Posted on Wednesday, January 1st, 2020
And so here we are in 2020. I am siding with The US Naval Observatory that says a new decade begins a year from now in 2021 and runs through 2030. But it's only natural to see a zero at the end of a year and think back to what's happened in the past decade. Fortunately, I have a blog that goes back to 2003, so I know exactly what I was doing a decade ago in 2010.
From a blogging standpoint, everything has changed. As in... ten years ago blogging was still a thing. Now, of course, blogging has been shoved aside in favor of Facebook and other social media. No idea why I stick with it. I am inclined to think it's just a habit I can't break. What I may do is rethink daily blogging and just blog when I feel like it. Problem is that once I start skipping days, I may not start again. I guess I'll cross that bridge when I get to it. If I get to it?
Personally I don't know what to think. A decade ago my mom was here and I had grandparents, now they're all gone. I was in a bad relationship, now I'm happy to be single with cats. I was much better off financially, but now I have a house and mortgage. I know I was happier a decade ago, yet I'm pretty happy with my life now too. I was a lot less healthy, but now I'm over fifty and closer to death. All things considered, I'd go back to 2010 in a heartbeat. But would I do anything differently to justify living all those years over again? Probably, if I knew what I know now.
When it comes to 2020 things are very much up in the air. Many things in my life are in strange places so it's tough to make plans. For once I think I'd be happy if things were to just stand still for a year. I do know that I will try to be grateful for every day that I have family, friends, cats, work, something to eat, and a roof over my head. Do I really need anything more?
And speaking of 2020, here is my favorite thing about it this year so far...
And to you, dear readers, here's hoping your New Year is a good one.
Posted on Thursday, January 2nd, 2020
I have come to the conclusion that once you pass 50 it takes two days to recover for every day you go without a bare minimum of sleep. I went three days without sleep, so it's going to take six days before I recover. Which, for me, will be sometime Saturday.
It was not always like this. Used to be I would operate on a few hours sleep for weeks and suffer no ill-effects. Sometime in my mid-30's this changed and I needed a couple hours extra sleep to recover from a week of insanity. Then I hit 40 and suddenly I needed a day for every day of missed sleep to recover. That was at least manageable. But two days per day? How do I schedule for something like that? Being able to operate at only half-speed is killing me.
Last night I went to bed much earlier than I usually do (around 11:00pm instead of 1:30am) in an attempt to make up for lost rest. Jake, who usually sleeps with me most nights now, fell asleep in the downstairs guest room so I wouldn't be bothered by him. This left Jenny, whom will hop off the bed and go sleep in the other guest room the minute I fall asleep.
But not last night.
Oh no. I fell asleep while petting her and she was very upset about it.
I woke up to the sound of her walking around my room howling because I dared to fall asleep before she was done with being petted. When she gets upset or wants attention, she will meow from time to time... but this was howling. Keep in mind that this camera is downstairs, so what you're hearing is one floor and three rooms away from the microphone. That's how unbelievably loud she was...
I love how she is so loud that Jake wakes up and is all WTF?!? and goes walking upstairs to see what Jenny is on about.
And so... I pet her for another twenty minutes until she was satisfied, then eventually fell asleep and hour-or-so later. Not quite getting the sleep I was hoping for, but... well... cats... you know.
Speaking of cats...
One of my favorite things on YouTube is Super Easy, Barely An Inconvenience, a series of "pitch meetings" for popular films by Ryan George for Screen Rant. The guy does the same thing every time and yet it is hilarious every time. The most recent pitch meeting is for the Cats movie, and it's one of the best yet...
And so now I'm binge-re-watching all of the episodes of Super Easy, Barely An Inconvenience while I work, which is a fantastic use of my time. Better than most stuff on television if I'm being honest.
And here's hoping that Jenny gets all her required petting in before I fall asleep so I can maybe... possibly... perhaps... kinda get some sleep tonight?
Well, she's a cat, so I'm not holding my breath. But maybe I should hold my breath. Can a cat howling in your bedroom wake you up if you've passed out from holding your breath?
Posted on Friday, January 3rd, 2020
Somehow, someway I managed to seriously injure my right shoulder. I think the muscle in it is torn or something. No clue whatsoever how it happened, but it's been a couple months. Probably slept on it wrong, because that's a thing that happens after you turn the-big-five-oh.
Since I am not a pro athlete or even remotely physical in any way, this is not a big deal. It doesn't bother me at all during the day because, let's face it, there's not a lot of shoulder action that comes from typing on a keyboard, clicking on a mouse, or watching television. The only time it bothers me is when I am trying to fall asleep* and I end up laying on it funny. Then... ouchies. But, no big deal, I just load up on some Ibuprofen and take a couple Bendryl, problem solved.
Except when it isn't.
Which was last night.
As I mentioned a couple times now, Jake reeeeeally likes to snuggle with me at night now. Lord knows why with all the tossing and turning I do, but he apparently likes a wild ride while trying to sleep. Or he's just terrified I'm going to leave him for a week like I did over the holidays (=insert sad emoji=). On those nights when he wants to sleep on top of me, it's especially awkward because I'm a side-sleeper. So in order for this to work, I have to grab a pillow or two and build a "shelf" beside me that he can lay on. Because, you know, laying beside me might result in him getting crushed and he won't do it. It looks something like this...
When Jake hopped up last night and waited (im)patiently for me to build his sleeping shelf, I had to reach behind me to grab a pillow. Unfortunately I did that with my bad shoulder and twisted in such a way that I let out a yelp. Jake did not have any sympathy at all. He promptly hopped on top of me and fell asleep.
Then, at 3:00 in the morning, I could not get to sleep and simply couldn't take the agony any more. I gently lowered Jake to the bed (much to his annoyance) then escaped from under the covers so I could go drug up on an Ibuprofen and Benadryl cocktail.
And go to the bathroom... again... something else that happens after you turn the-big-five-oh.
When I got back to my bed, he had decided to lay down RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF IT, which meant I had to kinda work my way around him. Eventually he curled up BETWEEN MY LEGS... SO COMFORTABLE... and I passed out 20 minutes later thanks to over-the-counter drugs I was abusing.
When I woke up to the 7:00am cat feeding alarm blaring, Jake was sniffing my face... probably wondering if I was dead. Because if I wasn't dead, why wasn't I rushing downstairs to feed him his breakfast?!?
And so my day was spent attempting to get caught up on work while in a sleep-deprived stupor... occasionally wincing with pain.
How about you?
Though, if you're under 50 years-old without cats, I probably don't want to know.
*I lie. I found out while traveling last week that it hurts my shoulder a great deal if I offer to get a suitcase full of bowling balls down from the plane's overhead bin for a young woman who is 90-lbs. soaking wet if she's a day** and would probably be crushed in the attempt.
**Or however the fuck that metaphor goes. I am from the Pacific Northwest where we don't do that.
Posted on Saturday, January 4th, 2020
I've heard a number of scary stories about people who have had to leave their cats only to come back and find their shoes pooped in... their clothes shredded... their furniture chewed up. Basically, the cats get their revenge for being abandoned. For whatever reason, I am blessed with two cats who are not vindictive like this at all. When I come back, they are incredibly happy to see me and then hang around me constantly. Whatever room I'm in, they're in regardless of time of day.
But they will leave me if there's something exciting outside. Like Fake Jake stopping by for a visit...
They will abandon me instantly for that...
And now it's time for the second-most dreaded time of year... making an appointment for Jake and Jenny's annual checkup at the vet. Because the most dreaded day of the year... their annual checkup at the vet in February.
Posted on Sunday, January 5th, 2020
We may be on the verge of World War III as a reckless, clueless president is intent on starting a war to distract from his impeachment, but all is not lost because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Oh Deer. So there I was falling asleep last night when the security system alarm goes off on my phone telling me that there was a person on the side of my house and in my back yard. I thought it might be a cat trying to get into the catio again, but Jake and Jenny were in bed with me. Nope... definitely not a cat... it was A FAMILY OF DEER! A couple others came along after this video...
Apparently with the warmer weather they are looking for something to eat, because they spent some time in my shrubs before moving on...
I feel horrible that somebody may harm them as they try to survive by heading into suburbia.
• RIP Syd Mead. It's unbelievable how so much of how we envision the future was defined by one guy... Syd Mead. He has created a tremendous volume of incredible work, and I was saddened to hear of his passing.
2010, him. Aliens, him. Blade Runner, him. Blade Runner 2049, him. Star Trek the Motion Picture, him. Tron, him. You will be missed, sir.
• Poop. I loathe coffee. I have never liked it despite my proximity to Coffee Central (AKA Seattle). On those occasions where it's the only thing to drink, I will try it (again) and want to barf (again) so I've just stopped trying. Finally, finally I've found a video which encapsulates how I feel about the entire situation...
• Persevere. And speaking of cats... for all the challenges you meet in 2020... take courage from this cat who perseveres over whatever life throws at them!
Way to go, buddy!
• Squishy. HOLD UP A MINUTE... how many butternut squashes were y'all going to let me buy, peel, and cube before telling me that they make LUXURY BUTTERNUT SQUASH that comes pre-peeled, pre-cubed, and frozen for my convenience?
Y'all are on my list now. — I think I was dangerously close to breaking down crying in the supermarket when I saw it in the freezer case. This changes so much!
• Fly Someone. And lastly, I missed this adorable Christmas commercial from Heathrow Airport. Well worth your time to watch...
What a nice way to end Bullet Sunday! Have a good one, everybody.
Stay safe and be kind, everybody...
Posted on Monday, January 6th, 2020
The news out of Australia is so heartbreaking that I am having trouble sleeping at night.
With 30,000 square miles having been burned, it's estimated that a half-billion animals have perished in the flames with a half-billion more affected. The video of confused and frightened koalas clinging to trees as fire approaches... animals running as their homes burn... not to mention the thousands of people who have been evacuated or made homeless... it's a catastrophic situation that is really tough to wrap your head around. The stories of people with kind hearts helping the animals is a small consolation, but I always wonder what happens to the animals after the photos have been taken...
Photo from Anna Heusler
Photo from Photo from Matt Sully
No home. No food. No water. The situation for these already endangered creatures is dire. I can't fathom what it's going to take to save them. Could be that koalas in the wild will be rare and all we're going to get will be those made safe in captivity. And while koalas get all the press because they're so cute, the populations of other less-cute animals, lizards, snakes, insects, and the rest are perishing too.
I know that animals have been suffering around the world for as long as the world has existed, but it doesn't make it any easier to process. Unlike humans, animals can't be made to understand what's happening or told to evacuate or instructed what they should do. All they know is that the world is on fire.
Alas, it's not just the flames they have to worry about. There are other ways to burn down the world, and humans are doing a fine job of that, if Twitter is any indication. Soon wildfires may be the very least of their problems. Maybe this realization is why I can't sleep at night? I dunno. I'm too exhausted to figure it out.
Posted on Tuesday, January 7th, 2020
I really need a vacation.
Not a work trip. Not a staycation. Not a trip for a party or wedding or any other occasion. A real, honest-to-goodness vacation where I can go somewhere new, do interesting stuff, and just relax. Since the days have been cold, dreary, wet, and largely dark (given the early sunsets), I'd prefer going somewhere that's the opposite of all that.
Also adding to my desire to get the fuck out of dodge? These amazing, amazing travel journals by José Naranja. He sells reproductions that are impeccably crafted which I would love to own, but the two volumes cost $320 and $360 each...
He also sells posters of some of his most popular interior page spreads, but they ain't cheap either. A single print costs $45...
Gorgeous. Every page is a work of art.
It makes me want to drag out my hand-drawn travel maps. When I first started traveling, I drew them for each of the places I went. My favorite was a map of Japan with all the sights I saw plus all the Hard Rock Cafes I visited marked on it. It's pretty good size... probably 12 x 20... on Bristol board rendered in colored pencil, inks, and watercolor. Took me a month of most nights and some weekends to complete. No idea where it is, but it's likely rolled up with old posters somewhere.
Assuming that I could come up with the money or time to go on a vacation, I'm note sure where I would go. I still want to get to India and Peru one of these days, so maybe one of those.
But since I don't have the money or time, I guess I'll just go to work tomorrow.
Posted on Wednesday, January 8th, 2020
Most of my day was spent wanting a chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting and sprinkles. Something I haven't had in over a year because I shouldn't be eating such things, which is probably why I want one so bad.
Instead I had a rice cake and a Coke Zero, which pretty much sums up my Wednesday.
Of course I also spent the day thinking it was Thursday, so there's that. Once I realized that I had two days before the weekend instead of one day before the weekend, that whole chocolate cupcake thing kind of went by the wayside.
And so here I am waiting for the premiere of the Schitt's Creek sixth and final season. I'm hoping for the best so the day isn't a total loss.
Boy, 2020 is shaping up to be a heck of a year.
Posted on Thursday, January 9th, 2020
When I first started traveling, I always went to a place with the mindset that I will likely never get to visit there again.
Sometimes it was true... but many times it was not. Places I fell in love with I would find a way to get back to. Spain is a perfect example. I wanted to see Barcelona. I went to Barcelona, loved it, then wanted to see more of Spain. So I kept going back to the country again and again and again. I also went back to Barcelona two more times. That was completely unexpected. And there are still parts of the country I am dying to see. Valencia, Seville, Toledo, Córdoba, Bilbao, Zaragoza... and dozens of others.
Italy is another example. I've been to many, many places over several trips... but there's always someplace else to see. Palermo, Como, Parma, Genoa, Bari, Catanzaro... I'd visit any of those cities in a heartbeat. I'd also be happy to return to Rome and Venice even though I've been to each multiple times.
Thanks to writing about travel journals a couple days ago, all this was running through my head when I woke up this morning and had the realization that the bulk of my traveling days are probably behind me. Now that I've got a mortgage and cats, I have more important things to spend my money and time on. I look at my travel map and think "Haven't I done enough?
And yet... there's an awful lot of open space on that map. Granted, a lot of it I probably don't need to see, but there's quite a lot I do. And probably even more that I don't realize I need to see.
So probably not this year, but maybe next year?
Assuming travel outside the USA is even a possibility in 2021. Or there's a world left in 2021.
Posted on Friday, January 10th, 2020
Today was the second time this winter that we had snow dump down on our heads. The first time we had about 8 inches accumulate, but it eventually melted away. This time it's smaller flakes, but is accumulating nicely. Problem is that the forecast for tomorrow is sun, so it may very well be gone in short order.
This is not boding well for the snow pack in the mountains. We're currently running less than 70% of where we should be. Unless we get some serious snowfall soon it could means drought this summer. Which means the wildfires will be out of control. Which means we're boned.
I was happy to have the snow hold off until I was done traveling, but now Mother Nature needs to get to work. Bring on the white stuff.
Posted on Saturday, January 11th, 2020
I will never understand my cats.
After I returned from my travels a week ago, my cats were all over me. They wouldn't leave my side any time I was home. Jake and Jenny could not get enough of me and I was adored.
But before I get to that, let's take a look at eight photos of them not being able to get enough of me...
Tonight I was at the office working. I lost all track of time, so I didn't get home before Jake and Jenny's dinner alarm sounded. When I walked in the door seven minutes late, they were both sitting there waiting for me.
They were livid.
They ate their dinner and then, instead of coming into the living room to hang with me, they ran upstairs!
A couple hours later Jake finally came downstairs. After a while he hopped up on the couch next to me. Mostly so he could show me his ass...
After making sure his butthole had been clearly presented, he lay down at my feet and threw his head down on my leg so he could look as forlorned as possible... his dinner was seven minutes late, and he was still devastated by the memory of it all. Devastated.
He went to sleep soon after.
I started talking to him so he would come lay on my lap and keep me company while I watched TV. He looked up at me... grunted... THEN TURNED AROUND AND WENT BACK TO SLEEP...
Jenny is still upstairs not speaking to me.
So... gone for seven DAYS, cats can't get enough of me.
Seven MINUTES late for dinner and they are so mad they want nothing to do with me.
I will never understand my cats.
Posted on Sunday, January 12th, 2020
The world may be cold and bleak right now but there's a bit of warmth to be had, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• WWDD? I am very late to the party with What Would Diplo DO? but am very glad that Hulu recommended it to me. James Van Der Beek plays a parody of real-life DJ Diplo and the result is some of the funniest television I've ever seen. I can't believe that Diplo signed off on this (as well as produced it). I hesitate to link to this (NSFW) trailer because the show is so much better than this would indicate, but here it is...
It seems impossible we haven't seen a second season since the show was originally released in 2017. Since there's only five episodes available (which I've already watched twice), I need more Diplo in my life.
• Deeply Faked. I was disappointed by The Irishman... everybody involved has done better work elsewhere and I was bored by it all. But I did watch it. And a big part of the movie is the fact that the story is told over a long period of time. So Netflix had to pony up a big chunk of money for computer FX to de-age the characters. It was done well enough that it wasn't distracting... nor did it stray too far into uncanny valley territory. But it wasn't terribly convincing either. Which is why I find the fact that some guy used free "deep fake" tools to do a much better job of it for zero dollar so amusing...
These are the same free tools that did a far superior job of replacing Superman's face after Henry Cavill couldn't shave his mustache for Justice League. I wonder how long until Hollywood gets smart about these tools. I also wonder how long before faked video is indistinguishable from authentic video... and how that's going to change the world. What happens when you can't tell what's real any more?
• HEADLINE: 32-year-old Medford man fighting severe flu case. I stopped getting the flu vaccine because it never seemed to make a difference. I started again when I became a granduncle because I wanted to take every possible precaution that I wouldn't get him sick. My doctor once asked me if I had gotten my flu shot and I told him that I stopped doing that. His reply? "Well, 50,000 people a year die from the flu, but it's your call." That didn't change my mind, but I see this story and what he said is stuck in my head. 32 years old. Man, I wish this poor guy the best of luck and hope he gets better soon. Get your flu vaccine, people. And if you want to know more about it, the CDC has a page for that.
• Front and Center. Holy cats! This $3 utility restores MacOS X window functionality so that clicking on one window will bring all windows for that app to the front. I have NO idea why Apple changed this behavior from all the MacOS's before X, but it drives me insane. And now it's BACK, baby. No idea how much I've missed this. 100% critical app.
• WAKANDA FOREVER! Yo, Marvel Studios... what is it going to take to get an M'Baku series on Disney+? The guy steals every single scene he's in! He lives in one of the most magical places on earth! He's a character everybody loves! Winston Duke is a cinematic treasure! It's like... how many pieces need to click together before you do what needs to be done? Is Kevin Feige asleep at the wheel?
And who wouldn't guest star in THAT piece of awesome? Black Panther? Shuri? Okoye? Nakia? They could all make an appearance. This is a show that's begging to be made.
And now for some hot chocolate.
Posted on Monday, January 13th, 2020
When I got home from work I burned through thesecond season of Fleabag. Don't ask me why it took me this long to get around to it. Maybe it's because I didn't freak out over the first season like everybody I know did. Sure I liked it, but it wasn't better than sliced bread, I tell you what.
No, it's the second season of Fleabag that's better than sliced bread.
And speaking of better than sliced bread...
Nice to see that Marvel dumped some serious money into giving Black Widow the movie she deserves. Taskmaster is the perfect opponent, so something to look forward to (as if I weren't already).
Posted on Tuesday, January 14th, 2020
Yesterday I ran to the grocery store to throw some money away on food. It never ceases to amaze me the cost of food nowadays. Every time I go shopping it seems like the prices have gone up. Ten items... $45, please.
One of the items I purchased was a bottle of spicy brown mustard.
To eat it.
Which, if you have known me for any length of time, is a surprising turn of events given that I spent the majority of my life hating mustard. Sure I've always got a bottle of that yellow stuff in my refrigerator for friends who come over for barbecue, but the only time I use it is as an ingredient for potato salad.
But then last month I had a Market Fresh Sandwich at Arby's and everything changed.
Let me back up a second there.
I don't usually buy Market Fresh Sandwiches at Arby's because I don't like having to pay for something I'm not eating. They don't have a cheese sandwich at Arby's, so I have to order the Roast Turkey & Swiss Market Fresh Sandwich and have them hold the turkey... AND DEFINITELY HOLD THE MUSTARD.
Except last month when I ordered I forgot to tell them to hold the mustard because it had been four or five months since I last had one.
The sandwich was incredible.
And it took me a minute to realize that the reason it was incredible was because there was mustard on it. I was dying to know what kind of mustard it was, so I went up to the counter and asked for an extra packet. But I didn't put it on my sandwich. I took it home so I could add it to my shopping list.
And so here we are.
Except the store didn't have spicy brown honey mustard like they use at Arby's so I had to buy regular spicy brown mustard and mix a touch of honey in.
Tonight for dinner I had a Swiss cheese sandwich with lettuce, tomato, mayo, onion, and the spicy brown mustard with honey. It was delicious, as I knew it would be. And now I am wondering what other things in life I need to try that I decided I don't like because they might be something that I actually like. Well, except cauliflower and broccoli. I know that shit hasn't gotten any better since childhood.
Posted on Wednesday, January 15th, 2020
The plan was to meet a friend for dinner in nearby big city 20 minutes away. But it was pretty dark at 4:30 and snowing like crazy so I called to cancel. Turns out my friend had forgotten all about meeting up, so it was no harm no foul. Instead my dinner consisted of veggie hot dogs. Which was lame, but better than the bag of potato chips I had for lunch.
Though it's tough to feel too sorry for myself after I saw this video this morning...
Animals around the globe are having such a tough time of it... and people are not doing enough to help. Indeed, it seems so many of the problems animals face are due to humans in the first place. This kind of shortsightedness is incredibly depressing, and I can't help but wonder how close we are to catastrophic failure of our ecosystem.
Then we humans will be the ones having a very tough time of it.
And it will be fully deserved.
Posted on Thursday, January 16th, 2020
Ugh. NBC just released the details of their new "Peacock" streaming service and it's not good news for me.
I have been ditching online streaming services right and left in an attempt to save money. I've decided that I'm just going to rotate between them so I have no more than two active at a time. Hulu and Netflix are getting temporarily dumped in favor of CBS All Access so I can watch Picard later this month. Then it looks like I'm going to have to dump that when all the Picard episodes have aired so I can switch to NBC's "Peacock" service for Will Forte's new MacGruber series. I loved the shorts on Saturday Night Live and really loved the MacGruber movie, so there's no option for me to avoid "Peacock" as I had planned...
I hope hope hope that Kristen Wiig will at least do a guest-shot as Vicki St. Elmo on MacGruber... but she's got so much going on with movies and such that it's probably a long shot.
So let's take stock of where I'm at with paid streaming services, shall we?✓ Fubo (My main service for television)
Such a load of crap. The pricing almost ensures that people will not keep their subscriptions year-round but will instead rotate between everything like I'll be doing. They would be a lot smarter to drop from $6 a month (average) which will likely net $18 from me annually to a pre-paid yearly plan of $40 which would get them double the revenue. But oh well. I'm sure there will eventually be some kind of shakeup and consolidation, because there are likely even more streaming services on the way.
The biggest losers? Cable and satellite companies who have fucked over their customers for decades by forcing expensive massive packages with channels people will never watch. Had they gone à la carte ages ago, they could have survived this. As it is? Good riddance.
Posted on Friday, January 17th, 2020
Happy birthday to one of my favorite people on earth: BETTY WHITE! 98 years young! I've been a fan long before The Golden Girls... mostly thanks to appearances on The Tonight Show and reruns of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Today I finally finished a project I've been working on all year long (ha!), so I decided to leave a couple hours early so I could bake bread and do some cooking.
Namely, trying to figure out the perfect egg bite recipe.
There are dozens of recipes on the internet, possibly even hundreds. I've gone through a lot of them and have cooked many of them. Eventually I started experimenting on my own, combining recipes and adding my own ingredients.
Some things I've learned...
Which brings us to...
Dave's Spicy Egg Bites.
Start by dumping all this in a blender...
Blend on medium speed until well-mixed. Then add...
Pulse-blend on slow just until mixed, don't pulverize the peppers!
Spray silicone egg cups with cooking spray (I know they say you don't have to, but they always stick if I don't). Evenly divide egg mixture amongst cups. Place a cup of water into the bottom of your instant pot then lower the silicone bite tray into the pot with the wire steam rack. Most recipes say to put a circle of foil on top of the egg tray so condensation doesn't drop onto the eggs. I don't bother.
I have an 8-quart Instant Pot. I have no idea if this makes a difference if you have the 6-quart, but I often have to increase cooking times from recipes I find. There are two ways I've tried to cook these things. There doesn't seem to be a big difference. I prefer to steam because they seem softer, but I am including the pressure-cook version which also works...
If you don't eat all of them, you can put them back in the silicone egg cups and use the provided plastic lid to store them in the refrigerator for a few days. I just pop them on a microwave-safe plate, cut in half, then cook for 30 seconds to warm them.
If you're not going keto you can chop them up and eat them on toast, which is my most favorite way to eat them. Also delicious? Chop up, mix with crispy hash brown potatoes and more cheese, put in a steamed flour tortilla with salsa.
These are pretty good stuff, if I do say so myself, and it's the Queso Blanco which ended up being the key. I didn't find it on any recipe I dug up, which is strange. Adding it seems obvious, it was the other factors that took a lot of time to figure out (I wasted many a batch with different onions and cottage cheese until I got rid of them completely).
I'll keep experimenting and post any changes if I find out they work better.
Posted on Saturday, January 18th, 2020
Earlier this week before going to work I was in the kitchen packing a lunch when I saw the lights in the dining room turn on. This was strange because that set of lights isn't programmed to turn on until 30 minutes before sunset. I was about to tell Alexa to turn them back off when they went off on their own.
What is going on here?
I head into the dining room and... there it is... Jenny is turning the lights on and off.
This was not an accident. She's done it twice since then. I don't know if it's fun for her... or she likes the beep that the smart switch makes... or it's her way of getting attention... or what. At first I was just going to de-program the switch. But then I though "why?" Let her have her fun. If it becomes a problem, I'll just deal with it then.
Also this week I set up a security camera in my bedroom to see if Jake is actually sleeping at my feet all night long. It just seemed impossible given all my tossing and turning. But, yep, he sure does. Not only that, but I am not tossing and turning nearly as much as I usually do. I wonder if my cat buddy is responsible? Seems likely. Previous times I've recorded myself to see how I'm sleeping I'm like a maniac.
Speaking of sleeping with cats...
Jenny will fall asleep next to me... so long as I am petting her the entire time. The minute I stop one of two things will happen: 1) Cry until I start petting her again if she hasn't had enough, or 2) Leave if she has. What's weird is that if I am asleep, she will leave. Neither of my cats will wake me up. Last night I was so sick that I couldn't sleep. I went to bed at 10:00pm and watched television and pet Jenny until 2:00am at which time I couldn't take it any more and went downstairs for sleeping pills. Jenny was gone when I got back.
I took a photo of her every 20 minutes. She doesn't move a lot...
I'm willing to bet that had I kept petting her, she would have slept there until the breakfast alarm rang!
Before I sign off this fine Caturday, I ran across this photo last night and it absolutely slayed me. It's adorable times a hundred...
It's also genius. I'd credit the guy for his fantastic photo if I knew who he was. Obviously he's quite the cat lover, as his awesome wardrobe attests.
Until next week... same cat-time, same cat-blog.
Posted on Sunday, January 19th, 2020
I'm still sick and dying, but the show must go on, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• HDR. I've had a 4K AppleTV since the day it was released. The 4K part isn't a massive improvement over 1080 because my television isn't big enough (or rather I'm not sitting close enough) for it to make a big difference. When I get up close, fine details do look also nice... especially fine lines like strands of hair and the like. And so I just left the settings to the default of 4K because my TV can do that. Sometimes if it's a really beautiful movie that's being displayed in 4K I'll pull up a chair so I can see all the incredible detail up close. In discussing this, I was told that the default 4K is in Standard Dynamic Range and I should check to see if my television can display High Dynamic Range. A quick look at the specs and... my television CAN display HDR. I thought my AppleTV was already set to HDR, but I went into my AppleTV settings and, sure enough, it was set to SDR instead. So I made a quick comparison by switching back and forth while watching Captain Marvel. SUCH A HUGE DIFFERENCE!
The glow when Captain Marvel uses her powers alone is worth the switch. But where it really makes a difference is in the black levels. Any time people are in shadow you can see much more subtlety in their presence. Even more important, Agent Fury and Maria Rambeau's gorgeous skin tone is far better defined and doesn't get lost when they're in shadow. Just watch the scene where Fury and Carol are washing dishes and you'll see what a difference it makes... far more of a difference than going from 1080 to 4K. Another movie that just luxuriates in HDR? Blade Runner 2049. If you've got a television that can display HDR, then that's the most important setting you can make.
NOTE: The Marvel movies are not... I repeat NOT... in 4K or HDR if you purchase them on iTunes. You have to watch via a different app which has them in Ultra-High-Def HDR. If you purchased with MoviesAnywhere, you're good. The Disney+ app looks like it's HDR, but I haven't done a lot of testing.
NOTE: The "Movies" app on AppleTV stupidly does not seem to tell you when movies are encoded in HDR. You have to look them up on the shitty AppleTV desktop app on a computer to know that. So lame.
NOTE: Just to say... I've been running through the movie purchases I have which are in HDR and the picture quality is stunning. Even movies like Crazy Rich Asians which don't seem like they would be affected have a delicious richness to them. Seriously, wow.
NOTE: After watching a while, I am relatively confident that the AppleTV app for Disney+ is showing 4K HDR. Yay! So even if you only own the crappier iTunes versions, you can still watch in HDR with Disney+, I guess. Boy is Thor: Ragnarok disappointing. I thought once they got to Sakaar the color would be off the hook. Alas, not as often as you'd think, just in certain scenes. But the lightsaber fight in Star Wars: The Force Awakens nice.
• Reprisal. I suspended Netflix a couple weeks back, now I've also suspended Hulu so I can reactivate CBS All Access for ten weeks to watch Picard (unless CBS is a total dick and skip weeks like they've done with Discovery, the assholes). For the two days left I've got Hulu I've been watching it non-stop to get my money's worth. The last show I had on my list to watch was Reprisal...
A cross between all those revenge movies and Sons of Anarchy, this show is one of the most drawn-out, uneventful, dull, and overall boring series you'll ever see. Long stretches where absolutely nothing happens. Characters that have loads of screen time yet are somehow one-dimensional. There's also moments of real stupid which pad runtime just because there were ten episodes to fill. And yet... it was a fascinating, stylish, twisty, interesting ride that accelerated to the finish line. And had some great moments. I don't regret watching it. I do regret that I spent so much time watching it. So if you've got time to kill, here's a show to check out. You'll need to tough it out those first five episodes though.
• Kindness. It's not that difficult, really. If you can't be supportive of people living their best life at zero cost to you, you can at least be kind. So be kind. Offer kindness to those who are being treated unkindly. Stand against those who are treating others unkindly. As a fellow human, it’s the very least we can do.
• Dietary Sadness. Quaker rice cakes are a staple of my diet. I love them. They are high in carbs (7g to 11g ea.), but it's a far better option for dessert than say... three Chips Ahoy cookies (22g) or your average cupcake (40g). I have a Plain or White Cheddar or Popcorn cake with my lunch and a flavored cake with my dinner for dessert. My favorite for dessert, by a wide margin, is Caramel Chocolate Chip. Except you can't get them any more. You have to choose either Caramel or Chocolate. Caramel Chocolate Chip has been replaced by Tomato Basil.
I decided to try them and I can't make up mystery mind. The first bite and I'm like "Tastes like crackers in tomato soup!" The second and I'm like "Tastes like pizza sauce!" Then things start to go wrong. The flavor powder accumulates on your taste buds and suddenly it's awful for some reason. I am so very, very sad that my Caramel Chocolate Chip rice cakes are gone.
• Pantone. There is beauty to be found in diversity. And this is amazing.
• Help. And before I go... I read this week that there's now a hotline specifically for caregivers... "Depression. Exhaustion. Burnout. Stress. Those are just some of the words people are using to describe their experiences as caregivers. Helping care for a family member or loved one can be hard work. People don't often talk about the emotional toll it can take on the actual caregiver. Now the Caregiver Action Network is trying to provide help by launching a hotline specifically for caregivers." — Had this existed, there were days I would have totally called this number.
And now... probably time for a nap considering I'm about to pass out anyway.
Posted on Monday, January 20th, 2020
Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day! Technically I have the day off but, given how behind I am at work (something not helped by being sick this past weekend), I really didn’t have the day off.
Yesterday afternoon I had somebody float the idea of creating a tiny house community. After ten seconds of thought, I decided I liked the idea. As I get older I am trying to rid myself of all my possessions so that cleaning up after me when I’m gone won’t be so much a burden. What better way to get rid of 90% of your stuff than to move into a place where there’s no room for it? Assuming a location existed where I could find work, I’d build my tiny house, drive it there, then set up until retirement. After I retire (assuming I get to retire) I can drive my home to wherever I want to end up.
Tiny house living might be a great option for me. Assuming I could find one which has a ground floor bedroom so I’m not having to climb up to a loft each night when I’m 90 years old (knock on wood).
What about Jake and Jenny?
Tiny house living with cats seems an almost impossible idea. For one thing, I think they’d go crazy if they were confined to a small space for extended periods. As it is now, they like to run all over the place and cutting down their room to roam by such a huge amount would be cruel, wouldn’t it?
And then there’s the smell of their litter boxes. I have Litter-Robots which actually do a pretty good job of containing smells, but that’s when there’s 1,800 square feet for it to dissipate. What happens in 240 square feet?
And so... I guess perhaps tiny house living isn’t such a great option for me after all.
And then last night I got to thinking... unless... what if the tiny house was built from the ground up with cats in mind?
An hour later I had roughed out an idea in Chief Architect Home Designer.
And here we are. Note that I don't know how to make a slant-roof in Home Designer, but that's the kind I would definitely use on this so the snow would slide off. It just has to be tall enough at the front-side for the Litter-Robots, and could slant towards the back no problem. Cat's don't need more than 18"-20" to run around...
Also not shown... wheels. The entire thing would be built on a trailer bed so it's movable.
Here's the back side with the catio attached. Note that Jake and Jenny would access the catio from a door in their loft...
Here you can see the upper track for the cats leading to the ventilated loft where their Litter-Robots would be located...
Here you can see how the Litter-Robots would be accessed from a door in the bedroom. An incline staircase would be lowered from the ceiling, the bed would be flipped up, and the staircase would attach beneath the door. You can also see how there are stairs leading up to the cat track (just as there are in the living room)...
You can see the vents in the cat loft here. I'd think that I'd probably get some near-silent, slow-moving fans to install in each. That would help keep small flying bugs which might get past the screen from entering while keeping any smells blowing outside...
Tiny houses are, well, tiny. There's no getting around it. I would likely have to build a small shed that I could transport with me to hold stuff I don't use that often but want to have handy. I still love the idea of a metal pipe hanging under the upper catwalk so I can hang stuff from it. As you can see from this render of the living room, there's plenty of room for it. Note that the catwalk has windows all the way around so Jake and Jenny can look out everywhere and not feel so confined...
A view from the catwalk in the bedroom for looking down at the unsuspecting human sleeping there...
The bathroom features a full-size toilet, vanity, cabinet, medicine cabinet, good-size tiled shower, plus a closet for electronics and a water supply (plus small water heater)...
In the kitchen I prioritized a good-sized refrigerator/freezer, a micro-convection oven, range top, and a decent-sized sink. You can see the "stairs" for the cats to access their catwalk here on the left...
Here's the blueprints. You can click on them to embiggen...
The best part? $80-$100K and you're done. Assuming there's space where you want to live, you'll never have to buy another house. You can just take it with you.
And it's not so bad, really! I mean, sure I'd rather have a proper-sized house... but if that's not possible, I could certainly live like this. And I'm pretty sure that since it was designed to keep cats happy, they could live like this as well.
One of these days when I have some free time, I'll have to figure out how to slant the roof and add scratching posts and stuff. Fun times. Fun times.
Posted on Tuesday, January 21st, 2020
I have been killing myself with work since October. Day and night I've been working on projects. Then I flew to a work site in Maine, flew back, and went right back to non-stop work again at the 1st of the year. Finally, as of Friday I turned in the last critical deadline project and can relax a bit.
But relaxing was apparently a mistake, because now I am sick, sick, sick.
All the adrenaline that was keeping me going is gone, so now I've got nothing left. I guess getting sick is my body's way of forcing me to take a break? Probably.
What I really need is a vacation. But one where I don't have to go anywhere or do anything.
Posted on Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020
For years now... a decade really... I've been experimenting with setting up a personal NAS (Network Attached Storage) media server that's connected to the internet. There are a lot of reasons I'd like to have such a thing, but the big one is that I want to be able to access my vast photo library from anywhere on earth. If I'm in Germany and want to show a friend a photo of the Hard Rock Cafe Yokohama (something that actually happened) it would be great if I could do that. Sure I have the option of paying for a photo service, but then I have to convert all my images from RAW format and lose the ability to access/edit the original photo remotely if I want to.
So I purchased a 1 Terabyte single-drive, internet-enabled "WD My Book Studio" NAS back in 2010 with that in mind. Everything ended up being a total mess and didn't work at all like I was hoping. It's been sitting in a drawer ever since.
Fast forward to 2019 and I decided to try again. I used money I had saved in 2014 for a trip to Norway's fjords with my mom (that we never got around to taking) and purchased a QNAP TS415+ NAS and two Western Digital 8 Terabyte RED drives to put in it. The drives are mirrored in a RAID configuration so I don't lose any data if one of them dies. Note that there's a television remote. That's because this model has an HDMI port so it can hook up directly to a television...
Today I finally set it all up. It was fairly straightforward, though not the most user-friendly thing to do. It spent hours doing a "RAID resync" (whatever the hell that is), which makes zero sense. The drives were empty and freshly formatted. How can it take over 24 hours to "resync" NOTHING? Note that QNAP doesn't bother with beta testing their apps. If they did, somebody might have noticed that the displayed percentage overwrites the text label, making it tough to read its progress...
Before you can do anything, you have to set up a "Storage Pool" from your drives. I maxed my pool out at 100% of my available drive space, because why only use part of your drives? QNAP is pretty brain-dead when you choose to do this... it will endlessly pester you with alerts because it defaults to a threshold of 80% usage. Insanity. If somebody sets their pool to 100% of drive space, why not ask if you want to disable the threshold alerts? I had to do it manually. Sadly, after setting things up, my 8TB mirrored drive resulted in only 7.1TB of space available. No idea what happened to nearly a FULL TERABYTE of storage (this seems high for overhead), but whatever.
Rather than have to install a third-party app, I decided to give the QNAP "Qmedia" app a try on my AppleTV since it's the "native" application from QNAP. It is complete and total shit. Despite "pretending" to remember where you left off when viewing videos, it doesn't. You can't even fast-forward the video you're watching, which is mind-blowing. I have no fucking idea why they even bothered. Qmedia is useless.
I'd rather not have to switch television video input sources from my AppleTV every time I want to watch something off the NAS, but apparently that's going to be how this goes. So I grabbed the QNAP remote and went for it. First I had to install an app (of course) but no big deal. Then I actually tried to use the thing and it's a total clusterfuck. The "VideoStation" app is just a fucking web browser interface. It's difficult to read because it's not sized for a television. It's impossible to use with the included remote because the remote doesn't do anything. You have to plug in a mouse and keyboard to make it work.
There's an "HD Player" app that looks like it's geared more towards television displays and using the remote control but it's fucking useless too, having many of the same problems as Qmedia. It goes non-responsive constantly, doesn't allow fast-forwarding (pressing the up arrow to skip forward is not the same thing), starts at the beginning of a video even if you tell it to resume from where you stopped, has a shitty interface that makes sorting through a large number of videos a nightmare, has crap video quality that you can't adjust for brightness or anything else, and is an overall steaming pile of fail.
I swear, QNAP is the most ridiculous fucking company. Why bother to make claims of being a multimedia center that can connect directly to your television if it does THIS shitty of a job of it? The whole thing is a fucking joke.
Fortunately there's plenty of options for serving your media from a NAS if it has a computer onboard like the TS451+ does. The "big two" are Kodi and Plex. Kodi is open source and free. Plex is free, but you can support the project by paying to subscribe to "Plex Pass" for additional features (like being able to download media on your phone for local playback instead of streaming it). Most people I know who started on Kodi ended up with Plex, so I just skipped a step and installed Plex Server on my NAS.
For what it is, Plex Server is pretty sweet. It transcodes just about anything you throw at it. Including the RAW Digital Negative photo format from Adobe (DNG) that I use. Which means I don't have to save out JPEGs in order to access my photo library remotely. Nice! I need to work on settings for this, however, because Plex compresses things pretty heavily for transmission. This results in some ugly visual artifacts, banding, and color shifts...
Video works brilliantly from Plex BECAUSE YOU CAN ACTUALLY FUCKING FAST FORWARD THROUGH IT ON APPLE TV! Plex does a really good job of cataloging it as well. Thank heavens, because I'd light my QNAP NAS on fire if I had to suffer through their shitty apps. The only problem I've run across is having the video stop and tell me that my connection isn't fast enough, which is absurd because AppleTV is literally plugged into the same high-speed hub as the NAS! There must be some kind of setting for that I'm missing. Fortunately, it's a rare event.
I don't steal media. All the movies and television shows I have are on DVD/Blu-Ray or purchased on Digital. Well, with two exceptions... Cupid (the Jeremy Piven original) and Oh Grow Up! (one of my favorite shows of all time)... are not available to purchase. Lord only knows I wish they were, because my digitized versions of VHS tapes are really poor quality. I've used Vudu's Disc-To-Digital service to convert the bulk of my DVD/Blu-Ray collection to Digital legally. But not all of my stuff is available for conversion. Now I have the option of ripping them to the NAS and viewing them digitally no matter where I am via Plex Server. Technically, any time you break the protection on a DVD you are breaking the law, but that's a bullshit law. I would happily pay to convert them to digital if the studio who owns them would allow them to be converted. What I'm not going to do is buy the same movie all over again. Fuck that. I already paid for it, I should get to pay a small fee for a new format, not have to buy it all over again. And so... I have a small collection of DVDs ripped to my NAS temporarily until the studio allows them to be converted and I can pay for that. Plex does a great job of streaming from my living room to remote locations in HD. No, the video quality is not as good as what comes off of iTunes... especially if the iTunes version is 4K... but it's plenty good enough for my iPad or iPhone. I'm sure if I didn't have tons of security cameras flooding my bandwidth I could set the quality higher, but it's really not necessary.
Music streaming (local and remote) is handled quite well through Plex, and my SONOS system can address Plex directly. This means I can download all my music from iTunes, put it on the NAS, then drop iTunes Music Match and iTunes itself with no problem.
And so... bravo Plex.
I'm going to try out "Plex Pass" for a month and see if I want to upgrade to the lifetime membership for $120. Something tells me that's a purchase I will end up making. I certainly can't do without Plex if my alternative is the QNAP crap.
UPDATE: Yeah. Easiest decision to make to get the Plex Pass... the apps for streaming are included and you're helping the team behind it to keep developing the app.
So okay... the QNAP multimedia is bullshit. What about the NAS itself? Well, I'd love to report on that, but the minute I login, it either immediately disconnects me...
...or it allows me in but gives me a shitload of error messages. My favorite? Telling me it's running out of memory. If 2GB is not enough memory to do even the most basic tasks, then why ship with just 2GB memory? QNAP has their own version of Microsoft "Clippy" to break the bad news, which is a weird choice...
