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Allergystop: A $50 Epi-pen (Epinephrine) Alternative Device

September 14, 2016 Leave a comment

Since my last post was a serious criticism of an indiegogo campaign, here’s one that I feel has a legit product.

It’s an epinephrine injectable device designed to save the lives of patients suffering from anaphylaxis.

Twin cities allergist, Dr. Douglas Mcmahon, invented the device a few years ago while tinkering in his lab. He now hopes to get funding to help bring the pocket-sized epinephrine injector to the market and at a much lower price than the recently price inflated $600 Epi-pen.

Check out Allergystop’s indiegogo campaign here.

Other Epi-pen alternative devices are bulky or involve syringes that require special training. Dr. Mcmahon hopes to open the device up to investors to get it FDA-approved and doesn’t want the cost of Allergystop to go above $50.

They have a long way to go to hit their $200,000 goal, so help them out if you can!

 

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I asked a Mechanical Engineer about ELF Emmit. This is what he said.

September 4, 2016 19 comments

From their indiegogo page:

ELF emmit: A Wearable for the Optimized Self

ELF emmit improves focus, sleep, stress, & more, combining ancient traditions and modern technology.

ELF emmit uses non-invasive and FDA Approved technology to actively influence positive change in your daily life by emitting pulses at specific frequencies, optimized to attain a desired state of mind, at any given moment.

They claim they can change any one of the 5 brainwave types: gamma, beta, alpha, delta, or theta by emitting “pulses” at certain frequencies.

I have a friend who is a mechanical engineer. He previously worked for companies that manage proton therapy systems. I showed him the indiegogo page and this is what he said:

“Yeah, this is bullshit. In TMS, the instantaneous coil current is actually very high, into the kiloamps. A headphone output will provide maybe 500 mW of power into some fairly high resistance. All they did was put that output through a very small coil. In other words, if this worked, we would be dead if we brought our heads next to a power transformer.”

So yeah. ELF Emmit = Snake Oil. $119 Snake Oil.

Moon Hooch at Music Hall of Williamsburg Review

September 1, 2016 Leave a comment

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Who knew you could make such good dance music with saxophones? Brookyln’s own Moon Hooch came home Thursday, August 25 with an energizing show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. With a style Moon Hooch refers to as “Cave Music. Organic House Music. More wild, more jagged, more free, more natural to live in and dance in,” Moon Hooch rocked out with Billyburg attendees with a satisfying two-hour set.

Getting their start by performing in Williamburg’s Bedford L station, Moon Hooch hit local notoriety by getting kicked out by the MTA for “starting too many dance parties.” They have since gained popularity nationwide by touring with indie powerhouse They Might Be Giants.

The Music Hall of Williamsburg is a mid-size venue with reasonable ticket prices hovering around $25. Moon Hooch tickets were $20–a great deal for, including the opening band, three hours of entertainment. The music hall has three floors and two bars; it had a lounge, a floor, and a mezzanine with bars on the lounge and mezzanine. The mezzanine had tables with chairs around the periphery and stadium seating. The venue was clean and convenient, only a 15-minute walk from neighboring Greenpoint.

The opening band was Bears. Not to be confused with 80s group The Bears, Bears is a self-described “doom pop” band. They opened with an hour-long set reminiscent of The Smashing Pumpkins or The Verve. It was good ol’ alternative rock time, but the floor really started heating up around 10PM, as the main attraction was set to take stage.

No introduction needed, Moon Hooch jumped out. Wenzl McGowe and Mike Wilbur grabbed their saxes off the stands. The drummer, James Muschler, rocked no shirt. They began their set with the trippy “Psychotubes.”

Here is footage I got of their opening song from my mezzanine seat:

The guy positioned right in front of center stage really stole the show. He kept up his mad moves all night!

Moon Hooch then transitioned into some “ambient improv,” before launching into a bunch of new tracks from their new album, Red Sky. Notable tracks were “Low 5,” “Alien Invasion,” and “Rough Sex.” There were little to no breaks for the band as they flowed seamlessly from one track into the other, including some techno improv and a sax solo by McGowe. The energy from the crowd never died down, as everyone saved no energy for an afterparty.

One thing that was different from some of their previous shows is that one of the members tried his hand at vocals in “St. Louis.” There were no male vocals three years ago at their show at Brooklyn Bowl. While they weren’t my favorite part of the set, it was nice to see the band expand their skill set and try new things.

