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My Take on Dressgate

2015 February 28
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by Craig Tisinger

It’s been more than 24-hours since the whole dress debacle took the Internet by storm. It is practically old news by now. I figured I’d write something and weigh in on the matter before the entire subject is played out, if it isn’t already.

I was watching TV most of the evening last night and wasn’t looking at Twitter or the Internet in general. A friend texted me a photo of the now infamous dress, and innocently asked me what color it was. From my initial first glance, I replied that it appeared to be blue and gray. She didn’t agree with me, which blew my mind. I soon realized that this was circulating all over the Internet.

I fired up my Twitter feed and sure enough, nearly every single tweet that I read was about that stupid dress. It was all the rage. I’ve never quite seen such a thing take off in that way. It was suddenly everywhere. The debate over the color of the dress was boiling over. Articles were being written. Experts were chiming in. It was total mayhem.

It completely blows my mind that some people could honestly believe that the dress is white and gold. I find it hard to believe that anyone could possibly think that. There is not a speck of white anywhere on that dress. I think people were taking that stance just to get a rise out of the rest of us. Either that, or they are completely mad.

At 11:15 PM, I weighed in and tweeted: “I’m tired of hearing about that stupid dress. It’s #blueandblack. Anyone who says otherwise is a monster.”

I must point out that the photo is horribly washed out. The only reason I said gray was because the color saturation was so weak that the black in the dress didn’t look all that black. However, I could still easily deduce that the dress was black and blue in real life. The blown out lighting to the right side of the dress is a total distraction from the object itself. Perhaps that’s what was throwing people off? I don’t know.

It was later confirmed that the dress is indeed black and blue, both from the woman who took the photo, and from a listing of the dress for sale on Amazon. There is not a hint of gold or white to be found in the dress. Again, I insist that anyone who thought that in the first place was either lying or completely crazy.

The speed at which “dressgate,” as some clever person dubbed it, took a life of its own was truly amazing. It spread like wildfire. Within a few short hours, it seemed that everyone was talking about it. The subsequent jokes and counter photos that were posted soon after were truly hilarious. There are some really funny and creative people in the world. Despite the anger and disagreement that took place over the photo, the hilarious jokes that followed it made the event worthwhile.

When I got to work the following morning, I printed the picture of the dress in grayscale on my printer, and handed it to my friend who had texted the photo me originally. I added a caption that read, “Now it’s black and white.” Ha! It was the least I could do.

Dressgate

Jeff Bridges Sleeping Tapes

2015 February 17
by Craig Tisinger

I recently heard about Sleeping Tapes. Sleeping Tapes is an album recorded by Jeff Bridges to help assist you in going to sleep. I’ve listened to it for the past two nights and I really enjoyed it.

The project was part of an ad campaign for Squarespace. The commercial ran during Super Bowl 2015 a couple of weeks ago. If you visit the link above, you can get information on the project and download the entire digital album for free. You are encouraged to donate money to the charity No Kid Hungry, but you can download it without donating, if you choose.

Sleeping Tapes is certainly a bit strange overall, but it is intriguing to say the least. You must listen to the tracks in order, as they blend and weave together. The first time I listened to it, I accidentally had my iPod on shuffle and I was a little confused during a couple of transitions until I realized what was happening.

There are 15 tracks on the album. My favorites are: Introduction (Good Evening), The Raven, and Temescal Canyon. At 11 minutes, Temescal Canyon is by far the longest track. My least favorite track is See You at the Dreaming Tree. That one has sounds of little kids laughing and running around. That kind of noise doesn’t relax me at all. That track could have been eliminated from the production, in my opinion.

The entire album is 44 minutes. I wish it were longer. I hope that Jeff Bridges decides to record a sequel. I don’t know if he has any incentive to do so, but I think that given the positive reception to Sleeping Tapes, the masses would welcome a second album.

Give Sleeping Tapes a listen. You can play any track directly on the website if you don’t wish to download the entire album. At the very least, listen to the Introduction track. It’s only 2 minutes long and it sets the tone for that lies ahead.

Happy sleeping!

Jeff Bridges Sleeping Tapes

Hotel Master Bedroom

2015 January 29
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by Craig Tisinger

I have a grand idea for the ultimate master bedroom in my future house. I think that the master bedroom should be completely self-sustaining without regard to the rest of the house.

I want the bedroom to be an exact replica of a fancy hotel room, complete with all of the features of one. A king size bed would be the centerpiece of the room, but that’s only the beginning. The room should be fitted with a bathroom, shower, and walk-in closet, naturally.

Beyond that, it should have a desk, table and chairs, a small refrigerator, microwave, and a coffee pot. It should have everything a hotel room has. I want it to look exactly like a hotel room. In fact, I even want one of those large air conditioner/heater window units that I love listening to when I’m staying in a hotel. Crank it up.

The door to the room should be thick and heavy, complete with a peephole, and all of the appropriate locks. Perhaps toss in a mock card reader, for effect.

I love staying in hotels. This bedroom would be like a home away from home, except it is at home. It would be even better than a hotel, because in my room, the TV remote wouldn’t be nailed to the nightstand.

