Islamorada, please?

February 17, 2019 2:30pm
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Photo © Simon Dannhauer / Adobe Stock

The last couple of days I’ve kind of been daydreaming of a vacation down in the Keys.

And not a short one, either! 

I’m talking rent a house on the water for a month, spend my days laying in a hammock and snorkeling, cooking seafood for dinner every night and watching the stars, with little to no human interaction except for the people at the market and my family.

Maybe an extra set of hands could come along to help keep track of the kids, too.

This last week has been pretty chaotic, in that I’ve essentially been filling in for Sara because she had classes to take during the day at work for a couple of days. The amount of running around that this woman does all day for three kids is nuts, and I only did it for two days! It’s no wonder that our house is atrocious because by the time the end of the day finally comes, you’re too exhausted to actually do anything about it … not that it would matter when the kids will tear everything apart again the next morning…

🙁

So anyways, I think I speak for both of us that we need some time to relax and unwind – to truly unwind – and it doesn’t even have to be away from the kids, necessarily. Our Christmas vacation that we’ve done the last couple of years over at Disney has been great because it gets us out of the house and away from everything, it gives the kids something new to explore and a limited number of toys to clutter up our temporary home with, and with everything contained within Disney’s sphere, it’s great to be able to walk to all forms of food and entertainment and so on.

I would love to be able to just walk out the backdoor and have my toes in the sand in a matter of seconds.

Or to spend hours swinging in the breeze in a hammock without worrying about what’s going on at work.

Plus, I’d love for the kids to better enjoy the tropics of Florida because frankly we don’t take them to the beach much as it’s just really hard for two adults to contain three toddlers right now! At least at a theme park we can strap them into strollers, but you can’t push a stroller on the beach! Not to mention, I’m not sure that I’ve even been down to the Florida Keys since I moved here over 15 years ago…

That just seems wrong, and Jimmy Buffett would be ashamed, and I think the sunshine and fruit juice would do us all some good.

Addicted to … Light Bulbs?

February 11, 2019 12:49pm
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Over the weekend I splurged and bought a few of those fancy Philips Hue smart light bulbs with some of our tax refund.

And yes, before we get too far into this – I still think that they’re overly expensive…

…but they’re also undeniably really cool!

I ended up with two sets of lights – three of the color bulbs to update the ceiling fan in my office, and also a light strip to replace the cheap one I ran along the ledge in our living room that burned out about four weeks after I installed it.

All told, I spent about $250 … which I know is crazy for a handful of light bulbs!

(hint: Definitely shop around and pay attention to bundles for the best prices – I got a starter kit with 3 bulbs, the hub, and a switch for $120 that would normally cost $195 separately, whereas the two bulb and hub kit was $100 and the four bulb and hub kit was $200. Best Buy was also cheaper than Amazon for me.)

But so far I’m pretty impressed with their versatility and ease of use once I got the first one setup.

My biggest struggle was getting their hub installed, and to no real fault of Philips – turns out I didn’t have any empty ports left on my router, or outlets left on the nearby power strip, so I had to do some juggling there to hook up a new switch and swap out the power strip for one that better accommodates the bulky power supplies that way too many people still use.

Other than that, the only real setup pain was having to push the button on top of the hub to authenticate it with their app on my phone, which was only a pain because all of our networking stuff is on a high shelf in our bedroom closet, so I had to walk all the way across the house a couple of times to do it.

That said, from a security standpoint I kind of like that the Hue Hub requires a physical connection to your network rather than wifi because it’s a lot more secure than relying on customers to change the default password once they set it up, which would likely never happen.

So on to the lights themselves!

I mean, it’s still about 90% novelty, but I thought it was really neat to be able to change the colors of the lights in my office pretty much in real time just by moving my finger around the color map on my phone! I also like the preset scenes that you can pick from, although I wish that there were more of them. There might be a way to download more – I only spent a little time playing around with things in the Lab, but it looks like there’s a lot of experimentation to choose from as well as 3rd party apps that do animations and stuff, too.

I even let Christopher play with them for a few minutes and he thought it was pretty cool, too!

For my office, I’ve basically got the three color bulbs in my ceiling fan, and then I also have both a dimmer switch/remote thingy as well as a motion sensor linked to them. I’m still unsure on the switches because frankly, I don’t know where to put them where the kids won’t constantly steal them! But I thought the motion sensor was really cool because it actually let me not only set the lights to come on when I walk through the door, but also come on to different scenes based on the time of day!

