coffee beans

Entering the Age of the Aeropress

Okay, sorry guys, but I have to indulge in these total coffee nerd moments every once in a while. Thanks for understanding.

To me, coffee is far more than just a pleasurable drink. It’s an experience. It’s a mood. It’s a feeling that can take you to the greatest depths of creative passion, a force that can pull you through the hardest, most painful times, or a source of stimulation that makes an interesting conversation even better. That’s why Coffee Moments™ are so great.

If you’re not a fan, then I’ve seen that tea is the same way for many people. Either way, I’m all about the hot beverages.

While any coffee lovers knows the importance of poking your head into a third wave coffee shop with some degree of regularity, it’s also important to have some sort of home setup, even if that setup pales in comparison to what the coffee shops offer. For me, I’ve spent the last couple of years preparing most of my morning cups with a V-60 pour over. Pour overs are one of the most convenient coffee preparation methods, and something I’d definitely recommend for most people, both coffee aficionados and newcomers alike.

However, as of last month, a new era in my life has begun: meet the AeroPress.

Aeropress coffee Nicholas Conley

I’m amazed that I went this long without investigating the AeroPress, and now, I’m madly in love with it. It’s fast, thorough, and prepares an absolutely fantastic cup of coffee. What more could a person ask for? There are a couple of different preparation methods, but my preference is for the “inverted” method.

For more information, check out the official AeroPress site. If you’re a coffee fan, you won’t regret it. Trust me. And if you’ve already been using the AeroPress for some time, cheers.

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Roswell alien nicholas conley

Let’s Talk About Aliens, UFOS, and All That

Extraterrestrial aliens have always fascinated me, and that interest is one of the big factors that inspired me to write my upcoming science fiction novel, Intraterrestrial.

When I say “aliens,” I don’t mean just the bumpy-headed ones in Star Trek, either, but also the standard grey guys, the glowing surreal ones, and even the weird lights in the sky. I spent most of my earliest years in Sedona, Arizona, which calls itself an international “dark-sky community” because of low light pollution: basically, that means that when you stare up into those desert skies, you see an absolutely mind-blowing array of stars.

I looked up into those stars a lot, when I was young. And I wondered, just like everyone wonders.

Ufo flying saucer nicholas conley aliens

While I’ve never actually seen any evidence in my own lifetime that convinced me of an extraterrestrial presence here on Earth, I’ve always kept my mind open to whatever new twist might come around the corner. After all, to rule out the possibility would be arrogance. Hey, you never know.

One thing is for sure: whether they’ve ever been here to Earth or not, there definitely has to be something out there. There are a lot of planets throughout the universe, so to think that we’re all alone would be the height of solipsism. The question is what, exactly, another living species that evolved under completely different conditions would really be like —  and that’s a question that I set out to explore in Intraterrestrial.

Intraterrestrial Nicholas Conley sci-fi book aliens tbi brain injury

There’s still some time before Intraterrestrial starts ramping up for its release date, and as that time approaches, we’ll keep talking some more about aliens, what sort of form they might take, and so on.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in reading more of my thoughts on a certain major UFO conspiracy, I have an article out on Grunge that dissects the infamous “Roswell Incident,” studying how it started, how it grew after the release of the supposedly classified “Majestic 12” incident, and what the official word on it is. If you’re interested, give it a read here: The Untold Truth of Roswell

Let’s back up a bit, though, because aliens weren’t always such a cultural zeitgeist. Once upon a time, some strange events set off the UFO craze as we know it. In order to track America’s alien obsession all the way down to its glowing green roots, we’re going back to the 1940s, on the day when a bizarre crash landing forever redefined Roswell, then just an everyday city in New Mexico. Here’s the full story.

Read More: http://www.grunge.com/93986/untold-truth-roswell/?utm_campaign=clip

Roswell alien nicholas conley

Also, readers! I’m interested to hear from you.

What do you guys think about the possibility of extraterrestrial life? Have you ever seen a UFO, yourself? If so, share your stories!

Are you tired of daylight saving time?

I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely tired of losing an hour of sleep every spring. Daylight saving time (DST) is the worst. Or maybe you’re a fan, in which case, my apologies.

Since I spent most of my childhood in Arizona, I can honestly state that I had never even heard of daylight saving time until adolescence, when we moved to the East Coast. Imagine, for a second, just how weird it sounded: “We’re setting the clocks back an hour? Why? Wait, is this some sort of prank?” All these years later, I’ve still never come to terms with it.

However, it just so happens that all this clock-switching is actually a lot more detrimental than we realize. It makes us sicker, sleepier, less focused, and does really bizarre things with Amtrak schedules. As regular readers here know, I’ve been writing for Grunge, and I decided to take a dive through time and research the long, sordid history of this biannual tradition. You can read it here: Bizarre Facts You Never Knew About Daylight Saving Time

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As for me, now that I’m a New Englander, I’m pretty jazzed about the idea that the New England states might gang up and kick clock switching to the curb, in favor of year-long daylight saving. One thing’s for sure, now that we’ve “fallen back,” these 4pm sunsets are getting real old, real fast.

