One Million Moms have no sense of humor

September 21, 2011 In The News Comments (2) 282

Note: image truncated. Visit http://onemillionmoms.com/IssueDetail.asp?id=422 for the original.

Because the world is free of other problems, an organization called One Million Moms (which my brain assures me is chaired by Helen Lovejoy) has announced their outrage over Ben and Jerry’s new limited edition Schweddy Balls ice cream flavor. I pity each and every child who must share a breakfast table with one of these (supposedly) million humorless harpies.

It’s not even that I like the sketch. Schweddy Balls was an unimaginative, pandering sketch that only impressed me because everyone managed to keep a straight face. Loving this sketch, much like loving Entourage or It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, is a sure sign that someone doesn’t understand humor and I probably won’t like them.  As for the ice cream flavor, it might be delicious, but nothing could get me to leave my beloved Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.

Except perhaps a Bluth Banana flavor. That I’d eat with two sticks.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qh2sWSVRrmo

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New video from They Might Be Giants: Cloissone

September 20, 2011 In The News Comments (0) 138

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TkIPH1C5Lts

I like it. Simple, great looking, puts the emphasis on the band and the music. It’s also an alternate version from the album.

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Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon Weekend

September 20, 2011 Personal Comments (1) 246

For those of you who have never run an organized road race, I feel I must explain the porta-potty situation. That last observance of nature’s call is an essential part of every runner’s pre-race ritual. Though race starts are never far from a veritable wall of porta-potties, wait times range from ten to thirty minutes. After their first visit to the porta-potty, many runners get right back in line, knowing that they’ll need to go again by the time the wait is over. Properly timed, this strategy can rid a runner of most ballast before the starting gun fires.

You may have guessed why I bring this up. I ran the ING Philadelphia Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon this weekend, and I would have posted a time I was pretty proud of, except for the three minute bathroom break that came, urgent and unwelcome, around the five mile mark.

In the weeks prior to the race, I’d been getting my weight down to improve my speed. I went from 206 pounds in mid-August to a little more than 194 on the Thursday before the race. Then Liz arrived Friday, and we went for drinks and bar food. The next day we carb-loaded, and I took that a bit far. By 10 PM on Saturday night, less than 12 hours prior to our start, I was back at 204. A lot of that, of course, was just the mass of food in my digestive tract. You can see where this is going.

The good news is that most races place porta-potties along the route as well, so there was one there when I needed it – and, to be slightly vulgar (as if this whole post hasn’t already been slightly vulgar) I felt a lot faster after the break. I wound up posting an official time of 1:59:24, still a respectable time and good enough to finish in the top third of racers. According to my Garmin, which I stopped during my break, I ran a 1:56:10.

Still, it could have been worse. When Liz watched the 2010 New York City Marathon, she thought one of the runners was bleeding profusely – until she realized the liquid staining his legs was brown, not red. Full credit to that guy, though: he was still running. No bathroom break was going to hurt his finish.

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Toll Road is now available!

September 16, 2011 Writing Comments (1) 202

Friends, I’m thrilled to announce the July 2011 issue of Collective Fallout magazine is now available, featuring my short story, Toll Road.

In a fractured future America, the people have divided into religious and ideological factions, engaged in never-ending war for territory, fuel, and food. With winter rapidly descending, and no means of travel but to walk, Bayle Bonner makes his way 300 miles to honor a sacred promise.

This is my first commercially published work of fiction, so of course I’m pretty delighted. Special thanks to the editors at Collective Fallout for their consideration. You can pick up an electronic (PDF) edition for less than a buck, or a paper copy for a little over $6 – and you’re getting your money’s worth! The issue also features awesome LGBT-themed writing from authors Warren Rochelle, Caleb Wimble, Georgina Li, Terence Kuch, Derrick W. Craigie, and Elaheh Stinke – and a striking cover illustration by Kelsey McCarthy.


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The Flight of Cassini

September 14, 2011 In The News Comments (0) 141

This is absolutely incredible – no computer graphics or 3D animations here. These are actual photos of Saturn, taken by the Cassini spacecraft and composited to create an animated voyage. Watch it full-screen.

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This Week’s Excitement

September 2, 2011 Personal, Writing Comments (1) 237

Cover art has been revealed for the July 2011 issue of Collective Fallout, in which my short story “Toll Road” will appear. The cover art and design is by Kelsey McCarthy. Click on the images above for larger versions.

I’m really thrilled with it. What do you think?

The issue has been delayed slightly, but according to the editors is now slated for a mid-September release. Woot!

