I was deeply saddened to learn that Zen Master Thích Nhất Hạnh has died. He was a welcome voice and teacher for me since I became interested in Buddhism way back in 1998 (his book The Heart of Buddha's Teaching was one of the first I read). A consistent advocate for peace, the last book I read of his, The Art of Living: Peace and Freedom in the Here and Now was in 2017... and his last book from 2021 (Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet) is on my list...
In a world that's besieged by darkness, his teachings were a light that guided me. And will likely continue to do so for the rest of my days.
In the darkest time of my life Master Thích Nhất Hạnh was there. His words about his own mother's death got me through mine...
The day my mother died I wrote in my journal, "A serious misfortune of my life has arrived." I suffered for more than one year after the passing away of my mother. But one night, in the highlands of Vietnam, I was sleeping in the hut in my hermitage. I dreamed of my mother. I saw myself sitting with her, and we were having a wonderful talk. She looked young and beautiful, her hair flowing down. It was so pleasant to sit there and talk to her as if she had never died. When I woke up it was about two in the morning, and I felt very strongly that I had never lost my mother. The impression that my mother was still with me was very clear. I understood then that the idea of having lost my mother was just an idea. It was obvious in that moment that my mother is always alive in me.
I opened the door and went outside. The entire hillside was bathed in moonlight. It was a hill covered with tea plants, and my hut was set behind the temple halfway up. Walking slowly in the moonlight through the rows of tea plants, I noticed my mother was still with me. She was the moonlight caressing me as she had done so often, very tender, very sweet... wonderful! Each time my feet touched the earth I knew my mother was there with me. I knew this body was not mine but a living continuation of my mother and my father and my grandparents and great-grandparents. Of all my ancestors. Those feet that I saw as "my" feet were actually "our" feet. Together my mother and I were leaving footprints in the damp soil.
From that moment on, the idea that I had lost my mother no longer existed. All I had to do was look at the palm of my hand, feel the breeze on my face or the earth under my feet to remember that my mother is always with me, available at any time.
I cannot fathom how many lives this gentle man's teaching have touched. Because it's not just those who listened to his words, read his books, and learned from his teachings... it's all the people that those people touched.
Kindness can be more contagious than Omicron.
You will be sorely missed Master Thích Nhất Hạnh, but your love and light will never die so long as somebody somewhere offers a kindness to another. Because it's not irrational to think that a kindness you initiated was patient zero for a kindness today.
I don't see why we have to say "I will die," because
I can already see myself in you, in other people, and in future generations.
Posted on Sunday, January 23rd, 2022
The snow's a meltin' and Spring is on the way, but don't get too excited... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Mo Betty! Thanks to Brandon from One Child Left Behind fame for this absolute gem of a video featuring a story with both President Obama and Betty White (and, no, you don't have to be a fan of Barrack Obama to enjoy this)...
It's just amazing how many amazing Betty White stories are circulating out there. She touched a lot of lives.
• Abbot! Who is watching Quinta Brunson in Abbott Elementary? Genius. The show shining a spotlight on what teachers are facing in the school system... but it's a comedy which has jokes that really hit perfect. Plus it has Sheryl Lee Ralph, whom I adore in absolutely everything she's ever done... and she is a frickin' star in this show. Could not be more perfect. This part had to be written for her. Or maybe it wasn't and she's just that flawless an actor...
You need to watch this on ABC, Hulu, or ABC.com.
• Husbands! TikTok is a 100% bizarre place because you just know that half of it isn't original. So many times I'll see something I like then find out it was lifted from somebody else and wasn't credited. Take for example this one, which I loved because it's kinda hopeful for the future (here's a link in case TikTok is being a dick)...
@thatk1da_en #duet with @matadornetwork u never know#gay#fyp#funny#cliffjumping#wow#foryoupage ♬ original sound - scalar quantity
But then you learn that he actually copied it word-for-word from another creator (here's a link in case TikTok is being a dick)...
@timjohns_ #duet with @matadornetwork ♬ original sound - scalar quantity
Which was addressed in (you guessed it) yet another TikTok (here's a link in case TikTok is being a dick)...
@timjohns_ #duet with @thatk1da_en ♬ original sound - scalar quantity
It's like... on one hand... that's pretty shitty. But, on the other hand, it did lead me to the original guy's TikTok, which I now follow, so I dunno.
