. Eventually I came across a row of miniature compartments – not like houses, but akin to the mailboxes found at an apartment complex, only large enough to fit inside. So I did.

As I was stashing a few items away in the back of the locker and stuffing my pockets with anything that would fit, Lisa Simpson appeared and asked if I’d like some help carrying the rest of my items home.

* * * * *

We were canoeing in a tropical area and suddenly came upon many sharks in the water, all no more than probably 4 – 5 feet each. Though they were mostly harmless, our guide reminded everyone to keep their hands out of the water as we cautiously glided among them.

Eventually we came upon another boater whose boat was filling up with water, which made everyone nervous because he himself was in the water and dangerously close to the sharks.

Just then – a hundred or so feet away – a much, much larger shark took down the larger guide boat that had brought us all out to the area.

I paddled away as fast as I could, following the shoreline that soon became cluttered by all of the discarded boats that had come before us and too had fallen for their trap…

* * * * *

We were moving into a new home that was much smaller than the apartment where we previously lived. It was going to be tight quarters, but it seemed all for the best as we struggled to find places for our essentials and get rid of the excess that we didn’t need and frankly didn’t have room for.

We still had one load of larger things (which we didn’t have room for) left to bring before we handed back our keys, so I was trying to shuffle things around to make some space. As I was sorting through the small bedroom that was to be shared by the kids, I was interrupted by a large, older man who proved to be our new maintenance man. He was friendly enough and seemed to already be taking to the kids when our neighbors suddenly began playing their music very loudly.

Without a second thought, he walked over to the bedroom wall where there was actually a door dividing the two rooms and pounded on it to prompt them to quiet down. A moment later, someone opened the door and showed that it wasn’t another home on the other side, but a store of sorts. The maintenance man and the store owner chatted for a few minutes while I looked around and saw mostly displays filled with candies nearest to our door, with one of our other neighbors eventually walking by inside the store with an armful of candy telling me, “You’re really going to like it here!”

After the maintenance man left and closed the door, I noticed that it could only be locked from the store’s side and looked around for something I could put in front of it to help remedy the situation. There were pieces to one of the boys’ beds nearby, but all were too light, so instead I considered an old, ornate dresser that had been left behind.

Opening its top drawer, I found the inside scrolled with seemingly satanic rituals, and began to wonder why the last family had left it behind.

movie thoughts … Transformers: The Last Knight

September 18, 2017 2:43pm
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I remember a time when I actually liked the Transformers movies.

The first one (2007) wasn’t bad – a good, solid action flick with plenty of humor thrown into the mix.

And even the second one (2009) was alright, though I never really cared for the name.

From there, though, is where I feel like this franchise started to go downhill – first with Megan Fox’s replacement in #3, and then with Shia LaBeouf being randomly bumped for Mark Wahlberg in #4.

Just to be absolutely, 100% clear without equivocation – Transformers 5 is a raging dumpster fire that should make every last person who appeared in the credits ashamed, as well as everyone who went to see it in the theater, and oh hell, pretty much everyone who spent their 2 hrs 34 min to watch it EVER.

Spoiler #1 – Marky Mark is “The Last Knight.” Because why have some awesome, giant robot fill that roll when … Mark Wahlberg is around?

Spoiler #2 – He’s every bit as awful as he was in Transformers 4.

I don’t even know what to say about these movies anymore. Continuity is garbage, seeing Wahlberg written as a cooler star than Optimus Freaking Prime is just mind blowing, and the plot reads like somebody just throwing darts at a board, and then remembering that they promised a role to XYZ actor every 30 minutes or so and just penciling them in wherever.

Every time the name Cade Yeager is spoken out loud makes me want to punch an Autobot in the face.

The idea that apparently every historical event ever was won only because of the Transformers reads like a Hasbro wet dream.

Megatron negotiating with lawyers is … not what I want to see a 40-foot evil robot doing in a movie, ever.

Oh yeah, and P.S. This plot about bringing Cybertron to Earth already fucking happened once in Transformers 3!!! But I guess while they needed to teleport the planet back in 2011, now it’s cool for them to just drive it across the universe like a planet-sized taxi cab?!

Also also – drones??? 

You have 40-foot tall fighting robots – why do you also need drones?!

*sigh*

So yeah, the movie is garbage … even moreso than the last one was, and yet it will probably be less garbage than Transformers 6 whenever that comes out, because when it comes to Hollywood, dumpster fires are almost impossible to put out.

Coming Home to Walt Disney World

September 16, 2017 1:00am
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Even though admittedly I still tend to snicker at the Welcome Home!” slogan aligned with the Disney Vacation Club despite now being a member myself for several years, today I found myself feeling an unexpected sense of ease as we made our first trip to the parks in a couple of months not to mention our first visit since we evacuated for the hurricane last week…

We were riding Journey of the Little Mermaid at the Magic Kingdom – I had Matthew in one clam shell, Sara had David behind us, and my Mom had Christopher in a third shell – and as we were tipping backwards to enter the first part of the ride, it was almost akin to that same feeling when we had pulled into our own driveway at 7:30am a day prior to find that everything (for the most part) was safe and sound, and that we could finally begin to start getting things back to normal again.