I should be able to live in this one room without needing to use the rest of the house at all. Imagine how convenient it would be when houseguests are staying over.

If I could direct a house to be built to my specifications, I would make this a reality. Wouldn’t it be awesome? Yes. Yes, it would.

Movie Review: Leprechaun

2015 January 14
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by Craig Tisinger

Tonight I watched Leprechaun, the low-budget horror movie released in 1993. This was the first of what would later become a five-movie franchise, a fact that I find rather mind-boggling. It had a budget of only $900,000. The majority of the movie was filmed in a single remote location, so I suppose a large budget wasn’t necessary.

Let me begin by saying that this movie is obviously very dumb. I certainly knew that going in. It moved a little slow near the beginning of the film when the main characters were being introduced. The movie had its funny moments, though. At no point did I find the movie to actually be scary. I believe they were attempting to make a somewhat scary movie, but the final production came across as more silly than anything else. The Leprechaun’s silly voice and constant use of puns played a large role in that.

Jennifer Aniston is in the movie! I didn’t know that before I watched it. It was actually her first movie role. She looked young and hot. She was wearing a skirt or shorts for the duration of the film; despite the fact that during some of the night scenes, it was so cold outside that you can clearly see everyone’s breath. That didn’t make a whole lot of sense. There was no explanation of what time of year any of this took place.

One element I found surprising is that Aniston’s character Tory owned a cell phone. The phone was thinner than I expected it to be. Remember, this was 1993. The movie was released in January of that year, so it was probably filmed in 1992. Those were very early days for cell phones. Despite that, she makes calls on it from the remote farmhouse where most of the movie takes place. I have my doubts that in those days a call could be made from a location like that.

The acting was not all that great. The movie had a fairly small cast. A few seemed like very rookie actors. Having said that, I felt that the acting got better overall as the film progressed. Either that, or I simply grew numb to how lackluster the performances were.

Tory moves into an abandoned house and two painters appeared on the scene shortly after she moves in. I have no idea where they came from. She walked outside and they were suddenly out there painting. I don’t know what vehicle brought them to the house, or who hired them. If that was explained at any point, I missed it. The painters amounted to a mentally slow adult named Ozzie and a kid named Alex. Why was a kid painting the house? Beats me. It was not explained what their relationship to each other was. They weren’t father and son because they both used their first names with each other. I was baffled by their presence for the duration of the movie. The actor who played the role of Ozzie was probably the weakest of the bunch. His performance bothered me at times.

One bit of praise I will offer is that Tory and the attractive male lead, Nathan, never kissed despite a lot of on-screen flirting. I expected there to be a kiss or some sort of hint that they were going to end up together after the drama with the Leprechaun ended. None of that happened. That was refreshing.

The previous owner of the house had been living in a nursing home for the past ten years. We met him in the opening scene, which took place ten years in the past. When Tory later goes to visit him to ask about the killer Leprechaun, the man hadn’t aged a day. I thought they could have at least tried to show some passing of time using makeup or something, especially since he has been in a nursing home. That was pretty sloppy.

The plot contained a lot of worn out tactics to build suspense. The truck wouldn’t start at the most critical moment, and that alone happened more than once. The trusty shotgun jammed at a very inopportune time. Every time someone was running from the Leprechaun, that person fell down at least once. That happened several times. Typical!

I noticed many times where the filmmakers sped up the motion to make it seem like something or someone was moving faster than they were. The trick wasn’t even done subtly. It was very deliberate and cheesy. The effect made those scenes look very silly, reminiscent of something like The Three Stooges.

A joke about Lucky Charms was made not once, but twice. I figured as much. The first reference came in the form of a prominently placed box of cereal in the cabinet, except the cereal was named Lucky Clovers, using a design that was intentionally similar to that of Lucky Charms. I suppose they didn’t get permission to use the real cereal in the movie. Do you have to get permission to use a product in a film? I don’t know.

At the end of the movie, the Leprechaun falls in a well. Nathan pours a can of gasoline in the well and tosses in a match. Everyone darts away and it suddenly explodes into a massive fireball that was comically large. One can of gas is not going to cause an explosion of that exaggerated magnitude. I thought I would point that out.

Overall, this movie is definitely not good. It is 93 minutes. It is amusing in places, but it’s not worth watching the entire movie to find those moments. I would only recommend watching it if you are home sick and have nothing else to do. I rated it 2 out 5 stars on Netflix.

The Film Sack podcast reviews this movie in episode 221. Now that I’ve seen the movie, I’m going to give that episode a listen. I wanted to write my review before I heard it so that the podcast wouldn’t skew my opinion.

Leprechaun Poster

I Bought a Pedometer

2014 November 6
by Craig Tisinger

I decided to take a small step into the world of fitness gadgets. I bought a pedometer last week. I bought an Omron HJ-321 from Amazon. At $15, the price was right and it had very positive user reviews.

I didn’t want to jump into a high-tech wristband at the moment. I don’t want that level of complexity right now. I just want something I can clip to my waist that will count my steps. I don’t need anything more than that. I like that this is a simple device that I don’t have to charge every day or every other day. The pedometer has a 7-day memory, so I have created a spreadsheet where I will enter my step count once a week. I like to keep track of stats.

