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.