I never get mad at my cats.
It doesn't matter what they do that's "bad," I can never bring myself to get upset at a cat for being a cat. My cats make that pretty easy. They're well-behaved, for the most part, and don't get into to much trouble. Now that they're grown, they never scratch at the furniture or pee on stuff or anything like that (so far, anyway)...
On occasion there are problems. One of them will get to a place they're not supposed to be and break something, for example. But... how can that be their fault? More likely my fault for not anticipating the problem and preventing it. If I'm mad at anybody, it should be me.
It occurred to me a while back that if I can't get mad at my cats, shouldn't I be able to translate that passivity to people?
The Trump presidency has caused a lot of anger in me this past year. His dangerous ignorance, utter stupidity, and inhuman ability to not give a crap about people he is supposed to be representing as president... it grates on me like nothing else ever has. I find myself consumed with rage on a near-daily basis because every day it's just more of the same horrendous shit raining down on the world from The White House. Or, more likely, whatever golf course President Trump is occupying this week.
As somebody who honestly believes that anger is more destructive on the person who has it rather than those it's directed at, I know this it not healthy. Not for me. Not for the people I care about. Not for my cats.
And so, after completely unplugging from the world for two weeks in Antarctica and becoming accustomed to not being angry every waking moment, I made myself a promise to try and be more pragmatic, caring, and less angry in the new year. To attempt to let my anger go and focus on positive things so that I can help be a solution instead of being part of the static that divides us.
And then... just as I was making my mind up, it happens. A tweet President Trump unleashed finds its way into my news cycle...
And see... here is why my "letting go" of my anger is so tough. When it comes to my new commitment to setting aside hatred, I've already failed the test. Because stupid-ass shit like this just reinforces how utterly brain-dead and dangerous this fucking asshole actually is for this country and the world, and I can't help but be angry about that.
He has no clue... none... what climate change entails, nor does he care. And yet he speaks as if he's an authority on the matter. This is the same idiot who thought that hairspray quality today isn't as good as it used to be because ozone-depleting CFCs have been banned from aerosols... the same CFCs that he said could never affect the ozone layer because his apartment is "all sealed."
And yet... here we are. And here I am. Right back to where I was in 2017.
There's more stupid-ass tweets to come, I'm sure. There always are. And that's not even the start of it. I'm sure he'll find a way to keep assaulting all the Americans he loathes in short order... the non-Christian Americans, the unhealthy Americans, the Mexican Americans, the gay Americans, the poor Americans... whatever... the list is never-ending. And that doesn't even touch crap like his assault on net-neutrality, something that I am beyond passionate about.
And so... what?
What to do with the torrents of overwhelming Trump-initiated anger that very nearly destroyed me in 2017?
I honestly don't know. I wish I could argue against his fucked-up agenda without getting so enraged about it, but that's something I'm apparently incapable of doing. President Trump is an affront to everything I care about.
And yet I have to try.
I have to do better in 2018.
I could never ignore what's going on in the world in order to make myself be happier. Ignorance just allows ignorance to propagate. But the same could be said for hate.
And so... a plan.
Easier said than done to be sure. But, as I said, I'm going to try. Finding more positive inspirations in my life that encourage me to make the jump will probably help...
And here we go...
I went into work today and lasted longer than I thought I would, cashing out at 3:15. I tried to work when I got home but was feeling awful, and it was easier to watch HGTV and veg out on home renovation shows... then dream about the snow melting in the Spring so I can set up a wood shop in my garage again.
Chip and Joanna Gaines, the hosts of my all-time favorite home renovation show, Fixer Upper (despite some caveats) have decided to stop doing the show after this fifth and final season.
I'm way more upset about this than I should be.
But nobody else even comes close to making a show that matches my creative aesthetic like this one... and I watch all the home reno shows.
And now I'm tired of writing. Just leave me to die here in a pile of mucus while you go on to live out the New Year. Shoo. Just go now.
Jenny came in and woke me up a little after 4am this morning. This is unusual because my cats rarely bother me while I am sleeping. I petted her on the head, she walked to the door and meowed, then ran downstairs. I rolled over and tried to get back to sleep.
Five minutes later she was back meowing again.
Thinking this is like Lassie trying to tell people that Timmy has fallen down a well, this time I follow her downstairs to find out what the problem is. Was Jake into something he shouldn't be? Is there another bird in the house? She leads me to the Litter-Robot and meows again. Turns out the Litter-Robot is stuck, Jake took a big dump in it, and the litter level is very low. So I replenish the litter, reset the Litter-Robot, then watch as Jenny waits for it to cycle so she has a clean spot to go to the bathroom.
Now... I wouldn't blame you for thinking I'm making this up. It sounds unreal, right?
Except this is Jenny we're talking about... and I have security camera footage that captures the whole thing.
This is my life now.
Here's Jake taking a dump in Litter Robot at 3:38am...
Here's Jenny going to use the Liter-Robot at 4:02am...
Here's Jenny deciding that she is not using a bathroom that smells like one of Jake's notorious dumps...
Here's Jenny coming up to get me...
Remember that I ignored her the first time. But she persisted. Here's Jenny leading me to the Litter-Robot at 4:12am where, sure enough, I find it's stuck and there's not enough litter in it to cover Jake's poop...
Here's me refilling the Litter-Robot with fresh kitty litter so I can reset it...
Here's Jenny waiting for the Litter-Robot to cycle so she has a clean place to do her business...
And here's Jenny finally having a clean place to go to the bathroom like she wanted all along... while Jake watches her...
Nobody warned me about stuff like this before I got cats.
Remember, I was a dog person before I got cats.
My first screen crush was Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman. Not from her initial run that started in 1975 (I was 9 years old) but later on when the show was syndicated on whatever cable channel reran old pop culture TV shows in 1981. I was flicking through channels and happened upon what I thought was some kind of military show, until Diana Prince exploded in a burst of light and Wonder Woman appeared on my television.
She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
In every sense that mattered, Lynda Carter was Wonder Woman.
To say I was obsessed is an understatement. I kept watching the show every chance I got... even when they destroyed it by abandoning the World War II setting and had Lyle Waggoner play his own son in "modern times" (while accompanied by a bleep-bloop computer named IRAC and a robot called ROVER).
My Lynda Carter awakening game me an all new appreciation for other shows I was tuning into at the time...
• Erin Gray who played Wilma Deering in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.
• Pamela Hensley who played Princess Ardala in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.
• Barbara Eden who played Genie in I Dream of Genie reruns.
Of these four women who shaped my fantasy life in my developing years, I've only met one of them, Erin Gray...
Note she is just as beautiful now as she ever was. And she was nice!
Other crushes came and went... depending on who was the "it-girl" of the moment on MTV or in the latest TV show or Movie I liked, but everything began with Lynda, Erin, Pamela, and Barbara.
And then came Blade Runner in 1982.
Always looking for the next big sci-fi extravaganza to fuel the fire lit by Star Wars (or, more likely, The Empire Strikes Back), I trudged to the theater to take in Blade Runner, which was a big treat for me at the time.
It was there that I literally had my breath taken away when "Racheal" appeared from the dim recesses of Eldon Tyrell's corporate headquarters...
The cool, detached demeanor that Rachel exhibited throughout Harrison Ford's interrogation was just the icing on the cake. I had just fallen in love with Sean Young.
This meant saving up the insane amount of money to buy a copy of Blade Runner on VHS tape when it was released in 1983 (seriously, it was like $100 or something). It also meant following her career (going backwards to see her first film appearance in Stripes first), which was pretty hit-or-miss over the years. But I always loved Sean. Even when she would play to the absurd, like she did in 1994's Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.
And so you can imagine my shock when 1982 Sean Young appeared on-screen in last year's Blade Runner 2049 sequel. Looking exactly as she did when I fell in love with her 35 years ago...
Unlike the way they resurrected Carrie Fischer's Princess Leia in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Sean Young looked real. So real that I was convinced they must have digitally cleaned up footage from the first movie and reused it somehow. How could it be otherwise, because everything about it Was. Real.
It also lead to a moment of confusion for me when Deckard (Harrison Ford) spoils his reunion moment in Blade Runner 2049 by telling Wallace he screwed up because the real Rachael had green eyes. Except... from my staring into them for hours at a time, I knew that her eyes were actually originally brown, just like the new copy. It's then I had an "ah ha!" moment when I realized that Decker was merely using the eye color line to screw with Wallace by essentially saying he would always know she was a fake.
I had kind of forgotten about this somewhat shocking moment from 2017 cinema until today when I ran across a story about how they actually did recreate Sean Young digitally for the cameo appearance. They just took the time to do an extraordinary job of it...
And here's the VFX reel...
I'm guessing in the next ten to twenty years, the visual effects will be so jaw-droppingly realistic that they can resurrect anybody from any time and bring them to life again on-screen.
I'm not going to dwell on the legal or moral consequences of doing so. But I am going to dwell on the possibility that we'll one day get an "animated" feature film of 1975 Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman.
15-year-old me is counting on it.
Yesterday I had to go to the post office, which is always a guaranteed interesting time here in Small Town America. After a boring wait to buy stamps, I thought I was going to be denied any entertainment until I was leaving and passed a woman (mid 40's?) who kept singing "Hello, Dolly! Well hello, Dolly! La da da da da da da da da da daaaaa!" I stopped to look through my mail as an excuse to see if she knew any of the lyrics other than "Well hello, Dolly" but she did not. It was just "Hello, Dolly! Well hello, Dolly! La da da da da da da da da da daaaaa!" over and over until she left.
Not that I know what the hell the lyrics are. I can't stand Broadway musical type stuff, so she knew as much as I do.
I thought it was an odd song to be singing until I was driving home from work today and saw a banner advertising a local high school production of Hello Dolly! that's happening later this month.
After singing "Hello, Dolly! Well hello, Dolly! La da da da da da da da da da daaaaa!" all the way home, I finally Googled the lyrics. I also Googled what in the hell the play is about and ended up on Wikipedia. The Hello Dolly! article itself is Too Long, Didn't Read... but get a load of the character names! Horace Vandergelder? Cornelius Hackl? Barnaby Tucker? Ambrose Kemper? Ernestina Money? Rudolf Reisenweber? ERMENGARDE?!??
Hilarious. Maybe I need to buy a ticket to the high school play just to be able to hear today's teens call each other "Horace" and "Ernestina."
Just kidding. Sitting through a high school production of Hello Dolly! is what I imagine Hell must be like.
For the record, here are the actual lyrics I Googled...
This is miss Dolly
It's so nice to have you back where you belong
You're lookin' swell, Dolly
I can tell, Dolly
You're still glowin', you're still crowin', you're still goin' strong
I feel the room swayin'
While the band's playin'
One of our old favorite songs from way back when
So, take her wrap fellas
Find her an empty lap, fellas
Dolly, never go away again
I feel the room swayin'
While the band's playin'
One of our old favorite songs from way back when
So, golly gee, fellas
Have a little faith in me, fellas
Dolly, never go away
Promise, you'll never go away
Dolly, never go away again
So... apparently Dolly went away, came back to sit on somebody's lap, now everybody is begging her not to leave again?
I don't know why Wikipedia couldn't have just said that. Would save everybody who doesn't want to go see the play a lot of time.
While I was on vacation, I could have lowered the heat to save money. I absolutely did not. My cats were still home, and they were accustomed to the temperature as it was set. $26 was a small price to pay... and a drop in the bucket compared to how much my vacation cost.
Now that I'm home?
Jake and Jenny spend half the day (and night) wandering in and out of the catio when the temperatures are freezing.
Jake likes to then run back in the house and hop on me in order to get his feet warmed up. And then promptly fall asleep...
Jenny prefers the electric blanket on my bed. Few things make her happier than rolling around on the luxurious warmth from her favorite spot...
Such a cute kitty...
Speaking of "cute"... earlier this week I compiled the nicknames I call my cats...
Nicknames for Jake:
Nicknames for Jenny:
MEOWSTRESS OF DESTRUCTION!
And... no more cat cuteness for you.
It's the first Bullet Sunday of 2018, and it starts... now...
• Discovery! Oh happy day... Star Trek: Discovery is back after a month hiatus. And it's just gone Next Level. It's always had beautiful set design and special effects... sublime characters and acting... plus great plot-driven stories... but now? Utter craziness ensues...
If you love sci-fi (and even if you don't like Star Trek), this should be on your list. Yes, you have to pay for "CBS All-Access" to get it, but it's one of the few shows I honestly don't mind paying extra for. All the money is on the screen.
• Crisis! Speaking of amazing television.. the 4-Part Arrowverse Mega Crossover for "Crisis on Earth-X" (between The Flash, Supergirl, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow) was fantastic. Far, far better than Man of Steel, Batman vs. Superman, Suicide Squad, and Justice League put together (which is essentially the television-equivalent of what "Crisis on Earth-X" was)...
The best comic book crossovers always have meaningful consequences rather than being just for kicks. "Crisis on Earth X" has this in spades. All four shows have actual consequences for their respective stories. As if that weren't enough, it was a heck of a lot of fun to watch. This just proves once again how the DC movie franchise should be turned over to the television showrunners. What they manage to do with a television budget is squee-worthy comic book fanboy dreamy.
• Legion! Speaking of Supergirl... when it comes to comic books, The Legion of Super-Heroes has long been one of my favorite series of all time. Even when I shifted away from DC to Marvel (thanks, George Pérez!) I never left The Legion far behind. Following them through their every incarnation... for better and for worse (but mostly for worse)... they ARE comic books to me.
Not sure what to think of them in this promo, but you know I'll be watching!
• iPhone X! I've had a few people asking how I like the iPhone X. I waited a week to write my review, so it pretty much sums up where I'm at three weeks later. FaceID is more amazing that I gave it credit for. Any trouble I was having was from my holding the phone too close when my glasses were off. Now that I'm used to not sticking my phone close to my face for FaceID, it's near-flawless. No idea how secure it is, but it's incredible how good it works. Like I said, most of the time I don't even think about it... which is all you could want from a technology. When I heard about it, I imagined that it would take my staring at the phone for a minute for it to activate, but that's not the case at all. A subtle glance is all it takes and it's near instantaneous. Other than that? Still love the camera. Still hate how difficult it is to get to the Control Panel. Still not thrilled with "The Notch" (though I mostly don't notice it). Still not entirely sure it's worth the money. But I do still love it, so there's that.
• All New! Oh yeah... the latest issue of Thrice Fiction was released last week...
As always, you can download it or read it online absolutely FREE over at the Thrice Fiction website.
• iPhone X! For reals. My biggest discovery for 2017 was the Philips "OneBlade" razor. Is it as close as a blade? Hell no. Is it as close as an electric razor? Not really. But holy crap is it an effortless way to groom! Goes through anything, so even if you've forsaken your face for a week like I have, you can still easily clean up WITHOUT trimming first! I haven't replaced my trimmer yet... nor my electric razor... but, this is so handy. When I travel, OneBlade is all I need...
• New School! Well... adapt or die, as they say...
What worked before is failing us now. It's only going to get worse unless people with vision has the guts to step up and initiate change.
• Sparkle! All the hand-power-scrubbers suck. Not powerful enough to clean shit (assuming you have shit all over something) let alone soap scum. Enter THE REVOLVER! Attaches to your drill and has more than enough power to rip through soap scum!
As I was cleaning my shower I kept laughing "MWAH HA HA HA HAAAA!" as everything was getting sparkly clean.
And... back to Bullet Sundays as usual next week!
Jake needs to lose four pounds.
Which is not easy because he will eat every bit of food that I put out as soon as he can get it. Jenny prefers to graze over time, which means the minute she steps away Jake will pounce on her food immediately.
I've gotten a little more proactive in taking food away and putting out smaller and smaller amounts that I can ration so Jake isn't devouring food meant for Jenny.
Jake is not taking his diet well.
Tonight I caught him eating from a bag of dry food I was foolish enough to leave on the kitchen counter. He knows exactly what it is... and apparently knows how to open a sealable bag as well...
I yelled for him to get down, which he did.
Not five minutes later, Jenny hopped on the counter to see if she could get away with snagging a bite or two...
I yelled at her before she could manage it, and she won't look at me now. Even once I called her to come up to bed, she refuses to look me in the eye. Which means I've been getting snubbed and side-eyed all night...
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
If I am killed in my sleep, check for claw marks.
UPDATE: I've been asked how much food they get. Jake and Jenny get three tablespoons of dry food and a tablespoon of wet food twice a day (each). Jenny doesn't know what to do about wet food. She ate it as a kitten, but now she just licks it. Jake will then walk over and polish off her gravy-free wet food before tackling his dry food. So, essentially, Jenny is eating less than a half cup a day while Jake is eating over half cup a day, when it really should be reversed...
I bought some expensive stainless steel bowls that spread the food out while keeping it centered so that they avoid "whisker fatigue"... but my cats don't seem to care, so I still use bowls for their wet food. As they wear out (or break) I've been replacing them with shallower bowls in the hopes that the cats find them easier to eat from.
I've been telling y'all that I'm a stable genius for years.
If I become president on my first try, do you think people will start believing me?
Since it's never too early for a politician to start sucking lobbyist dick for campaign money, let's get this party started, shall we?
While donations to my "campaign" are not tax deductible now, they are a promise that, if elected, I will let you become a giant corporation and not have to pay taxes.
And don't worry what that will do to our economy, I'm totes going to make Mexico pay for it.
If virulently anti-gay pastors and Republicans have taught us anything about their disturbingly homophobic behavior... it's that it's usually driven by they themselves being gay. This asshole's reaction towards a cursory touch by a man speaks volumes. It's so over-the-top absurd that you'd think he was grabbed by the crotch...
So synchronize your watches, folks... It's only a matter of time before Representative Daryl Metcalfe is caught with an underage gay prostitute in a public bathroom.
They always are...
Snow is frickin' dumping down today.
I mean really coming down.
I had to drive to The Big City and back for a dentist appointment and ended up regretting that I didn't cancel it. The roads were plowed earlier in the morning, but conditions worsened since then and there's a pretty big accumulation of snow and slush you have to drive through... even on the highway. Also? People are driving like frickin' morons. One person in a small van thought that they would cruise around us cars driving at a SANE speed for the conditions. I watched as they got sucked into the slush and rammed their vehicle straight into the center barricade. I was laughing my ass off as I passed. Maybe I shouldn't have... perhaps the driver had an emergency... but 99 times out of 100, this kind of thing happens to people who get what they deserve for driving stupid. It's just fortunate they didn't take anybody else down with them.
Oh... and on the way back from the dentist I stopped for lunch. As I was getting out of my car, I heard a guy screaming "OH YEAH! FUCK YOU! DON'T SLOW DOWN, ASSHOLE! I DON'T FUCKING CARE! FUUUUUUCK YOOOOUUUU!" which was subsequently repeated all over again.
Turns out he was shoveling the sidewalk and when cars drove by he was getting totally douched in dirty slush water. He was not happy. Didn't help that he was absolutely not dressed for the job in non-waterproof clothing and was probably soaked down to his tookus. Oh well. Live and learn, buddy. Live and learn.
I honestly don't mind winter weather. I've lived in it since I was 5 years old and learned how to drive in it since I first started driving. No, I don't like having to clean snow off my car, but snow is pretty, and I've grown accustomed to having it around town...
I usually end up hating it from Day One as well as liking it, because people are stupid assholes.
That's true for most things though.
As a wise man once said before the election...
"Donald Trump is a racist, homophobic, misogynistic, foreigner-bashing, non-Christian-hating, ignorant, unstable, narcissistic, intolerant, bigoted piece of shit. And electing Trump is the equivalent of hanging a giant banner outside the country advertising the fact that we're a nation of racist, homophobic, misogynistic, foreigner-bashing, non-Christian-hating, ignorant, unstable, narcissistic, intolerant, bigoted pieces of shit. And that doesn't even address the embarrassment factor of having this ridiculous buffoon representing Americans on the global stage. You think we were the laughing stock of the planet during the Bush years? Try 1400+ days of Toxic Cheeto Jesus."
— David Simmer II, Blogography: No… God, No… Please Save Us…
The old me might have said something like that (or never said anything like that... these days apparently you can deny what you said even if others have heard you say it or the statement is recorded). But my New Year's resolution was to start being less ranty and more constructive so let's work from there, shall we?
This is exactly who Donald Trump is and has always been. Even FOX "News" initially confirmed that President Trump uttered these heinous words (even though the network is backtracking on their confirmation now, of course). Senator Dick Durbin was there and has said that he heard the president say it. Senator Lindsey Graham is reported to have confirmed this was what the president said (and hasn't contradicted any reports stating so).
And so... if I'm not going to rant over what a racist piece of shit* we elected to run this country or how diplomatically stupid you have to be to lob such insults at other countries when you're representing this country... what else is there to say?
Something positive and constructive? On this?
Well... Zimbabwe may not have a Trump Tower, but it's actually a beautiful country and has some amazing people...
There's many a day lately I'd like to escape the "shithole" of Trump's America and return to Africa, that's for sure.
*Racist as in... three guesses as to what the predominant color of the people are in Haiti, El Salvador, and African countries... vs. the predominant color of the people in Norway.
When it comes to cats, I really did luck out. Jake and Jenny are healthy, well-behaved, loving, all-around wonderful pets and I honestly have no complaints. Yes, I wish they would let me pick them up... neither of them (especially Jenny) likes that at all... but it's such a small thing in the grand scheme of things that I don't dwell on it.
When it comes to smarts, they both seem like intelligent cats. Jake has pretty good puzzle-solving abilities and can use process of elimination to find stuff. I was afraid that Carl the RoboVac would choke on Mufasa, a toy lion I brought back from Africa for Spanky which Jake inherited, so I picked it up off the floor and tossed it on the couch. Later that day I checked in on the cats with the security cameras and saw him hunting around the house looking for something. Eventually he found what he was looking for... which was Mufasa...
Once he found it, Jake took Mufasa upstairs, assumably to hide it from me so I wouldn't hide it from him. Pretty smart.
And then there's Jenny.
As far as intelligence goes, Jenny operates on an entirely different level. Not just from Jake, but from most cats I've ever seen. She's super smart. When her brother found her secret sleeping spot in the room I use for comic book storage, she went and found another spot to get away from him. Now she sleeps in the guest room closet. To get in, she has to separate the doors by pulling the door out. Something Jake hasn't figured out how to do, and it drives him absolutely nuts.
She's also incredibly devious and crafty.
One morning as I was working in bed, I realized I hadn't seen my cats in a while. Using the security cameras, I found Jake out in the catio pawing at the door trying to get back inside. I couldn't figure out what his problem was, so I went downstairs to see if the door was broke. It wasn't. Jenny had pushed the scratcher lounge in front of the door, then sat on it so he couldn't push through...
I can only guess this was revenge from when she was asleep on the scratcher lounge and Jake kicked her off of it...
She was not happy about it, and was staring daggers at her brother...
Jake is a bigger cat that Jenny and uses his size to get what he wants. Whether it's the scratcher lounge, the top spot of the cat tree, or whatever. There's times that Jenny is having none of it though. Like the other night when she was chewing on her catnip-infused paper bag and Jake decided he wanted it. She plopped down on it and refused to let him near...
Once he left, she went back to chewing on the thing. Though I have no idea why. Apparently it doesn't taste very good...
If there's one thing Jenny loves, it's ambushing her brother when he least expects it. Usually she does this by running up and smacking him in the face while he's pooping. But sometimes she gets deviously crafty. Like dragging her paper bag in front of the cat door so she can hide behind it and jump on Jake when he comes through...
Like I said... next-level smart. And clever and devious.
I really lucked out.
A cold wind is a blowin, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Copied! "Who says Apple can't innovate any more?" — Oh damn. Here they are, copying an idea from Samsung!
You can read all about it here.
• Ghosts! My photos were used in an article about ghosts in Antarctica by my friends at Paranormal Georgia Investigations! You can read it over at their website: Ghosts at the Bottom of the World. And speaking of Antarctica... maybe I'm wrong about the earth being flat, y'all?
Nah. Just kidding. This woman is obviously lying and a paid shill for the lying liars at NASA.
• Color! As somebody who loves color, world cultures, languages, and cool insight into things we don't really think about, this Vox video is pretty great...
• Guilty Pleasure! I am not ashamed of the things I like. That being said, I am mildly ashamed that I like the new show L.A. to Vegas much more than I should...
It's kind of non-stop Airplane! from start to finish. Tuesdays at 9pm on FOX.
• Krypton! Well, I had my doubts... but this trailer makes me want to tune in to the show...
Looks like they sunk the money needed into making it, which is always a nice surprise.
And... that's Bullet Sunday for you.
And here we are again... Teen Vogue unleashing a healthy dose of reality in a reality-starved world.
Yes, you read that right. Teen Vogue!
"This Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we would do his memory justice by honoring all of his legacy. Not just the parts that make white Americans comfortable." — Martin Luther King Jr. Was More Radical Than We Remember
Wishing you an uncomfortable holiday.
Between the weather and my work schedule there's nothing much else going on in my life.
Except for the cats, of course...
Turns out I didn't close the pots and pan cupboard, so Jake and Jenny were climbing all over in there. This is great, because I was dying to wash six loads of metal in the dishwasher, and now's my chance!
Buying a home is much like attaching a boat anchor to your neck and jumping into an ocean of debt. Eventually you'll drown, but for as long as you can manage to keep your head above water, it's nice. I like having a place of my own that I can remodel as I want, design as I want, and otherwise make it mine.
Along with the debt, there's a never-ending (and ever-expanding) list of things to do. Things to clean. Things to repair. Things to change. The number of things on my list is overwhelming. Rather than let it drive me insane, I decided to focus on attacking just one thing every day... no matter how small. Fix a hole in the wall. Put together a piece of IKEA that's been sitting in the garage. Clean out under the sink. That kind of thing.
Today's task was removing the plastic stuck behind my appliance handles.
The former owner of my home kept it clean, but there were a lot of changes I wanted to make. One of them was to buy all new stainless steel appliances. In order to protect the stainless steel finish, everything arrives covered with plastic. Which would be fine... except it's not stuck to the appliances, it's screwed into the appliances. Which means you can't just rip it off. But that's exactly what the installers do. And so you're left with jagged ugly plastic screwed behind all the handles. To get it out of there, you have to remove the handles.
Which is easier said than done.
Every handle has a different kind of "hidden screw" head. Even handles on the same appliance can be different.
Which meant I had to go out and buy a full set of screwdriver bits so I could figure out how to unscrew star screws, hex screws, and other weird-ass screws. Which I found at Home Depot yesterday. Eventually I managed to find the bits that worked perfectly, but I've already lost two of them somewhere.
Adding "Find missing screw bits" to my ever-growing list.
Back in 2009 photographer Chase Jarvis released an iPhone app called "The Best Camera" which was the "Instagram" of its day. It allowed you to do things like crop your photos, apply filters to them, and easily share them on social media... things all the photo apps can do now, but back then it was fairly revolutionary. Along with the app, he also released a book called The Best Camera is the One That's With You. I never read the book, but the title and the philosophy behind it changed the way I look at photography. Essentially Chase was saying that you don't need a big, expensive camera to be a good photographer, and talent will shine through regardless of what you're using.
Until that point, I kind of dismissed the camera on my iPhone. Sure I used it, but never for anything serious. And I ended up missing out on a lot of photo opportunities because of it. "Why bother taking a photo if I don't have my real camera with me?" But after getting "The Best Camera" app and buying into the idea that I could take good photos with it, all that changed. This lead to me getting some spectacular shots that I never would have thought possible with a phone. Like this one...
"The Best Camera" app eventually collapsed into stagnation and was killed (the story of which is an interesting read), but I took its ideals to heart, and it's a philosophy I believe in to this day (thanks, Chase!).
Of course, smart phone cameras are leagues better now than they were in 2009. As is my attitude towards them. I gave up on carrying a pocket camera when I got my iPhone 6 because the photos I was getting were pretty great. Then I started snapping photos of anything and everything.
But mostly my cats.
Before I left for vacation back in December, the last photo I took was this one as I was saying goodbye to Jake and Jenny. Snapping photos with my iPhone is so automatic that I don't even remember taking it...
Then while I was on vacation, the best camera that was with me was not my iPhone... it was my Sony DSLR, which meant my iPhone spent most of its time in my pocket.
And now that I'm back?
The Best Camera is taking photos of grilled cheese and tofu bacon sandwich.
I thought it would be fun for me and the cats to try the Tide Pod Challenge this weekend. Does anybody know which flavor tastes best? There's five different ones.
At first I was going to try Coral Blast Tide Pods because I love the ocean... but then I worried it might have fish in it and not be vegetarian-safe. The Downey April Fresh Tide Pods sound delicious, but this is January, and I don't know if I want to eat something from nine months ago... I prefer fresh-fresh. The Febreze Tide Pods might be the way to go if it will make Jake's poops smell better, but the Oxi Clean Tide Pods would get our intestines all shiny clean. I dunno. Maybe I should just go with the original flavor?
The Tide Pods aisle at Lowes is confusing.
So hard to choose. Couldn't they just make cheese-flavored so I'd know which to buy?
Guess we'll never know.
Oh... and if you're thinking of joining in on the Tide Pods Challenge, here's some things your should know.
And so... Jenny comes running in from the guest room meowing for attention.
Turns out she's tattling on her brother. I go in to see what he's up to... and he's up on the wall shelves where he knows he's not supposed to be. I go to scold him and then... HE SITS NEXT TO THE RABBIT STATUES AND STAYS PERFECTLY STILL. HE IS CAMOUFLAGING HIMSELF AS A STATUE SO I WON'T SEE HIM!!!
Not the most convincing wabbit I've ever seen, and yet... not the worst either. But don't tell that to him. He sat there being a statue long enough that I had time to run and get my phone so I could take a photo.
Eventually he realized the gig was ip...
No idea how he gets up there. But at least I know who is responsible for knocking my rabbits off the shelf and busting them...
Eventually he pretended to be sorry and dropped by to watch television with me...
Just look how sorry he is!
As for Jenny?
Still letting her smarts lead her into trouble. She watches everything I do, and now I'm thinking that she is trying to figure out light switches...
I think she's also taken up Taekwondo. The other night I was rubbing her butt to distract her from the rain falling on the roof (something she really hates for some reason)...
But apparently she didn't want to be distracted, and...
She decided to distract herself by hunting mice...
Nom! Nom! Nom!
I went to bed at 11:00 last night but couldn't get to sleep. Fortunately(?) my cats saved me from a boring night of staring at the ceiling. Since they new I was awake, they took that as an excuse to go nuts. Shortly after midnight I heard them sliding things along the floor. When I looked at the security cameras, it seemed to be wet food packets. They dragged them out of the cupboard before, but the worst they've ever been able to do is bite a few holes in the bags...
Every time they would fail to get a packet open, they would run and get a different one...
After a few packets had been dragged out, I saw that Jenny had managed to get one open. She was chowing down...
As I lay in bed being horrified at the idea of wet food being scattered all over my house, I decided to run down and clean it up before it dried. Sure enough, they broke the bank...
Much to my relief, the packet that Jenny got open was not wet food, but a bag of treats...
Ironically, it was CALMING TREATS I bought for when I take Jake and Jenny to the vet next month...
I'd like to tell you that they calmed right down after eating all those "calming treat," but... not so much. Oh well. At least they didn't look pissed off, like the cat on the front of the package after I put all their food away.
And... what cat antics will tomorrow bring?
Don't let the man get you down, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Otter! YouTube is a never-ending sinkhole of things you would just never think to look for. Last night I watched a video where a baby otter was introduced to water for the first time. He most definitely did not want any part of it... but, since otters are built for water, his attitude changes drastically once he's in...
I thought "Well that was cute" and, next thing I know, I've been watching baby otter videos for an hour. Amazing just how much stuff is floating around YouTube waiting to be explored.
• Elephant! Oh... and once you're done with baby otters swimming, time to move on to baby elephants chasing birds...
Baby animal videos are my Kryptonite.
• Cotton Picking! NEWS BRIEF: Senator Tom Cotton Is Sending Cease and Desist Letters to His Own Constituents. Because of course he is. I mean, seriously, this IS the next step isn't it? A government of the government, by the government, for the government... without those pesky constituents being able to weigh in to their elected officials with their two cents. Why would a politician want to listen to what mere citizens have to say on matters?
People can act shocked all they want, but this is the end game by the people REALLY running this country right here. If you don't have money and power, you don't have a say. So enjoy your "representation in government" (colossal sham that it is) while you can. Soon they won't even bother with the pretense. And if you think I'm being overly-dramatic, just remember that they vote themselves pay-raises without consulting you... they refuse to initiate term limits, despite everybody wanting them... and they don't give two shits what stupid voters think when they can use lobbyist money to tell them what to think on election day.
And left you think this is "fake news"... here's your link. Wake up and smell the lack of democracy.
• FoldiMate! Just what I need to go along with all the other robots in my house... a robot that folds clothes! I hate folding clothes, so this is pretty darn cool...
It's a far cry from just tossing a pile of clothes in the top of the machine and having them all get folded, but... still kinda cool...
What's not cool is the price tag. The FoldiMate is projected to cost a thousand bucks.
• Effie! The only thing I hate more than folding clothes? Ironing them. Which is why this is the robot for me...
Home chores are undoubtedly going to look much different in ten years.
• Fries! I love good advertising. And when companies have a lot of money to sink into advertising, the results can be pretty spectacular. I don't think the latest Taco Bell commercial reaches that level, but it's still pretty well done...
My... God... who would be stupid enough to take on Big Burger? McDonalds... Burger King... Five Guys... those guys don't play. Somebody is ending up dead.
No mo. No mo bullets, man.
I always make fun of the people who say "Are you kidding me? Are you KIDDING me? ARE YOU KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW?!???" when they see their finished home revealed at the end of Fixer Upper (the home renovation show on HGTV). I mean, who says that? It's like, the stupidest thing you could say. YES, WE ARE KIDDING YOU! THIS IS NOT YOUR HOUSE!
Then just now I was unloading a box of cat stuff from Chewy. The cats were obsessed with the shipping box... until I opened the cupboard where the cat food is. Then they abandon the box come ripping into the kitchen like they're going to be fed dinner... an hour and a half early! It was then I found myself saying "Are you kidding me? Are you KIDDING me? ARE YOU KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW?!???" — And then I realized either
It's probably a combination of both those things. My television is tuned to HGTV 90% of the time. I've seen every episode of Fixer Upper eleventy-billion times. I have all the clients memorized. It only stands to reason that the stupid crap people say on these shows is going to get embedded in my brain.
In many ways, watching shows like Fixer Upper is torture this time of year. I want nothing more than to clear out my garage and set up my wood shop so I can get started on all the projects I've dreamed up for my home this year... but that has to wait until Spring when I won't have to worry about my car being piled over with snow.
The last thing I want to do is walk outside in the morning, find an avalance on my car, and find myself screaming "Are you kidding me? Are you KIDDING me? ARE YOU KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW?!???"
I spent an hour last night cleaning the cats' bedroom... vacuuming and mopping... picking up all their toys... washing their beds... cleaning out the vents... upgrading their Litter-Robot... so can you guess where they have decided to unleash a tornado of destruction this morning? Go on... guess.
With all that's going wrong in my life right now, I could use some good news. I found it when I discovered Fridays has become This Close and has been developed by Sundance as a series for their streaming service. This is so great, and I can't wait to see it! Congrats to Shoshannah Stern!
I have been feeling a little beat down in life lately, so cooking is not on my radar. The past week I've been eating a lot of frozen pizza because it requires so little effort. Tonight's meal was a big ol' mess thanks to a paradox I'm calling Schrödinger's Pizza...
17 Minutes: Pizza undercooked.
18 Minutes: Pizza nearly incinerated.
I don't know what's happening in my over at the seventeen-minute-thirty-second mark, but it's apparently pretty serious.
And, on that note, I leave you to consume something burnt that used to be sauce and cheese on crust.
For the life of me, I have no comprehension in any measure for people who give a crap about how other people live their lives when it has absolutely no bearing on them or anybody else.
Today there was a story in The New York Times about two Army captains who are Apache helicopter pilots that just got married at West Point (which I can't link to because it's behind a pay-wall...
Right now most people are probably assuming that one of the pilots is a man and the other pilot is a woman.
Not so much, no.
It's two guys who fell for each other during the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" era circa 2009 and couldn't even go on a date until it was repealed in 2011 else they'd be risking their entire careers...
And, thanks to times being slightly more enlightened than past years (albeit temporarily, apparently), they have indeed just been married at West Point in full ceremony along with the only people who matter at a time like this... their friends, family, and brothers in arms...
Now, you would think that everybody would be all "Congratulations! Best of luck! Thank you both for your service!"
Not so much, no.
I mean, a lot of people are saying that... but, of course, there's a chunk of people who have nothing but venom to offer two men who pay taxes, risk their lives serving their country, and just want their slice of American happiness that everybody here is supposed to be guaranteed by our fucking Declaration of Independence. And yet somehow them getting married is destroying society... the military... this country... and the entire earth?
I'm not much of a romantic, but the Arch of Sabers wedding tradition at West Point is one that gets me every time. I saw it in a movie or television show once, and have been transfixed by it ever since. Not sure if the saber-smack on the rump for the bride is still a thing... or if that's going by the wayside now... but it's all so classy AF (the protocol is online at West Point's official website).
And so... Congratulations! Best of luck! Thank you both for your service!
As I've mentioned a couple times, Jenny loves sleeping on an electric blanket I have under the far third of my bed. She loves it so much that she gets frustrated when she finds that it's not on. More than a few times I've seen her stamping her little foot trying to get it to turn on... or have come home from work and found that she's pulled the blanket away trying to figure out why it's not hot.
Given how smart she is, I thought that maybe I could teach her how to turn it on when she wanted it on. It automatically turns off after four hours, so I thought that might be an easy solution.
I think I'd have better luck teaching Jenny how to turn on the electric blanket if it got hot immediately after pressing the button. But since it takes time for the heat to arrive after pressing it, there's a disconnect there, and her little brain can't wrap itself around the concept. She still paws all around the blanket... stomping her little foot trying to make it be hot, but this may be expecting too much.
Oh well. I still think you're a smart girl anyway, Jenny!
Yes... yes... yes... you're still sexy too.
"You're only as good as your last haircut."
Growing up, I never had to pay for haircuts. Or rather, my parents never had to pay for haircuts. My grandpa was a barber, and he liked me enough that haircuts were no charge...
After my grandpa retired, he still cut my and my brother's hair. He had a barber chair and all his tools in his basement and, since there's few things better than a free haircut, he was forced to come out of retirement every other month.
Eventually, cutting hair was too difficult for my grandfather's eyes and I had to venture out into unknown territory... paying for haircuts. Not that I ended up getting many haircuts at that point...
For most of my life I ended up paying for haircuts until the day came that I desperately needed a haircut but couldn't afford one. I had bought some hair clippers ages ago, but never had the guts to use them... until I had to. And it wasn't no Flowbee like I dreamed of owning either...
No, it was real, honest-to-goodness Whal brand clippers.
And my cut didn't turn out that bad...
The problem with cutting my own hair is that I don't cut it often enough. I wait until it's so long that it's not at all easy to cut.
Such was the case today.
I hadn't washed my hair since Wednesday because it's always easier to cut when it has some stank in it (which meant my Boston Red Sox cap was my best friend for the past couple days). But no amount of stank will give me a flawless cut because no matter how many times I run the clippers over my head, I always miss spots. Which is why I cut my hair on a Friday. That way I have a weekend where I can re-cut and re-re-cut before people have to see me again on Monday.
Hopefully by then all the missed spots get cut.
Interesting to note the similar images that popped up when using Google to find the blog entry where I cut my hair. It's a who's who of Dave doppelgängers...
Yeah yeah yeah... but let's take a closer look at result No. 50...
Google image search thinks I look like Ryan Reynolds!
Yes, I had to suffer 48 photos of Google thinking I look like Captain Cold from The Flash, Jason Statham, Arsenal from Arrow, Brad Pitt, Bradley Cooper, Captain America, Paul Walker, Shemar Moore, Justin Timberlake, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Zac Efron to get to Ryan Reynolds... but I totes look like Ryan Reynolds! My hetero man-crush for decades! (so much so that Jake my cat's full name is "Jacob Ryan Reynolds Simmer).
Just when you think Friday can't get any better!
Time for a shower. I'm done with my stank head.
I cannot get over how smart Jenny is.
She's just bizarrely intelligent, and every day she does something to remind me of it. At first she didn't like the anti-itch liquid on her neck because it made her wet. But now that she understands what it does? She knows to frickin' ask me for it. Then, when I spray it on my hand to rub it into her skin, she turns around so I'm not reaching across her face. It's like she comprehends how things work.
She tries different kinds of "meows" until she finds one I respond to (the most pathetic sounding meow, of course)... and then she uses that particular meow until I stop responding to it... then she tries different meows again so she can get her way. She acts all submissive towards her brother, but she also totally manipulates him. It's just gets more and more weird and wacky the more I see what's going on in that little fuzzy head of hers.
As for Jake? Bless his heart.
When it comes to scratching stuff, both my cats are pretty smart though. When they were kittens they would scratch anything, anywhere (my furniture has the marks to prove it) and I was happy to just let it go. As they got older, they learned where they should scratch and where they shouldn't. A part of this had to do with me providing plenty of things that were desirable scratching places. Scratching posts, scratching loungers, scratching cat trees, scratching pads... they've got it all.
And to make sure they don't get bored, I'm always swapping out old, worn scratchers for new ones. The first scratching post they ever had actually wasn't their's... I bought it for Spanky. Needless to say, it's a mess, which is why I've got it out in the catio. The other day I was watching them scratch on it and realized that they like to stretch out vertically on it. Indoors, they don't have anywhere to do vertical stretches, so I decided to buy a new post that was nice and tall.
The cats were scared shitless of the big pole when I brought it in... but the minute I set a toy mouse on top, they were all over it. They love the height, and it's tall enough to even do some climbing...
It's a great scratching post... especially at only $38. Nice and sturdy. Both of them can be climbing all over it at once and it won't tip over.
They love it so much that I'm thinking of buying a couple more. It would be nice to have one in their bedroom. Though I'm still a bit upset that I spent an hour cleaning it and they had it trashed the next day...
The messy little monsters.
Your eyes are not deceiving you, an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• THANKS, OBAMA! As I've mentioned here more than a few times, my feelings on President Obama are rather complex. I liked him personally. I loved his family. I thought he tried to fairly represent the country and his office the best he could. There's no doubt in my mind he's a patriot. But... by the same token, he also completely shit the bed on government transparency, privacy, and other issues that are important to me. Of course, when compared to the raging shit show currently occupying the presidency, it's not hard to romanticize President Obama's two terms. And now Netflix and David Letterman have teamed up for an interview that's worth watching...
I enjoyed the interview quite a lot, as it surprised me in many ways. First of all, they spent some time on his personal life where he was just as charming, touching, and funny as you would expect. Secondly, a goodly chunk of the show focused on The Civil Rights Movement and one of its key leaders, Representative John Lewis (a personal hero of mine) and how that lead to Barrack Obama's presidency. My only criticism is that I wish the interview was longer. The hour was over before I knew it, and I was left wanting more. Probably because it was so nice to remember back to the days when we had such a brilliant, literate, compassionate, leader running the country.
• One Day in Time! And speaking of Netflix... after work yesterday, I thought I'd watch a couple episodes of the One Day at a Time remake. I loved the first season, and was hopeful they wouldn't take a dump all over the second. They didn't. I ended up binge-watching all thirteen episodes and didn't get to bed until after midnight. This show is absolutely fascinating. It's firmly rooted in 1970's Normal Lear style laugh-track TV, but tackles contemporary topics in a way that's entertaining as hell...
The writing and performances are top notch. I've never seen a show that manages to shift gears so often so brilliantly. You're laughing one minute... crying the next... but never bored. After the last episode was over, Netflix started playing the first episode of the first season. I was dang close to watching the whole thing all over again from the start, but had to get some sleep. Highly recommended.
• Future Power! But, by all means... let's keep investing in coal. We're fucking idiots like that...
• Girl Power! "Tonight (it never gets dark this time of year) I skied back to the Pole again... to take this photo for all those men who commented “Make me a sandwich” on my TEDX Talk. I made you a sandwich (ham & cheese), now ski 37 days and 600km to the South Pole and you can eat it."
Jade Hameister's Facebook post is an epic smack-down on idiots who don't believe that girls can do anything... when clearly she can do more than they can.
• The Mash Report! You may want to take notes...
If only I had regular access to the BBC.
• Guitarz! A very cool video featuring a musician with a three-necked guitar playing Feel Good, Inc. (originally by Gorillaz)...
The artist is Luca Stricagnoli, and his videos are pretty amazing. Here he is crushing The Verve's Bitter Sweet Symphony on two guitars...
And one more for the road...
And that's it. The end. Bullet Sunday is done.
My favorite musician/band changes regularly depending on what mood I'm in. Sometimes I'm in the mood for classic rock and it's The Beatles, sometimes I need rap and it's Run The Jewels, sometimes I just want metal and it's Slayer, sometimes I want a catchy beat and it's Matt & Kim. The list goes on and on.
But most of the time it's 80's synth-pop bands and I make no apologies for it.
For the longest time, my favorite band was Thompson Twins, and this was well before their breakout success with Into The Gap. Once the band broke up, I gravitated to another long-time favorite, Depeche Mode. I obsessed over the band for decades. Then they changed their sound a bit when Alan Wilder left and my enthusiasm dwindled through the next four albums, then left altogether for their two latest. During that time, my longtime appreciation for The Pet Shop Boys took hold, and they're probably the band I listen to more than any other... and are my favorite band most days now...
Given the massive catalog of music produced by the band, ranking favorite songs is almost impossible. And believe me, I've tried. I've made spreadsheets, listened through every song, shifted them back-and-forth... but then I'll look at it a couple days later and need to start over because I've changed my mind. If forced to choose a favorite, I'd have to pick The way it used to be off of the album Yes. It's everything you want in a PSB song... great beats, clever synths, and amazing lyrics. One of the most beautiful songs I've heard. Sadly, they never released it as a single or made a video for it, so all I can offer is this...
