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Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review – No Spoilers

December 12, 2017
Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review - no spoilers

This is my Star Wars: The Last Jedi review – no spoilers so don’t worry about reading the review. I give nothing away. Yesterday, I was lucky enough to attend a pre-screening of the latest Star Wars installment, even better I was allowed a +1, so I pulled the daughter out of school and brought her with me.

This is my second Star Wars review, I was also invited to Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015. Full disclosure – I am probably one of 2 people who have not seen the original Star Wars movies – the other person being my daughter who went with me yesterday. It doesn’t really matter, in my humble opinion. Star Wars is such an iconic movie that it’s impossible to not know what it is about even if one hasn’t seen the movie. I know there are some who would call that hubris and sacrilige, but it is what it is and you don’t need to see any of them to enjoy this one. 

Seriously people, stop shaming me for not seeing the damn original!

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review – No Spoilers

Star Wars: The Last Jedi was directed by Rian Johnson and stars Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Adam Driver…. just to name a few. Carrie Fisher died last December and I wondered how her death was going to be handled in the movie. One has to assume she was finished shooting her scenes because there is no disruption or scenes of just her back (using a double). Carrie Fisher’s Leia features largely in Episode VIII as does Mark Hamill’s Luke. Which is nice as their roles were limited in Episode VII, especially Luke’s. In The Last Jedi both are integral to the plot, not just there for nostalgia’s sake.

While I have not seen Episode IV, or any others, I have seen enough clips here and there over the years to know the general storyline – good vs evil. It’s Hamlet, it’s the same story told thousands of times over and over. The Last Jedi is not different and in many ways very similar to the original Star Wars movie. This is not a bad thing at all. The movie is intense, it is deep and it is incredibly thought provoking. I suspect more than the original Star Wars ever hoped to be.

Women play a big part of this movie. I’m not sure that is in response to the recent awakening of new feminism, the #metoo movement or just plain luck, but it is done well, with humor and without being condescending or preachy.

One of the elements I loved about this movie was how the characters were real. These are not Photoshopped actors who look better than any human could hope to Rey looks healthy, strong for sure but not the least bit worried about her waist size or how appealing she might be to the men around her. Rose, another strong woman who will hopefully be back for the next chapter is also a delight in her average, realness. There is one scene, somewhat humorous scene, where Kylo Ren has his shirt off. It may have been the camera angle or that I was sitting in the second row, but his chest looked way to big for his head. I don’t know if this was just a case of too much working out for the movie or if the actor just has a tiny head, but it was odd.

A big theme of the movie is balance – light and dark, love and hate, strong and weak – The movie itself is balance, even though there is an awful lot going on. The movie is funny, cute, sweet, dark, deep and thought provoking. It is action packed and a great way to spend a dreery afternoon in early winter. I don’t believe there is any swearing and while there is plenty of fighting, it is not gory. Young children shouldn’t have any problem with seeing this movie even though it carries a PG-13 rating.

OMG it is difficult to write a review without giving away any major plot lines or spoilers. There isn’t much I can say that won’t give something away. I will say this, just when you think you’ve figured some things out you’ll discover you might be wrong… or not.

I highly recommend this movie. If you’re looking for a great family movie over the winter break, this is it. It’s got something for everyone to love about it and it’s just so much fun! Can’t wait for the next one!!

 

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Dropbox Phishing Scam – Don’t Click on the Links!!!

June 8, 2017

If you use Dropbox you may have gotten an email asking you to click on a payment invoice. DON’T CLICK ON THE LINKS!!

This is a phishing scam. The sender is hoping you will click on the links they can either infect your computer with malware or that you will provide credit card or other payment information to pay the invoice. 

The email I received came from this email address: dropbox@veintrain.com, which is not a Dropbox email. Casey Smith is referenced as having shared a document and requesting payment on the invoice. It was sent to an email address I only use to receive inquiries, I never send outgoing mail using it and no one I might get an invoice from would have.

Again, do not click on any links if you get this email. 

I make it a regular practice to look at the email address of the sender, that usually tells me all I need to know, that it is not an official email.

Please share this with anyone who uses Dropbox.

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Can’t Muster Anymore Outrage

June 5, 2017

Between all the many terrorist attacks, stupid things President Trump tweets or what stupid thing a washed up celebrity has said, I just can’t muster anymore outrage. 

