Ode to Oatmeal

What is there to really say about oatmeal?
I suppose I owe it thanks for all
The good it does my cholesterol.

But still, that does not encompass how I feel
While munching that mess in my mouth,
Its fiber sending my stomach’s contents south.

It takes very little to prepare
Beyond small oats and water, plus hot air.
Its texture is what seems unique;
Chewing mush takes some technique.
But though oatmeal my doctor recommends,
To Hell it will my taste buds send.

How To Develop a Close Relationship with Your Pet Bird

Anyone who thinks owning a bird is like owning a fish is fooling themselves. There is more spark and personality in a bird than in any floppy old fish.

Side note: I am so sorry to any fish owners I am currently offending.

I got my cockatiel, Froley, because I wanted a pet that I could show affection to and who would show that affection back. And by golly, that’s what ended up happening. I have never had a pet who I love more than Froley. He is the cutest widdle bird in the whole wide world, and he’s more affectionate than I had originally hoped for.

However, getting to that point in your relationship with your pet bird can be difficult. It’s a long process, and it’s easy to feel disheartened about it. You don’t buy birds that automatically love you, especially if you’re buying it from a pet store.

Side note: Most bird help books recommend you purchase your new pet bird from a breeder, but given where you live, that isn’t always feasible. It sure wasn’t for me.

Despite that, it is possible to develop a close bond with your bird, and here are a few tips to get you started.

Side note: I have only ever owned one pet bird, and it is a cockatiel. Am I an authority? Kinda, maybe, sorta, not really.

Set up the cage before bringing them home.

It can be tempting to go on a spending splurge the day you get your new bird, buying them a cage, toys, food containers, cuttle bones etc., but you should definitely buy those things and set them up before you actually buy the bird. Your new pet is going to be super stressed as it is, arriving in this alien house that it isn’t used to. It doesn’t need to see or hear the clanging and banging of its cage being constructed. That’s like the opposite of a welcome mat.

Give your bird its space.

This was a tough one for me. As soon as I got Froley, I immediately wanted to start working on interacting with him. But you’ve got to give your birdie time to acclimate to its new surroundings. Let him or her have some space in those early days. It’s a simple piece of advice that can really help with getting your bird comfortable.

Make sure they watch you bringing food.

Birds are not dumb creatures, and they are really good at picking up visual and audio cues. As such, if you consistently bring them food in a certain manner at a certain time of day, they will learn to associate you with their yummy-yum time. And you want them to associate you with something they like. For a long time, that’s the only reason Froley really liked me. I brought him his pellets. He now knows the sound of the bag when I open it and the exact location of the tub I keep it in.

Hang out by their cage.

While you don’t want to immediately pressure your bird when you get it, you don’t want to just ignore it. If you just ignore it, it will become accustomed to being left alone. If you ever find yourself with some down time, whether you’re reading, chilling on your phone, or watching some Netflix, do it by your bird’s cage. Let them see you doing a quiet activity nearby. I used to read to Froley from my Cockatiels for Dummies book all the time. I don’t know if he appreciated it, but he did eventually learn to not be afraid of books.

Only buy a single bird.

If your bird has the option to turn to another bird for company, it will usually pick the bird over you. That’s why some pet owners purposefully purchase two birds. They want their birds to have each other for company. However, if your end objective is to share an incredibly close bond with your bird, it helps if you’re the only one they can turn to for a cuddle. I hate to sound like a cruel monster that kept Froley from other bird companions, but I know for a fact that he and I are only so close because I was the one creature who spent any amount of time with him.

Try using a treat for your first moment of physical contact.

When both you and your birdie are ready for the next step in closeness, have one of their favorite treats nearby to facilitate the contact. Froley and I started becoming closer when I tried hand-feeding him his seeds. He really seemed to like that, and it built up trust levels like you wouldn’t believe. Eventually, I used treats to coax him up onto my finger, and after that, the real treat became just hanging out with me.

Attempt to pet your bird shortly after it has molted.

