Saturday, October 18, 2008

Cool Halloween Stuff No. 8

Dental Distortions

Razorback Teeth from Dental DistortionsWe have already mentioned "Vampire Teeth" from the folks who brought you "Billy Bob" teeth. But if you're looking from some of the scariest, nastiest looking teeth for your Halloween costume, this is a great place to look.

Dental Distortions has a complete line of teeth for vampires, zombies, goblins, ghouls, orcs, and yes, even razorbacks. Like the teeth we've mentioned before, these fit over your own teeth, and employ a special thermoplastic for a perfect fit. You use warm water to soften the plastic, then the plastic molds around your teeth for a great fit.

Prices run in the $20 to $30 range for a set, and come complete with everything you need for a good fit.

Other Previous Cool Halloween Stuff:

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Cool Halloween Stuff No. 7

Creative Innovations USA
It ain't a party unless someone gets carried out in a body bag...

Sometimes, you just need the right finishing touch for your party decorations. Now, you can go all CSI on your friends with these "body bags" from Creative Innovations USA.

Great for Halloween, Practical Jokes, Pranks, April Fools and Murder Mystery Parties. Our Body Bags measure 6 1/2 feet long x 2 1/2 feet wide, made with heavy tear resistant nylon and a full length double zipper to allow access from either end. These can be stuffed with newspaper to appear occupied. A fake hand or foot sticking out always adds a good touch.

Perfect to use with our Hollywood Effects Crime Scene Kit and Toe Tags!
So, if you're looking for that special touch for your Halloween party, and your friends always seem to end up "in the bag", give 'em one to get started!

Other Previous Cool Halloween Stuff:

Cool Halloween Stuff No. 6

Collector's Armoury, Ltd.

If you're looking for some cool gear for the finishing touch to your gladiator, pirate, or musketeer costume, you've got to check out Collector's Armoury.

These guys have a complete line of swords, guns, hats and assorted other gear to make your costume complete. And they're not outrageously expensive. The pirate's cutlass at left, including the scabbard, is just $99. Add a flintlock pistol for another $60.

They feature all kinds of replica weaponry as well as medieval shields and armor, colonial cannons, wild west guns and badges, even samurai swords.

If you want an authentic look for your regalia, check these folks out!

Other Previous Cool Halloween Stuff:

Cool Halloween Stuff No. 5


So, what does paint have to do with Halloween? Nothing, unless it's very cool paint!

ClearNeon makes a line of paints that are invisible under normal light, but very bright under UV light. So how does this play into Halloween?

You can create scary artwork that can't be seen during the day. Paint it on signs, trees, whatever. Then, as night starts to fall, turn on a blacklight, and as the sun goes down, your artwork appears. Or, if you use an incandescent blacklight bulb, you can use a dimmer to make the art appear and disappear at your command.

There are dozens of ways you can make use of this stuff. But it ain't your garden variety paint. Spray cans runs $24, as do 4 oz. bottles of the brush-on paint. If you like airbrushing, you can thin the brush-on paint with water.

Other Previous Cool Halloween Stuff:

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Cool Halloween Stuff No. 4


Now these are some great Halloween looks!
Rip Off Zombie Prosthetic

Our newest concept in prosthetics! This layered prosthetic has 16 mini magnets that are embedded within the foam latex and reinforced with Powernet material. The magnets hold the outer foam appliance in place over the lower appliance. You can rip off your face revealing the nasty muscle layer beneath! Then replace the outer face to do it again!

* Two unpainted soft foam latex prosthetics
* One plastic vacuform face for pre-painting
and storage
* One instructional booklet
Boneyard FX is a manufacturer of Hollywood grade prosthetics. These aren't "masks", you don't strap these on over your face. No, these come as raw latex, and require some work from you to get the ready. But because of that, no two will be quite the same. You choose the colors to paint them, so you can give the skin a deathly grey look, or a sickly green.

They have plenty of tips on how to apply the prosthetics, how to paint them, and a full line of supplies to prepare the prosthetics and apply them. Best of all, they aren't horrendously expensive. The one shown here is one of the more elaborate and expensive pieces, and it only runs about $100. Most of the pieces run in the $50 range.

So if you're looking for a truly scary look this Halloween - check out the folks at Boneyard FX

Other Previous Cool Halloween Stuff:

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Cool Halloween Stuff No. 3

Vampire Teeth
Vampire Teeth at
From the folks who brought you Billy Bob Teeth, these vampire teeth Are designed to sit right over your existing teeth.

Billy Bob Teeth are super realistic teeth made with the same acrylics used in making dentures.

Designed by a dentist.

One size fits all adults. HOW? Our teeth are held in place with putty you install yourself for a custom fit. This allows you to talk and fool anyone.
Not only do they have teeth, but styling headpieces as well. Check out the selections of mullets! Business in front, party in the back!

While you can find a lot of this stuff in stores, you can also order direct, so you can choose just the freaky teeth you need!

Other Previous Cool Halloween Stuff:

Cool Halloween Stuff No. 2

Coffin Couches

Coffin Couches

This is as Halloween as it gets...

We at have the mindset of thinking "Green" and we know it is different but we strongly believe in recycling. Our niche happens to be 18 gauge steel coffins which we collected from local funeral homes primarily in Southern California. It is a health and safety law that funeral homes cannot resell used coffins to the general public. We approached funeral directors with the attitude of recycling. These coffins are not used for burial due to slight cosmetic inconsistencies. They are reconfigured and modified resulting in a finished product - a unique one a kind coffin couch. If you notice (although it may be too small) the six cast iron heavy duty legs are embossed with the universal biohazard insignia. The reason we utilize this sign is because safety is our utmost concern. If you are not aware, once a human body is placed in a coffin it is considered biohazard tissue. The legs have the embossed insignia for precautionary reasons in the event body fluids are exchanged on these coffins. Perhaps you would feel safe knowing that you are in designated biohazard scene!