Even better? If you choose "optimize" he does a happy dance when he recovers 0MB of memory! Once I can log in again, I'll turn off and uninstall absolutely everything except the bare minimum I need (which includes Plex Server, of course), so I'm hoping that will fix these problems.
My NAS can act as a Time Machine backup for my Mac, but I really don't need that any more. All my data is stored in the cloud, so the only thing that would need to be replaced on my MacBook if it were destroyed are the apps, which I can just download from the developer again.
QNAP provides Apple File Services so I can access my NAS over my local network easily. Weirdly enough, you are required to install Windows File Services in order to install Apple File Services, but (luckily) you can kill the Windows File Services after installation to save precious memory and everything seems to work fine.
Speaking of memory... QNAP is happy to sell you more, but they charge outrageous pricing for the stuff. I mean laughably outrageous pricing. Far better to buy it yourself (which I'm guessing I'll have to do sometime soon if killing apps don't work).
Remote management and access to my files is a breeze thanks to QNAP's tools and a service they call CloudLink. The NAS talks with QNAP so even though its IP address may change, you can still reach it with no trouble.
I am still relatively new to the QNAP TS451+ NAS and the Western Digital RED drives, so I can't comment much about them. I can say that Western Digital are the only brand of hard drive that hasn't disappointed me so I'm hoping that trend continues. Also, despite the shitty media center aspects and overly-difficult controls, QNAP is highly respected in the IT industry. I just wouldn't bother paying extra for an HDMI port and remote that you will probably never use because their software is shit. Put that money towards a Plex Pass where it will do some good.
Posted on Thursday, January 23rd, 2020
I am a massive fan of the original Star Trek series. And the original cast movies too.
I did not like Star Trek: The Next Generation because it was just so boring. Aside from an occasional good episode, the lack of conflict on the ship and Gene Roddenberry's "new vision for the future" was a massive downgrade from where he started. Then Star Trek: Deep Space Nine came along and, while beloved by critics and fans, was somehow worse. Odo the non-shape-changing shape-changing alien? Quark comic relief? The Prophets? I mean, sure there was Avery Brooks, but holy crap. AND THEN, just when I thought things couldn't possibly get worse... Star Trek: Voyager. I was totally excited for it. At first. Enemies on the same ship? CONFLICT! Biomechanical ship? COOL! Stranded across the galaxy where survival is a constant struggle and no allies in sight? EXCITING! But then they ended up doing the same old Next Generation shit all over again and boring the heck out of me. Star Trek: Enterprise was a step in the right direction, but they burdened it with a "Temporal Cold War" that was a boat-anchor tied to the show in a horrible way.
Naturally, when CBS announced they were coming out with Star Trek: Discovery, I was skeptical. The cast was amazing (seriously amazing) and they looked to be doing something new, but the ship looked like shit and the early previews with engine spores and stuff looked like crap.
Boy was I wrong.
The first season of Discovery was phenomenal.
The performances and characters were incredible. The stories were cool as all getout. And the "big twist" was about the best thing to come out of Star Trek in decades. I loved just about everything about it. Critics said it "wasn't Star Trek" and hated on it terribly. This made me laugh my ass off, because it was easily the most "Star Trek" thing to happen since the original series! People who said it "wasn't Star Trek" were saying it wasn't "NEXT GENERATION Star Trek." Which, of course, was my favorite thing about it. The second season wasn't as good, but it was still worth watching.
And now there's Star Trek: Picard...
Obviously I was not enthusiastic about the continuation of a show which I feel is the point Star Trek went terribly wrong. I like Patrick Stewart... like him a lot... but more Star Trek: Next Generation was not something I was interested in. Paying extra for CBS All Access to see it was the nail in the coffin. Except... I read more than a couple interviews with Patrick Stewart and other people working on the show who promised that it was not going to be more of the same old thing. They were doing something new.
Well, sign me up! Even though I was certain it was going to suck.
Boy was I wrong.
First of all, Patrick Stewart is phenomenal in this. He's playing up the age of his character rather than trying to act like he's twenty years younger. Second of all, my mind was completely turned around when Picard said the words "Starfleet was no longer Starfleet!"
Finally somebody understands what the show needs to be interesting. The story being set up feels like it's going to be entertaining. The cast they've assembled is great. The guest-stars from the old new generation seem like they will be used to good effect. And, oh yeah, the special effects are fantastic...
I have high hopes that the talent behind the show have an ending that's going to be worth it all.
CBS sure seems to think so... they renewed the show for a second season AND invited Whoopi Goldberg back, who's "Guinan" is one of the most interesting characters to come out of the old new generation. So fingers crossed.
Something else that was new today? Jay & Silent Bob Reboot...
I'm a huge fan of Kevin Smith's "Askewniverse" films... Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Clerks II, and (to a lesser degree), Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back. And now we're getting the sequel, Jay & Silent Bob Reboot. To me it was a mixed bag. Sure it was great seeing all the characters again and it was pretty funny in spots (though a lot of the humor relies on the viewer having seen all the previous films), but it's almost reached a parody of the parody it was parodying and priority is put on famous cameos and injecting his wife and daughter into things rather than humor, insightful commentary on pop culture, and the characters that made me love the movies so much.
I was glad I saw the movie (worth the $10 price tag), but couldn't help but think that half of it was wasted. I am really, really hoping that Smith goes back to form with Clerks III instead of sabotaging himself again.
Kevin Smith needs to Picard himself instead of giving up more Voyager.
Posted on Friday, January 24th, 2020
It's funny how something can start out as a lark but snowball into something else entirely.
On Monday I wrote about how the tiny house craze might not work with me having cats, then designed a tiny home with cats in mind. The friend who asked me how I felt about tiny house communities posted my plans to a tiny house forum and, next thing you know, I've got a list of ideas from people who might actually want to attempt something like this!
As I had mentioned, I started with the idea of having a ventilated loft for the Litter-Robot litter boxes. The idea being that foul odors will tend to accumulate more easily in a tiny house, and it's better to plan for that from the start. Everything else just kinda fell into place.
There were some really, really good suggestions passed my way.
The biggest was that since I have a cat walk going all the way around the interior, I might as well add some storage underneath. I was also told that while I might not mind eating on the couch, a guest might feel otherwise, and it would be good to have a dining area... even if it was all collapsible.
And so... this morning while eating my Corn Flakes, I took the ideas that people had and revised my tiny house idea.
To make room for the dining table and add a window so you're not staring at a wall while you eat, I built cat "stairs" on the back of the door and added a pole so cats could climb up if they wanted to... along with small storage cupboards below the catwalk...
And here it is from above. Having a "catwalk" adds a lot of space for cats, and I changed the litter box loft so that they can access from both sides now, which would avoid congestion with more than one cat...
One person who was most enthusiastic about my plans asked if his-and-her closets could be added rather than hanging clothes everywhere. That sounded like a great idea, so I added closets (extending the home from 30' to 34') and also added corner shelving to the bedroom. Note that there are also cat stairs on the back of this door as well...
Plus dual poles in the corners so cats can climb up to the catwalk that way if they prefer...
I had to switch from barn doors to actual doors for the bathroom to accommodate the cat stairs, but I actually like that better. I thought that barn doors would be better because you wouldn't be opening the door into somebody but, hey, people can be careful. PLUS... now that I think about it, there's no reason the doors to the bathroom/passthrough couldn't open inward which would solve everything. There's definitely enough room for both doors to do that. Hmmmm...
And here's the updated main floor plan with the dining table, closets, shelves, storage, and catwalk access poles and stairs (click to embiggen)...
Note that the bathroom is slightly larger because I was told my electronics/water-tank closet was not big enough. Now it's plenty big enough for that and maybe some linens and towels! And now that I think about that... perhaps the washer/dryer unit would be better in the bathroom so the water tank and electronics were closer to the shower and kitchen sink. Nifty!
This was a really fun project! I may continue to tweak it as new ideas occur to me.
A pity I don't have millions of dollars laying around so I could buy a chunk of land for a tiny house community and actually build the thing. But who knows? Maybe somebody with money who wants to try tiny cat house living might take the idea and run with it?
Posted on Saturday, January 25th, 2020
I've had to pull a chip bag off of Jake's head more than a couple times. Usually they are the "Big Grab" size, and once that goes on his head it don't want to come off! I have to chase him around the house until I can pull it off. Poor Jake.
The larger bags are easier for him to get out of. Unless I cut them down when they are near empty. Then he can get his head stuck in there while digging for crumbs, no problem. Earlier this week he got his head stuck but I was able to pull it off right away. I thought he had learned his lesson, but here he is at it again...
Until... he stopped short of sticking his head all the way in and started digging with his paw to pull the chips out of the bag...
He knocked it on the floor, spilling crumbs. I was going to go toss it in the garbage, but he was learning something and so I put it back...
Sure enough, he fishes a chip out of the bag so it falls on the floor and he can eat it...
And speaking of Jake...
He's not content to sleep next to me at night any more... he wants to sleep ON TOP OF ME now. This shot is him on my back. It was tough to take because my arm is twisting back with my iPhone...
It's easier when he lays on my chest...
Jenny is still being Jenny. She's incredibly smart. She's deviously clever. She's wonderfully . And she's also inexplicably weird at times. I've seen her jump down seven feet without even batting an eye. But earlier this week she hopped up 30 inches into one of my jean cubbies and somehow felt stuck. She cried until I got out of bed and helped her out...
She's a cat alright.
Until next week's adventure...
Posted on Sunday, January 26th, 2020
I may be ankle-deep in sawdust, but here I am... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Push Back. The impeachment trial is absurd. There is overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing in a number of areas, and it's clear the president is exploiting his office for personal gain at every possible opportunity. But because Republicans in The Senate are 100% willing to enable his abhorrent behavior, he's going to remain in office. Which is why This post from Dan Rather is so important. "As many of us focus on the news out of Washington, let us not forget on these cold, winter nights, many are struggling with hunger and hopelessness. There are the lonely, the homeless, the sick, and scared. Service to others is a way to push back at the cynicism of our times."
• TEMPORARY! OH MAN! TIME TO STOCK UP MY FREEZER! YOU SIMPLY CANNOT BEAT THESE SAVINGS!!!
As I've made known many, many times, I rarely buy anything at the grocery store that's not on sale. I build my meals around what I can find that's inexpensive. I very nearly grabbed these for taco night until I was like "Wait a minute! Aren't these usually about $2?!?" Stores are pretty devious. They expect people will grab something on sale without looking for how much it's on sale.
• Dance Dance Dance. A new bird has been discovered. It's feathers are like a black hole, absorbing most light. This results in a very cool mating dance you gotta see...
It's amazing that we keep discovering new animals as scores of others are going extinct.
• Scraps. It's hard to complain about working on the weekend when I get to set up my wood shop and build displays! I cut the pieces for a rack display I will assemble tomorrow, and now I am building a half-dozen little fruit-crate-inspired booklet displays. They will have a small standee sitting next to them with info and pricing...
As thrifty as I am for my own projects, I've doubly so when spending money for work. The stands had to be heavy so they wouldn't move... and deep so they wouldn't tip over. I made the tray part look nice, then used whatever scraps I had laying around for the back-stops since they don't show. Works like a charm, and they ended up costing a whopping $2.20 each. =sigh= Designing and building displays is the best part of my job. Wish I got to do more of it.
• Peanut Hell. Killing time until 10:00 so I can fire up the power tools... I'm watching SNL from last night with Adam Driver. The cold open takes place in hell where Flo from the Progressive Insurance commercials is visiting. She sold her soul to the devil so she could be on television forever. THEN can you guess what commercial comes on? Just guess! I hope that was planned and SNL contacted Progressive to have it happen, because that's genius.
In other news... POOR MR. PEANUT! Guess he shouldn't have killed all those kids with peanut allergies!
• Art. I recently read a Facebook post by Rachael Eliot Barker that's so important to me that I am reprinting it in its entirety...
"Recently, there was a dust-up over The Comedian, a piece in which Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan taped a banana to the wall of a gallery and sold it for $120,000. A gallery patron made additional news by pulling the banana off the wall and eating it. Interviews made it clear that everyone involved was trolling. The saga was catnip to people who believe that conceptual art is full of shit.
Maurizio Cattelan is clearly full of shit, but his work begs the question: could an artist ever walk into a gallery with some snacks, say 'This may look like something I picked up at the bodega on the way here, but it is in fact my Art, behold my Art,' and NOT be full of shit?
In my opinion, the answer is yes.
My opinion is heavily informed by this 1991 piece by Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Untitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.) is a pile of free candy. Visitors are invited to take one piece of candy. Frivolous, right? The piece may be staged in any gallery that follows a few simple rules. The most important rule is that the pile should weigh 175 pounds.
175 pounds was the healthy weight of Gonzalez-Torres’ partner Ross Laycock, who died of AIDS.
González-Torres had a Roman Catholic background, and taking the candy is meant to be an act of communion. The patron partakes in the “sweetness” of Ross while participating in his diminishment and torturous death.
The decision to use candy has political significance. In 1991, public funding for the arts and public funding for AIDS research were both the hottest of hot-button issues. HIV positive gay male artists were being targeted for censorship. González-Torres was desperate to be heard, and part of the logic of Untitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.) was that you can’t censor free candy without looking ridiculous. The replicability of the piece makes it indestructible; González-Torres had an intuitive, ahead-of-its-time understanding of virality that came from dealing with an actual virus rather than the internet.
I’ve never seen this piece staged, but I think about it all the time. The artist, sadly, is no longer with us. But we will always have the most brilliant, heartbreaking free candy to ever be heaped in a corner. The key to conceptual art is storytelling — how well can you tell a story without words OR a “proper” picture? The banana on the wall sucks because it doesn’t tell a story about anything but attention-seeking and greed. I can’t stand Banana Guy or the media coverage surrounding him because stunts like that make people close their minds to unconventional art and storytelling, which can be just as sophisticated and moving as conventional art and storytelling."
I always assume that there's a story like this behind every artistic endeavor. I may not understand it... I may dismiss it... I may not like it... I may disagree with it... and all that is okay. So long as it means something to the artist and not just a stunt, I can at least respect them putting themselves out there like this.
And that's it for Sunday bullets.
Posted on Monday, January 27th, 2020
The key to using cheap lumber is to own a planer to grind it into shape.
Except I don't have a planer, so instead I assembled my project with small screws, dampened it a little bit. Then let it set for a couple days to see how it all comes together.
It wasn't too bad... only minor adjustments and some sanding to whip it into shape. It sits level and looks like a million bucks... even though it only cost me $25 to make. Time to remove the little screws and move up to the big screws so it will be solid as a rock...
Shot with a wide-angle lens in my tiny garage wood shop... it's square, I swear!
My favorite trick when needing thin pieces of wood? Paint stir sticks! They cost 98¢ for ten of them! And they always look fantastic! I edged the little booklet displays I made with them...
Unfortunately, Home Depot didn't have an 1/8" router bit in stock (even thought their website says they did)... so I had to pay $5 for some 1/4" hemlock to make the dividers...
The contrast between the light pine and the darker hemlock is actually pretty cool! So I meant to do that!
All that's left is to sand it, varnish it, then haul it to its new home!
I would do woodworking every waking minute of every day if I had the time.
Posted on Tuesday, January 28th, 2020
And... I killed my blog.
The template for this blog is really old. So old that it's starting to break with the newer versions of WordPress. Comments haven't worked properly in over two years. Commenter name and contact information is no longer stored and the comment field is wider than the blog container. Not that it's a tragedy since I don't get many comments now-a-days, but still... it annoys me.
And so last night* I set out to see if I could fix it.
Idiot that I am, I didn't backup my old templates. Nor did I write down the old settings I had. Instead I just plowed forward and made tweaks that I thought would make things work a bit better.
Screwed everything up. Couldn't even log in.
Long story short... I had to download my blog archive, extract the template code, rebuild WordPress, rebuild my custom templates (faults and all), then re-link the database so my entries could be found again.
Time to complete? THREE DAYS!
I am writing this on Thursday, January 30th after having finally getting everything working again this morning before I headed into work.
What I would like to do is purchase a spiffy new "Gutenberg-Ready" template and modify it so that it looks like my blog. Then I could do all kinds of cool stuff that the new WordPress editor allows me to do. Problem is that I don't have time. I'd hire somebody to do it for me, but I have even less money than time. And so... I guess I should just be grateful that Blogography keeps on running at all.
Until WordPress releases an update that breaks my blog completely. Which is any day now, I'm sure.
*The word "yesterday" being relative, in this case.
Posted on Wednesday, January 29th, 2020
As I mentioned in my entry for "yesterday," I broke my blog. Something that didn't get fixed until "tomorrow." I actually still wrote entries for "yesterday" and "today" but decided to save them for "tomorrow" and "the day after tomorrow."
If that's all confusing to you, just think about how it feels to be me! My head has to be in the past, present, and future at the same time. All because I decided to go messing in Blogography's guts without a backup.
I've been thinking back to what I did today (yesterday) and, other than hammer away on WordPress, I can't think of anything special.
Oh... check that... I did clean up my garage wood shop! The shelves I built got all sanded, varnished, and delivered, so I wanted to put my tools away and clean up so I'm starting my next project organized and sawdust-free. And it took a minute, I tell you what. It's shocking what a mess I had made. Why I can't put a tool back after I use it is a genuine mystery. It would certainly make my life easier.
What would also make my life easier? Throwing garbage in the trash rather than on the garage floor. Contrary to popular belief (held by me) you can't just sweep it all up at the end of the day. Dustpans can only hold so much. And so I end up having to pick it all up before I sweep. Which takes longer than if I had just tossed it in the trash in the first place.
But don't try telling me that.
When I'm being a wood surgeon, the last thing I want to hear is somebody telling me what to do. I actually became wood surgeon specifically to get away from people telling me what to do.
And, oh yeah... in case you didn't notice, I've started using the term "wood surgeon" now. I find that I prefer it over "wood worker." I toyed around with "wood doctor" for a while, but telling people that I have a doctorate in playing with wood seemed dishonest somehow. I'm amateur at best.
I bet Bob Vila never has to deal with existential crises like this (he says while wondering if whomever came up with the plural for "crisis" realized how stupid it looks and should have just made it be "crisises" like you'd expect it to be).
Probably not. He's Bob Vila. He gets to be a fucking wood wizard if he wants to!
Ooh. Now I wanna be a wood wizard.
Posted on Thursday, January 30th, 2020
I've tried a number of different "meal services"... some of them send a recipe with the ingredients you need... some of them send complete meals that you microwave. I prefer the stuff you assemble from ingredients by a wide, wide margin... things just taste better and fresher.
The problem with these meal services is that I'm vegetarian and most of them put mushrooms in everything vegetarian. Since mushrooms trigger a reaction which can cut off my air supply and kill me, I have to substitute something or just leave them out. Since these meal plans are expensive, I don't like the idea of paying for recipes that are incomplete, so I generally get frustrated and quit. There's rarely many vegetarian options so it's not like they give me much choice.
Then I found Martha Stewart & Marley Spoon and all that changed. Martha always has a good assortment of vegetarian selections and none of the stuff I've selected have had mushrooms in them. NONE! How refreshing!
But the best part? I really like the stuff I've been sent!
Ingredients are (mostly) fresh and good quality. Recipes are good. Some are very good. None of them are overly-complicated or difficult to prepare, though Marley Spoon's recipes are a bit more involved than others I've tried.
Like all of these services, each "meal" is supposed to be two servings for two people. Since I'm alone, and like big dinners, I'm usually just eating both portions. Any leftovers get tossed in the fridge for lunch the following day.
There are a few downsides, however.
First of all, you have to actually cook. I'm more of a take-something-out-of-the-freezer-and-microwave-it kinda guy. Second of all, since the recipes are a bit involved, there are a number of steps which make a lot of dirty dishes...
Thirdly, and this is a big one, the meals are expensive, yo. Each week you get two meals which are, in Marley Spoon's opinion, four servings. The cost is $41.00 plus $9.00 shipping. So... FIFTY DOLLARS for two dinners and two leftover lunches (most times). Now, $20 dinners and $5 lunches may not seem like an extravagant amount of money if you eat out all the time. But I don't because I have other places my money needs to go and $25 a day is outside my budget. That being said, I do consider the Martha Stewart meals to be a fairly good value (and a great value if you eat the meals with meat in them). Especially when you consider that I get to keep the recipes and will absolutely be making some of these meals again. After my "promotional discount ends" I will likely be skipping most weeks since I can't afford them, but I will still buy an occasional box that sounds too good to pass up when I can afford it so I can get new recipes.
And, lastly, because I'm in a rural area, my boxes are hit-or-miss as to whether they arrive on time. It's running about 50/50. This wouldn't be terrible, except the vegetables start to age so they can end up yucky and need replacing. Another bummer? They do not seal the boxes very well. A single piece of thin tape, and it sometimes comes open during shipment. Since this is food, they should really be using WIDE security-printed tape so you know if your box has been tampered with.
And now for the recipes I've tried so far...
01. Tortelloni & Butternut Squash with Harissa Butter & Roasted Almonds
My very first meal was my favorite. And it's so simple that I can easily make it myself. Essentially you cube up a bunch of butternut squash, chop up an onion, then sauté with harissa spice until soft. Mix that with cooked cheese tortelloni, butter, and top with chopped almonds. Done. I had never heard of "harissa spice" before and immediately fell in love with the stuff. It wasn't at my local market and we don't have a Middle-Eastern market, so I ordered from Amazon. Fantastic stuff. Odds of me making this again? 500%
02. Cheesy Black Bean Chili with Warm Tortillas & Quick Salsa
The beans were canned, but everything else was fresh and had to be prepared (which involved a lot of chopping). I've never made chili from scratch before and was surprised at how easy it was. And how much better it tastes than canned. The only hiccup was with the tortillas, which they ask you to brush with oil and heat on a flame. Well, my oven is electric not gas, so I'm guessing they wanted me to light my kitchen on fire or something. Instead I broiled them. Not the same, but good enough. Odds of me making this again? 100%
03. Southwestern Veggie Flatbread with Pico de Gallo & Crema
This was my first problem with ingredients I received. My poblano was starting to turn brown, so I had to lose a chunk of it. There was still enough left to make the recipe though, so I guess it's all good. The flatbreads are crisped, topped with sautéed onion and poblano, then baked with sharp cheddar cheese and garlic. You top that with crema and cilantro and serve with a salad made from halved cherry tomatoes, onion, garlic, fesh-squeezed lime juice, and cilantro. This salad would have been much better with some feta, so that's how I'll make it when I do it. Odds of me making this again? 75%
04. Veggie Bolognese Alla Norma with Eggplant & Pappardelle
Roasted eggplant, carrots, onion, and celery mixed with chopped tomatoes, basil, and garlic and dumped over pasta sheets that's been cut into 1-inch strips. While this wasn't bad, I could make a superior pasta dish on my own... and it wouldn't include celery, which is a water-logged waste. This was the first dish that I found boring and cheap. Not nearly as imaginative and delicious as the previous three dinners. I made toast and added garlic butter. Odds of me making this again? 0%
05. Fresh Pappardelle with Walnut Cream Sauce & Arugula Salad
Martha Stewart... my queen... my goddess... my master of culinary delights... you slayed it with the pasta in my dinner tonight! I LICKED THE BOWL! — MY CAT LICKED THE BOWL! — And it was everything I could do not to eat the remainder for dessert because it's supposed to be my lunch tomorrow. Amazing! 1-inch strips of pasta are cooked with mascarpone, shallots, crushed walnuts, butter, and parmesan with a bit of pumpkin spice. The salad was a bit meh though. I am not a fan of arugula. To me it tastes like bitterness and sadness. But it was made edible thanks to the dried sweet cherries, so I guess that's something. Odds of me making this again? 1000%
06. Chickpea & Carrot Falafel with Tzatziki & Spinach Salad
I was really looking forward to this one (I love falafel), so imagine my surprise when I open my VEGETARIAN ingredients bag and find BEEF JUICE and WORCESTERSHIRE SAUCE in it! So gross. My recipe doesn't mention any of this, so I go back to the bag and see that I was sent ingredients for MEATLOAF...
07. Oven-Fried Veggie Chimichangas with Avocado Crema & Salsa
When you're reducing the can of black beans they tell you to bring to a boil and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated... 3 minutes. That's crazy. Try 13 minutes minimum. Another issue was that they give you four tortillas and you're to divide the filling and cheese between them. If you do that, they are so full that it's tough to get them rolled. There really should have been 5 or 6 tortillas. Also? The filling cooks down quite a bit, so even though I rolled them so tight they were about to split apart, they were still kinda hollow. Which means Martha HAD to have spooned in more filling when she took the recipe card photo. I like the sour cream and guacamole sauce, but the "salsa" was just greasy vinegar tomatoes. Hysterically enough, they toss the tomatoes in a sack with the can of beans which means my tomatoes were beat to hell. That's just sloppy. Odds of me making this again? 75% (without greasy tomato salsa)
08. Cheese Ravioli & Brown Butter Sauce with Roasted Squash & Toasted Walnuts
This is a rehash of my all-time favorite Martha dish (and the first one I tried: Tortelloni & Butternut Squash with Harissa Butter & Roasted Almonds)... except the pasta is ravioli and it's walnuts not almonds. Instead of harissa spice they rely on fresh thyme for flavor and, though I prefer the hairssa by a wide margin, this was a nice change. Where the recipe fails is that they have you dump in a bunch of arugula and the bitter flavor obliterates the subtle thyme and brown butter notes. When I make this again I will leave out the arugula completely. Still... yummy stuff. Odds of me making this again? 100%
09. Coconut-Peanut Rice Noodles with Blistered Zucchini & Green Beans
Phenomenal. Most of the time I take a pass on the Asian cuisine selections because it has mushrooms (which I can't eat) or broccoli (which I loathe). This time the Asian selection had neither. If I change anything when I make this again (AND I WILL ABSOLUTELY MAKE IT AGAIN!) I will halve the amount of Sriracha. It wasn't too hot... I like the heat... but I love love love love charred vegetables, and much of the char flavor was obliterated by the spice. Even so... I can't wait for my leftovers lunch tomorrow! Odds of me making this again? 100%
10. Brown Butter & Sage Gnocchi with Sweet Potatoes & Pecans
I nearly passed on this one because I detest kale and they have a kale salad as a side. And yet... I love toasted sage and the mix of gnocchi and sweet potato sounded fantastic. And, shocker, it totally was. I ended up adding a dash of my beloved harissa spice. Not enough to overwhelm the sage, but enough to add a little extra flavor... and it was even better. Odds of me making this again? 100%
Jake wandered over and licked the bowl clean, so I guess he liked the sauce too...
The kale salad with greasy green apple dressing wasn't great... but at least it wasn't arugula. I HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE ARUGULA! IT'S JUST BITTER AND SAD! STOP TRYING TO MAKE ARUGULA HAPPEN, MARTHA!!!
And there you have it.. my first ten meals with Martha & Marley Spoon.
I dearly wish I could afford to get these meals every week. They so rarely disappoint. On the contrary, most of the time they are amazing, awesome, and delicious in every way. I am discovering wonderful foods and great cooking methods that will last far longer than any one meal. But, alas, I have reduced my Martha with Marley Spoon meals to every-other-week (or less, if the recipes are not different from what I've already tried). It's still more money than I should be spending, but I can't give it up. I make the recipes again and again, so the value is far beyond the cost of the food. It's like getting food PLUS creating a recipe book with only the most incredible meals I've found. Who wouldn't pay top dollar for that?
And now, not to end this on a sour note, but I really have to...
In my last shipment, Marley Spoon announced that they will no longer be including recipe cards. You have to view them online or download them and print them yourself...
We wanted to tell you about an important change to your upcoming Martha & Marley Spoon deliveries. In an effort to reduce our product’s environmental footprint in 2020, we are replacing the paper recipe cards in your box with downloadable recipe cards on our app and website. We believe that every green step we take is important. We hope you agree.
They are not including recipe cards to save the environment? Horse shit. They just don't want to spend the money. So I do NOT agree. People having to print the recipe cards instead of Marley Spoon printing them is not saving the environment. And you really need to print them because who wants to get their computer all greasy and covered in food while cooking? You could literally ruin your computer doing that. So much for convenience! Furthermore, most people are going to save the cards so they can make the recipes again, so it's not a waste. I know I sure do.
But the biggest reason I call bullshit on this?
If Marley Spoon was truly interested in "saving the environment" they would shut down. Because the carbon footprint to deliver their boxes... not to mention all the packaging they use which just gets tossed in a landfill... is far, FAR more damaging than a couple recipe cards. I mean just LOOK at this crap... TWO ICE PACKS AND A GIANT FOAM-LINED PLASTIC BAG TO SHIP TWO TINY, TINY PIECES OF CHEESE!
"Saving the environment" my ass. I may love the meals I get from Martha & Marley Spoon, but this is about as lame an excuse as it gets.
But setting that aside... still so happy I discovered Martha's meal service. Some of the best food I've ever cooked. Which isn't saying much considering I usually microwave frozen meals... but still... good stuff.
Posted on Friday, January 31st, 2020
I started another woodworking project last night, lost track of time, and was too tired to go to the store as I had planned.
And so I went after work today.
Which was a huge, huge mistake because everybody and their dog was buying crap for their Super Bowl watch parties. The traffic is jacked up on the road to the grocery store on a good day... but today? Bedlam.
All I really needed was potatoes and eggs so I could whip up some potato salad for dinner tomorrow, but there were sweet savings in celebration of Super Bowl Weekend that I was compelled to take advantage of, so I guess it made the horrible trip worthwhile.
Now I'm too tired to blog.
Posted on Saturday, February 1st, 2020
You will be pleased to hear that a life-long dream of mine was realized this week: Jake has consistently been falling asleep on my cold feet while I am working in bed. He did it on occasion over the years, but it was seemingly random and by accident. Then, on Tuesday he fell asleep on my toes... and has every day since. It's his favorite place to be now, apparently, and it's certainly my favorite place for him to be. So... win-win then, I guess...
Last week Dolly Parton started a meme sensation that's been picked up by just about everybody...
Earlier this week I made one for Jake...
And one for Jenny...
And that's all I have to say about that.
But before I go... watch this until the end...
I love raccoons almost as much as I love cats.
Posted on Sunday, February 2nd, 2020
It's National Football Day, but it doesn't matter much to me... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• NED... NED RYERSON! I honestly don't care about the Super Bowl. I am not invested in football even a little bit. But I do like that companies are willing to spend all kinds of money creating commercials that I actually want to watch...
And, holy cow, would you look at this awesomeness...
After the Big Game is over, all the remaining commercials will be released. It's like Christmas for advertising nerds like me.
• Pringles! And then there's this, which I love for obvious reasons...
The second half of the new Rick and Morty season cannot get here fast enough.
• Happy Endings. One of the best shows to come along in quite a while for me is The Good Place. At least for the first two seasons. I watched the first couple episodes because I love Kristen Bell, didn't care for them, then said goodbye. Then one evening a number of weeks later I needed some background noise while I worked, landed on the show, and quickly became obsessed. Then they dropped one of the most mind-blowing season finales I've ever seen, left you wondering where the show could possibly go next, then topped themselves in the second season. I maintain that The Trolley Problem is one of my favorite episodes of all time of any show ever. And it's because it's filled with hilarious and brilliant moments like this...
Sadly, things started to fall apart in the third season. Then it all went to shit in the fourth and final season. I couldn't even watch it any more. But I tuned in to the final episode to see how it all wraps up... and was reminded of how good the show could be. That final moment which shows what becomes of you after The After was poetic and beautiful. Not enough to make me run back and watch all the fourth season episodes I missed... but pretty darn special. Really happy for shows that get a proper ending.
• iPad × 10. This past week the iPad turned 10 years old. It doesn't seem as though it's been that long since Steve Jobs introduced it to an unsuspecting world...
I remember the criticism vividly. A lot of people hated the name, equating it to a maxi-pad. A lot of people thought it would never sell because it was just a big iPhone that lacked any serious computing power. I was on the fence, but bought one anyway. Mostly because I liked the idea of it for travel. If there was even a chance that I could leave my laptop behind and carry the much smaller and lighter iPad with me, why wouldn't I? Sadly, the iPad didn't end up being the laptop killer I was hoping for. Not for my work anyway. It's getting closer and closer every day though. The first release of Photoshop for iPad was a grave disappointment, but I'm sure that's temporary. They'll get there eventually. I guess we shall see. Right now the only thing I use my iPad for is digital drawing and painting. And it's pretty great for that. My trial run at blogging worked okay, so perhaps in a year or two when the apps are right it will be exactly what I need it to be.
• BAYHEM! Some may question the wisdom of Netflix backing a dump truck full of money up to Michael Bay's house and asking him to make them a Michael Bay movie. I am not one of those people. Sometimes you just want to watch stuff exploding and things getting blown up in the most unrealistic and insane way possible and that's what Michael Bay delivers...
Doesn't hurt that they got Ryan Reynolds to star, and then let him totally be Ryan Reynolds. Or that they totally put the time, effort, and money into the epic location shoots or making the special effects look so good. For all the obvious reasons, the general consensus between critics is that they hated it. For even more obvious reasons, I loved it. Sequel please!
• Frozenless. Last night's Saturday Night Live had some moments. But this was the one that I had to rewind and watch over again...
But the best sketch of the night was the cold open...
No rational person thought that the Republicans would get behind an actual trial with witnesses and evidence and anything that makes a trial a trial... so color me unshocked that this is exactly what happened.
See ya next Sunday... when we won't have to worry about football again for 8 months.
Posted on Monday, February 3rd, 2020
There’s a difference between "I really connect to your lyrics"... and "I’m going to break in."
I never gave much thought to Taylor Swift. Her music was originally Country, which I don't listen to. Then she dropped into the world of Pop music with 1989 but I wasn't "in that place" at the time, didn't like the single Bad Blood at all, and ignored it. When Reputation was released I didn't much care for the first single, Shake it Off and ignored that album too.
Then I heard the song Mean while shopping in a store somewhere and didn't know who sang it, but Shazamed it even though it was Country because I was hooked by the lyrics...
Someday I'll be living in a big ol' city
And all you're ever gonna be is mean
Someday I'll be big enough so you can't hit me
And all you're ever gonna be is mean
I made a mental note to take another look at Taylor Swift because that one song impressed me so much.
When I finally remembered to pull up her catalog on Amazon Music Unlimited while brushing my teeth one morning, the first song to come up was New Romantics...
Cuz baby I could build a castle
Out of all the bricks they threw at me
And every day is like a battle
But every night with you is like a dream
I remember just standing there, toothbrush in hand, toothpaste dribbling out of my mouth, trying to really listen to the lyrics, which were pretty great. From there I blew through all her music, consistently impressed with her songwriting, even if I didn't always like the song itself. But most of the songs from 1989 and Reputation I did like quite a lot.
Then the singles from Lover started dropping and I was suddenly full-on fan of Taylor Swift... putting Lover in the top spot of my favorite albums of 2019.
And now, just when I didn't think I could love Taylor any more than I already do, a documentary dropped on Netflix called Miss Americana...
I enjoyed it quite a lot. The film is an intimate look into the highs and lows of Taylor's life and gives a glimpse into her songwriting process (which is worthy of a documentary all on its own). There's also a good chunk of time devoted to Swift's decision to unleash her political beliefs, even though she knew full well what the consequences might be for her life and career. The scene where she's about to unleash a political tweet that changes everything was almost a hold-your-breath moment.
It would be really easy to watch her struggles and think "Oh boo hoo! Go cry into your millions of dollars because nobody cares!"
But any such snap judgements are made out of ignarance. Swift built herself a castle out of all the bricks that were thrown at her and earned her millions of dollars with hard work and talent. The fact that she uses her popularity and fame to speak out against bigotry and injustice when her life would be a lot easier if she just sat quiet and smiled is what makes Taylor Swift be Taylor Swift.
Even though she all too often gets burned for it.
And so... Miss Americana is recommended for Taylor Swift lovers and haters alike. If you have Netflix, give it a look.
Posted on Tuesday, February 4th, 2020
That was the Golden Age of software.
We are now degrading to the Rusty Fork Age of software, and it's all because of The Subscription Model.
Instead of outright buying a program... or app, as they are now known... you purchase a subscription to the app. The license to use the app is renewed month-to-month or year-to-year and said app will cease to function if you stop paying for it.
I fucking hate this shit. And let me tell you why...
It's because it leaves you with nothing when you can no longer pay. Nothing!
In most cases when somebody moves to The Subscription Model I just say "fuck you" and take my business elsewhere. A classic example is an app called TextExpander which went subscription in 2016. It's an app that will automatically expand abbreviations you specify to an un-abbreviation you set. Tired of typing "With Best Regards," over and over? Just set "wbr" as a shortcut and it will expand to the full phrase instantly. TextExpander went from an app you could buy for $35 and use for years to an app you had to rent at $8 a month... or $48 a year. That was absurd, I told them to kiss my ass, and switched to a competitor.
Just this past week Flexibits took their app called Fantastical to a subscription model. This is a really great calendar app that is far better than Apple's Calendar, and I've been using it for years on my Mac, iPhone, and iPad. I paid for the upgrade from version 1 to version 2 because the features they offered were worth the money to me. Now, with version 3, you rent the full program for $5 a month ($60 a year) or $40 a year renewed annually. They went to subscriptions because they didn't want to "worry about the 'every few years' upgrade old school nonsense" to which I say, excuse me? That was never a worry for me... your customer. I GOT TO DECIDE if I wanted to upgrade every few years. It was my choice. I think it's safe to say that there is no feature they could ever add to a fucking calendar app that will make it worth $40 to $60 a year. None. That's the real "nonsense" here, and I would go back to Apple's free Calendar before I'd pay that kind of outrageously stupid money. And, with that in mind, get this... one of the benefits they say that comes out of charging you $40 to $60 every fucking year is that they can offer a free, feature-restricted version of the calendar. How the fuck is it a benefit to paying customers that they offer a free version to non-paying customers? What kind of horse shit "nonsense" is that? I was ready to tell Flexibits to go fuck themselves and that they can shove Fantastical up their collective asses, but apparently they anticipated that. Existing Fantastical 2 users get upgraded to the Fantastical 3 app and get to keep the version 2 upgrade features they paid for plus get the "free" features they added to version 3. But for how long, they don't say. I'm sure when Fantastical 4 rolls around they will say that they are no longer supporting version 2 features and you have to subscribe or stop using the app. At which point I will tell them to shove Fantastical up their collective asses. Because unless they add a feature where their app can blow me, I am not paying $40 to $60 a year for a fucking calendar.
But at least with TextExpander and Fantastical I have options. There are competitors selling apps which do much of the same thing. Perhaps not as feature-packed or elegant, but there are alternatives.
What happens when you don't have alternatives?
"Creativity for All"... well, not "all"... only if you can afford $53 a month.
Adobe's "Creative Suite" is a pile of bloated, bug-ridden shit that constantly changes established tools and alters the way the program works for no fucking logical reason. Even worse, usually you can't even set a preference so that it goes back to working the original way something has worked for decades. All of which cost people money. I fucking hate HATE HATE Adobe for screwing everything up with each new "upgrade," but am forced to deal with their shitty apps because there's really no other choice... and they know that. I especially love paying a huge chunk of money every month for a massive bundle that includes dozens of apps I will never use. And that's not hyperbole. A "Creative Suite" subscription is $53 a month! There's no way to pay for Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and Acrobat Pro only for a more reasonable $10 a month... I am forced to pay for dozens of apps even if they never get installed.
Which makes Adobe the new cable/satellite TV provider of the modern age... charging people money to subsidize shit they will never use, just like cable/satellite companies charged you money for channels you would never watch.
But there is hope.
A company called Affinity is coming out with their own "suite" of creative apps. As an alternative to Adobe Photoshop they offer Affinity Photo. As an alternative to Adobe Illustrator they offer Affinity Designer. As an alternative to Adobe InDesign they offer Affinity Publisher. And they are not stupid-ass subscriptions... they are $50 each. Period. Not $636 a year. $150 total. Until you choose to upgrade.
Now, make no mistake, the Affinity apps are most definitely not feature-equatable to the Adobe apps. But they are good, and getting better every day. And believe you me, I am most definitely looking forward to the day I can tell Adobe to fuck off and take their shitty apps with them.
At which point Adobe will buy out Affinity, I'm sure. Adobe's monopoly gives them billions of dollars for just such an occasion, and it's all thanks to The Subscription Model.
If Apple were smart, they'd buy out Affinity first, discontinue the Windows versions, and include the apps with MacOS. Heaven only knows they have the billion dollars to make it happen. Alas, they seem woefully short on smarts lately, so I'm not holding my breath.
Posted on Wednesday, February 5th, 2020
I used to buy a lot of movies. Like... A LOT a lot of movies.
But now the budget I used to devote to buying films has been transferred to streaming services, so I rarely bother any more. Unless it's a film that I know I'll be watching over and over and over again, it's just not worth the money. For a while I had transitioned from buying to renting, but even that is too high a price. Why rent Terminator: Dark Fate for $6 when that could pay for an entire month of Hulu? The movie will show up on a streaming service I rotate through eventually, so I'm happy to wait.
My weakness is sale movies.
A movie I wouldn't rent for $6 is really appealing when it can be purchased for $6.
As I type this, Dredd is on sale for $5. This is not the absurd "I AM THE LAW!" Stallone version (which I actually thought was semi-decent) but the wonderful Karl Urban version which was excellent...
Based on the British comic book, Judge Dredd, the new movie version was surprisingly faithful. Blood, guts, gore, destruction, and dark humor abound. I enjoyed it enough that I'd definitely watch it more than once, so $5 is quite a bargain, isn't it? Assuming I live long enough to watch it five times, that's just a buck a showing for 90 minutes of hardcore entertainment.
And so I bought it.
Where else can I have this much fun for just $5?
Speaking of movies... I just read that Kirk Douglas died at 103 years old. He had an amazing career as an actor. I remember him most from a Disney double-feature that ran at the local drive-in where he was in 1954's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I also remember him from such movies as Lust for Life (the Vincent Van Gogh biopic), Spartacus, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. As the father of Michael Douglas, he started a dynasty that continues with his grandson, Cameron Douglas. Resst in peace, sir.
Posted on Thursday, February 6th, 2020
I haven't had a chance to play video games in months.
I bought Untitled Goose Game the day it was released on Friday, September 20th, played it through the weekend, then never picked up my Nintendo Switch again. The brand new LEGO Jurassic World game I bought for Black Friday hasn't even been taken out of the wrapper. That's a darn shame, because it looks like big fun...
Monday when I got home I had to tear apart my media center to diagnose why I had no internet. I discovered pretty quickly that one of the cats was underneath and hit the fiber box so it dropped and came unplugged (found a toy there and the security cameras showed Jenny was the culprit). Since I had it pulled out, I unhooked everything and started re-wiring everything from scratch. Since I had gotten rid of cable internet and satellite TV and wired speakers and such, I was able to rip out a bunch of junk that was adding clutter for no reason.
I was seriously considering not plugging my Nintendo Switch back in and tossing it in the drawer with my PlayStation 3, Xbox One, and Wii-U. Why bother to have it out when I'm not playing it?
On one hand, this is pretty sad. I love video games and would dearly love to have more time to play them. On the other hand, I have hobbies like woodworking and drawing/painting that I'd much rather be doing over playing video games.
