A world record for the most ghost peppers eaten? It's been an honor serving with you

I'd call this madness if it weren't for the fact that the event was used to raise awareness about world hunger. Read the rest

Arts & Crafts: Build your own personal steam engine.

I just discovered Pavel Chilin's YouTube channel. There's only five videos there so far but, my friends, they are glorious.

As near as I can tell, Pavel's love of trains has translated into his building a rat-rod-as-all-get-out  steam engine just big enough to conduct himself and a pal around a good length of track, which again, I'm guessing that he built himself (but please correct me if I'm wrong.) I'd love to see how much work it took to put all of this together if, for nothing else, it might lead to other folks to do it as well. Read the rest

These festive cocktails will kick your holiday celebrations up a notch

The holidays can be a boozy time of year for many people. Even though I'm on four different medications with labels stating that I shouldn't drink alcohol while taking them, I still like the occasional nip—I mean, If I don't wash the pills down, I'm technically not drinking while taking the meds, right? Going in for a bit of spiked eggnog, homemade Irish cream in your coffee or a bit of dark rum in a mug of hot chocolate are obvious choices for blustery, cold, northern hemisphere revels. However, I don't think that anyone can argue that such traditional concoctions can be a little boring (not that you'd care after three or four rounds.) If you're looking for some fabulous new drinks to liquor you, your loved ones and friends up for the holidays, Texas Monthly has some outstanding suggestions to take for a spin.

From Texas Monthly:

Whether you’re toasting friends and family in celebration or calming your nerves at the very same social obligations, the holidays inevitably present many opportunities for alcohol consumption. This year, instead of drinking to excess, consider adding some mocktails to your repertoire—or at least have them ready for any teetotaler guests. We asked four of the state’s best bartenders to share their current favorite creations with us for the yuletide season. And with a “nice” mocktail for every “naughty” cocktail, you can be sure there’s something delicious for everyone to sip.

There's a number of absolutely delicious drinks on this list that could make your holidays a helluva lot more jolly. Read the rest

This luthier keeps Willie Nelson's legendary guitar playable

Willie Nelson's Martin N-20 guitar, affectionately known as Trigger, has seen some shit. Happily, the majority of the shit it's seen has been in the name of making countless music lovers, the world over, happy. Over the years, Willie's finger-pickin' playing style has worn second soundhole into the guitar (not to mention the other carnage that this poor instrument has somehow survived.)

To keep Trigger alive and playable, Texas-based luthier, Mark Erlewine, gives the iconic instrument a whole lot of TLC during the guitar's annual checkup. Read the rest

Travel Tunes: Kíla: Suas Síos

Kíla's music has been a huge part of my life for decades.

In January of 2015, I was preparing to travel to Costa Rica, and Nicaragua to take some time away from the damp of a British Colombian winter and undertake a bit of travel writing. I'd read online that Kíla had a new album ready to pop. I was desperate to have a copy of it to use as my soundtrack for my 14-day trek. Contacting the band via Twitter and, later, by email, I explained to them how important their music was in my life and that, a trip to a new continent needed to be accompanied by their new music.

Three days before I was set to fly away from Vancouver Island, a small parcel from Ireland showed up in the post: it was a CD copy of Suas Síos. I quickly ripped it to throw on my iPhone and sent them an emailed thank-you which I'm pretty sure wasn't nearly eloquent enough to capture my gratitude.

The woman, who is now my partner in life, was working in Costa Rica as a dive master. We've been together for close to five years now, and married for almost three of those. I consider Suas Síos the album and, consequentially, Suas Síos the song, to be good luck charms, of sorts. I never leave the house for a pop down to the shop or an adventure like our upcoming trip to Morocco, without them.

I hear tell that Kíla's got a new album on the way. Read the rest

And now, eight hours of vintage department store holiday music

Consider your every waking moment to be haunted, from this point on. Read the rest

Fake license plates drawn with crayons might not be the best way to avoid a cop encounter

I've heard it said that criminals get caught becasue the majority of them are far from being masterminds. Welp:

From USA Today:

Indiana state troopers almost called a tow truck for Joshua Anthony Lewis-Brown, 20, before identifying him as a suspected car thief Friday.