These things aren't cheap. At about $3,500 a pop, you need some serious cash to grab one of these. But if you're looking for a real Halloween look, it's hard to knock furniture made from coffins...

Other Previous Cool Halloween Stuff:

Cool Halloween Stuff #1

Pope Alexander's Poison Casket Ring at Alchemyy GothicIn a former life, I used to source new products for an online and mail order cataloger. One of the more fun parts of the year was in the early spring, when the new Halloween stuff would come out.

I decided that this year, I would post some of the stuff I found, and let folks see some of the great Halloween stuff that is available.

The first place to look is Alchemy Gothic, a manufacturer and wholesaler of pewter, alternative fashion jewelry, pewter giftware and genre-defining designer lifestyle products".

If you're into some interesting Halloween wear, you might want to check out their website. You'll find stuff like bat earrings, pewter goblets, and rings like the one here, which has a secret compartment. It doesn't appear they sell direct to the public, but they do have a search function so you can find a reseller near you.

Other Previous Cool Halloween Stuff:

Sunday, September 21, 2008

One Day More...

For those with a theatrical bent...

Les Mis as you might not have imagined...

I just wish they would have done the marching in place...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Next Paul Potts?

America's Got Talent has started its new season, and it sure looks like they've found the next incredible voice. Neil Boyd is an insurance salesman with a love for his mom, and a voice that not only hits the notes, but delivers a passion that cuts through to your heart.

I have a real soft spot for Nessun Dorma from Turandot when it is sung well. The final three lines - "Vincero, Vincero, Vincero" - are a declaration that the Prince will be victorious and win Turandot's heart. And at the same time, when done well, the singer captures our hearts. The emotion that comes through can bring tears.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Blast From The Past

This ad from the 80s cracked me up. It features John Cleese doing an ad for Compaq and making a rather odd product comparison. This particular model was called a "portable" - which most folks later called a "luggable". At 22 lbs., this was not what you'd call a laptop!

Of note is the "massive" 4 MB of storage. I think my ballpoint pens have more memory.

Also classic - the "miles away" line. Cleese made a number of training and advertising films in the 80s, and this is a classic example.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Too Thin Lands You In The Sin Bin...


A new law being proposed in France is being aimed at curbing the promotion of anorexia as a lifestyle choice.

Fines of up to €30,000 (£24,000) and a two-year prison sentence will be imposed on offenders who “provoke a person to seek excessive thinness by encouraging prolonged restriction of nourishment” to the point of risking death or damage to health. The prison term is raised to three years with a €45,000 fine if the person dies.

I had been trying to think of a way to say something humorous here, but there really isn't anything funny about this topic. The "waif" thing has gotten completely out of hand, and can be easily described as terrifying. What absolutely confounds me is that since the first high-profile case of anorexia - Karen Carpenter - we have not been able to stem the tide of young women being drawn to this highly self-destructive condition. No, it seems that since Carpenter's death 25 years ago, the rush of young women trying to starve themselves to achieve the ultimate ghostly look has only accelerated. Today, it is estimated that 1 in 200 women suffer from anorexia. 95% of those who suffer from the disorder is between the ages of 13 and 25 years of age. 80% of girls 13 years of age have tried to lose weight.

If you're the parent of a young girl as I am, these numbers should scare the Dickens out of you. In fact, the mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the cause of death of all causes of death of 15-24-year-old. The really sad thing is that the profile of the typical anorexic is someone you'd never think would have a problem. A middle-class or upper-class teenager around 15 years old, intelligent, perfectionistic, and a very high achiever, she's usually thin but obsessed with her weight anyway. Look for compulsive exercising and a preoccupation with calorie counting and diets, even though she turns down food.  To hide her condition, she might lie, hiding uneaten food or Saying she's already eaten. And of course, there will be a denial that anything is wrong.

Think you might know someone who needs help? Here are some signs to watch out for:

  • Marked weight loss
  • Amenorrhea , or the loss of menstrual periods
  • Fear of getting fat, even when underweight
  • Denial of hunger, accompanied by an obsession with counting calories or studying cookbooks
  • Excessive exercise
  • Frequent weighing
  • Distorted body image
  • Hyperactivity
  • Constipation
  • Dry, sallow (yellowish) skin
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Fatigue or chronic insomnia
  • Loss of sexual desire
  • Thinning hair
  • The growth of fine body hair, especially on the arms and legs
  • Fainting spells
  • There's lots of information out there. If you want to educate yourself more on this serious health threat, check out the links below -

    National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD)

    National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)

    Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders, Inc. (ANRED)

    As for the law proposed, I don't see that it will help much. Punishing websites for publishing images won't stop girls from obsessing on their weight. Face it, it's not just TV, film or magazines. How many girls have moms who are getting implants, Botox, tummy tucks and other cosmetic procedures just to combat natural aging, to try to fool those around them about their age? What kind of lesson should girls learn from this? Their own parents can't accept the natural beauty of a woman aging, and instead they see a role model striving to achieve a "perfect" goal. The problem with that perfection is that it does not reflect reality.

    When we atop idealizing the "Barbie" body, stop falling for fad diets that don't work, stop buying all the gadgets,gizmos, and quick fix diet pills to "lose those nagging 10 pounds", we might have a shot at convincing young women that they don't need to starve to death.

    Sunday, April 13, 2008

    Yikes! Forget Chastity Belts...

