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Dia de los Muertos y Coco

Posted on Friday, November 1st, 2019

Dave!The commercialization of a people's traditions and culture is a practice which fascinates me. Partly because those traditions are usually sanitized for those who would never make even the slightest effort to understand their origins. But mostly because it creates this disgusting mingling of cultural identity blending with people who loathe those behind the culture. The same people who proudly hate immigrants are the same people who love eating a burrito while chugging $5 margaritas at a bar on Cinco de Mayo. The same people who laugh at the plight of our neighbors to the South trying to escape horrific violence are the same people who get sugar skull tattoos and decorate their homes for the Day of the Dead.

Which is "Dia de los Muertos."

Which is today.

Kinda.

Generally speaking the Day of the Dead is actually a three-day holiday. It begins on All Hallows Eve (October 31) when altars are built to invite the spirits of dead children to visit. On All Saints Day (November 1) spirits of dead adults are invited to visit...

A frame from the animated masterpiece COCO from Disney Pixar showing a colorful altar decorated with marigold flowers, candles, and photos of the dead while a grandmother is explaining it to her grandson Miguel.

Then it all culminates on All-Souls Day (November 2) when the spirits of relatives are honored by visiting their gravesites to light incense and decorate them with marigolds, skeletons, calavera de azucar (sugar-skulls), and all kinds of other decorations and offerings... including the departed's favorite foods and drinks or, in the case of children, their favorite toys...

A frame from the animated masterpiece COCO from Disney Pixar showing skeletal spirits visiting a decorated cemetery while people are praying at a gravesite in the foreground.

I say "general speaking" because Dia de los Muertos is celebrated in many different ways... even between regions of a single country like Mexico where it is a national holiday. Here in the USA there are, of course, traditional celebrations in our Hispanic communities. Everywhere else, Mexican and Latin American bars and restaurants use it as a way to promote their businesses. And, naturally, there are those who just think that sugar-skulls look cool so they display them on their dashboard or on their mantle for exotically fun decorations.

And then there are the cultural-appropriation-for-profit endeavors which actually do try to honor the traditions on which the original culture was built so they can enlighten and educate. Take for example the 2017 Pixar film Coco which is a beautifully animated movie that uses Dia de los Muertos as inspiration for both its story and visuals (it's where the stills above come from). This is a jaw-dropping, gorgeous film with a heartwarming message that works very hard to honor rather than exploit the culture which is responsible for it...

This is not to say that there are not those who would believe that Coco is a prime example of exploitation of a people by a mega-corporation that is appropriating their culture for money... and that's a valid assessment. But there are also those who see the film as a celebration of their culture, and are happy that their traditions are being represented and given visibility so beautifully. This piece on the reaction of indigenous peoples of Oaxaca watching Coco (many of whom had never been to a theater before) is wonderful to see.

As somebody who is not native to Dia de los Muertos, has never had it be a part of their culture, and knew almost nothing about it aside from seeing sugar skull tattoos on Ink Master, I was grateful to Disney/Pixar for educating me about the Day of the Dead. It's thanks to Coco that I took the time to read up on the holiday by those whose culture is responsible for it. And after educating myself I was able to truly appreciate what a beautiful celebration it is. Not necessarily for the dead... but for the living who keep their spirit and memory alive.

If you haven't seen Coco yet, this weekend would be the perfect time to remedy that. And if you have? It's a great time to watch it again. I know I will be!

   

Caturday 133

Posted on Saturday, November 2nd, 2019

Dave!I have made no secret of my apoplectic rage over the fact that we still mess with the clocks twice a year. It is a stupid, stupid, STUPID and outdated practice that only serves to screw up our lives. Washington State is working to get rid of the barbaric practice. Our House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to go on permanent Daylight Saving Time. And now, once our Senate gets off their asses, I'm guessing they will approve it as well... BECAUSE NOBODY F#@&ING WANTS IT! Oregon and California are in accordance and will switch if we switch. Even British Columbia has stated that they would be interested in coordinating with us so the entire West Coast is on the same time because THEY DON'T F#@&ING WANT IT EITHER!

And because state's rights are a joke, passing the House and Senate doesn't men it's a done deal. Because then, once it passes there, we have to get PERMISSION from Congress to actually do it. Which, given the fact that Congress doesn't do jack shit unless it benefits their lazy, corrupt asses, means it could be years before anything happens.

Adding to my loathing of switching clocks? The way it affects my cats.

Their behavior changes when their schdule is altered. Even when I try my best to get them gradually adjusted to it by shifting the clock in only 15 minutes increments, they just aren't having it.

Jake is affected the worst when you delay his feeding. For the past week he's been asserting his dominance towards Jenny and, just like last year, it will likely last another week or so. He'll just randomly decide to climb on top and bite her neck...

Jake on top of Jenny biting the fur on her neck.

Oddly enough, Jenny doesn't seem to mind. She'll just keep looking around like "whatever" about it. Until she does mind, then she'll start hissing at him and smacking him until he gets off of her...

Jake on top of a hissing Jenny biting the fur on her neck.

When this happened last year, I'd go up and pull Jake off of her. That was a mistake. Eventually I realized this made it traumatic for both of them, and it was better to just let Jenny take care of it, which she can do just fine...

Jake on top of Jenny on top of the cat tree biting the fur on her neck.

Jake on top of Jenny and she's hissing now.

Jake on top of Jenny as she twists around and starts to escape.

They still get along fine... but during the switch from Daylight Saving Time, we get an occasional show of dominance.

Fortunately it's quail season, which can take their minds off of the clocks changing and put it where it belongs... stalking birds from the catio...

Jake and Jenny looking out the door flap to the catio.

A big fat quail outside the catio.

Jenny stalking a quail out in the catio.

Jake has joined Jenny out in the catio to stalk the quail.

Jake and Jenny out in the catio looking very serious about stalking the quail.

And now I have to get back to work. And hope that Jake can remain calm while I'm gone.

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Bullet Sunday 636: Apple TV+ Edition

Posted on Sunday, November 3rd, 2019

Dave!Worried you don't have time to watch all those new Apple TV shows? Well worry no more, because an all new Very Special Apple TV+ Edition of Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Who Dis? And lo did Apple decree that some of their billions of dollars shall be put aside to create their own media, and it was done. And lo did Apple then decree that all new iPhone purchasers would get a year of Apple TV+ for free, and it was done. And since I had a bunch of work to tackle all day yesterday, I just let Apple TV+ shows run while I was working. There are hits and misses, but most of it is just a "why?" situation. There's nothing so revolutionary here that Apple just had to step up with a pile of money to make sure they were seen. It's pretty much just more of the same.

   
The Morning Show. The opening shot of the first episode of this show is Mark Duplass answering his iPhone. The next shot is Steve Carell answering his iPhone. The next is Jennifer Aniston ignoring a call on her iPhone. Reese Witherspoon is too busy putting on eyeliner for me to see her phone, but the guy in back of her in the car has an iPhone. While not unrealistic that absolutely everybody on earth would all own iPhones, it does seem like a ridiculous abundance of product placement and left me wondering if the show was going to revolve around Apple products instead of stories and actors. Fortunately, that wasn't the case. But it was still jarring to see Apple absolutely everywhere when the real world doesn't work like that. And "the real world" is what they're trying to give us: When the co-host of a popular morning news show is fired for sexual misconduct, personal politics and interpersonal relationships are put to the test...

It may be only three episodes so far, but like this show. I like it quite a lot. It's deliciously twisty and appropriately ruthless without being overly-complex, stifling, or boring. The acting talent is impeccable. It's rumored that Aniston and Witherspoon are making TWO MILLION DOLLARS PER EPISODE. This seems wildly excessive. But when they make millions upon millions for movies, that's what it's going to cost to get that kind of talent on your TV show. I'm not saying they're necessarily worth that in the context of The Morning Show, but I will say that they elevate things to a level you probably wouldn't have gotten from many others. And don't discount Steve Carell... his character is equal parts horrifying and charisma, and he's great. Everybody is. That's what $15 million an episode gets you.

   
See. "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king." Or is he? Let's assume that I can put aside the complete lapse of logic which permeates this show. Let's further assume that I can overlook the ableist aspects of the concept behind the show. And let's finally assume that I can dismiss the obvious idea that Apple wanted their own Game of Thrones for launch, and See (featuring Khal Drago!) is that show. Assuming all that... and you can... I still couldn't get into this post-apocalyptic show about what happens when most of the population of earth is wiped out, those two million remaining are blinded, centuries afterwards everybody thinks that sight is a myth which is heresy to speak of, and evolution has brought us to a time when some are being born with the ability to... see...

Each episode costs $15 million. The same as being spent on The Morning Show. And yet... for the life of me I cannot figure out where all that money is going. It's just inconceivable to me that I'm looking at $15 million per installment. Maybe if $10 million an episode was going to Alfre Woodard that would explain things. I dunno. What I do know is that I was bored bored bored by the goofy lameness of it all. High concept needs to have high entertainment value. This just... doesn't. From bizarre crap like the queen's unorthodox method of "praying" to the whole "betrayal among us" trope being the entire crux of future hurdles... it's just so tired. I don't hate the show, I just don't know if I will make time to watch future episodes. Maybe if I'm bored and there's nothing else on?

   
For All Mankind. This terrific alternate-history series is just so... pretty. Not just because of the money put into making it look great... but because nothing puts all of humanity into such vivid perspective as our quest to reach the stars. Yes, things start slowing down after the first episode, but it's still pretty good stuff.

I had read nothing about the series, ignored all the "first look" videos, and had no idea what the show was about until I watched. At the time I was anticipating Apple TV+ costing $12.95 a month, so why invest the time in something I won't see? Because of this, the extended opening which defines the entire series took me completely by surprise. In a good way. Hopefully nobody has spoiled it for you, because surprises this finely crafted don't come along that often! For this reason, I am NOT including the advertisement video here. It spoils everything! I'm hopeful this is headed somewhere interesting.

   
Snoopy in Space. I actually liked the computer-rendered Peanuts movie. I found it beautifully rendered and fully faithful to both the comic strip and the animated specials. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Apple's first effort with the property was to be traditionally-animated. Though, from the looks of things, it's not so traditional. It's too fine and too clean and definitely looks digitally drawn. Not a good look...

But the real importance here would be the story. How does it live up to what Charles Shultz created? It doesn't. The plot is that Snoopy dreams of being an astronaut and breaks into NASA's astronaut training program so he can go into space. Since the Peanuts universe doesn't have adults you can understand, there's an absurd and annoyingly emotional computer standing in. What follows is mundane explorations into NASA, the ISS, the moon, and Mars. And it's so awful.

As a lover of the original Peanuts strips... a liker of the original Peanuts television specials... this show fell completely flat for me. It's like they took popular Peanuts elements that people would recognize and jammed them together into a NASA-sponsored docu-series. There's no real charm or genuine humor here and the story is both horrible and boring. Especially if you love Peanuts, in which case it's just insulting.

   
Dickinson. Needless to say, a teen angst reinvention of Emily Dickinson's early life was not going to be my cup of tea. I don't give two shits about that kind of CW crap. And yet... I was genuinely curious to see where Apple would go with this. I'm a fan of Dickinson's poetry and writings, and their nature is ripe for interpreting her life...