Right now I have it set to normal lighting during the day and then a much dimmer, tropical scene of blue and green after 11pm.

really want to experiment with trying out different types of lighting for when I’m writing late at night because I think it might be a cool way to help set the mood based on what it is that I’m trying to write!

That said, my other purchase was a light strip (and an extension) to go out in the living room – mostly to be used as ambient light on this ledge we have that runs the length of the room up by the ceiling. I think you’re supposed to put plants and stuff up there, but we’ve just got a couple of pots, a pillow, and a Mickey & Minnie statuette from when we got married. And also now some neato blue lights!

This is a lighting scheme that has evolved for a couple of years now. I first just had some white Christmas lights up there, which turned us on to the idea of having ambient lighting up there but unfortunately burned out after only a couple of weeks of 24×7 use. Next I picked up a much cheaper version of these lights from some random seller on Amazon, which were fine for the most part except that the remote was very finicky and almost never worked, and sometimes the colors flickered and had varying brightness.

For what it’s worth, I paid less than $20 for those and $120 for the new Philips lights.

I honestly think that I like these ones even more than the ones in my office because although I initially set them to a light blue just for some nice ambient light, I changed them to white later after Christopher had fallen asleep on the couch and was surprised that they let off enough light that I didn’t have to turn any of the others on to do any work while he was sleeping. That was a nice bonus that I hadn’t expected.

Now – for the future…

Again, even though these things are still pretty expensive – about $40 for a single bulb whereas I typically buy CFLs or their LED replacements for maybe $6 a piece – I’ve already found myself scoping out the next places around the house where I want to install them!

I think they’d be really great in the hallway at night to add a nightlight effect that we sort of have with our Nest smoke detectors, but not nearly as bright or versatile.

I want to update the ceiling fan in our bedroom just like my office to give us a change while sitting in bed getting ready to fall asleep.

They also just recently released some outdoor bulbs, including ones to go on the front corners of the garage which I think would be really cool, although I might have to upgrade our wifi first because I’m not sure if our existing AP’s range goes that far.

I mean, sure, to do the entire house all at once would just be ridiculous. I think I counted up the other day and found a total of about 50 bulbs around my house, so that’s $2,000 in light bulbs right there and that doesn’t even include switches and sensors and stuff! But if you were to do it maybe a room at a time, I think that’s a lot more manageable, plus it gives me some time to work out the kinks like figuring out the best way to handle switches so that they don’t end up walking away on us.

Eventually I’d love to get to the point where everything is switched over, including adding some accent lighting around the garden out front and the pool area in the back. In theory it’d be neat to then start to tie some of these things together – i.e. turn on the hot tub, set the lights, turn on some music, and pour me a drink…

Ok, maybe not that last one just yet, but the future is right around the corner! 😉

movie thoughts … The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

February 10, 2019 11:45pm
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Today Christopher and I went to see the new Lego movie in the theater, and we both really liked it!

I was a little nervous because the last couple of movies we tried to see didn’t go well – I spent a good 2/3rds of The Incredibles 2 walking around the lobby with him and the Emmet Otter/Fraggle special we tried to watch at Christmastime went, well, poorly… 😯

But indeed, I actually got to watch the whole thing, which was nice because this sequel turned out to be a pretty good follow-up to the first movie after all. I thought it was neat, for starters, to see the plot literally pick up right where the last movie left off – it made for a nice flow, despite the story going just a bit downhill from there.

That said, I was admittedly surprised at how well Part 2 offered such a rich theme around the brother and sister playing together because I was honestly super impressed by how touching and sincere Part 1 was around the son wanting to bond with his Dad while the Dad struggled to give up control of his own childhood toys.

It’s definitely something that I’ve struggled with since having kids of my own who are impressively capable of climbing up the shelves where I used to store my own Legos, so who knows – maybe the moral of Part 2 will rub off on them once they’ve watched it two or three hundred times, too!

Maya Rudolph’s scene talking about the pains of stepping on bricks was quite amusing, too!

…as was Will Ferrell’s last line in the movie… 😉

Oddly enough, one of the most memorable sequences from the movie – just like last time – was the credit sequence, possibly because it was a bit slower than the rest of the movie’s action-packed scenes, so it was a little easier to really enjoy and appreciate the detail that went into all of the animations. Very colorful, and hyper creative – I really liked them!

Oh, and also just like the first movie, the Lego sets themselves that I’ve seen so far for Part 2 are also pretty crazy and out there, which makes for some super fun and unique sets. Overall, Lego has done a really good job with these two movies, both in creativity as well as making them meaningful and not just a mechanism for selling m0re toys. Not sure if they’re planning to do a Part 3 at this point, but so far I think they’re doing great, so I’m game for more if they are. 😀

Toddler Minded Nipping Turtle

February 9, 2019 1:23am
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Story Time!