On the other hand, I’m really fascinated by the argument given by Matthew Yglesias of Vox, who suggests that we should eschew time zones altogether, in favor of a single “Earth Time” for the human race. Vox suggests that we all adopt a single 24-hour clock across the world, and stop the madness of trying to match each other all the time. It’s an interesting notion.

What do you all think?

Hilarious Spider-Man Ripoff Games in the Google Play Store

Okay, so one day I was on a long ride, and had some time to kill. I’ve always enjoyed Solitaire, though I haven’t played it for a few years. However, since my tablet was fully charged, I figured that it was a good opportunity to download a Solitaire app, and get back into the game. And hey, I figured, why not do Spider Solitaire while I’m at it?

So anyway, I go into the Google Play Store, and as I start typing “Spider,” it pulls up a search for “Spider-Man games.”

Now, I have to admit, I’m not a gamer. Don’t get me wrong, I shot up my fair share of demons back in the Doom days, but the world has changed a lot since then. However, as longtime readers know, I’m pretty passionate about superheroes, and Spider-Man in particular. Seeing the term “Spider-Man games” got me immensely curious about how such an acrobatic character could be adapted to a game playable by cell phones and tablets. Was it even possible?

I had to know. So I accepted the search for “Spider-Man Games,” but I could have never prepared for the array of hilariously dubious parodies that soon presented themselves to me. Now, don’t get me wrong, I get it: programmers want to make their own Spidey game, and can’t afford the official license, so they skate as close to the edge as they can without tipping over it. Nonetheless, the results are pretty amusing. Coming up ahead, here are the best ones I saw.

 

Spider Adventure

Spider Adventure Doc Ock Spider-Man ripoff knockoff

Hey, it’s Spidey vs. Doctor Octopus, just like Spider-Man 2!

Oh, wait. No, it’s not. It’s just a spider-themed vigilante in a Spider Adventure, facing off against a bad guy with metal arms. What a weird coincidence, huh? Though I don’t know if that’s actually a spider on the hero’s chest, a biohazard symbol, or some weird combination of the two. Maybe it’s an abstract representation of a nuclear-powered spider. Who knows.

Anyway, according to its description, Spider Hero is an open world adventure that gives the player the opportunity to become a “guardian of the universe” (note, not the galaxy) by stopping a corporation from creating an army of mutants. Hey, sounds good. The game gets really good reviews, so if you’re curious, you can download it here on the Play Store. 

Stickman Rope Hero

Stickman Rope Hero

Okay, Spider Adventure was one thing, but now it’s starting to get silly. This game lets you pilot around a hero who looks a lot like Spider-Man — but he isn’t Spider-Man, he’s the Stickman Rope Hero. And those aren’t webs he’s swinging around on, oh no, those are ropes. Can’t you tell?

Just to make sure that you never confuse this badass dude with that punk Peter Parker kid, the Stick Man Rope Hero takes on his enemies with some heavy duty military weapons, including machine guns, bazookas, and tanks. So he’s more like the Punisher… except, uh, he swings around on “ropes.” This game also gets really good reviews, so give it a look here. 

Strange Hero

Strange Hero Spider-Man

Huh, it’s weird how much this “Strange Hero” looks like another spider-themed vigilante. It’s also weird how this screenshot shows him doing exactly the same pose as the opening scene of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but y’know what, when a hero’s gotta jump into action, there are only so many ways he can do it.

However, while Spider-Man generally takes on crooks and burglars, the plot of this Strange Hero game has you stopping a whole alien invasion. So hey, that’s cool. Take that, Avengers!

Here is the game’s page, if you want to check it out.

Amazing Spider City Survival

Amazing Spider City Survival Spider-Man yellow

I know that you think that the superhero in the image above is Spider-Man, but it’s not. You know how you can tell? Because Spider-Man wears red and blue, whereas this guy — the “Amazing Spider Superhero” —  wears yellow and purple. See? On top of that, I’ve never seen Spider-Man fly through the air carrying lifelike clothing mannequins from the mall… oh wait, is that supposed to be a live civilian? Hmm. Maybe this is some kinda weird planking competition.

Well, whatever this guy is doing with that planking champion, the game’s description seems like a quest that the real Peter Parker would probably approve of, since it involves saving the city from gangsters, or something along those lines. Give it a look here.

Snake Slither and Block

Snake Slither and Block Spider-Man Pac-Man game

Okay, now this game here has officially gone too far for me to handle. Looking at the image above, I don’t whether to laugh, cry, or scream in terror. The more I stare at it, the more I can’t figure out whether I’m looking at Spider-Man, or the classic old “snake” game, or Pac-Man, or Tetris, or some bizarre mutant combination of all those things at once. It’s just too much!

And with that said, I’m officially Spidered out. Time to take a deep breath, and watch Spider-Man: Homecoming again.