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Vegas Week Concludes: Miscellaneous Advice for visitors

September 2, 2011 Travels Comments (0) 217

As we wrap up Vegas Week, I will leave you with a few miscellaneous bits of advice to help you maximize your visit to Las Vegas.
  • First, the cardinal rule of Las Vegas: Wear. A. Watch. Or carry a cell phone, but at least bring some means of telling time. Clocks do not exist on the Vegas Strip. Casinos have no windows, and once the drinks start flowing and you start putting money in that bright and shiny machine, hours can vanish faster than you would believe. Wear a watch.
  • Second, the cardinal rule of drinking in Las Vegas: if you’re going drinking, anywhere outside the casino floor, pre-game in your room. Drinks on the casino floor are free – just remember to tip your waitress $1 per drink if you ever want to see her again. Do you know how much drinks cost anywhere outside the casino? GO BACK TO THE CASINO, that’s how much. You can pick up beer and liquor at many stores along the strip – my favorite was the CVS just north of Monte Carlo. Please note: if you are driving, DO NOT PREGAME. We at Keelty Labs have zero tolerance for those who drive with any amount of alcohol whatsoever in their bloodstream.
  • Thirdly, if you plan to gamble – or even if you don’t plan, exactly, but this is your first or second trip, please establish some kind of limit for yourself. Don’t be one of those people being dragged out by their friends, or one of those people crying about how you can’t afford your plane ticket home. Those people exist. Bring your gambling cash, and leave your wallet in your room. Vegas is designed to take all of your money away as fast as possible. You need to protect yourself.

Okay, with those three rules out of the way, on to some more fun touring suggestions… Continue Reading

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The Neon Claws of Gamblor (Vegas Week)

September 2, 2011 Personal, Travels Comments (0) 318

No series on Las Vegas would be complete without addressing the monster that built the city. All you need to know about gambling is summed up by Robert DeNiro (as Ace Rothstein) in Casino:

“In the casino, the cardinal rule is to keep them playing and to keep them coming back. The longer they play, the more they lose, and in the end, we get it all.”

Personally, I’m not a big gambler. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it, it’s that I can’t afford to lose a lot of money. My usual system is to walk into the casino with some amount–say, $100–and right off the bat I write that money off as lost. On occasion I get caught up in the possibility of winning (which is just about the most dangerous thing one can do) but in general I look for a game I can play for a long time at minimal losses, and I figure the free drinks (okay, $1 drinks if you count the tip) offset my losses.

I’m a fan of Blackjack, though I’m not quick enough at it yet to play at a table, so I stick to video machines. Beginners can pick up “win cards” at many shops in Vegas that instruct you on which bet to make to reduce the casino’s advantage to about 1%. The cards take some of the mystery out of the game, but for a beginner they can keep you playing longer on a small investment. Video poker is also a good way to play for a long time on a little bit of money, as long as you keep your bets small and you have a rough idea which cards to hold.

I have been known to employ the Martingale strategy, particularly when playing Blackjack. Martingale is simple – you start with a low bet, say a quarter or a dollar, and every time you lose, you double your previous bet. When you win, you go back to your original low bet. Theoretically, no matter how long a losing streak lasts, the first win recoups all losses. Playing this system in a game where you have approximately 50-50 odds, like Blackjack (played correctly) or Roulette when your bets are only red-black or odd-even, will often allow you to play longer. It is very important to note, however, that Martingale is not a guaranteed winning strategy. Quite to the contrary, in any Vegas casino it is a guaranteed loser, and the longer you play the worse your odds become. There are a number of reasons for this, but it takes far too long to explain, so either take my word for it or look elsewhere for explanations. Martingale is neither illegal nor discouraged in Vegas casinos, precisely because the casinos know what Ace Rothstein said: in the end, they get it all. Continue Reading

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The terrible symmetry of the Circus Circus (Vegas Week)

September 1, 2011 Travels Comments (0) 290

“The Circus-Circus is what the whole hep world would be doing Saturday night if the Nazis had won the war. This is the sixth Reich. The ground floor is full of gambling tables, like all the other casinos . . . but the place is about four stories high, in the style of a circus tent, and all manner of strange County-Fair/Polish Carnival madness is going on up in this space.”

– Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

When I toured the Vegas Strip in August/September 2010, I didn’t make it to the north end of the Strip. I saw Fremont Street, and visited nearly every casino from the Mirage south to Mandalay Bay, but I missed the Wynn, the Sahara, the Riviera, and one other. Upon my return in August 2011, my must-do list began with one item: to visit Circus Circus. I was very sad to have missed it the first time – from the exterior, Circus Circus has all the appeal of a roadside attraction, where the proprietors may or may not have a stack of lye-powdered bodies stacked in the crawlspace. The concept of a casino with trapeze artists flying over the heads of blue-haired ladies as they pull slots handles is enticing, and I had a few vivid memories from the film adaptation of Fear and Loathing, which involved an angry badger, to further motivate me.

While I can’t say that I personally saw anything that made me think Third Reich, and I was free of any perception-altering drugs save for a couple of gin-and-tonics, I can say honestly that Circus Circus is one of the most uncomfortable places I have ever been – and not in the sense that the temperature was off, or the seating was unpleasant, or anything of the sort. It was uncomfortable in the way Lovecraft describes the city of R’lyeh, built from some strange and foreign geometry that made me unsettled almost from the moment I walked through the front door. Continue Reading

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