Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Haunted Halloween, Whoniverse!

            Yeah, I said "Haunted" and "Whoniverse" in the same sentence!  Mostly because this is a quickie that will hopefully cover both the Doctor Who cosplay event AND the Historic Haunts tour I took, and it will be just funny enough to tide you over for Halloween AND the first 9 days of November (including Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead).  So, instead of going blabbity blah, let's get right to it!  I've got the Necrofusion full album here (which is by Zak Bagans + Praga Khan), which is OPTIONAL for you!  (If it's too distracting, do some DJ Lorn, with Ancient Realms: Atlantis or Ancient Realms: Anasazi!)  WARNING: Lots of pictures here, so if you are having a hard time loading up pictures, I suggest you try using a laptop or a desktop computer and not some iWhatever device you're using.

Who Was Whose Doctor?  Why I Should Have a TARDIS!!!

            The inaugural Doctor Who cosplay event on Saturday, October 18th, 2014, was pretty good: people showed up in costume that were creative, and I was surprised at how creative they were in their choices.  Let me be honest, though: I should've started way earlier than I did.  I was super stressed, wanting some actual awesome costume to wear.  I was so desperate that I was frantically scanning through ThinkGeek for Whovian goodies.  I wound up wearing a DoctorWho-INSPIRED outfit rather than a full on costume, which actually made Dad a little happy.  It was original, but totally painful for my feet as I was wearing Converse high-tops that did not fit me very well.  Maybe I should've applied duct tape to the situation……

            Anyways, despite showing up LATE and missing most of the action (hence the need for an actual TARDIS with Gallifreyan time-travel technology!), people were there dressed as Doctor Rory, Amy, a Dalek, a Cyberman (there were 2 Cybermen, actually), Captain Jack Harkness……  Even Dan and Kris got in on the cosplay action: Kris was Madame Kovarian and Dan could alternate between a Silence (without the hands) and an infected gas mask-wearing medical doctor from the two-parter "The Empty Child/TheDoctor Dances".

            But just dressing up wasn't enough: Dan and Kris even decked out the store in Whovian decorations, with a (cardboard) TARDIS out front, the gravestones for Mr. and Mrs. Pond, Clara Oswald, and River Song, the Face of Bo, the Doctor's non-fightin' hand….  Some chilled bottled Waters of Mars, some Whovian cupcakes and even marshmallow Adipose pops were available for sale in case you get famished or thirsty, with a scavenger hunt available to cure boredom, with a color/draw-your-own-TARDIS activity for the kids!

            My initial assesment: 4 plungers out of 5.  I could've been there earlier, but that's my own damn fault; I would've gotten great pictures of great costumes between noon and 3pm EDT!  Other businesses had stuff going on, like a London Fog tea available at the café two doors down, and the salon doing Whovian nail designs; I also missed them!  DAVROS DAMMIT!  Next time, after creating a ton of Adipose with my mass, I most certainly WILL have a costume ready!
           MARK MY WORDS, SAXON!  *Schwarzneggar accent* I'LL BE BAHCK!!!!!

(more pictures from the cosplay event is available here: https://flic.kr/s/aHsk5QbwvD )

Historic Haunts: The Return of the Damned Blogger

            I hope people remember my post about going on the Historic Haunts tour last year.  I decided to go again this year, but with Papa Spock's camera!  This very decision has consequences, however.  I had opted for the camera for one reason: the possibility of capturing something paranormal in an image.  What I wound up with is much different and weirder from when I started—THE ESSENCE OF EVERY GOOD JOURNEY!  Or is it documentary?  Not sure; I should ask Morgan Spurlock….  *picks up that name she dropped, gently prodding it to do more episodes of Inside Man on CNN*

            Anyways, it's the same stops as before, but the details are a little bit different, mostly because I didn't have the awesome tour guide who wore a kilt last year.  This year, it was a lady in a bit of a Victorian Gothic ensemble.  Currently second-best choice, in my opinion.  Then again, I was not paying as much attention this year because I was instead trying to take pictures for my blog post about this tour.  Cue EXASPERATED SIGH!!!!

            First thing I noticed when I reached location number 1 (Brethren House): we're all holding candles, we're all following this interestingly dressed character around town, listening to tales of history and the weird happenings of what's not necessarily considered scientific and holding candles while we go through.  Either this is a special traditional journey that has a hint of a religious vibe (as in the candle-lit vigils olden day friends of mine have attended for their churches)……or we look like a fucking cult here.  Seriously, tell me if we look like a cult!

Do you get what I mean?!  Thanks, Jenny Lawson aka the Bloggess, for inspiring that bit of crazy thinking!  I can't wait for the brainwashing to be completed so that I, too, may be collecting weird taxidermy and get raised eyebrows during the annual inspection done by the apartment building's management whenever we get too damn comfortable!  Maybe your husband Victor (who's always wrong—unless he's obviously right) can do the inspection this year—just to make it fun!

            Anyways, more pictures here include us walking, tour guide's "preaching" and nothing out of the ordinary—so far…..

            We hit God's Acre (a cemetery surrounded by school buildings, in case you forgot), and for me, it was photography central!  I wound up staying farther behind to take pictures, hoping to CATCH SOMETHING!!!!!!  *flails*  I think I did….because I took this picture—AIN'T IT PURDY?!

And I took this second one just in case of false positives:

Huh….That's weird…..I'm sure that there weren't any bugs around…  And I doubt that there's any dust in this cemetery.  I am also sure that the lens of the camera was clear…..  Let's take a closer look:

And then I went back to the previous picture…..

Pardon the poor editing—My Photoshop skills are severely lacking….but I lined it up best I could!

            Anyways, ORBS!  Very controversial manifestationof spirit energy.  Most orbs caught in photos and videos are actually just dust particles and bugs and what-not.  In fact, Zak Bagans and Nick Groff each say (in their books) that 95-97% of all orbs captured on film (static or video) are bugs or dust particles or lens flares or whatever and easy to debunk.  It's that remaining 3-5% that is totally weird: they emit their own light, are not caused by any light reflecting off of a random bug or some dust, they manifest IN FRAME, and move in intelligent patterns at times.

            I'm not entirely sure that I caught an ACTUAL orb, and verification on whether I did or not would be appreciated.  (FUCK OFF, TROLLS!)  But in any case, the POSSIBILITY is there!

