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When All I Really Want Are Cookies…

Posted on Wednesday, July 1st, 2020

Dave!I've been avoiding trips to stores whenever possible. My reduced lung capacity (which is why I stopped SCUBA diving) makes me an excellent candidate for death if I catch COVID-19, so I just don't risk it. I think the last time I went was two weeks ago, but it was just an in-and-out at Safeway for some rice noodles and Sriracha. I didn't hang around to do any serious shopping.

Which means that my groceries are running low.

Which means I have to psyche myself up for my monthly grocery run.

I was planning on going yesterday, but I had my Martha Stewart & Marley Spoon recipe box to use up, so instead I cooked Salsa Verde Cheese Enchiladas with Sour Cream & Scallions, which was phenomenal...

Salsa Verde Cheese Enchiladas with Sour Cream & Scallions

Then tonight I had Pasta & Fresh Tomato Sauce and Seasoned Ricotta, which was also excellent...

Pasta & Fresh Tomato Sauce and Seasoned Ricotta

I can only really afford to get Martha's boxes when I have a coupon, so they're a rare treat now-a-days. And a delicious one, when the recipes end up being as amazing as these.

And now that I'm done with my meals-by-mail, I have to start thinking of groceries again.

I started making a list... trying to think of things I really love that can be prioritized by how quickly they expire. Fresh fruits and vegetables are used up in the first week or two... canned, frozen, and dry goods are saved for the rest of the month. Which is to say that my early meals are awesome, then get progressively worse as time goes on. I try to plan my meals so it's not too horrible, but when you can't run to the store for a missing ingredient, it's tough.

Especially when all I really want are cookies.

Every trip to Safeway I talk myself out of buying them because I am far better off without the refined sugar load packed into a cookie. And every time I get home I regret it because cookies are all I can think about and the only thing I want to eat.

So this time they are going at the top of my shopping list, and we'll see if I'm strong enough to talk myself out of it again.

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Summer Days Lost

Posted on Thursday, July 2nd, 2020

Dave!Today was the second time this year I had to cancel major plans so I can sit at home. Thanks to our shitty handling of the pandemic, The USA is experiencing record high infections... whereas countries that took this shit seriously from the start continue to slow. Now they're starting to open back up because the threat is manageable... whereas here in these United States we continue to open up despite things being worse than ever.

Which, of course, means that things will just continue to get worse.

Which, of course, means we're just dragging this out longer and longer.

Which, of course, means that we're just ruining the economy even more than it was.

So congratulations to the entire Trump Administration and all the State governments who have hopelessly fucked us. I hope people remember them on Election Day.

As for me? I'm just going to sit here being bitter about losing my entire summer.

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HOMEPOD IS SHIT AND APPLE IS THE WORST!

Posted on Friday, July 3rd, 2020

Dave!"Hey Siri, Fuck you, you steaming pile of shit!"
"I won't respond to that."

I have a SONOS smart speaker music system and I am very happy with it. It gives me great sound in every room... from my home theater to my kitchen to my bedrooms to my bathrooms. Thanks to integration with Amazon Alexa, I can control all the speakers with my voice. Or control all aspects of my smart home and ask for information just by talking to the nearest speaker. And thanks to integration with Amazon Music Unlimited, I can tell SONOS to play whatever music I want anywhere I'm at. It's glorious.

The only shortcoming is that SONOS cannot integrate with iTunes Match. Which means all the music I've purchased through iTunes or ripped into iTunes is off-limits. This is generally not an issue, because Amazon Music Unlimited has most everything I own anyway. It can be an issue when I am wanting to play different music in different places because I only have a single license for Music Unlimited... which, I guess, is not so unlimited after all.

Enter HomePod. Apple's answer to SONOS...

Apple HomePod

I had no intention of buying one because A) I already have SONOS, and B) they're $300 a pop!

Apparently nobody else is buying them either, because they're regularly discounted to $250. And now Best Buy had them knocked down to $200. Factor in my Best Buy Card cash-back and the credit and cash I had, and I was able to pick one up for around $150.

So why not? I'll just pull the money out of my Black Friday fund. I have plenty of clothes anyway. And it's not like I'm going anywhere thanks to a pandemic raging.

And so...

I'm going to get this out of the way right now... the sound out of this speaker is exceptional! It absolutely trounces my Amazon Echo and the SONOS One. The fidelity, bass, and clarity is off-the-charts fantastic. It cannot, of course, compete with my SONOS home theater setup... because how could it? But for a single speaker? Incredible. Room-filling sound that seriously blows me away. Unlike SONOS which requires you to tune it to a room using your iPhone to listen to itself as you walk around the space, HomePod automatically listens to the space its filling and adjusts itself to fit without you having to do a thing. And it's not just hype... I moved the HomePod to different places in the room and it is absolutely creating magic. So when it comes to the acoustical abilities of Apple HomePod I am 100% sold. Also nice? The sound doesn't drop down (AKA "ducking") when you talk to it like what happens with Alexa devices.

And that's about it for things I like about HomePod. Except perhaps the looks, which are not bad.

Setup is admittedly a piece of cake if you own an iPhone... you just hold iPhone up next to the speaker and it automatically detects it and asks if you want to set it up...

My iPhone asking me if I want to setup my HomePod

After set up, I asked Siri to play the album 101 by Depeche Mode...

"Sorry, I couldn't find Depeche Mode in your music. If you subscribe to Apple Music, be sure that it is set up properly in the Home app."

Well that's odd. I repeat my request in a half-dozen different ways. Each time I'm told that Siri can't find the music I want to play.

The Apple forums say that individual items sometimes cause problems, but creating a playlist usually works. So I tried creating a playlist called "DM 101" with the album 101 as the only content. I verified that it was showing up on all my devices, and it appeared almost instantly. So sync is definitely working. So then I ask HomePod to play it...

"I couldn't find DM 101 in your music."

After a half-hour trying to figure this shit out, I finally gave up and reset HomePod so I could start over. Maybe there was something I missed? Maybe the OS update didn't register?

Same damn thing.

OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER.

So then I think that I'll just use my MacBook Pro to tell HomePod to play Depeche Mode's 101 directly. I use the Music app to find the song... send it to HomePod... and it's actually playing! At last! But then I close the lid on my MacBook Pro and HomePod stops playing. I wasn't telling HomePod to play my music... I was merely streaming music to HomePod over AirPlay.

Ditto with Music on my iPhone. You cannot control HomePod from there either... only stream to it. The HomePod setup controls are in Apple's shitty Home app, but there's no way to find out why it can't get to iTunes Match. Nothing that even indicates you are set up to use iTunes Match. And, of course, nowhere to type in what I want HomePod to play.

So I reset HomePod AGAIN and go through setup AGAIN.

I tell Siri to play the album 101 by Depeche Mode...

"Sorry, I couldn't find Depeche Mode in your music."

Now I'm actually worse off than I was before. Not only can HomePod not find the album 101, it can't find ANY music by Depeche Mode at all? I HAVE 30 FUCKING ALBUMS AND 197 SONGS BY DEPECHE MODE! AND HOMEPOD CAN'T FIND ANY OF THEM?!?

          "Hey Siri, Fuck you, you steaming pile of shit!"
          "I won't respond to that."

So here I am... searching the Apple support communities trying to figure out how the fuck I play a damn album that I own and have synced with iTunes Match WHEN THAT'S THE ENTIRE FUNCTION OF APPLE HOMEPOD! I've tried absolutely everything I've managed to dig up on Google. Turning off personalized requests... using playlists... unplugging and re-plugging back in... everything.

  • I've spent hours searching for solutions in the Apple Communities.
  • I've reset HomePod three times. Unplugged/plugged numerous times.
  • I've sat back and waited for an hour, thinking it just needed time to sync stuff.
  • I've tried controlling via my MacBook Pro and iPhone but can only stream, not control.

What the fuck else is there?

I bought HomePod to play my iTunes Match music. If I wanted to stream my music to a speaker over AirPlay, I WOULD JUST USE MY SONOS SYSTEM SINCE IT HAS AIRPLAY BUILT-IN! Not only that, but I have a Plex server sitting on my NAS with all my purchased music on it. So what happens if I ask Alexa to play it via my SONOS?

          "Alexa, tell Plex to play the album 101."
          "Playing the album 101 by Depeche Mode."

Can you believe this shit? SONOS/Alexa/Plex didn't even fucking hesitate! It just started playing what I asked, even though it takes THREE SEPARATE SERVICES TO MAKE IT HAPPEN! And of course it sounds amazing because it's using my SONOS Playbar, two SONOS One speakers, and the SONOS Subwoofer...

Meanwhile Apple HomePod can't even make it happen with their own iTunes Match service! How fucking embarrassing.

Time to schedule a call with Apple Tech Support.

Despite scheduling a call and specifying I need help with HomePod, I was put on hold 15 minutes to wait for an Apple HomePod Specialist. Then after I explained the problem, I was put on hold for 22 more minutes. Then the HomePod Specialist came back and said he would transfer me to his supervisor, Mason. AT WHICH POINT I WAS DISCONNECTED!!!

