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Watched “Going Clear”… or Scientology, WTF?!?

Published June 29, 2015 - 0 Comments

Scientology_2460585bSat down last night and watched the HBO movie Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief.  Wow.  If you’re like me, and really have no idea what it means other than Tom Cruise jumping up and down on a couch like some sort of maniac… well, this movie is for you.  I knew there were aliens involved, but I didn’t realize how utterly fucked up the premise of this “religion” was.

 

So 75 million years ago there’s this galactic overlord named Xenu who brought a whole bunch of his people to Earth in DC8 airplanes and dropped them into volcanoes before bombing the shit out of them with hydrogen bombs?  And now all their little spirits cling to humans and cause us spiritual harm… unless we pay uber amounts of money to work up different levels until we reach the top and are finally clear?  Where do I sign up?

Xenu

I am Xenu. Take me to your leader.

Oh, did I mention THIS is Xenu?

Looks pretty badass, if I do say so myself.

I will say in all seriousness that I do understand the appeal of people wanting to better themselves and finding like-minded people who share their beliefs is important.  But I do not understand how seemingly rational people (Tom Cruise excluded) would look at this and say “Yup! That sounds like a good fit for me!”.

Bizarre.

 

Adventures in Eating

Published June 19, 2015 - 0 Comments

I love to eat.  I’m good at it too!  I can eat with the best of them!  But as much as I love to eat, I don’t have a particularly adventurous palate.  I’m a self-admitted meat and potatoes man.  I’ll argue with anyone that the potato is, in fact not only a vegetable, but the best vegetable!  You can keep your greens – I don’t want ’em!

But once in awhile I try to ease out of my comfort zone and try something new.  It happened before with escargots.  It happened with goat cheese.

It’s finally beginning to feel like summer, and I’ve decided to try spicing things up a little.  I haven’t really tried anything completely brand new, but I’m preparing meals differently than I’m used to.  Here’s a sample of what I’m talking about.  Oh, and the pictures aren’t actually ones that I took.  I spent so much time preparing the meals that I didn’t think until afterwards that I should have taken pictures.  So these are from the websites that the recipes came from.

Grilled Salmon

I’m not much of a fish eater.  I enjoy halibut when I can afford it. Grilled Salmon I’ve tried to introduce salmon into my diet, without much success.  I generally enjoy it, but it’s still not something that I naturally think of buying.  I almost have to force myself to go into that section of the grocery store, and then I have to force myself to cook it.  More than once I’ve thrown out uncooked salmon because my good intentions failed to extend to when I got home.

This one turned out quite well, despite not being fully cooked.  I should have left it on the grill for another minute or two.  Still, it was tasty!

Spinach Salad with Honey Dressing

spinach-salad-honey-dressing-honeyed-pecans-sl-xHere’s where things start to get interesting.  Spinach?  Salad?  Stephen?  Really?  I discovered awhile ago that I don’t mind baby spinach.  It doesn’t really taste like anything.  I use it as the base of most of my salads.  Throw some fresh strawberries and blueberries on there… a little red onion… and some honey roasted almonds (rather than the pecans it called for) and I’m good to go.  The fun part was making the dressing.  I’ve never made dressing before.  Unfortunately my balsamic vinegar was dark, not light, so it didn’t have the same bright yellow look as in the picture.  But judging from the faces of those who tried it, it didn’t matter.  I’d say it was a hit.  Oh!  I almost forgot… there was one thing in the salad that was brand new for me.  Blue Cheese!  I’ve always resisted trying blue cheese.  The idea of eating moldy cheese wasn’t something that appealed to me.  Then again, neither was goat cheese, and turns out I was wrong about that!  The verdict?  There’s nothing subtle about blue cheese.  You definitely know when you’ve got a piece of it in your mouth.  But all in all, I thought it worked.

Brazilian Grilled Pineapple

A great meal needs to be topped off with something sweet.  I’ve seen grilled 1095615pineapple in pictures and always thought that it was something I’d like to try.  This recipe calls for marinating the pineapple slices in brown sugar and cinnamon before grilling them!  Who doesn’t like brown sugar and cinnamon?  I loved hearing “Is there cinnamon on this?!  I can smell it.  It smells awesome!”

Guess what?  It tasted even better!

Anyone else out there trying new foods?  I’d love to see some suggestions in the comments!