Of course, if you ask me another day, it could be Memory of the Future or even West End Girls that's my favorite, so who knows?
For Pet Shop Boys fans, there's a lot more to love about the band than their fantastic songs. They are highly creative in so many places, as the amazing retrospective book which encompasses the art, print, and media built around their music...
And, of course, there's the videos. Neil and Chris only work with the best, more imaginative artists, and their videos are a mixed bag because of it. But when they hit, they really hit. Once of my favorites being the video for yet another favorite track of mine, Flamboyant...
Needless to say, their live shows are amazing (I've been lucky enough to see them twice, and meet-and-greet them as well). When they were awarded at The Brits, they pulled out all the stops and were very Pet Shop about it...
No. Your eyes are not deceiving you. That's Lady Gaga filling in for Dusty Springfield. Watching this awards show would be the first time I had even heard of her.
As if all that wasn't enough, the band are forever collaborating with other artists. They've made albums and songs with everybody from David Bowie, Tina Turner, and Liza Minelli to Robbie Williams, Blur, and Madonna. Their music has been cited as inspiration from bands including U2, Coldplay, The Killers, Keane, Guns n' Roses, and many others. A true testament to just how good the Pet Shop Boys are and how well they're regarded.
When it comes to their own works, Pet Shop Boys never seem to be content. There are countless demos along with hundreds of remixes... both by them and others. Collecting them all is a bit of a nightmare for true fans because the sheer volume is overwhelming. For the past several years, the band has been making it a bit easier with their "Further Listening" CD sets, which have remasters of the original album along with discs filled with the various demos, remixes, B-sides, and other releases of the time period the album was created...
Please (Further Listening 1984-1986) — June 2001 / March 2018 Remaster
Actually (Further Listening 1987-1988) — June 2001 / March 2018 Remaster
Introspective (Further Listening 1988-1989) — June 2001 / March 2018 Remaster
Behavior (Further Listening 1990-1991) — June 2001 / ??? 2018 Remaster
Very (Further Listening 1992-1994) — June 2001 / ??? 2018 Remaster
Bilingual (Further Listening 1995-1997) — June 2001 / ??? 2018 Remaster
Nightlife (Further Listening 1996-2000) — July 2017
Release (Further Listening 2001-2004) — July 2017
Fundamental (Further Listening 2005-2007) — July 2017
Yes (Further Listening 2008-2010) — October 2017
Elysium (Further Listening 2011-2012) — October 2017
I never bought any of the original 2001 sets (I didn't have the money back then and they are insanely expensive now), but I've been buying all the 2017/2018 remasters and will pick up the March releases and the remainder when they are released later this year (even though I still don't have the money!).
As with so many remasters, I'm of a mixed opinion when it comes to artists messing with their older albums. When remastering is done badly, it's just increasing the volume so you can compete with modern albums that are mastered so loud that any subtlety is lost (casualties of the aptly named "Loudness War"). When it's done well, it can improve on the original tracks by bringing out details that were lost (especially when we made the transition to digital music). The "Mastered for iTunes" program, for example, attempts to compensate for sound compression and unwanted distortion that can leave iTunes purchases sounding much worse than their CD counterparts. For the most part, I've been pleased with the results. Very pleased. It's a fascinating process which makes for equally fascinating reading thanks to this article over at Ars Technica. The results can be pretty staggering, depending on the song (though I'm sure there are those who disagree, as this is highly subjective). I liked Bon Jovi's Slippery When Wet better when it was Mastered for iTunes. Metallica's Master of Puppets I did not. Will an iTunes file replace an uncompressed FLAC file ripped directly from a CD? No. But, in so many cases, it's closer to the Real Thing than you'd get out of an MP3 file.
Back to the Pet Shop Boys...
The albums for sale by Apple were not "Mastered for iTunes" when remastered, and I dearly wish they had been. Since they were not, I ended up buying the CD releases and ripping them into iTunes for iTunes Match. The benefit in doing this is that you get the little booklets that come with each set which discusses the music (they are not included with the iTunes as booklets, for some strange reason). The bad news is that you end up having to deal with Apple's shitty, shitty iTunes app to try and get the music sorted. I had to rip Release THREE TIMES before I could get it to show up right, under one cover folio, in order, all while being labeled correctly. After ripping, CDs within the set would be inconsistently labeled, which is not Apple's fault since they are using a third-party service, but the music would then disappear when I merged the CDs into a single folio and labeled it correctly. What an infuriating waste of time. Eventually I figured out that you had to shut down iTunes then restart iTunes after every import/re-label in order for it to "stick" and be added to your catalog. Even then, I could never get some songs on the third disc of Release to be matched in iTunes Match, which means I can't access them on all my devices unless I download it*. How the fuck Apple can't get simple shit like this figured out is just beyond me. They have literally billions of dollars in the bank. They can't spend a minuscule portion of that to fix a bug-ridden pile of shit that their users are having to suffer with every damn day?
Back to the Pet Shop Boys again...
I've enjoyed the "Further Listening" albums I've bought so far (Nightlife through Elysium) quite a lot. Some of the material I already had, but a good chunk of it I did not. I was never as obsessive about collecting all the various parts and pieces for Pet Shop Boys as I was the Thompson Twins and Depeche Mode for some reason. In any event, there's certainly enough here to justify repurchasing the albums again (especially from the Yes era, which is responsible for some of my most favorite tracks.
Of everything I've heard on the "Further Listening" albums that completely escaped my notice, the song Always (a B-side for Home and Dry off of Release) is my favorite. A total treasure...
Beautiful. And I never even knew it existed.
As for the remastering? Overall I'd have to give them two thumbs up. Yes, they are louder than the originals, but not so much that subtle details are getting lost. Some albums benefit from the remastering more than others. You can tell with Fundamental that they made a real effort to pull out Johnny Marr's guitar work, which was appreciated. Most fans absolutely hate the original 2001 remastering of Behavior (featuring two tracks with Johnny Marr!) which I don't have, so hopefully the 2018 remastering will do a better job of it.
So... for the hard-core fan, the "Further Listening" sets are essential album collections to own. For the casual fan, probably not so much.
Though how anybody could be merely a casual fan of the Pet Shop Boys is a mystery to me.
*UPDATE: Eventually I was able to get the third album of Release into iTunes Match, but don't ask me how. I did delete the songs and re-rip them for a fourth time... though that didn't seem to be what did it, as I got a shitload of "duplicates" and "unmatched" icons, at which point I gave up. The next day the icons were still there, but when I restarted iTunes, everything was fine again(?). Well, whatever.
Wow. 2018 is shaping up to be a heck of a year for super-hero movies! Let's take a look at the eight flicks that are coming up this year...
FEBRUARY 16: Black Panther
Black Panther has long been one of my favorites characters, and to see his phenomenal appearance in Captain America: Civil War was almost too good to be true. Getting an actual Black Panther feature film, however? Ordinarily I'd be wary, but Marvel Studios has not had a single misstep, and I'm not counting on this film being its first. It looks incredible. I like that Marvel is also heading in another direction now that they got other sub-genres covered. Tech: Iron Man, Politics: Captain America, Legendary: Thor, Action: Avengers, Magical/Mystical: Doctor Strange, Teen Angst: Spider-Man, Science Fiction: Guardians of the Galaxy... and now for Marvel's take on international intrigue done James Bond style, Black Panther. It's just all so perfect...
I actually prefer the teaser trailer below to the final official trailer above, because it sets up Wakanda for what it is in the Marvel Universe: The wealthiest, most technologically advanced society on earth, and one of the planet's biggest secrets...
APRIL 13: New Mutants
I like the idea of super-hero movies heading into horror territory, but not sure what to think of the trailer for New Mutants, which probably doesn't go far enough to make it worthwhile as a horror film. And quite possibly not far enough as a super-hero film either. But, hey, fingers crossed, as I really like the "Demon Bear" comic book storyline which this is rumored to follow...
MAY 4: Avengers: Infinity War
And here we are... what all the Marvel Studios films to date have been leading up to. I have incredibly high expectations, which I fully expect to be exceeded...
MAY 18: Deadpool 2
The first Deadpool was a pleasant surprise. Wonderfully faithful to the original comic book and starring the most perfect casting yet seen on film, the movie was a mega-blockbuster smash that deserved every penny it made...
JULY 6: Ant Man and The Wasp
When talking about the different sub-genres that Marvel Studios has been running through above, one that I left out was "fun" the original Ant-Man movie was a seriously fun caper flick. The sequel looks to be more of the same, but without the need for an origin story, which means it should be better than the original. I'm certainly counting on it...
OCTOBER 5: Venom
While I generally enjoyed the first two Tobey Maguire Spider-Man films, the franchise majorly shit the bed with Sam Raimi's third installment which (attempted) to bring the massively popular villain, Venom on the silver screen. It was done badly, which was a shame. Venom can be an interesting character when handled right. To do that, they brought in director Ruben Fleischer and cast Bane himself, Tom Hardy, in the lead role. Apparently the movie's story will be based on the "Planet of the Symbiotes" comic book stories, which means über-villain Carnage will be making an appearance. I have no clue if this will be any good but, if the reviews aren't tragic, I'll probably take a look.
NOVEMBER 21: X-Men: Dark Phoenix
I can only guess that this is an attempt to make up for the pile of shit that was X-Men 3: Last Stand, which attempted to touch on the seminal X-Men comic book arc... The Dark Phoenix Saga. But the ultimate villain of X-Men 3 was water (yes, seriously, it was fucking water) which was surprising as it was predictable considering it had Brett Ratner's stank all over it. Which, I suppose is a notch above Bryan Singer stank... but not by much. In any event, it would be nice to see a movie which takes the actual Dark Phoenix Saga seriously, though I'm not holding out too much hope given the laughable joke that X-Men: Apocalypse was... and that young-cast Wolverine doesn't seem to be a part of it...
DECEMBER 21: Aquaman
The fact that this is a film by James Wan and not another Zack Snyder shit-fest gives me a glimmer of hope that he'll pull a Patty Jenkins and make a DC Cinematic Universe film that's worth a crap...
And tah-dah. I wish we got four Marvel Studios films each year. Three just isn't enough. Maybe that will change now that the X-Men franchise characters are back in the fold. At least one would hope so. If Marvel Studios started giving the X-franchise the care they've extended to their other films, we're within striking distance of Avengers vs. X-Men.
Everybody: "Did you watch the State of the Union address?"
Me: "Fuck, no."
In an effort to remain more positive in 2018 than I was in 2017, I have made a huge effort to avoid things that will send me into fits of absolute rage.
Which is also why I am no longer accepting babysitting jobs. So please don't ask me.
This evening it snowed a little bit, but that quickly turned to rain and everything melted away.
It's the first day of February, and it's feeling very much like late March. Possibly even April. Which okay, I suppose... but we sure didn't get much winter this season. So now it's time to start worrying about drought for this coming Summer.
Turns out that if you live in my neck of the woods and want to build a snowman, your time is running out...
Note that the only reason my yard has this much snow on it is that Mr. Plow deposited everything from the driveways onto it (and took a chunk out of my lawn again).
Guess it's a good thing that my snowman-making days are behind me...
The good news to come out of all this? Pretty soon I'll be able to park my car outside and turn my garage into a wood shop again.
This past week a guy from Berkeley died while snorkeling off the Southern coast of Maui. The ninth such tragedy in two weeks. It happened off Maluaka Beach, which is in front of the (former) Maui Prince Hotel, which became the (former) Makena Beach Hotel, and is now condos or something. Back when I was traveling to Hawaii for work, I stayed at the Maui Prince many times. I've snorkeled off Maluaka Beach many, many times. In fact, it was off Maluaka Beach where I learned to SCUBA dive.
It's one of my favorite beaches on earth...
Needless to say, hearing about people dying someplace you've been to many times gets you thinking.
The Boston Marathon bombing was on a street I've walked down many times.
9/11 happened in a building I've been up many times.
The Vegas shooting was in an area I've been through many times.
The list goes on and on. Floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, fires, terrorism... it's all happening somewhere, and sometimes it happens in places you know. Having to reconcile happy memories with tragic events is a struggle.
As is life, I suppose.
Seventeen days and counting.
Seventeen days and counting until Jake and Jenny have their annual vet appointment. Something that has been stressing me most every day since their last vet appointment. Now that they're two years old (25 in human years), it would be nice to think that they've matured enough that we won't be having a repeat of that insanity that permeated their first trip... but I know better. They are still very much feral cats at heart and not at all accustomed to adventures outside the house or seeing other people.
In order to help ease them into their appointment, I bought Feliway diffusers last month to get them in a more calmed state of mind. I've purchased calming treats for the week before and pulled some of their favorite toys.
And then today I pulled out the kitty carriers for them to get used to. My hope is that, being cats with tiny brains, they've forgotten about anything negative to do with them so I'll manage to lure them in when the time comes...
Just the thought of having to drag them to the vet again...
But, for now... it's business as usual. Sleeping, pooping, and trying to stare me into feeding them early...
Seventeen days and counting.
Looking for a Super-Bowl-free Sunday? Then you're in luck, because a Very Special Wish List Edition of Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• G Master! Once Sony released their FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM lens, I was pretty much done with collecting lenses for my photography. It perfectly filled a gap that I needed, and 90% of the photos I take are with it. About the only thing left would be to purchase a better super-wide-angle to replace my aging 10-18mm f/4, which is not full-frame. Alas, the Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G $1600 on sale. And I just don't take enough photos to justify the cost...
Still, it sure is a pretty lens.
• Curtains! My home is filled to the brim with home automation. Everything from my lights to my locks to my security cameras to my roof heat tapes to my thermostat to my alarms to my vacuums to my television to my frickin' garbage disposal are automated and can be controlled via my iPhone or by voice thanks to Amazon's Alexa. There's still things left I can automate, but the one highest on my list are my window blinds. I'd like to be able to have my home automatically open and close them based on weather and time of day... and it would be great if I could close them all on command when I want to watch a movie. Alas, automated blinds are hideously expensive. Hundreds of dollars per window. And that doesn't include the interface box and installation. To outfit even just the windows in my living room would probably approach $1000. Alas, that's an absurd amount of money to spend on something fairly frivolous.
Still, they sure are a pretty piece of tech.
• Speaker! Apple's delayed "smart speaker"... the HomePod... is up for pre-order. From the early review, it features the best sound of any device in its class. It can play music from Apple Music (which I don't subscribe to), interface with Apple's HomeKit (which I fucking hate), and has the Siri digital assistant built-in (a pale imitation of Amazon's Alexa, which I vastly prefer). And yet... I still want one because it can pull my music off of iTunes Match, which is where every piece of music I own is located. Alas, the HomePod is $350. And I just don't want to spend that kind of money on something that basically does what my stereo already does with a little effort...
Still, it sure is a pretty speaker.
• Super Carl! One of my all-time favorite tech investments is Carl the RoboVac. It's the thing I never knew I needed until I had one. Thanks to my two cats, my dark wood floors are never clean. Cat hair and kitty litter along with crumbs and dust don't get camouflaged like they would on carpeting, and coming home to dirty floors drives me nuts. But, thanks to Carl (my Deebot N79 RoboVac), my floors are remarkably clean when I get home. And now EcoVacs is coming out with an super-upgraded version, the Deebot Ozmo 930. Not only does it have far better room navigation tools, room mapping, and a built-in mop, you can also define areas you want to clean on your mobile phone. But these cool features come at a price. A whopping $599. Which is actually pretty reasonable compared to Roomba RoboVacs. Alas, it's not worth it when the $150 Carl I have now does a very good job already...
Still, it sure is a pretty robot.
• Cool! When it comes to future tech, appliances are late to the party. But they've been slowly trickling out... ovens you can control with your phone... washing machines and dryers that can send you notifications... that kind of thing. But the one that intrigues me most is Samsung's "Family Hub" refrigerator. Not only does it have a bunch of cool apps which bring functionality to the space taken up by your refrigerator, it also adds a number of cool (heh heh) features... like being able to see what's inside when you're at the grocery store. The starting price for all this? $3000. Alas, there's no way I'm dropping that kind of bank for refrigerator tech that's going to be obsolete in a year...
Still, it sure is a pretty refrigerator.
And there you have it... Bullets on a Sunday that are too rich for my blood.
I don't watch the Super Bowl. That's probably because I don't give a crap about football. Most years I still have the game on while I work because I want to see the commercials, but this year I figured I'd just watch them all on YouTube after the game. That way I don't have to add to the NFL viewer numbers since I feel that any sport which allows owners to shit all over The United States of America with it's mandated faux-patriotism can go fuck themselves. Colin Kaepernick did not disrespect this country, its people, or our troops when he respectfully took a knee in protest during the National Anthem... and yet he was treated as if he did, and is now paying the price for what became of it. So much for freedom.
Anyway... the one commercial I was wanting to see more than any other was the trailer for Avengers: Infinity War. A movie I am very, very much looking forward to come May...
Pretty great, right?
Everybody and their dog will be rushing to analyze every frame of the trailer, so I'm going to take a pass on that. Instead I'm just going to run through the eighteen scenes found therein and offer up my commentary.
And this is how you do it... lead off with the true promise of this movie: all the various Marvel Studios franchises are coming together in interesting ways. Here Technology, science, and magic are converging in a single shot.
The romance between The Scarlet Witch and The Vision is a major staple of the Marvel comic book universe. I'm very, very happy that they've been advancing this in the cinematic universe as well. Though I'm not sure what's going on here. Vision is projecting a human form, which is great... but what's the deal with the stone? Weirdest foreplay ever?
Though Thanos had been hinted at in the first Avengers film, he really didn't become a "thing" until Guardians of the Galaxy. There it was revealed he was as the father of both Gamora and Nebula. This firmly cemented Guardians as a part of the narrative build-up for this film, even though it took place in a galaxy far, far away.
"It's all been leading to this." Yes. Yes it most definitely has. Interesting to note that Bruce Banner somehow made it back to earth ahead of Thor, which is a little surprising considering they were last seen together in space. As an aside... what's with Tony Stark having an Arc Reactor in his chest again? that was removed in Iron Man 3.
One can only guess that the post-credits scene in Thor: Ragnarok has Thanos destroying the space ark with all the Asgardians on it, and only Thor survived to be picked up by The Guardians. That would suck, considering the destruction of Asgard itself has already punched Thor in the gut. But even more so because that means Korg probably perished with them. It's strongly hinted that time travel is going to play a part in the movie, so maybe dead isn't dead, just like the comic books. If so... dare we hope for a Quicksilver appearance?
If there's anybody who should be worried about Thanos showing up, it's Loki, who failed to secure The Tesseract for him way back in the first Avengers film. Maybe the fact that he managed to swipe it from Asgard before it went boom will be enough for him to be spared being killed?
Spider-Man, once again biting off more than he can chew. No telling how he managed to get up to the big dimensional portal device(?) that appeared above NYC, but it's weird to think that he would think there's anything he could do about it. But, that's what makes him a hero... he has to try. And, thanks to his Spider-Sense, he knows it's a bad, bad thing.
Black Widow was originally Team Iron Man in Civil War, but switched to Team Cap at the end. The Vision was always Team Iron Man, which means this is undoubtedly a scene from later in the movie when everybody has become friends again?
For anybody wondering if Thor losing an eye at the end of Ragnarok would be carried over to this film, here's your answer.
Fanboys are up in arms over Cap's new "shield" being this thing. I can't help but agree it's a shitty move. One of the coolest thing about his shield (other than being indestructible, of course) is that he can toss it like a Frisbee thanks to its saucer-like aerodynamics. Hopefully he gets the shield back somewhere along the line.
And so Tony Stark now has armor that chika-chika-chikas into place like Black Panther? More practical, of course, but not nearly as much fun. Until now, it's been a mechanical process that very much comes down to him donning a suit of armor to do battle. This is a lazy cop-out when it comes to storytelling.
Is it sad that I want Teen Groot to be blown to pieces so we can start over with Baby Groot again? Oh how I loved Baby Groot!
Nebula wants Thanos dead more than anybody else in the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe. She also probably knows Thanos better than anybody else in the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe. I'm really hoping that she gets thrust into the spotlight in this film as she deserves to. Keeping her in the background can't possibly service the story they are telling. But, comparatively speaking, she's small potatoes amongst the cast, so who knows.
Not a fan of Black Widow as a blonde. Yes, they've changed her hair in every movie she's appeared in. Yes, she's a spy and it's feasible she was undercover as a blonde just as events of the movie open. But dammit, Black Widow is a red-head! And, while we're here, I'd just like to say that the rumors of Black Widow finally getting her own movie after being a guest in like... every other movie... had better be happening.
Well, it's Bucky. Awakened from his deep-freeze and fighting for Wakanda. Best of luck there, Buck.
And here's the money shot for me. Dr. Strange, Wong, and Iron Man teaming up in battle. THIS is what Avengers: Infinity War is truly about... having all the various Marvel Cinematic Universe pieces coming together in cool ways. I am all fangirling out at this point.
Remember... before you get all sucked into the Infinity War hype... Black Panther is coming out in a mere eleven days. WAKANDA FOREVER! — And, can I just say one more time how utterly silly and stupid Cap's "arm shields" look? No? Okay.
Thanos! Why U mad, bro? Black Panther scratch your face? Seriously, I'm asking... I don't recall seeing those scratches before.
Annnnnnd... scene. See you in May, Avenger!
And so... it would seem that Black Panther is going to kick ass in more than just the writing, directing, acting, visuals, and special effects.
The songs from the soundtrack released so far have been incredible and, as if that wasn't enough, the video for All the Stars by Kendrick Lamar and SZA has dropped, and it is absolutely mind-blowing beautiful...
Seriously, the artistry here is nothing short of feature film worthy, and I cannot stop looking at it. Every frame is a sublime work of art...
Stunning work by Dave Meyers and the little homies.
"Come of Baby Girl, time for bed."
"Yes. Yes. You can get scratches on your head."
"Give me a minute! I have to go to the bathroom."
"Oh stop. You're not dying. I have to wash my hands."
"I have to change into a T-shirt... just wait a minute!"
"Meow. Meow. Meow."
"Okay. Okay. I'm coming..."
I've never seen a cat get into belly rubs like Jenny does. She goes nuts for them, and is very, very impatient when it comes to her nightly rub-down.
Remote control clutter is one of those things that most people just accept. One remote for the TV, one for the Blu-Ray player, another for the stereo receiver, another for Apple TV, another for the cable/satellite box... it's annoying, yes. But still better than having to actually get up off the couch to change the channel or change a setting. The horror.
Universal remotes have been around for a long, long time. Manufacturers have been shipping them with their A/V components for ages. My old Sony TV came with a remote which also controlled my Sony DVD player. Nice. I had a Pioneer receiver with a remote you could program for other manufacturer's gear as well as its own. Even nicer.
But ultimately just being able to control one device at a time can be a bummer. Especially if your remotes aren't multi-function where you have to use multiple remotes to do one thing. Grab the remote to turn on the TV. Grab the remote for the cable box. Grab the remote for the receiver.
Which is where the Logitech "Harmony" series of remotes comes in.
These "smart remotes," which have been around for a dozen years, can be taught how to control a vast multitude of devices. On top of that, they are also programmable, so you can chain remote commands together under a single button-press. Press the "Watch TV" button and Harmony will fire up the TV, cable box, and stereo receiver for you. It will then know to use the channel up/down buttons for the cable box and the volume up/down buttons for the stereo receiver. It's all pretty cool, and I've owned three Harmony remotes in the past decade.
But my latest one is a little different. It's comes with a "Harmony Hub" which can not only control your A/V equipment... it can also interface with a lot of your other home automation. Like, for example, Amazon's Echo, AKA "Alexa."
Depending on your devices, the Harmony Hub can eliminate the need for remotes completely... which is the whole reason why I bought it last year.
When I get home, I just say "Alexa, turn on the TV" and I'm done. From there I can have Alexa change the volume... change the channel... switch devices... whatever I need. The only time I'm scrambling for the remote is if I want to access shows stored on my DVR or to select something from a menu somewhere (like Apple TV). Sure, it would be nice if Harmony Hub would allow me to navigate menus via Alexa, but it really seems to be more trouble than it's worth right now. Though I'm sure that will change in the future.
There's a lot to talk about when it comes to Harmony Hub, so let's get started, shall we?
And there you have it. The ugly truth about some really cool tech. It's a real shame that there isn't better software, because I enjoy the end result very much. It's the getting there that sucks. I do know that there are other companies who have similar devices, but I didn't research them since I had such great luck with my previous two Harmony remotes. Had I known then what I know now, I might have investigated a few other options before pulling the trigger.
Thor: Ragnarok was my favorite movie of 2017 by a wide margin. It was smart, imaginative, and funny in a way that most films never reach, and the fact that they somehow got that out of a super-hero movie is pretty remarkable.
Ragnarok hits home video on February 20th (DVD and Blu-Ray in March, I think). Needless to say, I can't wait. Especially when I saw this deleted scene making its way around the internet where Jeff Goldblum is being his most Jeff Goldblumiest...
Scenes this good have had entire movies built around them. In this movie, it's a deleted scene. Unbelievable.
Jenny's brain works differently from most cats.
Given how smart she is, just figuring out how to get a toy out of the puzzle box is too boring for her. I found this out as I saw her goofing around with it tonight.
At first I couldn't figure out what she was doing...
Then I saw she had found a toy mouse and was apparently trying to put it into the cat puzzle box...
When she couldn't get it into one hole, she walked around the box and dragged the mouse to a different hole...
She managed to poke it through the hole into the box, but then decided she wanted it back. She couldn't reach where it landed, so she had to circle around to snatch it...
I've never seen a cat who plays with toys the way that Jenny does. It's as if just batting them around is beneath her somehow, and she has to find other ways to amuse herself with them.
I amuse myself by watching her try.
Spring is just around the corner... so better prepare yourself, because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Priced to Move! And... Blade Runner 2049 just dropped to $15 on iTunes. Knew it wouldn't stay at $20 forever given how badly they need to make up for the poor box office showing. Such a shame. I loved this movie. Yes, it ran a bit too long in parts and was in desperate need of further editing, but it ultimately pays off I think. Beautiful film...
The sound mix on Blade Runner 2049 is one of the best I've ever heard. Completely immersive, and all channels are beautifully distinct or blended as required. My cats are more than a little confused by the effectiveness of the spatial sound.
• No! Got a call from the Democratic party this past week wanting donations. My response? "Democrats representing my state are running off lobbyist money and obviously don't need my help. Why don't you go ask Patty Murray's Big Pharma friends for money and leave me the hell out of it. Take me off your call list and never, EVER call me for money again." Hopefully that will scare them off, just like I've already scared off the Republicans. Since I am not party-affiliated and vote for /donate to both of them, I have double the bullshit to deal with. I will never allow a political party to send my money to corrupt assholes in the pocket of lobbyists... from now on, I donate to specific candidates I feel are worth it. Not that there's many of them left.
• Good! Despite the fast that The Good Doctor was created by David Shore, I held off watching it because I have a friend whose son is autistic, and I don't like the idea of the struggles that autistic persons go through being exploited for entertainment. Then this past week I finally decided to take a look and was just amazed...
It's a very good show and didn't seem exploitative at all. I binged all 14 episodes I had. If you're not watching and like medical dramas, it's worth a look.
• Bio! And speaking of good television shows... iTunes has a free preview of A.P. Bio which stars Glenn Howerton (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and That 80's Show) as a teacher who is stuck in Ohio once his Harvard dream job passes him by. The result is actually funny... but also smart and even touching...
These things always look so stupid. When they turn out to be more than that, it's such a pleasant surprise. Patton Oswald is just the icing on the cake.
• Jones! And it seems as though Netflix will be keeping my monthly fee for.a while longer... new Jessica Jones is coming next month...
It's been revealed that Disney has no plans to take over the Netflix Marvel shows and move them to their new streaming service. Thankfully. Don't fix what's not broken. The Netflix shows are mostly awesome, unlike the ABC Television shows which suck ass.
• Unmolded! When I had my home renovated, I hired a fairly pricey contractor because I didn't want crap falling apart after a year. For the most part, I think it was a smart move... though there are some details of their work that pisses me off. Primary of which is the shitty molding installation.
My home has rounded "California Corners" which I hate hate hate. Mostly I just don't like how they look. But also because it made finding molding so difficult that I had to have it all custom made to get the clean and simple look I wanted. It was more money than I wanted to pay, but whatever.
Except... the installation was shitty. The corners were just slapped on there with no attempt made to blend the seams. I caught some of them before painting and sanded them a bit, but most of them had already been done and looked like this...
What chaps my ass is that it would have taken minutes to fix this before painting. But, since it wasn't fixed, that means I have to spend considerable more time sanding them out while making sure I'm not damaging the wall or floor...
But the result is worth it. I'm just one more coat of leveling paint (after the first coat dries) to the seamless molding I should have had from the beginning...
One down, eight to go.
Until next Bullet Sunday, enjoy winter's last gasp...
The Goldie Hawn & Kurt Russel film "Overboard" is one of my all-time favorite guilty pleasures. I've seen it dozens of times because I cannot bring myself to turn the channel any time it's on and I need background noise running. Now I see they are remaking it. They've swapped the genders of the original story... but it's the same damn movie...
Look, I like Anna Farris and all, but she's no Goldie Hawn. And I don't know who the actor is, but he is absolutely no Kurt Russell. And if you're not going to bring anything new to the table, why do it? Is Hollywood really so bankrupt on ideas that this is where they want to sink their money?
As I've mentioned more than a few times, I'm a huge, huge, massively huge fan of Kehinde Wiley's work. When he had his first solo exhibition in Columbus, Ohio... I flew there to see it and was not disappointed. I also attended his 2013 show at The Jewish Museum in San Francisco, which was equally amazing.
So imagine my surprise when President Obama's presidential portrait was unveiled and it was painted by... Kehinde Wiley!
It's just as glorious as I knew it would be before I even laid eyes on it...
This tiny photo will not do the actual painting justice. Wiley's works are vivid, powerful, and larger than life in a way that simply cannot be captured unless you are viewing it in person.
I am also familiar with Michelle Obama's portrait artist, Amy Sherald, and find her work to be beautiful as well. And while I do think the First Lady's painting is perfectly lovely, I wish it had a bit better resemblance to her...
Needless to say, the fact that these portraits... and their subjects... are a departure from what has come before means that the Hate Brigade is out in full force.
And I get it. If you don't like the paintings, fine. If you think that the paintings stray too far from what you feel is acceptable for presidential portraits, fine. That's your opinion and you're welcome to it.
But opinions on the work was not where most of the hate was leveled.
FOX "News" personality and professional piece of shit, Sean Hannity, posted some bizarre crap to Twitter about President Obama's portrait... which was subsequently deleted and blamed on somebody else (of course). And, speaking of racist pieces of shit, a South Carolina resident who is on a city's transportation committee took the opportunity to call our former president a Muslim and the N-word.
And of course we also had to endure the whole "Reverse Racism" myth because Kehinde Wiley reimagines classical-style subjects and paintings with the Euro-centric subjects swapped out with Black men and women. This included a reimagining of the biblical tale of Judith beheading Holofernes which, despite Wiley having spoken about it on more than one occasion, was used to call President Obama a "racist" because of his portrait artist choice.
I'm seriously running out of eyerolls at this point.
Anyway, if viewing Kehinde Wiley's stunning works compells you to learn more about him, I highly... highly... recommend watching the PBS documentary Kehinde Wiley: An Economy of Grace. It's a fantastic look into his art, his process, and his world, and you can see a preview of it here...
The full documentary will probably be playing on your local PBS channel sometime soon because of this added exposure, but you can also rent it for $4 or purchase it for $10 on iTunes.
And now... time for me to revisit my exhibition guide from his Columbus art show.
My day started with the mother of all paper cuts and went downhill from there.
Yet another school shooting, this time with 17 dead in Florida. That this will do nothing to deter budget cuts for mental health programs is a given... but, hey, this is our normal now.
Happy fucking Valentine's Day...
You can view previous years' Valentine cards here.
There was a bright spot, however.
A while back I saw that Shoshannah Stern's webisode series Fridays had been picked up as an actual television series by Sundance Now. Stern has appeared in shows like Weeds, Jericho, and Supernatural... but her new show, This Close, which was co-created with Joshua Feldman, is something entirely different...
The first two episodes were released today, and I was happy to see that the show everything I had hoped it would be... touching, funny, smart, and entertaining. So many brilliant small moments that add up to something greater. In many ways, it's a shame that This Close is not appearing on a major network, as this kind of representation needs to be seen. But I suppose that's the point. A show like this isn't going to be picked up by a major network.
Maybe one day.
Anyway... if you'd like to check out the series, you can sign up for a free 7-day trial of Sundance Now at their website. You can watch with apps they have for various devices, including Apple TV. If it were rated, I'm guessing it would probably be a light "R" for language and sexual situations.
I've made no secret about how much I loathe the current crop of DC Comics movies. With the exception of Wonder Woman, they are bad films that take a massive shit on the original source material. Batman vs. Superman, Suicide Squad, and Justice League were all gut-wrenchingly awful and only get worse upon subsequent viewings. How DC can fuck up this badly when Marvel is nailing it film after film is a complete mystery to me. It's as if the people in charge of DC movie production have taken what made their characters so popular for so long, and then just done the opposite of that.
Fortunately, the people running DC's television shows are on an entirely different level. Arrow, The Flash, and Supergirl are consistently good, and now we get Black Lightning, which may be saddled with a lame disco costume and sub-par villain... but is otherwise fantastic. I'm not particularly fond of Legends of Tomorrow, but it's still a watchable show. Bravo to The CW Network showrunners who totally get what they need to be doing with DC characters to make them work.
What fans need is for The CW to be given rights to a Superman series and a Batman series. Hell, turn the network into The DC Network and give us Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and Legion of Super-Heroes shows too! If there's one thing that Tyler Hoechlin's amazing turn as Superman guest starring in Supergirl has shown us, we need these shows.
In the meanwhile though?
I've been completely hooked on the LEGO DC Comics movies. They are not all home runs, but they are great entertainment and totally watchable in a way the Zack-Snyder-infused movies will never be...
And so... If you're a DC Comics fan who hasn't checked out the movies that LEGO is cranking out, you might want to give them a try. Sure they're filmed with toys, made for kids, and aren't at all serious... but, until Patty Jenkins becomes showrunner for the DC Cinematic Universe, it's about as good as it's going to get.
Until Wonder Woman 2 comes along, of course.
One of my all-time favorite Marvel super-heroes is coming to the Big Screen. I have never been so ready to see a movie.
It's time for The Black Panther...
No idea when I'll have time to go see it, but hopefully sooner rather than later.
When I bought a house, I truly was not prepared for how much work it would be. My HOA fees cover the yard care and the snow removal... what else is there?
Turns out there's a lot.
Tons of little tasks that add up and overwhelm you day after day. For the longest time I just ignored them until forced to deal with them, but then I started writing all the little things down on a "Daily Chores List" and tackle a new task every day. Sometimes it's something quick and easy... like washing the bathroom mirrors. Other times it's something more involved like fixing the toilet handle or replacing the washers in my kitchen faucet.
Today's chore was three-and-a-half hours of cleaning out my toolbox and organizing my screws/nails/fasteners/etc. storage chests.
It would have probably gone faster, except I had "help" from my cats...
They simply would not stop "helping." They'd climb in any open box or bag. They'd root through every container and bag of garbage. Half my time was spent wrangling cats.
Jake and Jenny just loooooove to "help." Like when they "helped" with my taxes...
And, of course, they were right there to "help" when I was cleaning out my dresser and end-table...
When a new order of food and toys arrives from Chewy, the only "help" they're interested in is composting the packing paper...
I suppose I should be grateful that I have such kind-hearted and helpful cats?
I was lying last week when I said that Spring was just around the corner, because Winter reared its ugly head again this weekend... so better really prepare yourself, because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Camera Historica! As somebody who loves photography, loves cameras, and loves history, the story of Sean Flynn's Leica M2 camera is an amazing read. It's a short read, and you should stop reading this and go take a look right now...
After reading this article, I started Googling Sean Flynn because he sounds like such a fascinating person. Turns out he absolutely was. The son of Errol Flynn and Lili Damita, he had an interesting life, a mysterious death, and everything in-between was an effort to forge his own path and find his own way. If you'd like to read more, this article is a good start.
• Black Panther Fever! If you're playing LEGO Marvel Super-Heroes 2 (and why wouldn't you be?) then you must get the Black Panther DLC immediately. If not sooner...
I was hoping for an actual Black Panther movie LEGO game, but I guess this will have to do.
• Pneumatic! Well this is scary. If you only knew the number of times I've rested my pneumatic nail gun on somebody's head... I never thought that it might be dangerous! You learn something new every day!
And, as an aside... ZOMG! DID YOU GUYS KNOW YOU'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO EAT TIDE PODS? IT SAYS SO RIGHT ON THE PACKAGE!! WHO KNEW?!? So much is coming to light now that I've started reading stuff!
• Chaotic Neutral! Every once in a while I fall down the rabbit hole of YouTube videos. And it's not always just cat videos I'm watching. I stumbled upon this one, which is pretty epic...
This is one of those situations where I'm not sure exactly how to feel after having seen it. I definitely agree that it's the perfect way to explain "Chaotic Neutral" to somebody who isn't familiar with Dungeons & Dragons.
• Netflix Binge! I had to work this holiday weekend, but while I was working at home I had Netflix running. Every once in a while I feel the need to watch the service between Marvel shows and seasons of One Day at a Time so that I don't feel bad about paying the monthly fee. Here is what I watched...
• Skippy! And speaking of Chris Evans in The Losers, this scene is pretty much perfect...
Such a great character from such a great movie... I wish they would make a sequel.
Later, bullet gators!
After I finished mopping all my floors as my Chore-of-the-Day, I decided to get to work and turned on my television for some background noise. Then, once again, I got a "Cannot Communicate with the Satellite Dish" message. I assumed it was the cable to my DVR that was dying, because I can usually wiggle it and get things working again. But not today.
And so... I had to postpone work and go buy a new cable.
That was the easy part. The hard part was replacing the cable because I have all my cords wrapped up, and replacing one of them means having to unravel others too...
Since I was already having to wade through all my cables, I decided to just disconnect everything and start over. I've made several changes since I first organized everything, and the mess has gotten a bit out of control. Also... I wanted to relocate my stereo receiver because the cats like to lay on it for warmth, and I worry it's not getting enough ventilation and might blow out...
Unfortunately this is a much bigger project than it may first appear. The IKEA media center I have is a really poor design because the shelves don't have enough space to fit my receiver. I decided to modify the unit by taking out the middle drawer, building a shelf there, cutting out the back so I can run cables, then moving the center shelf up an inch-and-a-half...
While I was at it, I decided to see if moving my router off the top would interfere with the WiFi signal. Turns out it did not, so I decided to move it along with the receiver. This is nice, because now all I have on top of my media center is the center channel speaker and Alexa. Much cleaner, and my living room looks less cluttered.
Once the noise from drilling and sawing was done and the cats came out of hiding, I was surprised at how quickly Jake noticed that his favorite sleeping spot had vanished...
When Jenny finally noticed, she was not happy. Not happy at all...
The cats then tried to find a new "favorite sleeping spot," but nothing seemed to make them happy...
And now I realize that I should have waited a day to do all this since tomorrow is their visit to the vet, and that's going to be traumatic enough without them losing their stereo receiver napping spot.
Probably more traumatic for me than for them. Which is why I've been dreading tomorrow all year.
Living with cats has been a joyous experience every day... save one day. My visit to the vet with them last February. It was equally traumatic of all three of us, and I've been dreading having to go back for an entire year.
As I mentioned a while back, I had brought in the cat carriers in early so I could get Jake and Jenny used to being around them.The difference being that last year I was able to trick them into the containers with treats. This year? Not so much. They didn't want to go in under any circumstances. Even by bribing them with treats.
Here's Jenny hanging out with me five minutes before I would betray her...
In order to trick them into the carriers this time, I essentially had to starve them, then dangle food in front of them so I could shove them inside and lock the door behind them. It worked, of course, though I felt so awful about having trapped them...
The 20 minute drive was almost exactly the same as last time. Jenny went catatonic. Jake cried and howled the whole way there.
Once I got to the vet, the challenge was to get them out of the carriers that I had struggled so hard to get them into. Jenny had to be pulled out clawing and meowing... Jake had to be shoved out... then Jenny proceeded to hide in the sink and Jake tried to camouflage himself...
Half-way through the visit Jenny just went flat?... I guess the term would be? Like she was trying to melt into the table or something.
It was kind of freaking me out... but then Jake noticed his sister in distress and stepped up to try and comfort her. I was doing a pretty good job of holding it together, but just then I nearly lost it. Such sweet kitties. And such a good big brother...
Just like last year, Dr. Bonnett at Cascade Veterinary Clinic was amazing with my cats. So kind and caring about taking his time to make sure Jake and Jenny were as comfortable and least traumatized as possible.
Turns out that Jake lost a half-pound, but is still a little overweight. Jenny is at her target weight still. Both of them are healthy and have no issues, so I'm feeling more than a little blessed about that. They handled their annual vaccinations like a champ and, just like that, they were done and I was $200 lighter.
After the doctor wrapped up and it came time to get them into the carriers again, they were only too happy to run into them this time.
The drive home was more of the same. Jenny zoned out with an occasional whimper... Jake howling and crying wee wee wee all the way home.
Last year they went screaming from the carriers, hid under the bed for a while, then got all clingy on me. This year they meandered out of the carriers, so I went ahead and fed them... this time without any tricks...
Instead of being clingy on me, they were fairly clingy with each other, which was nice...
And so... all good for another year (knock wood). Now I need a drink.
My addiction to home renovation shows has reached critical mass. My list of woodworking projects I want to do has gotten so long now that I would have to retire if I even wanted to make a dent in it.
Right now I'm excited for Spring to come so I can turn my garage into a woodworking shop again and get started on two (well, actually three) projects...
That's months of work given that I can only work nights and weekends.
I've got another project I'd really like to tackle.
I want a pergola on my patio.
Well, a pergola over the part of the patio which remains after I built a catio out there. It might also be cool to build a cat run into it with seating on top, like yo...
That way I could sit outside and read a book under a little bit of shade while my cats run around. Big Fun for all of us!
By far, the biggest project I've ever tackled, if I end up doing it... but it looks like a lot Big Fun to build too!
This morning I was working from home when I hit a snag and needed to be in the office to finish up. I was hurrying to get out the door when I noticed that something was on my floor. Too small for a mouse, so I was guessing it was some kind of hideous bug trying to get out of the cold. So I went to get a glass and piece of board to trap him and... it was a hairball. A Jake hairball.
Jake has, on rare occasions started hacking like he had a hairball, but he's never puked one up. I guess there really is a first time for everything.
So, after cleaning that disgusting mess up, I tracked him down to the pad on my media center (formerly the stereo receiver) to make sure he was okay. I asked him about the hairball, but all he did was demand belly rubs...
So my fears that Jake might have hairball inducing PTSD from his vet visit are apparently unfounded. If it was a problem, apparently it's all fixed by belly rubs.
Jenny never seems to have hairball problems but, then again, she's more into getting brushed with THE FURMINATOR, so I suppose that's to be expected. So as to avoid any further hairball incidents with Jake, it looks like I may have to start insisting he gets FURMINATED whether he likes it or not.
Because the first time I step in a hairball I will totally lose it.
My cats don't play with toys much, despite having dozens. That being said, they definitely have favorite toys when they do decide to play with them. Jake's favorite has always been a stuffed lion named "Mufasa" that I brought back for Spanky from Africa.
Jenny's favorite toy changes from time to time, but for the past couple months she's been obsessed with Blue Rag Mouse. She will run around with it, chase it, throw it, and otherwise abuse it whenever she's in the mood to play.
Then last night, tragedy occurred.
Jenny brought me Blue Rag Mouse with his guts spilling out everywhere. The fabric had been well-chewed, which didn't give me much to stitch up. I set Blue Rag Mouse on the counter, tracked down Lime Rag Mouse and gave that to her instead.
She looked at me like I was insane.
(Jenny, not Lime Rag Mouse).
I don't know if cats can shake their heads in dismay. Something tells me that they can't, because otherwise Jenny would have been shaking her head as she walked away. How dare I try and fool her with Not-Blue-Rag-Mouse?
So I shook my head, then went off to bed.
This morning I was having some toast and jam while working on a spreadsheet when I heard a meow. I looked up from my laptop and saw this...
Apparently she is not willing to let go of this Blue Rag Mouse situation.
I was pretty sure I purchased the toy from Petco. I thought I'd just go to their site and order a bunch of Blue Rag Mice...
Oh good... I found it! And apparently it's not Blue Rag Mouse, it's Blue Moppy Mouse. But then I see this...
So, unlike when you order stuff for people and get to select which color you want, stupid animals won't know the difference? Obviously, Petco doesn't know Jenny at all.
And so... I guess I'm running to Petco this weekend to see if they have another Blue Moppy Mouse.
They should tell you this kind of thing will happen when you go to adopt a cat.
For comic book geeks, this truly is the golden age of cinema. On the Marvel side of the aisle, they have been killing it over and over and over again. This time it's with one of my most favorite Marvel heroes, Black Panther.
Given my passion for comic books, this is going to be a long one, so strap yourself in.
From the time I first started reading comic books, I was mostly a "DC Comics guy." This was undoubtedly because of DC being the home of Batman, probably my favorite super-hero. Batman doesn't have any powers except being absurdly rich, and yet he can hold his own on any super-team against even the most powerful villains. He made me think that I could be a super-hero too one day... all I needed was millions of dollars and a butler.
When I branched out into Marvel comics, it was a very different world. Sure their stories happened in a real place like New York City and not a fictional one like Metropolis or Gotham City, but that was just geography. To a kid in central Washington State, New York might as well have been the moon (home of The Inhumans!). The fact that Marvel tried to give larger-than-life heroes mundane problems was kind of lost on me. Spider-Man has all these amazing powers where he could earn hundreds of thousands of dollars as a body guard, but he chooses to be a struggling photographer? What sense does that make? Superman may live a mundane life as Clark Kent, but at least he had the sense to pick a career where he could pay the rent.