Alas, what we got was a complete mess. It's a period piece injected with thumping modern music and familiar modern tropes, but not in a necessarily edgy, interesting, or clever way. Characters use phrases like "I'm pretty psyched about it!" and "Totally!" and "This is bullshit!" which is somehow supposed to be funny or something. What actually was funny was seeing Wiz Khalifa pop up as Death with his magical coach pulled by ghostly fire horses and Jane Krakowski gliding through her every scene as if she's a Jenna Maroney parody of Emily's mom. Everything else fails to hold together. One minute Emily is baking bread for her father as an apology for getting caught sitting in at an all-male lecture on volcanoes at Amherst... the next she's getting fingered by her brother's fiancé as some words from her poem I have never seen "Volcanoes" appear on screen and images of bread baking in a hot oven pop up. It's like they didn't even try. Just one silly, contrived situation after another ("Let's have an opium party so I can hallucinate dancing with a giant talking bee!"). I made it through four episodes... fast forwarded through the last half of the fifth... then skipped to the ninth and tenth just to be done with it. I'm sure there are people who will love this, but it's sure not me.

   
The Elephant Queen. If you've ever seen the show Meerkat Manor which documents the life of meerkats struggling to survive their cruel world, The Elephant Queen will feel a bit familiar. This documentary follows Athena, an African elephant trying to save her heard once they are forced to leave their old watering hole in search of a new one...

Beautiful to look at and nicely narrated by Chiwetel Ejiofor, this is a wonderful but somewhat superficial film. Sure there's tragedy and death along the way. But no mention of poachers despite that being a serious threat and always topical... I mean, come on, even Disney World managed to add poaching into their Kilimanjaro Safari ride at Animal Kingdom. If there's a negative here, it would be the unnecessary addition of comical sound effects and some clueless music queues. Even so, it's a compelling film that's worth your valuable time.

   
• More to Come... Though Apple doesn't have much content, they seem intent of keeping it coming. Up next are a show by M. Night Shyamalan... a show by Rob McElhennrey and Charlie Day... a show with Octavia Spencer... a show with Chris Evans... more Amazing Stories... more Time Bandits... and, of particularly interest to me, a new series based on Isaac Asimov's Foundation novels. Among others. Odds are, they're going to be fairly watchable given the amount of money and talent Apple is dumping on them. We shall see.

   
And... not a bad start. The only complete misfire was Snoopy (what were they thinking?) and even that might have appeal to some. Whether or not I'll pay $5 a month to keep it going a year from now will entirely depend on what's playing at that time. Another series for The Morning Show would be enough for me to pay a couple months, but I'm guessing Apple will have a lot more in store than just that.

   

Togetherness is Relative

Posted on Monday, November 4th, 2019

Dave!I have been trying... really trying to get my life together lately. Alas, I've been met mostly with failure at every turn.

I'm going to get caught up with work! Then something happens to heap even more work on me and I get even further behind.

I'm going to start eating healthier! Then magically cupcakes end up in my shopping cart and that idea vanishes like a fart in the wind.

I'm going to save more money! Then something expensive comes up to wipe out my entire savings and end up slapped on my credit card.

I'm going to clean my yard before winter! Then something even more dire pops up and there goes my weekend.

I'm going to work on my book tonight! Then I run out of hours in the day, it's suddenly time for bed, and I have no idea what happened.

I'm going to catch up on all the shows on my DVR! Then Hallmark unloads yet another huge batch of movies I haven't seen yet, so my DVR is even more packed than usual.

I'm going to exercise more! Then I realize that I just don't feel like it.

Maybe I'll try again next year.

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Fetzer Valves and Ball Bearings

Posted on Tuesday, November 5th, 2019

Dave!The idea was simple, really... fly out tonight for a quick trip, then fly back home on Thursday morning.

And things started out totally great. Really they did. The weather was absolutely gorgeous for my drive over the mountains and I made it to Seattle Tacoma International Airport in record time. I then managed to find a parking spot at WallyPark in only 15 minutes (which sounds a lot easier than it is, even with a reservation). The TSA PreCheck line wasn't longer than the regular line (for once), so I even made it through security fairly quickly!

Score, right?

Eh...

The inbound flight was a little late, but they can "make it up in the air" so no harm no foul.

Then a valve wouldn't work that they need to pressurize the plane... or depressurize the plane... or something like that... so we headed back to the gate to wait for repairs.

My money was on it being the Fetzer valve. In which case I was hoping they had some ball bearings, 3-in-1 oil, gauze pads, and about ten quarts of anti-freeze (preferably Prestone) so we can get this show on the road...

Chevy Chase as G. Gordon Liddy from the movie Fletch Lives standing in front of an airplane and dressed as a flight mechanic.

So eventually they fixed the valve.

Then we went out onto the tarmac again.

Then the valve was still broken, so we went back to the gate again.

Then they decided it would be best to switch to an entirely different plane some hours later.

I was already going to be arriving pretty late, but now we were arriving four hours late on top of that. Which sounds bad until you think about how it's much better to have mechanical problems on the ground than in the air.

In a way... I’m disappointed at this missed opportunity I had here. I’ve seen many, many things in my decades of air travel. I’ve seen a fist-fight mid-flight. I’ve seen a fire in the galley while over the Pacific Ocean. I’ve been on a plane that’s had to make an emergency landing... twice. I’ve had police board the plane to remove a drunk passenger. I’ve been detoured to some random city four or five times. I’ve missed connecting flights more times than I can count. I’ve been trapped in cities for days because no flights were going out. I’ve even been in a “crash landing” where the plane ran off the runway and we had to be driven to the terminal on a bus (no emergency slide, darn it!). But I have never been in a cabin depressurization where the masks drop from the ceiling! Apparently this valve malfunction we had would have meant they could not pressurize the cabin (or something to do with cabin pressure) and maybe I finally could have checked that one off my list!

Oh well. Maybe on the way back?

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Avengers: Damage Control

Posted on Wednesday, November 6th, 2019

Dave!Well that was fun.

I flew to Minneapolis for one day because I am a Marvel Studios completist and just HAD to do Avengers: Damage Control at The Void (thanks to Kyle for being a good sport and doing it with me!). It's an immersive VR experience that's part game, part virtual world. You strap on a backpack filled with tech, don a VR helmet, then walk through a physical "studio" which has been remapped in your goggles with an entirely new reality. Along the way you fight Ultron robots and stuff...

So far as the technology goes... it’s pretty glitchy. You're in the "experience" with three other people and move from area to area with them. But the physical representations of the other "players" is not entirely stable or accurately mapped. Sometimes you'll look over at somebody and they will be walking in place oddly or randomly switch directions. The hybrid Black Panther /slash/ Iron Man suits you get mapped on you are pretty cool though...

People wearing their VR backpack and helmet transforming into VR people dressed in outfits which look to be a cross between Iron Man and Black Panther.

The mapping of your real hands to your virtual hands is... okay-ish. But many times my hands would disappear or jump to a wildly different spot. Kyle has tattoos on his arms and hands which made it so one of his virtual "hands" rarely functioned at all. And it’s a little tough to “get into the action” when your hands keep disappearing! So... helpful hint, I guess... if you have arm/hand tattoos, maybe you need to wear white lycra sleeves and gloves or something?

Your VR self holding up their hands to a virtual mirror and seeing your VR self.

That being said... the coolest part of the experience is not the "game" part. It's being able to look around at the world they created, which is absurdly cool. I almost wanted to go back through again so I could ignore the battle and just see all the stuff going on in your environment that's 360° around you. You go from Shuri's training center to Doctor Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum to a full-on battle with Ultra-Ultron on a New York City rooftop. And along the way you meet a goodly selection of Avengers...

Your VR self holding up their hands and blasting Ultron robots.

Your VR self holding up their hands and blasting even more Ultron robots.

Here comes Ultra-Ultron!

The major characters in Damage Control are Shuri, Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, and The Wasp. And they actually got Letitia Wright to act in it, plus Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Rudd, and Evangeline Lilly to voice their CGI characters (which is why it was worth my flying to Minneapolis to see it all, since it's the real deal and not some imitation video game. Though all the other characters who speak were imitation, but done pretty well. I guess they ran out of budget to get all the stars?

Ant-Man waves at you while The Wasp stands nearby.

Seattle doesn't have a The Void location. And not all locations have Avengers: Damage Control. I just picked the cheapest to get to, which was the Mall of America in Minneapolis (surprisingly, it would have taken more miles to get to Las Vegas or a South-California location, which is weird because they're closer). The price of admission is $40. I don't know that it's worth that to somebody who isn't a fan of Marvel movies... and felt a little overpriced even for somebody like me who is. Apparently the Avengers experience is a limited-time engagement through the 15th, so if this is something you absolutely must try, then you might want to get some tickets and get on that.

Right now, things are still a bit glitchy, and those glitches do take away from the experience. I'd imagine within another five years you'll just put on some VR specs and be able to do this kind of stuff in your living room perfectly. Until then, you can invest in an Oculus VR headset and have a non-walk-through experience at home, or go to a VR space like The Void and take what you can get.

And what I need to get is some sleep, because I have to be up at 4am to head home.

   

Viajando de Cuba a Seattle

Posted on Thursday, November 7th, 2019

Dave!Home again.

Last night after experiencing Avengers: Damage Control, Kyle and I went to an amazing Cuban restaurant in southern Minneapolis. It was a tiny place, but had a big heart which contained by lovely graffiti-strewn walls...

In a darkened corner of a small restaurant, a light above a small table illuminates grafitti-strewn walls as two brilliant red chairs sit empty.

My iPhone's "Night Mode" came in real handy when trying to read them...

Thanks to iPhone Night Mode, you can now clearly see the grafitti written on the walls. The writing is so dense than you can barely read anything until you are up close.

A ceiling corner of the restaurant with grafitti covering every possible surface. Colorful Christmas bulbs glow in the darkness, illuminating phrases such as LOVE IS ALL WE NEED.

A close-up of a wall with colorful grafitti so thick that you can't even read most of it.

My dinner was a vegetarian plate. Seasoned black beans with rice... a Cuban slaw... sweet plantains... and, of course, yuca frita!

A close-up of my dinner with all the dishes I mentioned above on a heavy green plate.

Kyle had a shrimp dish that was worthy of an umbrella!

A close-up of Kyle's dinner with sauteed spricy shrimp on top of rice along with what looks like a yuca patty with cream sauce on top.

I had to be up and getting ready at 4:30am, so it was an early night for me.

Once my hotel shuttle had deposited me at MSP, I started looking for a breakfast snack. Surprisingly, not much was open at 5:00am. But eventually I ran across Dunkin Donuts which, much to my surprise, had BOTH a veggie option AND Coke Zero! They were using Beyond Sausage on a muffin with egg and cheese. It was fantastic! I wish more restaurants would offer this kind of thing...

My Beyond Sausage breakfast sandwich sitting on a Dunkin Donuts wrapper in front of a bottle of Coke Zero.

Burger King is having one of its best quarters ever thanks to their vegetarian Impossible Whopper causing a surge of 10% in sales. And it's easy to see why. It tastes fantastic. Probably due in part to the fact that it's cooked with real meat products, which I'm fine with because Burger King didn't have to kill any animals for what I'm eating. Apparently McDonald's is working on their own vegetarian burger. Which is kind of silly when the McVeggie Deluxe they once offered at their Times Square location was amazing and they could just do that.

I am genuinely excited to see vegetarian options being adopted like this. They don't always work for my tastes (Qdoba has the Impossible Fajita Burrito which tastes "off" to me) but the fact that I can go to so many restaurants and at least have something I can eat is fantastic. I wish it wasn't made more expensive than the meat options (thanks government subsidies!), but I'll gladly pay a premium if it's something I like. Most places the Impossible Whopper is just $1 more than a regular Whopper... worth every penny, and Burger King gets my business.