About three-quarters of the way through their set, Moon Hooch busted out with “Number 9” The crowd went wild. This was the song they sampled the iconic “Ladies and gentleman, the next L train is now arriving on the Manhattan bound tracks.” Brooklyn knew and appreciated their home song.

They ended with “Contra Dubstep,” which is a markedly different song from the ever-catchy “Contra.” Notably absent from this set was “Contra” (Dictionary: Contra – preposition – “against.”), perhaps due to to a desire to focus on the new album or the lack of availability of the female vocalist. Whatever the reason, “Contra Dubstep,” is still a great example of the band’s self-described “Cave Music,” bold and with bass drops.

Moon Hooch thanked the crowd and exited the stage, but no one budged. There had to be an encore. Sure enough, they stepped right back out with their encore song, “Number 1.” I do have a video of the encore too, but you’ll have to go see them in person to see it. Moon Hooch deserves it.

The show was a fantastic reminder that fresh music is alive and well in Brooklyn. Moon Hooch put on their signature energetic performance with a new album that not only will resonate with saxophone connoisseurs, but with anyone looking for something to dance to.

Moon Hooch is touring now! Check out http://www.moonhooch.com/tour/ for dates and tickets.
Check out their new album, Red Sky, at http://www.moonhooch.com/red-sky/

Swagbucks vs. Ibotta: Two Cash-back Shopping Programs for Beer Money

August 16, 2016 3 comments

I first heard the term “beer money” on https://www.reddit.com/r/beermoney/ .

/r/beermoney is a community for people to discuss mostly online money-making opportunities (some exceptions are allowed). You shouldn’t expect to make a living, but it’s possible to make extra cash on the side for your habits/needs.”

As a cash-strapped individual, I was on the lookout for some non-scam extra ways to make some money. After reviewing all the options including: Swagbucks, Amazon Mechanical Turks, and InstaGC, I decided on the seemingly most popular one, Swagbucks.

Swagbucks

 

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I have been using Swagbucks for a couple years now and have earned a couple hundred dollars. These were deposited into my PayPal account at $25 intervals with my earnings averaging about $20 a month when I consistently used the service. It has been a serious grind however; making a couple extra dollars is far easier to do with a regular job than with Swagbucks.

Swagbucks’ model revolves around users doing various online tasks and also getting points for online purchases. Each task or purchase is worth a certain amount of points or “Swagbucks” (SB). You can then redeem your SB for Paypal deposits or gift cards.

The main task I do on the site is taking surveys. Surveys are similar to an online focus group. You fill out profile information about yourself—such as age, gender, and income, and Swagbucks will match you to appropriate surveys, usually about products or services that you use frequently. The number of SB you get will vary depending on the survey. Longer surveys are normally worth more. Surveys can be tedious at times (I often find myself answering 50 variations of the same exact question.), but some of them will genuinely match your interests and you receive the credit automatically at the end of the survey.

The other way to earn SB is through cash-back on online purchases. They offer a small % back on many popular retailers such as Macy’s, Amazon, Old Navy, and Sephora. All you have to do is click on the website through the Swagbucks website and make the purchase through there. There is about a month waiting period for the SB to credit, probably to make sure you don’t return the purchase, and they also have help tickets available for people who have trouble getting credit for their purchase.

Sometimes Swagbucks also offers a fixed amount of SB for certain kinds of purchases. I have previously seen them offer several hundred SB for purchases for popular products from brands such as Proactiv, Dollar Shave Club, and Audible.

If I’m short a few points for the minimum payout of SB, I’ll either watch videos (They offer small amounts of SB for watching a set of videos.) or do an “offer” where I give my e-mail to a mailing list in exchange for a small amount of SB. The e-mail has to match the e-mail on your Swagbucks account so I use my secondary spam account for my Swagbucksing. These are my least favorite Swagbucks activities because they pay so low, and I only do them if I really need them.

I’ve also used Swagbucks’ main competitor, InstaGC. They are very similar to Swagbucks to the point where I’ve even seen the same surveys on each site. InstaGC’s main benefit is their gift card payout is much lower than Swagbucks’ minimum payout. You can get 100 points for $1 on Amazon on InstaGC as opposed to 2500 SB for a $25 Amazon on Swagbucks. They do offer PayPal, but you must redeem $50+ in other cash rewards or gift cards in order to gain PayPal access. I haven’t earned this much yet.

