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Netflix Releases Adam Sandler’s The Ridiculous 6

Adam Sandler’s latest movie was released on Netflix this weekend. The Ridiculous 6 was a fun family movie with countless actors, including my personal favorite, Steve Buscemi! The main characters were all recognizable even for me. There was Terry Crews (Herbert Love from Arrested Development,) Jorge Garcia (Hugo from Lost,) Taylor Lautner (Jacob from Twilight,) Rob Schneider (Deuce in Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo,) Luke Wilson (Joe from Idiocracy,) Will Forte (voice acting for everything ever,) Steve Zahn (Tucker in Dallas Buyers Club,) and well, I think you get the idea. I mean, even Adam Sandler’s wife made an appearance! So if nothing else, it was fun to see so many actors in one place.

The movie itself wasn’t the funniest Adam Sandler movie, but it wasn’t his worst by far. It was reminiscent of some of his early movies like Going Overboard. There were a number of genuinely funny scenes, but there were also more than a couple forced scenes or over-used gags. The storyline flowed well even with the various segments that were for exclusively for comedic effect. While I might not go out of my way to re-watch this again and again it provided me with the exact low-level-thinking kind of humor I sometimes crave.

If you have had a rough day and just want to laugh at some stupid jokes, this is the just the thing you need. Many of the reviews have been harsh, but I think this is largely exaggerated. While the Native American community out west might take issue with the depiction of the Native Americans in the movie, I see no other reason for someone to rate this movie as low as it’s been rated on sites like IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes. People might just like hating on Sandler, or perhaps they thought that it was going to be an edgier movie like Mr. Deeds. Either way, I’ve enjoyed better rated movies less. If you’ve got Netflix and some time, it’s not the worst choice you can make.

You’re Not Crazy, ‘They’ Are Watching And ‘They’ Want to Sell You Things

The other day I was talking with a friend and mentioned that I had been getting Facebook ads for some of the survival gear I had mentioned last time we went for a hike. I also noted that I had never searched for this online, and had only stopped briefly on a shelf carrying this particular product at Cabela’s. The instant reaction I got was the typical, “you’re being paranoid.” I almost forget sometimes that not everyone is aware of how insanely prevalent and invasive tracking is, and I’m not talking about the work done by NSA.

Sure enough, a quick search revealed that Cabela’s is one of the many stores that’s been using in-store tracking. And it’s nothing new to them. They’ve been using it for almost 3 years now. While you might think its just general information about if you’ve visited or not, the information is actually so specific they can tell what products you’ve stopped for a moment to look at.

Of course I know this all sounds crazy. Who would invest that much time and effort into knowing where you stop in a store? For all they know you could just be checking the time when you stop walking! Right? Well, they actually know because they are filming you, or more specifically, using face recognition software to map your expressions and track eye movement. That’s how they know exactly what you’re doing, how long you’re doing it, and most importantly, why they think you’re doing it.

Ad companies are getting extremely wealthy from doing this hence the subject matter being the focus of the recent season of south park. If you want a great example of this just take Facebook. The ENTIRE value of their company is in selling you stuff. They made their billions by connecting your personal information to ads. If you want to see for yourself how detailed the profiles they keep are sign up for an advertising account with Facebook and check out the filters they offer. You can filter right down to “people who spend a lot of money online shopping.” It’s not like Facebook has a storefront where they can directly get that information. They get it from partners that sell their data on you as a service. It’s what rewards programs like Plenti are about! (Or really any rewards program you use…feel free to fuck with the data by sharing your rewards cards with multiple people.)

The recent Vice interview of Pirate Bay Founder, Peter Sunde isn’t far off. He mentioned that the open internet is a lost cause, and to some extent it is. Too many people are making too much money from selling you and it’s gone from passive tracking and data collection to active tracking and data collection with little to no resistance as we all get up-in-arms about issues that matter much less in our day-to-day lives.

‘Max’ on Playstation Version of Netflix

I have been waiting a couple years to figure out if Netflix planned to introduce Max to the other Netflix interfaces, but it seems like he’s just stayed on the Playstation Network and I really have no idea why.