Despite Apple knowing who I am and having my number, nobody calls back. So I call them back. Keep in mind I have been working on this problem FOR THREE HOURS AND 45 MINUTES!

On hold waiting for Apple again, this time for 51 minutes until somebody answered. TWELVE MINUTES LATER I WAS DISCONNECTED AGAIN!

Fuck it. I am returning this HomePod pile of shit. Four-and-a-half hours of my life wasted.

And definitely fuck Apple.

Apple tech support is the absolute WORST! They used to be the gold standard, now they're just the shittiest of the shitty. I haven't had a truly good tech experience with Apple for nearly a decade. You would think that a company with BILLIONS in the bank would do something about it... but, alas. My advice to you if you ever have a problem needing Apple support? Don't even bother trying to solve it on your own. Call immediately. Then, if you happen to solve it while you're holding for hours, then say that when they call... or you get off hold. Because otherwise you're just wasting your time. And Apple doesn't not give a fuck about your time, trust me.

I found that out the hard way when they accused me of not returning my iPhone... THAT THEY TOOK FROM ME AT THE APPLE STORE! A fucking week of my life wasted on that bullshit. I really need to type up that story one day... but I am enraged just thinking about it. Maybe one day.

God how I hate Apple. I really, really do.

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Caturday 166

Posted on Saturday, July 4th, 2020

Dave!This has been a tough week. On top of having to cancel plans I've been looking forward to all year, I haven't been feeling well lately. Nothing coronavirus-related (at least I hope not), just tired and bummed.

But at least I have my cats, right?

Though I think Jenny is tired of all this quarantine shit...

Jenny staring at me looking discontent.

Jake, however, seems okay with it...

Jake flopped against my leg getting chin scratches.

And now I guess all three of us will be getting back to the same old grind.

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Bullet Sunday 669

Posted on Sunday, July 5th, 2020

Dave!Life can be so cruel, but there's more to existence than misery... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
Cuong Nguyen creates utterly amazing works of art in various mediums...


The guy's entire YouTube Channel is remarkable.

   
• Areala! Netflix finally dropped their adaptation series of Warrior Nun Areala and it's pretty good...

If there's a fault with the series, it's that they dragged it out too long. There's painfully dull stretches where the nuns aren't kicking ass that should have been seriously cut down. I admit that there were times I just fast-forwarded through it because I just could not bring myself to care. They could have easily dropped this down to six episodes and been far better for it. When it comes to faithfulness to the comic book, it's a mixed bag. Sister Shannon (who headed the comic) is gone, and a formerly quadrapalegic, formerly dead young woman inherits her mantle. Alas, she's new and inexperienced, so that's automatically adding dead weight to the story, but Shotgun Mary and Mother Superion are there... as are other warrior nuns... so I think it tries to keep true to the spirit of the source material, and that's something. Hopefully if it gets renewed they'll focus more on action than they did the first time around. And if it doesn't get renewed? That's one shitty fucking cliffhanger to go out on.

   
• Being With Her! One of my favorite TV shows was I'm With Her... a rom-com where a school teacher starts dating the most famous movie star in the world. It's a fairly obvious take-off of the Julia Roberts movie Notting Hill. The series was fun and clever and featured hilarious guest-appearances by Peter Dinklage. The idea was retread again in the show Beauty and the Baker this year. It was good but nothing special. Today I found out that this show is based on an Israeli show called Lehiyot Ita... which, coincidentally enough, translates to Being With Her. So we've come full circle...

But here's the thing... the Israeli original series is really pretty good. Clever, smart, funny, and the casting is fantastic. If you have Amazon Prime streaming, I highly recommend giving it a shot! It's in Hebrew, so you'll need to turn on the subtitles, but it's worth it.

   
• Hamilton! I had the opportunity to see the Broadway play Hamilton very early on. I knew it was getting raves and had huge buzz, but it hadn't entered national consciousness yet. I don't care for Broadway shows at all, so I took a pass. I'd have to burn money on a flight and hotel that I'd rather spend on something else. Better the ticket go to somebody who would enjoy it. Then as Hamiltonmania exploded across the country, I always wondered if I made a mistake. Maybe I should have saw it just so I could say I saw it?

I finally saw the filmed performance on Disney+ and now I know I was right to skip it. Don't get me wrong... Lin Manuel Miranda is genius (I loved his work on Moana) and the cast seems talented... but good Lord is this not for me. AND IT LASTS THREE HOURS?!? I would have been praying for death after 30 minutes. I'm happy that people can enjoy watching actors running around in circles screaming/singing dialogue like this, but I just don't get it.

   
• Oopsies! And this... is 2020...

And we're only half-way through.

   
• And Lastly! You're welcome...

Just try getting that out of your head.

   
And that's enough joy, I suppose. See You Next Sunday.

   

My Monday, As Explained By My Cats

Posted on Monday, July 6th, 2020

Dave!Well that was awful.

Rather than put into words how my week started, here's my cats to do it for me...

Jake scowling at the camera.

Jenny scowling at the camera.

Yep. Pretty much that.

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Hydrangeas by Morning, Pasta by Night

Posted on Tuesday, July 7th, 2020

Dave!This was starting out to be yet another killer day at work so I decided to get up early. This way I had a minute for breakfast, which allows me to work on perfecting the perfect egg and cheese biscuit sandwich.

So I got up... I fed the cats... then I went to grab a pan to fry up some eggs... and... whoops. All my pots and pans were dirty. And I just didn't feel like washing them by hand, which you have to do because they don't recommend the dishwasher since it ruins the coating. It's not even like it's that hard. My pots and pans are totally easy to clean because nothing sticks... it's just having to stand at the sink and turn on water and squirt the soap and scrub with a brush and dry them off and put them away... no individual task is tough or takes long, but when taken all together it seems like a lot in the morning when I'm trying to get out of the house.

So instead I went out back to take a look at my hydrangeas.

These things are amazing because after having been chopped to the ground in the Fall, they don't seem to do anything when all my other flowers are starting to sprout in the Spring. Then... in what seems like a few days... they explode with growth. Seriously, it's several inches a day, and then the flowers magically appear out of nowhere. Last night I noted that they were all in full bloom...

My pretty, fluffy, flowery, white hydrangeas in full bloom.

My pretty, fluffy, flowery, white hydrangeas in full bloom.

Madonna famously loathes hydrangeas, but I think they're pretty. They certainly take up a lot of space... and they don't stink, which is nice. I'm happy to just let them keep growing year after year since it doesn't require any effort by me (except to chop them down again in October).

When I got home I really wanted some creamy walnut sauce on pasta.

But I was so tired after 12 hours working that, once again, I had very little motivation to scrub my pots and pans. And since every last one of them was dirty, I figured I'd just take a pass.

But then I couldn't bring myself to eat another peanut butter sandwich like I did last night, so I spent the 15 minutes it took to clear my sink and start cooking for 25 minutes.

Totally worth it...

A beautiful plate of walnut cream sauce on pasta.

Delicious to the last bite. Except now I've got a sink full of pots and pans again.

Then it was time to ignore the dirty dishes and hunker down with Jake and watch television, which was pretty much all I had the energy for...

Me and Jake sitting on the couch watching television.

Except for a bowl of chocolate ice cream with walnuts and whipped cream, of course.

   

Mixed Just Like Mom Used to Make

Posted on Wednesday, July 8th, 2020

Dave!My mom had a particular way of mixing chocolate milk when I was a kid. She wouldn't just pour a glass then dump in the Nestlé Quik powder... instead she would pour an inch of milk, add the Nestlé Quik, then mix and mix and mix until all the powder was gone. THEN she'd pour in the milk and stir it up into chocolatey goodness.

I was thinking of that last week and made a note to get some Quik when I went to the store. But when I got to Safeway, I couldn't find the cans of Quik anywhere...

A vintage tin of original Nestlé Quik.

Eventually I found something called Nesquik in a plastic box, which I assume was the same thing. I kinda recognized Quik the Bunny, despite the fact that he's wearing stupid human clothes and no longer has a big Q necklace on...

A modern plastic box of Nesquik.

Here's Quik the Bunny I remember...

The original Quik the Bunny... naked with a big Q hanging around his neck.

It tastes pretty much like I remember. Unlike Hershey's Syrup which is bitter and shitty, Quik... ahem... Nesquik... is sweeter and tastes more like you want chocolate milk to taste.

And, yes, I mixed it just like mom used to make.

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Nothing’s Impossible (Burger)

Posted on Thursday, July 9th, 2020

Dave!My favorite burger... by a wide, wide margin... is the Impossible Whopper at Burger King.

It used to be the Boca Burger "Streamliner" at Johnny Rockets, but then Boca was bought out by Kraft and they decided to "new and improved" their recipe into something that tastes like toxic sludge, feels like fiber, and has a grotesque artificial brown color that looks like (literal) shit. Johnny Rockets couldn't serve that to their customers, so they replaced it with a Spicy Black Bean Burger. It's not bad, but not what I want. At least it's edible though. Red Robin replaced Boca Burgers with their own disgusting "ancient grains and quinoa" patty which tastes like vomit.