    From Rapex: the internal anti-rape device | Features | The First Post :

    The words of a rape victim - "If only I had teeth down there" - have inspired the design of a new anti-rape device.

    Rapex - dubbed the 'rape trap' - is a product worn internally by women. The hollow inside is lined with rows of razor-sharp hooks, which are designed to latch on to a rapist's penis during penetration. They can only be removed by a doctor.

    The product will be on the shelves of South African chemists and supermarkets later this month. South African mother-of-two Sonette Ehlers developed the original prototype in 2005 but has struggled to get it patented and approved for sale, not least because of staunch opposition from feminist groups.

    I'm not sure if I'm scared, appalled, amused or intrigued by this thing. Mostly amused, I think.  The thought of the consequence to a guy who sticks his junk where it shouldn't be is oddly apropos. How exactly does he explain that? "Uhh, doc, can you get this plastic cage off my johnson?"

    One of the fears some have about it's use is that the guy who gets "trapped" will only get more violent. No way. We're talking hard plastic barbs digging into his willy. Pain there will pretty much stop a guy dead in his tracks. Certainly long enough to let the potential victim run for safety.

    But there is a sad element to this - the reason it was created. The device was created to help the 1.7 million South African women who are raped each year and live in fear. Some may say it is more vengeful than preventative, and there's some truth to that. Until they are so prevalently used that rapists fear injury, they won't work as a deterrent. So at best, it will stop the act from going too far. In some cases, this will minimize physical injury to the victim, but not the emotional scars.

    So, while the device does get me to chuckle, it also reminds me that there are still places where women aren't safe, and that saddens me. There are organizations working to end this abuse. Check out SADF, and donate if you can. They work to improve conditions for people in South Africa. You can even choose a specific grantee, such as the Greater Nelspruit Rape Intervention Programme (GRIP).

    Wednesday, April 02, 2008

    I Want One Of These Little Guys...

    From: Cool Gadgets - Toshiba's Talking Robot acts as a universal remote - ApriPoko | Geeky Gadgets

    Toshiba Apripoko

    This one of the cooler gadgets I've seen lately is this Apripoko from Toshiba. Currently, it's a prototype, but if it comes to fruition, this thing will need a place in my home.

    Here's how it works - It has infrared sensors that detect when you push a button on one of your remotes (TV, DVD, etc), and it will ask you "What did you just do?"

    You tell it ("Turn on the TV"). It memorizes what you said, and all you have to do next time is say "turn on the TV", and the Apripoko sends out the appropriate infrared commands to turn on the TV. It can learn all kinds of IR codes, so if you have remote-controlled drapes or a projection screen that is controlled by an IR remote, Apripoko can learn those commands as well.

    Details are a little thin, but what I'd love to see is this device have the ability to learn multiple commands in succession. With this feature, you could use one verbal command to turn on the TV, change the input to video, and turn on the DVD with one command.

    At the minimum, this is going to be a great Christmas gift if it is released.

    Friday, March 28, 2008

    A Very Cool Quadruped

    It seems there's no shortage of robot videos online. YouTube is a virtual "robot central" with new robot videos popping up very day. Most of these robot videos are interesting, some entertaining. But every once in a while, these robot videos are simply amazing.

    This video is of a four-footed robot that has amazing ability to balance itself. The operators ran it up and down hills, over ice and through snow, as well as over rubble. It can even hop and run.

    So what? We've seen lots of robot videos. What's so special about this one? Well, first of all, it has a fairly strong cargo capacity (340 lbs.) and it's huge - looks to be about 4 ft. tall. And yet it has a nimbleness that's incredible. They run it onto ice and while it does slip, it recovers almost instantly. You can check out more info at Boston Dynamics.

    Wednesday, March 19, 2008

    How Good Is Your Hearing?

    norge_horelse I came across this test online that I think everyone should take.

    Being able to listen, to hear, is one of our most important resources. This test on a Norwegian site tests to see how well you can hear.

    I've found that my hearing occasionally misses some things, either confusing them or not hearing them at all. When we don't hear, we can really miss the important things in our life that make a difference.

    The test takes approximately three minutes. For best results, use headphones, but you can use computer speakers. I used the speakers in my laptop and was able to take the test completely. Be sure to give enough time to complete the test so that the results can be fully measured.

    When you are done with the test, come back to this page and re-read it. The results from the test may cause you to rethink some of the things in this post. If you find the results cause you to take action, please pass this on to friends and family so they can take the test as well. Most importantly, don't tell them how the test is conducted, as this will affect the results.

    How well do you hear?

    Monday, March 17, 2008

    Happy St. Patrick's Day!

    To all of our friends, I thought I'd send this little St. Patty's day wish.

    This is the second year in a row that I have been able to get a picture of Carolyn with Brian, the guy who dresses up like a leprechaun at O'Sheas. He's a great guy, and fun to be around.

    To commemorate the day, I thought I'd share a couple of Irish Blessings... and a joke or two:

    May you be half an hour in Heaven
    Before the Devil knows you're dead.

    Jimmy-Joe finds a Genie lamp and rubs it. Out comes the Genie and asks "Master you have released me from the lamp and I grant you three wishes, what would you like"

    Jimmy-Joe scratches his head, then answers "A bottle of Guinness that never gets empty. "Granted master" retorted the Genie and produced the bottle. Jimmy-Joe was delighted and got drunk on this one magic Guinness bottle for weeks then he remembered that he had two other wishes. He rubbed the lamp again and the Genie appeared. "Yes master, you have two more wishes, what would you like?" "You know that magic, never ending Guinness bottle" he asks the Genies. "Well, for my final two wishes, I'd like another two of them"

    Whenever there is happiness
    Hope you'll be there too,
    Wherever there are friendly smiles
    Hope they'll smile on you,
    Whenever there is sunshine,
    Hope it shine especially
    For you to make each day for you
    As bright as it can be.

