Starbucks is taking no chances this year.

Every year the national coffee chain Starbucks puts out a holiday themed cup and every year, for the past several years at least, it ends up pissing Conservatives off for either being too inclusive or not “Christmasy” enough or some other stupid reason. Now that it’s November they have unveiled this year’s design which will be available in stores starting today and it’s clear they’ve gone the extra mile to keep their new cups as inoffensive as they possibly can. I present to you, this year’s Starbucks Holiday cups:

So, yeah, those are about as pseudo-Christmassy as you can get. Got a couple Christmas sweater looking ones, some holly and berries, and… gift wrap? I guess? Not sure about what the red stripy one is supposed to be. No reindeer, no Santas, nothing to definitively tie it down as Christmas, but also no doodles that might suggest a SECRET GAY AGENDA!

That should be pretty inoffensive, yeah? Well, there is the fact that Starbucks made the mistake of calling them “holiday” cups and not “Jesus’ birthday cups” like any decent patriotic American company would. I kid, but I bet that the word “holiday” will be the thing Conservatives latch onto this year because 1) they’ve done it in the past and B) there’s little else here to complain about. 

That said, the Conservatives are a little late getting started on their annual WAR ON CHRISTMAS bitch-fest this year. Perhaps they’re too busy adoring Trump and got distracted, but I’m sure they’ll get to it sooner or later. It is, after all, a true Christmas tradition for them. 

Happy Halloween 2018!

Boo!

From all of us here at SEB, here’s hoping you have a spooky and safe Halloween. 

We’ve got our candy cauldron filled with a couple of bags, down a bit from last year, because now that we have a house we actually get some kids that drop by. I don’t have a proper pumpkin this year, but I do have a fog machine to put behind the bushes. We’ve added a little to our Halloween decorations this year too. It was raining this morning, but it looks like it’ll just be overcast this evening so I expect we should see at least a few kids before the evening is done. 

This is an exciting day for me because, as far as I’m concerned, this is the official kick off of the holiday season. I am already thinking about possibly getting some outdoor lighting up for Christmas this coming weekend. The weather has been colder than usual as of late so I’d like to get some done before the snow starts flying. 

But for now I’ll be looking for little monsters to come knocking this evening demanding treats. 

Maybe some folks should just avoid Halloween altogether.

It’s almost Halloween which means there’s a lot of parties taking place both at home and at work. It also means there’s a lot of poor decisions on what would make for a good costume being made. For some folks the old standbys of vampires and werewolves and Freddy Krueger are just too passé these days. So they try to come up with something really unique.

Take this dad for example. He and his young son are history buffs and so they teamed up for a historical costume, but he might have wanted to spend a little more time thinking things through before deciding to dress himself as a Nazi officer and his son as mini-Hitler:

I bet he did Nazi that backlash coming.
Click to embiggen!

According to reports, the dad from Kentucky tried to justify his decision to dress his child up as the Nazi leader, and criticised those who ‘threatened’ him and his son at a local trick or treat event on Thursday.

He wrote: “Tonight grown adults threatened a child over his costume. Threatened his mom and dad as well. Threatened to rip his outfit off of him screaming obscenities, scareing (sic) a small child.

“Anyone who knows us knows that we love history, and often dress the part of historical figures,’ he wrote in a post that has since been deleted.

Source: LAD Bible.

It would be easy to jump to conclusions about the motivation Nazi dad had in deciding this was an appropriate father/son Halloween costume, but I’m the sort that’s willing to give people the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps the two of them really are history buffs and were just trying to express that love with a really bad choice. He goes on to say:

“Tonight as we walked we saw people dressed as murderers, devils, serial killers, blood and gore of all sorts. Nobody batted an eye. But my little (son) and I, dress as historical figures, and it merits people not only making snide remarks, but approaching us and threatening my little 5-year-old boy,’ he wrote in the tone deaf posting.

“First off, its none of your business. Second, how dare you! I mean How dare you threaten a child. Me, its one thing, but my child? You are messing with fire.”

I also agree that if anyone did threaten his kid that that would be way out of line… but, dude! Seriously? You didn’t for a single moment stop and think that maaaaaybe this might be a bad idea? Here’s the thing you may not be getting here: There are still people alive who somehow managed to survive the Holocaust and, even though we’re talking about something that ended 73 years ago, it’s probably still a little soon to be an appropriate Halloween costume.  You want to dress up as a historical figure responsible for untold slaughter? Try Genghis Khan. 

On second thought, that’s probably a bad idea too.