I know that smartphones can count steps and do some cool stuff with the information. That isn’t all that useful for me, as I do not carry my phone with me all the time. Most of the time, my phone stays plugged into the computer or a wall outlet. Since it wouldn’t be on me all the time, the information would not be complete.

The health community recommends walking approximately 10,000 steps a day. That goal isn’t as easy to achieve as it sounds, especially if you work in an office or sit at a desk for large part of the day. After seven days of use, I have not reached that goal. I had a fairly high step count on the first day when I received the pedometer in the mail. That was due to the fact that I happened to play tennis that afternoon for an hour and a half. Despite covering a lot of ground in the game, I was still well short of 10,000 because I only had the device for less than half of the day.

My highest step count in the past week has been 9,400, and that was only achieved by going out of my way to get the number up. With that in mind, the pedometer is serving its purpose. The purpose is to get more exercise. Wearing the pedometer, I have certainly found myself walking more. I will now take the long way to get somewhere. I park farther away from the entrance of a store. I walk around the block when I go out to check my mail.

I haven’t taken an intentional long walk in the one week I’ve owned the pedometer. The clocks changed last weekend, and it’s now getting dark too early in the evenings for me to reasonably take a walk after work. This coming weekend I’m going to head over to the lake and walk until I reach those elusive 10,000 steps and hopefully beyond.

I look forward to making good use of the pedometer. I’m glad I bought it. I’ve been enjoying it and have been wearing it at all waking hours. Perhaps it will encourage me to take up running. Nah, let’s not get carried away.

Third-Party Keyboards on iOS 8

2014 October 1
by Craig Tisinger

I’ve been experimenting with two third-party keyboards on iOS 8: Swiftkey and Swype. I want to share my thoughts.

If you’re an Android user, you’ve had access to third-party keyboards for years. I know this. I’m not under any illusion that alternative keyboards are a sudden revolution. I’ve wanted to try Swype for a long time, and I’m glad that Apple has finally opened up the platform to allow third-party keyboards.

Swype is a great keyboard and it works incredibly well. I have not experienced a single mistake while using it. It is actually rather astounding. I applaud the work that the developers have put into Swype. The only downside for me is that I can’t use it easily with one hand. I have to hold my phone in one hand, and swipe they keys with the other. I don’t consider that to be a limitation, but the result is that I find myself rarely using it.

Swiftkey is my favorite of the third-party keyboard offerings. The best element is the upper and lowercase display of the keyboard letters, based on what mode I am in. That alone solves one of my biggest annoyances with Apple’s keyboard. On the Apple keyboard, the letters are displayed as uppercase all the time, so I often get confused if I am typing in caps or not. Swiftkey is also highly accurate with my two-thumb style of typing. The black display is an interesting look. It would be cool if they had an option for different colors, but that isn’t important.

Both of the aforementioned keyboards are solid, and are great in their own right. However, I don’t care for the somewhat clumsy way that iOS implements them. I have to go way out of my way to access another keyboard, each time, on the fly. Apple seems to want to inconvenience you into using their keyboard.

I want to be able to set a single keyboard as the default in the operating system settings. Without being able to do that, I end up with Apple’s keyboard time and time again. The standard Apple keyboard pops up the majority of the time.

A clear example of this annoying behavior is when I write a quick reply to a text notification. In iOS 8, a reply window appears immediately in front of whatever I am doing, without having to launch the Messages app. When the keyboard appears for that reply window, it is always the Apple keyboard. At least, this has been my experience.

The OS doesn’t seem to have any logical memory retention of my last keyboard selection. Sometimes when I am texting with someone using Swiftkey, for instance, it will remember that when I return to write that person again later. However, if I begin texting someone else, it reverts back to the Apple keyboard, for seemingly no reason, despite the fact that I am using the same Messages app to compose text that I’d used with the other person.

It is my understanding that when you are entering a password, Apple forces you to use their keyboard. I don’t see that as a problem, as they are attempting to protect users from their password entry being captured by the third-party keyboard developers. Sure, that’s a little paranoid on their part, but I can understand why they designed it that way.

If you like to use Emojis in your messages, you will find the extra keyboards to be very annoying. I like to swap between text and Emojis when I message my friends. Having four keyboards on the system makes that very difficult. If I am using Swiftkey, I have to tap the keyboard globe three or four times to get to the Emojis, then tap the globe another three or four times to get back to the keyboard I was using. Even more annoying, each keyboard doesn’t have the globe key in the exact same place. All of that unnecessary tapping just to insert a smiley face in a text message gets old fast.

Having done my experiments with Swype and Swiftkey, I’ve decided to disable them for the time being and continue to use the Apple keyboard, with a side of Emojis. I don’t have problem with the Apple keyboard, beyond the uppercase letter display that I mentioned earlier. The addition of predictive text in iOS 8 is a welcomed feature that I find to be very useful.

The alternative keyboards are great, but I find it to be too much work to constantly toggle between them. If the Apple keyboard is going to appear more than 50% of the time anyway, I don’t see a compelling reason to fight against the operating system to try to use another one.