Three years ago I took a stab at creating an interactive story game using the open source compiler Ren’Py. I was mostly following a free online tutorial but I added a few original flourishes of my own in order to make it a little bit more original.

I haven’t done anything with Ren’Py since and I think it’s because I had a problem with learning the code and it got to be complex at times. (It was reminiscent of the times I attempted to learn Pascal and C++ in an effort to learn new skills so I can get a higher paying job only to have both attempts end in disaster.)

A friend of mine, Phil Shapiro, encouraged me to give Twine a try. He even did this book review about Twine where he praised it.

Like Ren’Py, Twine is an open source program. Like Ren’Py also specializes in coding a type of video game that’s basically a high-tech version of those Choose Your Own Adventure books. But I found Twine to be much easier to learn than Ren’Py because you need to know a little bit of really basic HTML code (and that’s only if you intend to use image and music files).

I did my first game, which is basically a practice game where I loosely based the story on Phil Shapiro’s day job in the computer lab of the local public library. (There are lots of fictionalized elements in this game, including one where I got my inspiration from an episode of the classic TV series The Twilight Zone.) Here are a couple of places where you can play this game, Phil the Library Computer Lab Guy, right now.

Play it online through Neocities.org.

Download it to your computer hard drive so you can play it offline through itch.io.

Have fun! 🙂

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Here are some random photos from my smartphone that I recently took, starting with this unexpected product I found at a local Giant supermarket. On the shelves in the organic food section are organic junk food. I kid you not. There are now organic versions of Doritos and Cheetos. What’s more, each bag costs twice as much as their non-organic counterparts.

Organic Junk Food

I was visiting a local public library not too long ago when I saw this chair that’s covered in parrot fabric. I have no idea how old this chair is but it definitely looks very kitschy.

Parrot Chairs

Parrot Chairs

Here’s a bumpersticker I found on a car with this interesting slogan: “Kitten thinks of nothing but murder all day.” Uh, well, okay, whatever, nevermind.

Bumpersticker

Earlier this month I went to the local movie house where I saw a recently restored version of The Beatles’ classic animated feature film Yellow Submarine. The color and music were very excellent. The story itself is a bit weak but the music makes up for it. I took a photo of the movie poster after the movie ended.

Movie Poster

The last three photos I took with the Hatsune Miku smartphone app. I was visiting my friend, Phil Shapiro (he’s at the computer wearing a hat in the background in the last two photos) at his workplace when I took these quick snapshots featuring the virtual international pop superstar.

Hatsune Miku

Hatsune Miku

Hatsune Miku

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I don’t have children. Sometimes I regret not having a child but these days I’m mostly glad because, after the hell that my ex-husband put me through over the past few years, I would’ve really dreaded having to face that asshole on a regular basis regarding the children. I also would’ve had to face the possibility of periodically going back to court over child visitation and custody issues because my husband left me for a seriously mentally ill woman and he married her just two months after our divorce was final. I would’ve been really concerned about exposing a child to whatever drama that would result from having a seriously mentally ill stepmother.

There are too many people who have no business ever becoming parents but they have one or more kids anyway and it’s the children who usually suffer. A case in point is a YouTube controversy that originally started last year but it has continued into this year. Here’s a quick recap.

A YouTube channel was created in 2015 called DaddyOFive. It was a series of videos featuring the real-life adventures of Mike Martin, his wife Heather, and their five children (hence the name). The videos were supposed to be light-hearted entertainment featuring a fun yet quirky family.

One regular feature of these videos had the parents playing pranks on one or more of their children. The videos began to gain popularity and the parents were able to make revenue from their videos.

As time went on, the so-called “pranks” took on a more disturbing tone and they became more and more controversial. The shit really began to hit the fan last year when popular YouTube commentator Philip DeFranco made this video questioning whether these “pranks” are actually child abuse. (This video have a few brief excerpts from the video where one of the kids was targeted in a “prank” that involved invisible ink.)

When DeFranco’s video went viral, there was more public scrutiny aimed at Mike and Heather Martin over allegations that their kids were being abused on video while profiting off of that abuse. The Martins responded to DeFranco’s video by blaming him for the public vitriol being aimed at them. DeFranco responded with a second video where he included more disturbing scenes from other DaddyOFive videos, which included the couple’s only daughter being slapped in the face by her brother after prompting by their father, one of the smaller boys being body-slammed to the ground by his larger brother, and one of the sons asking his father to leave him alone and stop filming him only to have the father continue putting the camera on the boy.