If you don’t have a Playstation and Netflix, let me fill you in. ‘Max’ is a interface much like “Face” that was on Nick Jr. back in the day with his goal to help you ‘Max’imize your Netflix experience. Max talks to you and asks you a number of questions to help you decide what you might want to watch. Usually this consists of The Rating Game where you rate things you’ve already seen. It’s not always that great which is why I figured it was part of some kind of beta, but after about 2 years it seems like Max has remained a Playstation exclusive.

Of course, if you have been using Netflix on your Playstation you might just need to update. Not everyone has Max, but most accounts should if you regularly watch Netflix on your Playstation. There isn’t any way to turn Max on or off, since your account is theoretically always trying to suggest titles for you based on your ratings and viewing history. This is just a different interface for the same information.

Anyway, it’s kind of fun to play with if you’re bored and don’t know what you want to watch so if you haven’t yet, you might want to give Max a try.

 

The World’s Smallest Drone Quadcopter

Recently I went to an Entrepreneur’s Expo hosted by the Rochester Young Professionals. While there I had to pleasure of meeting a host of interesting business owners in the Rochester area. I loved so many of the businesses, but of course, I think everyone thought Morrison Innovations, LLC brought the coolest toys.

No, literally, they brought the coolest toys that I’m pretty sure any adult or kid would want. The company was started by a local Rochestarian after him and his buddies spotted a drone spying on them drinking outside. They thought the idea of flying drones was fun, and decided to go about making a high-quality yet low-cost toy drone that anyone could fly. Of course, it didn’t hurt that the founder is an electrical engineer!

Anyway, they went through a few different models, manufactures, and have perfected three designs that are on the market now. The idea behind them is that they are supposed to be small, fun, and powerful and they deliver. I’ve tried to fly RC helicopters in the past, and let’s just say I won’t be getting any awards for pulling off neat tricks.

These little quadcopter drones are very easy to fly. The Nano Drone is by far the easiest to use. It’s also got little bumpers on it which are insanely helpful when you’re crashing your drone into people or things. (Intentionally of course.) The worlds smallest quadcopter is called Areius and my favorite thing about this little guy is that the quadcopter stores right into the controller. It’s also just adorable. I mean, look at it! Lastly, they have the Wallet Drone which again has a unit that stores into the controller. This unit has a slightly strange shaped controller, but it doubles as a to-go charger and is a better shape for your pocket.

Anyway, this gadget was just way too cool not to mention. I was also told there is a new unit in development that should be launched by spring. (And oh yeah, I’ll be getting it and posting all kinds of great videos of me flying it.)

Don’t Mess With Texas

If you’ve seen the most recent episode of South Park then you understand how easily you can be sidetracked while trying to look for something online. Well today went something like that for me, or maybe I just have Texas on my mind from looping “Ohio” by Bowling for Soup recently…anyway, today I learned where the phrase, “don’t mess with Texas,” comes from and I thought I would share because it’s actually kind of funny.

I have always thought most of the phrases about Texas, like, “everything’s bigger in Texas,” were annoying and displayed an exaggerated sense of self-importance. (Sorry, not sorry Texas!) Like I’m sure many people, I thought the phrase, “don’t mess with Texas,” was a celebration of the gun-wielding, truck-driving, boot-wearing stereotype of Texans. Turns out, it was actually a slogan developed for an anti-littering campaign in the 80’s. Yes, a slogan to save the environment is now widely embraced by Texans. It’s still in use today, the domain Don’t Mess With Texas is currently in use for the state’s anti-littering campaign.

In the 80’s, the campaign was all over TV, radio, and most importantly posted on highways. Can you imagine driving into the state only to pass a sign saying, “Don’t Mess With Texas?” It’s no wonder that the phrase has become a national slogan representing Texan swagger.

So you must be wondering, is the campaign really effective? Well, the source of data might be slightly biased, but according to dontmesswithtexas.org, the campaign has been a huge success. In the span of 5 years, the campaign reduced visible litter on the roadway by 39%! Keep in mind, they are counting items like cigarette butts as litter for these studies. Cigarette butts actually make up most of the litter found, not cans and bottles.

Anyway, I mostly found it entertaining that Texas, one of the most openly conservative states self-identifies with a slogan that is used for an environmental cause. Go figure!