Anyway... before I knew it I was back at SeaTac which wouldn't be SeaTac if at least one thing I needed to use wasn't busted to shit...

A metal fence in front of an escallator leading down from the parking garage at SeaTac International Airport.

The drive home was uneventful (thankfully) and here I am hanging with my cats for an hour before going into work at noon. They are, needless to say, happy to have me home.

If, for no other reason, that the heat will no longer be on "Away Mode."

   

The Pajama Decisions

Posted on Friday, November 8th, 2019

Dave!Back when my mother's dementia had robbed her of her ability to make new memories, it was understandably a confusing time for her. Out of necessity I devised all kinds of deceptions to make both our lives easier. One of the most important was a big sign I put on the inside front door which said "David will be back in 15 minutes so we can go out to eat... please wait here." I tried to take my mom with me everywhere I went because it was just easier. If I needed to run to the store or drop off something for a friend, she went too. But for the three years where she had no memory (but was perfectly able to stay home by herself), I couldn't take her to work or out to dinner with my friends. Rather than leaving her confused as to where I was, I put the sign up before I went anywhere. Then checked in on her every ten minute or so with the security cameras.

And it worked great.

Usually television kept her occupied. If she heard the television was on, she'd sit down to watch it for hours. But every once in a while she'd walk around looking for somebody, then try to leave the house when she realized she was alone.

Which would be disastrous.

And so I came up with the sign.

Rather than go outside, she'd see the sign and go get ready to go out to eat. She'd make sure her purse was by the door... comb her hair... change her clothes... whatever she felt she needed to do to be ready and look presentable. Sometimes she would do all that, forget she did all that, go back to the door, then start all over again in a loop. Then eventually she'd hear the television and get absorbed in it again... until the next time.

Yes, I was lying to her, but if the lie meant she wasn't constantly leaving the house in confusion... or experiencing massive anxiety because she didn't know where she was or where anybody was at... and meant I could leave the house to go to work... was it really such a horrible thing?

Before the sign, she was upset constantly and I worried constantly anytime I had to leave. Then one day I put the sign up so she could get ready for dinner while I ran to get gas, realized what a total game changer it would be if I just put it up every time I left, and never stopped using it.

When I was in support forums for dementia caregivers, some people thought it was genius and decided to try it. Some people were already doing something similar. And some people thought I was the most vile, evil person on earth for lying to my poor mother like that.

In every case of the latter I would reply with "And how many people do you have helping you with your mother's care? How many people can you call to help watch her when you have to go out? How many immediate family members will step up to give you a break when you need one? If the answer is greater than zero, then kindly keep your opinions to yourself because I have NOBODY." And I did not give a single fuck what they had to say afterwards. My mother, who was suffering through a horrific problem, was happier and less stressed. I, who was there suffering along with her, was less worried and less stressed. So why would I give a fuck about what you think? Especially if you've got a team of friends and family helping you out?

This is not to say that I can't say these things to myself, of course.

Nobody... and I mean nobody... beat me up over the things I had to do to survive my mother's dementia more than myself. Not even close.

I lost untold hours of sleep wrestling with decisions. Questioning the decisions I had to make. Second-guessing the decisions I had already made (and, all too often, crying myself to sleep because I wasn't sure I made the right decision). Because that's what it all comes down to doesn't it? Decisions?

Some decisions made themselves. If there were three options and you could only afford one of them, that's not a decision that's a reality. But other decisions, sometimes over the stupidest things, can destroy you.

Which care facility do I choose?... now that was a decision. You can see how that would tear me up inside, both before and after making it. To this day I question whether I made the right choice.

Do I sign the papers to enter mom into hospice?... was a decision that seemed so easy ("God, yes... she would have never, ever wanted to live this way!") but it was also an agonizing one to make. How do I sign what is essentially her death warrant?

Which of these pajamas do I pick?... sounds idiotic, I know, but just think about it for a minute. When you have no memory, all you have is the "right now." Spending the only thing you have with pajamas that itch... or pajamas with a design you hate... or pajamas where the color disturbs you... it's tantamount to torture, isn't it? So what do I buy? How will I know if they are uncomfortable or upsetting? Sometimes she wouldn't respond. Sometimes she'd tell her caregivers at the facility if something was wrong and they would pass it along, but most of the times all I could do was wonder if I made the right decision.

Is telling a lie wrong if it helps make life better?... if I'm honest, I still have no idea. And I questioned it every time I put that sign up.

But what was the alternative? I never tried a sign which said "David probably WON'T be back in 15 minutes, but believe it anyway because I have no idea what I'm doing or how to make things better... but I will be back eventually because I love you."

Eh... probably wouldn't have been the best decision I could have made.

Or would it?

I can't decide.

At least now I have that luxury.

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Caturday 134

Posted on Saturday, November 9th, 2019

Dave!I try to make my trips as short as possible so that Jake and Jenny aren't left alone for extended periods of time. Thanks to the automation tech I bought for feeding and litter box cleaning, they actually could be left alone longer, but I get the feeling they would rather me be here.

This feeling comes from the toy gauntlet that they build for me whenever I get back from being away...

A bunch of toys strewn through the entrance to my bedroom.

Jake still does most of the work... hauling Moose the Mule all the way upstairs... after trotting him on the dining room table. Which is great, because I was dying to disinfect it, and this is just the excuse I need...

Two images... the first with security camera footage of Jake walking on the dining room table with a big toy mule in his mouth... then climbing up stairs.

After breakfast Jake decided to hang out in bed while I watched emails...

Jake snuggled up next to me on my bed... I have my arm around him and am giving him chin scratches.

But it was Jenny who wouldn't leave my side. She missed out on two days of scratches, and she was determined to make up for lost time. Unlike Jake who just kind of sits there and is happy to get scratched wherever you want to scratch him, she moves around so you scratch her exactly where she wants to be scratched...

Jenny flopped on her back and getting tummy scratches while looking adorable.

Jenny staring at me while getting tummy rubs.

Jenny looking at me while getting butt scratches while sunlight streaks across her.

Jenny flopped on her back and rolling around on the bed.

Jenny reaching towards me while I rub her belly.

My poor cats are so deprived.

Happy Caturday!

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Bullet Sunday 637

Posted on Sunday, November 10th, 2019

Dave!Hallmark Channel Christmas is in full swing this Sunday, but I'm making time for blogging anyway, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• OctoCup. I don’t know whether to be happy... or bust out crying because of how we’re destroying this planet with our filth...

Probably both. Poor creatures of earth. Fuck the climate change debate... clean up the planet because we have a moral reponsibility to do so. Humans are not the only thing living here.

   
• Madalorian. By and large, I've been disappointed with the post-Star Wars offerings. The prequel trilogy was utter crap. The sequel trilogy is lacking. Solo was okay, but not a homerun. And while I did love Rogue One for being the most Star Wars since The Empire Strikes Back, it had serious story issues. The final movie in the trilogy of trilogies, Rise of Skywalker arrives in December and looks like it will be a delicious special-effects spectacle. But what I'm really forward to? Jon Favre and Pedro Pascal's The Mandalorian coming to Disney+ on Tuesday...

Boy does that look good. Firmly set in the Star Wars Universe, but giving us something new outside of what the past films are mired in. I sure hope it lives up to the hype.

   
• AT&T Nickel Diming. Upgrading my iPhone through the Apple Upgrade Program was a mess. Worthy of an entire blog post when I have time to document the horror I went through with Apple. Turns out that the fun was just beginning because when I got my AT&T bill, there was a $30 upgrade fee on it. Even though AT&T didn't do a damn thing. The process of activating and transferring my phone was entirely automated and done by me! This is just another case of AT&T squeezing money out of their customers by nickel-and-diming them to death. When I called AT&T to ask them what in the hell they did to merit a $30 charge, their answer was... all the carriers do it. Which may be true. But AT&T costs considerably more than other carriers. And so... time to investigate a possible change. Free HBO that's a massive pain-in-the-ass to activate via AT&T's pitiful AT&T TV Now service (formerly DirecTV Now) is not worth it. Not by a damn sight. And they're dishonest assholes who still charge you full price, even when they are blacking out channels and not paying for them.

   
• Rank. Step One of getting rid of our fatally-flawed and totally shitty two-party system stranglehold is adopting ranked-choice voting. And... oh my.. here is something interesting.

   
• Padded. I have been attempting to use the new Adobe Photoshop on iPad. Except, despite it's name, it is NOT Adobe Photoshop. Not even remotely close to Photoshop. Of course I knew that there were going to be sacrifices (especially in the beginning), but this pathetic effort is so feature anemic as to be laughable. For one thing... no resizing or crop tools. I mean, sure there's a "crop tool" but you can't set a dimension. Your only choice is to "lock current ratio." THAT'S IT! Need a certain size? Fuck you. Need a certain resolution? Fuck you. Need a certain ratio? Fuck you. And... oh yeah... the crop tool doesn't snap to edges! What a fucking joke. It's not like I'm upset because I can't use all my filters and am demanding that every possible obscure feature from the desktop Photoshop be added... but holy fucking shit! CROPPING IS A BASIC FEATURE! IT'S NOT EVEN A BASIC FEATURE... IT'S LIKE THE MOST RUDIMENTARY FUNCTION OF AN IMAGE EDITING PROGRAM THERE IS! Pathetic. Can't believe we waited a whole YEAR for this?

   
• Wavy. Boy does this bring back memories of crossing The Drake Passage! I always wondered how they managed to cook on rough seas!

There were two times in crossing that dishes were thrown from our tables. Thrown. Which is why the expedition company I went with have to replace half the dishes every season.

   
• Punch Away. WE LITERALLY FOUGHT A WAR AGAINST THEM!

Hopefully. Hopefully.

   
And now... back to our regularly-scheduled Christmastime programming...

   

Cold Hands, Hot Chocolate

Posted on Monday, November 11th, 2019

Dave!Happy Veteran's Day to all who have served or are serving!

I haven't had time to put my "DO NOT BOTHER ME!" sign back up after Halloween. And, wouldn't you know it, the Mormons came-a-knockin' last week. I don't have any problem with them, I just don't appreciate having them intrude on my calm. Especially during the dinner hour.

Regardless, I have always tried to be friendly with them whenever I see them... especially when traveling in foreign countries... because I know they are usually far from home and just trying their best to live by their convictions whileI find missing their friends and families. I have yet to meet an LDS church member that hasn't been kind and generous, so I try to respond in kind.

I was shocked to see that the two Elders standing outside my door were in thin sweaters with no coats or gloves. It's already 38 degrees out and falling. I told them that I have friends in the church, but I'm not going to be joining them. I then told them to stay safe, try to stay warm, and have a good evening. They asked if there was anything they could do to help me out, and I told them to get some warm jackets.

And now I'm going to feel guilty that I didn't invite them in for a cup of hot chocolate so they could warm up for a minute. Or seeing if I could scrounge up some gloves. I dunno though. Maybe being cold is how they prey on people's sympathies to get them invited inside or whatever? Even so, whether by accident or design, I think it's sad that they have to be cold. Isn't somebody looking out for them? Assuming there are, they are grossly negligent.

Guess I should put my sign back up so as to avoid these moral dilemmas...

NO SOLICITING. NO UNINVITED VISITORS. NO RELIGIOUS APPEALS. NO POLITICAL CAUSES. NO SALESPEOPLE. NO PETITIONS, NO CHARITY.