That second video only added fuel to the fire. It turned out that two of the children were Mike Martin’s from a previous marriage or relationship. (I wasn’t able to figure out whether he was ever married to that previous woman or not.) They were also the same two children who bore the brunt of those so-called “pranks.” The children’s biological mother soon got wind of the existence of those videos and she responded by getting a lawyer and filing for sole custody of the children, which she ultimately won. Here’s the biological mother’s brief interview on Good Morning America from last year, where she explained how she felt when she learned about her children’s appearance in those videos.

On top of it, the local authorities began to investigate the child abuse claims. What’s really embarrassing is that I learned that these two so-called “parents” lived in my state (Maryland).

Ultimately Mike and Heather Martin removed most of the videos from the DaddyOFive channel with the exception of a video featuring just the two of them where they apologized for their videos. A few months later they were sentenced to five year’s probation for child neglect. As part of the probation, Mike and Heather are not allowed to contact Mike’s two children in any way unless a judge authorizes it first.

So things died down a bit regarding DaddyOFive. There were no new videos uploaded and the couple seemed to keep a low profile for the rest of 2017. Sometime after the controversy and receiving probation Mike and Heather Martin took the remaining three children and moved from Maryland to West Virginia. Okay, I can understand that decision to some extent because that move gave them the opportunity to make a fresh start in their lives and put the recent past behind them. If they had stayed off-line, they probably would’ve eventually fallen into obscurity.

But that didn’t happen. The family re-emerged online just one year later with two new video channels—FamilyOFive and FamilyOFive Gaming. I can understand the name to some extent since Mike, Heather, and the three sons are now a family of five. But I find it mind-boggling that Mike and Heather would give both of those channels a similar name to the DaddyOFive channel that got them into trouble in the first place.

It wouldn’t be long before Philip DeFranco began to devote a video to FamilyOFive, especially since this new video series included footage of one of the sons being hit hard in the groin with a ball.

But, wait, there’s more. Amanda the Jedi made this video featuring more disturbing footage involving the three sons under the guise of “entertainment.”

In addition, local station WUSA9 started to extensively cover the story and they contacted YouTube and the local authorities in the couple’s former (Frederick County, Maryland) and current (Berkeley County, West Virginia) residences for their responses regarding the matter.

In any case, YouTube finally pulled the plug a few days ago and took down all of the DaddyOFive/FamilyOFive channels and banned Mike and Heather Martin from the platform. I applaud YouTube for making that decision. Child abuse should never be considered entertainment and people should not be allowed to profit from it.

While it’s great that Mike and Heather Martin are gone from YouTube, this story doesn’t exactly have a happy ending. If you conduct a YouTube search under DaddyOFive, you’ll see that many of the original DaddyOFive videos have been re-uploaded on to YouTube by people using names like Team Takedown, Post, DaddyOFive Re-uploaded, ToxicFaygo 29, Legendary Posts, daddyofive archive, That One Guy, Fire Phoenix, polly annner, and DaddyOfive ReUploading. And these re-uploaded videos are just the tip of the iceberg, which once again proves the adage that the Internet is forever and it’s the children who will suffer the most for years to come.

There’s something else that I also find concerning. If Mike and Heather acted atrociously towards their children in front of the camera, can you imagine what family life is like when the cameras are turned off? I really believe that the three remaining children should be removed immediately from their parents and placed either with other relatives or in foster homes so they’ll have a chance to lead normal lives without having a camera focused on them while they are being abused by their so-called “parents.”

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Baroque-inspired portraits of black girls highlight their amazing natural hair so other girls would stop hiding it.

Millennials born in the 1980s may never recover from the Great Recession.

Retro ads reveal sky-high prices of now archaic technology.

White people should be more afraid of other whites than they are of people of color.

Couple have been using same 1950s appliances for more than a half a century—but they’re finally ditching them.

The Goler clan spent years in their isolated, inbred town until the cops showed up.

Why the coming collapse will happen in the United States.

Tech investors are increasingly investing in midwest tech companies instead of Silicon Valley.