            After the cemetery, we swung by Boyd Theater (which I hope gets back up and running; please, potential investors!  Help bring this historic icon of Bethlehem, PA, back to life!) and the Hells' Fargo:

FIXED!  Lol, I'm kidding, Wells Fargo!

And then passed through that pedestrian alley by the Underground Lair (Wow, how much advertising are they getting just from me mentioning their store in my blog?!) to get to the Sun Inn.

            Before I tell you about the next photo, let me tell you right now……I AM FINE!  I AM OKAY!  You can tell by my tweets!

And it was all my Davros-damn fault for doing this: I was trying to get a picture of the tour guide in front of the back end of the Sun Inn from a point of view towards the ground angled up—like a worm's eye view type of shot.  I was also holding a LIT candle, and it wasn't one of those fake ones that is powered by batteries and working light bulbs; this is ACTUAL fire burning an ACTUAL wick that's part of an ACTUAL candle made of ACTUAL wax wearing an ACTUAL clear plastic cup used to catch wax drippings so that said drippings don't burn our hands.  I was not paying attention to the way I was holding the candle, and inadvertently held it too close to my hair, setting my hair on fire.  I heard it, felt the flames lightly lick my cheek, and yelped, quickly putting it out with the bare hand that was NOT holding the candle.  *shudders*  I finally went through that rite of passage of setting my own hair on fucking FIRE, which is an experience that stays with you for the rest of your life!  All just to get this shot:

            I was able to check after the tour was over to see if I was burnt (because I didn't feel pain; yeah, adrenaline is fun like that) or not, and seeing what the damage was, I was also able to breathe a small sigh of relief.  Yeah, burning your hair is not fun, but it's even worse if you ACTUALLY get burnt flesh in the process.  I even reassured everyone that I'm okay, and that it was just my hair and ego that were burnt (like I said in my tweets).  No need for an incident report for something as stupid as what I had done!  Seriously, I'm not one of those crazy people who live to sue everyone for every imperfection in their lives!
            Hi!  I'm Lady Eden Pyrithea, your substitute Smokey the Bear mascot, and I say that fire only belongs on the grill, in campfires and in fire tornadoes.  DON'T BURN OUR FORESTS OR HAIR!!!  #INCINERATE

            So, back to the Sun Inn, after carefully eyeing the candle for the rest of the tour, and taking a picture at the HISTORIC Hotel Bethlehem (which still has a Room With a Boo I would LOVE to stay in; in fact, I dare skeptics—especially Bad Astronomy blogger Phil Plait—to spend a couple nights in this room.  Yeah, it's expensive and got a HUGE waiting list, but I swear, the memories will be WELL worth it!), I was able to head home, call Papa Spock to inform him of the events that took place within that hour and take my second shower of the day.  It was a long day, and I swear, despite the short burst of fear and panic I had, it was……okay.  I disliked the amount of issues I had prior to the tour (Buses should NOT break while people are in transit to their audiologist appointment; the bus drivers should also NOT take ten minutes to stop the fucking bus and try and fix it themselves, due to said people being ALREADY late to their audiologist appointment and do not need to be even later!), but I have to quickly sum it up as a VERY LONG DAY.  I was so tired that I wound up falling asleep on my own couch after the shower and a mug full of milk.

            Seriously, I should get a reward for surviving all that.  Not something big, just…maybe, a new pair of headphones that are long overdue?  Or a large tub of delicious mint gelato decorated with cannolis?

            Out of exhaustion, I say BLEHHHH.  Anyhow, I hope everyone enjoys their Halloween (which is my BIRTHDAY!  Yeah, totally my birthday!  Just like Vanilla Ice!  And the two other babies that were delivered that same day in that same hospital I was born at, all scheduled at the same time because the obstetrician was about to go on vacation, which turned it all into a race! #FIRST) while I spend it with my parents before heading out on another trip to locations within my sector.  Remember last year, when I spent a snowed-in Doctor Who Day at a hotel in Pittsburgh that SHOULD HAVE an elevator in it and not just be a converted apartment complex?  Yeah, it's same that trip again, only with a real hotel with a REAL elevator (not just an imaginary one), and it's much earlier in the month.  Bonus: I get to bring my dice rolling game, and possibly get Mama Squirrel and Papa Spock to bring the Princess Bride game I gave them for last Christmas on this trip.  Hopefully, we'll get to have a Starbucks Popular-Seattle-based-coffee-shop-chain gaming night again.  It was fun trying to conquer Tokyo, but perhaps we can play some other games, like said Princess Bride game or my Roll For It game or……some other game.  It was fun—CAN WE PLEASE DO IT AGAIN?!

            Anyways, while I'm gone (and absently publishing a blog post scheduled to be released next week), I hope you ENJOY YOUR HEALTHY HALLOWEEN TACQUITO!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Contagion—Part Deux: The RECKONING (Or The Vaccination Recommendation)

            I know it's been a while since I posted that rant about wisdom teeth and their lack of valid purpose, but I had take the time to recuperate and clean my apartment.  Which I did.  A lot.  By sleeping in and taking the proper amount of pain pills and getting hooked on the new CBS docudrama </scorpion>, after Mom refused to let me watch FOX's Sleepy Hollow on their LCD HDTV.  But the break was worth it, even though the Pre-Op Gremlin Diet was a pain in the ass, I had to chew on one side of my mouth for a while, there was no liquid diet (so as to not let my jaw lock up, according to the doctor) and I'm stuck being round with no way of getting a Nutritional Counselor through the Adult Autism Waiver.  Yippee.
            On the bright side, I now have a real doctor (a Primary Care Provider and not a pediatrician, if you will) and he's genuinely concerned about my health.  And after the initial new patient appointment, I'm ready for this year's flu season.  And if I'm ready, and you're not ready, well….you're fucked because I'm not going to be your nursemaid unless I'm the only healthy person left in the world and left with no choice.  Especially if you're against vaccinations for various reasons; which brings me to offering this (optional) full Contagion soundtrack for this blog post on the importance of vaccines, Autistic Spectrum Disorders not being caused by them, and how everyone is panicking over frickin' Ebola.

