My drama with my home NAS (Network Attached Storage) is ongoing.
Last December I took money I had saved for a trip with my mom to the fjords of Normway (our next vacation destination after our Africa trip that wasn't to be) and sunk it into a QNAP NAS on which I would store all my photos, music, and other media files. That way I could access them anywhere yet still have them under my control. As I noted in the above link I wasn't terribly happy with the QNAP unit I bought, finding that it provided crap media services that look like shit when connected directly to my television. Instead I had to abandon all the pricey QNAP media extras I paid for and install Plex, a brilliant media organization server app for which I immediately bought a lifetime subscription. It's amazing, and allows my QNAP NAS to do all the things I wanted it to do.
Along with the NAS, I purchased two Western Digital Red 8TB drives to go inside.
Almost immediately after I got everything running, I found out that Western Digital, a company I had loved and patronized faithfully for decades, had started sneaking chaep-ass SMR (Shingled Magnetic Recording) drives into their popular "Red" line of NAS drives. As explained in this video, SMR is a pile of fucking bullshit that should never be used in NAS applications...
Western Digital has been all over the map with responding to customer enquiries. At one point they said that the 8TB drives I bought didn't use SMR, but who knows? They later retracted and said they refuse disclose that information.
Well fuck that, and definitely fuck them. I will never buy another Western Digital product until they start disclosing critical information that people need to know in order to make informed purchasing decisions. Or maybe I will never buy another Western Digital product again even if they do. Right now I hate that fucking company so badly that I don't plan on spending a single dollar more on their crap.
So now that I've saved up a couple hundred bucks to purchase a second set of drives for all my photos, I decided to go with Seagate IronWolf drives since Seagate has categorically denied using SMR in them. Furthermore, Seagate went on to say that they don't recommend SMR for NAS applications and won't saddle their customers with a shitty, inapropriate product. Good enough for me. I will be switching to IronWolf for any future drive purchases... including the one I just made.
It's a strange feeling... being so loyal to a company that you wouldn't even consider using a different brand... then all of a sudden have to switch gears and go with something else because you got shitted on. Same thing happened with Panasonic. I had bought Panasonic gear for years and loved it... until I bought one of their shitty recording DVD players and could never get it to work. They refused to take responsibility, blamed everything on me despite my following along with their step-by-step instructions over six support calls, then said they would only repair it if I paid for shipping both ways. Rather than continue to sink money into a worthless piece of shit, I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. Nothing happened. But I haven't bought a single piece of Panasonic gear since, that's for damn sure.
As word continues to spread about Western Digital's duplicitous behavior and reprehensible response to some serious allegations, I can't help but wonder if they have really screwed themselves. Sure consumer demand might stay steady since home-users won't know... or possibly won't care... that WD is a deceitful company, but IT professionals? Yikes. The pro NAS market is some serious bread and butter to lose en masse.
Oh well. You roll the dice, you take your chances.
But how Western Digital thought people wouldn't notice just boggles the mind. It's as if Coca-Cola switched to New Coke but never bothered to advertise it. They just thought people wouldn't care.
I've made no secret of my love for CGP Grey videos. They are always so beautifully researched... wonderfully animated... fantastically educational... and amazingly entertaining.
But it's the subtle little moments in his videos that slay me.
In his latest double-video installment on pirates (from two different perspectives!) he illustrates pirates loving treasure by having them rub it all over their faces...
And here are the actual videos which are well worth your time to watch. Very cool stuff...
If only I had the time and patience to create such awesomeness.
I've been dealing with the stress of day-to-day life by putting down the computer and blowing through a couple Minecraft Dungeons levels every night. It tends to take my mind off things better than passively watching television. Especially as I up the difficulty, which is a lot of fun. Being able to get through a level that's rated for a higher power-level than you've got is pretty rewarding.
But I am still totally watching a lot of television while I work.
Mostly old television shows that I am enjoying all over again. I just bought a bunch of Monk episodes, and am surprised at how truly great the earlier shows were. I also bought a DVD set for My Boys, which I can't find digitally at all. Such a great show. And then there's L.A. to Vegas, which is so funny. I cannot fathom how it didn't get a second season. I can't imagine anybody not getting a laugh out of it. And having Dermot Mulroney making guest-appearances on the show (which stars Dylan McDermott), remains some of the best guest-casting I've seen. Totally playing on how much confusion there's been between the two over the years...
Saturday Night Live even did a sketch on it once...
L.A. to Vegas: Yet another show, cut down before it got a chance to find an audience.
Oh well. I can watch the one-and-only season every year to enjoy it all over again, so there's that.
I've played Minecraft Dungeons entirely too much. And it's strange. Even my most favorite games didn't result in my playing the levels more than a couple times... but there are levels in Minecraft Dungeons which I've played a dozen times. It's just so wonderfully replayable.
It's all because the game plays entirely differently depending on which weapons you choose and what enchantments are added to those weapons. Play with a super-fast dual-blade set and it's a radically different play than using a slow but lethal hammer. In other dungeon crawlers, you would have to restart the entire game and change your class to do that. Since Minecraft Dungeons doesn't have classes, you're free to change things up on a whim. Likewise, using a multi-fire crossbow makes for a different experience than having a more powerful single-fire bow. Throw in a switch to Adventure Mode or Apocalypse Mode, and the game changes again! Fun stuff.
Sure beats having to listen to the same exact dialogue repeat a hundred times in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. That got really old really fast, and I'm starting to dread playing it. Kinda makes you wonder why Nintendo doesn't offer a way to turn that shit off.
But the best part? Minecraft Dungeons is going to be adding new content... including an island. So even when you're done with it... you're not.
No, this isn't a revolutionary game, but it is definitely a fun one. And the total blast I'm having replaying it? That's pretty much all that matters when it comes to getting your money's worth... and Minecraft Dungeons costs $20 on my Nintendo Switch, which makes it an even bigger bargain.
And now? Back to "Creeper Crypt" for me.
NOTE: I should mention that Minecraft Dungeons has major issues on Switch once you reach higher levels with lots of enemies on the screen. Skipping, stuttering, crashing... it's pretty bad. Apparently even high-end PC's and Xbox have the crashes, so I guess I'll take the slowdown-stuttering if it means I can undock my Switch and take the game with me.
When I was a kid, we'd climb into our big Chevy Blazer each month after payday and head into the nearby Big City for dinner out (hopefully at Pizza Inn, my favorite)... then head to Prairie Market for groceries.
Prairie Market doesn't exist any more (neither does Pizza Inn, at least not here), but it was a discount warehouse grocer from the 60's which was most notable for all the inexpensive generic foods they sold. Black and white boxes. Black and white labels on cans and bottles. Black and white signs on the big bulk food bins. It was nothing like the "generic" foods sold today, which are essentially re-branded in-house store brands, these were generic-generic. And it all came rushing back to me when I removed the sleeve from my tub of Feta Cheese and saw this...
All of a sudden I was 4th grade again.
Just like shopping for groceries today, nothing at Prairie Market had prices on it. But unlike today, where things are rung up by their UPC bar code, at Prairie Market you grabbed a grease pencil and wrote the price on every item. My mom would pick out what she wanted. My dad would write the price on it with his impeccably perfect handwriting, then my brother and I would stack it on the giant slab cart (like you find at Home Depot) before heading to the next item.
It was a really smart way to shop, because the food was just as good as the name-brands you could buy (probably because the name-brand companies manufactured it) but cheaper because every aspect of the experience was done as cheaply as possible. In addition to not paying to price-sticker stuff, they didn't stock anything on the shelves. They just cut the face off the case and threw it on a rack. There were checkers to ring you up, but they had to key-in every item. And they were fast. You bagged your own groceries, of course (in real paper bags, natch).
I don't remember when Prairie Market closed. I think in the late 70's or early 80's maybe? Probably when all the grocery chains started consolidating and developed their own name-brand alternatives. And UPC code scanners came along.
The giant cement building that Prairie Market built is now a toy store-slash-sporting goods store. I shop there once or twice a year, and I'm able to remember exactly how it used to be every time. The ghost of all those generic packages still haunt me.
As do the banana chips.
One hot summer day we ended up buying a big bag of dried bulk banana chips. Then my brother and I ate them all the way back home. In a hot car. For twenty minutes. Not long after we pulled into the driveway I was puking my guts out and everything tasted... and smelled... like bananas to me for days. It was years before I could eat banana chips again. And I still can't eat them alone, even to this day. Only if they're scattered in a trail mix or something. And even then I have unpleasant flashbacks.
If only food prices were as cheap now as they were at Prairie Market back then.
Holy crap are things expensive now. Even when adjusted for inflation, food in 1970's was crazy cheap compared to today. Vegetables for 15¢ to 20¢ a can? I think only meat and dairy are cheaper now (with adjusted pricing) than they used to be... and that's thanks to government subsidies artificially making them cheaper. Without it, I'm sure they'd have massive price tags like everything else.
But, hey, the packaging is prettier, so there's that.
My cats like to sleep. A lot. I understand that this is true of most cats, but mine have raised it to an art form.
Especially Jenny, who doesn't seem to do much else now-a-days. Her sleeping is only interrupted when it's time to eat or poop. Other than that I am allowed to pet her in the mornings still, but her playing and exploring seems to have gone by the wayside. At first I thought she might be sick or something, but I honestly don't think that's the case. She just loves to sleep.