When birds molt, their new feathers come out in these thin, white sheaths. These sheaths then crumble into dust revealing the new feather lying within. Normally, a bird can nibble away at their own sheaths in order to free them. However, they have a hard time reaching the ones on their head. That’s where other birds come in. Bird buddies will preen the sheaths off of their fellows’ heads for them. Without a bird buddy, that job is left undone. These sheaths are incredibly itchy for your bird, so if you want to ingratiate yourself to him or her while simultaneously worming your way into his or her affection, giving your bird scritches during this time period is ideal.

Be patient.

This is the most important bit of advice I can give. I’m not gonna lie, I sometimes cried at the thought that Froley didn’t seem to care much for me in those first few weeks. I had read so much about bird affection before getting him that I felt really let down when things didn’t immediately turn out that way for me. But see, birds aren’t like cats or dogs. Both cats and dogs are predator animals, bred to work alongside humans as partners. Birds are prey animals, and fearfulness keeps them alive in the wild. Trust has to be earned with them so that they can learn to rely on you for their safety.

So give your bird the time required to build that trust. It took me over a month to get close to Froley. But the wait is well worth it. When you’re cuddling with a bird, and you can actually feel its tiny skull underneath your fingertips as you give it some little scritches, there is no other feeling like it in the world. It is a tiny life form that has entirely entrusted its well-being in the palm of your hand. It’s not even a tenth of your size, but it will hop onto your shoulder without a care once you have established that bond.

Side note: I feel incredibly lucky to have Froley in my life every day, and not a morning goes by where I don’t appreciate the magnitude of how implicitly he trusts me.

Doctor Sleep Movie Review: The Shining Sequel We All Deserved

My friend Sidney and I have watched a strange collection of movies together. We saw Midsommar, Rambo: Last Blood, and Joker together, and if you’ve seen those three movies, you’ll know that it’s a major up-and-down experience. (The down part being totally Rambo: Last Blood’s fault.)

So when he invited me to see Doctor Sleep this past weekend, I was oh so totally down for it. I’ve learned that whatever movie I watch with Sidney, whether it’s good or terrible, it’ll be a side-splitting blast. Plus, Doctor Sleep had been on my radar since the trailer came out.

See, I’ve read both The Shining and Doctor Sleep, both written by Stephen King. I’ve also seen the Stanley Kubrick film, The Shining. And anyone who is a Stephen King fan knows that The Shining movie is a different beast from the book. There’s this huge debate about which version is better, and I’m honestly in the weird camp that really likes both. I don’t think I have it in me to dislike anything Stephen King writes, and Kubrick’s movie is one of my go-to films for when I’m feeling sick.

So, my first impressions when seeing that they were going to make a film about King’s sequel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep was confusion. How could they reconcile Kubrick’s vision with King’s? I mean, it’s obvious from the imagery and music in the trailer that it was a sequel to Kubrick’s film. But the story of Doctor Sleep that I knew from having read the book was deeply integrated with the events of King’s The Shining.

So I had no idea how the hell this new film was going to turn out.

Well, as it turned out, Doctor Sleep turned out fucking awesome!

They did it. This movie accomplished the impossible. It gave homage to Kubrick’s film while remaining true to everything about “the Shine” that Stephen King imagined.

Visually, the movie tries to emulate Kubrick’s The Shining where it can. The set decorations, the camera movements, the costumes of returning characters, they all make fans of Kubrick get a tingling in the backs of their heads. Even the music, those iconic horns, drums, and rattles will be reminscent of the film.

But story-wise, it is a child of Stephen King.

All too often, movies fail to capture Stephen King’s kind of magic. I think It comes the closest to embodying his kind of mysticism, but even then, given how every iteration of It falls short towards the end, I’d still say It pales in comparison to Doctor Sleep. Doctor Sleep shows audiences what the Shine is supposed to be like, and it does a fantastic job of it. I won’t spoil it here, but it’s mind-bending.

If you can recall from Kubrick’s Shining, when young Danny Torrance is calling out for help to Dick Hallorann, it’s conveyed to you by a high-pitched ringing, Danny shaking and drooling, and quick cuts to scary images. That was supposed to show how Danny uses his Shine to contact Dick.