            If you're like me, you rely on modern medicine and science to keep you alive and healthy for a lot longer than the Dark Ages of childhood.  Seriously, science has been advancing medicine and medical practices to the point where we can treat diseases with proper procedures and improve the outlook of cancer patients without the application of bloodletting and establishment of haunted quarantine facilities located on islands made of human ash (*cough, cough, whisper* Povegliaaaaaaa…..).  Anyways, unless you have a compromised immune system that requires careful monitoring and drug cocktails that turn druggies green with envy (and nausea), we're doing great!  Mostly….  Unfortunately, there are always crackpots (on pot) spouting bullshit from both ends.

            Let's address the first issue: the Ebola Panic Pandemic!

E-BOLA: Not Just a Bowling-Themed Computer Virus

            Lately, there has been a lot of uncertainty with a particular virus that manifested in Western Africa.  Ebola has been the subject of news channels for the past few days (maybe even weeks), and with the help of idiots of the Fox News Channel, panic is being spread faster than the flu virus in a room full of phlegmers.  Seriously, just tune in at any point of the day and you'll see them talking about either ISIS (a valid concern, but only if it's without the Obama Blame-a-thon) or the Ebola virus, saying that it'll make you bleed from every orifice, that it will cause delirium, that it will make your dick sprout wings and fly off!!!!  (Thank you, South Park gluten episode, for that joke.)  Seriously, the experts are saying that it's not super, super, super airborne contagious, Fox News Idiots!  Why continue with the fear-mongering even after their repeated statements that basically translate to "CHILL DA FUCK OUT"?!

            And before the conspiracy theorists start flooding the comments box with statements of, "They are just saying that to make it so you can get sick and the doctors and medical practitioners and pharmaceutical companies can get a lot of business and profit from this outbreak," please do yourself a favor and read the fucking Hippocratic Oath carefully; lying to hurt us or get us sick is a violation of that oath.  I kid you not, it is often believed that part of that oath says, "I will do no harm."  Any deliberate actions to cause harm (even to make money off of it, though most of the money comes from the insurance companies) is considered malpractice.  Or fraud.  Or something along those lines—Dr. Drew, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, back me up here, please!

            So, even though there was one case of Ebola in Dallas, Texas (and many more in Africa), I doubt that it's going to spread like zombie wildfire.  There could be one other person, but only if they have been exposed to an Ebola-infected individual's bodily fluids, including but not limited to blood, feces, urine, or spit.  Just calm down, breathe and stop reading WebMD; you'll just freak out more.  (That goes double—no, triple for you, Jenny Lawson!)  Unless you're a doctor or nurse, stay away from yellow people you see bleeding weirdly—and call emergency services, because even though they appear to be the victim of the Horseman of Pestilence, they're still human and deserve a fair chance at surviving this illness.  (Unfortunately, it's too late to save the Simpsons' universe; they're all jaundiced!  OH MY DAVROS, THEY ALL HAVE CANCER!!!!!)

            Which reminds me: who is the last person to touch my hand sanitizer?!  *flails*

Vaccinations: A Good Defense Makes a Mighty Fine and Painful Offense

            Vac∙cine—n. (vak'-sēn) a modified and hence harmless virus or other microorganism for inoculation to produce immunity to a disease by stimulating antibody production.

Yeah, that definition excerpt is from the Webster's Universal English Dictionary that I got as a gift one Christmas.  It's been handy for looking up words I don't understand or want to share the definition of.  And this definition definitely has the demand for sharing.

            Ever since the dawn of the commercially available Interwebz, there has been a rise in a virulent strain of crazy people who insist that vaccines are more harmful to children (and other people) than the illness it "supposedly" helps the population create an immunity in response to.  I'm serious, with Jenny McCarthy (Wow, that name sounds familiar!) writing books (that get published) about how she "discovered" the "link" between autism and vaccines—which is complete bullshit—there has been a rise in stubborn ignorance and stupidity!  And I'm on the Autism Spectrum; I can verify how bullshitty this reasoning is!

            Let's start from the beginning: I have an Autistic Spectrum Disorder diagnosis of Asperger's (under DSM-IV, and I can keep it thanks to the fine print in DSM-V); up until now, only about….90?.....people know I have it, including family members and friends.  (Due to this, I'm also a recipient of services through the Adult Autism Waiver—YAY GOVERNMENT!  But that's not what we're here to discuss.)  And since the diagnosis, we (meaning family members in addition to myself) have been able to identify that I inherited the genetic trait from my father.  Yes, my father has an undiagnosed case of Asperger's; why else do you think I call him the non-Leonard Nimoy, non-Zachary Quinto Mr. Spock?  But if you take a closer look, it's possible to trace that back to his father (my grandfather), who believes he, too, has Asperger's.  So, yes, Autistic Spectrum Disorders have a genetic root in all this mystery—but that's not the entire answer to this Paladin-level puzzle people have been trying to put together for years.  It could be caused by something in the environment, the amount of oxygen we're getting at birth, etc.  So far, we don't know what the source is—we're still looking for it.

            But with the Internet came false information: "Vaccines have chemicals and harmfullevels of lead that WILL cause your kid to get autism!"  It is to the best of my (probably faulty) knowledge from an English college course that this theory came from a fraudulent research paper, with a message popularized by Jenny McCarthy and Oprah and the series premiere of Eli Stone (remember that TV series?)—truth be told, the whole damn cake was a lie!  And yet, the idea spread and connected like-minded vaxxers to create this movement based on this lie.  And after a while, there are now Autism organizations that are working to promote this idea and saying, "Let's get rid of vaccines for good!"
            Everyone.  Please.  Cue the facepalms.

            How about we set this allll straight?  First of all, lead in vaccines is completely bullshit to me.  The FDA and whatever other organizations that are in charge of regulating drugs that require injection is not going to let any drug onto the market if it has any harmful levels of lead in it, including levels that  "cause autism."  Not to mention that I have no idea if any other drugs or chemicals cause autism or Autistic Spectrum Disorders.  From what I've learned, it's not about the blocking of chemicals to certain areas of the brain like lead can (Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey episode 7, "The Clean Room"), but rather a different way of wiring the brain.  We think differently, process information differently, express ourselves differently from neurotypical (NT) people due to this "faulty" wiring.  And even though it's frustrating to a lot of people (especially mothers like mine), it doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with us—we're just a lot more different from everyone else.