A couple weeks ago I was wiping down the coffee table and stacked to the two kitty beds I keep there on top of each other. When I came back from rinsing out my dustrag, Jenny was sitting on top of both beds (each with a warming pad) and loving it.
Ever since, that's her favorite place to sleep...
Just look at her! Could she be any more relaxed? Laying in that pillow pit with her legs kicked out. Adorable.
And make no mistake, she is out. She used to jump awake every time there was even a slight noise. Now it has to be me slamming a door or, as in the case of this photo, waking her up with a sneeze...
And here's the thing. She was so grumpy from having been waked up that she just stared at me for a long, long time. Eventually she flipped over so she could glare at me from an all new angle...
And even that wasn't good enough. She had to flip again to continue staring at me. She wanted to make very sure that I know what I did and it was wrong of my to sneeze...
OKAY! OKAY! I GET IT, I GET IT!
And it's not just her double kitty bed. Even when she's laying next to me in my own bed while I'm working, I get a dirty look when I have to get up and get ready to go into the office...
As for Jake? For him it's all Mufasa all the time now. He loves that little stuffed lion and carts him around everywhere, even though Jenny seems to have lost interest in stealing it. Lately Jake dropped Mufasa on my bed then ran away. I guess I'm supposed to guard him or something...
Guess Jenny isn't done stealing her brother's favorite toy after all.
Eventually Jake must have seen her with it, because he dragged it back upstairs and fell asleep with it in short order...
I think Jake even recognizes "Mufasa" by name now. Earlier this week he followed me up to bed with Mufasa in his mouth. Hung around for five minutes, then went downstairs... but left his lion with me. Five minutes later and I heard him wailing because he can't find him... so I had to yell down "JAKE! YOU LEFT MUFASA UP HERE! COME AND GET HIM!" And... so he did! Sweet! Didn't have to take Mufasa down to him!
As concerned as I've always been that Jake will tear apart Mufasa and lose his favorite thing in the world, I'm even more concerned lately. He usually just walks around with it, rolls around with it, and carries it places. But lately he's started really ripping into his lion for some reason...
A few days ago he brought Mufasa up and proceeded to bite all over it pretty rough. Especially tearing at the fur on his mane and tail. I only caught the end of his rampage on film when he was done, but it's still pretty scary because Mufasa ain't going to last much longer with this kind of treatment...
I've tried to get Jake hooked on other toys, but to no avail. He was sitting in the middle of the room looking bored, so I fired up his WhirlyBall (a ball with a stem and a feather on it that rotates) and set it down next to him. He just sat there and let the feather repeatedly smack him in the face.
I know how you feel, buddy. I know exactly how you feel.
After letting WhirlyBall dig on his face for a couple minutes, he ran and hid in the cat tree so he could observe it safely...
Of course I felt awful that I had scared him into being a bunker cat. Guess I won't be trying that again. And so I guess it's back to buying every new toy I find until I get something he likes as well as Mufasa.
Which is probably futile, but I have to try.
My thumbs may be numb from too much gaming, but that won't stop me... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Last Week, Every Week! John Oliver doing what John Oliver does best...
I don't pretend to know what the answer is. But something has got to change. The time for people joining the police force so they can legally be violent towards their fellow humans with hyper-militarized hardware is over. Time to get back to the original mission of our officers in blue... to serve and to protect.
• Support Our Troops! For the LAST FUCKING TIME... rubber bullets were NEVER designed to be fired directly at people and never at close range. Especially unarmed, non-threatening people with their arms up. They were designed specifically for times when an officer's life is in imminent danger from an approaching crowd, AND ARE TO BE FIRED AT THE GROUND SO THEY RICOCHET INTO THE CROWD AND DISPERSE THE DANGER!!! The kinetic energy of the projectile must be diffused or else the force of a rubber bullet can be LETHAL...
Cops shot me in the head at the #LosAngelesProtest with rubber bullets while I had my hands up in the air. My brain is now bleeding and getting worse. Keep fighting. pic.twitter.com/3ovzmIlJnd— Iz (@LowkeySinistra) May 31, 2020
Support the troops? This guy served as a fucking Marine, but ends up getting shot up right here at home by the very people charged with protecting him.
• Trumpism Unmasked! To say that I am disgusted and disappointed in our president right now is a grotesque understatement. Not just in his horrific response to protests which, by and large, are non-violent and have nothing to do with the opportunistic looting going on, but his being a terrible leader in general. Take his latest appearances where he is shown touring factories and going everywhere unmasked... despite the CDC telling us that wearing masks is the easiest way to help slow the spread of the virus and overwhelming our medical care system. Even if he did nothing else but set an example by just wearing a fucking mask, he'd at least be doing something presidential.
And if he could do that and just come out and say something like... "Scientists have said that wearing a mask in public is the easiest way to get this country back on track after the pandemic which has ravaged the world. Masks stop the droplets that carry the virus from infecting other people but do nothing to those who are already infected. Some of you may heard that masks trap carbon dioxide and are unhealthy. But the masks they are talking about are high-filtration masks, not the simple fabric masks which can stop the droplets, but easily allow carbon dioxide to pass through. Cloth masks causing hypercapnia is 100% untrue. I know they're uncomfortable. I know they feel awkward. I know it's not an ideal thing to have to do. But it's a simple kindness towards your fellow Americans, and we all have to do our part to prevail against a virus which doesn't care if your Democrat or Republican. Whether you're young or old. Whether you're a man or a woman. Whether you're healthy or sickly. And doesn't discriminate based on our faith, sexuality, or the color of our skin. I ask that all my fellow Americans join me in following CDC guidelines set to protect us. Wear a mask in public. Respect social distancing. Be kind. Be patient. And above all be united. May God bless all of us, our great country, and peoples around the world as we do whatever we can to prevail against the threat of COVID-19. Thank you and good night."
But instead we get his dumbass tweets about stupid shit and conspiracy theories which do nothing to help anybody except his ego. I don't like Joe Biden... at all... but I would vote for a pile of dog shit knowing that it would be a better leader and a better example than Impeached President Cadet Bone Spurs. I blame him for his terrible response to the coronavirus costing tens of thousands of American lives, but I emphatically condemn him for everything that followed... including the inevitable second wave of deaths which is almost a certainty thanks to his complete lack of "leadership." At which point I am obligated to remind you that a Twitter account which did nothing but tweet the exact same thing as the president was suspended after only three days. If only that applied to the president himself, maybe we wouldn't be quite so bad off as we are now. Because don't even get me started on his repugnant attempt to use the death of George Floyd to endorse fucking job numbers.
• FOX "News!" I agree that there's a clear and present danger to this country from "fake news." Unfortunately the fakest of all fake news, FOX "News," mostly gets a pass from our impeached leader (except when they lob a rare criticism his way, at which time they're garbage too!). Their nonstop parade of falsehoods, exaggerations, and outright lies are bad enough... but they insist on being racist fucks on top of it all.
Sane Humans: You can't put a price on a human life!
FOX "News": Sure you can! We do it all the time! Well... we do for Black men...
FOX "News" is doing stupid racist shit like this all the fucking time...
Laura Ingraham on Black players: "Shut up and dribble."
Laura Ingraham on white players: "They are allowed to have an opinion.. they have worth as people.... and speaking against them is Stalinist!"
FOX "News" doesn't even pretend they're not racist pieces of shit. Their agenda is full-on white supremacy, and people like Laura Ingraham who dismissed peaceful protest and encouraged everybody to persecute peaceful protesters is exactly why shit is going down right now. But of course they blame everybody but themselves. And note that Drew Brees ultimately realized he was acting like a privileged piece of shit and apologized. You won't get that from FOX "News." That would go against their agenda of praising straight white Christian men and demonizing those who are not straight white Christian men. This is apparently what they're talking about when they say "All Lives Matter."
The utter trash that is FOX "News" having viewers believe and support everything they say perfectly encapsulates how sick we are as a country and how totaly fucked we are.
• Do Better Democrats! And don't think for a minute that my political ranting is over and Republicans get all my attention... because wait, there's more! THE ROOT: NY Rep. Eliot Engel Caught on Hot Mic at George Floyd Press Conference: "If I Didn’t Have a Primary, I Wouldn’t Care."
Democrats claiming moral superiority over Republicans is laughable when y'all have dumbass garbage like this representing your party. Outright saying that he doesn't give a crap about the people he represents? I may die of unshock. Where is Democrat leadership in this? Oh... I know... they're nowhere... he's a powerful long-term incumbent, so I guess he gets a pass? Fuck that. And fuck this piece of shit. And if you want to make excuses for this? Fuck you too. We are way, way past the time when career politicians should get a pass on their heinous behavior and actions just because they're entrenched and have power. This repugnant do-nothing Democrat (who admits he only shows up when he has to) is on his 16th term in Congress. Where are our fucking #TermLimits?? Still waiting. And I'll keep waiting because trash like this are the ones writing the rules. We see you NY District 16. You elected him with 74% of the vote in 2018. Are you going to continue to support him knowing he doesn't give a shit... just because you find him "comfortable? You get what you vote for. Do better.
• Led Zep! And just because I want to end this on a positive note... I've been following Luca Stricagnoli for years. This is his latest, in which he is playing Led Zep on a single-neck guitar... a little different from how he usually performs...
Amazing what he's able to get out of an instrument.
And now... back to hacking and slashing monsters in a dungeon, I guess.
