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Bill Cosby goes to jail…

September 29, 2018, 1:34 PM

Like everyone else did, I read about Bill Cosby’s being sentenced to 3-10 years in state prison for sexual assault, and his eating a pudding cup as part of his first meal as an inmate.  I also finally figured out the word to describe my own feelings about the whole Bill Cosby situation: disappointment.  I am not angry over Cosby’s conduct.  I am not sad about Cosby’s conduct.  But I am very disappointed over Cosby’s conduct.

After all, I was part of a generation of kids that practically grew up with Bill Cosby, and his very wholesome brand of education and entertainment.  His stand-up comedy was mostly about his family and his children.  We watched Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, where, in the opening, Cosby indicated that, “If you’re not careful, you may learn something before it’s done.”  We watched Picture Pages, where Cosby taught us about math and other subjects with friend Mortimer Ichabod Marker.  Cosby also had a long relationship with the folks on Sesame Street, making many appearances there.  We then watched The Cosby Show, which was a wholesome comedy about a successful family, and ensuring that the children were positioned for their own success.  The final episode was about a college graduation, after all, driving home that heavy emphasis on education.  He also released a book, Fatherhood, during this period.  And then Cosby was all over the commercials during this period as well, pitching Jell-O gelatin, Jell-O pudding, Kodak film (“No seal?  Who knows!”), and EF Hutton, among others.  All of those wholesome and family-oriented roles caused him to develop a public reputation as a father figure.  We all looked up to Bill Cosby, because he had made himself as someone worthy of looking up to, as a successful father of five, a strong proponent of education, and from all appearances, an all-around nice guy.

That Cosby, in the end, turned out to be a grade-A scumbag, is just disappointing, and felt like a punch to the gut.  “America’s Dad” turned out to be a dangerous sexual predator.  There’s a certain feeling of disappointment and betrayal that comes with it, discovering that a role model is anything but.  We all looked up to him, and then soon discovered that he was not worthy of our respect.  Watching his fall from grace is a sad reminder that people are not always who we think that they are, and that Cosby’s wholesome public image was merely a facade over an absolutely despicable person.  Cosby will likely be remembered not for the work that made him famous, but as the scumbag who drugged and sexually assaulted many women over several decades.  And that’s how he should be remembered, because that sort of conduct is inexcusable.  No more love for Cosby, as the real Cosby is a person that is not worthy of admiration and who lost everyone’s respect.  Sigh…

Categories: News, Television

I have reached a milestone…

September 11, 2018, 4:08 PM

I recently reached a milestone when it comes to my overhaul of my Today’s Special site.  I last wrote about this project in 2013, at which time I had settled on a platform for the site (WordPress) and had written a few articles, mainly as proof of concept.  The build plan has always been to start with “Hats” and work my way through to “Memories“, adding content in the order that it appears in the show.  After I get through all 121 episodes and the content related to those, I will then write the articles for the content that doesn’t necessarily tie neatly into an episode or episodes, like the articles for the main characters, the various sets, and so on.  Then once all of the articles are written, I just need to write the “business” pages like the main page, privacy statement, etc., give everything a final check, and then launch.

Since I announced the project in 2013, the project has made good progress, though that progress has happened in fits and starts over the intervening years.  I completed the articles for “Hats“, “Snow“, “Noses“, and “Family” in late 2013, and then set the project aside for about two years.  I suppose that other matters took precedence during that time.  Then when I picked it up again in late 2015, I got a lot of prep work done for the episode pages, such as all of the writer, director, and sequence information, and then by March 2016, I had completed things through “Games“, i.e. the twelfth episode.  I then picked it up again in December 2016, and finished up the first season in February 2017.  I picked up on the second season in September 2017, starting with “Dance“, and finished it up exactly one year later, taking approximately six months off from it from December 2017 to June 2018.  That work on the second season also included writing seven brand new episode synopses, to replace some temporary short synopses written in the nineties.  You know what they say: there is nothing more permanent than a temporary solution.  That said, the new synopses are the same length as the standard ones.