            But anyways, vaccines do serve a real purpose.  It helps your body identify what viruses and bacteria are not good for your cells and organs to metabolize.  Once identified and eradicated, the body then knows (how) to produce the correct antibody for that particular virus or bacteria so you don't wind up hospitalized and getting your food and air through a fucking tube shoved down your throat.  This way, you can't get SUPER sick from flu or chicken pox, measles, mumps, rubella, smallpox….   For a while, these diseases were only found in the virus vaults of the Centers for Disease Control and developing nations.  Now, with the anti-vaccine bullshit spreading through the masses faster than Bubonic Plague at the Olympics in Autumn, they are making a comeback.  Which is not good, because not only will we get sick (from POLIO—DO YOU WANTPOLIO?!) at worse levels and intensities, but it will also mean that Mama Squirrel's contribution is completely moot.  She was one of the vaccine pioneers, which makes her sound older than she really is, but I'm pretty sure that she is part Gallifreyan, so she can't really age like you and I do.  The only people who shouldn't get a vaccine are the ones with compromised immune systems for whatever reason: immunosuppressants, HIV and AIDS, etc.

            In the end, the fear of having a child with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder should NEVER take priority over keeping yourself and your family healthy (and alive).  Besides, what is there to fear?

Neurodiversity: When It's OKAY to Have Autism

            So, to quickly recap, Autistic Spectrum Disorders are a bunch of "disorders" that vary in symptoms and intensity, is NOT caused by vaccines, and has more to do with neurology than the immune system.  Oh, and I should mention that there is no cure for this.  (It's also NOT caused by Ebola, for the confused readers.)  No diet (gluten-free or otherwise) is going to heal/cure/"manage" the symptoms of an ASD, no matter what the vaxxers and gluten-phobes claim.  Seriously, I think y'all are crazy for saying, "OMG, GLUTEN-FREE PRODUCTS, I NEED YOU!"  I'm sure that soon, there will be markets for "gluten-free" toilet paper, underwear, feminine supplies, condoms, soap, cars, houses, tanks full of oxygen…..  Please don't start that; I'm forbidding anyone from using this "idea" (read: crap) as an excuse to keep the phobia alive.
            Much like pi, this fear is irrational, and it doesn't seem to end……

            Anyways, people haven't exactly understood what it means to have an ASD; growing up (and going through hell school) in a small town in the middle of FUCKING NOWHERE (in a place that Verizon can't seem to find on the map), I was ostracized by about 85% of the student population for being different this way.  At first, I couldn't understand why, but now we know; it was a tough battle to get the diagnosis, though, as I didn't get it until I was 15 and in high school. (What's worse is that it was initially "Asperger's tendencies"—what a way to half-ass your practice, Dr. [name hidden]!)

            Anyways, yes: we're socially awkward, we're highly intelligent, we can have laser focus on topics of interest…..which is funny, because isn't that the definition of being a nerd????  Oh my Davros, it actually is!  Nerdism can have neurological and developmental causes!  Clinical nerdism—what a breakthrough!  I should totally blog/talk about this—at another time!

            Well, besides that, there are a lot of us on the Spectrum who find it very difficult to think of living without an ASD.  It is a part of us, a part of our identity, a part of who we are.  Yes, ASDs have their drawbacks (which sometimes makes it frustrating to interact with the members of society on the spectrum), but it doesn't mean that ASDs are a bad thing to have; it's simply a different way of functioning in the world.  However, it also doesn't mean that ASDs are what define us as who we are: we have them; it doesn't mean that we ARE the disability, that they have us in their tight grip and there's no hope for us.  There are lots of resources out there that can help you understand your daughter/son/sister/brother, and it isn't really that hard to accept ASDs as a part of life: You have to live with it, rather than suffer from it.

            Acceptance is the first step.  That's what's key to being a happy parent of a child who's on the spectrum: just accept it.  I'm not asking for you to surrender (actually, I sort of am, but only by a factor of 5%), but rather to realize how you can't create the perfect child; so they have an ASD—so what?  Do you see any Horsemen of the Apocalypse riding through the streets?  Is the diagnosis of an ASD so earth-shattering that it literally causes an earthquake in your area that registers at 12.0 on the Richter scale?  Is it so horrifying to have an ASD that it's akin to terminal cancer or lupus?  (Is it Obama's fault?  Is it the work of the Freemasons or the Illuminati?)  The correct answer is: HELL NO!  All it means is that you should learn how to speak their language and understand them on a deeper level.

            (Also, any diagnosis of an ASD should be double-checked.  That's what second opinions are for!)

Medical Dalek says "VACCINATE!"

            So, let's wrap this up: FOR FUCK'S SAKE, JUST GET THE VACCINES!  There should be legitimate medical reasons why you shouldn't, like real allergies to eggs or any other ingredient in the vaccine, or compromised immune system, or some other legitimate issue.  (I do not consider money to be a legitimate issue; there are places out there—and I'm referring to "outside of my home base but still in America"—that offer free vaccines.  I'm serious!  Even my college, Marshall University with their free basic healthcare for full-time students, would hold free flu shot clinics for the students every year.  Just locate one near you, and go there!)
            As for the whole "fear of needles," that's a bit understandable: it can hurt, it's frightening, etc.  But I've had to deal with needles my whole life (most recently with an IV needle for my oral surgery) for medical reasons.  I can tell you from experience: all you're going to feel is a painful pinch, and then it's over.  If you need to, bring a good friend.  But you can do it!  I believe in you, even though I don't really know you!

Good places to check out for more information:

~Bad Astronomer:  He's a blogger, a skeptic, a pro-vaccine critic, a scientist, an astronomer, a nerd, an all-around smart and funny dude, and he's worked on the Hubble Telescope—SQUEE!!!  He can weed out the bullshit and get you the truth.
~Centers for Disease Control: They're the master experts in America on infectious diseases and other sick-making stuff.  'Nuff said.
~Mayo Clinic: More top-notch medical people.  (Warning: their pages cast a negative light over ASDs.)
~Autism Speaks: Even though I initially thought that this organization was anti-vaccine, I took a look and I was wrong.  However, I'm still a little leery...but I recommend them!

            That's all I can come up with for now.  Let's just hope that the Ebola virus doesn't evolve into a zombie virus and DESTROY US ALLLLL!  (If you're a zombie, I'm sorry: just stay the hell away from me and my human colony.)


