Smoke and Mirrors

In a perfect world . . .

Category: Cool Sites (page 1 of 4)

Go fly a drone

On Father’s Day this year, my daughter Sarah and son-in-law, Jonathan got me a gift card to
#the Grommet, a website with all kinds of cool stuff. [tnx guys!]
They wanted me to get something for myself that I would normally not spend my money on.
Unlike beer.
Or cigars.
Or bourbon.
I sat on this gift card like a corpulent mother hen waiting for something to hatch and catch my eye.
I saw a ‘spiralizer‘ that looked pretty cool but I knew I’d use it for a month before shelving the bastard.
Zucchini pasta would only satisfy this tummy for so long.
I saw a really interesting ‘smart watch’ knockoff called a Cookoo that sent you Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and text messages ever so discreetly.
It mysteriously disappeared off the site a month after I first saw it.
I forgot about the Grommet for several months (mainly because of a customer service issue which they can contact me about if they wish) until last week when I remembered my Father’s Day gift from June.
It took me a little bit to find the gift card buried in my Gmail more deeply than the undigested red meat in my carnival-like intestinal tract.
Then it was off to the Grommet for a bit of surfing.
I found something called a ‘Klevercase‘, a book bound tablet/Ipad cover.
Already got a case for my iPad.
Surfing some more the ‘little boy’ in me found the Nano quad-copter in the video above.
I watched the video several times.
And then a few more times after that.
It was ‘Hellsyeah’ cool.
I sent my wife a link to each product and asked, ‘Which one do you think I’d like?’
She sent me back a message in a nanosecond that said: Drone
I get my ‘neon orange‘ Nano Drone this Friday.
I feel like that little boy at Christmas.
Yeah, me.
And yeah, too cool.
Christmas is coming early, my friends.
And I also hear they have much better drones.
Hmmm . . .


The Wonderful Pens of Ross G

pens, writing, RossG

I’ve always had an affinity for pens.
Maybe it’s more like a clandestine love affair as I fall hopelessly into the inkwell of love every time I troll the net looking at writing instruments.
I love fountain pens and rollerballs and all the accoutrements associated with them.
I love ink. No tattoo for me but I have some amazing fountain pen ink.
Some of my favorites are Noodler’s , Private Reserve, Pelican and Aurora.
Ballpoints irritate me to no end.
That’s just me.
My interest in pens began many years ago when I began writing.
I had this silly idea that the pen I used would make a difference when I was writing.
Logical? I think not.
I did realize that all pens were not created equal and a writer needed a pen with an even flow of ink and a comfortable balance of weight in the hand. Words and thoughts would flow more easily.
I am a writer. I need pens.
Looking online I was appalled at the money some of these things commanded.
$2000 for a rollerball?
$20,000 for a fountain pen?  (This pen should automatically come with a publishing deal)
With 3 daughters in and out of college/Grad school, I’m lucky to have a decent gel roller.
I currently have 5-6 fairly decent fountain pens:  Pelican, Aurora, Namiki (vanishing point), a Parker Sonnet and several other inexpensive models.
A friend I work with came in one day and showed me a pen sent to him by a friend or a friend.
It was a ballpoint which didn’t excite me but the pen itself was beautiful.
He told me it was given to him by so and so and that this guy made pens to give to friends.
I wanted to get on that list.
Several months went by before this same friend came in with another pen; a ballpoint but still really nice.

My curiosity got the best of me.
“Does this guy have a website?”

I went to the website and found many wonderful handmade things.
I found rollerballs, ballpoints and several wicked pissa fountain pens.
Years ago, Ross decided to try his hand at making pens.
Most were given to friends as gifts until he realized he was quite good at
this specialized art and decided to expand.

I spied one particular pen and wondered if Ross would be willing to barter a bit.
After a few emails and several days, I now have a fountain pen made by none other than RossG.
I promised him an honest review of the pen and here it is . . .

Modern, sleek, funky, gorgeous rosewood with gold-plated hardware.
Definitely catches the eye.
Several people have already commented on it (and they want more info)

Solid in the hand with a very comfortable weight.
To me it has the feel of a pen that should cost much more.
It feels expensive.
You know you’re holding something special.