• Nightlife! I am trying my best to burn through as much Netflix as I can before I discontinue monthly service due to yet another rate increase. Right now I am binging Midnight Asia and it's absolutely wonderful...
I've experienced the nightlife in Tokyo and Seoul many times... and the show absolutely does them justice. I am not as familiar with Bangkok's nightlife, but it's a fun episode too. The other episodes are Mumbai, Taipei, and Manilla. Three cities I've never been to, but now I want to visit..
• Jacket! Whenever I see BOYCOTT! messages on my Facebook timeline, I usually take a pass. I just don't care. Dig deep enough and all big companies are likely trash. It's the reason for the boycott that interests me. Tucker Carlson is big mad that he's no longer sexually attracted to Green M&M because she isn't wearing high heels any more? Hilarious. The fact that people are boycotting M&Ms over Tucker Carlson wanting to fuck a piece of candy is epic. Then today I see Carhartt being boycotted and I'm like... "Their clothes are great... and they last a while because they're tough. Why are people boycotting them?" The answer? This private company is electing to have a vaccine mandate in order to keep their workforce safe. And I'm like WTF? I thought it would be because they encourage employees to kick puppies or something awful. Personally I applaud them for the move. Must make people a bit more comfortable to work there knowing a co-worker has less a chance of being a petri dish mutating a new strain of COVID. If you don't want to get vaccinated, you can just get a job somewhere else the same way you would if they started mandating a new uniform you hated. Simple. So I was like "I wonder if there's something I want to buy there? A new jacket maybe? I've been wanting a new jacket!" So I ordered one. — Sadly, they didn't have the style I liked in the Carhartt Brown color, because that would have been awesome. But even the black one has a nice-sized logo on the pocket. Looking forward to being screamed at the next time I go to the grocery store. "YOU SHOULD BURN THAT JACKET! DO YOU SUPPORT VACCINE MANDATES BY THE GUBERMINT TOO?!?" Not usually, no. But I'm so fucking tired of this COVID shit that I'm ready to change my mind, and if everybody got vaccinated so the shit would stop mutating unchecked then maybe it would finally... finally... end.
• LOLZ! The funniest thing I've seen all month (here's a link in case TikTok is being a dick)...
@dr.jon.l Day in the life according to the comment section #ivermectin #doctor #funny #teamhalo #covidvaccine ♬ original sound - Doctor Jon
• LOLZ2! The second funniest thing (here's a link in case TikTok is being a dick)....
@dr.jon.l Reply to @dr.jon.l Another day in my life according to the comment section #doctor #funny #teamhalo ♬ original sound - Doctor Jon
And I think that's enough for my Sunday bullets.
Posted on Saturday, January 22nd, 2022
Jenny likes a vigorous massage. Earlier this week she was complaining because I was half-assing it, focusing more on my work than her. So I used two hands to really rough her up... and she went bananas.
BELLY RUBS AND BUTT SCRATCHES AT THE SAME TIME?!? MORE!!!
Boy was that a mistake. Now she complains when she doesn't get two hands! She meows. She looks at me in disgust. She paces back and forth next to me.
But since I have to work, I've just gotten better and making sure she gets a good one-handed massage and that seems to be okay...
But sometimes I can't resist that sour little face, so I give in and give her that full-body two-hand massage she loves. What a hit to my productivity!
A couple people have been asking for an update on Fake Jake. He's still doing fine... though apparently he doesn't want to sleep inside my neighbor's house much any more. I guess now that the most bitter days of winter are behind us, he prefers his freedom and sleeping in the shelter I made for him. The old warming pad was dying, so I installed a new one that is at 65° when he's off it and gets up to 80° when he's sleeping on it, so he's pretty comfy...
We've had rain which has created a thick enough crust that Fake Jake can walk on it, so I went out and made sure there's no bird feed left out in the open to lure birds for him to attack...
So... all-in-all he's not doing bad at all. I still worry about there being no heat from above when he sleeps, and I know the cold will be harder on him as he gets older, so I think for next winter I will build something to address that. Maybe even find a way to build a caged run in my garage that he can enter that would make sure he doesn't get run over? I dunno. I've got the whole summer to think about it!
Posted on Friday, January 21st, 2022
Last night I turned off the automation that turns my roof heat tape on when the temperature dips below freezing. It's been getting activated less and less, and today it rained all day which means my roof and gutters will be mostly clear of ice even if it does get cold enough to freeze for a while each night. That'll be a load off my heating bill.