Sure, it was super hot out, and we were already pretty exhausted from our long car ride back from Memphis, but it was nice to be back someplace familiar where we knew that we could have a good time in our own special way between taking in a few snacks, going on some rides with the kids, and just enjoying the unique atmosphere that Disney World has to offer.

Our home survived Hurricane Irma just fine, and now that we’ve confirmed that our second home also did ok, it’s enough to put our minds and ease and get back to having fun living in the Sunshine State! 😉

The Art of the Brick … in pictures

September 5, 2017 12:45am
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Although I’m not really much of an art person – at least the kind to spend an afternoon trying to guess what mood an artist was in while he was painting something 100 years ago, anyways.

But I do love Legos, and so when I learned that The Art of the Brick was going to be making a stop in Tampa this summer, I knew that we had to check it out. I’ve been a fan of Nathan Sawaya for a while now, so there was the added bonus of getting to tour the work of a famed Lego artist in addition to simply checking out the unique art form that nobody else has ever really worked with before!

Now admittedly I noticed right away that the exhibit was a bit different than walking around all of the larger than life models found around Legoland Florida and Disney Springs – it did feel a bit more academic, even though some of the more familiar painting recreations like The Starry Night, Scream, the Mona Lisa, and even the American Gothic sculpture made me feel a bit more cultured. 😉

I think what was most impressive is just considering that throughout the entire exhibit, each and every last one of the pieces was created by one guy … compared to the giant models around Legoland that are very impressive, yet are the works of entire teams of builders between computer modelers and fabricators and builders actually putting the bricks into place. And I think that helped me to bridge that gap between art and model, in a way, because my own art (writing) has very much always been a singular exercise as opposed to writing with other people.

It’s neat to walk around this huge exhibit and see some of the ideas inside the head of another creative person brought to life.

Above all, I think by far my favorite piece in the exhibit, though, was the model of the exhibit itself … particularly once I realized just how meta it got when the model itself was found within the model of the exhibit! That delighted me to no end – to first track my way through the exhibit from the front door to where I was standing, only to realize that within that the entire exhibit had been replicated again. So cool! 😀

I also really appreciated the interactive section at the end where kids could finally touch the bricks and play on their own … because if the other kids in the exhibit were anything like my own, they were more than due for a reward by the time they got to the end! Plus, it was just a nice way to end the presentation by bringing the art down to a relatable level for children because that’s the age when the seeds for any good, lifelong passion find their roots.

As a final thought, before writing this post today I did a little digging to see where The Art of the Brick would be going next because this was its last weekend in Tampa, I was intrigued to find that there are actually multiple shows currently touring the globe, meaning that the show I saw this weekend may not be the same other people will see – which is kind of neat and makes me wonder what pieces the other shows feature, too!

This one, in particular, over in the UK looks especially neat because it’s focused primarily on DC Superheroes – and though I’ve always been more of a Marvel guy myself, some of these models even beyond the giant Batmobile look like they’d be very cool to check out.

All in all it was a great exhibit, and I’ll be damned if we didn’t end up venturing over to the Lego Store to buy some new sets for ourselves after we were done, too! 😉

Weekend Update, Labor Day ’17 Edition

September 4, 2017 9:08pm
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Going into this holiday weekend, I had kind of planned on catching up on a bunch of work, but instead I did all of this fun stuff! 😉

Wonder Woman
This was probably the movie I’ve been most looking forward to this year, and on account of not being able to go to the movies anymore (thanks, kids!), it took waiting until it came out on digital to finally be able to check it out. And for the most part, I really liked it!

Admittedly there were a couple of parts that were pretty predictable, though the big surprise still managed to catch me off guard. Gal Gadot was definitely awesome throughout her role, and it was interesting to actually see a new backstory for a DC character that we haven’t really heard about – basically other than Batman or Superman – up until now. It also kicked the pants off of Batman v. Superman, although that really isn’t much of an accomplishment. Overall I thought it was a good start, and I kind of hope that Justice League has more of Wonder Woman’s influence now than Sups or Bats… 😛

Zelda, Revisited
Lately I’ve been watching Zelda Randomizer videos on YouTube again and it’s kind of left me yearning to play a bit myself. Unfortunately, as much as I love my RetroPie setup, it lives in our living room and I don’t normally spend a lot of time there by myself … or if I do, I’m watching TV while I’m trying to work. So knowing that Wonder Woman was in the works for Saturday night, I threw a copy of Nestopia on my laptop and spent the bulk of our movie time also exploring Hyrule.