Nib and writing quality:
The pen came with a cartridge and a converter (my preference).
The nib was medium size iridium.
Although I’m not a big fan of iridium nibs this sucker worked better than my inexpensive Pelican (which has an iridium nib).
The ink flow was simply amazing and a total pleasure to write with.

If you want a pen that is aesthetically pleasing, easy to write with, ridiculously affordable and a designated friend for life,  please check out Ross. (Click on the post picture!)
Or click HERE. (Tell Ross I sent you)
All pens are handmade and have that warm, comfortable feeling in your hand.
I know several people that already want a pen made by this man so get in line.
His pens are in short supply right now as he is waiting for some materials to come in.

He will ship all over the world.
He even says Australia’s not too far away.
I may send him some TinTams someday.

If you can’t buy one of his pens, please promise me you will send the link to this post to someone who will.
That would make me and Ross very, very happy.

Malarky Monday 25.3

Welcome to Malarky Monday!
I’m  hoping you get the idea by now.
After visiting here, click the links to the Malarky Monday gang and laugh your pants off!

This week is all about annoying things.
I’ve dealt with many lately so this post seemed natural in the overall scheme of things.

Yeah, fruit can be annoying.
And be annoyed . . .

There’s nothing more annoying than being chased by a 10-point buck loaded
with heat-seeking missiles.
I love .gif images . . .

Cell phones?
Especially when playing ‘You oughta know’
by Alanis Morissette.
God, she’s annoying . . .

Finally, there is nothing more annoying than
a woman that badly needs some mustache wax.
Her husband looks like he’s going to get his ass kicked when they get home.
Click on the picture to go to the website . . .

Now off you go!

& Happy Malarky Monday!

Malarky Monday 25.2

Welcome to Malarky Monday!
(the *I Spy edition)
This is the one day of the week that we offer up some
of the crazy stuff we find floating around the web.
We hope to make you giggle, spit, laugh, cry until it hurts and ultimately smile.
There’s nothing here that will take a boatload of time so be sure to visit
my fellows in hijinx!


This week I ‘spied’ some serious and epic fails on the net.
Here are several leviathan food fails.
Anyone for some canned chicken?
I spy wicked disgusting.

How about a bacon rifle?
I wonder if it can fire a fried egg?
I spy a stupid guy way too proud of a pork product.

Or my personal favorite: Meat Water
Mmm, mmm, mmm
You just can’t beat the combination of ground beef and aged cheddar.
I didn’t even mention the ease of portability.
Got ketchup?
I spy a drink that’s light years away from thirst quenching.

Last but not least this hysterical cat clip.
I spy a seriously funny cat.



Happy Malarky Monday!

High Five

It was 5 years ago that I hit the ‘publish’ button for this post.
Many things have happened since that innocent and ‘so me’ post.
I like to think my writing has matured a bit and that I have taken many of you
on my journey down the road of life.
I want to thank each and every one of you for being a part of my life (good or bad)
for the past 5 years.
You have enlightened me, guided me, made me laugh and have given me solace when I needed it most.
You guys are incredible.
I will pat myself on the back for blatant consistency.
I think I can give me that.
There are several people I need to deeply thank.
Pamela, for believing in me when I no longer believe in myself. (and letting me know about it)
My three girls for keeping me on my  toes. Always.
For Jon, he keeps me cooking. I love cooking,
He is a man that will drive through hell and high water to have a bowl of my Cincinnati Chili,
Thanks, Jon
Last but not least, my family from Australia.
Maureen, Mark, Kelly.Zoe, Mel, Steve, Tash, Stick, Wil, Stella, Lucas, Issac, Max and all!
(who did I miss?)
Thanks to all that have visited and commented.
Read some ”’old”” Murph  . . . .
And watch the video at the end!


This is a piece I wrote several years ago but still seems to me to apply to the present day music industry.
I am still a musician at heart but venues to work in are drying up faster than a droplet of water in a bucket of dry sand.
It’s an abysmal state of affairs these days musically and sadly we all saw it coming.
Some say business is cyclical. I wonder.
Hey, Paul McCartney played the halftime show Super Bowl Sunday, right?