Anyway, Nazi dad has since taken down his FB rant and apologized saying:  “I think it was in bad taste for me to let my child to wear that, probably for me to wear that. It didn’t occur to me. I thought it was a bad decision on my part.” I could probably accept this as just some clueless dude who didn’t think his costume idea all the way through. That was until I saw the full content of his rant on Facebook which concluded with: ‘Yes, liberalism is alive and well. And we had the dis-pleasure of dealing with the fruits of the so called “Tolerant Left”‘. Now I’m not so sure it was as much cluelessness as it was someone upset they got called out for letting their Nazi freak flag fly. 

Then we have this woman in Iowa who maybe might want to be a little more skeptical of Halloween costume ideas from Megyn Kelly:

Art Tate, superintendent of the Davenport School District in Iowa, told the Quad-City Times in an email that Megan Luloff — a first-grade teacher at Walcott Elementary — is under investigation for showing up to a Halloween party on Friday with a face painted black as she tried to emulate Lafawnduh, a black character in the 2004 movie.

Linda Hayes, vice president of the district’s school board, told the Quad-City Times that the decision to do blackface — and then have the photos shared online — is harmful for minority students.

“I cannot clearly articulate how offensive and appalling it is to people of color,” she said, according to the newspaper. “In light of our recent developments within the district, this was in very poor taste, not to mention totally out of line with regard to professionalism.”

Source: The Miami Herald

Ms. Luloff didn’t not respond to a request for comment on her costume choice so, again, I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she just really loved the character of Lafawnduh. I’ve never seen Napoleon Dynamite so I have no idea what the character was like. It’s also possible she’s ignorant of the racist history of blackface

That doesn’t excuse her thoughtlessness, but it’s sounding like she may end up paying a high price for her ignorance so I’m not going to heap too much criticism on her:

The school district wrote in a statement that it will make a decision about Luloff’s employment after the investigation is complete, according to The Root.

“The district strives to provide a quality education enriched by our diverse community, in a fair and supportive environment for all,” the statement read. “The images run counter to the respect, values, and beliefs the district promotes and should not be a reflection on the District as a whole.

“This situation is not taken lightly by any member of the board,” it continued. “The district will determine how to best address the matter after further investigation.”

I admire your bravery, Ms Luloff, if not your reasoning ability. The last person to pull off blackface in recent history was Robert Downey Jr. in the movie Tropic Thunder and it was a risky move that only worked because the film actually satirizes it.  

I get that everyone wants a unique and clever costume for Halloween, but you could save yourself a lot of trouble if you just stuck with the classics. At the very least, you should stop to ponder if there’s any chance your choice might offend a significant portion of your fellow humans either because it perpetuates racist caricatures or draws inspiration from one of the worst genocides in human history before committing to it.

Just sayin’, but you do you.

It’s starting to look a little spooky around here.

I’ve always enjoyed the holidays and while Christmas is the one I focus the most attention on, I’ve been very excited to have a house to decorate for Halloween too. Our collection of Halloween decor is still small compared to Christmas, but we’re slowly adding to it. I have a white jack o’ lantern I picked up at a Cracker Barrel years ago that has an orange light bulb that flickers on and off. A couple of different door/wall hanging items, a lantern with a haunted house motif that I swap out for the usual solar lantern on the shepherd’s hook next to the front porch, and a fake tombstone with skull and skeleton arms that’s new this year. You get the idea.  

The one decoration I’m most excited about, however, is one I’ve owned the longest. It’s only a couple of years younger than I am and it fits in nicely with my retro house. An original Pumpkin Scarecrow blow mold from the Empire Plastics Company circa 1969. Check it:

How friggin cool is that? Still glows like he’s powered by a nuclear reactor. This will be his first Halloween in a couple of decades because he was packed away in boxes that were, until last summer, last stored in my Mother-in-Law’s basement. This will be his year to shine anew. In part because he has a brand new light fixture inside him as the original was lost ages ago. 

He’s not particularly collectable — the company made tons of them and you can find him on eBay for $15 or less depending on the condition he’s in — but he’s definitely nostalgic for me. The fact that I’ve had him for almost my entire life adds to that. OK, I’m not sure he was “mine” back when I was a kid, but he’s been with me for a long time and I’m putting him back into service. 

I hope to pick up a fog machine before the big day arrives as well. I used to have one, but forgot to empty it out one year after the evening was over and the fluid gummed it up. I’ve not gotten into the Halloween colored string lights yet as that’s too weirdly close to Christmas decor for me, but I’m softening on it. As I get more stuff put up I’ll probably do another entry with a few more pics. 

Happy New Year 2018!