 

Forget Coupon Clipping… Try Checkout 51 Instead… And Save $$$

Published June 1, 2015 - 0 Comments

Checkout 51I don’t like coupons.  First you have to cut them out.  Then you have to remember to take them with you.  After that you have to remember to actually USE them when you are paying for your groceries.  And you’d better hope that they haven’t expired.  There has to be a better way.

Enter Checkout 51, a cash-back alternative to coupon clipping that has been around for a couple years, and somehow flew under my radar until 3 weeks ago. I was looking at recommended apps on my iPhone, and noticed Checkout 51 with hundreds of reviews, and a near perfect 5 star rating.  When I read the description, it seemed almost too good to be true.  Sign up for free.  Receive a list of offers on products that I would have a good chance of buying anyway.  Upload a picture of the receipt using the camera on my phone.  Have money added to my account within minutes.  And be able to request a cheque after only $20?  Yeah right.

Well after 3 weeks I now have $15.25 in my account, and will probably hit the coveted $20 amount next week.  I’ve talked to a few people who have received cheques in the mail, so I’m pretty confident that I’m next!  Just waiting for payday, and my next grocery list.  It’s incredibly easy, and kinda fun too!  Although after 3 weeks, I think my kids might be getting tired of Mini-Wheats, but hey… I saved $0.75 on every box.  Way better than the Fruit Loops that I refuse to buy!

 

Life is Fragile

Published May 19, 2015 - 2 Comments

this-is-how-fragileAnother stark reminder of how fragile life truly is, and how things can change in a single moment.  I remarked this morning that my work partner was not in yet, which is unusual because he is very punctual… only to receive a message from him that he had been in a horrible car accident last night.  The driver of the car was killed and the remaining three passengers were sent to hospital with minor injuries and released.  He would not be in for a week.  He actually apologized to me for the inconvenience.

I was stunned.  For the last week he had been excited about going to Montreal with his wife and another couple.  They are Chinese nationals, and none had ever been there before.  He loved the idea of being able to get into a car and go for a long drive to somewhere new.  He even sent me some pictures on the weekend of his travels.  They were having a great time.  It would be a quick trip up and back.  At some point the drive home turned tragic.  Did he fall asleep?  Was he distracted?  Was there an animal on the road?  I have no idea.  Any of those scenarios are plausible.  Whatever the cause, a life was lost, and three others changed forever.

The news has been weighing heavily on me all day.  I can’t imagine what must be going through their minds.  So far away from home, in a culture so different from their own.  I would be shocked if the thought of returning to China to be close to parents, friends and familiarity hasn’t crossed their minds.  I know that would be a priority of mine.

The human spirit is resilient though.  We’ll see.

Sussex Sleep Clinic – Improving Your Life One Night at a Time

Published May 12, 2015 - 1 Comment
Smothered in Puppy Love

No wonder I can’t breathe! Smothered in puppy love!

Sometimes it just takes a couple of tries before something finally clicks.  That’s been my experience with the Adventures in CPAP series.  Twice I’d brought the CPAP home but just couldn’t get used to it.  Would a third time finally be my charm?  Indeed it is!  I’ve been doing so well with it that I finally bought the unit!

So what was different this time?  Was it the newer CPAP?  Maybe.  Was it the difference between the full face mask I had tried previously, and the smaller nasal cushioned pads that I am using now?  No doubt that’s part of it.  They’re certainly more comfortable than the face mask – at least for me.  But it was something much more important that made this time stand out from the previous attempts… the exceptional people at Sussex Sleep Clinic.

My previous attempts were with another company, and although the staff was friendly, I felt very much that I was being sold to.  It felt no different than walking into a store to buy a pair of sneakers.  A very expensive pair of sneakers.   But at Sussex Sleep Clinic Angie (and her assistant Donna) take a very different approach.  They’re there to help.

Sleep apnea isn’t something to be taken lightly.  The strain on your body, particularly your heart, is well documented.  It’s a medical issue, and my entire experience with Sussex Sleep Clinic has revolved around what’s best for me to help me get better.  At no point have I felt like I was being sold to.  I feel that I’m working with a health professional to help improve my sleep.  She continues to monitor my progress and provide feedback based on the data that I am able to upload from the CPAP.  It’s very much a two-way relationship.  And because of that, I happily purchase Angie’s recommendations.