In finishing the 1982 episodes, and a number of other articles related to that, I believe that I have reached a significant milestone as far as Today’s Special goes.  Going into the project, I was concerned that I would get bogged down in those early episodes and the project would stall indefinitely.  But now I’m done with them.  I have completed the early material, and am now moving into the middle of the series.  Starting in 1983, the series really “grew out its beard“, as the show definitely hit its stride during that period.  The 1981 episodes were fairly light on story, focusing mostly on teaching about the various concepts that the show covered, such as hats, snow, camping, fruit, and so on.  The 1982 episodes were built around an actual plot, but still had a lot of teaching and explaining in them.  Starting in 1983, the concepts are taught through the storyline, with less direct explanation of concepts.  There’s also more conflict, as 1983 has five episodes where characters get very upset with each other for very valid reasons.  In addition, the characters are far more developed in 1983, as all of their origin stories are shown.  The show also changes its appearance slightly, as this is when Jodie begins wearing her third uniform, which is the version with the long sleeved button-down shirt and pocket on the right side, rather than the short sleeved jumpsuit that she wore previously.

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“Roseanne” becomes “The Conners”…

September 1, 2018, 10:51 AM

Funny how real life sometimes writes the plot.  I was planning to do a review of the tenth season of Roseanne in this space back in May, but while I was writing it, the show was cancelled by ABC after Roseanne Barr posted some pretty vile stuff on the Twitter.  That put the partially-written Journal entry on hold, because those events affected a lot of what I was working on.  However, the network’s reaction to the Twitter rant was completely understandable.  I can’t imagine that any company would want to be associated with such vile rhetoric coming from one of their key players.

Based on the fallout, where Barr blamed Ambien for her racist rant, I can tell you one thing: she’s not sorry.  Sure, she’s sorry that she ran her mouth and lost her job, but she’s not sorry for what she said.  If anything, her using the medication as a scapegoat cements that those were her true feelings.  The idea is that the medication “removed the filter”, and, with nothing to prevent vile things from being said, she let out what she had really been thinking all along.  And then she doubled down on it on a Fox News appearance later on.  I’m disappointed, because I expected better from Barr.  But I suppose that it doesn’t matter anymore, because Barr’s career is most definitely over, destroyed by an ill-considered Twitter post.

I suppose that this is also a lesson about how to handle your relationship between your personal social media and your employer, especially when you’re in a very public position.  People hear about stuff like this and complain about free speech, but the whole concept of “free speech” as laid out by the First Amendment only applies to the government.  A private entity is completely free to fire you for saying something vile on the Internet, and that’s what happened with Barr.  The government played no role in her firing.  She ran her mouth, and boom – she lost her job.

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Categories: Television

You know, he totally looks like…

July 31, 2018, 10:50 AM

So I was recently on Reddit and looking at /r/blunderyears, which is a board where people post old embarrassing photos of themselves, and came across this guy’s old photo from 2005:

This guy from /r/blunderyears

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Categories: Asbury Park, Reddit

I’m pretty sure that I now have the modern equivalent of TXL…

June 1, 2018, 3:50 PM

Over the last month or so, Elyse and I created a network of smart speakers in the house. Elyse has had a Google Home Mini since early January, and I expanded it, first to three, and then to seven speakers when I realized the capabilities of the devices. With speakers throughout the house, we can use the “broadcast” feature as something of a home intercom system, and we’ve also created speaker groups in order to play music on multiple speakers in various sections of the house, or throughout the entire house. I love these things, because I can, for instance, just ask the system what the weather is, or what time it is, and it will tell me. I can even make phone calls on them and control the lights, though I don’t typically use the phone feature because of audio quality issues, and I’m not willing to spend money on the lights at this point in time (but maybe in the future). Right now, I use them most often for music, and for the home intercom function. And then if I ever get various Nest products, I will be able to connect them to the system as well. Pretty neat.

All in all, I can do a lot of things that TXL could do on Today’s Special. I can talk to it and it gives me information back, I can place phone calls through it, and I can make it control various building systems. I still don’t know how to get it to play “Yo He Ho” at the most inopportune times, though one day I might figure out a way to make it do that. Only thing about this system that I’m not a fan of is that you have to activate it by saying, “Okay, Google,” or “Hey, Google.” If I could customize the phrases that it responds to, I would make it respond to “TXL”, to make it complete. Considering that it does a lot of things that TXL could do on Today’s Special, it seems rather fitting.

Those of you who have used the various smart speakers also know that Google has built some Easter eggs in them, like if you ask what the answer is to life, the universe, and everything, it will tell you that the answer is 42. Using custom routines, I built in a couple of Easter eggs of my own, related to Today’s Special. I wanted it to respond to “How many size 9 shoes are for sale in the store?” with “There are ten pairs of size 9 shoes for sale,” (from “Boxes and Boxes“) but for some reason, it couldn’t comprehend that one, try as I might.

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Reliving the nineties, one adventure game at a time…

April 30, 2018, 2:25 PM

Lately, I’ve been reliving the computer games that I used to play in the nineties through the magic of YouTube.  I was a Sierra gamer for the most part back in the day, mostly playing in the Space Quest franchise.  I used to love exploring around the worlds that the game created, hoping to make some sort of breakthrough in the game to advance the plot.

Interestingly enough, my first introduction to Sierra was not through an adventure game.  I played Hoyle’s Official Book of Games, Volume 1, which consisted of six card games: Crazy Eights, Old Maid, Hearts, Gin Rummy, Cribbage, and Klondike solitaire.  The game introduced the player to various Sierra franchises, as well as some other folks, via the various characters that you could play against.  You could play against Princess Rosella and King Graham from King’s Quest, Roger Wilco from Space Quest, Sonny Bonds from Police Quest, and Leisure Suit Larry from the series of the same name.  There were also a few real people, such as Jerry Moore, who was one of the animators, and Warren Schwader, who programmed the game.  Jerry and Warren’s kids, Devin and Christina, respectively, were also in the game.  I learned a lot from that game.  I learned how to play several card games, plus I learned about a number of other Sierra franchises by playing cards with their characters.

At the same time as the Hoyle game, I also had King’s Quest IV, which featured Princess Rosella, whom I knew from playing cards.  I didn’t do too well with that game, though, because I didn’t know that it had a text parser interface – and who reads instructions?  I thought it was all point-and-click like Hoyle was.  So I would just wander around aimlessly and eventually either get bored with it or die, either by falling off one of the cliffs, or by getting caught by one of the trees.

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Categories: Video games

Now to build on the successes of the past year…

January 3, 2018, 9:37 PM

A new year always brings a lot of feelings.  It’s a time to reflect on the past year, and a time to look ahead to the year ahead.  Reflecting back on 2017, I’d say that I had an outstanding year, and laid the groundwork for a strong future.  After all, at the beginning of 2017, I was still relatively new at the whole train operations thing, and lived by myself in an apartment with a hostile relationship with the property management.  Now, I’m more experienced with my work and more comfortable with all of the ins and outs of my job, and I’m also a homeowner with a roommate.  I made my first mortgage payment at the end of December.  Things suddenly became very real when I wrote that check.

Now, in 2018, I want to build on my successes from the past year and reach even greater heights.  After all, in 2017, I got the house.  Now, I want to make it my home, and not someone else’s idea of a home with my furniture sitting in it.  That means getting rid of that chandelier in Elyse’s room, painting a few rooms, and getting my wallhangings up.  I’m excited to design the new decor, because I have so many blank canvases upon which to expend some pent-up creative energies.  My parents are delighted about this as well, because I’d been fantasizing out loud about redecorating their house for a few years in order to expend those creative energies that I couldn’t do with the apartment, but they were a bit cool to the idea.  Now I have my own place to paint and decorate as I wish.  The previous owner of my house decorated the place fairly minimalistically, using pale colors on walls and few wallhangings and furnishings, such as in the living room:

My living room during the showing

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“Crisp bacon strips, sliced French bread, hot cheesy sauce, on a plate full of macaroni!”

December 25, 2017, 10:14 AM

For the last several years, I’ve made it something of a tradition of watching the Today’s Special episodes “Christmas Part 1” and “Christmas Part 2” on or around Christmas Eve.  It only makes sense to me.  Most Christmas specials are awful, but Today’s Special‘s two Christmas episodes are outside of that mold, taking the same care with Christmas that they do when discussing the night or feelings.  The end result is a timeless story that still leaves me feeling warm and fuzzy inside after all these years.

This year, I decided to take a minor element from those episodes and bring it into real life.  Across the two episodes, they sing their own variation of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” using food.  It starts out early when Sam sings, “On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me a plate full of macaroni!”  Then Muffy later adds, “Hot cheesy sauce on my plate full of macaroni!”  Near the end of the second episode, it takes its full form:

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me crisp bacon strips, sliced French bread, hot cheesy sauce, on a plate full of macaroni!

So on Friday evening, I went to the grocery store after work and bought this:

Pasta, generic Velveeta, bread, and bacon.
Pasta, generic Velveeta, bread, and bacon.

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Apparently, Sam Crenshaw is an Ottawa Senators fan…

December 18, 2017, 12:47 PM

Sometimes, you never know what you’ll find online.  Check this out:

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Categories: Today's Special

I think this takes the cake for condescending job rejections…

September 17, 2017, 6:25 PM

If you’ve ever applied for a job, you’ve probably, at some point, received a rejection letter from a company.  It’s that lovely little note that says “thanks, but no thanks” in a way that typically attempts to deliver the bad news while also attempting to soften the blow of said bad news.  Most of them are fairly straightforward, but some people try a bit too hard to make people feel better in their rejections, usually to the opposite effect.  On the /r/jobs board on Reddit, which I help moderate, this came through, which I believe takes the cake when it comes to rejection letters that try too hard to make people feel better:

Looking at my desk full of fantastic applications is like looking into a box full of puppies – you wish you could keep them all.

Unfortunately, this is not the case, and I’m sorry to tell you that your experience and skill set is not the perfect match we are looking for to fill this position.

I regret that I cannot give you a positive answer, but I have no doubt that there are many companies that will be thrilled to hear from a talented candidate like you.

We wish you all the best for your future endeavors and success finding the perfect match.

Best regards,

[Name]

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Categories: Reddit, Work

I definitely didn’t expect to go to New York City on Wednesday…

August 25, 2017, 12:30 PM

Wednesday, August 23 had been planned as a road trip day for quite some time.  Elyse turned 21 two days prior, and this was my birthday present to her, going on a trip up to Asbury Park, New Jersey to visit the Silverball Museum, a pinball arcade on the boardwalk.  We previously visited this facility in May.  Then the plan was to go up to Menlo Park Mall in Edison to go to Rainforest Cafe, where we were having dinner, and I was buying Elyse a drink.  The day that we ended up having was a lot of fun, but definitely more expansive than I had originally planned.

We left the house around 11:00, with Asbury Park as our destination.  We made a quick stop at Maryland House, and then a White Castle in Howell Township:

White Castle in Howell Township

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Going to show that you never know what you’ll find at the thrift store…

July 30, 2017, 2:39 AM

It’s amazing what you find sometimes when you hit the thrift store.  Case in point, at Unique Thrift Store/Value Village in Hillandale Shopping Center, Elyse and I found this:

Elyse holds a "Big Mavica" type camera

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A trip to the pinball museum…

May 29, 2017, 10:08 AM

On Tuesday, May 23, Elyse and I, along with mutual friend Brian, went up to Asbury Park, New Jersey for the day.  Our goal was to go to the Silverball Museum, which is a vintage arcade on the Asbury Park boardwalk.