What about you guys? Have you all encountered similarly hilarious ripoff games before—whether Spidey-related or otherwise—and what were they like?

Scary Halloween Tree Nicholas Conley

The Value of a Spooky October

We’re now knee deep into the spookiest time of the year, which is to say October — a month that is, from start to finish, dominated by Halloween. Throughout the month of October, you’ll see jack o’lanterns on porches, scarecrows on downtown street corners, horror movies in the cinema, and ghosts hanging from street lamps. Then at the end of the month, kids fill the sidewalks in all kinds of creepy costumes.

However, outside of pure entertainment—and putting all the consumerism aside—I think there’s a real psychological value to Halloween.

See, as we all know, the human psyche is always yearning for catharsis. That’s why in regular life, avoidance of a problem just makes a problem worse: you have to face your fears, not run away from them. It’s also why we do crazy things like skydiving. We crave resolution. We thrive on the thrill of facing our fears.

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Halloween, as it is today, is basically the one time a year where our entire culture faces our fears at the same time. We like scary things. By dressing up as ghosts, ghouls, and monsters, decorating our houses with skeletons, and watching the newest scary films, we’re taking on our fears, instead of running away from them. It’s like the Self-Cannibalistic Creative Monster, but on a wider level. Halloween is more than just a fun way to spend the month: it’s a necessary cultural catharsis, particularly in scary times like the present day, where every morning’s news headlines are so anxiety-inducing.

Facing our fears, turning them into a source of entertainment rather than terror, is a vacation that everyone needs once in a while. So Happy Halloween, everyone, and enjoy the scares!

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The Concept of Privilege

The concept of privilege can be a challenging one to get across, but it’s one of the key factors that has shaped the inequalities, imbalances, and prejudices of society today.  In order to fix the problem, the first step is acknowledging it.

Too often, when a person is informed of their privilege, they are likely to respond “Hey, I worked hard for what I have.” However, what this person isn’t realizing is that acknowledging the fact that they are privileged doesn’t invalidate any hard work they might have put into their career, social life, and so on: it simply contextualizes it.  To be privileged doesn’t mean that a person had everything handed to them on a silver platter—though it can, if they did!—but rather, in many cases, privilege means that a person was born with the right set of circumstances that allowed them to achieve success through hard work. Not everyone is so lucky.

This really isn’t a complicated concept to understand: whereas a person born in a luckier set of circumstances (for example, a family that can afford to send them to a private school) can achieve success through hard work, another person born in more difficult circumstances could work just as hard, yet not achieve the same results, due to the unfairness of their birth conditions in relation to society. The widespread deception that “everyone starts on the same level playing field” is a dangerous falsehood that has festered in the American psyche for generations, and it accounts for a huge amount of the anger, racism, xenophobia, class warfare, and so on today.

Imagine an Olympic race where one person gets to begin running at the starting line, whereas another person—against their will—is forced to start ten feet back and wait twenty seconds, for no good reason. Sure, both runners might have given it their all. But one of those runners had a huge advantage at the starting point, and that’s fundamentally unjust.

Many factors play into privilege. Class is the most obvious one: it’s much harder for a person born in the working class to move upward than it is for someone born in the upper class. That’s pretty basic. However, race is arguably an even bigger factor: people with more melanin in their skin face irrational prejudices against them at every corner, combined with the horrors of systemic racism, and surveys have shown that far too many companies still are less likely to call back resumes with less-white sounding names. Sex is also an enormous factor, as women today still face the constant realities of sexual harassment in the workplace, and surveys show that, on average, women still earn 79 cents for every dollar a man earns. Disability, neurodiversity, nationality, gender, religious background, and so on are also factors.

Privilege is the invisible benefit one receives when one doesn’t have to worry about their race, sex, class, religious background, or so on: privilege is when a person gets to go into a job interview, and to know that they’ll be seen for their decided traits/experience/individuality, rather than the labels that others have applied to them.

Again, the first step toward fixing the privilege problem is acknowledging that it exists, and spreading that awareness to others. One of the best explanations I’ve ever read of the subject was actually featured in a web comic titled On a Plate, by Toby Morris. Give it a read on this link to TheWireless.co.nz, and next time you’re looking to explain privilege to someone, consider sending it along to them.

Link: On a Plate

 

twins nicholas conley

Writing for Grunge.com

Good morning, everyone!

So, I’m happy to share that I’ve joined up with the writers of Grunge.com. For those who haven’t read Grunge before, it’s a quality site, dedicated to diving deep into pools of weird information, exploring unknown facts, and correcting common misconceptions. Since I’ve always had the sort of brain that’s hungry to explore any corner of knowledge I find myself in, I’m having a great time.

Here are a few of my pieces so far. Thanks for giving ’em a read!

Weird Things That Medical TV Shows Always Get Wrong

House MD nicholas conley

Strange Facts You Never Knew About Twins

twins nicholas conley

Clever Movies That Trick You With Double Plot Twists

arrival nicholas conley

Animals That Evolved to Defend Themselves Against Humans

animals evolved nicholas conley