Angie Cummings

Angie Cummings, RRT

It’s been a long road, but I feel so much better now that I have committed to using the CPAP.  People ask me if I notice a difference. Initially I couldn’t  answer that properly. But then my puppies ate part of the hose attachment and I went a week without using it.  THAT I noticed!  I slept through my alarm, I struggled to stay alert at work, I constantly felt rundown.  So is it working?  Absolutely.  Would I consider going anywhere else for my CPAP needs?  Never.  Sussex Sleep Clinic truly is improving my life one night at a time.

The Apple Watch or “Apple Has Finally Created a Product that I Have no Real Interest In”

Published May 4, 2015 - 4 Comments

Screen-Shot-2014-09-09-at-3.13.40-PMI wrote “Apple finally created something that I have no interest in” to a friend of mine recently.  He immediately replied with “What?  A treadmill?”  Well played.  Well played indeed.

Apple’s latest creation confuses me.  On one hand I think that it’s gorgeous.  On the other hand, I can’t get over the fact that it’s just a watch.  The sport model starts at $449 and that’s not even the nice looking one.  That’s a lot for something that sits on your wrist and doesn’t do anything drastically different from the phone that it is required to be paired with.

Last night I sat through an unboxing video from DetroitBORG and it’s true… the Apple Watch is beautiful.  But as I watched him go through the functionality there wasn’t anything that made me think I wanted to plunk down that kind of money.  I can’t even tell you when the last time I even wore a watch was.  I feel like Apple is trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.  It worked for the iPad.  I’m not feeling it this time.

Kraft Dinner to Lose its Synthetic Colouring by End of 2016

Published April 25, 2015 - 2 Comments
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This is how I want my KD.

I’m still reeling over the fact that Coca Cola has tampered with my beloved Coke, reducing the syrup by 8%, the calorie content by 20 for 355ml, and crushing my hopes and dreams of ever getting to ride one of the Christmas polar bears into battle.  It’s just not going to happen now.

And then news came of Kraft’s decision to stop using synthetic colours in their Kraft Dinner.  I’m pretty sure that my Earth just about fell off its axis with that one.  WTF?

Sure Yellow #5 and Yellow #6 don’t SOUND overly appetizing, but take a look at that picture above and tell me that’s not the only way KD should look.  Yes, even the ketchup heart.  We all need a little more love in our lives.  Although I tend to use a smiley face with mine, but that’s not the point.

Annatto

No, it’s not an alien… it’s annatto.

So how are they going to colour it without Yellows #5 and #6?  Well apparently through the combination of 3 spices:  turmeric, paprika, and annatto.  And just in case you’re like me and haven’t the slightest clue what annatto is, here’s what it looks like before it’s ground up. How scary is that?  Do I want that thing around my KD?  I don’t think so!  That thing belongs on an island somewhere, feeding on wild boars, and stray pygmies.

20100520-paprika

Paprika sure is a pretty red

And what about the other two?  Well here’s paprika.  Notice the pretty shade of red matches quite nicely with the red of the annatto above?

And then there’s turmeric, which I’ll admit is yellowy, and something that I use in my mustard pickles.  I guess it’s not all bad.

So how are these three mostly dark red spices going to replace Yellows #5 and #6?  I have no idea.  I’m no chef (if I was, I probably wouldn’t be eating KD for supper) but I’m told that these colours will soften during the blending process.  I sure hope so, because right now I’m envisioning something that looks a lot like bloody mud.

Turmeric

Mmmm… a bowl of yummy turmeric

 

So why the change in the first place?  Is this going to make KD a healthy alternative to real food?  No, of course not.  It’s still processed food packed in a box that you can get on sale for under a buck.  This is just someone’s way of trying to appeal to an “informed consumer” so that everyone can sleep soundly at night. I’d be more worried about the preservatives in food that make them last an unnaturally length of time, than the colour of my macaroni and cheese.

But that’s just me.

Total Annihilation: Passing the Torch

Published April 20, 2015 - 1 Comment
Total-Annihilation-Might-Get-Modern-Remake-Says-Chris-Taylor

Incredible amount of units

Back in 1997 there was a little company called Cavedog Entertainment who released a RTS game that blew all other RTS games away.  It was called Total Annihilation, and went on to become 1997’s Game of the Year.  The graphics were excellent but it was the game play that set it above all others.