I want to be upset, I do. I mean the fact that Kathy Griffin hired an attorney because she believes the Trumps are going after her and dooming her career – because she hired a photographer to take images of her holding a bloodied head of Trump – is pretty fucking amazing. That’s something to get outraged about. Not so much what she did, but that she was so insulated that she thought it wouldn’t piss people off.

Can’t Muster Anymore Outrage

Or Bill Maher, again, says something really offensive, racist, stupid, and just plain out of touch. Oh, and fucking arrogant as all get out. But he apologized so it’s all good.

I’ve used the word ‘fuck’ twice, maybe I am outraged.

What the fuck is wrong with people (three times)?

Why are we all so mean to one another? When did society come to believe that the only way to make change was to be an asshole?

Whatever happened to attracting more bees with honey instead of vinegar?

I have so many questions.

I am outraged, but not at the right things. I’m tired of people being jackasses. I’m tired of people not thinking about how their actions affect (or is effect, fuck I can never remember) other people. And I’m outraged that people don’t understand there are consequences for their behavior. 

I’m tired, getting worked up doesn’t do anyone any good. No one is listening anyway so there’s no point in trying to have a discussion. 

Everything I learned in kindergarten really was the most important stuff, because the whole fucking world is like kindergarten now. We all need to grow up. 

You know what else needs to happen?

Auto play videos on websites have to stop. These are the most annoying things ever and yet they are everywhere. 

 

Blogging Books Dumb Shit I Do Minnesota Nice Writing

Lemonade

May 20, 2017

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. Right? That’s what we’re told. And yet, turning something bad into something good inevitably pisses someone off. I’ve been working diligently on being more positive and trying really hard to not wallow in the crap. That’s a difficult thing for me to do – not wallow. I let things get to me when they shouldn’t. 

Lately my life has been a series of tsunamis. It’s been wave after wave of crap coming at me and I’m letting it all get to me. Which means I have puffy eyes and there are dust bunnies all over the house. I’ve managed to stay on top of work, but it’s taken a Herculean effort to stay focused. I’ve made all kinds of mistakes in my work because I am so distracted.

I’m not sure how to make lemonade. Each morning I wake up and try to psych myself up for the day.

“I’m not going to let all these assholes get me down!” I tell myself. 

I start pretending I’m Rocky in the first Rocky and I’m jumping rope to Eye of the Tiger.

I’ve got this, even if I am out of breath before the first chorus.

And then something else happens. Today my basement is flooded. It’s no surprise, it rained two inches last night and my basement leaks like a sieve. I was just hoping to have a dry year this year.

My plan for today was to launch a GoFundMe campaign to presell my book so I can finally get it published. I need to have it professionally edited, I need to get a cover designed and I need a kick ass marketing campaign. I have an agency who rocks, just not enough cheddah in the budget. I’ve been putting it off because I don’t want to ask for help. I hate asking for help because it makes me feel weak and vulnerable and then I start telling myself that I am not worthy of help and the next thing you know I’ve gone down that rabbit hole I’ve spent years trying to climb out of. 

That was my plan, and then the same shit that happens over and over happened again. It seems every spring the basement floods and my ex threatens to drag me to court. Inevitably the dog will pee on the couch which will send me over the edge for a few minutes. Of course the dog pees on the couch because he is afraid of the rain, and because I forgot to put his diaper on.

Every year it is the same. 

I can’t seem to get out of this rut no matter how hard I try. It was my plan to launch my GoFundMe campaign 15 days ago. It’s been ready to go, but I’ve been too afraid to launch it. Actually, turns out I did launch it, I just didn’t know it (shut up! I’ve been a little distracted). What I am afraid to do is promote it. 

Thing is, nothing will change if I don’t start taking some risks. This is scary. I can’t even begin to tell you how scary this is. What if no one wants my book? I’m trying to presell it because that seems less like begging, but if no one wants it then what am I going to do? 

I’m not going to worry about that. Just like I’m not going to keep giving those negative thoughts anymore space in my head. 

If you’d like to pre – purchase my book – Minnesota Nice – you can do so here. If you’d like to learn more continue reading….

About Minnesota Nice

I’m wrote a book about my family.

It doesn’t sound all that intriguing does it? Wait, it gets better. You see my mom had a stroke when I was four years old, leaving her severely mentally and physically handicapped.  A few years later my father revealed that he was gay. A few years after that my brother came out as a Republican. You can’t make this stuff up.

Statistics from the Straight Spouse Network assert that up to two million gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals in the United States are or have been heterosexually married. Another demographics study showed that of the 27 million American men currently married, 1.6 percent, or 436,000 men, identifies themselves as gay or bisexual. Countless children have come of age in what is commonly referred to as a “mixed-orientation marriage,” most simply try to move on, too ashamed to admit that their family was any different from the norm. Even as adults they keep their skeleton in the closet, afraid to appear anything but like the wholesome Brady Bunch. Guess what? Mr. Brady was gay.

We were different and I’m no longer ashamed to admit it.

This is not anti LGBT. While I am sure fewer mixed orientation marriages take place in 2017, they still happen. The shame of growing up in one of these families is not due to a gay parent, it is due to the deception and lying that the parent must maintain to keep the secret. 

This is not some dry memoir. It is filled with humorous stories of a family trying to figure out how they all fit together. There are heartbreaking moments as well, but all told with the love and clarity that can only come with years of distance and a few dead family members.

Minnesota Nice has been compared to Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs, The Fault in our Stars by John Green and most recently to 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. 

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Wizard World Comic Con – Minneapolis – Ticket Giveaway!

May 1, 2017
Wizard World Comic Con Minneapolis

Wizard World Comic Con is this weekend at the Minneapolis Convention Center!

When: May 5th – 7th, 2017
Where: Minneapolis Convention Center
1301 2nd Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55403

Get your geek on and see Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman of Doctor Who, Nichelle Nichols from the original Star Trek, John Barrowman of Arrow and Torchwood and – sound the trumpets – Charlie Sheen from Platoon, Two and Half Men and the most epic, tiger blood meltdown of all times!!!

Oh, and my personal favorites – Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork from the Monkees. Seriously this is a 1st grade dream come true!

And I have two pairs of tickets to giveaway!!!

Sheen and Capaldi will attend Saturday and Sunday, May 6-7; Barrowman and Nichols are scheduled for all three days; Coleman will appear on Saturday only.

Wizard World Comic Con Minneapolis will also feature non-stop live entertainment throughout extended evening hours, Kick off the Con and After Parties, gaming, exclusive Q&A sessions with top celebrities, movie screenings hosted by stars and directors and more.

Other celebrities scheduled to attend Wizard World Comic Con Minneapolis include the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” trio of James Marsters, Charisma Carpenter and Nicholas Brendon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), Barry Bostwick (Rocky Horror Picture Show, “Spin City”), Marina Sirtis (“Star Trek: The Next Generation”), and Gregg Sulkin (“Wizards of Waverly Place,” “Pretty Little Liars”).

Wizard World is the home of the most creative comics artists and writers on the planet. Artist Alley in Minneapolis will feature Guy Gilchrist (“Muppets,” “The Pink Panther”), Jordan Gibson (“Howard the Duck,” “Where is Jake Ellis?”), Phil Ortiz (“The Simpsons,” “Muppet Babies”), Danny Fingeroth (“Spider-Man,” “Iron Man”), Victor Dandridge (“The Samaritan,” “Origins Unknown”), Jim Mehsling (“Star Wars” fan films, “Into the Void”), Bob Camp (“Ren and Stimpy,” “G.I. Joe”), Clinton Hobart (licensed Disney fine artist), Victor Dandridge (“The Samaritan”) and many others.

Win Tickets!!

I’ve got two pair of tickets to give away.

If you’d like to win a pair of tickets (plus 2 kids 10 and under!!) simply leave a comment telling me who of all the guests you’d like to see. For extra chances to win follow me on Twitter, follow me on Instagram, and follow me on Facebook.

Hope to see you there!!

 

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Let’s Talk about 13 Reasons Why

April 28, 2017
Let's talk about 13 reasons why

By now you’ve heard all the hype about the Netflix series, so let’s talk about 13 Reasons Why, shall we? This is about my 5th attempt at writing about the show, and it probably won’t be my last. 

Before we go any further **** Major Spoiler Alert**** don’t read anymore if you haven’t seen it and don’t want to know what happens.