Doctor Sleep blows it out of the water in this regard. The way in which characters use the Shine is phenomenally portrayed. It’s the best thing about the movie, honestly.

The one thing that bugs me about the movie is the lack of explanation for where those dang canisters come from. (Total spoiler, I guess, but if you don’t know anything about the movie, you won’t know what I’m talking about until you actually see it. So it’s a safe spoiler?) The canisters that contain the “Steam” look futuristic and high tech, but the True Knot state they’ve been around for ages. So what gives?

Anyways, bottom line, if you’re a Stephen King fan, you absolutely have to watch Doctor Sleep. It gives you those twisting narratives and deep emotions we love so well, and it gives Danny Torrance the ending he deserved.

I rate Doctor Sleep a surprising-delight-for-both-fans-of-the-King-and-Kubrick-classics.

The Caramel Brulee Latte

I am in no way, shape, or form paid by Starbucks to promote their shit.

Yet.

My introduction to Starbucks occurred gradually. It started off as a few beverages my mom bought for me when she stopped there, and eventually graduated to me picking my own drinks.

I initially only liked two kinds of drinks. I liked those tea-lemonade hybrids which they still have to this day, and I also liked a straight-up coffee frappuccino. As you might have noticed, these are both signature cold drinks, meant to be enjoyed during the height of summer.

One winter day, my sister suggested we walk to our local Starbucks. I was reluctant. I whined how it was too cold for Starbucks.

Side note: Remember, I only knew to order my favorite chilled drinks from Starbucks at the time.

My sister looked at me like I was an idiot. Told me to just order a hot drink. I whined some more, complaining that the menu was complicated and I had no clue what was good and what was terrible based on these extravagant espresso monikers.

My sister insisted/demanded we go there anyways. Told me to be more experimentive.

Since I was still hesitant to pick (and pay) for a drink I knew nothing about, my sister ended up choosing the drink for me.

And thus, I was introduced to the Caramel Brulee Latte.

After the first initial sip, I was in sweetened, caffeinated heaven. The taste of caramel graced the edges of my tongue, the rich espresso flavor coated my throat, and the warmth of the drink touched my fingertips and my heart.

Side note: Am I being overly poetic? Yes. Yes, I am.

It was the best drink I’d ever had.

And unbeknownst to me until it was too late, it was a seasonal holiday drink.

These days, I wait for the Caramel Brulee Latte’s season in an neverending state of agitation; I hunger for it. Eight months out of the year, I’m in constant torment. Fuck the Pumpkin Spice Latte. I crave a different sugary sweetness.

Okay, I sound like a basic bitch, but come on. Where I live, Starbuckses are practically a form of entertainment. There is nothing to do around here except go to the movies, shop at the local mall, or hang out at a Starbucks. It is the only place to chill at that is not my or a friend’s home.

And now that the holidays are here, I can guzzle that caramelly, brulee-y goodness to my heart’s content.

Or at least until I get diabetes or something like that.

Waiting on a Prayer for Doom Eternal

Imagine you’re at a restaurant, and you’re about to eat your favorite meal. The savory dish is sending off aromatic scents that make your stomach rumble. You pick up your fork, about to plunge it into your food…

…but then it is snatched away before you can take even a single bite!

That disappointment you’re imagining, that’s basically me when I found out that Doom Eternal was going to be pushed off for three whole months.

We were so close, you guys. So close. Doom Eternal was set to release on November 22. I had pre-ordered it and already cleared an entire day of work with my boss so that I could spend it playing my most anticipated game of the year.

And now I have to wait till March!

Side note: Yes, I’m aware this is very much a first-world problem.

I don’t buy games often. I usually prefer to spend my time replaying games that I already have in my library. On average, I purchase about two games a year. Since it’s so rare when I buy a game, I take the selection and purchasing process very seriously. I like to know ahead of time that I’m going to enjoy the game I spend my money on.

Doom Eternal was going to be one of those games for me this year. I’d played the demo at E3, so I’d had concrete evidence that the game could potentially be the best thing my console ever ran.

And now I have to wait.