Since losing Boca Burger, I've tried dozens of other vegetarian burgers to eat at home. The one I end up going back to is Morningstar Farms "Grillers Original," but the texture is awful. It's squidgy and gross and I only eat it when there's nothing else in my freezer.

Impossible Burger finally released their heme-infused burger "meat" in frozen form a while back.

I finally found some to buy at the local Albertson's so I could give it a shot.

And it's everything I was hoping for. When cooked in a hot skillet you can get a nice brown sear on it, so the taste and texture are flawless. Which is to say that now I can make my own Impossible Whoppers at home whenever I want. Impossible Burger is expensive... $10 for 12 ounces... which works out to about $2 a burger because I like them really thin... about 2-1/2 ounces...

An uncooked Impossible Burger in my Skillet.

I get a skillet really hot... then squish a ball of Impossible Burger between two plates lined with wax paper... drop in some butter... then fry it up for a couple minutes each side (weirdly enough, it smells like chocolate as it cooks).

Just look at the glorious char. It adds flavor and a thin, crispy exterior that tastes great...

A cooked Impossible Burger in my Skillet.

I haven't barbecued them yet, but I'm anxious to try it because it might taste more like an Impossible Whopper that way. I just worry about my burger falling apart on the grill, so I might have to try freezing it before cooking.

The good news is that I finally... finally... have a decent vegetarian burger to eat at home. That's no small feat... even though it seemed like such a simple thing. But, hey, being able to tell Kraft to take their shitty "Boca Burgers" (that are not Boca Burgers at all) and shove them up their asses is something I've been dying to do.

But what to have for dessert?

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Old Guard, New Cinema

Posted on Friday, July 10th, 2020

Dave!If there's one thing I've learned over the years, it's that movies based on comic books are a mixed bag. Sometimes they do a great job of translating the source material... other times they do a horrendous job. But in every case, there's always changes that get made.

Marvel Studios has been the most successful in respecting the original comic books with their films. When they make changes, they are usually in the service of the story and are made so that the essence of the characters and stories will work in an entirely different format. DC had some very good Batman movies with Christopher Nolan's take on The Dark Knight, yet their current movies have been worse than shit. And then there's the 20th Century Fox X-Men movies, which were awful to extreme levels of bad, and about the worst comic book translation you'll find.

You just never know.

So when I heard that Netflix was creating a movie based on The Old Guard, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. I loved the comic book. Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernandez told a great story in a cool way and it had incredible potential for a movie. So when Netflix unleashed it, I tuned in with a mix of both excitement and dread. How much of the story would they butcher? How many senseless changes would they make?

Turns out they did a fucking amazing job.

This story of immortal beings working as mercenaries stars Charlize Theron, which was reason enough to watch. She has never disappointed. And she absolutely does not disappoint here. She kicks copious amounts of ass and delivers exactly as you'd expect her to. That much was not surprising.

What was surprising? Not did Netflix keep two of the major characters gay... but they did not reduce their characters to platonic shells as what usually do. Take this scene between them from the comic book, which was incredibly touching and romantic as it gets...

A page from The Old Guard comic book.

And compare it to The Old Guard movie...

The scene is not just faithful... it's word-for-word faithful.

There was a time not even ten years ago that this would likely have not been the case. If the characters of Joe and Nicky were allowed to stay gay, they would have been neutered or played for laughs. And then there's the fact that the two leads of an action movie are women... and one of them is a Black woman. Don't see a lot of that, even in 2020.

And so...

Highest possible recommendation. If you like action movies, it's definitely worth a look.

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Caturday 167

Posted on Saturday, July 11th, 2020

Dave!As I've mentioned a couple times, Jenny refuses to bite wet food... she will only lick it. So for the past several months I've been puréeing her wet food so she can lick it up. Then this past week something interesting happened. Jenny started sitting in front of where Jake eats so she could see what food he was getting before going to her bowl... and then not eat. This was both disheartening and amusing.

In order to get things back on track so Jake wouldn't end up eating two dinners, I decided to start mixing in a little water with a fork in hopes that it would be easy enough for her to lick but not be so radically different that she'd refuse to eat it. And... it seems to be working. So crisis diverted.

In other news, Jake is back to being clingy again. He seems to be running in cycles. The minute I sit down he's right there...

Jake grabbing on my leg.

Jake stretched out next to me.

And if I spread out on the couch?

Jake sleeping on top of me.

I think the only thing he loves more than me is the sun...

Jake laying in a sunbeam.

And Mufasa, of course...

Jake laying in a sunbeam.

Though a couple nights ago something weird happened. I heard him wailing at the bottom of the stairs, which usually means he can't find Mufasa... but when I checked the security cameras he had Mufasa right there with him...

Jenny, on the other hand, is the same as she always is. She either wants a treat or wants belly rubs...

Jenny flopped over and expecting belly rubs.

Jenny flopped over and expecting belly rubs.

She may have simple needs, but at least she's consistent.

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Bullet Sunday 670

Posted on Sunday, July 12th, 2020

Dave!I'm too dang tired for bullets, but it's not like I can stop... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Nuke 'Em! I've been using my microwave less and less. I prefer my food cooked in an oven or on a stove with real heat, and that's how I've been preparing my meals for a long while now. The rubbery texture and uneven heating don't make the convenience and speed worth it. And then I discovered microwave pancakes and French toast. If ever there was a perfect application for a microwave, this would be it. Since the items come frozen after having been fully-cooked, you're not really cooking them so much as reheating them, and they reheat beautifully, evenly, and without cold spots...

A box of Eggo frozen pancakces.

A box of Eggo frozen pancakces.

I like the Eggo pancakes great. But FarmRich has better French Toast Sticks.

   
• NEWSFLASH! American Passports Are Worthless Now"I think it is difficult for Americans to understand that they are, to use an epidemiological term, completely fucked."

   
• NEWSFLASH! Netherlands plans to remove gender from ID cards entirely — Sensible. Because what possible fucking difference does it make? You don't have to be male to vote or drive a car... at least not in this country... so why is this something that has to appear on your identification?

   
• Risk!

   
• NEWSFLASH! Disney World Emphasizes Safety Protocols Ahead of Reopening: "You Must Follow All Posted Instructions" — Be our GUEST! Be our GUEST! Put your health up to the test! Be our GUEST! Be our GUEST! The worst than can happen is your death!

   
• Grey! The Tom Hanks WWII movie Greyhound on Apple TV+ is such a wasted effort. Yes, the battles are thrilling... but there's nothing personal about any of these characters so you can relate to their struggle against overwhelming odds. You root for them just because you know you should root for them, not because they've earned it. I know this is supposed to be based on a true story, so they likely wanted to restrain embellishment, but they might as well just made a documentary.

And don't get me started on the musical score. The MUSIC parts are not bad at all, but they accent it with stupid-ass sound effects that sounds like whales screaming and other horrific shit that assaults your auditory senses and makes you want to put the entire movie on mute so you don't have to listen to this shit. Who approved it? It's awful, awful, AWFUL.

   
And that's enough for tonight. Have a good one.

   

Last Christmas for Travel

Posted on Monday, July 13th, 2020

Dave!I've flown somewhere every year since 1983. Today it hit me that this may very well be the first time in 37 years that I go nowhere. And I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it.

On one hand, it has been SO nice to not have to drive 2-1/2 hours to the airport... deal with airport security... sit on a plane for hours... stand in line at the rental car counter... sleep in weird hotels... live out of a suitcase... not to mention, well, this right here... and... the travel part of travel pretty much sucks.

On the other hand?

I've been stuck at home instead of out exploring the world.

Every place I had on my list to see before I die suddenly doesn't seem as important as it once was. Except possibly India. I am very upset that I haven't got to visit yet and something inside of me dies at the thought of never seeing it. I would also like to visit Africa again. But other than that? It's not so much places as it is people I will miss. I have friends scattered around the globe, and there are more than a few I'd be very sad not to see in person again one day.

In other news...

I passed on the movie Last Christmas last year because A) It only got 47% on Rotten Tomatoes... and B) I suspected I knew how the story ends up just from watching the commercials. — I was right about the story, but Rotten Tomatoes got it wrong. Maybe it's the Hallmark Christmas movie lover in me... but I thought this was a really good film. I love Emilia Clarke and the incomparable Michelle Yeoh, but had only ever seen Henry Golding in Crazy Rich Asians. His fantastic performance in that film was no accident. He is crazy charming in this movie. And it's not like you can go wrong building your soundtrack around George Michael...

A nice mid-month surprise for my annual Christmas in July movie marathon!

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Every Steven Spielberg Movie RANKED

Posted on Tuesday, July 14th, 2020

Dave!ScreenRant recently published Every Steven Spielberg Movie Ranked from Worst to Best and I have thoughts. In some places I definitely agree with their assessment. But in many places I do not. But since lists like this are subjective, that's only natural. If there's one thing I think we can all agree on it's that Spielberg is responsible for some truly great movies. He's got vision that propels stories to movie blockbusters and there's no denying his talent.

