Posted on Saturday, August 1st, 2020
As I've mentioned, I don't discipline my cats. There's no reason for it because they just don't do bad things. On the rare occasion they do something that I'd rather they not do, it's not because they're bad, it's because they're cats doing cat stuff and I failed to provide a more desirable alternative. And that's on me.
Then today something happened.
I was doing laundry while Jenny was watching. I apparently didn't give her the attention she was wanting, because next thing I know she's clawing on the chair in the guest room.
"Jenny? What are you doing? Why can't you sit in the chair like a good girl?"
Which, of course, she did the minute I caught her...
Because she actually is a good girl.
When she's getting the attention she demands, of course.
Posted on Sunday, August 2nd, 2020
2020 never seems to end, but neither does the bullets... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Umbrella 2! I liked the first season of The Umbrella Academy despite the fast that it took some serious liberties with the comic book source. The second season just dropped and I binged it all in a day...
Even better than the first season! Number 5 must be one of the best comic book characters ever brought to life on the small screen. If I have a small bit of criticism, it would be that the series got a bit mired in personal drama that was boring and not terribly important towards moving the story forward. Particularly Vanya's time on a farm(?)... a diversion that could have been adequately addressed in 1/3 the screen time. Otherwise? genius.
• Just Do It! There is some serious image re-mapping and aligning going on here and it's incredibly well done. This is beautiful to behold...
Bravo to the art director and their team for how this came together.
• Cheapness! A couple people asked me about the "cheap movies" I bought and where I bought them. I monitor a site called Cheap Charts then, when I find the cheapest price on a sale movie I want, I go ahead and buy it if it's from iTunes (because that's where all my movies are). If it's not on iTunes, I check MoviesAnywhere to see if the movie can be bought at a member site, which means iTunes will import it automatically. Usually iTunes is the most expensive place, with Amazon Digital and Microsoft Digital being the cheapest. If the movie is not a part of MoviesAnywhere, then I usually don't buy it... unless it's super-cheap, then I just suffer through having to use Amazon or Microsoft's player to watch it. And now you know.
• How to Mask! Sarah Cooper has been on fire with her last several videos, but this one is just beyond...
Nice to know at least one thing to laugh about when it comes to the horror show we're currently trapped in.
• Biscuits! Thanks to friends on Facebook, I've finally cracked the puzzle of making the perfect Egg & Cheese McBiscuit! I start with FROZEN Pillsbury Grands and smear the tops and bottoms with butter. Cook pushed together as directed. THEN I smear the tops with butter AGAIN... separate the biscuits AND FLIP THEM OVER. Increase the heat to 400º and cook for four minutes longer so the tops get fried on the hot cookie sheet. VOILA! Perfectly crispy biscuits with fluffy insides that taste every bit as good at McDonalds!
Now I no longer have to pay ridiculous prices (THREE DOLLARS AND FORTY-NINE CENTS EACH?!??) to get one of my favorite treats! Hooray!
• US History! It's easy to see how the reason so many people are so ignorant about how things actually are in this country is that they don't have an accurate picture of how we got here. The mind boggles...
Smartly done. But the people most needing to see this and understand this are exactly the people who will never watch it.
• Memory! Face, Velvet, Church, Daisy, Red. Yep, still got it a week later.
I guess that's all I got for this week. See you next Sunday.
Posted on Monday, August 3rd, 2020
Oh... that time is now, isn't it?
Posted on Tuesday, August 4th, 2020
My favorite paper towels are Brawny brand. But Brawny is owned by the Koch Brothers, so I buy Bounty brand.
I've been trying to use less paper towels in an attempt to live more sustainably, but there are some times that it's the perfect tool for the task at hand so I still buy them on occasion. Thanks to the pandemic, that's a hit-or-miss proposition lately. My small-town grocery had no name-brands available when I last went shopping so I ended up getting something called Simply White which totally sounds like a resort for white supremacists or something, but it was my only option...
And now... perhaps somebody can answer a simple question for me?
Why is it that cheaper brands can't make a paper towel which tears off the roll properly?