David and Christopher have been growing this expanding foam turtle for a couple of weeks now. It’s the kind that starts out super tiny and then you submerge it in water and over time it grows to several hundred times its original size.

Last night we finally let Christopher open the bag it was in and take it in the tub to play with, and he had a lot of fun!

So tonight I thought I’d let David do the same because he’s been wanting to play with it all week and he didn’t get a bath last night, but when he came into the bathroom and saw the turtle already in the tub from the night before … he was very nervous.

He was also curious, and peeked over the side, but when I suggested that he take off his clothes – like I’d already done with Matthew and put him in the tub – he was not a fan of that idea at all.

I finally got him into the tub by picking it up and tossing it on the other side of Matthew, and then about sixty seconds later as the water level started to rise and Matthew started moving around, all of a sudden CRYING AND PANIC!

“TURTLE BIT ME!!!!!!”

It was then that I pieced together everything and finally realized … David thought that it was actually a real turtle!

And as much as I tried to reassure him that there was no possible way that this fake foam toy turtle BIT HIM, he was having none of it and I finally had to throw the thing in the sink to recover any semblance of a normal bathtime.

I also kissed the imaginary boo-boo that the mean turtle had apparently made when it bumped into his arm under the bubble bath…

Even so, that kid watched that turtle sitting on the edge of the sink like a hawk for the entire duration of his bath!

He also tried to warn Christopher about the turtle when he came in, but at least Christopher understood – thank god – that the turtle he’d been wearing on his head the night prior wasn’t in fact a real turtle in the slightest.

We even showed him how, unlike real turtles, this one happens to have Made In China stamped on his belly, which Christopher thought was pretty funny, but by then David’s trauma had already been done.

I really hope that kid doesn’t have nightmares about turtles tonight… 😛

Motivational Monday

February 4, 2019 9:31pm
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Just a few random quotes that appealed to me today to help get myself moving in the right direction… 😉

“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.”  – Robert Collier

“It’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen.” – Scott Belsky

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage…” – Dale Carnegie

“Staying positive does not mean that things will turn out okay. Rather it is knowing that you will be okay no matter how things turn out.”

“Don’t be busy. Be productive.”

“You will never always be motivated. You have to learn to be disciplined.”

Sometimes when you’ve had a really stressful day…

February 3, 2019 3:21am
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…all you really need is an epic video about a man overcoming his fears and sitting in his friend’s lap.

Goodnight, Internet.

Desperately Seeking Normalcy…

February 2, 2019 7:17pm
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I’m not going to lie – I’m really, really overwhelmed right now.

I feel like I got a few things accomplished last week, but looking around and staring at my to-do list, there are more and more that got put off so that I could focus on the others … which just doesn’t work.

There’s only so much me to go around!

Our house is a disaster. I haven’t done dishes in a week and it’s almost impossible to use our kitchen sinks. I started cleaning up last night, but got distracted and stalled out mid-living room.

I wish that I could just pay somebody to clean the house for us, but money is so tight that it’s nowhere in the cards.

Our AC has been broken for two weeks. For a lot of the time it didn’t matter because it was freezing, but today was a little better and now the house is really hot. Not sure what’s going on with my go-to AC repair guy because he was supposed to come out last week and I never heard from him.

I’m kind of dreading picking another guy on Monday to try because the first one has always been good to us – prompt and great prices – but looking at next week’s forecast, we really can’t put it off any longer.

Also … money! I hate living on the edge like we have been for the past 6 – 12 months where we’re literally putting off one bill on a given week to pay another. I think we’re on a path to stabilize things, more or less, but any bit of turbulence (i.e. expensive AC repairs!) could easily fuck those plans up royally.

absolutely hate having to ask my wife the second she gets home from the store how much she spent so that I can update the running tally in my head…

And creative stuff has been going really good, for the most part, although I’ve got a list of about half a dozen things that I need to play catch-up on. I know if the list gets much longer, I’ll need to start abandoning things because otherwise I get to a point where it’s just too much catch-up to ever reasonably push through.

But I did have a pretty good month for January from a writing income standpoint, which I don’t want to let myself gloss over because it’s still a pretty exciting bit of progress.

That said, it also sets up even bigger goals for February that bring along a lot of pressure, so I need to be able to get to work on them and not be bogged down with all of this nonsense!

Ok – all of that is out of my head now, so in theory I should be able to stop dwelling on it and instead start doing things that will actually make a difference towards it. Let’s see how that goes… 😛

Last night I had about six hours of time that should’ve been productive, and yet … it wasn’t.

