Living Vicariously Through Big Change

October 9, 2015 4:00pm
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My sister is moving to Florida!

Like right now!!!

And through this creepy app called Glympse that she keeps sending me links from, I can literally track her every mile of the way… 🙂

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In all seriousness, though, I’ve kind of been living a little vicariously through her the last couple of days because it brings back all sorts of cool memories from when I made the pilgrimage myself from mighty frigid Michigan down to never frosty Florida some 12 years and 14 days ago. I know that on one hand it’s kind of terrifying to be trekking across the country with all of your worldly possessions packed around you in your car…

…or in their case, sitting in a semi-trailer somewhere between Michigan and Florida…

…but it’s also kind of exciting to pull into a completely new place where anything and everything is new to you and especially compared to our old hometown, you’ve got this absolutely ginormous region to explore! Beaches, theme parks, shopping malls, Toys ‘R Uses that aren’t a 2-hour drive away, jobs that pay more than $12/hour, people who are ethnicities other than white – all new and all just waiting for you to go out and explore them!

Thankfully, they’ve at least got a couple of things going for them that I didn’t when I moved. First and foremost, her husband actually already has the job that he’s moving down for, and they’ve arranged to stay with us and with some friends of his until they can get on their feet, so no $37/night Howard Johnson specials for them! And to leech off of their situation just a little myself, they’re actually moving to Orlando, so I’m kind of looking forward to a bit of my own expanded exploration as I’m sure we’ll be around their neck of the woods a bit more often and up until now the farthest we typically ever get into Orlando is either Disney World or occasionally The Florida Mall.

Granted, I’m sure it’s also a little more trying of an adventure in that they’re traveling with two kids whereas I was only traveling with a small bucket of goldfish that all promptly died within 72 hours of reaching my destination, but they were pretty big goldfish! Life on the road isn’t fit for everyone…

Enjoy your remaining 673 miles, S’sr Rabbit – here’s hoping that the rest of Tennessee is slightly less stinky for you than it was for me. 😉

movie thoughts … Jurassic World

July 14, 2015 9:15pm
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jwI went through a lot of phases leading up to this movie…

First I thought it was ridiculous because I hate Hollywood making sequels instead of trying for new stories and then having them be horrible.

Then I got curious because I watched Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy and realized that I didn’t actually hate him, just the character he played in the first few episodes of Parks & Recreation.

My skepticism grew as its release got closer and we started finding ourselves overwhelmed with all of the marketing and product tie-ins that the movie had secured, even though admittedly I didn’t make the connection of how clever the Barbasol sponsorship was until far later than a proper fan of the original movie really should have…  😳

Finally as the movie came out and reviews started floating around the Internet, I became both hopeful and even excited to see what this movie ended up looking like. We don’t get to see nearly as many movies in the theater as we used to, so we kind of have to aim for the big hitters and leave the rest for home viewing. Jurassic World seemed like it had the qualities to make up a pretty sweet summer blockbuster … but once the film started rolling, would it end up just feeling like yet another unnecessary sequel like … well, Jurassic Park 2 & 3 ended up feeling???

Actually, not really!

I mean, don’t get me wrong – there were some ridiculous moments … running from dinosaurs in heels throughout the entire movie, driving when a simple phone call would do, arguably even the Indominous Rex in general, but if you even look back to the original Jurassic Park, we had plenty of the same types of moments back in 1993, too … “This is a Unix system – I know this!” It didn’t matter then because our adrenaline was pumping as we explored this terrifying, new world, and the same thing happened 22 years later with Jurassic World.

Besides, if you can suspend disbelief long enough to tolerate cloning dinosaurs from 65 million years in the past, not to mention building yet another park after the first two resulted in many, many people’s deaths … then maybe the idea that Claire wore high heels isn’t really that big of a deal, after all!