Three months doesn’t seem like much, and in retrospect, I am totally making a mountain out of a molehill. But it has seriously derailed my Thanksgiving plans. Now, I don’t have a valid excuse to laze away the beginning of my holidays.

In addition to that, I now feel worried about the status of the game. I originally had so much faith in the developers, but this news that they’ve pushed off the release has me anxious about why they need those three extra months. What bugs do they meed to fix? What glitches are permeating the game? Are they trying to add last-minute features? These thoughts are all crowding around in my head and I can’t get rid of them.

More optimistic fans take this delay as a good sign. They say that the developers are making sure that when the game releases, it is a polished, finished product. But what amount of polishing, the pessimist in me replies, could they accomplish in three months?

Instead of letting my worries consume me, I’m trying to fill my gaming hours with intensive sessions. I’m trying to burn away all the Doom Eternal longings I have within me.

I’m also buying unnecessary toys related to the franchise at my merest whim as a sort of consolation.

Hey, we all have ways to cope.

Life Update #8: Plans for the Blog Going Forward and Damn News

It’s been one heck of a month for me, guys. Not that you would know it because I’ve been characteristically closemouthed about it. But that’s not the reason for this update.

Well, it’s not the entire reason for this update.

I have a few ideas of what I want to do with the blog, and the main one is introducing a new type of post.

I’m thinking about doing some how-tos, not many and mostly humorous in nature.

How original, right?

I got the idea of doing it not too long ago, but haven’t implemented it into my schedule yet because of the chaos that consumed my life about three weeks ago. (More on that in a bit.)

As things stand with my Below Average Blog now, I have four types of posts that I write regularly. There are these Life Updates, where I toss around what’s been new with me. There are “reviews” that I do for movies, shows, games, and books, and those are hardly professional. (In fact, they’re Below Average content. Get it?) There are top-numbered lists, where I write about my favorite things from different categories, and then there are the posts where I just shoot the shit.

So why not add some how-tos in there?

I also want to start consistently adding an image per post. Even if that image is reused. It makes the whole thing look prettier, doesn’t it?

Posting once every 5 days has really worked out for me, by the way. That was the last big change I made to the blog, and I’m glad I did. My work schedule was getting a bit overwhelming.

I mean, work’s still relentless, and I’m still falling a bit behind on the post scheduling, but I’m enjoying this level of activity more than the panic-fest from before.

So I’m happy to report that that change was a success.

Now all I need to do is devote more time to reading my fellow bloggers’ work than I do now.

For those of you who’ve stuck around this far, well, I guess you might want to know what the “chaos” thing I was referring to earlier was all about. I’ve been having some medical issues, nothing too serious, but jarring for me nonetheless. I’m planning to go full-on rant about it in a later post in the future. But rest assured, my health is more or less okay (average, you might say), and the issue lay mostly in my troubles with my health provider and his prescriptions than with the ailment I’m dealing with. I am fine. I’m just more…irked…with doctors than I used to be.

It took up my time and my mind like you wouldn’t believe, and now that I’ve got it behind me (somewhat), I’m ready to focus my attention on my writing wholeheartedly once again.

Back to the blog.

If you guys have any ideas or wishes or comments on what to include for future how-to posts, feel free to let me know down below! (In the comments.) I’m all ears. I’m mostly knowledgeable in writing, proofreading, navigating social situations poorly, reading, bad movies, and being a plebeian gamer.

Warp Drives, Klingons, and Awkward Female Interactions: The Star Trek Franchise For Newbies

My friend Mia is the bigger Star Trek fan between the two of us. She was the one who introduced me to it first, starting with the original series. We then watched those new J.J. Abrams films, and my exploration of the Star Trek universe only expanded from there.

However, it might be hard for the average person who hasn’t gotten into Star Trek yet to try giving it a whirl. The size of the series can be daunting to newcomers. After all, it spans across television shows, movies, comics, novels, video games, etc. You name the genre, and Star Trek has probably already been there.

Plus, I will admit, it is a bit of an acquired taste. Such concentrated dosages of sci-fi nerdiness aren’t for everyone.