Except...

If Spielberg had only made the first ten films on my list, he'd be one of my favorite directors of all time. But it's the bottom ten than kinda sink him for me here. It has me wondering if Quentin Tarantino's plan to only direct ten feature films is a good idea. This focuses the director on making ten of the best films they could have possibly made instead of squandering their talents on a scattershot oeuvre that's uneven and mired by mediocre efforts. Heaven only knows how much better some of even Spielberg's best works could have been if he hadn't been distracted with some of these projects.

Food for thought.

My list is ordered "best to worst" instead of "worst to best" because I don't buy into the idea that there's any suspense to be found from saving the best for last. My favorite movies deserve to be first on a list! So here we go...

The original Raiders of the Lost Ark movie poster with Harrison Ford.

  1. Raiders Of The Lost Ark. I disagree with the ranking of much of ScreenRant's list... but have no argument whatsoever that Raiders deserves the top spot. I've seen this movie more times than I can count, and it still delivers each and every time. Sure, much of the credit goes to the inspired casting of Harrison Ford and his sublime performance, but I don't discount Steven Spielberg's contribution in just how brilliant it all turned out. Amazing set-pieces. Thrilling action. Humorous moments which accent but don't overwhelm. And let's not forget plenty of punching Nazis in the face as God intended. Everything good about movie-making can be found right here.
  2. Jurassic Park. Nothing quite prepared me for the dinosaur effects in this movie when I saw it in the theater very early in its run. So many awe-inspiring scenes handled so wonderfully. I would rather watch this again that revisit any of the sequels that followed. That pretty sums up my feelings on just how good Spielberg can be when he isn't mired in over-sentimentality and unnecessary drama.
  3. Jaws. This is a brilliant film that transcends the "special effects" possible at the time it was made. Now-a-days it would be remade with a CGI shark that would be over-used, killing the suspense and build-up that made the original such a fantastic popcorn cinema effort. In some ways, Spielberg's direction was all downhill from here, but that's not necessarily a slam on his talents. It's more blind-admiration that somebody managed something this good so early in their career.
  4. Schindler’s List. A punch in the gut that everybody should see. It paints a picture with such vivid relief that you simply cannot believe the inhumanity of it all... but then look at current events and see how history does indeed repeat itself.
  5. Minority Report. Sure there were some problems here... and plot holes you could drive a truck through, but I really, really enjoyed this sci-fi thriller. It's a fantastic near-future vision that is executed very well. Absolutely agree that this is one of Spielberg's best efforts and one of his most underrated.
  6. Saving Private Ryan. Sometimes the horrors of war have to be shown so people understand why it's to be avoided at all costs, and this movie takes an unflinching look at exactly that. The opening invasion scenes are hold-your-breath-edge-of-your-seat brilliant, then get tempered with hope and heart in a way that elevated above your average war flick. Performances were gut-wrenchingly amazing at every turn, and the fact that Spielberg managed to hold it all together is an amazing effort.
  7. Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade. This movie tried to fix all the things that went so wrong with the previous installment... and succeeded far more than it deserved to. Harrison Ford and Sean Connery were flawless in their roles, and I can't believe this smart, funny, high-action, escapist cinematic delight was allowed to devolve into the utter crap we got in the next movie in the franchise, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
  8. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. I know. I know. This is a brilliant movie on every possible level and has performances which deliver in spades... but it's also kind of overwrought where it should be thrilling. There's no denying I love the movie... I've seen it multiple times... it just doesn't impact me like other films on this list do.
  9. Munich. This was a well-crafted film that held my attention from start to finish... something that Spielberg rarely accomplishes with me. The complex morals at play here add a depth that he doesn't reach too often, and the performance he got out of Eric Bana was sublime. This was a smart, taught film from a director at the top of his game.
  10. Catch Me If You Can. This is a fun film that didn't have much depth... but boy did it deliver in entertainment. Sure it goes over-the-top at times, but it's fantastically reserved for Spielberg, and the thrill of the chase drives the entire film forward with few stumbling blocks.
  11. Empire Of The Sun. While it gets so many things right... and it certainly feels ambitious... it also suffers from an uneven flow that disrupts the narrative far more often that it should have. Even so, I really like this film because it does what films are supposed to do... take you to another place. Yes, it's exhausting. Yes, sections of the movie seem to trivialize war. Yes, it's strange in not-so-great ways. But it's also really good movie fare.
  12. Duel I had no idea that this was a Steven Spielberg film until I saw it on the list! I mean, at some point I must have known... I've seen the movie at least twice... it just never registered to me. This is Spielberg's directorial debut and it's everything you could want. Suspense and thrills on overdrive, it's no wonder this lead to him getting to direct Jaws.
  13. Bridge Of Spies. Most of my enjoyment of this film can certainly be set on the Coen Brother's script... but there's something to be said for Tom Hanks' brilliant performance and Spielbergs cunning in letting the movie unfold as it needs to. Espionage thrillers are among my most favorite movie genre, and this is a darn good effort amongst a lot of truly great efforts.
  14. The Color Purple. The best thing I can say about this movie is that it made me want to read the original novel, which turned out to be more enjoyable and far more impactful to me. Even so, the actors were all fantastic. Whoopi Goldberg turned in the performance of a lifetime, and it's unreal that this is her first feature film role.
  15. Always. This film was dead-last in ScreenRant's list. They called it "cloying" and a "slog" which I find surprising. To me, it's exactly the opposite of that... a charming movie which takes its time to delivery a beautiful message about life. Audrey Hepburn was her brilliant self, and her final role in Always was a treat to behold.
  16. The Terminal. Second-to-last on ScreenRant's list, I couldn't disagree more that this movie "languishes" and that Tom Hanks is "too starry" for the role. It's actually a sweet story with great characters that doesn't go "full-on-Spielberg" and have over-the-top emoting with annoying kids injected for no reason.
  17. The Post. This was a good film that strives to show the merits of journalism in a time of "fake news," but it didn't necessarily translate into a good story. Ultimately I enjoyed the film very much, but it falls flat too often and takes way too long to truly get moving. For what it was about, I was expecting a more exciting film than what ended up on screen.
  18. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. For whatever reason, I do not care for this movie at all. Yeah, yeah, it's an iconic film... but it suffers from cloying drama that is so blatantly manipulative as to be criminal. The best thing I can say about it is that I didn't hate the kids, as they were only mildly annoying instead of hugely annoying like what you usually get in movies like this. The John Williams score was also next-level amazing. What I did hate was the stupid 2002 revision that served no good purpose. Turning guns into walkie-talkies? Seriously?
  19. Lincoln. Eh. I mean, it was a good film with stunning visuals and an epic performance by Daniel Day-Lewis... and it was complex in a good way... but it still fell a little flat for me. The camera choices were distracting. The god-like take on Lincoln was trying. And the attempt at turning history into myth was amateurish. I just don't have the same reverence for Lincoln that so many people seem to.
  20. Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom. There's moments in this infamous sequel which make you wonder what could have happened if only somebody with actual storytelling ability were to take a run at the script. Instead you've got Kate Capshaw being made to say stupid things and screaming a lot... an annoying kid injected for no good reason who is responsible for such brilliant lines as "No time for love, Doctor Jones!"... and a borderline-racist and highly ignorant look at other cultures. Ouch. Even so, I think this movie gets a bit of a bad rap because, at its core, it's got Harrison Ford turning in a really good performance of Indiana Jones that you really can't fault.
  21. Amistad. While I appreciate Spielberg's effort to not gloss over slavery as a vehicle for some kind of idiotic white savior character, I still think that this movie didn't really do the real-life story much justice. It was just so... dull. A slog of a courtroom drama interrupted with moments of brilliance that are quickly buried. Even so, I'd recommend seeing it for the opening scenes alone... and a truly great performance by Djimon Hounsou.
  22. War Of The Worlds. While there were some really great moments here and the Spielbergian tension was among his best efforts, things just kinda fell apart in the third act. I 100% agree with ScreenRant that Spielberg having Tom Cruise's son end up alive didn't make sense and was a huge misstep that undercuts the narrative. I had exceedingly high expectations for this movie, but ultimately felt it would have ended up a better film if somebody else was at the helm.
  23. The Adventures Of Tintin. This is a really good story that somehow fell apart in the animation for me. It's uncanny valley times one hundred, and I was pulled out of the film more times than I can count because the character design was just so inexplicably horrific. If only this were traditionally-animated... or made live-action... or something to keep the viewer from having to look at these freaky-ass characters for the entire runtime, it would have been a far better movie.
  24. Sugarland Express. I was very late to this movie (seeing it in 2010, maybe?) and that's the problem. Despite some good performances and nice style choices, the movie just felt oddly displaced to me. Not necessarily dated, but not anchored enough in its time to feel real. Still... not a bad film by any means, and really good for a directorial debute.
  25. The BFG. The source material seemed like it was a good fit for a movie... but it didn't quite work out, despite a lot of effort put into the CGI animation to stay faithful to Roald Dahl's story. It just seems so pedestrian given the amazing visuals, and that's a real problem. It's just a slow, forgettable effort that I'll never watch again.
  26. A.I.: Artificial Intelligence. This was a wholly depressing story that had an inexplicably stupid ending-on-top-of-an-ending that sunk any emotional weight that had been building for the entire movie. Painfully manipulative at every turn, this is Spielberg at his worst. Stanley Kubrick's idea should have died with him, because I find it impossible to believe that this is what he would have given us.
  27. War Horse. I never saw the stage play or read the book... both of which I'm told are fantastic... but this was just plain bad from start to finish. I felt terrible for the poor horse, not because of the character in the story, but for being forced to appear in this movie to begin with. Spielberg's biggest fault is that he's so absurdly and obviously manipulative, but this a manipulative fiasco that takes it to an entirely new level.
  28. The Lost World: Jurassic Park. 100% agree with ScreenRant's assessment that this is just a retread of the original movie with better effects but worse story. I remember walking out of the theater wishing I could have those two hours back.
  29. 1941. A painfully unfunny "comedy" that squandered the talents of everybody involved.
  30. Hook. Total disaster of a movie which was poorly conceived and felt forced every step of the way. Heaven only knows what other movie we might have gotten from Robin Williams if he had taken a pass on this dud.
  31. Ready Player One. While I liked the book okay despite a lame plot and even more lame ending, the translation to screen was awful. Visuals were awful. Performances were awful. World-building was awful. Pile that one all the faults the novel had and you end up with a mess that's so unwatchable that I ended up fast-forwarding through many, many parts of it.
  32. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Absolutely shitty fourth installment of one of the best characters in cinematic history. Doesn't help that I fucking detest Shia LaBeouf's "Mutt" character so badly that this alone destroyed any chance of this film having any redeeming qualities... Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, and Karen Allen aside. Nuking the fridge... fucking ALIENS... dumbass Mutt Williams... it all adds up to one of the worst movies I've ever seen.

