Posted on Friday, June 1st, 2018
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.
Posted on Saturday, June 2nd, 2018
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.
Posted on Sunday, June 3rd, 2018
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.
Posted on Monday, June 4th, 2018
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.
Posted on Tuesday, June 5th, 2018
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?
Posted on Wednesday, June 6th, 2018
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.
Posted on Thursday, June 7th, 2018
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.
Posted on Friday, June 8th, 2018
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.
Posted on Saturday, June 9th, 2018
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.
Posted on Sunday, June 10th, 2018
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!
Posted on Monday, June 11th, 2018
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...
Posted on Tuesday, June 12th, 2018
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!
Posted on Wednesday, June 13th, 2018
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.
Posted on Thursday, June 14th, 2018
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...
Posted on Friday, June 15th, 2018
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!
Posted on Saturday, June 16th, 2018
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!
Posted on Sunday, June 17th, 2018
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...
Posted on Monday, June 18th, 2018
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!
Posted on Tuesday, June 19th, 2018
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.
Posted on Wednesday, June 20th, 2018
Whatever the fuck this is...
Posted on Thursday, June 21st, 2018
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.
Posted on Friday, June 22nd, 2018
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.
Posted on Saturday, June 23rd, 2018
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.
Posted on Sunday, June 24th, 2018
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.
Posted on Monday, June 25th, 2018
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.
Posted on Tuesday, June 26th, 2018
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!
Posted on Wednesday, June 27th, 2018
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.
Posted on Thursday, June 28th, 2018
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.
Posted on Friday, June 29th, 2018
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 Turkey. 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.
Be fore 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 Turkey. 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.
Posted on Saturday, June 30th, 2018
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.