 

Fast forward to 2015, and Total Annihilation is still as much fun today as it was almost 20 years ago.  Thanks to GOG games, Total Annihilation has been ported to Mac, and is playable under WINE.  And it’s cheap too!  I bought the entire Commander’s Pack for $5, which is awesome.  It can be a little glitchy sometimes, but that’s the price you pay to be able to relive some of your best memories.  When I get in a mood that I just want to blow shit up, I sit down and load T.A.

Yesterday I loaded the game onto my Macbook Air and set up a multi-player game between my Macs.  It’s been almost 20 years since I’ve played Total Annihilation against anyone other than a computer player.  It worked perfectly!  They connected and I was able to create a new game.  Why?  Because my son has been watching me play this game for years, and despite its now-dated graphics, he’s been itching to try and figure it out.  So we had our first Father-Son Total Annihilation Smackdown yesterday!  The kid’s got 18 years of catching up to do before he’s going to beat his old man, but I give him credit… he’s willing to get crushed 🙂

We have another session scheduled for Wednesday, which is great because it’s not even my week to have the kids, but he wants to come over and spend some time with me.  Now if I could just get his sister interested too!  Where’s the My Little Pony mod?

There’s a Teenager in The House

Published April 2, 2015 - 2 Comments
Lauren 1yr old

Happy Birthday! Where did the time go?

Well it had to happen eventually, I suppose.  I am now the father of a teenager.  It’s not so bad.  Because Jess has her own I’ve been able to practice for this moment.  Then again, it’s only been one day.

“As long as you live under my roof, you’ll live by my rules!” I told my daughter last night for no apparent reason.  Just getting warmed up for whatever happens in the next few years.

Where did the time go?  I feel like I just blinked and she’s suddenly a teenager.  I’m scared to blink again.

Happy Birthday, Lauren.  Daddy loves you.

Future Shop Closes its Doors. To Be Reborn as Best Buy.

Published March 29, 2015 - 0 Comments

future-shop-900x527What a shock it must have been for the employees.  Show up to work and find yourself locked out.  No notice.  Nothing.  I imagine that there were more than a few tearful phone calls to supervisors who probably didn’t know any more than anyone else.  Apparently that’s how things roll in corporate Best Buy land.  All Future Shop stores across the country are closed.  The website posts this little diddy to the left.  Dear Valued Customer.  Uh huh.  Too bad the employees weren’t nearly as valued.

I remember going into my first Future Shop back in the 1990s.  It was in Kingston, Ontario and I had never seen a store like that before.  Wall to wall electronics, computers, and games.  I’d have a little geekgasm every time I stepped through those doors.  If there was a heaven, Future Shop was it.  There was no Amazon to order from online.  There was barely an “online”.  Future Shop was that store you hoped you’d get locked into at night so you could have it all to yourself.

Eventually they opened one here, and while still awesome, the magic seemed to lessen a little.  It didn’t seem quite as special when I could go there anytime I wanted, as opposed to those summers spent in Kingston.  But that’s progress for  ya, and soon I think every city had their own Future Shop.  Maybe 131 locations was too ambitious, because in 2001 Future Shop was looking for a buyer. They found one in Richfield, Minnesota-based Best Buy.  The invasion had begun.  Best Buy would continue to operate Future Shop as a separate brand, while inserting their own stores into some markets.  This created an odd situation with Future Shop and Best Buy stores sometimes within sight of each other, fighting to serve the same customer.  Surely this couldn’t continue forever.  And that brings us to where we are today.  131 stores closed without notice.  66 of those will remain closed for good.  The other 65 will be reborn as Best Buy locations.  500 full-time and 1000 part-time gone.  But don’t worry… some of those former Future Shop employees will have an opportunity to apply for positions in the newly rebranded store.  Nothing screams “Valued Employee” quite like being locked out of your Red store and being told you can reapply for your old job after the Blue paint drys.

I’m not surprised that Best Buy is deciding to eliminate the Future Shop brand.  I’m more surprised that it’s taken them 14 years.  I can’t help but feel a little sadness though.  There’s nothing about the Best Buy brand that connects with me in the way that Future Shop did during those long-ago summers.  If I could talk to my 22 year old self, what would I say?

Enjoy the moment, Stephen.  Enjoy the moment…

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