Why does Donald Trump normalize corruption? Because Bill and Hillary Clinton normalized it.

MIT economist warns that the U.S. has regressed to a developing nation status.

Disney and Pixar offer free online animation and film classes.

How Sears CEO Eddie Lampert may come out ahead even if his retailer goes out of business.

22 things you won’t believe are in the Bible.

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Benjamin Franklin

A man in a passion rides a mad horse.

I was in Takoma Park, Maryland last month where I saw a friend of mine, Phil Shapiro, dance with this really cute red-headed toddler girl. It was so cute to see that I whipped out my phone and filmed it.

By the way, if you want to see more video footage of Phil Shapiro dancing, check out this video.

By the way, he has his own YouTube channel where he dances, plays his guitar, and bloviates on a variety of topics.

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The release of the movie Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom has unleashed a plethora of dinosaur-related stuff in the stores. Some of them are movie tie-ins while others are just generic dinosaurs that are released to take advantage of the film. For the past few years I’ve posted the occasional dinosaur photo on social media while tagging a friend of mine who’s a total dinosaur freak. Generally I’ve sent those photos once in a while. However, thanks to that movie, I found myself constantly taking new photos, uploading them, and tagging my friend more frequently. Here are photos of just a few of the dinosaur stuff I’ve seen in the stores this summer.

Dinosaurs at Five Below

Dinosaurs at Five Below

Dinosaurs at Five Below

Dinosaurs at Five Below

Dinosaurs at Five Below

Dinosaurs on Sale at Target

Dinosaurs on Sale at Target

Dinosaur Patch

Dinosaur Stuff on Sale at Giant

Dinosaur Stuff on Sale at Giant

Dinosaur Stuff on Sale at Giant

Dinosaur Stuff on Sale at Giant

Dinosaur Stuff on Sale at Giant

Dinosaur Stuff on Sale at Giant

Dinosaur Stuff on Sale at Giant

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If Donald Trump has any sense after yesterday’s worldwide exposure of the fact that he basically prefers Vladimir Putin to his own country, he would stay out of the U.S. However, he is too blinded by his narcissism to consider moving to his buddy Putin’s country. While Trump is out of the country, the fallout continues, especially on YouTube.

And these videos I found are just the tip of the iceberg. I could’ve gone on all day and night embedding more videos in this post.

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I was originally raised a Roman Catholic. My family attended a Roman Catholic church that had the usual Christian art featuring Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and a few saints. I grew up thinking that churches only displayed religious art and nothing else.

When I started attending a Unitarian Universalist church as a young adult who was a recent college graduate, I was amazed to see art that not only didn’t reflect a particular religious point of view but the artworks themselves would frequently rotate on a regular basis where new art would be erected and displayed. Much of the art that’s usually on display were created by local artists, many of whom are not UUs.

When I visited other UU churches in other cities, I found that many congregations also featured a rotating display of art done by area artists (who may or may not be UU) that didn’t necessarily reflect a particular religious dogma.

Many of the art my church (Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church in Adelphi, Maryland) displays run the gamut from painting to drawing to mixed-media to sculptures to photography. Some of the art is abstract while others might feature a portrait of a person or an animal or it might reflect a certain view on social issues or politics.

Here are a few photos I took of an art exhibit that’s currently on display at my church right now. They are a series of paintings done by a local self-taught artist named Antonio Moore, who has sold some of his work to famous people such as Mark Cuban and Jay-Z. His paintings include people like Kiss, Miles Davis, Marilyn Monroe, Bob Marley, Frank Sinatra, and Barack Obama.

If you want to see the art for yourself in person, the best time is on Sunday mornings after 11:15 a.m. (when Sunday service usually ends) until around 1 or 2 p.m. For other times, you will have to contact the church office to make special arrangements.

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I have long contended that I would not have been surprised if Donald Trump had gotten money from either Vladimir Putin or from someone in the Russian oligarchy. Trump had long associated with shady figures in his quest for personal power and to satisfy his constant never-ending need to have people admire him for being a wealthy man. It would make sense for him to continue this tradition by associating with certain sleazy Russians in exchange for money. It was just recently when New Yorker magazine published an article that suspects that Donald Trump had been tight with the former Soviet Union since 1987 and this association with the Russians continued after the USSR fell.

But now Donald Trump has really done it. He met with Vladimir Putin while saying that he backs Putin’s denial that Russia had intervened in the 2016 U.S. elections, despite existing evidence to the contrary and despite the fact that just a few days ago Special Counsel Robert Mueller have indicted 12 Russians for their role in interfering in the 2016 elections.

And it’s not just on the national level but it’s on the local level as well. I’ve just learned that my own state, Maryland, had its voter registration vendor financed by a Russian oligarch. It’s possible that other states may have encountered something similar as well.

To say that the Internet have erupted with cries of “TREASON!!!” is an understatement. Here is just a sample of what I’ve read online today.

Michael Moore’s Facebook post.

Wow oh wow. I’ve expected to see many things from Trump — but never did I think I’d see him standing beside the president of Russia and, as John King just reported on CNN, “surrendering to him.” That Trump would reveal himself as a traitor on worldwide TV — well, that was a mind-blower.

Trump is asked, Who are you going to believe—the Russians or your own officers? And he refused to choose! Do you support your troops or Putin — and he wouldn’t choose! So my first thought goes out to those who serve this country— I’m so sorry the Commander-in-Chief is a traitor.

Trump: “They (my intelligence officers) said, ‘I think it is Russia.’ I have President Putin (standing here). He just said it is not Russia. I will say this: I do not see any reason why it would be (Russia).”

Arrest Trump when Air Force One lands. I want to see him in chains.

But that’s not all. Here’s a tweet from John Dean, who was Richard Nixon’s lawyer and a figure in the Watergate scandal from a long time ago.

Former Republican Congressman Joe Walsh, who’s hardly what you’d call a radical left-winger, tweeted this out.

Here are some more tweets from people on all sides of the political spectrum.

All I’m going to say is this: If, after Trump returns to the U.S., Congress still turns a blind eye to Trump’s blatant breaking of the law overseas, then they are part of the problem. This goes for both Democrats and Republicans alike. It’s time for everyone to put country over party or ideology and stand up to Donald Trump.

I’ve had someone tell me that getting political online will hurt my personal brand. Here’s the thing, there are times when you MUST take a stand because a certain situation warrants it. Right now this is no longer a matter of whether you’re a Republican or Democrat. It’s a matter of whether you still support the United States of America as a nation or are you are now supporting Vladimir Putin. As for me, there’s no way in hell I will ever support Putin. If you’re an American who thinks that Putin isn’t such a bad guy, well, try telling that to members of Pussy Riot, who have not only been persecuted in the past for their video Punk Prayer but some of their members have just been arrested in Russia over their recent protest at the World Cup. Try telling that to the families of Russian dissidents who have been found dead under mysterious circumstances.

I don’t regret taking a stand against the Trump Administration’s current policy of separating children from their parents and throwing them in cages and I won’t regret making this post now. There comes a time when you will be judged based on how you react to a certain situation. For all I know, there may be a future opportunity for me that I may get based on the people who were found themselves delighted with me for not keeping quiet about Trump’s treachery as opposed to other people who decided not to say anything at all.

I still remember reading about how talented German filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl ultimately had her promising career cut short because she chose to make films glorifying Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. She had a choice of whether to make pro-Nazi movies or different types of movies that didn’t glorify the Nazis and she made what turned out to be the wrong choice.

If someone decides not to use my services because I spoke out against treason being openly committed by the President of the United States, I would be better off not working for that person. Because no opportunity is worth me being silent in the face of the treason that’s currently happening in my own country.

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Each summer people who want to make s’mores at a campfire generally bring the s’more making supplies in nondescript bags. They could either be recycled plastic shopping bags or the more environmentally-friendly cloth bags but the s’more supplies are brought in bags nonetheless.

Recently at Safeway I saw this item that’s an alternative to brining regular bags.

Hershey's S'mores Caddy

It’s a Hershey’s S’mores Caddy that’s shaped like a giant Hershey’s bar. It’s for people who want this make statement at the next campfire: “YES, I BROUGHT THE SUPPLIES FOR S’MORES!!!” What’s more, you can order it online through sites like Amazon.

As for me, I’ll probably continue to use regular bags if I feel the urge to bring s’more making supplies to a campfire.

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