It went on and on like that for me with Marvel, the X-Men being the most perplexing of all. They never got tired of being persecuted as mutants, even with all the powers they possessed. I mean, yeah, many of them had human parents that probably made them sympathetic to the plight of mere humans... but come on. That's a plot point that gets really old, really fast.
There were two exceptions with Marvel, however.
Doctor Strange already had his own fantastic movie, and now it's Black Panther's turn.At last.
For those who have not yet seen the film, my spoiler-free review would have to be "It's faithful to the source material with plenty of nods to the comics... along with being wonderfully written, superbly cast, beautifully filmed, and fully realized... all while being painfully socially relevant." I seriously loved every frame of it, and Ryan Coogler, his team, and his cast deserves every bit of praise being sent their way.
For everybody else?
Prior to seeing Black Panther I pretty much knew what to expect. King T'Chaka was killed in Captain America: Civil War, his son T'Challa returned to Wakanda to become king... and somewhere along the way Killmonger shows up to ruin his day. And since we all know that Black Panther and many characters from his film will be showing up in Avengers: Infinity War, it's a forgone conclusion that T'Challa comes out on top. The hero wins. The villain dies. End of story. Right?
Surprisingly? It's not quite so cut-and-dry at that.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. You'll find my thoughts on Black Panther in an extended entry...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Prepare yourself, because a Very Special BLACK PANTHER EDITION of Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Art! One of the best things about Black Panther is the production design. A lot of what went into that is explored in yet another wonderful edition of Marvel Studio's Art of the Movie books, which somebody on YouTube was kind enough to thumb through...
There's very little of the book that's not fascinating... or gorgeous...
I own the entire series and love them. You can pick up the absolutely beautiful Black Panther edition from Amazon.
• Trevor! The detractors for Black Panther have been pretty stupid about it. I mean, if you don't like the movie, fine... to each their own. But the whole "This movie is racist because it's mostly Black people" is laughably stupid. My favorite commentary on this was by Trevor Noah from The Daily Show...
Speaking of Trevor Noah, if you haven't read or, better yet, listened to the audiobook of his Born a Crime, then it is absolutely worth your valuable time to do so. While interviewing Lupita Nyong'o for Black Panther, it was revealed that she will be producing and playing his mother in the movie adaptation...
• Mother! Speaking of audiobooks, a momentary aside... I am just now finding out that Jenifer Lewis released a book last month called The Mother of Black Hollywood. Whether you know her as Ruby from Blackish or one of her many roles over nearly 30 years in Hollywood, it is so good...
Here is Jenifer Lewis being Jenifer Lewis... while plugging her book (and other things)...
If you want to be entertained for hours, search for "Jenifer Lewis" on YouTube and prepare yourself. This video is an hour of amazing...
I have only just started listening to the audiobook, but it is fantastic already. If you are a member of Audible, it's worth a credit. If you are not a member of Audible, you get a FREE credit when you sign up! Go do that and get this book!
• Comics! If you've seen the movie (and I'm assuming you have), there's a lot more to the story in the original comic books. Here's my four favorite series...
I would be remiss if I didn't add Jack Kirby's work on the Black Panther, which is also an important read.
• Wrong Panther! It'll be reiterated below, but I think it important to state it here: There is NO relation between the Black Panther of the comic books and the Black Panther Party. And yet... I've seen this pop up more times than I can count online.
• Panther Facts! Let's wrap up this Bullet Sunday with a list of interesting Black Panther bullets, courtesy of Kevin E. Ross, who has asked that people share it...
Until next week... WAKANDA FOREVER!
Since this past Caturday was spent discussing a cat of an entirely different kind... Black Panther... I am picking up the slack by posting my crazy cat lady stuff today.
One of my best finds in the cat toy arena is a new scratching post that the cats have been loving because it's really tall. Unlike most posts, they can stretch out as much as they want and not run out of pole. On top of that, they can climb it like a tree, which is something they both love to do. But Jake is a little more enthusiastic about making a game out of it. Set a toy on top, and he'll jump and climb his way up to grab it and throw it off...
He's kind of violent about it, so you have to be sure that your hands and other protruding body parts are kept clear...
It's all fun and games until Jenny makes noise jumping up on the couch and scares him just as he's reached his goal...
The reason Jenny is jumping up on the couch is because I set my freshly-laundered pants there. For whatever reason, that's always an open invitation for her to jump up and use my jeans as her personal scratching post. Or, as in this case, bite the crotch out. Which is exactly what I want her to do if somebody ever tries to grab my pussy...
As I've previously mentioned, nobody appreciates a good belly rub like Jenny does. Every night when I go up to bed, she sprints up for her nightly belly rub. And she will stare at you until she gets her way. Or, if she's really impatient, she'll start meowing at you...
Since Jake got a video this time, here's Jenny's...
When it comes to using the litter box, Jenny has gotten increasingly insistent on having a clean place to poop in. She loves a clean box so much that if something goes wrong with the Litter-Robot and she has to wait too long for it to cycle, she has zero problem waking me up at 4:00am to fix that. Last night I noticed her sticking her head in the litter box acting like she was scared to go in...
Then I saw that the red light was on, which meant that Jake must have beat her there, and Litter-Robot was waiting five minutes before it cycles, which allows the waste to clump and be disposed of more easily. This is no big deal, because Jenny is perfectly content to wait for it to clean itself. I've seen her do so many times.
But this time?
This time she started meowing for Litter-Robot to hurry up.
I started laughing because just when I think my cats can't surprise me... they go and do something like this.
Jenny was watching television, but I had to pause in order to take care of something and the cityscapes screensaver activated. Jenny was not please about this. Not pleased at all. In fact, I think she was quite cross.
I don't know why. That's one beautiful screensaver. I've not been to Dubai yet, and that Blade-Runner-esque view makes me want to visit real soon now.
And that's all I got. See you next Caturday... which is a short five days away!
My cats are not pukers. I think I've cleaned up just one puke and one hairball the entire time I've had them. And the puke wasn't really puke at all... Jake was in the middle of eating when he got distracted somehow and left a spot of half-chewed food on the floor. That's as bad as it's ever gotten.
Tonight I get home and cleaned up three piles of puke... each hardly anything but water. Looking back through video footage, I see that it's not Jake like I expected... it's Jenny...
As I was writing this, she just puked a fourth time. Poor thing has an upset tummy for some reason. I'm worried that she's eaten something she shouldn't have, so I've been scrubbing through security camera footage trying to figure out what it could be. But there's nothing. She goofed around for a while, but was mostly sleeping in different places around the house. All household cleaners and anything dangerous are always kept secured from my cats, so I can only guess it's a bug or a bad pouch of food (just to be sure, I threw the rest of the carton in the garbage). Since what she puked up was mostly water, I took apart the fountain for a thorough cleaning a few days early (I rinse it weekly and deep-clean every other week).
Whatever it was, I've been following her around with towels to clean up after her. The poor little girl is so small that when a bout hits, her whole body is convulsing all the way from her stomach. The good news is that the "attacks" have gotten less severe each time... with a smaller amount of water coming up. I just laid with her for an hour on my bed giving her a belly rub and I think she's done. At dinner she didn't eat a lot, but she did eat... and she's kept it down for 15 minutes with no more puking. After her light meal, she climbed on top of the cat tree and is acting like nothing happened... so fingers crossed.
UPDATE: Well, I'd say all is definitely well with Jenny. She just made a spectacular 6-foot leap off the cat tree, had more to eat, then went outside in the catio to be on lookout for the dog that's running around out there...
UPDATE: I'm betting that Jenny has been sick for longer than just today. Tonight she wanted to be fed FOUR times. After the third time, Jake... who will eat anything forever, stopped wanting more food, and she ate his food too. She's been drinking a lot of water all evening. She's also gone to the bathroom twice tonight, which she's never done before. I feel awful that I didn't notice she's been ill until she was puking... my guess is that she hasn't been eating much for at least two days, and now she's making up for lost time. I need to pay closer attention to my cats.
UPDATE: Well, it's the next morning and Jenny is getting sick again. Not a lot... and not the severe convulsions she had yesterday... but enough that I'm going into work late so I can lay down with her and make sure she's okay.
UPDATE: And... she's back to 100% again, it would seem. Odds are that I probably was more upset over her getting sick than she was.
My love of movies runs the gamut. There's something in just about every genre that I have found to like. Science fiction, animation, and comedies are my favorite, but I have favorites in action, mystery, drama, musical, adventure, fantasy, romance, spy, thriller, horror, biography, Western... even period dramas and (my least favorite) war.
There's a number of underappreciated films that I obsess over which I have no earthly idea why they're underappreciated. I mean, some of them, I get. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension is a brilliant film that I love dearly (hell, a quote from it is tattooed on my arm). It is also one of the most bizarre mainstream releases ever, and it's no surprise that it's been relegated to cult classic...
But one underappreciated movie I absolutely do not understand why is underappreciated is the 1995 film Strange Days...
This future-noir film (bordering on cyberpunk) which takes place in the final days of 1999 should have been a blockbuster. It was written by James Cameron, who is responsible for The Terminator, Titanic, and Avatar (among others). It was directed by none other than Oscar-winner Kathryn Bigelow, who is responsible for The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. It stars Oscar-nominated Ralph Fiennes, Oscar-nominated Angela Bassett, and Oscar-nominated Juliette Lewis. It also features revolutionary camera work which shouldn't have been possible in 1995. As if all that wasn't enough, it's just a really good movie.
And yet... Strange Days was a huge flop. A massively huge flop. It grossed $8 million against a budget of $42 million.
Recently while talking to a friend, I was reminded of it and decided to watch it again.
Which isn't as easy as you'd think, because Strange Days is not available domestically on Blu-Ray or any digital format. This is due to conflicting studio distribution rights or some stupid crap. And since it stunk up the box office, the desire to spend money and effort getting it all straightened out is minimal, I'm sure. It's only available on VHS, LaserDisc, and DVD. I own all of them. I also own a German Blu-Ray import, but I have no idea where my region-code-free Blu-Ray player is at.
DVD it is...
Strange Days is surprisingly relevant 22 years after it was released... and 18 years after it takes place.
Much of the plot involves the future of how we consume entertainment, but there are significant story elements which revolve around police corruption and racism. It's a movie designed for the times we live. Which is to say it was most definitely a movie ahead of its time despite the fact that police corruption and racism are hardly new.
If you haven't seen it and can find a copy somehow, it's definitely worth a look.
Anyway… as if all that wasn’t enough, the soundtrack still holds up and is pretty great. One of my favorite tracks is a collaboration between Peter Gabriel and Deep Forest called While the Earth Sleeps that plays over the closing credits…
The weather has been weird lately.
Just when you think that Winter is over and Spring us here, it snows. Lately any new snow hasn't been sticking around long... the sun or rain washes it away... but there's still been old snow hanging around.
Until this week, when the last of it finally melted...
And so... I guess that's that for Winter. At least in my neck of the woods.
Though never say never, because we could end up in a blizzard tomorrow if Mother Nature has other plans.
I remember how gutted I was when Jon Stewart left The Daily Show... thinking that nobody could ever take his place... swearing I'd dump the show. And then Trevor Noah came and he was a little rough but I saw how it might work out if he was given a chance. So everybody gave him a chance. And it ended up working because Trevor didn't even attempt to replace Jon Stewart... he just did his own thing within the format he was given. And now it's almost impossible for me to think of The Daily Show ever having been anybody's show but Trevor's, and I am glued to my TV every week night watching him dazzle with his charisma and brutally smart commentary on current events.
A while back I mentioned Trevor's audiobook, Born a Crime, which made me want to listen to it all over again.
And so I did. Seriously, even if you don't like Trevor, The Daily Show, or his politics, his story of growing up under Apartheid is unbelievably compelling. Highest possible recommendation...
As I said, you can sign up for Audible and get a free book credit so you can listen to his book for Free. Assuming you're not already a member. If you are a member, it's worth the credit. If neither of those are an option, check to see if your local library has audiobooks. Many of them do.
In the meanwhile, if you want to get a taste of what Born a Crime is about, check out this fantastic 90-minute interview that The Guardian which touches on a lot of the book's story...
Absolutely amazing how things worked out for him!
And he recently renewed his Comedy Central contract to host The Daily Show through 2022, so it's also amazing how things worked out for his fans too!
Well, Jenny might be in trouble.
She keeps puking, but it's never food... it's always mostly water. She gorges herself on water, then pukes it up. When I Google this, there's a lot of things that come up, but diabetes is the most common result. Since Jenny is two-years-old and not overweight that's unlikely, but I'm taking no chances. I'm going to make some changes to try and get her stabilized, then go through the trauma of taking her back to the vet (my nightmare).
First thing I'm doing is changing Jake and Jenny's diet. Jake is overweight, so it's probably better to make changes anyway. Jenny eats dry food and licks the gravy off the wet food I serve... both are loaded in carbs, which are not natural to a cat's diet. My ultimate goal is to move to a 100% raw food diet (more on that later) but, in the meanwhile, I'm going to blend pâté food with warm water and rinse the gravy off the chunky food.
This morning my cats looks at me like I was insane when I set it down, but hunger eventually won out. Jenny was all over the pâté gravy I made, but didn't eat the chunks. Jake ate a little of both. From there, it was me hanging out with Jenny to see if she puked up the pâté gravy. She had small convulsions, but kept everything down. Next time I'm going to add less water to see if that makes things easier.
Second thing I'm doing is temporarily getting rid of the drinking fountain. In the wild, cats usually get their hydration from the food they eat and rarely drink much water. If I'm going to put water in her food and serve raw food, hopefully that will alleviate the need for a water fountain. But... the last thing I want is for my cats to get a urinary problem, so I'm going to put a fountain back after a few days to see what happens. I've also replaced my plastic fountain with a ceramic one.
And then there's raw food.
Many, many pet owners and veterinarians advocate a raw food diet for cats because it more closely mimics the diet which their digestive system has evolved to handle. This is not as simple as it sounds, however. You can't just go buy a chicken at the grocery store, grind it up, and slop out a portion. First of all, refrigeration only slows salmonella poisoning, it doesn't stop it. You would either have to use freshly-killed chicken... or fresh-frozen to eliminate risk of salmonella. Second of all, cats need taurine to survive. Raw meats have taurine but not enough when ground, so you have to supplement it. Ultimately what this all means is that you partially cook the store-bought meat enough to kill any salmonella, add a cat supplement, then grind it all up. Or... order fresh-frozen and use that (which is a lot more expensive, but the best option for some meats).
But, first thing's first... I have to order up an industrial meat grinder.
Then? Research, research, research. Starting here.
In other cat news...
I finally managed to make it to Petco so I could pick up new Blue Moppy Mouses for Jenny after she shredded the last one...
That should last her the rest of the year. Assuming she hasn't changed her mind and wants something else.
Welcome to the place where the kisses are hers are his and hers and Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Rescue! Poachers are the lowest of the low. Especially when they kill a mother while she is caring for her young. After she's gone, the babies will die alone, scared, and confused. Fortunately, there are people who step up and fill the gap...
Just look at how this baby from another rescue looks at his surogate mom...
Photo from Anthony Caere's Instagram.
The pilot in this video, Anthony Caere, is frickin' Superman. Not only does he shuttle doctors and save animals, but he survived a horrific plane crash where he intentionally landed in trees so he wouldn't hurt anybody! This interview video is in Dutch, but is still riveting because they show footage of him getting titanium plates to hold together his crushed skull. And after he healed up? He went right back to flying so he could help more animals and people. What an amazing guy.
• The Big Picture! One of my favorite movies of all time is Creator with Peter O'Toole from 1985. It's a sublimely funny and moving film that was pretty much ignored by everybody. I've owned it on VHS, LaserDisc, DVD, and Digital because there's never a time I don't want to see it, and I'm always keeping up so I can watch it easily. There are a number of great performances in it (including O'Toole, Vincent Spano, Virginia Madsen, and Mariel Hemingway)... but it's David Ogden Stiers and his antagonistic "Sid" who had some of the funniest bits. It's easily my favorite role he's had (even more than M*A*S*H), and how I'll always remember him...
Well, that and as the mayor in "Doc Hollywood," another amazing role...
Thank you for sharing your talent, Mr. Stiers. You will be missed.
• Lucas! These animated shorts about a baby spider are gold...
You can see more of Lucas at his YouTube channel.
• Panther! Amber Ruffin, a writer for Late Night with Seth Meyers reviews Black Panther... in the most hilarious way possible...
I really need to start watching Seth. I don't have time to add another late night show to my DVR, but he's always got some great stuff on.
• Authoritay! As the smartest whore you know, I have no trouble laughing over the idea that I'm supposed to believe that this dumb whore is capable of writing a grocery list, let alone a book... even with two people helping her. Kim Davis' level of hypocrisy actually makes her lower than a dumb whore. Dumb whores are at least respectable enough to do their job. Kim Davis is just a piece of shit hypocrite who refused to do hers. Then blamed it on God instead of accepting responsibility for taking a job where she had no intent of following any laws she didn't like. So fuck her. Fuck her sideways, the hypocritical pile of bigoted garbage...
Kim Davis may claim "Glory be unto God"... but her every action says "Glory be unto Kim Davis."
• Pathetic! When senile old pedophiles try to wage war on social media against young people who were literally born into social media, I find it charming.
We've a lovable space that needs your face next Bullet Sunday!
I sent postcards on my Antarctica vacation knowing full well they may never show up. Just so I would know one way or the other if they arrived, I sent cards to myself as well. The first postcard was sent from Ushuaia and never made it. The second card was given to the crew of our ship to mail from Antarctica (since our landing to the post office station had to be canceled). That one finally arrived 10 weeks later...
Ironically, the postcard that got here cost me $1 to mail. The one that didn't get here cost over $4. Not that it matters. $4 is a tiny drop in a very large bucket.
As soon as my tax refund gets here, I plan on paying off the last remnants of vacation that have been lingering. Go me. Closure at last!
This past Caturday, I talked about Jenny and her stomach problems which have been causing her to vomit several times throughout the day. The poor thing couldn't catch a break, and it was painful to watch her struggle. I resolved to take her to the vet on Monday if she was still puking, even though that bit of trauma was enough to make me want to start puking.
But yesterday things started getting better.
Whether it was pulverizing no-carb food into gravy so her entire diet wasn't so carb-heavy... or switching to a ceramic water fountain... or just waiting it out... I don't know. All I do know is that I haven't heard or seen her puking, and nothing has been turning up when I go on puke patrol each morning.
So far, so good.
Maybe it was just a temporary stomach bug she needed to get out of her system?
We shall see.
In the meanwhile... more research into a raw diet. I'd like to at least work some raw (or form of partially-cooked raw) into their food routine.
Maybe that will help Jenny to not be so aggressive with her Moppy Mice. This morning I noticed that she had ripped the guts out of Green Moppy Mouse...
Now that she's got a taste for killing her toys, I wonder how long the three new Blue Moppy Mice I bought her will last?
I have spent the past 35 years falling in love with everything Apple. It started with the Apple ][ personal computer and continued through the Macintosh then continued right up through the iPhone. I jump head-first into whatever Apple releases, and I've loved it.
But recently things started to change.
After waiting way, way too long for Apple to release a new "Pro" Mac, they came out with a steaming turd in 2013 which looked pretty, but was overpriced and lacking the things that pro users need. Then... THEN... they did the exact same thing with their MacBook "Pro." And it keeps going... they standardized on an expensive Thunderbolt peripheral port, then abandoned it... they developed the brilliant MagSafe power adapter, then abandoned it... Apple TV can't stream worth a crap, even in its 4th generation model, and the remote is horrific... their mice are built to pit and deteriorate... the list goes on and on, and it's nuts.
And the software side isn't much better. MacOS X has developed so many problems that it feels as though it's been abandoned. They dumped Aperture, their photo cataloging software, after luring people into adopting it. They screwed up iMovie so much that a once-joyful program to use is a frustrating joke.
But the final straw for me was HomeKit.
I've long obsessed over home automation, so when I bought a home where I could install home automation devices, I went full-throttle. Apple had been developing their own home automation ecosystem, called "HomeKit," but it was tough to find any devices. And so I held off until HomeKit devices were released.
Then it happened. Schlage released "Sense" HomeKit-enabled door lock. So cool!
Until I got them, that is.
The locks are great, but the HomeKit functionality is garbage. It never works reliably, and half the time I can't even connect... despite having AppleTV's within 6-feet of them (HomeKit uses AppleTV as a hub). But that's not even the half of it. After all my waiting, HomeKit was laughably incapable and feature-poor. Tons of devices weren't supported... or even available if they were supported.
I immediately regretted buying HomeKit locks, and never bought another HomeKit device. And ever since then I've been dying to replace my locks, but couldn't bring myself to walk away from the hundreds of dollars I spent on them.
Schlage has released a WiFi interface which allows you to control your locks without having to use crappy HomeKit...
If your locks are set up with HomeKit, you have to reset them to factory defaults and start over again. If you don't, you can't connect them to the WiFi Adapter. Also... they will start screeching an alarm if you try, which I found out the hard way (sorry kitties).
Your lock has to be within 40 feet of the adapter (just like HomeKit, since both use Bluetooth connections). This was no problem for me, and I was able to use one adapter for both my locks (it supports a maximum of two).
It works as advertised. Once you set up a Schlage account as a gateway between the locks and your phone's Schlage app, you can control your locks remotely and see their status. Access is blazingly fast and reliable compared to HomeKit. Every once in a while I'll get a bit of a lag, but at least I can always connect.
Then there's the ability to ask Alexa if a door is locked... and then lock it if it isn't (for security reasons, you can't unlock a door via Alexa). I don't know how handy this would be, but it's nice to know it's there. Except when it's not. Because no matter how many times I link and unlink and re-link the skill, Alexa tells me the lock can't be reached... even though both locks show up in my Smart Home list. I've sent an email to Schlage customer service for help... fingers crossed.
And so... good bye to the massive failure known as HomeKit. And good bye to the seventy bucks it cost me to rectify this disaster. But, hey, at least I didn't have to spend hundreds to replace my locks!
My hope is that one day Apple will just bag HomeKit and buy out a company like INSTEON so they have an integrated home automation system that works. Heaven only knows they've got the cash. Until then, I'm just glad to be rid of that one piece of home automation that's never worked for me.
Yesterday I talked about finally being able to dump Apple's home automation disaster, HomeKit. Today I'm contemplating dumping Apple TV for a number of reasons...
First of all, the streaming quality of shows purchased through Apple iTunes is awful... assuming you can get them to stream at all. Do you know how many times I've gone to watch a movie or TV Show I've purchased, only to have Apple TV go catatonic? Do you know how many times I've been watching something only to have Apple TV suddenly stop streaming and then not start again unless I reset everything? And when I complain? Apple blames my internet connection. Without fail. But here's the thing... ALL OTHER STREAMING SERVICES WORK FINE! Even on Apple TV! Episodes of The West Wing I've purchased from Apple won't stream. But episodes of The West Wing stream just fine through the Netflix app... ON MY APPLE TV!!! The problem clearly isn't my internet connection. The problem is that Apple has billions of dollars but can't build a content delivery system that's worth a shit.
Second of all... digital purchases from Apple iTunes are almost always more expensive than purchasing them elsewhere. Movies that are $19.99 at the iTunes Store can be purchased at Vudu or Amazon or wherever for $12.99. Now, the one thing Apple has that other don't (yet) is a no-charge upgrade to 4K and HDR content. But what good is it if you can't watch it?
But the worst offense of all with Apple TV? Apple is happy to take your money, but they absolutely, positively do not give a shit about making sure you get what you pay for.
As an example... I use the Sundance Now app on my Apple TV to watch a show called This Close. I purchased my subscription through my Apple TV and pay my $6.99 a month to Apple. But when Sundance Now is suddenly asking me for a login... but I don't have a login because I purchased through Apple TV... Apple says "Sorry, you have to contact Sundance Now because it's their app." Except... I'm not paying Sundance Now. I'm paying Apple. And the best that Apple can do is cancel my subscription. Problem is... I'm paid up through March 21st. If Apple cancels my subscription, I'm losing almost a month of subscription I've paid for. Their response?
That's right. They can't guarantee that they can refund me money THEY TOOK for something I CAN'T ACCESS because their only solution is to TERMINATE MY SUBSCRIPTION on THEIR PRODUCT using apps that THEY AUTHORIZE.
What a garbage company.
But here's my dilemma...
All my movie purchases through Apple are safe because Apple is a part of the "Movies Now" collective. I can watch any of my movie purchases on any other device which supports a vendor that is also a "Movies Anywhere" member.
But what about the hundreds of TV shows I've purchased?
I have no idea. I'd ask Apple to refund all my money for all the shows I've ever purchased... but we've already seen how they treat me over a $6.99 subscription fee, so that's probably out of the question.
I remember the days when Apple was an amazing company which stood behind its products. If I had a problem with something I purchased... they fixed it. Or they refunded my money. Or they made it right somehow. Now? I get the feeling they couldn't care less about their customers. Which wouldn't be such a big problem if anything they made was worth a crap now-a-days. But that's not really true, is it? Used to be you could trust Apple products to "just work." That hasn't been the case in years.
The Apple hasn't just fallen from the tree once Steve Jobs left us... it's rotted and turned to mush.
UPDATE: Just to give you an idea of how utterly shitty a product Apple TV is, I ended up purchasing a "smart plug" so I can cut the power and restart the unit when it goes catatonic. Yes, it happens often enough that spending $13 was a worthwhile investment. First the screen goes black. Then the screen goes white. Then it tries to load... something... then it fails and goes black again... lather, rinse, repeat. Over and over until I get up and unplug it, then plug it back in again. Hence... the smart plug so I don't have to climb behind my media center each time this happens...
Of course, then the Apple TV gives me this...
I regret ever having purchased Apple TV. Version 1. Version 2. Version 3. And Version 4. I absolutely regret having spent money buying media from Apple. You'd think I'd finally learn something here... maybe now I finally am.
It's Jake! Hello, Jake!
Sometimes I have the camera on my iPhone ready at just the right moment.
After dealing with Jenny's stomach bug and having a growing worry that she's becoming diabetic due to her crazy water consumption, I started looking for low-carb foods to hopefully head that off at the pass. This isn't that tough, because there are many wet foods which are no-carb. They're all meat. But Jenny doesn't want to chew wet food... she only wants to lick the gravy off of it. The gravy being the part with carbs. If I buy wet food with no gravy, she still tries to lick it, but won't eat it. The only food she wants to eat is dry food. But most dry foods are carb-heavy.
I started making my own low-carb gravy she can eat by puréeing paté canned food with water. It worked fantastic, but was so gross (I'm never using that blender for my food again!). Then I found Tiki Cat brand, which has a "velvet mousse" which is already blended. I just stir in a half-tablespoon of water and away she goes.
Even better? Tiki Cat also makes low-carb dry food!
The stuff is crazy-expensive, but my cats love it. And, if they're being honest about the contents, it's a much healthier option for Jake and Jenny than anything else I've found.
I'm also trying out the Tiki Cat Grill, which is a series of flaked fish recipes that have shellfish garnish. Or, in the case of the sardine cutlets varieties, disgusting chunks of sardines in shellfish sauce. Opening a can is gag-inducing for me, but the cats love love love to eat it (or, in Jenny's case, love to lick it).
I still want to investigate making my own raw food to work into their diet though... I'm reading way too many good things about it to let it go. Even with Tiki Cat in the picture.
Don't go unpacking that baggage just yet, because an all-new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• New Jones! Our long wait for new Jessica Jones is over... Netflix released a second season this past week. I binge-watched them all, of course. Unfortunately, this new batch of thirteen episodes was not the masterpiece we got in season one. It was a slapshot hodgepodge of story beats that never quite melded together. It was also horrifically slow, with characters and elements that spiraled off into nowhere. Ultimately there were parts that were entertaining... and it was great to see the character again... but the relevant bits could have been easily condensed down to five or six much better episodes...
I seriously hope the creative team gets their shit together for season three. Of all the Marvel Studios Netflix shows, this is the one with the most potential. Jessica Jones deserves better than to have it squandered, which is how I feel about what we got.
• And Chill! Netflix's commitment to original shows is truly mind-boggling. They are gunning to create/partner/distribute loads of unique content that takes on the big networks, and they've been doing a darn good job of it. Their Marvel shows (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, The Punisher, and The Defenders) are, for the most part, far superior to what you can get on "regular" television (most notably with the shitty Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the even shittier Inhumans). But they didn't stop there. It seems like every day I'm stumbling across more and more new stuff they've released... from comedy specials and animation to travel shows and documentaries. Right now I'm addicted to watching The World's Most Extraordinary Homes which is an architecture geek's dream show, and The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale which is essentially all new episodes of Talk Soup. More is on the way. They recently announced a new talk show built around Hasan Minhaj, which should be genius, and insures that I won't be canceling my Netflix subscription any time soon.
• Champs! I would watch Mindy Kaling read the phone book, I love her so much. So I'm watching her new show Champions. I like it well enough... the concept is good, the dorky brother character is great, and I love the kid... but I don't think the lead guy is gelling with the material at all. Hopefully it will find its footing and he'll grow into the character. Unfortunately, I don't know that this show will last very long...
Oh well. At least somebody is trying to do something different.
• Pharma Bro! No news story in recent memory has made me laugh my ass off more than this one right here.
• POP! POP! No matter how bad the episode of Saturday Night Live, I can always count on a visit from "Don Jr. and Eric Trump" to salvage the episode...
No more bullets tonight. No more Bullet Sunday, I guess.
Welcome to Sonos Week here at Blogography! Each day I will be talking about my leap to the Sonos platform for "smart speakers" and how it integrates with Amazon's Alexa assistant. Because there's so much to unpack, I'm breaking it up into five parts.
And now on with the show...
Once Apple announced their HomePod, I started saving for one. "It's like having Alexa for my music!" I thought. And since I'm a Certified Apple Whore, how could I not buy some cool new tech from Apple?
Then at the last minute I changed my mind and went with their competition: the new Sonos One with Alexa. Yes, yes... I know. But I actually put some thought into this...
There's a caveat, of course. Neither Alexa nor Sonos cannot access iTunes Match, which is where the entirety of my music collection resides.
That's a huge deal.
I can download all my music from iTunes and put it on my local NAS drive, which Sonos can access, but Alexa can't control it there. The only thing Alexa can control is Amazon Music Unlimted, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio and TuneIn. The cheapest option is Amazon at $79 a year, but that still won't allow me to access a goodly chunk of my more esoteric songs. I couldn't say "Alexa, play Love on Your Back by Thompson Twins because the B-side to Love on Your Side doesn't exist in Amazon Music Unlimited. It used to be that Amazon allowed you to upload your music to their servers for $25 a year, but they discontinued that which is such a bummer. Music options for Sonos are a somewhat long and complex discussion, so let's save that for tomorrow.
Obviously going the Sonos route has some down-sides when it comes to listening to my music, but the down-sides for HomePod are catastrophic. HomePod isn't even an option unless I have nothing better to do with $350.
And so now I'm here...
And now that I am here, I honestly don't know if it's a place I want to be.
There are plusses and minuses to Sonos that I need to unpack and see if the system makes sense for me. Fortunately, I've got 30 days to decide. I'm not anticipating returning them, mind you, but I do want to live with them for more than a week to see if I can live with the minuses.
So far, however, the plusses are frickin' amazing.
Welcome to Sonos Week here at Blogography! Each day I will be talking about my leap to the Sonos platform for "smart speakers" and how it integrates with Amazon's Alexa assistant. If you haven't read past entries in Sonos Week, you'll probably want to start at the beginning by clicking here.
And now on with the show...
Yesterday I talked about deciding to bypass Apple's HomePod and leap into Sonos. Now that they've released the "Sonos One" with Amazon Alexa built-in, it was a better fit for me and my Alexa-centric lifestyle.
Alas, since Alexa has no way of accessing my iTunes Match library, my best option for having music she can control is to subscribe to "Amazon Music Unlimited" at $79 a year (that price reflects a $20 discount because I'm an Amazon Prime member). Since I can now discontinue iTunes match at $25 a year, that's a net increase of $54 annually over what I was already paying. I'm not happy about it, but there's nothing else I can do to get what I want. Something tells me that Amazon and Apple are not going to cooperate on getting things integrated, and I'm too enamored with Alexa to contemplate her not having control of my music the way she has control over everything else in my life.
Amazon Music Unlimited is nice, for what it is, but it's hardly perfect...
That being said, there are some things I love about Amazon Music Unlimited too...
So I dunno. If I have to pay for a streaming music service, I'd rather it be Apple because that's where my music purchases and videos come from. But since Apple was way late to the personal assistant game and has nothing to even touch what Alexa can do, that's not going to happen. So long as I am tied to Alexa for everything, Amazon is where I am going to be. Maybe one day Apple will give up on their laughably bad HomeKit crap and buy out INSTEON or something that drags me back into the fold, but right now I'm done. It's all Alexa all the time until something better comes along. And something tells me Amazon ain't going to allow something better to come along. Alexa is getting better and more capable every day.
Welcome to Sonos Week here at Blogography! Each day I will be talking about my leap to the Sonos platform for "smart speakers" and how it integrates with Amazon's Alexa assistant. If you haven't read past entries in Sonos Week, you'll probably want to start at the beginning by clicking here.
And now on with the show...
There was never any question that I would be giving up some sound quality when I went with Sonos One over Apple HomePod. Apple made sure that having awesome sound was a priority over everything else and, if that was my primary reason for getting a smart speaker, I would have bought one despite it all. But my priority was smart home integration with Alexa, so Sonos it was.
Though I'm hardly an audiophile, I do like having quality audio, and was hoping that Sonos with their years of experience would deliver. This was not guaranteed. Yes, they regularly get good reviews for their equipment, but I'm buying the smallest speakers they offer. And yet... since my home is not that big and I have cats (which means I never blast the stereo at full volume), I was optimistic.
Turns out the Sonos One is plenty enough speaker for me. Despite their diminutive size in comparison to other offerings, the One had no problem filling my home with rich, vibrant sound. I ended up putting one in the living room and one in my kitchen at opposite ends of my home, then grouping them so that they both play the same thing. I can control their volume independently, or control the overall proportional volume for both at the same time, which is handy...
My dining room is closer to the kitchen than the living room, so I have the volume there a bit weaker. When I sit at the dining room table, it's a sweet spot where I am hearing sound equally from both, which is a very cool effect. People can dine and have a conversation while being enveloped in soft music for atmosphere. This... this is the true promise of Sonos. Everywhere sound that can be fine-tuned to whatever effect you want.
Obviously the problem with having only one speaker per room is no stereo sound, because pairing them for stereo in separate rooms is a bit schizophrenic. For my music, I'm not that bothered. If I end up going full-on Sonos with my television and A/V setup, then I'd have to add more speakers to get to Dolby 5:1 anyway (which is as far as Sonos can currently go... no DTS, PCM, DD+, or Dolby Atmos for you!). That being said, there is something which Sonos provides to get the best sound possible from their speakers no matter how many you have or where they're located. They call it "Trueplay" speaker tuning technology, and it's essentially an app on your smartphone that you walk around with to measure your room acoustics so your speaker can alter its output to give the best sound...
In my living room, Trueplay didn't make much different. The speaker seemed to sound the same before and after I applied it. But for my kitchen? Sound quality noticeably improved. Sonos is not blowing smoke here, there was an immediately noticeable improvement. This is a pretty great thing, even though it takes an extra couple minutes of setup to get there (Apple HomePod apparently does this automatically and constantly on its own... no need to walk around with your phone).
In the reviews I poured over before purchasing my pair of One speakers, I heard "lack of bass" mentioned more than once. This is puzzling to me, because I was thrilled to be getting so much bass out of such a small speaker. No, it's not earth-shaking (Sonos sells a subwoofer for that), but it's actually much better than I was lead to believe. Would I like more punch when I fire up All We Need by Odesza? Sure. That thumping bassline is meant to be something you feel. But I'm certainly not feeling deprived by the bass I'm getting, which is very good.
The Sonos One sound lives in the mid-range, which is pretty stellar. And while the highs are nice and bright, they can hit brassy spots that sound harsh to my ear. This is most notable when playing a song like There Must Be An Angel by Eurythmics (my go-to track for testing speakers). It handles the hook beautifully with the angelic backing vocals, but then fumbles a bit with the harmonica solo at the end. Still, it's never so bad that I'm wincing at it, and 98% of the time I'm not noticing anything but beautifully delivered acoustics that surprise me every time I fire up my speakers.
The upshot of all this is that I have no complaints about Sonos One sound quality for what I'm currently wanting to do with it. If I end up wanting to go further, I can absolutely do that buy purchasing more Sonos pieces. And that's the beauty of the system... it's just so darn extensible and configurable.
For a price, of course.
I bought two Sonos One speakers bundled at a $350 limited time price (now since expired), which is $175 each (regular $199). If sound quality is your primary concern, that kind of money can get you a larger speaker with significantly better sound quality. Sure, they won't be wireless, nor will thy have Sonos streaming capabilities or have Alexa built-in... and you'll need an amp to power them... but all that will mean nothing to a true audiophile. So know where your money is going before you plunk down for Sonos, which can get very expensive very quickly for chasing down the best sound the company offers (their largest PLAY:5 speaker, for example, is $500... so $1000 for stereo). Their 5:1 setup would require a PLAYBAR for my TV ($700) and SUB subwoofer ($700) and use my two One's as the back channels ($1750 total investment... $1800 now that the One is no longer on sale). This is a bit absurd when that kind of money can get you a Dolby Atmos-capable amp with some nice speakers for a better home-theater experience. But I'd probably go the Sonos route anyway because I love what it gets me in features and control. Maybe if I had a larger, more acoustic environment... like a custom home theater... my thinking would change. But since I don't, Sonos feels like a better fit, even for the price.
Hefty though it may be.
Welcome to Sonos Week here at Blogography! Each day I will be talking about my leap to the Sonos platform for "smart speakers" and how it integrates with Amazon's Alexa assistant. If you haven't read past entries in Sonos Week, you'll probably want to start at the beginning by clicking here.
And now on with the show...
Sonos One speakers are designed to provide great sound in a small package and integrate a microphone so you can talk to Alexa... all while looking good. The speakers, as I mentioned in yesterday's entry, are pretty great for sound. The microphone array for Alexa, on the other hand, could use some improvement. Apparently things were much worse when the One was first released, and they've since improved it with software updates. My hope is that they continue to work on this, because it's irritating how ambient noise can obliterate any Alexa commands you might make. My Sonos One in the living room sits on my media center... exactly where my Echo used to sit. With Echo, I could have the television blasting and Alexa would still respond to commands easily. With One, that's not the case. Both my living room and kitchen speakers will hear me say "Alexa..." (I get that "beep" from both) but, if the television is on, half the time it's the kitchen speaker which is the One to reply. This sucks because I can't hear it with the television on.
Yes, this is a testament to just how good the microphones are at picking up when I ask for Alexa from across the house, but their ability to recognize where I'm at when I'm saying it is really poor. Sure I can disable the microphone on the kitchen One so there's no confusion, but that kind of defeats the purpose of having a One in my kitchen in the first place.
Another issue which may or may not be tied to the design of the Sonos One... there seems to be more lag between when I say an Alexa command and when the speaker will respond and act on that command. It seems faster on Echo and Echo Dot. No idea what that's about, because you'd think Alexa is Alexa no matter where she is. Perhaps Amazon prioritizes commands from the units they sell over third party devices? No clue.
And then there's Alexa not responding to Sonos control commands on the Sonos One speakers, but that's such a complex topic that I'm saving it for my final installment tomorrow.
When it comes to Alexa on Sonos One, the microphone problem and lag are annoying, but it's just the tip of the iceberg. If you listen to Audible audiobooks with Alexa, you can't do it on the Sonos One. At least not yet. If you use Alexa for drop-in (intercom between your Alexa units) or calling, they're not supported on a Sonos One. At least not yet. Some Alexa skills also don't work (like Sleep Sounds). At least not yet. Maybe it's Amazon that's refusing to allow these things, I have no idea. But it's scary to think how the Alexa features people rely on might one day disappear from their Sonos One speakers if Amazon decides to axe them for one reason or another.
As for the physical appearance of the Sonos One speakers, they're very pretty. Also... the design of the touch controls and indicators on the top of the unit are wonderfully unobtrusive. Rendered all in black, it's much better-looking than the multi-toned PLAY:1. Real thought went into making this a gorgeous piece of hardware.
Unless you want to mount it to a wall.
Then you have to add a bunch of shit which destroys the sleek lines of the product.
Because there's no screw mount on the back, all the screw-mount hardware used to hang the very similar Sonos PLAY:1 on a wall won't work. You have to use a specialized mount which has stupid restraining wires to hold on to the unit (something which seems ugly, flawed, and unsafe). I have run this over and over and over in my head trying to figure out why the screw mount was omitted, but keep coming up empty. This is profoundly stupid. Your options for mounting hardware goes from dozens to one or two, and neither are that great (the Midlite cable-conceal mount is not compatible, which is the one I wanted to use, but can't). Perhaps this was a ploy by Sonos to get kickback money? Maybe Sonos hates their customers and wants everybody replacing their PLAY:1 speakers with One speakers to have to buy all new mounts? Maybe they think the Sonos One is too pretty, so they want you to have to ugly it up if you mount it on a wall? I mean, come on... just look at this janky crap hanging off the back...
That stupid wire will never stay straight, as you can see if you look close. Maybe Sonos just hates OCD types like me? And it takes two wires... TOP AND BOTTOM to restrain the damn thing...
This idiotic shit is rage-inducing. Why even bother designing such a pretty speaker if you have to fuck it up to mount it on a wall?
Regardless of how ugly or stupid, I'm sure more mounts are coming. Hopefully somebody can find a more creative way of solving this which doesn't require a big ass wires and massively ugly clips hanging off the back.
Another design decision which may be problematic... you cannot create a stereo pair between a Sonos One and a Sonos PLAY:1, or any other Sonos product other than another Sonos One. While this may be a bummer to some, I don't know that I'd want a stereo pairing between two speakers that aren't identical anyway. I'm OCD like that. What Sonos should do is come out with a Sonos One "Lite" speaker which looks the same as a Sonos One, but doesn't have Alexa in it. That way it would be cheaper (no Amazon licensing fees or additional microphone hardware) and a much better option for those wanting to create a stereo pair. It's not like you need two Alexas in the same space (you'd probably turn one of the microphones off anyway), so this seems like a no-brainer.
But it's hard to give much credit to Sonos for brains when they screwed up the mounting so heinously bad.
And tomorrow we wrap all this up on an even more sour note, so be sure to tune in for that.
Welcome to Sonos Week here at Blogography! Each day I will be talking about my leap to the Sonos platform for "smart speakers" and how it integrates with Amazon's Alexa assistant. If you haven't read past entries in Sonos Week, you'll probably want to start at the beginning by clicking here.
And now on with the show...
I'm just going to start this entry off by saying "I love my new Sonos One speakers." Because after you read the problems I've been dealing with, you may begin to wonder.
The whole point of the new "One" model over everything else Sonos has ever released is the Amazon Alexa integration. Without Alexa, the Play One would be just a prettier version of the PLAY:1 that they already have. With that in mind, you'd think that a company with the stellar reputation that Sonos has would make damn sure that the Alexa integration was rock solid and dead simple.
Yeah, you would think.
In reality? Not so much. This comes down to two issues...
In order to get Alexa to do things on top of the basic functionality that's built-in, you have to add app extensions to her "brain in the cloud" which are called "skills." Want to play Jeopardy with Alexa every night? You have to add the Jeopardy Skill. Want to control your Sonos speakers by talking to Alexa? You need the Sonos Skill. There are hundreds of skills to do all kinds of things, and part of the magic of Alexa is using these skills to customize your Alexa experience. Lord only knows I have. Alexa is such a huge part of my life that I find myself asking her to do things even when she's not around. I'm not entirely sure what half of the wall switches in my home do because I haven't used them in years. If I want to turn on a light, I either program it to happen automatically... or ask Alexa to do it.
The issue being that whatever you're wanting Alexa to do is only as good as the skill she uses to do it.
When it comes to Sonos, the skill is really rough.
On the third day of owning my Sonos One speakers, I woke up to an Alexa alarm to feed the cats... my path being lit by lights Alexa turns on. I then get to the kitchen and have Alexa play songs from Depeche Mode's 101 on my Sonos One while I'm dishing up cat food. Then I get myself cleaned up and head to work for the day. When I get home I ask Alexa to play songs by Roxette while I'm unloading my stuff and cleaning up the house. She dutifully complies and The Look starts blasting through my home.
I ask Alexa to turn the volume down and she won't.
I ask Alexa to stop playing music and she ignores me.
I ask Alexa to skip this song and she doesn't know what I'm talking about.
Eventually I'm screaming "ALEXA, STOP!!!" and she cooly asks me what I'd like to listen to while Roxette continues to blare. I yell "OPEN THE POD BAY DOORS, ALEXA!" but the joke is lost on her.
After the song is over, Alexa goes quiet. As a test, I ask her to play songs by Matt & Kim, but she ignores me. Anything else I ask her to do... tell me the time... turn on some lights... read my notifications... she will do. But she categorically refuses to act on commands to control my Sonos speakers. It's as if she has forgotten that my Sonos speakers even exist.
Just to make sure she's hearing me, I look through my request history on the Alexa app. Yep, she heard me alright. Apparently Alexa has gone brain dead when it comes to Sonos, so it's off to the Sonos "Community" forums to find out if other people are having this problem. Turns out they are. This is not an isolated incident or Alexa disobedience... this is the Sonos Skill being wonky as fuck.
What follows is hours of disabling/re-enabling skills... logging-out/logging-in to accounts... deleting/reinstalling apps... forgetting/discovering devices... renaming devices... factory resetting speakers... the list goes on and on and on. Nothing seems to work, so I try everything. Eventually I accidentally get things running again. I say "accidentally" because I have no idea which thing... combination of things... or order I did things... ended up being what got Sonos working with Alexa again. Not a frickin' clue.