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Rant-Rant-Ranty-Rant: When Your Teeth Get Stupid

            Yeah.  I know, it's a rant about something as small as "wisdom teeth."  But I have a few thoughts I'd like to share about the topic.  Seriously, I do!  Some of it is me voicing concern over being given general anesthesia, some of it is about how I have to fast before the surgery, but I hope that I'll give it a humorous spin.  Be warned: there is media in this post, so it's best that it gets loaded up on a laptop or desktop computer with a cable/wire/whatever connection.  It's also best not to be eating when reading this post….
            As for the optional theme song, it's "Hard Trance Techno Rave Music" by trancElovE.

            I've never expected this to happen to me; I just hoped that I didn't have to deal with this issue.  Unfortunately, my biology just laughed in my face with my own mouth.  In fact, it only started one or two days before I found out: my right lower wisdom tooth (which is number 32, in case you're a dental professional) was hurting so bad that I couldn't even sleep.  When I got up and talked to my parents that morning, I was terrified: what if they had to yank it out right there at the dentist's office?!?!?!  I was not mentally prepared for any of it!  Although I admit it's not my first rodeo—it's my second and I'm still not any better at it: my two front teeth had to be removed in two halves, the second being oral surgery with Novacain.  I hated it, since it involved the use of a scalpel inside my mouth!  (Sorry for the visualization, there.)  That and with Mama Squirrel's recommendation, I insisted on general anesthesia.  And with every choice, there are consequences: a whole new hellish hand basket of dread was delivered straight to me because I've never been anesthetized that way before.  But let me shed some light on the teeth themselves.

Unintelligent Design: Why Not Call Them Stupid Teeth???

            There's a lot of debate over how we got to be this way: Creationism vs. Evolution, Intelligent Design vs. Natural Selection, etc.  Of course, there is a shit ton of scientific evidence that tells us we evolved from monkeys, who might not be so thrilled about the connection:

And yet, we aren't perfectly evolved (Disproving Intelligent Design: why design us with these medical flaws, for fuck's sake?!), which brings me to this brilliant counterpoint from Dr. Neil Degrasse Tyson: Unintelligent Design.  There are so many things wrong with us, and some of them were outlined by Dr. Tyson in the 277thepisode of the Nerdist Podcast.

            First off, what's going on between our legs?!  We've got an entertainment complex in between two sewage systems.  It's unsanitary and we have to use our hands to keep ourselves clean in that area, which is also inefficient.  That and there's a ton of foliage in that area!  It's gross and stuff, seriously.

            Secondly, we eat, drink and breathe through the same hole in our human faces!  This ensures that a percentage of us humans choke to death on what we consume.  Not with dolphins: they eat and breathe through two different holes in their body, which means that they'll win in a sardine-eating contest!  But even then, if we don't find an early exit from life, we live 80 years on average; in spite of this, we die from starvation in 8 weeks, we die of dehydration in 3-8 days, and we die from asphyxiation (suffocation) in 8 minutes.  We're fragile human beings who fall prey to many illnesses that are the result of this chemical and biological balance being off inside our bodies.  Too many cells in one spot causing a riot is cancer; not enough endorphins being produced in our brains leads to depression; too much stomach acid leads to acid reflux disease.  If we're so "perfectly designed," then why do we have this happen to us?

            Then we have our "useless" body parts: the appendix is not really needed in these days, and yet, we all have them, thanks to our ancestors hunting for whatever food they can get.  There was no cooking in those days, no discerning bones from muscles and feathers and fur and scales and whatnot, so they would eat the entire animal, including the parts that give us no nutritional benefit.  That's where the appendix would come in: it creates a sort of acid that helps the remaining solids (bones, beak, feathers, fur, etc.) dissolve so it doesn't hurt them when it comes out the other end.  (All together now: EWWWWW!!!!)  But now it's quite useless, as the appendix, being completely BORED, will sometimes malfunction and burst—appendicitis, which can only be resolved with surgical removal.  The gallbladder stores whatever the liver produces, even though the liver can perform the same functions as the gallbladder.  Tonsils would have to come out when we get tonsillitis, but nothing is as much of a pain as wisdom teeth.

            Why have wisdom teeth?  They're the farthest back on our lower jaw, and we don't even get them to come through until we hit our later years, well after we lose all our baby teeth.  But they aren't perfect in their emergence: 90% of all people have at least on wisdom tooth come in impacted, or at an angle, pushing against the molars next to them, causing pain and infection, perhaps even damage to the adjacent teeth.  There could even be a cyst that forms, which is even worse.  Yes, it's common as fuck, but here's another issue: why not just remove them at an earlier age?  These teeth are easier to remove when the patient is younger, since their roots are not completely formed, and the surrounding bone is softer than in your early 20s; not only that, there is less of a chance of damaging nerves and other structures nearby.  (Source: pamphlet I got from my consultation appointment.)  Thanks, AAOMS, for taking the wait-and-see approach.

            One more point to make: why call them "wisdom teeth" when they come in incorrectly?  When I first went in to my dentist's office, I made the joke of my wisdom teeth being "unwise".  This body part, in my opinion, is completely stupid.  They have no current purpose except to be a pain in the ass, causing problems for 90% of all people, which can only be put an end to by way of oral fucking SURGERY!  That's why I want them to be renamed as "stupid teeth," because there is no point to them in today's world.  Not to mention how many drugs are involved with treatment.

Anesthesia: The "Fun Part"

            I've never done illegal drugs, I'm prescribed medication for depression/anxiety and my ADD (squirreliness), and I don't like not knowing what my brain is doing, and even just being unconscious with people doing surgical procedures on me makes me anxious.  I'm just not prepared for that idea.

            That and me going like this after waking up:

I'm terrified of having a panic attack and freaking out like that.  Seriously, the loopiness, albeit fun for my parents, is frightening to me as I don't know how much control I have; my pre-frontal cortex could be affected in ways I do not know if I like it or not.  What also sucks is that I have to go into Gremlin Mode the very night before; I'll wind up hungry and cranky and panicked and anxious and stuff—I'll be a total mess, trying to find my copy of Let's Pretend This Never Happened and re-reading the chapter titled "Draw Me A Fucking Dog."  It'll be a total trip, for sure.

            That and I better have a milkshake waiting for me after I'm awake and mobile!  (I'm going to look for milkshake and smoothie recipes after this and the next time I'm online.  Suggestions are appreciated!   Just tweet them to me with the hashtag #SmoothieSquirrel!)