Yes, I know I’m a bit late with this, but I have a good excuse. My new year started off poorly with the onset of excruciating pain in my left hip/leg after eating lunch at a local Olive Garden. It got worse on the ride home and attempts at sleeping it off did nothing to help. By 4:30 PM it was so bad that I couldn’t get into the car to go to an urgent care center. After deciding against calling for an ambulance I continued to try and rest, but the only position that didn’t cause immediate pain was laying on my belly, a position I never sleep in, or standing straight up, which is also not conducive to sleep. Still, I managed to doze off a couple of times and by 2:30 AM things had improved just enough for me to fold myself into Anne’s car for a trip to the ER at Saint Joseph’s Mercy hospital in Ann Arbor.

This is me in my hospital gown standing up in my room because it’s too painful to lay down.

I was admitted pretty quickly and had an IV stuck into my arm whereupon I was given healthy doses of morphine which helped in making my immediate situation bearable. Over the course of the next day and a I half I had a couple blood labs done, an x-ray session and, ultimately, an MRI. By Wednesday evening they had worked out what my issue was. Despite it being the location of all my pain and misery, my hip and joint were ruled out as having any issues other than some minor arthritis. However, upon looking at my spine they noticed a problem:

L4-L5: Moderate-large size central to left paracentral disc extrusion. Slight caudal migration. This results in compression left anterior/lateral thecal sac with moderate to severe narrowing of the left lateral canal. Encroachment on the expected left L5 nerve root. Mild left foramen stenosis. Right foramen patent.

Which is to say that I have a partial disc herniation that is pressing on the root of one of the major nerves in my leg resulting in, to put it more collequially, “sonofafuckingbitchthatfuckinghurts.”

The first time I was able to lay on my back in over 24 hours and only because I was very doped up on that sweet, sweet morphine. You can tell it’s only slightly dampening the pain in my expression.

Near as I can figure, this is the result of a fall on my stairs that I took nearly three weeks prior just as I started my annual end-of-the-year vacation. Stepping down the two steps from my kitchen to the landing in front of the side door of my house, we had a small rug there to collect debris on shoes as we came in and I slipped on it falling backwards and smacking my ass and right arm into the edge of the step. I thought I had only bruised my ass badly (and, indeed, there was some sign of that in the x-ray), but I thought I’d come closer to breaking my arm than my spine.

After much more waiting around, I finally got word from the neurological surgeon that was consulting on my case that they wanted to try giving me a lumbar epidural steroid injection Thursday morning and then they’d keep me around until Friday evening to see if it had any effect and if it didn’t reduce my pain by at least 50% then I’d be scheduled for spinal surgery on Saturday morning. Considering that I had already missed most of the first week I was supposed to be back at work and that surgery would mean four to six weeks of recovery time, I was seriously hoping that the epidural would work.

Fortunately, it did. This is me sitting up on the edge of the bed eating my breakfast Friday morning.

Mind you, I’m on a healthy dose of percocet in the picture above, but it was still more than I’d been able to do for three days. They kept me around into Saturday, but I was finally let go with a prescription for more percocet and ibuprofen (to reduce inflammation). After a weekend spent sleeping off and on, I went back to work on Monday.

I’m far from fully recovered, but I’m at a point where I’m able to stretch out how often I take my pain pills from the recommended 6 hours for the percocet and 8 hours for the ibuprofen to as much as 10 or 12 hours depending on if I’m sleeping through it. I’m able to sleep on my side again, but I can only manage sleeping (in any position) for at most 4 hours before I have to get up and walk around to get my leg to stop hurting enough to go back to sleep. The pain still manifests in my hip and the calf of my leg, the latter feeling like the muscle is just this side of going into a full charley horse. Additionally it causes numbness in the pinkies of both my hands and along up the edge of my arms. The medication keeps it down to an annoying roar, but I can definitely tell when the pills have worn off. Walking is a bit rough at times as all this also makes my left leg somewhat weak hence why I have my cane handy.

But, I am able for the most part to function. I’m on restrictions with regards to lifting heavy things and bending over too far, which makes putting on socks and shoes fun. I am also scheduled for another injection in February with the possibility of one or two more depending on how much progress I make in the coming weeks. It may be that I’ll end up having to have the surgery in the future anyway, but at least this offers some hope of avoiding that for the time being.

So, yeah, my new year is not off to a great start. I’m hoping this means things can only get better from here on out. I’m not looking forward to the bill for all of this and finding out how much of an additional pain in the ass my insurance company is going to be about this. They’re already refusing to pay for more than one week’s worth of percocet and only once a month at that leaving me to pay it out of pocket, but that’s a rant for another time. Here’s hoping your new year was pretty good or at least not as eventful as mine has been so far.

Merry Christmas 2017!

Just a quick update to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas from all of us here at SEB.

I finally got Uncharted 4 for the PS4 along with Assassin’s Creed Origins, a new Hawaiian shirt, the book Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really AreGuardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2Deleted Scenes From the Cutting Room Floor, by Caro Emerald, a Doctor Who lanyard, a couple of Rick & Morty decals, Bloom County: The Complete Library, Vol. 1: 1980-1982, and a cool wall clock that plays tunes every hour.

I was going to post a picture of me being jolly, but for some reason WordPress isn’t letting me do that at the moment so it’ll have to wait.

A little holiday music to start the season…

I’m not normally a huge fan of the more religious Christmas carols for obvious reasons, but I’ve always had a soft spot for We Three Kings and this here may be my favorite version of it to date:

I’m going to have to check out the rest of their Christmas album.

Happy Thanksgiving 2017

Just a quick post to say Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours from all of us at SEB.

Anne and I are hosting my mother and my daughter for dinner today and, of course, one of the bathroom sinks has clogged up. Because of course it has.

So in addition to all the usual stuff that goes with Thanksgiving, I’m also learning about plumbing and clogs. Also possibly learning the number to a local plumber to call tomorrow if I can’t figure this out on my own.

Happy Halloween 2017 and an update.

First up, here’s wishing everyone a Happy Halloween today!

Jack O'Lantern

This year’s classic take on the Jack O’Lantern on my front porch.

Second, it appears I am as bad at vlogging regularly as I am at blogging regularly. I’ve done a whole two videos and one of them is just me petting Cuddles. I really had planned on doing more, but I’m being overly critical of my own efforts and giving up. That said, I’ve learned a lot about editing videos and I’m probably going to try just picking a subject and talking about it instead of trying to cover multiple topics at once. Will make for shorter videos, but perhaps I need to ease into it.

I have made several gaming videos including the ones I put in my last post and I’m thinking I’d like to start streaming. Still trying to decide if I should stream on YouTube or Twitch. I have accounts on both platforms and I’d be starting off from zero either way so I suppose it doesn’t matter. One thing I need to develop is my ability to talk about what I’m doing as I play. I still get so caught up in playing that my only commentary tends to be me whinging a bit when I feel I died a cheap death. I’m also finding it difficult to monitor the stream on the same PC I’m streaming on so I may need to put together a secondary machine strictly for monitoring the stream at some point. I’m not sure how people who do this full time are doing it. I’m not even sure if I play anything compelling enough for people to want to watch.

This week sees the launch of Call of Duty: WWII and I’ve taken Friday off because A) I had the time to take and B) three day weekend and I was thinking of using that as a starting point for streaming. Of course the game unlocks at Midnight so if I stay up to play it right away then there’s likely not going to be anyone awake to watch the stream. If I wait until after a good nights sleep, well, it’s Friday and everyone will be working anyway so I doubt it makes any difference.

Spooky Lantern

Picked up a new Halloween themed lantern for the front yard.

Anyway, other than that I’ve been enjoying decorating the house for Halloween and looking forward to the upcoming holiday season. Also looking forward to handing out candy to the trick-or-treaters this evening. Being that I live in an actual house in an actual neighborhood and not an apartment complex for the first time in my adult life, I fully expect to see tons of kids. Or at least I hope so because we bought 3 bags of candy totalling over 700+ pieces that two diabetics really shouldn’t have access to if no one shows up at the door.

Also I did get a new Pixel 2 phone from Google. I’m very impressed with it so far and I’m debating trying to do a review of it either as a vlog or standard blog entry. Dunno that I have anything particularly profound to say about it.

So that’s it. Nothing major going on right now other than playing around with YouTube and video editing without producing much of anything in the process and getting ready for Halloween. What have you folks been up to?

A Happy 16th Anniversary to my wonderful wife.

It’s hard to believe, but 16 years ago today we stood together with our immediate families and exchanged vows in a gazebo in a public park in Plymouth, MI.

Picture of Anne and Les exchanging vows.

That one moment I’ll always remember.

The day started out cloudy with some drizzle, but by the time the short ceremony was finished the sun had broken out. The same was true of our marriage. The early years had some stormy parts as we figured out how to become a family and the challenges that entails, but the sun always returned.

Anne, you have made me a better man, a better father, and a better person than I would’ve been without you. I love you so very much and I look forward to the next 17 years and beyond.