Though, as we learned the hard way, that's no guarantee they'll leave me alone.

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Disney+ and a Galaxy Far, Far Away

Posted on Tuesday, November 12th, 2019

Dave!And so Disney+ is finally here.

Unlike Apple TV+, the content you get is staggering. Tons of shows and movies from the Disney archives (some of them having been buried for a long time) plus shows and movies from Disney affiliates (every episode of The Simpsons is right here). And of course the new shows and movies they have been promoting from the very start which will leverage their Disney, Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and National Geographic properties. I got in on a pre-purchase deal that dropped the cost to less than $4 a month, and at that price this is a bargain and a half for what you get.

Granted, the Marvel shows that I'm really looking forward to are a ways off yet, but I'd pay $4 a month for The Mandalorian alone, so it's all kinda a no-brainer.

And now, just as I did with Apple TV+ content, I am dropping my thoughts on what Disney+ originals bring to the table, from my favorite to least favorite...

The Mandalorian. The entire reason to get Disney+ from the get-go is right here. And, with the exception of Rogue One, it's better than most of the Star Wars stuff that's been released in the past 20 years. Mostly because Jon Favreau and Co. just didn't care about anything but taking all the cool stuff from Star Wars and doing something truly new with it. Between the mysterious nature of Pedro Pascal's namesake Mandalorian... and a freakin' fantastic appearance by a droid from the IG-88 series (IG-11). If you have even the smallest, most basic interest in Star Wars, here's your show. And reason enough to climb onboard the Disney+ train.

The Imagineering Story. The first of six episodes looking behind the scenes of creating the Disney parks. It's fantastic, featuring archive footage and modern interviews to explain how Disneyland (and everything that followed) came to be. Really cool stuff here... like a look at the incomparable Mary Blair at work. I'd pay the $7 price of admission just to watch this series.

Marvel: Expanding the Universe. A quick 12 minute sneak peak of all the stuff I am dying to watch on Disney+ (AKA the entire reason I subscribed). There's precious little new information here, but it definitely gets you excited for what's to come.

SparkShorts. These independent Pixar shorts are, well, everything you expect from Pixar. The first three (Purl, Smash and Grab, and Kitbull) were excellent, so there was no reason to expect anything less from Float. And it doesn't disappoint. Gorgeous animation about a dad trying to deal with a kid who can... float. It's sweet, heartfelt, and amazing. Interesting to note that Disney+ has added other amazing Pixar shorts like Bao and Piper to the service as well.

The World According to Jeff Goldblum I am not quite sure what this is supposed to be. It's essentially just Jeff Goldblum being Jeff Goldblum at his Jeff Goldblummiest while looking into a subject through the lens of Jeff Goldblum. The result is pretty great, but not exactly groundbreaking. Other shows have done this kind of thing better. But none of them had Jeff Goldblum, and that's the point isn't it? In the premiere, Jeff gets into the inexplicably cutthroat world of sneakers and the jaw-dropping price that people are willing to pay to get collectible pairs. Along the way we get mini-lessons about where vulcanized rubber came from, how companies like Adidas create sneakers, and other tangents. No mention of sweat shops in Indonesia paying children $1 a day to make the sneakers though. I guess you could call this superficially educational... superficial edutainment? Though Jeff slaps back against flat-earthers and dinosaur deniers, so there's that. Definitely watching this one.

Lady and The Tramp. The live-action remakes from Disney have been a mixed bag. Some of them are amazing (Jungle Book was fantastic), some of them are okay (Christopher Robin has great elements, but kinda flails) and some are just bad (Dumbo was sincerely lacking). The animated Lady and the Tramp was beautiful to look at, but not a favorite. I didn't expect the live-action remake to change my mind. But they pulled out all the stops to create a good film. No, it's not a cinematic masterpiece (and is not as good as the original), but the rescue dog stars they got were great. The casting was perfect (Sam Elliott as Trusty? Come on!). And the CGI talking effects were well-done. This is kinda a perfect example of what Disney+ should be. A place for movies not quite reaching the quality of a feature-film release, but deserving of more than some $9.99 direct-to-video dump.

Marvel Hero Project. If there's a promise for Disney+ outside of the obvious, shows like this are it. Inspiring, true-life stories that find heroes in humanity and showcase how they are changing our world... THEN, ZOMG, MADE INTO A MARVEL COMIC BOOK! The first issue has Jordan, a girl with limb differences, working to make the world more accessible for everyone. There's an awful lot to like about this show... even without the Marvel element... but made oh so much better because of the Marvel element. I mean, yeah, fashioning a "glitter arm" and shooting sparkly glitter at people may seem like a silly idea to build an episode around, but when you see the show you "get it." It will be interesting to see what future episodes will bring.

Noelle. Given my predilection for Hallmark Christmas movies, I thought this would be right up my alley. Anna Kendrick and Bill Hader? Oh my garland! Sign me up! And yet... it's not that at all. Instead it's more like a remake of Elf but not really nailing it. Sure it's cute, clever, brimming with Christmas charm, and has the eternal optimism you expect from Disney... but it's all kinda meh despite incredible production values and a great cast. Santa has retired and his son doesn't have the confidence, skills, or desire to take over, so it falls to his daughter Noelle. Given the date of the Disney+ debut, I suppose there had to be a Christmas movie. And this wasn't bad. Though I wonder if kids will be able to get into it? My guess is not.

Encore! Kristen Bell attempts to revive old productions of amateur high school musical theater... with the original cast! The first episode is Annie with the cast of a 1996 Santana High School production. I don't like musicals, at all, but was fascinated by the concept. And Kristen Bell. They start with a catchup of where all the cast is today... police officers, teachers, stay-at-home moms, and such. Then gather them together with a professional director, music director, and choreographer to stage a modern take on the original. And along the way you get to see them come together and rehash the past and discuss what's been happening in their lives. The result was okay... but ultimately not my thing. Not the personal drama nor the musical theater. And yet... I might keep tuning in on occasion? It's an interesting idea for reality television for sure.

Ask Forky a Question. Cute to see Forky and Ham again, but this first short (What is Money?) was pretty uneventful. Just Forky being Forky and nothing really happening.

Pixar in Real Life. A godawful attempt to bring Pixar into the real world. This first one brings in the control panel from Inside Out to the real world where passerby can control the emotions of two actors. Pointless and not the least bit entertaining. It's five minutes long. I made it to a minute-and-a-half before bailing.

Disney Family Sundays This is some kind of weird-ass crafting show for kids. But a horrifically bad one. In the first episode they make Dumbo's circus tent. The supplies include A PRE-MADE CANOPY TENT?!? WTF? Who has that laying around? Can you even buy that? Then you essentially hot-glue-gun a bunch of garish crap to the pre-made canopy. This is what passes for "crafting" now-a-days? Pathetic. And I just don't get it. First you have to watch the show, then you have to make a massive laundry-list of supplies to go buy (or try to find to buy), then you have to watch the show again as a step-by-step. Lame. I guess I should have expected some cheap "filler" shows to fill in the gaps, but this?!?

High School Musical: The Series No. Won't do it. This is where I draw the line.

   
And that's it.

Well, not really. Tons of Disney, Marvel, and Star Wars content await. Including some stuff from my childhood that I didn't expect to ever see again... like The Love Bug series (including Herbie Rides Again with Helen Hayes) and The Cat from Outer Space. And stuff I don't own that I'd definitely like to revisit (including Saving Mr. Banks and Hannah Montana).

I've read about people having connection problems with Disney+ but haven't had any major problems. Once or twice I've had an error pop up...

Something went wrong. Please try again.

...but after I dismiss and restart the program everything works just fine. And, much to my surprise, the program picks up right where the problem occurred. Nice!

The Apple TV interface is fairly good. The web interface is pretty bad. No navigation within the site... you have to use your browser's back button. But, in both cases, the content played just fine so I can't really complain.

Disney+ is off to a good start. But it's what's to come that has me excited to be a subscriber.

   

Apple MacBook Pro 16

Posted on Wednesday, November 13th, 2019

Dave!I have been enjoying Disney+ far more than I thought I would. So many movies from my childhood are just a click away and it's been great. That Darn Cat, Flight of the Navigator, Blackbeard's Ghost, The Cat From Outer Space, and of course the Herbie the Love Bug movies. It's amazing how good these movies were. That Darn Cat is shockingly smart, funny, and entertaining. They just don't make films like this any more.

In other good news... Apple has finally gotten off their asses, listened to the many complaints of their customers, and released a MacBook without their shitty, shitty, SHITTY "butterfly" keyboards. I haven't tried one yet, but the early reports are good.

I sure as hell hope so.

Because, at this point, I don't give a crap about anything but the keyboard. Well... maybe the display. But Apple has always had the most beautiful displays, so whatever. Everything else? Whatever. I don't care how it sounds, or how fast it's gotten, or if it has a stupid "TouchBar," or if it has "Touch ID." ALL I WANT TO DO IS BE ABLE TO WORK AND TO BE ABLE TO WORK I NEED TO BE ABLE TO FUCKING TYPE!

My current laptop is nearly eight years old and I've used it to death. It's constantly in use every day of the week. It has died and been repaired three times. The fan is starting to go and I can't find replacement parts for it. And yet I've kept hanging onto it because of Apple's shitty "butterfly" keyboards are impossible for me to type on. It's plenty fast and capable and I'd gladly keep using it if it weren't constantly dying.

Hopefully now, at long last, I have another option.

Enter the new 16-inch MacBook Pro...

The specs are impressive, as you'd expect.

Since the reviews of the keyboard are so good, I'll definitely take a look. And probably end up ordering one.

Hopefully my current laptop will hang on long enough for it to arrive. As I've been typing this, my fan has been howling again.

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Borked Blog is Borked

Posted on Thursday, November 14th, 2019

Dave!And here I am again with a Wordpress update that borked my blog.

I'd re-install it and restore the database, but I'm packing for a trip to the coast and so it will just have to wait. It's curious to me how the other blogs I update never have any problems, but Blogography is forever having problems.

Just lucky I guess.

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Thirty Dollars for Fish Entertainment

Posted on Friday, November 15th, 2019

Dave!This is a post... FROM THE FUTURE!!!

Something went wrong when I updated my blog yesterday (Thursday) and so I gave up on trying to post until I could re-install it tonight (Saturday).

Just thought I would post my photos from the Seattle Aquarium. It's a decent enough aquarium, but the entrance fee is insane... $30 if you're a Washington resident, $35 if you're not!

And yet... fish and stuff with my grand-nephew...

Sign to the Seattle Aquarium with tentacles coming out of the top.

A woman standing in front of a massive fish tank with a diver inside giving a lecture to a group of people.

A clown fish snuggling into some living coral.

The grand-nephew looking at the clownfish: NEMO! NEMO!

Seahorses in front of some brilliant pink coral.

Some kind of brilliant green sea anemone in a tidal pool.

Walking beneath a jellyfish in an overhead tank.

A puffer fish floating and eyeing me warily.

Colorful fish in a tank that are vivid against a black lava rock.

A vivid magenta sea anemone on a black lava rock.

Bright yellow mini sea anemones covering th bottom of a fish tank.

A black striped fish with bright white dots on its fins.

Pretty orange fish.

A sting ray up against the tank window looking like he's smiling.

Small jellyfish floating under a blue light. They have lacy edges to them which look like works of art.

Two grumpy looking fish frowning and looking at me through a fish tank window.