Which has lead me to the conclusion that the Nintendo Switch will likely be the last video gaming console I buy. And boy does that make me feel old. I mean, ME, NOT PLAY VIDEO GAMES? Insanity.
Not wanting to be this old this quickly, I plugged the Switch back into my media center. Who knows if I'll ever have time to play it, but at least it fends off my impending decrepitness for a while.
Posted on Friday, February 7th, 2020
Every year the Six Colors blog on all things Apple issues a report card. For the past week I've taken time when I have a free minute to make up a report card of my own.
I should start out by saying that I remain disappointed that Six Colors doesn't have a "Customer Service" section on their report card. If they did, I would give Apple an F- or whatever the lowest possible score is. The two horrendous incidents I endured in 2019... both of which were 100% Apple's fault... were so trauma-inducing that I STILL haven't been able to sit down and write out a blog entry on what happened. Every time I start, I get so overwhelmed with seething hatred that I have to stop. Maybe one day. But, suffice to say, Apple "customer service" is so downright horrific that the very thought of it has me questioning if I ever want to buy anything from Apple ever again.
But on to the report card...
Over the past five years I would have given Apple a D. Their shitty, shitty "butterfly" keyboards on their MacBook Pro laptops were a fucking disaster, and everybody hated them. But Apple being Apple felt that everybody was wrong and kept using the stupid things. They finally came to their senses and released a MacBook Pro with a "scissor" keyboard in 2019 and it made all the difference. I'm still upset that they removed Firewire, USB-A, and MagSafe from a so-called "pro" laptop, but I guess Apple is going to remain being Apple and ain't going to stop any time soon. The giant trackpad I was anticipating liking actually ended up being a negative, because it takes up a huge amount of space and is easy to touch when you don't mean to. Also? I have a hard time selecting text with it or click-dragging, something I've never had a problem with before.
When it comes to the desktop Macs, I have to drop Apple down a grade. They are so focused on the high-end Mac and iMac that it feels like the "models for the rest of us" are getting shafted. And don't get me started on the Mac mini. The original idea for that was to give people on a budget a way to afford a Mac by bringing their own periphreals. But now? The cheapest model is $800. EIGHT HUNDRED DOLLARS! If this is meant to be an entry model which is priced to be budget-friendly, it fails spectacularly.
When it comes to MacOS X, which is apparently included in this category, I am indifferent. It feels like MacOS has been stagnating for years. Nothing overly-exciting or truly fresh and new has been released in what feels like forever. To me, MacOS X Catalina was actually a step backwards. My MacBook Pro comes with a fingerprint sensor for TouchID. You would think that this means you are done with entering your passwords. You would be wrong. I am constantly entering my fucking Apple ID password. CONSTANTLY! It is fucking embarrassing just how bad Apple is at security. They put on this huge show of how they are encouraging people to use stronger passwords, then completely sabotage it by making people have to enter these longer, more difficult passwords over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over. Who the fuck is going to use a complex, hard-to-crack password when you have to keep entering it over and over again? Nobody. Apple's claim to be making strong passwords more common is 100% bullshit. If anything, Apple's piss-poor handling of passwords encourages easier-to-remember, easier-to-crack passwords.
I love, love, love the latest iPhone. The phone part is all the same... just a bit faster is all... but the camera is sublime. The camera is everything. I wrote extensively about the iPhone 11 Pro and its miracle-camera here. If anything, my opinion has only gone up since I wrote it. Between Night Mode, Deep Fusion, three lenses, and the amazing quality of it all, I almost never use my DSLR any more. Why would I drag it around everywhere when I can take shots like these with my frickin' phone?
Amazing. If this keeps up, in another couple years most people won't even think about buying an actual camera.
iPad is an amazing, amazing tool. Drawing and painting on it is a sublime joy that still amazes me. And, as they release newer models of iPads and Pencils, it just keeps getting better and better. Where the problem lays is with iOS for iPad. It's just so darn bad. I have been trying and trying to figure out how the gesture-based multi-tasking works, and just when I think I understand it something happens which makes me realize that I absolutely don't. In all honesty, this aspect of iOS for iPad needs to be completely gutted so they can start over from scratch. Just burn it to the ground and start over. The user interface is a place where Apple usually excels. But this? THIS?!? Complete shit. It doesn't matter how good the hardware is when the OS driving it is this cumbersome. And so I averaged them together to get my grade.
I'm probably not qualified to comment here because I don't own an Apple Watch and have no plans to buy one. They are just so darn thick that I find them uncomfortable. Why they aren't investigating putting the battery in the band somehow or doing something to make them thinner is a mystery. Because if you've got a thin wrist like I do, it's just not a very good option. It's a real shame too, because I really like the health features. That being said... if a chunk of money lands in my lap, I might bite the bullet anyway because there's just so much good stuff to be had so conveniently.
Apple seems content to let AppleTV languish, and it's really too bad. The interface is abhorrent. So horribly difficult to use. Have a ton of movies? I hope not. Because you'll spend a lot of time scrolling and scrolling. But what's worse is that Apple content is just plain shitty to stream. Constant buffering errors, drop-outs, and pauses. And before you blame my fiber internet (which is what Apple does)... I don't have this problem with ANY OTHER SERVICE when streamed on my AppleTV. Not even with Disney+ or Amazon Prime streaming on Ultra HD!
Then there's Apple's idiotic attempt at doing away with logins by tying services you purchase through them to your Apple ID. I say "attempt" because the shit DOES NOT WORK. I can't tell you how many times I've subscribed to a streaming service through the AppleTV in my living room then can't use it on the AppleTV in my bedroom. And since you don't get a login, there's absolutely nothing you can do... EXCEPT NEVER, EVER, EVER SUBSCRIBE TO ANY STREAMING SERVICE THROUGH APPLETV! As if that weren't enough, if you subscribe to a service through AppleTV that doesn't have a desktop app, you can't watch it on your computer. You could probably watch it online through the provider's website if you got a login from AppleTV, but you don't so you can't. It makes no sense... NONE... as to why you'd ever go through Apple.
And don't even get me started on the shitty, SHITTY fucking remote they bundle with the thing. It is the single worst remote control I have used on any product ever. Constantly grabbing it by the wrong end. Constantly having trouble navigating content. Constantly losing the little fucker in my couch. I HATE it. And I mostly hate AppleTV, even though most third-party apps are pretty decent... and those gorgeous screen savers are sublime.
I don't subscribe to Apple News+ or Apple Arcade, and only have Apple TV+ because I get it free for a year. I subscribe to iCloud, but it's so horribly priced that I only buy the bare minimum for iPhone backup. The only plus is that iCloud Drive is content to just be a cloud drive, which is more than you can say for DropBox, who keeps adding the most ridiculously shitty and bloated services to their cloud drive that I just don't want. About the only thing I can truly comment on here is paying for Apple services. For weeks I've been getting a pop-up on my Apple Wallet asking me if I want to link my Apple Cash as a payment method at Apple. I absolutely do. Except it fails when I make the attempt. EVERY FUCKING TIME!
Why in the hell do they bother asking if it doesn't ever work?
I fucking hate HomeKit. It's a flakey, incomplete, crusty asshole of a technology. After waiting forever for compatible devices to come out, I started buying them... then immediately stopped because the experience was so bad. Rarely worked well. Sometimes didn't work at all. I'd recommend that Apple just give it up already, but they just joined a consortium with Amazon, Google, and the Zigbee Alliance, so maybe they're on the right track now. Hopefully this will at least result in a workable technology, because I am totally ready to have my home automation built into iOS.
My score is comparative. When compared to every other tech company, Apple reliability is pretty darn good. It's not perfect, however. I've had to replace hard drives in two Macs in two years because the internal drives started failing.
Where do I start? I hated iTunes. I railed against what a profoundly shitty app it was and how bad my digital life was with it. Then they released the AppleTV app for MacOS and the Music app for MacOS and they are so fucking horrendous that I find myself longing for iTunes again. The TV app is the worst of the bunch. Try finding anything. You can't. Can't find the content you own easily. Can't find new stuff to buy AT ALL. When I go to the "movies" tab, for example, there are a bunch of things that AREN'T EVEN FUCKING MOVIES...
And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Everything from Photos to the App Store to Books to Messages have serious problems and Apple doesn't seem to give a shit just how bad an experience it is.
As I'm not a developer, I can't really comment here. Except to say that I still question Apple's App Store policy of taking 30% of in-app purchases. That seems high considering all they do is process payment. Credit card charges aren't nearly that high, and it seems an absurd percentage in exchange for the convenience. In-app purchases should just be another reason why developers love developing for iOS. As it is, many developers just don't use it because the cut is too high. Want to buy a comic book in Comixology? Sorry. Have to go to the website and buy it that way because Amazon apparently doesn't have margin enough on books to give away 30%.
Apple seems increasingly willing to suck up to the Trump Administration... wanting to play nice to get tariff exemptions, I'm guessing. From not speaking out against outright lies about President Trump convincing Apple "to open a new plant in Texas"... to Tim Cook (WHO IS GAY) sucking up to Cheeto Jesus even though he has been rolling back LGBTQ rights at every opportunity, I am disgusted to my very core on this. The only reason Apple gets a D instead of an F is that they seem to continue to improve working conditions and environmental aspects of the company abroad. Still a lot of room for improvement (and it's happening way too slowly), however.
And that's the end of that. Nobody wishes I could have given Apple better scores than I, but things are sliding so badly in so many areas that I really didn't have much choice. The lone exemption being the iPhone, which is better than it's ever been.
And one of these days... I promise... I will finally unload on the heinous state of Apple Customer Service that I had to endure. It is one of the most mind-boggling, mind-blowing things I have ever experienced in "service" and that is saying a lot considering the crap I've had to put up with over the years.
Posted on Saturday, February 8th, 2020
As I've mentioned before, there's nothing more stressful in my life than when my cats are sick. I've been very, very lucky*. Other than a rare hairball and an even more rare "scarf and barf," they've been really healthy cats, and they rarely puke.
So when Jenny started being antisocial, then puked in her dinner this past week... then puked in her dinner again when I cleaned it up... I was understandably freaking out. I tried feeding her a snack at midnight and she threw it up immediately. Not good.
Usually Jake and Jenny sleep in their separate beds like they are tonight...
But with Jenny feeling so terrible, Jake sought to comfort her by crawling into bed with her and watching over things while she slept...
Whether she wants him to or not. I kept checking in on them with the security cameras and saw that she crawled to the other bed... only to have Jake follow her there...
After I dropped a plate on the floor, I thought I probably woke them up. But only Jake was awake. Jenny was still passed out...
He's such a good brother. He does the exact same thing when I take them to the vet and Jenny goes catatonic...
The following morning Jenny had thrown up a bunch of water. Rather than panic and head immediately to the vet, I decided to feed her only small portions to see if she could keep food down. After a day of that, she had a full dinner, but was still being anti-social. She wouldn't let me near her.
Then the next morning she had breakfast without incident, then showed up while I was working in bed and was back to her usual self...
And then there's Jake.
I've been waking up the past several mornings with him LAYING ON TOP OF ME. I finally put a security camera in my bed so I could see what was up. Turns out there's no reason for it. Jake comes wandering in around a half hour before breakfast time, then just climbs right on top...
Which is nothing new. He's constantly crawling up on me even when I'm not in bed... hoping for some scratches...
The weather has been warming up at an alarming rate. This has meant that Fake Jake is leaving his shelter more and more. He's out most of the day now unless it's pouring rain out. Nights are still spent laying on the warming pad though...
When I got home yesterday, Fake Jake came meowing and running from across the street. He was desperate for some scratches and pets. Then, as usual, he got overly-enthusiastic and snagged me after about five minutes. I just wait until it happens because I know he's not being mean... he's just being a cat... and it seems unfair to cut his time short...
Oh well. That's what anti-biotic spray and band-aids are for, right?
*Seriously lucky. I've only had three real "incidents" for the entire four years I've owned them...
Posted on Sunday, February 9th, 2020
It's Oscar Sunday but I just don't care, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Crapple! Given my longstanding rant against Apple being complete and total assholes by sticking their customers with shitty butterfly keyboards for years before they FINALLY thought to replace them with something not-quite-so-horrible, this one's for you. It's at the 2-minute mark...
People think this is funny... but, but I'm the biggest Apple Whore I know, and even I was seriously shopping for PCs before the 16-inch MacBook Pro was released. I hope Apple is fucking embarrassed at this, because they should be.
• Gold! I used to do a big thing on the Oscars, but I stopped giving a shit when they kept rewarding the same old crap. This year it looks like things are on a better track. Here's my list...
The love for Parasite, which would usually be thrown in the "Best Foreign Language Film" category (it still was and won there too), was a breath of fresh air. I didn't see it until last week or else it surely would have been one of my favorite movies of 2019.
• Mythical! If you haven't been watching Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet on Apple TV+, it's worth a look. Especially if you love video games. Apparently Rob McElhenney (who is at his most Rob McElhenneyist here) and Charlie Day consulted heavily with Ubisoft to get some semblance of accuracy even though this is a comedy about what goes on behind the scenes at a video game company. It shows. The show is absolute gold, and will easily make my list of favorites for 2020. It's not quite The Office or The IT Crowd, but it kinda draws from both...
The jokes come fast and most of them land well. I cannot believe that they got F. Murray Abraham. He has the perfect amount of gravitas for his part. But this is Rob McElhenney from start to finish and he's absolutely perfect.
• Starch! Wow. How come nobody told me that adding corn starch to scrambled eggs makes them taste like they've been slow-cooking for 30 minutes? This is reeeeeally nice. So creamy and rich. If you haven't tried it, these are pretty great. Also works wonders with omelettes. I will never cook scrambled eggs without it.
• NEWS: Antarctica logs hottest temperature on record with a reading of 18.3°C. That's 65°F, people. When I visited, there were many times I took off my jacket because Antarctica was too warm to have it on. I worry for the wildlife which calls this continent home. How is this going to disrupt their habitat and can they survive it?
Penguins are already having a tough time of it, and things look to be getting worse. And then there's polar bears starving in the Arctic. Troubling times for our planet.
• trAIn! Apple has put Artificial Intelligence "Machine Learning" in their iPhone and are making good use of it (especially with the camera). As time goes on, it's just going to be surreal how it changes our lives. Take for example this footage from Denis Shiryaev, which upscaled the video to 4K with machine learning and resounded it... Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat, by Auguste and Louis Lumière, 1896...
Looks old, but almost new. Here's the original footage...
We are really close to the unreal easily being mistake for the real, if we're not there already.
• Netflix Fix! And, lastly, apparently there is a God... you can finally tell Netflix to STOP AUTO-PLAYING FUCKING PREVIEWS WHILE YOU ARE TRYING TO SEARCH FOR SOMETHING TO WATCH! People have been complaining about this bullshit FOR YEARS and Netflix did nothing. Apparently somebody finally figured that customers were worth listening to... or maybe it's because many other streaming services are treating customers with a lot more respect by not irritating the ever-loving-shit out of them...
Apparently you set it once in your preferences and it goes into effect everywhere. I haven't yet verified this, but I sure hope it's true.
And that's a wrap, little golden statue dude!
Posted on Monday, February 10th, 2020
I don't usually share work here that's not my own, but sometimes there's something that really begs to be shared, and I'm all too happy to oblige.
I ran across Michele Rosenthal's work many years ago when I was looking for an illustrator for a packaging project. She has a wonderful paper-cut-out kind of style that I love, and is able to distill concepts down to a simple presentation in a way that looks effortless. I've bookmarked her site (along with a hundred other artists) and check in from time to time to see what's new. A couple years ago, it what this work of sublime brilliance...
To see the full-size piece or buy a poster, you can visit her website.
Somebody posted it to Facebook today, and I was reminded of how great it was. But the best part was that Michele created some "stickers" that you could paste when you're debating with somebody online and they unload a logical fallacy to support their (poor) argument...
I used the stickers exactly one time.
It did not go over well... at all.
In fact, to say "It did not go over well" is a monumental understatement. Their initial reply to my sticker was pretty scathing and yet another logical fallacy. My response was another sticker.
I was unfriended and blocked.
So as not to lose the entirety of my online friends, I just set the stickers aside and decided to use them only in the event of a serious emergency.
Which is all the time, but I'm trying to show restraint. Hey, I'm guilty of logical fallacies myself. I just try not to be mean about it.
Posted on Tuesday, February 11th, 2020
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences finally addressed the omission of Luke Perry from the "In Memoriam" segment of The Oscars telecast... tl;dr, they only have a limited amount of time so he got bumped to their website instead.
Now, far be it for me to tell The Academy how to run their low-rated shitshow, but they can shove one of those little gold statues straight up their collective asses.
First of all... Perry appears in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, nominated for Best Picture in the same fucking telecast. And he was glorious in it. Totally held his own against Leonardo DiCaprio in a fantastic, critical scene. You can't claim that Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a great movie without acknowledging his part in it. Of which Quentin Tarantino said this...
“It was really fun,” says the director. “I had a couple of different roles I could have put Luke in. Luke was like, ‘I want to be on the Western show!’ Because he’s just a really great rider and he loves doing Westerns. When we did one of his big horse scenes, Luke slides the horse to the front of the saloon and all the other riders fall in alongside him. I was like, ‘Luke, do you want us to help you out? Do you want me to put a mark on the ground?’ He was like, ‘Quentin? You could take a dime and throw it in the dirt and I will land on that dime. The take you’ll use is when everyone else gets it right.’”
Second of all... THIS WAS LUKE PERRY'S FINAL FILM ROLE!!! How the fuck do you use "we were short on time" as an excuse when the guy's last film is a Best Picture nominee at the time of broadcast? Insanity.
Third of all... did I mention that he was in The Fifth Element? Only like ONE OF THE GREATEST MOVIES OF ALL TIME!
I'd like to end this diatribe on a good note, so here we go...
As you may or may not be aware, I am a Hallmark Movie fanatic who has seen hundreds of them. If you go to the main screen of Dave's Hallmark Movie Page and scroll down to FAVORITE MOVIES you will see Love in Paradise (2016) listed there. This is essentially "The Luke Perry Hallmark Movie" and I reviewed it thusly...
✓ Favorite Love in Paradise (Winterfest • Emmanuelle Vaugier and Luke Perry • January 2, 2016)
Okay, come on, it's a Luke Perry movie! Say what you like about him, he's a surprisingly good actor and can make even the smallest parts something special (remember him in The Fifth Element?). In this one he plays a former Western movie star who's having to do TV commercials for beans in order to make a living. But when a family ranch in Montana calls him away from his pampered New York City lifestyle as a publicity stunt, both parties get more than they bargained for. This one is funnier than you'd think... mostly because Luke Perry has never been one to shy away from poking fun at himself and is just plain funny. As a fake cowboy trying to keep up with a real cowboy's routine, he plays it note-perfect. And you really can't discount Emmanuelle Vaugier as the straight-man, because she's terrific too. The romance is a bit forced, but the chemistry between the leads is flawless. I didn't even mind that this was yet another SAVE THE RANCH FROM EVIL DEVELOPERS story.
In the movie a big point is made about Luke Perry's character being a fake cowboy star who didn't know how to ride a horse. On his movies he had people to ride the horses for him, and he just pretended to mount and dismount. But, by the end of the story, he's a darn good rider and it made me wonder if Perry had to learn how to ride for the movie.
— queue the laugh track —
After Googling for an answer, I found out exactly what Quentin Tarantino was talking about. Apparently I missed the riding movie
And so... yeah... Luke Perry didn't get an on-broadcast mention in the "In Memoriam" section of The Academy Awards, but he was a dedicated and beloved actor for decades who ended his career in an Oscar-nominated movie. If that's not a qualification, I don't know what is.
And don't ask The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences because they apparently don't know either.
Posted on Wednesday, February 12th, 2020
There's a cruise ship quarantined off the coast of Yokohama, Japan due to a Coronavirus outbreak onboard. With the exception of China, the ship has more cases than any country on earth, clocking in at 175 people infected. The worry is that with so many people living in such close proximity that the virus will continue to spread. If that's the case, the bulk of the passengers may end up with the disease despite all efforts to keep it contained.
As a result, cruiselines are taking drastic measures to avoid this situation from happening on their ships. Most of them are canceling or rerouting cruises to China and other Asian countries. Some of them are denying passage to any customers with a Chinese, Hong Kong, or Macau passport. Anybody having visited those countries within 30 days, regardless of citizenship, will also be denied passage.
Needless to say, many passengers are canceling their cruising plans regardless of destination because they are worried a carrier of the Coronavirus will end up onboard.
The media, always hungry to stoke people's fears because fear is good for their business model, are all too happy to keep feeding the fire.
Not a good time to be a cruise company.
I've never been a big "cruising" person, but my mom absolutely loved it. She loved being able to go to lots of places on a single vacation. She really loved being able to go to so many different places without having to pack and unpack each time. So we ended up going on a number of cruises, including The Caribbean (twice), Alaska, The Mediterranean (twice), and The Panama Canal. They were all great, we had a fantastic time, and I am grateful to have found travel which was low-stress for my mom since that was all that really mattered...
Mom aboard the Dawn Princess in the Caribbean in 2004
Mom aboard the Norwegeian Jewel in the Mediterranean in 2007
Mom aboard the Norwegian Pearl in Alaska in 2009
Mom aboard the Disney Magic in the Mediterranean in 2010
Mom aboard the Island Princess in the Panama Canal in 2012
And, let me tell you, EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. people found out we were going on a cruise there was at least one of them telling us "I would never go on one of those because it's too easy to get sick when you're trapped with so many people on a cruise." Which may be true, but neither me nor my mom ever got sick. Not even so much as a cold on any of the half-dozen voyages we were on.
Meanwhile I've gotten sick after flying on planes, staying in hotels, or attending events where people were sick. I've also been run down by a van in the South of France, hit by a taxi in Chicago, and been run over by a cyclist in Salt Lake City. As if that weren't enough, I've been held up at knife-point in Seattle and at gun-point in San Francisco. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. I've gotten injured and had many other problems... all while not traveling on cruise ships.
Would I cruise again? Of course I would. There are pitfalls, sure... especially in China and especially now. But there are pitfalls in any method of travel. And the positives for cruise travel are really too good to ignore. Even if you're not a big "cruising" person like me.
While I am not much a "cruising" person, I am an amateur woodworker.
And nothing quite tests your resolve as a woodworker than having no budget to build something. I drew up a plan for a gift shop's children's book display and calculated the materials would cost $48 to build. I only had $10-$12 to spend. So instead of actual boards, I scrounged around Home Depot for the cheapest possible lumber. They had warped thin boards for cheap, so I bought $12 worth and just spaced them out as far as I could to hold exactly what was required securely...
It was a strange project. I didn't have the material to use pretty miter joints everywhere, so I used them only in the places they would show, then used butt joints everywhere else. ALL of the boards are curved. I just nailed and glued them into place, straightening as best I could as I went. Worked great, and I had a whopping 3-1/2 inches of board left when I was through!
Posted on Thursday, February 13th, 2020
For months now I've had minor pain in my right arm. It's not a muscle thing... it's deep inside. Like in the bone or something. I've most ignored it and just chalked it up to getting old. Everything else hurts, so why not my arm?
Then this morning I woke up because the cats wanted breakfast, went to get out of bed, and... ouchie... searing pain shooting through my tricep (or what passes for a "tricep" on my muscle-free arms). It was so intense that I let out a yelp and was knocked down to the bed. Which wouldn't have been bad, except I missed the bed and landed on the floor. Holding my arm, I managed to climb back on the bed in agony.
Meanwhile Jake and Jenny, who had just ran downstairs in anticipation of food, came running back up to see what was taking so long. WHY HAVEN'T YOU FED US?!? WE'RE DYING!!!
And so I managed to get up and head down to the kitchen with the cats venting their frustration every step of the way. After managing to get them fed using my left arm, I took some Ibuprofen and headed back to bed so I could wallow in my misery.
And it's weird how the pain works.
I thought getting undressed would be agony. Nope
I thought shampooing my head would be painful. Nope.
I thought getting dressed would be excruciating. Nope.
What hurts... and hurts so bad... is stupid stuff like forgetting my arm is messed up and pulling the drawer open that has my toothpaste with it. THAT is so unbelievably painful that it quite literally knocks the wind out of me.
And so... doctor's appointment on the 26th.
I probably need physical therapy or surgery or something else I can't afford, but that's life.
In the meanwhile I'll try to baby my arm and use it only when I have to. Which is tough, because sometimes just walking or breathing is enough to cause stabbing pain go shooting through it.
Boy I wish I had a really good story to explain this. "I think I pulled it skydiving" or "I got stabbed in a knife fight" sounds so much cooler than "It happened during a sleeping accident."
Posted on Friday, February 14th, 2020
As much as I wasn't a fan of Valentine's Day before, I am especially not a fan now.
I've been trying really, really hard to change my attitude about stuff that just doesn't matter (like Valentine's Day) but it's proving incredibly difficult. In a day and age where everything is shit that's impossible to escape, even the little things can be completely overwhelming.
In the State of The Union address a week ago, Cheeto Jesus said "I am thrilled to report to you tonight that our economy is the best it has ever been."... then a couple days ago he cut Federal employee raises that were scheduled because of "serious economic conditions." So which the fuck is it? Do we have the best economy that the entire universe has ever known... or is it in the toilet? Like most things in life, both statements are probably true. For billionaires and mega-millionaires, the economy is the best it's been in decades. For everybody else, it's not so great. Partly because of rising costs. Partly because we keep losing things that our taxes have traditionally paid for. Take, for example, libraries.
The presidents current crusade includes cutting funding for libraries. The only way some people can afford to read books is to borrow them from the library. The only way some people can afford to watch movies is to borrow them from the library. The only way some people can afford to get the news from newspapers and magazines is to borrow them from the library. The only way some people can have access to the internet or a computer is to use them at the library. BUT POOR PEOPLE DON'T MATTER, SO CUTTING THEIR ACCESS TO EDUCATION, ENTERTAINMENT, AND A WAY TO COMMUNICATE, FIND A JOB, OR JUST FUCKING EXIST IS NO BIG DEAL WHEN BILLIONAIRES NEED TAX CUTS TO PAY FOR THEIR GOLD-PLATED TOILETS, RIGHT?!?
And then there's the little things. Like the desire to live free from deadly diseases. As you may have heard, the Coronavirus is a big deal. Currently in China, but it could end up wrecking havoc here very easily. Then there's the looming threat of old diseases coming back, which scientists warn could be unleashed from thawing permafrost. And yet President Trump is wanting to slash funding to the Center for Disease Control. It's madness.
But we've got billions to transfer to the ineffective and idiotic "Wall" President Trump is hellbent on constructing. Hope it can stop diseases from getting through.
But anyway... Happy Valentine's Day...
For past year's Blogography Valentine cards, click here!
Posted on Saturday, February 15th, 2020
What in tarnation is happening here? There's no need to check your calendar... because an all new Bullet Sunday on Saturday starts... now...
• Red Sox! And so it begins... the team is converging on Fort Meyers for Spring Training, which begins full-squad workouts on Monday. Well, full-squad except Mookie Betts, who got traded to L.A. for some stupid reason (okay, it was probably to fall under the Competitive Balance Tax threshold for 2020, but still stupid)...
Photo from NBC Sports
I sure hope Boston has a better season this year than last year.
• 1917! If you know me, you know I love maps. This is so frickin' cool.
• You Better Work! As somebody who loves RuPaul, there was no way I was going to miss his new 10-episode series on Netflix...
From the trailer I expected it to be entertaining and funny. I did not expect it to be as deep, smart, and genuinely sweet and touching as it. Bonus: There's a lot of familiar faces popping up throughout, including many, many contestants from Drag Race. What sabotages the show is two things. 1) The kid is irrationally bratty and shitty at random times, screaming her head off for no reason. I have no idea why Ru and Michael Patrick King felt it necessary to go that far. And, 2) It doesn't have an ending and absolutely everything was left in the air with no resolution whatsoever. If Netflix doesn't give it a second season, viewers are screwed. Still, worth tuning in for.
• Miss Jackson! Janet Jackson Herself has announced that her new album and tour, Black Diamond, will be dropping this summer.
• Great Scott! These deep fakes are just getting more and more frightening...
Frightening because they are looking more and more realistic.
• Goo! If you did any kind of graphic design work in the 1990's, odds are you know of Kai Krause. His design tools allowed you to create some truly wondrous stuff... but had the absolute worst possible interfaces to get there. I never understood why they were so utterly wacky and nonsensical. Apparently, it was to spur creativity... to get people to just "play" with things until they were intuitively doing what they wanted to do. It never worked like that for me. I'd much rather have proper menus and tools that made it clear what was happening. Kai's Power Goo, for example, was just a mess. But it was Photoshop "liquify" before there was Photoshop liquify, and you have to respect that...
I owned absolutely everything Kai ever released. Used his tools all the time, even as I hated the way they worked. Even so, I found the story of his interface design an interesting read.
Sunday Saturday Bullets.
Posted on Sunday, February 16th, 2020
The reason that Bullet Sunday and Caturday switched places this weekend is that today is the 4th anniversary of my adopting Jake and Jenny.
When their 4th birthday arrived back in December, it didn't really register with me. Probably because that's an estimated date. They were feral rescues who were rescued when they were days old, so "December 6th" may or may not be the actual day. The date that I actually went and got them is not estimated, however, because I wrote a blog entry on that amazing day...
Initially rescued so my mom would have a distraction from her mounting confusion and memory loss, she was able to coax them out from under the couch long before I was...
Probably because she was home with them all day so they got used to her faster. Or maybe just because they liked her a lot. Especially Jake, who would flop down and invite her to rub his belly at any opportunity...
Adopting my cats remain one of the best things I have ever done in my entire life.
After my mom passed, they were my reason for getting up in the morning, and they've been saving me every day since.
They are the most amazing creatures, and I love absolutely everything they do. Both of them are exceptionally well-behaved, never scratch up the furniture, always playing nice, and always happy to hang out with me. On those rare occasions something goes wrong... like them getting sick or waking me up in the middle of the night for some bizarre reason... I am never upset. Ever. Because they continue to be one of the best parts of my life...
If they have a failing, it's that I could never get them to adapt to other people. I have tried and tried and tried to slowly introduce them to houseguests. Sometimes, after a day or two, if nothing too exciting is going on, Jake might come downstairs to take a look... but he is wary the entire time and never hangs around for very long. My guess is that if somebody were to be around for several weeks they would eventually adapt. If I ever end up in a situation where that becomes a necessity, I sure hope that's the case.
In the meanwhile, I'm just going to keep enjoying their company for as long as I possibly can, because every day I love them just as much as I did when I first got them four years ago...
Happy Caturday, everybody!
Posted on Monday, February 17th, 2020
My arm crippling arm pain has not relented. I can keep it at bay by laying in bed, propping it so it doesn't move, and doing
To say this has cut into my productivity is an understatement. But it's either that or be hopped up on truly unhealthy amounts of painkillers. Even just Ibuprofen in wild amounts for too long can cause kidney and liver damage or stomach bleeding. And so... I'll take a big ol' pass on that.
But here's the problem... doing nothing, as enticing as that may sound, is just so boring!
I never "just watch television" or "just watch a movie." Sure there are some television shows or movies that I pay more attention to than others... especially foreign language media where I am having to read subtitles... but even then I've got paperwork I'm working on or have my laptop nearby. I just have to. But now that writing or shuffling papers or typing on a computer can potentially be excruciating, it's not quite the option it usually is.
In an attempt to find middle ground, I've been trying out Apple's speech dictation technology to type stuff into the computer. It's both shockingly good and shockingly frustrating at the same time. You can't really dictate words while watching television or a movie. But otherwise? It works great. Mostly. But when it doesn't? It makes me want to scream.
This entire post has been dictated while travel videos are playing silently on my television. Surprisingly, there have been few errors. But just try typing an ellipsis as three periods instead of that stupid ellipsis character (... instead of …). You cannot. If you say "word period period period," then Apple will type "word. Period." And if you've read my blog for any amount of time then you know I gotta have my triple-period ellipsis.
Which is why I think I'll just end this here instead of getting to a point where I must type another one.
Posted on Tuesday, February 18th, 2020
The weather is nice enough that I've started to walk to work again. Just have to make sure I'm in a long sleeve shirt and am wearing gloves and then, after a brisk seven-minute walk, I'm at the office.
And it was all good until I realized that I had to take home a bunch of notebooks, reference manuals, and binders that I needed for the evening's work. My initial thought was to walk home, then drive back to get everything, but I decided to use grocery bags I had squirreled away in my filing cabinet and just carry them home that way.
You may be asking yourself "Huh? Didn't he say that he had an injured arm? How did he manage that?" And, if you did, you have a better memory than I do. My arm was hurting as always, but at a comparatively minimal amount, so I didn't even think about it. I'm so used to the pain that I barely notice until I pull/twist it wrong.
Alas, I eventually did remember... when I was half-way home and unbelievable pain starting shooting up the back of my arm. Dropped half my bags on the spot. THEN I was like... how am I going to get these home now that one of my arms is useless?
I moved the two dropped bags off the sidewalk and took the other two to the field behind my house. Dropped them off, then went back. Carried those to my back porch. Then went back for the two I had dropped in the field. Surprisingly, nobody came along and stole them or kicked them, or peed on them, or whatever it is that assholes are wont to do.
My seven-minute walk ended up taking in excess of twenty, at which time I was so tired and in so much pain that I went to bed. Woke up to feed the cats. Went back to bed. Woke up to watch some television. Went back to bed.
Never opened a single notebook, reference manual, or binder that I had worked so hard to bring home.
Story of my life.
Tomorrow I'll be taking the car to work.
Posted on Thursday, February 20th, 2020
If there's one thing I'm certain of, it's that humanity as a whole is on the decline.
Today reeeeeeally drove that home for me. Vividly. And so I decided to go home and turn off the world for a while. Which would usually mean that I'd clean house, play video games, or build something, but I didn't feel like doing any of that.
Fortunately Netflix decided to tell me that there's a new offering called #CATS_THE_MEWVIE, which is a documentary about cats on the internet...
Yep. That did the trick.
Even if some of the people on this are nuts. Or assholes. Or both.
Ready to face the horror show that we call "Reality" again.
Posted on Friday, February 21st, 2020
As I mentioned just over a year ago AND way back in 2011(!), I have a massive number of files archived on old media. As I said at the time, "At some point Real Soon Now, I need to transfer all my older files to Amazon's online storage. Then it doesn't matter if I can't read CDs or magneto-optical, or ZIP, or JAZ, or SyQuest... all I have to worry about is whether or not I can read the format that the files are in."
Turns out that today was the day.
I had an image file from 1994 that I absolutely could not do without, and so I ended up having to drag my old PowerMac G3 (from 1997) out of the basement at work so I could figure out how to get the files off the darn thing. It was the latest Mac I had with SCSI on it... and the only Mac I had with both SCSI and ethernet!
Say what you will about Apple, but their computers are reliable as all get-out. The thing turned on immediately...
Though I'm kinda glossing over what it took for me to get to this point.
First I had to find a display that would work. I have a fairly big one with the correct connector, but I wasn't sure that a Mac this old had enough video memory to use it. And so here I am with this teeny-tiny CRT monitor that crackles from time to time, which means it will likely explode (implode?) any minute now. But hey, all I'm doing is looking at files, so it's all good.
This was pre-USB, so I had to look through a mass of boxes full of cables and keyboards and mice to find ADB-compatible peripherals. Easier said than done. The first mouse I tried had a ball that had shrunk and no functioning button. The first keyboard had characters that refused to type.
The first several times I booted it up, it would stall for some reason. But each time it would get a little further. This was weird, but eventually it was booting up all the way.
And then it told me that my computer's date was at 1956 or something like that, so it took another few attempts at booting up before I could manage to change it. After that I had no problems booting... but a real headache trying to get everything running.
Attempting to figure out how to make SCSI devices mount without conflict is all voodoo to me. You just have to keep trying until something works. Then, what works for the Jaz drive doesn't work for the Magneto-Optical drive, so you have to start all over again.
While the computer had an ethernet port, I could not speak to any server on the network. It was still using AppleTalk over Ethernet, and that had been turned off ages ago. So how was I going to get my files off of JAZ and Magneto-Optical SCSI disks? Turns out the answer was FTP, baby. This ancient Mac had Fetch 3 installed!
Also installed? WARLORDS II (!) One of my favorite games of all time. It's been ported in various ways to various platforms, but it never seems to work the same. I guess now I've got a way to actually play it again if I really want to...
One thing I had forgotten about from the good ol' pre-OS-X days was having to allot memory for your apps...
Guess that what happens when you're running with a whopping 160MB of memory! Happy those days are over.
Interesting to note that the "secure internet" is not browsable in the three browsers I had loaded on this machine (including Netscape and Internet Explorer). But if I go in an turn off the security certificate redirect on Blogography, there it is...
My sites which are not secure load surprisingly well...
But the display was a bit wonky, with stuff floating way down the page. Which, let's be honest, is not surprising given that I was running Internet Explorer.
Eventually my files were found, I got them transferred to an FTP server, and all was good in the world (after I found out that Stuffit makes a .SIT archive extractor for modern Macs).
And that was the excitement for my Friday.
Posted on Saturday, February 22nd, 2020
Jenny has become a crotchety old gal and, heaven help me, it just makes me love her even more. Never mind that she only just turned four last December, she is wasting no time in reclaiming her time right now.
For the longest time, neither of my cats would meow. Jake doesn't meow because he can't... he just kind of silently mouths his meow or kinda does a dry squawk. The only time he gets vocal is for his trips to the vet which, holy cow, has to happen very soon now.
Jenny always could meow, but chooses not to.
Not that she's annoying about it. She's still mostly silent. But when she wants attention or wants to let you know that she's not at all pleased with a situation, she definitely lets me know it. Last night I was working a while before bed when she hopped up next to me and was all "Meow! Meow! Meow! Meow!" Until I started petting her. Okay then, maybe she has an itch. So I start petting her with one hand while I continue to compose emails with the other.
"Meow! Meow! Meow! Meow!"
"What the heck, Jenny, I'm petting you... SEE?!?
And she's fine.
"Meow! Meow! Meow! Meow!"
What is going on with you?!?"
And then, after a bit, I figure it out.
It's not enough that I'm petting her like she wants to be petted... SHE IS MAD BECAUSE I'M NOT LOOKING AT HER WHILE I'M PETTING HER!
I swear... I am not making this up! I'll start petting her until she kinda drifts off like this...
Then, every once in a while she will raise her head and squint to check and make sure I'm looking at her while petting. If I am, she'll drift back off. But if I'm not? "Meow! Meow! Meow! Meow!"
Now... I've given up trying to understand why cats do anything. They're cats. That's why. But this is entirely new and has come completely out of the blue. Why is it that now she demands my complete attention? Do I do a better job petting her when I'm not half-occupied doing something else?
And then there's her wanting to play SuperCat. Still...
THAT'S the pose that really gets me. Especially because she usually hangs her tongue out...
Jenny is such a remarkably smart, funny, sweet cat. And her personality makes my heart melt. But I can't help but wonder if in four more years I'll be spoon-feeding her all her meals or something.
Because apparently I can't resist her, no matter what she wants.
And apparently she knows this.
Posted on Sunday, February 23rd, 2020
It's possible that I'm too busy to blog, but I just can't seem to say no, so welcome to a Very Special Edition of what I've been watching lately... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• The Witcher! I actually watched this when it was released and, thanks to having played the video games, mostly knew what I was watching despite the confusing timelines. But I wanted to watch it again so I could just absorb it for the amazing Dungeon's & Dragons spectacle it is. Seriously... even better the second time around. The casting is sublimely perfect. Henry Cavill is doing an uncanny Geralt of Rivia impersonation and 100% looks the part. Anya Chalotra is an even better Yennefer, whose story is actually one that required the smarter acting chops. What's surprising is just how beautiful the series looks. No expense was spared because Netflix knew what they had... and also knew the show would be compared to Game of Thrones. They apparently didn't want to lose that contest. And so long as they don't fuck up the ending, they'll easily win. All in all... The Witcher is well worth your time.
Showing on Netflix.
• Avenue 5! Comedy in sci-fi is a tough nut to crack... despite what amazing television like Red Dwarf, and fantastic movies like Galaxy Quest, and phenemenal books like Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy might lead one to believe. So I was understandably cautious when the promos for Avenue 5 started floating around, but it has Hugh Laurie in it, so why not? Turns out, it's one of the funniest things I've seen on my television in a while. When a pleasure cruise on a starship ends up falling into a course that will extend the journey by 3-1/2 years, a fake captain and a fake crew have to manage the very real crisis to hilarious effect. The jokes fly fast and furious and almost all of them land. If you have HBO and want to get your funny on, here's the show for you...
Showing on HBO.
• Ragnarok! The only Ragnarok I care about is the Marvel movie Thor: Ragnarok, so I was going to take a big ol' pass on this Norweigian high school drama built around characters from Norse mythology. The result is mixed. There's a good idea here... and it will be interesting to see where they go with it... but having the spirit of Thor land in a kid so he can battle a modern incarnation of immortal frost giants (who are not-so-giant) is a bit of a snooze, and it feels like they are building it up to be more than it actually is. But who knows? If they dump enough money into this thing, then maybe it can be salvaged as things heat up in a second season...
Showing on Netflix.
• Hunters! Like I would miss an Al Pacino series. This Jordan Peele series features Nazi hunters who track down hundreds of Nazi officers back in 1977 who are hiding in the USA and intent on starting a Fourth Reich. Obviously a highly-fictionized story, I found myself drawn to the characters (and a fantastic Pacino performance) but left a bit cold by the story. I've only seen the first episode, but will likely tune in as more are released. But if I want to watch a violent alternate history involving Nazi hunters, my first instinct will be to watch Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds again.
Showing on Amazon Prime.
• Twice Upon A Time! This French sci-fi series is about a man who gets a cube delivered to his home which somehow allows him to go back in time prior to his break-up with his girlfriend when he crawls through it. The concept is a good one... kind of a romance-oriented version of Primer... but profoundly plodding and boring. Not until the very last scene is there any sense of excitement, and it's the beat which leads to a cliffhanger. Which may or may not be resolved depending on whether or not they get a second season. Regardless, I'll likely take a pass. I just don't seem to care enough to tune in again...
Showing on Netflix.
• Dracula! Steven Moffat forever became a favorite television creator thanks to the hilarious series Coupling for the BBC. He then sealed the deal with some really good episodes of Sherlock and Doctor Who. So when it was announced that he would be tackling Dracula in a three-episode series spanning olden days right up until modern times, I was intrigued. And today was the day. It's a fascinating series in the first and second episodes... building on all the myths that make up the legend... but ultimately falters a bit when Moffat jumps ahead in time to deconstruct all that. Still... there's some good stuff here, brilliantly anchored by performances from Claes Bang and Dolly Wells. Next up? Moffat is tackling Jekyll!
Showing on Netflix.
• Star Trek:Picard! I've already raved about how this show is defying my every expectation (and this coming from somebody who didn't like Star Trek: The Next Generation). But this latest episode where Jeri Ryan's Seven of Nine finally truly arrives just kicks things up to an entirely new level. Partly because she's just so dang good... but mostly because the surprising twist at the end which changes the lame-ass, pansy-ass boring "utopia" of the Next Generation universe that always bored me... into something really interesting and great to watch. Cannot wait to see where this is all going.
Showing on CBS All Access.