See you in the movies, cinema fan.

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NEOWISE… But Not for Me

Posted on Wednesday, July 15th, 2020

Dave!It always seems as though I miss out on all the cool celestial events. Usually the problem is that it's overcast (in Winter) or the sky is filled with smoke (in Summer). So many times I've gotten excited because there's a meteor shower or comet or an eclipse happening... then I can't see a dang thing. I thought my luck was changing because I got to see the eclipse back in 2017.

But... apparently not.

When it comes tothe NEOWISE comet, I thought I was golden because "in the Northwestern sky" is what's dicrectly outside my bedroom window!

My bedroom window at dusk.

But when I looked the past couple nights I could find it. Last night I loaded up the Star Walk app on my iPhone to find out why that is. Turns out that my elevation coupled with the surrounding hills is why...

The comet is too low on the horizon for me to see from my house. So... no NEOWISE for me then. Typical.

I was really hoping to photograph the thing because it seemed like a fun challenge. But oh well. There are so many awesome photos floating around that mine would be redundant (at best) or really bad by comparison (at worst). Guess I'll take more photos of flowers or my cats instead.

   

It’s Entirely In Your Hands

Posted on Thursday, July 16th, 2020

Dave!Ever get the feeling that the government is actively working against your best interests and is happy to endanger your health by pandering to ignorance, denying science, and covering up the data that reveals how badly they are fucking over the American people?

Call me paranoid, but it's tough to see it any other way when you follow the headlines...

Florida tops its single-day record for coronavirus deaths as the UK and France seek to mandate mask wearing. — The Chicago Tribune, Posted July 14, 5:11pm Eastern

Trump administration cuts CDC out of data collection on hospitalized COVID-19 patients. The move has immediate effect. — USA Today, Posted July 15, 9:27am Eastern

Coronavirus data has already disappeared after Trump administration shifted control from CDC. — Posted July 15, 9:31am Eastern

COVID-19 power shift: Experts have 'deep worries' about hospital data sent to Washington. — NBC News, Posted July 15, 2:19pm Eastern

Out of View: After Public Outcry, CDC Adds Hospital Data Back to Its Website — for Now. — ProPublica, Posted July 15, 2:38pm Eastern

Did Trump Admin Remove CDC as Overseer of COVID-19 Hospital Data? • TRUE. — Snopes. Posted July 15

   
If the pandemic is such a huge hoax involving a conspiracy of doctors and scientists around the globe, then why try to control infection data unless it contradicts your claims? THIS DATA IS HOW STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS MAKE DECISIONS AS TO THE HEALTH OF THOSE PEOPLE THEY REPRESENT!

Not that some State and local governments give a shit...

Data shows new COVID-19 cases steadily climbing in Georgia. — FOX 5 Atlanta, Posted July 16, 8:47am

Report: As COVID-19 cases continue to grow, Gov. Kemp sues Atlanta for requiring masks. — Decaturish.com, Posted July 16

Kemp is so far up Impeached President Cadet Bone Spurs' ass that he can give Trump a colonoscopy just by looking out his fucking window. And the people of Gerogia are suffering because of it. Just goes to show that you get what you vote for.

The truly awful thing is that people who trust our government to do the right thing are subsequently finding out the hard way that the government can't be trusted. Former game show host Chuck Woolery infamously declared the COVID-19 pandemic as some kind of hoax by the CDC, the media, Democrats, and doctors... then had to backtrack the very next day because his son was diagnosed...


SOURCE: Snopes: Did Chuck Woolery Say His Son Tested Positive for COVID-19?

Do people or their loved ones REALLY have to be infected with COVID-19 before they take this shit seriously? People like Chuck Woolery are why this country is so fucking fucked. I wish his son the best... not just for recovery from the coronavirus, but for having to deal with having a fucking ignorant piece of shit for a father.

Masks help prevent the COVID-19 virus in the moisture we expel in our breath from infecting others. Masks don't weaken you or cut down on your oxygen intake. Countries which have mandated masks have drastically cut their infection rates by as much as 90%! And then there's this...

Hairstylists with COVID-19 didn't infect any of their 139 clients. Face masks may be why.

People who deny masks are working... or bitch and complain because a mask is uncomfortable so they shouldn't have to wear one... are assholes. WEARING A MASK SAVES LIVES! SO WEAR A FUCKING MASK!

Or ignore the headlines and keep dying, I guess. It's entirely in your hands.

   

Walking with the Wind

Posted on Friday, July 17th, 2020

Dave!It is impossible to put into words how much John Lewis has come to mean to me.

From what I remember, The Civil Rights Movement was pretty much glossed over at school. I'm sure it was explored a bit, but not in a way that any of it stuck in my head. That wouldn't happen until I watched a Martin Luther King Jr. documentary shortly before leaving on a school DECA Nationals competition to New Orleans in 1983. On my way back home I was in an airport gift shop and spotted a book on The Civil Rights Movement. I didn't have the money to buy it, but made a note to request it at my local library. In the book I was introduced to The Big Six of The Movement... Martin Luther King Jr., James Farmer, Whitney Young, A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins... and John Lewis. They were immediate real-life super-heroes to me, and their story was about as inspiring as it gets.

Not too many years after that James Farmer released his autobiography, Lay Bare the Heart. I checked it out at the library the minute it was available and found it a riveting read. The only other surviving member of The Big Six was John Lewis, and I remember wondering when he would pen an autobiography. The thirteen year wait for Walking with the Wind was worth the wait. Easily one of my favorite books of all time, it was a highly personal account of The Movement that went behind the scenes in a way that precious few could manage. If you don't walk away from the book in a fit of blind admiration for John Lewis, you'd have to be dead inside.

But it was his graphic novel, March, that really made me fall in love with the man...

March Vol. 1-3 by John Lewis

   
To promote the series, he appeared at Comic-Con in full super-hero cosplay... as himself!


Photo from Representative John Lewis via Facebook


Photo from Representative John Lewis via Facebook


Photo from Representative John Lewis via Facebook

How many people can do that?

He never stopped fighting the good fight. He became a Congressman and served 17 terms, representing Georgia's 5th right up until his death... today... at age 80.

As a champion of freedom, Representative Lewis lived a life of service that is admirable and leaves a legacy that few can match. His voice in government will be sorely missed... especially in an age where Federal Officers In Unmarked Vans Are Snatching People Off The Streets In Portland and we're barreling further into fascism with each new day.

One can only hope that the legion of people he inspired will carry on in his place.

Rest in Peace, sir.

   

Caturday 168

Posted on Saturday, July 18th, 2020

Dave!Something has been making Jake one unhappy camper for a few days now, and tonight when Alexa chimed for the cats' dinner I found out just how cranky he actually is. I told Alexa to stop, then went to throw clothes in the dryer before dishing up the cat food. Jake stood at the doorway to the laundry room and squawked and squawked and squawked until I threw down my wet clothes and ran to fix his meal.

He. Was. Pissed.

Which is strange considering how he just seems to adore hanging around me. Still sleeping at the foot of my bed each morning...

Jake at the foot of my bed yawning.

He also seems to be making friends with Fake Jake, because they'll hang out together sometimes now...

