Lighting Out for the Territories

(Both classic and modern allusions in headline)

After 26 years in California, my family decided it was time for a new adventure. So we sold our house, and last Sunday all piled in my Ford Escape and rolled out of our driveway in San Jose for the last time on a one-way trip across America–most likely ending around Nashville, TN–from where I’m writing this post in a local Starbucks.

Carolyn’s been blogging our moving adventures over at her blog ( — so check it out if you’d like lots of color commentary on the Great Bickford Road Trip (including all the weird things we ate at the Texas State Fair–fried Jello, anyone?)

In the meantime, we’ve had a great time seeing old friends as we made our way across the southwest, through Texas, and now, Tennessee. We’ll be looking at houses tonight and tomorrow with the very nice realtor who introduced us to Nashville Hot Chicken, and will likely be settling down if we can make something happen here and all the other factors work out right. At least, that’s “Plan A”.

“Plan B?” Well, it’s a big, amazing country with a lot of wonderful people and places in it. And I have to admit, it’s sort of thrilling to have all the possibilities wide open. I’ll do my best to keep everyone updated as things develop…

Control Through Fear

It seems as we approach the election, that the favored strategy of the media–once again–is to try to excuse one deplorable candidate’s innumerable faults by peddling the story that at least they’re not as SCARY as the other candidate.

Is your favored candidate a lifelong Washington power-broker who’s voted or connived to start multiple wars? For the media, this presents no problem: All they have to do is simply never mention any of those annoying facts (which they once proudly touted as hallmarks of their candidate’s “smart” foreign policy), while repeatedly running red-faced pictures of the opponent accompanied by half-baked conjecture on how he might send the world straight to nuclear armageddon with his “overheated rhetoric”… about, uh, Mexicans, or fat beauty queens, or the Russians which… uh… he’s apparently too friendly with.

I mean, crazy friendly. You know, like “start-a-war” friendly.


But seriously, folks, this stuff is nuts. And I can’t believe that not only are many otherwise perfectly sensible people playing along with it, but that they also bought it every four years going back to at least Reagan, if not earlier.

Look, anyone who knows me well knows that I regard this election as absolute horror show. There is literally nobody in the race who even remotely represents my point of view*. That said, at the end of the day, most of us are going to hold our noses and vote for the person we consider the least-bad of the bunch. But that doesn’t mean we have to simultaneously parrot the media’s insane talking points about how weally, weally scawwy the other guy is.

As it turns out, no matter who wins, the shocking truth is that:

  • No one’s illegal immigrant gardener is going to be put in a cattle car and sent to the gas chambers. Even if they did overwater the roses.
  • The president stands no risk at all of accidentally punching the “nuclear button” because they forgot to say “half-caf” when ordering that double-espresso.
  • And no, women are not going to be “put in binders” or forced to use coat hangers for anything other than hanging clothes; and blacks are not going to be all “put back in chains” or hunted to extinction by legions of racist cops.

This is all, as they say, nonsense on stilts. But I can’t believe how many times I’ve heard the same conversations repeated earnestly at bars, in checkout lines, or on Facebook.

C’mon folks. Let’s change things up this (miserable) election and at least not embarrass ourselves by pretending the world works like any of that. Frankly, the folks in the press pushing these fairy stories are treating us with absolute contempt. Wouldn’t it be nice if for once we returned the favor instead of credulously playing along.

Hey, I can dream, right?

*I’m basically a John F. Kennedy Democrat–whose pro-business policies of lower taxes, free markets, and consistent support of human rights and freedom around the world, enabled by a muscular but restrained military– would mark both of us as troglodyte, fascist, Nazi mouth-breathers in today’s crazy political landscape. 


How to Score Free Stuff from me when Ordering on Atomic Avenue


I’ve often mentioned in the ComicBase User’s Group meetings that we here at ComicBase order comics a lot like a mid-sized comic store does. Basically, we order one of every “normal” comic book (everything but extremely expensive variants, or those that require you to order X regular copies in order to buy 1 copy of the variant issue). And yes, our comic bill each month is genuinely frightening.

After we scan and index the books, they typically get added to my collection and sold at the going market price on Atomic Avenue. (My store is

Now, one of the weird wrinkles of ordering a jillion comics per month is that Diamond periodically damages comics (typically bent edges when the packing was a little tight), or throws in giveaways or promotional comics. We also wind up with huge numbers of Free Comic Book Day and Halloween special comics, which–since we don’t have a storefront–tend to accumulate.

Since it wouldn’t be honest to try to sell the comics we got damage credit for, or that were meant as giveaways, I typically try to load up the packages I sell on Atomic Avenue with as many of these extras as will fit–provided it doesn’t cost me in extra shipping.