By checking the Toyota Corolla's vehicle identification number, the troopers determined the car's owner had reported it stolen from State College, Pennsylvania, about 400 miles away. The owner had left the car running to keep it warm while he shopped at a  grocery store, the Indiana troopers said in a statement. The car was missing when he returned Thursday.

If he'd just used card stock and a Sharpie, he might have gotten away from it. Always spend the money on the right materials for the job. Obviously once the troopers saw that the Brown's license plate was nothing more than a low-rent arts and crafts project (although, admittedly, he was able to drive 400 miles with his fake plates without anyone noticing) they arrested him on a felony charge of possessing stolen property.

I come from one of the colder parts of the world. A lot of folks leave their vehicles running in the winter time, unattended, in an effort to keep them warm—that the oil and gas industry supporters leave their rides idling here, year-round is a whole different load of bullshit for us to talk about. But given how easily a running care can be jacked and hidden with fifty cents worth of art supplies, it might be worth turning off your engine and putting up with a bit of a chill. Read the rest

Singer/Songwriter Kirsty MacColl was killed 19 years ago this week

Many may only know her voice from hearing The Pogues' Fairytale of New York, but beyond that timeless tune, Kirsty MacColl's career as a singer and songwriter was as full and respected as you're bound to hear of. She was lost to us, at the age of 41, close to two decades ago, this week.

While on holiday in Mexico with her partner and children, MacColl was killed, and by some accounts murdered while on a diving excursion, off the coast of Cozumel. According to the Irish Post, a  boat entered the warded-off area where MacColl was surfacing from a scuba dive, at high speed, striking her light out of this world. She'd still be with us if she hadn't, as a final act, pushed her 15-year old son out of the path of the speeding boat. The vessel belonged to a Mexican multimillionaire. When's there's money had, a coverup may be bought: It's rumored that the boat's owner was the one driving it when MacColl was killed. However, one of his employees was paid to take the fall for him.

Fortunately, her music lives on. In this documentary, the BBC explores MacColl's career with insights from Shane MacGowan, Billy Bragg, Johnny Marr, Bono, French & Saunders and Steve Lillywhite. Read the rest

New York Times bestselling author Richard Kadrey wants to cram your skull full of writing knowledge

Richard Kadrey is a New York Times bestselling author and a friend of this website. His dark, horror-tinged urban fantasy books have been a fixture in bookstores and libraries since 2009. 11 books (and counting) into his Sandman Slim series, his novels have been optioned to become a film directed by John Wick’s Chad Stahelski. To say that he’s a success as a writer would be an understatement.

Now, he’s looking to help you build the skills to hone your literary talent as well.

Starting in March, Richard will be teaching a four-week online course on writing dark urban fantasy. Speaking to him from his digs in San Fransisco on Wednesday, he told me, “...during the class, I want to help students get a strong beginning to a story or novel. More importantly, I want give them the skills they need to keep creating new work.”

In order to do that, he’s laid out a clear road map to help get the asses of potential authors into gear.

From Richard’s Litreactor page:

Week One: What is Dark Urban Fantasy? What is dark or noir urban fantasy and how does it differ from horror? Who lives there and why? And why do we want to bring the strange and the dark into the world?

Week Two: Dark Urban Fantasy Characters

Who lives in these strange, invented worlds? How do you construct characters that walk the line between good and evil? Even in the most extreme world and stories, there must be some core of truth to it.

Read the rest

Congregants allegedly pressured to to sell their own blood and donate the funds to their church

For all the good that many organized religions try to do in the world (albeit, often with ulterior motives,) there's no end to the amount of greasy shit that individual preachers and congregations get up too. Every creed has its assholes. Many are worse than others. If the allegations against SPAC Nation—a UK-based Christian organization, praised for working with young men and women in London to reduce the amount of knife violence that the city has been plagued by of late—are true, they'll have positioned themselves pretty high up there in the scummy religious ranks.