Remembering Miss American Pie

The musicians of the 60’s and 70’s had a wealth of powerful and insightful compositions from which to draw their inspiration. The songs had shine and creative musical integrity that would forever set them apart from today’s musical mainstream.
The music spoke of the dynamic of the human experience; from love found and lost to political innuendo shaking hands with world peace.
The older generation frowned upon these freedoms of expression and saw the music created as an irrevocable evil to be stamped out in the hopes of ending the reign of terror that floated over the airwaves.
From the shaking hips of Elvis to the Mop-Tops from England to the androgynous and enigmatic David Bowie, the music written back then made us think and connect; it gave us an up close and personal view of the broken heart.
So what the hell happened to perceptive content?
Music, in its purest form is therapy, a most fundamental discipline of meditation the human race has, but along the way we altered the magic formula, ultimately changing its destiny as well.
It’s supposed to make you feel good.
Just think of a song that truly means something to you, take out a piece of paper, and jot down five things that come to mind immediately.
Chances are you can come up with more than ten.
That’s the miracle of music; when something unexpected touches the heart.
Much of what I hear today is tainted, biased and so musically inept that when I hear one of these prized gems, I can only wildly shake my head and slobber saliva like an angry PBR bull (which tends to make loved ones around me very uncomfortable).
A rule of thumb for future songwriters regarding lyrics: if it rhymes with shucking but has nothing to do with corn, get out a thesaurus and find another word.
The English language is chock full of them. Really.
It seems that few people write real songs anymore; that is a simple and yet sobering fact, not a generality. If it weren’t for artists like John Mayer and Dave Matthews, I’d have lost my mind by now.
Much of the music today is like bad poetry, arranged, set to a groove from the late eighties, and thrown into a 4,000 track, all digital recorder (yes, all the tracks must be used, read the contract).
Recently, while listening to a song on a brand X radio station out of Boston—the exact frequency slips my mind…you’re welcome—I remember thinking to myself, what language is this guy speaking?
I strained to hear anything remotely intelligible.
Musically speaking, the song was as mundane and pedestrian as an arrangement that oozes from a generic portable keyboard purchased at Wal-Mart.
I also thought that somewhere in the midst of this urban cacophony, I could hear the sound of a dog being run over and over, and over again… I’m not positive about that and maybe it’s just me. Somebody call the ASPCA.
The inspiration for this article came to me as I ambled down Main Street a few weeks ago (us old guys don’t walk, we amble…it’s much hipper) when a pulsating sub-compact Toyota Celica loaded with what sounded like two, maybe three 18-inch subwoofers drove past me towards City Hall, emitting music so thunderous it almost knocked down the lady walking next to me.
Initially, I thought it was just wind.
I didn’t get the license plate number because I was too busy bending over to retrieve my own two eyeballs off the sidewalk.
Sound pressure levels that can cause buildings to vibrate precariously…hmm, I wondered if the Slater Building was up to code on that one.
Nope, we are definitely not in Kansas anymore, Toto.
Then there’s the whole debacle surrounding present day artists hiding behind the 5th amendment, and we all can see what a gush of rotting sewage that is, but it doesn’t mean we have to buy a bucketful of it.
When a major proportion of the music available has a “parental advisory” sticker slapped on it, what’s left for those of us who prefer substance in what we listen to?
Maybe we need a special store that caters to people fed up with listening to music and lyrics that insult our intelligence with the glorification of worthless profanity while wasting our hard earned money on garbage that someone in the recording industry somehow deemed fit for human consumption. Bon appétit.
Maybe I’m not meant to understand what all the hype and excitement in the industry is about these days, because I’m no longer a child.
But there’s always that outside chance that as I struggle with my own foreseeable mid-life crisis, I’ll pleasantly discover that perhaps I’ve grown a little bit wiser in the process.
Just watch the Grammy Awards this year for a taste of the ultimate in garishness.
In the end, the music we choose to listen to and support should remain solely in the hands of the listener, but the overall message that it brings should be more of a boon to society as opposed to an outrage against the machine.
Comedian George Carlin hit the proverbial nail on the head when he stated that, “…inside every silver lining, there’s a dark cloud.”
Get out your umbrellas, kids; it looks like rain.


