Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Sound Of Silence

I had a life failure yesterday.

Not a major one. In fact, it's downright trivial.

I have a lengthy commute to work, and last year my wife got me an iPod Nano as a gift. iTunes is the worst program on the face of the earth, so it took me a while, but eventually I got it so I could download podcasts on it to listen to on my way to work. This sort of became a ritual.

Well, just because I figured it out doesn't mean iTunes stopped sucking. Every once in a while it goes crazy. Earlier in the week it decided to download every single episode of a podcast, not just the new ones, which is not cool. So I had to manually delete them all since I had already listened to them (and was taking up all the memory). But it's not often.

Well, yesterday morning, I did what I normally do--plug it in, hit refresh, let it download new podcasts, then sync it up. Takes a few minutes. Well, this morning, I saw that it had downloaded everything so I hit 'sync', and it said it was done. That was quick, I thought to myself, unplugged it, and went to work.

Of course it was immediately apparent that iTunes shit the bed. It didn't download anything, and so I had zero podcasts to listen to--I was all caught up.

Well, I thought, I'll just turn on the radio.

I turned on the radio, and after I hear about 45 seconds of Penguins playoff updates they cut to commercial. I swear on a stack of anything you can find that is holy that they played fourteen minutes of straight commercials. Obnoxious car commercials, obnoxious lawyer commercials, and sketchy boner pill commercials. I know they got to pay the bills and radio is hurting right now, but holy hell on a stick I can't do that. (It sucks because morning radio is actually decent in this least when you are actually listening to content.)

So I turned it off and drove to work in silence.

On the way home, I had the same dilemma. Well, I thought to myself, I can always listen to NPR. I like All Things Considered.

So I turn it on and...I get to listen to a riveting story about birdwatching. Birdwatching! In Columbia, no less! Come on, NPR, at least try and make an effort to not be the thing that everyone makes fun of you for.

It was a silent drive home.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Hot Dogs

Warning: this post involves a sad, gross story.

It's a story about two parents who made their child live off of a hot dog smoothie diet. They were, of course, arrested, and the local CPS has gotten involved after an embarrassingly long delay, but it's such a strange, bizarre story.*

Now, I am not one to make fun of someone's appearance, but I'm going to anyway because these people are monsters,** but that guy is totally, like, twelfth in line to the leadership of the Pacific Northwest Area Anton LaVey Appreciation Club. I suspect it's been a long time since his clothes haven't smelled like stale Cheetos.

Clearly something is wrong--no doubt there are mental health issues involved, but for those not into the excuse-making business there was a good dose of not-right-in-the-headness. The thing that baffles me the most is that this isn't neglect, because neglect would involve not feeding him at all, or feeding him lazily. No, these people actively made smoothies out of hot dogs and cooking oil. This took effort. This involved a lot of work to make this child's life hell.

And there's a certain brand of evil that they made him do pushups with a backpack full of canned goods, like "here's a bunch of food you will never have bwah ha ha."

I suppose this isn't funny, but it certainly is bizarre, and at the very least the judge involved seems to have  handed down an exceptionally long jail sentence given the circumstances. Little comfort to the kid, no doubt, but at least that's something. 

*A story, I would like to add, that as of this posting includes the word "wiht" when they mean "with". Come on, major news outlet MSN, don't you guys have spell checkers? Or, you know, editors? 


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Candy Review: New Flavors Of Peanut M&Ms

It's been a while since my last candy review, and now that our great national holiday (Half Off Easter Candy) has come and gone, I figured it's time to post some new deliciousness.

I didn't get anything fun or innovating for Easter, but shortly thereafter I noticed that the M&Ms corporation is launching three new flavors--well, one new flavor, anyway. The public will get to vote on which one makes it to the regular rotation of flavors. As a (ahem) public service, I figured it's only right that I dive in and let you know the facts. I am nothing if not selfless.

The three flavors are Honey Nut, Chili Nut, and Coffee Nut.

First up is Honey Nut. I am lukewarm on honey--a little bit goes a long way for me. And so it was with this flavor; I thought there was too much honey flavor. (My wife, incidentally preferred these, and stated that it reminded her of eating Honey Crisp cereal.) I enjoyed it enough but of all the flavors it was my least favorite.