As I mentioned a while back, I had a DVD stop working and decided to backup my massive CD/DVD/Blu-Ray collection to computer files that I can import into my Plex Media Server. It's been going great so far, and I've been ripping through everything as fast as I can. Then I'm boxing all the physical media up and storing it in my garage. That way I have proof that I bought it in case anybody wants to accuse me of piracy. I don't steal content. On the contrary, I'm proud to support the artists who make the media I enjoy.
But CDs and DVDs aren't the only thing I'm attempting to back up.
For those TV shows I have recorded on VHS and 8mm tape which are not available to purchase, I'm converting them as well.
One of the shows I was going to convert from 8mm tape was My Boys because iTunes didn't have it for sale. But then I thought to check Amazon and managed to get DVDs of seasons 1-3 for just $17! How sweet is that?
Such a great show. Alas, the final 9 episodes of the series that made up Season 4 can't be found anywhere. Everyplace I've found which has DVDs for sale end up being bootlegs. And since I don't steal content, I certainly don't support people stealing content.
I've still got many, many shows to convert over but, as of today, all my music has been ripped or re-purchased digitally. Re-purchasing is easiest, but so many things I only have on mix-tapes or cassette singles or LP singles just aren't available. I keep checking through.
The only thing I cannot figure out how to purchase is some of the short films I've saved over the years. Some of them I've actually found on iTunes to buy. But others? No clue.
Plex got confused between two of these short movies I love... Sign and Signs. After separating them and telling Plex that they are not the M. Night. Shyamalan movie Signs, I had to watch them again, of course. This first one is entirely too sweet. I've seen it a dozen times and love it more with each viewing ❤️...
Here's the other short film that Plex got confused on. It's absolutely wonderful. More happens here in 12 minutes than you'd find in most movies that are 2 hours long ❤️🧡💛💚💙💜...
I sure do wish I could support these filmmakers and actors by buying these films on iTunes... or anywhere, really, so if anybody knows where they're for sale, I'd appreciate a heads-up.
SONOS released their new OS, called S2, today and I was excited to see what's new.
My Mac made me aware of the new S2 app when I loaded their old app this evening. So I downloaded the new app... only to be told that no S2 compatible devices were found. Since my One speakers are fairly new, I was pissed that they even told me about the update. Maybe my SONOS PlayBar is too old? Then I Googled it and found that apparently you have to upgrade the hardward with the new SONOS iPhone app. So I got that, performed an upgrade to everything, then my Mac S2 app recognized my S2 gear. Why the hell they didn't just allow the Mac app to do the upgrade is a mystery. What if you don't own a smart phone?
Anyway... now my stuff is all running S2. No clue what that does for me, as everything looks and acts the exact same. When I Googled that I found that apparently the only device to make use of the new S2 OS features is the Sonos Arc television bar. An $800 product which adds Dolby Atmos capabilities to your setup.
Soooo... S2 is just a big load of crap for anybody except those who throw out their old gear. Got it.
The sad news is that eventually I will have to replace my PlayBar anyway. It only accepts audio over optical digital, and newer televisions don't really support that. I could get an adapter, but it would be senseless since so few audio codecs can be sent to the speakers that way. It's only dumb luck that the television I bought sends Dolby Surround over optical. Most contemporary sets don't.
My disgust over the disposable society we live in continues. I can only hope that eventually SONOS or some third party releases an upgrade module so the old PlayBar can receive audio over HDMI. Even if it's only Dolby Surround and not Dolby Atmos, it would at least allow me to keep using my pricey investment in SONOS gear.
Tech obsolescence is inevitable. I get that. But sometimes it really doesn't have to be. Like with frickin' speakers. Being able to modify old gear to have new life should be a thing. But it's not, because that's not where the money is.
Confirmation can be found in your local landfill.
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure is one of the greatest movies ever made.
It's funny, it's smart, and it's got a really good story that doesn't pander or cop out on the time travel elements. Which is amazing when you consider that it's essentially a stoner comedy without the drugs! Bill S. Preston Esq., Ted Theodore Logan, and Rufus are timeless, beloved characters that made a throw-away movie so compelling that it endures even today... despite having a lackluster sequel.
So of course I'm thrilled that we've got another movie coming...
Hopefully it's the awesome sequel we should have got out of Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey.
If not, I suppose we've still got the cartoon show...
EXCELLENT! (well, the first season was, where Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, and George Carlin reprised their roles for the voices. The second season came along with a shitty TV live-action series and those actors do the voices).
I sure hope that Bill and Ted write their universe-saving song really fucking soon now.
Now that I have enough hard drive space in my NAS (Network Attached Storage), I need to transfer the tens of thousands of photos I've collected from my hard disk photo archive to the NAS. That way I can access them anywhere at any time.
Problem is that I couldn't connect them together because I didn't have a cable to do it... despite having dozens of fucking cables piled up in my cupboard. My photo archive drive is Thunderbolt only. My NAS is USB-A only. Which means half of the problem is that support for Thunderbolt has been dropped. The other half is that USB ports keep changing. So even though I was dragging out various old drives to use as "hubs" in the hope that I could find a port/cable combination which would work, nothing ever did. After an hour I finally just gave up.
I finally had to borrow a drive enclosure from work so I could put my photo archive drives inside and get it hooked up to my NAS. I'll get on that tonight and see if everything will copy while I sleep.
At this point I should just come out and say it... the way USB keeps changing? It fucking sucks. There are a ridiculous number of USB port variations, and I have devices which use most of them. And why? Why are there so many?
JUST LOOK AT THIS SHIT...
And it doesn't stop there. All our prayers were supposed to be answered now that we've got USB-C... right?
Um, no. Turns out it's as bad as ever...
And so I guess I can just give up now.
Perhaps what I have to do is throw out absolutely everything everywhere that I own and start over. For every old drive I've got I buy a new drive, transfer the data over, then just burn all the old drives in a massive bonfire.
If anybody wants to give me the hundreds of dollars needed to make that happen...
UPDATE: And it didn't work. Apparently Wester Digital changed the proprietary RAID software they use between my older RAID enclosure and my work's newer RAID enclosure. The drives are incompatible. Instead I managed to find an old Thuderbolt-to-Ethernet dongle. Since my old laptop has two Thunderbolt ports and no ethernet port, that's what I had to use so that I could make the transfer via gigabyte ethernet from my Thunderbolt photo archive RAID to the NAS. Holy shit what a horrific mess.
You may (or may not) have noticed that many times lately my daily posts to Blogography are showing up days late. I still write every day, but I've taken to holding off a while before I publish what I've written. Most of my posts now-a-days are blistering rants about current events and, after I've cooled down, I realize they don't really add anything to the conversation. So I delete them and dig into the drafts I've got written about cats, computers, and stuff, then put that up instead.
It's a tough thing to do, because these are NOT short posts. They are pages of material that can take some time to write...
But... maybe the therapy of writing them is enough for me. They don't really need to see print.
And so today's rant, which was not really something that should see print, has been tossed and I will instead be sharing photos of the flowers growing in my yard.
The flowers in my back yard were here when I bought the place. I can't take any credit for them at all. I pretty much just leave them alone and every year these beautiful flowers show up. There's these really pretty big fluffy flowers I like. No idea what they are called, but how cool are they?
Some are mostly pink...
Whereas others have a lot of yellow in their middles...
There are a bunch of roses... that I think are called "tea roses." They come in a variety of shapes...
The flowers from the previous owner in the front were all in pots that had to be hand-watered. Problem is that I travel too much to take proper care of them so I had to get rid of the plots and plant a bunch of new flowers that could be watered by the automated system. This year a neighbor picked out a bunch of different flowers for me and I was left with some extras. I bought a big wooden planter and just tossed them all inside. They've all done really, really well! Except at the time I planted them I didn't know what size they would end up. If I did, I would have put the taller ones in the middle instead of the outside. Oops...
Still pretty though.
Speaking of leftover flowers... I stuck one of them between the two giant purple things I bought previously. I thought for sure it would die from lack of sunlight, but it's actually been thriving! He seems happy there...
The rest of the flowers I planted are doing great too. I especially like the pansies...
And speaking of those big purple things, they are doing great. The bees absolutely love them...
Guess we'll see if tomorrow's post has to be deleted. It's Caturday, so I sure hope not.
Strangely enough, my cats aren't sick of me spending every minute I'm not at work here at home. They still love having me here and following me around for attention.
Jake is still snuggling up to my feet whenever I'm working or sleeping in bed. I'll nod off, wake up, and there he is. Sometimes in the morning when I wake up he's there too...
It's his favorite new thing. Jenny's favorite new thing? Sitting in a box, apparently...
Every morning when I walk down the stairs she's sitting there waiting for her breakfast.
A couple days ago I mentioned that I was having to dig through an insane number of cables in an attempt to find a way to connect my photo archive to my NAS drive. I had cables sorted into piles all over the kitchen counters. At the end of the counter I had a small pile of short cables I had thought would be good for travel. When I woke up yesterday morning, some of them were on my bedroom floor (along with Mufasa) and one of them was left on the stairs...
I didn't really need to look at the camera footage to know who did it, but I pulled it up just the same...
Time to disinfect the countertops again.
And now, before we go... I give you this...
Jake and Jenny were feral rescues, but they were gotten to when they were babies. Some cats aren't so lucky, but all of them deserve a chance.