Jake and Fake Jake sitting on opposite sides of the catio.

Remember how they used to throw themselves at each other whenever they saw each other through the catio fencing like this?

Jenny, of course, wants nothing of it. This is how she prefers to interact with Fake Jake when he's hanging around the catio...

Jenny staring intently out the window.

Adorable, isn't she?

Helps when she's managed to get her beauty sleep in and doesn't get interrupted like she was here...

Jenny looking very rough after having been woken up.

Until next Caturday, fellow humans.

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Bullet Sunday 671

Posted on Sunday, July 19th, 2020

Dave!The USA may be leading the world in COVID-19 infections, but that's not the worst news you'll hear today... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Psych... Again! NBC's new streaming network, Peacock, launched this week. To entice people to subscribe to yet another service, they are making some content free for a while. Including Psych 2: Lassie Come Home...

I had forgotten how much I love this show. The one-liners are as fast and funny as ever and the story is actually pretty darn good! It features the return of Timothy Omundson (Carlton Lassiter) after his stroke, and he is wonderful. Everybody is. I tell you, bringing back Psych would be a sure-fire way to get me to subscribe to the network, that's for sure.

   
• Coming 2! Heaven help me, it might actually be worth getting infected just to go see this...

With the exception of all the Marvel Studios movies waiting to be released, this is what I most want to see.

   
• Leibovitz? In my work I've seen this many, many times. Photographers shooting Persons of Color the way they shoot white people because they cannot be bothered to learn how to create a shoot for darker skin. And apparently it can be a challenge for even the best photographers. Annie Leibovitz is a true artist, but she completely and totally failed in her shoot of Simone Biles. The Vogue shots are dim, murky, and poorly adjusted...

Simone Biles and her family looking murky and green in a shot for Vogue Magazine.

My guess is that Leibovitz is of a caliber that she can dictate nobody modify her photos, which is a shame because Simone Biles is a beautiful young woman who deserves far better (as does her family). Any pro photographer worth their salt will be able to get stunning shots regardless of skin tone because that's their job. Or, you know, Vogue could hire Black photographers who have a lifetime of experience shooting Persons of Color... just sayin'.

   
• Viola! Case in point? Meanwhile over at Vanity Fair where they hired the first Black photographer in the history of the magazine to shoot a cover story of Viola Davis...

Viola Davis looking amazing shot from the back looking off to the left.

Viola Davis dressed in black shot in front of a gold background looking gorgeous as she looks upward.

Viola Davis would probably look amazing even if she was murky and tinted green... but, boy, this is phenomenal work by Dario Calmese.

   
• STOP! I've seen demos of SawStop technology before. It still takes my breath away to see it in action, and here it is in slow motion...

I use a table saw as an absolute last resort because I am well aware of how dangerous they are. No matter how careful you may be, accidents do happen. SawStop is a pretty brilliant way of keeping the damage to a minimum.

   
• Hobbes and Me! As a massively huge Calvin and Hobbes fan, I can't believe that I missed these shorts when they were released back in 2014...


You can see the entire series right here. You're welcome!

   
And that's a wrap. Enjoy your pandemic, everybody.

   

Two Cats, One Door

Posted on Monday, July 20th, 2020

Dave!Last night the skies were as clear as they ever are, so I decided to wander and see if I could find a place where I might see the NEOWISE comet. I keep running into these amazing shots other people are taking, and grabbed my binoculars in an attempt to at least see something.

My cats, not accustomed to my abandoning them after sundown were upset. As I was passing through the catio I heard comotion at the cat door and went to see what the issue was. Turns out it's just Jake and Jenny both trying to squeeze through at the same time so they could follow me...

Jake and Jenny adorably trying to squeeze through a small kitty-sized door at the same time.

Eventually Jake snaked through so Jenny could follow. They then watch through the catio fencing with forlorned faces as I walked around to see if I could get clear of the trees and hills blocking my view.

No such luck.

Oh well. My cats were waiting to greet me after my comet-spotting failure, so that was nice.

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The Unbearable Duckness of Being

Posted on Tuesday, July 21st, 2020

Dave!Generally speaking I try very hard to be accepting of people, even as I am being critical of them, because people change all the time and basically comes down to a "hate the sin, love the sinner" type situation. Because who knows? Perhaps one day a homophobic piece of shit bigot will understand that they're being a bigoted piece of shit and strive to escape it.

This kind of positivity has become increasingly difficult the longer the pandemic rages.

On one hand, I don't want anybody to get sick from COVID-19 and die because that's a repugnant attitude to have. If everybody is capable of redemption, then wishing them dead before they have a chance to find their redemption is a horrific thing. I don't believe that. I don't endorse that.

On the other hand, maybe if all these people who deny science and don't give a fuck if their actions threatens the lives of others would just contract COVID-19 and fucking die already, this world would have a chance to heal without their standing in the way.

This morning I found myself debating these two sides of the coin. I'm not proud of it, but that's what this has come down to now that I'm losing my entire summer and am badly missing my friends and family.

Rather than beat myself up too badly over being so awful, I'm just going to watch ducks eat a bowl of peas and attempt to find my center...

If you must know, the duckies are named Pepé and Arnold...

And now I think I will get the duck offline and try to avoid reading yet more incidents of ignorant assholes who refuse to follow Washington State's mask-mandate as they take out their frustrations on minimum wage workers just trying to do their jobs and tell people they have to wear a mask in order to shop. Holy fucking shit am I sick of this crap.

   

Big-Time Drive-Thru Lobotomy Fun

Posted on Wednesday, July 22nd, 2020

Dave!For reasons I don't really want to get into, I had to get a COVID-19 test today. Given the abundance of precautions I've been taking to not contract the virus (and the fact that I have no symptoms), I would be shocked to find out that I've got it. If I do, that would suck mightily considering how I've locked myself away in quarantine for five months. But it's not like it's outside the realm of possibility given that I still have to go grocery shopping and the majority of people here in Redneckistan still think it's all some kind of overblown Democrat hoax or whatever. Never mind that hospitals are filling up and deaths are reaching all-time highs, it's all fake news!

Until it isn't, of course.

The area where I live has made the news lately because there were COVID-19 employee outbreaks at a warehouse and at the local Walmart (to name two). Apparently Independence Day Weekend was just too much temptation for Redneckistanians who want to show Governor Jay Inslee that he's not the boss of them. Never mind that the guy is just listening to scientists who study this crap in an effort to keep everybody safe... he's Hitler for mandating that people wear a mask!

What's interesting is that the spike in infections mean that our local healthcare conglomerate has had to take over an old bank in order to create a massive drive-thru testing service in order to keep up with demand.

The facility opened at 8am but I was warned that it's busy first thing in the morning, so I waited until 8:45. I pulled into the (former) bank parking lot where a cigar-chomping man on a scooter was unnecessarily directing me to a lane to queue in. There were about 8 cars ahead of me in both lanes (total) and the wait only took about 15 minutes. First you pull up to a guy verifying that your doctor requested a test, then you pull forward to wait for a technicians to walk up and give you a lobotomy.

Well, not really, but it feels like you're getting a lobotomy.

After you lean your head back, they shove a long Q-tip up your nose into the back of your sinus cavity...


(Original) image taken from WBEZ.org

Then they start twisting it for six seconds so they can get a sample of mucus from deep, deep, deep inside your nasal passage. And what seems like a sample of you brain tissue for good measure.

It burns a little bit, but not so much that I was ready to start screaming or anything. What bothers me is that I was still feeling it for hours after it was over. Like the Q-tip was left up my nose or something. It was a good five or six hours before I felt quasi-normal again.

I'm told that I should have results back in 3-5 days. The clinic will call me directly if I test positive or it's inconclusive (at which point you have to act as if it was positive). If I never hear from them, that means I was negative and my results will be posted to MyChart so I have a record of my being perfectly positively toward the negative. Or however the fuck our dumbass impeached president has convinced his cult you're supposed to say it...

Jesus Christ.

The entire world has done everything they can to get a handle on the pandemic and halt the spread of this virus that's killing us. Well, almost the entire world. Here in the USA, we've got leadership that has been propagating misinformation and unleashing a steady streams of bullshit from day one. Which is why we're leading the known universe in coronavirus infections and deaths.

I hope to God that people remember this come November.

   

FACE – VELVET – CHURCH – RASPBERRY DONUT

Posted on Thursday, July 23rd, 2020

Dave!=sigh= I've drastically cut down on the number of political posts I drop on my blog because there's nothing new to say. On top of that, it always makes people mad because I am critical of politicians no matter which side of the political divide they get their lobbyist money from.

But recently something has been dominating the news cycle which has really bothered me, so I'm just going to dump my thoughts here for all the world to see and let the chips fall where they may. And that "something" is Impeached President Trump bragging about being able to pass a cognitive test like it's certified him as some kind of very stable genius.

As the caregiver for my mother through her dementia, it's a test I'm painfully familiar with.

Far from an IQ test, the test our impeached president is referring to is designed to be a screening tool for diagnosing cognitive decline and brain-related problems. It looks like this...