And she seems to be working correctly now, though a couple times I've asked her to pause my music and when I ask her to resume, she sends the command to my television instead of my Sonos, at which point I'm back to disabling/re-learning skills.
Obviously, Sonos and/or Amazon has some work to do.
For the sake of anybody coming to this page via Google search because they are having the same problem I was and are ready to smash their Sonos speakers with a hammer, I have three tips (in addition to all the stuff you'll find out there already)...
This whole ordeal was frustrating to the point of rage for me, and I'm still not quite sure what in the hell is going on. I can only hope that it all gets figured out... soon... so that I don't burst a blood vessel or something.
And now for "ducking"...
Yesterday I mentioned that Alexa on Sonos One has trouble figuring out where you are located so that the correct speaker is talking to you. I ask it a question in the living room and it responds in the kitchen... that kind of thing. But there was something I left out.
"Ducking" is when Alexa will drop the volume of whatever she is playing through her speakers so she can hear your commands. And while it sounds logical, it's actually stupid, stupid, STUPID!
Alexa has a microphone optimized to pick your voice out of other sounds in the room. As an example... when I have the television blaring, I can still talk to the Alexa device sitting next to it. Alexa can't control my television volume, so she does her best to hear around it. And it works... mostly... unless the volume is so loud that she can't make out what I'm saying.
But when your music or your television is plugged into your Sonos system, Alexa can control its volume. And she will lower it each and every time you ask her to do something. And that's not the worst part. If I say "Alexa, next!" to skip a song that's playing, she starts ducking the volume seconds after I'm done speaking... which means she is ducking for nothing!
And it gets better!
Alexa doesn't just duck the volume on the speaker you're talking to... she ducks the volume on ALL Sonos speakers in your whole house.
This is a major bug which I'm told Sonos is working with Amazon to fix.
I sure as hell hope so, because it's a seriously demented flaw that will be especially insane when you have several people living in your home and they are all talking to Alexa in different rooms. Jimmy asks Alexa what time it is in his bedroom on the second floor and the speaker you're listening to in the basement drops in volume? What sense does that even make? Did nobody at Sonos notice this when they were designing the One speaker? NOBODY?!? Good Lord. There's stupid... and then there's... whatever this is. This issue should have been resolved with Amazon long before the product was released to market.
Assuming Sonos makes it so that ducking only happens with the speakers in the room where somebody is talking to Alexa, that will be a big improvement... but I still won't be happy. I want to be able to turn ducking off completely. I never needed it when Alexa didn't have control over my speakers, and I don't need it now that she does. Maybe some people like it or need it, but those of us who don't should have the option of turning it off. Until we do, integrating Alexa with Sonos is kinda stupid.
The only option for Sonos to work the way it's supposed to and not duck your volume is to disable Alexa from having anything to do with your Sonos speakers. Which is insane for somebody like me who purchased the speakers specifically for their Alexa integration.
Ultimately Sonos One is a very cool speaker with some amazing features which was rushed to market to beat out Apple's HomePod. Unfortunately the thing that makes the Sonos One so compelling... having Alexa integration... is not done very well. Which is a real shame, because this is something which could potentially take Alexa to another level.
I'd say "This is the end of SONOS Week at Blogography... thanks for reading!," but I cannot. Tune in tomorrow to find out why.
Welcome to Sonos Week here at Blogography! Each day I will be talking about my leap to the Sonos platform for "smart speakers" and how it integrates with Amazon's Alexa assistant. If you haven't read past entries in Sonos Week, you'll probably want to start at the beginning by clicking here.
And now on with the show...
When I started SONOS WEEK here at Blogography, I broke down what I wanted to say into five parts. Little did I know that a sixth part would unexpectedly appear.
Sonos gear is incredibly expensive. Whether it's worth the money is debatable. Given what it can do and how it works, it was worth it to me and my needs. I was able to afford the $350 for the pair of Sonos One speakers because I had a $120 credit at Amazon plus some tax refund money. And while I thought I might buy more pieces eventually, it was not on my radar. I have a nice Denon receiver plus a decent speaker setup and a living room wired for surround sound, and that's more than enough.
But then I had a long-time online friend notice I was reviewing Sonos on my blog who offered to sell me his PLAYBAR for cheap (well, maybe not "cheap," but for less than I could buy it new). He had upgraded to a Dolby Atmos 7.1 setup (Sonos can only do 5.1) and his PLAYBAR was sitting in his attic.
He had all the original packaging and said it was in perfect condition, so I said "Wrap it up, I'll take it."
The next day the UPS driver paid a visit and Christmas morning came early.
I anticipated that setting things up would be a bit problematic because I was having to shuffle around my existing Sonos speakers to get a surround sound system. The PLAYBAR would become the Left, Right, and Center channels... my existing Sonos One speakers (from the living room and kitchen) would become the Rear-Left and Rear-Right channels. Turns out it wasn't a problem at all. I plugged in the PLAYBAR, used the Sonos app to set it up, then was asked if I had rear speakers. Since I did, I tapped a button on the backs of them when instructed and everything was reconfigured for me automatically. Such is the joy of Sonos.
I was worried that a single PLAYBAR speaker taking the place of three speakers would destroy the stereo separation I was used to, but that was not the case at all. The Left, Right, and Center channels were fairly distinct after TruePlay tuning. The rear channels being in separate speakers were even more distinct, as expected. My go-to movie for demonstrating surround-sound is The Matrix, and it sounded terrific through Sonos.
It's a great system and the amount of wires and crap it replaces is very cool...
Denon receiver: $500 - Speakers: $300 - I should have just bought the $700 PLAYBAR to begin with.
There are some caveats to PLAYBAR, however...
Some really nice things about PLAYBAR before I go...
One horrible downside for me is that I lost my kitchen Sonos One speaker so it could fill out my rear channel. No more listening to music while I cook dinner or load the dishwasher. Replacing it is another $200, so that's the end of that.
The good news? Now that I could put my Amazon Echo in my bedroom and my Echo Dot in my garage, I have Alexa in every room of my house. All I need now is to embed an Echo Dot inside my brain and I guess I'm set.
Meanwhile, Neo has just realized he's The One and a fight has ensued, so I gotta get back to The Matrix.
UPDATE: And so my POWERBAR mounting kit came. It's pretty basic for $40... just a metal plate and some drywall screws. But it does the job. Kinda. There's a major problem with it.
Electrical codes make it illegal to run a power cable behind a wall. You have to purchase a electrical outlet wall kit which is code compliant. Then you can plug stuff into the outlet. But the six-foot power cable that came with my POWERBAR can't fit behind the speakers, so it has to hang below it in a big wad...
Kinda defeats the whole purpose. You'd think that since SONOS makes you buy a kit to wall-mount the thing that they would include a tiny power cable with it. Assumably they know that you can't run the cable in the wall, right? I mean, come on, every single photo they ever show of their stuff being wall-mounted shows the cables hidden in the wall... so how are they doing it? No frickin' clue since I can't find where they sell a short power cable anywhere. Maybe they don't care about complying with the electrical code and are mounting their stuff illegally.
I've emailed Sonos Customer Service, so I guess we'll see what they say.
UPDATE: Sonos Customer Service is all... "Uhhhh... nope, we don't sell that. We hire professional installers for our photos and they use adhesives and stuff to hide the wires!" (or something to that effect). Well, whatever. It really chaps my ass that Sonos has most every damn photo with the wires hidden, yet it's something they don't really provide for.
UPDATE: I found a Dell laptop 4.5-inch power cable that works much better than the 6-foot cord from Sonos. The plug is a tad too long, so it sticks out at the bottom a tiny bit, but it's better than the wad of Sonos cable I was dealing with. Hopefully one day Sonos will get off their asses and sell a short power cable with a small plug so you can legally get hidden wire mounting like they show in all their photos.
UPDATE: I have given up on wall-mounting my Sonos One speakers. With no screw-mount on the back, the solutions I've found are far from pretty. Furthermore, even if you buy short power cables, there's no really solution to bury the cables legally... at least not yet. Instead I'm using two IKEA 4-drawer shoe cabinets that are only 8 5/8-inches deep, wall-mounted, to put my Sonos One speakers on. They are the perfect height for the speakers to rise above my couch, but not so tall that they take up a lot of wall space. By drilling new holes to shift the top board, they can be set side-by-side. And once I drill holes in the top boards for power cables, they drop through and are completely hidden. Best solution I could find given hiding power cables in the wall was not an option for me.
Don't click that "Back Button" just yet, because an all-new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• To Infinity! And so... here we are. A little over a month until the beginning of the end. Ten years of build-up all comes down to Avengers: Infinity War in April and its sequel next year...
So much to unpack here, which is not surprising considering the final movie has a runtime is 2 hours 36 minutes.
• A Brief History of Time. Stephen Hawking is gone! So remarkable that he managed to live so long with a disease which he was told would kill him decades ago. And look what his brilliant mind accomplished while trapped in a body which betrayed him! That he was a character on The Simpsons is just icing on the cake. An amazing, amazing man...
Rest in peace, sir.
• LOLZ! Probably the funniest thing I've ever seen on Twitter...
And yet... this is utterly insane as well. How in the hell do you confuse Kumail Nanjiani, Kunal Nayyar, and Kal Penn? They look nothing alike! I guess some people just see skin color and don't look any further.
• Fourth World! Looks like DC is finally moving past Zack Snyder's laughably bad take on super-heroes. After Patty Jenkins hit gold with Wonder Woman, they're striking a deal with another celebrated woman to helm New Gods for the big screen. Congrats to Ava DuVernay! My first choice would be Taika Waititi since his love letter to Jack Kirby in Thor: Ragnarok was so perfect... but this is a great choice too...
It will be interesting to see if DuVernay goes full-on Kirby or heads in another direction entirely.
• Incredible! ZOMG ZOMG ZOMG ZOMG... It's REAL!
Needless to say, I want want want want this game!
• Chain Gang! Since subscribing to Amazon Music Unlimited, I've been going a bit crazy over music. Now that I have "tens of millions" of songs available anytime, anywhere, I'm asking Alexa to play esoteric stuff all day long that it would never have occurred to me to play before I subscribed. Something pops in my head? Play it Hear a song mentioned somewhere? Play it. Song pops up on a commercial? Play it. For the past two days I've been obsessed with Sam Cooke. He was mentioned on an episode of The West Wing, and I've been listening to everything available ever since. So many songs of his I recognize but never really knew where they came from.
Such an amazing talent. Which makes the bizarre circumstances of his death even more tragic.
Until next Sunday then...
I worked all weekend, so this Monday was just more of the same. Except I spent most of the day feeling like it should be Saturday because I didn't get a Saturday.
In other news... the flies have started waking up. Not that I've seen any of them in my house, but the cats are going insane out in the catio chasing them around the place...
From the minute I got home, I've been hearing BUHDA BUHDA BUHDA as Jake and Jenny run up and down and up and down.
Though sometimes Jenny prefers to just observe from the safety of her home...
Not that I blame her. It's still getting too cold out there for my tastes.
No toy I ever buy from Chewy will ever compare to the joy my cats get out of the box and packing paper that the toy comes packed in.
This past weekend the packing paper was finally nothing more than a pile of shreds, so it got thrown out. The box survived just fine, but the cats lost interest in it when the packing paper went away.
Until I moved it to the laundry room. Now any time I open the door, Jake goes running for it balls-out...
I think he feels this is his secret lair where he can plot world domination.
World domination being the tiring work that it is, he usually ends up napping after a while. Apparently my lap makes for a better spot to sleep than a Chewy box...
Among other places...
Rough life, my cats have.
Ignore me if you will, but this is a subject that means something to me.
Credit card debt is a pariah that will consume you. And now that interest rates are going to increase past the already absurd rates that credit card companies charge (thank you Federal Reserve!), it's more important than ever to get yourself out of credit card debt if you have any. Large balances are designed to keep you paying high interest charges forever, without ever fully paying off your debt. It's a trap... and it's really tough to get out of once you're caught in it.
I know this, because I've been there.
During my two years in college, I accumulated huge debt. Huge.
I wasn't working very much because of school and travel (and partying), but was spending as if I were a CEO. First it was one credit card. Then it was another. Then it was another. It took *decades* for me to climb out of it. Years of barely being able to make payments. Years of getting nowhere in paying off my balances. Once I realized the thousands of dollars being blown every year on interest, I started focusing on paying off my cards. It was hard. Very hard. I'd buy nothing but the bare minimums I needed to survive. I wore clothes until they fell apart. I'd do any activity on a shoestring budget and limit expenditures any way I could. It took years of this, but eventually I clawed my way out.
And I have made it my mission to pay off my balance every month ever since. Sometimes there are emergencies. Sometimes I haven't saved enough for vacation and it takes a couple months. But I work very hard to not spend money I don't have so I can pay off my balance every time.
There are a lot of ways to get help if you need it. Apps that help you set payment goals. Books on financial planning. Websites with great advice on how to get out of credit card debt. And, if you are really in deep, financial advisors that can come up with a plan and negotiate with banks to get interest lowered... or help you find a loan. But however you mount your attack on credit card debt, it's hugely important that you start immediately. Our own government is working with banks to enslave you with debt, and it's only going to get worse. Much worse. The sacrifices needed to escape their clutches are hard ones to make, but ultimately worth it.
I honestly don't know what the future holds with our Federal Reserve manipulating things the way they have been. They don't even bother hiding it any more. This country is now designed exclusively for the wealthiest among us. That may not be you, but finding freedom amongst the ruins is a goal worth having.
Good luck to you.
Good luck to all of us.
We need it now more than ever.
So I come in from working in the garage and hear one of the cats thumping around on the stairs. I walk around the corner and it's Jake wrestling with Mufasa, his stuffed lion toy. The minute he notices me, he throws Mufasa against the wall and pretends he wasn't just playing with it.
Apparently he's too cool for toys now...
After that we hung out watching television for a while...
Well, I say we watched television... but Jake doesn't like TV. He just likes hanging out. Jenny, on the other hand, is enamored with television even more than I am. She can stare at if for hours... especially if it's a show she likes (her favorite is Rick & Morty, and she'll come running any time she hears it)...
How was I ever entertained at home before I had cats?
There is no arguing this.
This is where we are.
If the Austin bomber was a Muslim, he would be portrayed as a representative of all Muslims. But he's a Christian Conservative, so that logic does not apply. No white Christian Conservatives will be persecuted because of what happened in Austin. And yet look at the persecution Muslims continue to endure over the actions of individuals professing to be of that faith.
I am sickened to my core that our society, built on a foundation of liberty and freedom, continues to enslave us by defining narratives that protect white Conservative Christians at all costs.
And those costs are always paid by persons of color and other faiths.
Always always always always.
Sardines are my cats' new favorite thing.
Even Jenny will eat the disgusting giant chunks after she's sucked all the sauce off of them. This is the one food that is guaranteed to be licked clean out of the dish every time. So who cares that my house smells like I'm storing a kettle of fish? My cats are in heaven. =gag=
I mean, just look at this nightmare...
I can't say that sardines are responsible, but Jenny is sure turning into a heck of a lap cat. Used to be that her jumping on the couch was a rarity. But now she's all over me almost every day...
Makes it tough to get much work done, but she's just so darn adorable that I can't say no...
Even when she gets irritated because she wants more space. Then she just keeps kick-kick-kicking me until I move over...
But, so long as she's happy...
And don't worry about Jake... he still gets plenty of lap-time too...
And now? Time to bring out the bottle of Febreeze. That sardine smell ain't going away on its own.
Welcome to the place where the kisses are hers are his and hers and Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Paint! Really good television ads are so rare that they might as well be said not to exist. I certainly spend enough time fast-forwarding through crappy ads. Which is why running across one that's a joy to watch is so great...
Computer animation is getting cheaper and easier every day. But coming up with ideas to use it for effective advertising is as tough as its always been. Congrats, Sherwin-Williams for putting your ad dollars to such good use.
• LEGOtron! This new LEGO set is amazing, though I wish it was from the original film instead of the Tron: Legacy sequel...
Oh please oh please oh please can we get a LEGO TRON video game?
• FAIL! Don't get me wrong... I love that I can get some fairly decent quality furniture at good prices thanks to IKEA... but their quality has taken a total nose-dive. For the third time now I've purchased something that had a mistake in it. This time they stained the wrong edge of a board, leaving the front edge bare...
Given that it's a 3-hour drive back to the Renton showroom, here's hoping that they are able to send me a replacement part in the mail.
• Mr Pool! As the rare X-men film that was actually worth a crap, I loved Deadpool. The sequel is looking even better...
No telling what could happen if Marvel gets the movie rights back for all their mutant comics. Hopefully it's a complete reboot with some decent films which know how to respect the source material.
• Krapton! And speaking of comic book translations... I don't get it. The people behind the new SyFy TV show, Krypton, didn't even attempt to make Krypton seem foreign... let alone alien. So what's the point? They could have saved a lot of money on the special effects and set this in Cleveland or somewhere in England since they say "mate" a lot, have English accents, and use phrases like "chip on your shoulder."
I dunno. Maybe it gets interesting after a few episodes. But it all seems pretty lame to me so far.
• Mission? Apparently a sign that says "NO SOLICITING. NO UNINVITED VISITORS. NO RELIGIOUS APPEALS. NO POLITICAL CAUSES. NO SALESPEOPLE. NO PETITIONS, NO CHARITY." means nothing to some people...
When I asked the missionaries who showed up tonight AT 8:45PM what part of the giant red sign they didn't understand, they said they were curious about what's behind putting a sign up like that. Well, genius, it's not a big fucking mystery. The sign is up because I don't want to listen to your shit... and I really don't want you terrorizing my feral rescue cats by ringing my doorbell.
What kills me is that they have a laugh over ignoring the sign before they ring the bell. They also ignored they sign telling them that they were being recorded...
And apparently after you've violated somebody's posted request, then are specifically told to leave because the property-owner is not interested... the way to change their mind is to leave unwanted pamphlets on their door?
I have no problem with a person's beliefs, just so long as they don't infringe on mine. Like showing up at my home uninvited and not respecting my request for privacy. You can believe that Joseph Smith dug up some magical plates with Bible 2.0 on them if you want (something which, if you have studied The Bible even a little bit, is a hysterical concept)... but when somebody tells you to please leave them alone, your believing that you have a right to disrespect that request makes you a fucking asshole... I don't care who you are.
Happy trails to you, until next Sunday...
One of the best benefits of having a "smart home"... other than being able to tell Alexa to control everything... is being able to have a better handle on how your home works. One of my obsessions this year has been to lower my energy bill. This was actually an easy expense to tackle, because the majority of my power goes towards my furnace. During the colder months of November through February, it accounts for 55% of my bill. No other expense comes close (the second largest energy consumption is from my water heater at 7%). So it's easy to see that reducing the heat will reduce my bill at the most expensive time of year...
In January of 2017, my utility bill was around $93 for electricity...
So I made some changes to my thermostat program. Last year my temperature was set at 72° when I was awake and 68° when I was sleeping or away at work. A lot of this was an attempt to keep my cats comfortable, which was kind of silly once I realized my cats were perfectly happy hanging out in the catio in 34° weather.
This year I set my temperature at 68° when I was awake, 64° when I was sleeping, and 62° when I was away at work. And just in case my cats wanted some warmth while I was gone, I had low-energy heating pads, self-warming pads, and my stereo receiver for them to lay on. The result on my power bill was pretty dramatic. Instead of my graph topping out at 4,000kWh, it now topped at only 3,000kWh...
In January of 2018, my utility bill dropped to around $67 for electricity...
That's a 28% savings. Granted, $26 doesn't seem like a lot... I'm lucky that power is fairly inexpensive where I live... but I'll take it. If I lived in a region where power was expensive, 28% would be a huge amount.
Over the course of the winter I've saved nearly $85, which is real money. My goal for the year is to save $150 over 2017. Once April arrives, I'll be turning the heat off and coasting on $17 power bills until June or July, then I'll adjust my air conditioner temperature a bit and see what happens.
Two years of this and my energy monitor will have paid for itself! Score!
As I had mentioned last Thursday, Jake's favorite thing on earth is a small stuffed lion named Mufasa. Given how much he loves the thing, I've started to worry about the day it's no longer around, because things have been getting a little weird around here where Mufasa is concerned.
Namely, Jenny has found out that the quickest way to irritate her brother... or, more likely, get revenge on her brother... is to take Mufasa away. And usually when she does that, she rips into the thing, just like Blue Moppy Mouse, which she's destroyed.
As an example... a week ago Jake pushed Jenny off of the cat tree. Next thing I know, she's grabbed Mufasa and is dragging him up the stairs. I check on the security cameras and, sure enough, she's tearing into it. Then she just sits there behind the doorway... apparently waiting for Jake to realize his toy is gone so she can ambush him...
From time to time I'll hear a ruckus going on. Used to be it was general tomfoolery. But now when I investigate, Mufasa is in the middle of it all. Jake does something to piss Jenny off, Jenny steals Mufasa, then Jake will chase her down to get him back...
Now-a-days when I check in on Jake, if he's awake he's usually playing with Mufasa...
He carries it with him everywhere...
So while I was waiting for my work files to upload yesterday, I started searching the internet for a Mufasa replacement in case Jake's beloved toy wears out. The way he's been tossing it around and the way Jenny has been ripping into it has me worried for Mufasa's health. No luck so far...
Looks like I need to fly to Johannesburg's airport in South Africa to get a new one. Or seven.
Remember when you would order fries and they would come lightly salted… but include little salt packets so that those people who want to court heart disease with heavy salt can go for it?
Those were the days.
Now it seems as though every time I order fries they are caked with salt. So much salt that I can barely taste the potato. Guess restaurants think that this is cheaper than providing salt packets...
Though a case of NINE THOUSAND of them costs just $63, so you'd think it wouldn't be a problem. And if it were, couldn't they just ask people if they want salt when they ask them if they want ketchup?
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to sit down while my arteries are hardening over the bag of fries I had for lunch.
Oh joy. An opening day loss for the Red Sox.
Here we go again...
All the pieces for a great season are there. They just need to fit together.
Never let it be said that nobody saw this shit-show coming.
Most people with any brains in their head saw it coming from a mile away.
Well, maybe not a mile... but however far away 1995 was.
When it comes to bed sheets, I want them to stay cool and dry. I want crisp, breathable fabric that is tough enough to last. I don't like satin sheets. I really don't like "sateen" sheets, which are cotton sheets pretending to be satin sheets. When a hotel has sateen sheets, I have to kick them off (if it's warm) or wear sweats (if it's cold) because the glossy finish makes me sweat.
After being puzzled for years over things like "finish" and "thread count," I finally figured out that the sheets I want are called "percale," they're made of cotton, and the lower the thread count the better. What's great about this is that the sheets I just described are the cheapest you can buy. Also the opposite of what most people prefer, which is "sateen" in the highest thread count possible... 800 or higher.
So when I was shopping at IKEA and saw "percale" weave sheets at a mere 152 thread count, I was intrigued. Could these DVALA sheets at $25 a set (Queen) be the cool, crisp, breathable, dry sheets I've been dreaming of?
Turns out they totally are the sheets I've been looking for!
They are absolutely perfect.
No, they aren't soft and silky smooth. Truth to tell, they're actually kind of rough... even after having been washed twice. But that's exactly what I wanted because they are cooler to sleep on, they're tougher, and they have that crispy feel I love.
Cat hair sticks to them like glue, however, so I guess you can't have everything.
It's been an interesting morning at my house. At 6:02am I received a robocall from my credit card company saying that I may have fraudulent charges on my account. So I call the number they gave me, only to find out that they have no idea what I'm talking about, and they made no such call. And I'm like "THEN HOW DID I GET THIS NUMBER TO CALL YOU?" and they're all "WE DID NOT CALL YOU!" and I'm all "YOU DID, BECAUSE I JUST DID A REVERSE LOOK-UP OF THE CALLER ID AND IT'S YOU!" — I'm put on hold for a bit, then they come back and say "Oh, there's a problem with our computers calling people." Typical.
As I'm talking to my bank, I hear the cats banging around in the catio. They've heard that I'm awake, and come charging up the stairs demanding breakfast, even though it's almost an hour away. Jake has chunky white dust all over him, and I wonder if somebody threw a bag of cocaine into the catio while being chased by the police or something. I'm not about to snort my cat since I have no idea if the cocaine is premium grade or not, so I brush it all off and try to go back to sleep. Meanwhile Jenny has found Mufasa on the window perch that was left there last night. She starts ripping into him when Jake notices. And so then I have cats chasing each other all over my bedroom when I just want to get some sleep.
When Alexa finally chimes at 7:00am and the cats come back all crazy because it's breakfast time, I see that Jake has straw in his mouth. The only place I have straw is in the garage... I keep some for Fake Jake's winter shelter. So I go running downstairs and, sure enough, I left the garage passdoor ajar and my cats have been having big fun in my garage, including knocking over a bucket which was filled with drywall dust. Which means there won't be a bag of cocaine in the catio as I had first thought.
AND THEN, as if that weren't exciting enough, I can't find Jake and Jenny's Easter baskets. So now I have treats and cat toys for Easter morning, but no baskets to put them in. Looks like I'll be tearing apart my garage looking for Easter baskets this afternoon.
So this is my Saturday.
Ain't got no time for April Foolin' because a brand new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Bunnies! Happy Easter to everybody who celebrates it! Happy April Fool's Day to everybody who celebrates it! Happy Easter Fool's Day to everybody who celebrates both!
• Rocks! This is absolutely fascinating...
I'd think these sculptures were just as cool if they were cemented together. The fact that they are not is pretty incredible.
• Home! Smart advertising is such a rarity now-a-days. This brilliant commercial explains exactly who Home Goods is and what they do...
No Home Goods in my neck of the woods... but I'd shop at one if there were!
• Cheetah! Nice kitty! This made my day. Look at those claws!
Cats are cats no matter how big.
• Faith! 93 years old...
What a remarkable man.
And, that's a wrap! Enjoy that chocolate Easter bunny.
A while back I decided I wanted to build a pergola over the section of my patio which isn't already occupied by my catio enclosure. Initially I had the idea of fitting a cat-run on the outer edges, but ultimately decided that wouldn't work because it obstructed too much of my view. Instead I think I want something much more simple and open. I also like the idea of having a porch swing on one end and a low-fence creating a barrier at the back. That way I could put a small table and a couple chairs up against it...
I also like the idea of having a cat-run extending from the catio to a viewing platform on top of the pergola for Jake and Jenny. By making it fit between the slats, I could easily remove it if I ever wanted to...
And so... I'm making a parts list and saving my money for the materials needed. It shouldn't take too long to get it put together once I've cut all the pieces, probably just a three-day weekend.
Can't wait for wood-shop season to begin.
Sometimes having security cameras are not the comfort you think they would be.
Like when you call them up and see a black blob covering one of them...
Apparently scaly monsters have invaded my home. Or have they?
Nope. It's just Jake.
Crawling on the counters where he knows he's not supposed to be.
Maybe he's just trying to get a good vantage point to admire the beautiful new ceramic drinking fountain I bought for them?
Yes. That's probably what it was.
Jake took to it right away, but Jenny has been a bit more cautious...
Kind of puzzled as to why. This new one is far, far quieter than the one I replaced.
I've come to the conclusion that he internet is an incredibly useful thing... in addition to being a blight on all humanity from time to time, of course.
Like when you hear a song you really like and have no idea what it is, so you Shazam it and, as if by magic, the name and artist appears on your phone. That is the kind of thing that makes having the internet totally worth the crap you have to suffer through.
As an example, I kept hearing a Culligan Water commercial called "Drinks" that has a fantastic track thumping in the background...
Mere seconds after rewinding the DVR and calling up Shazam, I learn that the song is Pumper by Mai Lan...
And then... then there are the times where Shazam comes up empty.
Like when I was watching a video on using Plex with Alexa and this cool track pops up that I've never heard. I totally dig it, so I Shazam and get a completely different song (Across the Universe by Akira?).
I tried searching for the artist and song said in the video, but I couldn't understand it fully, so Google wasn't helping. I then tried Googling lyrics, but that also failed. So I kept hammering away with different variations of what I was hearing and finally arrived at this...
Castaway by Dunez. There we go! That's it!
Except when I go to buy the song from iTunes, it's not there. When I go to play it from Amazon Music Unlimited, it's not there. The only place it exists is on SoundCloud.
With no way of buying it, I finally rip the song and make a note of yet another track I need to buy in order to keep my music collection legal.
Which begs the question... how can a band exist... create a track... and there be no trace of it or them? I found their Facebook page, but the last thing they mention about any music is a promise for "new tunes coming soon" on August 13th, 2015.
Tunes that never came. At least from what I can tell.
And so I'm left hanging... wondering whatever happened to Dunez, if I'll ever be able to buy their song, and if we'll ever get anything new out of them. Because, from the sound of it, this is a band I'd really like.
The internet... sometimes creating more mysteries than it solves.
In addition to being a blight on all humanity from time to time, of course.
There are times people ask me why I still have a blog. There are times I wonder myself why I keep Blogography going. The whole "blogging community" that seemed like it would last forever a decade ago has evaporated. Most of my blogging friends hung it up years ago or moved to Twitter or Facebook.
But not me.
It got to be a habit, it's still a habit, and there are still a lot of people visiting here (15 years of blog entries indexed by Google will do that).
I think, more than that though, is the nostalgia of what blogging once was that won't let go of me. I have met so many people because of this thing... many of whom have become dear offline friends. Blogging was family to me.
That's what makes it all worthwhile.
I am reeling this morning after learning that long-time blogging friend "Hot Coffee Girl," AKA Kelly, passed away. Such a kind and caring soul. And one who will be missed by many.
Once when I was in Chicago we met up to "Tilt" out the window of Hancock Tower in Chicago. As we were waiting for our ticket time, we stopped at a small juice bar at Hancock Plaza where Kelly proceeded to order a shot of wheat grass juice. This tiny little paper cup was filled with green sludge and cost a fortune, but she was totally loving it. And I was totally loving teasing her about it... which I did for years after.
I'm gutted that so many good friends met on the internet are now gone. Anissa, Lisa, Howard, Tracy, Rick... dear people all, each leaving a hole in our hearts. So glad I got to meet them in person, even though they became much more than a name on a computer monitor to me, even if we had never met at all.
Rest in peace, Hot Coffee Girl.
I was looking for background noise to play while I work and ran across Miss Congeniality playing. It's one of those guilty pleasure films that I really don't need to see for the tenth time, which is perfect because I won't be distracted by it.
At one point in the film Sandra Bullock as hapless undercover FBI agent beauty contestant Gracie Lou Freebush is practicing a dance routine and ABBA's Dancing Queen...
And now I'm screwed.
Because any time I hear ABBA, I am immediately sucked down a rabbit hole of their amazing oeuvre of pop genius.
There are few songs of theirs that I don't love, but there's one song in particular that's my hands-down favorite... The Name of the Game. It's so beautifully constructed that it's easy to say it must be one of the greatest pop songs ever written. Couple that with the flawless voices of Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad and... well... it's pretty tough to find fault in the magic of it all...
Listening to ABBA always leads me to A*Teens, a Swedish teen group that hit the Disney circuit back in 2000. Originally formed as "ABBA Teens," their first album was filled with ABBA covers, including their take on The Name of the Game...
What's interesting is that A*Teens ended up having surprising depth, moving past their ABBA covers and creating their own stuff. Yes, it was teen-pop. But it was pretty good teen pop...
A*Teens always leads me to Hoku... aka Hoku Ho, daughter of Hawaiian legend Don Ho... who was gaining popularity around the same time that A*Teens were blowing up in the US. Her one album is actually really good, though the song she's probably most famous for is Perfect Day from the movie Legally Blonde...
As an interesting aside, Hoku is apparently working on new music and plans on releasing an album this year! The EP has her listed as a "Christian Artist," so I can only imagine that she's no longer going to be singing the bubblegum pop songs that made her famous.
Anyway... Hoku always leads me to fellow Hawaiian artist, Iz, and his magical version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow...
The voice of Hawaii obviously leads me back to ABBA and Happy Hawaii...
And now it starts all over again...
And so Jenny is terrified of my MacBook power adapter for some reason.
No clue as to why, but if she's near me and I so much as move it from one spot on the arm rest to another, she runs away. My guess is that it fell on her while she was goofing around with the cord, and she's been afraid of it ever since. I can't hide it under anything because it would overheat, so I've just started setting it as far out of her sight as I can.
Because heaven only knows I don't want to miss this...
In other Caturday news... Jake's relationship with his stuffed lion, Mufasa, just continues to go deeper. In addition to carting it around with him, he's started taking it to his favorite nap spots so he can sleep with it (probably so Jenny won't take it)...
Not that Jenny is in any way dissuaded. She knows exactly how to push Jake's buttons... and the quickest way to do that is to steal his most prized possession.
Last night just before midnight, I heard a major ruckus downstairs which goes on long enough that I climb out of bed to go check it out. That's when Jenny comes tearing into my room with Mufasa in her mouth, dumps him off, then stands there waiting for Jake so she can snatch Mufasa and run off again...
Don't feel too sorry for Jake. He probably ate some scraps of food left in her bowl... or pushed her off the top perch on the cat condo post... or did something else to set her off. That's usually how it goes.
Whether taking Mufasa is better or worse than running up and smacking Jake while he's pooping is open to debate. Jake seems equally irritated by both.
Time for you to do that voodoo that you do so well... because a brand new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• KATY?!?! I don't watch American Idol, but I happened upon a commercial where I saw that Katy Perry is a judge now, so I had to check it out. Her new look is amazing...
Modern rock glam with a punk sensibility stirred into the mix? Yes please.
• Shiplap! Shiplap! Shiplap! And so the final Episode of Fixer Upper has come and gone. I didn't sob uncontrollably as expected. There are many home renovation shows I enjoy watching... but none of them... NOT ONE... can compare to the taste level of Joanna Gaines. In all these years, I can't think of a single thing on any of her projects where I've thought "Well that's horrible!" Sure there are some decisions she makes that aren't my favorite... but it's rare, and it's never so bad I would rip it out if it were in my home. Joanna's Behind the Design starts on the 11th, and there's 15 half-hour episodes to be had. After that? I guess it's game over...
My favorite of all the design shows, Fixer Upper will be missed.
• Pro! APPLE IS CONSULTING WITH THE PEOPLE WHO WILL BE USING THEIR SHIT? WELL THAT'S A WELCOME AND PLEASANT FUCKING SURPRISE! I've been absolutely furious that self-proclaimed "pro" Macs are anything but "professional." They're designed to be pretty rather than functional, and Apple keeps ripping out features that pros actually need. Though something tells me this is a case of "too little too late," as many professionals I know have moved to Windows. My mind reels over how Apple has abandoned a market they used to own. Makes me wonder how much longer they plan to make Macs at all.
• Solo! A new trailer was released for the Han Solo Star Wars prequel. It looks pretty great... but the plague of problems that have descended on the film has me wondering if this is just showing some of the best bits and the rest of the movie if going to be crap...
I guess we shall see. I am really hoping that the movie is great compared to the mixed bag we got last time. Though the special effects, settings, and battles were amazing, I wasn't really happy with the story for The Last Jedi, which had some of the stupidest bits since the prequels...
I mean... Space Leia? What in the hell were they thinking?
• Incredible! As a huge, huge, mega-huge fan of the first Incredibles movie, I am anxiously awaiting the sequel. Seeing awesome marketing materials like this doesn't make me any more patient...
Hopefully they kept the design sensibility that made the first movie so stylishly iconic.
Today is a busy day because I am off for vacation starting tomorrow. In an effort to save time so I can pack and clean house before tearing out of here, I thought I would cut-and-paste a ranking of my top-five episodes from each Star Trek series that I had made last week. A fellow fan and I were discussing the merits (or lack thereof) of all things Trek, and this is how we let each other know exactly What Kind of Star Trek Fan We Are. Because, let's face it, wars have been started over this kind of thing.
But then I decided to rank the series themselves.
Then I decided to write my thoughts on each series.
Then I had to go back through my lists and question some of my choices.
Next thing I know, a half hour has passed, and my entire reason for this entry have all come crashing down. I spent more time making a blog post out of something that I would have been much better off starting from nothing. Cat photos take hardly any time at all.
But anyway... here we go, starting with my ranking of all the series best-to-worst...
And here are my top-five episodes within each, in series order...
The first Trek is undeniably the best Trek with strong stories that hold up even to this day. That they managed to make it look so good given the effects technology at the time is just icing on the cake. Yes, the acting was less than subtle, but there's no denying that the cast was a magical combination that sustained the franchise well past cancelation. If there's a grievous fault in the series, it would be almost the entirety of the third and final season, which saw budgets slashed and shitty stories like And the Children Shall Lead taking a steaming dump on the sublime excellence of the first two seasons. No spin-off even comes close to how imaginative and revolutionary a show Star Trek was, is, and will always be.
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Gene Roddenberry's bizarre edict that the future was perfect, everybody on The Enterprise was buddy-buddy, and all internal conflict on the ship was to be purged, made for a bland return to a once-great show. I was on vacation in Maui when the premiere debuted. But I was such a Trek fan that I gave up precious time in paradise to watch the first episode. It was so heinously boring and shitty... from the story to the sets to the effects to the costumes to (some) of the acting... that I was mired in shock and disbelief. How in the hell did anybody making the show thing this was Star Trek? Not to say it was all crap. Things improved after the first season and some true gems were to be found amongst the ruins... but, yeah, it was mostly crap. Though it wasn't the crappiest thing to come out of Star Trek. Not by a long shot.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Despite having the series elevated by the amazing talents of Avery Brooks in the lead (ZOMG! It's Hawk!), this low-rent Trek knock-off was absurd to new extremes. Made infamous for Odo being the shape-changing alien that never changed shape, everything seemed to be done on the cheap. They blew their budgetary wad on the Deep Space Nine space station set, then had no money to go anywhere interesting, do anything interesting, or see anything interesting. They tried to compensate with the whole Bajoran/Cardassian conflict, but it was poorly handled and came across as false drama. The religious angle with the "Prophets" was boring in ways Next Generation could only dream about, and things were off to a bad start from the beginning because of it. Eventually even the people running the show realized what a turd they had crapped out, and added a ship (The USS Defiant) so they could go places... and fan-favorite character Worf... but it was too late. All that had come before had mired the show in mediocrity, and precious few episodes managed to escape it. But when they did manage to escape it, the series showed such amazing promise. A glimpse at what could have been. Unfortunately it was too rare an event to make me care about the show, because they always went crawling back to what made it suck.
Star Trek: Voyager
Holy shit where do I even start? Because I am having a tough time finding the words to express just how much I hated this show. Hated it. There were elements I liked... in particular Robert Picardo as The Doctor and Tim Russ as Tuvok. And eventually we got Jeri Ryan as the Borg's "Seven of Nine" which was another coup. But that wasn't even remotely enough to salvage what a mess things were. First of all... the entire concept of the show was to remove "Star Trek" from everything "Star Trek" so writers could throw out the rules and let their imaginations run wild. A crew formed from conflict! No support system! Limited resources! Life on Voyager was to be a brutal struggle for survival in a strange and hostile universe far, far from home. But we never got that! Well, we rarely got that. What we got was yet another Next Generation retread that didn't even come close to the standards set by Next Generation (such as they were). As if that weren't shitty enough, "button-pushing action" was elevated to new heights. A conflict arises. Buttons are pushed to solve it. All while the "EPS conduits" are failing and the plasma is rerouted. Over and over and over and over again. I barely watched the show, but ended up binging on DVD rentals after everything ended so I could fast-forward through the boring crap. Which is to say I was fast-forwarding most of the time. The fact that I couldn't even manage to think of five episodes I liked well enough to list speaks volumes. It was all Oh... I remember that one with Sarah Silverman! and Oh... that episode with the rapid-evolving civilization was good enough that "The Orville" ripped it off!" Give me a break.
Star Trek: Enterprise
It was a good concept. Go back to all the newness and exploration of the unknown that made Star Trek so amazing by setting a show before Star Trek existed. Then get a big name like Scott Bakula to star in it. Then spend the money needed to make the show actually look great. It would be different. It would build pre-continuity continuity for the original series. It would focus on all the things Star Trek fans love and jettison those things they didn't. It would be a love letter to everything Star Trek! That would be great, right? Well, it sure could have been. Except some genius decided to mire the whole thing in the so-called "Temporal Cold War" which had death-grip on the show for three whole seasons. Sure, they were creative enough to escape it from time to time, but it pretty much killed what should have been an enjoyable outing. The fact that it never really paid off just added insult to injury. No surprise that my favorite episodes are ones that tried to side-step the restrictions that plagued the series.
Star Trek: Discovery
And here we are. The latest Star Trek spin-off that has divided fans and set the internet on fire. It seems most people either love it or hate it, though the reason they love it or hate it differ completely. I absolutely loved it. And the reason I loved it is because I felt it finally... finally... recaptured what I loved about the original series. At long last, we had actual Star Trek happening again! And yet there are people who hated it because they didn't feel it was Star Trek at all. And I get it. Honestly I do. It has many problems continuity-wise. It completely and utterly rejects Roddenberry's silly "no internal conflict" edict. There were inexplicably stupid changes made (WTF with the Klingons?). And some of the tech is just plain silly (spore drive?!?). But, as a die-hard fan of the original, I just didn't care about any of that because the "flavor" or what captured my imagination from the start was there. It also had some brilliant re-workings of some of Trek's best ideas. As if all that wasn't enough, the special effects and casting were choice. Sure the last two episodes fizzled, but the slow burn and massive payoff for everything before that was all I could want in a Star Trek show. I cannot wait to see what they come up with for their second season.
Just for duck soup (and a need for completeness), here is my ranking of the Star Trek movies which I took from my blog post here (with details, if you need them!)...
And I guess that's a wrap on Star Trek. If all goes as planned, tomorrow's entry will be written from the airport.
Time to Amsterdam is just under ten hours, which means I can burn through five movies to pass the time.
Fortunately, there were plenty of films available on my flight that I was interested in seeing, so I didn't have to resort to binge-watching West Wing episodes on my iPhone...
And... next stop, Schiphol...
Traveling with one blogger friend to meet up with another blogger friend has to be one of the better things to come out of the internet.
That so few bloggers are out there now is more than a little depressing to me.
I haven't been to Antwerp for decades, but decided to make the trip so I could see the Hard Rock Cafe which was added there. I don't know that it was worth the trip, but it did allow for time to visit with The Woman Formerly Known as DutchBitch, and we decided to make a lunch of it.
An hour and forty-five minutes later, and we were deposited at Antwerp's lovely Central Station...
The cafe is small, but has a decent collection of memorabilia going on...
With n hour to kill until our return train, we walked through the city a bit. This was a creative approach to public art I don't recall seeing before...
Not that it was the only public work on display...
And for anybody worried that McDonalds, Starbucks, and Kentucky Fried Chicken was the end of American exports abroad, you'll be happy to know that Five Guys has gone global...
And with that, we said adieu to Antwerp.
One of the nicest places to visit in the Netherlands is the Keukenhof, which is all tulips all the time. Well, at least for the time that they are open, which is about mid-to-late-March to mid-May. I've visited a couple times before (here and here), and always have a good time walking around photographing the flowers and taking in the smells that only a billion flowers can provide.
For this trip, I took my Sony 90mm Macro FE lens, which was purchased specifically for situations like this. Even though I didn't really do much "deep macro" with it, I was able to get some beautiful shots that only a lens of this quality can provide. Perhaps next time I will take a tripod and do some "real" macro, which would be an interesting way to make the journey feel new again...
To be continued...
Usually when I take hundreds of vacation photos, I go back to my hotel and immediately purge 50-60% of them. Then I take a good hard look at what's left and delete another bunch of them if I can. Since digital photography makes it so easy (and cheap!) to shoot loads of photos, I always shoot way more than I need just in case I missed something that my be covered in other shots. But to save all those photos would be absurd, as I'd never want to look at crappy images, nor do I want to pour through a bunch of duplicates.
My day at the Keukenhof resulted in two-hundred-and-sixty-eight photos.
I only deleted twenty-two of them.
Everything was just too great to dump.
I did, however, manage to whittle down the ones I was going to post here to fifty, which I divided into two parts because it seemed the easier way to fly.
Every year there's a theme to the Keukenhof's grand display. Last time I was here I think it was orchids. This time it was roses and romance, which was a cool exhibit to see. Roses are just so beautiful when you look at the delicate folds that make them what they are. I couldn't stop photographing them...
I think my favorite flower I saw was this one, which looked more like fake paper cut-out flowers rather than actual vegetation. I wish I had thought to look up the name...
In my past three visits, I never once saw a bee. This time I saw two of them, including this industrious fellow...
A friend came down from Amsterdam to walk around the gardens with me. We were discussing something to do with photography when I young boy heard us speaking in English. He poked at my leg, and I looked down at him only to have this conversation...
"I know the name of all the flowers!"
"I know the name of all the flowers!"
"Oh. Okay... what's this one?"
"I don't know that one."
"I see. What's this one?"
"I don't know that one."
"Ah. What flower do you know?"
"That is a tulip."
Later we were walking by a pond where there were a couple ducks. The same little boy was yelling "QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK!" This was a new level of annoying, and I wondered if I should ask him for more fascinating tulip facts, but thought it better to leave well enough alone...
And that's it for this edition of NAME! THAT! FLOWER!
This morning consisted of a run to Amersfoort to meet up with my extended-extended family for lunch. It was the weekend of the Smartlappenfestival, where people are dressing up and singing old-time Dutch "tearjerker" songs in the street. The DutchBitch makes fun of me for liking smartlap, but I actually do! It's kinda like polka... it's usually got an accordion... but different somehow...
After a lovely lunch with some lovely people, it was time to pack up my crap and head to the airport for a flight to Budapest. For whatever reason, the cost to fly Sunday morning was nearly $500 more(!) than flying out Saturday evening, so I bit the bullet and left tonight knowing that the cost for an additional hotel night was by far the cheaper option.
The flight was pleasant and uneventful as usual (one of the reasons I'm happy to pay the slightly higher premium to fly KLM Cityhopper instead of a budget airline).
