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Peanut Butter Pastime

Posted on Wednesday, April 1st, 2020

Dave!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...

Kill Bill Volume 1 Movie Poster with Uma Thurman

Kill Bill Volume 2 Movie Poster with Uma Thurman

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.

   

Staycation Day Cleaning

Posted on Thursday, April 2nd, 2020

Dave!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...

Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof Movie Poster

Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof Movie Poster

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.

   

Martha’s Box of Delights and Me

Posted on Friday, April 3rd, 2020

Dave!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%

My dinner. It's a shallow cassorole dish with cream sauce ad vegetables with dumplings on top.

These soup and stew recpes are great to pack up for taking to work for my lunch...

The Vegetable Pot Pie put into Pyrex dishes so I can take it to work for 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%

My dinner. It's a plate with cannelloni on it.

My dinner. It's a plate with cannelloni on it.

   
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%

My dinner. It's a plate with cannelloni on it.

   
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%

My dinner. It's a skillet with tortelloni in it.

Plated with the green beans.

   
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%

My dinner. It's a plate with my amazing quesadillas on it.

   
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%

My dinner. It's a pan with my yummy pinwheels on it.

The pinwheels plated with the sauce on top.

   
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%

My dinner. It's a plate with my veggie quesadillas on it.

   
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%

My dinner. It's a bowl of black bean soup with sour cream and chives pluse a cheddar biscuit.

   
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.

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Caturday 154

Posted on Saturday, April 4th, 2020

Dave!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...

Jenny making a mess with cat food being splattered everywhere.

That was after last night's dinner. This was after this morning's breakfast...

The mess Jenny made with cat food being splattered everywhere.

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...

Jake and Jenny snuggling in a cat bed.

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...

Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained Movie Poster.

Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained Movie Poster.

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.

   

Bullet Sunday 656

Posted on Sunday, April 5th, 2020

Dave!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.

   

Definition of Market

Posted on Monday, April 6th, 2020

Dave! 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.

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No Schitt!

Posted on Tuesday, April 7th, 2020

Dave!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...

Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs Movie Poster.

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.

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Playing with the Band for $25

Posted on Wednesday, April 8th, 2020

Dave!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...

Fake Jake cuddled up on the heating pad in his kitty igloo sleeping with a smile on his face.

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...

My Wyze Band on my wrist looking all black and stylish.

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...

My Wyze Band showing Alexa integration. I asked it WHAT IS THE CAPITAL OF PARAGUAY and it answered with THE CAPITAL OF PARAGUARY IS ASUNCIÓN.

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.

My Wyze Band showing my heart rate data... currently 91bpm, average 97bpm.

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...

My iPhone screen showing the absurdly stupid visual interface for the Wyze Band.

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.

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I EXECUTE JUDGEMENT ON YOU, COVID-19!

Posted on Thursday, April 9th, 2020

Dave!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.

Unless...

Well I guess that's all she wrote for the Coronavirus!

And it's about time. I really want some of those cookies.

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It’s Raining Men

Posted on Friday, April 10th, 2020

Dave!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...

   

Caturday 155

Posted on Saturday, April 11th, 2020

Dave!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.

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Bullet Sunday 657

Posted on Sunday, April 12th, 2020

Dave!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)...

My character in Animal Crossing wearing a pretty Spring dress and matching hat with army boots looking in dismay at a bridge that doesn't match up to a road and will have to be moved.

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!

Military service dog stamps rendered in a cool graphical style... a stamp with a German Sheperd is featured.

So go buy stamps!

   
• 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...

A plate of amazing-looking nachos sitting in front of a Long Island ice tea.

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!

   

All Hail Davelandia!

Posted on Monday, April 13th, 2020

Dave!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...

My Animal Crossing Island Map.

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)...

My Animal Crossing Island Map.

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.

   

A Matter of Scale at $20

Posted on Tuesday, April 14th, 2020

Dave!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...

My Animal Crossing Island Map.

And why did I part with $20 for something I haven't historically had much use for?

Two reasons...

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...

My iPhone screen showing the absurdly stupid visual interface for the Wyze Scale.

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...

A HUGE blank white screen with a single number for my Muscle Mass floating in the middle... and the text truncated with a 'See More' Link.

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!

A HUGE blank white screen with a single number for my Muscle Mass floating in the middle... and the rest of the text that was cut off, which was barely anything.

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.

   

My French Dutch Oven

Posted on Wednesday, April 15th, 2020

Dave!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 rising in a proofing basket.

Bread sitting in a Dutch oven after baking.

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!

   

Your Postal Service Service

Posted on Thursday, April 16th, 2020

Dave!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* (@DingusJMcGee)
   
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.

   

It’s Friday… YET AGAIN!

Posted on Friday, April 17th, 2020

Dave!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?

   

Caturday 156

Posted on Saturday, April 18th, 2020

Dave!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...

Jake sleeping at a weird angle on a fuzzy blanket except you can barely see him because he's the same color as the blanket.

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...

Jenny leaning her head back to get belly rubs.

Seriously, she will meow and fret until you give in.

I always give in.

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Bullet Sunday 658

Posted on Sunday, April 19th, 2020

Dave!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...

Two loaves of delicious bread on a cooling rack.

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.

   
• Terms of Agreement! HOLLYWOODREPORTER.COM: COURT RULES PHOTOGRAPHER GAVE UP EXCLUSIVE LICENSING RIGHTS BY POSTING ON INSTAGRAM. This is categorically absurd. A feature of Instagram is that people can embed and share what you post. Mashable wanted to use the image without embedding the Instagram framing. They offered money. The artist refused the amount of money. So Mashable just used the Instagram framing as it was DESIGNED TO BE USED!! If you don’t want people using your work in ways that social media was designed to be used... THEN DON’T FUCKING POST IT TO SOCIAL MEDIA! Especially a site like Instagram where you have to agree to their terms specifically allowing this kind of thing when you sign up for an account. Put your work on a PRIVATE SITE and EXPLICITLY STATE the terms of use (or lack of use) where you are sharing it. This is not rocket science. Nobody should be shocked or surprised as to what can happen when you post your work to social media. THIS IS WHY THEY CALL IT "SOCIAL MEDIA!"

   
• 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...

A person with white gloves turning the page of a massively thick volume of color pages in the RGB Color Atlas.
Image attributed to Brittany Schall

Two of the three volumes of the RGB Color Atlas.
Photo by Vegard Kleven

You can read about the RGB Colorspace Atlas over at Colossal. You can see the work over at artist Tauba Auerbach's site.

   
• '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...

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.

   

‘Dillas on A Monday Evening of the Apocalypse

Posted on Monday, April 20th, 2020

Dave!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...

Two baked refried bean quesadillas topped with cheese, crema, cilantro, and green onions.

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.

   

Martha, Marley, Me, and Episodes

Posted on Tuesday, April 21st, 2020

Dave!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!

Bean & Cheese Taquitos with Tomatillo Salsa & Sour Cream

   
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.

Risotto Primavera with Asparagus, Leeks & Peas.

   
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.

Coconut-Peanut Rice Noodles with Blistered Zucchini & Green Beans.

   
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.

Fresh Fettuccine Alfredo in a Hurry with Baby Kale Salad.

Baby Kale Salad WITHOUT greasy oil on it.

And I guess that's the end of that.

   

Underwear Multitasking

Posted on Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020

Dave!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.

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iPad 2020

Posted on Thursday, April 23rd, 2020

Dave!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!

Apple's beautiful new iPad Pro 12.9-inch tablet.

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.

Apple's beautiful new iPad Pro 12.9-inch tablet.

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)...

Apple's beautiful new iPad Pro 12.9-inch tablet.

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...

Photoshop running from my MacBook Pro on my iPad screen... it's a photo of Jake the Cat with a mustache drawn on him illustrating the pressure sensitivity.