From The Telegram:

A scandal-hit church is being investigated by the charity watchdog over claims that pastors pressured young congregants into selling their blood for money to donate to the church.

The Charity Commission today announced that it had opened an inquiry into SPAC Nation, based in London, to probe financial and safeguarding concerns.

The commission, which describes the church as a charity set up to "advance Christianity" and that works particularly with young people, has ordered it to bank all cash while the investigation takes place.

The announcement comes after HuffPost UK reported allegations that some members of the church had been taking teenagers to donate blood for medical trials in a practice known as "bleeding for seed".

The publication reported that that some members go to donate blood and are paid up to £100 by medical trial companies. This money is then handed by the young people over to the church’s pastors.

I mean, is it on the same level as torturing and robbing native children of their cultural heritage in a residential school, marginalizing the rights of women or sexually abusing defenseless congregants? Read the rest

A legendary point-and-click adventure game has found a new life online.

I remember buying Westwood Studios (miss those guys) point-and-click Blade Runner game to play on my old ThinkPad, back in the late 1990s. It was the first game I can recall owning that spanned multiple disks. While I was surprised to find that the main character in the game neither looked or sounded like Harrison Ford—I didn't know much about how licensing and actor's contracts worked at the time—I was completely hooked from the first time that I turned it on. I finished the game multiple times over the years until, sadly, a friend that I lent the game to moved out of province without returning it to me. By then, I'd moved on to other games and had tired of changing discs just to travel from one area to another. However, every once in a while, I sigh, wistfully, wishing I could give it another go. Today, I found out that this is a very doable thing:

From The Verge:

Blade Runner is beloved to this day, but until very recently, the odds of a digital rerelease seemed almost nonexistent. Westwood lost the original source code in 2003 during a move. So players needed to find one of the game’s increasingly rare hard copies or an unofficially cracked version of it, then go through the considerable trouble of getting it to work on a modern PC.

That started to change this summer when a team started publicly testing ScummVM emulator support. The game became playable through ScummVM in October, but the content still couldn’t be officially found online.

Read the rest

Wolfeye Studios' Weird West is looking like my kind of game

I'm looking forward to Weird West, for a number of reasons. Its hand-painted aesthetic and  top-down tactical game play bring to mind all of the love that I hold for Fallout and Fallout 2 and Wasteland 2—as does the fact that it's full of monsters and other horrific entities that crawl around the desert waiting to carve up any travelers that they come across. the description for this recently announced title reads like a shopping list for all of the shit I adore in a game:

From Wolfeye Studios:

Survive and unveil the mysteries of the Weird West through the intertwined destinies of its unusual heroes in an immersive sim from the co-creators of Dishonored and Prey.

Discover a dark fantasy re-imagining of the Wild West where lawmen and gunslingers share the frontier with fantastical creatures. Journey through the origin stories of a group of atypical heroes, written into legend by the decisions you make in an unforgiving land. Each journey is unique and tailored to the actions taken - a series of high stakes stories where everything counts and the world reacts to the choices you make. Form a posse or venture forth alone into otherworldly confines of the Weird West and make each legend your own.

Currently, it looks like Weird West is only destined to make its way to Steam, but tell me I'm wrong: this title has Nintendo Switch written all over it. Read the rest

Someone will be sent to the hospital if this cat ever makes it out of this tinfoil-lined hallway

I'm like, eighty percent certain that this kitty's going to kill whoever it is holding the camera, just as soon as it figures out that it can survive crossing a hallway filled with aluminum foil. Read the rest

Adobe is starting to sort out Photoshop for iPad's lousy feature set

Let me give it to you straight: Photoshop for iPad isn't great. Over the past year, creatives who rely on their iPadOS tablet to take care of photographic business have been promised the moon by Adobe. Instead, we got handfuls of green cheese. It was supposed to have the all of the power and capabilities of the desktop version of the app at launch. Nope: I, along with what I am sure are many others, was disappointed to find that the company that pretty much wrote the book on computer-aided image editing had released an app that was easily outclassed by apps like Affinity Photo and Pixelmator, the latter of which has been around since 2014. Happily, Adobe took a baby step towards climbing to the top of the mobile photo editing dog pile by adding a feature to Photoshop for iPad that should have been there since day one: the Subject Select tool.