A massive school of hundreds of tiny fish swiming above me in a ceiling fish tank.

Entering the aquarium dome, which is a massive 360-degree fish tank.

A puffin bird swimming in the water of a big tank.

An otter floating on his back being adorable while toys float nearby.

Another otter swimming in the tank and looking cute.

An otter poking his head out of the water and looking like he's sitting.

A toy octopus that's a brilliant red color from the aquarium gift shop.

The grand-nephew standing in front of a huge floor-toceiling tank looking at fish.

A fun outing... but I question whether it's worth $30.

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Caturday 135

Posted on Saturday, November 16th, 2019

Dave!This morning I was awakened at 4am because somebody was walking through my back yard and I got a security alert on my phone. Just some guy walking by for some reason. Did't look in my windows or anything, so I have no idea... maybe drunk and lost? So I worked for a couple hours, then decided to take a nap. THEN I was awakened by a “person in my house” alert. Which ended up being Jenny sticking her ass in one of the security cameras and just sitting there. =sigh= My houseguests arrive later today, at which time I can turn off my interior cameras and will hopefully be able to sleep in for once tomorrow. That will be nice. Assuming people aren’t walking through my yard again.

Jenny sitting in front of the secutiry camera, blocking the view entirely.

Jenny sitting in front of the secutiry camera looking adorable.
Does this wide angle lens make my butt look big?

As I mentioned a couple Caturdays ago, the stupid clock-changes are a disaster for my cats. They don't understand it. The don't want it. And they most definitely aren't happy about it. I always try to minimize the impact by easing them into it by "falling back" in 15 minute increments, but all it seems to do is draw out their frustration.

Part of the problem is the automated feeder I have. Not only is it a pain to program, but it loses time constantly. So not only am I having to make adjustments for the time change, I'm also having to keep on top of it being the wrong time. All that does is draw out my frustration. I have seriously toyed with the idea of just keeping them on Daylight Saving Time all year long (much like what Washington State wants to do). This would involve my having to get up at 6am instead of 7am each morning for four months so I can feed them the spoonful of wet food they get with their dry food. Something I would gladly do... but it becomes a problem when I have guests over.

The solution seems to be getting a web-enabled feeder. That way I could make tiny 5-minute adjustments from the comfort of my couch and make sure that the clocks on the feeders are keeping proper time without me having to do a thing. I'm a bit shy about doing this, however, given the horrendous experience I had when I previously bought web-enabled feeders (the company shut down the server so the feeders were bricked and I was out $400). Nevertheless... this being the easiest solution, I've been putting aside $20 a month until I could afford one that can be split two ways... or get two feeders that can synchronize their clocks. Alas, at $400 for the two that I want, my $20 a month wasn't going to go very far.

But then...

...I was looking up the cost to get new filters for the cat fountain and saw that there was a new PETKIT SMARTFEED MINI Smart Feeder for $99 on sale for $89 each! The reviews were good, so I decided to take my savings and buy a pair of them...

The PetKit Mini, which is a slender white cylibder with a feeding tray at the bottom and a dispenser spout above the tray.

They are absolutely perfect (once getting the WiFi set up which, thanks to their app, appears harder than it actually is). There is one problem, however... I don't like the fact that my cats are eating out of plastic (this can cause feline acne and other problems), so I thought I'd see if I can construct a holder for my metal dishes when I have a chance. Looks like it'll be fairly straightforward. Though the plastic tray that comes with is really clever because it has magnets to hold it into place... so maybe I can come up with a liner of some kind.

So now I have feeders which can be easily reprogrammed from an app on my phone, making adjusting to time changes far, far more easier than what I used to have to go through. Jake and Jenny were scared of them at first... there's a hissing noise when the seal opens... but now they come running when they hear it activating, just like their old feeder...

Jake and Jenny running to the PetKit feeders at my feeding station.

Now all I have to do is cross my fingers that PETKIT doesn't go out of business and close down their servers any time soon.

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Bullet Sunday 638

Posted on Sunday, November 17th, 2019

Dave!Don't despair that yet another weekend is over, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Mando. After only two episodes of The Mandalorian I am prepared to say that it's my favorite thing to come out of Star Wars since The Empire Strikes Back. Or at least tied with Rogue One. I am just completely shocked that they are using their big budget on something more than pew pew space battles. It's all story development... and they are taking their time to get to where they're going. And making everything look 100% gorgeous along the way...

Baby Yoda creature from The Mandalorian

And now I want a Baby Yoda doll. But who doesn't?

   
• MACLUNKEY! And, speaking of Star Wars, I still can't get over how stunning the 4K remaster of the movie looks. Seriously... it looks like it could have been filmed last week! IT WAS RELEASED IN 1977! I was compelled to watch because I heard that the "Han Shot First" scene which was "reimagined" into a "Greedo Shot First" scene is now a "Han and Greedo Shot at the Same Time" scene...

Greedo from Star Wars looking manacing.

It's all so damn stupid. Han shot first. It was filmed that way. Any attempt to make it seem otherwise is just fucking embarrassing because it looks fake. BECAUSE IT IS FAKE! Why not just admit that Han Solo had a dicey past but in the end his hero nature prevailed? It sabotages nothing. It changes nothing. And the more you try and play it otherwise, the more you are drawing attention to it. Which is actually more than damn stupid... it's insulting.

   
• The King. Since the debut of The Impossible Whopper, I've eaten at least a dozen of them. Including the perfect one I had this morning...

An Impossible Whopper still in its wrapper on top of a Burger King bag inside a car.

For the most part, I absolutely love them. But here's the thing... like any burger, a number of factors go into how good each one tastes. Unripe, tasteless, tough tomato? Not so good. Ripe, flavorful, juicy tomato? Very good. Lettuce core that's tough and rancid? Not so good. Leafy, fresh lettuce? Very good. It goes on and on. Ordinarily, I'd chalk this up to rolling the dice in a game where I'm happy to play and take my chances. But when they cost $7.50 each? For that kind of money I would hope that Burger King would be a little more careful about making sure everything is good. Because... $7.50?!? Still cheaper than so many other vegetarian options out there... assuming you can find them in the first place.

   
• Axel! And so Netflix not only ponied up what I'm sure is an ungodly amount of money to Eddie Murphy so he would film a standup special... they must have backed up another dump truck full of cash for him to make a fourth Beverly Hills Cop movie...

Eddie Murphy as Axel Foley from Beverly Hills Cop making the OKAY sign in one hand while holding a gun in the other.

I loved the first two... liked the third one... and am hoping against hope that they will make the fourth one be worth a crap. After the long, long, long time that the franchise has languished in development hell, this is probably our last shot.

   
• Root Beer. I love Japan and adore the Japanese people. I see videos like this pop up in my feed and it's weird how the language starts coming back to me. I really should make time to refresh my skills and get back to Japan one of these days...

For the record, I love root beer. And A&W Diet Root Beer is fantastic.

   
• Watching. All-in-all I liked what Zack Snyder did with Watchmen. At least I did until the end where he completely changed Ozymandias's plan and fucked everything up. Which, in retrospect, is no surprise. He has absolutely no respect for the source material and feels as though he can "improve" on everything. In the case of Watchmen, he jettisoned the shock of a giant psychic alien squid destroying New York City, thus depriving us of one of the original series' greatest moments. In tonight's episode of the HBO series, which follows the graphic novel instead of Snyder's film, we finally got to see it in a flashback...

A giant psychic alien squid destroying New York City, thus depriving us of one of the original series

Now, this is not really a spoiler since it already happened back in 1987. And if it is a spoiler, how sad that you never read one of the greatest comic book series of all time before watching the show.

The HBO Watchmen series has been good... very good. And with each new episode I like it even more. But then I have to remind myself that the guy in charge of the show is Damon Lindelof. Talk about somebody who can fuck up an ending. This was one of the guys responsible for Lost. And so... while this series is delicious in all the right ways (mind-bogglingly good scripts and incredible performances) I'm holding onto my final judgement until all nine episodes have aired.

   
Until next weekend then...

   

Let the Madness Begin

Posted on Monday, November 18th, 2019

Dave!I do not carry balances on my credit cards.

The "why" is something I have talked about before (credit card debt is hell, y'all), and I've done a fairly good job of sticking to this goal. If I want or need something, I save for it. If it's an emergency, I clear out my savings to pay for it. The only reason I will carry a credit card balance is if it is the absolute last resort because my mission is to have $0 in interest charges at the end of the year.

There are exceptions, of course.

My Australia trip ended up being much, much, much more expensive than I has saved for. It took seven months to pay it off.

My Antarctica trip was totally saved for... until I was put on a keto diet and lost so much weight I had to buy new winter clothes... five months to pay that off.

Last year I wanted a SONOS Sub (subwoofer) so badly that I could not pass up their Black Friday $100 savings. This dropped the cost to $600... but I only had $120 saved for it. This meant paying off a credit card balance of $480 over the next three months. I didn't care that I had to eat cheap pasta, not eat at restaurants or go out, not buy anything but absolute necessities, and cancel Netflix... getting my credit card balance to $0 is all that matters.

Thanks to SONOS Sub putting me behind in my savings for this year's Black Friday madness, I had to tighten my belt and set aside extra money each month to reach my goals. I'm a little behind in my clothing savings (which is bad because my boots are falling apart!) but a little ahead in my gadget savings (which is good because I have to replace some outdoor security cameras). Since I try to make it so that this is the only time of year I buy clothes, I may have to shift monies between accounts, but overall I'm happy with how much cash I've managed to save.

And tonight I made my Black Friday shopping list. I need henley shirts, long-sleeve dress shirts, underwear, and a pair boots. I would like two new outdoor security cameras and a couple pair of jeans (what I have are fine, but some occasions call for a newer, nicer pair). I want iTunes gift cards (assuming I can find them on discount, which is the only reason to buy iTunes gift cards... full-price cards get me nothing).

Assuming I can find deals like I've done in past years, I should be in good shape to get everything on my list.

And still have a $0 balance on my credit cards after it's all over.

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Get Angry, Then Laugh

Posted on Tuesday, November 19th, 2019

Dave!I honestly don't know where I land on all the impeachment stuff.

I mean, yeah, the president abused his office for personal gain. There is no debating this. It all really happened and there's a preponderance of evidence that it happened. Of course the president denies it happened... but then, like every other time he's accused of something he did, he tries to suppress evidence and tell lies to convince people it didn't happen. Then real evidence is uncovered, proof is found, and he starts screaming "Fake News" so his supporters will look the other way. This has been happening since he assumed office. And it's obviously a strategy that works for him because he should have been thrown in jail long ago.

The Orange Menace, President Trump, being all angry while his hands have been Photoshopped to be smaller than the small they already were.The pathetic man-baby asshole.

Except... don't all politicians do crap like this?

The issue at hand here is that President Trump's corruption is so much easier to see. Because. He's. Just. That. Damn. Stupid. And he surrounds himself with fucking morons like Rudy Giuliani who is happy to go on live television interviews and admit everything. And, oh yeah, President Trump's crimes run bigger, badder, and worser than most politicians, so there's that. He is effectively giving this country to billionaires, special interest groups, and foreign countries (many of them our enemies)... all while eradicating small business and the middle class to do it. People who benefit him get everything. People who cannot benefit him get fucked.

Same as it ever was.

Same as it ever was.

So, yeah, sure. Impeach him. Remove the president from office. Let bat-shit crazy insane Vice President Pence eradicate what few personal liberties remain and start World War III by nuking all the non-Christian nations (it's the jihad he's been masturbating over for decades). Or let President Trump continue his term... possibly get a second term... and run this country so far into the ground that it can never recover. Either way, we're fucked. The world is fucked.