If I were a religiously superstitious man, I'd say that a Bullet Sunday associated with The Mark of the Beast is strangely apt given the times we live, and yet there's no need to go fearing the apocalypse just yet... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia! There are some people in the world who would have skipped right over a blog post numbered "666" out of fear that this number invokes the devil. This fear is known as "hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia." Quite a mouthful. My fear of satan has long since disappated because we've got hell on earth happening all around us. From Impeached President Trump scheduling a rally at the site of the Tulsa Race Massacre on Juneteenth (then rescheduling, but no worries... we know what you meant)... to Impeached President Trump erasing transgender American health protections during Pride... to Impeached President Trump easing restrictions on killing bear cubs and wolf pups in their dens so Donald Trump Jr. can spend tens of thousands more tax dollars on hunting trips... evil is being unleashed from the very top of our government every fucking day. Who needs the devil?
• IMDB That Shit! How my mind works... "What was that series I wanted to watch that has General Hux from Star Wars and Zoey from Nurse Jackie? Was it called "Escape?" And it was on Netflix, wasn't it? No... I saw it advertised before Last Week Tonight a few weeks ago so it must have been HBO? Or was it before Upload on Amazon Prime? Surely it's not one of those Apple TV+ shows is it? No, pretty sure it was HBO. Ugh... so many shows... what was the name... what was the name... what was the name... dang. Guess I'm going to IMDB. The guy was definitely in that amazing time travel movie with Bill Nighy and Rachel McAdams that Richard Curtis made... what was it? Oh yeah! It was About Time! Man I loved that movie. I should remember to watch that again. Hmmm... guess I'll look up About Time on IMDB and... WAIT! I remember, it's DOMHNALL GLEASON! Hard to forget an Irish name like that after he discussed how the M and the H are just there to confuse Americans! Domhnall Gleason. Boy, he's an amazing actor, isn't he? That's why I have to watch this new series. But it's not "Escape." Oh wait... it's Run! The name of the show I want is Run! Sweet! I didn't need IMDB after all because I'm just that smart! SUCK IT IMDB! Huh... wasn't the woman who played Zoey in Nurse Jackie also in The Walking Dead? =sigh= I guess I need to IMDB that shit.
• Whoa! I totally missed this. Or forgot I saw it. Or something. This is a "faithful, word-for-word recreation of one colorful day in the American court system" as recreated by Rick and Morty...
Because American justice sometimes perfectly resembles a cartoon. And Rick and Morty is the perfect cartoon to do it. Insanity.
• Damn, Daniel! This is faked, of course, but still hilarious...
I ended up watching this video five times in a row so I could look at everybody's reactions. Thank heavens all my Zooms are on my iPad and I physically close it when I leave the call (which disconnects everything).
• Alexaaaaaa! A slice of life in 2020...
ALEXA: "From Amazon Product Ratings: Three months ago, you purchased 9 Inch Bread Banneton Proofing Basket. How would you rate this product from one to five stars?"
ME: "What the fuck? Alexa, stop bothering me with this shit!"
ALEXA: "Okay. I'll stop asking you for product reviews for a while."
ME: "A WHILE?!? WHY NOT PERMANENTLY?!?"
This is how it starts, doesn't it? Technology slowly creeps into your life and eventually just takes over. It's not like The Terminator didn't warn us this would happen.
• Not-So-Foxy! Lately FOX "News" has been caught Photoshopping images to support their idiotic narrative as to what's happening in Seattle... to being so desperate for news on what's actually happening in Seattle that they fall for absurd Monty Python parody posts. I guess the truth about what's really happening in the tiny little 6-block section of Seattle which has sectioned itself off as an autonomous zone is just too boring? Better lie and bias it up then. Seems to make no difference to their viewers. Maybe when Impeached President Cadet Bone Spurs invades Seattle personally, as he's threatened to do, they'll have the story they're really looking for.
• Party! It's gotten impossible for me to support any facet of the Republican Party. Where I live, I generally voted Republican on State issues because the Democrats which dominate Western Washington don't give two fucks about what happens East of the Cascades... there's no votes for them here, so we get ignored. No, I don't support a lot of what Republicans represent, but there's really no choice if the region where I live wants a fair share of the pie.
All that stopped after Cadet Bone Spurs Trump was elected. Any party which enables... and continues to support... this monster has completely lost me. There is no reality where I would ever vote Republican now. Instead I do what I swore I would never do... check every fucking Democrat on the ballot. Because even if a Republican publicly condemns the president, there are still too many other horrific people and issues that never get condemned. And ANY Republican who even attempts to be a human being by representing ALL of their constituency is quickly targeted and devoured by the Republican Party. Perform a same-sex wedding to offer support for a segment of your community. Get fucked. It's just the way they operate now. The Republican Party has no future unless they can gerrymander it.
And now back to our regularly-scheduled hell on earth.
Home ownership is the money pit which never ends. No sooner than one expensive problem is solved than another pops up to take its place. Or, in my case, several things.
In an effort to save a hit to my wallet, I'm taking on the repair tasks myself. Some of them are difficult and require research. Others are easy but require money. My favorite things are those that are easy and cheap. Those tasks I tend to do right away because easy and cheap are my middle names.
Well, you know what I mean.
When I bought my new place, I had to do a lot of remodeling so my mother could live there safely. She couldn't walk on carpet very well, so I had to rip it out and put in hardwood. Simple tasks were becoming difficult and messy for her to manage, so I tried to accommodate that as well. I ripped out tubs and enlarged showers so it was easier for her to get in and out of... and clean. I also replaced the toilets from two-part standard models to one-piece "comfort height" models. I did whatever I could to make things easier for both of us.
I don't know if you have ever shopped for toilets, but single-piece models are expensive. Even the cheapest ones are double or even qradrupal what it costs for the standard stool/tank model that's commonly used. I ultimately went with Kohler because I found them on sale for $400 each (regular $600). Given that you can easily find decent 2-piece models for under $100 each, that's a heck of an investment.
You would think that a $400 toilet would have pretty good quality parts for the money.
Yeah... not so much.
From the get-go, both toilets would randomly start running for around a minute. At first I'd notice it happening a couple times a month. Then weekly. Then daily. Aghast at the water that was being wasted, I managed to fix the downstairs toilet just by taking it apart and putting it back together. The upstairs toilet, however, never managed to be fixed no matter how many times I worked on it. If anything it got worse, running 4 or 5 times a day. Because of the lockdown I ended up with extra time on my hands and decided to take another crack at it. I started taking it apart and... snap! The middle of the "AquaPiston" flush valve snapped. Rather than just buying a replacement for that, I decided to spend $20 and get an all new AquaPiston. Despite being advertised as having "leak-free performance," it was the only part that could really be the problem. Wanting to make sure that it was a genuine Kohler part and not a knock-off, I ordered direct from Kohler.
The part finally arrived and, viola, the problem was totally solved...
Apparently the AquaPiston which came with my toilet was defective.
Note in the photo above that the handle trip-rod has rusted. $400 doesn't get you a non-rust part, I guess.
I've now reached the point where the projects I'm facing are far more pricey. Some I can't even do myself. I was really hoping that this year would be the year I got to replace my countertops, sink, and garbage disposal. All of them are awful, and there are issues with the disposal that simply can't be fixed. The worst part is that it leaks underneath when the waste/water level gets too high. But it doesn't make much sense to replace it if I don't replace the sink (which is cheap, damaged, and looks terrible). And it makes no sense to replace the sink before replacing the countertops (which are just cheap and terrible). I was making good progress with my savings until the pandemic, now I don't know if it's an expense I can swing no matter how badly it's needed. Maybe I'll look into a home equity loan or something, because the longer I wait the more it's going to cost.
So much for having the luxury of being cheap and easy, I guess.
Washington State already had workplace protections for LGBTQ persons since 2006, but now it's been rolled out nation-wide thanks to a Supreme Court ruling which expanded upon "sex discrimination" to include sex, sexuality, and gender identity.
Naturally, conservatives are losing their fucking minds. They want to be able to "fire them queers" in places like Mississippi and Alabama, I guess.
Their argument seems to revolve around "textualism." Which is to say that the people who wrote the law concerning sexual discrimination couldn't have foreseen things like sexuality and gender identity at the time, so you can't read them into a modern interpretation of the original legislation. Which is hilarious, of course. When the Second Amendment was written, they couldn't have foreseen high-powered assault rifles and automatic weapons, but that hasn't stopped conservatives from saying Americans should be free to own all kinds of advanced weaponry based on what was once written.
Oh well. It's the Supreme Court's job to interept that shit, not mine. And it seems they are on the right side of history this time (surprisingly led by Trump nominee Justice Neil Gorsuch, textualist supreme). Though the dissenting opinions are laughable to knee-slapping extremes if, for no other reason, because they spell out in no uncertain terms exactly how the ruling can be used to support things they detest. I expect this kind of embarrassing idiocy from a dumbass frat-bro like Justice Brett Kavanaugh, but I somehow thought Justice Alito was more devious, more savvy. Apparently his frustration with not being able to stop progress has turned him into that old man yelling at kids to get off his lawn.
Guess he can just stay mad.
And speaking of staying mad...
I worked way too late last night. I think I finally fell asleep around 1:30am. When I woke up five hours later, I wasn't necessarily tired... but my eyes were burning. And they continued to burn all day long. Finally around 3:30pm I just couldn't see any longer and came home to take a nap. My cats woke me up at 5:55pm because the Alexa alarm was blaring downstairs. It was their dinner time and they were not happy that I dared to sleep through it.
And here we are, hours later, and they are still mad about it.
Something tells me I had better not be late with breakfast tomorrow.
Today was the first time I've had a semi-normal day in a very long time. Nearly four months, which seems like forever given lockdowns and such.
After canceling appointments and locking myself away at home for everything except grocery shopping, today was the day I finally threw caution to the wind and headed out into the wilds of Redneckistan. I had an appointment that I really didn't want to reschedule for a third time. That went fine. Everybody I spoke to was masked and respected social distancing norms. Pretty much all that I could hope for.
So then I decided to get really crazy and get some take-away lunch (I'm not quite to the point where I want to chance dining in). I decided to get an Impossible Whopper at Burger King as a "thank you" for continuing to support vegetarians. I was so excited that I actually took them up on a "Two for $6" special. They so rarely include Impossible Whoppers on specials, so I decided on a second one instead of fries.
They tasted incredible.
I ate them slowly, savoring each bite, while sitting in my air conditioned car.
Surprisingly, most people visiting Burger King were masked and respecting the 6-foot rule! The only customer not masked was a construction guy two people ahead of me. Color me shocked.
Then I went to Petco because I was running out of kitty litter. Same thing. Most people masked again! Could it be that Redneckistan and their idiotic "FUCK GOVERNOR INSLEE!" rhetoric were finally getting a clue? That Inslee isn't out to kill their businesses and strip them of their freedom... he's just following expert advice of people smarter than him when it comes to pandemics to try and keep Washingtonians safe?
And then I went to Safeway to pick up some rice noodles, Sriracha sauce, and Tamari sauce so I can make loads of the Coconut-Peanut Rice Noodles with Blistered Green Beans that I love so much...
And... there I was... right back in the Redneckistan I know and love.
Not only were at least half of the people going without a mask, some of them were acting like outright assholes about going unmasked. Not that they have to go out of their way... the fact that they weren't wearing a mask is enough to tell me that they're an asshole. We wear masks to protect others in case we're infected! So of course there are selfish people who don't give a fuck about other people. Of course! Never mind that research shows a 90% drop in COVID-19 infections where masking is mandatory. Never mind that it's such a simple fucking thing to do. THAT'S AN ASSAULT ON MY FREEDUMB! And since Washington State went into lockdown before the the infections in Seattle came across the mountains in force, I'm guessing a majority of the people here still think that the pandemic is overblown (at best) or a Democrat hoax (at worst). But, when you think about it, who can blame them? Those who worship all things Trump see him setting a horrifically irresponsible personal example and are just following suit.
But hey... even if I did end up with the Coronavirus, at least my cats have something to poop in and I managed to get my first fast food in nearly half-a-year. That's not nuthin'.
In other news, I picked up some contact lenses to try out today. I stopped wearing contacts almost a decade ago when I started needing progressive lenses. Problem is... glasses fog up when wearing a mask. So now I'm trying to figure out a contacts/reading glasses combination which will make things a little easier (and less foggy) in our new COVID-19 reality.
I've been watching a lot of old television shows while I work lately. Though "old" is relative here, because shows from the late 80's aren't exactly ancient. But the world sure has changed a lot in 35 years. Well, it's changed quite a lot in four months, but... yeah... 35 years is a considerable stretch.
Back then you could still smoke on some domestic flights over six hours (the last flight I was on with smoking was a flight to Hawaii in 1986). Smoking wouldn't be banned in restaurants and bars until 2007. But you can still smoke in many Las Vegas casinos because children aren't allowed there.
Las Vegas started re-opening from lockdown on June 4th.
And, now, just like clockwork two weeks later, they've experienced the largest daily spike in COVID-19 infections since the pandemic began.
A big chunk of the blame is being pinned on smoking.
If you bother to mask-up at all, you have to remove the mask to smoke. You're constantly handling something that's going into your mouth. And, if you're a smoker, you're far more likely to cough than a non-smoker. It's a recipe for both getting infected and infecting others.
And yet people are flocking to Vegas casinos.
Just like people will undoubtedly be flocking to movie theaters when they reopen. AMC, the largest US chain, will reopen on July 15th. Surprisingly, they will not require masks if they aren't already required by the state a theater resides. Apparently they don't want to "get political."
Which means you'll be in an enclosed space for two hours with unmasked people who may be infected.
The only movies I really want to watch in theaters are Marvel movies (so they dont get spoiled), but I guess I'll be waiting for home video for the foreseeable future. $14 popcorn and rude theater-going assholes I can deal with. But a potential COVID-19 infection?
Yeah, no thanks.
Having to fly again will be terrible enough. But that's something I'll have to do. Movies and slot machines though?
Yeah, no thanks.
UPDATE: AMC Theaters Reverses Course, Will Require Face Masks Upon Reopening
When it comes to monumental events in United States of America history, the abolition of slavery ranks right up there with Independence Day. This is not up for debate. When America won its independence, not everybody was free. That came some 85 years later. But not really. The Emancipation Proclamation was proclaimed on September 22, 1862... but news apparently traveled slowly, so Texas didn't get the message until two-and-a-half years later. Texas didn't issue their proclamation until June 19, 1865... AKA Juneteenth. And that was the end of slavery, right? Not really. Delaware and Kentucky didn't get onboard until that December. So that's the end then? Not really. Penal slave labor still exists... but that's another discussion.
Juneteenth became a massive celebration in Texas. So massive that it spread throughout the South... and eventually throughout the country. Most states officially acknowledge Juneteenth in some way (I think the Dakotas and Hawaii are the holdouts). Some states, including Texas, have made it an official State paid holiday (and I think Washington will eventually get there).
There's a push to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, something I fully support. Because if there's an event which deserves national recognition, celebration, and an official holiday in a country which prides itself on freedom, it's the end of slavery. How anybody can debate that is beyond me. And yet... all it takes is browsing through Facebook comments and you'll find all kinds of people freaking out over the idea. I can't even pretend to be shocked... hell, Juneteenth was never explained in my school. Do you know the first time I ever heard of it? When I was in GERMANY in the mid-90's! Yes. GERMANY. There was an article in a train magazine that I couldn't read, but I wrote down "Juneteenth" to look up when I got home because the photos made it clear that it's an American celebration.
Another thing that was never mentioned when I was in school? The Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921.
Do you want to know when I learned about that? When I actually visited Tulsa and went to the Tulsa Historical Museum... in 2010! TWO-THOUSAND-TEN! One of the most horrific events in American history, and I never heard about it until ten years ago.
That is all kinds of fucked up.
Since the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 is a catalyst for my favorite television show of 2019 (and one of the best series I've seen ever), Watchmen, HBO is running it for free all weekend. I decided to binge-watch it for the fourth time even though HBO comes with my AT&T mobile contract for free...
This show just gets better and better with each viewing. I was such a hugely massive fan of the original graphic novel, and the HBO "not-a-sequel-sequel" so beautifully fits into that world. Flawless television. I have no idea how accessible it is to people who haven't read the comic book... but I think it's perfectly understandable (even if you miss some of the references), so you should definitely check it out.
And happy Juneteenth, everybody!
It's Caturday... and I'm sick! Sick of barfing my guts out all day long. Ugh.
If y'all remember, I added a massive sisal pole to the catio two years ago this month. I was happy to see that Jake and Jenny took to it right away. They are regularly scratching on it from all four levels that it's accessible, and they both enjoy climbing it as well. This is something that my catio-cam rarely captures because they climb the side opposite the camera, as it's the side without the hinges that attach it. Then, just a couple days ago, Jenny climbed up the side next to the camera for some reason! I finally had it on video...
My efforts to find a new toy for Jake continue, but he only has eyes for Mufasa. He is still dragging him everywhere and still licking and chewing him every chance he gets. Yesterday morning he was laying on my bed whining for Mufasa... which was laying right behind him... here he is after I handed it over...
As you can see, Mufasa ain't going to last long with that kind of treatment, which is why I am trying to find a replacement. Nothing has worked so far. I finally moved on from stuffed lions and tried a battery-powered floppy fish. Jake is completely unimpressed...
Jenny won't even get near it until it stops moving...
And so... I guess it's back to Mufasa for Jake...
Enjoy it while it lasts, buddy.
Summer is here and the heat is on, but you'll have no trouble staying cool... because despite being sick sick sick, an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Dads! Happy Father's Day to all the dad's out there... no matter what your family looks like. I think this photo is my favorite I've seen today...
The baby girl's T-shirt is the best! Since that photo was taken, James and Charlie welcomed another baby...
You can follow this awesome family on their Instagram right here.
• Victor! And speaking of awesome families... I managed to keep down water and dry toast while binge-watching Love, Victor last night. As somebody who loved the movie Love, Simon, I honestly had low expectations for the 10-episode spin-off series. I was certain it was just going to tell the exact same story we already knew. — Couldn't have been happier to have been wrong. Love, Victor is pretty great. They didn't just retread the movie, instead they expanded upon it. In the movie, secondary friend characters and Simon's parents were merely one-dimensional backdrops. In the series they had time to give them all their own lives with their own issues to work through. There are certainly problems... they fell into some trope traps and reused elements that should have been rethought, but it was still entertaining. I like that they made it feel like an extension of the movie by having a similar soundtrack and making sure the "voice" of the series was intimate and familiar. Plus we get to find out what happened to Simon and Bram a little bit!
Still kinda disgusted that Disney yanked it from Disney+ and put it on Hulu because it was deemed "not family-friendly," or whatever, but at least it aired. I really hope we get a second season.
• Boys! I recently purchased the My Boys DVD set so I could back-up the episodes to my Plex server. After having mentioned it, somebody sent me a link to this...
There are many, many shows I'd like to see revived... Veronica Mars and Will & Grace was just the beginning. Pretty sure that My Boys would be on that list as well. The characters were just so good.
• NEWS FLASH! Fox News Argues Viewers Don't Assume Tucker Carlson Reports Facts. I know I sure as fuck don't expect to get any actual facts from Cucker Tarlson. The dumbass piece of crap has no choice but to lie and falsify "alternative facts" to support his bigoted bullshit narrative. And FOX "News" was forced to admit it because they're in the middle of a lawsuit over it. This means nothing to the morons who think that Cucker is actual news, but it's a start. They should seriously just adopt "We Don't Report Facts" as the motto for the entire network. That much is mostly true.
• NEWS FLASH! Austria Has 90% Drop in Coronavirus Cases After Requiring People to Wear Face Masks. If we tried that here? People would be all "BUT MY FREEDOM!!! Your right to not die from a highly contagious virus does not trump my right to infect you with it because masks are uncomfortable!" — In related news, US FDA pulls its emergency approval of chloroquine use for COVID-19. But drinking bleach and shoving a UV light up your ass is still an acceptable way to prevent COVID-19, right? I mean, which presidential doctor advice am I supposed to listen to? WHAT? NONE of it? Because he's not a doctor? Oh. Wait... why was he offering medical advice then? There is no aspect of our pandemic response that this stupid fucking administration hasn't managed to fuck up completely.
• Solstice! Since travel is still severely limited, English Heritage Site decided to livestream sunset and sunrise at Stonehenge...
It was far less exciting than I was expecting. Perhaps my having experienced Stonehenge in person at sunrise killed the experience for me? Being there is always better than a webcam, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have gotten to experience it...
Happy Solstice, everybody.
• Pooch in Boots! When I was picking up kitty litter at Petco, I walked by these...
I was fascinated at the idea of having a pet which would stand still long enough to put these on their paws. My cats would have less than none of this... cute as they may be.
And that's it for Father's Day bullets.
Here we go with yet another post-Apple-World-Wide-Developer-Conference keynote. This year's was really long, so I am only writing about things when I have a comment to make instead of summarizing every little thing that was presented. If you want to watch the keynote yourself, just head over to Apple.com and have a look!
• But First... Kudos to Apple for prefacing their WWDC Keynote with a statement on racism, equality, and injustice... and what they are doing to address racism in their industry and our communities. Not only that, but Tim Cook called out the "senseless killing of George Floyd," which is not as strong as calling it what it is... but at least they didn't diminish it by merely calling is "the death of George Floyd." This is not just lip service. Apple is putting their money where their mouth is too. Apple is investing $100 million to help in demanding equality in our communities. That's a drop in the bucket compared to the massive fortune they're sitting on, but it's a heck of a lot more than what other big companies are doing. Apple is also creating programs for Black developers and finding new ways to encourage involvement by POC in the developer community. As a step forward, all the developer videos from WWDC are completely free for anybody to look at this year. Good on them.
• iOS: Widgets. One of the things that I loved so much from MacOS X was the widget screen. So many incredibly useful tools are just a swipe away. Then Apple eliminated them and I was bigly sad. And yet... here they are in iOS?!? Does this mean we will see a return of widgets in MacOS? I am holding my breath. I have said many, many times how my favorite mobile phone to work on was Windows Phone. Yeah, I never gave up my iPhone for it but, upon release, Windows Phone OS had new ideas with fresh ways of doing things. By contrast, Android was just a poor iPhone copy. One of the best features of Windows Phone was "Live Tiles," and that's almost exactly what iOS widgets are looking to be like.
• iOS Picture in Picture Video. Before iOS 14, you had to stop watching a video if you needed to access your apps for some reason. Now Apple has made it so you can keep watching (and listening) while you use your apps. Given how many times a day I get a distraction, being able to keep watching while I'm glued to my phone while traveling is a serious big deal.
• iOS Translate. Holy shit. Offline machine learning translation with conversation mode? Sign me up! As translation gets better and better, this is going to open up the world in new ways. I cannot tell you how many times this would have come in handy with my work. Very exciting stuff.
• iOS Messages. I hate phone calls. All my friends and co-workers know this. I will put off returning a phone call for as long as possible. But a text message? I will hop on that immediately. And yet... I still kinda detest text messages because it's such a messy way to communicate. Apple has started addressing this by adding new features. The one that's most important to me? Groups. Group texts have been vastly improved, which is a huge step towards organizing the madness that can ensue.
• iOS Maps. I never use Apple Maps for actual navigation because I'm addicted to Waze. I only use it for the cool 3-D views of cities and to have access to their "Walk-Around" feature, which is a greatly upgraded version of Google Maps' "Street View." But that may change. Sounds like they are upgrading their directions (which have been pretty awful). All they need now is automated traffic redirection like Waze has and they could be a contender.
• iOS Digital Car Key. Being able to have my home unlock when I arrive is so cool. Apple is extending the idea further with digital car keys. Now not only can you use your phone to unlock your car, you can also message a digital key to somebody so they can drive or move your car if needed... no matter where you are in the world. Of course I would need to buy a new BMW in order to use it... BWAH HA HA HA... but a boy can dream, can't he?
• iOS Apps. No mention from Craig about the recent controversy of Apple being wishy-washy about which apps owe them a cut of their revenue, but I didn't expect there to be. Craig can likely get away with this because he's got almost offensively good-looking hair.
• iOS App Clips. Having to download a new app for some little task is frustrating. App Clips are tiny pieces of apps that handle simple tasks you need to get through your day. They load immediately and will streamline tasks because they integrate ApplePay and "Log-In With Apple" features. And if you want the full app after using the App Clip, you can easily download it. Simple!
• iPadOS. I only use my iPad for two things... creating art and Zoom calls. That's it. Everything else happens on my iPhone or Mac. Apple is working hard to change my thinking on this by continuously upgrading the iPad experience. They started off with something that goes a long way towards addressing multitasking issues and app navigation... SideBar. This seems a no-brainer given the small screen of the iPad compared to a desktop Mac, but this is the first I've seen it. Smart stuff.
• iPadOS Phone Notification. The way iPad handles calls is kinda stupid. You are dropped out of your app in order to deal with it. Not any more. You can accept or dismiss calls or FaceTime or Skype requests with a popup. Much better.
• iPadOS Pencil. iPad is now attempting to treat your handwriting like actual text. You can select it and move it easily. Or have it converted on-the-fly when you paste. iPad is essentially now full-on an Apple Newton with "Scribble" which instantly converts handwriting to text.
• AirPods. Auto-switching between devices? Magical. But the spatial audio feature being added to AirPods Pro is what has me really excited. If it actually works as advertised, this is Dolby Atmos Audio for one, and well worth investing in a new set of AirPods for me. The way the spatial audio ADJUSTS ON THE FLY when you move your head is incredible.
• WatchOS. I am fairly certain I will be buying into the Apple Watch ecosystem soon. I avoided it for the longest time because I find them so uncomfortable to wear. But after using Waze Band for a while now, I seem to have adjusted. My change of heart has everything to do with the Apple Health benefits which come with WatchOS. As I get older, I am more and more interested in taking advantage of the monitoring and active involvement of staying healthy. I will not, however, use the new "Dance" feature, which would probably result in injuries. Maybe if they add "pole dancing" I will reconsider?
• WatchOS Sleep. The Waze Band ventures a little bit into sleep monitoring, but I don't have a lot of confidence in accuracy and there's no tools to help you get better sleep. Apple Watch seems like there's a lot more going on, making sleep features far more useful.
• WatchOS Wash. Talk about timely features... Apple has added a hand washing monitor which makes sure you are washing long enough to destroy the lipid layer of things like COVID-19 so the virus will die.
Note that Kevin seems to have thinner wrists like me, so he's wearing his watch quite a bit lower than you usually wear a watch because it's uncomfortable on the wrist bone for us. This is encouraging. If this guy is in charge of stuff with WatchOS, and he has to wear a watch like I do, that means all the hardware monitoring features will likely work for me because he's obviously going to be testing them. Sweet!
• Privacy. Apple seems to put a lot more thought into privacy than other companies. They are constantly providing more tools to protect us and keep moving data analysis locally so that it doesn't have to go out onto the internet. I don't have much to say about this except Good job, Apple! Our own government doesn't seem to be interested in guarding our privacy, so it's nice that somebody is stepping up.
Shit Kit. I detest HomeKit. I avoid it whenever possible because it's just an awful, awful system. Expensive, limited, and it barely works for me. Despite having multiple AppleTVs in my home to fully blanket everything with plenty of signal, sometimes I get an error which says that HomeKit can't communicate with my devices. Ugh. Apple has been steadily improving HomeKit with features and such, so maybe I will check it out again one day. But given my horrible past experience, I'm in no hurry. And yet... there's some compelling integration with iOS that has me wondering if I should be investigating it sooner. The one thing I am very interested in is Apple joining a new home automation consortium with Google. Does this mean my Nest cameras will integrate with HomeKit? Interesting to think about.
• AppleTV. My experience with AppleTV has been less than stellar. Sometimes it's downright bad. It apparently has very little RAM for streaming because there are times I get shitty, stuttering video. But the biggest problem is with Apple media itself. Even when other streaming services are working flawlessly on my AppleTV, the stuff I bought from iTunes will fail to load or not display properly. Until they address this, all the other bells and whistles (like new picture-in-picture for apps) don't mean much to me.
• AppleTV+. One of my favorite works of science fiction is the original Foundation trilogy by Isaac Asimov. Apple bought up the rights and teased the result...
No idea how this will play out, but I'm certainly excited to see what they've done with it.
• MacOS Big Sur. "Drug-fueled, mini-bus-driving, vision-quest?" — Okay, Craig. Settle down! If you believe the hype, this will be the biggest change to the visual interface of the Mac since the switch to OS X. I don't know if that's the case... these changes seem a more "evolutionary" than "revolutionary"... BUT THAT BEING SAID... I absolutely love what I'm seeing. WIDGETS ARE BACK? FUCK YEAH!!! Discontinuing them was a bigly stupid move, and adding them into Notification Center is okay by me.
• MacOS Icons. MacOS has redesigned icons! Whee! What pisses me off is that Apple STILL hasn't allowed icons to be manually generated and "baked" into data files. Used to be when you saved a photo from Photoshop, the app would generate a tiny icon to attach to the file so you could see what image you've got. MacOS X eliminated this. Now data file icons are generated by the Finder. Which is so fucking stupid. No longer can you just scroll through all your images and see what they look like... you have to scroll and wait... scroll and wait... scroll and wait... it's infuriating.
• MacOS Maps. And... MacOS is no longer the red-headed step-child of Apple's hardware when it comes to maps. Apparently they are adding more iOS Maps features that have been missing since Maps appeared on MacOS.
• MacOS Safari. Even though I remain unconvinced that Safari is the best browser out there, it's my default browser just the same. Apple wants to be sure that this remains the case, because they keep making it more responsive and faster with each new release. On top of that, they are constantly improving security and privacy features. By far the most exciting is that they will now notify you if your passwords have been compromised when a data breach is reported. How amazing is that? THESE are the features that are important to me. And, oh yeah, they made Safari more customizable and pretty as well. Whee. And what about those new tabs? NICE...
Plus... inline translation when the language of the site is different than your selected language. Looks like you have to click a button. I wish I had an option for pages to translate to English automatically for me... and just let me know with an icon indicator or something so I can switch back if needed.
• Mac on ARM. First it was a switch from 8086 to PowerPC. Then it was a switch from PowerPC to Intel. Now Apple is reeeeeally moving forward by developing their own silicon chips for Macs, just like they already do for iPhones and iPads. This is incredibly smart. By having MacOS work hand-in-hand with custom chips that they design and control, Macs will get faster, smarter, and have better battery life. They can tailor every aspect of the "brain" of their computers to do exactly what they want with no wasted processes or energy. Everybody knew this was coming. I honestly thought it was going to be years off yet. I'm happy to see that it's happening sooner rather than later. My only worry? That eventually Macs will just become big iPads. Because right now there are things that Macs can do which are clumsy or impossible on an iPad. But who knows what the future will bring?
It looks like anything written in Apple's Xcode app development system will just have to be recompiled. Perhaps with minor tweaks. Simple. Microsoft and Adobe are already there for all their apps, and these are some really huge and complicated apps! What will be interesting is how these big companies use the custom hardware to add features to their products. This reminds me of the switch from PowerPC to Intel. All the apps would compile to work on both products via Universal Binary packages, and the user experience was seamless. But for those apps which weren't compiled to run on Intel silicon, they had a translation environment called "Rosetta." Now they've brought that idea back with Rosetta 2," so it looks like the transition is going to be just as seamless to Apple silicon, which is exactly what you want. Performance seems to be very good as well, so what's not to love?
• iOS on MacOS. A brilliant side effect of Apple making their own chips is that they can make it so iOS and iPadOS apps run natively on the new Macs. That's pretty great.
And that's a wrap. There's a lot of stuff to really appreciate here, but it's all vaporware until it ships and end-users have access, so I guess we'll see.
uncanny valley • Used in reference to the phenomenon whereby a computer-generated figure or humanoid robot bearing a near-identical resemblance to a human being arouses a sense of unease or revulsion in the person viewing it. — Lexico, Powered by Oxford
Entering the uncanny valley is a different experience for different people. Some people can't tell the difference between computer-generated humans and actual humans. Some people have a sense something is off, but aren't bothered by it. Still others don't like it at all. As for myself? It freaks me out in ways that I can't express... or even fully comprehend.
The worst experience for me is easy to pinpoint... it's Star Wars: Rogue One. In this film they have computer-generated appearances by Grand Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia... circa 1977. Peter Cushing (Tarkin) died in 1994. Carie Fisher (Leia) was alive when Rogue One debuted in 2016, but died before I made it to theaters to see the movie.
Carrie Fisher had only one scene at the end and she looked straight-up bizarre. Her glassy eyes and weird expressions were way freaky to me, especially when her head was 10-feet tall on a movie screen...
It was like a video game character gone horribly wrong. This was not uncanny valley, it was uncanny canyon.
Grand Moff Tarkin had many scenes in the movie. In a way, he came off a little better than Leia because there were some shadows at play. Alas, this made the glassy eyes even more pronounced. His skin tone also had some serious issues, looking more like plastic than human skin. I really think that they would have been better off if they got a different human actor for the part... or found a way to eliminate him from the movie entirely. But, still, it was a fun connection to the original movie, and the connections were part of why I liked Rogue One so much. So... who knows? Maybe this is just the way it had to be.
I was reminded about this all again when somebody posted a video that attempted to fix Grand Moff Tarkin so he wasn't quite so freaky...
Now, I would hardly consider this to be "fixed," but it is a step in the right direction. It's probably not as good as it could have been if the face-mapping were on an actual human instead of a CGI replica.
"Deepfake"... a technology which remaps one face on another face... shows far more promise than CGI humans currently do. I've talked about this plenty of time on Blogography... the last time being in January where somebody "fixed" the de-aging effects on The Irishman...
Now, the place that people always go with deepfakes is this: "Pretty soon the technology will be so good that we won't be able to tell what's real!" And my response is always the same... "Well, yeah, that would be terrible for getting to the truth, but just think of how great it will be for movies!"
Because if I never see a dead, glassy-eyed, dead person ten feet tall on the movie screen again, that would be okay by me.
This has not been a good week. Adobe updated their Creative Suite (which includes the primary tools I use for my work... Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign) and, just like last time, there have been serious problems. Things that used to work great no longer work at all. Things that used to work one way now work an entirely different way. It's as if Adobe doesn't bother to beta test with people who actually use their tools, because so much of the stuff I'm having problems with are not esoteric, hidden, or new features. These are basic functionality issues that have been killing my productivity during a busy time.
I guess the good news is that I have less time for all the political drama. Facebook has gotten completely out of hand, and I just don't need it.
Tonight as I was listening to YouTube videos while I (tried) to work, I found out that even that's not safe...
Holy shit... Impeached President Cadet Bone Spurs is calling Uncle Joe "diminished?" I'm not even going to argue that point, but the most diminished person in this fight is so obviously Cheeto Jesus that I guess he pretty much has to point fingers.
It's all he's got, really...
I suppose it's too late for Spider-Man 2020?
Hasan Mihaj from Patriot Act has a really great take that pretty much mirrors where my head is at these days...
So long as we keep clinging to a busted-ass, shitty system, we're going to continue getting busted-ass, shitty candidates. I don't even think that's something that's up for debate.
Time once again to post this fantastic video from CGP Grey on the Alternative Vote...
And if you haven't seen his amazing look at elections, do yourself a favor and take a look at the entire series right here.
Sorry, if I'm forced to be mired in this shitty political bullshit, you get to as well.
There has been an abundance of research and speculation as to what Jesus and the persons mentioned in The Bible might look like. It's most likely that they were not white.
This topic has come up many times in my Bible study group, and the most cited scientific assessment is that Jesus had brown eyes, black hair, and olive skin. His hair and beard were also likely short, as that was the style most accepted by Jewish men at that time. He just got whitewashed by European artists and the churches who sponsored them so that He would have an appearance which predominantly white Christians there could relate to. And so... depicting Him as Black so that Black Christians can relate to Him better should not be at all controversial. In fact, since Jesus is meant to be The Way and The Light for ALL humanity and ALL things to ALL people, these gorgeous photographs by James Lewis could be seen as endorsed by the tenants of Christianity. As for me personally? I just think they're absolutely stunning works of art. I've posted a few samples below, but you can see the entire series (and find a link to buy prints) on the James Lewis Pinterest.
Jesus Christ, The Only Begotten Son of the Living God ©James Lewis
Apostle Paul of Tarsus, Disciple of Jesus Christ ©James Lewis
Apostle Matthew, Disciple of Jesus Christ ©James Lewis
Daniel The Prophet ©James Lewis
Moses, Prophet & Deliver of Israel ©James Lewis
Mary & Joseph, The Parents of Jesus Christ ©James Lewis
Cain & Abel, Sons of Adam & Eve ©James Lewis
There's a lot of characters depicted... and even some abstract concepts, like The Holy Trinity...
The Holy Trinity: Father, Son, Holy Ghost ©James Lewis
I suspect some characters got included just because they're incredibly hot...
Queen Jezebel, Evil Wife of King Ahab ©James Lewis
Prince Absalom Third Son of King David ©James Lewis
I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me. — John 10:14
When I was a kid, there was a show called Gimme a Break! which starred Nell Carter as a Black housekeeper for a white man with his two white daughters (and later, Joey Lawrence?)... in one episode Nell dropped by her family's home with the younger daughter. On the wall was a photo of Black Jesus. The little girl said "I think something happened to your Jesus at the Photomat!" — queue laughter — And that's when I found myself wondering... "How do we know WHAT Jesus looked like?" Since I left the Catholic Church fairly early in life (they did not like me asking questions about stuff they were teaching that I couldn't find in The Bible... like Purgatory) I never got much further than that. But over the past several years that I've been participating in a "Bible Study for Non-Christians" group, it always comes up.
I don't know why these photos would be considered any more "controversial" than all the blonde-hair blue-eyed Jesus depictions, but my guess is that they will be. There's an awful lot of hate and ignorance masking as "Christianity" out there.
When it comes to television and movies, I'm a bit of an obsessive-compulsive. Sometimes I will latch onto an actor, pull up their IMDB profile, then watch every last appearance I can find. It's just something I do for whatever reason. This time it happened after I watched the movie The General's Daughter (with John Travolta!)... then went back to rewatching Barry... only to realize that John Benjamin Hickey is in both. He's a solid actor that pops up in a lot of places, but I most remember him as appearing in The Big C. He played Laura Linney's homeless brother. And so... I decided to work my way back through his acting catalog.
The first movie I found that was free for me to watch was called Forever My Girl...
It has a crappy 25% on Rotten Tomatoes, but I figured I'd have a higher tolerance for it because I enjoy all those crappy Hallmark romance movies. Despite precious little chemistry between the leads, it's actually a pretty good flick! And the little girl who plays the daughter is great. Sweet, feel-good stuff.
I went back to Rotten Tomatoes in order to find out what critics hated about it... and did a double-take when I saw that the Audience Score is 79%. This is like... really good for an audience score (as a comparison, Titanic has just 69%). Of course this is exactly the kind of movie that critics feel obligated to hate, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised.
What totally did surprise me? The guy who stars in it... Alex Roe (somebody I'd never heard of before)... is British. Not just British... very, very British...
The movie is also hilarious... if only unintentionally so. Early on Alex is running six blocks BAREFOOT in New Orleans to get his mobile phone fixed. And while running barefoot in any big city could be dangerous... NEW ORLEANS?!? In the French Quarter, no less.
And now, if you'll excuse me, more John Benjamin Hickey is calling... this time in the movie Tallulah.
P.S. I don't know which Hollywood types need to hear this, but... voicemails are not stored on your mobile. They are stored on a server at your carrier. So a major plot point in Forever My Girl is pretty laughable. And not in a good way.
Social distancing comes home.
So there I was, giving Jenny belly rubs because she absolutely insists on it every morning when I'm trying to get some work done when the unthinkable happens in the day-and-age of COVID-19.
Jenny hops up like she heard a shot, then jumps to the end of the bed.
Where she glared at me for ten solid minutes...
I swear... she may have a cranky face, but she is the sweetest kitty ever. She just believes in social distancing when she suspects you are coronavirus-symptomatic.
COVID-19 cases may be on the rise because Americans are too selfish and stupid to wear masks and practice social-distancing, but all is not lost... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Lyrical! Before we get to me being a unhinged, profanity-laden rage-machine over frickin' masks and stuff, watch this video. I honestly don't know which is more adorable... this incredible little girl... or the reactions her dad has...
So many adorable videos...
There's more where those came from: The Kabs Family YouTube.
• Taxing So Hard! Hasan just finished up his current cycle of Patriot Act on Netflix, and he ended on a doozy of an episode. It is reprehensible how Intuit and other asshole companies have made billions over charging American citizens for something they should not have to pay a damn thing for. Democrats and Republicans may not agree on how much taxes we should pay... but can easily agree that the way we file our taxes is Fucked. Up.
I see shit like this, and I just marvel that people aren't consumed with outrage. Lobbyists have hopelessly fucked our government, and this is a perfect example of how.
• Masked, Man! Washington State governor Jay Inslee (who is roundly hated here in Eastern Washington) finally issued a mandatory mask order. He pretty much had no choice. Businesses were having a horrible time trying to enforce it because too many people are just fucking asshole idiots, and I guess he figured that state-wide enforcement was the only way to keep us safe (seeing how countries like Austria which mandated masks had their infection rates drop 90%). Even with the mandate, this is what you'll still witness...
"Excuse me, masks are required to shop here. I'm happy to get you one if you don't have one."
"I DON'T BELIEVE IN THAT!!! STOP INFRINGING ON MY FREEDOM!"
Well, I have news for you... it doesn't matter what you believe or don't believe. THIS IS WHAT'S REQUIRED TO SHOP IN A STORE NOW... SO STOP BEING A TOTAL FUCKING ASSHOLE TO SOMEBODY WHO IS JUST TRYING TO DO THEIR JOB! THIS CASHIER DOESN'T SET THE POLICY, AND YOU'RE A PIECE OF SHIT FOR HASSLING A MINIMUM WAGE WORKER OVER SOMETHING THEY DON'T CONTROL! Go ahead and "don't believe" in masks because you're an ignorant dumbass... don't wear one if you're garbage who doesn't care about others... whatever... BUT DON'T TAKE IT OUT ON SOMEBODY JUST TRYING TO MAKE A LIVING BY DOING THE JOB THEY'RE TOLD TO DO! You can wear a mask for ten fucking minutes in a store even if you're too stupid to "believe in it"... because some retail clerk following the rules doesn't deserve your bullshit.
Fortunately, some good sometimes comes out of abhorrent behavior like this.
• Citizens Arrest The Devil! And then...
There's stupid, and then there's whatever trip this fucking nut-job piece of shit is on. Fuck you. Get your own ass to a psych ward, you crazy asshole. Doctors and nurses are risking their lives every damn day to save lives in the middle of a pandemic and ignorant fucks like you are mocking their sacrifice. If you don't want to give a shit about putting your fellow Americans in danger, go live in a cave somewhere.
• Oxygen! Here's a human with a respiratory system...
It doesn't matter how many videos like this are released, there are still dumbfucks who will not be swayed.
• Statehood! If you watched HBO's Watchmen, you know the American flag was different because in Watchmen's reality, Vietnam was made the 51st state. It's a pretty cool detail in a very cool television show...
And while we're on adding states... I 100% support Washington D.C. becoming our 51st state... and I also support territories we govern who don't have a voice in government be granted statehood if they wish it. We literally became a country because of taxation without representation. Will it take another revolution to make things right? Despite passing The House, probably. And, yes, Puerto Rico does pay taxes to the US Treasury... $3.5 billion in 2016.
• Cheerio! As anybody here likely knows, I have been on a crusade again Western Digital for the shitty, underhanded way that they have been sneaking cheap, shitty SMR drives into their NAS line of Red drives... NAS being an application where they are totally inapropriate. Well, after enough outrage by their customer base (and former customers like myself), Western Digital finally relented and has said that they will from now on label the "good" kind of NAS drives "Red+" and keep sneaking the shitty, totally inappropriate SMR drives in their original "Red" lineup. Something I interpret like this...
Now that we've been caught shitting in your Cheerios, we promise to let you know which boxes of Cheerios have shit in them... NOT by labeling them as "Cheerios with Shit"... but instead by labeling the shit-free version as "Cheerios+"... thanks to our customers for letting us know they want to know when there's shit in their Cheerios! — Love, Western Digital
Yeah. No. Fuck you. The correct move would be to say that you learned your lesson and will immediately be removing SMR drives from your entire lineup since it is promoted for NAS but wholly wrong for NAS. Instead you just continue shitting in our Cheerios. I won't be buying WD again.
Until next Sunday... enjoy your pandemic.
I did not sleep last night because I knew better than to try.
I stayed up watching television and working on fundraising to take my mind off of the clock hitting midnight when June 29th would once again drop on me with the weight of a hundred bricks. Two years ago I said goodbye to my mom, and it still hurts the exact same today as it did then.
Just like last year, it has gotten easier to live with, however.
I almost never think of the awful years at the end when the mom I loved was fading away bit by bit. I'm also a lot less angry over having to lose her twice. I don't think I will ever be over mourning her, but now it's gotten to the point where all I have is the love in my heart, which is as it should be, I suppose. Sometimes I feel like I should be angry, but I'm too grateful for what time we had. How lucky am I to have so many happy memories traveling the world and going on adventures together?
Maybe in another couple of years I will be able to sleep at night on June 28th.
Perhaps in another decade I'll not dread seeing June 29th appear on my calendar.
That would certainly be nice. In the meanwhile I'll just have to get through as best I can and try to keep focused on what's important...
Love and miss you every day, mom.
I've written a couple times about my love of GigaPan images. It's a really cool technology which stitches together tons of hi-resolution images to form one massive photo that you can zoom into to ridiculous degrees. Most of the time, GigaPan is used for capturing scenery. You see the scene and then can zoom and zoom and zoom to reveal all kinds of little details.
But you can use GigaPixel for all kinds of things.
A really cool application is artwork.
I've been to Milan, Italy in order to see The Last Supper. It's a magnificent work of art by one of my favorite artists, Leonardo da Vinci...
One of you bitches is going to betray me!
And now Google's Arts & Culture has posted a painting of the painting by one of Leonardo da Vinci's pupils which is presented in GigaPan format...
What's interesting is that you can see how the original masterpiece showed Jesus's feet, which were chopped off when somebody decided to cut a door into the wall of the original.
And since this is GigaPan, you can zoom into the canvas to a crazy degree...
All in all, it's pretty spectacular.
If you want to explore the painting yourself, here's a link for you.