And so here I am in lovely Budapest for the first time. Where my hotel really seems to like paper airplanes...
Big fun will ensue tomorrow, I'm sure. But for now? Good night.
Originally, I was spending five days, four nights in Budapest. It's a city I've been wanting to visit for a very long time, and there's a ton of stuff I want to do here. Then I finally managed to get yet another eye surgery scheduled after months of trying, so my European vacation had to be cut from two weeks to one. Which meant that my time in the "Pearl of the Danube" had to be cut down to two nights and one day.
Still, I managed to pack a lot into this one day. So I'm going to divide it up into four entries.
With such limited time available, I was going to get up and head into Budapest early. But the weather was yucky foggy(!) out, and so I decided to sleep in an extra two hours.
After taking the train into the city, I dropped off my backpack at the hotel and headed across the Széchenyi Chain Bridge so I could make my way up to Buda Castle...
Interesting note: The bridge was blown up in World War II by the Germans after they retreated across it. The towers were still there, but everything else had to be rebuilt. I think the lion sculptures at both ends survived, which is good because they're pretty cool...
My original plan was to ride up the funicular to the castle, but walk down. With every minute precious, I ended up taking it both ways...
The views at the top are pretty great...
One of the more amazing sights was behind the castle where there's this walkway under flowering trees. The shade of pink on display is unreal, and I could have spent an hour just photographing them...
Along the way I ran across a... I dunno... post or broken water fountain maybe? It was especially cool how the text was carved into it...
Next up in Part 2... Fisherman's Bastion and the incredible Matthias Church!
From Buda Castle I walked to the area known as "Halászbástya"... or "Fisherman's Bastion" in English. The reason that this end of castle hill has that name is because the local fishermen's guild was responsible for defending it. The bastion itself is pretty nifty, with great views across the Danube River to the Pest side of the city...
Fisherman's Bastion is home to the incredible Matthias Church. If I were to make a "must-see list" for Budapest, this church would unquestionably be at the top of it. It's a painted church (though not the Painted Church) which is my favorite kind of church (probably because I've seen so many gothic cathedrals in my time that I welcome the opportunity to see something different). The outside is kinda familiar if you've seen a lot of European churches, but the pretty tile roof and awesome moon and star weather vane give you a hint what you'll find inside...
And speaking of inside...
I took a lot of photos of those painted walls... fascinated that so many disparate patterns ended up looking so amazingly awesome together...
Meanwhile, back to my tour...
I could have spent a couple hours here easy, but hadn't eaten all day and needed to grab a bite before more exploring. So I headed back to the Pest side of the Danube, which you can read all about in Part Three!
I would have wanted to visit Budapest even if there were not a Hard Rock Cafe here, but since there is, I definitely wanted to drop by for a shot glass, T-shirt, and a couple pins. And a late lunch. Just enough to tide me over until I found some kind of awesome Hungarian vegetarian meal for dinner.
The Hard Rock Budapest is a fairly small property, but has a good assortment of memorabilia...
It also has a nice view of the square below...
Wanting to get the most out of my 24-hour public transit card, I headed to City Park and Vajdahunyad Castle. There's a museum about agriculture inside, but I didn't have the time to spend visiting it...
Behind the castle is Hősök tere, which means "Heroes' Square" in English. In addition to housing Hungary's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, there are statues of various important Hungarian leaders at one end. As you could probably guess, this has been the site of many political demonstrations over the years...
As I was speeding my way back towards the Danube, I saw this funky piece of art in one of the subway stations and had to get a photo. No idea what it means...
The Hungarian Parliament Building is famous for the way it lights up at night, but it's not quite getting dark yet. Doesn't stop me from pulling my camera out as I pass by though...
At the river, I eventually find what I'm looking for... the "Shoes on the Danube Bank" memorial. During World War II, people (mostly Jews and Romani) were brought here to the river bank to be shot by the Nazi-inspired fascist regime of the day (called The Arrow Cross Party), but were told to remove their shoes first...
Exhausted from running around like a madman all day, I headed back towards my hotel to get some dinner and rest up for some night photography. I didn't know what might be available for vegetarians, but thought my best bet would be at a collection of food stands in the square nearby. Sure enough, I ran across "Lángos" or "Hungarian Flatbread," which is pieces of deep-fat-fried dough that's slathered in sour cream then topped with a mountain of grated cheese...
Pretty close to heaven for somebody like me!
And... one more entry left to wrap things up...
And here we are at the end of my busy day in Budapest. Since I have to be at the train station by 7:30 in the morning, there ain't no more after this.
Odds are if you've ever been looking at photos of Budapest, you'll undoubtedly run across that classic shot of the Hungarian Parliament Building all lit up at night. The city is kinda famous for it, and I wanted a shot of my very own.
After sprinting across the Danube... or, to be more precise, under the Danube on the subway... I sat on the bank across from the building waiting for night to fall and the magic to happen.
The lights start off small at first. Just little glowing dots appearing across the exterior...
But before too long, the whole building is flooded in golden light. It is most certainly a pretty sight...
Continuing down the West bank of the river, I make my way back towards the Chain Bridge...
I had purchased an extra funicular ticket on my first ride up Castle Hill because I wanted to look down on the city with all the lights on...
On my previous funicular rides, I didn't have very good angle to film the experience. This time I did, and here's what that looks like...
And that's all she wrote, folks. Time to head back across the river so I can get some sleep before heading out in the morning...
Until next time, Budapest...
Vienna is a city with historical significance that I have long wanted to visit. When it got a Hard Rock Cafe 2-1/2 years ago, I finally had the excuse I needed to plan a trip. That being said, Vienna is a hard sell if you don't like classical music and horses, as they seem to be the life-blood of the city. Neither of those things interest me, so I tended to focus on the architecture and art, both of which interest me very much.
By train, Vienna is a swift 2-1/2 hours from Budapest. I always spring the small amount extra for a First Class ticket, which seems to result in less hassle during border crossings. I left at 7:30 in the morning and was surprised that there were only two other people in my coach...
As expected, the city is incredibly well-connected with public transportation, including a system of trams and subways that makes navigation a snap. Walking to my hotel, the first photo I snapped on this dreary Monday encapsulated Vienna pretty well...
I hadn't eaten breakfast, so my first stop was the Hard Rock for a quick bite. It's nice, but one of the fairly boring new "hipster chic" properties I'm not a fan of...
My first stop after lunch was to run out to Schönbrunn Palace. Don't ask me why. I always end up regretting it after visiting palaces, and this was no exception. It's all "Here's a sitting room. Here's a sitting room. Here's a sitting room. Here's a sitting room. Here's a bedroom. Here's a sitting room." Which begs the question... exactly how many places did these people need to sit down? I didn't spend much time after I saw that Schönbrunn was just more of the same thing I've seen a dozen times before...
Back in the city proper, I decided to wander around and look at architecture, which could keep me occupied for days. There's just so much to see...
There is, of course, a cathedral. It's pretty much par-for-the-course when it comes to gothic European cathedrals...
My final stop for the day was the Albertina Museum, where I knew there was a "Monet to Picasso" exhibit that was definitely worth my valuable time to visit. What I didn't know was that there was also a new Keith Haring exhibit, which was just icing on the cake...
Phenomenal exhibit. Fantastic museum.
After spending way too much time looking at art, everything was starting to close, so I decided to track down a falafel shop for dinner...
And now? Time for sleep. I have two very important stops to make tomorrow before flying back to the Netherlands, and I want to be sure to be rested up.
When I had to lop a week off my vacation, Budapest dropped from four nights to two, Vienna dropped from three nights to one. This is a tragically short amount of time in either city when you haven't visited before, but I tried my best to see as much as I could in the time I had.
When it comes to Vienna, my primary goal was to see some art by Klimt, his works having a wonderful art-deco sensibility that I love.
My first stop was to be at the gates of the Belvedere Palace Museum, home to Klimt's most famous work... The Kiss, when they opened for the day. That way I could rush to the Klimt works before people (ugh!) got in the way. As a bonus, the weather was much nicer this time around...
The Kiss is absolutely stunning in person. It's about 6-foot square, and has a luminescence you're never going to capture in a photo, but here we go anyway...
When you get really close, the texture and construction packed into the piece is mesmerizing...
There are more Klimts, but they all kind of pale in comparison...
The museum houses other wonderful works as well, and it sure was nice to see them without people (ugh!) mucking about. Well worth arriving early...
The palace itself is magnificent. And turning it into a museum is a far better use than an endless parade of sitting rooms...
After exploring the Belvedere, I took a tram to the other site I really wanted to see before I left... the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna. To mark the 100th year since Klimt's death, they have constructed a massive "Stairway to Klimt" which spans the main atrium and allows you to see his paintings there at eye-level. It's pretty incredible...
The opportunity to see these works in this way is akin to magic...
As if that weren't enough, Nuda Veritas from a private collection is on loan while "Stairway to Klimt" is running...
The museum has a lot of different works, but I didn't have much time to spend with them... instead breezing through most everything. I did spend a little more time with their Egyptian artifacts though...
As I was headed back to my hotel so I could pack up and catch my flight, the weather was really getting nice. Such a shame I couldn't stay and enjoy it...
And, just like that, my time in Vienna was over.
One subway stop and a 16-minute "City Airport Train" ride later and I was winging my way back to DutchyLand.
After a week of rushing around Europe trying to condense fourteen days into seven, I was looking forward to heading home where I could have a vacation from my vacation... by returning to work! After my first relaxing morning since I got here, the DutchBitch took me to the airport and off I went.
The flight was delayed because the PA system was down. Apparently the part they needed to fix it was not on-site, which meant we were 90 minutes late taking off. Ironically, the PA system went down again just before landing in Seattle, so apparently it wasn't as repaired as they thought it would be.
And speaking of things not being fixed...
The replacement part from IKEA for their defective wood staining never arrived, and all attempts to get a tracking number failed. Their promise of "7 to 10 days" for delivery has now ballooned to 23 days, with no end in sight. I'm sick-and-tired of having half-finished IKEA sitting on my kitchen table, so I decided to brave rush-hour traffic to pick up the damn thing in person. It was all I could do to contain my rage that I was having to add 30 to 40 minutes delay to my already-delayed drive home because IKEA customer service sucks, but what other option did I have?
I finally arrived at my driveway shortly after 9:00pm, which doesn't sound bad until you take into consideration that I had been up for nearly 20 hours straight.
Perhaps one of these years I'll finally figure out how to sleep on a plane, but that was not today.
UPDATE: And of course IKEA finally sends me the damn part... one day after I already went and picked it up...
How very typical.
Oh well. I managed to get my shelving customized and assembled this morning, so at least I won't have it mucking up my weekend like I would have if I had waited.
For the money, the most versatile piece of furniture I've found has been HEMNES Shoe cabinets from IKEA. At just $99 each, The four-drawer version is nicely shallow... just 8-5/8" deep... and since it mounts directly to the wall and there's no rear legs to push it away from the molding, there's no wasted space. On top of that, the drawers themselves are deep and spacious so they are actually useful. Not just for shoes (though they are great for storing shoes) but for all kinds of things (the one in my kitchen holds placemats and napkins!).
Once I found out that I wouldn't be able to wall-mount my SONOS One speakers as I originally planned, my first thought was to purchase a couple of HEMNES units, drill holes in the top, then hide the SONOS cords behind them. They're the perfect height, allowing the speakers to rise just above my couch...
Since the table-top on these extends from the ends of the cabinet, I had to modify them slightly so I could get the two units to sit flush against each other, but they turned out great. Even more importantly, they work perfectly for giving me excellent surround sound.
And, as a bonus, my LaserDisc collection now has a home. A perfect home, actually, since they are stored vertically, but pull down at an angle so I can read the spines easily...
It's kind of weird that I now have seven of these shoe cabinets in my home considering I don't own many shoes, but they're just so versatile and functional. The shallow depth also means they can go just about anywhere. Yes, quality control at IKEA is shitty and you may get a defective part that will need replacing, but if you've got a tight spot you're looking to fill, these are definitely worth a look.
Something tells me I haven't purchased my last Hemnes shoe cabinet.
I've never been a "Superman guy."
Not that I didn't like the character... on the contrary, I own hundreds and hundreds of Superman comic books. My problem is that Superman, as a character, never made much sense to me. And I never really knew why. I always assumed that it was because I was more of a "Batman guy," having put more stock into the idea that a rich guy wanting to fight crime to avenge his parents made more sense than an alien with god-like powers wanting to be a newspaper reporter.
Then I saw Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill...
And there it was...
"Clark Kent is Superman's critique on the whole human race."
It wasn't that Superman wanted to be a newspaper reporter... it was that Superman wanted to be human at all. The excuse has always been that he slums with humans as a way to not lose touch with the humanity he found while being raised by the Kents. That's all well and good... but it still doesn't make much sense. He's an adult man. If he's still worried about losing his humanity by now, he might as well give up. "Fake it until you make it" may be a valid course of action for a job... but for being human?
And considering he can toss planets around with his bare hands, how human could he ever really be? I don't get it.
But apparently a lot of people do, because Superman is in a comic book that just hit 1000 issues...
The best Superman stories are always those which come up with a way of finding something new while maintaining the continuity which came before. The best of the best being Alan Moore's For the Man Who Has Everything and Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? and Grant Morrison's All-Star Superman. There have been others I've enjoyed, but they usually involve some kind of smart take on why Superman is the way he is... not stories that come up with somebody bigger and stronger to pound on Superman for a few issues.
And don't get me started on the current cinematic take on Superman with Man of Steel, Batman vs. Superman, and Justice League, which just plain suck because they are exactly what make a bad Superman story.
But anyway... back to Action Comics #1000...
I haven't been following the character since George Pérez jumped ship after the New 52 reboot years ago. I am aware that there was yet another reboot called "Rebirth" last year, but I haven't read any of it. So you can imagine my surprise when I find that Superman is married to Lois Lane and has a son named Jon that is Superboy. Not that this really affects what's happening in Action Comics #1000, but it's still something that permeates the issue.
The bulk of the issue is a love-letter to Superman by a chunk of very talented writers and artists and it's mostly wonderful. Many of the things you would hope to find in a landmark issue like this are there. And then there's the money-story... Brian Michael Bendis starting his run on the character with artwork by Jim Lee!
And what we get is... meh.
Because here we go again, somebody bigger and stronger to pound on Superman for a few issues. There's a twist, of course, but its one that's of little consequence in the grand scheme of things. In general, I like the stuff that Bendis does, but I'll not be tuning in for this. I'm just not a big enough Superman fan to get involved... especially when DC is probably going to reboot the Rebirth reboot to the New 52 reboot to the Flashpoint reboot to the Infinite Crisis reboot to the Zero Hour reboot to the Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot.
Maybe I'll have a change of heart in the reboot after that. You never know.
And so I'm sick.
Which should come as no surprise. I spent over 10 hours trapped on a plane with a girl sitting behind me who was coughing her head off. Of course she wasn't even trying to cover her mouth... parents apparently don't teach that anymore... so I was in the blast zone of the little germ factory as I crossed the Atlantic and then the country.
Luckily, I've got cats who are sympathetic to my Man Cold and willing to offer comfort...
In other news... I heard a big bang against the screen on the catio and knew that Fake Jake was back. What I didn't expect to see was Jenny out there facing him down. If her brother was there with her, then maybe. But alone? That's my girl...
Sheesh. I really do need to clean those windows.
And one last thing before I go... when I was in Vienna waiting for my flight back to Amsterdam, I found a box of chocolates with Kitten Jake and Kitten Jenny on the front...
At first I thought it was chocolate cat treats meant for cats, but since chocolate isn't good for cats, I'm assuming it must be for cat-lovers who also like chocolate?
Or maybe chocolate-lovers who also like cats. Who can really say?
No time for me to wallow in being sick... because a brand new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Earther! Oh look... it's Earth Day! Happy Earth Day, everybody!
Still makes me laugh.
• Westworld 2.0! When it comes to surprises, Westworld would certainly be up there. The first season was complex and satisfying in a way I never thought it would be. Now we've arrived at the second season, and it would seem as though we'll be getting more of the same...
The weirdest thing about this new run is that the "hosts" which garnered sympathies in the first season are just as bad as the humans now. They are blazing a path of death and destruction that gives no quarter to anyone, and it will be interesting to see exactly how invested viewers can be with that. Time will tell.
• Mon-El! One of my favorite comic books from my youth was The Legion of Super-Heroes. A key member of that super-team is Mon-El, whom is currently appearing in the Supergirl television series. Yes, they've managed to screw it all up... Mon-El is married to Saturn Girl instead of dating Shawdow Lass, and Saturn Girl's husband Lightning Lad is nowhere to be found... but it's still been fun seeing him on television. I was confident that they would eventually have him "suit-up" but was disappointed with how they decided to do it...
The thing that always made Mon-El's costume interesting and unique was that he wore a kind of coat that went under his belt. They've done away with it, so now Mon-Ell just looks like dozens of other super-heroes. Boring. I mean, I know that concessions have to be made when translating from comic book to real life, but surely they could have done something to harken back to the source material.
• Danger Island! Everybody ready for new Archer this coming Wednesday?
After this, there's only one more season left. Which is really hard for me to wrap my head around. It just keeps getting better and better... why stop? Especially since there's no telling when we'll get new Rick and Morty.
• Le Google! And so... apparently Google has killed their /ncr (No Country Redirect) feature, meaning that there is apparently no way to get Google searches for USA English outside of the USA now. This sucks, but is hardly surprising. Companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft, and the rest simply Do Not Give A Fuck about their users now. It's all about how to wring money out of them, not service their needs. So great. Now when I travel to foreign countries, I guess I have to learn a foreign language. This time around I couldn't even get a VPN to get me pages in English. Oh well. Time to search for a new search engine?
• Oh! Sandra Oh is remarkably talented. Sandra Oh fully deserves to head a show. Sandra Oh is incredible in Killing Eve...
“One thing I will share with you—when I got the script for Killing Eve, I remember I was walking around in Brooklyn and I was on my phone with my agent, Nancy. I was quickly scrolling down the script, and I can’t really tell you what I was looking for. So I’m like, ‘So Nancy, I don’t understand, what’s the part?’ And Nancy goes ‘Sweetheart, it’s Eve, it’s Eve.’ In that moment, I did not assume the offer was for Eve. I think about that moment a lot,” Oh told Vulture reporter E. Alex Jung. “It’s like, how does racism define your work? Oh my goodness, I didn’t even assume when being offered something that I would be one of the central storytellers. Why? And this is me talking, right? After being told to see things a certain way for decades, you realize, ‘Oh my god! They brainwashed me!’ I was brainwashed! So that was a revelation to me.”
Thank heavens attitudes are changing... just not fast enough.
No more bullets. Time for me to carry on being sick.
As somebody who is passionate about world travel and the free exchange of ideas around the globe, today is a sad day for me. After years of hacking attacks on my blogs which result in dozens of lock-out notices being generated every day, I've just banned a huge chunk of IP addresses from access... including all of China, Russia, and goodly chunks of several other Asian countries that are currently on the blacklist maintained by Wizcrafts.
Will this stop hacking attempts? No. I'm sure plenty of hackers will use spoofing or VPN services to keep trying. That's part of the game, and I accept it. But, after my second malware exploit this year, I had to do something to try and make it more difficult for hackers to get through, and this was my last resort.
I get no pleasure from it.
Denying access to somebody in China or Russia who runs across Blogography in a Google search and has genuine interest in something I have to say goes against my entire reason for having a blog. But I've been left with little choice. Every time my site is exploited, it takes precious time I don't have to fix it. I either have to do my best to block these hacks before they happen... or shut down my blogs entirely.
So here we are.
As is always the case, the few are ruining things for the many.
There's always a special thrill reserved for those times I happen upon my favorite city on earth being featured somewhere.
Especially when it's in a way that's as cool and unique as this...
=sigh= And now I want to be back in Scotland.
It's World Penguin Day! A holiday I never even knew existed until they started appearing everywhere I went on the internet.
I'm rather fond of penguins, and am thrilled that I have been able to get up-close-and-personal with them on my recent trip to Antarctica. Certainly interesting enough creatures to deserve a day of their own...
Until next year...
I started paying for CBS All Access because it was the only way to watch Star Trek: Discovery. I kept paying so I could watch The Good Fight. In-between all that, I started re-watching episodes of 60 Minutes, a show I've never had much interest in until I found out that CBS All Access has nearly 200 episodes available for streaming. My biggest problem with the show is how they take interesting subjects and drag them out to the point of tedium. Which is why it's such a great show to have running as background noise while I work. I can safely ignore it while still absorbing relevant snippets.
Until something pops up that destroys my ability to ignore it.
While watching an old 60 Minutes segment on Bob Mankoff... cartoon editor of The New Yorker... there was a segment about cartoonists pitching their latest yucks to him. Most of the cartoons get rejected, but a few get through. Among them is a cartoon about Tarzan...
Mankoff: "The apes are saying 'We found you and raised you as one of us, so we were just wondering at what point did you learn to shave?"
Cartoonist: "I have researched this. There is no iteration of Tarzan in literature, comic books, or movies in which he has facial hair. It makes no sense!"
Doesn't make sense?
You don't have to be a Tarzan fan like me who has read all the books dozens of times to know this is 100% bullshit.
In the very first book... Tarzan of the Apes... the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel that started it all... the original Tarzan source for all the literature, comic books, and movies... it is explained that Tarzan started scraping the hair from his face because he understood he was a man, not an ape, and he was afraid of turning into an ape...
“But of these things Tarzan did not think. He was worried because he had not clothing to indicate to all the jungle folks that he was a man and not an ape, and grave doubt often entered his mind as to whether he might not yet become an ape.
Was not hair commencing to grow upon his face? All the apes had hair upon theirs but the black men were entirely hairless, with very few exceptions.
True, he had seen pictures in his books of men with great masses of hair upon lip and cheek and chin, but, nevertheless, Tarzan was afraid. Almost daily he whetted his keen knife and scraped and whittled at his young beard to eradicate this degrading emblem of apehood.
And so he learned to shave—rudely and painfully, it is true—but, nevertheless, effectively."
—Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan of the Apes
Which begs the question... exactly how much "research" did this cartoonist do that he didn't run across the reason his cartoon is stupid? Apparently he didn't even read half-way through the first Tarzan book.
I wish I knew why crap like this pisses me off.
Is it because the cartoonist lied and obviously didn't research anything? Is it because I get sick and tired of Tarzan being continuously misrepresented? Who knows. I wish it didn't piss me off, because then I wouldn't have to stop working so I can blog about it.
After catching a doozy of a cold on the plane back from Europe, I've spent my entire week mired in a miserable haze of over-the-counter medication abuse. Partly because I hate hate hate being sick... but mostly because I can't work when I'm sneezing and coughing my head off. This morning I finally turned a corner and felt well enough that I only took a single dose of cold meds instead of a double dose, so... putting one in the "win" column, I guess.
Where I most definitely did not win was having to skip the midnight premiere of Avengers: Infinity War last night. Because what would suck more than skipping it would be to dope up on cough suppressants then falling asleep half-way through...
Guess I get to spend the next several days avoiding spoilers until I find a day I can get away to see it.
And it's officially Catio Season!
Jake and Jenny are out in the catio almost every day, regardless of weather. Freezing temperatures, snow or rain, they love being outdoors. But now is the time of year where they spend more time out in the catio than inside. The sun has changed position, so they can bask in its glory while enjoying fresh air as well...
Jenny especially loves it. Jake is happy to lay on top of the cat tree in the window to get his sunlight fix. Jenny will always choose the catio...
Not that Jake doesn't have his moments. While I was in Europe, he spent the night out in the catio, which I've never seen happen before. And... he still loves keeping a look out for Fake Jake, where confrontations are ramping up as the weather improves...
Trying to get a jump on packing for my next trip later this week, I've run into the usual obstacle...
I was expecting that as my cats got older they would become more independent and want nothing to do with me. If anything, the opposite is happening. No matter where Jenny is in the house, if she hears me turn on the television in my bedroom, she dashes up right away. She can sit there watching television for hours...
Jake has no interest in television, but he does have a huge interest in sleeping. Last night he spent the night on my bed, which has never happened before. I dozed off and was surprised to find him still around when I woke up...
As I turned off the lights and was falling back asleep, Jake started purring like a motorboat. I couldn't see what he was so happy about, so I used the flash on my iPhone...
Apparently he's liking the ceiling fan drying off his undercarriage.
This morning he was still there...
And speaking of things still being around... Jake dragged Mufasa in this morning. I hadn't seen his prized lion since I got back from Europe, so I thought he had been lost or destroyed. Nope...
He probably hid it. Forgot where he hid it. Then found it again.
Why he hides Mufasa was apparent just minutes after Jake ran downstairs for a drink of water. Jenny started tearing into him
I'm shocked that she hasn't shredded Mufasa to bits by now. Really hoping that one of my friends passing through Johannesburg O. R. Tambo International Airport can pick up some more Mufasas because I'm not sure how upset Jake will be if he ever loses the one he has.And... so much for the last Caturday in April.
An abundance of sunshine is headed your way... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Gnats! I don't live in the South. But this video made me LOL because most every year gnats show up for three or four days here and it's exactly this...
Another thing that came my way that got me to thinking is this story link, which is exactly the kind of thing you want to be thinking about since mid-term elections are seven months away.
• Four-Twenty Day! This is seriously funnier than most stand up specials I've seen...
• WHCD! This year they had another Daily Show corespondent host the White House Correspondence Dinner, Michelle Wolf. In my humble opinion, it was a less than stellar performance. Not because the things she said weren't truthful or relevant... I think she hit the right notes there... but because her humor wasn't landing. Skewering people is fine, that's what the dinner is for. But you have to make it sound more lighthearted than just being mean. I think back to Hasan Minhaj's brilliant commentary last year where he totally killed it without going vile, and feel that's a better take on how to do it...
Of course, everybody pales when compared to the absolute master of the White House Correpondence Dinner... President Obama...
Too good to be true in so many ways.
• Good Medicine! Then again, no fancy dinner can compare to a solid dose of truth delivered in desperate times...
This is where we are. The current administration is doing nothing to fix anything.
• Faux Friends! As for the actually president of these United States of America? Still unhinged, completely detached from reality, and bat-shit insane...
I have no idea... none... how anybody supports this deranged shit show.
• New Twins! It's no secret that one of my favorite bands of all time is the Thompson Twins. Which is why it's no surprise that I was thrilled when the group's front-man, Tom Bailey, started touring again. And now? New music!
If you want to support his efforts (which will hopefully be more like a new Thompson's Twins album than anything radically different), you can head over to his page on Pledge Music.
Until next week, just keep swimming...
It's tough to fault Marvel Studios for their slate of movies. I love all of them. Some more than others, of course, but each one has a certain something that makes it a comic book geek's dream come true.
One film that always seems to get lost in the shuffle is Ant Man, which is a real shame because it's such a good movie. It's an awesome caper flick that just happens to have a super-hero in it.
And it's really funny.
And now the trailer for the sequel, Ant Man and The Wasp, has dropped. No surprise, it looks like a total home run...
What shocks me about the trailer is just how seamless the special effects are. Every unreal moment is handled so flawlessly as to accentuate the unique nature of the story... not distract from it... and that's not nothin'.
Interesting to note that Marvel is finally addressing one of the biggest flaws of their films. The villain is usually just a duplicate of the hero with the same powers and abilities. This time? Ghost has an entirely different power set, which is great...
This movie pre-dates Avengers: Infinity War for obvious reasons... it's a two-parter that won't complete until next year. Typical to Ant-Man, this is explained in the best way possible...
I can't wait to see this movie.
And I haven't even seen Infinity War yet!
Oh look! The latest issue of Thrice Fiction magazine is out!
And you can read it online or grab a copy in PDF or eBook format absolutely FREE by visiting our website at ThriceFiction.com.
As always, it's got a great slate of writers and artists...
Including art by yours truly. And guess who is making his Thrice Fiction debut in our latest issue? IT'S JAKE! No... he didn't write a story... but I did use him in the artwork I created for a story by Meg Tuite!
Alas, all efforts in getting him to hold a Rolodex met in failure, so there's some Photoshop involved... but he's just as adorable as ever!
So what are you waiting for? Go check it out!
And lo, Marvel Studios absolutely wasn't kidding when they taunted that Avengers: Infinity War is the culmination of the past ten years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is not idle hype. Though Comic Book Reality being what it is, you have to wonder just how much of what happens in this truly epic film will have lasting effects on where we are going forward.
Something tells me not all of it is going to all be washed away. What ends up sticking is anybody's guess.
Except not really...
If you've ever read comics before... if you've ever been left hanging in the middle of a two-part comic book story before... then there's nothing much in Infinity War that could be all that shocking to you. Likewise, anticipating the thrust of the story in next year's still-untitled-conclusion-movie also doesn't take much effort.
Infinity War actually did redefine the word "epic" when it comes to super-hero movies... or movies in general, really.
Obviously, my thoughts on the film are going into a spoiler-laden extended entry, which you absolutely do not want to read if you haven't seen Avengers: Infinity War yet.
You've been warned.
And also... another warning? Skip any trailers you haven't watched yet. One pretty major spoiler was dropped in one of the trailers I saw, and I'm still pretty raw about it.
And now? This is your last chance. Do not proceed unless having a movie ruined is something you enjoy.
Spoilers await in an extended entry...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Planning for a trip over the mountains to the airport is pretty simple. Pull out the Waze app so I can calculate travel time... add a half hour because Waze is always wrong by at least that... then add two hours to that, which should cover any delays and get me to the terminal with at least 90 minutes to spare.It's a good plan, and one that's served me well for years.
Sometimes things get out of control before you even step out the door. This morning I decided to empty the trash can before I left, only to have Fake Jake come running in while I was navigating the door.
Needless to say, bedlam ensued. Much running around and hissing were to be had. Real Jake was enraged. Jenny, bless her heart, did not run and hide as I expected, but instead stood her ground. From a distance, of course.
Ten minutes later, I managed to corral Fake Jake with the promise of treats...
I then spent 20 minutes trying to calm my cats down so that I wouldn't be leaving them in a traumatized state. By the time I left... for the second time... they were back to normal as if nothing happened.
Lucky for me Seattle traffic was only horrendous instead of overwhelmingly fucking heinous, so I still managed to arrive with plenty of time to spare.
Now I'm in St. Louis. A city I haven't visited in quite a while. Nearly ten years, in fact (boy, having a blog is handy for figuring out things like this!).
First order of business? Falafel...
Before turning in for the night, I decided to walk across the street and marvel at The Gateway Arch...
Across the street from that is the Old St. Louis Courthouse, where the Dred Scott case was first presented 172 years ago... which is not so long ago, when you really think about it...
I didn't think that any rooms in my hotel had a view of The Arch. Turns out the rooms on the very corner do. And I'm in the penthouse suite, which means I've got the best view possible...
And that's all she wrote for my exciting day of travel. Good night y'all.
The Gateway Arch in St. Louis is a stunning piece of architecture. Not just because of what you see on the outside (though the stainless steel exterior is beautiful) but also because of the incredible structural design on the inside. And underneath it (the foundation extends 60 feet beneath the ground). It's massive and impressive on many levels, and if you're ever in the area I highly recommend paying a visit.
It would be hard to me to top the beautiful blue skies from my previous visit, but I decided to go anyway because I just can't help myself. I could just look at the thing all day long...
My favorite part of visiting The Arch is the tram/elevator system that takes people to the top...
The cars are pretty tiny, which means you get to get real close to the people riding up with you...
But it's all worth it once you get to the top...
By the time I made it back down again the weather started clearing up (of course)...
The Old Courthouse across the street is too pretty to pass up, so I dropped in for a quick visit...
While they are remodeling the Gateway Arch Visitor Center, the Old Courthouse is the temporary ticket office. While you're there, you can get a close look at how the tram cars are constructed...
The system that transports the cars is pretty ingenious. The track starts out above the cars at the bottom... then transition to below the cars as you head up the legs. Eight cars are all chained together so that they can increase the number of people transported each go. The actual cars are suspended in an outer shell that allows the cars to rotate around as it travels, keeping the passengers upright.
And, just like that, my trip to St. Louis had come to an end. Time to head back to the airport to meet up with long-time blogging friend Coal Miner's Granddaughter for a road-trip to Jefferson City. But before we go? Time for T-Rav (which is "Toasted Ravioli," a St. Louis specialty, for those not in the know)...
See you in Jef-City...
An interesting aside here... did you know that China built their own "Gateway Arch," but made it into a full loop? They call it the "Ring of Life" and it is pretty obvious where the original inspiration came from...
Pretty. But I'll take the original any day!
And so here I am in Jefferson City with Coal Miner's Granddaughter!
Our event doesn't start until tonight, so we decided to head downtown to soak in all the big fun that Jeff-City has to offer.
Our first stop was the Missouri State Capitol Building. From the outside it looks pretty typical for a capitol building...
But on the inside? Absolutely stunning. Gorgeous art nouveau paintings depicting the life and history of Missouri cover the inside dome...
Inside this gorgeous building are busts of "famous Missourians" scattered around. Or, as in the case of Rush "Total Piece of Shit" Limbaugh, infamous...
There are also awesome people like Betty Grable (whose bust is creepy as hell) and Josephine Baker as well...
To the South of the Capitol Building is a monument for the Lewis and Clark trailhead. Since I've seen the end of the trail (about a half hour south of Astoria, Oregon), I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see the start...
Unbeknownst to us, downtown Jefferson City had been closed off for Shelbyfest... the celebration of all things related to the Shelby Mustang...
The "Ghost Hunt Weekend" event is at the old Missouri State Penitentiary. We decided to go early so we could take a tour and know the history behind everything...
The grounds are massive. The buildings are massive. Everything is massive. This is just one of the buildings...
What's not massive? The cells. They're tiny. And, depending on the era, there were times that they held more inmates than you'd think were possible... four... even six per cell...
There are several buildings. We saw just two of them. The newer one seemed much more like what you'd think a prison looks like...
The last stop on the tour was the gas chamber. A place where 40 convicted criminals met their end...
Our tour was a particularly good one because our guide was a former prison guard. Even better? One of the first women guards was taking the tour with us. Even better? Two former inmates were also on our tour... one of whom was wrongfully convicted of a life sentence and served 23 years before he was released.
There are some happy residents of the prison complex... groundhogs! They're everywhere!
And that was the end of our day. The real adventure happens tonight...
And so... I spent the night with Coal Miner's Granddaughter and The Tennessee Wraith Chasers in the old Missouri State Penitentiary! For those who don't watch "ghost hunt" television, the Wraith Chasers are a paranormal investigation group who have appeared in such shows as Ghost Asylum and Haunted Towns. Turns out they're also an incredibly nice group of guys.
Heather and I purchased "VIP Passes" which allowed us early entry into the event. With the sun going down, the prison takes on an entirely different personality...
The team behind the event, "Ghost Hunt Weekends," lit up our "home base" in one of the buildings with atmosphere lighting, which was also very different from what we saw on our tour earlier...
Eventually the Wraith Chasers themselves kicked things off with a Q&A session which was pretty entertaining...
Everybody had a chance to get their photo taken with Doogie, Brannon, Chris, and Mike, which was pretty nice of them...
Interesting to note that Heather and I have like TEN LAYERS of clothing on because it was freezing in there... but the Wraith Chasers are all in short-sleeves.
Our group started off with the gas chamber, then rotated through four other sites...
Not a lot of paranormal activity last night, but still a lot of fun!
And now... sleep!
Yesterday was a whirlwind of travel getting from Jefferson City back home. Or maybe it wasn't and it just felt that way because we returned from our ghost hunt at 3:30am.
Whatever the case, Coal Miner's Granddaughter and I decided to start things off right with ICE CREAM FOR BREAKFAST! Yay! Let's set aside the fact that an ice cream parlor opens their doors at 8am each morning and instead focus on the creamy dream that they are peddling...
That massive ice cream cone there? $3.00 at the Central Dairy. Yes, you read that right... THREE DOLLARS! That same cone would be at least $6.00 anywhere else. And it probably wouldn't taste nearly as good. Because, I gotta tell you... this ice cream was amazing. It's so creamy as to border on being described as "fluffy" and the flavor makes you stand up and say "Dayamn!"
If you're ever in Jefferson City, MO... this is a must-stop.
After ice cream it was a two-hour drive back to St. Louis Lambert International Airport, followed by a two-hour wait, followed by a four-hour flight to Portland, followed by an hour wait, followed by a half-hour flight to Seattle, followed by a half-hour on the tarmac, followed by an overnight, followed by a two-and-a-half-hour drive home.
Where I was very, very happy to see my cats.
And give them a present I brought back from Jeff City... a stuffed Missouri mule! His name is Moose. Jenny was not impressed. Jake, on the other hand, looked like he might like it at first...
...but then started tossing it around. No idea if the cats will warm up to it, but I had to try!
And... back to Real Life.
So there we are, waiting for our ghost hunt to begin when Coal Miner's Granddaughter turns to me and says "Hey, did you see that Kilauea erupted in Hawaii?"
In March of 2008 a new fissure opened on Kilauea, causing a "vog" (volcanic smog) alert to be issued. Not just for The Big Island, but for neighboring islands as well. I ended up traveling to Hawaii later that year, excited at the prospect of finally seeing a lava flow. But, alas, Pele (Hawaiian goddess of fire) had other plans and there was no lava to be found. There was still vog happening though...
Now Pele has unleashed the Real Deal on The Big Island, and unfortunately there are people in the path of her wrath...
Bruce Omori from Paradise Helicopters via Shutterstock and Time Magazine
Bruce Omori from Paradise Helicopters via Shutterstock and Time Magazine
The footage is pretty dramatic...
Though this is the story that's probably most disturbing!
Holy Watchmen, Batman!
Such beautiful destruction.
I'm in Hawaii later this year. If the lava thing is still happening, perhaps this will finally be my chance to see it.
Assuming the world hasn't ended by then, of course.
Fear Of Missing Out. Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.
Fear Of Missing Out as applied to cats. The anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by noises made by other cat(s) in the same space.
The older my cats get, the more they seem to care about what the other one is doing.
Jenny can be laying next to me purring away because she's getting petted... but then she'll hear Jake running around downstairs, worry that he's doing something super-fun that she's not a part of, then go ripping down the stairs to see what it is.
Jake likes to sit on my lap while I'm watching television. But the second Jenny goes running by to head out into the catio, he is all of a sudden paranoid that she's spotted something awesome out there, and is running after her to see what that might be.
My cats are in a perpetual state of FOMO.
Over each other, of course... not over me. They couldn't care less about what I'm doing.
Unless it's feeding them breakfast or dinner.
Before heading to the airport to turn in our rental car in St. Louis, we stopped for gas so we wouldn't have to pay the insane refueling fee that the rental car places charge.
As I was standing there waiting for the tank to fill, I saw this...
Here's hoping it wasn't the driver, but I'm guessing it was.
Given the non-stop trainwreck of horrors that has been drinking-and-driving, you'd think that people would learn something. How many more lives have to be destroyed before people learn something?
Today I finally made the time to have my winter tires changed over to summer tires.
My plan was to arrive just when the tire store opened because you can usually get right in. Except there was an accident on the bridge into town so I was delayed 20 minutes. By the time I finally got there, the wait was up to an hour-and-a-half, and it would have been faster for me to change my own tires at home with my emergency car jack and a lug wrench.
It was a bummer, but it wasn't the wait that bothered me.
It was the reason for the wait.
As somebody at the tire store noted, there was no skidmarks on the bridge. Which means that the car (van?) which crashed into a car (which then crashed into another car) never made any attempt to stop. Which means they weren't paying attention. Which means they were probably texting or changing their baby's diaper or cooking a steak, or whatever the fuck it is that people do when not looking at the road like they're supposed to be.
Apparently the distracted driving "no-texting" law that Washington State passed has done nothing to solve a serious problem that's only going to get worse. Which begs the question... how many people have to die before this starts being taken seriously?
And speaking of dying...
As I've said many times before, I love McDonalds... despite constantly taking shit for liking McDonalds.
My favorite breakfast is a McDonald's Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Biscuit, no bacon, substitute round egg instead of spongey yellow powder egg. I could eat them every single day because it's just such a perfect breakfast food. The reason I don't eat them every day is that A) McDonald's is a 20 minute drive from my house, and B) they are expensive as hell. But right now McDonalds is running a special where you can get two of them for only four dollars! So, naturally, after getting my tires changed I did not pass GO, I did not collect $200, I went straight to McDonalds for a late breakfast.
It was, as expected, delicious.
Except I made the mistake of looking up the Nutrition Facts for my breakfast while I was eating it.
We'll set aside the 80 carbs in two Breakfast Biscuits and skip right to the 2100mg of sodium... 88% of the sodium that you're supposed to have in a day. And saturated fat? 11g which is 106% of the recommended daily ammount!
I've never been so grateful that McDonalds is 20 minutes away and their McBiscuits are usually so damn expensive, because I'd be dead if they were next door and, you know, affordable and all.
Except they are on sale... and I am driving over the mountains tomorrow... so it looks like I may be courting death once again. Curse you McDonald's and your delicious breakfast!
Yesterday morning I woke up to see Moose the Mule standing in my bedroom.
The fact that he's standing leads me to believe that I sleepwalked downstairs, then brought him up and set him on the floor. So I check the security cameras and, no, that's not what happened at all.
Here is what actually happened. And, for anybody who ever said that they don't believe Jake can carry Mufasa the Lion around because he's too big for a cat to carry... Moose is TWICE THE SIZE!
Funny, funny stuff.
Anyway... looks like Jake might finally be warming up to Moose.
UPDATE: Here we go again...
Jake's love of stuffed animals isn't surprising, really. When I adopted my cats I was lucky enough to meet their foster parent at the shelter. She told me that Jenny likes to chase a string and Jake liked stuffed toys. Especially a stuffed llama they had...
I didn't have a stuffed llama, but I did have a stuffed lion I brought back from Africa for Spanky the Cat. So I dug through my old cat toys and found Mufasa. Jake took to him from day one...
Jenny didn't care much for Mufasa, but that didn't stop her from trying to take him away from Jake. She wanted it just because he wanted it...
And they've been fighting over that stuffed lion ever since...
Which has made Jake spend a lot of time trying to keep Jenny from taking Mufasa away. Over the years he's sometimes been more successful than others...
Such a great cat.
Enjoy your weekend!
Mother's Day isn't the only good thing to happen today... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Wubba Lubba Dub Dub! Looks like we're getting another 70 episodes of Rick & Morty!
My cat Jenny will be thrilled. Don't ask me why, but she loves the show. I think it has to do with Rick's voice, because if I'm watching and turn the television up, she'll come running to see what's happening. It sounds crazy, but I shit you not. She likes watching television, but she loves the Rick & Morty...
Not bad for a Back to the Future parody.
• Satan! FOX went on a brutal cancelation spree, axing shows that I really enjoy like The Last Man on Earth, The Mick, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and, horror of horrors, one of my favorite shows ever... Lucifer.
Apparently Reno Nine-Nine has been saved by NBC, which isn't much of a surprise since the show is distributed by NBC. Lucifer is co-produced and distributed by Warner Brothers, but their network blew up back in 2006. No idea where it would find a home unless one of the streaming networks like Amazon, Hulu, or Netflix grabs it. Which would sure as hell be nice, since they could wrap up the show and give us a proper ending. No word yet on what the fate will be for Champions and L.A. to Vegas... two more shows I would be sad to lose.
• Challenge! Ariana Grande has always been an incredibly good sport when it comes to putting up with Jimmy's shenanigans, and has played numerous "challenge" games with him on The Tonight Show. And now there's this...
Now that's talent.
• Adventure! Every once in a while I see an image posted of what video game graphics look like now compared to what they looked like when I first played video games. It just keeps getting more and more insane...
Posted by marvinrabbit on imgur.
Video games are more like playing a movie than ever, and I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Back when my gaming experience was an Atari 2600, it was just a distraction that couldn't compare with Real Life...
But now that gaming is, in some ways, better than Real Life? Hmmmm...
• Try Evil! According to The Wall Street Journal, Apple is going to partner up with the pig-fuckers at Goldman Sachs to come out with their own branded credit card. Looks like Apple has completely given up and decided to go 100% evil. Since the WSJ is behind a pay-wall (deep eye-roll), here's the story at Fortune magazine.
• Health! I'm just going to finish my bullets by leaving this right here: The incredibly frustrating reason there’s no Lyme disease vaccine.
So long, Sunday... I got a P!NK concert coming up.
Nobody puts on a show like
The first time I saw her live was on her Truth About Love tour, which was one of the most amazing things I've ever experienced. It was more than just a concert, it was a spectacle. In the best possible way.
If you ever have the opportunity to see
Today was one of those days that makes me want to stick my head in the oven. But my oven is electric, so all that would do is give me a sunburn. I also have a microwave, but it only runs when the door is closed.
And so I guess I'll be sticking around for another day. Which is probably a good thing, because my cats are in kind of a needy mood after all the time I've been spending away from home. And that's nice. Though I could have really used another day recuperating from my weekend.
And to think... yesterday I was up at Newcastle's putting green overlooking Seattle and Puget Sound on a gorgeous day...
Apparently Summer has arrived.
Time to set up shop.
Five months of woodworking bliss await.
When I woke up this morning there was an email from the charity I volunteer with and it was not filled with good news. It wasn't even filled with bad news. It was filled with disastrous news. Which meant I had a mad scramble of emails, phone calls, and texts ahead of me trying to get everything sorted. Which is fine, I suppose... that's the job... but it weighs on your spirit when you know that Real People will be worse off if you can't pull things together.
But pull things together I did.
Which was great. Except while I was doing my best to fix things for a lot of people needing help, I missed a text from one person needing help. I didn't notice it until hours later which, believe it or not, weighs even heavier on your spirit.
Fortunately somebody else who didn't miss their text was able to step up and help out... but still.
I'm not saying that I'd jump in line to be cloned if that technology were ever perfected, but I'd sure think hard about it. Problem is, I'd undoubtedly just end up taking on twice the work I have now so I would end up missing twice as many texts.
Technology can't solve everything.