The only way that impeachment will actually mean anything for the rest of us is if ALL the crooked politicians get thrown in jail. ALL of them. Then we can establish term limits... eliminate gerrymandering... abolish lobbyists... curb corruption... strive for equal representation... nurture personal liberties... repair our environment... protect our wildlife... set our clocks to permanent Daylight Saving Time... and work towards being a country that lives up to the ideals of who we want to be. Who we really want to be once all the slime has been eradicated and our government works for everyone and not the few.

Make that happen and I would gladly tune into the hearings.

   
In other news... I hope Netflix is offering Aamer Rahman a pile of money for his own special. I've shared a video from him before, but here's some more...


Some of his stuff is wonderfully insightful, flipping the script on race to illustrate exactly where we're at...


I don't find anything offensive in truth. If people do, then that's probably a good thing.

   

Professional Prosumer Consumer

Posted on Wednesday, November 20th, 2019

Dave!Most times I am happy that the nitty-gritty details of how electronics work are hidden from me. All I want is for my stuff to "just work" and do what I need it to do with as little drama as possible.

This is a double-edged sword, however.

Apple is famous for wrapping up complex tech into an easy-to use wrapper. This is mostly okay... except when they start taking away needed features in the name of "simplification." In cases like this, just let the user decide whether they want the feature active or not. Because Apple's idea of what's best may not be the same as their customers.

Right now I am fighting this same issue with my Google WiFi mesh router/node system...

Google WiFi Mesh Router System

While not an overly powerful or fast setup, it's worked just fine for me. My entire home and outdoor space has excellent coverage, which has been nice for my cloud cameras and such. If you just want basic Wifi and need it to extend over a large area, it's a decent pick.

Problem is that the app behind it is laughably inadequate.

It lacks so many basic functions that using the label "router" on it feels way generous.

Want to grant traffic priority to a device? Like your AppleTV so it doesn't run into buffering problems? You can do that... FOR A LIMITED TIME PERIOD! There's no way to permanently give a device "priority status." You have to go into the app and set it up EVERY TIME YOU NEED IT. This is asinine. At the very least you should have the option to tell it not to expire until you turn it off!

And then there's the anemic connected devices display. Can't be sorted by device name, IP address, MAC address, or anything else (bandwith usage is the only metric used to order the list). Can't be searched. Can't be exported. Can't be flagged. Can't be throttled. Can't be ordered. Can't be scheduled. Can't be grouped. You can't even have it notify you when a new device is connected. I don't know why they even bother to allow you to look at a list of connected devices since the whole fiasco is functionally useless.

While having just the bare minimum in features would be nice... what Google WiFi really needs is some smarts. What I want is for my cameras to be automatically prioritized when I'm away... and my AppleTV to be prioritized when I'm home. Since Google Wifi already gets this information the second my iPhone comes within range, why is it so fucking difficult to have this happen? It's such an obvious feature that the fact you can't do this is more than a little silly. You can kludge it together with IFTTT... kinda... but prioritization only lasts 2 hours, so that's useless too.

Ultimately, Google WiFi just isn't cutting it. I thought that their Nest WiFi replacement might be the answer, but it uses the same shitty app and doesn't even have WiFi 6 despite just now being released!

Guess this will be something to research come the new year. I don't even want to think about it when I've got a list of a million other things waiting to be done.

   

SHUT. THE FUCK. UP.

Posted on Thursday, November 21st, 2019

Dave!Vegans: MEAT IS MURDER!
Also Vegans: I AM SUPPORTING THIS MEAT-BASED RESTAURANT WITH MY BUSINESS!

I am so fucking sick and tired of American's lawsuit culture that I could just vomit. Suing people is a nation-wide activity, which just clutters up the courts and make it so that actual lawsuits... you know, lawsuits with merit that need to be heard... have to fight for courtroom time.

HEADLINE ABC NEWS: Vegan man suing Burger King claims Impossible Whopper was 'contaminated' by meat.

I mean, come on. The place is a Burger King. What are people expecting? That every restaurant will install a second $100,000 auto-griller to make a burger that they never claimed was vegetarian become vegetarian? The ONLY claim that Burger King makes is that it's a 100% plant-based patty. THAT'S IT! I eat Impossible Whoppers because I don't want to kill an animal to eat. If I was bothered by meat contamination then a MEAT-BASED RESTAURANT would be the LAST place I went.

A Burger King Impossible Whopper hamburger.
Picture taken by ME... just before I ATE IT!

Besides, if you want it vegan, then ask Burger King to microwave the patty for you... something they will happily do. And also remember to hold the cheese and mayo.

And then? Shut the fuck up about it.

Stupid shit like this drives me insane. If eating 100% vegan with no meat contamination is important to you, THEN EITHER EAT AT A VEGAN RESTAURANT OR COOK YOUR MEALS AT HOME! Otherwise YOU'RE JUST FUCKING THINGS UP FOR THE REST OF US, YA DUMBASS!

THIS SHIT RIGHT HERE IS WHY SO MANY VEGANS ARE HATED! Rather than be happy that people who don't want to kill animals to eat are finally getting options... AND LESS ANIMALS ARE BEING KILLED... they want to drop lawsuits so that restaurants won't even bother to take a risk in developing meat-free foods. HOW IS THAT PROGRESS?!?? Well, it's not. And if these dumbfucks would pull their self-righteous heads out of their asses and stop suing people out of their own fucking idiocy, maybe they could appreciate that.

Or not. Because this kind of senseless stupidity is all these lawsuit-happy assholes know.

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Once Upon a Time…

Posted on Friday, November 22nd, 2019

Dave!My favorite director is Quentin Tarantino.

I love every one of his films, and the fact that he writes his own material is just icing on the cake. His encyclopedic knowledge of cinema gives him the perfect toolbox for creating perfect movies. He knows what works and what doesn't work, and puts only the stuff that works into his art. The only thing I don't like about Quentin Tarantino is his long-standing proclamation that he is stopping after ten films. I hope he ends up ignoring that and only stops when he feels he's done, because I can't believe somebody with his talent and success could ever just... stop.

Which brings us to his 9th film... Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which was just released on digital. As with all of his movies, I absolutely loved it...

   

Spoiler Alert. There are spoilers below.

   
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is the story of Rick Dalton (perfectly captured by Leonardo DiCaprio) a fading star who had a famous TV show in the 50's called Bounty Law... along with his best friend and stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt being as amazing as ever). As his career eventually becomes playing a series of bad guys in movies... and a run of Italian Westerns... he has to grapple with the approaching end of his career and an uncertain future. At the same time, Dalton and Booth have the misfortune of becoming entangled with The Manson Family during the Summer of Love thanks to Dalton's home being next door to Roman Polanski and his wife Sharon Tate.

At this point you need to know that, in real life, Sharon Tate (who was 8 months pregnant) and the friends who were staying with her were murdered by Manson's followers at her home.

But in Tarantino's alternate history accounting of events, the Manson followers recognize Rick Dalton and decide to kill him instead. Unfortunately for them, they proceed to be brutally killed by Cliff Booth and Booth's dog (and Rick Dalton with a flamethrower). It's glorious. Much in the same way I loved to see Hitler and his brigade of upper-echelon Nazi fucks get brutally murdered in Inglourious Basterds, it's pure cinematic joy to see the Manson pieces of shit get the tables turned on them and get killed in the most painful, horrendous ways possible.

They call that cinematic justice. Which is a nice departure from the world we live in.

And that's the movie.

It's not as complex a narrative as the time shifts in Pulp Fiction or Kill Bill, but this allows Quentin to be laser-focused on the characterization, which is pretty close to his best yet. And a film I highly recommend, if you're so inclined.

   
And because it's bound to be asked by somebody, here is where I rank the nine films of Quentin Tarantino (that he both wrote and directed)...

  1. Pulp Fiction
  2. Kill Bill (Vol. 1 & 2)
  3. Inglourious Basterds
  4. Jackie Brown
  5. Django Unchained
  6. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
  7. Reservoir Dogs
  8. The Hateful Eight
  9. Grindhouse: Death Proof

In reality, they are all #1 films to me. The only reason I can rank the movies at all is because there are specific things that register in my head for many of them. Pulp Fiction was the first Tarantino movie I saw. Kill Bill had some of the most remarkable fight scenes of all time. Inglourious Basterds and its revisionist history blew my mind, Jackie Brown was sublimely character-driven with a fun twist... that kind of thing. And any time I re-watch Jackie Brown it becomes my #1 film for a few weeks just because Pam Grier is flawless.

Rumor has it that Quentin Tarantino is working on a Star Trek film. I have no idea how it will fit in with the various Star Trek properties... perhaps it won't, which would be fantastic because Tarantino could just go nuts and do a true Quentin Tarantino film that heads wherever his imagination takes him. I'm not sure this if this is what I'd want to be his final motion picture... if, indeed, he sticks to his ten-and-done promise, but I'll take what I can get.

Tarantino has yet to go wrong in my book.

   

Caturday 136

Posted on Sunday, November 24th, 2019

Dave!As the days grow colder, Jake and Jenny's singular focus seems to be warmth. I mean, my house is far from cold, but cats can't seem to get enough heat, I guess.

As I've mentioned, their favorite place in the house is on the electric blanket. Which wouldn't be a problem if they would share it. But, for reasons that escape me, this is a rare sight...

Jake and Jenny laying on my electric blanket.

If one of them is on the bed, the other one usually leaves my bedroom. But... once... maybe twice a month... they are willing to share for a while for whatever reason.

Though Jenny still seems to appreciate it most...

Jenny rolled up into a ball on an electric blanket while I'm scratching her bum.

Jake seems happy to steal warmth from me most days...

Jake laying on my lap asleep.

Jake laying on my legs and looking around the room.

What's weird is how Jake and Jenny have no problems at all sharing a bed when I'm not in it. Since heat rises and upstairs is warmer than downstairs, they spend their days in the guest room. Used to be they would run downstairs to greet me when I come home from work. But lately? Nope. Jake will look up to acknowledge that he's heard me arrive... then go back to sleep. Jenny doesn't even do that much...

Jake and Jenny curled up on a bed. Jake is looking up because he's heard the door open.

In other news... Chewy sent Jake and Jenny a handwritten birthday card...

A birthday card from Chewy which says Whether you bark, shirp, meow, or squeak, here's to having a hoot on your birthday. It's hand-signed Hi Jake and Jenny, May your special day be as pawsome as you! XOXO The Chewy Family.

I guess this is how their phone operators spend their time when they're not on the phone? Interesting that they sent a combo card. Apparently their system lists pet birthdays by household so they know when they can send one card for multiple pets.

Still... that's nice, right?

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Bullet Sunday 639

Posted on Sunday, November 24th, 2019

Dave!I see you've tuned in to the same Bat-Channel at the same Bat-Time, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Printing Errors. I've designed nearly a dozen books and I've made my share of mistakes along the way. But one thing I've never done is run text into the gutter. And yet Marvel's "The Art of the Movie" books excel at it. Including Marvel's Avengers: Endgame, The Art of the Movie which was released last week...

It shocks me every damn time. How are you supposed to read this shit? Even if you tip up the opposite side at a 90° angle, it's tough...

I guess you're supposed to break the binding and pound it flat? This is infuriating. These are not cheap books.