            At this point, I think it's best to look at it as a nap I so desperately need, followed by a liquid diet I hope to extend into a week-and-a-half.  Again, not my first rodeo: I was on a liquid diet before, and I lost a lot of mass that way.  Not that liquid diets are the ideal solution for "weight" loss.  I'll update you as best as I can, and I appreciate you reading this blog, but it could be a while before I post anything again.  My next post might wind up being the week after, but who knows?  #RECUPERATE

            In any case, ENJOY YOUR BURRITO MILKSHAKE!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Some Sort of Paradise: A Review of Utopia, Fox's New Reality Show

***At the time of publishing this post, Utopia is already in its 12th Day, with one person (the former convict) having already left the place after ranting and cursing and being generally angry.  Two people came in his place.***

            Sorry for no post last week.  I was sick with some sort of cold or respiratory infection, so I was like, "Fuck it, I'M QUARANTINED!" for the entire week.  (Thanks, Mom and Dad, for dropping off the store brand DayQuil and NyQuil med stuff.  It really helped a lot!)  I was staying inside, not doing much except eating, sleeping, medicating and repeating.  And watching shows on TV and listening to podcast episodes and playing computer games.  So this week, I'm lifting my self-imposed quarantine and trying to not strangle people because of my impacted unwise wisdom tooth (that needs to geddafuckout!) in order to re-acclimate to the outside world.  Meanwhile, I was able to watch one of the premieres of a new reality show on television: Utopia and then following it up with some disturbing news on Fox.

            Which brings me to my optional theme song mix for this post: Spacemind's "Space Ark"

Justice for Cruelty: People Are Not Punching Bags

            Thanks to news teasers on Fox, I was convinced that I needed to watch a segment about howsome idiot youths were filming themselves beating up an older man who hasdisabilities (or, as the media likes to put it, "special needs man," or "mentally challenged man".  It's a step in the right direction, but now try using Person-First language.  News media outlets are the source of "disability-first language"' usage, and I want to change that all over the mediascape.).  First, some idiotteen at Musikfest tries to use brass knuckles (of which possession is ILLEGAL everywhere in the States) to beat up an older man who was defending his wife, all because the idiot teen and his girlfriend "weren't being respected."  And now some dumbasses think it's a good idea to just beat up someone with disabilities who is older than them and to put it up on YouTube.

            Let me tell you something: IT'S NEVER A GOOD IDEA TO DO THAT!  In PA, it counts as assault.  And just hurting someone who has a disability (or two….or five….) is wrong no matter what you think because it only means you're so gutless and cowardly and full of shit that you have to pick on someone you see as "lower than you" or (and I hate using this word) "retarded," which, today, translates to "stupid," among the youth (who need to learn etymology more; "mental retardation" is a term used for a disability that delays the mental and emotional development of a person).

            This sucks.  I'm outraged by their actions.  Not to mention that I'm now more cautious: I have no interest in being treated that way, and I have a lot more self-respect than those losers.  But if I'm ever faced with that situation, I'll either try and make a quick exit or I'll stand my ground, using my intellect to scare them off, while calling 911 because I'd rather have cops there to handle the situation than to be left alone.

            This is why it is important for there to be self-defense classes provided for people on the Autism Spectrum; it's so they can defend themselves if idiots like the ones in the news decide copy their attitude, arrogance and actions to seem tough, and to teach us self-discipline.

            Seriously, this bullshit is not something I would EVER tolerate in my Utopia; the perps would be thrown to the zombies.

Building Paradise: My Garden Does Not Look Like This….

            Yes, I'm going to review this new reality show called "Utopia".  So what?  (I'm not referring to the idyllic location that Professor Yana was trying to launch a giant rocket towards, by the way.)

            It's not like it's Big Brother; far from it!  You see, what's different about this show is that there isn't a real prize like cash or a house or a vacation or whatever is tangible in this realm.  It's actually a social experiment (like every Big-Brother-structured reality competition show is) that is to be done over the course of a year, examining every participant's idea of a perfect world or perfect society and how they can create it.  The Pioneers (the first fourteen or fifteen people in this society where cameramen aren't around) are vastly different, with backgrounds ranging from pastors to professional chefs to Apocalypse preppers to yogis to expecting mothers and even convicts; my personal favorite among them is Hex the Huntress, who has brought her own bow and quiver of arrows Utopia!

            The idea of the show itself is audacious enough: a perfect society where the Pioneers are not allowed to be outside the gates, but outsiders are allowed in during certain hours.  It's self-governed, remotely monitored 24/7 for an entire year, and the electricity and food had to be obtained by themselves, a complete bubble with a fish-filled pond, a pool, chickens, cows (or "Mootopians"), fertile land, some money and a barn.  The group itself is not going to stay the same, as more people will come and others will go.  It's all going to be streamed live, all day and all night, and the audience will have a chance to join the group inside the gates, applying to casting to say, "I want to help build a perfect society!  SIGN ME UP!"

            And it's already on its first two weeks: soon after the project started, there have been conflicts ALREADY!  Someone didn't want to share his things because it's all he had, another man (whose ego is bigger than the show, I bet) drank too much whiskey and was being a total pervert, the redneck and the chef exchanged heated words and butted heads, literally and figuratively, which led to the redneck almost just up and leaving.  There were lots of people stripping down until they're nothing but naked blurs with faces and arms diving into the pool, and a few of the Pioneers are uncomfortable with that because they're that frickin' conservative.

            And yes, I live tweeted during Part 1 of the premiere:

            And I do believe that this is interesting enough, but they're not done yet; I have some ideas that they should implement with their rules and practices and stuff.

         Π    Anyone who breaks a rule or something to the point where it pisses the others off should spend the next 24 hours shoveling manure and sleeping with the cows that night, if it's a minor offense.  Major offenses or repeat offenders should be ejected from the society.

         Π    Court is a good idea: let the offender and 3 to 5 witnesses give their testimonies, and then have them go out and wait for the verdict that will be decided amongst the rest of the Pioneers.  Punishments must also be determined during deliberations.  (Manure shoveling should be a punishment!)

         Π    Get a full on bull or something, a cow that can help the female cows make little calves, which results in better yield for milk!  Same with a rooster for the chickens; animals don't live forever!

  Π    Get some sheep and a ram, as well as a couple of goats so that the wool can be sheared off, carded, spun into yarn and used to make clothing that they can sell online for more money or to replace torn or lost clothing.  Also get a loom, so you can weave together sheets and blankets for the cold winter months, and knitting needles for scarves and hats and stuff; knitting and weaving aren't hard to learn, but it's fun to do and it boosts self-esteem.