    Joey-Jim was tooling along the road one fine day when the local policeman, a friend of his, pulled him over. "What's wrong, Seamus?" Joey-Jim asked. "Well didn't ya know, Joey-Jim, that your wife fell out of the car about five miles back?" said Seamus. "Ah, praise the Almighty!" he replied with relief. "I thought I'd gone deaf!"

    May your pockets be heavy-
    Your heart be light
    And may good luck pursue you
    Each morning and night

    Happy St. Patrick's Day!

    Sunday, March 16, 2008

    Make The Change That Will Improve Your Life

    Image Courtesy Rowan of Ravara

    From Keeping the Stress Monster in Check | Slow Down Fast Today! ~ David B. Bohl

    Are you stressed? Ready for the therapist’s couch? Wondering if you should just dump your corporate job and run away to Alaska to work on a fishing boat?

    In today’s world, more people are having to deal with increasing anxiety at the intersection of career, home, family and social life. Is it just me, or are a lot of us just not sure of whether we’re coming or going anymore?

    The amount of stress that assaults us daily is tremendous. Work, money, relationships - they all create their own level of stress. The gadgets and tools that were supposed to make our lives easier have only served to add to the stress. Between cellphones, email, text messaging and other technological wonders, getting away from the things that stress us out has become difficult.

    As David points out, there are a number of ways to reduce the amount of stress you are subjected to. Which you can use depends on your situation. But one in particular can be life-changing.

    The Big Change

    If you dread going to work in the morning, or come home from work feeling like you've been put through the ringer, give serious consideration to changing jobs. Yes, that makes it sound very easy. But even if you have to take a pay cut, the improvement in your quality of life can mean a world of difference. The theory that if you do what you love the money will follow holds true far more than you might think.

    When you are doing something you enjoy, something you are passionate about, things seem to fall into place. Your mood is lighter, your tasks easier. You love what you do. But make no mistake - getting there may be the scariest thing you have ever done.

    For many, changing a career is filled with obstacles. Money may be short. Family will be worried. And you will face self-doubt of a magnitude you may never have previously experienced. These will pass. With the lessening of stress,your thinking will become clearer, your resolve more powerful, your determination and resourcefulness will hit greater highs.

    Making The Leap

    If you decide to make a change, take some steps first:

    • Decide what it is you really want to do. What is it that really makes you happy?
    • Can you afford a quick switch? If money is an issue, think about how you can transition. Can you do it part-time while keeping your day gig?
    • Make a plan. What do you need to do to be successful, to really enjoy what you will be doing?
    • Be prepared to sacrifice. Achieving your dream career may require less time in front of the TV, or giving up some time on the weekends. You may have to tighten your financial belt, or give up some of your entertainment. Trust that as you get closer to your goal, your life will pull into balance.

    If you're feeling overly-stressed, take a good long look at what you do to pay the bills. Changing your career to something you enjoy may just be the best thing you can do for you and your family.

    Saturday, March 08, 2008

    How To Get The Best Service On Your Next Flight

    Photo Courtesy Mauren Veras

    Confessions Of... A Flight Attendant - Budget Travel

    Other ways to get under a flight attendant's skin: asking for beverages and food before we even take off; requesting seconds before the rest of the cabin has been served; ringing the call button so you can give us your trash after we've passed through with a garbage bag half a dozen times; ringing the call button to find out when we'll land. Basically, you never want to push the call button at all.

    If you fly a little, or fly a lot for that matter, you've probably seen your share of flight attendants. From the surly to the sickly sweet (Buh-bye!), they run the gamut. But these folks really do have an important job. No, not serving you half cans of Coke and a bad of stale pretzels. Their job is to be there in case the unthinkable happens. In case of emergency, these folks are there to try to protect and save your hiney.

    This article offers up some tidbits of advice on how to get the most out of your flight - and flight attendants. These folks can make your trip pleasant or miserable, and all it takes is a little kindness and understanding on your part.

    In addition to the tips in the linked article, there are some I've been able to put together over my miles of flying:

    • Address them by name - If you can get their name, either by asking or just checking a nametag, and use it when you address them, you're more likely to get a warm response to a request. One way to find out the name - actually listen when they make their announcements. They usually indicate who is speaking and name names.
    • Listen to the preflight instructions - Yup, you've heard them. So have they. They are about as thrilled at repeating them as you are of hearing them. But trust me, they'll make eye contact with those that listen. And that helps things later on.
    • Help them out - Stay out of the aisles unless you absolutely have to be there, don't hang out in the galley area unless you have to, and lay off the call button unless it's really urgent. And a fresh drink doesn't count as urgent.
    • Don't be an idiot - If you would be embarrassed to behave a certain way in front of your mom or your significant other, don't subject the flight attendants or your fellow passengers to it. If you can't handle your liquor, don't consume.

    I'm sure you've probably got some more, so be sure to drop a comment and share!

    How To Predict The Next President

    Photo Courtesy JM3

    2008 Presidential Election Interactive Map and History of the Electoral College

    It seems every election season, Tim Russert drags out a whiteboard and starts speculating on the electoral college count for presidential candidates. If you want to be like Timmy, you might want to check this site I stumbled across today. The site keeps track of the electoral college count based on recent polls, showing where each state stands and where in the electoral college count each candidate stands.

    A candidate for president must garner 270 electoral college votes to win the presidential campaign. As election day nears, the site will present the possible outcomes and how each candidate can reach the magic 270. It even allows you to be your own electoral college analyst, changing the count by clicking on states in an interactive map.