   
• Thanksgiving Art. Artist Hannah Rothstein created Thanksgiving dinner plates as imagined by various artists in 2014 (and a second helping in 2015). The results are pretty great...

To see all of her photos, be sure to check out her website.

   
• Nippon Bunka. When I saw that the latest season of Queer Eye was in Japan, I was curious to see how it was going to work... but didn't tune in right away. And when I finally decided to take a look, I was surprised at how some of the language came rushing back to me. Then mortified because there were a lot of cringeworthy moments. They obviously didn’t take the time to learn anything about Japanese culture, and I finally had to stop watching half-way through the third episode. I just couldn’t take it any more. The show was highly disrespectful of how Japanese culture works, and how people there have a mindset to fit into society for the benefit of the greater harmony. It is essentially Americans invading these people’s homes, trouncing over everything they believe, and telling them how much better there lives would be if they were more American. Then likely not realizing that politeness would preclude the Fab-Five being told if the Japanese person in question was uncomfortable or didn't want to go along with what was being dumped on them. It was just too awful. Then I read this article and see it went even deeper than I realized. Quite a step backwards from the shows that came before.

   
• Not Cats. There is absolutely NO condition under which I want to see this movie. If I am in a coma... and you visit me... and this is playing on the television... CHANGE THE CHANNEL! Good Lord what a heinous CGI abomination. I mean, yeah, I wasn't interested in the Broadway musical either... but at least THAT I understood. This CGI weirdness is absurd, and I would have rather they had this amazing cast just dress up like they did at the theater performances. THAT I would have probably watched. When it came to HBO or Netflix or whatever. But this?!?

No thanks.

   
• Whoa. Well these natural works of art by Andy Goldsworthy are amazing...

Stones converging in a circle from black to gray to white.

Brilliant yellow leaves fading from the base of a tree.

Leaves spiraling in a circle from brown to red to orange to yello.

I found out about them over here.

   
• Awww. Melts.

The entire channel is gold, and you can visit it here.

   
Until next time, Bat-Fans.

   

Functionally Extinct Humanity

Posted on Monday, November 25th, 2019

Dave!All too often we humans speak of the planet as if humanity is the only thing living on it.

This attitude is mortifying, and a huge part of why animals of all kinds are rapidly losing their homes. Whether it be due to climate change... or deforestation... or pollution... or any number of other human-induced disasters, our fellow creatures are not long for this earth. "Adapt or die" is a phrase that's tossed around like it excuses everything, which is easy to say when you are able to adapt more quickly than all the so-called "lesser species" on this planet. If our home is destroyed, we rent a U-Haul and drive ourselves to someplace else that we've created to be just like the place we've left. Animals (especially those with special diets) don't have this option.

This past week articles were hitting the news saying that koalas have become "functionally extinct" thanks to horrible wildfires raging through Australia.

Subsequent responses are all over the map. Some say that this is a vastly-overblown statement and koalas are nowhere near going extinct. Others say that "functionally extinct" is a statement considering future trends, and is completely accurate. In any event, Forbes changed their headline from "Expert claims Australia's beloved marsupial is 'functionally extinct' after bushfires destroyed 80 per cent of their natural habitat and killed thousands"... to "Fires Have May Have Killed Up To 1,000 Koalas, Fueling Concerns Over The Future Of The Species"... which they claim is to "better reflect the content of the reporting." So make of it what you will. Interesting to note that the original headline is still part of the URL...
https://www.forbes.com/sites/trevornace/2019/11/23/koalas-functionally-extinct-after-australia-bushfires-destroy-80-of-their-habitat/

As I am neither an expert on koalas nor their survivability chances, I'll bow out of that fight.

I will, however, weigh in with my opinion, which is this: Once humanity stops caring for all life on this planet, we are dooming ourselves just as surely as if we found a way to crash the earth into the sun. Life here is co-dependent and if you want to be exposed to something that will keep you up at night, start reading articles on how close we may be to eliminating a keystone species. Well, at least those "keystone species" we know of.

Koalas may... or may not... be a keystone species upon which most life on this planet relies (it's something you can only ever truly know in hindsight). But they are amazingly sweet, gentle, inoffensive, and adorable creatures who deserve better than what they've gotten by our hand. When I visited the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Australia, theirs seemed like such a dire predicament eight years ago... and it's just getting more hopeless as time goes on.

Me holding a koala... both of us looking into the camera while I'm having the time of my life.

How much better off would life on this planet be if we weren't here fucking it up?

Humans, such as we are, may not be functionally extinct... but we are quickly becoming functionally inhuman.

   

Anticipatory Damages

Posted on Tuesday, November 26th, 2019

Dave!Lately my life has become more about anticipating the future than living in the "right now." I don't know that this is necessarily a bad thing... looking forward to stuff is a healthy way to stay positive, isn't it? But I do feel like my head is in the clouds more than it should be.

As the days start getting really, really cold, most of my activities are indoors. Work all day. Watch movies and television all night.

And, boy is it a great time for television. My crappy Hallmark movies are running 24/7. Fridays we got The Mandelorian and The Morning Show... Sundays are new Watchmen and Rick and Morty... Just to name a few. My DVR is jam-packed whenever I check it!

And then there's Black Friday and Cyber Monday coming up, which is essentially the only time of year that I "shop" for stuff. I am looking forward to getting some affordable, quality clothing (the stuff I could never afford at full price, which is awesome) and some shoes. And... oh yeah... I am really looking forward to getting new underwear since half of mine are on the verge of falling apart. Other than that, I've got my budget set and my list made, so hopefully I won't buy more than I can afford without going into credit card debt and not buy stuff I don't need. Thanks to some companies providing "Black Friday Sneak Peaks" all week long, I have a pretty good idea of what I will be buying and how much I will be paying for it. The only thing I'm not entirely sure about is a new dash cam for my car. It's getting to the point where so many lunatics are driving distracted that I'm almost afraid to drive without one anymore. I bought a $30 one years ago that has been doing okay, but now it has to be taped together because it's falling apart and barely working. I'd feel a lot better about driving if I can find a good one on sale. Fingers crossed.

Thanksgiving will be spent working. I love working on holidays because I can get so much more done when I'm left alone in silence. And, let me tell you, I really need to get a lot of work done. Thanksgiving dinner will be spent with my cats. Stinky sardines for them, bread stuffing with cranberry jelly for me. Friday will mostly be working... but my morning will be spent climbing on Black Friday deals as fast as I can. Saturday and Sunday I will be working on a shelter upgrades for Fake Jake (the stray in our neighborhood) and finishing up whatever work I have left.

Which will hopefully won't be too much.

Because what I'm really looking forward to is some time off before Monday rolls around and I'm buried in work once again.

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Eggs Under Pressure

Posted on Wednesday, November 27th, 2019

Dave!I have always resisted the "Instant Pot" pressure cooker craze because it seemed as if it would be a waste of money for me. There's simply not a lot of things I would use it for. I don't make many soups, my sauces don't call for one, I already have a rice cooker and, since I don't eat meat, all those recipes for "the moistest, most succulent meat you'll ever eat" are lost on me. It's not worth the $120 they cost when I'll barely use it.

But then I got one of those bargain shopper emails which had an 8-quart Instant Pot imitator on sale for $35 and I thought "why not?"

For one reason and one reason only... hard boiled eggs! I am tired of buying a carton of eggs, having to wait weeks and weeks so they'll be "old enough" to peel easily, then inevitably be disappointed because one or two of them still don't peel that great. And every time I've complained... EVERY TIME... a dozen people perk up with "You should get an Instant Pot! The shell practically falls off the egg!"

And so... I ponied up the $35 to see what all the fuss was about. At best I had the most amazing egg cooker money could buy. At worst I blew $35 on something I'd use twice a year...

My Best Buy Pressure Cooker Instant Pot Knock-Off.

After I got it, I was shocked at how huge this thing is. It's massive! I was not expecting something this gigantic for $35! So I went back to the site and found out why... somebody made a boo boo. The 6-quart was supposed to be $35, the 8-quart was supposed to be $70. At first I was wishing that I would have gotten the 6-quart so I had space to store it in the kitchen... but after thinking about it, I was happy to have the larger capacity in case I have to cook for a crowd. I'll just have to find a spot in the garage to store it.

Seriously, this thing is huge!

And intimidating.

The manual, which they insist you read from cover to cover before operation, is pretty serious. You can get burned. You can release the pressure wrong. You can die. That kind of thing. And so... I was sure to read everything. Twice.

And then? Bring on the eggs!

Except... first of all, THERE'S A CAKE BUTTON?!? And, second of all, where was the hard boiled eggs button on this thing?

My Best Buy Pressure Cooker Instant Pot Knock-Off Control Panel.

Umm... there wasn't one. And so I went online to look up at how to do this. The instructions were not rocket science. Dump in one cup of water, let cook for 5 or 6 minutes on low pressure, then drop the cooked eggs in an ice water bath. Simple. Except... where is my "low pressure" button? Apparently you have to use low pressure or else your eggs will crack open. So I read the manual again and... unlike a pricey Instant Pot, my knock-off doesn't allow you to set the pressure.

Well, shit.

Apparently with my pressure cooker you are forced to select a "recipe button" and adjust it. I went with "Vegetable Steam" and reduced the timer from 8 minutes to 5 minutes. Then I pressed the start button. Much to my dismay, the timer didn't start. Instead lights were chasing each other on the display. Back to the manual. Apparently this is what happens when the cooker comes up to pressure... then the timer starts. Okay then.

Once the cooker beeped I clicked it off and unplugged it so it wouldn't stay on "Keep Warm" forever. Then I turned the release valve to let the steam blow out and waited for the little pressure valve to drop. At which point I opened the lid and expected to find a bunch of crushed eggshells stuck in a giant egg pie. But the eggs were intact and looked perfect. So into the ice water bath they went! Ten minutes later it was time to peel them.

THE SHELL REALLY DOES FALL OFF THE FRICKIN' EGG... EVEN FRESH EGGS!

Alrighty then! $35 well-spent! So happy I didn't throw that money down the drain. And then I cut one open and... BOOOOOOO! It wasn't cooked all the way! The yolk wasn't runny, but they weren't done. This made me mad because eggs aren't free, and I was having to throw out a half-dozen of them. Except... they're still edible, right? Back to Google, where I found out that what I had were medium-cooked eggs. Cooked, but with a soft center instead of a firm center. Something I have never had before. So I sprinkled on some freshly-ground salt and pepper and...

HOLY CRAP! THESE ARE AMAZING!!!

A boiled egg chart showing what boiled eggs look like when cooked for a certain amount of time... starting with practically raw at one minute all the way to overcooked at fifteen minutes.
Egg chart taken from Mamabee... the arrow is pointing to what my eggs look like.

I HAVE BEEN EATING BOILED EGGS WRONG MY ENTIRE LIFE!!!

Medium-cooked eggs have creamy yolks... not dry and pasty. Medium-cooked eggs have whites that are soft... not firm and rubbery. And I could not stop eating them... I downed four of them for dinner right then and there. Then I sliced a fifth one to put on an English muffin for dessert.

I've since found out that I should have let them sit for five minutes in the cooker after releasing pressure before dumping them in the ice bath so the yolk finishes cooking. Then I'll get the firmer hard-boiled eggs I need for potato salad and stuff. I'll figure it out eventually. In the meanwhile... I would not be opposed to more "failures" like my first batch. Delicious!

I'm excited to try mashed taters next. Apparently mashed potatoes are amazing when pressure-cooked, and I do love me a good mashed tater.