But I live in a house where I can talk to a device and tell it to turn my lights on and off for me, so it certainly seems like it should be able to.
You would think that when you pay for a movie in iTunes that the poster art would remain the same as when you bought it. But that's not the case. A while back Marvel started changing all the artwork in their store, which ended up changing the artwork on all the movies I bought.
And it all sucks.
Not that I'd be thrilled if it were better than the originals... I want the art that I recognize so I can recognize the movies I own. I want what I originally purchased.
Take for example the poster for Guardians of the Galaxy...
They hacked up pieces of the original poster, rearranged them, then slapped them on a boring-ass background. It looks worse than shitty, because there's no composition or context. Can you tell what in the hell Star-Lord is doing? Holding on to a handle? Who the hell knows?
The sequel poster is even worse. The cool and colorful art with all kinds of cool movie imagery in the background. It's been replaced with something so boring as to be sedate by comparison...
Thor: The Dark World is especially horrific in that he no longer looks like the god of thunder, but somebody in a red cape and bad hair...
Since most Marvel movies take place in New York City, Ant-Man was a breath of fresh air since it switched it up to the West Coast and San Francisco. To be sure there was no mistaking this, they put it right there on the poster...
When they remade it, they simply stripped away all the cool supporting elements and slapped some ugly-ass faux-metallic effect. Lame.
Group films like Avengers have posters that are carefully crafted to show the dynamic of the team. But now all we get is a grotesque cut-and-paste hack-job that has no interplay between characters and no dynamic. Somebody with a box of Colorforms could do the same damn thing... and probably better, since people wouldn't have their legs cut off and be suspended in air...
Another great example of this... Captain America: Civil War. What was the most incredible part of the film? The fact that there was a massive battle which pits hero against hero. But the new poster rips this away, completely confusing the story. For all we know from looking at the shitty art, this is a Captain America and Iron Man buddy picture. Or an Iron Man movie with a guest-spot by Cap, since the figures have been reversed and Stark is in the #1 spot...
Doctor Strange is a mind-bending film which introduces magic and other dimensional planes to the Marvel Universe. But now? Some guy in a red cape with a tall collar? Shitty. Utterly shitty...
I think my most hated poster remake is for Iron Man 3...
The original poster was SO cool. Foreboding atmosphere, Tony's house exploding, and The Iron Legion are all there... along with a ravaged but determined Iron Man. But the remake? You can barely even tell that's Iron Man. Looks like the cover to some kind of Harlequin Romance or a shitty, low-budget crapfest. And can somebody please explain why the characters are fading into a star-field?
I understand the thinking in redoing the posters. They are trying to create something that will be easily understood at the smaller thumbnail sizes that you'll find in iTunes or other movie streaming services. But when they come up with something this shitty, does it really matter if you more easily understand them? If anything, I'd argue that the original posters are more distinct and interesting... even if you can't fully tell what's going on when reduced to tiny sizes.
At the very least, they could leave it up to the buyer which poster to display in their iTunes library.
Because the new crop is more than just ugly and boring... they're offensively bad design.
Today I had a rare 15-minute gap with nothing to do. Too little time to start a new project... too much time for a bathroom break. So I decided to update my List of Things to do Before I Die (That I’ve Already Done). It's a kind of "bucket list," but not really, because I only add things to it once I can check them off. No need to be on my death bed clutching a list of stuff I still wanted to do, thus dying a failure.
I'm up to 114 items which is probably enough for two lifetimes.
Which means I'm ready to die, I guess. And yet there's still so much left I want to do. Maybe I'll be able to add another dozens items before I check out. Maybe I'll be able to add just one. It doesn't really matter so long as I keep coming up with things to live for.
Though I've found that as I get older my idea of what makes it to my list is changing as my priorities change...
Age 20 Top Priority: Look for my dream woman. Get married. Have kids.
Age 30 Top Priority: Stay single for the rest of my life.
Age 40 Top Priority: Wreck myself having the most fun possible, then die before I'm 50.
Age 50 Top Priority: Stay healthy enough to keep on living so I can take care of my cats.
Assuming I make it there, I have no idea what my priority at 60 will be. But probably...
Age 60 Top Priority: Wreck myself having the most fun possible, then die before I'm 70.
I'm relatively certain of what comes at 70, assuming my priority for 60 falls through...
Age 70 Top Priority: Just die already.
This sounds bad, I know. But keep in mind that by that time I'll have probably added enough things to my list for three lifetimes. And isn't that more than enough? I'm close to done right now. Lord only knows how totally done with life I'll be at 70. Though who really knows? Back when I was 40 I wanted to die by the time I was 50. Now that I've reached 50... and I have cats... I'm happy to be hanging around a while longer. Perhaps when I turn 70 I'll get more cats and be good until I'm 90.
Who wants to kick the bucket list when they have cats?
It's kind of strange how having cats has changed my behavior. I am slowly becoming a different person, and it's a direct result of hanging around Jake and Jenny.
Yesterday I received a couple of questions from somebody who found my Antarctica trip in a Google search. I didn't have the answers off-hand, so I had to retrieve my souvenir box. My cats see a box and are instantly in attendance, pawing through everything and chewing on papers, pamphlets, and postcards. And I just didn't care. Two years ago if a cat was chewing on my precious souvenirs I would have ripped them out of their mouths, shooed them away, then been upset for days that my property had been destroyed. But now? It's just stuff. In the grand scheme of things, does it really matter if a postcard has a corner missing? Not to me. Not anymore. They could set the entire box on fire for all I care. I'd rather have happy cats than any amount of stuff. Unless it's going to hurt them, there's nothing I own that's important enough to smack a cat away. Nothing.
But the biggest change has been learning to accept things for what they are. This is a primary concept of Buddhism, and something I've been trying to get a handle on for decades. Jake and Jenny are "just cats." Given their relatively small stature and lack of opposable thumbs, there isn't much in their lives that they can change. Rather than wallow in misery if their attempts to alter their environment fail, they just accept it and do their best to live with it... or they move on. And that's the key. There are some things in life that simply cannot be changed no matter how hard I wish it were otherwise. Rather than dwell on that and be miserable, I've been doing a lot more accepting... and a lot more moving on. And I have been far happier because of it.
Maybe this world would be a better place if more people in charge of things had cats.
So there I was consumed by work when I hear much thrashing and squawking coming from the dining room. Jake is going crazy about SOMETHING, so I get up to see what's going on. Turns out it's just a boy and his mule. Jake is rolling around on the table with Moose...
Which makes me SO happy because dividing their attention between multiple stuffed animals means that Mufasa, Jakes prized stuffed lion, might stay in one piece a bit longer.
In other non-news, Jenny's television addiction is still going strong. Her favorite place in the living room is the coffee table where she can lay and watch TV. Many nights she'll fall asleep while watching...
Which is better than the cats' latest trend... wedging themselves in-between me and my work so they can get petted and fall asleep. They are doing this ALL THE TIME NOW. Even worse? They work in shifts. One of them will squeeze between me and my laptop so I have to set it down... then the minute they leave and I go to pick up my computer again... the other one will do the same damn thing...
And, lastly, I've been leaving windows and doors open in the mornings before it gets hot in an attempt to keep things cool and let in some fresh air. This cuts down on the expense of having to run my air conditioner as much. This has resulted in Jake and Fake Jake having a couple of "play dates" through the screen door...
Though how they can see each other through that filthy window I do not know.
A part of me wonders if I'll eventually be able to let Fake Jake in for a visit... but I honestly don't think this will ever happen. Fake Jake can get very aggressive, and I think that would traumatize Jenny quite a lot. She may be able to hold her own when there's a fence between them, but up close and personal? Probably not.
I removed the heater and berm from Fake Jake's shelter, then cleaned it inside and out, so he should have a nice cool place to hide from the sun this summer. That will have to do. If we end up with a heatwave, I can always let him hang out in my garage.
Until next Caturday then...
Put on your Sunday's best... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Mo Carbs! Hey everybody... IT'S CARB AWARENESS DAY! I'm not supposed to eat many carbs anymore, but you can bet I'll be celebrating! Bread, pasta, and sugar for everyone!
• Twins Redux! And here it is... the first single from Thompson Twins' Tom Bailey's forthcoming album: Feels Like Love to Me...
Needless to say, it's a huge relief that this has a true Thompson Twins vibe to it... which is exactly what I want in a new album from Tom Bailey. It feels a bit more mature than Into The Gap, but doesn't sound as different as Big Trash or Close to the Bone did at the time... which is to say that it fits nicely between the end of the Thompson Twins and the beginning of Babel. At least from this one song it does.
• I Smell Bullshit! Fraganzia... because Febreze and every other product name worth a shit has been taken...
=sigh= Product marketing is officially running out of ideas.
• NEWS: Oklahoma governor signs law allowing adoption agencies to ban same-sex couples.
Holy shit... it's not a day ending in "Y" unless Mary Fallin is stirring up more bigoted shit. Such a fucking asshole. KIDS NEED LOVING HOMES. It has been shown over and over and over and over that same-sex parents DO AS WELL OR BETTER at churning out happy, healthy, well-adjusted children as opposite-sex parents. And in 2018 kids don't care... THEY SHOULDN'T CARE... because the ONLY things that matter is that they have a home to call their own. That they are fed and provided for. That they are loved and cherished. Who gives a fuck if that comes from two dads or two moms? Apparently Mary Fallin does, which means she is in no danger of spoiling her track record at being one of the shittiest human beings on the planet. Congrats, Mary, you repugnant pile of garbage. Are you going to take in all the kids being denied homes by your bigotry? =crickets=
• NEWS: GOP House candidate live streams herself challenging transgender woman for using women's restroom.
• Adventure Redux! Last Bullet Sunday I had mentioned the very first graphical adventure video game... Adventure! As a formative part of my childhood, it's a game that fascinates me in a hundred different directions. Mostly because it shouldn't have even been possible given the technological limitations of the time. In a stroke of randomness, I ran across an interview with Adventure creator Warren Robinett earlier this week! It's pretty great...
Needless to say, I am thrilled at the prospect of reading The Annotated Adventure book mentioned in the talk, but the last mention of it was in 2016, so I'm guessing it's been put on indefinite hold or outright cancelled by now.
And on that note... DeeTwo out.
And it would seem that the television networks are starting to whore out promos for the upcoming Fall season. Given my love of television, I'l a little excited about that. Given how bad most new television shows end up being, that excitement is tempered by caution. Let's take a look at what I've seen so far, shall we?
If this didn't have Scott Foley and a comedic edge, it would be a hard pass. But it stars Scott Foley and has a comedic edge, so...
This will either bring it all together... or fail utterly as a MacGruber imitation that takes itself too seriously. I'm banking on the former.
I was a huge, huge, mega-huge fan of Murphy Brown and watched every episode they made. If ever there was a time that we needed her back, it's now...
A few thoughts...
FRIENDED BY GOD
Usually, a show with this premise would cause me to roll my eyes so hard that I'd suffer a brain hemorrhage. But this actually looks pretty good...
Ironically, this show is very much in the vein of Kevin (Probably) Saves the World, which was cancelled... and has an overt faith reference in the vein of Living Biblically, which was also canceled. Doesn't bode well for the show making it past a single season, but maybe it will find an audience that the other shows never did.
I can't fault the idea of putting Nathan Fillion in another show lead... as Firefly and Castle proved beyond a shadow of a doubt, the guy knows how to carry a show... but I question the concept with this one...
Older small-town guy moves to L.A. to be a rookie cop? Alrighty then. I'm counting on Fillion's undeniable screen presence carrying this one through, because that's what he does.
I FEEL BAD
This could be awful. It's probably awful. But if the actual show is as good as this preview, I'll absolutely be tuning in...
Fingers crossed, because the lack of interesting-looking comedies this coming season is a bit depressing.
WORTH A SHOT...
When revisiting a past show, there are a number of choices. The three most popular are A) Pick up with the same cast at a later time... B) Pick up with a new cast that has unfolded out of the old cast... or C) Completely reboot the entire show with new actors in old roles. Unfortunately for all of us, Magnum has gone with Option C, which is a truly awful decision (as the MacGyver reboot will confirm). Yes, it can be done well (though technically Star Trek is an alternate timeline it is effectively a reboot, and done very well), most of the time it just isn't. Especially when you're trying to replace the insanely charismatic and quirky Tom Selleck in the lead...
Why couldn't they have just made the guy Magnum's son or something? That way Selleck could appear in a couple episodes (like Leonard Nimoy did in Star Trek) to at least try to keep some continuity between series. The only bright spot is that they got Zachary Knighton to play Rick, which is something. I'm not holding out much hope, but I am hoping.
The premise didn't do anything for me, but the casting of Cedric The Entertainer and Josh Lawson had me curious to see how this was going to play out. But then they replaced a perfectly-cast Josh Lawson (shown in the footage below) with a woefully-miscast Max Greenfield (FRICKIN' SCHMIDT FROM New Girl?!?) and that all went out the window...
I just don't get it. Lawson had that role down. Anything Greenfield does with it is just going to be an imitation of better casting, so I don't even know what to think.
Oh good Lord... it's a mashup of The 4400, The Crossing, and a half-dozen other "mysterious return" shows we've seen to death already...
What will make it either work or not work is whether the "mystery" is compelling and sustainable. I am not holding out much hope for that, but I'll tune in to see how they approach it. If it's unique enough, I might give it a try for a while.
ABC canceled Deception, a show about a magician working with the FBI, while CBS picks up a show that's just the plain old FBI. How this is supposed to stand out from everything else on television is beyond me...
I give this practically zero chance of survival, but I'll give it a chance just in case.
I was disappointed to find out that this was not, in fact, a revival of the excellent 2008 series of the same name starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, but instead YET ANOTHER HOSPITAL DRAMA starring Ryan Eggold (formerly from The Blacklist). Where this will ultimately fail for me is the over-the-top-self-masturbatory-level of drama that always makes medical dramas like this (and the horrendously bad The Resident) fail utterly...
I mean, it's not my imagination... this IS yet another iteration of The Resident, right? Because I hate-hate-hate that show.
THE COOL KIDS
I like every single cast member in this show. But is it funny? Not from what I'm seeing in the pilot...
There's certainly the talent there to pull it together, but it's forced-funny and I don't know if talent will be enough.
A MILLION LITTLE THINGS
Well, here it is... the whole "Dump Beloved Actors in a New Show and Roll the Dice" show we get every season that never lasts...
The guys in question are James Roday from Psych, Ron Livingston from Office Space, David Giuntoli from Grimm, and Romany Malco from Weeds. I actually like the cast, it's just that there's nothing here which even remotely appeals to me story-wise. And yet... that casting.
If it weren't Ridley Scott, I'd stumble right past this. But... Ridley Scott... and the kid looks like she can act, so maybe...
The thing that concerns me about this is the sustainability of the story. I mean, I guess it's feasible that no other kid can replace this one... but that's awfully thin. I'll spend a lot of time thinking "NOT WORTH IT! JUST FIND ANOTHER KID!"
There is literally nothing about this show that compels me to tune in... except... Mike Shur. So consider me compelled.
Yet another DC Comics show... this time based on their Teen Titans franchise. If it's as good as Supergirl? Great. If it's doomed to whither away like Arrow did or The Flash is doing, I guess that's okay. But if we're getting something as lame as Legends of Tomorrow? Don't bother.
CLOAK AND DAGGER
A Marvel Studios show that's not on Netflix nor ABC, which is cause for concern... but not panic. I was never a big fan of the comics, but I'll say hello just to see.
ALSO ON THE WAY, BUT NO WAY...
Bitchy catfighting and sleeping around in a sexy hotel setting. How original. Unfortunately, it looks near-embarrassing to me, but that could be that it's just not my cup of tea. The saving grace may be the Miami Beach location, but I don't know if that's enough to get me tuning in. Probably not.
Despite Sheryl Lee Ralph having a spot, this doesn't look to be even a little entertaining. Hasn't this kind of thing been done to death and canceled to death already?
THE RED LINE
I don't know how many damn "Chicago" shows we need with Chicago Med, Chicago PD, and Chicago Fire already crowding the airwaves... but here's more of the same, for those who need it. The difference being that Ana DuVernay and Greg Berlanti are behind it.
Apparently an effort to resurrect JAG by CBS. Oh thank heavens. You can never have enough legal dramas on television.
A spin-off of a show I don't watch (The Goldbergs) which I won't watch.
Oh Lord. The Fresh Prince meets Friday Night Lights in a show that thinks it can be taken seriously. PASS.
A building filled with forced-drama. What's not to hate?
THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT
Oh joy. That 70's Show but with Irish Catholics. Hold my Guinness.
With Taran Killam in the lead, it might be worth a look... but the idea of watching 30 minutes of single parent problems is nigh suicide-inducing, so I'll probably pass.
Yeah... once was enough. Especially since I didn't even like the first one.
Wait... what? A thinly-veiled copy of the OJ Simpson trial? BUT WHYYYYY?!??
As if there wasn't enough stale television coming up, here's a mashup between Medium and The Ghost Whisperer! This bores the shit out of me and I haven't even seen a preview.
THE ENEMY WITHIN
A blatant rip-off of The Blacklist that doesn't even try. So I won't either.
Now, I am 100% onboard with Lil' Rel getting a TV show, but this? I can't even wrap my head around how bad the trailer is.
Oh hooray. Yet another legal drama with absolutely nothing going for it, even though it photocopies the concept of the fantastic Life by having it feature a former wrongly-convicted lead. Gag.
There's reaching for a concept and then there's this hot mess. If you've ever wondered what it would be like to have Justin Bieber move into your house, I guess this is for you.
I'm just going to come out and say it... health care in the United States of America is a festering pile of shit that is impossible to navigate and increasingly impossible to pay for. I'm sure this will come to a surprise to absolutely nobody, because we've all needed medical attention at some point in our lives... if not for us, for a loved one.... and then had to deal with the fallout.
Health care is a monolithic, byzantine maze of bullshit and corruption that's enough to make even the smartest person insane.
Take where I'm at, for example.
My health insurance deductible is huge. Thousands of dollars. I never get out of my annual deductible because I'm relatively healthy and, apparently, lucky. What this means is that I have to pay for absolutely everything medical-related out-of-pocket. But apparently I do get some kind of discount that's been negotiated between my insurance and my local clinic. What is this discount? Who the fuck knows. I've been trying to find out the cost of making a consultation appointment FOR TWO DAYS and have gotten nowhere.
This is how the system is designed.
The clinic doesn't want you to know the cost because you might not schedule an appointment if you knew. The insurance company doesn't want to commit to coverage for a future appointment, because they might need to increase their profits by reducing (or eliminating) their coverage before you see the doctor.
Which, if you live in an underserved region like I do, could take months to get an appointment.
What amuses me about this bullshit is that these are the bad things that people who don't want universal healthcare try and scare people with! It'll take forever to see a doctor? It takes fucking forever right now. We can't determine how much it will cost? We can't determine how much it fucking costs right now.
My issue isn't life-threatening. Well, I suppose it could end up there, but no... not really.
But what if it were life-threatening?
Well, the way it works in The United States of America is that you just have to sign on for treatment blindly and hope you don't have to declare bankruptcy so you can live.
And don't get me started about people who get sick and could be easily and cheaply treated in the beginning... but they can't afford it... so they wait and wait until they are near death and it's horrendously expensive to treat (if it's treatable at all) so taxpayers ends up paying for their bills because they end up losing everything. What fucking sense does that make? Give everybody healthcare so everybody is healthy and problems are fixed when they're cheap! As a taxpayer, I'd rather pay for what's cheap than what's horrendously expensive!
Maybe one day politicians will take a break from sucking lobbyist cock long enough to figure out how to make health care affordable for everybody.
Because the only people benefiting from the system we have now are insurance companies. And the politicians being paid off by insurance companies. Considering their health care is free and they don't give a fuck about anybody else, I don't expect them to stop sucking that lobbyist cock any time soon.
This is also how the system is designed.
And to think, just minutes ago I was thinking "Gee. What am I going to blog about today?" But, since I have cats, I never have to worry about that for very long.
Case in point?
A bird flew too close to the catio and Jake decided he wanted at it...
It's even more impressive when you see it from the catio side... Jake may have a couple extra pounds on him, but he can move pretty quick when he wants to!
The poor thing looked in really rough shape when I went out to see if he could be saved...
But when I got him turned over it wasn't as bad as I feared. He had slight damage on his right side, but the wing looked intact...
I pet him for a while to calm him down. Once his breathing slowed, I let him be. After a couple minutes, he tried climbing through the fencing, but couldn't manage it. This was making him panic, so I helped him through as gently as I could. He dropped like a stone to the outside of the catio...
I sat with him for a while, petting him until he calmed down again...
Since I had no idea how long he would need to rest up, I decided to make a box with food and water so I could put him on top of the catio where Fake Jake and other cats in the neighborhood couldn't get at him...
But when I went to put him in the box, he started squawking and flew away. I followed to make sure he was in a safe spot... only to find him in a very safe spot, camouflaged in my shrubs...
I'll check on him in the morning to make sure he managed to escape. If not, I guess I'll have to read up on how to nurse a bird back to health.
Of course now my cats are on patrol out in the catio waiting for another bird to come by. Hopefully this doesn't become a regular thing or else I'll have to look into adding a screen on the fencing.
Something I'm sure my cats will just love shredding.
UPDATE: Good news! When I went back in the morning to see if the bird was still there, he was gone! I looked all around to make sure he hadn't fallen out somewhere... but there was no trace anywhere. His wings worked fine when he flew away from me, so I think he was just stunned, tired, scared, and a little hurt. After a rest, he was probably okay. No thanks to my murderous cats.
For the past couple days I've been tearing my garage apart looking for some photography props I need for an upcoming project. Which is no easy task considering how much senseless crap I've accumulated over the years. Boxes and boxes and boxes of stuff I should have never saved, but kept anyway. Like I've got some kind of hoarding disorder.
Take for instance my travel souvenir collection.
When I first started traveling, I had no idea how many places I would end up going, so I saved absolutely everything. Every ticket stub, every matchbook, every brochure, every pamphlet, everything. My thinking was that this was the best way to remember where and when I've been. And that would have been fine if I only went to a handful of places... but I've been hundreds of places around the globe, and I've accumulated a metric shit-ton of crap because of it.
Five years ago I stopped buying souvenirs and saving crap because I've already got more than I'll ever look at. I just take pictures instead, and that's all I really need. Thank heavens. Because just look at some of this stuff...
At some point I decided it would be a good idea to collect baggies of sand from beaches around the world...
Eventually I switched to small Tupperware plastic boxes...
I just counted... I have sand collected from 38 beaches. Everywhere from Bali and Phuket to Key West and Maui. It's kind of wasteful to throw all of this sand in the trash, so I'm thinking of making one of those jars where you layer sand in them. Usually, it's colored sand... but I think it would be pretty with natural sand, because there really is a huge variety in color and texture when you stop and really look at the stuff.
Now-a-days this makes absolutely no sense, because I've got an iPhone that can pull up a map (with directions!) anywhere in the world. But back in the day? You had to get a paper map, and I saved up hundreds of them. Partly because I didn't want to have to buy a new map if I ever ended up going back to a place like Montreal...
But mostly because I love maps. Always have. I especially like custom maps, which is why I probably won't be tossing out cool ones I've found... like these from the various Hard Rock Cafes in Japan...
But all the others? Recycle bin.
• BOARDING PASSES
Remember boarding passes? PAPER boarding passes before you could just have your boarding pass on your phone? I do. It's not like I can forget when I've got hundreds of them piled up. Apparently at one time I thought it important that I remembered I flew to Detroit on September 30, 2003... but why?
LOL... to show just how old I am, you used to get your tickets sent to you in the mail!...
I remember how upset I was when so many airlines gave up on the nice, heavy cardstock passes and switched to those flimsy paper ones. A travesty! But of course I kept them all anyway...
If I had only flown ten times in my life, perhaps it would be fun to look back on all my trips so I could remember when I went on that trip to Phoenix... but during my prime travel days I was flying up to 40 times a year. Wanting to look back on that mess is just insanity. Besides, most of my travels are recorded with a date stamp on the photos I take... or an entry on this blog... so it's not like I need them even if I did care.
• HOTEL KEYCARDS
Honestly, I rarely kept these things on purpose. A handful of times I'd keep them if it was a particularly memorable or famous hotel... but I've got keycards from frickin' Holiday Inns?!?
Whenever I found them hidden away in a pair of dirty jeans when I got home, I'd just add them to the pile. Eventually I had a pretty big pile. Because I'm crazy like that.
Okay, these actually make a little bit of sense to hang onto. First of all, they're almost always free. Second of all, they usually contain interesting information of stuff you've seen and done. I have a big box filled with nothing bu brochures from Disneyland, Disney World, and Universal Studios. It's kind of cool to go back through old ones and see attractions and rides that don't exist anymore... or watch how the parks progressed over the decades...
Brochures also make for an interesting snapshot of the times. This ad ran inside a Disney World brochure during their 25th Anniversary, where they changed Cinderella Castle into a massive birthday cake...
It was hideously ugly... and I remember how pissed off people were when they went to get their picture taken in front of the castle and had to settle for this freak show instead. Fun times. Fun times. Anyway... I've got enough brochures to build a retaining wall in my back yard. And yet... I don't want to get rid of all of them... just most of them, so I'll have to set them aside and find time to sort through.
• HOTEL SUMMARIES
Why? Why? Why would I save these? I mean, I guess it's cool that I can look back and see that I stayed at the Park Lane Sheraton in London, but WHY?!?...
Also interesting? A room at the Park Lane Sheraton was just 150£ sixteen years ago. Now it's probably more like 350£. I've accumulated hundreds upon hundreds of these things... and now they're all lining my recycle bin.
Saving receipts for business trips became so second-nature to me that I automatically saved all my receipts... even for personal travel. Like this massive stack of Hard Rock receipts...
I shudder to think how many thousands of dollars are represented in these alone. What was I thinking? And it wasn't just Hard Rock... I saved everything! I found a receipt for a soda I bought in Tokyo, for heaven's sake. That I took it home with my is crazy... that I held onto it for twenty years is madness.
• CALLING CARDS
For whatever reason, I had a box that was filled just with calling cards. I must have had 50 of them. Some of them were freebies... others were a part of some bundle I had bought... and about 20 of them were in an "Inconvenience Packet" that you'd get when an airline screwed up and stranded you. Presumably so you could contact loved ones back home and let them know you would be missing dinner...
Now-a-days, of course, you just pull out your mobile phone, but it was a simpler time back then.
• UPGRADE CERTIFICATES
Because I flew a lot, I was forever getting perks that I could redeem... like upgrade certificates. Except any time there was room for an upgrade, I'd get the upgrade automatically, so they were kind of redundant. I tried using them a few times to guarantee my upgrade to First Class, but that never really worked because there were so many restrictions. But never mind all that, because I kept stacks of them anyway...
You'd think that since the above example expired in 2001 I would have tossed it in 2002... but nope.
• AIRLINE FREQUENT FLYER KITS
Now-a-days I don't even think you get a kit... unless you're a really top-tier flyer. But twenty years ago? They came like clockwork for me...
I have my Northwest Airlines kits from when I first became a premium frequent flier in 1994 (where I was a Silver Level) until they ceased operations in 2009 (where I was a Platinum Level). Why? You got me. What's really insane is that many years I got multiple kits. One when I turned Silver. Another when I turned Gold. Then another when I turned Platinum...
Insanely wasteful, but frequent fliers are an airline's bread and butter, so I guess it was worth it?
• AIRLINE NEWSLETTERS
If there's anything more insane than saving expired upgrade certificates, it would have to be saving airline newsletters...
I guess they're kinda cool because the ones from Northwest always had a summary of the places you've flown but, again, I don't know that having this information is all that useful unless you're psychotic about knowing the date and time of every flight you took.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg, I assure you. I've got enough postcards to plaster every wall in my house. I've got enough knickknacks, tchotchkes, keychains, pins, cards, and other crap to fill... well, to fill an entire garage. Which is what I've done.
And that's why I can't find the photo props I'm looking for.
Perhaps after another month of going through all this junk I will no longer be eligible to appear on an episode of Hoarders.
And, if I'm very lucky, I might also find what I've been looking for all this time.
It's a three-day holiday weekend! Except I had to work today, so it's not much of a holiday for me. But hey, I got to come home and clean out my garage for six hours, so it's not like I didn't have any fun.
Last Caturday I posted a photo of Jake all sprawled out and was asked if that's how he always lays down. The answer is "no, not always."...
But he does lay like that a lot of times now that the weather is getting warmer and I am trying to save money by not running the air conditioner unless I have to...
And he doesn't much care what people think about it. You'd probably lay spread-eagle too if it were hot and you were covered with fur...
Unless you're Jenny. She's way too much a lady to lay like that.
Speaking of Jenny, she's started getting a bit demanding lately.
So there I was last night, composing an email to head off a major disaster, when I hear the most pathetic WAILING coming from near my feet. I look down to see what in the heck Jenny's problem is, and it's... nothing. Miss Perfect Pretty Princess just wanted to lay down next to me but my computer was in the way. Jeez. You'd have thought she was dying or something. The girl knows how to get what she wants, that's for sure...
Jake doesn't complain, he just jumps up and pushes his way to where he wants to sit. Which means setting down the computer and letting him get his way...
The only one in this house not getting their way is me.
And also any fly stupid enough to wander in. The cats are both completely obsessed with hunting them down...
Jake and Jenny are surprisingly good at hunting flies. They're patient. And fast. And resourceful. They catch a lot of them.
Which is fine. Except when they eat the flies. So gross.
It may be the last day of the week, but this holiday weekend keeps on rolling... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Pooh! Of all the movies coming up, I have to admit that Christopher Robin is the one I'm most looking forward to at the moment...
With all the advancements in special effects, it's the ability to make films like this which impress me most.
• Whoa! Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder? Sign me up!
I'm not a romantic-comedy "romcom" kinda guy, but this movie will be worth seeing for the casting alone. Not in theaters, of course, but when it hits HBO or Netflix, I'm on it.
• Hotness! I've been running across a lot of treasures from my past as I work my way through my garage. As an example... look how brutally hot I was on my learner permit!
Yep... if I were legal in that photo, I'd do me!
• Togs! The closer they get to making Mon-El have his iconic comic book costume, the closer my inner fanboy gets to peeing my pants...
Almost there. Just need that waistcoat... then call it good!
• Thanks, Obama! Yes, I had problems with some of President Obama's policies... but I never stopped admiring him as a person. That goes double Michelle Obama, who was such an exemplary First Lady. So to say that I'm anxious to get my hands on her forthcoming book is an epic understatement...
The unabridged audiobook is available for pre-order at Audible. Since Michelle Obama is narrating all 14 hours of it, I couldn't press the purchase button fast enough.
• Quilt! Hey OG bloggers! Somebody made this incredible quilt for me back in the day, but I can't remember who it was? Does anybody know?
I'm hanging it up to display in my room, and I'd like to attach a tag with the author.
What are you still doing here? The bullets are over. They're over! Go home. There's nothing more for you here.
Hoping those who get a three-day holiday weekend are enjoying their day off. As for me? I get the luxury of only working a half-day, and I'll take it!
When you are remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country...
Please take a moment to remember those who are still missing in service of their country...
Enjoy that barbecue!
Yesterday was supposed to be the day I set up my wood shop in my garage so I can start in on my kitchen remodel. Unfortunately, my garage had more junk in it than I expected, so I'm still working on it. Amazing how even though I'm tossing tons of stuff there's still tons left. It's never-ending. I wish I could make a time-machine, then go back and tell myself "YOU DON'T HAVE TO SAVE EVERYTHING!"
The good news is that I have "help"...
Really hoping that this weekend I'll be done and my shop will be up and running. I'm burning precious time I need to get things done!
When I moved into my home, I ended up ripping out a lot of the plant life that was there. Not because I hate flowers, but because I am not home enough to take care of them. And I know better than to ask my cats to water them when I'm away.
The only plants I left were those connected to the automated sprinkler system. They were all healthy and look nice when they come into bloom, so it was kinda a no-brainer.
One of those plants is a massive hydrangea that overwhelms my back flower bed...
A month ago I got tired of this giant bush setting off the camera alarm whenever the wind blows it. So instead of pruning it back like I usually do, I just hacked it down to the ground.
I felt like Madonna taking vengeance on Hydrangeas of the world...
Earlier this week I was looking out into the catio to see what Jake and Jenny are up to and saw that THE HYDRANGEA IS BACK! Don't ask me how it could recover so quickly. The thing is already 4 feet tall...
And so... given how it came back from being massacred, I figure it deserves to be there more than I do. After the flowers are gone and I can cut it back again, I'll dig it up and move it to a place where it won't set off my camera alarm. If it can survive being hacked to the ground, surely it can survive being transplanted.
I had to work across the mountains today which meant getting up at 4:30am so I could be on the road by 5am. Given how horrendously bad Seattle morning traffic is these days, there's really no other option. Gone are the days of leaving at 6am and arriving in plenty of time.In another 5 years, I'll probably be leaving at 4:30am. It's getting that bad.
I wonder how quickly it will end up being faster for me to fly than drive, even when going through security and driving to the airport are factored in?
Whatever happened to the Star Trek future where we get to just beam ourselves to where we need to go?
Probably languishing in some vault somewhere along with the cure for the common cold. Shelved because oil companies and airline companies would become irrelevant.
And don't get me started about flying cars...
Happy Pride Month, everybody!
But especially to my hetero-challenge friends who mean more to me than butter.
And if this isn't the perfect thing to post for the start of Pride, I don't know what is...
Be happy out there, people.
And... I'm back home.
It was nice to have Friday away from it all, but I'm happy to see my cats again. Yesterday I tried to talk to them through the security system cameras and it went as expected. No matter how many times I try to get them used to it, they are still completely mystified by The Voice of God drifting in from nowhere...
I washed my sheets the same way and with the same detergent I've always used... but now, for whatever reason... Jenny is all hyped up over them. She's tunneling under them... biting them... clawing at them... and of course I encourage it because she's too cute about it...
ME: My new sheets don't have enough holes in them!
JENNY: Hold my beer...
Jake's entire day is made when he spots Fake Jake outside and can go running around the house trying to follow him around. Which is why I was greatly amused when Fake Jake came waltzing up to say hello and Real Jake was obliviously looking in the wrong direction...
Jenny dropped Mufasa the toy lion in the water fountain this last week, so I had to hang him up to dry. Jake wanders around looking for him, but ultimately seems okay chewing on Moose the Mule instead...
And, yes, Jake is still dragging Moose upstairs most nights...
Which is fine, except a couple of times I've nearly tripped and busted my ass... or twisted my ankle... because I've forgotten to look out for stuffed mules on my bedroom floor...
Life with cats.
Welp, my air conditioner has finally kicked in, so I guess that means summer is here... so I'm keeping it cool because an all-new Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Villains! It's no secret that I love the entire catalog of LEGO video games. They're not particularly challenging, but that's the appeal for me. I can shut my brain off and just enjoy things without stressing over it all. And now? DC Super-Villains...
So great. What's not so great? I don't have a system to play it on. Looks like a Nintendo Switch might be in my future. Once they drop to a price I can afford, that is.
• Goodbye to Film! Nikon stopped making film cameras back in 2006. Now Canon is Officially Done Selling Film Cameras After 80 Years. I honestly don't know how to feel about the death of film. My first "serious" camera was a Canon film camera that my parents gave me as a graduation present. I loved the thing, and was still shooting with it as early as five years ago. What I love about film is the mystery of it all. You don't know what you're going to get. Even if you THINK you know what you're going to get, there's a chemical reaction taking place that can make surprising things happen. Not that I am sad that the world went digital. On the contrary, it has made photography so much more enjoyable for me specifically because the mystery is gone. I know whether or not I got the shot immediately after taking it. And I don't have the expense of film and developing it keeping me from experimenting with new things. I can shoot hundreds of photos, delete all but the ones I want, then shoot hundreds more at no additional expense. And yet... the end of film is an end to an era which was some of the best entertainment I had for nearly two decades of my life.
• Flop! My television is on HGTV (Home and Garden Television) 90% of the time, and I watch all the home renovation shows. One of those that became almost too annoying for its own good was Flip or Flop. A show which imploded when its stars had an epic tabloid-worthy breakup that resulted in divorce. Now, a year later, they're back...
This past week the first new episode since their split finally aired. It was cringe-inducing awkward... but more entertaining than the show has been in years. And so... I guess I'm going to keep watching. But I fully plan on hating myself while doing so.
• Older! As I tear apart my garage to make room for my wood shop, I'm running across all kinds of interesting items from my past. Like my old Walkman!
And also? Rubylith masking film. Something I used by the car-load during the early days of graphic design layout. The mask was sticky and attached to a clear acetate layer, so you could create masks that can be stacked up...
Ah memories. But I wouldn't change music on my iPhone or computer layout for all the Walkmans and Rubylith in the world.
• Villains! As I started cleaning out my refrigerator, I found six... SIX... containers of mayonnaise open...
WHY?!?? HOW?!?? There are times that I think I might be bat-shit crazy. This is one of those times.
• Faith! Reelz, who has been churning out a steady stream of really good TV shows about tragic music stars, recently came out with new shows on George Michael, including their George Michael’s Lonely Life which was quite good. And reminded me about when George appeared with James Cordon for the first Carpool Karaoke, and James' reaction to his death...
Still sad that George is gone. His music at the end was every bit as interesting as when it began, and I was looking forward to more of it.
Happy National Cheese Day, everybody! I don't know about you, but I have been celebrating all day.
Cheese has been one of my favorite foods since I could eat solid foods. My most-loved cheeses are cheddar, parmesan, feta, American, and pepper-jack. My favorite time to eat cheese is "always." My favorite things made with cheese are sandwiches, pizza, and pasta.
I blog a lot about cheese, as you can tell when you Google Search my blog for it...
My menu for the day has been...
BREAKFAST: Cheddar Cheese Cubes, Scrambled Eggs and Cheese on Toast.
SNACK: Cream Cheese Bagel.
LUNCH: Veggie Cheeseburger, Colby-Pepper-Jack Cheese Stick.
SNACK: Grilled Cheese with Veggie Bacon Sandwich.
DINNER: Cheese Enchiladas with Yogurt Crème Fraiche, Nacho Cheese Bread.
It don't get much better than that.
Enjoy the celebration, y'all.
And lo, Apple did unleash another World Wide Developer's Conference this week.
Given my rapidly diminishing enthusiasm for Apple, I wasn't the least bit compelled to drop everything and watch it live. Instead I made it my after-dinner entertainment tonight.
Here are my thoughts on the parts that stood out to me...
If there's a promise for the future of computing that most people can see coming, it's augmented reality. Apple has teamed up with Pixar to create the USDZ file format for AR Kit 2. This is a fascinating advancement, and the fact that Adobe has grabbed it by the throat and promised support for USDZ in Creative Cloud bodes well for the format. Craig Federighi demonstrated customizing a USDZ guitar and dropping it into reality at actual size so you can visualize exactly what it will look like in your space...
Federighi then demoed AR "Shared Experiences" where two people were playing the same game from their own perspective, and it looks pretty amazing...
But the coolest demo? LEGO!!! They've shown how their physical models can be recognized by AR Kit, then expanded upon with virtual "sets" which are interactive in AR space. Then they showed how two people could explore the space with their own characters at the same time as your real-life model comes alive...
You can even look inside the physical model to see what's happening inside of it. Kids are going to love this. Especially LEGO-loving BIG kids like me!
The future of AR is mind-boggling. You just know that Apple is developing a headset for full VR/AR envelopment. It will be cool to visit the world... real and imagined... from your sofa.
I'm still sore from Apple discontinuing Aperture, but they're adding interesting features to Photos, including search, which I'm assuming is making use of their machine-learning algorithm. This will make it easy to dig through the bajillion images on my iPhone. Other features, like automatic image collaboration between iPhone users are also a step in the right direction.
I use Alexa on my Amazon Echo dozens of times a day because she can do so much stuff. I rarely use Siri because she can't really do much of anything. Apple seems to be aware of this, and is attempting to make Siri more relevant and useful. A big step up is "Siri Shortcuts," which allows Siri to be customized for your life, and even monitor your habits and schedule to suggest ways she can help out. It's all nice, and will probably encourage me to use Siri more, but my primary use of a digital assistant is home automation. Unfortunately Apple is married to their shitty, shitty "HomeKit," which I gave up on. Maybe if they start allowing other automation interfaces... like my ISY... I'd be able to use Siri for many of the things I use Alexa for.
It's kind of bizarre that Apple is advocating not using your iPhone so much, but once they sell you the phone, they probably don't care how often you use it. To that end, they've expanded what "Do Not Disturb" can do, added new features to slow or group Notifications, and even added "Screen Time" which can monitor and limit how much you use certain apps. Parents can use "Screen Time" to monitor, adjust, and allow/disallow apps on their kid's phones remotely... and restrict access to certain apps and sites. It's a great idea... but I wonder how many people will use it. They use their phone when they want to use their phone and it seems bizarre to set limits on that. Our lives are our phones now, for better or worse.
I rarely use Animoji. Apple adding the ability to stick your tongue out or customize Animoji to look like you with "Memoji" is probably not going to change that. It's fun, and very cool... but I don't see it getting much use from me...
Being able to put an Animoji over your head and add stickers live for photos is an interesting spin, however...
Maybe I'll be more apt to video chat if I can use an avatar like this and not have to worry whether or not I'm having a good hair day.
Group Facetime for up to 32 people at the same time is a pretty incredible technical achievement. The fact that Apple made the feature so smart is what makes Apple be Apple. When somebody starts speaking, they enlarge so you know who's doing the talking. You can also use Live Animoji or Live Memoji during Facetime calls. This would be a complete zoo, but an interesting one.
I always like to see how Apple Watch is maturing but, until they find a way to make it thinner on my skinny arm, I'm just not interested... no matter how many cool and useful features get added. Kinda sad how Apple has resurrected the dreaded "push-to-talk" and is calling it "Walkie Talkie." I frickin' hate push-to-talk because I don't want to hear people shouting to each other over a phone (or watch) in public. Aren't phone calls irritating enough?
I really like my Apple TV, but it's got a lot of problems that no amount of new features are going to fix. I can't tell you how many times I've had it lock up. Or be unable to stream a purchase. Or have the interface go all screwy for no reason. I reboot the dang thing so many times that I finally bought an electrical plug that I can control on my iPhone so I don't have to get up, unplug it, then plug it back in. When I contact Apple support, they tell me the problem is always, always, always my internet. So I switched from cable to fiber, which is ten times faster download speed. Still having problems. If bandwidth issues are such an AppleTV-killer, they need to have their apps be a lot smarter on handling it. None of the other apps on my AppleTV have any problems. Netflix, HBO, CBS, ABC, YouTube, Hulu... all of them just fine. So it's not the AppleTV hardware... it's Apple's software that's the problem. You'd think with billions of dollars Apple could get somebody to fix their shit, but no.
"We love the Mac! — Tim Cook says this every time he presents the Mac at WWDC. He pretty much has to say it because Mac users aren't seeing it. I am almost to my breaking point with frustration at just how bad MacOS has gotten. Printing is so screwed up that it's almost impossible to get work done. Way too many times I end up having to put my work into a PDF and send it to a colleague so they can print it on their Windows machine. Apple can blame printer companies all they want, but it's their OS updates which cause things to break. And lately Apple introduced a huge bug which makes your mouse pointer unable to access menus if you go to the very top of the screen. You have to move the pointer down on the menu bar in order to get a menu to work. WHAT THE FUCK?!?? does ANYBODY bother to beta test this shit anymore? Who the fuck releases such obvious bugs into an OS update? Apple. That's who. They may "love the Mac" but they are constantly shitting all over it, so you'll have to excuse me for not believing them.
Apple has been promising automated file stacking and organization for years... but the only place it was ever implemented was in the Dock. Now it's come to the desktop. This is a nice feature for people like me who make a huge mess out of their desktop on a daily basis. But this is the biggest new feature of the next
Adding handy tools to QuickLook is nice, but they aren't very smart about where they are putting their efforts. What about the third party tool you have to buy in order to modify file dates and manipulate other file data? THAT'S WHAT THE FINDER SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO! But instead we get the ability to trim a video clip in the Mac file manager? WTF? Handy, yes, but is editing video something you really need to do on the desktop? Is opening up iMovie really so difficult? How about adding new file tools to the file manager? Revolutionary, I know.
I actually use News on my iPhone, so I'm happy that Apple is bringing the app to my desktop.
I will say this again for those in the cheap seats... HomeKit is utter shit. Partly because AppleTV is totally inadequate as a hub for it. Mostly because it's so restrictive that anybody serious about home automation just doesn't give a shit about it. I tried HomeKit with my locks and couldn't wait to get rid of it. Unreliable, slow, and not nearly pervasive enough with manufacturers, Apple should just buy a company that actually knows how to do this and give up on their massive failure.
Apple's continuing efforts to protect its users' privacy is admirable. No matter how far they go, it will never be far enough, but I'm grateful for what we do get.
Machine Learning is one of those things that's incredibly useful, and the fact that Apple has been advancing in this area so rapidly is encouraging. And now they've created tools for analyzing datasets which make it easier than ever to get information into a machine learning environment. The possibilities here are mind-boggling, and one of the few exciting things to be happening in MacOS X. Whether it will get put to good use is anybody's guess.
Here we go with "We love the Mac" again. This time in the context of the question "Is Apple merging iOS and MacOS?" The answer is "no," but Apple is bringing more of the tools from iOS to MacOS so that iOS apps can be ported to the Mac. Which is great for developers. If your app can run on a phone, pad, and desktop, then this is a big step forward to making it easier to get there.
And that was the end of that. No new hardware released announced for the MacOS X side of things, which is hugely disappointing. Apple used to absolutely rule this arena. Even people who had to run Windows were buying Mac laptops to do it because they were just that good. But Apple doesn't seem to give a shit now... releasing "pro" equipment that's not what "pros" even want. Instead of true innovation we get a "touch bar" or some silly shit slapped on, which is just a weak effort to hide the fact that the base specs aren't much better than they were five years ago. Oh well. Apple had a good run, but I guess it couldn't last forever. Hopefully Adobe will port their software to Linux so I can switch away from Apple before they hit rock bottom.