From The Verge:

This addition marks the first real improvement to Photoshop for iPad since it was released last month to disappointing reviews. The tool should go a long way toward quelling one of the biggest criticisms of the v1 version of the app, which was the lack of a Magic Wand tool.

Aside from Select Subject, Photoshop for iPad is also getting some UI improvements and speed improvements for its Cloud documents. Cloud PSDs, which were introduced with the app and allow users to access their Photoshop files from any device, will now upload and download up to 90 percent faster.

Read the rest

This 13-year old Jarvis Cocker tune is vying for a Christmas number one in England this year

This video hit YouTube in 2009. The song was originally released in 2006 as a bonus track on Jarvis Cocker's first post-Pulp album. More than a decade later, not much has changed. In light of this month's disastrous election results in the UK, a push is on to bring this 13-year old song back to number one, just in time for Christmas.

Ho. Ho. Ho. Read the rest

This cheap professional grade electric razor is an upgrade I never knew I wanted

I started going bald in my mid-twenties, thanks to a combination of stress and shitty genes. I put up with it, right up to the point where I started thinking about getting a hair cut that would mask the amount of hair that I had lost. Realizing that, for me at least, this was the way to vain insanity, I went to my barber and told him to shave it all off, right down to the wood. I've been shaving my head ever since. For close to two decades, that shaving was done with either a straight razor or an old school safety razor, depending on whether or not I was traveling. Unfortunately, my relationship with sharp things and hot lather came to an end this past September. As part of  a physical with my new family doctor, it was discovered that I had an 80% blockage in my ticker—I'd been trying to kill myself, for years, with booze and bad food (and once again, shitty genes.) I had a stent put in me and was prescribed a ton of cardiac-related medications, blood thinners, included. My doctor made it clear that shaving with an exposed blade needed to be a thing that I didn't do anymore. Any injuries to my scalp, no matter how minor, would bleed like a sunovabitch. "You should invest in an electric razor," My cardiologist told me. "You'll get used to it, real quick," my friend Richard, who'd has a stent put in his heart the year before, told me. Read the rest

Travel Tunes: Tinariwen—Kel Tinawen

The RV might be winterized and staying put until the spring thaw, but we're not. Now that I have the all clear from my cardiologist, my wife and are are planning a 20-day trip to Morocco. It'll be the first time that either of us has set foot on the African continent: With its French colonial influence and their King's tourist-friendly policies, it seems like a great place to dip our toes in the continent's waters.

Plus, it's cities, country side deserts and mountains are absolutely stunning. With out tickets purchased, we're now in the throes of planning our itinerary (which we always tend to keep a bit loosey-goosey.) I'm brushing up on my mediocre French. My partner is taking Darija lessons. I'm taking a HEAT course to polish up my already existing skill set, given that Morocco's neighbors have been a little rambunctious of late.

Perhaps most important out of all of our preparations, is the fact that my travel playlist is slowly coming together. I find that having the right music while moving into and out of an adventure helps to set the mood for the whole thing.

Tinariwen is a band that's been around for decades. Maybe you've heard of them. They only showed up as a ping on my radar within the last year.  originally hails from Mali,

From Wikipedia:

Tinariwen is a group of Tuareg musicians from the Sahara Desert region of northern Mali. The band was formed in 1979[2] in Tamanrasset, Algeria, but returned to Mali after a cease-fire in the 1990s.

Read the rest

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