         Π    If Amanda gives birth inside the grounds, let a certified midwife come and help out with delivery in the barn with sheets hanging around them and almost everyone else waiting outside, then get Amanda and the baby off to the damn hospital to get them both examined just in case.  Medicine is not optional; people in colonies like Plymouth and Salem and Johnstown did get sick and die from illnesses and childbirth and whatnot, and we don't need a Utopia that is quarantined with CDC officials milling around in Hazmat suits just because someone believes that they shouldn't get vaccinated.  (Also, get someone to come by and give vaccinations.  Pioneers who are vaxxers don't have to get them as they can suffer the fucking consequences of their "decision", but not everyone is a vaxxer.  VACCINATE!)

         Π    Don't shy away from Twitter; we (Utopians, aka fans of Utopia) love communicating with you, and should be able to give feedback when asked.

            At least, that's what my perfect society should be doing.  That and making thrones for me.  :P

            Anyways, the idea is audacious (so is building a colony on Mars), but it should be interesting to see what does and does not work for creating a perfect society.  At least then, I can get to work on building my colony for when the zombie apocalypse comes; so far, all I can come up with is either live in Antarctica or on one of the rocky Aleutian islands off Alaska, or to move in with Bigfoot and Chewbacca.

            Unsure how many Dalek plungers out of 5 to rate this show, because the jury is still out on how many should be awarded.  But it is something to be checked out.  I shall continue to watch until I get bored!

            Until then, ENJOY YOUR PERFECT TACQUITO!

"Perfection is overrated.  I still strive for it, though, because it makes sense to me." — myself
***Utopia airs on FOX on Tuesdays at 8pm EDT and Fridays at 9pm EDT. Live streaming is available on the website at http://www.utopiatv.com/home and requires a "passport" for people to vote for new members and view videos and live streams.***

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Twelfth Hour Tolls: A Review of "Deep Breath," Capaldi's First Full Episode as the Doctor

            If you're reading this, you might've guessed that I was just scrambling into my seat at the computer, cracking my knuckles, warming up my plunger and whisk, and started engaging in furious writing, eager to share my thoughts, theories and reactions to a new face taking up the role of our most famous and beloved alien time traveler.  And for that, I have brought you the Rogue Dubstep remix of "Clocks" by Coldplay as the optional theme song for this review!

            Once again, our beloved Gallifreyan time-traveling (formerly raggedy) madman Doctor has regenerated, leaving us floundering in painful tears as we try latching upon ANY REASON to love the new "Clock Doc" (as I like to call him)!  And after the few episodes of stale writing left us with a thirst for fresher excitement of the Doctor's adventures, it seemed that we were in need of a new face to refresh the flavor of the series.  Obviously, they went with Peter Capaldi (who himself is a Whovian—THANK GOODNESS!  No need to trust someone who's a stranger to the tales of the Whoniverse!), not because he would be good over the long run, but because they just needed to go in a different direction: a worn-down alien whose been a little reset with a face recalled from his Tennant days in ancient Pompeii and a Scottish accent with angry eyebrows!  Not to mention that I'm pretty sure new memes were born that night!

            Which brings me to my first point:

The Theatrical Entrance of the Two Temporal Travelers

            A Tyrannosaurus Rex in Victorian England choking on the TARDIS…..  Finally, the writer(s) redeemed themselves at Whovian storytelling!  Because nowhere else can there be such an entrance!  NOWHERE!  DO YOU HEAR/READ ME, NETWORK TELEVISION?!  NOWHERE!!!!!  *plungersmacks self*  Sorry, a little ranty, a lot squirrelly during drafting (especially since Fox is doing "Gracepoint," the bastardized/Americanized version of Broadchurch that is apparently what mainstream America is allergic to, THANK YOU VERY MUCH!).  But this introduction and quite a few funny moments really make up for the floppiness in the last Christmas episode, The Time of the Doctor (which I was able to tolerate watching again, noticing a few references to previous Doctors that I haven't seen before).


Character Analysis: The WHO in "Doctor Who"

(Shuddup, critics!)

            The new Doctor is definitely a little more callous, a bit more insensitive and definitely less relatable in an alien kind of way, like, "I'm an ALIEN, with non-ginger kidneys!"  Lots of memories seem to have faded from his mind, and he is less cuddly.  He is a little more angry, and he's got the eyebrows to match!  To me, in that scene in the "escape pod," which turns out to be—SPOILER ALERT!—a skin balloon, he also seems to be a wee bit a of a drinker; I have very few memories, in my time of being a new-gen Whovian ("new-gen" meaning having come into the Whovian "fandom"—hate that word—during the series reboot), of seeing the Doctor with a glass of anything alcoholic ON SCREEN!  Anyways, he seems to dislike the human race quite a bit, much like Eccleston's Doctor (number 9), according to Diane (found on Twitter at @DiHard11).  Capaldi also seems to have difficulty expressing that whole manic, hyper, young, rapid thinking Smith's Doc (#11) had.  He is HAWT in that Kuroshitsuji-esque-butler-looking-but-still-an-outfit-that-can-stand-on-its-own suit ensemble, but another downside (despite the non-ginger kidneys) is that he's a spitter.  YUCK!  I hate that, I just do; in fact, going to one of the worst case scenarios, hawking a "loogie" makes me gag, having suffered through seeing many in high school water fountains and hearing the sound over and over again.  *shudders*  #HighSchoolNightmares

            As for the companion, Clara is still clever, able to think on her feet (or horizontally on her back/front/either side), but the usually sassy confidence was definitely shaken with the change of face and personality.  It was obvious in the beginning, and certainly towards the end, but we were all going through that, enduring the Whovian's Cycle of Regeneration Reaction.  And I can relate to that; in fact, in the aftershow After Who Live, hosted by Chris Hardwick (Wow, is this the reason for the @midnight hiatus?  Answer: NO.), a few celebrity guests (specifically, Wil Wheaton, Alton Brown, Mark Gatiss, et al.) discussed how the companion can be expressing the same emotions we were feeling, which is true: the companion is the audience's avatar in the Whoniverse, albeit one we can't control all the time unless it's in fanfiction written to satisfy our inner desires.  (*eyebrow waggle*)  But Clara still delivered her usual Impossible Girl charisma, talents and skills, looking hawt in Victorian era clothing and delivering a kind of emotionally fueled banter, reflecting our thoughts of "Who is he now?"  (She could be a Bond Girl!  Somebody, please!  Contact Time Lord 007 and inform him of this!)  It is a shame, though, that Jenna Louise-Coleman will be leaving the series by Christmastime, which begs the question: how will she leave?  Will she be killed off, like all her other selves?  Or will she be disembarking at her final destination, with the possibility of a return during some sort of huge epic special episode like Martha Jones and Rose Tyler?  This discussion must be held!