• Visible: Out on Television! This series about the history of LGBTQ characters on television was bound to be good just because it's a story that needs to be told. But Bruce Vilanch doing an impression of Paul Lynde was the best thing I saw all week. It's surprising... but not really surprising... just how recent LGBTQ characters are to television programming. Which makes this a fairly short but no less interesting series.
Showing on Apple TV+.
And that's what I've ebeen watching this week.
Posted on Monday, February 24th, 2020
I've been slowly gathering up my 2019 financials so I can get around to my taxes in a week or two. I'm in no hurry, because I am not anxious to see if my effective tax rate has gone up again. One thing I noticed just this evening is that I've gone from spending hundreds each year in credit card interest charges... to spending nothing in 2019.
That's a first.
And a far cry from 2015 where I averaged paying $45 in fees per month and getting nothing in return.
Money is expensive, y'all.
Turns out that paying off my credit cards and then working hard to keep them paid off month-to-month was worth the rather painful lifestyle changes it took to get here.
No idea where all the money I saved in credit card interest has gone... probably to my mortgage... but so long as it's going towards something instead of nothing, I'm happy.
I'd be a lot happier if I had that money in cash so I could roll around in it... but still...
Posted on Tuesday, February 25th, 2020
Thanks to Martha Stewart's meal kit service I've been cooking a lot more often. Not just her recipes, but recipes off the internet, recipes friends give me, and recipes my mom collected. I don't necessarily like cooking... I certainly don't like the mess... but it's cheaper than frozen meals and tastes considerably better.
Problem is that my cookware is less than ideal and that makes cooking difficult.
All my pots and pans were inherited from my mom. They are a mish-mash of stuff... some of which was probably a wedding gift over 50 years ago... and some of it just random stuff she purchased as she needed it. The two best pieces are Revere Ware that's in great shape but seems to have problems on my glass cooktop. They don't boil water so much as dance when you attempt it. Likely because the bottom is never in full contact with the element so it never gets hot enough to boil stuff.
Ignore my filthy stove (I filmed this right after cooking lunches for the week)...
In order to boil water, I have to stand at the stove and press down on the handle so it stops dancing. Even then it seems to take forever. For the longest time I blamed my stove, even though I bought it new when I moved in.
And so... I really need new cookware.
But do you know how many different kinds there are? Cast Iron, Enameled Cast Iron, Ceramic, Stainless Steel, Nonstick, Copper, and Aluminum, to name a few. There are pros and cons to each and I spent more time than I'd care to admit trying to figure out which would be best for me.
On Sunday I sponged off a friend's Costco membership to buy a new set (a full set being the most economical way to replace my entire eclectic collection). Turns out I needn't have wasted my time since Costco only had one set I could afford (my budget was $100, the cheapest they had was $119).
Say hello to my Kirkland Signature brand 12-piece Hard Anodized Cookware Set...
I have to say... this is some really nice stuff. Probably not compared to the high-end cookware that's out there, but definitely compared to what I was working with before. It's heavy enough to sit flat when hot. It heats evenly (something I didn't even know was important until I cooked in it*). The surface is phenomenally non-stick. It's oven-safe so I can bake in it. There's a great variety of pieces, including a deep skillet which I love. The lids have a built-in strainer that's awesome.The only down-side is that it's not recommended that you put them in the dishwasher, you're supposed to wash by hand. At first I was disappointed, but once I saw how mind-bogglingly non-stick these things are, it's actually easier to wash them by hand than trying to fit them in a dishwasher. Nice.
And, oh yeah... when it comes to boiling water? It happens SO DANG FAST that I was picking my jaw up off the floor. Turns out that having a good set of cookware is going to really up my cooking game.
I kept my mom's two Revere Ware pieces just to have them. Everything else I tossed. Usually I donate stuff I no longer need, but all the pans were Teflon (which will apparently kill you now) and the pots were banged up so badly that I'm guessing nobody would want them.
As I was going through my kitchen junk to see if there was anything else I could get rid of, I happened upon an enduring mystery... I have a missing bowl. Maybe a houseguest broke it and forgot to tell me or something, but there's one less than I purchased. It's not a big deal. It's not something I'm pining over even a little bit. But I would just like to know what happened to it, you know?
In the meanwhile I'm just going to blame the cats.
*Seriously. My old pots would bubble up in some spots but not others which causes scalding and burning. Even heating makes it so much easier to avoid this.
Posted on Wednesday, February 26th, 2020
I was told last week that all my travel for March and April has been canceled. Today I was told that I should fully expect May to be canceled as well, and nothing is being scheduled for June. And that's just domestically. International travel has been halted indefinitely.
As much as I love the idea of not having to travel for four months, I am mortified at the thought of having to make up all the trips I'm missing. If this runs into July, I don't even think it will be possible for me to make up what I missed.
It's not like I haven't got piles and piles of work right here at home to get through.
Posted on Thursday, February 27th, 2020
Today I got some rather bad news. A project I had been working hard to complete was outright canceled. But then, after giving it some thought, I decided it was actually good news. Sure it means I had been wasting my time these past three nights, but it also means I don't have to worry about it tonight or stress over tomorrow's deadline! Woo hoo!
In other news... it was announced that Vice President Pence was put in charge of the country's coronavirus response.
At first I was all "Well that's nice. It's terriffic that he has something to do with his time." But then I was like "Wait a second... isn't this the same Vice President Dumbass who said condoms don't work and smoking doesn't kill you? Holy shit!" And, sure enough, heeeeeere's Mikey!
The anti-science assholes running this country make me crazy.
But what doesn't now-a-days?
Posted on Friday, February 28th, 2020
When it comes to my own death, I'm completely at peace. I've been on this earth 53 years... almost 54 years now. I've done my best to better my world with my time, money, and heart. I've explored the planet and fell in love with its peoples. If my number comes up tomorrow, I am fine with it. I am sick at the thought of my cats not having me around to take care of them, but I am fine with it.
I've had friends and family in my life that mean everything to me and have given my existence meaning, so I'm good to go.
But when it comes to those same friends and family dying? Not so much.
A year ago today, I lost one of my oldest, dearest friends. It destroyed me. It continues to destroy me. So many days I think back to the insane stuff we did... the many, many great times we had... the adventures that defined our relationship... those moments that he and I shared which only we two can ever understand... and the weight of it all crushes me. I want to scream at the world what an amazing person he was so they remember him like I do and they know what we've lost. I want everybody to hurt like I hurt.
But all I can do is walk through my memories of him, share sorrow with friends who knew him, and keep him alive in my heart.
And on my arm...
I don't know that seeing this every day will make things better or worse, but it will definitely bring a smile to my face when I remember him, so there's that.
And I'm in good company...
Project Semicolon was started by Amy Bleuel and is explained on their site thusly: "A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you, and the sentence is your life." In later years it has become a symbol of solidarity for those who have survived the loss of someone due to depression, suicide, and other mental health issues.
For both my life and the life I've lost, it's sadly apt.
I wanted quite badly to end my life my sophomore year of high school, planned it down to the smallest detail, reached the day it was all going to end; I chose not to.
When I was caring for my mom in midst of her dementia I woke up every day wanting to escape, and was researching on the internet the best way to end it all in a way which would least impact my friends and family; I chose not to.
When I made the agonizing choice to move my mom into a care facility, failure consumed me and I sunk so low that I called a skydiving company to see if my certification was still good so I could take one final dive; I chose not to.
After my mom died I felt truly done with life and started getting my affairs in order so I could just make the pain finally, finally come to an end with the six bottles of sleeping pills I bought at six different stores two weeks after she passed; I chose not to.
Suicide has been living in my head and clawing at my soul for 38 years, 3 months, and 16 days; yet one day at a time I choose not to.
But I still struggle.
I think too many of us do.
After Robin Williams died I wrote about depression, a subject I am intimately familiar with, and have blogged about more times than I can count. It feels like my entire life has been spent battling depression, and those days before the battle started feel so distant and unnatural as to be unreal. I sometimes wonder if I dreamed my depression-free childhood because I wanted something to cling to when things are at their worst. It just seems impossible that there was ever a time when I wasn't struggling. When I wasn't broken. When I wasn't confronting the barrage of lies that depression whispers in my ear every waking hour of every day... and weighs on my mind all night, every night.
Depression has become such a part of me that, at times, it feels as though it defines me. I guess I'm lucky that it doesn't. Though I don't know that I would call myself "lucky" that I've managed to hold on this long. It feels more like work than luck. I've had to put serious work into the job of living.
Fortunately I've had help.
My family saved me. My friends saved me. Working for a charity which saves others saved me. Having to feed my cats each morning really saved me. And, because of all of them, I choose to save me and continue my life sentence.
And hold in my heart those whose pain cut so deep that they could not.
I love and miss you every day.
Posted on Saturday, February 29th, 2020
Another Saturday... another Caturday.
Jake has been acting pretty weird lately, which is to say that he's acting more like a cat. I thought his skittish and erratic behavior was due to the Feliway diffuser running out, but it's still half-full. Which means he's being totally weird all on his own.
For whatever reason, he will run around the house... climb the cat tree... run around the house... climb the cat tree... run around the house... climb up the cat tree...
And this goes on from the minute I get home until dinner time. He used to just sleep.
Still makes time for chin scratches though...
And butt scratches, of course...
I don't know what has him all riled up, but it's bound to be good exercise, so I'm not complaining.
I wish I could find motivation like that.
Posted on Sunday, March 1st, 2020
We may be at the beginning of a pandemic, but the bullets are still flying... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Hertz! Michael Hertz has passed away. He is largely responsible for one of the most beautiful and elegant map designs you'll find. It's the New York City subway map, which sought to simplify and clarify the depiction of the various lines by making them easier to understand...
There were other versions of this map over the decades, but this modern version from 1978 is the one most people today are familiar with. It was proceeded by an equally beautiful (yet slightly more confusing) version by Massimo Vignelli...
My first dozen times visiting New York City I ended up buying a new fold-out pocket subway map each time because I always forgot to bring an old one with me. Now, of course, I've just got the map on my iPhone. But I'll always have a place in my heart for the map I used for decades to get me around the city.
• Nygaard! Another designer who passed away that's definitely worth noting? Jens Nygaard, the guy who created the LEGO minifigs...
As somebody who started with LEGO before the minifig was introduced, this was absolutely a game changer. Prior to the minifies, which I believe I first got in the LEGO Space sets, we just drew a face on a stack of bricks. The "official" people of the LEGO Universe were a fantastic addition to the toy which took it in a fantastic direction that continues to this day.
• Dyson! Completing the trifecta of those who passed away this past week... Freeman Dyson. This brilliant mathematician, physicist, and astronomer (among other things) was such a huge influence on me that my pen-name, Maach Allon Dyson, was in honor of him. Because, seriously, just look at some of his accomplishments from his Wikipedia page. Though the thing that he's likely best known for... especially by me... is the Dyson sphere...
The idea is that a technologically advanced civilization would have the ability to maximize use of energy from their sun... by surrounding it with a sphere or a sphere of rings or a sphere of panels or something like that. It's a mind-blowing idea that would require mining materials from a huge number of celestial bodies (such as comets and asteroids) in order to construct. Pretty fantastic stuff.
• Apps on Parade! I ran across this video and had to laugh at just how frickin' brilliant it is at showing the sheer absurdity of Adobe's "Creative Cloud." I pay $57.34 per month to use exactly four of them... Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and Acrobat. I also use Lightroom Classic to catalog my photos, but it's not something I need to have. Which means I essentially use less than 1/10th of the apps I have to pay for...
I would be willing to bet that this is the case for at least half of the people paying for Creative Cloud. Hardly getting our money's worth here, but that's what happens when you've got a lock on the industry. My only hope is that eventually another developer... most likely Affinity... will get to the point where Adobe will not be the only option for me. But until then? Blergh.
• Manga Mac! Apple released a clever new commercial which shows various times that Macs have appeared in Japanese manga animation. It's pretty great...
Just makes me want to rewatch the hundreds of manga that I've loved over the years.
• New Horizons! And speaking of ads in Japan... Nintendo really knows how to hit all the feels in their advertising...
The new version of Animal Crossing called Animal Crossing: New Horizons drops on March 20. It's one of those games that always starts out interesting, but I grow bored with fairly quickly. There's only so many fish and bugs you can catch before it gets old. Though maybe the online collaboration will keep it interesting for longer? I don't know that I want to spend $60 to find out.
And with that, bullets have come to a close this fine Sunday. Wash your hands!
Posted on Monday, March 2nd, 2020
It's interesting to note how quickly the organization I work with started canceling our travel due to the Coronavirus. Apparently the deciding factor was a Chinese tourist dying in France on Friday, February 14th (Valentine's Day) which showed that people were traveling with the virus, and flying on a plane with them could result in us being infected. This precipitated a discussion over that weekend, and word was handed down the following Monday, February 17th (President's Day) that all non-essential travel was effectively canceled.
For me this meant everything in March and April...
At the time, I had people saying "THAT SEEMS ALARMIST! YOU'RE NOT TRAVELING TO CHINA!" But since we're volunteers, I think the organization prefers to err on the side of caution. If any of us get infected, our livelihoods and family could be in jeopardy.
Of course now that people are dying here in the US and we're on the verge of a pandemic, nobody thinks it's quite so alarmist.
Then last Friday my May trips were canceled and all travel for June and July was removed from being scheduled...
No idea what this will mean for my other work travel, but the bulk of my flying is gone from the first half of the year. This will be weird for a number of reasons... not the least of which will be losing my frequent flier status! Which means no more free upgrades to First Class and a bowl of warm nuts after take-off. Not that flying coach has ever bothered me, but after having a really good chance of being upgraded for the past 25 years it will definitely be a change...
But the weirdest thing? Just being at home so darn much. My cats will likely be thrilled.
Sure my trips only last a couple days, but it all adds up. As does the exhaustion. Flying to Honolulu on a Monday then flying back home on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning is a routine that I'm used to, but it doesn't make it any less tiring.
And those warm nuts were a great consolation prize.
Though not for long, I'd imagine. Cue the world's tiniest violin.
And now, before I go, here's John Oliver and a sensible take on the Coronavirus from Last Week Tonight...
Wash your hands, everybody.
Posted on Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020
If you need any more evidence that the Democrat National Committee is totally in the tank for Joe Biden to be the democratic presidential nominee... look no further than Buttigieg and Klobuchar immediately throwing their endorsements to Uncle Joe the minute they dropped out of the race. I have no idea what the DNC offered Pete and Amy, but I know what they likely did not offer them... cash to continue their campaigns.
And this, as we know, is exactly how the DNC puppet masters operate. They don't give a fuck what the voters want, it's what they want. They are the party. Last time they wanted Hillary Clinton (we all know how that turned out), and the shady shit that went into getting her on the ballot is still being sorted out. Apparently the DNC is filled with dumber piles of shit than I had guessed, because they learned absolutely nothing.
And so... here we go again.
Be good to each other. Peace.
Posted on Wednesday, March 4th, 2020
Yesterday I saw a post from the moderator of a discussion group for my ink jet printer. She said that she went to buy some isopropyl alcohol (we use it to soak the print heads on our machines which are prone to clogging) and couldn't find it anywhere... at stores or online. She said that there's a shortage and if we could find some at sane prices we should get some.
So when I went to pick up my prescription at the drug store I grabbed a couple bottles. The shelves were full of the stuff.
When I went to check out, the pharmacist who owns the store told the cashier that they were going to have to start limiting people to one bottle after this or else their supply would be wiped out. I explained to him what I was told, what I was using it for, and asked why there was a shortage. He said it's because people are using it to make their own hand sanitizer since, thanks to the coronavirus, you couldn't buy the stuff anywhere. Apparently the recipe for Purell is two parts alcohol and one part aloe vera gel (though rolling your own is likely not a good idea).
I used to travel with a small bottle of hand sanitizer and had bottles of the stuff at home. I threw it all out after reading an article saying that products like Purell and antibacterial soap were causing mutations which lead to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This is a very, very bad thing. Regular soap and water is perfectly fine for eliminating germs, and Purell should only be used when soap and water is not available.
Fast forward to my dental cleaning appointment.
When the hygienist asked me how I was doing I joked that I was feeling a bit peaked after returning from China, but other than a fever and persistent cough I was doing great. Then I realized that somebody who sticks their hands in people's gross mouths all day long probably didn't need a joke like that. Oops.
After my teeth were made all shiny I went to Safeway to get some walnuts and a veggie wrap for lunch. Since I was there, I took a walk down all the aisles to see if there was anything else I needed. Of course there was, so I started loading up my cart with $150 worth of things I couldn't afford but couldn't live without because they were on sale. Then I got to the aisle with the disinfecting wipes. The shelves were wiped out. Just a gaping hole where the wipes used to be. And exactly one container sitting in the back...
Of course I bought it.
I'll keep it at work so I can wipe off my keyboard and mouse every day to keep the coronavirus at bay. Or whatever. Probably not effective, but at least I'm doing something, right?
Maybe I should sell them on eBay for $150.
I may end up dying from the coronairus because my keyboard wasn't wiped down, but at least I can pay for those groceries.
Posted on Thursday, March 5th, 2020
According to the party declaration on my Washington State ballot I've been a Republican and I've been a Democrat. I'm whatever I have to be in order to vote the way I want. In truth, I'm neither. I detest political parties of all persuasions because I firmly believe that our politicians will always, ALWAYS put their party over the people they profess to serve. They have too much to lose if they don't. They fall in line with the party or else the party will cut their financing and replace them. Political parties have way too much power and that's no way to form a government that's of the people, by the people, and for the people.
Obviously for the Washington State primary I had to plug my nose and declare myself a "Democrat" so I could NOT vote for Joe Biden. Not only do I think he's unelectable against President Trump, I don't think he's a fitting punishment for the RNC who enabled Trump in the first place. The fact that I will likely end up being forced to vote for Uncle Joe (AKA the DNC's "Chosen One") in the election is not something I'm looking forward to. He is definitely not my candidate.
Oh well. At least I'm not having to vote for Hillary Clinton this time.
Or will I?
It's not outside the realm of possibility that Biden will want Clinton as a VP running mate. He will have to do something to energize Democrats and get them to vote for him.
Ugh. Politics in this country are heinous. We so rarely get to vote FOR somebody... we're always having to vote AGAINST somebody. It's been about "the lesser of two evils" most of my voting life. Unfortunately "the lesser of two evils" is still evil. And that's how it's going to stay as long as we're locked into this Republican/Democrat two-party shit-show.
And the RNC and DNC wouldn't have it any other way.
Posted on Friday, March 6th, 2020
My buying into the Martha Stewart and Marley Spoon meal kits has reignited how often I cook. Which is most every day now. Don't get me wrong... there are still plenty of crappy frozen pizzas and moderately good Mexican entrees piled up in my freezer for those days I can't manage a kitchen adventure... but I'm cooking my own meals 95% of the time. And you know I'm serious about the craft of it all when I spend $120 on new cookware.
Some of the things I've learned...
Another thing I've learned is that it takes a lot of time to develop a recipe. Even things I think I've nailed (like potato salad) ends up getting experimented on. Pasta sauces will never be nailed down because I'm always thinking of something new to add or change about them. But the thing that I've found to be the toughest to perfect? One of my favorite foods... falafel. Last night I made some because I finally remembered to soak the chickpeas the day before. Before starting I carefully reviewed my notes from my previous attempts at creating the perfect falafel so I could get closer this time. The problem is that onions, which are a huge part of what makes a good falafel "work," never taste the same. I try to accommodate that by eating a piece to see if I'm going to need more (when the onion is weak) or less (when the onion is strong) but I can never seem to figure out what I need to do until after I've finished it and fried up a few patties...
They were good... very good... but had too much onion and not enough red pepper flake and cumin. Yet if I had put in less onion then there might have been too much red pepper flake and cumin. It's enough to drive you crazy. Kinda like the delicate balance between apples, lemon juice, and sugar it takes to make the perfect apple pie. My grandmother had it down. She could taste an apple and know exactly how to adjust to get a fantastic-tasting pie every time. I get better at it year after year, but am still a long ways from being able to figure it out like she could.
Developing a palate sensitive enough to know how to adjust recipes correctly is the final frontier of cooking. Once you can master that you can be a truly good cook, and I'm not there yet. And what's awful is that our sense of taste changes as we age... even if you don't smoke or drink coffee or whatever... so even if you DO manage to figure things out with your palate, it likely won't be for long.
I guess if things get too awful I could go back to frozen dinners and use my new pots and pans for sorting nails and screws while woodworking.
Always have a backup plan.
Posted on Saturday, March 7th, 2020
The reason I keep checking in on the coronavirus has nothing to do with me... it's my cats. Right now it is believed that pets can be carriers but they won't be affected by it like humans are. Which is great, because I am mortified at the thought of having two cats with no way of explaining to them why they're hurting, sick, and confused.
Even so, I've been washing my hands a lot more than usual.
With a face like that, how can I not?
Posted on Sunday, March 8th, 2020
Its... THE SHITTIEST DAY OF THE YEAR, but help is on the way... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Lose an Hour! There are many people who don't like the time change to Daylight Saving Time. Not me...
And yet politicians won't do a damn about it. They've got bigger things to do... like fuck us over for lobbyist cash. I mean, holy shit. This is the ONE THING they could do to better our quality of life that wouldn't cost them a fucking thing, and yet here we are. JUST PICK A FUCKING TIME AND STICK WITH IT! And now I get to do my taxes.
UPDATE: Annnnd... my effective tax rate went up AGAIN under the "tax-you-less" president. How nice. And now he wants to cut the Social Security I fucking PAID INTO my entire working life? Oh well. At least we're getting a brand new tennis court at the fucking White House.
• Women! On the bright side, it's International Women's Day! Which is kind of silly because shouldn't every day should be International Women's Day?
• Guardians! James Gunn confirmed that he'd like to see a Drax & Mantis movie. Which I'd love to see too but, let's face it, the ideal home for such a project would be Disney+ streaming...
If James Gunn were to pitch a Disney+ series for Drax and Mantis to Kevin Feige that he would write and direct, Marvel Studios would be falling all over themselves to say yes. First of all, without Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana, the cast budget is a fraction of a Guardians of the Galaxy movie. Second of all, without Rocket and Groot, the special effects budget could be a fraction of a Guardians of the Galaxy movie. This makes good sense. This makes phenomenal sense. And I'm willing to bet that Dave Bautista and Pom Klementieff would 100% be up to do it. These are some of the most fun characters they could possibly play, so why not?
• Just Watch It.
• Sirens! There are plenty of television shows that I'm sad they canceled. One of the biggest is Sirens, which I love beyond all reason. I was rewatching them this weekend while working and started missing it all over again. Especially Billy, which is one of my favorite television characters of all time...
He was a reoccurring character in Season One... but they (wisely) made him a regular in Season Two. There was no Season Three. But oh man do I wish there was. Both seasons are on sale for $4.99 on Apple's iTunes, if you want to check them out.
• Kern It! OH MY SWEET LORD! STOP ALLOWING PEOPLE WHO KNOW NOTHING ABOUT TYPOGRAPHY AND KERNING TO MAKE TITLES FOR YOUR TELEVISION SHOW! If this is not the worst I've ever seen... it's certainly in the top ten. SCRIPT TYPEFACES ARE MEANT TO BE CONNECTED! STOP SPACING THEM APART!!! And holy shit! THAT "B" IS SO FAR AWAY IT'S IN ITS OWN FUCKING ZIP CODE!!! GAH! GAAAAAAHHHH!!! My eyes are bleeding...
I simply do not understand how these kind of blaring typography errors flourish. Proper kerning is not rocket science. Watch a fucking YouTube video or something.
• NO TIME TO DIE! Daniel Craig was on SNL this weekend and, just like his previous hosting gig, it's surprising just how good he is at this. Of course he parodied his upcoming Bond flick, No Time To Die ...
I am sad that it's his final James Bond film, but if it means he's going to do more movies like Knives Out, which he was also great at.
And that's a wrap. Enjoy your higher taxes and losing an hour of your day!
Posted on Monday, March 9th, 2020
I dream differently than most people in that I don’t dream very often and, when I do, I am almost always an observer of myself in the dream. It’s like I’m watching my dream on television and know I’m dreaming the entire time. Those occasions where I'm having a dream where I’m completely lost in it and believe it’s a real experience are rare. But it does happen.
Like last night.
In my dream I got an emergency request to fly to Mt. McKinley(!) in Alaska(!) so I could pick up some data from a scientist that was critical for the charity. Given that all my travel through July was recently cancelled (thanks, coronavirus) I figured it must be a dire situation, so I agreed. Hours later I’ve driven to Seattle and was boarding an Alaska Air flight to a small airport at the foot of Mt. McKinley.
When I arrive, lighting is crashing all around me. I hide under the Alaska Pipeline pipe(!) to stay safe and ask the ground crew where I should meet my contact. Somebody hands me a pair of binoculars and points to the mountain. When I look through, I see a guy frantically running while lightning is striking all around him. Then the person who handed me the binoculars said “Looks like you made a trip for nothing. That guy ain’t getting off the mountain today.”
Furious that I just flew all that way for nothing, and even more mad that I can’t risk taking photos of Mt. McKinley and have lightning hit my camera, I decided not to check into my hotel. Instead I get right back on the plane and fly back to Seattle after the turnaround.
After I get back to Seattle I call up the charity and they apologize profusely for having me risk catching the coronavirus for nothing. I hop in my car and drive back home, then snap out of my dream as I roll into my driveway.
Since that kind of realistic dream doesn’t happen to me very often, you can imagine how confused I was when I found myself sitting in my bed after having just flown to Alaska and back. It took me a few minutes to realize I had been dreaming it all.
And the first thing I do?
Grab my iPhone so I can see if there is actually an airport at Mt. McKinley.
Turns out that there is, but it has a small gravel runway and Alaska Air obviously doesn’t fly there. Then I get mad at myself for calling it “Mt. McKinley“ when I know dang well that this is the colonizers’ name for it, and the native people refer to it as “Denali.” Except to say that the airport actually is still called “Mt. McKinley Airport” even though the National Park where it’s located has been rightfully named back to Denali.
After getting mad at myself over confusing the name, I get even madder at myself for wasting a rare actual dream on something so stupid. I could have been a super-hero... or been in space... or making love to a space alien as a super-hero. But instead I have a lame dream about air travel (something I have to do all the time) and lightning (which was exciting, but hiding under a pipe the whole time? Ugh).
I’m totally blaming Daylight Saving Time for this shit.
And the coronavirus.
A part of me just wishes that I’d go ahead and catch the coronavirus so I can get it over with and have my life go back to normal. I’m tired of not being able to touch my face... or lick my iPhone... and really tired of having to wipe down my hookers with disinfecting wipes. That can’t be good for her skin. Or mine.
I'm going to have to remember to moisturize.
Posted on Tuesday, March 10th, 2020
For many, many years, I had Max von Sydow staring down at me.
Well, Max von Sydow as Ming the Merciless from Flash Gordon. but, yeah, that guy who has been in so many cool sci-fi movies. The guy who was in Flash Gordon, Conan the Barbarian, Dreamscape, Dune, Judge Dredd, Minority Report, and, of course, he was the Three-Eyed Raven from Game of Thrones (before it turned to shit). Amongst others.
But to me he was mainly Ming from Flash Gordon because this poster was hanging in my bedroom. A poster I still have, by the way...
Unfortunately Max von Sydow passed away yesterday. Given the number of awesome films he's been in over the years, he will be sadly missed but fondly remembered. He even played Blofeld in the James Bond movie Never Say Never Again, for heaven's sake.
You can tell that you're getting old when the actors from all the movies which defined your childhood start to die.
Rest in peace, sir.
Posted on Wednesday, March 11th, 2020
I wake up. I go to work. I come home. I go to sleep. Then I repeat it all over again the next day. I don't go anywhere unless I have to. I don't see anyone unless I have to. I don't do anything unless I have to. I wash my hands before and after every activity. I sanitize every surface I touch. This is life in the age of the coronavirus. This is love in the time of COVID-19.
My caution came highly recommended by the organization I volunteer with. They're based in Europe where there's a perspective on things that's different from here. Italy is in major crisis, other countries will likely join them, and absolutely everything is shutting down in an effort to halt or reduce the escalating infection rate. Meanwhile here in the USA I keep running into people who think that it's all being overblown... usually as a part of a conspiracy theory to reflect badly on President Trump. It's all fake news. It's not a serious problem. It's no more dangerous than the common cold.
Which is a load of crap, of course, but I guess there are people who would rather believe a bunch of bullshit than accept that their hero is an incompetent dumbass who would rather downplay a serious situation at the cost of American lives than look like an incompetent dumbass.
Today I had to run to tourist town to return something I borrowed for work. I wanted to go today instead of the weekend so I wouldn't have to see anybody. On the way back home I decided to stop at the store to pick up the only two things I can't currently live without... Coke Zero and Quaker Brand Chocolate Chip Rice Cakes. If I'm going to be quarantined, I have toilet paper, soap, and food. I don't have beverages and dessert. So... worth the risk of stopping at the store to get some, I suppose. I just have to be mindful of people and sanitize my hands after.
It was then that I saw that perhaps Redneckistan is starting to take things seriously after all. The grocery store was rationing toilet paper and paper towels to one package per person and the shelves were starting to become bare.
Blind panic is unwarranted.
But a little panic is probably going to save lives if it makes people start taking proper precautions.
Wash your hands and stay distant, people.
Posted on Thursday, March 12th, 2020
Last night I could have sworn I was coming down with a fever... but never felt hot to the touch. Maybe it was psychosomatic because of everything happening in the world. Maybe it was wishful thinking because I really wanted to stay home. Or maybe I'm just imagining things because I'm getting old.
Regardless of why I thought I had a fever, I started running through everything that would happen if I had to self-quarantine myself. I have plenty of groceries and supplies. I bought Coke Zero and Quaker Brand Chocolate Chip Rice Cakes yesterday. Everything I need can be ordered online and dropped at my door. And I can work from home if I have to.
So... not a big deal, right? I could totally use a staycation. Right?
Because, hey, if Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson can make it through COVID-19, then I can. Right?
Everything will be okay if we can just stay calm and trust that the people in charge of keeping us safe have a handle on things. Right?
Yeah, it was great watching this ignorant, stupid, confusing address by our president show just how fucked we are. You could literally watch the stock market go into free-fall as he was talking! You know it's bad when a presidential address does more harm than good and we would have been better off if he had never said anything at all.
And it looks like our choices for the election come November are this hot mess and... Joe Biden?
Jesus. Spring may be coming, but the winter of our discontent is neverending and Friday just keeps getting further away.
Posted on Friday, March 13th, 2020
I live each day in a Benadryl-induced haze so that people don't think my allergies are coronavirus symptoms. That would be bad enough if not for the fact that I keep getting curve-balls thrown at me.
Take this morning, for example.
I worked late, late, late last night and was still dead-tired when my cats came running in after the Alexa alarm for their 7am feeding went off. So I dragged my ass out of bed and made my way past the landmine of cat toys strewn in my path to give them their food and get some household chores out of the way. At 8am I decided to go back to bed for a half-hour nap before heading into the office.
Five minutes after my head hit the pillow, Jake and Jenny were running into my bedroom at top speed. I had no idea what brought that on... until a second later when the yard-care people fired up a thatcher so they could groom the lawn for Spring. The noise was huge, the cats were freaked, and I wasn't going to get any sleep.
Then, at 8:30 the Alexa alarm I set to "wake me up" went off, which got the cats all excited because they thought it was feeding time again when they heard it.
As I was headed to the shower I realized that the thatching noise had stopped and it was quiet... even though I only heard them working on the side of my home and nowhere else. I thought perhaps the thatcher had broke down and looked outside to see if there was a problem.
Oh there was a problem alright...
Might as well go to work then.
My cats were still waiting for their second breakfast when I trudged down the stairs...
Note that Jake is ON THE TABLE WHERE HE KNOWS HE'S NOT SUPPOSED TO BE!
I'm all like "SERIOUSLY? YOU JUST HAD BREAKFAST 90 MINUTES AGO!!" But I was feeling sympathetic from the noisy yard work that scared them, so I gave them kitty snacks before heading out the door.
Where I had this greeting me...
Guess I converted my garage into a wood shop too soon?
I am going to try and do as little work-work as possible this weekend so I can get caught up on house-work that's been piling up. Because, just like with the snow that's currently falling, I really don't need an avalanche to bury me.
I'm buried enough.
Posted on Saturday, March 14th, 2020
Jake and Jenny have been bonkers crazy this past week. Perhaps they are sensitive to the shit sandwich which we're all dealing with now? I dunno. Cats are smart, but I don't think that they are reading the news while I'm asleep. But maybe they are.
It all started on Monday when I nearly crapped my pants because I thought there was a snake under my bed...
It was cat fur, of course. Which is why I exclaimed "I JUST VACUUMED TWO DAYS AGO!" after I figured it out. But now that the weather is warming up, the fur is practically falling off the cats in handfuls.
Jenny has taken to being particularly savage in teasing her brother. Sneaking under the scratcher lounge so she can swipe at Jake when he jumps off. Eating his snack when he's out in the catio. And, oh yeah, walking by with Mufasa while he's next to me getting petted...
About two seconds after this photo was taken Jake scampered after her at top speed so he could retrieve his prized toy.
Jake has been even more clingy than usual lately. He wants attention all the time...
And then there's Jake squawking for me while I'm in the kitchen. Usually he only does this when he's in distress or needs help finding Mufasa. After dropping everything and running in to find out what was wrong... I found out he wanted emergency belly rubs...
Earlier in the week I walked in the door, greeted the cats when they came running. Checked their food and water. Pet them for a while. Then went to work. But Jake was not satisfied with the level of attention, and decided to hop on me in a way to get my full attention...
More than once I've woken up in the morning only to find Jake curled up at my feet. I try to stay still so I don't disturb him...
But he's easily disturbed...
Jake is one cranky boy when you wake him up from sleep.
I don't have the coronavirus. At least not that I know of. But I'm acting as if I do in the hopes that I won't catch it and, if I do, I'm hoping I won't pass it along to my cats. I'm washing my hands before I touch them. I've ordered an extra bag of Jake's prescription food in case I'm quarantined. That kind of thing.
And, oh yeah, I'm also treating my bodily fluids as if they are toxic and keeping the bathroom doors closed so the cats can't go in. They don't normally go into the bathrooms unless they follow me in, but better safe than sorry, right?
Naturally they are furious that there's a place in the house that they can't go... even though they don't really want to go there. They felt the same way about the laundry room until Jenny figured out how to slide open the pocket door that leads there. Alas they can't open a door with a latch, and so they sit and meow at the door (Jenny) or squawk at the door (Jake) in an attempt to open it that way.
It doesn't work, but it does give them something new to do.
Posted on Sunday, March 15th, 2020
We all may be in social distance, self-quarantine exile, but you're in good company... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Rise? I both liked and hated Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker when I first saw it. On one hand, seeing many of the original trilogy characters come back one last time was pretty great, and the special effects were visionary and sublime. On the other hand the script was complete and total shit. JJ Abrams perverting The Force into whatever he wanted it to be in order to fill in a few of the many, many plot holes in his crap story was embarrassing and insulting. And the fact that almost nothing in the movie made sense, had past precedent, or was ever explained, was ten buckets of lame. Nowhere was this put into such vivid relief than in a reply by Elijah Wood(!) to one of several expositional chunks of story left out of the film, but dropped in fucking tweets...
On Friday I got an email from Apple telling me that my digital copy of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was available to watch (a few days early because Disney is doing their part to keep people home). I ordered it when I didn't think I'd make it to the theater to see it... then forgot to cancel after I finally saw it. And so I watched it again. Now I've totally changed my mind on the film, I just outright hate it now. What a shitty, SHITTY way to close things out. My only consolation is that the shitty sequel trilogy was marginally better than the horrendously shitty prequel trilogy when taken as a whole...
Thank God that whole mess is over. Now just let the Skywalker crap finally die like it should have done after Return of the Jedi. As the excellence of the Disney+ series The Mandalorian has shown us, there's far better things to do with the Star Wars Universe than continuously rain shit upon it.
• Do You Want to Build a Snowman? Along with the digital release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Disney also released Frozen 2 three months early. I guess they figured they might as well try to drive up subscription numbers for their streaming service since they've had to shutter most all of their movie/television productions...
I'm going to be perfectly honest... I am not a fan of musicals. Some of them I like more than others, such a The Lion King, for instance. Live-action is more difficult, but tolerable if I like the soundtrack (like Grease and Xanadu, for example). The first Frozen was annoying musically, but I loved the character of Kristoff (wonderfully brought to life by Jonathan Groff). And so I tuned into Frozen 2 to see what his character was up to. Turns out he's acting weird and being made to play the fool while a really tacked-on story unfolds. It's not that this was a bad movie, it's just that I didn't get what I wanted out of it. Still, better than nothing, I guess? Or is it? I can't help but feel that things should have been left alone after the first one. Except... the animation and design is phenomenal, beautiful, mind-blowing stuff.
• Joy! In addition to crap Star Wars and an unneeded animated sequel, I've been delving back into all five seasons of Killjoys. The show always amazes me. It has fairly good (but not extravagant) production values which are complimented by complex stories and multi-faceted, highly interesting characters. Every episode feels as though they made the best possible use of budget and resources while never losing sight of the big picture of the universe they were building...
Smart, funny, violent, serious, disturbing, and all-around good sci-fi, this is the whole package. My amazement only grows as I rewatch it from the beginning (the fifth and final season ended last September). The series follows three "killjoys"... bounty hunters... as they work through their personal demons while trying to skate a moral divide between doing good and doing their job. It started strong. Got better. Kinda dropped off a bit at the end, even though I can't really complain about how it ended. It probably was good to cancel it before the show bottomed out, but I can't help but think there were more stories to tell. And could be more stories still if we get some movies or specials or something.
• MAR10! March 10th is known in Nintendo circles as MAR10 (MARIO) because a number of games and Mario products end up with a discount. One of the games on sale was Yoshi's Crafted World for $20 off, so I snatched it up. The game itself is a simple, fun, and clever platform puzzler which has a cool "handcrafted" look where everything is made from paper, cardboard, and other crafting junk...
Yoshi games have always been fairly easy to play... slightly more difficult to complete at 100%... which makes it a perfect choice for a casual gamer like me who wants a distraction instead of a serious challenge. Oh yeah... it's adorable too.
• Go West! And so... the third season premiere of Westworld is finally here. I had read some seriously mixed reviews of the first four episodes that were made available to the press. I, of course, have only seen the first episode. It was... interesting? I mean, they've completely jettisoned what made the show be the show... i.e. Westworld... so it's pretty much just fake people on a murder-spree in Futureworld, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing...
Watching Delores go full-on Terminator in a wonderfully-imagined future is pretty great... so even if that's all we get, I'll keep watching. The thing about the first season which made it so fantastic is that it was so beautifully plotted and deep in concept. The second season was far shallower, but attempted to compensate by going non-linear with the story to poor effect (the first season played with the timeline amazingly well, so I don't know what happened there). It looks like they are not bothering to play with the timeline this time around... unless this really IS Futureworld and Delores is a GUEST? How mind-bending would that be? Well, Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, and Jeffrey Wright are phenomenal, regardless, so I'm hoping this reduced 8-episode season is worthy of their talent.
• FIVE! Tonight was also the finale of Avenue 5, a fantastically funny space farce starring Hugh Laurie. I have been loving the show, even when it took a decidedly dark turn last week (in a way that was actually still pretty darn funny). The ending isn't an ending, which would have me furious if not for the fact that HBO has already renewed it for a second season...
It's surprising that HBO is fostering such a delicious series when I know that the twisted humor is not going to appeal to the masses. But it very much appeals to me, which is all I care about. I am really hoping that they can manage to expand on the show for next season instead of retreading what they've already done (something that was already starting to happen at the end). And thank you to HBO also for giving the show such a massive special effects budget. I mean that... the sets are expansive, beautiful, and look like they cost a fortune. Worth a look if you haven't seen it yet.
And that's enough of that... keep washing those hands, everybody.
Posted on Monday, March 16th, 2020
My mom never seemed to be a huge fan of cooking. It was just something she did because she had to, and not something that she ever aspired to enjoy or master. She had a set of recipes that she was comfortable with and got good at making out of sheer repetition. Every once in a while something new would enter the mix, but not often.
One of my favorite things she made was Applesauce Bread. She found the recipe in a Spices of the World cookbook by McCormick (the company who sells all those spices). It's a 1964 edition, so I'm guessing she had it from before I was born. There are a dozen recipes in the book that mom would make, but only the Applesauce Bread was made so many times that the book broke in half at the recipe page. Eventually my mom had to rubber-band the thing and keep it in a plastic bag. You can see the recipe here, right under the instructions for Welsh Pork Cake(!)...
She altered the recipe, leaving out the raisins (gross!) and substituting walnuts for pecans. But here's the real thing she did to make this recipe better... she went from one big loaf pan to three small loaf pans. The best thing about this bread was the crust. We would fight over who gets the "ends." The smaller the loaf, the most crust you get. Genius.
One day I came home from work and she had a surprise for me. It was her Applesauce Bread... BUT SHE FOUND A MINI LOAF PAN TRAY TO BAKE THEM IN! NOW WE WILL HAVE CRUST FOR DAYS! WHOOOOOO!!!
It's the only way I make her bread now...
The eight loaves in the pan she found are perfectly sized to accommodate a full batch of the recipe...
You're supposed to let it cool for 20 minutes but I never can wait. It's just too dang delicious out of the oven. Of course you have to eat it with an absurd amount of butter...
Because I love y'all (and the book is out of print), here's the recipe...
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add beaten eggs and mix together well. Sift the flour, measure, then sift again with the baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Alternate adding flour mixture and applesauce to the egg & sugar batter until it's all thoroughly mixed. Blend in walnuts. Pour batter into well-greased and floured pan(s). You can use one 9-1/4 × 5-1/4 × 2-1/4 large pan, three small loaf pans, or 8 mini loaf pans. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes (mini loaves), 50 minutes (small loaves), or 1 hour (standard loaf). Ovens vary, but tops should be golden brown with brown edges and a toothpick should come out clean. Cool on a rack for 20 minutes.
Entirely too yummy.
And now back to our regularly-scheduled coronavirus coverage...
Every day since things started getting COVID-19-serious I've tried to imagine what it would be like if I was still taking care of my mom. If she was here with me, I'd be trying my absolute best to make sure neither of us got sick. Me because I couldn't take care of her while sick. Her because I have no idea how I'd possibly know how to take care of her in that condition. If she was at the care facility, I guess all I could do was hope that the staff could keep her safe while I stayed away. Either way, I'm horrified just thinking about it.
It really makes me feel for those who are actually in this situation right now. If that's you, help is available (link is for the US, if you're outside the US, please Google for assistance near you!).
If it were me, this would probably be what sent me over the edge. Heaven only knows I was already 99% of the way there.
Here in Washington State, which is an epicenter for the virus, our governor has closed down restaurants and bars for dine-in and asks that they continue as takeout or delivery operations until things get under control. Gatherings of 50 or more people is verboten as well. This is a serious problem which demands serious solutions, and it's good to know that our State officials are at least trying to slow down the spread of COVID-19 so that our hospitals are not overrun. Of course, this being Redneckistan, there are local restaurant owners telling the governor to eat shit and they will stay open because it's their God-given right as an American to spread the coronavirus, but that's to be expected here. If it were me personally, I wouldn't want my restaurant to be forever-remembered as ground zero for a highly infectious virus, but I guess that's why I'm not in business.