13 Reasons Why is a Netflix series based on the Jay Asher book of the same name. It covers the themes most high schoolers, and many middle schoolers face every day – including bullying, rape and suicide. It’s graphic and the internet is losing its collective shit over it. Schools are sending notes home about it, every single newscast has covered it and you can’t surf the web without finding blog posts just like this one defending it or criticizing it. Paris Jackson is one of many people telling people not to watch it. I’m here to tell you, if you have kids, you should definitely watch it if for no other reason to understand what kids go through on a regular basis. 

While I have some issues with the series, I think it is always a good thing to talk about the stuff that scares us. Bullying, rape and suicide as well as teen drug and alcohol use, is scary stuff, but if we want to help kids navigate these complicated thing we’re going to need to have a dialog. 13 Reasons Why gets that dialog started.

Suicide is Never Painless

You can read a much better synopsis here, but in a nutshell the story is about a Clay Jensen, a shy high schooler who is given a shoebox of numbered cassette tapes created by Hannah Baker, a friend of Clay’s who recently killed herself. Each tape details one of the 13 reasons why she killed herself and those responsible have listened to the tapes and have been instructed to pass them along to the next person on the tape, which is why Clay has them. According to Hannah, he is partly responsible for her suicide.

Clay is responsible for her death in that he didn’t come out and tell her how he felt about her. His is one of the lesser reasons why she killed herself, though it torments Clay that he didn’t do more. Other people on the tape have teased her, bullied her, humiliated her, stabbed her in the back, and finally raped her. She even includes her guidance counselor who suggests she move on after she tells him about the rape, instead of going to the authorities and having the little snot arrested. 

It is then – when the counselor lets her down – that she comes up with the plan to create the tapes and then kill herself by getting into the bathtub and slitting her wrists – depicted rather graphically in the show.

I should mention, I have not read the book. I understand it has a different flavor to it, and I suspect it doesn’t come off as flippantly as it does in the series. I loved them, but the series felt like a too long After School Special. 

Aside from how it ends – with Hannah killing herself – there is nothing in this series that I, and many of my friends, didn’t experience at that age. What happened to Jessica – raped while passed out drunk, and Hannah – overpowered and raped, is actually quite common. Now we call it date rape, but when I was growing up it was called being in the wrong place at the wrong time or asking for it. We’ve come a long way, because we’ve been willing to talk about it. So let’s keep talking about it because clearly it’s still happening.

Teenage Wasteland

I thought the depiction of teenage life was incredibly accurate. Kids drink, they take drugs, they have sex, and they do a lot of stupid things – all while parents and teachers look the other way because they don’t want to dig too deep. My book, Minnesota Nice, is about all of these issues (I’m working on publishing soon, stay tuned for more info about that).

I also thought the depiction of the aftermath of her death – how her parents react and how the kids deal with it – was pretty well done. I didn’t see any glorifying of suicide. 

My issue is with Hannah’s storyline. She’s depressed and yet she is still motivated enough to create these 13 tapes. I get that they’re a device to move the plot along, it just seemed heavy handed to me. Plenty of teenagers kill themselves each day, most do so quietly because they already feel as though they don’t matter and that no one cares. Hannah obviously thought enough people would care to listen to the tapes. Hers was the sort of suicide most teens have fantasized about – getting even, even if it means getting dead. 

Trigger Warning

Since the show has come out, many teens, teachers and parents are worried that the show is triggering and therefore shouldn’t have been made. I can’t even begin to understand that kind of reasoning. If something is triggering then it absolutely needs to be discussed. Possibly with a professional, but certainly with a parent or trusted teacher. 

I lost three friends to suicide when I was a teenager. It’s an absolutely horrible thing to experience. And yes, cluster suicides are a thing, which is why we need to bring suicide out into the light. Thinking about suicide shouldn’t be taboo – because I promise you every single teenager (and more and more middle schoolers) have thought about their own suicide. I would hazard a guess that every human that lives and breathes has at one time or another contemplated taking their own life. And yet, we make the thought of it something to be ashamed of. 

When asked on most pediatrician questionnaires if they’ve considered suicide before, most teens will lie because they fear being pushed into therapy or the psych ward for thinking about something that is actually pretty normal. I know I have. 

It Gets Better, Promise

Life is scary, people are mean, and bad things happen, but that doesn’t mean it won’t get better. It usually always gets better. And that’s the point of the series, to show how wasteful suicide is. Hannah was a smart, funny, caring, and loving young woman. She had everything to look forward to in her future, she just couldn’t see past what she was experiencing to believe it would ever get better. We need to impress upon our kids that the pressure cooker that is middle school and high school gets better. If they can just hang in there (with professional help) they will be okay. Life is always a struggle, and for some it is much worse than for others. Life is not fair, but it does get better. The more we talk about these things the less damage they can do. 