The Wolfpack Documentary

Like most things I watch on Netflix, I wasn’t really sure what I was in store for when I started watching The Wolfpack on Netflix this evening. The documentary focuses on a family of seven children who spent the majority of their lives inside an apartment in New York City. Their only outlet to the world outside was movies.

I love movies and certainly learned about society and life from watching TV, but it was hard for me to imagine knowing nothing about the outside world other than what is captured in the movies. Watching these boys as they explore the city that had always been outside their door was exciting.

I smiled most of the movie, even the parts that were probably meant to be sad. I think it’s hard for people who didn’t grow up with a lot of siblings to understand the sub-culture that forms within a large household. It’s particularly strong when the family is different in some way, even just slightly.

They may never know a closer feeling than the bond they shared with each-other. If they know it yet or not, their curse and cage actually created a foundation for the boys to truly be who they wanted without judgement. I wish the film had focused a bit more on the individual brothers though. I think it would have been interesting to hear more from them individually instead of their sound bites used to tell the producers narrative.

One of the brothers seemed to desire nothing more than to be part of society, while another seemed to want nothing more than to retreat somewhere quiet. The daughter in particular seemed to be forgotten though. I suppose maybe she was just shy, or maybe she was further isolated by not being included in her brother’s society. It’s hard to say.

The film did make me reflect on my own childhood, not that I grew up in anything close to what these kids experienced. I know the bad, weird, and painful events existed, but my mind has stripped the fact away from the emotion. Instead, I can only remember the positive emotions from childhood. Maybe it goes back to the whole dreaming thing, but I have a feeling these kids will be able to look back at some point and remember their childhood as different, but good in the way many people do.

Ottawa, Not-so-French Canada

I visited Ottawa this past weekend. I had heard good things about the city for the past few years but somehow always missed it on my trips to visit our northern neighbors. The drive to Ottawa was great. Much like driving to Montreal, you get to go through the 1,000 islands (yes, that’s where the salad dressing originated!) And the crossing into Canada takes you over a couple of fantastic suspension bridges. Who doesn’t love that?!

I was staying near the capital region while there and I have to admit the architecture was phenomenal. Of course, it was interesting to note that unlike Montreal, Ottawa was almost completely French architecture. If you were wondering, Montreal is a mix of English and French. You can tell the two types apart by the way the stone is cut for the buildings. Some of the buildings in Montreal actually contain a bit of English and a bit of French architecture, but that has nothing to do with Ottawa…

Anyway, the city had a fantastic canal path not unlike our own here in NY. Restaurants, houses, and even a lacrosse stadium sat along the canal making for an interesting walk. They even had a skate park, and I totally would have watched kids longer if I didn’t start to feel some disapproving stares from the one parent there.

Of course, there was a lot of great food. I may have chuckled a bit when one of the high-end restaurants boasted that their fish was caught fresh out of Lake Erie. I have seen some beautiful parts of that lake, but I’ve seen some pretty gross parts too. The most memorable edible was probably at a video game/nerd bar called The Blurry Pixel. They had made a couple deserts that were Mario Bros. themed. It was all very cute.

The people were extremely friendly in Ottawa too. At House of Targ, a barade in the city, I chatted a bit with a couple guys who were from the area. They warned me against the pierogis, but I didn’t listen and ate them anyway! I am incredibly stubborn, and they were totally wrong. The pierogis were handmade and supremely delicious. The barcade itself was also pretty baller. They had a bunch of arcade games, and a wall of pinball machines. Some of my favorites were the Dr. Who, The Who, and Game of Thrones machines. House of Targ also had a stage with live music which was pretty fun. Most of the time I’m against live music, but these guys weren’t bad, although if I’m being honest, I would have rather been there this weekend to see the ska band playing.

All-in-all, Ottawa was another beautiful Canadian city. I will certainly make an effort to revisit when I can.

Happy Thanksgiving Everybody

The past couple years have lead to some fairly unconventional thanksgivings for my family. As we all get older our lives just naturally get more complicated and it’s harder for everyone to be together. That’s no different this year. My oldest sister is still recovering from the accident she was in, my middle sister doesn’t have the time off, and my youngest sister is visiting her boyfriend’s family. So, I’m the only one home for the holidays!