    So why is 270 the magic number? It's the math of elections. There are 538 Presidential Electors who represent the voting of their particular states. The number of electors is based on population, and the number of electors is equal to the number of congressional representatives each state has in Congress. The smallest state, therefore, has three electors, 1 for each Senator and one representative. The biggest states are California (55), Texas (34), New York (31), Florida (27), and Illinois (21).

    Whenever the vote is close, as in 2000 and 2004, the subject of "faithless electors" comes up. This is the concept that an elector, who is pledged to vote for one candidate, changes their vote. It has happened, but in reality, many states have legal recourse against such actions, and penalties for doing so. Electors essentially pledge that they will vote as the electorate has, and in most cases are bound to do so.

    Given that this election may be one of the most closely watched and hotly contested in recent history, bookmark to keep track of how things are going.


    Wednesday, February 27, 2008

    What We Often Forget

    Copyright 2008 Soderman Consulting

    I read a great post today over on on some of the things we forget while we rush through our busy lives. The post covers such things as:

    • Take Joy Where You Find It
    • Free Yourself By Forgiving Your Rivals
    • Do Not Take Yourself Seriously
    • Enjoy Friendship and Companionship
    • Give to Others

    The point made by the post is that by observing some easy-to-follow, yet easily forgotten steps, we can liberate ourselves from the stresses we feel each day, and in turn, lead a more joyful life.

    Why do we forget such simple lessons as "take joy where you find it". Children know this lesson instinctively. They can find the pleasure of splashing in a puddle, playing with mud pies, or just a big hug, and each creates just as much joy as the next.

    But as we grow older, as we become grownups, we gradually lose the sense of wonder that a child thrives on. We become cynical, and "reality" intrudes. It doesn't have to, of course. We just get wrapped up in the trappings of life - the bling, the bills, the relationships - and we start to forget what is important: the joy.

    Take some time, maybe even now, to think about the last time you felt joy. Was it today? Yesterday? Last week? Can you recall it at all?

    Without joy, life is just a stumble from one event to another. Don't waste another minute. Find what it is that brings you joy, and strive for it, revel in it. Then share it with those around you. It will multiply, and you won't forget it.


    Sunday, February 24, 2008

    Don't Take No For An Answer - Even From Yourself

    Statue of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow - Courtesy dbking

    Claire over at Bebo Author asked the question "What Is A Writer Anyway?"

    While she addresses this on the level of a writer, the more general question is "What's holding you back?"

    As she notes in her blog entry, many folks hold themselves back. Whether fear of rejection, procrastination, or just a lack of confidence, many folks give up their dreams, leaving the lingering thought in the back of their minds - what if?

    In the end, there really is only one obstacle to reaching your dreams. And that obstacle is you. As Claire points out, the only way to be a better writer is to write. You can apply that to pretty much anything. Want to be a better singer? Sing. Want to be a better bricklayer? Lay brick. Do the work.

    Now some may say "I want to be successful NY Times bestselling author!", to which I respond with a simple question - Why?

    When I hear folks say something like that, I don't hear that they want to be a great author, to excel in writing. I hear that they want the fame and/or the cash that goes with being on the bestseller list. But if that's what they want, there are much easier, much more lucrative ways to do it. If the money is the goal, go do what you do best and find a way to make it pay. If what you really want to do is write, then do it for the love of the process, the art. The money will resolve itself.

    More often than not, it's those nagging doubts inside that get the better of us. Those little voices that say "I can't" are the real obstacles. My advice to you is - don't take "no" for an answer, especially yourself. Figure out what you really want, set some goals, and put your best foot forward. Break it into small steps, and achieve each one. What once seemed impossible will suddenly develop into a possibility, then a probability, and finally reality. You just need to forge ahead, with those goals in your sights.

    Stop telling yourself you can't, start telling yourself you will.


    Sunday, February 17, 2008

    "You're Not A Wife, You're A Job."

    Copyright 2008 Old Sarge

    As I was pulling out of the parking garage a couple of days ago, an ad was playing on the radio for a new episode of Dr. Phil's reality show. You know the one, where people who are progressively more screwed up than the previous group get a dose of the good doctor's tutelage.

    Normally, I tune these ads out. These reality shows just seem too much like an appeal to the lowest common denominator. But there was one line in the ad that stood out.

    "You're not a wife, you're a job".

    Dr. Phil was admonishing what appeared to be a particularly manipulative and selfish subject, who demanded so much of her mate that being with her was more like work than a relationship.

    I think we've all been in those relationships at one point or another. It starts out with you wanting to please your significant other, perhaps even changing your ways a bit to satisfy them. In a healthy relationship, this is all part of a give-and-take, of a becoming "we" in addition to being individuals.

    But in some cases, that change you make only turns into a demand for more. And the more you change, the more is asked of you. And yet, there is no change on the other end. It's a one-sided deal and you're getting the short end of it.

    I have a friend whose first marriage went this way. He was a bit of a wild man, a little Bohemian in nature. He met his wife-to-be, and she fell in love with him as he was. And he fell in love with her.  But she had an idea that she would "tame" him, asking him to change the way he dressed, the way he acted. She thought she could 'improve" him.

    And change he did. He loved her enough to change against his core being and act/talk/dress the way she wanted.

    Guess what? She stopped loving him.

    Why? Because he was no longer the person she fell in love with. He worked his tail off to be what she said she wanted, and every step he took moved him farther away from who he was, and who she fell in love with. His job, at that point, was pleasing his wife, and she fired him.

    Some of us go a different route. We believe that marriage is a vow taken seriously, and we are determined not to be in that 50%+ statistic about divorces. We can make it work - it just takes effort. We genuinely believe it, and work hard at it.

    But notice the word that keeps coming up: work. There should be effort, to be sure. But when the effort is one-sided, and the moments of joy are far overshadowed by what's required to "earn" them, the relationship becomes more like a job. The analogy of a frog and boiling water is an apt one. Drop a frog in boiling water, he'll jump right out. But put him in cool water and heat it slowly, and he's likely to sit in it till he's cooked. If we see the trouble up front, we'll bail. But when it slowly evolves over time, we don't detect it until we're cooked.

    To be sure, we're to blame. We get ourselves into the situation, then become afraid of what we need to do to get out. The pain of being alone often surpasses the pain of continuing the relationship. So we plug along, "working" at it. But in the end, who are we helping? Not ourselves, and not the other person in the relationship.

    If you think you might be in this situation, ask yourself a few questions -

    • Am I constantly walking on eggshells, afraid I'll say the wrong thing?
    • Does it seem like I can't do anything to please my partner?
    • Are the moments of joy being overwhelmed by the effort to achieve them?
    • Is heading off to work a relief, a break from being at home?
    • Have I changed dramatically to maintain this relationship? Has my partner changed for the relationship?

    These questions are a start. If you have answered more than 1 or 2 of these questions "yes", then take a hard look at your relationship. You deserve to be happy, and you shouldn't have to "work" two jobs to do it.


    Thursday, February 14, 2008

    The Random List - Five Sites To Visit For Valentine's Day

    Copyright 2008 Soderman Consulting
    Early Valentine's Day

    Yes, one of Hallmark's favorite holidays is here - Valentine's Day.

    It's that time of year when a guy can either be a hero or a bum, depending on whether he thought ahead. I'm hoping for hero this year.

    I decided to put together some sites for those of you who may need a little help getting through (or past) February 14th. This can be a tricky event to navigate, and hopefully this short list will get you through any tough spots.

    Just peruse the offering below, and if you find any you like, be sure to let us know. And if you have a favorite, add it to the comments so we can all share in the resources. You never know when you might need help on this reddest of red holidays.

    Oh, and as a side note, Valentine's Day is not the most popular for cards as far as Hallmark is concerned. Nope, not Mother's Day either. Try Christmas.

    1. - Some of you may not think this is very original, nor did I claim it to be. But these folks have never let me down. I have ordered from them for years, and the flowers are always delivered on time, and exquisitely fresh. They also tend to last. I have seen them hang tough for as long as two weeks, attesting to the quality of the packaging, shipping and the flowers themselves. If you thought ahead, you may have already used them. If not, get your order in to get out of the doghouse.
    2. How To Break Up With Your Boyfriend - For the more cynical gals, a primer on dumping the guy you're no longer interested in. Of course, if you read it, the more cynical it sounds. But hey, if you need tips, here ya go. But never fear guys, we found one for you too... How To Break Up With Your Girlfriend.
    3. The History of Valentine's Day from The History Channel - As you might expect from the fine folks at The History Channel, they've put together an entire mini-site dedicated to Cupid's day of frolic. Valentine's Day has a particularly religious origin, with as many as three Catholic saints as the possible namesakes. In fact, Valentine's Day was set as February 14th back in 498 A.D. by Pope Gelasius - so blame it on him.
    4. Custom Made M&M Candies - This is fun for just about any occasion. You can have M&Ms printed and gift boxed with your choice of messages and colors. The website even lets you preview them before you order. Yeah, it's too late now, but hey, there's gotta be an anniversary or something coming up, right?
    5. Valentine's Day on Flickr - A slideshow of images from Flickr tagged with Valentine's Day. One note - before you click the link, be sure you have your Flickr setting set to "Safe". Some of the images can be a bit racy.

    If you got a favorite site, let us know by adding a comment! And be sure to give us a vote on Stumble if you liked what you saw!

    Monday, February 11, 2008

    Does Water Help The Creative Process?

    Una Mas De Ducha (One More of the Shower) - atwose on Flickr

    Ever hear someone say that they do their best thinking in the shower? That's me. For some reason, water seems to trigger the creative process in me like almost nothing else. It can be the shower in the morning, a tub in the evening, a Jacuzzi under the stars - doesn't really matter. It just seems that water gets the juices flowing.

    I've racked my brain for a logical answer and haven't really found one. I suppose we could look at it metaphysically and say that the sound or sensation of running water, is like a subliminal message to the mind, telling it to let things flow.

    Or perhaps, it's that I have adopted these routines over four decades. I used to read voraciously in the tub, and the act of taking a shower tells my body it's time to go to work. But I can say for certain that a vast majority of the ideas I come up with come from a place that seems to read "just add water".

    Of course, there is a downside to this. Ever try balancing a laptop on the edge of the tub? It's a Wile E. Coyote scene waiting to happen. The laptop hasn't gone in yet, but the drink, towel, reading glasses and watch all have. So now I leave the laptop on the kitchen table and use my new analog PDA (writing journal) instead. Of course, paper gets wet too, and a warm tub has the effect of putting me to sleep. Not terribly productive, and it has potential to get ruined. But at least I won't get electrocuted in the process and my laptop stays safe.

    But I think there is something deeper here. Everyone has a place or an environment that recharges them. Mine always seem to involve water and wind. I love the rain, storms make me feel recharged. One of my favorite places to relax and let nature work its magic is on a boat on Silver Lake. It's a High Sierra alpine lake that always has a breeze and the sound of water lapping on the hull of the boat.

    As a kid, I would spend hours in the pool, coming out only long enough to grab a quick lunch. Ocean creatures are my favorites, and dolphins make me happy.