I grew up reading books like The Bell Jar, Go Ask Alice and other rather dark tales about teens descent into the abyss. Teenage years can suck for a lot of people, they did for me and many of my friends. Having those books, seeing the After School Specials, helped me feel less alone. Because if people are writing about these topics and they’re making movies and TV shows about these heavy subjects, it means someone else has experienced these shitty things and managed to not only survive, but somehow thrive.

Let’s keep talking about Thirteen Reasons Why.

 

 

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Compliment Freely

April 25, 2017
compliment freely

Do you compliment freely? Which do you do more often – compliment or criticize? The consensus seems to be that we are in a hand basket on our way to hell. It doesn’t matter where you look, people jump on each other for saying or doing anything, even with the best of intentions. 

Here are just a few recent examples of companies and people that were taken to task for doing or saying the wrong thing:

  • Shea Moisture – For including white women in their latest ad campaign.
  • Pepsi – For suggesting that Kendall Jenner and Pepsi can end racism, among other issues.
  • Anything Sean Spicer says.
  • Everything President Trump says or does including breathing.

I’m not passing judgment on any of these examples or their respective backlash, but I do think we’d all do ourselves a huge favor if instead of jumping on the outrage bandwagon, we used our energy to compliment rather than criticize.

If You Can’t Say Anything Nice…

My grandmother always said – “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”. She didn’t always follow her own advice, but that’s a discussion for another time.

Have you ever received a compliment from a stranger and it seemed to instantly change your mood for the better? Not only does a compliment instantly make the receiver happy, but it also greatly boosts that person’s confidence.

Imagine a child trying to learn how to play a piece on the piano and a member of the family yells at them to stop making that racket. Will the child look forward to piano practice or will they dread it and eventually give up? 

Learning anything new is difficult, in fact to master something it is suggested it takes at least 10k hours. That’s a lot of sucking at something until you “get” it.

And in those 10k hours of sucking at something, there’s an abundance of people willing to tell you how much you suck.

We Become what we Believe

When I was around 18 years old I picked up my brother from the University of Minnesota. It was late in the afternoon and I had my parents new beagle puppy in the car with me. I think I had taken the puppy to get shots. I only remember the puppy being in the car because it was then that we discovered he had motion sickness. Anyway, I rarely drove with my brother. If we were going somewhere together he was going to drive. However, it was late in the afternoon, the campus was busy and I didn’t want to park so pretty much I agreed to arrive at a specific place at a specific time and he jumped in the car while it was basically still moving. There wasn’t time to switch drivers.

As we were crossing the bridge another car swerved over, obviously I was in his blind spot, and would have hit us if I hadn’t reacted quickly and swerved out of his way. 

I executed the move flawlessly. I know this because my brother actually said I did some great driving. 

He was impressed.

It was luck. Thankfully, there was just enough room on the other side of me to swerve – there was no one in the other lane. 

I don’t mean to minimize my skills behind the wheel, but I had several accidents under my belt. It was luck combined with keeping a cool head – something I was not known for.

Because my brother, about the only person in my life who I looked up to, said I was a good driver, I believed it. In fact, since that time I have only been in two other accidents. Neither of which were my fault. 

I am confident when I drive and consider myself a very good driver. Of course, I’ve probably done 10k hours worth of driving since that moment on the bridge with the sick puppy in the back seat.  Make no mistake, there is no doubt in my mind that being told by someone I thought highly of that I was a good driver helped to make me a good driver. 

We Believe what we Become

On the other hand, my brother used to call me “Post Toasties”. To this day I don’t know why he nick named me after a breakfast cereal. I only know it wasn’t a good nick name. It was not a term of endearment. I know this because he and his friends all laughed whenever he called me “Post Toasties”. They may have been laughing because that’s what big brothers and their friends do when teasing little sisters. However, I was a child and didn’t understand that sometimes kids do things without thinking too much about why they are doing them.