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 PaperLike 2.0 screen protector which is supposed to feel more like drawing on paper. We shall see. The brightness and color is spectacular, so I am hopeful that the protector won't diminish that any. Apple says that there's a fantastic anti-glare coating on the display, but it looks to have the exact same reflectivity of my old one, so I'm hopeful the PaperLike will help with that too.

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...

=sigh=

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.

And so...

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.

   

Magic Keyboard 2020

Posted on Friday, April 24th, 2020

Dave!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?

But then...

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.

But then...

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...

Apple's new Magic Keyboard with an iPad attached to it... when seen from the side everything is really thin.

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 MacOS X where we would use the mouse or arrow keys to navigate as quickly and easily...

The on-screen emoji keyboard which displays tons of emojis you can scroll through quickly and easily to find what you're looking for.

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 MacOS X as well? It's such a nice idea that I'm sure somebody at Apple has looked at it.

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 USB-C port on the left-side of the hinge for charging (the resulting power then gets to your iPad through the so-called "smart connector" on the back of it). Apparently it doesn't do data. This is nice, I guess, but the real cool thing here is that it frees up the USB-C port on your iPad for other things! Since the iPad can now communicate with so many external devices (like disc drives or a display), having just one port is kinda silly. Since Apple wasn't smart enough to put two ports on the iPad itself, they at least thought to provide an extra via their keyboard. Another bit of good news... the smart connector allows direct communication between the iPad and Keyboard, no Bluetooth required. Alas the Magic Keyboard's USB-C port is a very stiff fit and takes some effort to plug and unplug the power cable into it. Maybe things will loosen up a bit after a while? I hope not too much... just enough to make things a better fit. On my wish list is a new MagSafe connector that's also USB-C compatible (how is this not a thing?) and USB-C ports on both sides of the hinge instead of just one.

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?

And so...

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.

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Caturday 156

Posted on Saturday, April 25th, 2020

Dave!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...

Jake staring at the camera, mid-stare, in the middle of a bath.

And then.. flop...

Jake laying down getting a belly rub.

Sometimes Jake doesn't bother with a bath. He just goes right to sleep... covering his face because I had the lights on...

Jake laying down with his belly exposed, covering his eyes.

When he's out-out and has stopped purring, I always go in for a belly rub...

Jake laying down spread-eagle.

Jake getting a belly rub while sleeping.

You'd think that he'd wake right up. But nope! He was like this for over a half-hour. Like he's stuck..

Jake in the exact same position... spread eagle... not having moved an inch.

Last night I went to bed early and was watching television. Jenny loves watching television with me, so here she came...

Jenny sitting on my bed watching television.

After a few minutes she was totally invested in whatever was on the TV...

Jenny laying down, still watching television.

The fun and games were over when Jake showed up for bed and decided to give her a facial...

Jake licking Jenny's face.

Then, because Jake feels that the bed belongs to him at night, so he chased Jenny off, the little shit-head...

Jake watching television on my bed.

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...

Mufasa, Jakes small plush lion toy, laying in my shower.

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.

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Bullet Sunday 659

Posted on Sunday, April 26th, 2020

Dave!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 3-D video is a pretty great way to look at it...

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.

   

Never Surrender!

Posted on Monday, April 27th, 2020

Dave!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...

Alan Rickman in his alien makeup for Galaxy Quest.

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!

   

Life Amongst the Assholes

Posted on Tuesday, April 28th, 2020

Dave!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.

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Trolls (The Good Kind)

Posted on Wednesday, April 29th, 2020

Dave!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...

DaveToon: Theaters Suck with Phone Glows

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.

Enter COVID-19.

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.

A still frame from Trolls: World Tour showing a mean punk troll with a guitar staring down a cute troll... or something like that... I honestly have no idea who is mean or who is good and honestly don't care.

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.

   

A Different Kind of Surprise

Posted on Thursday, April 30th, 2020

Dave!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.

And yet...

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!

   

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