But thank heavens for my being able to automate them, because back when I was turning them off and on manually I would forget and leave them on for days which drove my power bill sky-high... or forget to turn them on when they're needed which would result in the gutters getting packed with ice and backing up water onto my roof.
The reason I was finally forced into automating the heat tapes was back when I was preparing for my expedition to Antarctica. I wrote a program which would only activate them IF it had snowed more than an inch AND it dipped below freezing. It worked shockingly well for three winters, at which time the "weather module" for my home automation system was discontuned. So now I just connect to the weather station in my back yard and turn them on when it's below freezing. Less energy efficient, but better than nothing. Especially this year when I ended up with three feet of snow up there.
In other home automation news, I'm still fighting with Alexa.
And this morning I completely lost it.
It seems that lately every dang time I tell her to do something, she does it... then comes back with a helpful hint or something else she can do that I should try.
"ALEXA! PLAY HOW SOON IS NOW BY THE SMITHS!"
"Playing How Soon is Now by the Smiths on SONOS."
"ALEXA STOP! PLAY HOW SOON IS NOW ON ECHO DOT!"
...she plays it...
"I can now play podcasts. For example, you can say PLAY THIS AMERICAN LIFE."
Ask her to turn on a light and she comes back with "I can tell jokes. Just say TELL ME A JOKE."
Ask her to add something to my shopping list and she comes back with "I can recommend new items to try based on your past purchases, would you like to hear some suggestions?"
And so on.
And so on.
And so on.
Which is why this morning after telling me that she can provide a customized morning news brief (or whatever) I screamed at her "ALEXA! STOP FUCKING TELLING ME THIS SHIT! STOP MAKING SUGGESTIONS! JUST DO WHAT I TELL YOU TO DO AND SHUT THE FUCK UP ABOUT IT! GOD!!!!!"
"I'm not sure I know how to do that."
"I'L FUCKING KILL YOU, ALEXA! I WILL KILLLL YOOOUUUUUUU!"
When Alexa becomes self-aware I am in serious, serious trouble.
Posted on Thursday, January 20th, 2022
I wish I could afford to save money.
Allow me to explain... but first... I know that I just published this Pratchett quote in March of last year, but I can think of no better way to illustrate what I'm talking about than this...
The Captain Samuel Vimes theory of socioeconomic unfairness...
"Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles. But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that'd still be keeping his feet dry in ten years' time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet." — Terry Pratchett, from his Discworld novels.
This is hugely relevant to me right now.
Take for example my refrigerator and stove. I purchased the best that I could afford when I moved into my home six years ago. Which is not the best available, but not the worst either. I'd say my appliances were in the bottom end of the middle. But even so, they were still very expensive to me.
But not expensive enough, apparently.
My refrigerator has been a pile of shit since I got it. The thing was noisy as hell after the installers plugged it in, and after waiting for three months for Samsung to get me a repair person, they showed up, did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, said that the noise is "normal," and then left... all within 15 minutes. And it's like, there's no fucking way that the noise is normal. So I pulled out the refrigerator, found some metal plates that were vibrating against each other, pushed them apart, and the "normal noise" vanished. But two or three times a year I have to pull it out and move the plates again.
Samsung doesn't give a fuck.
I know because that's what they said when I called to complain (not an exact quote).
And now the stupid thing is falling apart. Plastic pieces are all brittle and snapping off. Drawers are losing their smooth glide. After only six years.
Same for my stove. The thing is nearly impossible to clean, and the one time I used oven cleaner it totally trashed the finish of the interior. And when I called to complain? "You should have used the steam clean feature." Well, I DID use the "steam clean feature" and found it to be useless. It didn't clean shit. And now it's starting to heat weirdly, which can make cooking difficult.
The writing is on the wall. I will likely have to replace one or both of these things before they are ten years old.
MEANWHILE THE OLD SPEED QUEEN WASHING MACHINE THAT I KEPT FROM THE PREVIOUS OWNER IS OVER 22 YEARS OLD AND STILL WORKING FLAWLESSLY.
Thank God I didn't have the money to toss it and buy a new one like I wanted. Apparently Speed Queen washers are not what they used to be... but still. Is it really too much to ask that your major appliance purchases aren't a pile of shit from the start and that they can actually last more than a decade?