But for those of you straddling the fence right now, here’s just a few things you should know about getting into Star Trek, both the good and the bad!

Pros:

The main draw for me is the campiness. If you don’t like exaggerated humor or drama, then many of the main Star Trek shows of yore won’t appeal to you.

I for one happen to love the meatball monsters that teleport crew members from their starships onto planetray arenas so that they can battle with an ancient Genghis Khan with Abraham Lincoln by their side.

That music that starts blaring out whenever anybody gets into an absurd fistfight is also imprinted indelibly upon my memory. By the by, the combat is campy too. Conflict is supposed to be super dramatic in the original series, but it just ends up being an experience of futility as you try to stop yourself from snorting in derision so much.

Please be aware that this is meant to sell you on Star Trek,not deter you from it.

There’s something inherently delightful in how aged the show appears to be in all aspects. Simply by drawing you in and making you laugh, the show succeeds in some manner.

Another great thing about the franchise as a whole is its devotion to including as many futurstic devices as it can into the story. Warp engines, phasers, tricorders, holodecks, they’re all unbelievably fantastical.

It’s all so technologically unsound, it’s laughable.

Speaking of laughs, the humor is also crazy hilarious. Conversations that are supposed to be funny follow that “dad” kind of humor, to varying degrees of success. You end up laughing at their attempt to make you laugh more than at the actual joke.

But every so often, when the show is trying to shove that theme of the indomitability of the human spirit in your face, it just…works. Kirk or Picard talking about nobility and compassion just makes you feel uplifted, and you have to actually remind yourself that you’re supposed to be watching this silly sci-fi show just for kicks.

And that’s one of the main reasons why I’d recommend Star Trek. At its core, pushing aside the frivolities and inanities for the moment, it’s about exploring the depths of human nature’s capacity for good. And a show about that can’t be all bad, right?

Cons:

With space travel occurring in the series on a figurative daily basis, you would think that meeting new aliens would be the highlight of the show.

You’d be wrong.

Only a few of the aliens in the Star Trek series are what you would call classic or iconic. Klingons, Vulcans, Tribbles, and the Borg are a tiny fraction of all the aliens you encounter in the franchise. The rest are either ridiculous, forgettable, or insulting.

I get that budgets were tight back in the earlier shows, but some of these alien designs are beyond absurd. They look like toys you could buy in a dollar store glued together.

So if your story revolves around meeting new alien species and 80% of those species are terrible additions to the universe, you’ve kind of got a bit of a problem.

Another issue is plot resolution. Often, the crew of whatever starship or space station you are on will find themselves in dire circumstances. It’s only thanks to a last-minute solution that they make it out okay. But these solutions are always whatever makes the most dramatic sense. Logic goes out the window. If you need to rescue a stranded colony and your transporter is malfunctioning, god forbid you use the life boats or other smaller vessels at your disposal to pick them up. Let’s just turn the whole thing into a crisis.

And oof, its portrayal of women.

In the early shows (I’m talking the original, The Next Generation, maybe even Deep Space Nine, etc.), they’re all incredibly misogynistic. If the women aren’t background characters, they’re usually eye candy. And other characters (of the male variety) won’t let you forget that.

Attractive females in Star Trek are constantly being complimented about their looks. It’s insane. Plus, you can always tell when they’re trying to imply Kirk is having some kind of magnetic moment with a lady. The music changes, the frickin’ lighting changes, and the stares that’ll pass between the two are anything but subtle.

If you bite the bullet and watch those early shows, you’ll know what I mean.

Anyways…

As I write this, I’m sitting by a coffee table, tip-tapping away at my laptop while Next Generation plays comfortably in front of me on the television. The wind is blowing away outside, adding an extra chill to the autumn air, and I have a cup of warmth next to me in the form of green tea, lemon, and honey.

I have nothing pressing to attend to.

At this moment, Star Trek is absolutely perfect for my mood. It’s mild entertainment for a quiet time, filled with poignancy and stupidity in equal measure.

Which, now that I think about it, is kind of like real life.

I rate Star Trek a live-long-and-prosper.