On Halt and Catch Fire and the Show that Paved the Way For It

Halt and Catch Fire show has been criticized as a cheap rip-off of Mad Men, set in the ’80s, but the contrast between the two shows couldn’t be sharper.

While Mad Men was the story of a man whose entire life was a lie, trying to fit into a world overrun with corporatism and consumerism, Halt and Catch Fire is about people whose lives are anything but a lie, a cast of highly intelligent misfits trying to create a new world which fits them instead of conforming to a world in which they don’t fit.

While Mad Men embraced the glamor and romanticism of 1960s America while the occasional nods to the cultural and political turmoil of the times, Halt and Catch Fire almost entirely ignores politics and culture, instead putting its characters in the trenches and letting us watch as each of them battle society as it affects them personally, in the moment.

Both shows push concepts of morality. While the good guys on Mad Men would often lie — and once resorted to outright prostitution — to get a deal that might only last a few weeks (“The day you sign a client is the day you lose them,” Roger Sterling once quipped on the show.), the good guys on Halt and Catch Fire will steal computers out of the back of a van, steal electricity from their neighbors, and steal money out of someone else’s bank account in order to keep the dream at the heart of the show alive.

Mad Men celebrated a world of big business set against the skyscrapers of Manhattan and the ritziest seasides of Los Angeles, delving into the moral ambiguities associated with big business. Halt and Catch Fire, on the other hand, celebrates the kind of entrepreneurialism born in a garage, the ragged-edge scrap to make something from nothing, the kind of “ends justify the means” mentality that is celebrated in movies like PIRATES OF SILICON VALLEY.

Like Mad Men, the writers on Halt and Catch Fire exercise a multi-layered approach to storytelling. Small, insignificant moments in one episode turn into major plot points episodes later. Both shows reward viewers who pay close attention, and both shows stand up well to repeated viewings.

Yet, while Mad Men had its own share of sparkling and hilarious dialogue, I could never imagine the following conversation being effective on Mad Men:

Joe: “Nathan’s making a mistake selling the company so soon, it’s worth at least twenty-percent more than this valuation.”

Gordon: “Yeah? Well I think it was a mistake to burn a truck full of our computers and then go running off into the woods.”

Joe: Pause. “Lot of mistakes, all around.”

According to the ratings, Halt and Catch Fire is a show nobody watches. That’s a shame. It’s not Mad Men, but it is its own show. It’s great in its own way.

On Halt and Catch Fire and the Show that Paved the Way For It was originally published on Random Thoughts from the Passenger Seat

Product Review: DKnight MagicBox II Bluetooth Speaker

Disclaimer: DKnight sent me a unit for free in exchange for an honest review.

The DKnight MagicBox II puts out impressive sound for such a small speaker. It’s a 10 watt, bluetooth 4.0 speaker with incredible battery life. I’ve had mine for 2 ½ weeks now and it still shows a full charge.

While DKnight includes a bass pad and promotes the MagicBox II on its bass-producing abilities, the music I listen to really doesn’t require much bass output. However, when listening to classical, the MagicBox II has a bright sound with a high degree of clarity and you can hear the separation of instruments. It’s truly an incredible experience, especially for speakers at this price range.

The MagicBox II is advertised with a range of 30 feet, and I’ve found that the range is indeed very good. However, when listening indoors, walls do tend to reduce the range, and even if I’m very close to the speaker, I experience intermittent interruptions playing music off my phone when my phone is in my pocket. However, I can leave my phone on the kitchen counter and take the MagicBox II outside and listen on the patio with no interruptions.

Overall, I really love this device. I think anyone shopping for a bluetooth speaker should check it out. It won’t provide the same sound experience as big name brands like Beats, JBL, Bose, or Sonos, but for the price, the sound is absolutely incredible. I highly recommend it.

Product Review: DKnight MagicBox II Bluetooth Speaker was originally published on Random Thoughts from the Passenger Seat

Product Review: Ben-Q WiT Intelligent E-Reading Light

Can any lamp be worth $249?

The Ben-Q WiT can be if you think of it less as a lamp, and more of a piece of lighting technology.

For professionals who work on computers all day, who suffer from eye-strain or eye-fatigue, this piece of technology could actually provide relief. This is probably a product best suited for corporate and enterprise use. For everyone else, it may be a stretch.

However, the Ben-Q is a solid, high-quality, well-built piece of lighting technology unlike anything else on the market — with intelligent ambient lighting technology and adjustable LEDs, it’s definitely head and shoulders above any $20 lamp you’ll find at the local hardware store.

If you think this lamp might be right for you, you can purchase through Amazon here: http://www.amztk.com/task-light

DISCLAIMER: Ben-Q sent me this item in exchange for an honest review. If I sound impressed with this device, it’s because I really am.