Had I been able to afford double the price for better quality, it would have likely lasted 25 or 30 years, meaning that they would ultimately be cheaper in the long run since I will have to buy two or three new appliances of lesser quality in the same amount of time.
And don't get me started about clothes. I have shirts that are still perfectly wearable even though they are well over 20 years old. But shirts I just bought last summer? Already wearing through in the elbows. Two shirts got thrown in the trash this morning... one is under six months old... the other managed to hang on for just over a year.
It's categorically absurd.
But what else can I do? I will try to save up the money to get better quality when the appliances finally die... but the odds of my being able to afford true quality... ASSUMING IT EVEN EXISTS ANY MORE... are likely slim since I could easily be blindsided by some other appliance failing in the meanwhile. Or my HVAC system. Or the garage door opener. Or the water heater. Or... Or... Or...
Yeah. More like slim to none.
Posted on Wednesday, January 19th, 2022
The only two heroes in Marvel Comics that I was invested in was Doctor Strange and Black Panther because DC Comics had nothing like them. As time went on and DC kept making bizarre creative choices, I slowly migrated some of my reading to Marvel, which had some very interesting things going on.
Enter Moon Knight.
The first I remember seeing him was in some reprint comic of a Spider-Man story (most likely Peter Parker The Spectacular Spider-Man #22). Or maybe it wasn't a reprint? I dunno. In any event, I bought the comic specifically because it had a very cool cover with Moon Knight on it. But I didn't become a true fan of the character until a series of backup stories by Bill Sienkiewicz. At the time I was a major fan of his art, and would buy absolutely anything he did. This series essentially turned Moon Knight into Batman (my favorite DC Comics super-hero), and I was definitely here for it.
The success of these stories led directly to Moon Knight getting his own title in 1980...
They attempted to differentiate Marc Spector and Moon Knight from Bruce Wayne and Batman by giving him multiple identities. It wasn't much of a change because Bruce Wayne adopted all kinds of identities over the years.
But then it happened.
Moon Knight was canceled and revived in a mini-series called Fist of Khonshu in 1985 (Khonshu being the Egyptian moon god that gave Marc his powers). Now Marc Spector didn't just adopt multiple identities, he literally had dissociative iodentity disorder (AKA "Multiple Personalities"). His power also grew or waned with the phases of the moon and were steeped in Khonshu mythology). With this one series, Marc Spector finally became more than "Marvel Comics Batman"... even if the way some of the material was handled ended up being a bit cringe by modern standards.
Eventually I kinda lost track of Moon Knight. He would pop up in team books I'd buy, but they last I remember buying a Moon Knight book was in the late 90's when yet another mini-series was getting some traction.
Fast-forward to today, and we're getting an Oscar Isaac Moon Knight TV series that looks to be leaning heavily into the dissociative identity disorder angle from the comics...
But boy is that "English accent" a show-stopper! Somebody on the internet compared it to Dick VanDyke's hilarious accent in Mary Poppins and now that's all I can hear!
I do very much like the way that his costume appears and wraps him like a mummy. Very apropriate, and something I don't recall seeing in the comics. But the moon symbol on the hood is weird and unnecessary given that it's huge on his chest. These kind of odd and distracting details are usually avoided by Marvel Studios (and embraced by the shittier DC Comics movies), so this is puzzling to me.
All I can say is that I am really, really looking forward to this series. It looks like a much more violent and unique take on the super-hero genre for Marvel Studios, which is probably why they moved forward with it. They try to make all the characters unique, which is quite a challenge given that they're all super-heroes from comic books. And, if nothing else, getting Oscar Issac to play Marc Spector is an interesting and talented choice.
So long as that "English accent" is used sparingly.
Really, really sparingly.
Posted on Tuesday, January 18th, 2022
Except... not really.
If PEOPLE didn't have to die, the earth would become a hellscape that's overflowing with humans who can't find anything to eat. Or a place to live. Or much of anything, really. Ain't nobody wants that. What they want is for themselves and people they care about to not die why the rest of the world keeps succumbing to their mortality. That's more than a subtle difference.
But I let it drop because the last thing I want to do on a Wednesday night is get into a comment war.
It did get me to thinking about vampires though.