            With these two paired up, and aided by Madame Vastra, her wife Jenny, and Strax (the potato clone with a craving for war and battles and glory, LIKE A POTATO KLINGON!), they were able to provide the core of the episode, the A(liens)-Team that were able to fight what's wrong.  They also were able to provide a LOT of hilarious moments and new memes!  I believe some were tweeted about….

I loved the term "Planet of the Pudding Brains," especially since it could make a GREAT t-shirt!  And the moments with Vastra knocking out the Clock Doc in that way, Strax doing the whole "here's some 'clean' water," and medical examination thing, as well as knocking out Clara with the newspaper and going through the whole "dip him in acid" bit—all that had me cracking up, laughing so hard (much like Phil "Bad Astronomer" Plait did that one time....) that I was worried I was going to wake up my neighbors!  I can't watch it again and again without laughing!

            And, finally….

The Plot—TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD, But Not Really…..

            The plot actually works: grand, hilarious entrance and whole identity crisis, mixed together with the issue of clockwork androids that remind you of Girl In the Fireplace, and the base consisting of the audience waiting for the "I am the Doctor," moment just seems to make it work well like a thoroughly-blended smoothie.  Or perfect-thickness milkshake—I say milkshake, because I like milkshakes better; it's just a matter of preference, I say!  Not to mention the well-done scenes of Clara struggling to hold her breath and passing out, the flashbacks, the lead clock-droid, any other scenes you may like—this one is for the "Excellent Episodes" pile, especially with the new TARDIS interior!  I didn't notice the new windows and I'm pretty sure that the TARDIS is sporting a fresher coat of blue paint, but there are new round things inside (YAY, ROUND THINGS!), and a library area in the main control room, with more seats throughout!  MOAR YAYS, BUT FOR SEATS!  Though, I might add complaints from others such as my parents (classic Whovians, from the Tom Baker era) and Reppy the Republican Dalek, as well as the Deviants in Deviant Art's Devart chat later on after initially posting this review.

            However, questions abound with SPOILERS!  First of all, where the hell is that "promised land," looking a hell of a lot like MY Garden?  Is it part of the TARDIS?  And who is this Missy chick?  I can totally get an Evil vibe from her (even though she's a fictional character; yes, I know, Dad.), but the ethics (Lawful/Neutral/Chaotic) axis is questionable.  There may be an underlying motive for it, and the brief disappearance of the Doctor after the initial conflict raises even more questions, which doesn't help his alibi in regards to this new problem.  I think my current (at the time of publishing this blog post) theory for this story arc can be best expressed in my tweet:

And I loved seeing that familiar face at the end!!!!  It helped make that transition easier on us Whovians!  Well, me definitely; others probably want to speak for themselves.  And when that took place, I could, then, see the previous Doctor in the Clock Doc!  That was quite helpful, and I loved it; I hope this happens again in the future regenerations of Doctor Who!  I also loved After Who Live!  I hope it continues throughout the season; especially since I can see how much of a workaholic Hardwick is—yet another project to add to his pile: @midnight, Nerdist Industries and Podcast, All Star Bowling, and Talking Dead, to name a few.  I think he needs to be strapped down, sedated a wee bit, and given a massage!  IT'S NOT A KIDNAPPING BUT AN INTERVENTION, HARDWICK, BECAUSE ALL OUR POINTS ARE BELONG TO YOU!

            All in all, 4.5 plungers/TARDISes/sonic screwdrivers/Doctors out of 5!  And I hope that the accessory hand thing takes off like Doc Five's accessory celery.  These clockwork droids, along with Missy (and Miss Tasha Lem, Mother Superious of the Church of the Papal Mainframe/Church of Silence), would make GREAT costumes for a Doctor Who cosplay event that is going to take place October 2014 in Bethlehem, PA (which is within my sector).  There are going to be cosplay groups coming from ALL OVER just for this event!  One of the main sponsors is one of my frequent haunts: The Underground Lair, the nerdshop that has "vintage" toys, items that the Santa Time Lord never gifted to you for Christmas in your childhood, games galore, Whovian merchandise and items that were crafted by local residents (whose species have yet to be determined), Potter-things, gay-pride items (all for you, NotGayDalek!), and other items that are for sale for a great price!  They are willing to purchase toys you want to get rid of or help you sell them for a certain percent of the price!  (They are not a pawn shop, therefore they will not haggle over the price they are willing to pay.  Don't even try; Dan told me so himself.)  I plan on being there, taking pictures and doing coverage for the blog and stuffs, but YOU SHOULD TRANSMAT OVER AND BE THERE, TOO!  Your attendance is required by the Sontaran-Dalek Alliance!  Let's make the streets of Bethlehem, PA, bleed TARDIS BLUEMWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!  (For the record, it wasn't my idea, but I do like it and am allowing it to happen!)

            Anyways, I hope the improvements continue (despite the oddly different intro sequence; that's the reason why I call Capaldi's doc the Clock Doc; I mean, come on!  I loved the old smoky sort of timey-wimey wormhole temporal vortex!  But why have the intro focus on clocks?  It makes no sense to me at all!  But now's not the time to rant about it…), because I shall be a Whovian until I am nothing but a timeline in my giant TARDIS-tomb on Trenzalore!  And with that, in the present, Non-Greenwich meantime, I hope you enjoy your regenerated tacquitos!  Because they're Scottish with non-ginger kidneys in need of our love!

P.S.  The following tweet MUST BE EXPRESSED!  And retweeted and overshared!  BEHOLD!

P.P.S.  Where can I get one of those Team Adipose t-shirts?  I must acquire one straight away!  MY DEAR OOD!  I have a quest for you, and you must embark on it immediately for it to be completed (with autographs) in time for Christmas/my birthday!......  *zooms off on hoverbike*