Although I will admit that the gyrospheres or whatever they were called not having a return home command to invoke in case of emergency kind of bugged me a little… 😛

All in all it was a fun, wholesome summer blockbuster for what it was, holes and all, and even though so many people have died at this point, it should be interesting to see what they get away with next when no doubt Jurassic World 2 hits the screens to re-merchandize the franchise all over again a few years from now!

I have some really good memories about my earlier years of working on Just Laugh, and the last couple of days I’ve been revisiting some of them as I’ve been slowly adding in some of the older content from Just Laugh magazine to the new site’s archives. It’s kind of awesome to think of how many great humorists were all contributing to that site back in the day – I’m not quite sure how I’m going to get there just yet, but I’m really looking forward to rekindling a bit of that spirit with a new team of contributors once I get to the point where it makes sense to add more content.

Anyways, this pass had me going through the works of Linda Sharp, Kim Burke, Michael Buonauro and Jeff Lofvers of Dr. Lobster, our resident advice expert Savannah Lawless, the great Deep Fried, Live! animated series from 8 Legged Entertainment, Ink, Paint & Tears… courtesy of myself and my sister, as well as the rest of my own humor columns that hadn’t been imported into the new site yet. It’s a little crazy to think that all of this stuff was produced over a decade ago, but nonetheless here are some of my own personal favorites…

And believe it or not, I’ve still got over another dozen left to go through, so I’ll be sure to share more of my favorites as I continue working through the pile every couple of weeks until everyone’s back together on justlaugh.com right where they belong! 😉

Star Fox Zero trailer

June 16, 2015 8:27pm
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This looks like it could be fun! I still have quite fond memories of when the original Star Fox came out for the Super Nintendo … for whatever reason, my Dad had to go to some sales conference downstate for a week and the family came with him, and they brought my SNES with us to help keep me entertained. The first day we made a trip over to Toys ‘R Us because we didn’t have one up north and I got my copy of the hottest new polygon-based game to hit the system!

As one may have suspected, I didn’t really have much desire to even leave the hotel room the rest of the week while we were there… 😉

It’s kind of crazy to look back at the graphics that were really pushing the 16-bit SNES to its limits and then see this new game that will be released in full HD this fall for the Wii U. I honestly never played Star Fox 64 or any of the other games beyond the original, but this might be a fun one to pop in come Christmastime to see how it continues on with the tradition!

Aside from that weird chicken robot that apparently your ship can turn into on land, it looks pretty cool so far!

The Dream

May 26, 2015 12:35pm
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Ever since I moved to Florida back in 2003, I occasionally have this dream where inexplicably everything is reversed and I’m back in my job at the warehouse in Michigan where I worked for six years before moving away.

Last night I had the same dream again.

What was strange is that it wasn’t as panicky as it normally is … when I first moved, it was honestly more of a nightmare where I was back up north pulling orders for auto parts and when the thought of Florida would come up, someone would explain that it just didn’t work out and I was back now, and that was it.

But this time it was almost more of a temporary visit, and things were different from how I remember them in reality. We had just gotten bought by our competitor – which did happen in reality – and a bunch of new employees had been brought in from another branch who were presumably going to be replacing many of us who already worked there … something that also happened, but not nearly to the extent that it did in my dream.

And so what was different this time was that abruptly I just made the decision that I was going to quit and go back to Florida – that was going to be my last day – and I told my friends and my boss, and everyone understood.

I don’t know what made things different that time, and it was hard to piece together within the dream what/where/who I had memories of that I was going back to, but unlike most of the other times I’ve had this dream as a nightmare indicative of failure where the one thing I had wanted so much for years had fallen through my fingers and was just gone, this time I suddenly had some control of my own and it was no longer an absolute that I just had to accept.

An interesting evolution after 12 years of living in Florida, indeed, though it does beg one other question – will I ever find myself at a point where I don’t have the dream at all anymore???

Or then again, if I finally do have some control into my own fate, maybe having this dream just isn’t such a nightmare anymore after all…

So the last time that I was back home in Michigan, I set aside another pile of stuff for my Dad to shuttle down with him during his annual vacation to a warmer climate, and one of the more interesting items was a box full of my old comics and comic & Magic cards, circa mainly my early teenage years?