Technical note: For some reason, my equipment never cooperated with for this review. I probably shot nearly two hours of footage only to end up using a take with hissy audio. The take that I had clear audio had severe focus issues, and I have almost an hour of review footage with no audio whatsoever. I tried to do better, but I hit a deadline on this one…


Product Review: Ben-Q WiT Intelligent E-Reading Light was originally published on Random Thoughts from the Passenger Seat

Just arrived in the mail! Out of print hardback copy of the second cookbook by the awesome Three Guys from Miami at iCuban.com! I cannot wait to start making some of these recipes!

PRODUCT REVIEW: Bael Wellness Seat Cushion

I’m trying my hand with product reviews. This particular review is for the Bael Wellness Seat Cushion, which is designed to help with a number of back problems. I have degenerative disc disease and had spent two weeks bedridden because of a tailbone problem prior to receiving the Bael Wellness Seat Cushion, so the timing couldn’t have been better.

DISCLAIMER: Bael Wellness sent me this product at a discount in exchange for an honest review. You can purchase or see other reviews of the Bael Wellness Seat Cushion here: https://www.amazon.com/Bael-Wellness-Sciatica-Orthopedic-Tailbone/dp/B00HUJWBHY


PRODUCT REVIEW: Bael Wellness Seat Cushion was originally published on Random Thoughts from the Passenger Seat

The Truth About the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban and the AR-15

The 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban not actually ban the manufacture or sale of the AR-15 rifle. Yet, I keep reading both on social media and in mainstream media that we need to re-instate the Federal Assault Weapons Ban in order to keep people from purchasing AR-15 rifles.


I understand that gun control is a touchy subject. I am trying to be respectful of everyone’s feelings on the subject, regardless of what those feelings are. However, there is a lot of gross misinformation being passed around as fact, particularly with regards to the AR-15 rife and the Clinton-era Federal Assault Weapons Ban.

When engaging in a discussion of an issue such as gun control, I believe one should be as accurate in their terminology and as researched as possible. This goes for both sides of the argument.

This is a long post about the history of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, not the politics. I am not posting this to promote gun control. I am not going to argue about gun control. I’m trying to be as unbiased as possible while explaining, to the best of my understanding, what the Federal Assault Weapons Ban was and how it relates specifically to the AR-15 rifle. If you want to argue, please do it elsewhere, but please do so with the proper facts and terminology.


In 1994, the Federal Assault Weapons Ban was passed with a 10-year sunset provision. This legalization defined semi-automatic assault weapons by a specific set of criteria and then banned sale and manufacture of weapons under that set of criteria. This criteria was largely feature-based, and included a limit on the number of specialized features a firearm could have, such as pistol grips, flash suppressors, and collapsible stocks — none of which affect the rate of fire, the force of fire, or, arguably, the accuracy of the weapon.

Under the law, a firearm could have only a limited number of these features. Firearms that fell within the designated criteria were legal for manufacture and sale in the United States, unless specifically banned by name (make and model number) in the bill.

The Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 did place strict limits on the amount of ammunition that firearm magazines could hold, which was 10 or less. No exceptions.

Under the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban, the AR-15 was legal and available for sale to the general public. However, the media keeps reporting that the AR-15 was illegal during this ban.

Specific to the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, the AR-15 has a pistol grip integrated into its design. That means that other add-on, optional features, such as collapsable stock, were considered illegal. It was also illegal to modify a post-ban AR-15 with these features.

In the case of the AR-15, what the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban essentially did was equivalent to saying that you can buy a pickup truck with a V-8 engine OR an automatic transmission OR a leather interior, but you can’t have any combination of those features on the same vehicle.

In the strictest sense, during the ban, a new AR-15 could not be purchased with certain features or modified to possess features which are now common and legal. However, a truck that has a V-8 and an automatic transmission and a leather interior is functionally the same as a truck that only has a V8 engine. In other words, if leather interiors were outlawed, it wouldn’t mean that all pickup trucks were banned — only those with leather interiors. Such was the case with the AR-15.

Often, the only difference between an AR-15 rifle sold before the ban and an AR-15 rifle sold after the ban was simply the size of the magazine sold with the rifle and the amount of ammunition that magazine could hold. Functionally, the two rifles operated exactly the same.

The federal Assault Rifle Ban sunsetted in 2004. It wasn’t repealed, it simply wasn’t renewed, even though the Bush Administration was reportedly in favor of renewal in the months leading up to its sunset. There are still vigorous arguments on both sides of the debate as to the effectiveness of the legislation.

Ironically, a 1989 ban on IMPORTED assault weapons was passed under the George Herbert Walker Bush administration was arguably more stringent than the Clinton-era Federal Assault Weapons Ban: http://www.nytimes.com/1989/07/08/us/import-ban-on-assault-rifles-becomes-permanent.html

The Truth About the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban and the AR-15 was originally published on Random Thoughts from the Passenger Seat