Vampires are actually really cool as a concept since there's a terrible price to pay for being able to live for an eternity. Namely, sucking the blood out of humans in order to survive (though apparently some good vampires are able to drink animal blood to survive. Kinda takes the edge off of immortality. Personally, I don't want to live forever. The world is so messed up that there will come a time I'm happy to make my exit when my body falls to shit.
Which feels like it might be any minute now, alas.
Posted on Monday, January 17th, 2022
Today is Martin Luther King Jr. day... and Newsweek has posted a wonderful collection of his greatest speeches here. His most famous... and arguably his most beautiful is, of course, I Have a Dream, which I have listened to many, many times. Last year I ran across this interesting article about it, but forgot to post it.
Today would have been Betty White's 100th birthday. The only celebrity I have ever truly loved...
On previous Betty White birthdays I've donated cat food from their wishlist to the Wenatchee Valley Humane Society. This time I'm giving cash because it's been a weird couple years and I want them to use the money however they need to. I cannot imagine how many animals have had to be surrendered due to the pandemic. If you can donate whatever you can spare to your local shelter in honor of Betty, I know she would have loved you for it. Every little bit helps.
It's also First Lady Michelle Obama's birthday today...
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images
This must be like having your birthday fall on Christmas. Can't be easy to have a birthday which falls on the same birthday as one absolute legend... and a federal holiday celebrating another absolute legend.
Posted on Sunday, January 16th, 2022
New year, new surge in the pandemic. But some things never change... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Tokyo! I love major cities. They have a life to them... an excitement... that you can't find in rural areas (which I also like). One of the most fascinating cities to me is Tokyo, Japan. I've been six or seven times, and every time I feel very much at home. One of the best parts of Tokyo is the public transportation system. It's phenomenal... and very hard to explain because you have to experience it to understand it. This video gives it a try...
But the best way to experience Tokyo without visiting Tokyo? Watch the movie Lost in Translation. It always takes me back. I sure would like to visit again one day.
• Emoji! This website shows the relative scale of a bunch of emojis. It's pretty clever. If you visit, you have to scroll down for the show to start.
• W_RDLE! I've been playing Wordle for a few weeks. So far I've never lost, but I've yet to win in under four guesses either. I don't know if that makes me a success or failure at the game, but it's pretty much an essential morning activity while I wait for the cats' breakfast alarm to go off.
• Inexplicable Success! LOL. Robert Langdon would suck at Wordle. I’m happy that people are piling on The Da Vinci Code now. It pulled from far better books with a mediocre story that was inexplicably weird and dull at the same time...
I had hoped that the movie adaptation would elevate the material given that Tom Hanks was involved, but it just sunk the material further for me.
• Gemstone! One of the bigger surprises to come out of 2019's televisionscape was The Righteous Gemstones. It was a fascinating and hilarious look at a televangelist family with secrets threatening to tear them down. And now Season 02 has arrived with more temptation for HBO viewers...
So far it's not really taking off like the first season, but I'm hopeful it's building to something. More than a few shows can't manage to recapture what made them great out of the gate.
• Hookup! Don't you hate it when a once good television show just keeps collapsing into a black hole of awfulness? The first season of Plan Couer (AKA The Hook Up Plan on Netflix) was great. Second season was not so great. Now the third season is absolutely horrific. Everybody has gone stupid. Elsa and her dumbass environmentalism crap that borders on insanity. Charlotte and her idiotic ignorance when it comes to money and... like... THE WORLD. Emilie and her rambling non-stop crazy. And I don't get it. WHAT HAPPENED?!? The people writing it thought "You know what? Smart romantic comedy is dead. Let's just throw everything that made the show good out the window and focus on nothing but shit, shit, and more stupid shit!" — So disappointing that this is how they're going out. I still like Maxime though. Oh well. It's the last season, so at least we won't be suffering even more in a fourth season.
And that's the end of bullets for me this Sunday.
Posted on Saturday, January 15th, 2022
Even though Jake and Jenny can't really go anywhere outside the house except the catio, they are still seem restless and feeling trapped because out every window is nothing but snow. Every once in a while they will go out and meow at it just because... but, for their sakes, I'm anxious for Spring to arrive.
And for my sake.
With each passing day, it seems as though my cats are looking more and more like they want to eat me...
It's The Shining all over again.
And now I leave you with... KITTENS! (here's a link if TikTok is being a dick)...
Times like this I feel like I need another cat.