And chili. Vegetarian chili would be great!

Oooh... and what about risotto?

And... CAKE(!?!) of course.

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Thankful and Good Enough

Posted on Thursday, November 28th, 2019

Dave!I was never much into Thanksgiving. Though I've always been into being thankful.

When I was a kid, Thanksgiving was just a bump in the road on the way to Christmas. The family would get together at grandma's house where we'd all partake in her amazing cooking... and even more amazing dessert. When I became a vegetarian in 1986 I was anticipating problems. But my grandmother took it completely in stride. She made the stuffing outside the bird and used vegetable broth. Beans no longer had bacon in them. I was able to eat more than my fill without eating meat, and it was fine.

My grandmother was pretty great like that.

When grandma couldn't cook large-scale meals any more, Thanksgiving became progressively more scaled back. Instead of her roasting an entire turkey, there would be a "turkey loaf" (whatever that was). Dessert was store-bought. And when she had to be moved to a care facility, some of the family would show up and order extra plates from the cafeteria so we could still have dinner together. It wasn't the same. It sure didn't taste as good. But it meant something special to her for everybody to get together, and that's all that mattered.

After my grandmother passed there would be no more Thanksgiving dinners.

Before the next one rolled around, my mom would already be in a care facility. Her first Thanksgiving there, my brother and I were able to take her to the Denny's up the road. The next Thanksgiving was too difficult for her to travel even a short ways, so we had it in her room with to-go plates from that same Denny's. It was at that point that we found out she had difficulty feeding herself, making her last Thanksgiving a depressing affair for all three of us.

She didn't make it to the next Thanksgiving.

And so now I'm just done with it all. I am not interested in going to another Thanksgiving dinner. All it would do is be a painful reminder of all I've lost, even as I continue to be thankful that I had so many good Thanksgivings with my mom and grandmother in the past.

For however many years I have left, I'm happy to cook up some mashed potatoes with bread stuffing and cranberry jelly and spend the day with my cats.

That's a good enough Thanksgiving for me.

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In Blackest Friday

Posted on Friday, November 29th, 2019

Dave!And... my one shopping day of the year is here! Every month I put aside $100 for clothes and "other stuff" then wait until Black Friday to buy all the clothes and "other stuff" I need. $100 a month is quite a chunk of cash to not have in my pocket, but worth it when I end up with $1200 in November that magically becomes $2400 (or more!) on Black Friday thanks to all the sales and savings.

Below I refer to "Rakuten Cash Back" in a lot. Rakuten bought out eBates and have taken over their cashback operations. It's a pretty easy way to save even more money on Black Friday (or any other day) and you can sign up to get $10 right off the bat with my referral link right here.

And now? On with my Black Friday scores...

   
AKASO DASH CAM! • Reg. $66, Paid $38 (after Amazon cash back)
My previous dash cam was $20 and has lasted for four years before falling apart and going glitchy. As I mentioned, I am afraid to drive without one given how crazy distracted drivers are, so I was hoping hoping hoping I could get a nice one on sale. I was going to buy another $20 camera, but the cheap ones force you to remove the tiny memory card every time you want the footage. With a WiFi model like this you can just connect with your iPhone and grab the video directly. Handy! Plus... GPS! Worth the additional $18.

The AKASO dash cam which is a small wedge-shaped plastic doohickey with a small screen and some buttons.

   
SHOES! • Reg. $170, Paid $128
I should have bought shoes last Black Friday, but I thought I could get one more year out of the pair I have. I'm not rough on shoes... they usually last me four or five years... so a little Shoe Goo will keep them together right? They still look great... it's just the soles that are falling apart. But back in August the soles fell complete apart. My plan was to buy a cheap pair of $20 shoes, rip the soles off, then glue them on mine. This seemed extreme. Instead I used more Shoe Goo to piece everything together. It worked surprisingly well. But I needed new shoes. I would have loved to have found the same model I had before... but of course shoe companies don't do that. I also would have loved to have spent under $100... but of course the shoes I found that I liked weren't under $100. Oh well. It's still 25% off, which is better than nothing.

My bad-ass new shoes being all black and forest green.

   
ALEXA! Reg. $99 • Paid $33 (with trade-in and Amazon cash back)
I bought a SONOS One for my bedroom. It's absolutely fantastic, and fills the room with amazing sound. Problem is, the AirPlay 2 on it is glitchy as hell, which means the audio has constant drop-outs when I'm playing content from my Apple TV. And Apple TV keeps "forgetting" that the SONOS exists, so I am having to reconnect several times a week. It's maddening, because 95% of the time I'm using it for my television. And so I decided to get an Echo (3rd Gen.) which has a 3.5mm audio line-in that I can run directly from my television. I traded in the old Amazon Echo I have in the bathroom for $25, so it ends up being a $35 spend. No, the sound won't be as good as my SONOS One, but it's gotten good reviews for its quality and will be good enough... plus I can transfer the SONOS One to my upstairs bathroom, which will be amazing for listening to music each morning while I shower and get ready.

An Amazon Echo cylidner plus a cutaway view showing the speaker array inside.

   
iTUNES! GIFT CARD • Reg. $100, Paid $70 (with Rakuten Sign-up Bonus)
As is my custom every year, I buy a $100 iTunes gift card at 20% off to cover the Marvel movies and sale movies I buy each year. I joined Rakuten and they gave me $10 cash back for my first purchase, so this year it was an especially sweet 30% off!

   
OUTDOOR NEST CAM! • Reg. $199, Paid $159
I have two camera systems. A wired system with local recording that has a battery backup and will run even with no power or internet... and a Nest cloud system which is constantly uploading footage to the internet. The Nest cameras are fantastic, but I was ready to ditch them all because the per-camera cloud service cost was absurdly expensive. But they made an announcement a while back that this would be changing to a much cheaper "bulk plan" where all cameras would be covered for one price. Given this, I decided to keep all my Nest cameras and replace a failed outdoor camera with another Nest. But not the new "Nest Cam IQ" which has the stupidest mounting requirements (DRILL A HOLE THROUGH YOUR HOUSE!), I got the original Nest Cam Outdoor. I budgeted to get it for $129, but the savings ended up being less steep than I had hoped.

The Nest Outdoor Cam which is a sexy white thing with a lens on it... and a butterfly on top.

   
HELLO! • Reg. $229, Paid $149
The first smart doorbell I had was the original "Ring" model. It was huge, but it worked well. Then Ring sent me an offer I couldn't refuse... a 4th generation smaller "Ring Pro" model upgrade for a fraction of the retail price. Sadly, it has never worked as well. But an even bigger problem with Ring is that it is SO slow. By the time they notify you that somebody has rang your doorbell, they've long gone. And trying to review the cloud footage is futile because it takes forever for it to upload and be available. Since my Nest cloud cameras are always available instantly and very quick to notify, I've wanted to get a Nest Hello doorbell replacement. Now that Google Nest is having a bulk deal on cloud services for multiple devices come 2020, this was a no-brainer.

The Nest Hello Smart Doorbell... looks like a small device with a button at the bottom and a camera lens at top.

   
PRESSURE COOKER! • Reg. $120, Paid $35 (after Rakuten cash back)
I already mentioned this one earlier this week. Thanks to a goof by a website (they switched the sale prices of the 6-quart and 8-quart for half-a-day) I finally got an Instant Pot (or, to be more accurate, an Instant Pot knock-off) for $35. SCORE! I bought this as a flawless egg cooker, but have ended up using it for lots of stuff. Not something I had planned on buying (or had budgeted for) but I was happy to find it.

My Best Buy Pressure Cooker Instant Pot Knock-Off.

   
UNDERWEAR! • Reg. $102, Paid $46 (after Rakuten cash back)
Half of my skivvies are literally falling apart. But I keep wearing them and repairing them because I need enough that I can do full loads of laundry. Fortunately, Old Navy had an EVERYTHING IS 50% OFF SALE plus free shipping on orders of $50 or more. I was able to get 10 pair of quality underwear, some socks, and a couple pair of touch-screen-friendly gloves for $51. Old Navy tends to hold up pretty good, so that was money well-spent. Especially since I earned $40 in SuperCash I can spend on more Old Navy, plus $5 cash-back from Rakuten, which means I am essentially getting all this for $6?!? (assuming I spend the $40).

Some cool Banana Republic underwear and socks!

   
CLOTHES! • Reg. $947, Paid $367 (after Rakuten cash back)
My favorite jeans, hands down, are Banana Republic slim-fit. They are comfortable, look good, and (most importantly) they last forever. Seriously, I have jeans from four years ago that look new. Unfortunately, my American Eagle jeans do not hold up as well and are needing to be replaced. I took Banana Republic up on their 50% off Black Friday offer and buy four pair. With the Rakuten cash back, they're knocked down to $41.25 a pair! SCORE! Then I headed over to The Gap and Banana Republic Factory for some dress shirts, T-Shirts, casuals, and gloves at 60% off off $480 plus $20-something in Rakuten cash back. Not too shabby.

Banana Republic slim-fit jeans on some guy with brown boots and a sweater shirt. And a long-sleeved poplin shirt on some other guy.

   
Grand total? $1025 spent for $2032 in merchandise. Or almost exactly 50% in savings. With tax adding $82, my total spend this year was $1107. So... woohoo! I've got $93 left!

I should keep it in the bank and roll it over for next year... but... the LEGO Jurassic World video game for Nintendo Switch is on sale for twenty bucks!

A scene from the LEGO Jurassic World video game showing LEGO characters in cars and motorcycles running from a LEGO T-Rex.

   
I guess I'll just blow the remainder on cocaine and hookers. Does anybody know where I can find cocaine and hookers for $70?

And so there it goes. I now have enough new clothes and toys to last me until next Black Friday. And until then... time to start squirreling away another $100 a month. Which never seems like much fun until today.

   

Caturday 137

Posted on Saturday, November 30th, 2019

Dave!Since I worked on Thanksgiving, I decided to sleep in. Probably not the smartest move this time of year, but I figure I deserve to rise late from time to time.

My day started with some entertainment.

Because this morning Jake decided to investigate the ice left from my glass of Coke Zero...

Jake sticking his face inside a glass with ice.

Jake trying to fish an icecube out with his paw.

Jake trying to fish an icecube out with his other paw.

Eventually I took pity on him and pulled a piece out for him. At which point he immediately lost interest of course.

And speaking of Coke Zero... I had a small amount left in the can that I hadn't poured over ice yet. After Jake had his grimy mits on my ice, I decided to drink it from the can as I walked out of my bedroom. When I tilted my head back to get the last drop, I freaked for a second when I saw bugs on my ceiling.

Except they weren't bugs they were staples...

Remember when Jake and Jenny brought in a bird that had wandered into the catio and I had to build a tunnel from the bathroom to the window so it could get out?

My Bird Tunnel!

Apparently I never removed the staples after I tore down the plastic. Great. One more thing to add to my list.

Jake is generally a good brother to Jenny. They chase each other, sure, yet it's all in good fun and he doesn't pick on her or abuse her in any way. But he does like to antagonize her from time to time. Usually by pawing at her from on high...

Jake reaching out to touch Jenny.

At which point I say "Jake... don't do it..."

Jake looking at me after I've called his name.

That look of "Who me?" is pretty typical. But it worked. He withdrew his paw and didn't bother her again. I'd say something like "I've trained my cats!" but I think we all know that would be a load of bullshit.

And... time to finish adding a heater to Fake Jake's shelter so I can get our local stray through another winter.

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