I mean, we just had a man die from COVID-19 in our local hospital, but I'm sure this is all just a hoax started by the socialist communist godless liberals, right?
I dunno. All I know for certain is that I'll be skipping the Welsh Pork Cake.
Posted on Tuesday, March 17th, 2020
I am doing as well as can be expected given everything that's been going on. I occupy my time with lots of work, lots of television, lots of movies, lots of video games, and lots of time with my cats. Basically anything to keep my brain focused on anything except the outside world. Because if I start paying attention I would probably end up with a brain hemorrhage. Especially when our president is going 180º on the coronavirus. First it was a Democratic hoax that's been overblown by the media and going to disappear any day now because he's doing such an amazing job... now it's him knowing it was a pandemic before it was even declared a pandemic... all while none of his followers are calling him out on his crap. I don't expect our government to ever be truthful about anything. We know they're fucking incapable of such a thing. But I don't expect people to roll over and not call politicians out on their bullshit, regardless of which political party they support.
Oh well. I'm getting used to being perplexed by blind party loyalty.
And getting used to getting this crap out of my head by re-watching my favorite entertainment. Last night it was What We Do In The Shadows, which is a movie I love beyond all reason...
Followed by a marathon of the television series, which is SO good because the original creators are still involved (and even make an appearance in an episode!)...
A second season is dropping on April 15th, and I cannot wait to see it.
Tonight I will be watching my second-favorite Hallmark movie of all time, A Winter Princess, which was just released on home video...
Hallmark movies are cheesy and ridiculous to extreme levels which is what makes them so entertaining. I particularly like this version of the holy-shit-it-turns-out-they're-royalty trope because the actor playing the princess (Natalie Hall) actually looks like a frickin' princess. I mean... damn is she brutally gorgeous. The story in this one is tired, but the movie is actually pretty good. Interesting to note that they filmed it at the Big White ski resort (outside of Kelowna, BC) doubling for a ski resort called "Snowden Peak" in Colorado. It is an amazing location and they (surprisingly) make pretty good use of it. From a design perspective, I loved how they made the "Snowden Peak" logo an exact duplicate of the "Big White" logo so that they didn't have to change it out in the long shots. Smart, smart production team there. Anyway... worth a look if they are playing it on the Hallmark Channel, which I have started watching again since they've been working with GLAAD to not be such homophobic idiots.
Posted on Wednesday, March 18th, 2020
Food has gotten so incredibly expensive that I do everything I can to not waste it. Wasting food is literally burning money. But now that trips to the grocery store could come with a COVID-19 bonus and shelves are bare, it's even more critical to not waste any edibles.
Late last night I pulled everything out of my cupboards and organized it by expiration date. Then I pulled everything out of my refrigerator and arranged it by expiration date. Then I worked up a meal plan to try and use as much of it as I can before it goes bad... and freeze everything else. It's making for some eclectic meal planning.
Potato salad with applesauce.
Veggie dogs with yogurt.
Macaroni and cheese with beans.
Tacos and summer salad.
Veggie burger and cheese sticks.
It's like a 5-year-old is creating the menus up in my house. Not that I'm complaining. I'm grateful that I have food to eat. And, one thing's for certain, it will really help me clean out my cupboards and refrigerator/freezer from stuff that's been sitting there for months.
Eventually... when (if?) things ever get back to normal... I'd like to do more meal planning in advance. Right now I go to the store and buy anything I can eat that's on sale, then just do whatever I can with what I end up with in my cart. That's how I end up with these weird orphan ingredients that don't really go anywhere and just take up space for months at a time. Perhaps if I could think about what meals I can make from what's on sale at the moment, I can stick to buying only the stuff I need to be getting.
In other news... yet another childhood hero has left this cold, cruel world. Lyle Waggoner passed away at age 84. I, like oh so many others, remember him as the lucky bastard who got to star opposite the incomparable Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman... my childhood crush and the most phenomenally perfect woman to have ever existed...
Photo from Warner Bros. & DC Comics
How many times did I dream of being Steve Trevor getting wrapped up in her magic lasso as a kid? Entirely too many to be healthy, I'm sure.
Even though his time on The Carol Burnett Show came before Wonder Woman, I didn't see it until it came to reruns years later...
Photo from CBS Television
The series was more memorable to me for Carol Burnett, Tim Conway, and Harvey Korman... but Vicki Lawrence and Lyle Waggoner were excellent supporting characters and it's hard to imagine The Carol Burnett Show without them.
The remainder of his career seemed to consist of appearances on shows of the day like The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Murder She Wrote, and even a spot on The Golden Girls. I don't remember him doing a regular series after, but he must have been keeping busy.
And speaking of keeping busy...
If you're in isolation and looking for something to entertain you, then a good place to start would be visiting the Great Big Story channel at YouTube. It's filled with cool and interesting videos that will lead you down a rabbit hole several hours deep. Here's a few to get you started...
Any of these Great Big Story videos could lead you to Google for more information. I end up there after every new video they release. The last video on the Kryptos statue is something I actually keep up with because I'm interested to see it get solved. Especially since clues are released from time to time, with the latest clue having been dropped back in January. I'll save you from having to Google it by pointing you to a very good Wikipedia article on Kryptos right here.
Stay vigilant, viral warriors!
Posted on Thursday, March 19th, 2020
As I probably mentioned once or twice... or a hundred times... I have killer seasonal allergies. They are pretty harsh in the Fall when all the vegetation is rotting. Summer is marginally annoying, but I don't notice it any more. Winter is my least favorite season, but the absolute best time for my allergies.
Spring... what's happening right now... is my favorite season. I love Spring.
But my allergies are at their absolute worst.
I survive it by taking more Benadryl than is probably healthy. It's the only thing that works despite it making me drowsy. Every day at work it's a fight between the allergy meds putting me to sleep and the caffeine in Coke Zero keeping me awake. At home I stop taking pills and happily cough my head off.
Today I left the office early to work at home because I was already tired, and taking another Benadryl would have done me in. I managed to work through the coughing for a couple hours before my lungs ached and I finally took a Benadryl and a bunch of cough syrup...
...and fell asleep.
Until the alarm to feed the cats... as well as the cats themselves, of course... woke me up at 6:00pm.
After making sure they had their food, I sat down with a grilled cheese sandwich to tide me over until my pizza dough defrosts for dinner. I turn on the television and this commercial is playing...
Isn't that an amazing ad? It's like a Hallmark movie in 30 seconds... but less sappy and more sweet. Man, I love great advertising!
And speaking of Hallmark... I see that they are airing a Christmas movie marathon so people who are self-isolating can re-live memories of a happier time. I've already seen them all, of course, so I'll spend any free time I have playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which releases tomorrow. OR... at midnight tonight, I'm guessing? Yeah, no. The last thing I need to do is become addicted and stay up until 3am playing a game.
Posted on Friday, March 20th, 2020
Hey, I may not trust our politicians... they are beholden to the lobbyists who own them, so their agenda has little room for the citizens they profess to serve... but I do trust science. And what keeps me from crafting a tinfoil hat during a time when conspiracy theories are running rampant is that scientific truth will ultimately prevail.
Though given how our current government has been shitting all over science lately, it may take a while.
So thank heaves for Kurzgesagt! They hopped on the COVID-19 pandemic really quickly. Their videos are amazing, and this is important viewing so you know what's happening here on planet earth...
So while science works on a vaccine to protect us... and debunks the insanity that COVID-19 came from a laboratory... and explains why "flattening the curve" is critical to keeping our hospitals from being overrun... among many, many other things... what are politicians doing during this crisis? Why, fucking us over as usual, of course.
It's the only truly bipartisan government activity left.
Posted on Saturday, March 21st, 2020
This morning Jake came running into my room and attempted to convince me to feed him breakfast early. Instead I gave him a full-body massage with both hands as a distraction. He was in such ecstasy that I thought I was going to have to find him a cigarette. Then the breakfast alarm went off, Jenny came running in all excited, and the spell was broken.
Since it's Saturday, I decided to work in bed for a couple hours. Jake never came back, but Jenny did. No idea why she kept staring me down with contempt and disapproval, but that's what she was serving up all morning...
I don't know that my cats understand that a plague has descended upon us, but they definitely know something is wrong with the world. At night they are irritable and restless. After I go to bed, Jenny just hides in the closet. For the past two nights Jake will sit on the stairs and howl until I come down. After I talk to him for a minute and pet him, he'll follow me upstairs and fall asleep on the foot of my bed as usual. Not really sure what it's all about. It's like he's forgotten where I am or something?
Despite not having a handle on the COVID-19 situation, I am proud to say that both my cats have been practicing social distancing. When Fake Jake pops by for a visit, Jake hides around the corner even though there's a glass door between them...
As things drag on... and seem to be getting worse... I am oddly calm. Whatever happens I'll find a way to survive somehow. Regardless of what that may mean in an uncertain future. The only thing I worry about are my cats and how any drastic change to my life might affect them. That worries me a great deal.
Fortunately there are loads of cat videos on the internet to take my mind off things. Like this one...
Take care of yourself... and any furry friends you might be living with.
Posted on Sunday, March 22nd, 2020
Things seem grim indeed, but hang in there... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Wellington! I love penguins. In case you haven't seen it, The Shedd Aquarium in Chicago is letting them run around the place since there's no people showing up to entertain them. It's all kinds of adorable...
It's frightening to think of how zoos, aquariums, and nature parks are going to be able to continue to afford to feed the animals in their care if the outbreak goes on for an extended period of time.
• Bulbs! One of my favorite places in Europe... The Keukenhof in the Netherlands... is apparently not going to open on time this season due to the cornavirus outbreak. Lucky for all of us, they are giving a virtual tour of their amazing gardens...
A video is nothing like visiting in person, but better than nothing. Hopefully the quarantine will end soon so they can open for at least part of the season. Their opening season is so short any way, and all those bulbs are incredibly expensive to maintain. UPDATE: The Keukenhof has announced that they will not open at all this year due to the Netherlands having their safety measures extended until June 1. This is a terribly sad thing to have happen.
• Tumbling' Tumbleweeds! Leave it to CGP Grey to come up with a fascinating video over the most unlikely of subjects...
If you haven't gone down the CGP Grey rabbit hole yet and are looking for entertainment as you socially distance yourself... his entire channel is amazing.
• This Virus is Unforgiving. Dr. Emily Landon, chief infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Chicago Medicine, drops a hard does of reality on recent events...
We are in some serious shit. Taking things seriously is the only way we can get through it. The longer people stop taking steps to isolate themselves and stop the spread of COVID-19, the longer this is going to drag on.
• No Wipes! Good Lord. THINK, EVERYBODY: People Are Using Alternatives To Toilet Paper, And It Could End Up Clogging Sewage Pipes All Over.
• Wash & Sing! Everybody is sharing the songs they sing to make sure they are washing their hands for a fully twenty seconds. Here's mine... One One Thousand, Two One Thousand, Three One Thousand, Four One Thousand, Five One Thousand, Six One Thousand, Seven One Thousand, Eight One Thousand, Nine One Thousand, Ten One Thousand, Eleven One Thousand, Twelve One Thousand, Thirteen One Thousand, Fourteen One Thousand, Fifteen One Thousand, Sixteen One Thousand, Seventeen One Thousand, Eighteen One Thousand, Nineteen One Thousand, Twenty One Thousand. — You're welcome!
• Nasty! I hate to end this Sunday on a sour note, but it cannot be helped. You've probably seen this video popping up several times already. I honestly don't care. This should be shared until you're seeing it from every last person you know. This is not a partisan attack. This is a clear demonstration of a president who is a horrendous leader in general... and an even more horrendous leader in a time of crisis. Any normal, sane human being would have used this as an opportunity to reassure the American people that our government is doing everything possible to keep us safe and address the unfathomable events that are unfolding. Instead we get a 2-year-old in poopy diapers going completely unhinged at a valid question that deserves to be answered with compassion and understanding. We've gone way past our president being a disgrace to his office and this nation... he's an abomination to all humanity...
Un-fucking-believable. What Americans want is somebody who acts like they're in charge of the situation and getting things done to get us through this. Not a piece of shit who can't even answer a softball question that any normal president would have welcomed as an opportunity to allay fears and inspire confidence...
May God have mercy on us all.
And that's all I can stomach for tonight.
Posted on Monday, March 23rd, 2020
I think I've completely given up on being worried about what the future may bring. I'm just going to roll with life day to day and see what happens. Worst case scenario is that I die broke, penniless, and alone while living on the street. If I end up with anything more than that, I'll consider it a gift.
Because, in all honesty, do I have any other option?
No. No I do not.
So why waste my sanity worrying about it?
I'm exhausted from being exhausted.
Posted on Tuesday, March 24th, 2020
As I celebrate my birthday in self-imposed isolation, I've decided that I'm too old to learn new stuff. And definitely too old to remember old stuff. I'm just going to stick to the bare minimum of stuff I need to bumble through life in the now.
I came to this life-changing new direction as I was talking to a friend who called to wish me a Happy Birthday. I was trying to remember the word "blender" and ended up saying "The thing that goes BZZZZRRRR BZZZZRRRR... you know, the drinky mixy upper thingy!" And then... THEN... I got to "clothes steamer," couldn't think of it, and ended up calling it "the PSHHHH PSHHHH thingy."
Welcome to my new onomatopoeia life.
"Onomatopoeia" meaning that you name something by what it sounds like.
So from now on, Jake and Jenny will be called "meow meows" and Alka Seltzer will be called "bloop-de-bloop fzzhhhhh." Which is pretty much what it's called anyway thanks to those "plop plop fizz fizz" commercials.
See? We're halfway there!
Now, if you're excuse me, I am going to celebrate my special day by playing games on the "pew pew bloop bloop."
Happy Birthday to me.
Posted on Wednesday, March 25th, 2020
My life has become a delicate balancing act between taking enough Benadryl to keep post-nasal drip down so I'm not coughing my head off... and enough caffeine to stay awake so I can work. Too much Benadryl and I'm unconscious. Too much caffeine and I won't be sleeping at night. Not enough of either and I'm non-functional. It's a tough spot to be in, I tell you what.
Any time not spent trying to stay awake enough to work is spent trying to stay awake enough to catch up on television and play Animal Crossing: New Horizons (a game I think I've played long enough to comment on in a semi-review post on Friday). And hang out with my cats, of course. But that's something they feel they can do while I'm asleep. I keep waking up to find them sleeping next to me. Awwwww.
I maintain that cats have a sixth sense and know when something is wrong. Whether they are looking to be comforting or are looking to be comforted doesn't really matter... I'm awfully glad to have my furry companions at a time when I'm living my life in a Benadryl-induced haze while trying to self-isolate.
Not that I'm knocking my Benadryl-induced haze, mind you. It's dulling down the horrors of a world gone to shit, and that's kinda nice.
Posted on Thursday, March 26th, 2020
Today I was discussing an article about how Hollywood predicted a pandemic happening a decade ago. "Ten years seems like a lifetime ago. I don't even remember what I was doing back then... do you?"
The first thought that entered my head was "I barely know what I was doing a week ago!" The second thought was "Finally! My blog is actually good for something!" Because all I have to do is call up Blogography on my iPhone and there it is... on March 26, 2010 I was in Prague visiting the Hard Rock Cafe. And boy was that a great trip. Prague is one of the most beautiful cities on earth and I'm really grateful to have been able to visit...
Meanwhile, back in the plague-ridden future of today...
I've been pleasantly surprised to see the many authors, artists, filmmakers, and other creative types releasing their works to the public so everybody has distractions to keep them occupied while coronovirus-quarantined. One of my favorite discoveries has been a "Free Movie of the Week" over at Oh You Pretty Things. Last week was the documentary Helvetica, which was great. And now they are streaming Objectified through Monday. It's a documentary about designers and the objects they create for us. The draw for me was Jonathan Ive (formerly of Apple fame), but everybody in it is interesting. And the little stories around the objects being discussed are fantastic. You can watch it for free through Monday. Highly recommended.
Stay safe, y'all.
Posted on Friday, March 27th, 2020
I've played all of the Animal Crossing games in the main series... どうぶつの森 (Animal Forest) on the GameCube, Wild World on the Nintendo DS, City Folk on the Wii, New Leaf on the Nintendo DS, Pocket Camp on the iPhone, and now New Horizons on the Nintendo Switch. For anybody not familiar with the series, it's essential a "life simulation" game where you live amongst animals and pass your time with activities like catching bugs and fish, digging up fossils, expanding and improving your house, and collecting clothing and furnishings to build a custom lifestyle. It's a relaxing way to spend time and forget about the world, and since the game progresses in real time, you're compelled to check in from time to time to see what's new.
The latest effort, New Horizons on the Nintendo Switch adds some important new ideas... while hampered by some really poor game-mechanics which have plagued the game since the beginning (with one notable exception, which I'll get to below). If I were rating it, I guess it would be four stars, maybe? I mean, I do enjoy it very much, but there are times it frustrates me so badly that I want to never play it again.
So let's discuss that, shall we?
This time, instead of moving into a forest (or city), you are dropped on a deserted island with the games business moguls... Tom Nook and his twin (sons? nephews?) employees Timmy and Tommy. The three of them are responsible for building and upgrading your home, selling you stuff, and pretty much run everything. All you have when you start is a tent, a simple bed, and a lantern... along with the clothes on your back. Fairly quickly Tom Nook will inform you that you no longer get the tools you need to survive... instead you have to collect tree branches and stones to craft your own. Like the bug net I made here...
In short order you are informed that the "deserted island" will be getting two new inhabitants. For me this is a pink deer named "Fuchsia" and a body-building-obsessed ape named "Louie." Befriending them gets you advice and occasional gifts, which are much needed when you start the game.
One of the cool new features for New Horizons is the addition of the "Nook Phone." The phone has all kinds of nifty features. Like an app to catalogue all the fish and bugs you catch, your crafting recipes, and even a camera... which has surprising depth of field plus filter features for altering your images. It's a cooler way than a screen snapshot to record events on the island. Compare this image taken with the camera app compared to the screen-cap above...>
Your early days will be spent collecting bugs, fish, seashells, weeds, flowers, and the like so you can sell them to Timmy and Tommy for "bells" which is the in-game currency. You need bells to pay off your loan for the tent so you can take out a new loan for a house. You also need them to buy stuff you might need for your home. You also need to collect branches, wood, rocks, weeds, and such for crafting tools, furniture, and accessories. Here you can see me sneaking up on a snail that crawled out when it started raining...
New to this game is the idea of "Nook Miles" which are earned for completing certain tasks... catching this many bugs... talking to this many neighbors... selling stuff for this many bells... that kind of thing. Nook Miles can be exchanged for upgrades, specialty items, and (most importantly) a ticket for a plane ride to neighboring islands where you can plunder its resources and raze its vegetation for fun and profit...
The ecological message here is really scary, albeit historically accurate. You essentially rip everything of value from the island until you are standing in a destroyed wasteland where once a beautiful island stood, all so you can improve your island...
Plunder and raze efficiently enough, and soon you have the funds to upgrade from a tent to a house...
Adding more rooms to your house only takes money. Ever-increasing amounts of money. But, since you can decorate your rooms however you want, that's where the fun is...
You can add progressively more rooms to your house, with each expansion costing more and more bells to procure. Most people turn the first expansion into a bedroom. I turned mine into a big bathroom/laundry room...
Yes, you can absolutely sit on the toilet and take a dump. It even flushes automatically when you get up! Many items have features like this. The washing machine will start up if you close the lid. The little Nintendo Switch will turn on. That kind of thing.
My bathroom is serious business. I couldn't find a bathtub, so I used an oar-fish pool. The Nintendo Switch is handy so I can play games while taking a dump. The katana swords are there to defend myself if somebody intrudes while I'm taking a dump. Don't mind the fish in the corner, I ran out of storage in my attic.
As time goes on, you'll be able to get even more buildings added to your thriving island community. Like a Resident Services Building...
Every time a new structure is built in town, there's a celebration. But there are other seasonal celebrations to be had... including your birthday...
As time goes on, you'll be able to get even more buildings added to your thriving island community. Like a Resident Services Building...
The villagers in my hood are a strange lot. The ape is obsessed with working out and injects it into every conversation you have. He can mostly be found wandering around the island with his ass hanging out...
The airport also allows players to fly to their friends' islands over the internet, or have them fly to you...
At the airport they also have a stationary rack where you can write letters to everybody that they will then deliver for you by the next day. I like dashing out notes to them because they will think you like them and give you stuff. Doesn't seem to matter what you write, they still love getting your letters. As an added bonus, I usually attach a gift of something I have left over...
After you get rich enough and have the materials to craft enough, other animals will move to your island. I always welcome them with a warm letter greeting then do a follow-up in-person visit. Here's my letter to Sherb, who looks like he's a goat...
After a while, a stoner dog named Harvey will show up and invite you to the photo studio on his private island. And, yes... it's as creepy as it sounds. If you have Animal Crossing Amiibo statues, you can transfer them to the game and have them pose for photos with you. My Amiibo for KK Slider the musician, Timmy and Tommy the entrepreneurs, and Mabel the clothing magnate worked just fine. For whatever reason my Amiibo for Cyrus and Reese (the alpaca husband-and-wife duo who make furniture) wouldn't work. My guess is that they will eventually be added to New Horizons in the future, and will likely work when they arrive. The photo studio itself is filled with various rooms, props, and wardrobe so you can pose and create various scenarios for your pictures. I don't have that kind of time to waste, so I just photographed us in front of a brick wall...
I'm not sure how else Amiibo will figure into the game, but I hope it nets me some cool stuff.
And speaking of cool stuff, eventually Blathers the owl will come to the island to collect and catalog the wildlife and any fossils that are found. Like in the other Animal Crossing games, Blathers will build a full-on museum after you donate enough specimens and artifacts...
Don't be fooled by the building. It may be rather small on the outside, but it is absolutely massively huge on the inside... housing an entire wing for bugs, another wing for fish, and a basement full of fossil displays. It's spectacular. If the museum existed in real life, I would absolutely visit it. All the environments are great, and the way that the fossil exhibit tries to follow evolutionary patterns is cute...
My real goal... more than anything else... is to complete the museum collection. I've never done it on any other Animal Crossing game, but maybe this time? How awesome would that be?
So... pretty cool game, right?
Not completely, no. Let's get to the bad stuff here...
REPETITION. The first couple times your character catches a bug or walks into the museum, the conversation bubbles that show up are cute... charming even. But after a couple days you want to put your fist through the television screen every time. You can speed up some conversations with the B-button. You can speed up the crafting session with rapid A-button presses. But you can't eliminate them entirely and it's such a stupid, boring waste of time. For heaven's sake... LET US SKIP THIS IDIOCY.
TOOL ACCURACY. I have no clue why Nintendo doesn't fix the most horrifically frustrating part of the game... the total lack of accuracy in using tools. Whether it's fishing or digging or catching bugs, it's a crapshoot to determine where your tool is going to land. People keep telling me "You'll get used to it!" But in all these many years of Animal Crossing games, I NEVER have. I face to where I want my tool to hit... and inevitably end up going somewhere else half the time. You can literally see it in these screen captures. You face in one direction, your tool hits in another... and don't think you can compensate because your character will shift in random ways...
How hard would it be to have a cursor show you where your tool is going to land as an option?
I may have hated the way that the iPhone version... Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp... added pay-for-play to the game, but at least you could tap the screen to specify where your tool will hit and save a lot of frustration.
CRAFTING. Crafting is new to the console version of the game. I like it. A lot. You collect rocks, sticks, wood, and minerals and get to make new stuff. It adds new depth and gives you something more to do. But, in addition to having to suffer through the crafting animation every damn time, there's no way to craft multiples of an item. Have seven clams and want to craft seven sacks of fish bait? You have to click through the menus and go through that stupid animation SEVEN TIMES. Good Lord. Nobody wants this. Give us the opportunity to specify multiple crafted items at the same time.
CRITTERPEDIA. The Critterpedia, which keeps track of all the bugs and fish you manage to capture is a fun tool to look at...
But incomplete and hardly efficient. First of all, no listing for the fossils you've collected. Second of all, you can't tell at a glance which items you've donated to the museum. You have to click through on every individual critter to find out...
Add a fossil checklist. Add icons to each of the caught critters showing if they're in the museum. Make it ACTUALLY USEFUL AS A TOOL instead of a novelty.
SAVE ME. Saves are automatic. But I'm not sure if they are saved online... even if you have a Switch Online account? And you can't transfer your save data to another Switch, making it impossible to have a home unit and a travel handheld unit both be used for the same game. I am assuming that this has something to do with people not wanting to have multiple saves of the same game, but that's absurd. Surely they can make it be a check-in, check-out situation for people who need it.
ONLINE? It's great that you can travel to the islands of your friends and invite them to your island... but why is it so hard to communicate otherwise? In order to send a gift or a message, your friend has to be online at the time? Why? What if your friend lives across the world 12 times zones away? This is phenomenally idiotic. The Switch is online all the time. How hard could it be to allow messages and gifts and such to be sent whenever and retrieved whenever?
SWITCH TOUCH. The biggest problem I've saved for last... the touch-screen when your Switch is in handheld IS NOT USED! I think you can type out letters on the keyboard that appears when you compose a letter. AND THAT'S IT! Shocking. And stupid. You can't tap to do anything. Even stuff it would be perfectly appropriate for. I have no idea... none why this is the case. Every model of the Switch has a touch-screen, and to intentionally ignore it is criminal.
And that's about it.
It will be interesting to see if this iteration of the game will capture my attention longer than the previous games. I always start obsessed with collecting everything only to get bored and frustrated as time goes by.
Posted on Saturday, March 28th, 2020
If people could see me talking to my cats, they would think me insane.
Jake likes me to talk to him though, and actually talks back. He can't meow, so he kinda squawks, but I know what he means.
Jenny just stares at me for a minute... then looks away like she's embarrassed for the both of us.
As you can imagine, in the day-and-age of Washington State's "Stay-At-Home" order, I am awfully glad to have my cats around. More and more every day. They keep me company... and definitely keep me entertained... which is something I'm happy to have while in self-imposed exile.
Even if my cats sometimes tire of me bothering them during their down-time...
You will note that there's a toy in there with her. Jenny has been going through a toy renaissance lately, dragging them around and sleeping with them...
The other night Jake was wailing downstairs again after I went to bed. I have tried to just let him yowl so he doesn't get trained into thinking that he can beckon me on command... especially when I'm trying to sleep... but I just don't have the heart. What if something is actually wrong this time? So I head to the stairs and immediately know what's got him stressed this time...
Apparently Jenny grabbed Mufasa from Jake and ran away with him. And if Jake can't find his favorite toy, he's understandably upset. So I took Mufasa to him downstairs, he grabbed it and sauntered off, and that was that.
This past week I got a security alert on my phone while I was at work. When I looked to see what had happened, I saw Jake and Jenny running from the kitchen at top speed. Curious to know what had happened, I checked the kitchen-cam only to see this...
I've been tearing apart my house and disinfecting everything, and should have put the dirty dishes in the washer after I finished cleaning out the sink. Naturally I was curious as to what had happened, but my cats were safe so I didn't rush home.
And when I did get home I found this...
My cats still hate Carl the RoboVac. And since I have no idea how that bath towel got in the kitchen, I'm guessing they are still working together to murder him. This time by choking him with the towel.
And speaking of psychotic nut-balls, HAVE YOU BEEN WATCHING THE TIGER KING ON NETFLIX?!? This was me and Jake watching earlier this week...
The show is just bananas. Seriously. You have NO idea...
If you want to see some seriously messed-up television, there's your show.
Posted on Sunday, March 29th, 2020
The news has been anything but cheerful lately, but hang in there... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• U-S-A! U-S-A-! U-S-A-! But before we get started... this video is two minutes long. I encourage you to take a hard look at every second of it. This is what happens when you call the coronavirus a "Democrat hoax" and don't take things seriously early on. And, for us here in the USA, we're not even at peak coronavirus yet because there are still states which are refusing to do anything because "We don't have many cases here." Well, yes, you dumb-fucks, the whole point is to KEEP IT THAT WAY...
Stay healthy everybody. You could end up breaking a hip or having a heart attack or chopping off a finger only to find that you can't be seen at a hospital because it's been overrun with coronavirus patients. You may consider yourself able to survive COVID-19... and that's great. But your actions could infect others who end up taking up hospital space you might need for other emergencies. It's in everybody's self interest to keep hospitals from piling up. Let's all pray it's not too late already.
• Trump Is Risen! Thank heavens that President Trump actually listened to people who know shit and reevaluated his plan to cancel quarantine by Easter. But before that happened, there was this, and if you close your eyes...
God only brought one guy back from the dead on Easter. Trump is here to bring back the whole economy on Easter 2020. Enjoy this clip (possibly, like, the best ever), share and be sure to subscribe to Making Podcasts Great Again (@TrumpPod) - new every week! pic.twitter.com/aUifVWRzfh— J-L Cauvin (@JLCauvin) March 24, 2020
And if you think this parody is an exaggeration, Cheeto Jesus has been Tweeting about how big the ratings are for his Coronavirus Press Briefings, despite the fact that more and more people are dying due to the snowball effect of his initial inaction. Holy shit what a narcissistic asshole. And he just keeps getting so much worse every damn day.
• Warz! If you don't know who Max Brooks is, you really should. His book World War Z is sublime apocalyptic zombie-fiction which reads so realistically because his research into pandemics was brutally extensive. He's so well-studied and important to the field of disaster preparedness that he has lectured at the U.S. Navy War College, for heaven's sake. Which is why his viewpoint on current events is worth noting: 'All Of This Panic Could Have Been Prevented': Author Max Brooks On COVID-19. This is some scary shit, and goes to show just how buffoonish the Trump Administration's handling of a crisis of this magnitude has really screwed us.
• ACCESS! Just in case you aren't watching Star Trek: Picard... and you absolutely should be... here's your chance to do so for free. I did not like Star Trek: Next Generation that much, but am loving Picard. I loved Star Trek: Discovery even more (especially the first season), and this freebie unlocks all of CBS All Access, so you can take a look at that one as well!
• Live! There was a meme running through Facebook where you are asked if you can name a band you've seen live for every letter of the alphabet and one that starts with a number. I did pretty good...
Many of these letters could have had multiple answers. I'm fairly certain I saw at least one band with a name starting with "X"... especially some of those indy bands that were playing during the whole "grunge" movement in Seattle when I was hitting the clubs... I just can't think of any.
• Museum Project! People are getting way creative in finding ways to spend their quarantine time. One of my absolute favorites are those who are recreating famous paintings. Some of them are absolute gold, and there's a terrific Instagram feed where they showcase some of the best ones...
A lot of creative use of toilet paper in that Insty-feed!
And there have also been some professional reimaginings that are absolutely sublime. My favorites by a wide margin are those that popped up by Dutch photographer Jenny Boot. Here is Pearl inspired by Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring (housed at Museum Mauritshuis in The Hague)...
©2019 Jenny Boot Photography
The original Vermeer...
Here is de Kus, inspired by Vermeer's The Kiss (housed at Museum Belvedere in Vienna, which I was lucky enough to see in person)...
©2019 Jenny Boot Photography
The original Klimt...
And here is Davinci's Cat inspired by Lady with an Ermine (housed at Muzeum Czartoryski in Krakow)...
©2019 Jenny Boot Photography
The original Da Vinci...
• Disneyland-ish? It's not just fine art which is being recreated while people are in quarantine... people are recreating Disneyland and Walt Disney World rides at home! Some of them are just beyond cool...
Yo ho yo ho a quarantine’s life for me! My family’s Disneyland Staycation!
— Brooke (@Brookie_disney) March 20, 2020
I guess if you can't visit in person, this is the next best thing? Kudos to those who are using their alone-time to be so creative!
And now we resume our self-imposed exile.
Posted on Monday, March 30th, 2020
I am still lucky enough to have work to do, which means my days aren't quite as boring as they could be (knock wood). But, like everybody else, it is a little tough not being able to hang out with my friends. March is usually a month where I spend a lot of time traveling to see friends... going out with local friends... working on projects with friends... and it's just all... gone.
I'm spending some of my extra time cleaning and getting projects completed around the house, which is always a good thing. I'm also playing some Animal Crossing: New Horizons and catching up on television shows. I've also been checking to-do's off like list like cutting my hair, baking bread, washing windows, repairing clothes, and getting ready for planting my flower beds (assuming that's something I get to do this year).
But there's also something I've been meaning to do for years that I've never found the time for... watching all of Quentin Tarantino's films in the order he made them. He's my favorite director and I can't watch his films enough times. So tonight I've decided to wrap up my March Foreign Film Festival and watch two Tarantino films a night until I've run through them all.
Tonight was a double feature of Resevoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction (I am saving True Romance and Natural Born Killers until the very end since he wrote them but did not direct)...
It's interesting seeing how Tarantino's story and dialogue were equally excellent in both films... but how his directing game improved quite a bit. Pulp Fiction is so incredibly polished and beautiful to watch because so many points were conceived and implemented so incredibly well.
Not that he had a ton of room for improvement. Resevoir Dogs is about as perfect a debut movie as you'll ever find. Almost unbelievably so.
If only I could say the same about my debut blog post.
Posted on Tuesday, March 31st, 2020
I have enough groceries to last another two or three weeks. Probably longer. I may be eating pasta with frozen vegetables and cheese for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but I will survive just fine. My cats have enough prescription food for another month. I also have two bags of "regular" dry food with a year left on the expiration date (which I keep on-hand for emergencies), so Jake and Jenny are good.
Because I've got food for a while I hadn't planned on a grocery store run... until I got a call from a friend in Seattle. They were wondering if I was headed to the store any time soon and, if I was, could I please pick up some things for their elderly mother who can't risk going to the store due to health concerns in our new COVID-19 Reality. I could drop them on her back porch and they would happily Venmo me money to cover the cost.
And so... off to the grocery store for me.
I figured that since I was going, I might as well cash in a bunch of Safeway Monopoly Instant Winner Free Product Tickets and Instant Winner Discount Coupons I won before they expire. I would also pick up ingredients I need to make more of my mom's Applesauce Bread...
Well, silly me, the four things I needed were all out of stock. They did have applesauce and walnuts, but they were the tiny containers which cost a fortune, so I passed.
The lack of flour had me concerned about not being able to bake bread for much longer, so I ended up buying a loaf that I could freeze. I also bought Coke Zero, Lay's Potato Chips, and Quaker Brand Chocolate Rice Cakes. They are not things I need, but they are things I want. Surprisingly, produce was in good supply so I picked up some onion, garlic, cilantro, scallions, tomatoes, and tomatillos to add some nice variety to my meal planning.
Plus I bought two apples, just because it would be nice to have a fresh fruit treat in the face of armageddon.
The store had everything on my friend's mom's list except paper towels and toilet paper, of course, but I had some extra rolls to stick in with her groceries so it was all good. Most of the things she wanted were prepared foods like soups and boxed/frozen meals, all of which were in good supply.
Atmosphere at the store was generally cheery. People didn't seem overly-angsty or angry. A few people with facemasks and gloves and everybody trying to keep their distance... but otherwise it was just like any other shopping day.
Except I won free AAA batteries, free cooking spray, and a free sesame bagel playing Safeway Monopoly, so that was a bonus. And these days I'll take as many bonuses as I can get, thanks.
Tonight I continued my Quentin Tarantino movie marathon, but I watched only one Tarantino film, Jackie Brown. That way I can have Kill Bill parts 1 and 2 as a double feature tomorrow night...
Jackie Brown is an adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel Rum Punch, a book I ran out and bought immediately after finding out it was the basis for this amazing movie. Surprisingly, the movie follows the book fairly closely. There's some elements jettisoned from the secondary characters out of necessity, but Jackie's story is pretty much left intact. She's an airline flight attendant running drugs for the wrong people and just trying to get by in life and get out of a life of crime. It's really smart and surprisingly funny in spots. What's nice about reading the book after seeing the movie is that you can imagine Tarantino's version of the characters while you read plus get additional details as to everybody's back-story and motivations. Rum Punch is a sequel to another Elmore Leonard novel called The Switch, which is also very much worth reading (which could be said of most everything Leonard ever wrote).
And because the prequel to Jackie Brown was The Switch and because that book had been adapted into a movie called Life of Crime (starring Jennifer Aniston and Tim Robbins), I decided to watch it to complete my double feature since I hadn't seen it before (iTunes $7.99)...
Surprisingly, it's a decent movie! I mean, not Jackie-Brown-level-great, but still worth a look. The plot is the same as Ruthless People in that a wealthy woman is kidnapped and held for ransom only to have an adulterer husband who wants her dead anyway and refuses to pay. Ordell Robie is played by Mos Def instead of Samuel L. Jackson... and Louis Gara is played by John Hawkes instead of Robert DeNiro... so there's a considerable adjustment you have to make mentally, and yet there are certainly worse actors you could have cast as younger versions of the originals! The movie is definitely worth a watch if you're a fan of Elmore Leonard and Jackie Brown (though I thought Ruthless People was more entertaining).
And now I think it's time for a crisp apple and a Quaker Brand Chocolate Rice Cake to top off my evening's events. Good thing I ended up at the grocery store today.
Posted on Wednesday, April 1st, 2020
My mom loved peanut butter. She would be happy to eat a peanut butter sandwich for lunch and dinner every day. When her memory was failing her, I saw her eat them for breakfast on more than one occasion. Whenever she was bored and hungry, a peanut butter sandwich was her go-to snack. I once remember her laughing while reading an article out loud to me which had somebody saying that peanut butter breaks down after three months and shouldn't be eaten. For a jar of peanut butter to last her more than two weeks was a rarity.
After I had to move her out of the house, I threw out a jar with a few spoonfuls left in the bottom and stopped buying peanut butter.
That was almost four years ago.
Yesterday when I was buying groceries for a friend's mom, one of the items on her list was peanut butter. It sounded delicious after so long not having it, so I bought a jar. Mom preferred creamy JIF, but she would buy Extra Crunchy JIF too because she was happy to eat it as an occasional change of pace and knew that it was what I preferred.
And, oh yeah, that loaf of bread I bought yesterday? I thought I would try the new Franz "Keto" bread in case I couldn't find flour to bake my own. But before I stuck the loaf in the the freezer, I pulled out two slices and put them in a baggie to give it a try with lunch today. People were raving about the stuff, so why not? Well, to start with, there's the $6 price tag. Secondly, the loaf is a small.
Turns out there's a third reason why not... it tastes like crap.
Maybe it's because I'm used to the delicious breads I bake, but this dry, tasteless, boring "Keto" bread was awful. Don't get me wrong... if you can't have carbs, it's definitely better than nothing... but I will not be buying it again, that's for sure. Even when loaded with tons of Extra Chunky JIF peanut butter I had a tough time choking it down.
As tonight is my third night of Quentin Quarantino I watched the next two films in his catalog... Kill Bill Volumes 1 & 2...
Likely one of the most stylish revenge flicks ever put to film, Kill Bill features Uma Thurman hacking her way through her former fellow assassins until she gets to her former boss, Bill. It's a brilliant and bloody spectacle with amazing fight sequences. The movie features cool wire-work which gives it a magical quality... but not so much that it feels surreal. The dialogue is pure Tarantino and, because he decided to cut the movie in two rather than cut down on the dialogue, it makes for a good balance.
Like the balance between my delicious homemade bread and this here JIF peanut butter I'm eating while blogging.
Can't believe I waited four years.
Posted on Thursday, April 2nd, 2020
I worked extra hours over the weekend and through Wednesday so I could take the rest of the week off. It's time for my seasonal cleaning ordeal to prepare for Spring houseguests. This year, thanks to COVID-19 quarantining, I won't be having any houseguests until June or July, at earliest, but I still want to get a jump on my filthy home.
Well... it's filthy to me. It's not like I ever let my house get overrun with dirt and grime. It's just the little things that bug me. Walls need to be wiped down... rooms need to be torn apart so I can scrub the floors... books and furniture needs to be pulled out and cleaned... windows need to be washed... that kind of thing. I decided today I would jump on the kitchen when I fed the cats at 7:00am, then work my way to the living room.
I went back to bed after feeding Jake and Jenny, then slept and lounged aroud until 10:00am. Then ate a late breakfast. Then read a book on world mythology.
I wanted to beat myself up over wasting half my day, but I so rarely get time to do what I want that I decided to congratulate myself instead. Cleaning can commence tomorrow.
Originally I was going to have my Quarantino Double Feature be Tarantino's Grindhouse: Death Proof with Robert Rodriguez's Grindhouse: Planet Terror (since they were originally released that way), but I was anxious to get to Inglourious Basterds, so I resisted...
Now, Death Proof is just an excuse to have a car chase with tons of stunts worked into it. There's not a lot of brainpower that the viewer has to summon. Kurt Russell is a sadistic bastard who picks a fight with the wrong women. Zoë Bell, cars, and violence ensue. Surprisingly, as is the case with most of Tarantino's films, dickhead reviewers based their critiques on what the film WAS NOT instead of WHAT IT IS. Go in with the proper mindset, and it's just a fun thrill ride that's a terrific movie experience to have. Go in expecting Shakespeare and you're just an idiot. Not my favorite Tarantino flick, but I do like it a lot.
Inglourious Basterds, on the other hand, is escapist revisionist history cinematic genius. I love this film to an unhealthy degree. I've seen it at least twenty times. After Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill, it's likely my favorite Quentin film. But there are days I like Basterds better than both of them. From the gorgeous cinematography and brilliant performances to the fantastical story and crackling dialogue. It's the complete Tarantino package all wrapped up in a war movie, and an experience I never get tired of. God bless Christof Waltz for giving Quentin his movie.
And God bless us all as the Coronavirus death toll keeps climbing. Due to our complete lack of preparation and our government completely ignoring and denying what was happening, the deaths here in the USA yesterday were double the worst daily death toll from the flu. And we're just getting started. The highly contagious nature of COVID-19 along with extended incubation period and overall lethalness... not to mention dumbass governors who are still not quarantining the public at large to prevent spreading... are all going to make sure of it.
Posted on Friday, April 3rd, 2020
As I mentioned a while back, I've been buying meal boxes from Martha Stewart and Marley Spoon. I can't afford to buy them every week, but the recipes are so amazing and have expended my meal options so wonderfully that I can't afford not to buy some of them either. They've still been shipping during the quarantine which has been really nice. If I had my way, I'd eat crackers and ice cream all day, but Martha Stewart has forced me to cook. And that's a good thing.
Here's a look at the last eight meals I've been sent...
11. Vegetable Pot Pie with Parmesan-Herb Drop Biscuits
I reeeeeally hesitated to order this recipe because the idea of soggy dumplings in a creamy stew didn't sound appealing. But... a lot of people eat dumplings so it can't be all bad can it? Well... the rosemary dumplings were fantastic and the creamy stew/soup was tasty as all get out. Really makes me want to take a chance on more dishes like this. Odds of me making this again? 100%
These soup and stew recpes are great to pack up for taking to work for my lunch...