In effect, that means that if I can throw in one or two with a regular order without adding to the shipping cost, I will. But the surest way to get a package stuffed with whatever I’ve got is to take advantage of the packages that I’d wind up shipping in a flat rate envelope: essentially, any regular order with 3 to 12 comics in it.

The way it breaks down is typically this: 1-2 comics fits in a flat mailer (like the kind used for photos), and is charged by the ounce as First Class postage. But as soon as you get to 3, you get over the magical “13 oz” level–typically with the third comic–it has to be shipped a Priority Mail package. And from 3 to 12 comics, I can ship them for the same flat rate price. (After 12 comics, they no longer fit in the envelope and I have to use a conventional box).

So: If you want free goodies from me with your order, just order that 3rd comic and you’re likely to receive a package packed full of surprises.


Which Tech Bit the Dust in 2015 in the Bickford Household

As I get ready for the new year, here’s a look back at some of the formerly cherished tech toys that bit the dust this year. Call me crazy, but these are actually some of my favorite ways of looking back at the way life changes over the long haul–whether it’s the year we got rid of all our VHS tapes and record albums or the ever-morphing setup of our home networking, it’s actually sort of fascinating to watch the passage of the years by looking at what got dumped on Craigslist or thrown into the garbage bin.

DirecTV and associated DVRs

Cause of Death: Hulu Plus

After years of looking askance at the “cord cutters”, I got a really good look at our $100+ satellite bill and decided to see how easy it would be to get the same programming elsewhere. This led me to discovering Hulu Plus, particularly the $12.99 commercial-free version, which we found allows us to stream not only almost every show we watch, but countless other fascinating shows ranging from ancient British science-fiction to full seasons of our favorite comedies–all without the need to rapidly skip forward on the DVR to avoid commercials.

What doesn’t it have? For us, the pain points–if they even deserve the name–were the loss of current season of Project Runway, the Superbowl, and Big Bang Theory. But with so much other programming available, we found it easy to ignore the missing reality shows until next season, and the addition of an on-air antenna seems to promise to solve our other limited programming gaps (with the further option of simply waiting a few months until the DVDs come out which we can grab from Netflix). I also gave up watching any amount of news, but found I don’t miss it a bit, especially given how prevalent coverage is over the internet.

If you’re a big sports fan, this might not be the move for you, it’s been a huge win for us, and probably the hardest thing to getting rid of Satellite proved finding a way to dismantle and dispose of the dish that had been mounted on our house ever since dropping cable a decade earlier

Google TV from Logitech

I actually won this unit a number of years ago at CES, and I was thrilled to use it to easily search for shows using the Bluetooth keyboard in conjunction with the DirecTV DVRs it was hooked up to. This is also notably the device that nearly drove Logitech into the grave, since they invested so hard in what became a spectacularly unprofitable product for them.

Cause of Death: The XBox 360 sitting next to it assuming all its TV app duties, and the dropping of satellite in the Bickford household.


Two Mac Minis, Three Shuttle XPCs, and Various Firewalls and Network Gear

Cause of Death: Network consolidation

It’s sort of fun setting up a vast and varied network of computers, tying together multiple office locations and business domains, while managing backup, mail service, and all the other fiddly bits that go into running a business.

As it turns out, it’s even more fun simplifying the whole mess and having way less “support surface” to worry about. This is what happened when AT&T Fiber moved into the building this spring, triggering a re-think of our whole network infrastructure, a very messy (and expensive!) shut-off of our Comcast Business internet at the office, and the unification of two of our corporate “domains” under one roof. The whole process took months, but if felt great every time we got a chance to bin an old server and simplify the overall picture in a new, simpler, and faster network setup.


Circling the Drain: Dell 2309WFP Webcam-enabled Monitors

Cause of Death: Windows 10

I like this monitor. The color reproduction is a little overly bright, but I still liked it so much I bought three of them and distributed them to various folks at home and office as it’s both a practical and affordable monitor, as well as packing a decent little webcam into the bezel which is perfect for Skype. Unfortunately, I discovered today that the the webcam is also incompatible–in a blue-screen kind of way–with Windows 10. The only solution is apparently to disconnect the USB port, disabling the camera, and reducing a great monitor to a merely average 23″ panel. I think it’s time to start moving these toward the door…

San Jose International Short Film Festival: The Best of the Rest

I’m writing this two days after the end of the festival, my mind still reeling from the sheer number and variety of movies I saw. It’s simply impossible to have seen everything, and my apologies go to many no-doubt worthy entries which I didn’t get to see.