Another thing about InstaGC is I can’t use my VPN with it—I get an error message and the site is blocked. This is only a mild annoyance however. I mostly don’t use InstaGC anymore because of its redundancies with Swagbucks.

Ibotta

 

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Ibotta is an app you use with your smartphone. I first heard about Ibotta through a friend. She told me it was a cash-back program and eagerly sent me a referral link via text. The text said I could get $10 for joining.

I thought a straight cash-back program was too good to be true so I looked at the stipulations. Sure enough, there were a few catches with Ibotta.

The first thing I noticed is there was a $20 minimum payout for PayPal. (They also offer gift cards, but I’ll probably focus on the money.) Then I looked at what kinds of products they offered cash-back on. They did have popular retailers such as CVS, Duane Reade, and Walmart, but they only offered the cash-back on certain items. You also have to watch an ad or do a short task to unlock the items. There were a couple hundred items advertised at my local pharmacies.

I also didn’t just get $10 free for joining. I had to make my first purchase within 10 days of signing up. So, wanting my $10, I trekked over to my local Rite Aid and looked for one of the items on the list—a SinfulColors brand nail polish that credits for 25 cents. Not a big credit, but I use that brand of nail polish anyway. I look for it everywhere; apparently they don’t carry it. I go to the other Rite Aid, which is just up the street. They have a bigger selection of nail polish. I could have sworn I saw SinfulColors there before but they don’t have it anymore either.

I decide to buy a Protein Powerbar that credits for $1 and sells for $2.75. It’s not until I buy the Powerbar and try to credit it that it says it actually requires you buy two Powerbars. I also just can’t buy another because they both need to be on the same receipt. I eat the Powerbar and decide it’s not worth buying more of them.

I then go to the households aisle and try to find Rubbermaid Freshworks Produce Saver tupperwear which credits for $2. They don’t carry this at RiteAid either. I get frustrated, think maybe it’s just this store, and head to CVS instead.

I look for the tupperwear at CVS but they don’t carry it there. I then look for Seventh Generation brand laundry detergent and dish soap. They don’t have either one of them. I find a Flintstones Gummy Vitamin bottle that credits for $1, but only the large-size bottle credits, it costs $17, and I don’t want to spend that much. I eventually get a $7 bottle of ZzzQuil that credits $1. I purchase it, scan my barcode and receipt with my phone, and the dollar credits to my account in an hour. I also finally get my $10 joining bonus.

I looked at the other ways to make money on Ibotta. The clothing stores had a lot of offers around $5 on a $50 purchase. So it’s really not that much more than what Swagbucks offers or common credit card cash-back offers.

I haven’t hit my minimum amount to cash out yet, and considering the limitations of the app, it may take a few more weeks before I get my beer money. (I don’t live near any major grocery stores, so I’m limited to the pharmacy options.) I just hope they don’t raise the minimum while I’m making progress. I Googled and apparently the minimum payout used to to be $5, so it appears they can arbitrarily change the program whenever they want.

My final advice on Ibotta: Use it on things you were going to buy anyway, but be careful you don’t end up buying things you don’t need.

If you would like to join Swagbucks use my referral link here: http://www.swagbucks.com/refer/scandalousmuffin

If you would like to join Ibotta use my referral link here: https://ibotta.com/r/kgdorsl

Suicide Squad Wasn’t That Bad

August 14, 2016 2 comments

Mild Spoilers Ahead

It’s no secret that DC movies haven’t been doing well lately. So when I saw that Rotten Tomatoes gave “Suicide Squad” at 27% fresh rating, and after witnessing the monstrous trainwreck that was “Batman v Superman,” I wasn’t exactly jumping out of my seat to see it. But I had a DC comic-lover friend that really wanted to go and I was bored that day. I also thoroughly enjoyed the trailer music soundtrack.

Here’s what I have to say to some common criticisms of the movie:

 

There wasn’t enough Joker.

 

This is the main critique I’ve been seeing all over the place. Jared Leto’s name is on the poster but he wasn’t in the film. Well, I saw the film from beginning to end and felt there was plenty of Leto’s Joker in it, considering the focus of the film was about, dur, the Suicide Squad.

This is not a Batman movie. It was never marketed as a Batman movie. Yes, Batman makes a cameo, but he doesn’t fight the Joker nor should he. The Joker isn’t a member of the Suicide Squad, so it makes entire sense for him to be relegated to a secondary character.