Where's the ghost of Steve Jobs when you need him?
Flowers are out everywhere, which means my allergies are exploding, which means I'm drugged up on Flonase, Zyrtec, and Allegra all the time. This is better than the old days when I had to be drugged up on Benadryl all the time. Benadryl makes me so drowsy that I can barely stay awake to work. All I wanted to do was sleep.
If there's a bright spot to be found, it's taking pictures of it all with my iPhone. It's shocking how good the camera is on the X, and it kinda freaks me out that I get better photos from it than I do the last pocket camera I bought...
When I moved into my new home, the woman who owned it previously planted loads of pretty flowers in my back yard. Including the hydrangeas I butchered which have miraculously come back. Much to my surprise, it looks like I'm going to have flowers again. Don't ask me how. This thing was razed to the ground a month ago...
I had irises on the side of my house, which is nice, but they always fall over and last for only five minutes, so I don't understand the point. What I'd like to do is pull them out and replace them with more stuff like this...
Even though it's making my life an allergy-induced haze.
My favorite flowers are crocuses and California poppies. Perhaps this weekend I'll look into getting some of those. It would be nice if the front of my house looks as good as the boack does.
And so American Chopper is back. Which is more than a little surprising considering how the show ended... with the team of Paul Sr. and Paul Jr. split apart and very much not on speaking terms.
I used to love the show, and watched it religiously. It was creative fun and had motorcycles in it... what's not to like?
And then I saw this...
Which lead to this...
Memes crack me up.
My cats were driving me crazy every time it was close to breakfast or dinner time, because they don't want to wait for breakfast or dinner... they want their food now.
And so a couple months ago I had Alexa set alarms for 7am and 6pm every day so that my cats would learn not to bother me until they heard it was time. And it totally works...
Problem is that I can't set Alexa alarms for anything else or my cats will get confused and think it's time to eat.
Something I learned the hard way when I was baking bread last week.
The lady who owned my home before me loved flowers. She had them planted everywhere. Particularly impressive is the flower bed in the back yard, which is filled with roses and other beautiful stuff. She also had a bunch of flower pots in the front yard, but I removed them one-by-one as they died off because I'm not home to water them when I have to travel.
The flowers in the back yard continue to flourish because there's a water line that's connected to the sprinkler system. My front yard flower bed is just a bunch of river rock. I've always felt bad about this, because everybody else in the neighborhood has flowers out.
Last Fall as I was cleaning up leaves, I noticed that there was a water line poking up from under the river rocks. Turns out that there was automated watering there all along but it wasn't used for some reason. So I decided that this year I would plant some stuff so my home fits in with everybody else.
And yesterday was the day...
I didn't want to completely fill the front flower bed because that would cost a fortune... and I really didn't want stuff growing up next to the house where bugs could breed, so I decided to clear out a space in the river rock for my new flower bed. I found some nice grey brick to keep the rock from intruding. I finished building just as the sun was setting and it started raining...
This morning I woke up early to start planting stuff. After setting things up I realized that I didn't have the parts I needed to tap off of the water line, so I had to run to the hardware store... where I picked up another couple plants. I didn't notice that one of the of the purple things I bought was badly damaged, but decided to plant it anyway...
Everything turned out quite nice. I threw away the tags with the names of all the plants, but here is what I got...
Because I'm old, all that crawling around in the dirt left me pretty sore and I decided to call it a day and watch television.
So there I was... lounging around watching Ask This Old House when it occurs to me THAT I DIDN'T TEST MY NEW SPRINKLERS BEFORE I BURIED THEM! It would be just my luck that I screwed up the install and kinked a line or something, so I managed to get up off the couch (I am SO old), tell Alexa to turn on the water, then waddle out to see if they work. I am soooooo lucky...
And that's that. Now my house will be pretty just like everybody else's. And since all the flowers I bought are perennials, they'll be back year after year.
Assuming I don't end up killing them.
It's been yet another week full of hypocrisy and evil, but it's all good, because an all-new Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Two! I loved everything about the first LEGO Movie... except the ending. When they dropped into "The Real World," everything fell apart for me. With this in mind, I have mixed feelings about the sequel...
Yes, I'm excited to see it. But can we please just stick in the world of LEGO and let Chris Pratt be hilarious? That would be great, thanks.
• No Reservations. There wasn't much I didn't like about Anthony Bourdain. He was responsible for some highly entertaining television. He was a world traveler and advocate for better understanding and acceptance between cultures. He used his celebrity to advocate for worthwhile causes and draw attention to injustices. He was an incredible guest on any talk show he dropped by. He was somebody I liked and admired, which is why his death has hit me so hard. You will be missed, sir.
• Darkness and Light! I was never a fan of the Cloak & Dagger comic books. They all had the same story. Cloak & Dagger hunt down drug dealers. Cloak goes a little crazy because he's hungry. Dagger feeds him a light sandwich. Lather, rinse, repeat. On occasion they team up with other heroes, but their baggage is always the same. And now Freeform TV has created a Cloak & Dagger television show...
Now, I'm not saying that every super-hero show has to be packed with super-power fights... but there has to be something to make it interesting... otherwise it's just another boring TV drama I don't care about. And if the first two episodes of Cloak & Dagger are any indication, here's yet another boring TV drama I don't care about. Which is a shame, because the actors are very good.
• You! Other than an occasional song here and there, I haven't given much thought to Maroon 5 in years. But now they've dropped a new video for their song Girls Like You that's packed with more guest-stars than you can shake a stick at.
Not a bad song at all. And if you're having trouble putting a name to all the faces, here's a link for you. And, as much as I like it, this is not going to displace my favorite Maroon 5 video...
And if that's not enough Maroon 5 for you... here they are covering Bob Marley's Three Little Birds...
'Cause every little thing gonna be alright.
• NEWS: With deal to close this week, Bayer to retire Monsanto name
Well of course they are retiring the Monsanto name! Monsanto is fucking evil incarnate, and people were finally waking up to it. But now? Bayer is just the aspirin people! Evil + Evil = Bigger Evil.
• A Red Letter Day! As my final bullet of the day, I leave you with one of my favorite Pet Shop Boys songs that's woefully under-appreciated... and highly relevant to my life as of late...
Doesn't get much more Pet Shop Boys than that.
So long until next Bullet Sunday!
Too sore to get out of bed. Too tired to go to work. Too worried the cats will eat me to die and not feed them. Especially when Jake is looking at me like this...
And it's a Monday...
Now that I've finished a bunch of projects, cleaned out my garage, and prioritized my to-do list, I've finally converted my garage over to a wood shop. All I have left to do is hang up the dust barriers, and I'm good to start building! A month-and-a-half later than planned, but better late than never.
One of the first things I'm doing is finishing up the PHASE TWO catio projects that have been lingering since last Fall. It all started with a "Cat Ramp" I had planned to run up the side of the structure. I had built it months ago... it's just floor mats wrapped around a 1 × 6 × 10-foot board that was then glued and screwed to a pressure-treated 2 × 6 × 10-foot board... but I never got around to installing it.
Well, I finally did that...
Jake and Jenny absolutely love it. The ramp gives them an opportunity to use their claws to climb, so it's kind of like and really long scratching post they can climb and run around on...
As you saw at the end of that video, Jenny makes a death-defying leap across the catio, which is something I did not count on. Jake does it too...
They love the ramp so much that I've decided to not wait on the sisal pole and catwalk pieces I planned to add this Fall. I'll get started on those right away.
It's the least I can do to keep them occupied while I'm away from home!
I wrecked my legs working on my front flower beds and installing new security cameras last weekend. This morning I thought I was finally recovering a bit, only to find that I had pulled a muscle in my back as I was attempting to walk so I wasn't hurting my legs.
Essentially trading one pain for another.
Albeit a much much more painful one.
Most times Ibuprofen can handle it. But the minute I twist wrong or bend in a way my back doesn't like... unbelievable searing pain goes shooting through my back that hurts so bad I can barely breathe. The worst pain is when I lay down. It's so awful that I've tried sleeping while sitting up, but I can't manage it. My back brace helps, but not enough.
Not a great time to be Dave2 right now.
It would be great if I could just dope up on pain-killers and muscle-relaxers and sleep all day, but... off to work I go.
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark has long been one of my favorite bands. During the 80's I was pretty much obsessed with them, and their albums were in frequent rotation (even the much-hated Dazzle Ships). Needless to say, I was pretty upset when the band imploded back in 1988.
Sure Andy McCluskey carried on and released some albums I loved... Sugar Tax, Liberator, and Universal... but it wasn't the same without Paul Humphreys, and it seemed as good a time as any when OMD finally died in 1996.
But then... a miracle.
McCluskey and Humphreys reunited. Then released History of Modern in 2010.
It was amazing and I loved it. The follow-up in 2013, English Electric, was equally good. And while listening to the album this morning I was reminded just how good it was when I got to Night Cafe. Not just for the song... but for the video, which is both remarkable and disturbing in equal measure. It's a song I can't get enough of, and it surprises me just how overlooked a gem it is...
The next album, The Punishment of Luxury came out last year and was pretty great once all the experimental interludes were deleted. But it was no English Electric, despite some pretty great songs...
Back to life after this OMD musical interlude.
Or maybe just one more song first...
Okay. This has been a pretty shitty day for me, but there was one bright spot.
Over something I had almost given up hope on.
Something I wanted so badly.
I was upset when it was canceled.
I was doubly upset once I got around to watching the "bonus" episodes... the first of which is about as good as television gets.
So, THANK YOU NETFLIX, for rescuing one of the best shows on television! Cannot wait to see what Lucifer and Co. get up to next!
One of the first projects I put on my list once I got my wood shop set up was finishing PHASE TWO of the catio. The first part was the ramp, which I installed last weekend. The second part is a giant scratching post that Jake and Jenny can access on three levels... or climb from top to bottom as they wish.
When I drew up the initial sketches for the catio, the pole was already there and installation points were planned. All I needed to do was build the thing. Which was easier said than done, because neither Home Depot nor Lowes had round fence posts in stock. I'd have to wait until I was over the mountains and get it then.
Or so I thought.
A friend from high school on Facebook mentioned that the local farm supply carried them. And so away we go...
First step was to thoroughly scrub it down with soap and a wire brush...
Then it was time to fill all the cracks and sand it smooth...
After three coats of shellac to protect it from moisture, I went to see how it was going to fit and discovered it was too tall. And so...
Then it was time to wrap the entire thing in sisal rope so the kitties have something to claw on. I wanted to be sure that it wouldn't come loose, so I bought some cement to glue it in place. Not willing to trust that this would be enough, I stapled it along the way on the back side as well...
From using maths not quite forgotten (C=2πr) I knew I needed seven rolls of 50-foot, 3/8" sisal. The farm & feed store only had five, so the remainder had to be bought at Home Depot. It was slooowwww going, as I was having to glue-wrap-glue-wrap-glue all the way down...
Installation was pretty easy. I had wrapped brackets under the sisal... the ends were protected by shellac and silicone, and the spot I had designed for it was easily accessible. I added a third bracket to the top of the pole so it was secured to the ceiling as well. Once it was all screwed together I couldn't budge it, so I'm confident it will be safe for Jake and Jenny.
And speaking of the little monsters... Jake watched me install it through the window and ran out to start scratching on it the minute I opened the door. Looks like another catio success!
I have one final piece for PHASE TWO that I'm hoping to get to in-between other projects next month. Then, depending how long I'm otherwise occupied in my wood shop, it's on to the finale of my catio plan... PHASE THREE.
Until I dream up PHASE FOUR, of course. Lucky cat bastards!
UPDATE: And... Father's Day came early. Jenny just climbed the entire pole from bottom to top! So proud! Unfortunately, she was climbing opposite the camera, so I don't have video... but here's her little paws peeking out as she scaled to the upper shelf...
That she ran down the ramp I had installed last weekend is just icing on the cake!
Time to celebrate all the good that's left in the world, because an all-new Bullet Sunday starts now...
• The Carters! As if there could be any news bigger than Beyoncé and Jay Z dropping a duet album out of nowhere called Everything Is Love... there's the fact that they shot the first video for the single Apeshit in the frickin' Louvre. I mean, seriously! They rented out THE LOUVRE! Who does that? Who has the money to do that? Beyoncé and Jay Z, that's who...
Amazing stuff. Can't wait to get my hands on the finished album.
• Part Two! And so this popped up on the internet last week...
I have some thoughts...
Next up? Ant Man and The Wasp, which looks fantastic.
• Super! Here's the thing. With the exception of Wonder Woman, the DC Cinematic Universe has devolved into a heap of shit. Man of Steel... Batman vs. Superman... Suicide Squad... Justice League... they were all heinous crap that ignored huge portions of what makes DC characters so timeless and special. At the other end of the spectrum is the DC Television Universe (or Arrowverse, if you will) which has been killing it. Yes, Legends of Tomorrow has never quite worked... and Arrow has gotten stale... and the overall story arc for The Flash this past season went way too long and was ultimately pretty lame... but then there's Supergirl. It's been so good. And the season finale was no exception...
Is it too much to ask that the people in charge of Supergirl give us a Superman show? Preferably a show where the central character STANDS ON THEIR OWN instead of yet another team show? The movie Superman is going nowhere, while Tyler Hoechlin has proven he's the best on-screen Superman since Christopher Reeve....
DC should really just expand the Arrowverse into movies that don't suck. Because haven't we suffered enough? All I can hope is that we get another excellent season of SuperGirl. And a first season of Superman. Oh... and I would totally watch a Legion of Super-Heroes show too.
• 4K! I fell into a YouTube 4K HDR rabbit hole when I found out that my television can display them. Amazing stuff... even if you can't view 4K HDR. Here are some of my favorites...
But if you can watch 4K HDR on your TV...
• Beam! Don't get me wrong, I love my Sonos smart speaker setup, but there are some serious shortfalls that plague the system. Namely... it's stuck in the past. They've been clinging to optical cables for their PlayBar and PlayBase like a dead lemming, despite the fact that everybody else abandoned it a decade ago. And then this past week Sonos released a new product: Beam. Which is essentially a mini PlayBar that costs $399. But the biggest news? It's not using optical cable... it's HDMI ARC. Welcome to the future, Sonos...
It's a step in the right direction, but not a very big one. Still no Dolby Atmos or other modern sound technologies have been announced. On the contrary, they say they have no plans for Atmos at all. Instead we're getting IKEA furniture with Sonos built-in. Wheee.
Good luck getting Apeshit out of your head this week...
Everybody is laughing at the idea of spending billions of dollars we don't have on a "space force." But you won't be laughing when the alien invasion comes and we are DOMINATINNNNNNG SPAAAAACE!!!
Oh... you say aliens that are capable of interstellar travel will have technology that makes any "space force" we come up with about as threatening as a BB gun? Well... well... WE CAN STILL KEEP THE MEXICANS FROM INVADING THE MOON! HA!! CHECKMATE, HATERS!!!
Space exploration has always resulted in amazing technologies that eventually filter downward and make everybody's life better. I 100% support my tax dollars going towards organizations like NASA, who do a lot more than just push the boundaries of human knowledge... they also invest in technologies which keep us safe and help us to have a better understanding of the world we inhabit and (at least until the current administration) the dangers we face from the destruction we're causing to it.
Likewise, I also 100% support my tax dollars being spent on defense. Sure, I think it's insane that we have such a massive military complex when so many of the current threats we face can't be remedied that way... and it seems crazy that we have weapons enough to destroy the world a hundred times over and are told we still need more... but I want our military to always have access to cutting-edge technology which keeps them (and us) safe. So yeah, budget for that. Not military parades and golf trips on Air Force One, but that.
And now we're getting a space force?
We've got homeless vets, a stupid-ass 100% completely ineffectual wall to build, and legions of other problems that could use our tax dollars... but pew! pew! pew! pew!
I have no idea why I'm so addicted to home security. Probably because it goes hand-in-hand with home automation. But probably not because my home has anything worth stealing in it. I mean... I do have a nice camera and some Sonos speakers, so there's that, I guess... but my television and electronics and other stuff are all old. With the exception of my cats, there's nothing I really care about in my home.
All my furniture is IKEA, for heavens sake.
My home is totally blanketed in home security.
I have window, door, and motion sensors everywhere. I have a cloud-based security camera system... and a local battery-backed-up security camera system (just in case the power or internet goes down). I also have door-locks with intruder protection.
For somebody with not a lot worth protecting, I sure have a lot of security. Too much security.
Which is why it would be crazy to keep updating it.
I just did. Again.
Over Memorial Day there was a sale on better security cameras, so I went ahead and bought them. Then tonight I finally had the time to install them. The video quality is amazing. A considerable leap over what I had.
Sure it's overkill, but I have cats to protect!
Or so I keep telling myself.
Whatever the fuck this is...
My cats have been stalking each other as I sit here trying to figure out how to not say what I can't talk about. Every once in a while, one of them will make a break and a chase ensues. Then they are all over the house. The living room. The dining room. The kitchen. The stairs. My bedroom. Their bedroom. The guest bedroom. The catio. Then the tables will turn and the chase will reverse itself.
Truly the best entertainment that a can of sardines can buy...
And the best therapy.
I don't think there's anything that makes me smile quite so much as kitty claws on hardwood floors.
I continue to hold a candle for more Peggy Carter. Season two was a bit of a letdown, and I really hope that Marvel and ABC (hence, Disney) will bring her back for a limited series or some kind of special to give the character the send-off she deserves.
In the meanwhile... NEW LUKE CAGE ON NETFLIX TODAY!
I have only just started with the new series, but I am liking it so far. Netflix has had a few missteps with Iron Fist and The Defenders... but they keep killing it with the likes of Luke Cage, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and The Punisher. My big dream is that they develop a Hawkeye series with Jeremy Renner. He will never get his due on the big screen, but a Netflix series? Perfect fit. And if they take the story from the Matt Fraction and David Aja comics? It would be absolute magic.
And then there's Cloak and Dagger on Freeform Channel.
I had my doubts about the show, and said as much after watching the first two episodes. But then episodes three and four dropped. Could not have been more wrong. The show is smart, compelling, and seems to actually have a plan. Yes, the start was a boring mess, but it really comes together quickly after that...
Cannot wait to see how this all plays out.
And now, if you'll excuse me, back to Luke Cage I go.
Today I'm driving over the mountains again. Then, after a soul-crushing ordeal that will leave me wrecked, I'm turning around and coming right back home. Not the best way to spend a Saturday, but that's life for ya.
Fortunately I'll return to piles of work to distract me and two cats to delight me.
Now that Summer has arrived, most of Jake and Jenny's time is spent in the catio... watching birds and napping the day away. Which is exactly how I'd want to spend my days if I didn't have to buy food and pay a mortgage.
The sisal pole addition to the catio has been a huge hit. Jenny started climbing it bottom-to-top from the very beginning. Now Jake is into climbing it as well...
It's really amazing to watch them go climbing. They absolutely love it. I guess all cats do...
The money to add it wasn't too bad... $12 pole plus $50 in sisal rope plus $15 in glue... but the time to clean it, scrub it, prime it, protect it, glue it, wrap it, and mount it was the killer.
Still 100% worth it though.
Guess it's time to build the final part of PHASE TWO so I can move on to other projects for a while.
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, because an all-new Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Go West! And so tonight was the second season finale of HBO's Westworld. After being shocked to my core my the brilliance of the first season, I was really looking forward to what happens next. Unfortunately what happens next has largely been a confusing mess and a disappointment. All sympathy built up for the hosts trying to break free of their endless torture evaporated as psycho-Dolores lowered herself to the level of a human and wholesale slaughtered people by the hundreds...
But there were bright spots of course. The diversion into Shogunworld was a bit boring, but at least it was different. The return of "Ford" was a welcome treat. And then came episode 8, Kiksuya, which was a totally random departure, but absolutely beautiful to behold...
And then there was the finale.
I won't delve too deep into spoilers here for those who haven't seen it. But I will say that this season was a frustrating jumble of timeline jumps that were needlessly complex... and clumsy in execution compared to the first season. The finale didn't do much to make the more esoteric story beats any easier to comprehend, but it did wrap up some critical storylines and toss in enough twists to make me glad I invested my time in watching it. Here's hoping that the third season will try not to go so absurdly meta-philosophical and be more clever than obtuse.
• Paul! If you're even a casual fan of The Beatles, this is for you...
If you're a massive fan like me, it's really for you though.
• Batfleck! This article about DC's horrible handling of the Affleck Batman era nails it. How can you have a Batman at the end of his career be a part of a larger, continuing story? The Batman that Zack Snyder created makes absolutely no sense for The beginning of a franchise... Affleck or no Affleck... and it drives me crazy that Snyder was so sublimely oblivious to this fact. What? Batman is just going to be this old, broken, sad character on his last legs in every movie from here on out? So stupid. I've waited most of my life for DC characters to come together on the big screen... I've been dreaming about it since the Christopher Reeves' Superman movies... and I'll never forgive Zack Snyder for his heinously bad vision that ruined everything. All he had to do was look at the Bruce Timm animated shows (or decades of actual DC comic books) to see how Batman could work... both alone and in a larger narrative... but he decided to make something totally lame, incoherent, and just plain awful instead. He was the wrong choice for these films from the very start because he had no interest in portraying the characters as they are, but instead wanted to"put his own stamp"on them. And sadly, that's exactly what we got.
• Simba? This was made over a year ago. I am just now finding it. High-larious...
• Fan! Jake was hanging around while I was working in bed. He wanted to be petted, so I obliged for a bit...
Then the temperature started rising so I turned on the ceiling fan...
Jake loves airing out his junk, that's for sure.
• Act! Posted for no particular reason...
It's textbook, really.
And, on that foreboding note... time to finish up Luke Cage on Netflix! If you're not watching this, it's worth your time. The show is a slow-burn with incredible acting by a cast to die for. If Alfre Woodard doesn't get a truck-full of awards for her amazing work on Luke Cage, there's something wrong.
I work seven days a week but, alas, that doesn't mean Mondays are any better for me because... because... well, they're still Mondays.
And Mondays is when Carl the RoboVac resumes cleaning my floors after getting the weekend off.
Something that was easy to remember when my security system reported suspicious activity had been spotted on one of my cameras. I tuned in to see Jenny had climbed on the countertop in front of a camera once Carl started roaming, where she was eyeing him suspiciously...
No idea why she can't get used to Carl... but she still hates him after all this time.
Another reason I knew it was Monday?
Well... I had a bit of a lingering cough this morning and decided to take cough syrup for it so I can get some serious work done. And things didn't quite go according to plan.
For those who swig their medicine directly from the bottle because they don't have time to grab a measuring spoon, please be aware that cat anxiety medication looks the exact same as cough medicine in a poorly-lit kitchen from the back...
I bought the anxiety medication to sneak in their water in preparation for their vet visit this past February. For reasons unknown, I never put it back in the cat cupboard after their appointment was over and just left it on the window sill with everything else. Can you guess which one I grabbed and swallowed?
Not that I couldn't use some anxiety medication right about now. I have been going through some awful, traumatic times these past couple weeks, and it's really starting to wear me down. If I'm going to keep buying into the idea that everything happens for a reason, then maybe this was supposed to happen.
If I start licking my butt and peeing in a box*, I'll be sure to let you know.
Though, to be honest, I really shouldn't be needing any medication for stuff like this. Not when I have cats.
When I'm feeling all is lost.
And I have nothing.
One of my cats shows up.
And reminds me that I have everything.
Like this morning when I shook myself awake and Jenny showed up.
Jenny will happily fall asleep if I lay my arm across her and scratch her face. She loves it, and you literally can't do this long enough...
But the minute I stop? "HEY! I DIDN'T TELL YOU I WAS DONE!"
And then I have to give her mad love again because right now the only thing that makes me happy is when my cats are happy...
After Jenny left, Jake showed up for his turn...
And all was well.
Until I had to get out of bed and hop in the shower so I can start my day (and take cat medicine, apparently). Then Jake decided to show his displeasure by hopping up on the window perch and pouting at me.
I couldn't bear that, so I found Catnip Lobster to keep him company. He was still hugging it when I got out of the shower...
How much would my life suck without cats?
I honestly never want to find out.
*Well, licking my butt and peeing in a box more than I usually do, I should say.
One of the biggest surprises in television history to me was the show Trial and Error. I tuned in knowing absolutely nothing about it except that it was a comedy where John Lithgow was playing a hapless murder suspect in a small town. That's it. I don't even think that I ever saw a preview or an ad... I found it because it was mentioned in Entertainment Weekly or something.
It ended up being one of the funniest things I have ever seen.
I absolutely love the show, and watched each episode twice as I anxiously awaited the next one. It ended up being my third favorite show of 2017 after The Good Place and Lucifer.
When I heard that it was renewed for a second season, I think I actually screamed "YIPEEEE!" or some other trite phrase that only the whitest of white people say.
When I heard that Kristin Chenoweth was playing the murder suspect this time around, I think I actually peed myself. She was flawless casting. Flawless.
And then the trailer dropped...
I mean... holy crap. It looks like it may actually top the first season!
Is it wrong that I'm already praying for a third season when the second season hasn't even aired yet? Is it too much to hope that they could get Bill Murray to play the murder suspect?
I can't wait for July 17th!
Another trip over the mountains today.
This will be one of the hardest trips I've had to make in this life. I wish my cats could come with me, because oh so many days lately they've been the salve that soothes my grief... but I don't think they would do well on a car trip.
Not well at all. Though they love to sit and watch the occasional car drive by, I think a highway full of cars would be too much...
Sad to be leaving. It's so hard to say goodbye.
We were best friends from the start.
So many days spent being so grateful that I had such a kind, caring, wonderful person as my mom!
Love you always.
A lot of people can tell their moms "I love you around the world and back," but in my case it's literally true. She's been traveling the globe with me for almost twenty years on an annual vacation we take together. And since it's her Mother's Day gift, she gets to pick where we go and what we're going to do once we get there. Riding a camel at the pyramids of Egypt? Done it. Trekking the rainforest of Costa Rica? Done it. Climbing a glacier in Alaska? Done it. Exploring temples in Cambodia? Done it. Taken a safari in Zimbabwe? Done it.
My mom's love of adventure has always been a never-ending source of joy in my life.
And tonight I had to say goodbye to her.
Losing a parent is a soul-crushing, heartbreaking ordeal which creates a wound that will never heal. But as I sit here looking through hundreds of photos of all the places we've seen and all the things we've done... it's hard to stay sad. What time we had together on this earth was put to very good use, and you can't ask for much more than that.
The travel bug was something that bit her late in life. She ended up enduring a horrific tragedy that would crush most people, and her way of putting it behind her was to roam the planet. Mom wanted to see as much of the world as she could while she was on it, and would pore over travel magazines and TV shows for ideas all year long. And the things she would come up with for us were always interesting. I could write a book about it... maybe I should write a book about it... because the situations we often found ourselves in make for great stories.
But as many times as she would come up with something out of the blue (Vietnam?!?) she was not above wanting to return to old favorites. We ended up in Rome four times because she loved the city. Especially The Colosseum, for some reason, which we visited all four times. She also had this weird love of helicopters, and was always looking to see if there were helicopter rides available wherever we landed. I've lost count of how many times we'd end up lifting off into some incredible places with chopper blades whirring above. Maybe it was just being able to see the world from a different perspective? I dunno. I never thought to ask her about it.
About the only thing Mom didn't like about traveling was wrinkles. She was always up long before I was, ironing away on the day's clothing. When I finally bought her a travel steamer you'd think it was her own personal helicopter, because getting those pressed-in wrinkles out was just so much easier now. Anybody who knows me knows that I hate ironing and couldn't care less about wrinkled clothes, so that was the one thing I most definitely did not inherit from her.
But the wanderlust to roam the planet? That's all her.
Thanks for a lifetime of adventures, Mom. I'll love and miss you every day...
We had traveled to places like San Francisco, New York, Orlando, Los Angeles, and the like... but this was the first international trip we took. My mom had to get a passport, which she was very proud of.
My mom will rarely ask me to take a photo. Like... very rarely. This was one of those times. She really wanted a photo of her coming out of a phone box for some reason.
Obligatory Eiffel Tower shot. I knew that this is what mom's friends would most want to see when we got back, so I made her stand there for way too long so I could be sure I got a good shot.
My all-time favorite shot of my mom. Arizona was our first trip after a horrific ordeal she endured, and it was great to see her smiling and having fun again.
While in Sedona, we took a "Pink Jeep" tour out in the rocks. Mom asked our driver for this photo because she wanted to remember the time we took a trip together. Little did she know... it was just the beginning.
We're on a Caribbean cruise here at a stop in Tulum, Mexico as it rained and rained. We had a great time anyway. I am not a cruise person, but my mom loved them because you get to stop in a lot of different places without packing and unpacking.
Dunn's River Falls in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Mom was terrified of slipping and falling on the climb up because she wasn't sure-footed. She made it just fine, I, however, slipped twice. This was a triumphant moment for her.
New Orleans is my favorite US city, so of course I had to take her for beignets at Cafe Du Monde!
Obligatory Leaning Tower of Pisa shot on one of our five trips to Italy (which I think was my mom's favorite country to visit... it's certainly one of mine!).
Trevi Fountain in Rome. My mom threw in a coin and made a wish but wouldn't tell me what it was because she wanted it to come true. Years later when she saw this photo, she told me that she had wished for more vacations like this one. See, kids... wishes can come true!
A foggy day in Tuscany. Out of all our travels, this was probably the most disappointing stop. We really wanted to have our "Under the Tuscan Sun" moment, but rarely saw the sun the entire time we were there. Still had a fantastic time though... the food and history are incredible.
My mom wanted to go to Greece and bought a whole book to plan out the stuff she wanted to do... mostly centering around visiting the Greek islands. I said okay, and started planning. Then one day at work my mom calls me. She was looking at a map and "...noticed that Egypt is really close to Greece, so we should go there too!" I was going to explain that an inch on the map was actually hundreds of miles, but thought "Hey, I'd like to see Egypt too!" The logistics of such a trip were a little crazy, but about a week later I got a cruise brochure which included Greece, Egypt, and Türkiye. So there you go.
As we were making our way around the Acropolis area, this dog comes running up. Here is where I told my mom to stand still so the dog wouldn't feel threatened and possibly attack her. Then I took this picture for some reason. I was walking towards them when the dog ran up to my mom and she was petting him, so I missed that shot. She thought it was hilarious that I thought she was in imminent danger, but stopped to take a photo.
At the Mosque of Muhammad Ali in Cairo. Mom absolutely loved mosques because the interiors were always so gorgeous... and very different from all the churches she had seen. We visited quite a few over the years.
"I thought they would be taller!" said my mom... and most every other person that visits the pyramids.
Before we leave on a trip, I always ask my mom if there's something special she wants to do so I can be sure to arrange it. Since she was obsessed with reading travel magazines and watching travel shows, I didn't want her to miss something that made her choose to go there in the first place. For Egypt the only thing she cared about was riding a camel at the pyramids. She later told me that it was the reason she wanted to go to Egypt because it looked like fun.
The camel's name was "Daisy." As mom was forgetting things and our travels were fading away, she rarely forgot Daisy. Even when she did, I'd remind her of Daisy and she could start pulling memories out of the experience. Thank heavens I asked about what she wanted to do, because this became one of her most enduring travel memories and I would be gutted if she had missed it.
Mom was disappointed that Cairo was so close (it literally comes right up to the pyramids, which you can see if you look at Google Maps). She thought that they were out in the dessert somewhere and we'd be riding camels out to see them. We actually went inside of The Great Pyramid, which is a good story unto itself. I'll have to blog about it one day.
A stop at Ephesus in Türkiye. The crowds were insane, and it took several attempts to find a spot where I could get a shot where people weren't walking in front of her. I thought it funny that she wanted to bring her purse for this excursion, but she did that a lot. No idea why. I had all the money. Guess she just liked to be prepared. She had everything in there.
Mykonos, I believe? Not the first time mom asked a total stranger to take our photo... with my pricey camera. I was always worried that somebody might run off with it one day, but it always worked out!
Gorgeous sunset in Maui, one of my favorite places on earth.
I had my mom bring a jacket and gloves to Hawaii because I knew we'd be going to the top of Mt. Haleakala and it's cold. She was upset she didn't bring a hat and scarf, so we improvised with a Bad Monkey cap and a beach towel that were in the trunk of our rental car. We looked ridiculous, which is why mom insisted on getting this photo.
I have been to Hawaii many, many times. I always hope for an eruption so I can see lava. This is as close as I ever got.
This photo is deceptive on a number of fronts. First of all, the volcanic rocks are sharp, and falling could cut you up good. Second of all, you can't tell here, but there is a massive drop off a rocky cliff behind my mom, and if she had slid on loose rocks, she'd probably go over the edge and end up dead. Or severely broken. I was distracted taking photos and the next thing I know... there she was... being a total daredevil and completely unaware of it. So naturally I took pictures.
One of many, many helicopter rides we took. This time on Kauai. Mom loved helicopters to a crazy degree, so I always tried to get her a front seat. Sitting next to the pilot was her favorite thing.
"Do you think we can go down there?" Um, sure mom... we just need to rent a boat or hike miles and miles! From a previous trip to Kalalau Lookout, I knew that the it was mostly cloudy most of the time and that the saw-tooth ridge there photographs as a jagged black blob. And so I looked into HDR photography so I could pull some detail out of the shadows. This is the result.
Neither one of us were beach people, but hanging out on a really nice beach was still a great way to spend time in Hawaii... especially when there was nobody else there!
I had work in Orlando for many years... both for contract jobs with The Mouse and later for charity presentations. I'd often ask my mom if she wanted to tag along and we could stay an extra three or four days to play at Disney World. She never refused, as she loved to have something to do that wasn't work or sitting around the house.
I love Mickey Mouse, and will gladly stand in line for a half hour to get a photo op with him. Mom always thought I was nuts, but would stand in line with me without complaining. And she had to do so many, many times.
Of the many helicopter trips we took, this was our hands-down favorite. A ride up the Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska. Amazing scenery and a fun hike on top!
Mom had this photo on her dresser for years, but it got lost when we moved. I always meant to print out another one, but never got around to it. I try not to have regrets, but that's one of them.
On top of the Mendenhall Glacier. If you look next to my ear, you'll see hikers scaling the glacier in the background. We actually got in trouble here. The guide told us to have fun wandering around but stay close. So we headed out. Then the guide yelled at us to come back because he wasn't done talking. We were both rolling our eyes at that one.
My mom fell in The Icicle River when she was a kid and nearly drowned. She has been terrified of moving water ever since (but joined the Navy!). When I booked this eagle-watching rafting trip in Alaska, my mom (who was usually fearless and up for anything) was constantly telling me how worried she was and saying she didn't want to do it. I told her "fine, you can ride with the trailer driver to the pick-up point and I'll meet you there. When we got to the drop off and told the guide our plan, he walked out into the river... which was around six-inches deep. "If you fall out, you can always just stand up... it's not much deeper than this the whole way." Mom was then all "Well I can do that!"
You can't see it here, but our vests have names written on them. Mine was "Digger" (or something like that) and my mom's was "Buzzard" (which you can kind of see in the previous photo). She absolutely loved it, and I had to call her "Buzzard" for the rest of the trip. I got a lot of Eagle shots, which was amazing. We loved this so much that mom said she would do it again.
We took a float plane to a fish hatchery for bear watching... and I got some fantastic black bear photos. Mom had to inform me that the plane ride was more fun than she thought it would be, but she'd still rather ride in a helicopter.
We had a day's layover in Atlanta before flying to Barcelona, so I took us to World of Coke. My mom was a serious fan of Coca-Cola, so it was kinda a no-brainer. She loved bears, so we had to stand in line so she could get a photo with this one.
My mom decided she wanted to go back to Italy after watching the movie "Only You" starring real-life couple at the time Robert Downey Jr. and Marisa Tomei (decades before they would appear together in Spider-Man). In the film Fisher Stevens plays a roofer trying to find out what happened to his wife, so he calls the credit card company to find out where the charges on it were from. They tell him and he says "Positano? Where's That?
My mom told me on several occasions that The Colosseum was one of her favorite spots. And so we went back again and again. I'd ask her why she loved it so much and she'd say "I don't know... I just do." When I told her that maybe she was a gladiator in a previous life, she thought that was funny and started telling people that when showing this photo.
After standing in line for yet another Mickey Mouse photo with me on a Disney Cruise, mom saw a line for Donald Duck and said she wanted to get a picture with him. "Really? You like Donald?" I asked. "Sure! We were both in the Navy!" she replied. What you don't see here is that "The YMCA" by the Village People started playing and Donald grabbed my mom's hand to get her to dance it with her. So, yes, I totally have photos of my mom doing The YMCA with Donald Duck.
Eating Fettuccini Alfredo at the restaurant where it was invented... Alfredo alla Scrofa in Rome. It is my favorite restaurant on earth, and I never pass up a chance to eat there.
Santa Margarita Legure, I think? I was trying to gain weight in preparation for a medical ordeal where I'd always drop
Pirate Night onboard the Disney Magic. Mom and I were totally up for the pirate bandanas they handed out. We were probably the only ones who kept them on for the whole dinner. We were goofy like that.
Okay... on our first trip to Venice, all mom wanted to do was take a gondola ride. But when we arrived in the city on a gorgeous day, I was not feeling well and asked if we could wait until tomorrow. So we did. And it rained every day afterwards. So she didn't get her gondola ride and I felt awful about it. So when I got free tickets to Europe anywhere British Airways flew, I asked her if she wanted to go back to Venice for that gondola ride. Of course she said yes. I was worried the entire flight that it would rain the whole time (again)... but the weather was absolutely gorgeous. We're in the shadow of a building here, but once we got out on the Grand Canal it was fantastic. It ended up being a really fun trip, so I was glad we went back.
Aruba. I love taking pictures of storm clouds and was taking a lot of them when I looked over to see where my mom was. That's when I saw this, her pink sweater and blue jeans standing out against the gloom!
At a turtle farm in Grand Cayman. I asked mom if she wanted her photo taken with a turtle. She said "no" because she thought it would be mean to the turtle... but a guide there said they weren't bothered by it, so she relented. After we got home and she saw this photo she told me "I'll bet that guy was lying, that turtle doesn't look happy at all."
After a dozen trips to Disney World for work, I was tired of doing the same thing over and over and stopped going to the parks. This trip my mom came along, so I knew we'd be visiting them and so I was asking co-workers if there was anything new to do. I was asked if I had done the "Wilderness Trek" in Animal Kingdom, which I hadn't. It's a kind of "behind the scenes" tour of the fake 'Africa' they had built. We both absolutely loved it. Here we are harnessed up and ready to go.
Mom climbing on a hanging bridge over gators (or crocodiles?). She thought this was an absolute riot. Me, being afraid of heights, was slightly less enthused. Disney went to great lengths to make the journey seem perilous... breaking boards on the bridge and having the netting fall away and stuff... but it was Disney, so 99% safe. But it looked dangerous and cool.
After we finished the "Wilderness Trek," my mom was gushing over how much she loved it. One of the cast members said that if she liked this, she'd love an "Adventured by Disney" vacation! You know... one of those hideously expensive vacations where everything is Disney-fied and the opposite of what I want on vacation? Mom, of course, loved the idea.
Mom got the Adventures by Disney brochure and declared that she wanted to go on the Africa trip. It was heinously expensive, but I thought "Hey, I've always wanted to go to Africa!" and so I called them up. Alas, the only times I could go were sold out, so I asked mom if we could do it next time and have her pick somewhere else. So here we are at a cooking class in Vietnam.
We made those lanterns! Adventures by Disney is geared towards families with kids, but they have trips which are "Adults Only." Needless to say, I booked the first "Adults only" trip because the last thing I want on my vacation is a bunch of screaming kids. But here's the thing... even though it's an "Adults" trip, the itinerary is the exact same as the "regular" version... so there are lots of activities geared towards kids that you get to do. Like lantern-making. We both loved it.
Mom loves animals and won't hesitate to get her picture taken with them. Our resort in Hoi An has an ox that rakes the beach smooth each morning. When my mom found out about it, she wanted to go meet him. And so here we are... up at some gawdawful time in the morning. Mom asked the guy what the ox did when he was done with work... "eat and sleep!" we were told.
Another crafting project. This time we got to pick out a paper maché mask and paint it. Mom had them hanging in her room for a while, but I eventually took them down when she didn't know what they were any more.
Remember what I said about mom hating wrinkles? Here we are in our perfectly-pressed tai-chi exercise outfits, because mom was up ironing them at some ridiculously early hour. Oddly enough, it was while ironing these that I remember my mom having her first serious memory lapse. She was standing there with an iron in her hand and it was like she forgot where we were and what she was doing. It passed quickly, and so it was forgotten. Little did we know that it was just the start.
Mom rubbing a turtle's head for luck in Vietnam. She always thought the perspective on this photo was funny.
The mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi. Normally, you can get a ticket to view his preserved body inside, but "Uncle Ho" was out for his annual cleaning, so we didn't get to do that. Mom said "I don't know why, but I would have liked to have seen that."
Getting ready to offer Buddhist monks some rice as they make their morning processional to a nearby temple. Mom and I were totally into it... nobody else seemed to care. That happened a lot. We loved new and different things.
Many great photos as we climbed up to the temple. Here we are taking a break along the way.
Mom having big fun with an ox again. And once again she was concerned that the ox was working too hard and was asking if he got to have fun after he got off work. "Of course," the Adventures by Disney guide said.
"Do you want to feed him?" they asked. "Sure!" mom said... "Do you have some soap and water so I can wash his face first? He can't have lunch with a dirty face!" Holy crap I loved traveling with my mom. If you ask me why, it was moments like this.
And here we are in Cambodia. As we went hiking around from temple to temple, I kept asking her if she was tired and wanted to go back to the hotel. "No. I want to see them all!"
The next day, still trying to explore every temple in Cambodia.
And... Africa (two years after mom had asked about going... we had a cruise around South & Central America and through the Panama Canal before this). At this point my mother couldn't make new memories. Our lovely guide was so wonderful about it, and never let on when my mom would introduce herself five times a day. Eventually he told me that one of his wives had the same condition, so he was used to it. Fate, as it turns out, is always the best guide.
Mornings in Africa were surprisingly cold. Fortunately, we were well-prepared. Because she got cold easily, I packed her different sweaters and jackets for layering. As it started getting warmer and warmer each day, our guide would say "Pat, aren't you getting hot? Can I take your jacket?" Mom, without missing a beat, would respond "I just put it on because I'm cold."
When you can't remember where you are or how you got there, seeing elephants outside your window is an amazing thing. Which means my mom was in a constant state of disbelief... "My goodness! There are elephants out there!"
The sunsets in Africa are some of the most beautiful I've ever seen. After this photo, my mom asked if we were going back to the house or if we were going out to eat, which I found really funny for some reason. "Well, we're in Africa and our house is thousands of miles away... but we might be able to find something to eat back at camp." "Oh. That would work too."
Hiking around Victoria Falls (or Mosi-oa-Tunya, as the non-colonizer locals call it). We also took a helicopter ride over the falls, of course. Her memory may be screwed up, but she totally loved it... as I knew she would.
The end of our last trip together... high tea at The Victoria Falls Hotel in Zimbabwe where we were staying. It was a good run.
Our last vacation together was to Africa in 2014. When her health declined too much for trips like that, I tried to come up with something a little closer to home. I had booked us a trip to the Dakotas, since North Dakota is the one state I haven't yet been to, but it had to be canceled. In many ways I'm thankful for that. Africa is a heck of a place to go out on, and the memories made that final trip are some of the best travel memories I have.
Where my mom is at now, I don't know. Hopefully it's someplace at least as amazing as all the places we've been.
When you've unloaded your life on the internet for fifteen years, it probably seems hypocritical to claim to be a "private person," but for me it's still true. Rarely does my blog touch on my personal life, my work, my family, or my offline friends. That's entirely by design, because there are some things I'd rather keep to myself. Not just for me, but out of respect for the privacy of everybody else connected to my life.
Long-time readers were probably surprised to find out that so many of my travels which have been documented here on Blogography were made with my mother, because I never mentioned her being with me at the time. The reason for this is long, complicated, and nobody's business... but... at the same time it really should be everybody's business. Partly because it may help others who are going through a similar trajectory, but mostly because there's a lot of inspiration to be found there.
For all the time we've spent together over the years, my mom was never given to talking much about her life before I came along. I know practically nothing about her years growing up, and I honestly don't know why that is. What little insight I have is from old photos I've run across or out-of-the-blue comments that would pop up. Once while we were out for breakfast I ordered my eggs over-medium instead of scrambled like I usually do. Mom took that as an opportunity to mention that when she first got married and was cooking breakfast for my dad, she'd throw out eggs with broken yolks because she didn't want him to think she was a bad cook.
And so it went for as long as I knew her.
When things didn't work out between my mom and dad, she moved to a neighboring city. I ended up moving there with her because I was attending college there at the time. After a year of starting a new life for herself she spent most of her time with her boyfriend and was rarely around, making her the perfect roommate.
I spent way too long trying to figure out what to do for a career, but eventually found my way to graphic design. Once that had been decided, I took a job offer with a brand new company that was starting up in San Diego. It was sent my way via an ex-girlfriend who was living there, and seemed like an opportunity I couldn't pass up. The opening was seven months away because offices were still being built, so I asked my mom if she wanted to take a trip before I left. She had accompanied me on work-trips around the US from time to time, but this was to be a grand vacation in Europe... visiting London, Edinburgh, and Paris. We went. We had a great time. And I was happy to have some terrific memories before leaving home.
Not long after returning, it came to light that her boyfriend was a heinous, abusive, shit-stain on all humanity. And my mom's world fell apart. I'd say this "man" was garbage, but that would be an insult to the bag of cat shit I just tossed in my trash can. I maintain to this day that prison was too good a punishment for the atrocities he committed, and consider anal warts to be a higher form of life than him on his best day.
My mom never fully recovered.