Here’s a few of my favorites from the final two days of the show:


An animated film by Natalie Labarre which beautifully captures the joys and frustrations of a guy raising a little girl. How do you ever breach the gap between the world of tea parties and stuffed animals with the adult world of work and responsibility? With a lot of love. Beautifully told and heartfelt.


An incredibly ambitious Australian thriller that marries CSI style forensics with an intelligent ghost story.

The Smiling Man

Saw this one as part of the late night Saturday horror block, and A.J. Briones’ little 7 minute film is definitely the stuff nightmares are made of.  The only thing I could wish was a little more of a back story or reason for the action, although the titular character’s performance alone is enough to disturb.

Honorable Mentions/Well Worth Seeing

Dave – A comedy about a many who wakes up after an accident to discover a daughter he never met at his bedside. Awkward!

Carry On  – Overall winner of the festival – An Austrian movie about an elderly couple who scratch out a farm living and have to come to the decision to put down an old donkey. A bit bleak for my taste, but a great film nonetheless with pitch-perfect acting and technique.

The Holy Cave – A high school sex comedy from Spain, wherein a couple of outcasts with parents who travel a lot decide to become popular by turning their home into a hook up spot.

Love is Blind – A UK comedy about a cheating girlfriend who’s in the midst of a fling when her deaf boyfriend returns home.

Moving On – Imagine finding out the relationship is over when a moving service shows up at your door, hired by your former paramour, to get you and your stuff out of the house. Good concept, sharply executed, with a nice appearance by Robin Lord Taylor (Gotham’s “Penguin”) as one of the movers.

First Date – Another nice Australian comedy of sheer awkwardness and misunderstanding by Rob Innes. Won in the comedy category at the festival, but personally I thought it could have been funnier if they’d pushed the material just a little farther. (It was awkfward-funny instead of South Park-style-“Omigod I can’t believe what I’m hearing”-funny).

Enfilade – A minimalistic, and unique-looking film from Australia’s David Coyle. Imagine Cube done by someone who’s played too much Portal.

Best of Day 2: San Jose International Short Film Festival

I’m beginning to come to the conclusion that the easiest form of short film to do successfully is comedy. Although there were exceptions, most of the films I saw on the second day struggled at least somewhat with the various demands of establishing characters, setting, and an emotional arc–particularly in the dramatic and sci-if genres.

That said, here are some of the best:

Joe Gonzalez’s story of a man who hasn’t been lucky in love, and has launched on a rather novel way to gain revenge. Funny, outrageous, and a movie that nevertheless has a heart.

A King’s Betrayal

From David Bornstein, a real gem of a short that manages both comedy and existential angst from the perspective of a Piñata.

Getting In

An all-too-relatable tale of a guy who gets into the college of his dreams on a sham squash scholarship (he ran the odds of a full ride as a star academic student (7%) against that of the most feeble of athletic scholarships (47%) and took the sensible route). But it all went south when an “injury” caused him to lose the squash scholarship and he was left with over $20,000 in tuition for a semester with only days to pay it. So extreme measures went into play…


Great stuff, managing an entire 80s college movie in a mere 13 minutes. Director Stian Hafstad also has a terrific time sending up all the “hacker” motifs in Hollywood while doing some very clever plotting.



Austin Kolodney’s hilarious rendition of an American family at Christmastime that discovers the Peruvian holiday of “Takanakuy” wherein grievances are settled with fistfights. Imagine The Good, the Bad and the Ugly crossed with National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. With a bit of Enter the Dragon thrown in for good measure.

San Jose International Short Film Festival – Best of Day 1

Day 1 was the red carpet opening along with a revue of past favorites, followed by a round of comedy shorts from recent years.

My favorites so far:

“Fool’s Day” 

Trailer (some spoilers):

Full movie:

Comments: Oh. My. God. This was wonderful, and very dark stuff. Absolutely brilliant comedy filmmaking by Cody Blue Snider. I only wish I could get this on disc to show off to friends.

Status Update: A Facebook Fairy Tale

Hilarious, snarky, and NSFW British movie from Dan Reisinger.

Chronicles Simpkins will Cut Your Ass

Brendan Hughes has a hilarious (and evil) take on the mean kids terrorizing the school playground… except this time, it’s elementary school and the gang of toughs is led by a pig-tailed trash-mouth named Chronicle Simpkins. It’s that rare short that starts out funny and gets funnier and funnier.

The Answers

A man dies and gets answers to all his questions about his life. A great premise, strong performances, tight plotting and a compelling emotional arc–everything a short film should be.