There was an introductory scene with him and Harley Quinn in Arkham Asylum. There was a weird bar scene that illustrated the Joker’s cruel and mercurial nature. And there were a couple more scenes with him and Harley Quinn that highlighted their twisted, co-dependent relationship. Quinn is the main character and I felt the amount of appearances for the Joker was just the right amount so as to not overshadow her.

The music sucked.

 

“We haven’t even gotten to the distracting use of on-the-nose musical selections to introduce each character…  Each song inspires a groan and takes you right out of the action.” –Rogerebert.com

Oh, shut the fuck up. If having appropriate music is “distracting” to you, you should watch a Tarantino flick and then shoot yourself in the head.

The soundtrack had everything from Skrillex  to a Panic! at the Disco cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” They are upbeat, catchy songs to compliment sarcastic, quirky characters. I don’t feel like covers of classic songs create a cliché, rather they set the tone for a new rendition of old comic book characters.

The film jumped around too much.

 

Yes, there were extensive uses of flashbacks in the film. There were, after all, between six and seven members of the Suicide Squad at one time. I don’t see a more efficient way to introduce and characterize them all.

As for the editing, I rather liked it. I don’t think it was sloppy or choppy. I felt like it created a fast-paced, yet still digestible, narrative that made for a solid action film plot. There was a lot going on, but I feel like I was able to distinguish all the characters and keep their personalities in mind without getting too muddled.

The film was two hours, but it was well enough paced that time flew by smoothly.

The villain was stupid or lame.

 

“She couldn’t arrange better special effects for herself, however; at the height of her powers, the threat she creates looks hilariously cheesy.” -Rogerebert.com

Yes, there’s a supervillian who hates humanity and wants a combination of domination and destruction. But what superhero movie isn’t that?

The Enchantress is an ancient witch with various dark powers. She can summon zombie-like minions, teleport, and manipulate the movement of matter and energy. I, for one, was just happy to see a female supervillian. She does bring her equally supernatural brother along for the evil ride, but it was nice to see a supervillian family working together for once.

I saw nothing out of the ordinary with the special effects. When she transforms from her possessed alter ego June Moone into The Enchantress, black fingers slip out from her own and then take her over, casting a smoky-like shadow around her body.

Sure she wears practically a bikini, but this is a relatively minor feminist sin. She is still a powerful, evil figure and a convincing antagonist in a movie full of anti-heroes.

So overall…

I came into the theater with really low expectations and was pleasantly surprised. “Suicide Squad” was pretty on par with what the trailers advertised, was well-cast, decently-acted, and delivered entertaining action sequences. There was a certain amount of chaos I’ll admit, but this seemed entirely appropriate for the themes the movie was trying to present. If I was the filmmaker and somebody called “Suicide Squad” “messy,”  I would take it as a compliment.

Ten Intriguing Documentaries to Stream on Netflix

Top 10 Documentaries Streaming on Netflix

I made this button myself, because Suite101 was hardcore about not stealing images. Just wanted to pitch my basic graphic design skills.

This is a re-post from Suite101. My 1-year exclusivity contract with them has expired, so I might be re-blogging some of my old articles here now.

As of the date this article was written (3/25/13), all the following documentaries are available for streaming for Netflix. But contracts change and sometimes movies will become DVD-only without warning, so watch instantly while you can!

I’ll strikeout the ones that are no longer available. Which, goddamn, are a lot. Netflix is apparently not doing so hot with the goal of turning everything digital. I will write another post with a couple more current documentary suggestions soon and link here to the updated list when I do.

10. e² Design

Director: Beth Levison

Narrated by Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman, this excellent PBS documentary series is riddled with interesting facts for the environmentally conscious. (Did you know that New York City, per capita, is one of the greener emitters of air pollution in the US?)

e² was produced by Kontentreal, a documentary and strategic entertainment company seeking creative, innovative, and market-ready solutions for world problems. Six episodes are available for streaming on Netflix.

9. Trouble the Water

Director: Carl Deal and Tia Lessin

From the producers of Fahrenheit 9/11, Trouble the Water is the gripping tale of a couple surviving failed levees of Hurricane Katrina, the ensuing bureaucracy in trying to obtain aid, and their the story of their own past of poverty. While When the Levees Broke is considered the quintessential New Orleans flood story, this film takes a smaller, more personal perspective of the 2004 tragedy. An extremely moving piece of work.

