Category Archives: the mindlab

A quick thought on RoboCop

I rewatched RoboCop (1987) with my wife not too long ago. Having grown up with the film and watched it countless times, it’s a film I admittedly have a hard time being objective about. After the fight with ED-209, my wife asked how much of the film was left, and was surprised we had a ways to go. Rightly, she pointed out that the plotting was uneven. This got me to thinking, the film is structured like a video game with 3 different “enemies” or “level bosses”. This isn’t to say the writers, producers, etc. had Castlevania and the ilk on their minds when penning the script, but a quick scan of the video games that came out in 1987 concurrent with the movie would suggest my own experience of it at the time would have not been unlike the games I was playing on Nintendo, Sega, and in the Arcade.

And for what it’s worth, Arrow Video’s reissue of the film is amazing.

RoboCop (1987)
RoboCop (1987) Arrow Video Steelbook

Bird strike

Approximately 47 years ago, back in May of 2020, during the ‘early days’ of the pandemic, we had a bird strike. This was the most exciting thing that happened that week—most definitely the most exciting thing for the cats.

I noticed a small bird on our 2nd floor balcony. We called the local Dept. of Natural Resources, who informed us that we should let the bird sit for about an hour. They usually recover in that time period. If not, chances were slim that the bird would survive. They also gave us some locations we could take the bird to if it needed some sort of care, though the guy asked what type of bird it was. His reasoning was that if it was a nuisance species, whatever bird sanctuary we took it too would probably kill it. Merlin Bird identified it as a Brown Creeper.

We decided to let birdo sit on the deck, and sure enough, about an hour later, it started moving around. It hopped across the decking a bit, pooped, and then decided to scale the screen door. When it started to move, the cats noticed it. They lost it. It was quite humorous, as both cats wanted to get the bird, but when Neutron got too close to Alice, Alice would swat Neutron, and Neutron would get offended that she didn’t have unfettered access to the window to watch the bird.

The bird rested on the screen a bit, pooped again, and then flew off.

Turd on the Run

Sometimes it amazes me that one of the biggest rock and roll bands of all time, The Rolling Stones, on one of their definitive albums, Exile on Main St., released a song called Turd on the Run.

Turd on the Run

I guess I should not be surprised that in the 48 years that have passed since that song was released, it has never been played live on tour.

Addendum: A cactus story

I recently wrote a brief history of a cactus I own. There were two more pictures of the cactus during and immediately after the repotting process that I just found. I have updated the original post, but for those who don’t want to reread it to look at the two new pictures, they are below.

First up is the main cactus and the small cutting removed from the pot. The main cactus was replanted up to the top of the brown part on the base.

This the cactus pup, not shown above, immediately after planting. It was always very green, but at first it was very shriveled.

A cactus story

I have a cactus that I got some time ago. I think it came from our house in Salisbury, possibly from Dad’s office when he was still working. That part I am unsure of. This is possibly an early sighting of it from 2005 when it was still in Salisbury.

At some point, it moved in with me while I was living in the Philadelphia area. Here is a shot of it on the windowsill (2012), about 8 months before I moved from Pennsylvania. It looks very green, nice and healthy.

I don’t have many pictures of it in the intervening years. I did not intend to document the life and times of a cactus. It moved with me to Ohio, and then again to our house in Cleveland. At some point, it started to get a bit yellow at spots. You can’t see it in this photo, but it had started around this time (2016).1

The cactus continued to look worse and worse over the next 2-3 years. I didn’t know what to do. I continued to water it to no avail. Finally, I looked up how to repot and transplant cactuses. I then proceeded to wait a few more months to do anything before I finally took action. Here is what the cactus looked like at that point in time, one year ago in 2019.

Notice how most of it is dead. There was a quadrant of it that was still yellowish-green, and a tiny cactus pup on one of the rightmost stalks that was still green. It’s also a bit hard to see, but one of the yellowish-green stalks on the left had been broken, but it was still alive. It was time for surgery.

Upon removing the cactus from the pot, I realized it was originally 3 cuttings. Two had completely died except for the little cactus pup—he got cut off. The remaining original cutting was cleaned and set aside. The broken nub was also cut off. You are supposed to let the cuttings callous and dry out for a few weeks before repotting, so that was what I did. I didn’t expect any of them to make it. The cactus pup was only about 1/2″ long, the little cut knob was maybe 1″, and the main cutting didn’t look great.

Here is the main cactus and the small cutting removed from the pot. The main cactus was replanted up to the top of the brown part on the base.

This the cactus pup, not shown above, immediately after planting. It was always very green, but also very shriveled.