I’m always surprised how much I still manage to remember from that game, and though I certainly couldn’t clear the entire thing in less than 30 minutes, I did make it through the majority of the dungeons in about 3-4 hours!

The Art of the Brick by Nathan Sawaya
Probably the highlight of my weekend … because it’s been here all summer and this is the last weekend … was getting to see this Lego art exhibit by legendary Lego artist Nathan Sawaya. I’ve followed his work for years now and was super amped about this show coming to Tampa, however kids and busy summer in general stood in the way of making it down to see this until now.

I’m very glad that we did, however! The show really isn’t particularly kid-themed, despite using Legos as a medium, but all three were surprisingly well behaved and Christopher in particular did a really good job of holding hands whenever he was out of his stroller so that he didn’t touch any of the models. I took a ton of pictures that I’ll post here a little bit later, but it was a whole lot of fun and very much worth the hour-plus wait outside in order to get in. 😉

Lego Ninjago Fun
After the art exhibit, we ended up heading over to Disney Springs because we’d wanted to go the previous weekend for my birthday and it ended up raining the entire time. But the weather this weekend was gorgeous – it had cooled down rather nicely after sunset, so we were able to spend a nice couple of hours just casually grabbing dinner and wandering around. As the sub-heading above suggests, we eventually made it to the Lego Store where I picked up another handful of the new Lego Ninjago Movie Collectible Minifigs – that’s a mouthful! – and even though I technically just started this series a few weeks ago, I’m kind of happy to say that I’m almost done already!

Now it’s just a matter of re-configuring my wall display to add in some more baseplates – something that I’ll definitely write more about once I finally get everything that I need to get started! 😀

Best. Slushie. Ever.
And lastly, I didn’t get a chance to snap a proper picture of this myself because it was dark, but I was able to try one of Amorette’s Patisserie’s new wine slushies because this has quickly become Sara’s go-to place to grab dessert, and I’ve got to say that it was probably one of the best slushies that I’ve ever had. Mostly because of the wine – which was definitely present – but it also had a great flavor (I had the strawberry one) and it was admittedly kind of nice to have an alcoholic drink that I could get away with wandering through Disney Springs sipping inconspicuously! 😉

P.S. Writing Brainstorming
For what it’s worth, I did get a small amount of work done during this weekend’s fun – namely in figuring out the topic for a new editorial that I want to write for next week. It hits on a subject that’s really been bothering me a lot lately – generational differences – and in a way I’m looking forward to writing it to get some of the thoughts off my chest. Hoping to have it out tomorrow, but I’ve still got a long way to go from notes to column, so we’ll see…

Dream Journal : That Same Dream, Over and Over

August 29, 2017 8:27pm
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It’s no secret by now that one of my most recurring dreams typically involves my move to Florida, however this one was a little different in that apparently I had already moved and this time had simply returned to retrieve the rest of my bulkier possessions – something that I’d actually planned to, but was never able to do in real life and instead got them over time via UPS and visiting friends…

As is often the case, I started back at the warehouse where I used to work, however that didn’t seem to last long because after a quick calculation in my head of what they were paying me to work on the side, I decided that it wasn’t worth sticking around to make a few bucks and I was probably better off just packing up and hitting the road instead.

So I returned home to start loading up a rather large pickup truck – no idea who it belonged to – with a trailer attached, presumably to help haul the bigger stuff like the speakers to my PA system … which in fact have never made it down to Florida in real life. There were a lot of people around to help – extended family, friends of my parents – and the whole thing was much more of a group effort than just me carrying bags and boxes out to my car like it had been in real life! 😉

Also as a strange aside – throughout the entire packing, I found myself uncomfortably exchanging text messages with a girl back in Florida who I was presumably dating, though it wasn’t clear who she was or whether she’d for certain be waiting for me when I got there.

When it came time to go, I looked out to the truck and found that my sister had stowed away in the back seat of this truck, more or less buried up to her eyeballs in my belongings! After acknowledging that she could make the trip with me, I explained that 24 hours on the road would be a long time to be buried in stuff, and so we worked to reorganize a bit so that she’d actually have an empty seat to sit in for the ride down!

One item that got left behind – a red mattress like what you’d see on a cot at summer camp … in this dream, an aunt had bewilderingly gifted it to me, though we all agreed that I didn’t like to go outside any more than necessary and thus there was really no point in trying to bring it along. As it is, we had boxes of magazines, huge speakers and guitars, buckets of fish from my aquariums, Lego sets and video games – pretty much all of the random, non-essential stuff that I’d deemed unnecessary to cram into my car for the first trip down.

Leaving home, there was an unmistakable urge to get away as fast as possible – something that didn’t occur in real life, mind you – and after sending one last text message … a picture of my old home in Michigan … we hit the road in this gigantic rig of a pickup truck, eager to hit the highway and put as many miles behind us as possible.

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