Happy 5 To S&M!!!!!!!
See you for the next five years . . .
I hope!

Malarky Monday 21

Welcome to Malarky Monday!
This is the one day of the week that ‘teh Blogocracy‘ tries to get you to smile and laugh
your way to work.
We are always looking for a few more crazy bloggers that think they have what it takes
to do one zany post a week.
Do you have what it takes?
Send me an email if you’re interested.
More traffic, more fun, more laughs.
This week I had to post something I found years ago on the net.
I laughed myself silly reading this.
It’s a review of a very old frozen TV dinner that doesn’t turn out too well.
It’s gross and disgusting and funny as all hell.
I did NOT write this and give total attribution to Mobius.

The Mexican TV Dinner from Hell!


“Being the poor, jobless, and hungry sap that I am,
I will often resort to eating things that I otherwise would not want to be eating.
Still, there is a point where I draw the line, and on this night, that point was most definitely reached.
It was 12pm and I was hungry.
After scouring the cupboards I found a package of Lipton fettuccini alfredo, but to my dismay we were out of milk, which was needed to make it. So I grabbed this TV dinner out of the back of the freezer.
I cooked it exactly as specified by the back of the box,
but still, this so-called dinner fell far short of my standards for an edible meal.
The first indication that this meal was to be a catastrophe was the fact that it was 98% fat free
(and by my guess, 98% not food)”
[how very right you are.]

“As you can see here, the finished product looked nothing like the well painted plastic food on the cover of the box.
The food is pushed around and cut up a bit from my initial attempt to consume the foul looking concoction.
After careful inspection though, I deemed the food to be unsafe for consumption.”
[Unsafe? There’s an understatement if ever I heard one.]



“The beans were the first item that I inspected.
Now, It is my understanding that refried beans are not supposed to be crunchy or brittle.
I don’t know what Don Miguel is trying to pull here,
but these are obviously not refried beans like the ones on the cover of the box.
The directions said to stir the beans, but these did not stir; they crumbled.”
[the beans look like Pepperidge Farm turkey stuffing!]

“The Spanish rice was probably the closest thing to food in the meal, but like the beans, it was totally dried out.
It was all clumped together as well. In fact, it was more of a rice cake than just plain rice.
Another thing I noticed was the fact that the rice on the box had diced peppers in it,
but there were none in my rice that I could find.”

[Maybe you could use the rice cluster as a pendant?]


“The main entree was by far the scariest part of the dinner tray.
The so-called chicken enchiladas contained little if any chicken,
and were primarily filled with a strange mucous-like substance, which I was unable to identify.
The corn tortilla it was wrapped in was soggy on the bottom and crunchy on the top.
The cheese and sauce had mostly boiled into a hard mass around the edge of the container.”
[Anatomy & Physiology 1 here I come!]


“And just what the fuck is this supposed to be?”
[No comment. Uhh, a nasty snail?]


“I certainly wasn’t going to eat this crap, but still, I couldn’t let it go to waste could I?
After all, there are plenty of starving children in Zimbabwe that would kill for a feast like this.
So, I did the next best thing to shipping it off to some third world country— I fed it to my dog.”
[Lucky doggie!]


“Now that’s one happy pooch!”
[not so fast Mobius!]



Happy Malarky Monday folks!
Please visit ‘teh Blogocracy’ and make your Malarky Monday complete!

Moe (awesome!)
Morky (filthy and awesome!)
Dilligaf (filthy, awesome and always bloody outrageous!)



This is some awesome video with stuff blowing up.
Nothing like getting right to the point, eh?
It’s a guy thing so don’t ask me to explain it.
And I know, this has ‘cheat post’ written all over it.
You gotta admit, I keep it cool.
Click on the full screen and put on headphones for an Avatar-like experience.
Knuckles all around, boys . . .
Blow it up!