Nothing really happened for about 6–8 weeks. Then they slowly started to get greener. The main cutting was first as it had already had developed roots. Then surprisingly the little cactus pup started to plump up and get a little taller. The following two pictures are from about 2 months after repotting. The other small cutting took a bit longer, but also started to turn greener and plumper.

By the end of the year, 6 months after repotting, everything was looking really great. The original cactus was growing new nubs, the cactus pup (in the center) was actually bigger than the cutting that was originally twice its size, and the cutting (on the right) was coming along nicely as well.

I’m sure they have more to grow. As they stand now, the originally cactus is about 8″ tall, the 1/2″ cactus pup is now 4″ (in the middle again), and the cutting is about 2.5″. They all have new nubs growing off of them. It’s quite amazing.


I found two more pictures of the cactus and have inserted them into this post. The changes are summarized in the addendum.

  1. Yes, those are the same succulents to the left of the cat that are in the previous photo as well. They are still alive and kicking. 

Shaving: Pt. 4 – the final chapter?

Several years ago, Mike made the comment that since our dad had a beard, the instruction on shaving when we were younger was slightly lacking. He wanted me to write something about it. We ended up writing a few posts on it: part 1, part 2, and part 3.

It was a somewhat timely discussion as I had grown tired of shaving with the Mach 3 and switched over to an old Sensor Excel. As I chronicled in part 1 and part 3, the blades became hard to get and I had to move to the disposable version.

Shortly thereafter, Mike got me a double bladed safety razor with a assortment of blades. During the government shutdown of 2019, I taught myself to shave with it (very few cuts!), and settled on which blades I like. I’m here to report that while it does take a tiny bit longer to shave with one of these, and I still need to keep the disposables around for when I travel, the double bladed safety razor is far superior for me than standard cartridge razors.

For what it’s worth, the blades I decided to keep around the house are Gillette Platinums, Bic Chrome Platinums, and Feather Hi-Stainless. The Feathers are the most expensive, but can be a bit harsh if you aren’t careful. The Gillette blades might be a tiny bit nicer than the Bic’s, but I alternate between the two without really noticing any difference. I have to be a bit more careful with the Feathers.

I toss a blade after 6 shaves, 3 uses per side. I shave every other day, so a blade lasts 12 days. I could easily go longer as I notice no specific degradation after 6 uses. The Feather blades were $25 (including shipping) for 100 blades. The Gillettes were $16/100 and the Bics were $14/100. They really are cheap. ebay is where I purchased them all.

Lastly, I like the basic pre-shave cream and soap that Mike got me, the Proraso. I’ve tried the green and the white, and they are both nice. The alum block irritated my skin, so I stopped using it.

At some point, I’ll buy 1000 blades or so, and be set for the rest of my life.

Utility Boxes

I spent about an hour over the weekend trying to figure out the correct terminology for what I now believe to be referred to as a “utility box”. Power box, phone box, or electric box — utility box does cover all those bases. As kids we called it the “green box”, and there was one at the end of the street I grew up on where we’d meet, sit, and hang out.

This is not a utility box you could hang out on, but it is in somewhat dense growth of foliage.

Utility Box in Bush

Out of the Abyss

It was October, 2015. We started playing Out of the Abyss in our weekly D&D game. On April 5th, 2020, we finally finished it. Granted, we took a 13 month hiatus at the midpoint of the campaign where I traded off DM duties and we played a variety of other games including The Sprawl, Pete’s home brew, and possibly something Mike ran. Nevertheless, we played Out of the Abyss over the course of four and a half years and about 75-80 sessions, from cover to cover.

I didn’t do the greatest job DMing it, nor was I quite up to the task of running such a sandboxy campaign properly. I liked the story; it was very ambitious. I do wish more was explicitly revealed to the characters through the written adventure, as I did not fully portray the extent of corruption and madness that had pervaded the Underdark. Nevertheless, it was relatively enjoyable and reasonable well written .1

There were quite a few memorable moments, but the top one for me was probably the spider drop.

Onwards and upwards. Mike is going to run the Goodman Games rewrite of Expedition to the Barrier Peaks next. After that, who knows. Pete or Brian might want to run something short2, and then I’m planning on running Descent into Avernus.

  1. I will say I did not understand the ordering of the final few chapters. Menzoberranzan was a chapter too early in my opinion, and frankly could have been cut out completely. It’s way to rich of a setting for a chapter to do it proper justice, and by the time it shows up in the adventure, it’s time to fight demon lords, not mess around with Underdark city intrigue. 

  2. Pete should do some edition of Gamma World