Well, after leaving them out in the garage for a year and a half … which was totally a mistake because we kind of have a minor cockroach problem out there and apparently a handful took up residence around the boxes and binders (thankfully none inside the individual card boxes!) … I finally decided to bring them inside, figuring it might be fun to flip through them while I’m watching TV and see what’s even there because it’s been something like two decades now since I was into that sort of stuff!

Just for my own amusement, I decided to look up a few of the more rare ones in the mix … and I also had some old price guides from back in the day, so it was “interesting” to see how, well, apparently collectibles don’t really seem to hold their value worth a shit… 😛

First up – Magic: The Gathering cards.

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I started playing Magic right around by 14th birthday, which I’m mostly assuming based on the release dates for the series’ that we played. Admittedly I only have a fraction of what my original collection ended up being because in my later years of high school, I had started selling a lot of my rares online (via usenet!) … plus, a sizable number “disappeared” in a karmic manner which I can only say was pretty much deserved at that point in my dumb, adolescent life.

So that said, here’s a handful that jumped out as well as what this guide says they’re actually worth right now:

  • Revised : Dual Lands – Underground Sea ($180), Plateau ($40) … I knew that these had become the most rare because I’ve seen them under glass in comic shops – sucks because I used to have the whole set and I’ll bet I sold them for $15-20 a piece!
  • Revised : Fork ($2.10) … What?! These were so rare that I never even saw one until I stopped playing and was only collecting, and now you can buy them for the price of a gallon of gas???
  • Legends : Elder Dragons – Arcades Sabboth($3.57), Vaevictis Asmadi ($5) … My friends and I just missed out on Legends because the series sold out at our one and only local shop, but we later fell in love with them via Chronicles. I’ll guarantee you that I paid more than nine bucks for these when I went and bought the originals!

Next up – Marvel Comics cards.

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If Magic was (early) high school, Marvel was my middle school years because as much as I didn’t really get into comic books proper, I was super into the collectible cards of Spider-Man and Iron Man that replaced the football and basketball cards I used to collect of sports that I honestly didn’t even really understand! 😯

Now what’s really sad about these ones is that although some of the artwork on these things is just absolutely gorgeous (Hildebrandt Brothers, anyone?), apparently their value nowadays is kind of a joke – the idea that I could literally buy a complete set of any of the series that I used to collect on eBay for less than $20 a piece, with the special holograms and foil cards not costing that much more … was it that $20 was just A LOT more money to me back in 1992 than it is now or what?!

Anywho, lastly let’s talk – Comics!

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I had relatively few comic books – in fact, I think most of these were probably acquired in bulk packs at Toys ‘R Us or maybe at the grocery store, but seriously, if anything … the #1 issue of Voltron: Defender of the Universe has got to be worth SOMETHING, am I right?!?!?!

  • Current Value – $3.00

Alright, super friends – I’ll save you from the cockroach-infested garage, but it’s back into the closet with you for now…

Kevin Rose and Leo Laporte

May 14, 2015 7:15pm
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I’ve had this episode of Foundation in which Kevin Rose interviews Leo Laporte earmarked for a while now, but I finally found some time this week to listen along and it was really enjoyable just listening to someone who’s as creatively passionate as Leo talking about his career at large and the road bumps that have slowed him down along the way, and even some of the challenges he faces today with trying to transform TWiT from The Leo Laporte Network into something that’ll actually give him a chance to take a vacation after a while!

I actually really respect both of these guys because like many, I was introduced to them when I switched to digital cable back at the turn of the millennium and suddenly this amazing channel called TechTV existed to embrace this geek culture which was only starting to really blossom as the Internet itself was beginning to take hold. I’ve always kind of considered TWiT to be my lifeline back into tech because even though I honestly don’t watch any of their shows very regularly, I know that whenever I’ve got a couple of hours to kill or need something to put on in the background while I’m pretending to be productive, TWiT just has this incredible wealth of tech content from all of these passionate hosts – Leo and the rest of the former Screen Savers crew included – and it’s always a good time to see what these guys are talking about and get my finger back on the pulse of what’s really going on in tech.