12. Three-Cheese Cannelloni with Chopped Italian Salad
I've tried to order less and less Italian dishes because they aren't very inventive. It's always some kind of pasta in a red sauce with a greasy, oily salad. And this was no different. I ended up ordering it because I like cannelloni and was hopeful. Turns out they didn't use cannelloni shells, but still more of those pasta sheets that they use for everything. This wasn't terrible... the taste of the pasta was good... but I couldn't take another greasy salad, so I skipped the oil vinaigrette and used Italian dressing I had, then added croutons and parmesan. THAT was actually a nice side salad. Odds of me making this again? 50%
13. Detroit-Style Pizza with Roasted Peppers & Salad
Martha uses this crazy frozen pizza dough whenever they need a dough for their recipe. It arrives thawed which means it's all stuck in the bag and has to be scraped out. This is messy and really tough to work with. It will not stay stretched out, so you have to keep letting it rest and then try again and again and again. This means you end up with a denser dough than what's intended. I like the taste of the red peppers quite a lot, so I may make this again but with my own sauce. Once again I used my own dressing for the salad because I didn't want vinegar and oil yet again. Why can't Martha get more inventive with her dressings? Odds of me making this again? 50%
14. Cheesy Red Pepper Pesto Tortelloni Bake with Garlic-Butter Green Beans
Okay... just to get this out of the way... the garlic green beans were incredible, and I will absolutely be making them again. Soon. The tortellini bake was boring. Yet another boringred sauce recipe that I could have done without. Odds of me making this again? 25%
15. Cheesy Baked Quesadillas with Green Enchilada Salsa
Bar far one of the best meals I've had from this service. When I want a quesadilla, I just toss some cheese in a tortilla and nuke it in the microwave. These are so much more amazing. The filling is flavorful and delicious. The tomatillo sauce is so fantastic that I want to make it for every Mexican meal I ever make from here on. I usually eat half of the recipe since it's meant for two people, then take the rest to work for lunch the next day. Not these. I ate every last bite of both servings and would have eaten more even though I was full to bursting. Odds of me making this again? 1000%
16. Roasted Veggie Pinwheels with Creamy Fontina Cheese Dipping Sauce
Here we go with that wacky frozen dough that sticks to the bag and is impossible to work with because it thaws during shipment. Except this time I re-froze the stuff. Made ALL the difference. So much easier to work with... and no sticky mess! There were really, really good. Mostly because the Fontina dipping sauce was aces. When I make these again I think I will try a pastry dough instead of pizza dough. The flakier, lighter, less tough pastry will make for a nicer meal, I think. Odds of me making this again? 100%
17. Baked Cheddar & Veggie Quesadillas with Salsa & Guacamole
These were delicious. Just not as good as the incredible quesadillas from two meals ago. Odds of me making this again? I will likely make these again once I get tired of the other quesadillas (the poblanos in the filling were great), but that won't be any time soon. 50%
18. Smoky Black Bean Soup with Cheddar Chive Cornbread Biscuits
I am not a "soup person" and I don't really know why. It's not that I don't like soup... I'd just rather eat other things. But since soup can store so well for lunches and such, I've been ordering some of them. Tonight was a Smoky Black Bean Soup with Cheddar Chive Cornbread Biscuits. Phenomenal. The soup has a smoked paprika in it which elevates it to another level entirely. And these biscuits! Perfect accompaniment!. Odds of me making this again? 100%
And that's a wrap!
A lot of hits, only a couple misses... but even the misses were worthwhile.
Apparently Martha got enough complaints about their stupid decision to stop including recipe cards that they have started including them again. This is much nicer than what I can print out here, and I save every one of them so I can cook them again later.
Posted on Saturday, April 4th, 2020
I had somebody read about the cat feeding station I built (I needed a way to clean the cats' eating area easily), then email me to ask just how messy Jenny could be when eating. The answer is... very. She loves loves love wet food, but she won't bite it. She always licks it. Problem is that she barely gets any in her mouth that way, so I bought a small blender so I can liquify her half of the wet food for every meal. That way she can lick it all up and be happy as a clam.
After she's done eating it looks like a murder scene or something...
That was after last night's dinner. This was after this morning's breakfast...
I always clean it after breakfast, though in the summer I usually clean it after breakfast and dinner because I don't want to attract bugs.
Is it a lot of trouble? Yes. Would my life be easier if I fed my cats only dry food instead of dry and wet? Sure. But I love my cats entirely too much, and this is what you do to keep them happy.
They're totally worth any amount of trouble...
Last night I watched my two Quarantino movies after I had blogged for the day, so I'm going to plop them right here. My double feature was Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight...
Django Unchained is one of my all-time favorite movies. Period. It's a really cool flick filled with terrific characters and fantastic performances by everybody involved. Easily my favorite movie each from Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio, the biggest surprise was Samuel L. Jackson playing one of the most loathsome characters in cinematic history. He is vile. Christoph Waltz didn't have the exceptional material that rocketed him to stardom in Inglourious Bastereds, but he makes the most of his every scene.
My least favorite Tarantino film is Death Proof... not because I don't like it (on the contrary, I love it), but because the rest of his films are just so amazing. The Hateful Eight is in the same boat, coming in just ahead of Death Proof. I love it... and if it were in any other list it would come out near the top... but in a list for Tarantino is comes out near bottom just because some movie has to. This movie is more subtle all the way around, giving us a closed-door mystery with some decent intrigue and stellar performances. It's also one of the most beautifully-shot Tarantino film with the second best red herring in "The Lincoln Letter" (#1 would be "The Briefcase" from Pulp Fiction).
And now all that's left is Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which I will be watching tonight.
After which I will have to resist the urge to watch all of Tarantino's movies all over again.
Posted on Sunday, April 5th, 2020
The world may be at a standstill, but the blog keeps turning... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Free-Fitty-Free! For the month of April, HBO is streaming some of their most acclaimed content for free, no subscription required. A full list of shows and instructions can be found here and, if you need a recommendation, I'd take a look at Bill Hader's Barry which is a pretty great show. It starts off a little slow... but snowballs into insanity in short order.
• Nice! I love projects like this one...
The world is smaller than we realize. Given current events, it's good to remember that.
• Upload! You know when you see a trailer and it's so good that all you can think is how the actual show couldn't possibly live up to what you're watching... but you are hopeful anyway? That's me watching this...
Greg Daniels is running the show, so I have reason to be hopeful. But still... fingers crossed.
• Disney At Home! A Disney animator is teaming up with Josh Gad to create some Frozen shorts while quarantined at home. The result is pretty great...
The tools make things easier and easier for animators... but they don't mean a lot if the person doing the animating can't tell a story.
• Buttholes! I said a while back that this is the only way I would ever watch Cats. And here's why...
This is the only way I'd ever watch Batman vs. Superman again too.
• One?! So laughable that an abhorrent network devoted to far-right presidential dick-sucking can in any way claim to be serving "One America," but here it is...
Thank heavens that John Oliver is still doing his show while under quarantine at home.
• Munneh! I had $90 in PayPal that wasn't doing anything, so I signed up for a Robinhood account and got their app so I can play the stock market. I'm now worth $108.23, so my market savvy has me well on my way towards becoming a billionaire, I can feel it! — I will try not to forget you, the little people, once I am a part of the 1% and above your petty existence.
And that's all the bullets we have for today.
Posted on Monday, April 6th, 2020
I've been to markets around the world. INCLUDING so-called "wet markets" in China. And Thailand. And Japan. And Korea. And Vietnam. And SEATTLE... which is what The Pike Place Market would be called if we applied the same naming to it that gets applied to markets in Asia. I get so sick of dumbfucks constantly spouting their ignorant nonsense that I could just vomit. If you want to know what these "wet markets" are actually like, here you go...
I'm not saying that there are not unsanitary and possibly dangerous markets out there. Of course there are. But here in the USA we have restaurants and markets closed for hepatitis and E. coli and the like, so painting the rest of the world with the same ignorant brush is pretty pathetic.
Posted on Tuesday, April 7th, 2020
One of my favorite television shows is Schitt's Creek. I was late to the party... didn't discover it until half-way through the second season, but quickly became a fan and went back to see what I had missed. Then the groundbreaking third season happened, and half-way through I fell in love with the show and became a massive fan. Partly because it was just so unexpected that a show about rich people losing their money and having to move into a motel in the bizarre town of Schitt's Creek... but mostly because the characters were so amazing. I liked all of them, but Catherine O'Hara's "Moira" is about as good as television will ever get. Between her outlandish wardrobe, her many wigs, and her insane accent, Moira is way too good to be true, and I can't imagine anyone like her is going to come along any time soon... if ever.
Tonight was the series finale. There are no more episodes after this...
Watching it was bittersweet. I'm happy the show ended on a high note, but sad that it's over.
If you haven't seen Schitt's Creek. you've been missing out. If there's binge-worthy series that's worth occupying your quarantine time, this is it.
Posted on Wednesday, April 8th, 2020
I have tried and tried and tried to wear watches. Thanks to my bony arms, I just can't do it. They are bulky and uncomfortable and I never seem to be able to get used to having one on me. I have one watch that my sister gave me which I love and wear on special occasions, but that's it.
As you can imagine, this is incredibly frustrating because I would love to have an Apple Watch. They look to be an incredible tool and I am really interested in the heart rate monitor (which can detect irregular rhythms) and ECG functionality.
Problem is that I know what would happen if I got one. I would buy it... try to get used to it... fail... then end up selling it. Which is what happened with my Pebble watch (remember them?). That's an expensive experience to relive.
It might be easier if Apple Watch were thinner so it didn't stick up so much. Or narrower so I could bend my wrist without noticing it so much. But all that power comes with a need for hefty real estate, so that's probably not happening any time soon.
But I still want one.
Enter Wyze Band.
Wyze is a company that makes some cheap technology products which also happen to be very, very good. Their cameras are so amazing that they seem almost too good to be true. I have a half-dozen of them that I use to supplement my wired and wireless security system. And because they're just $20, they are the cameras I also glue to the top of the cat shelters I build so I can keep an eye on Fake Jake...
I also have Wyze Plugs (smart internet-controlled electrical plugs), Wyze Bulbs (smart lightbulbs), and Wyze Sense (motion and contact sensors for home security). If I didn't already have smart-locks on my doors, I'd absolutely be buying Wyze Locks. And that's not all... Wyze recently released a Wyze Scale (which I'll be reviewing later) and Wyze Band. And since it was just $25, I thought I might as well get it. If, for no other reason, to see if I could train myself to wear it so that maybe I'd be more confident in buying an Apple Watch.
As with all Wyze products, it's really good quality. It's thick, which I have trouble with, but it's also pretty narrow, which I like...
The Wyze Band itself has a clock (of course) plus heart, sleep, and activity monitors, a running monitor, Alarms, smart home controls, and Alexa built-in. For $25, it's pretty darn capable. And stylish. To a point. Unlike Apple Watch which is designed to be as smooth as possible, Wyze Band had all kinds of seams and nooks and crannies which can collect dust and dirt. The seam around the display is pretty big (relatively) and would have really benefitted from being made flush, as mine started getting dust in it almost immediately.
Controlling all the Wyze Band functions is pretty straight-forward. You use swipes and taps to move between apps, and there's a small "home bar" at the bottom of the screen which is used to exit apps (short press) or activate Alexa (long press). The Alexa integration is pretty incredible if a bit flaky (it uses your phone's cellular data connection to get to the internet). I can tell Wyze Band to turn on a light at my home when I'm away... it will work just fine and I can see the light turn on... but it will respond with ""Sorry, I don't understand" even though it obviously did. I have no idea why the feedback is so poor when the implementation is working great, but maybe that will be addressed in an update. Regular Alexa functions... like asking a question... works flawlessly every time...
There is a "Shortcut" feature which allows you to bundle a bunch of actions into a single command. Right now you don't have a lot of options here... it's only other Wyze products which can be input... but I'd imagine there will be more options in the future.
The heart rate monitor seems capable, though I can't really vouch for its accuracy without having an actual heart rate monitor to compare it with. I have a relatively high resting heart rate (I seriously need to start exercising) so this feature is appealing. Though I don't know if there are any alerts if there's a problem. You can measure your heart rate on demand from Wyze Band, or look at your reading trend all graphed out on the Wyze iPhone app.
The "Steps" feature will count the number of steps you take... kinda like a FitBit. I'm not terribly interested in this (though I should be!) but it seems kinda-sorta-accurate from what I can tell. Wave your arm around enough and you'll be getting "steps" without getting up from the couch, but the margin of error for stuff like that is probably small if you are actually going for walks and such.
There is a "Find" feature which will play a tone on your iPhone when you can't find it... though you have to (obviously) be in bluetooth range for it to work. You can also use your iPhone to find your Wyze Band, but it's almost useless because all the Wyze Band can do is vibrate since it doesn't have a speaker. No idea how you're supposed to "hear" a vibration happening between the couch cushions, but it's there if you want it.
The last function for Wyze Band is a weather app. At first I found it pretty useless because I had to scroll through several other apps to get to it, but once I found out that I could rearrange them, it was a lot more useful. If there were a way of displaying the time on the weather app, that would become my default screen. It seems silly that this isn't an option, because the main clock face has a huge swatch of unused space in the middle! A big blue worthless blobby thing that could be displaying information! (I customized it to be a photo of my cats instead of the blue blob). I dunno. Maybe there's a way to make this happen and I just haven't found it yet?
There are some down-sides, however. First of all, I've read that unless the Wyze app is running on your phone, the Alexa integration fails. Since my iPhone doesn't seem to have a way of forcing an app to stay running in the background, I'm assuming that iPhone will close it out due to inactivity at some point, and Alexa will be gone until I restart. Another problem is that Apple Health integration was promised to work out of the box. But after failing to figure out how to make this happen, I see that it's "coming soon." Well, BOOOOOOOOO! I'm increasingly loving how Apple Health integrates with my health chart at my doctor's office so he can monitor my activity any time he thinks he needs to do so. Adding the heart rate data was a big selling point for Wyze Band to me.
Another down-side is the iPhone app. On the tiny screen of the Wyze Band, the visual interface is pretty good. Easy to navigate and operate. But on my iPhone, which has a much bigger screen and touch-surface area, they decided to not take advantage of any of that real estate... instead they inexplicably just blow up the watch's interface...
This makes absolutely NO sense. Just give me my damn data! Don't wrap it up in a cutesy interface that has no damn business being on a phone! There's is no reason... absolutely none... for Wyze to have done this other than they could. It makes no logical sense why you would force people to swipe and tap through all this crap when you have plenty of room for something better, and I hope to God that they revisit this in an app update.
In the end, Wyze Band is a fairly impressive product for just $25. More of a FitBit competitor than an Apple Watch competitor, it's good at what it's designed to do and yet another feather in the cap for Wyze. Considering a FitBit is minimum four times the price, it's hard not to recommend Wyze Band if you're in the market for "smart band."
Will this lead to me eventually getting an Apple Watch? That's the goal. Right now I am mostly able to ignore Wyze Band, which is a good start. Whether that will be the case long-term I honestly don't know.
Posted on Thursday, April 9th, 2020
It's funny the things you miss.
Today I had a massive craving for these date-filled soft oatmeal cookies I used to eat as a kid. I haven't had them in at least a decade... maybe two... I'm not even sure if they sell them any more. Usually I would hop in my car and head to the grocery store so I could see if I could find them. But I'm trying to be a good citizen and stay socially quarantined, so I just added them to my grocery list for when I'm out of food and am forced to go get more.
In lieu of the cookies I had some Eggo toaster-waffles.
It's weird to think that we're a month into quarantine and there's still weeks to go if we want to keep from overrunning our hospitals with people dying from the Cornavirus. Every time I turn around there's some promising news about vaccine trials or drugs that may help with recovery... but it's all hypothetical until it isn't, so it's not like quarantine is ending tomorrow.
The thing I find both surprising and totally not surprising is all these churches encouraging their parishoners to break quarantine and go to church. I guess filling that donation plate is more important than keeping people safe. It wouldn't bother me so much if we could somehow tag these people so that if they end up catching COVID-19 and need hospitalization they can be denied for being fucking assholes. That would free up hospital beds for those in need who didn't actively try to get infected.
Well I guess that's all she wrote for the Coronavirus!
And it's about time. I really want some of those cookies.
Posted on Friday, April 10th, 2020
I watch a lot of television. It's nice to have it as background noise while I work. But lately I've been watching a lot more television because it's pretty much all there is to do under quarantine.
Tonight I watched random stand-up comedy specials on Netflix until it was time for RuPaul's Drag Race. This season has a wet blanket thrown on it thanks to one of the contestants, Sherry Pie, being a psychotic asshole... but they seem to be editing her out of the show as best they can, so there's that. Tonight was all the contestants doing their best Madonna impersonation, and many of them were really good.
For whatever reason, the episode made me think back to when Sharon Needles and PhiPhi O'hara did a lipsync battle to It's Raining Men by The Weather Girls. I went to YouTube to see if somebody posted it (of course somebody had) and was surprised to see that Geri Halliwell, formerly of the Spice Girls, did a cover of the song back in 2001...
It always amazes me how I can keep running across music that I never knew existed.
Anyway... here's that lipsync battle I was looking for...
Sharon Needles went on to win the entire season and became one of my favorite queens. Partly because she had big entertainment value... but mostly because she was in a relationship with Alaska Thunderfuck 5000, and who couldn't love that? Sadly, that relationship ended in 2013, but we'll always have the memories.
And now I guess we're back to our regular scheduled programming...
Posted on Saturday, April 11th, 2020
Jake and Jenny are mostly happy to have me home so much.
They like hanging around me, so now they get to do that a lot more. They also like interrupting me when I'm working, so now they get to do that a lot more too. The begging for treats was unbearable at first, but now they're understanding "no," so there's that.
Times like this I'm grateful that they have a catio. The weather has been really nice lately, so they spend hours out there playing and sleeping in the sun.
In other news, my Facebook feed has been filled with videos of cats avoiding obstacles and it's my new rabbit-hole to fall through on YouTube...
And now, since there's not much else going on with my cats and because you may be needing a break from the horrors of the world... here's Baby Jenny having big fun with Baby Jake's tail...
Aw, kittens. I miss that. Makes me wish I had two more.
But not really. I can't imagine being quarantined with four cats.
Posted on Sunday, April 12th, 2020
I MAY BE GOING INSANE IN ISOLATION, BUT DON'T THINK THAT WILL STOP ME FROM BLOGGING... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Live? From New York! I am continuously impressed with the many television shows that have been carrying on during quarantine... namely the late-night shows like Trever Noah, Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee, Jimmy Kimmel, and Jimmy Fallon. What was unexpected was that Saturday Night Live would do a show. I didn't find it particularly funny overall, but I was impressed that they managed to do it at all. The best part was the opening credits where they even got the band in on things before Tom Hanks' monologue...
The most successful bit was Weekend Update which doesn't really require direct interaction... and they even got Alec Baldwin to reprise President Trump as a call-in. Pretty great. The most surprising bit was a tribute to longtime SNL music coordinator Hal Willner by cast members past and present. Yet another person having fallen to Coronavirus-related health problems. Thanks to all the shows that are carrying on for continuing to entertain us during these strange and difficult times.
• Quarantine! Every. Single. Day. I wonder what it would have been like if the Coronavirus pandemic had happened while I was taking care of my mom. I'd like to think that something positive could have come of it...
Maybe at the beginning of mom's decline it could have. But near the end before I had to find a facility to care for her? I cannot fathom it. There's just no way. And if the outbreak had happened while she was staying at the hospital or at the facility? I honestly don't know. All I doo know is that I wouldn't have been able to visit. Heaven only knows if she would have survived this, because both places are hot-spots for outbreaks.
• Animal Cursing! I usually don't have a lot of time to play video games. Even in quarantine I have television, social media, work, housecleaning, and chores that need to be done. But ever since Animal Crossing came along, all of that has been taking a back seat to working on my island. I'm resculpting the landscape. I'm decorating my house and the exteriors. I'm crafting tons of junk to make my island exactly how I like it. Problem is the "Island Designer" tools are total fucking insanity to use. I thought the regular tools were bad... I seriously had no idea. The Island Designer tools are absolute shit. Wherever you THINK you're aiming, you're really not. Sometimes while paving pathways my character will randomly flip a 180º and hit BEHIND me. WTF?!? I keep thinking that surely I'll get the hang of it, but no. You can't get the hang of it. Add to that the stupid-ass "Bunny Day" bullshit that's plaguing the game lately, and I spend a lot of time resisting the urge to scream obscenities at my television (which I would except it scares my cats). But the worst thing? Finding out that where you placed stuff when the game was first starting is not where you want it once you get playing. All my houses and buildings have to be moved (1 day a piece), you can't move the Resident Service Center at all, and all my bridges have to be demolished (1 day) then rebuilt (1 day)...
It's going to take forever to get everything straightened out. And... um... don't mind my Bunny Day dress and hat. I have to do something with all those fucking eggs that are popping up everywhere.
• Cursing Again! "Supreme Court Blocks Extended Voting In Wisconsin, Forces Voters Out To The Polls"...
I mean, holy shit. The "vote" has not been representative of the people in a very, very long time. It's outright manipulated to provide exactly the results that the people actually running this country want to see. We are not free... we're governed. Sometimes governed to death.
• Mail the Vote! As you may have heard, the US Post Office is in serious crisis. Our government is bailing out all kinds of businesses, but has ignored their cries for help... probably because the Trump Administration knows that if people end up voting by mail and don't have to jump through hoops to vote, they're fucked. Washington State has is all vote-by-mail, and I haven't been to a polling station in years. So convenient to be able to vote whenever I have time instead of trading to a voting station and standing in line! If you want to help the Post Office survive, go buy a sheet of stamps. The post office is an essential service. It costs what, 55¢ to mail a letter anywhere in the country? Do you know how much it woulds cost to do that with UPS or Fed-Ex? At least $15... probably closer to $20 if the destination is in a non-business, rural location. If everybody goes out and buys a sheet of stamps, maybe we can help the USPS weather this storm. There's plenty of cool designs to choose from, including this awesome set with military service dogs!
• Vegas Memories! Las Vegas is a city I visit often. I loathe to go there on my own for work because it feels like one of the loneliest places on earth to be. But it's a fantastic place to go with friends because there's so much to see and do. Usually by April I've been at least twice and end up going 5-8 times annually. This year I likely won't be going at all. It's strange how a city I both love and hate has been on my mind so much lately. Probably because I've had so many good times there when hanging out with people I care about. Right now I'd give just about anything to be pounding Long Island's and eating nachos with friends at Nacho Daddy...
Maybe in 2021.
• Watching the Watchmen! I think I've linked to stories by David Bordwell in the past. His site provides thoughtful and interesting analysis of film, and his latest article takes a look at my favorite show of 2019, HBO's Watchmen...
A really good read... even if you have no interest in the series. Hopefully it will make you want to be interested in the series though! It really is a brilliant bit of television.
And that's my bullets for today. Come back next Sunday for more bullets you didn't know you couldn't live without!
Posted on Monday, April 13th, 2020
I had big plans for today's post but I just can't Monday today. Everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong, and I just need to plug into Animal Crossing: New Horizons for a few hours and decompress.
And speaking of Animal Crossing...
My terraforming efforts to reshape my island into something I can live with is proceedingly nicely. This is an island map that I drew up last night in order to plan how everything fits together and so I could figure out where all my residents and buildings have to move...
I was originally going to build a literal Disneyland... which you can kinda see from the arrangement of my map. But without a train to circle it all, the endeavor seemed pointless so I went my own way...
City of Daveport was Main Street
Lord Dave Island was the "Hub"
Brick Beach was Tomorrowland
Dutch Gardens was Adventureland
Cemetery was New Orleans Square ("Liberty Square" in WDW)
Museum Square was Fantasyland
Forest Park was Frontierland... etc.
And my original inspiration (which is actually "Magic Kingdom" from Walt Disney World)...
It's changed quite a lot since my original idea. You can still kinda sorta see where it was though.
And, with that, I'm off to Fantasyland. Or, er, "Museum Square" as it were.
Posted on Tuesday, April 14th, 2020
As I mentioned when I reviewed the cool and capable little $25 "Wyze Band" fitness wearable, I would be reviewing the new "Wyze Scale" later. Well, it's now later.
I am not somebody who has ever really struggled with their weight. When I was a kid I was impossibly skinny no matter what I did or how much I ate. As I've gotten older I've definitely managed to fill out but, as I discovered when I had to go on a carb-restricted diet for a while, the weight can fall of scarily easily. I remember crying on the bathroom scale because every day I was losing weight with no end in sight. I did not want to go back to that skinny kid I was in high school. Eventually I was able to eat carbs again and quickly put on too much weight. Oh well.
Even so, I'm a big fan of Wyze products and decided to buy their $20 "smart scale" despite the fact that I never really use a scale...
And why did I part with $20 for something I haven't historically had much use for?
First of all, it does more than just weigh you. It also sends low-level electricity through your body for a "Bio-electric Impedance Analysis" of your physical make-up. Because of the way that electricity flows through muscle and fat, the resulting measurement gives you a fairly accurate body fat percentage. This is used to calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI), Lean Body Mass (LBM), Muscle Mass, Body Water Percentage, Protein Percentage, Visceral Fat, Bone Mass, Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), and Metabolic Age. I have no idea what half that stuff is, but...
Second of all, it integrates with Apple Health right out of the box. Which means all those calculations I don't understand can be available to my doctor if he ever needs them because I have Apple Health syncing with my medical chart.
If there were a third thing, it would be that Wyze Scale can also measure your heart rate. Something my Wyze Band already does.
I have two other scales. One is a classic physical spring model, the other is a cheap digital scale. Both of which my mom bought and I inherited. Comparing my weight on all three, the Wyze scale and spring scale were almost identical. The cheap digital scale had me almost a pound heavier. Given that it is a cheap digital scale, I'm just going to say that the Wyze Scale is accurate since it matches up with the my "tried-and-true" original spring scale.
I have no way of knowing if the "Bio-electric Impedance Analysis" measurements and calculations are accurate. My guess is that they are not perfect compared to what you'd get at the doctor's office, but they are likely accurate enough to get a general picture of what those readings might be.
Wyze Scale syncs with the Wyze App when you open it via Bluetooth. I put the scale in my personal bathroom which is two rooms down from my bedroom and the app had no problem reading it from there. I couldn't get a reading downstairs, but Bluetooth does have its limits, of course.
And then we get to the Wyze app for Wyze Scale... which is abysmally bad. Parts of it are even worse than the abysmally bad Wyze Band app, if you can believe it. Once again Wyze has decided to dumb down and spread out the information as if you were viewing it on a tiny watch face instead of a frickin' phone and it's infuriating. I mean, at a glance, the home screen is fine. Kinda. Well, no, not actually...
Just look at all that wasted space! Holy crap! They could have easily put everything on one screen, but nope. Once again we get this idiotic tiny-watch-face-screen mentality that plagued the app for Wyze Band!
I mean just look at THIS...
Wyze could have listed every damn reading that the scale calculates in that massive blank space. But instead we get ONE reading floating in the middle of a blank screen? You have to swipe to get to all the others! And that's not even the worst part... see where you have to click "See More" because the text explaining the reading is cut-off? There must be a book's worth of text left to display, right? Nope!
Five lines were truncated. Five lines! and they displayed them NOT in a link to another page... BUT ON THE SAME DAMN PAGE! Seriously, Wyze, WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?!? Why in the hell didn't they just display the full text on the original page? And it's not just this "Muscle Mass" page... IT'S EVERY FUCKING PAGE!
Good Lord. Just display ALL the information on the home screen. There's plenty of room for it. And then have people click on each reading if they want more information. That's like APP DESIGN 101, isn't it? Are users really going to need to read this every fucking time they want to know their reading? I'm betting not. Unless they have 24-hour amnesia or something. And where is a graph of my data over time like you gave me for my weight? This is senseless.
But here's the real kicker. How the fuck do I know what a Muscle Mass of 130.2 even means? Oh... that's right... I'm not a doctor, so I don't! Wyze couldn't even be bothered to say what a "normal" range for me would be. I had to Google that shit. And even then I had to pull out the calculator, because the way that everybody else on earth calculates Muscle Mass is to display it as a percentage! Wyze gives it to you as a weight. When I divide it by my weight, I get 71%. The desirable muscle mass for men my age is 73% to 86%. And so... I need more muscle or I am going to die, I guess? Who knows. But holy crap. Wyze just drops the ball here badly with their app. It's so bad that I'm dangerously close to saying their $20 scale is a bad buy. Hopefully Wyze takes a seriously hard look at their app and figures out how the hell to make something useful out of it. Because right now? Horrifically bad.
As I get older and have to deal with the inevitable host of problems that come with age, I am more and more interested in using available technology to keep track of what's happening with my body and (hopefully) give me a health picture so I can stave off potential problems. With Wyze Scale (and, alas, Google), for example, I now know that my muscle mass is below where it should be and maybe I should do something about that while I am still able. It's just such a shame that Wyze makes it so damn difficult to use the data that Wyze Scale and Wyze Band are collecting. Technology should be making my life easier, not harder.
In the end, my experience with Wyze has me appreciating all the more how Apple is approaching the same idea to their products. They are all about collecting data for your health then simplifying it and explaining it so you can make positive changes to improve your life. Wyze just collects the data, spits it out at you in difficult, confusing, and inexplicable ways, and leaves it to you to figure out what in the hell to do with it.
But, hey, Wyze Scale is $20. Wyze Band is $25. Apple is considerably more expensive, so bravo to Wyze for at least trying to make the tech affordable... if not understandable. But man is it disappointing that the app for their cameras shows so much pollish when the newer apps are just so bad. Surely they are working on improving things, right? I sure hope so.
If Wyze Band and Wyze Scale has done nothing else for me, they've made me really want to get to the point that I can wear an Apple Watch. I look at the amazing things it can do to help me manage my health and it's almost a no-brainer. Except for that "I hate wearing watches" thing. And the price tag, of course.
Posted on Wednesday, April 15th, 2020
This morning I was awakened at 5am by the sound of a cat puking. Since this happens so rarely, I immediately grab my iPhone so I can use the flashlight on it to see who's sick. Turns out nobody is sick. Jake just had a hairball and, of all the places in my home, he decided to puke it up in my bedroom. Thanks, buddy!
Guess I need to step up my brushing with the Furminator.
And now for something entirely not cat-related.
I have been craving bread for a week. But I haven't baked any because 1) I don't want to use up what precious little flour I have left... and 2) I am too tired after work for a long process of multiple rises. And so... tonight I decided to just whip up a loaf of single-rise "wet bread" which doesn't taste as amazing as my beloved SourJo bread, but it does taste like bread. AND I NEEDED IT!
Bread. At last.
Dutch oven bread always gives me the nicest crust. I used to have a cast-iron Dutch oven that I inherited, which I hated. Eventually I replaced it with an Emile Henry potato pot after a friend and I were discussing bread and she recommended it. The thing is made in France and was really expensive... $100 I think?... but it's so perfect for bread. The reason being that "regular" dutch ovens are deep with a shallow lid. It can be tough to get in and out of it when you're dealing with a "wet loaf" that doesn't hold its shape and may be sticky. The potato pot is less deep but has a tall lid. So there's room to rise, but it's easy to work with. Apparently so many people ended up using this potato pot for bread that it's been rebranded "bread & potato pot" by Emile Henry (a company founded 1850 in Burgundy!).
Which is all a convoluted way to say that my Dutch oven is a French oven, I guess.
UPDATE: The pot is indeed pricey. The red one I have is now $120 at Amazon, but they have a black one for $110 as well. As you can see, the pot is split in the middle instead of the top so that the lid is deeper and the base is more shallow, making it much nicer for bread-making...
And it also does a bang-up job of cooking potatoes, as it was originally designed for.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I just ate dinner and am going to have a slice of bread for dessert!
Posted on Thursday, April 16th, 2020
You'd think that the time I'm not spending hanging out with friends and traveling would be spent doing something constructive. But, alas, it's not to be. You'd think I'd at least make the effort to learn a foreign language... or even clean my kitchen... but you'd think wrong.
Instead I've been playing Animal Crossing, watching movies, sleeping, and being otherwise lazy. For a month now.
But, hey, maybe next week?
And now this...
I am open to a lot of different ideas, philosophies, and beliefs. I try to have an open mind and an open heart and accept that I don't know everything (even though I obviously do). The hope is that by trying to understand why somebody thinks the way they do it will lead to a better understanding of my fellow humans. Even ideas which I am personally opposed to I try to understand and respect. But there are certain no-go areas for me. Bigotry, racism, homophobia... persecution of minorities, the poor, and disenfranchised... to name a few.
Privatization of the USPS is another no-go area. There is literally NOTHING you can tell me that will make me change my mind that this is a horrific idea. Politicians have screwed over, exploited, and villainized our postal service for decades. All of it is bullshit of the highest order... often to distract from larger problems. Because just like the fire department, our mail system is an essential service for a host of very important reasons, and privatizing it so that eventually only wealthy individuals or powerful corporations can afford to send mail is an abomination. The very notion that privatization will make the USPS "more efficient" or "cheaper" or "better" is laughably absurd, and you can just keep the fuck away from me with this idiocy. Privatization would eliminate mail as we know it and disenfranchise a goodly chunk of Americans when they eventually become deemed "unprofitable."
This Twitter thread is essential reading for every American...
By Dingus J McGee, ESQ*, OBE*
Okay, I've been with USPS for several years now, so here's my big dumb #SaveThePostOffice thread. I don't know how many tweets it's gonna take for me to ramble through my thoughts, so stick with me. Or don't, whatever.
First things first: we're not taxpayer funded. At all. Sure, we get government monopolies on certain things of value (and things like cheap loan terms), but the budget isn't by the taxpayer. It's by the services provided. If you buy stamps, you fund us. If you don't, you don't.
Second: our financial issues, while not ENTIRELY from the 2006 PAEA bill that required 70 years of retiree prefunds, are mostly artificial. They would not exist if not for a congressional lame duck bill passed mostly by a certain political party on their way out the power door
Third: We're in the constitution. Literally. You know that thing you occasionally pretend to love when it serves your interests? It's explicitly in there. We're legally required to exist.
Fourth: Certain nameless people want us privatized because we're worth a lot of $. Even without the physical materials (truck fleet, offices, computer networks, etc), we have billions in proprietary data (route sequences, mailing lists, logistics, etc) that businesses would love
Fifth: You can be certain, if given the chance, certain politicians would love to GIVE AWAY this infrastructure, a la the $70 billion in digital broadcast licenses they gave away for free to Telecom companies in 1996 with no strings attached.
So, why should you not want this? Well, for starters, if you're not in a major city, you've been subsidized by one via the post office for decades. It's a lot cheaper to mail and deliver in dense population centers. But we charge the same in rural Delaware, too.
Why? Because the idea is everyone in America, no matter where they are, should have the same, guaranteed access to a valuable line of communication. A birthday card from across country is as valuable as a wedding invite from one town over.
Now, no one likes their junk mail, but you know what? Carrying 4 Geico ads and a Subway coupon in my satchel with your card is the reason the latter only cost $0.50 to cross the country. And if you'd like to name a cheaper way to ship a book or a record, I'd like to hear it.
But the one thing I pride myself on the most in terms of service is something you can guarantee won't happen in privatized, for-profit model. UPS, FedEx, Amazon, DHL, etc ALL dump packages on our docks every single day. Ones they say aren't profitable. We take them the last mile
Why? Because Every. Single. Address. In. America. deserves service. Even places accessible by only boat and plane. They'll be cut off in a second in a private market. Heck, it's only because of our last mile service that you don't realize the private sector already cut you out.
I work in a position called a "T6," or a "Carrier Technician." Put simply: USPS delivers 6 days a week, and employees work 5 days. For every 5 routes in an office, there's a T6 to carry the 6th day on each of those 5 routes who have a regular the other 5 days. Full-time position
In my case, that's 5 routes, averaging 700 addresses each, totaling 3,500 addresses, and approx 10K names and faces. Names and faces that I recognize, communicate with regularly, and can identify the forwarding information for, without even consulting a reference sheet.
I know which senior residents would like their mail delivered to the door, even if they have a curbside box. I know who needs their packages (often for home business) tucked into a corner behind the garage. Who is going to need an extra minute to get to the door to sign.
I know whose lawns to not cut across, whose dogs want to bite, and whose want to play. I know whose day will be made brighter with a short convo, and who wants me to go away. I know who is bad at checking the mail, and who to call for a wellness check on if it starts to pile up
For millions across the country, we're the only face they often see all day, even before social distancing. Their connection to the world around them, even if it's just for a comment on the weather, or to be a two minute ear for a rant about "kids these days."
Read it. Then go buy some stamps. I've bought a load of stamps and I send maybe two or three letters a year. But I rely on the USPS for RECEIVING mail every day. This is a critical time for a service so important that most people don't even have to give it a second thought. But rest assured that you will miss the USPS when it's gone.
Posted on Friday, April 17th, 2020
Usually I work on the weekends so Friday is just another day to me. But given that my charity work has ground to a halt, my travel has ended, and I spend no time hanging out with friends, I'm in this bizarre place where my weekend is actually going to be a weekend without work. At first I was going to do something crazy... like absolutely nothing... but then I decided I would rather catch up on housework. So now Friday is the same sucky day it always is with no weekend to look forward to.
The good news is that Disney released another one of these amazingly adorable Frozen shorts...
I like the baby snowmen better than I like Olaf!
So I guess that's something?
Posted on Saturday, April 18th, 2020
I know from my security camera systems that my cats spend most of the time when I'm away sleeping. Within a half hour of me leaving the house, they are off napping somewhere. On a regular office work day for me this means that they are sleeping from 8:30 to 4:00. If I'm gone traveling, they sleep all day and all night, waking up only to eat, drink, or go to the bathroom. Occasionally they'll saunter out to the catio or look out the window, but it's mostly sleeping.
And now that I'm home a lot more than usual?
They are awake a lot more than usual. Sure, they still sleep for hours at a time... but they want to sleep near me while I work or play video games or watch television. This can cause a problem for Jake, because he tends to blend into the background. Especially the fuzzy blanket I got at a Christmas gift exchange which I leave on the couch...
He loves that thing. But, as you can imagine, I've come close to sitting on him more than once. I've have to really remember to make sure he's not dozing away if I'm going to sit on that blanket.
See where his head is? Take your time, because it's not where you think it would be. That's how he sleeps. I have no idea how or why, but that's how he does it.
As you can imagine, spending more time awake is more opportunity for conflict... even if it's play conflict. The other day I was watching Jenny giving herself a sun-bath out in the catio. Jake decided he wanted to sit where she was sitting, and took a swat at her. Now, most times, Jenny will decide it's not worth the trouble and wander away so Jake can have his way. But lately? She is not having it...
Jenny may only be 2/3 the size of Jake, but she can and does hold her own when she feels like it.
Lately for me, "holding her own" means demanding belly rubs whenever it occurs to her that she wants one...
Seriously, she will meow and fret until you give in.
I always give in.
Posted on Sunday, April 19th, 2020
Life in isolation may be better than no life, but your life is about to get measurably better... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Dough! I finally broke down and baked a couple loaves of my beloved SourJo bread. It was too hard going without, so I used the last of the flour I had been saving and went for it. The result was as delicous as it was beautiful...
I have decided to slice and freeze the pan-loaf so I can thaw it out as toast when I need a bread fix. The round loaf, however? That I'll be eating in copious chunks with butter and jam! I sure hope that flour, sugar, and yeast come back to grocery store shelves sometime soon.
• Various Corn! Oh look... John Oliver is back to drop some truth on the outrageous levels of stupid shit that have been plaguing us as of late...
The Below Deck: Sailing Yacht drop-in was particularly wonderful for those of us who are fans of the show.
• Sucks So Good! One of my favorite movies of all time is What We Do In The Shadows. It's hilariously funny in all the right ways. It spawned a television serious on FX that was every bit as well-done and hysterical. And now they've started their second season...
I was late to the television series (I didn't know it even existed), but now I'm crazy for it. I pre-ordered the entire season at iTunes because I just know that I will be watching them over and over again. Highest possible recommendation.
• Moo! Cows are truly some of the most gentle and beautiful animals. Part of why I can’t bring myself to eat them...
THAT is one content kitty right there!
• Color! This is probably the coolest thing I've seen all year. A series of RGB colorspace books which depict every color imaginable...
Image attributed to Brittany Schall
Photo by Vegard Kleven
• 'MURICA! And let's wrap this up with a shut-out to the brave nurses confronting IGNORANT STUPID FUCKING ASSHOLES protesting lockdown BY BARRICADING STREETS DURING A PANDEMIC WHEN AMBULANCES MAY NEED TO GET THROUGH...
Two nurses, who have witnessed first hand the toll Covid is taking in Colorado, stood up and peacefully counter protested. Here is how they were treated. I had join them.pic.twitter.com/iJnNcqZxSv— Marc Zenn (@MarcZenn) April 19, 2020
I am so fucking sick and tired of this idiotic trash that I want to vomit. You can read about it here.
And that's all she wrote for bullets this Sunday.
Posted on Monday, April 20th, 2020
So... not a great day.
The volunteer work I do has been suspended indefinitely. No travel through all of 2020 and while there's a hope we can get things back together in 2021, it's looking grim indeed. Which is pretty much where we're all at right now, I think.
Sure this opens up some free time I could use for other endeavors, but it also takes away some of my purpose for being on this earth. I suppose I could look into other organizations where I could donate my time (and maybe I will eventually), but I don't know that my heart would be in it. Not like it has been for the past five years.
I guess we'll see. I try to remain hopeful.
Because life goes on.
I've been doing everything I can to avoid going to the grocery store. For the second time in a month, I took everything out of my cupboards and took inventory of my freezer and refrigerator to see what I can make from what I already have.
There's a lot of pasta. A goodly amount of cheese with a month or two on the expiration date. A surprising amount of canned beans. A couple cans of soup. Not much else by way of ingredients. I do have a stash of boxed rice dishes. And a half-dozen frozen meals. I think I could get away with another week... possibly two... before having to go shopping.
Tonight my tomatillos felt ripe enough that I could pull out the ingredients I've been saving to make one of my favorite recipes I got from the meal service I've been using (Martha Stewart and Marley Spoon, which you can read about here). I had never cooked with tomatillos before, and have fallen in love with them. They make a great green sauce. I bought some weeks ago, but they were pretty tough. And so I kept them in the refrigerator in the hopes they would take their time to ripen so I could have something nice as my food supply ran out.
And tonight was the night...
That's "Cheesy Baked Quesadillas with Green Enchilada Salsa"... but the filling is actually a mix of canned refried beans, onion, garlic, and taco seasoning with cheese. It's pretty fantastic, as you can imagine. My leftover cilantro and green onion had not held up that great, but I managed to salvage enough to drop on top with some crema and more cheese.
'Dillas on a Monday evening of the apocalypse won't compensate for what I lost today... but it's a good enough start, I suppose.
Posted on Tuesday, April 21st, 2020
Showtime's brilliant series Episodes, starring Matt LeBlanc (Joey of Friends fame) was added to Netflix back in 2018 but I only recently started watching it from the beginning. I had Showtime for the first two seasons, but since that was a while ago, I thought it best to start from the beginning and power my way through all five seasons. Tonight I finally got to the last episode.
I had forgotten just how funny and depraved it was...
So much so that I was sad when I got to the final episode. At least they wrapped it up pretty well. If you haven't seen it yet and have Netflix, then it might be worth your valuable time.
And now, because I have nothing better to blog about, I figure I might as well catch up on my latest meals from Martha Stewart and Marley Spoon!
19. Bean & Cheese Taquitos with Tomatillo Salsa & Sour Cream
I fell in love with tomatillos in a previous Martha Stewart recipe box, and automatically order any dish that has them. This is essentially the same meal as the quesadillas I had weeks ago, but rolled into taquitos. I should have made them into quesadillas, because the taquitos are a heinous mess. All the filling runs out while they bake. But still... fantastic meal and super delicious!
20. Risotto Primavera with Asparagus, Leeks & Peas.
Nothing great. And the instructions were really confusing... plus I have no idea why they have it served on a bed of greasy spinach, which was kinda gross. Won't be making this one again.
21. Coconut-Peanut Rice Noodles with Blistered Zucchini & Green Beans.
This is the first time I ordered a duplicate recipe... something I wasn't planning on doing except... well... quarantine and not wanting to go to the grocery store. It was their AMAZING Coconut-Peanut Rice Noodles with Blistered Zucchini & Green Beans that I loved so much the first time. THIS TIME when I made it, I held back half of one of the Sriracha packets because I felt the full amount overwhelmed the peanut butter flavor. FLAWLESS! PERFECT! AMAZINGLY BALANCED NOW! When I make this on my own, I will switch to blistered green beans only. I am getting a bit tired of the way Martha puts zucchini in everything, and I think it lacks the flavor that green beans have.
22. Fresh Fettuccine Alfredo in a Hurry with Baby Kale Salad.
I hate to say it, but this entire meal was kinda embarrassing. First of all... this was a lot longer process and a lot more difficult to make than ACTUAL FETTUCCINE ALFREDO! The real recipe is fettuccine noodles with butter and grated parmesan AND THAT'S IT! If you make it any other way, IT'S NOT FUCKING FETTUCCINE ALFREDO! No cream. No lemon and garlic and other extra shit. It's parmesan and butter. Period. And I would know... I've eaten at the restaurant where it was invented several times when visiting Rome! But this? Just no. Instead of fettuccine noodles, there I was cutting up pasta sheets AGAIN. Instead of a load of parmesan, you get two tiny squares to grate up. Instead of butter you get mascarpone cheese, garlic, and LEMON?!? The result is a bland, senseless pasta fiasco that should NEVER be called "Fettuccine Alfredo." Luckily I had some extra parmesan to throw on top for SOME added flavor. And don't get me started on the Baby Kale Salad. Yet AGAIN Martha wants you to toss the shit with oil. I am so sick of fucking greasy lettuce in these meals that I couldn't stomach the thought of it. And so I dumped a bunch of French dressing on top to help cover up the kale. ATTENTION MARTHA STEWART... OTHER SALAD DRESSINGS EXIST OTHER THAN OIL. HOLY SHIT!!! From now on I will be looking at the recipes very carefully instead of just clicking stuff that looks good. I thought this was going to be a simplified one-pot recipe for Alfredo or something. Turns out it wasn't even the dish advertised.
And I guess that's the end of that.
Posted on Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020
Remember when computer operating systems started allowing multitasking... but the hardware wasn't really capable of handling it, so it never really worked right? You'd start burning a CD and switch to a word processor, then have the burn fail while you're writing because the computer didn't have the resources to do both at the same time... that kind of thing?
That's been me recently. I am trying to do way too much all at the same time without the mental resources to manage it, and I'm starting to worry that my multitasking abilities are going to fail me.
This was made perfectly clear this morning when I took out the garbage and didn't realize that I did it in my underwear. There I was... climbing into the shower... and realized that I didn't take off any pants. That's when I was all "Did I just take out the garbage in my underwear?" Which, of course, was easy enough to verify on the security cameras. And sure enough...
I should really try to get more sleep.
Posted on Thursday, April 23rd, 2020
The last iPad I bought was the 1st generation 9.7-inch iPad Pro four years ago in 2016. It was my second iPad and, at the time I purchased it, the intent was to use it as a laptop replacement for travel. That didn't work out at all. It just wasn't capable enough for me to do real work on it. Any time I traveled with my iPad, I had to have my MacBook with me as well. Still, it was good for watching movies on the plane.
What the iPad did do for me was revolutionize the way I draw and paint digitally. Thanks to its blazing speed, virtually non-existent parallax, and low latency (with the right app)... plus the fantastic responsiveness of the Apple Pencil stylus... everything changed. I found it to be a better experience for creating art than an expensive Wacom Cintiq tablet paired with a high-end computer! If there was a flaw, it was that the 9.7-inch size was too small for me to work comfortably, and I regretted quite badly that I didn't spend the money to buy the 12.9-inch size.
In November 2018 Apple released their 3rd generation model iPad. It was compelling enough an upgrade from my older model that I started saving $50 a month until I could afford one.
A month ago Apple released their 4th generation model iPad Pro. It was definitely time to upgrade now, but I had only saved up $700 of the $1000 price tag. Then quarantine started dragging on so I figured I might as well blow through some of the vacation money I had been saving since I won't be using it any time soon... and went to order me a new 12.9-inch iPad!
Much to my horror, the specs stated that my 1st generation Apple Pencil wouldn't work with the new model and I would have to spend an additional $130 to buy an upgraded one of those as well. It would be another month until I could get the money together for that, so my plans were put on hold.
Eventually I managed to scrape the money together and order... then today it finally arrived!
And now for my thoughts...
Holy cow is this thing beautiful. And so impossibly thin! It's like a thick sheet of glass with metal on the back. I honestly don't know how they manage it, and thinking of how far technology has come in my lifetime makes my head hurt.
My old iPad was pretty darn fast, even when running modern apps. But this thing is ridiculously speedy. Everything happens instantaneously. There's no delay for anything. It's kinda how like you dream your computer would work... except it's reality. What I don't understand is why Apple put in an A12Z chip instead of the newer, faster, better A13 chip that's in my iPhone. The A12Z has an additional core compared to the A12X from the previous iPad (8 cores instead of 7) which aids in some areas, but it's a minor upgrade at best. If you're going to use a new chip, why not go with the best you already have instead of spending the money to retool an older one with minimal effect?
The "new and improved" $130 Apple Pencil drawing stylus is actually "new and improved." It has a matte surface instead of a glossy one so it also has a more natural texture when you grip it. I also like the thinner diameter (which I know some people do not). But the absolute best part? You don't have to plug it in to charge it! It magnetically attaches to the iPad and charges wirelessly in either direction (nice for lefties and righties)... but only on the right "long-side" of the iPad (when held vertically... it's the top when held horizontally). As a side benefit, the flat "charging" side of the Pencil means it won't roll off the table. Where the Apple Pencil is just frickin' brain dead is that it's not reversible. Most styluses can be flipped to erase something (mimicking a real-life pencil eraser). STILL NO ERASER ON A $130 STYLUS IS UNFORGIVABLE. They do have a tap sensor on the pencil, however. In Procreate a double tap switches to the eraser. Another double tap goes back to your pen. This is a really nice way of working, but I still don't understand why a stylus costing a fraction of what Apple's charging has an eraser end when Apple's doesn't. Even so, I like this stylus 1000% better than Apple's old one. If I have a complaint, it's that I don't understand how it costs $30 more than the previous model.
Back to the iPad itself... the larger size of the 12.9-inch model is far, far better for drawing and painting. Not as comfortable to hold, of course, but much easier than a tablet hooked up to a computer. EXCEPT... thanks to a feature called "Sidecar" you actually can hook your iPad up to your computer if you want to (assuming it's a new enough model to support it)...
But it gets better... MacOS X apps which support pressure sensitivity can inherit this data from the iPad! Below is not a screenshot of my computer screen, it's Photoshop on my iPad in Sidecar mode. I drew a mustache on Jake to show how the pressure sensitivity on brushes allows you to get thicker lines as you press harder...
Not as flawlessly responsive as when using an iPad-native app like Procreate, but still perfectly useable! This is next-level-amazing, because now I won't have to save up $1,200 to get that Wacom Cintiq Pro 16 display tablet I've been dreaming of. My new 12.9" iPad is able to sit in for a 15.6" tablet, and still be useable as an iPad on its own! Disconnect the Cintiq from your computer and it doesn't do anything. iPad truly is the best of both worlds.
Not that I wouldn't love to have an even bigger screen than 12.9-inches but, finances considered, it's absolutely big enough. Still, can you imagine if Apple were to unleash a 16-inch iPad? A 20-inch iPad? As display technology gets more amazing and cheaper, it's gonna happen. The pro creative market pretty much demands it. Apple could match Wacom Cintiq models size-for-size and price-to-price and corner the market with display tablets that are also fully iPad-functional.
The display on this thing is brilliant. I mean really brilliant... as in bright and beautiful. I don't even need to turn the display brightness to maximum like I usually do! Colors are lush and saturated. The refresh rate is a mind-boggling 120Hz and buttery smooth when dragging shapes I've drawn. Just like my older iPad, it's still too slick for me to draw comfortably. To help with this I've ordered a
I don't think I've ever used the camera on either of my past iPads. My iPhone is better and more capable for taking photos (not to mention handier since it's always in my pocket). Never-the-less, the new iPad Pro has gone dual-lens with a wide and ultra-wide lens if I ever need them. The big technology here is the brand new LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) Scanner which can accurately map out your surroundings for things like Augmented Reality. I haven't had a chance to play with this much, and I don't know that it's something I will ever use regularly, but it does give us a hint as to how big Apple is betting on AR for the future.
Something else I haven't used in previous iPads was the front-facing "selfie" camera. But in the age of social distancing when video-conferencing has become the norm, I've found myself actually using it. And Apple's camera works fine... when the iPad is held vertically. But since I use my iPad horizontally the vast majority of the time, it's just bizarre. People can see me fine, but I'm looking off to the side and I got a comment that it's a bit disorienting. You may be thinking "All video conferencing cameras are like that!" and you're right. But it's very noticeable in horizontal mode because the camera is on the side of your screen instead of on top of it. And there's another problem there too... when held in portrait orientation, there's a good chance your thumb will cover the camera needed for FaceID unlock. Apple really, really needs to rethink this and put a camera for both vertical and horizontal orientations. Transmitted sound is really good, and I'm told it's not as "tinny" as my old one when I asked about it during video chat. Likely because Apple says they are using five "studio-quality" microphones.
There's no headphone jack, of course. I have AirPods so this isn't a problem, but I sure wish I could use my high-priced headphones from 1994 with the iPad and not have to use an adapter. Right now, my MacBook Pro is the only thing left which has a headphone jack. That being said, the sound quality coming from the built-in speakers floors me. Just as with my iPhone before this, I cannot comprehend how such good sound can come from speakers so thin! And, unlike the cameras, Apple has made darn sure that your stereo experience is good whether you hold it vertically or horizontally (though horizontal seems to give better dimension to the sound because the speakers are further apart). There are four speakers, two on the top and two on the bottom, and they seem to adjust automatically depending on the orientation of the iPad. So nice!
Given how stubborn Apple can be about cables and connectors, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the 2020 iPad has USB-C instead of Apple's proprietary Lightning connector. Granted, before USB-C was invented Apple had to do something to get away from the "this-side-up" idiocy of older, larger, slower USB connectors... but given how USB-C is on everything else Apple makes and working great, it seems silly to hold out on the iPhone. Hopefully that will be remedied soon.
And then there's the iOS that's running everything...
Having the greatest tablet hardware in the world means very little when the software isn't up to the task. And iOS is mostly there. But not completely. The gesture-based multitasking is just plain bad. It's confusing, complicated, unintuitive, and sometimes I can't even get it to work correctly (and never understand why). Sadly, this makes an otherwise amazing product feel half-baked. Given Apple's long history of sublime user experiences and interfaces, this is baffling to me. There are a number of "proof of concept" videos out there showing better alternatives to how Apple is doing things, yet Apple themselves just sits on their hands? Why? I can only imagine it goes back to their preposterous stubbornness (which was responsible for their laptops having shitty keyboards for years). Well, get off it, Apple. You can do better than this. You need to do better than this. The power users you're courting to break free of the "home and hobby" mindset of a tablet not being a "real" computer isn't going to change until you do.
In all the ways that matter, the 2020 iPad Pro is not that different from 2018 iPad Pro. It has one more core in the CPU and a LiDAR sensor that's of limited use, and that's pretty much it. But when compared to my 2016 iPad? It's a pretty big upgrade. And not just because I went from a 9.7-inch screen to a 12.9-inch screen... it's faster, smarter, and more capable in every way. And when you couple that with the fact that I can use it as a display tablet when hooked up to my desktop Mac? It's a phenomenal value... even with the $1,000 price tag (or, if you include the $130 Apple Pencil stylus I had to buy, the $1,130 price tag).
We are rapidly getting to the point where computers and tablets are converging. This is more apparent when you look at Microsoft Surface and the slew of touch-screen PCs being released, but things seem more kludgy on the Windows side than with Apple's more purposeful iOS/MacOS convergence. Next year Apple is said to be switching from Intel chips to their custom ARM chips in their Macintosh computers. The next step will be to have an iOS layer on MacOS to run iPad apps natively. Then, once all the apps have gone to iOS for the Mac, the MacOS is no more. As technology gets smaller and faster, it's pretty much inevitable. I have to wonder if it will be less than 10 years before you can get an iOS desktop? I dunno. More likely, it will just be iPad. And if Apple gets off their asses and stops being so stubborn, this might not be a bad thing.
To be honest, I would have rather spent my vacation money on an actual vacation. But, I am quite happy with my new iPad and am grateful to have gotten it ahead of schedule. Hopefully it will unleash my creativity and be worth the price.
Posted on Friday, April 24th, 2020
Continuing on from my new iPad 2020 post from yesterday...
I had no intention of buying a Magic Keyboard for my new iPad Pro. I bought the thing for drawing and painting. I don't need a keyboard for that, and adding one essentially turns an iPad into a laptop. I've already got a laptop. And then there's the $350(!) price tag for the thing. Add that to a 12.9-inch iPad Pro ($1,000) with an Apple Pencil ($130), and your total jumps to a whopping $1,480! A MacBook Pro 13-inch is $1300! So why?
In anticipation of my new iPad arriving, I started taking a look at all the new apps and app updates that have been released since I set up my existing iPad back in 2016. Because once I installed Procreate (the painting/drawing program I use) and the essential stuff I had on my iPhone, I never really looked at anything else. I made an exception for Photoshop for iPad when it was released because, well, it's Photoshop and I was really looking forward to what it might be like on iPad... but that ended in disappointment. Nope. With the exception of trying to blog on my iPad every once in a while, I've used it solely for Procreate and nothing else.
After looking at all the things I could be doing with my iPad, I decided to take another look at my keyboard options because there's entirely too many apps for which is would be a very handy thing to have. My current iPad has a "Smart Keyboard" which I actually like quite a lot. The keys aren't really keys... they're bubbles that click on the fabric surface, but it's perfectly useable. I could type better on this than I ever could Apple's horrific "butterfly keyboard." The problem is that you can't really type on your lap with it. There's no solid "base" on which to rest it on an uneven surface and it just flops over when you attempt it.
The new "floating" Magic Keyboard is different...
On the plus-side it is very sturdy, has a solid base, can be used on irregular surfaces (like your lap), and types like a dream. Plus... a trackpad! Something that is weirdly (but brilliantly) integrated into what is supposed to be a touch-based device.
On the down-side there's no way to fold the keyboard back and out of your way. In order to use the tablet like a tablet, you have to pop it off the keyboard completely. At which point your iPad is 100% unprotected. This scary and, quite frankly, dangerous prospect has me more than a little worried. It's way too easy to drop a $1000 device and end up with some serious damage if there's no protection on it whatsoever. I don't know if Apple will release some kind of hard case to protect the iPad which can still be used with the Magic Keyboard, but somehow I doubt it.
So let's get into this, shall we?
Given that I blew through all the Apple Cash I had been saving up for the past year to get this (and still had to come up with $60 on top of that!), the biggest question I have for myself is whether or not Magic Keyboard is worth the $350(!) price tag.
The answer is a resounding no.
As high-quality as it feels... as capable as it is... as well as it works... as beautiful as it looks... it's just not worth THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS(!). I mean, holy crap... that's THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS(!)... FOR A KEYBOARD!!! I can see it being worth $200 tops. Which is likely what the competitors will be selling for when they get around to it. They may not be as top-of-the-line as an Apple model, but give me a break.
The way it works is to magnetically attach to your iPad. And those magnets are strong. My initial worries about my pricey new tool falling off the keyboard and crashing to the floor were wiped away the minute I attached it. And the Magic Keyboard is heavy. I mean really heavy. It makes my 12.9-inch iPad feel three times as weighty. That's great for making sure that it stays on the table without falling over... but it's terrible for portability. A primary selling-point for iPad is how much lighter and smaller it is than a computer. Well... with this keyboard on it, Apple might as well have added a touchscreen to a MacBook Air and been done with it.
Opening the Magic Keyboard folio is terrible. Because the hinges are all so tight and the Apple Pencil gets in the way, I have ended up accidentally lifting the magnetic cover off the iPad instead of opening it a couple times now. It's easier to open if you take the Apple Pencil off, but should that really be required? And speaking of Apple Pencil, it's kinda stupid that there's no security strap to help keep it attached while charging. The magnets which attach it are strong, but brush the iPad up against something and Pencil still going to come off. This is an inexplicable move, and I wish that there was a model which had SOMETHING to help keep the Pencil in place so I don't lose my $130 stylus. I'm trying to get in the habit of lifting the iPad up and cracking it open like a book when opening it. This is far easier, but way less intuitive.
The "floating" aspect of the design is a mixed bag. Push the iPad to a flatter more normal viewing angle and the bottom of it floats right up next to the number keys, which is kinda a bummer (and also explains why Apple didn't bother to put function keys on this? Talk about a bummer!). And, as I mentioned, you can't flop the keyboard back behind the iPad so it's out of the way. You're either using it like a laptop with your iPad attached or you're not using it at all because your iPad is detached. There is no "best of both worlds" to be had. As mentioned above, the hinges which keep the Magic Keyboard closed and the hinges which allow angle adjustment for the iPad angle are very stiff. Almost too stiff to be comfortable. It makes me wonder if they loosen over time, and Apple made them too stiff so that their pricey keyboard attachment wouldn't be floppy within a year? Something I'm guessing is still a possibility. iPads are light, but they ain't that light. Eventually the hinges have to succumb to the weight, don't they?
Unlike the "Smart Keyboard" on my old iPad, the Magic Keyboard works just fine on my lap when sitting... or propped against my knees in bed. I don't know that it's worth the trade-off of not being able to flop the keyboard around to the back so it's out of the way though.
As for the keyboard itself, the keys are certainly nice enough to type on. Far better than the old fabric-bubble "Smart Keyboard" I was using, which I actually liked just fine, so I'm quite happy typing on it. The keys are backlit so you can more easily type in dark places (which holds true even if you are a good touch-typist because you have to find those keys first!). Sure I would like a bit more "travel" to be really comfortable, but it's not a big deal.
There may be no "Escape" key... no function keys... but there is a "Global" key which summons the on-screen emoji keyboard. This is so much more useful than the crappy little "TouchBar" on my Mac which takes forever to navigate emoji with. I wish they would give us this in
The trackpad confuses me. In the best possible way. What I find confusing is why I would ever need to use it since I have a massive touch display floating in front of me. Wouldn't it be better to just tap on the screen instead of the trackpad? Well, not always, as it turns out. First of all, your hand doesn't get in the way of viewing the display when you use the touchpad. Second of all, the way the "mouse pointer" works when you use the trackpad is really beautiful. It doesn't just stay an arrow (or, in this case a big dot)... it morphs, changes, and sticks like a magnet as you move it over elements like buttons and text and such (not everywhere and not always, alas, but when it does it's magic). So very elegant and useful. Which is to say it's so very Apple. I dearly love the way the trackpad works with iOS and can't help but wonder if this kind of thing would translate well to
On the functionality side... the entire trackpad surface is a button you can press but, unlike on my MacBook which fakes a "click" by providing force feedback when you press down, this trackpad actually physically clicks. I'm guessing this is due to the smaller size making physical clicks more feasible than on the massive trackpad on Apple's laptops. It feels good. Not just for clicking but for tracking and dragging. I wish it had a bit more "tooth" to provide physical sensation for your fingertip, however, because it's really slick. Of course the trackpad supports gestures (like multi-finger swiping) and click-dragging, which work much like my MacBook Pro... though they are a bit more difficult to use on the smaller surface.
The Magic Keyboard comes with a
When it comes to actually protecting your iPad, I'm going to say that the Magic Keyboard doesn't do much there at all. There's essentially no cushioning or protection for the sides and corners. Indeed, the only thing you get extending past the iPad structure is part of the weak seam where the Magic Keyboard parts are heat-sealed together! This is shockingly lame, and one of the main reasons I'm so mortified that I paid $350(!) for it. I'd have hoped for some protection, but got practically nothing. The screen is protected and that's it.
One final note that I find kinda silly... there's a cutout for the camera bump on the back. So if you want to take a photo with your iPad, you can lift up the entire iPad/Magic Keyboard assembly and snap a picture... even though the angle of the iPad on the Magic keyboard is really silly for this. Anybody wanting to snap a photo will most likely just pop the iPad off the Magic Keyboard to do it. But, hey, I guess they had to do something to accommodate the camera bump back there, so why not?
Am I keeping it? Am I willing to just eat the $350(!) cost despite my not thinking it's anywhere near worth that much?
As I understand it, Apple has extended their return window, and so I have some time to decide. But, odds are, I will probably hang onto it. Despite value-for-the-money not being there, it is a really nice keyboard. And given how iPads are so very quickly getting to the point where I will be able to do actual work on them (in addition to the drawing and painting work I do now) I'll be needing a nice keyboard for extended typing tasks.
But THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS(!) FOR A KEYBOARD? Damn, Apple, that seems absurd... even for you.
UPDATE: The soft-touch vinyl(?) cover is already showing scuff marks, which is rage-inducing. THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS(!) and you can damage it with your fingernail? Seriously? For that kind of money, couldn't Apple have made it with a tough fabric cover that will hold up to even the most minimal abuse? What a shitty, shitty design decision. Used to be with Apple you paid more because the quality was better. Not so much with this Magic Keyboard embarrassment.
Posted on Saturday, April 25th, 2020
The more I stay at home... the more clingy my cats get.
Especially Jake, who is spending all night, every night on my bed. He comes in, flops down, then snuggles up next to me. He's there when I fall asleep, then still there when I wake up in the morning. Sometimes he gives himself a bath first...
And then.. flop...
Sometimes Jake doesn't bother with a bath. He just goes right to sleep... covering his face because I had the lights on...
When he's out-out and has stopped purring, I always go in for a belly rub...
You'd think that he'd wake right up. But nope! He was like this for over a half-hour. Like he's stuck..
Last night I went to bed early and was watching television. Jenny loves watching television with me, so here she came...
After a few minutes she was totally invested in whatever was on the TV...
The fun and games were over when Jake showed up for bed and decided to give her a facial...
Then, because Jake feels that the bed belongs to him at night, so he chased Jenny off, the little shit-head...
But don't worry. Jenny has her revenge. Usually when she runs across Mufasa and hides it somewhere. Earlier this week I went to take my morning shower and there was Mufasa...
I always feel bad for Jake... no matter what he's done to deserve it... so whenever I find Mufasa I will usually go find Jake so he can have his toy back.
Have a great Caturday, everybody.
Posted on Sunday, April 26th, 2020
Yeah, we're all still in isolation quarantine, but there's a bright spot in the darkness... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Cool! I've been to the Space Needle dozens of times over the years. They have cut-away images you can look at, so I already know what's inside and how it works, but this
One of the most famous features of the structure has been the "Sky City Revolving Restaurant" which closed back in 2017 when they rennovated everything. I assumed that it would be open again by now, but I just checked and there's still no revolving restaurant to be found. Instead the space is still "The Loupe" which is a revolving platform with a glass floor. I guess that's more of a draw because more people can enjoy it? The restaurant was always so expensive that I've only ever been there once.
• Stuck! Lately I've had a hard time getting the song Adore You by Harry Styles out of my head. For the past week I've been playing it several times a day...
I wish I knew why certain songs stick with me at certain times. I mean, I liked Adore You when it was released, but now I addicted to it or something. I'm trying to replace it with the latest by Pet Shop Boys, but it isn't working so far...
Amazing how the boys are still able to kill it after all these years. Their music is always good.
• Driven! I bought Western Digital drives for my NAS because my past experience with them has been excellent. Now I find out that the pricey new drives I bought for my NAS may be low-quality pieces of shit that will likely fail sooner than expected because the way I use the data on my NAS is incongruent with the way the drive technology WD employs was designed to be used. I have 8TB drives which WD says are using the correct technology... but the part number has the "EFAX" suffix which designates cheap-ass shit, so who knows?
I am so sick and tired of companies like this not giving a shit about their customers. And yet this is the way businesses are run now. They sneak in low-quality shit, charge the same price as usual-quality shit, and the customer never need know they've been screwed until their data is lost. And at that point it's like "Oh... too bad... so sorry... if you're in warranty, we'll send you a replacement shitty drive... if you're not under warranty, go fuck yourself!" Because in today's disposible society, it's cheaper to replace shit with more shit until the warranty runs out than to actually make good quality shit in the first place.
• Flight Attendants in Quarantine! Ha!
Make no mistake, flight attendants have a really tough job. Trapped on a plane at work with a bunch of people... some of which treat them badly. Hopefully they can laugh along with the rest of us at something like this.
• In Control! Every time I start up Netflix there's a new show being shoved on me called Too Hot To Handle and I IMMEDIATELY start singing "Too hot to handle, too cold to hold, they're called the Ghostbusters and they're in control!" Say what you like about Bobby Brown, but the guy knows how to sing a hook that gets stuck in your head!
No idea what Too Hot To Handle is about. Looks like it's yet another show like Temptation Island where you win by not giving into temptation of all the sexy people prancing around? Whatever. Really not interested enough to investigate.
• Foxy! Aren't foxes the most amazing animals?
I will never admit how many times I've watched this.
• After! I loved the first season of Ricky Gervais's After Life and remember feeling a bit lost when it ended because it was only six episodes. Now, at long last, Netflix has released another six episodes for the second season (NSFW trailer follows)...
Even better than the first season. A shoe-in for my "Best of Television 2020" list. It's all at once hysterically funny and agonizingly sad. Postman Pat is one of my favorite television characters ever. Which is next-level funny if you know that Postman Pat is a British cartoon with an unrelated character with the same name from the 1980's...
Compare this charming cartoon to the character from the show and it's a bit disturbing... but in the best possible way.
And now I guess I'll go back to doing as much nothing as possible before work tomorrow.
Posted on Monday, April 27th, 2020
Last night I was looking at movies on iTunes and saw that there were some titles available to RENT for $20. To RENT!
Then I realized that they were all movies which had just been released to theaters right before the lockdowns started. They are being shoved to home video early at a premium price in the hopes that they can reclaim some of the money they missed out on. None of which I would pay $20 to see... but heaven only knows that there are movies I'd pay $20 to see. Like Black Widow which keeps getting pushed back.
Of course I'd much rather pay $0 to see a movie.
Which is why I'm always looking through services like HBO and Amazon Prime.
Much to my delight, Amazon Prime has a documentary that I didn't even know existed... Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary...
As one of my all-time favorite movies, I was keen to see this because so many of the people behind the film are in it (including Tim Allen and Sigourney Weaver).
Sadly, my favorite part of the movie... Alan Rickman... had passed away and couldn't participate...
His very dry humor was hilarious, and he has one of the most touching scenes in the entire film. Fortunately, there are others in the documentary who remember his work there. He was Sir Alexander Dane! I love that.
Never Surrender lead to my watching a documentary on Susan Oliver called The Green Girl, which was absolutely fascinating (and has a short appearance by Betty White!). Unbelievable how shitty she was treated by Hollywood...
The Green Girl then lead to another documentary called United We Fan (about fan campaigns to save canceled television shows), which was also interesting...
And THAT lead to my watching yet another great documentary called Geek, and You Shall Find...
And then I happened upon With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story, which was as interesting as you'd think it would be...
At that point I could have watched a dozen more, but ended up going to bed instead so I could stare at the ceiling and not sleep.
Definitely getting my money's worth out of Amazon Prime this month!
Posted on Tuesday, April 28th, 2020
My allergies are not improving. In previous years my body manages to adjust after Spring starts springing. As I get older, it takes longer. But usually in early April I start to feel better. It's almost May and I am feeling worse. And last night in the middle of my geek documentary marathon, I ran out of the only thing that works... Benadryl.
I thought perhaps I could make it until I was done with work, but at 10am I couldn't take my running nose and itchy eyes any more and decided to put on my mask and head to the grocery store for more. While there I picked up some groceries which, much to my surprise, included toilet paper, paper towels, and flour! The only thing on my list I couldn't get was yeast and Comet cleanser scrub. I forgot to check and see if rice noodles were available this time (last time I found it strange that they were out of stock).
Grocery shopping was a horrific experience thanks to one dumbass who was proudly proclaiming that he was an asshole who wasn't going to wear a mask. Which, fine, whatever, you do you. Right now there's no law here about masks being required even though they help halt the spread of the Coronavirus, so be an idiot if you want to. But then he leaned into me as he was passing and said "You know, it's okay if you catch it!" which was rage-inducing. THIS is the kind of thing I worry about when forced to leave my home. There is ALWAYS going to be something out there... now it's COVID-19, later it will be something else... and some people are just going to be fucking assholes when it comes to the greater good and protecting their fellow citizens, friends, family, and neighbors. Just like drunk drivers, their stupidity hurts us all.
I did not react well to this particular asshole and said something I really shouldn't have. It was all downhill from there as I attempted to curb my allergies by taking way too much Benadryl. Not a fun day to be sure.
And so... $190 spent restocking my pantry, refrigerator, and shelves for another month or two.
At which point I'll have to go out amongst the assholes again. Wheee.
Posted on Wednesday, April 29th, 2020
There was a time I loved going to the movies. Me and my friends meeting up to catch some Summer blockbuster that I'd been dying to see. Sitting in front of that big screen waiting to be blown away by the lush sounds and the smell of popcorn. It was an experience like no other.
But then my attitude started changing as time marched on. There's always been rude people at the cinema, but it just keeps getting worse and worse as society degrades further and further. And once mobile phones became commonplace, the experience became unbearable. I actually blogged about it ten years ago when I went to see the Angle Jolie thriller Salt while in Chicago. The entire fucking film was spent looking at a sea of mobile phones glowing in the darkness...
I was livid.
Going to the movies is not cheap. And now that movie studios are demanding a bigger cut of the films they release, theater owners have to compensate for their losses by charging huge amounts of money for popcorn, candy, and drinks.
At this point I downright loathe going to a movie theater. You pay absurd amounts of money to be constantly distracted by rude assholes. It sucks.
So I don't go to the cinema any more. I'm done. Occasionally I make exceptions so I can see a Marvel Studios movies before any spoilers leak... or will go to hang out with my friends if there's a movie they feel strongly about seeing in a theater... but that's about it. Even then I never go to a "regular" theater but instead go to the "premium" theater in the hopes of having a decent experience.
The beauty of it all is that I really don't have to go to the theater any more. Not when I have a theater of my own at home. I've got a big-screen TV with a great picture and really good surround sound. Popcorn and drinks at my house are dirt-cheap. There's no assholes to spoil my movie-viewing experience unless I invite them over. It's perfect, really. I love watching movies at home! And, thanks to digital downloads, I can get them the minute they are released! No trudging to the store for a DVD or waiting for it to arrive in the mail.
The only down-side is that it takes months for the movies to be released digitally because first they have to have a theatrical release. At least they did.
Thanks to people having to quarantine and movie theaters having to close, movie studios are having to release movies to home video without a theatrical release. It's expensive, sure... $20 to rent the movie... but is it really more expensive than going to the cinema? After you buy a ticket and get gouged for popcorn and a Coke, you're likely in for $20 anyway. And if you are a family of four? A $20 rental is far, far less expensive than going to the theater.
Right now there is a huge dust-up over the movie Trolls: World Tour because Universal Pictures claims that the film made $100 million without ever having seen the inside of a theater. This disclosure made the AMC theater chain so livid that they quickly banned all Universal films from being shown in their cinemas (once they reopen).
Which is about the most stupid thing they could have possibly done given how it's going to be a long while before people are comfortable sitting in a theater with a bunch of people who may be carrying the plague.
Furthermore, anybody wanting to see a Universal film is going to have to go to AMC's competition... or not bother seeing it in theaters at all. They should have been understanding as to why Universal had to do a home-rental release to get their money back on a film that was being lost in the Coronavirus shuffle. And why they had to release the non-box-office numbers so they could assure stockholders that they weren't losing money with their decision. Universal literally didn't have a choice here!
And, who knows, Universal may very well end up saying "Okay then. Fuck it. We don't need theaters anyway!" and just release their movies directly to consumers at $20 a pop rental. Or even $40 a pop if it's a huge expensive movie. I'd gladly pay $40 to watch Black Widow and all the Marvel Studios movies at home! Hell, I'd pay $75 if it meant I didn't have to go to a movie theater to see it on opening night! The theater experience is so shitty now-a-days that I'd do just about anything to avoid it. Whether that means waiting months (for movies I think I like) or paying more up-front (for movies I know I'll like), it doesn't really matter.
One thing is for certain... when this whole COVID-19 thing is over (if it's ever over!), it's doubtful we will ever go back to how things used to be. Every decision we make is going to have to be tainted with the realization that there is a risk involved. People will have to weigh whether going to a movie theater is worth potentially being exposed to a virus or disease. On top of all the other risks that we take just by walking out the door.
It's a hard truth for AMC to face, I know. And I most certainly don't blame them for the pandemic we're all living with. They are losing money every day and I'm sure a lot of theaters will end up closing in the fallout, so I understand their frustration. The situation is sad for them and for people who love to go to the theater. But lashing out at the hand that feeds you at a time like this is just bad business. Everybody is doing the best they can to accommodate what's happening in the world right now, so let that sink in before making rash decisions... like banning movies from your theater.
People need to stop acting like it's "business as usual" when it's anything but "business as usual" right now.
Posted on Thursday, April 30th, 2020
Life doesn't hold enough pleasant surprises. All too often the surprises we get are crap. Especially lately. Take, for example, the Coronavirus. Could there have been a worse surprise for 2020? Though, given how health experts have been warning that a pandemic was nigh, I suppose the real nasty surprise was how ill-prepared that world governments have been for it actually happening.
What's nice is how people are stepping up to drop some nice surprises in our laps to make our quarantine-filled days a bit sweeter. My favorite is the bands who are either streaming old concerts for free or live-streaming new performances. Tomorrow one of my favorite contemporary bands, The 1975, is having a listening party... then on Saturday Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark is unleashing their 2019 Hammersmith Apollo show with new footage.
A lot of other bands are doing something... so check in with your favorites on social media to see if they've got something going on.
The problem is that so many of these things are starting to overlap. No sooner did I get The 1975's listening party in my calendar than Erasure announced that they would be having a "Conversation About Nothing in Particular" at the exact same time! Two of my favorite bands competing for my affections! What to do?
I'm going to try doing both.
I used to roll my eyes over movies like Mrs. Doubtfire and 27 Dresses having characters double-booked for two critical events, then letting hijinks ensue to make it somehow "funny." It's just too ridiculous to be taken seriously... even in a comedy. Who does something that idiotic?
Apparently the answer is me. I do something that idiotic.
Wish me luck!
Posted on Friday, May 1st, 2020
It just sucks. It sucks so hard.
Posted on Saturday, May 2nd, 2020
When it comes to feedings, I've had to develop a specific routine in order to keep the peace.
Jake wolfs down his meals as fast as he gets them. Jenny takes her time, and will wander away and wander back as she eats. Which means if I just feed them their dinner all at once, Jenny will eat a bit then leave. While she's gone, Jake will eat his food, then her food. Which is why that's not really possible.
And so it goes like this...
By spacing out their feedings, Jenny gets all of her food and Jake doesn't get more than his. It also makes sure there's no binge/purge that can come from eating too much too fast.
You'd think that all this would mean that Jake is the one who makes feedings difficult, but that's not the case. As I mentioned last month, Jenny won't bite wet food, so hers has to be pureed so she can eat it by licking. Also? She needs strong-smelling foods or she won't eat them. Which means both of them get fish-based meals whether or not Jake would rather have something else, because fish smells the strongest. And sometimes Jenny isn't satisfied because it's not smelling strong enough and will be upset. For those times I have to mix in some horribly-stinky dried fish flakes to get her eating. And, here's the part you won't believe, Jake never begs for food. Jenny absolutely does, and will go running to the kitchen any time I'm there in the hope that she'll get a snack.
In other Jenny news... it seems there's something besides Rick from Rick and Morty that will cause her to come running... Ray Charles. He was on an old 1977 Saturday Night Live repeat tonight and she came running in to watch while he was singing... then left shortly after he was done...
In many ways Jenny has changed the most over the years. Used to be she would run away terrified if another cat was within sight. Then she got to the point where she wouldn't run... but instead observe from a distance. And now? She will actively run out to the catio to confront them, pushing Jake out of the way to get there first. A black cat came walking by and she was on it..
Earlier this week she ran out to confront a GERMAN SHEPHERD that wandered into the yard. I knocked on the window to scare the dog away because I worried he might bite her if she stuck a paw out or something. This was her reaction...
Jake is probably least happy with Jenny's changes. Used to be he could terrorize her and she wouldn't do anything about it. But now? Jenny knows exactly how to get her revenge... steal his favorite toy. Jake is so paranoid about it that he drags Mufasa with him everywhere and looks around nervously when he has to drop him... like here when he wants to groom his belly...
And speaking of Jake, now that the weather has gotten hotter, he's catspreading again. Especially on my bed when I have the ceiling fan on...
But he'll do it anywhere...
Still not happy about me photographing his catspreading though. I get a look...
Sorry, Jake... if not for photos, Saturdays wouldn't be as exciting.
Posted on Sunday, May 3rd, 2020
I'm bored out of my mind without being able to hang out with my friends, but excitement awaits me... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Nadiya! One of my favorite Great British Bakeoff contestants, Nadiya Hussain, has a new Netflix series out... Nadiya's Time to Eat. Not all of it is vegetarian, but I've gotten some good ideas from her show. Including this gem...
Sounds amazing, right? And how charming is she with her lovely British accent? Nadiya's got some cool ideas for quick and easy meals that makes her show a great thing to watch. Just keep in mind that the British terms for certain foods can be different ("caster sugar" there is "fine baker's sugar" here), and sometimes products (such as Double Cream, which is 48% milkfat, for example) may not even exist where you live (the thickest I can get is Whipping Cream, which is only 36% milkfat. Also? Nadiya provides all oven temperatures in Celsius, so you'll need to convert to Fahrenheit.
• Facebook "Standards!" It's gotten to the point where I can't understand the point of Facebook any more. They are so wildly inconsistent with the posts they ban that you can't really know what is acceptable or not. Take for instance this tweet I reposted that is clearly a joke on all the "5G causes the Coronavirus" conspiracy theorists...
Meanwhile, some of the anti-vaxers and homeopaths and flat earthers and other morons are posting shit that is ACTUALLY MISINFORMATION THAT CAN CAUSE HARM and have free reign? Dafuq? I have posts taken down more and more lately, and in no case did I agree with the decision or even see why they took it down in the first place. Facebook has no concept of context or humor and are acting like total dipshits with this ban-hammer crap.
• Love Is Love! One of the members of my "Bible Study for Non-Christians" group brought up the movie Road to Edmond, which they decided to watch because it sharply divided Christians who saw it. None of the rest of us had heard of it, but it was free to watch on Amazon Prime Streaming, so we all agreed to take a look so we could have a discussion about it. I honestly don't know what my takeaway is. I almost stopped watching 20 minutes in because one of the characters was driving me crazy and the non-budget and amateurish acting was almost too much to take. But I stuck with it because I didn't want to be left out of the conversation with my group. Turns out that everything was building to something, not everything is what it seems, and it's actually a fairly remarkable film. I definitely understand why some people are completely incensed with it... heaven only knows there's enough to provoke that reaction. But I also understand why some people have fallen in love with it too. As I said, I honestly don't know how I feel about it... maybe I'll have more perspective once I've discussed it. All I definitely know is that I love the closing credits song as much as I could possibly love any song... it's Love is Love by Trey Pearson.
Trey Pearson has a lot of great songs, this one is called Silver Horizon and is every bit as good...
And if not for Road to Edmond, I likely never would have found it.
• Download! Boo! BOOOOOOOO! AMAZON'S GREAT NEW SHOW, UPLOAD, ENDS ON A HUGE CLIFFHANGER! And what are the odds that they won't renew it? Fuck all the television studios who refuse to show a complete story in a season. All this does is fuck over fans of the show when they cancel it.
BOOOOOO! And what's so frustrating is that they didn't need the cliffhanger. It's just lazy writing, and NO show should end a season on a cliffhanger unless they have the next season already started. So rage-inducing. If Amazon cancels Upload I'll be more furious than usual when this happens.
• After! Somebody edited together the underlaying narrative of grief that runs through one of my favorite shows so far this year... and it's almost unbearable to watch. What makes After Life so amazing is how it tempers the grief with humor. Without the humor though? It's a serious exploration of the human condition. Spoilers, obviously...
Ricky Gervais really knocked it out of the park with this show. He's already said that he's been so touched by the outpouring of love for the show that he's working on a third season. And, oh well yeah, HE DOESN'T END HIS SERIES ON A FUCKING CLIFFHANGER BECAUSE HE KNOWS THERE'S NO GUARANTEE THAT THERE WILL BE A NEXT SEASON! He's talented enough to come up with a way to start a new season without cliffhangers.
• Suess Raps! These videos of a guy rapping Dr. Suess over Dr. Dre beats is total genius...
I hesitate to guess how many times he had to practice these before getting this good.
• Better! TIME IS JUST A SOCIAL CONSTRUCT TO KEEP YOU FROM DOING WHAT YOU WANT TO DO WHEN YOU WANT TO DO IT! WELL SCREW THAT! I AM IN CONTROL OF MY OWN DESTINY! SO... MORNING DRINKING at 9:00AM IN MY UNDERWEAR WITH CHEETOS AND TELEVISION, BABY! — MY DAY IS BETTER THAN YOUR DAY!
So how was your day?
And that's that for bullets on this fine Sunday in quarantine.
Posted on Monday, May 4th, 2020
Look, if I end up contracting the Coronavirus and die, so be it. I've been as cautious as I can be. I've had a decent life. Shit happens. I'm good to go.
But if I end up dying because I was attacked by a murder hornet? Yeah, just kill me now. I have no desire to wait around for that.
As you have undoubtedly read, so-called "murder hornets" have reached the United States and... in what I can only describe as a fucking horror story and just my luck... where they've landed IS RIGHT HERE IN MY HOME OF WASHINGTON STATE!
Disturbing photo by Yasunori Koide via Wikipedia Commons
My reaction to the news?
You know that moment in Galaxy Quest where Sigourney Weaver finds out they have to run through "The Chompers" in order to keep the ship from being blown up? And her line is "Well fuck that!" but they changed the film from an R-rating to a PG-rating, so she ends up saying "Well screw that!" but her mouth is still saying the original line?
It was like that.
Murder hornets (which actually aren't called that anywhere but here in the USA where absolutely everything has to be sensationalized) are 2-inch long death-bringers from the sky who get their kicks ripping the heads off of bees and pulping their thorax to feed to their baby murder hornets.
Considering that a huge chunk of our food supply either directly or indirectly comes from bees polinating flowers and crops, this is insanely bad news. I hope that once everybody studying the Coronavirus comes up with a vaccination or cure or whatever... they turn their attention to finding a way to kill every last one of these bastards before I have to worry about running into them when I walk out to check my mailbox.
I tell you... the way things keep going on this planet, the more I am hoping for alien abduction.
Posted on Tuesday, May 5th, 2020
I've been spending a couple hours each day puttering around my flower beds. A neighbor was kind enough to pick out some new plants for me, so I've been working hard to create a home for them.
One of the things I've been meaning to do for years is pull out the irises in the front of my house. I've never understood these flowers. They're pretty for a few days, sure...
But they are top-heavy and fall over... many times before they even bloom, which means they bloom on the ground. Then the yard care team runs over them with the mower and they look horrible until they finally die. Then it all repeats next year. I try to move them off the lawn so they at least don't get torn up by the mower, but they still look pretty bad and have to go...
And yesterday was the day. I ripped out the two plants in the front of my home. But those flowers got their revenge, let me tell you.
The pollen got all over me and I had an allergy attack unlike any I've had in years. It was so bad that I had to take a big dose of Benadryl, then have a nap.
When I woke up an hour later, I was covered in blood.
I ended up with a nosebleed that would not stop, though it did slow to a trickle when I finally fell asleep around 3:00am. I was expecting to wake up and have to slog to the clinic to get it cauterized, but it had miraculously stopped overnight.
The irises on the side of my house can stay right where they are. I'm afraid of these flowers. I missed a half-day of work because I had to catch up on sleep because of these flowers.
Today I tried to take it easy and definitely not sneeze or blow my nose. Instead I laid on the couch and watched television, including a clever movie called The Great Seduction which is not some period romance bullshit as you would expect from the title...
I love it when I happen across a movie I've never heard of and actually end up enjoying it!
Kinda a nice way to end a day that started out so badly.
Posted on Wednesday, May 6th, 2020
I cannot catch a break this week.
I should have known better.
This morning my long-time blogging friend, Jester, posted this to my Facebook wall...
After failing to find an apropriate amount of barf emojis for both the concept of adding raisins to potato salad AND the fact that people think a "French tuck" doesn't look like ten bags of stupid (I WILL NEVER FORGIVE YOU FOR THIS MR. TAN FRANCE!)... the first thing to pop into my head was "Say, don't I have some leftover potato salad in the refrigerator?"
I had forgotten about that! Turns out that, yes, indeed I did.
Breakfast is served.
Except it tasted funny, at which point I remembered it's been there for a week and was probably overrun with bacteria or whatever. And so... I set it next to the bathroom sink so I could take a shower before headed down to the kitchen to toss it.
Likely no surprise to anybody what ensued...
"Jake. What are you doing?"
"Jake. Please don't eat that."
At which point I had to get out of the shower soaking wet and put the bad potato salad on top of the bathroom cabinet.
What happened next will shock you...
"Jake. What are you doing?"
"Jake. Please don't climb up there."
I know better than to think tomorrow will be much better.
It's all raisin-filled potato salad for the foreseeable future.
Posted on Thursday, May 7th, 2020
YOU YIELD TO TRAFFIC IN THE CIRCLE. It's that simple. That's the only rule. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand it. If there's a car already in the traffic circle, you wait until it's passed before entering. And yet...
25% of the time... at least 25% of the time... I run into somebody who doesn't yield.
Like yesterday when I was driving home. And of course the guy is pissed at me even though he was 100% in the wrong for cutting in front of me instead of yielding like he should have. And I honestly don't get the mentality. I'm supposed to just slam on the brakes in the middle of the traffic circle and back up traffic to let people in? That's the complete opposite of how it's supposed to work.
I continue to wade my way through the massive list of movies and shows I've flagged to watch so I can see if there's anything good on TV. My latest obsession is Plan Coeur (aka The Hook Up Plan) on Netflix. It's a French romcom that has its fill of stupid moments, but is otherwise fantastic. The characters are all beautifully realized and you want to care about them even when they aren't at their best.
Because it's French, I have to watch with English subtitles, which adds another level of amusement to the show...
Most of the time, the show is smartly written and has clever one-off lines throughout to bring the funny...
And, of course, it's French, so the romantic moments are flawlessly orchestrated...
What really took me by surprise is the music, which is haunting and beautiful. It's practically another character in the series and makes even mundane moments something to be savored...
I was compelled to track down the composer, which is Frédéric Magnon, and became an instant fan. When Elsa shows her sister her new apartment, I had to rewind the scene and play it over and over because it's just that good...
The entire soundtrack is fantastic and worth hunting down (Amazon Prime Unlimited has it).
So... if you're looking for a show to binge while you're stuck at home, I highly recommend giving The Hook Up Plan a try. Both series of the show are available on Netflix...
As much as I loved the show and want to see a third series, I almost think I'd rather they left things where they were at in the finale. It was the perfect way to end things even though you'll definitely be wanting to know what happens next.
Which is what makes great television, isn't it?
Posted on Friday, May 8th, 2020
I'm not "running out of things to watch," but I am getting bored with the massive amount of stuff that's available to watch. Binging Plan Coeur (The Hook Up Plan) yesterday really made me want to revisit some of my favorite French films, but it's tough to work and read subtitles at the same time, and I can't afford to lose the hours like I did yesterday. I thought that I would instead put on some of my favorite Japanese anime since I was once fairly fluent in the language and "it's just cartoons," but that didn't work out at all. My Japanese comprehension is so out of practice now that I have to stop and think about what's being said, which is actually more distracting than reading subtitles.
I was lamenting the idea of starting in on another Netflix series when a friend in a Zoom meeting mentioned that they've been watching a lot of YouTube videos. This seemed like an excellent idea, because that's somewhere below mindless entertainment, and the YouTube app for my AppleTV will just keep playing them one-after-the-other all night long!
When I asked for suggestions, the first one out of their mouth was Mr. Beast. I was going to take a pass because the only thing I had ever heard about the guy was that he drops a lot of homophobic slurs, but my friend said "He's done so many good things," and I was intrigued.
At first I was just going to start at his first video and run through them all, but he's been doing this for six years(!) and most of his earliest videos are just him playing video games and stuff. He then made a slew of videos speculating on the wealth of other YouTubers and making fun of other YouTubers. Then he went through a phase of counting to really high numbers... reading the entire dictionary... and doing other time-consuming and inane stunts.
Yeah. No thanks.
But then things started getting interesting about two years ago.
Mr. Beast started giving away hundreds of thousands of dollars (which he gets from sponsorship and branding deals). He'd give somebody $10,000 for winning a video game challenge. He'd tip a server $20,000. He'd give random subscribers to his channel huge amounts of cash. And he also started doing crazy stuff like trashing his friend's car then give them a new car... buying every billboard in his city... spending 24 hours in prison... and having his friends do random challenges for huge cash prizes.
I began to see his appeal. His stunts are genuinely interesting.
My favorite stunt he pulled was buying a house then ordering a pizza from Dominos. He offered the pizza delivery guy $2,000 if he would help them go shopping for stuff to move into the house "for a friend," then he gave the fully furnished house to the delivery guy after they were done. Watch the video. It's pretty great...
After a while you start really getting invested in the lives of his friends. Poor Cameron kept losing challenge after challenge and never won anything. You really started to feel sorry for the guy because he was constantly made fun of. Then, finally, he won one and I was far more happy for him than I had a right to be...
Yeah, this is not highbrow entertainment, but it is entertaining. I've certainly seen worse uses of time and money on YouTube.
After my Mr. Beast marathon, I started catching up on all the YouTubers I follow but have neglected over the past several months. Like Unbox Therapy, who unboxed Apple's SEVEN HUNDRED DOLLAR WHEELS for their MacPro computer so you don't have to. It looks to be an oddly unsatisfying experience...
Don't worry. Eventually he made a skateboard out of the wheels.
Yahtzee at Escapist's Zero Punctuation took a look at Animal Crossing: New Horizons and it's oddly comforting in its raw predictability...
John Kirkwood made cheese & onion pasties... something I am dying to make and will attempt soon, because it's like a gorgeous blend of some of my favorite things...
Ryan at ScreenRant unleashed another hilarious pitch meeting...
Two amazing thinkers (who just happen to be brilliant comedians) discuss atheism and other deep topics in a fascinating conversation...
And lastly there's Johnny Harris, who actually spent his valuable time looking into flerfers (insert eye-roll)...
After all that, I was ready to start watching regular ol' television again, and started in on Ryan Murphy's latest... Hollywood... which is currently airing on Netflix. Not exactly sure this is going to be my thing, but it sure looks like it was expensive to make.
Posted on Saturday, May 9th, 2020
I know I keep mentioning how Jenny keeps getting more demanding, but it bears repeating because there seems to be no limit to how much she'll pile on. This morning, for example, she stood by the water fountain and started meowing. I went to see what was wrong and... the water level was too low for her highness's liking. She doesn't actually drink from the flowing water like Jake does, she wants to drink out of the well. So she sat there until I went and got a glass of water to fill it to a more acceptable level.
Earlier in the week she was upset that I was taking too long in the bathroom and she wanted her morning pets and sat outside the door and meowed and meowed.
And before that SHE WAS UPSET THAT THE TELEVISION WASN'T ON! Seriously. Sat there in front of the television meowing until I turned it on.
I'm getting really good at interpreting what she wants. Thankfully.
Jenny spends most of the day and a good chunk of the night out in the catio now. In daylight she naps in the sunshine. At night she... stares out into space? No idea what she's looking at. Or for...
I planted some flowers outside so that she has something to look at while she's out. I don't know that she appreciates them, but the bees sure do...
And then there's Jake.
Who is also becoming more demanding.
When I got home yesterday, Jake went running around the house and stopped long enough to scratch on his post. He got a claw stuck but, instead of working it free as he normally does, he just sat there squawking for help until I came and freed him. Methinks I spoil my cats a bit too much...
So... it's nice to be needed... I guess?
Posted on Sunday, May 10th, 2020
XXX, but XXX... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• TAIKAAAAAAA! And lo did an angel descend from the heavens and declare that Taika Waititi will be writing and directing a Star Wars movie, and it was good. I frickin' adore Taika. What We Do In the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Jojo Rabbit, Thor: Ragnarok (Korg!)... everything the guy touches turns to gold whether he's writing, directing, or acting. As if that's not enough, he just seems like a genuinely smart, talented, funny, interesting, and exceedingly nice person...
We got a taste of Taika in the Star Wars universe when he directed an episode of The Mandelorian (and provided the voice of IG-11). Now he's bringing us more Thor (Thor: Love & Thunder), a new Flash Gordon, a new Time Bandits, plus a new Star Wars. Naturally, I couldn't possibly be more thrilled that he's working on projects I desperately want to see.
• Swoop! I love stories like this...
Birds are awesome.
• BMO! I had no plans... none to invest any more money in television. Especially HBO Max, which has nothing to offer me. Well... almost nothing...
BMO is one of the best parts of Adventure Time and I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to see where they take the character.
• PATATJES MET! I found this article on A Global Taxonomy of French Fry Dips to be especially enlightening. I, of course, choose fries with Dutch mayo. It's the only way to fry.
• Wood! Watching Netflix's Hollywood left me mildly entertained, but I can't stop thinking that they're trying to do a good thing badly while missing a bigger opportunity. Revisionist history is a fine line to walk. You either go for broke, rip up the rulebook, and grab your reimagining of history unapologetically by the throat... or you float through history making random changes that are all rainbows and cotton candy but ultimately don't mean anything to anybody but you. Quentin Tarantino *IS* revisionist history cinema, and Inglourious Basterds is a genius-level event of just how powerful a tool it can be. Ryan Murphy's Hollywood is just whispy fluff in a genre wrapper that "what-ifs" real events to mild effect. The final episode is just ridiculous with its pie-in-the-sky over-the-top goofiness. THAT BEING SAID... holy cats is Jim Parsons good in this thing! His character is a predatory monster which perfectly illustrates how power in the wrong hands can lead to a nightmare of a human being. I am guessing his take on Rock Hudson's manager is based on a real person who did these horrible things, and that's a really scary thought...
Good on you, Mr. Parsons. I'm excited to see where you take your post-Big Bang Theory career next.
• Advice! I generally roll my eyes at all these "lists of life advice" that make the rounds of the internet a couple times a year. But this one, titled 68 Bits of Unsolicited Advice is pretty great and some of them (such as "A vacation + a disaster = an adventure" are exceptional. Well worth a read.
• Monk! Okay... this is pretty cool. I kept hoping and hoping that we'd get a Monk movie or two so we could see what he was up to now...
And now I just want a Monk movie even more than I did.
• Remember! And, lastly, just read this. There are some remarkable people doing wonderful things in the middle of our current crisis. They should be recognized and appreciated.
And that's a wrap on Bullet Sunday. At least for today.
Posted on Monday, May 11th, 2020
I finally watched First Lady Michele Obama's Becoming on Netflix.
Love her or don't love her, there's no denying that she's a fascinating person...
I really enjoyed the show (and her book) even though I've not always been a fan. Some of the things she's been party to I've vehemently disagreed with, as I think they've been an attempt to do a good thing badly. Take, for example the new "Nutrition Facts" label. It's meant to help people eat healthier. But ultimately it's just another expense and hardship for small business food manufacturers who have to invest a rather large chunk of money into something which is ultimately not worth it.
The calories font is bigger. How does that help? They tweaked a few values. How does that help? People who want to eat unhealthy foods already know that they are eating unhealthy foods, and they're not going to change their mind because the calories font is bigger. Stuff like this is what Democrat detractors can point to and, with good reason, say that they make things harder on American businesses.
But then she also worked very hard to get kids healthier meals in school and a bunch of other wonderful things, so you gotta have perspective. In the end I can say that, if nothing else, I believe that Michele Obama was a patriot who honestly thought that she was doing what's best for the people she served. Can't say that about too many political figures.
Posted on Tuesday, May 12th, 2020
I've finally reached my potato salad nirvana.
It's been a long road to get here. I've experimented with dozens of recipes and married that to the way my mom and grandma used to make it. My biggest breakthrough occurred when I didn't have any eggs so I decided to add small cubes of Dubliner Cheese as a substitute.
It was sublime.
Hard boiled eggs are squidgy and don't add any flavor that isn't already well-represented by the mayo. They also add a stink to the salad that's a bit off-putting.
This is my current recipe, and I think I'm done now because it's exactly where I want it to be and I've reproduced it a half-dozen times now...
Mix above together and put in refrigerator to chill. Cook 1 package of Simply Potatoes dices in a mesh basket in an Instant Pot with 1-1/4 cup of water for 6 minutes, then quick-release. Put potatoes in the refrigerator to cool for 10-15 minutes. Fold potatoes into dressing mixture, then chill for 20 minutes or more before serving (I usually can't wait and end up eating it while still a bit warm, and it's delicious). Garnish with paprika (or, if you have it, smoked paprika) and chopped fresh dill or green onions sliced thin. Because I can't help myself I always add more little cubes of Dubliner on top. Sometimes I like crushed potato chips on top too!
After refrigeration, the potatoes soak up a bit of the mayo and sour cream so things can get a little dry, I just stir in a tablespoon of mayo and everything is good again!
Posted on Wednesday, May 13th, 2020
Every year I do a little more to make my home my own. I figure I might as well because, more likely than not, it won't be my home forever.
Most of the things I do are on the inside. That's where I live. That's what I see the most. That's where my experience is. I didn't have to do much on the outside because the woman who lived here before me did a really lovely job so I left as much of it alone as I could. The only thing I really had to do... and do most reluctantly... was tear things out. Because of my travel schedule, I am not always home to water and weed and take care of the things that require that kind of time and attention.
The first thing to go were the flowers out front, most of which were in planters that had to be manually watered. I wasn't here to do it and so they died. When I planned out what would replace them, I had two things in mind...
And so I wanted two flower beds. A large one where most of the drip-lines were, and a second smaller bed on the corner where there was less water available.
The large flower bed I created back in 2018...
My mom died twenty days after I completed it. I couldn't find the motivation to care about flowers after that.
Nearly two years later, and I finally decided to finish what I started...
It's hard work for an old guy like me... shoveling rock and digging up dirt! Especially when my job is to sit at a computer all day.
It turned out okay though...
It will take a week or two of watering before I can tap the border bricks level and get them positioned correctly.
The purple thing in the back is supposed to get three feet tall, and so I tried to give it a little more space to grow. You can't tell from this photo because the lens is distorting things, but the rock border is equal in the front and the sides.
And so... I am done with flowers for the year.
Well, mostly done with flowers for the year. There are two of the plants that don't look to be surviving their relocation, so I'll probably have to replace them.
One of my favorite tech vloggers is Marques Brownlee. He has a clarity of focus and some really good insights which he presents flawlessly. In a time where there is just so much video out there, I regularly make the time to watch Brownlee's videos twice. Like this video on Apple's $700 wheels, which I just watched again before adding it here...
The more I delve into theories as to how Apple works, the more I can't help but appreciate how genius they are. Look at all the press and exposure they're getting... OVER WHEELS!
Posted on Thursday, May 14th, 2020
I don't know which I detest more... Kool-Aid Drinking Conservatives or Kool-Aid Drinking Liberals. At least with Kool-Aid Drinking Conservatives they can usually point to That One Thing which makes them a Kool-Aid Drinking Conservative. Let's pick abortion as an example. They are against abortion, everything else is secondary, so they live and die for their Republican candidates and the GOP no matter how big of a stupid Republican asshole ends up in office. Mitch McConnell has built his entire existence as a career politician relying on exactly this kind of idiocy. He can literally do no wrong and get away with as much hypocritical fucked up bullshit as he wants because his base will support him and believe him no matter what he does or how obviously he lies.
Whether it's abortion, guns, lower taxes, or the right of Christians to persecute people they don't like, Conservatives know exactly which hot-button issues sends them to the voting booth over and over again. And that's regardless of all the other issues Conservatives saddle them with that are against their best interest. There's always That One Thing which keeps them loyal. "Sure I can't afford health care, the water is poisoned, and I have to work three jobs just to scrape out a living, but at least my local hospital can refuse to treat queers!"
That's fucked up, but I can kinda respect it. I feel the same way about Daylight Saving Time. I fucking hate it, it's fucking stupid, and I am so fucking sick of it that I often joke about voting for whichever candidate promises to get rid of it forever. Asshole politicians come and go, but dicking with the clocks twice a year is (apparently) forever.
But it's not the same for Kool-Aid Drinking Liberals, is it?
Some of them have That One Thing... like a woman's right to choose, perhaps. But most of the liberals I know can't boil it down like that. They can't point to a single issue and say "THAT'S WHY I'M A BLEEDING HEART LIBERAL!" Their reasoning is usually far more complex and esoteric. Ask them and you'll end up with something like "I'm a liberal because I believe in human rights and equality!"... and then they will yammer on for hours to rationalize their blind devotion to the DNC. And I get it. Honestly I do. I usually vote for Democrats now-a-days because even though they are bought and paid for by lobbyists just like Republicans, at least I know that social issues which favor regular people over billion dollar corporations and favor oppressed minorities over religious persecution will (hopefully) be addressed.
I feel you on all of that.
But it's still horribly frustrating for me to understand drinking the DNC Kool-Aid and believing that Democratic politicians are above reproach and can do no wrong.
Take for example, Senior Senator Patty Murray from my home state of Washington.
Public domain photo provided by the United States Congress
I fucking despise her.
Well, I should clarify... I despise all politicians, but I really despise Senator Patty Murray.
I've disagreed with her on several matters. But my true loathing started after she voted against affordable drug re-importation from Canada. She offered up all kinds of fucking bullshit to excuse her stance... like questioning the "safety" of allowing drugs coming from Canada... but it was all crap. I mean, where are all the news stories of Canadians dying by the thousands due to bad drugs? You won't find them. What you will find is hundreds of stories of thousands of Americans who can't afford critical drugs and have to go without, damaging their health and ending their lives. No, the real reason that Patty Murray voted against drug re-importation was because she takes piles of money from Big Pharma and has a vested interest in protecting their profits.
Just like all the other politicians, Senator Murray has her price, and is willing to sell out herself and the State of Washington to anybody who will pay it.
And Democrats don't fucking care.
I've heard all the excuses, but this is my favorite: "She's a senior politicians with lots of power in the Senate! We can't lose Patty Murray because then Washington State will lose the power that we get from having her entrenched in office! We need her fighting for us!" To which I can only respond "What good is all that power if she uses it against us from time to time? Shouldn't we vote in a politician who won't sell us out for lobbyist cash?" But then Democrats just take another sip of the Kool-Aid and smile. They don't care. "Vote Blue No Matter Who isn't just a catchy slogan, it's a way of life. But why can't it be a different blue than Patty Murray?
And that brings us to good ol' Mitch McConnell and his love of taking a shit on The Constitution. Yesterday the US Senate voted to allow the feds to grab your online history with NO WARRANT and NO DUE PROCESS. They can essentially spy on you online with absolutely no oversight whatsoever.
Now, don't get me wrong here... I fully support our government agencies doing what they can to fight terrorism and keep us safe. And they should absolutely be given the tools to do that. No question there at all. But to have such sweeping power without oversight? To be able to intrude on our personal lives without cause or due process? Who the fuck supports that? Who the fuck thinks this is enforcing our right to privacy and freedom?
Senators Ron Wyden (Democrat, Oregon) and Steve Daines (Republican, Montana) asked this same question and came up with the same answer I did. We absolutely don't support warrantless intrusions on American citizen lives. And they drafted an amendment to prevent it from happening. 59 out of 100 senators agreed with them and voted to support it. But because you need a 60 vote majority to pass anything, the legislation failed.
Four senators... Patty Murray (Democrat, Washington), Bernie Sanders (Democrat, Vermont), Lamar Alexander (Republican, Tennessee), and Ben Sasse (Republican, Nebraska) didn't bother to vote. Had Patty Murray showed up to do her fucking job... the job we fucking pay her to do... the amendment would have passed.
Or maybe it wouldn't. Maybe the behind-the-scenes manipulations that go on in American politics would have still set up the amendment to fail because secretly all our senators want it to fail. And all of this bullshit is just a dog and pony show that endangered politicians can point to when they run for reelection. Who can say? All I know is that worthless piece of shit Senator Patty Murray who represents me didn't bother to go on record saying that invasions of our privacy should have oversight and warrantless invasions of American lives should not stand.
Which is why the cynic in me is thinking "God only knows what skeletons the FBI dug out of Patty Murray's closet to make her sit out the vote like this."
As you might have guessed, I am fucking livid.
Because as more and more of our lives is digitized and put online, we lose more and more control over what we choose to share of ourselves. Now the feds can LEGALLY perform a search WITHOUT a warrant and WITHOUT due process. They can break into your life on a whim whether you have done anything wrong or not. Your right to online privacy is gone. So what’s next? Senator Patty Murray sits out on a vote for legislation which says we can be dragged off to prison without cause as well?
Fuck that and fuck her.
We need to find somebody new to represent us who is serious about serving the people of Washington and supporting the legislation which preserves our right to privacy. Find somebody who will actually show up to vote on legislation which affects our lives. Find somebody who will actually do their job. That "somebody" sure as hell is not Patty Murray, so let's get her out of office and find somebody new who will show up for us. President Trump is constantly railing against "Do-Nothing Democrats," which is a laughable and provable lie (most of the stuff Democrats are trying to do gets blocked by Mitch McConnell, natch) but it turns out sometimes it's true. And we deserve better.
As I close out this rant on the horrors which pile on the "new normal" for American citizens, I'd like to leave you with this clip from the film The Pelican Brief (copyright Warner Bros. Pictures)... assuming it hasn't been taken down for copyright infringement...
Julia Roberts is right. They are wrong.
UPDATE: The Patriot Act reauthorization bill passed the Senate today in an 80-16 vote. Senator Patty Murray voted "no," but fat good that does us when she fucking knew it was going to pass. And that's awful. But it could have passed with an amendment to prevent warrantless invasion of privacy when it comes to our online lives. Whether this is due to Patty Murray's incompetence or indifference is anybody's guess. All she gives a shit about is that she can point to the Patriot Act and say "I opposed that!" when it's time for her to be reelected. And, while technically true, it's actually a lie. But what else do you expect from a politician?
Posted on Friday, May 15th, 2020
Nobody was more surprised than I was how much I loved the new Star Trek: Discovery series that CBS All Access unleashed on their streaming platform. The first season was beautifully realized, deliciously twisty, and featured some of the best acting to ever appear in Star Trek. It truly felt like something fresh and new, and I was thrilled to experience it (even if I had to pay extra money to see it). I hadn't loved a Star Trek series this much since the original.
The second season was a bit of a disappointment to me. It featured a convoluted time travel narative instead of the shocking turns we got in the first season. Even so, I still found a lot of things to enjoy about it. And by far the biggest thing? We got to see Spock before his tenure under Captain Kirk. It was when he was serving as First Officer to Captain Christopher Pike... which Trek fans know from the fantastic two-part Original Series show: The Menagerie. Pike was wonderfully realized by Anson Mount and Rebecca Romijn turned in a fantastic appearance as Number One.
But it was Ethan Peck as Spock that made me desperately want to see more of their adventures aboard The Enterprise...
Courtesy of ViacomCBS and CBS All Access Television
And today we got the news that we actually will be seeing more of them...
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds will pick up with the crew where their appearance on Star Trek: Discovery left off.
And so... a great time to be a Star Trek fan. We've got a third season of Discovery on the way... along with the Michelle Yeoh spin-off Star Trek: Section 31. And if that wasn't enough, the intriguing Star Trek: Picard has been renewed for a second season and we're getting a new animated show called Star Trek: Below Decks. And now Strange New Worlds too!
I dunno about you, but I'm thrilled to be getting some good news for once.
I think we're due.
UPDATE: And, just like that, we're back to the Twilight Zone as President Trump's "Space Force" unveiled its new flag...
I mean, it's not my imagination... that's the Starfleet logo on the Space Force flag, right?
Bad enough this country is going into even bigger debt over something so stupid... but to steal the logo from Star Trek? The insanity of it all makes my head hurt.
Posted on Saturday, May 16th, 2020
My cats have never really responded to catnip regardless of how many times I try. When they were kittens I would buy catnip toys and sprinkle it on scratching posts to entice them, but it never really did anything. Eventually I just gave up. They were happy to scratch on their posts without it (thus saving my furniture) so why bother?
The last thing I bought them were a few toys filled with Maine Organic Catnip. They would chew on them and toss them around, but it didn't seem the catnip was doing its thing.
Then this past week somebody was singing the praises of "From The Field" catnip, so I thought I would give the 'nip one last shot. When it arrived I could smell it through the bag. Heck, I could smell it through the shipment packaging!
I sprinkled it on Jake's favorite toys... Mufasa the lion and Moose the mule... plus the Maine lobster roll that already had catnip in it. He rolled around on them for a bit, but then he wandered off...
Jenny wasn't interested at all.
And so... I guess my cats just aren't genetically disposed to catnip then. I read that can happen. Oh well. At least now I know for sure. Because if they weren't going to respond to this skunk, nothing will do it.
I tossed the bag on the kitchen counter, fed us all dinner, then plopped myself down in front of the television and started working.
TELL ME. TELL ME THAT NOBODY SAW THIS COMING!
So there I am working away when I hear the cats in the kitchen goofing off. I worry that they've gotten into the garbage. But nope! THEY GOT INTO THE CATNIP! Hopped on the counter where they knocked it to the floor, then put a bunch of teethmarks in the bag before slicing an opening and getting it all over the kitchen floor. THEN they decided to roll around in it, fight in it, and go nuts in it. And then there's Jenny picking up Mufasa and throwing him at Jake at the 1-minute mark. So apparently I was making a bad assumption that they were not affected by the stuff. Because clearly...
And so I guess I just wasn't using enough of the stuff or something? The good news is that now I can throw them a 'nip party from time to time.
It's legal to get high in Washington State now, after all.
Posted on Sunday, May 17th, 2020
The weather is finally warming up, but the hottest place to be is right here... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• More Brothers! One of my favorite films to pop up in my foreign film binges is Kardeşim Benim, a really charming and funny Turkish film about two estranged brothers on a road trip after their father dies. A subtitled version is available on Amazon Prime streaming and for sale on iTunes...
I loved it and was happy to see that they made a sequel. Alas, Kardeşim Benim 2 was not available anywhere... even without subtitles... and all I could find was a trailer, which looked every bit as good as the first movie...
Fast forward to this past week and I saw that Amazon Prime Streaming finally had the sequel available to watch... with subtitles! It was darn good, and I enjoyed it just as much as the first film. It was a bit confusing, however, because the female lead from the first one has mysteriously disappeared. I was left scratching my head while thining "Wait... what happened to Zeynep?!? Who is Didem and where did she come from? Hakan is marrying her? Did I miss Kardesim Benim 1-1/2?!?" Still, well worth a look, especially if you saw the first one.
• Mow Your Tuna! I love languages and have studied more than a few of them. The only language I ever felt fluent enough to hold a conversation in was Japanese, which has long-since escaped my memory. Languages I studied just enough to blunder my way through when traveling have been Swedish, Thai, Portuguese, and Italian. The first language I studied was German and I studied Spanish in high school. Neither stuck. I did attempt learning French before my second trip to the country. It did not go well. Which is why I had a good laugh over this...
Now, I am the first to admit that English is no better. There are loads of homophones that make zero sense and can easily confuse anybody attempting to learn the language. But when it's the language you grow up with, it just makes sense.
• Casting! QUEEN LATIFAH AS THE EQUALIZER?!?!? SIGN ME UP, PLEASE! I am absolutely fascinated at how a show like that might work. I am so happy to have some really different television to look forward to and this fits the bill nicely.
• Electoral Math! "Democrats and losing elections is like Princess Peach and getting kidnapped by a lizard. At a certain point it starts to seem like y'all like this shit." — Oh... here we go... a total breakdown of how politics work where I live and how Democrats are 100% fucking it up. AGAIN...
He's not wrong. About any of it.
• Mo Betty! NEWSFLASH: Betty White to star in new Lifetime holiday film at 98 years old. — Squeeeeee!
• Magic! As we remain locked down in quarantine, I've been incredibly impressed with how much Disney has been doing to distract us from it all. On their blogs they've been releasing a slew of amazing recipes for some of their most popular dishes and desserts at their parks. As if that wasn't enough, theyve been posting videos to their YouTube channel of all kinds of things... from fireworks displays to attraction ride-throughs, like their latest and greatest: Rise of the Resistance...
• Hugs! And because I want to end today on a happy note, here's a video of people hugging animals hugging people...
Doesn't get much sweeter than that.
And that's all the bullets we have for today.
Posted on Monday, May 18th, 2020
This past weekend was about as unproductive a weekend as I've had in a very long time. I didn't do much of anything. I think the long weeks of not being able to hang out with friends or, you know, enjoy life, are starting to get to me.
What also gets to me? Going to watch The Abyss and finding that my DVD will no longer play despite still being in flawless condition. The good news is that HBO has it playing, so I was able to watch it after all. The bad news is that I was sent into a total panic at the thought of my massive DVD and Blu-Ray collection deteriorating into unplayability.
I've re-purchased or converted or as much of my collection as possible into digital. But so many things... so many, many, things aren't available digitally. Some movies (like The Abyss and True Lies) inexplicably never made it past DVD. So if you want to own them, that's all you got. As for television shows? Forget about it. Can't be converted, and a huge number of them not only never made it past DVD... but they are out of print and unavailable.
If my old television DVDs become unplayable, then that's all she wrote.
And so I've taken a dip into the quasi-legal arena of backing up my irreplaceable DVDs with digital copies. I say "quasi-legal" because technically breaking the DVD encryption is legally discouraged. But what the fuck else can I do? I can't buy them digitally. All I can do is buy yet another DVD copy that's likely just as old and deteriorating as the one I already own because it's gone out of print.
Like one of my favorite shows, Kitchen Confidential.
I can't believe that the show was canceled after 4 episodes. All 13 that they filmed were dementedly hilarious and featured a stellar cast (including Bradley Cooper, John Cho, and Frank Langella). It's a total bargain at $15 on DVD, but if the DVDs are becoming unplayable, it's a waste of $15.
And so I've ripped digital backups of DVDs I already own because it's all I can do to preserve what I purchased. And if FOX eventually comes to their senses and releases it digitally? Of course I'll re-buy it. I love the show and want to support everybody who worked on it.
Even if I am a bit bitter about supporting the studio which canceled it.
And speaking of bitter...
Like they always say... if you can't stand the heat, don't go into the volcano.
Posted on Tuesday, May 19th, 2020
This morning I had to stay home from work so the pest control guy could do his annual spraying around the condos... and so a delivery could be made... and so friends could drop off a chair they had borrowed back in February. And I mean literally drop off, because they waved and drove away after leaving it in my driveway so we could maintain proper social distancing.
They would have returned it much earlier but... well... you know... pandemic and all that.
Usually I would have invited them in for a chat.
Then again, usually they would not be returning furniture on a Tuesday morning because they would be at their respective jobs.
Then again-again, usually I would have invited them over for beers and dinner when they returned the chair after work or on a weekend.
But we are living in unusual times in an unusual situation, so I spent my morning cleaning my kitchen and talking to my cats while I waited.
Or at least what passes for "usual" now-a-days.
Posted on Wednesday, May 20th, 2020
The latest meme making its way around social media is people sharing photos from their "last day of normal." I don't even know what that means, but I do know the last day that I did something normal with my friends before lockdown was when we all got memorial tattoos on February 28th.
But things in my life were far from normal, even back then.
My volunteer work had been shut down 11 days earlier. Usually by late May I'd have already taken anywhere from four to six trips for that. This year I haven't been anywhere. The last time I traveled was December 26th. I have no idea when I'll travel next.
Given I have no idea when my normalcy went away, I try to create it by slipping into comfort meals I like. Up near the top of that list is heating up a bag of Uncle Ben's Ready Rice Whole Grain Medley, toss in a handful of almonds, and call it dinner. When I was at the store last month, I was sure to grab a couple bags.
Then tonight when I finally cooked it I noticed that it looked funny. It smelled funny. It tasted funny.
I dug the garbage to see if I purchased expired rice only to find that it wasn't what I usually buy... my local grocer replaced the "Whole Grain Medley" I get (which was apparently subtitled "Brown and Wild") with a new blend that's "Quinoa & Brown with Garlic." I didn't notice because the packaging had been changed...
So much for my comfort food. This is not comforting at all. QUINOA ISN'T EVEN A FUCKING RICE!
AND ON CARB APPRECIATION DAY, NO LESS!
I might have been able to overlook gross quinoa if it actually had garlic as advertised, but the garlic was barely there. Uncle Ben's? More like Uncle Bullshit! They even got rid of the guy's awesome bow tie on the package!
Just one more sign that things will never go back to normal again.
Posted on Thursday, May 21st, 2020
The Empire Strikes Back is one of the greatest movies of all time. Easily the best film of the entire Star Wars franchise. It's an epic sci-fi adventure story that doesn't pander or self-sabotage with kiddie shit like we would get out of Return of the Jedi and the awful prequel trilogy. We wouldn't see anything like it in the Star Wars Universe again until Rogue One and The Mandalorian.
And today is the 40th anniversary of Empire hitting theaters...
So naturally I had to watch it for the hundredth time.
As if I need an excuse.
The difference being that I watched the original film and not the "Special Edition." Sure the re-release is prettier and the effects are more polished, but it has some idiotic changes that are beyond bad. Greedo shooting first... that hilariously clumsy and inexplicably redundant scene with Jabba (didn't we just go through this conversation with Greedo?)... they're jarring in the worst possible way. What would be great if we could just get the original movie with the updated effects, which is all you really need.
Obviously, The Empire Strikes Back totally holds up despite being 40(!) years old.
After viewing the film I ran to my bookshelf to grab the epic The Making of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back book by J.W. Rinzler...
If you haven't already read it, the book is well worth tracking down.
I wanted to re-read the movie novelization, but my copy has long-since fallen apart from use. It's a shame, because it adds some depth to already memorable scenes. Like when Lando is walking Han and Leia to dinner, the door opens up, and Darth Vader is there. In the novel they talk about how Han draws his blaster fast... maybe the fastest he's ever drawn it... which is a cool detail that you can't get from the movie. I'm pretty sure that I have the comic book adaptation somewhere, but that would take more digging than I'm prepared to do.
Oddly enough, watching The Empire Strikes Back doesn't make me want to forge onward with The Return of the Jedi, but it does make me want to watch Solo: A Star Wars Story. The movie was severely underrated, and Donald Glover's take on Lando Calrissian is pretty great.
So I guess I've got the rest of my evening planned out then.
Posted on Friday, May 22nd, 2020
My house is a total disaster. Which leads me to believe that the only reason I've been keeping everything obsessively clean all these years is because I had people dropping by and regular houseguests staying with me. Now that there's nobody here but me and the cats, I just don't bother. And it's getting completely out of hand.
This morning I noticed a smell coming from the dishes piled in the sink and finally decided to (begrudgingly) do something about it. Then I looked over at my pile of dirty clothes and decided to do something about that too. But that's as far as I managed to get before running out of motivation. Again.
It's all psychological of course, and that's something I've been trying to get sorted. Mostly it comes down to acknowledging that I took a great many things in life for granted.
I never really thought of myself as a social person, but apparently I'm far more social than I realized. Now that I can't just hop in my car and go visit my friends. It makes my world feel very, very small. Which is ironic considering the entire world is literally at my fingertips every time I open my computer.
That's not the same though, is it?
I've decided to keep my grocery store visits to once a month. I live in an area where masks are considered "a violation of American freedom" and people are overtly assholish towards you when you wear one. Never mind that it's for their protection in case I've been exposed... I still catch crap for looking out for others. And the fact that they can't extend the same courtesy to me is disheartening, to say the least. Apparently they've bought into all the idiotic nonsense about "masks cause carbon dioxide build-up that will kill you" and "Bill Gates wants to insert microchips in everybody" and whatever else wing-nut anti-science propaganda bullshit is out there being force-fed into social media. Guess it's more fun to believe the stupid shit than the simple reality of it all.
Not that I wouldn't rather skip out on reality, mind you.
I try to do exactly that every chance I get.
This month it's by watching movies from Central and South America that have been piling up on my watchlist. One of the better ones I've seen is a movie from Venezuela called Azul y no tan rosa (which translates to My Straight Son)...
I very nearly stopped watching because there's a horrific violent scene in the beginning that I really didn't need right now. The world is depressing enough. But man am I happy I kept watching. What a fantastic movie. Highest possible recommendation if you're looking for a sweet film to hunker down with over your Quarantine Memorial Day Weekend.
When I needed a break from subtitles, I happened upon an interesting art-house sci-fi film run amok called Infinity Chamber...
I avoided it for the longest time because there were some bad reviews and people were saying that the acting was amateur. This was bizarre to me because I thought Christopher Soren Kelly, upon whose talents the entire movie hinges, was fantastic. Sure the movie went on too long and the ending was a bit meh, but I liked it well enough.
Beats cleaning my house, that's for sure.
Posted on Saturday, May 23rd, 2020
The Mufasa paranoia continues.
Poor Jake is still dragging his favorite toy everywhere for fear that Jenny will hide it if he lets it out of his sight.
The bad news is that half the time he'll get distracted and leave Mufasa unattended. The good news is that Jenny seems to be over it. For whatever reason she isn't hiding the stuffed lion any more. Whenever Jake is wandering the house crying because he can't find it, I'll see it in some totally obvious place. Like sitting on the stairs...
Which is where he will often drop it on his way up or down...
Jenny is far more clever than that. If she wanted to hide it, she wouldn't be leaving Mufasa on the stairs.
But Jake still thinks that she's taking it, and will freak out when Mufasa is missing and Jenny is available to blame. Here he is waiting for her to come downstairs so he can force her to tell him where Mufasa is, even though he was the one who dragged it upstairs just a half-hour earlier...
Note that poor Jenny is all WTF?!?
Which, as you can imagine, is her default state with a brother like Jake.
Posted on Sunday, May 24th, 2020
You may be stuck in the house, but you won't be lacking for televised entertainment... because a very special Streaming Video Edition of Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Big Eden! For better or worse, small-town rural America has been saddled with a shiny veneer of down-home values and a sense of strong community. And, having lived that my entire life, it feels an accurate way of looking at things. But this image kind of glosses over the general bigotry and specific homophobia that seems to permeate it all. Big Eden is a movie which shows what happens if it didn't permeate it all...
This is such a warm, charming, and wonderful movie. I don't want to spoil a thing, but suffice to say that it's flawlessly realized cinema. After finishing it, I had to watch it all over again because there are dozens of tiny moments happening in the backgrounds by actors performing at the top of their game. This won a slew of LGBTQ awards, but I'd hardly call it a "gay movie." It's just a movie about a place that you wish existed.
• The Ultimate Gift! I had ZERO expectations for yet another "spoiled rich brat loses his fortune and turns his life around" movie... but The Ultimate Gift was a really good take on the genre...
James Garner is a multi-billionaire with a truly horrible family. This includes a spoiled grandson who spends money like it was water and hasn't worked a day in his life. Everybody gets short-changed in the will when James Garner dies, but the grandson is given a second chance at an inheritance. All he has to do is complete a series of challenges which will win him gifts... ending with "The Ultimate Gift" after all the challenges have been met. But the challenges are not easy and are designed to push him into being a better person. Yes, there are some over-the-top moments to create artificial angst and drama but, overall, I walked away really enjoying this one.
• Hide Away! (Josh Lucas, James Cromwell • 2012) — This movie has polarizing reviews. Some people hated it. Some people loved it. I absolutely loved it. Josh Lucas shows up at a small coastal town and buys a beat up old sailboat to refurbish. The entire movie is a metaphor for rebuilding your life after tragedy, and has been filmed beautifully. I mean really beautifully...
Some of the reviews were screaming "NOTHING HAPPENED IN 85 MINUTES OF RUN-TIME... NOTHING!!!" To which I can only respond "Maybe everything happened and you just weren't paying attention?" The movie 100% relies on Josh Lucas selling it, and he does not falter. From beginning to end, his nuanced performance and commitment to the story were pretty incredible. The ending takes a little thought to process, but was well-handled, I think.
• Kid Brother! This was one of those films where I pretty much had to trust Amazon's recommendation because I would have never given it a second look had I just seen the poster on the Prime Streaming page. A reclusive janitor's life takes a very different turn when his kid brother comes to stay with him...
Do not let the trailer fool you, there is some really good subtle humor and great performances. Where did Alan Longstreet come from and why hasn't he been in like A HUNDRED MOVIES by now? Clever, charming, and some real heart, Kid Brother is worth a look.
• The Lovebirds! Amazon doesn't have an exclusive on enjoyable movies. Netflix just dropped The Lovebirds, starring Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjani. I'm big fans of both, so I was planning on tuning in even if it looks kinda slapsticky and goofy...
And, don't get me wrong, it's absolutely slapsticky and goofy... but it's not without its charms, and I thought Nanjani and Rae did an incredible job of selling it. When all is said and done, it's a cute, sweet film that manages to overcome its weaknesses. It also take place in New Orleans, which is a definite plus.
• Mythic Quest: Quarantine! And, lastly, a lot of television shows are doing "quarantine" episodes or finding other imaginative ways to carry on. Late-night talk shows are thriving in the age of COVID-19. But none of them... none of them... can compare to the sheer brilliance that they came up with for an all new episode of Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet...
The trailer shows none of the ingenuity which makes the episode so bloody brilliant, which is actually pretty great because it doesn't spoil anything... including an amazing finale. I really enjoyed the first season of the show from Apple+... this is just icing on the cake.
And that's all the movie bullets I got. Stay safe, everybody.