Next up is Chili Nut. This one was interesting--the flavor isn't very strong, which is probably good, and doesn't kick in until well after you've eaten some. The good news is that it's a very pleasant, very balanced flavor. The bad news is that if you're a unrepentant pig like me that likes to eat them by the handful, a lot of this subtlety is lost.  If you like spicy chili flavor with your chocolate and like to savor your candy, this one will be right up your alley.

Finally, we get to Coffee Nut. I love coffee + chocolate, and so it was with this flavor. I'll register it my favorite off the top. Like the Chili Nut, though, it also didn't really kick in until the aftertaste, and even then the flavor wasn't overpowering like coffee candy sometimes can.

I'd eat any of these again, although I'd probably reserve the Honey Nut for someone else. But if I had to vote--which I am encouraged to do--I'd go with coffee. Unlike other things we vote for this year, though, I'd be happy with any of the choices.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Guest Post: But, Wait! I’m Not a Liberal! Am I?

Today’s post comes from J.J. Hensley of Hensley Books and is part of a special day of shenanigans from other Pittsburgh Bloggers. You can see my post over on, where I posit what the new Indiana Jones movie would look like if it were shot in Pittsburgh. There's a list of everyone participating in today's event at the bottom of this post.

In the 1990s, I was a moderate with conservative leanings.  At least that’s how I classified myself since my opinions were somewhat liberal toward social programs, but may have been classified as conservative in matters of national defense and law and order.  I prided myself on being a moderate.  I didn’t feel like I could be accused of attaching myself to a specific party platform or supporting a specific candidate due to party affiliations.  In fact, while I considered myself to have conservative leanings, I was a registered democrat.  TAKE THAT, political establishment.

Over a twenty-year period, I voted for GOP candidates as well as some with the Democratic party.  I even voted for Ralph Nader once.  Boom!  Liberal some days, conservative on others, moderate by choice.  That was me and my views haven’t changed drastically since those days when grunge music was hitting the airwaves and hair band guitarists went looking for the closest pair of scissors. 

Fast forward to 2016.

With a few exceptions, my core values and beliefs are pretty much the same.  I strongly support my former vocation, law enforcement, but believe in improved training, pay, sensitivity training, and the need for increased professionalism.  I support gay marriage.  I believe religious extremists, not all believers in any particular religion, need to be dealt with forcefully and decisively.  I believe in gun control, but not gun abolition.  I don’t care if someone smokes weed, as long as they don’t get behind the wheel of a car.  I’m pro-life, but not pro-abortion.  I’m against capital punishment, but only because the system is highly flawed, biased, and it does not have a deterrent effect because, to be effective, punishment has to be swift, certain, and severe.  

Two decades ago, these beliefs put me squarely in the moderate category.  Today, I’m a liberal.  And that is an extremely scary thing for all of us.  

How has this happened?  How has the U.S. political landscape shifted so drastically, that 1990s moderate—as well as some conservative—beliefs are now liberal?  While I’ve voted for some GOP candidates in the past, I wouldn’t use a ten-foot pole to reach into a voting machine and cast a ballot for any of the latest batch of GOP Presidential candidates.

This is the frightening reality our two-party system is currently facing.  The current GOP has adopted its own brand of corporate sponsored extremism and the democratic party is struggling to keep up with the sound bites produced by those who get headlines by trumpeting the outlandish.  In today’s media environment, ideas and discourse cannot compete with the ratings gained by constantly talking about Presidential candidates who openly insult each other and disparage women, minorities, and the handicapped.  

So like many others, I’m now considered a liberal with moderate leanings.  We stood firm, yet the sun moved around behind us, casting a shadow in an unfamiliar direction.  That’s fine.  The sun was blinding us anyway.  

J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, Chalk’s Outline, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.


Cyprus Keller wants a future.
Jackson Channing has a past.
Robert Chalk has a rifle and a mission.  Kill Cyprus Keller and anyone who gets in his way.


An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.


In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered.  When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.

Finalist – 2014 International Thriller Writers Awards – Best First Novel

Named one of the BEST BOOKS of 2013 by Suspense Magazine!

Top Ten Books of the Year – Authors on the Air

 And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology