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  • Saved by the ChatGPT

    I asked ChatGPT to write a Saved by the Bell episode. The results are pretty great. 

    Title: The Great Screech-in

    Synopsis: Screech wants to join a prestigious math club but he needs a recommendation letter from a teacher. Unfortunately, all the teachers hate him and refuse to write him one. When the gang finds out, they decide to throw a surprise party for Screech where they all write him glowing recommendation letters, hijinks ensue.

    (Scene: Bayside High hallway)

    Zack: (smirking) "Hey Screech, how's that math club coming along?”

    Screech: (looking downcast) "Not great, Zack. All the teachers hate me and won't write me a recommendation letter.”

    (Cuts to Kelly, Jessie and Lisa overhearing the conversation)

    Lisa: (rolling her eyes) "Typical Screech. Always trying to worm his way into elitist clubs.”

    Jessie: (scoffing) "As if being in a math club is something to brag about.”

    Kelly: (smiling) "Come on guys, let's do something nice for Screech. He's always been there for us when we needed him.”

    (Cut to: Screech's locker)

    The gang is gathered around Screech as he opens his locker to find it filled with balloons and a big banner that reads "We Love You Screech!”

    Screech: (tearfully) "I don't know what to say. This is the nicest thing anyone's ever done for me.”

    Zack: (grinning) "That's not all, buddy. We're going to throw you a surprise party tonight and we've got a special guest lined up to write you that recommendation letter.”

    Screech: (excitedly) "Really? Who is it?”

    (Cut to: Later that night at the party)

    The party is in full swing with everyone enjoying themselves

    Who is it?! I don’t know. That’s where it cut off. I guess we’ll never know. 

  • The Tale of Jenny and Screech

    I’ve been fascinated by a new (to me) artist named Ren after his genius Hi Ren video. I didn’t think he would be able to top that song’s storytelling, but I was wrong. Before Hi Ren, he had a three song trilogy, The Tale of Jenny and Screech and it is just as good. He is such a good storyteller and the directing in the videos is fantastic. Ren is an artist to watch. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

  • Hi Ren

    There were no real winners and no real losers in psychological warfare. But there were victims. And there were students…

    Sometimes an artist, a video, the music, and the lyrics come together to create a perfect piece of art. Hi Ren did just that. 

  • Tim McCarver Dies at 81

    Tim McCarver, a two-time World Series champion who became a household name as a highly skilled broadcaster both nationally and in three Major League cities, died on Thursday at the age of 81. - MLB

    Tim McCarver drove a lot of Cardinals fans nuts, but we still had love for him. Rest in peace.

  • A Couple of Podcast Recommendations

    Two of my favorite comedy podcasts that I’ve grown to love over the past couple of years are Off Menu and Films to Be Buried With with Brett Goldstein.

    The premise of Off Menu is relatively simple: comedian hosts Ed Gamble and James Acaster invite a guest to their dream restaurant and the guest chooses their dream meal, from start to finish, and conversation is naturally had along the way.

    Films to Be Buried With invites a guest on who has recently “died” and their life is discussed with comedian, writer, and actor Brett Goldstein, via a series of films the guest would like to be buried with. Categories include: first movie you ever saw, most underrated movie, best movie of all time.

    If you’re looking for a laugh, go ahead and check these out. Maybe look for a guest that you’re familiar with and start from there!

  • Late Late Show to be Replaced by @ Midnight Reboot

    From The Hollywood Reporter

    The network is set to replace the long-running Late Late Show franchise with a reboot of comedic panel game show @ midnight, sources confirm to The Hollywood Reporter. Stephen Colbert, who hosts The Late Show for the network, is on board as executive producer of the revived program that aired 600 episodes on Comedy Central before signing off in August 2017. 

    I always liked the original @ midnight TV show. I'm all for more panel-style shows in the US that showcase comedians. The original was so much fun, especially when Ron Funches or Doug Benson would be on. I will still watch the original on Paramount+ if I need a laugh. 

  • So Long Netflix

    I’ve been a Netflix subscriber since 2012 and that is coming to an end. Let’s be honest, this was a long time coming. A while back they decided on a business plan of quanitity over quality with their originals, have cut back on back catalogue spending, and cancel series before they are given a chance. On top of all of this, they are instituting new rules for accounts.

    Netflix’s new usage rules basically don’t allow you to use Netflix outside of your home internet without jumping through hoops. If you do want to use it outside of your home internet, you have to use a temporary access code that grants access for 7 days. Why does it matter where I use Netflix if I’m not over my screen limit? What is the point of having a limit on the number of devices that can use Netflix at once if you are now going to restrict it to a single household?

    My family gets Netflix as part of a family plan with our cellular provider. It is a perk of the provider. You don’t have to live in the same house to be on the same family plan, but now you will have to be in the same house in order to use one of the perks. I’ve confirmed this with the carrier. So now, that perk became useless to some of the people in the family.

    What about flights? What about staying in hotels? What about road trips with kids? They just made the convenience of the service a lot more inconvenient and are treating their customers downright hostile.

    Whoever is in charge at Netflix has nothing but contempt for their users. Even if they backtrack on this, I’m done with them. I removed the perk from my cellular plan (and will now get a monthly credit on my phone bill for the amount they would have paid Netflix even though this is not advertised as something they can do) and, as soon as my parents' profile is transferred, will cancel my Netflix account for good.

  • Replacing Twitter

    For those seeking a better, calmer, and more organic Twitter alternative, I suggest taking a look at micro.blog. It’s paid for a hosted blog over there but you can BYOB (Bring Your Own Blog) for free. The latter can be anything: WordPress, Substack, Mastodon, etc. Source: - (A)social being

    I couldn’t agree more. I will probably stop pushing my content from micro.blog to Twitter soon with Musk taking over. The only thing I wish micro.blog had is a location-based search so I can find users in my area.

  • 30 Years of Goosebumps

    “Can you imagine 30 years of this stuff? It’s hard to believe. When we started ‘Goosebumps,’ I said, ‘Let’s try two or three.’ I wasn’t real optimistic at the time. Now 30 years later, I’ve lost track of how many books.” Source: Author R.L. Stine celebrates 30 years of ‘Goosebumps’ at Library of Congress event - WTOP News

    Goosebumps was a huge part of my childhood. I think I had at least the first 30 books in the series and here it is 30 years later and we’re still talking about them. Whenever a new one would come out my parents would take me to Waldenbooks at Jamestown Mall to get it. If it weren’t for these books, I may not have found my passion for reading.

  • Rethinking Social Media

    Recently I’ve been trying to rethink how I use social media, specifically Twitter. This all started when the news broke that Musk was trying to buy Twitter. I did not want to be a part of that platform if he takes over. Then I started asking myself, do I want to be part of it at all? Don’t get me wrong, I love Twitter, but I also realize that Twitter is also bad for me.

    Just like a lot of people, I fell victim to the constant retweets, likes, shares, and outrage that Twitter has become. I know Twitter is what you make of it, so I tried to unfollow some people and organizations, did less retweeting, and tried to stay off it more, but Twitter is now built for that constant churn of hate and anger. Even when I unfollowed political news, the tweets would still show up from people I follow, trending topics, or suggested Tweets (I’ve yet to find a way to hide those completely). It also became the primary avenue for getting customer support from brands, which sounds great until all you do or see is complaints about every company. That’s when I decided to return to Micro.blog.

    The way I’m using Micro.blog is essentially how I started with Twitter. I find interesting people to follow and I post random thoughts I have throughout the day. Since this is more of a blog than a social network, I try to limit what I post. Not everything needs to be said. That’s something I forgot on Twitter. The community on Micro.blog has been great. I do wish there was an easier way to find people located near me though. One of the best features of Twitter was finding other users in the St. Louis area. They are good people and I’ll miss interacting with them on Twitter.

    Currently, my posts on Micro.blog do get crossposted to Twitter, but I imagine that will stop as Musk takes over and I no longer want my content going there. I do respond on Twitter if someone responds to content that was crossposted there, but it’s mainly read-only mode for me right now (with the exception of some likes and retweets still). With updates to the ActivityPub API on Micro.blog, if you use Mastodon, you can also follow my blog using any of the Mastodon Networks (just search @shep@shep.online to follow).

    I’ve noticed I’ve been much happier as I’ve curtailed my Twitter use and increased my Micro.blog engagement. I’m no longer being bombarded with constant bad news, hot takes, and drama. I think we all need to take time and touch grass every once in a while. Moving away from Twitter has helped me do just that. I just need to stay away.

  • All I Saw Was Death

    There is a really good piece in Variety about William Shatner’s experience going to space for real.

    I continued my self-guided tour and turned my head to face the other direction, to stare into space. I love the mystery of the universe. I love all the questions that have come to us over thousands of years of exploration and hypotheses. Stars exploding years ago, their light traveling to us years later; black holes absorbing energy; satellites showing us entire galaxies in areas thought to be devoid of matter entirely… all of that has thrilled me for years… but when I looked in the opposite direction, into space, there was no mystery, no majestic awe to behold . . . all I saw was death.

    While I haven’t been to space, I experienced this same feeling while watching Space Explorers on the Oculus Quest 2. If you’re unfamiliar with Space Explorers, it’s a documentary filmed in VR from the International Space Station. Not only do you get to roam around in the ISS, but you get to go outside the ISS. Looking down at Earth is the most amazingly beautiful things you will ever see. Looking out towards the blackness of space was truly terrifying. Nothing ever made me feel more unsettled in my life, and I was just watching an immersive video. I can’t imagine what it would be like to experience the real thing, but Shatner but it into words so eloquently. There is hope though. It makes you appreciate the planet we do have.

    It can change the way we look at the planet but also other things like countries, ethnicities, religions; it can prompt an instant reevaluation of our shared harmony and a shift in focus to all the wonderful things we have in common instead of what makes us different. It reinforced tenfold my own view on the power of our beautiful, mysterious collective human entanglement, and eventually, it returned a feeling of hope to my heart. In this insignificance we share, we have one gift that other species perhaps do not: we are aware—not only of our insignificance, but the grandeur around us that makes us insignificant. That allows us perhaps a chance to rededicate ourselves to our planet, to each other, to life and love all around us. If we seize that chance.

  • Dynamic Island Interactions are Backwards

    I was listening to the latest episode of The Talk Show this morning and Nilay Patel laid out exactly what bothers me about the Dynamic Island on the iPhone 14 Pros: the interactions are backwards.

    I couldn’t pinpoint what exactly it was that was bothering me until he said it and then it made sense. When I touch on an app in the Dynamic Island, I believe it should open the smaller, interactive widget version of the app that is currently only accessible with a long touch. The point is the island is to have quick interactions with running apps that need your attention. The best way to do that is by a simple touch. Instead, as a Pro Max user, I have to adjust my hand for balance and a long touch to interact with the island. It’s not exactly convenient.

    In Patel’s review on The Verge he says:

    Here’s where I think Apple missed the mark a little: in the keynote and all the ads, the island is shown as a thing that’s worth interacting with — it’s always moving around and going back and forth between the main view and the expanded view. In reality, well, it’s not like that at all.

    The island isn’t a primary interface element; it sits over whatever app you’re actually using, and apps are still the main point of the iPhone. In fact, tapping on the island doesn’t open that expanded widget view; it just switches you back to whatever app that controls the widget. To get the expanded widget that’s shown in all the ads, you have to tap and hold. This feels exactly backwards to me. I think a tap should pop open the widget, and I also think you should at least be able to choose between the two behaviors.

    I hope this is something they consider changing, or at least a toggle, because it’d be much better if touching opened up the mini app and a long touch opened the app itself.

  • iOS Screenshot Trick

    Why didn’t anyone tell me about this iOS screenshot trick?

    Ramal Media posted a video on TikTok this week showing how you can easily hold down on scribbles you make on iPhone screenshots to make circles look perfect or arrows look like actual arrows instead of a mess.

    I had no idea this was a thing either. Now I may actually use the drawing tools.

  • The Restaurant

    I don’t remember the first time I went to The Restaurant. That’s what we called the Bissell Mansion Restaurant and Dinner Theatre when I was growing up. If you’re unfamiliar with the establishment, it was a restaurant located inside what is considered the oldest, still-standing brick home in St. Louis. It was also owned by several members of my family as far back as I can remember.

    The house was built in what is now North City in 1823 by Captain Lewis Bissell. My grandparents, along with my parents, aunts, uncles, and family friends turned it into a murder mystery participatory dinner theatre in the 1980’s. I spent so much time there, especially as a child. I remember running around the gigantic rooms with my cousins every Christmas. I remember those same cousins telling me the small door at the top of the steps (the door that led to the attic) is where the ghosts lived (the mansion was supposedly haunted). I remember playing hide and seek and sneaking down a secret second set of stairs that entered into the kitchen. It was the ultimate playground for a kid.

    Sadly, as time went on and the city of St. Louis lost population, business suffered. My grandparents died. Family members sold their remaining shares to my aunt and uncle who kept the place running. Eventually they closed for the business lunch crowd and only operated as a dinner theatre. Then came COVID. Once COVID came, the place shut down complete. Now, it’s for sale.

    Even though I haven’t been there in years, even before the pandemic, it’s a place I will forever miss. I will cherish the memories I have of it forever (except for that summer I worked there doing maintenance on an almost 200 year old building between 8th and 9th grade).

    Bissel Mansion
  • Network of Cities and Towns Revealed by Lidar

    I love how much there is to still learn about past civilizations and how much there is more to discover.

    An airborne lidar survey recently revealed the long-hidden ruins of 11 pre-Columbian Indigenous towns in what is now northern Bolivia. The survey also revealed previously unseen details of defensive walls and complex ceremonial buildings at 17 other settlements in the area, built by a culture about which archaeologists still know very little: the Casarabe.

    Ars Technica has more detail on how lidar revealed networks of pre-Columbian cities and towns in Bolivia.

  • Returning to Micro.blog

    For the last six months I’ve been debating on whether or not I would return to micro.blog. For one reason or another, I never did. After the news of Elon buying twitter broke, I decided to give it another go because my time on twitter had essentially become doomscrolling, with only a portion being devoted to interactions with others. I used to love the discussions and random thoughts from interesting people on twitter, but as time went on they were drowned out by retweets, hot takes, and whatever the current outrage of the moment is. I was guilty of it too. And it’s not healthy.

    I’ve also wanted to get back into blogging. I’ve had a blog since college and have been running WordPress the entire time (over 15 years now!). WordPress has outgrown my needs as they move towards a more Squarespace-like experience. I miss the days of a simple publishing platform for creating blog posts. Micro.blog helps solve that issue. The focus is on the writing. I don’t know what the future of my current blog is, but I think this will be the place for my thoughts, quick and long, going forward.

    The other thing that I love about Micro.blog is that I own the content. It’s my blog that I publish on my site. When I publish, it posts the content to the micro.blog timeline. The conversations take place on micro.blog with a great and welcoming community and appear directly on my posts. I can also cross-post the content to twitter, which I am for now.

    What I find when starting from micro.blog is I don’t check in on twitter as much because the discussion is here. Less time on twitter is better for me. I’m excited to see what the future holds with micro.blog.

  • The Batman

    I remember the first time I saw a Batman movie. It was 1989 and Tim Burton’s Batman was literally everywhere. You could not go into a mall (remember those?) in America without seeing Batman merchandise in every window. I was 6 when my dad took me. It was unlike any other iteration of Batman I had ever seen. It definitely wasn’t anything like the Adam West TV show I used to watch in the afternoons after school.

    From that moment on it became an unspoken tradition for my dad and I to see the Batman movies in theaters when they would come out. Yes, even the horrible Batman and Robin. The most recent iteration of Batman in the movies, The Batman, was the first Batman movie that we could not see in theaters together. Neither of us were comfortable spending almost 3 hours in a theater in an area where masks are rarely worn. I did finally see the movie, at home, on HBOMax, and I loved every minute of it.

    The Batman that is depicted in The Batman is the most Batman Batman to ever Batman. If you grew up reading the comics, especially storylines like The Long Halloween, you’ll instantly recognize this Batman and this Gotham City. The movie is a detective noir story that oftentimes feels like the movie Seven, with constant dusk and darkness, torrential rain, and seedy alleyways. This is the comic. The Batman isn’t a gritty reboot of the franchise, this is what the franchise is at its heart.

    I know DC and Warner Bros. has plans for a spinoff with the Penguin character. I just hope they stay true to the themes, ideas, and atmosphere that director Matt Reeves created. I wouldn’t mind living in this world for a little longer. 🍿