In my mind it was simply another way for him to call me “fat”, without my parents finding out. I jumped to that conclusion all by myself. It fit perfectly with what I had been told my grandmother, children at school and was seeing in the teen magazines I was devouring along with the Twinkies and PopTarts. I take full responsibility for the eating disorder I cultivated during those years, and I doubt a compliment would have been enough to prevent it from taking root, but it might have given me pause if someone had given me one.

Compliment Freely

Words we choose carry so much power. We can either uplift or we can tear down. Lately it seems, all we do is tear each other down.

Instead of criticizing try to compliment. If that isn’t possible – and let’s face it, it isn’t always possible – just remember you don’t have to say anything. 

Compliment freely. You could be the difference between someone’s success or failure. A few small words can make all the difference in the world. So choose them wisely. 

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100 Things You Can do to Make the World a Better Place

April 12, 2017
100 things you can do to make the world a better place

It’s chaotic out there. We’re all feeling overwhelmed, vulnerable and fragile. The world feels like a scary place right now, but it doesn’t have to be. These 100 Things You Can do to Make the World a Better Place can have a profound impact and they are something you can do, right now.  

Many of us feel powerless to change the world, but doing just one of these things has the power to impact someone greatly.

By doing just a few of these things – even just one, you have the power to change the world. You can make the world a better place, and it’s pretty easy to do.

Chaos Theory or Butterfly Effect  –  whatever you want to call it –  your actions can have a massive impact. So take a few moments out of your busy day to make the world a better place.

  1. Compliment each other.
  2. Hold the door open for the person in front of you or behind you.
  3. Say “Please” and “Thank you”.
  4. Breathe.
  5. Buy coffee for the person behind you.
  6. Take a day or two off from social media.
  7. Adopt a pet.
  8. Bathe regularly.
  9. Ask friends and family “How are you?”.
  10. Stop worrying about other people’s grammar.
  11. Tell a joke.
  12. Write a letter.
  13. Write a love letter.
  14. Take a walk.
  15. Listen to music.
  16. Take your nephew (or niece) to a movie.
  17. Be on time.
  18. Wear nice clothes.
  19. Use your blinker.
  20. Forgive someone.
  21. Forgive yourself.
  22. Tell someone they did a great job.
  23. Call your parents.
  24. Hug someone.
  25. Pick up after yourself.
  26. Assume everyone is doing their best.
  27. Eat more fiber.
  28. Tip well.
  29. Let people cut in front of you in traffic.
  30. Brush your teeth.
  31. Create a Bucket List.
  32. Call a friend.
  33. Eat together as a family.
  34. Take a nap.
  35. Meditate.
  36. Have a picnic.
  37. Buy new sheets.
  38. Quit smoking.
  39. Do what is right, not what’s easy.
  40. Take a risk.
  41. Read a book.
  42. Read another book.
  43. Learn a new language.
  44. Master the language you already know.
  45. Be open to new things.
  46. Try a new restaurant.
  47. Go back to school.
  48. Stop comparing yourself to other people.
  49. Stop comparing other people to other people.
  50. Practice gratitude.
  51. Dance.
  52. Get rid of the clutter in your life.
  53. Sing in the car, even if the kids complain.
  54. Accept that people are different.
  55. Write in your journal.
  56. Start a journal.
  57. Eat ice cream.
  58. Take responsibility for your life.
  59. Consider your purpose.
  60. Look at old photographs.
  61. Eat an apple.
  62. Make your bed when you wake up.
  63. Drink more water.
  64. Day dream.
  65. Make new friends.
  66. Try yoga.
  67. Sleep naked.
  68. Color in a coloring book.
  69. Pray.
  70. Have drinks with friends.
  71. Go to a drive-in movie.
  72. Get up an hour earlier.
  73. Go to be and hour earlier.
  74. Ignore petty grievances. 
  75. Plant a tree.
  76. Reconnect with old friends.
  77. Watch old movies.
  78. Plant a tree.
  79. Volunteer.
  80. Talk to a toddler.
  81. Plan a roadtrip.
  82. Catch a sunset.
  83. Go to the beach.
  84. Eat dessert first.
  85. Tell a joke.
  86. Go to the library.
  87. Get a mani/pedi.
  88. Sleep naked.
  89. Clean your space.
  90. Share more.
  91. Tell someone you love them.
  92. Tell yourself you are worthy of love.
  93. Hang out at a book store.
  94. Help your neighbor with yard work.
  95. Turn off the news.
  96. Read the paper.
  97. Watch a plane land.
  98. Walk away from an online argument.
  99. Quit the job you hate.
  100. Go after your dreams.