It’s not as bad as it sounds though. We will all be facetiming, google hangouting, or skyping this evening during dinner. I think we have actually done this for a couple holidays now and it seems to work pretty well. It’s of course, not the same as being there in person, but I’m still grateful that we have the ability to share time together this way.

Anyway, I realize that the whole foundation of thanksgiving is a bit of a sham, but I still enjoy the holiday as a reminder to be thankful for the good things in life. No gift-buying is probably my favorite part, if I’m being honest. I mean, who needs more stuff. It’s just very overwhelming after a point. But I digress, for those who think the holiday is a terrible reminder of the atrocities toward the Native Americans, you’re partly right. However, instead of feeling guilty and trying to shame people for celebrating today, how about trying a new approach. Why not learn a bit about the culture of Native Americans instead?

Many tribes have dwindling numbers and a large part of their culture, language, and religion was lost thanks to the settlers. Nobody can go back in time and change that, but what you can do is help preserve their culture by learning about it.

So if you’re feeling particularly guilty today, maybe check out the Haudenosaunee Wikipedia page or whatever tribe is located where you live.

“The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.”
― Isaac Asimov

The Best Part of Sleep

Dreams are by far my favorite part of sleeping. Being wrapped in warm blankets, feeling rested when you wake up, and cuddling up with my dog are all pretty great, but there is some mystery behind dreams that makes them exciting and fun.

There is no definitive answer as to why we sleep or what purpose our dreams have. Of course there are a number of theories as people have speculated about dreams since the beginning of time. There are a number of people who believe dreams hold a spiritual significance to us. The theories there tend to revolve around the idea that dreams provide insight and wisdom from our ancestors, guardian angels, or a more ambiguous source like fate.

The scientific community has a gambit of theories. They range from dreams being the expression of repressed longing to nothing more than meaningless electrical impulses. While the jury is still out on the why of dreaming we are learning more and more all the time.

Many people know that the most dreaming happens during the REM stage of sleep, but there are a lot of other interesting facts that scientists have discovered. Through a number of different studies its been shown that a decrease in reaching REM sleep is correlated with a number of mental illnesses. The theory there is that without REM sleep, your mind cannot strip the emotions away from your memories and it leads to an increase in anxiety and personal dissidence.

There are a number of reasons why someone wouldn’t reach REM sleep and dream. It’s understood that while everyone dreams not everyone can remember their dreams. So just because you can’t remember what you dreamed about doesn’t mean you aren’t dreaming. What will impact your ability to reach REM are things like alcohol, prescription drugs, non-prescription drugs, the amount you workout, what you eat, and your sleeping environment. In short, the more healthy and comfortable you are when you sleep, the more REM time you’ll have and the higher likelihood you’ll remember your dreams.

Interestingly enough, gender can also play a role on what you dream about. Studies have shown that while both men and women dream about work, men tend to dream more about how they will become successful and climb the corporate ladder where as women will dream more about facing day-to-day challenges. Another study showed that women tend to have more nightmares or negative dreams than men and men had more sex dreams than women. Also, the content of the nightmares tends to be different in men and women. Men are more likely to dream about a physical disaster where women are more likely to dream about an emotional disaster.

I guess I can kind of see this. I was describing a recent nightmare I had the other day and while it was about a plane crash, the focus of the dream wasn’t really on the plane (which was dangling out of a tree) but rather on the people who had died in the plane. My fears were only exacerbated by the ambivalent attitude of the emergency responders when I called 911.

But of course, people aren’t the only ones who dream! Science has shown that a number of mammals dream. The most research has been done on rat dreams though. Not only have studies showed that rats dreamed, but the scientists were able to alter what the rats dreamed about with audio cues. And of course, one of the most fascinating discoveries was brought to us by Google. They showed that yes, their AI could “dream” which is completely fascinating and might completely debunk all of the spiritual theories about dreams.

Anyway, we are getting ever-closer to understanding dreams, but for now, I’ll just enjoy them as they come.

You are under no obligation to be the same person you were a year, a month, or even 15 min ago. You have the right to roll up a new character once in a while. – A Wise DM

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