The Montreal Cognitive Abilities test, featuring questions designed to test cognitive function and spot cognitive decline.

This is the Montreal Cognitive Ability Test. I'm not positive this is the version of the test my mom took but, if it wasn't, it was very close to this. She took it twice. And watching her struggling to get through it is something that still haunts my nightmares. The first time she attempted it she pretty much failed at everything, and it was all I could do to not break down into tears right there in the doctor's office. I was so close to her problems that I wasn't seeing them for what they were. It was this test that put everything into perspective for me, and it was gut-wrenching. I am having anxiety just remembering back to it.

The second time we got through question three and there was really no point in going any further. That time I did break down in tears, but it was after I had excused myself and somehow made it to a stall in the men's bathroom.

Ironically I remember her taking the tests like it was yesterday because my cognitive abilities are (assumably) mostly okay.

The first question has you running through a maze of characters which are alternating numbers and letters of the alphabet. The challenge is to get them in alternating order, which anybody with a brain can manage easily. Except people with an injured brain, of course. Despite having it explained to her twice, my mom connected the numbers and ignored the letters. The next question asks you to draw a 3-D cube. Even if you don't have artistic talent this is something people can copy fairly easily. My mom managed to get a square okay, but then it was just random lines.

Next you have to draw a clock with the time set to 10 past eleven. This might be tricky for some but, again, a person with normal cognitive function can draw a circle, put a tick at 12 O'clock and 6 O'clock, draw in the 15 and 45 minute ticks, then put two ticks between the ticks you have. Then you draw the little hand and the big hand at the appropriate time. This had my mom completely flummoxed. She got a kinda-oval shape, but then just started drawing random lines really close together, and she had to be coached to get that far. I think the hands she drew weren't even on the clock face.

Then you have to name some drawings of animals. Mom blazed through these with no problem. At the time of her first test her long-term memory was in pretty good shape.

Next is a memory test where you are given five words and asked to repeat them back. This is where things can get tricky. If you just throw five random words at me, I won't remember them at all... likely not even five minutes later. But if you tell me I have to remember five random words, then I can do that no problem because I use memory association. FACE • Okay, I am picturing a woman's face. VELVET • Okay, the FACE is Isabella Rossellini and she is rubbing a piece of blue VELVET on it. CHURCH • Okay, we pull back from Isabella Rossellini's FACE being rubbed by blue VELVET and she's sitting on the steps of a CHURCH. DAISY • Okay, Isabella Rossellini's FACE is being rubbed with blue VELVET as she sits on the steps of a CHURCH which has a DAISY growing in front of it. RED • Isabella Rossellini's FACE rubbed by blue VELVET as she sits on CHURCH steps with a DAISY growing in front of it and a PeTA nut job just drove by and threw RED paint on everything. FACE, VELVET, CHURCH, DAISY, RED. Got it. My mom, of course, couldn't get through the list at all. She couldn't remember a thing, and this was all really confusing to her.

Then you repeat some numbers and have them repeated back... and have to clap when you hear the letter "A" when a series of letters are read to you. Then you have to count backwards from 100 by sevens (which, is something I can do easy enough, but it takes a minute!). My mom just kinda stared blankly and couldn't be coaxed into even attempting any of this.

And now we're finally to those last five VERY HARD QUESTIONS which has Impeached President Trump thinking he's some kind of medical miracle.

  1. Repeat a couple sentences back to the reader. How is this in any way "very hard" if you have full cognitive functionality?
  2. Name as many words as you can which begin with the letter "F" in one minute. The goal is greater than 11 words. Granted, this may be a challenge with somebody who doesn't use communication skills much, but what is so "very hard" about this?
  3. Find the similarity between two words. Yeah, knowing what's similar between "train & bicycle" and "watch & ruler" is a real brain twister.
  4. Recall the five random words you were given. This might be a challenge for somebody if they don't have a good memory or they don't know to use memory association to remember stuff... but, yeah... not rocket science here: Isabella Rossellini's FACE rubbed by blue VELVET as she sits on CHURCH steps with a DAISY growing in front of it and a PeTA nut job just drove by and threw RED paint on everything.
  5. Name the Year, Month, Day, Place, and City. Okay, I admit the date stuff could totally be a challenge for me. Since I work long hours seven days a week, the dates just blend together. But I would absolutely know the date if I was taking my mother to an appointment on that day. And a president who has appointments all the time would (hopefully) know this too. But how is knowing WHERE you are and what CITY you're in a challenge to anybody with a functional brain? If that's a "very hard" question for Impeached President Trump, then we have a serious problem.

When Impeached President Trump brags about five fairly simple questions being "very hard," I am understandably concerned. Everybody should be. But more than being concerned, I am very, very pissed off. Whether your brain is cognitively functional or not has absolutely nothing to do with whether you're an evil asshole or not! Do I think Joe Biden could run through this test and get 30 out of 30 correct? No. No I do not. Do I think that Impeached President Trump actually got 30 out of 30 correct? No. No I absolutely do not. We will never see that test. And even if we saw that test, there's no guarantee whatsoever that it's the actual test or that he wasn't coached all the way through it. That's politics. And as thrilling as it might be to see Joe Biden and Impeached President Trump go head-to-head in a cognitive test when I think that they both have demonstrated that they have cognitive issues... that isn't going to get us anywhere. It's not going to tell us which special interest groups are buying them off. It's not going to tell us what they'll be fleecing off the American people's hard-earned tax dollars. It's not going to tell us what back-door deals and shady cronyism their administration will be party to.

All it will tell us is whether they can remember what a lion, rhino, and camel are.

But my biggest takeaway from all this brouhaha is that there's a serious stigma against people with brain and memory problems. I read the comments on these news stories and it's mostly people making fun of Impeached President Trump or Joe Biden because they (allegedly) have cognitive decline. Which is to say that they're making fun of my mom. And as I sit here and type these words my heart is aching.

I am not going to lie, though. I absolutely do this too.

I try not to. I know better. And it's never necessarily to make fun of people, but more to offer armchair assessments as to somebody's mental state or cognitive abilities from a clinical perspective when it comes to the responsibilities they have. I've said that Joe Biden looks like he's sundowning, which may be true... but it could just be him attempting to speak when he suffers from a stutter. I've said that Impeached President Trump scares the shit out of me because everything he says is insane and he's got his finger on the button to unleash the nukes... but it could just be him being an evil, disgusting excuse for a human being. I honestly don't know.

As always, all I can do is try to be better about not stigmatizing mental health.

Even if I fail in the attempt.

Which I do a lot.

Take my trying to eat better, for example.

Yesterday I had to go to the grocery store because I needed an onion and a few other items. While I was there I passed by a display of sugary bakery products that were on sale. These are things that I just can't eat any more... most of the time I don't even want to eat them any more... but I saw a box of raspberry jelly donuts and was immediately intrigued. When I was in college, I was eating a box of these things a day. But as of now? I haven't had a raspberry jelly donut in decades.

I bought a box of course. If I'm careful and eat them in moderation they're not going to kill me, right?

Yeah... I ate half the box that afternoon and downed the other half this morning for breakfast.

But I'll try to do better tomorrow, I promise.

   

Negativity is Sometimes a Good Thing

Posted on Friday, July 24th, 2020

Dave!This has been a really tough week. I have been trying to complete a critical project since Monday, but setbacks keep being dropped on me which have been dragging things out. Now I'm going to miss a deadline. It's no consolation that it's not my fault... it's still a missed deadline.

Oh well. That's life.

In better news, I got the results of my COVID-19 test yesterday afternoon. This was surprising because I was told 3-5 days, not overnight. What was not surprising? I tested negative...

   
So I guess quarantining myself and double-masking on those rare occasions when I have to go out has been good for something. If everybody else took that to heart, then I guess the virus would have stopped spreading and we'd have been out of this pandemic months ago.

Oh well. That's life.

Or, not, depending on whether you can survive getting infected with COVID-19.

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Caturday 169

Posted on Saturday, July 25th, 2020

Dave!If it weren't for my cats, I probably wouldn't have survived my mother's death. Waking up each morning to feed them was my reason for getting out of bed each day. And now that I've been stuck at home in isolation for six months, they're my reason for getting out of bed each morning... again.

Except after breakfast Jake comes right back upstairs and would probably like nothing better than hanging out in bed with me each morning. Especially if it means he can get belly rubs...

Jake getting belly rubs.

Though sometimes you have to wonder if what he wants is belly rubs... or to tempt you into attempting to give him belly rubs so he can spring a trap...

Jake on his back inviting belly rubs... maybe.

99% of the time, it's just belly rubs though...

Jake getting belly rubs.

And sometimes all he wants is an audience while he gives himself a bath...

Jake sitting up after giving his belly a bath.

Jenny still likes to hang out in bed with me if Jake isn't already there. Otherwise she's happy to sit with me on the couch...

Jenny sitting like a little loaf of bread next to me on the couch while I give her butt scratches.

Doesn't get much better than that.

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Bullet Sunday 672

Posted on Sunday, July 26th, 2020

Dave!Comic-Con San Diego may have been canceled this year, but you can't cancel Bullet Sunday, which starts... now...