8. Radio Bikini

Director: Robert Stone

This one hour long, 1987 film uses declassified footage to tell the story of the US Government’s atomic bomb tests on the Island of Bikini Atoll at the start of the Cold War. Known as “Operation Crossroads,” the tests left the Marshall Islanders unable to safely return home, and the area remained dangerously radioactive for decades.

7. The One Percent

Director: Jamie Johnson

Johnson & Johnson heir Jamie Johnson uses his influential heritage to get coveted interviews, such as Milton Friedman, and get into esoteric places known only by the top 1% of the income-earners in the US. Touching the issues surrounding growing wealth inequality, it also probes the culture of the upper-class, and the efforts the rich take to maintain family wealth.

6. God Grew Tired of Us: The Story of Lost Boys of Sudan

Director: Christopher Dillon Quinn

This movie is the inspirational story of three lucky immigrants of the “Lost Boys of Sudan,” a group of some 25,000 young men displaced during the Second Sudanese Civil War,and the culture shock they experience when they move to the United States. For the first time, these men encounter aspects of life we take for granted, such as running water, supermarkets, and television. An emotional reunion with one of the subjects and his mother after 17 years of separation makes this film a bona fide tear-jerker.

5. 8: The Mormon Proposition

Director: Reed Cowan

“The only way you can win any ballot measure in California is money. That is the number one thing that you need. The second thing you need is volunteers. And the final thing you need–a message that resonates.” –Kate Kendell, executive director of NCLR, interviewed in 8: The Mormon Proposition.

This emotional and insightful documentary describes how The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints organized itself to bring the downfall of California’s 2008 Proposition 8, a piece of legislation that led to the legal banning same-sex marriage in the state.

4. This Film is Not Yet Rated

Director: Kirby Dick

This Film is Not Yet Rated is a thorough, investigative film about the NC-17,R ,PG-13, PG, G movie ratings system America is very familiar with. This picture looks into how the MPAA rates movies and the secrecy that surrounds their tactics. This Film is Not Yet Rated was rated NC-17 for some graphic sexual content by the MPAA.

3. Exit Through the Gift Shop

Director: Banksy

Academy award-nominated Exit Through the Gift Shop is a fascinating look into the underground world of graffiti art and the people who make it. The artist lifestyle is vesseled through the amusing story of an eccentric, amateur filmmaker’s attempts to befriend street art legend Banksy and then establish a name for himself as an artist.

2. Encounters at the End of the World

Director: Werner Herzog

Directed and narrated by Grizzly Man’s Werner Herzog, this documentary continues the German filmmaker’s style of finding and highlighting the stories of some of the most absurd and arguably lonely individuals of the human race. Filmed in Antarctica over a course of seven weeks, Herzog interviews those who would deign to leave their homes and families to work in the most isolated place on the earth. Here is a film clip on youtube of what Herzog calls “a deranged penguin,” running from its herd.

1. A State of Mind

Director: Daniel Gordon

Considering the tightly controlled outside media access to North Korea, A State of Mind is a gem of a social and cultural documentary. The British film follows the of two North Korean schoolgirls in a world so very far away and culturally diametrically opposed to the United States.

The film crew follows the daily lives of the adolescent girls as they watch their state-sponsored television, learn about Kim Jong-il in school, sing about being good communists, and spend hours in gymnastics practice, preparing to perform in the North Korean Mass Games. The two month-long gymnastics festival is a tribute to communist North Korean founder Kim il-sung, and participation as a performer in the Games is highly competitive.

A State of Mind is not a film about the oppressive horrors so well heard of in the West in the poverty-ridden country nor is it a politically charged piece. The girls featured lead strict but relatively comfortable lives, possibly only allowed by the government to be filmed for propaganda purposes. Anyone with a sense of individualism will find A State of Mind a mind-bending and slightly unsettling film, a definite must-see for anyone interested in international affairs or the psychology of group mindset.

Dear SHOEbuy.com, You’re Terrible

I ordered boots from shoebuy.com nearly 2 weeks ago. A few days ago, I sent them a nice e-mail asking why they haven’t shipped them yet. No response! The original confirmation e-mail said that they would ship in “1-5 days.”

At this point, I don’t even know if they actually have them in stock. For a big site with so much advertising, you’d think they’d have better customer service.

I drew a nice picture with explosive diarrhea expressing my sentiments for this online retailer.

I’m in NJ at the moment where it’s easier to ship things and going back to Brooklyn permanently on the 11th. If they don’t tell me what’s going on by Saturday, I’m going to try to contact them again to cancel the order.