101. Bonus – Share this. If each person does one thing from this list, the world will be a better place.

 

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Thanks President Trump

April 3, 2017
record albums from the 80s

Thanks President Trump. Because of you, I’ve successfully tuned out. Since 9/11 I’ve been plugged into the news. It’s either been on in the background or I’ve checked multiple sites throughout the day to see what’s going on. I read all the news sites, and spent a fair amount of time on opinion pieces. I clicked on the fake news and the click bait and I could get lost in the comments for hours at a time. 

Since Trump won the election, I’ve stopped all that nonsense.

It took me 16 years to figure out that reading, listening, learning, researching and having an opinion, didn’t make a damn bit of difference and it was causing me anxiety I wasn’t even aware I was experiencing. 

Think of that frog in the pot of boiling water.

After the election, and especially after the inauguration, I unplugged. I couldn’t listen to the vitriol, the mean spiritedness and the panic, anymore. People were freaking out. Either I was going to freak out with them or I was going to let go and let the elected people do their job. 

At first I was pissed off. I loved all the time I spent online on Facebook, Buzzfeed, and the news sites, and I was resentful that it had become such a horrible place to be. But unplugging had benefits I wasn’t expecting.

With all that free time I started socializing again. Like in person. I met up with friends – in real life – and did things like get some coffee or meet over drinks and laugh and laugh. I took a pottery class, a wood working class and best of all – I started listening to music again.

I even started listening to vinyl records again. 

I’m in heaven not only listening to great music on vinyl, but also finding it. Locating vinyl records isn’t an easy thing in 2017. You can’t go to Musicland or Sam Goody and pick up the latest album like you could in the 80s or 90s. Today, if you want vinyl, you have to go to a used record store to find your favorite new and classic artists. 

My weekends are spent hunting down albums from my youth – Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, The Cars iconic album – The Cars, Back in Black by AC/DC, and my most beloved of all -Damn the Torpedoes by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. I’m still looking for Zenyatta Mondatta by The Police, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, and Van Halen’s Women and Children First, among others. I haven’t had this much fun in a long time.

I’d forgotten how wonderful albums on a turntable sound, and I’m hoping my daughter discovers some of these artists and learns the joy of breaking the seal on an album for the first time and then pouring over the sleeve for the lyrics to each song. I’m hoping she learns to listen to an album cover to cover – they way they were meant to be experienced.

So thank you President Trump for helping me let go of the things I have absolutely no control over and rediscovering music. 

Now can you do something about reviving the record store?

Blogging Dumb Shit I Do Writing

Trying Something New – Blogging

March 28, 2017

I blog professionally. I manage and write for 20 + blogs and websites and I follow pretty strict rules about SEO. I ALWAYS create posts that are at least 300 words. I always use the proper keyword density along with title tags, alt tag, headings, etc. The problem is, it makes for crappy writing sometimes, or at least less interesting writing. 

One of the biggest drawbacks of writing for other people is that my blog takes a backseat. I’ve updated my blog 3 times this month and 4 times in February. It’s not that I don’t have anything to write about – I do, I just don’t make the time to do it. I’m also tired of writing by the end of the day and I don’t believe I should do my own stuff until I’ve gotten my work out of the way.

I’m not sure that’s the best way to do it, however. I enjoy writing for myself, I have complete editorial control and can say anything I want, using any technique I want. And, I don’t have to follow strict SEO guidelines.

And let’s face it, no one really knows what the search engine algorithm is looking for, it’s all just a good guess.

And I’m beginning to believe a lot of it is bullshit.

Especially for a blog such as this one, no particular niche except “lifestyle”, which is awfully broad. 

Anyway, going forward for April I plan on writing something each day. It might be a short story, or it might be a short sentence. I’m not going to concern myself with SEO, I’m just going to write. At the end of April I’ll take a good hard look at my Google Analytics to see if it makes any difference.

Stay tuned.