She blamed herself for not seeing what he was... blamed herself for not knowing what he was hiding... blamed herself for everything and anything because that's all she had left. On the day she got a phone call from her now-ex piece of crap demanding she come bail him out of jail, I knew that San Diego would have to wait. First I had to try and get her the help she needed. This involved attempting to carry her down the stairs of her apartment, which I was not capable of doing. I essentially ended up dragging her down the stairs as she was sobbing uncontrollably. She couldn't walk. She could barely breathe. Days later I saw how badly she was bruised because I was not strong enough. It was the first time I felt as if I had completely and utterly failed her as a son. It would not be the last.
Months later as she was slowly... so painfully slowly... recovering from the trauma that life had thrown at her, she asked me if we might go on another vacation together one day.
You also now know why she was never mentioned as I documented our travels on my blog.
I didn't want her disgusting pig of an ex to know anything about her or what she was doing, even though deep down I loved the idea that he would know she recovered from his abuse and managed to live a great life without him in it. She had crawled out of the wreckage, picked up the pieces, and did the best she could to carry on. Sure all the fantastic places we traveled had helped, but make no mistake that it was her strength, determination, and drive that were ultimately responsible.
This was not the life she had hoped for, but it would be good enough.
At least for a while.
A decade after our European vacation, her memory started failing her. She would chalk it up to having "senior moments," but after a while it was becoming a problem. She would write herself notes constantly. More notes than anybody could ever read. She'd go through a pack of Post-It's in a week (eventually she'd go through a pack in a day). Then, three months before we were to leave for Africa, I woke up and found her wandering around in a daze. She was so confused that I thought she might have had a stroke, and rushed her to the hospital. But it wasn't a stroke.
The specialist was not entirely sure what had happened to have caused the "permanent brain injury" which my mom was now dealing with. He didn't think it was Alzheimer's, but couldn't know for sure. Subsequent sleep studies found that she would stop breathing for dangerously long periods in the middle of the night. Her doctor felt that oxygen deprivation was most likely responsible for her brain trauma. He immediately started her on a CPAP machine, but the damage had been done.
There was no reversing what had happened, and her slide into dementia had begun.
And now it was my turn to have my life fall apart.
First thing I had to do was get a note from her doctor so I could cancel our trip to Africa and get a refund from the insurance company. "Why would you want to do that?" he asked me. Well... probably because her brain was incapable to making new memories and it would be a horribly confusing ordeal for her. But her doctor thought canceling would be a mistake. Since her older memories would be preserved for a while, he thought she would be able to go and still have a good time. Sure she would remember absolutely none of it, but that wouldn't stop her from having fun at the moment.
And so we went.
It was bizarre, tragic, and beautiful all at the same time. Every morning we'd wake up and she wouldn't know where we were or how we got there, but then she'd see an elephant wander by our tent (or whatever), remember that we had been planning a trip to Africa, put two-and-two together... and, surprise, we must be in Africa.
And, no, the irony of an animal that supposedly never forgets helping me come to terms with a mother who always forgets is not lost on me.
It's funny how things sometimes work out.
I am beyond grateful that we had taken that first trip to Europe, because that showed her she could have fun in life without her boyfriend in it... right before her boyfriend was carted off to prison.
I am even more grateful for her doctor encouraging me to take her to Africa despite her brain damage... because it showed me that her life was not done yet. Yes, things would continue to fall apart, but I didn't just writer her off after diagnosis like I probably would have if we hadn't gone to Africa.
Everything after returning home is a blur of heartbreak and tears as I struggled to figure out how to help my mom have the best life she could when life was throwing every possible obstacle in her path.
Eventually her apartment wasn't safe for her. Those same stairs I had dragged her down years before became a barrier to getting her in and out of the apartment. So I bought a home in the old neighborhood I grew up in where she could be in a familiar area (so that's why he bought a new home!). I had to install security cameras all over my home so I could keep an eye on her while I was at work (so that's why he has all those cameras!). My mom was scared and lonely when I wasn't there, so I decided to get some cats to keep her company (so that's why Jake and Jenny are there!). It goes on and on. Every day was a new challenge. But it's my mom and I love her, so what else was there to do?
I'm not going to sugar-coat it, dealing with dementia is a horrendous ordeal, and just when you think you have a handle on it, things get worse. They always get worse. And then there comes a point where you don't think that your life will ever be anything but worse.
After six months in my new place, my mom was declining badly. She was on a host of drugs to help her with the depression and confusion, but they sometimes only worsened what they were supposed to be helping. Mom would become angry for no reason. She'd scream at me because a son shouldn't be kidnapping his mother. She'd pound on windows to try and escape. She'd start crying and couldn't stop.
One day she complained of chest pains. Thinking she was having a heart attack I ran her to the ER. It wasn't a heart attack, it was constant stress generated by never-ending confusion. Her doctor was very concerned.
But not for my mom.
He was concerned for me.
"What are you doing? You can't take care of her like this." And he was right. My entire life had become about trying to keep my mom from going off the edge, but I didn't realize she had already fallen off. And I was falling with her. It was then I knew that she should have been put somewhere that could help her months ago, but I would never admit it to myself because admitting it would feel like I was giving up on her.
After weeks of searching, I found a place I could live with where she could live.
Driving her across the mountains to her new home was about the hardest thing I've ever had to do. Maybe it is the hardest, I don't know. All I do know is that it felt worse than any heartbreak I've ever had and I spent a lot of time after wanting to die.
But it was just a warm-up for what was to come.
When it comes to dementia, things always get worse, remember?
There is nothing... and I mean nothing... that can prepare you for that moment where your own mother doesn't recognize you. You can read all the books that exist on dementia... you can think you are prepared and be able to accept it when that day comes. But you're wrong.
If you want to know what that's like, there just aren't words to describe it. There is no pain... no suffering... that will cut you quite like it. This video might give you the smallest inkling of how it goes. The whole thing is worth watching, but you can fast forward to 23 minutes in if you want to see what it looks like when somebody has been completely and utterly destroyed...
And that was me.
Sitting in the parking lot of my mother's memory care facility trying not to die of a broken heart.
They say that when it comes to dementia you say goodbye twice, and that's absolutely true. I said goodby to my mom when everything that I was to her was gone. I said it again last night when she died. The first time was a lot harder because it was the one that matters. Relatively speaking, the second time was easier because it was just saying goodbye to the body of who my mom used to be.
And so now you know.
The reason my blog stopped on June 4th, 2016 is because I had to find a home for my mom. The reason it didn't really start up again until October 31st, 2016 is because that's how long it took for me to recover from it. You can fill in the blanks on all the entries after that where I'm having a bad day or feeling depressed or didn't feel like blogging.
Tomorrow's Bullet Sunday will be bullets talking about what I have learned in dealing with dementia. Which is almost nothing, but it still might help somebody out there who is going through the same thing. I don't think it will be published tomorrow, but when it is published, that's what it will be.
To my family and friends who have helped me so much over these past years... sometimes without even knowing it... thank you. I could not have made it through without you.
To my mom's doctors, nurses, and all the people who work at The Cottages Memory Care in Mill Creek... thank you. I cannot fathom how you manage to do what you do with such compassion and grace, and am more grateful to you than you will ever know.
And to Jake and Jenny, who gave me a reason to get up in the morning after my mom had moved out (and almost certainly kept me from killing myself on more than one occasion)... thank you too. I mean, I know you're just cats, but you're still far better humans than a lot of people I know.
And so... until whenever I start feeling a little more like myself, take care of yourself and each other.
Sad though my life may be right now, the bullets must go on. And so an all-new Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Thank you and remembrance. First of all, thanks to the many, many people who sent their condolences. It never ceases to amaze me what a great group of friends I have online. Second of all, for people asking where they can send a remembrance donation in my mother's name, please consider the Cure Alzheimer's Fund. It is estimated that somebody develops dementia every 65 seconds in the United States alone. We have to find a cure. This charity gets a perfect rating from Charity Navigator, and 100% of the money donated goes directly to dementia research. My mother's name is Pat Simmer and if you have a couple bucks to spare, you can donate in her name to the Cure Alzheimer's Fund here.
As I had explained yesterday, dementia is a horrific idea that forces you to reexamine everything. Relearn everything. And while I didn't find the books I read to be very helpful... and I feel as though I learned practically nothing... I thought I'd run out some bullets with my experience.
• Don't wait to have a power of attorney assigned. A lot of life decisions and financial decisions will need to be made that won't be able to be made by a person suffering with dementia. I wasted no time getting my brother and I assigned power of attorney so that we could make those decisions when the time came... because it always comes earlier than you'd think. The scary thing about POA is the potential for abuse, so it's essential to get somebody whose heart is in the right place and will always have their best interest in mind when making decisions. It's okay if that's not you. Recognize if that's not you.
• Be sure you are an owner on all financial accounts. Even the most beloved small-town bank seems out to screw you over, so make damn sure your finances are in order very early in the game. When my grandmother died, we found out that a Power of Attorney becomes invalid after death and, even though my mom was a signee on my grandmother’s account, she had no access to the account upon my grandmother’s passing. So... when I became Power of Attorney on my mom’s account and had that added to her checks, I had learned my lesson. I went into the bank and asked to use my Power of Attorney to add myself onto the account NOT as a mere signee, but as an owner. I was told "we’ve already done that." And when I logged into my mom’s account online, it appeared that was true, because my name was right there. Well, guess what? Turns out I was only a signee on the account after all, so now I have to go through all the bullshit I had to go through for my grandmother. This is outrageously stupid. If the situation is such that a person IS NO LONGER ABLE TO CONTROL THEIR OWN FINANCES AND THEY ARE SURRENDERING POWER OF ATTORNEY, IT SHOULD BE AUTOMATIC THAT THEY ARE ADDED TO THE ACCOUNT AS AN OWNER. And if banks don’t want to MAKE that automatic, then they at least owe it to their customers to point out that they need to do this so that the POA can control the finances to pay off final bills and expenses after death. I HATE banks. HATE HATE HATE them. Mostly because I have never understood their motivation in screwing over their customers. For the love of God, ditch your bank and find a Credit Union that is interested in serving you, not some board of directors. I'm not saying that they will be any better about making sure your loved one's accounts are accessible after death, that's up to you, but at least they won't be actively working against you for whatever reason banks choose to act against you.
• Hope for a miracle... be wary of miracle cures. From the minute the doctor dropped the dementia diagnosis, I was all about tracking down that miracle cure. I scoured the internet for anything the even remotely showed promise. I spent hundreds of dollars on everything from CBD oil to miracle juices to coconut oil to herb mixes... all in the hopes of halting or reversing her condition. Needless to say, it all ended up being a load of crap, and books like Awakening From Alzheimer's: How America's Most Innovative Doctors are Reversing Alzheimer's, Dementia and Memory Loss were essentially snake oil (which I would have probably tried if I read snake oil was the new miracle cure). Desperation to save somebody you love makes you want to believe anything, and there's no shame in trying alternative medicines if they make sense to you. But be careful you don't get sucked into losing more money than you can afford to lose. Because there's a lot of money to be lost out there.
• Question medications and mood changes. My mom has always been a kind and gentle soul. But near the end of her time living with me, she would lapse into fits of belligerence and anger. This can happen with dementia, and I had just written it off as her condition progressing. But it turned out that was not the case. At least not for her. She was prescribed loads of drugs to keep her calm and out of depression. When she ended up in the hospital, they cut all the mind drugs... all of them... and she was back to her normal kind and gentle self within a week. And she stayed that way until she passed. I'm not saying that you should ignore all doctor advice when it comes to medications... I'm just saying that if you see serious personality changes popping up, consult with your doctor to see if they have ideas about reducing or changing the drugs they're on. My life would have been so much easier if my mom was "clean" those last few weeks of living with me, but I didn't know to question what was happening.
• Don't intentionally create confusion, even if you're doing it for the "right reasons." Needless to say, coming to terms with dementia was not an easy thing. I didn't want it to be true. I needed for it not to be true. And every once in a while some little thing would happen that had me convinced she might be getting better, even though deep down I knew it couldn't be. So I'd come up with little tests to see if it were possible she had improved. Things like asking her if she wanted a Coke, then pulling up to a mini-mart and asking her to run in and buy a couple bottles. Then waiting. And waiting. And waiting. All in the hopes that she would come out with those damn bottles. But she wouldn't. Of course she wouldn't, because she couldn't remember why she had gone into the store the minute she walked inside of it. Which means I'd have to go in and get her. Turns out all I'd done is needlessly confuse her in an attempt to make myself feel better. Helping somebody with dementia means doing everything you can to keep confusion to a minimum. At this point, it's about all you can do and the biggest kindness you can offer them.
• Take breaks. Find a way to laugh every day, even when you don't feel like it. If there's one thing I'm certain of, it's that being a dementia caretaker is a lot harder than actually having dementia. You will be pushed to your limits... a lot. Caring for somebody with dementia is like a black hole from which you can't escape. But you simply have to. You risk losing yourself if you don't. I didn't have anybody I could have come give me a break, so I worked with the local council on aging to apply for a nursing service. I was able to get a few hours a month paid for, but if I ever needed a break or had to travel, I paid for it myself. And if I didn't have the money? I put it on my credit card. Something I hate doing, but couldn't not do. There were days I felt as though I would never laugh again and, as things progressed, I was honestly wondering if I could feel happy again. It became such a serious concern that I promised myself to find something I could laugh about every day. More than anything else I did, this helped me feel human again. The day that my mother no longer recognized me was the most painful day of my life. I went home and watched Eddie Murphy standup until I could laugh again because it's so vitally important to keep your ability to do so.
• Don't discount the rest of their life (or yours) after diagnosis. Once the doctor dropped the dementia bomb, it would have been incredibly easy to consider my mom's life to be over. But let me repeat what I said yesterday... her life was not done yet! Look at the last photo I posted on my travels with mom post...
At this point, my mom could not remember anything new. The brain mechanism for recording memories had been destroyed. All she had right here is most of her old memories... and that moment. She was happy and having a nice lunch even though she had no idea she was having high tea at the Jungle Junction Restaurant at the five-star Victoria Falls Hotel. She didn't even know she was in Africa. And the minute we left the restaurant, she would have absolutely no memory that this had ever happened. And yet... I would remember. I would remember her being happy even though she didn't realize she had no reason to be happy. Her life wasn't over. There were still good times to be had.
• Recognize when you can't be a caregiver anymore. I didn't. The fall off the dementia cliff happened over years, so I didn't recognize how bad it had gotten until one of my mom's doctors pointed it out to me. As it turns out, I probably should have found a facility for my mom months... maybe even a year... before I did. And yet, I have no regrets. My thinking was that the longer I could keep her with me, the better her quality of life. And maybe that was true. She was still recognizing me as her son, so having a friendly face has to be a benefit, right? In any event, when it's time... it's time. I am very, very lucky that my local hospital made the process be as painless as it could possibly be. First of all, they made it known that I needed to find a place as soon as possible... but they never threatened to force my mom out of the hospital. Second of all, they had an amazing, amazing staff helping me search the state for the best facility "fit" for my mom, taking in consideration her retirement savings, my budget, her Navy pension options, her Social Security monies, and what aid she was qualified for. And I took my time. I considered eleven facilities... and visited seven of them across the state... before making my decision. Because of that, I never felt bad about where she ended up because I knew I had put in the effort to find the best place possible.
• The best option may not be next door. When it came to finding a home for my grandmother, I picked a place that was literally two minutes from my home at the time. My thinking was that it would make it so easy to visit whenever I wanted. The problem with that is that I felt obligated to visit more often than I wanted. Not that I didn't love her... I loved my grandmother more than just about anything on earth... it's just that you can't let the sunset of their life become too much of your life. Had I been smart, I would have put her somewhere further away where visiting was more of an event than a constant chore. Your mileage may vary, of course. Perhaps you need to have your loved one close by, and that's fine. But for me? Having my mom being further away was much, much better for my health and mindset. No matter how bad things got, I looked forward to my visits because they were happening every two weeks instead of every two days.
• Make their home a home they're recognize when they can't recognize it as home. When my mom was living with me and really started to slide, the home she was looking for was the home she lived in when she was six years old with her mom and dad. Obviously there was no way I could make that happen. And so I tried other ways. Having her personal effects out in the open where she can see them helped. But the best thing I found? Photos. Not necessarily of family (though I did that too) but of herself. I had big photos printed on canvas of all our travels and hung them everywhere around my home. The brighter and more attention-getting the better, because she always seemed to recognize herself. So when she would see herself everywhere, she'd be able to figure out that this was where she was supposed to be. This ended up being so helpful that I actually hung photos of her over the windows. Because what's outside the windows could be confusing. Pictures of herself? Not confusing. When she moved into a memory care facility, I took the pictures off her my walls and covered her walls with them. For several months, she had something to talk about with her caregivers because she could still kinda remember them. Even once she didn't remember, they were still cool to have there for her visitors and the staff caring for her.
• Abolish glass everywhere you can. This may seem obvious, but it wasn't to me. When I moved into my new house, I bought all new dishes. For whatever reason, my mom kept breaking them all. Eventually I replaced all plates, bowls, glasses, and cups with shatter-proof melamine dinnerware from Pier 1. I got rid of picture frames and went with canvas prints because she was breaking those too. Anything breakable... especially if it could harm them after breaking... has to go. For things I couldn't put away... like the glass in my IKEA hutches... I covered with clear contact paper front and back so if it were to break it would be held in place instead of flying everywhere. You can do that with actual windows too, though most windows are tougher than you'd think.
• Keep an eye on their feet. Loose carpeting and area rugs are accidents waiting to happen because people with dementia have a confusion which is always distracting them. The first thing I did when I moved into my new home was have all the carpeting ripped out. It made things so much easier. But it's not a bulletproof solution because they can still trip easily. Do whatever you can to minimize this wherever you can. I kept my home as sparse as possible with little to no clutter.
• Surveillance cameras are as handy as you'd think they would be. In the earlier years where my mom was a bit confused yet still had some memory and was able to function on her own, I was still able to go to work because I set up security cameras everywhere so I could check in. These cloud cameras are getting cheaper every day and can be bought for as little as $30. I went with Nest Cams, which are considerably more expensive than that (and the cloud storage is even more expensive)... but they were easy to set up, allowed me to create motion zones so I could be alerted when my mom when places she shouldn't, and were an overall godsend for my peace of mind.
• Make as many moments as you can. Four years seems like a long time. But I assure you that the four years from June 2014 to June 2018 went very quickly as my mom's dementia progressed. Milestones happen and you don't even know it until they've passed. The last time we saw a movie in a theater. The last time we ate out in a restaurant. The last time we'd go for a walk. The last time she'd ride with me in my car. The last time she recognized me. The last time her eyes were open. In every case, I never knew it was the last time. So if there is something that you enjoy doing together... do it often, because there will come a day that they can't do it any more. I regret that my mom's last drive was to the dentist. She loved going for drives, and it would have been awesome if we could have went somewhere nice for her last time. But I waited too long after I saw she was starting to have serious difficulty getting in and out of the car, so it never happened. Not that she would remember any of it... but she might have had a nice moment at the time... and I would remember.
• If you're Catholic, plan ahead. My mom hadn't had anything to do with the church for decades, but she was raised Catholic and if you were to ask her what religious affiliation she was, that's what she would tell you. I don't know whether or not receiving "last rights" (or "anointing the sick" as it seems to be called now) would be important to my mom, but I wanted to cover that base just in case. This was a problem though, because my mom's old church was 2-1/2 hours away. The religious director for the hospice company we were using attempted multiple times over three days to get a priest from different local Catholic churches to come. No priest ever did. I was told somebody from the church would call. Nobody ever did. Needless to say, I was absolutely livid. Not because I give a shit... I'd just as soon not have a priest anywhere near my mother. I was livid because it might have mattered to her. And so... unless your loved one is in the vicinity of a Catholic church that knows them so there's a priest who gives a shit, plan ahead. Find a parish and build a relationship with a priest long before you'll need them to come for last rights. Otherwise? Apparently saving immortal souls is only something priests care about if you were a member of their church long enough to have made it worth their while on the donation plate. Because of this I went from loving the Catholic church, to being an apologist for the Catholic church, to being indifferent about the Catholic church... to now actively loathing the Catholic church.
• Just plan ahead, period. Because my mom and I had spent so much time together and were so close, I knew what her wishes were and what she would want for herself once she couldn't make decisions for herself. This is not a luxury everybody has, so you have to do the work. Go over every possible decision. Get an advanced directives document drawn up today. Start looking at facilities before you actually need one. You can't anticipate everything... Lord knows I didn't... but the more you can take care of ahead of time, the better off you'll both be.
• If a pet will help you, make sure you have a pet. If you need help, make sure you get help. Jake and Jenny kept my mom company and me sane while she was living with me. They gave me a reason to get up in the morning after she left. I seriously question if I could have survived all this if it weren't for my two cats. There were times I thought I should be in therapy to help deal with everything that was happening. I never pursued it. I should have. No matter how strong you are, dementia will test you like nothing else will. Be sure you're strong enough to face it because you're no good to anybody if you're not. Whether that means cats... or a dog... or therapy... or whatever... don't forget to be a caregiver to the most important person in all this. That would be you.
This is just the stuff off the top of my head, and my experience won't be the same as everybody else's experience. But maybe it will be of help to people, I dunno. It's a mere drop in the dementia bucket, but collect enough drops and you can fill that bucket.
Take care of each other, everybody.
When it comes to death, we humans have a crazy variety of customs, superstitions, and rituals. Most people would agree that a lot of them are really weird, which is to say that they're weird to you To other people, maybe it's your customs that are weird.
My beliefs are a bit complex, largely falling into Buddhist ideals, but sometimes straying into the other belief systems which have shaped my thinking. Buddhists believe in reincarnation, so death is just a natural thing that happens... like a flower that blooms, dies, then returns year after year. While I don't know that I believe in reincarnation, I do believe that death is natural and nothing to be afraid of. I also believe it's not the end of you, though what happens to the energy that was you I do not know. I'm actually glad about that because it means there's one final mystery solved when you leave this earthly plane.
When I die, I honestly don't care what becomes of my body. I'm not there anymore, it was never anything really special to me, and it can get tossed in the garbage for all I care. I do like the idea of having my ashes spread over Mt. Haleakala in Maui though... just in case my friends want an excuse to take a vacation.
My mom was raised Catholic, so I am doing my absolute best to act according to what I believe her wishes to be. The whole "last rites" thing was a bust because apparently Catholic priests have better things to do than serve their flock now-a-days, so I'm already off to a bad start. I know she wanted to be cremated. I know she didn't want a church service. I know she wants to be buried in her plot next to her parents. Everywhere else I'm just filling in the blanks the best I can.
And it's been a bit weird, I don't mind telling you.
The local funeral home here went out of business one week before my mom went into hospice. I was really saddened by this, because the guy who ran it is the brother of a friend and I really appreciated how he helped me out when my grandmother passed. And so I found a new funeral home by doing a Google Maps search near my mom's care facility, picking the one that looked the nicest, and then dropping by to take care of everything. Years ago I had bought my mom's car from her and put the money into a funeral insurance policy, so the money to pay for everything was already there.
I sat down with the funeral director where I was served a plate of freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies. Assumably to provide comfort to grieving clients. Which... I must admit... it actually did. Or maybe I was just hungry because I hadn't eaten breakfast that morning. In any case, they were some really tasty cookies.
While the lovely person handling my mom's final affairs was off photocopying her birth certificate, Navy discharge papers, and all that kind of stuff, I started looking around at all the urns and casket options when I saw this...
That's right... for a hefty chunk of money, you can turn your loved one's remains into jewelry! Remember when I said that this was all a bit weird? This is what I was talking about. I mean, how does that go? "My that's a lovely pendant you're wearing!" — "Oh thanks... it's grandma!"
But that's just the beginning. You can also get your loved one fingerprinted and turn that into jewelry...
"Do you have any wishes for your mother's remains?" — "Yeah... book 'em, Dano!"
And lest you think that your pet has been left out of the fun... you can also get paw-print jewelry and even nose-print jewelry made! I mean, hey, I love my cats and all, but I can't picture a scenario where I would want to wear Jake and Jenny's noses around my neck.
After nearly an hour of cookies and paperwork, it was ultimately decided mom would be cremated then put in a nice metal jar I selected. I'll then pick up her ashes at a later date and have them interned in her plot just before concrete is poured for her marker, then say one last goodbye to the remarkable woman that will always be my mother. And check in with grandma and grandpa next door, of course.
I have decided against any kind of graveside service. I feel badly about that because I'm sure there's many of mom's friends who would like to say goodbye and have closure. But it would be just my luck to have her fucking pig of an ex-boyfriend show up, and I think it would be in bad taste to have a murder occur as she's being laid to rest. So... instead my family will set aside some time at the next reunion and remember her then. I like this idea anyway because a lot of people will already be there and not have to drive hours for a ten-minute goodbye.
And so... plans made. I guess I'm done with all the weirdness then, right?
LOL. No. There was a call from the medical examiner which was another bucket of weird to deal with. I won't go into all the details of my spilling details... but I will say that it was surprisingly thorough and specific. As if they suspected foul play. Which had my mind racing in a dozen different directions. Have there been a slew of "accidents" at mom's care facility? Has there been a chain of suspicious deaths surrounding my mom's doctor? Who knows. But my mom used to read mystery novels by the hundreds, so I kinda like the idea of her getting one final mystery before leaving this earthly plane.
I currently have 146,427 images in my photo library. And while they are all fairly well organized by date and location, I tend to rely on the facial recognition in Adobe LightRoom if I'm trying to find a picture of a person. It does a pretty good job, though there's a lot of room for improvement. Fortunately there's a "training mode" where you can fine-tune the algorithm's picks.
Take for example pictures that LightRoom thinks are me that are actually me.
And... some pictures not so much of me.
So... pretty good job, actually.
And yet... Apparently I look like a skeleton doll... a painting of a grody old saint... a statue of some Thomas Jefferson looking guy... a drawing of a woman in curls... and a black blob.
Among other things.
No accidental comparison to Ryan Reynolds this time, however. Just a woman in curls.
Sometimes technology lifts you up.
Sometimes technology kicks you in the balls.
It's hard for me to celebrate the psychotic wasteland that the United States of America seems to headed towards, but I do my best. Despite it all, I still love my country... or rather the potential of my country... so what else can I do?
Try to make it better, I guess.
Not so easy given the way things are, but since when is anything worthwhile easy?
If you're not registered to vote, now's the time you want to get on that.
This morning I went to brush my teeth and forgot what I named the light above my bathroom sink. It was all "Alexa, turn on the... uhhhh...
Now, before you think it's insane that I can't remember "Bathroom Light" you have to understand that I have two bathrooms. The downstairs bathroom has "Bathroom Light" (above the sink) and "Shower Light" (above the shower). Since you can't give two different lights the same name, I had to call the lights in the upstairs bathroom names that are kinda esoteric. The light above the shower is "Spa Light" and the fan above the shower is "Spa Fan." The light above the bathroom sink that I couldn't remember is "Throne Light." "Throne" as in "Toilet" because my bathroom has a toilet in it, I guess (hey, it sounded better that "Toilet Light" at the time). I would have named it "Sink Light," but that name was already in use for the light above my kitchen sink.
So... yeah... couldn't remember "Throne Light."
Rather than set my toothbrush and toothpaste down, then try and remember which of the three switches controlled the light above my bathroom sink, I did was any home automation addict would do.
"Alexa, turn on ALL LIGHTS!"
You do not get to judge me for turning on every single light in my house so I didn't have to brush my teeth in the dark.
Well, you can judge me, I'd just prefer that you don't.
It's not my fault that Alexa is not location aware and can't understand commands like "Turn on the light in the room I'm in." Maybe one day she will acquire such smarts, but she's just not there yet.
I'm just happy I can tell her to lock the front door downstairs when I'm lying in bed upstairs and all of a sudden remember that I forgot to lock it after I took the garbage out.
As a movie-lover, it's tough to put my finger on my favorite films. Such a list would change from day to day depending on my mood or what I find entertaining at the moment. Sure, some movies will always be near the top (there's no way that Field of Dreams is ever going to drop off my favorites) but I don't think I would even attempt a definitive list for the ages.
That being said, there are many films that I love watching over and over that would not rank highly on such a list if I were to make one.
Like Eddie Murphy movies.
I simply cannot pass them up when I see them pop up on my television. And when I'm looking for a movie to run while I work, Eddie's films comes up far more often than others...
Despite being enormously talented and having this uncanny ability to make mediocre movies into something fantastic, it's not like Eddie is perfect, however. I mean, films like Meet Dave, Pluto Nash, and Holy Man seem to suggest he's not exactly worried about missteps.
Last night Eddie Murphy movies came up in conversation and we were all trying to decide on our favorites. This is pretty much what I came up with...
This list doesn't include his standup.
Oh man I hope he does at least one more standup movie before he retires.
When it comes to my cats, I am the absolute worst kind of parent. Rather than enact strict discipline in my household, I always take the path of least resistance because I find it incredibly difficult to tell Jake and Jenny "no" to anything.
It wasn't always this way. I started out with all kinds of rules. My #1 Rule has always been to keep the cats out of my kitchen... for two reasons. The first is that this is where there front door is located, and I didn't want them to wait there and run outside as I came and went. Second of all is because this is where I prepare food, and I didn't want kitty germs and cat hair all over my counters. I went to great lengths to keep them out. Even going so far as to purchase Scat Mats to electrocute them when they walked across them. Well, "shock" not "electrocute" but you get the picture.
Unfortunately, my cats were smarter than Scat Mats...
Yes. Jumping over the mat. Who'da thunk it? But that wasn't even the start. They would also drag things over the mats so they could walk across without getting shocked.
And so... they were allowed in the kitchen since there didn't seem to be an easy way to stop them. Oddly enough, they stopped hopping on the kitchen counters once I let them in, so I am declaring myself the voctor here.
It goes on and on.
Most all my rules have been tossed out the window. About the only one I have left is to not allow them outside, but they've got a catio for that, so I'm not sure I won that battle.
The latest battle I've lost? Letting them play in the cat food cupboard.
I made the huge mistake of storing all the cat food in a lower cabinet. It's all sealed up to keep it fresh, so they can't really get into anything, but I still try to keep them out so I don't have to clean up all the stuff they drag out of it...
What's interesting to note is that my cats know the difference between the food packets and the treat packets.
They will pull food packets out of the cupboard, but the only packets they try and open are the treat packets. Food packets never leave the kitchen. Treat packets are dragged and thrown all over the house...
This morning when I woke up, I heard a ruckus downstairs. I knew what was going on before I even looked at the security cameras...
There was Jake, throwing around a treat packet trying to break it open since he can't find a way to bite it open.
Usually, I run downstairs and take it away because I have a rule about not letting them mess around with food like this... but... well... another rule down the drain. Who am I to deny them fun times like this? I've bought toys which they have ignored that cost a lot more than a bag of treats.
And speaking of treats... Jake loves air conditioning. Loves it. The minute he hears the AC kick in, no matter where he is in the house, he will run as fast as he can to get to the vent above the cat tree so he can bask in its coolness...
I've posted this photo (or a photo like it) before, but here's Jake showing his true love of cold air...
And since we just can't seem to get enough Jake this Caturday...
There I was, working away, when I have to stop so I can check my security cameras and find out which cat is responsible for the foul-smelling dump that just got left in the Litter-Robot. Because this is my life now.
Turns out it was Jake (big surprise). BUT HERE'S THE PART WHERE I FREAK OUT, BECAUSE AFTER HE TAKES A DUMP, HE SITS THERE STARING AT THE CAMERA LIKE HE KNOWS I'M GOING TO BE LOOKING. JUST LOOK AT THIS SMUG LITTLE BASTARD! ALL PROUD OF THAT POOP HE JUST UNLEASHED!
Oh gawd... why in the hell are you reading my blog? Who needs to know this stuff? What is wrong with you?
See you next Caturday!
Everything in the world seems to suck... but life goes on, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Science Fiction! One of my all-time favorite bands is the Thompson Twins. I maintain that Quick Step and Side Kick, Into the Gap, and Here's to Future Days is one of the best trifecta of albums released. Not bad for a band that considered themselves to be a joke. Eventually lead singer and writer for the Twins resurfaced for a series of 80's flashback tours. He ended up having so much fun that he decided to write new material... sticking to the slick hooks and 80's vibe that made his work so popular. And now there's an album coming from Tom Bailey called Science Fiction. If the single What Kind of World is any indication, I'm going to love it...
Only have to wait five more days...
• Coaster! That Kayla is a lucky girl...
Who needs Disneyland?
• Gaston! And speaking of Disneyland... whomever hired this cast member struck gold...
The rides are cool and all that, but it's the people at Disney that make it theme park magic.
• Coaster! And speaking of theme park magic, take a look at this amazing video...
The riders are lucky that the camera and selfie-stick didn't fly out of his hand and kill somebody... but... very cool.
• MALKOVICH! How did I miss that Spike Jonze and Jordan Peele accepted a fan theory about a link between Being John Malkovich and Get Out? Then Peele confirmed that he now considers it to be true?
Bizarre! Which is what you'd expect when Being John Malkovich is involved.
• NOT MALKOVICH! Now, I hesitate to compare any film to Being John Malkovich, but this sure looks like a contender in the bizarre department...
So cool that there are people trying to do something different in movies... and that there are studios supporting them.
• Triple Header! I still have no idea how Luca Stricagnoli does what he does. You'd think that his brain would explode trying to do so many things at once...
Beautiful. Amazing how his interpretation just keeps getting better and more complex as time goes on.
And that's all she wrote for bullets this Sunday. See you again in a mere seven days.
My cats are too weird... when they are apart. When they are together it's an entirely new level of weird.
When I first got my cats as babies, they were inseparable. Probably because they were scared to be in a new place... but their bond lasted well past the time they got used to their home. You would never see one without the other, and one would always follow the other wherever they would go.
Eventually they decided to live separate lives. Sure their paths cross all the time, but they don't feel the need to constantly be together. Jenny, in particular, is happy to find a private spot to sleep or play where her brother won't bother her. Fortunately my home has two levels, so there's never a problem for them finding a way to escape from each other.
And then over the past month something strange started happening. Jake started following Jenny around like old times... playing where she's playing, sleeping where she's sleeping. At first Jenny was irritated by this and would leave the second she felt he was crowding her. But in the past couple of days she's had a change of heart. Sometimes when she absolutely should not...
Because they absolutely don't both fit on the same platform like they used to...
And it's not just on top of the cat tower... Jake will climb onto whatever space Jenny is occupying...
And lest you think that Jake doesn't return the favor...
I am very, very grateful that my cats get along. But there are times I think Jenny probably wishes Jake would just leave her alone.
Jenny went from a kitten who would never let me touch her to a cat who wants to be petted all day long. She's still terrified of other people, but loves to hang out with me.
What's great about Jenny is that she will absolutely let me know exactly where and how she wants to be petted, and will contort herself into a pretzel to make it happen. And if I am petting her wrong or in a way she doesn't like, she'll paw at me or kick at me to let me know. There have been times she'll paw at me or kick at me because I'm not looking at her as I pet her. The little diva wants my full attention and not some half-assed distracted petting.
Most days now she will clean up after breakfast then run upstairs to hang with me while I'm working in bed. I don't get as much done when I'm working one-handed, but I don't mind because it's a nice way to start my day.
Every once in a while her purring will stop as I'm petting her and I know that she's fallen asleep...
This morning she fell asleep on my foot, which means I can't get up. Sure I could waker her and try to explain that I have to go into the office or else I can't earn money for her food, shelter, and toys... but something tells me she won't be having it.
And so I guess I'm late for work today.
I can always make money putting cat videos on YouTube, right?
Blogography may be screwed up for a bit, but I'm still blogging!
After twelve years of suffering through my current web hosting provider, I'm moving to greener pastures.
When I first investigates Media Temple, they were more expensive than others, but billed themselves as a "pro" solution and were hosting some of the biggest sites on the internet. I figured the extra money would be worth it, and signed up.
And, for a while, I think it was worth it. They offered tools and goodies that most others were not, and their support was very good. I didn't like my annual bill, but I liked everything else.
Then they moved to a new "grid" architecture, and it sucked ass. Basic stuff like... oh... I dunno... SITE BACKUPS were gone. Downtime was rampant (and they never felt like reimbursing you for the time your site wasn't available). But they kept promising that they were working out the kinks and that the missing tools would be restored, so I stuck with them.
After two years, things stabilized. Downtime was still happening, but it was okay for a personal blog. And then? That was it. They just coasted along and nothing changed. And that backup tool? Oh... it's still coming!
A decade passes and I'm still fucking waiting.
I stuck around despite it all because I didn't want the hassle of moving. The thought of losing emails in the transfer was always a big deterrent.
And then? I kept getting hacked. I installed protection, which helped, but the attacks never let up. My hosting company doesn't offer any help in this arena what-so-ever (knowledge-base articles didn't much help), and so I've been attempting to handle it on my own. As I'm working on it, my "GPU" points ran out, and so I had to pay for overages... $38 for last month alone... in order to cover my backups and blog hits. $38 I can't afford.
And so I wrote to support from Media Temple.
After the bullshit canned answers I've come to expect, I couldn't take it another minute. Twelve fucking years as a customer, and they don't give a shit about me. No "Hey, sorry you're having problems we don't offer tools to deal with, so let us reimburse you the $38 as you're working through things because we value you as a customer!" Not even close. And so? They can just fuck all the way off. I'm moving to a new hosting company that may or may not be better, but at least I'm not paying a premium to host there... and, oh... THEY OFFER FUCKING BACKUP OF MY SITE AUTOMATICALLY!!!
A few things I've learned through all this...
I just noticed something... odd.
Rachel McAdams sure ends up in a lot of movies with a time traveler.
Rachel McAdams and a time traveler in The Time Traveler's Wife, a silly concept for time travel that doesn't quite work as sci-fi or romance...
Rachel McAdams and a time traveler in Midnight in Paris, a Woody Allen film I refuse to watch because I loathe Woody Allen...
Rachel McAdams and a time traveler in About Time, one of the sweeter romance films I've seen with time travel used to good effect...
Rachel McAdams and a time traveler in Doctor Strange, one of the better super-hero movies I've seen...
Kind of surprising that she wasn't cast as Rita in Edge of Tomorrow.
Is it too much to hope that my favorite Dean Koontz book, Lightning, gets made into a film? Rachel McAdams would make a good Laura Shane.
Jake is a lovable lump of a gentleman... Jenny is a lovable petite little lady. It's tough to compare their size because you can't corral them to sit next to each other. All I know is that Jake is quite a bit larger than his sister.
Then the other day after feeding them, I noticed this...
I have no idea which sibling is older.
But Jake will forever be the big brother...
By about a third, I'm guessing.
Trying to do laundry in a house with cats...
And just when one cat finally gives it up...
When you spend lots of time and money to create catio perches and toys... but your cats would rather lay on the cool concrete. Hot summer nights and all that...
I leave you with cats who like to sleep...
Except Jenny woke up before I could get my phone out, so she's not sleeping any more. But she was sleeping...
See you next Caturday.
We're on fire again and smoke fills the air... but don't despair, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts now...
• M-S-G Can You Dig It? Absolutely fascinating...
I don't eat Chinese food hardly at all (it's not very good here, and choices for vegetarians are severely limited)... and yet I've heard the MSG myth forever.
• Monkey Business! In case everybody doesn't know... I put the first volume of Bad Monkey Comix up to read online for free. You can take a look by clicking on this image...
Or you can just click this link!
• New MacBooks! Apple's new "Pro" MacBooks once again lacking the ports that "pros" need to actually FUNCTION in their fucking JOBS. Such a crock of shit. DONGLES! DONGLES EVERYWHERE!!!
I thought that Apple was supposed to be working with pros to find out what they want in "pro" products? I don't think that's true. Otherwise they wouldn't be sticking with a shallow, shitty keyboard and no standard USB ports. At least you get more than one port now. Still no MagSafe, which sucks.
• Science Fact! Tom Bailey's new album, Science Fiction, is here! If you pre-ordered, it has probably arrived (my autographed copy of the deluxe set did!) but you can also listen to it on the usual streaming services. I'm saving my review for another entry, but here's a sneak preview: love it.
• Be You! Oh noes. Roll up on a woman, call her a slut because of what she is wearing, then think that you can then proceed to slut-shame her into submission? Not. This. Woman. Not today. My guess is not any day...
What absolutely kills me about this is how we rave about "American freedom"... but never seem to back that up. Whether it's telling a Muslim woman she's wearing too much... or telling this woman she's wearing too little... everybody is just DYING to tell OTHER PEOPLE HOW TO LIVE THEIR LIVES. Well fuck that. Live your truth. Be who you are. Defy those who would oppress YOUR FREEDOM by defining what it means for you to be free. So long as you're not endangering others, be free to be you.
• Incompetence. I have been trying very hard to keep politics off of Blogography because I don't want it degrading into a comedy of horrors that makes me want to slit my wrists every time I visit my own blog. But things are so bad right now. So bad. And people don't even seem to realize what's happening. The Trump Administration trade fiasco is probably going to damage this country more than anything so far. Companies are already laying off scores of workers because the reciprocal tariffs are making it impossible for them to operate. It's horrendous, and it's just the beginning. From Professor David Honig...
I’m going to get a little wonky and write about Donald Trump and negotiations. For those who don't know, I'm an adjunct professor at Indiana University - Robert H. McKinney School of Law and I teach negotiations. Okay, here goes.
Trump, as most of us know, is the credited author of The Art of the Deal, a book that was actually ghost written by a man named Tony Schwartz, who was given access to Trump and wrote based upon his observations. If you've read The Art of the Deal, or if you've followed Trump lately, you'll know, even if you didn't know the label, that he sees all dealmaking as what we call "distributive bargaining."
Distributive bargaining always has a winner and a loser. It happens when there is a fixed quantity of something and two sides are fighting over how it gets distributed. Think of it as a pie and you're fighting over who gets how many pieces. In Trump's world, the bargaining was for a building, or for construction work, or subcontractors. He perceives a successful bargain as one in which there is a winner and a loser, so if he pays less than the seller wants, he wins. The more he saves the more he wins.
The other type of bargaining is called integrative bargaining. In integrative bargaining the two sides don't have a complete conflict of interest, and it is possible to reach mutually beneficial agreements. Think of it, not a single pie to be divided by two hungry people, but as a baker and a caterer negotiating over how many pies will be baked at what prices, and the nature of their ongoing relationship after this one gig is over.
The problem with Trump is that he sees only distributive bargaining in an international world that requires integrative bargaining. He can raise tariffs, but so can other countries. He can't demand they not respond. There is no defined end to the negotiation and there is no simple winner and loser. There are always more pies to be baked. Further, negotiations aren't binary. China's choices aren't (a) buy soybeans from US farmers, or (b) don't buy soybeans. They can also (c) buy soybeans from Russia, or Argentina, or Brazil, or Canada, etc. That completely strips the distributive bargainer of his power to win or lose, to control the negotiation.
One of the risks of distributive bargaining is bad will. In a one-time distributive bargain, e.g. negotiating with the cabinet maker in your casino about whether you're going to pay his whole bill or demand a discount, you don't have to worry about your ongoing credibility or the next deal. If you do that to the cabinet maker, you can bet he won't agree to do the cabinets in your next casino, and you're going to have to find another cabinet maker.
There isn't another Canada.
So when you approach international negotiation, in a world as complex as ours, with integrated economies and multiple buyers and sellers, you simply must approach them through integrative bargaining. If you attempt distributive bargaining, success is impossible. And we see that already.
Trump has raised tariffs on China. China responded, in addition to raising tariffs on US goods, by dropping all its soybean orders from the US and buying them from Russia. The effect is not only to cause tremendous harm to US farmers, but also to increase Russian revenue, making Russia less susceptible to sanctions and boycotts, increasing its economic and political power in the world, and reducing ours. Trump saw steel and aluminum and thought it would be an easy win, BECAUSE HE SAW ONLY STEEL AND ALUMINUM - HE SEES EVERY NEGOTIATION AS DISTRIBUTIVE. China saw it as integrative, and integrated Russia and its soybean purchase orders into a far more complex negotiation ecosystem.
Trump has the same weakness politically. For every winner there must be a loser. And that's just not how politics works, not over the long run.
For people who study negotiations, this is incredibly basic stuff, negotiations 101, definitions you learn before you even start talking about styles and tactics. And here's another huge problem for us.
Trump is utterly convinced that his experience in a closely held real estate company has prepared him to run a nation, and therefore he rejects the advice of people who spent entire careers studying the nuances of international negotiations and diplomacy. But the leaders on the other side of the table have not eschewed expertise, they have embraced it. And that means they look at Trump and, given his very limited tool chest and his blindly distributive understanding of negotiation, they know exactly what he is going to do and exactly how to respond to it.
From a professional negotiation point of view, Trump isn't even bringing checkers to a chess match. He's bringing a quarter that he insists of flipping for heads or tails, while everybody else is studying the chess board to decide whether its better to open with Najdorf or Grünfeld.
— David Honig
This level of incompetence when it comes to trade is going to completely and totally fuck us. And make no mistake that we, as a country, are fucked. And this is just trade. We are equally fucked in many other areas. Which leads me to believe that President Trump thinks that the era where America was "great" is The Great Depression.
And don't think that just getting a new president in two years is going to fix the problem. The things that have been screwed up may very well take decades to correct. If they are correctable at all.
• Czech! Came home to see Stripes was on this past week. It was at the part where their unit has accidentally crossed the border into Czechoslovakia and so, naturally, they're all going to die. Amazing how international relations have changed within my lifetime. I've been to Czechoslovakia... and China... and Romania... and other countries it was assumed I would never be able to step foot in back in the day...
Of course... thanks to the ineptness of the Trump Administration, we may very well be going back to those times, so I guess I'm happy to have enjoyed it while it lasted. Pretty soon the only place that Americans may be able to travel is Russia and North Korea.
• Which Brings Us To... So... under President Obama we were the laughing stock of the world you say? What about now, you feckless ridiculous ignorant fuck?
The absurdity of where we are as a country keeps hitting new lows.
And, I think that's enough bullets for a smoke-filled Sunday. See you next week!