We left in the 10:00 hour, and headed up via the Delaware Memorial Bridge, I-295, and I-195, with a stop for lunch at Maryland House.  On the way up I-295, imagine Elyse and Brian’s surprise when I said, “I think I left my hat at Maryland House,” in that oh, crap sort of way.  Elyse suggested turning around to get it, but we were too far afield to do that.  To turn around would be tantamount to cancelling our trip to return to Harford County, Maryland, just north of Baltimore.  So we continued on, hatless.  After all, we would pass Maryland House coming home, so we could see if it was still there at that time.  I know what I did – I set my hat down on the table next to me when we were having lunch, and I walked off without it.

Arriving in Asbury Park, we located the pinball museum, but first, I wanted to check out a place from my childhood that I had missed during my 2013 trip: Asbury Youth Center, which was a children’s clothing store run by my Uncle Skippy.  I remember Uncle Skippy, and remember his being pretty awesome.  Many of the outfits that you saw me in on the Childhood Days page, such as this one came from Uncle Skippy’s store.  The store closed in the late 1980s when Uncle Skippy retired, and I hadn’t been back there since.  So a quick Google search revealed the address to be 660 Cookman Avenue, and it was off to the races.  This is what the building that housed Uncle Skippy’s store looks like today:

The location of Uncle Skippy's store, now a restaurant called "Taka"

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“If what doesn’t kill us is making us stronger…”

April 30, 2017, 10:00 AM

So according to Deadline, there will be an eight-episode revival of the 1990s sitcom Roseanne.  From what I’ve read, most of the actors from the original series will reprise their roles.

Roseanne is probably the last sitcom that I would have imagined would do a revival.  Reason is that over the course of the final season, they more or less trashed the entire premise of the show as things went completely off the rails, as the Conners won $108 million in the lottery, turning them from working-class to fabulously wealthy overnight.  Then there was the ending of the final episode, which retconned much of the series with the revelation that Dan had died from his heart attack, Jackie was gay (and not Bev), Darlene married Mark and Becky married David, that the events of the final season were a fantasy, and that everything that we saw over the past nine seasons was actually a book written by a heretofore unknown person named Roseanne Conner.  So where do you go from there?

First of all, however, in exploring where this show might start, I’m inclined to dismiss speculation by Roseanne Barr from 2009 about what the characters might be up to.  From the article cited above:

On her website in 2009, Barr gave her detailed take on where each of the main characters from the show would be in a possible Roseanne revival: Roseanne and Jackie opening the first medical marijuana dispensary in Lanford; Dan reappearing alive after faking his death; DJ being published; Mark dying in Iraq; David leaving Darlene for a woman half his age; Darlene coming out, meeting a woman and having a baby with her; Becky working at Walmart; Arnie befriending the governor of Illinois and remarrying Nancy; Bev selling a painting for $10,000; Jerry and the grandsons forming a boy band; and Bonnie being arrested for selling crack.

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Categories: Television

I think that we need to have a discussion about news sources…

February 27, 2017, 9:14 AM

Over the course of the last several days, whenever I’ve gone on Facebook, I feel as though I’ve had to play fact-checker a lot more than usual.  Most of the stories that I’ve had to verify and debunk are about Donald Trump, but there have also been a few ones about the toxin-du-jour and other miscellaneous topics.  And having to constantly stay on my game and do the same sort of research over and over again gets tiring.  I started out making this post about the problem:

I feel as though I've had to burst far more bubbles than usual as of late when it comes to people's sharing fake news stories. Please, people, vet your stories before you post, because anyone can start a website and write anything they want and make it look official. I highly recommend Snopes.com for vetting stories. They'll set you straight on the fake ones.

This post got eight likes and one comment, so it didn’t do as well as I would have hoped.  Maybe it’s because I posted it in the middle of the day on a Friday.  But in any case, the bottom line is to think before you share.

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Categories: News, Social media