Ironically, one of my favorite TWiT memories still is a few years back now when Steve Jobs passed away and listening to TWiT’s live coverage and the sort of sense of community that it presented to help make sense of such a visionary’s passing as Steve’s happened to be…

After listening to this episode in its entirety, amusingly enough YouTube then recommended an episode of Triangulation (which is one of Leo’s shows) and in fact was one where the tables were turned and Leo pretty much did the same interview with Kevin in the hot seat! I mean, so much of TWiT sometimes is just listening to these guys reminisce about TechTV and their experiences from the other side of the camera, so both interviews are a lot of fun if you happen to be fans from The Screen Savers days or even just enjoy listening to passionate people talking about their craft! 😉

Brain Dump, 03/2015

March 7, 2015 3:21pm
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I haven’t done a post like this in a long time, but after revisiting some of my earliest blog posts I guess I’m feeling nostalgic for something a little different today… 😉

  • I feel like we still have a ridiculous amount to do for Christopher’s birthday party, and whenever I try to think about it I just get overwhelmed by the idea that he’s almost 1 year old already!!!
  • His favorite show by far is Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, but sometimes I also treat him to the occasional old episode of The Muppet Show and it delights me to no end how amused he gets by the puppets despite their being nearly 50 years old.
  • I bought new seeds the other day to try and resurrect my mini-garden out by the pool – cucumbers, tomatoes, and flowers. The pots are currently filled with weeds that are growing great, so maybe that’s a good omen that I’ll do better this time???
  • I really hated the movie Oblivionyet it seems to be on TV all the time and I end up watching parts of it anyways.
  • I’ve probably been eating way too many peanut butter M&M’s lately.
  • My office is a complete disaster right now because I had to tear my closet apart looking for something and I never put all of the boxes back. I should really pause from writing this and take 10 minutes to put them all back.
  • There – that’s better!
  • Over the last several weeks I’ve found myself inundated with this strange urge to go hiking – not suburban sidewalk hiking, but actually out in the woods and stuff. It’s just that time and scheduling are limited, and I really need a new pair of shoes, and roughly 1,000,000 other excuses…
  • I’ve really been in the mood for plugging in the PS2 and playing a little bit of Grand Theft Auto, but I feel like I have way too much on my plate to justify it right now.
  • I think that the Series 13 set of Lego Minifigs that just came out is possibly my favorite yet, even though my wall display is almost completely full and I’m going to have to redo the entire lot to fit them in.
  • I need to set aside some time and do our taxes one of these days. We’ve finally got all of the paperwork and we should even be getting a refund … I just have little desire to wade through all of my business receipts for the last year to file for it!
  • I hate housework because it feels like such an insurmountable task to me. I look around and see just such a ridiculous amount of stuff to do between the garage to the kitchen to the general clutter – it’s frustrating when even an honest afternoon’s work barely puts a dent in it.
  • I really want to start writing my humor column again, but whenever I think about it, fifteen other things pop up that I should be doing instead.
  • I need a vacation! We’d really like to go on another cruise this year, and possibly go up to Michigan for a week this summer, but logistically with everything else that’s going on I’m not sure whether either of them are actually feasible.
  • I have a feeling that 2015 is going to go by really quick, and I desperately hope that I have some great things to show for it.

remembering the Power Glove…

February 11, 2015 1:51pm
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This video amused me when I came across it late last night because I totally had a Power Glove myself and like 100% of other Power Glove owners, unfortunately these teens’ experiences were pretty much par for the course!