Blogging Dumb Shit I Do Food Recipes Things I Really Like

Corned Beef and Cabbage – InstantPot vs Crockpot

March 13, 2017
corned beef and cabbage instantpot vs crockpot

This week’s smackdown is Corned Beef and Cabbage – InstantPot vs Crockpot. I love my InstantPot, I also love my Crockpot. Both are essential kitchen tools for any level of cook. My father gave me a Crockpot when I moved into my first apartment. It was a tiny little thing, big enough to make some dip in I suppose, but I made tiny little chilis and soups in it. It had no settings, you just plugged it in and it was going. The lid was plastic and has long been chewed up by one of the many pups over the years. My father got me lots of Crockpots, I’m not really sure why, but I have several, and I love each and every one of them. The one I use most however, is the one that belonged to my father. 

My dad died before InstantPot was a thing, however I am sure he would have taken to it like a fish to water. He loved using the pressure cooker, loved to explain how the stovetop version worked and was practically giddy whenever sharing the story of his mother blowing one up in the kitchen when he was a child. 

I also love Corned Beef and Cabbage. I love the saltiness of the beef, the sort of soggy yet firm texture of the cabbage. Growing up we always had it on St. Patrick’s Day and it was one of my favorite meals, even if it stank up the house.

Mostly, I love how easy the meal is to prepare. The problem with Corned Beef and Cabbage in the Crockpot (and I really don’t know any other method to prepare it) is that it takes a fair amount of forethought. You can’t just throw together a corned beef and cabbage on the fly, you need 5 or 6 hours. 

I figured there must be a faster way, and the InstantPot seemed like a surefire way to achieve a quick corned beef and cabbage. I Googled around for recipes, actually just cooking settings, and only found ones that were actually rather complicated. In all of the InstantPot recipes for corned beef and cabbage that I found it was always a two step process — cook the corned beef first, remove it from the pot, cook the cabbage.

Sure, we’re down from 6 hours to about an hour, I just really wanted something as easy as my Instant Pot Shrimp Alfredo recipe or my Cheesy Smoked Sausage Hotdish recipe. Both of those recipes take less than twenty minutes to prepare and cook, I was hoping for something similar.

And I never found it so I thought I’d just wing it. And then I though why not do a smackdown between the two? So I did. I prepared two meals using the same recipe.

Corned Beef and Cabbage – InstantPot vs Crockpot

1 Corned beef – rinsed and fat side down (I don’t know if this makes a difference)

1 Cabbage – cut into wedges and placed in vessel

1 Spice packet – many people throw these away and make their own, but that seems silly to me. Throw that packet it!

4 Carrots – sliced

I skipped the potatoes, actually, I never put potatoes in my corned beef and cabbage, is that really something people do?

I added all ingredients to each cooker and set their respective settings. For the InstantPot I set it for 55 minutes on high pressure and I used the slow release method. For the Crockpot I set it on high for 6 hours and forgot about it.

*I stopped taking photos of food inside the InstantPot, it doesn’t look appealing and serves no purpose. 

The Results

Corned Beef

Both tasted great, and they tasted the same. Both were tender and juicy. I couldn’t tell any difference between the two except for color. The InstantPot corned beef was darker. That could have just been a variation of the beef, and no reflection on the cooking. I used two different brands of beef and one had noticeably more fat. It did not change the way it tasted.

Cabbage

The cabbage also came out about the same in each vessel. This actually surprised me. I figured with 55 minutes of cooking at high pressure I might just end up with mush. That didn’t happen. The cabbage pretty much kept it’s shape. The cabbage was also a little darker in the InstantPot. 

Carrots

Here’s where there was a noticeable difference. The carrots in the InstantPot were pretty mushy. They didn’t disintegrate but they were working hard to hold their shape. The carrots from the Crockpot were actually still firm, yet tender. They also retained their individual flavor, whereas the carrots in the InstantPot just tasted like the cabbage. 

While I love the ease of making corned beef and cabbage in the InstantPot, it isn’t something I’ll probably do in the future unless I’m pressed for time. There’s something about a crockpot full of corned beef and cabbage, stinking up the house, that really makes it special.

Speaking of stinking up the house – the InstantPot was no less stinky, it just didn’t go on for so long. However, the silicon ring inside the lid of the InstantPot soaked up all those flavors. This is quite common for anything you make in the InstantPot, so it might be handy to have several on hand. 

All in all, either way works great, the InstantPot version is perfect if you have a hankering for corned beef and cabbage while driving home after a long day at work. While the Crockpot is probably better if this is a Saturday or Sunday meal extravaganza.

If you’ve had success with corned beef and cabbage in the InstantPot, I’d love to hear about it, please share in the comments.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!