    For some reason, my body is tuned into water, and water seems to let the creative muse out.

    So why do you care? Simple. Everyone has a place, an environment that relaxes or rejuvenates them. Perhaps it's trees or a garden. Or maybe it's just the feeling of the sun on our face. Think to those times when you feel recharged, full of energy. What are the sensations, the sounds, the scents? And how can you recreate them? Find a surrogate for the sun or a proxy for the garden. Maybe you can pot a plant - easy to do indoors. Get out on your lunch break and soak up a few rays. Whatever it is, find the key to unlocking your creative vault. Just the process alone will make you feel better, stronger, more energized. And we can all use more of that!

    Sunday, February 10, 2008

    The Two Pots

    I came across this entry on a website today, and for some reason it spoke to me. We spend so much time looking for the perfect that we forget that the imperfections are what makes us unique.

    Take the time to embrace not only the imperfections in others, but in ourselves.

    The Two Pots - Inspirational Words of Wisdom
    A Water Bearer in China had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole, which he carried across his neck.

    One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

    For a full two years, this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots of water to his house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.

    After 2 years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. "I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes my water to leak out all the way back to your house."

    The bearer said to the pot, "Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot's side? That's because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, we would not have such beauty."

    Each of us has our own unique flaw. But it's the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together so very interesting and rewarding.

    You've just got to take each person for what they are and look for the good in them.

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    Eepy Birds Strike Again! The Domino Effect
    The Extreme Diet Coke & Mentos Experiments II - The Domino Effect: Fritz & Stephen, the mad scientists from EepyBird, take it even further - with over 250 geysers of soda. And this time they're linked together in one giant chain reaction! A clever mechanism harnesses the power of one geyser of Diet Coke to drop the Mentos into the next bottle. So just like dominos, all they have to do is start the first one, and the rest is Diet Coke & Mentos history!

    You've probably seen these guys before. Their antics have even inspired an episode of "Mythbusters" where they worked to determine exactly what the mechanism is that causes Mentos and Diet Coke to react so vigorously. This time, they figured out a way to get one fountain to trigger the next. Watch and enjoy!

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    Saturday, February 09, 2008

    But If You Follow These, There's No Movie!

    This had me chuckling the whole way. Below are some of my favorite examples of the 100 tips to becoming a successful egomaniacal self-serving tyrant.

    How To Be A Successful Evil Overlord
    I will dress in bright and cheery colors, and so throw my enemies into confusion.

    If one of my dungeon guards begins expressing concern over the conditions of the beautiful princess' cell, I will immediately transfer him to a less people oriented position.

    I won't require high-ranking female members of my organization to wear a stainless-steel bustier. Morale is better with a more casual dress-code. Similarly, outfits made entirely from black leather will be reserved for formal occasions.

    One of my advisors will be an average five-year-old child. Any flaws in my plan that he is able to spot will be corrected before implementation.

    My five-year-old child advisor will also be asked to decipher any code I am thinking of using. If he breaks the code in under 30 seconds, it will not be used. Note: This also applies to passwords.

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    Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

    The Scariest Gun"
    I'm not sure if I should be peeing myself laughing, or running in fear. On color alone this would be a favorite for my daughter.

    But 'Hello Kitty'? Who came up with that? I mean come on, even on the scope?

    "She always seemed like a quiet, friendly neighbor... but she did seem to really like that little cat cartoon. "

    No word on how much it cost.

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    Tuesday, February 05, 2008

    Bluto Didn't Do It This Way...

    YouTube - Bare-handed bottle smash

    OK, I'll admit it. I'm a geek at heart and always will be. Some science projects are just too cool. Think I'm alone? Why is Mythbusters still on the air?

    In any case, this cool little trick is one to remember. The idea is that you can take an open bottle, and with a little ingenuity, cause it to blow the bottom out. It's all a matter of physics, and the explanation in the video is quite clear. Of course, you'll need empty bottles, and some place where broken glass isn't a problem.

    Stuff that explodes. Isn't science cool?

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    The iPod Goes Undercover

    iPod in Disguise

    With all the folks carrying iPods out there, this is a pretty funny, yet practical gimmick.

    Basically, it looks like an old Sony Walkman with cassette and AM/FM (only the best). Flip it open, however, and there's the iPod, hiding away. The idea is that nobody's dying to steal a Walkman, so your iPod is a heck of a lot safer.

    Not sure if it works, but for the sheer fun of it, I might find these for gifts.

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    Sunday, February 03, 2008

    Do You Love Me?

    The Apple Store NYC! | Michelle Oshen
    These guys are a phenomenal example of good ol' streetcorner magic. They are tight, and the lead singer rocks it.

    This kind of enthusiasm for performing just makes me smile. Enjoy!

    Related Links: Inspiration

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    Shopping Green » Blog Archive » Paper or Plastic? How About Neither…

    "Plastic bags have been around for about 25 years. Which means that our mothers and grandmothers can still remember going shopping, with their own Reusable Bags. If they could do it, I think so can we…"
    I remember traveling to Argentina as a kid to visit family. My grandmother had her little mesh bag she carried, putting her purchases in it and carrying them home. In general, I think these are a good idea.

    The problem I see with them is a difference in how we shop from then to now. The small neighborhood shopkeepers - bakers, butchers, deli and produce - have been replaced by supermarkets, superstores and warehouses. There's not a single local vendor close enough to walk to. Not one.

    So, as the supermarkets promised convenience for us, they also pushed us to use our cars more. The larger stores didn't need to be as close together, moving them further from homes and making the short walking trip difficult to impossible. And the massive buying power cut into the profits of the smaller vendors, closing their doors.