   
• EXCELLENT!! Not only did we get a brand-new trailer for the upcoming Bill & Ted movie at Comic-Con at Home, we also got a release date of September 1st. But the best news? It's going to be released for streaming rental day-and-date with the theatrical release!

Sure it will probably cost $20 to rent early, but I would pay it in a heartbeat to avoid having to go to a bogus COVID-19-infested theater!

   
• NANDOR! I watched a few virtual panels and, by a wide margin, my favorite of the bunch featured the cast of What We Do In The Shadows. If you're a fan of the show, there's no need to tell you what to do...

I know the second season just ended, but I want a third season right now.

   
• SEEKERS! What I want more than anything else from Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright is a sequel to their incredible movie, Paul. But outside of that, I'll take whatever I can get. Including their new paranormal hunter show... Truth Seekers...

Alas, no date is given as to when the show debuts on Amazon Prime, but here's hoping it's soon-soon rather than later-soon.

   
• DECKS! I have no problem with an animated Star Trek. The original animated Star Trek series was pretty darn great. But a comedy? I don't know that I get why that has to go under the umbrella. It seems an odd fit...

Guess I'll see how I feel once I've seen an episode or two. Lower Decks drops on CBS All Access on August 6th.

   
• Jack! Not exactly Comic-Con-related, but Jack Whitehall has a new Netflix special out. If you like Jack, it's a great waste of time...

I sure am sad that we likely won't see any more episodes of Travels with My Father, but watching this special makes me want to watch all the episodes we got all over again.

   
• Cutesplosion! And lastly, I leave you with this...

   
And that's a wrap, True Believer.

   

Rock More, Rock Less

Posted on Monday, July 27th, 2020

Dave!The global COVID-19 pandemic has been hard in so many ways, but the toll it hass taken on businesses has been devastating. Without money coming in, there's a large number of them that will likely never fully recover, and many of those will probably end up closing. From shops and stores to markets and museums, everybody is hurting. But the industry that seems hit harder than any other is food services.

A lot of restaurants barely scrape by even when fully operational. And while some have reopened for takeout or have partially opened their dining rooms, that's not enough to keep them operating for much longer... if they haven't had to close already.

I'm not a huge restaurant person (it's an expense I can rarely justify), but I've visited more than my share of Hard Rock Cafes. So measuring the effect of the pandemic on restaurants is fairly easy for me to do when I look at the number of Hard Rocks that have closed since the coronavirus came calling...

UPDATE August 6, 2020: Well crap, Aruba just shuttered. I visted in March, 2012, and always hoped to go back one day so I could get a T-shirt since they were out when I was there. BOOOOOO!

Hard Rocks open and close all the time... but that's like... a lot. And, sadly, I'm sure that's not going to be the end of it.

If we ever see the other side of this pandemic, meaning we get a vaccine or find a cure or something, I have to wonder how long it will take for our restaurants to start coming back. And this is assuming that once we see the other side of this pandemic that we aren't hit with another soon after. For all we know, that could be life on earth from here on out. All we can hope for if that's the case is that governments are more receptive to the science of surviving... and people aren't a bunch of stupid assholes who refuse to do their part.

But I'd be fooling myself to think that's never going to be a factor.

   

Like There’s No Tomorrow

Posted on Tuesday, July 28th, 2020

Dave!I've been consumed with work for weeks and it hasn't done anything good for my housekeeping. My home is a complete pit of despair right now, and it's going to get worse before things get better because I'm starting my kitchen remodel this weekend. Originally it was to start at the beginning of the month but that had to be delayed when I realized I needed another month's worth of savings to make it happen. Usually I would never be able to remodel this late in the summer when I have lots of visitors staying over, but... pandemic and all that.... so here we are.

Like everybody else, I'd imagine, I've been watching an absurd amount of television lately. But since so much of the new stuff that's on doesn't really interest me, I've been re-watching older shows that I like. Tonight I started watching No Tomorrow, a show I haven't watched since it was released in the 2016/2017 television season...

No Tomorrow Poster

It's a romantic comedy about a guy who stumbles upon an asteroid which will hit the earth in 8 months and end all life on the planet. Ever since, he's been living his life like there's no tomorrow, doing all the things he's always wanted to do. Along the way he meets a woman that he immediately falls in like with, and kinda-sorta convinces her to buy into his end-of-the-world theory. Together they start checking items off their "Apocalists" and it's a charming, sweet, funny, lovely little show and a fun ride.

At least it was until The CW canceled it.

The cast is really great, so I was curious to know what they had all been up to. Everybody had moved on to a bunch of other projects... except the star of No Tomorrow, Joshua Sasse.

He hasn't appeared in any TV shows or movies since.

BEFORE he was in No Tomorrow he was in Galavant, a show I caught a few times, but none of his other shows rang a bell. Even so, it's kind of depressing that he's not doing something new since he seems like such a talented actor. Maybe he can afford to be picky and is just waiting for a project he likes? I sure hope so.

As I've been watching the episodes, I've been thinking an awful lot about how I would be living my life if I knew it was all going to end in eight months. I'd like to think that I'd be spending my time doing things that are a lot more interesting than what I'm doing. Like finally getting my ass to India... pandemic be damned. Not that I could actually go, of course. The entire world has banned USA citizens from entering thanks to our heinously shitty response to COVID-19. We're a bunch of selfish fucking idiots who can't be bothered to wear a mask or look out for other people.

Ugh.

I suppose I should probably start cleaning my house now, but... pandemic and all that... so here we are.

   

100º In the Shade

Posted on Wednesday, July 29th, 2020

Dave!The temperature trend has been edging steadily upwards. Today it was 104º and tomorrow it's supposed to reach 105º before hitting 108º on Friday.

This afternoon when I got home I went to pull the garbage and recycle cans out since tomorrow morning is garbage day. As I pulled the first can out, I interrupted Fake Jake who was sleeping in the shade on concrete blocks I put down so he could more easily get around the house in winter...

Fake Jake laying down on concrete bricks next to myself house footing behind some shrubs.

I worry about Fake Jake quite a lot when it gets cold, which is why I put out a heated shelter for him. In the summer he seems pretty smart about finding shady spots to rest so I don't worry as much. My first Summer here I put cold packs in shelter, but then he stopped sleeping there so I stopped. But with temperatures reaching 108º? I dunno. Maybe I should try cold packs again? That seems way too hot, even for a heat-loving kitty.

   

Thursday Night’s Alright for In-Fighting

Posted on Thursday, July 30th, 2020

Dave!With life being more virtual than in-person now-a-days, I've been spending more time socializing online. It can't take the place of Real Life, but it's better than nothing... and it does actually have some advantages. Namely that you don't have to get dressed or leave the house. Also? You can find like-minded individuals much easier on the internet.

And yet...

Because there's no in-person interaction, things can go sideways very quickly.

Tonight I left an anime discussion group when there was a fight because somebody started a chat over the upcoming Studio Ghibli film Aya to Majo, which is a computer-animated film instead of traditionally animated feature...

"COMPUTER ANIMATION IS NOT ANIME!"

"ANIME LITERALLY MEANS JAPANESE ANIMATION AND THIS IS JAPANESE ANIMATION!"

It ended up in a shouting match with name-calling and everything.

Yeah, I'm ready for this whole COVID thing to be over.

   

Upset Regret Gazette

Posted on Friday, July 31st, 2020

Dave!I loathe the disposable society we live in. Nothing is meant to last, everything is designed to fail, and all the stuff we accumulate is meant to be thrown out so we can buy a new one.

For the longest time I've been attempting to repair before I replace and make things last as long as they can. Sometimes that's not possible, but a lot of times it is. I repaired my previous MacBook three times before I finally couldn't get any new parts and had to replace it. I learned how to repair a washing machine, a microwave, and a lamp rather than toss them. But the thing I repair most often? Clothes.

I am dumbfounded at the shitty quality of clothes now-a-days. Used to be I could make a long-sleeve shirt last for years. Now? I'm lucky if I can get them to last through a half-dozen wash/wear cycles. I came to this realization after I threw yet another shirt on my repair pile. Four of the seven shirts I purchased on Black Friday had already ripped through the elbows.

How crappy is that?

I was pretty upset over it. I am still upset over it.

So rather than turn my pile of torn long-sleeve shirts into a short-sleeve shirts, I grabbed the entire pile and threw it in the garbage. Instead of wasting my time trying to salvage shitty quality, I'd rather just buy decent fabric and make my own long-sleeve shirts!

Then this morning I woke up and was filled with regret. What a waste of shirts! But the deed has been done and there's nothing I can do about it now.

Not that I was doing anything about it before. There were at least a dozen shirts in that pile that has been sitting in my closet for two years. But what's worse? I probably won't have time to sew new shirts and will undoubtedly end up buying new shirts that will fall apart. Again.

I was already buying high-priced stuff (albeit at Black Friday discount)... maybe I should switch to buying work shirts and see if they last?

Spoiler Alert: Odds are they won't.

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