Instead of knocking out a couple of big things I had planned on working on, I ended up staying up way too late watching Try Guys videos.

…which don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed! I think the video about them starting their own company is really inspiring, and they just have so many videos that are really entertaining… 😀

This is a balancing act that I often struggle with creatively. I’m sure a lot of people have highs and lows – times when you’re super pumped and just firing on all cylinders, and other times when you think you’re super pumped, but then you actually sit down to do some work and … it ain’t happening.

Worse yet, you don’t necessarily know that it’s the latter until after you’ve spent an entire evening being unproductive!

And at the same time, you can’t always be working because that’s how people burn out. Plus, I did enjoy what I was doing instead of working.

I suppose that’s really the crux of it – I’d like to learn how to better manage work and fun in advance to make it more of an ebb and flow as opposed to a struggle from one extreme to the other.

music thoughts … Weezer (The Teal Album)

January 29, 2019 3:26pm
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I’m gonna be honest – I don’t really listen to modern music anymore, and maybe that’s why I ended up really liking this album!

I don’t think that I’ve actually listened to Weezer since The Blue Album, which I think was their first one??? That one was pretty influential to my growing up – my band played songs off of it and everything – but the rest of their albums just never really clicked with me.

I stumbled across this very randomly on social media, and when I looked it up and saw that A) it was only $8, and B) it had some great 80’s songs that I love, I decided to give it a try…

That said – it’s kind of a weird selection of songs.

Most of them I really like, but No Scrubs and Stand by Me and even Paranoid don’t really feel like they belong here. That said, my favorites are…

  1. Africa
  2. Everybody Wants to Rule the World
  3. Billie Jean
  4. Mr. Blue Sky
  5. Take On Me

There are definitely places in a few – Billie Jean, for example – where I wish there was a little more heavy guitar … I’m not crazy how it amps up for the bridge in that one, then dies back off just in time for the chorus, but it’s still a fun take on a great song.

Everybody Wants to Rule the World takes me back to when I first encountered that song as the intro for Dennis Miller’s show on HBO (back before he became a conservative), and Africa is really just a fantastic song to boot!

If they had swapped out a handful of the others for maybe Jungle Boy and Eye of the Tigers and Don’t You (Forget About Me), this album would be just about perfect.

Still, it’s something a little funky and different to listen to in the car, and even old farts like me need that every now and then! 😉

I’ve been kind of geeking out on Pete & Pete nostalgia lately after learning that the actors that played the brothers – Danny Tamberelli and Mike Maronna – not only still hang out and in fact do a podcast together, but they also tour and are coming to Florida this spring and I have tickets to go see them!

Nonetheless, after watching this great series of retrospective videos that Nickelodeon did a couple of years ago with Danny and Mike, it naturally got me thinking about the rest of the cast and what they’re up to these days…

And for a brief moment, I got spooked.

Ellen was always one of my favorite characters on the show, particularly for her bond with Big Pete. What can I say? I was just reaching my teenage years when this show came out, so it was girls like Ellen and Clarissa and Melody and Z.Z. who served as my first crushes on my favorite TV shows that I watched during those years. And yet like much of the rest of the Pete & Pete cast, I couldn’t really recall seeing much Ellen represented in more recent shows, so I decided to google the name of the actress who played her…

…and I got a fairly convincing profile of someone who is apparently very into Donald Trump and conservatism and generally just being an awful human being.

Could that be the same crush from my own boyhood who was a girl, and Pete’s friend, but was she a girlfriend???

Well, thank god – no, she wasn’t!

I’m not going to post the name here because there’s no need to attract unwanted attention, but I will say that her picture was close enough that 25 years later you might say, “Sure, I suppose that could be her.” It wasn’t until listening to a couple of interviews – one with Ellen herself – that it came to light that she’s mostly stepped away from Hollywood and instead is a doctor now! And the other lady was apparently just being born at the time Pete & Pete was airing, so that’s a pretty good indicator that they were definitely different people, too. 😉

Relieved is the right word, that’s for sure. I remember how shocked I was to find that an old friend from high school had gone hardcore conservative, complete with gay bashing on Facebook and the whole nine yards. And I recall me and my friends absolutely loving Dennis Miller and his rants on HBO back in our teenage years, despite his bizarre political flip to the dark side that came a decade later. But not someone from the cast of Pete & Pete.

All of the Blue Tornado Bars in the world couldn’t produce a brain freeze capable of that level of mental shutdown… 😀

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