    So instead of making a short trip for an item or two, it's more efficient to get all your shopping done at once. But to do that, you need to be able to carry a larger quantity of items. And for this we started using the car.

    Interestingly, a trend in the last few years has been for new malls to open that return to the feel of the local market, with stores aligned on "streets", looking like a small town. What if a developer were to pose the same idea to grocers, perhaps one grocer opening a number of smaller stores in such a venue? My guess is that if these were put close enough together, you might actually find some people changing their habits, even if slightly.

    I understand and applaud the idea of removing plastic bags from stores. But unless we change our behavior in terms of how we shop, the reusable bag concept doesn't fit the average home.

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    Wednesday, January 30, 2008

    Go ahead - ask

    Remember the old 20 Questions game? Here's an online version. The idea is to try to stump the neural network by thinking of something it doesn't yet know about. And it knows a lot!

    I was able to come up with a few things, including some some songs, movie characters and places, but it's pretty good. And sometimes it pops up the right answer just when you think it's way off base.

    Give it a shot and see if you can stump it!

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    A Good Laugh...

    Baby's First ROFL - More amazing videos are a click away
    Baby's First ROFL I was stumbling around tonight for one more to thing to write about before going to bed and came across this. I defy you not to laugh along with this kid. He has one of the most infectious laughs I have heard in a long time. If you aren't grinning from ear to ear by the time this video finishes, you either have no heart, or you're Dick Cheney. Which, come to think of it, is redundant.

    Watch the video, giggle along, and smile.

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    The Way It Used To Be

    I used to have one of those old fashioned chemistry sets. It was given to me by my fifth grade teacher.

    I used to try mixing things up to see what happened. Most of the time: nothing. Every once in a while I would create a blob in an interesting color, which would proceed to stain the concrete on the garage floor.

    But it did give me the opportunity to learn, to imagine.

    What you'll see in the video is that these sets really no longer exist. You can't get the sets full of chemicals anymore. We've sanitized them, made them safer, eliminated potential lawsuits. You get the picture. But we've also eliminated a source of curiousity, of wonder, of imagination. We have less "What if'" and whole lot more "so what's". It's a shame.

    To be sure, there was potential for mayhem and injury in those old sets, but really no more than going out and crashing on your bike or falling out of a tree. But they also gave us a way to explore. I miss that.

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    Monday, January 28, 2008

    Spoiled Pics

    Came across this site as I was "Stumbling" and found it too funny.

    Basically the idea is that while sometimes people can ruin a picture with their antics, sometimes, they actually make the picture a whole lot of funny...

    Click on the pic for more fun - and look in the backgrounds..

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    Sunday, January 27, 2008


    It seems whenever I get to a point in my life that things look a bit tough, I come across something that reminds me how good I've got it. And to quit complaining. This video is one of those:

    Beautiful music, played in an unexpected way. It was just the first of such videos I saw today. What do you think the universe is trying to tell me?

    Related links: Do You Love Me?, Sir Mix A Lot, Harry Potter Meets Michael Jackson

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    No, It Won't Make You Sound Better Fred Mic: Health & Personal Care

    For all you wannabe rockstars, pump up the volume and get down with your bad self with this "shower mic".

    Apparently it is currently unavailable from Amazon, probably because the "Bono in the shower" picture drove sales through the roof. But I don't recommend the sunglasses in the shower, even if you are U2's frontman.

    Keep in mind, you might "feel" like you sound better in the shower. But those dogs that always seem to howl when you start belting out "Sister Christian" - they know better.

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    Buy This At Your Own Risk

    ecal : images : annee propedeutique

    Buying this belt requires some guts. Either you have an incredible sense of self-confidence to actually show the size of your ever-expanding waist, or you're incredibly proud of the weight you've lost. Of course, the bravery there is that you are now bragging about your tiny waist, and may raise the ire of the weight loss challenged.

    Not sure if this is for sale, but I'm sure there are some skinny-minnies out there who are determined to show off their lack of waist.

    For the record, I'm not one of them.

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    Friday, January 25, 2008

    Once You Pop, You Can't Stop

    Ever come across a piece of bubblewrap and can't seem to control the urge to pop a few of those little blisters? Oh, sure, like it's just me...

    In any case, the next time you're dying for a little stress relief by popping bubbles, check out the link below. Just pop the bubbles by clicking on them. And when you need more, just click for a new sheet. Pop away!

    Virtual Bubblewrap

    Thursday, January 24, 2008

    Future recipients of the Darwin Award

    Look close, and you'll see that these enterprising men have outfitted their inflatable pool with a nifty bar and grille. Yes, that's a hot plate on the table.

    And yes, it's electric.

    Apparently the cord wasn't long enough to make it out of the pool, so they ingeniously used a pair of floating flip flops as a platform for their surge protector.

    Add the brewskis in everyone's hands, and this has all the makings of another thinning of the genepool.

    This is the stuff that the Darwin Awards are made of. As they like to say, "The Tree of Life is self-pruning".

    Tuesday, January 22, 2008

    Monday, January 21, 2008

    What's Your Secret?

    I had heard about this project before, but had forgotten about it. Basically, it's a website where folks have sent in postcards with secret admissions. Some are funny, some are poignant, some are painful. But all have a ring of honesty that takes it out of the realm of reality TV and into the world of unvarnished truths.


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    Transparent Wallpaper

    This is a really creative set. The angles, the images, all lining up to create the illusion of transparent monitor screens. If you look close, you'll see that the cat on the screen is a picture, the tail on the bed to the right of the screen is real.

    There are a whole bunch of these on the site that are really cool looking. I can't imagine how much time it takes to line up the second shot, the one with the screen already loaded...

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