Malarky Monday 14

Amazing how fast a week goes these days.
It is once again Malarky Monday and the day we try to tickle your funny bone.
We are excited this week to have a new addition to MM in Diligaf.
Be sure to visit these crazy folks and troll their short list of archives.
Word on the street is that this week’s offering is outrageous.
Some awesome and hilarious stuff to be found there even though the blog is relatively young.
Anywhoo, have a blast with my finds this week.

First up is a very short commercial for Danier Leather.
I just love everything about this video (especially the brunette in the slinky dress)
Crank the sound for a great blues tune as well.
And be sure to watch to the very end.

And cats will be cats.
Even at Christmas . . .

And dogs will be dogs doing what they naturally do.
Even at Christmas . . .
Hey, at least the tree is taken care of.

And finally I thought I would help you out with some last minute email cards.



for the Top 5 funniest.

Now, please hop on your cyberspatial sleigh and visit my partners in crime:




Happy Malarky Monday, folks!


It is during this time of the year that I generally go into an emotional cocoon;
my own kind of hibernation and self preservation mode.
December 1st until January 2nd, my internal sensors (censors) go into a Lockdown setting.
Life is hectic, loud and screaming with white and pink noise.
I need a celestial graphic EQ (equalizer) to take out the nasty sonic peaks and hisses of the daily grind.
Ah, were it that easy.
Maybe there’s an app on the Iphone for that. 😉
The only place that I can find some silent respite is when I fall asleep.
But sometimes even sleep doesn’t work.
The other night (this just came to me now) I was dreaming that I was standing in the middle of some godforsaken superhighway with cars and trucks whizzing by me at what seemed to be light-year speeds.
I could feel wind on my face but the cars and 18-wheelers were just horizontal blurs of colour.
I was frozen, frightened and couldn’t move without getting reduced to a platter of road kill.
I did finally wake up at 3:03AM.
My skin was clammy and I was thirsty.
I went downstairs and got a glass of water and back up to bed where I began tossing and turning my nocturnal thoughts like a mad chef tosses a freshly ordered Caesar Salad.
At 5AM I got up and made coffee.
The act of trying to sleep was maddening.
This dream was symbolic for me and the perfect allegory of my life.
It also made me think of a story someone once told me.
It could have been told to me by my mother – but like my dream’s unknown ending, I just can’t remember.
I do remember the story though.
Its author is unknown so I’ve taken the liberty of changing the POV.
This story inspires me and brings hope to the heart because a worldly truth is that we are all in this thing together.

I was at the end of my rope. Seeing no way out I dropped to my knees in prayer.

“Lord, I can’t go on,” I said, “I have too heavy a cross to bear.”

The Lord replied, “My child, if you can’t bear its weight, just place your cross inside this room. Then open another door and pick up any cross you wish.”

I was filled with relief.

“Thank you, Lord,” I sighed, and did as I was told.

As I looked around the room I saw many crosses, some so large the tops were not visible.
Then I spotted a tiny cross leaning against a far wall.

“I’d like that one, Lord,” I whispered.

The Lord replied, “My son, that’s the cross you just brought in.”

During this holiday season, it is my hope and prayer that the burdens you carry in your hearts today will seem lighter and somehow more distant tomorrow.
Pax . . .

*the picture I used for this post was taken by Amanda Lucier.
Click here to learn more about this amazing photojournalist and the story behind the photo.

Malarkey Monday 10

My vacation week is sadly over but Malarkey Monday is right on schedule.
This week I found a few musical things that made me think and laugh.
Several weeks ago Morky did a MM entry on Postman Pat.
It was brilliant.
For weeks afterward I couldn’t get the frigging song out of my head.
Until a few days ago.
Let me introduce you to ‘Narwhals’ (click here for the narwhal Wiki page)

Bobby McFerrin is a very talented singer/musician that has been around for many years.
Don’t judge him by his ‘Don’t Worry, be Happy’ days.
Not only is he incredibly gifted musically, he can be a lot of fun too.
This video makes me believe that we ultimately all in this thing (called ‘life’) together.
This is McFerrin at the 2009 World Science Festival demonstrating the awesome power of music.
Watch, listen and smile.

Please visit my fellow Malarkers for much more tomfoolery.



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