I didn’t get mine when it first came out – in 1989 I had only had my Nintendo since the Christmas before, so I was much more interested in getting more games than a peripheral that costed nearly as much as the console itself did at the time. I want to say that my Power Glove was a birthday gift from one of my aunts 5-6 years later, mostly because they had found it on clearance at KB Toys back when they were still around, so for $20 it was worth a try…

And even though at the time the controller was pretty god-awful, it’s still kind of neat to look back and see where an attempt at motion controls first started because now here we are 25 years later and not only is the Wii pretty darned good at it, but you can even plug in a Kinect to your Xbox and use your whole body as a game controller! It doesn’t apply to all, or even most games, but the technology is still cool.

If only Lucas could see us now! 😉

Living in the Future, 2015 Edition

January 5, 2015 8:20pm
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I’m a nostalgic guy, and especially when it comes to tech, sometimes I honestly just find myself in awe when I stop and think of how far things have come just here in my own modest lifetime.

Case in point – above is a screenshot of This Week in Tech, Leo Laporte’s sequel to TechTV after it merged with Comcast’s gaming channel and subsequently went belly up about a decade-ish ago? The show started as a simple podcast in a bar with some friends and has since grown into an entire network of technology-based programming, arguably better than TechTV was at its best (and probably more profitable!).

But that’s not the amazing part, believe it or not … well, it’s one of them! What really amazes me though is simply that what you’re looking at there is streaming HD video that I’m pulling through Plex onto my new 4k TV, and it looks beautiful.

This is a big deal to me because I first started watching Leo & his friends on TechTV when digital cable first rolled out to my neighborhood up in Northern Michigan, and at the time we were excited to get a whopping 1 Mbps down and I’m sure some fraction of that up! The package was about $100 for digital cable and broadband – I remember because I paid for it out of my own money when I still lived in my Mom’s basement.

Timeframe was probably around 2000-2001.

So now here we are 15 years later, and in comparison to how things were at the time we really are living in the future!

  • In 2001, we had just shrugged off the chains of dial-up in favor of high-speed broadband Internet.
  • In 2015, I have a 75 Mbps fiber line connected to my home that facilitates HD streaming and can download the equivalent of one optical CD-ROM from 2001 in less than a minute and a half!
  • In 2001, cell phones were just starting to become a thing – I think my voice-only Nokia candy bar phone had 100-minutes a month of air time.
  • In 2015, nobody uses their cell phones for calling anymore, but 4G speeds connect to that same Internet to give me access almost anywhere at speeds rivaling my home connection!
  • In 2001, HD was the new, new thing and for the first couple of years, Discovery HD Theater was how many of us justified buying our brand new, gigantic HD TVs.
  • In 2015, I just upgraded to a new 4k TV that has four times the resolution of HD, and even though there’s only one movie available for it in true 4k today, even just watching the trailer makes me drool for a copy of the full-res film to really see what this thing is capable of!

Technology has always been an exciting part of my life and today I find myself surrounded by more gadgets than ever, from advanced video game systems to tablets and smart phones to a new streaming media server right here in my own home. In a way, it’s just kind of crazy to be able to pull up TWiT on this ginormous 4k screen in my living room because 15 years ago I used to watch the same guy teaching me about tech stuff on an old TV setup next to my computer while I was building the very first version of Just Laugh.

…and ethernet cables spanned the floor because I hadn’t quite gotten wifi figured out on my laptop just yet!

It makes me wonder what the whole landscape is going to be like when Christopher gets to be in his teens, but then again, just like how *I* grew up on 8-bit consoles and an Apple II clone, my son is going to grow up in a world where you’re never really not connected to all of those people and all of that information.

In fact, by the time he’s old enough to notice that kind of stuff…

  • 75 Mbps Internet is going to feel slow to him.
  • The Nintendo Wii will be considered a retro video game console.
  • And it’s really going to drive him nuts that the cable company still doesn’t take those stupid lower resolution channels out of their line-up when better options are available!

As a wise man once said, it’s a great big beautiful tomorrow, and I for one am kind of curious to see where the next 15-20 years actually takes us! 😉

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