Because I've had to buy other cheap brands when I was on location for work... or I was too poor for name brands... or couldn't find anything else... and they ALL have one thing in common. THEY DON'T FUCKING RIP AS ADVERTISED! You go to rip one off the roll and it doesn't tear along the perforation, it tears everywhere except the fucking perforation!
So what is it? The major brands are the only ones who can afford perforating blades that are worth a shit? Cheap brands are manufactured by major brands who want them to suck so you won't buy them? The laws of time and space don't allow cheap brands to exist any other way? I don't get it.
The mind boggles.
And speaking of mind-boggling stuff... I just found out last night that most of the sourdough you buy in a store is not made from an actual sourdough culture. It's just regular old bread that has a sourdough flavoring. I was video-chatting with a friend and complained that the sourdough I bought tastes like it was made from chemicals.
"Probably because it was. Most mass-market sourdoughs you find at the grocery store are just flavored that way."
A few minutes Googling that shit and, sure enough, that's a thing.
Products are apparently designed to disappoint. On top of not being built to last.
Posted on Wednesday, August 5th, 2020
Okay... this is probably TMI (Too Much Information) but last week my ass exploded.
I had made fresh potato salad in the morning so I could have it for lunch at work and dinner that evening. Not so long after eating my lunch, I suddenly felt the cramping as my insides were turning to liquid. It's that feeling you get when you know it's only a matter of time before you have a serious problem on your hands. Well, not on your hand... hopefully... but in your toilet.
And so I looked through my bag for an Imodium, took it, then hightailed it home where I made it to my bathroom jussssssst in time. Thinking that perhaps I had caught a bug... or the coronavirus... I worked at home, staying close to my toilet for the occasional detonation of my intestines.
And of course I had a big bowl of potato salad for dinner. It tastes so good because my potato salad is wicked awesome.
Which, in retrospect, was an incredibly stupid thing to do... but, in my defense, I hadn't quite put
To say that I had a bad night is a gross understatement. I think at one point I actually fell asleep on the toilet because I dare not leave it. And since it was always an emergency run I never got the door closed. Which means my cats were compelled to come in and say hello from time to time. Not necessarily because they cared that I was dying, but because they wanted to know if they could have a treat since I was up already.
I was able to go into work the next day, but I was feeling pretty poorly. I almost packed more potato salad to eat for lunch, but thought better of it because I remembered that it was after eating it that my problems started. Instead I put the salad back in the fridge and took saltine crackers instead.
Fast forward to this morning and I see this pop up in my newsfeed as an update:
Onions sold at Kroger, elsewhere recalled due to Salmonella outbreak.
My "instenial distress" happened within 45 minutes each time. Apparently Salmonella poisoning doesn't develop until around 6 hours. So was the problem I had related to the onions in my salad? I dunno. But to be safe I threw out all the onions I had left because there was no sticker to tell me whether or not they were from "Thomson International."
And of course the lawyers are all over this:
Ron Simon & Associates files the First Lawsuit in the Red Onion Salmonella Outbreak.
I don't want to sue for a million dollars... well, I do, but not really... I just want replacement onions! Food is expensive, yo, and I can't afford to be throwing purple onions in the trash!
Even when they cause me to spend 24 hours within toilet-reach.
Oh well. Thanks to the pandemic I wasn't going anywhere anyway, but it still wasn't a fun way to pass the time.
Wait! I don't just want to sue for replacement onions... I want replacement Imodium as well! Wonder what lawyer will take that case?
Probably all of them.
Posted on Thursday, August 6th, 2020
It's been just over a year since I canceled DirecTV and switched to streaming services for my television entertainment. First I went with Sling, but I wanted the major networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, etc.) so I landed on FuboTV. They're sports-focused, but the package they offer was closer to what I like to watch, so I was happy with their service.
At least I was happy until they raised their prices... apparently to add more sports programs I won't watch. I am now paying $60 a month for FuboTV on top of the $14 I pay for Netflix. So... $74 a month. For television.
Since FuboTV doesn't offer a package without the sports for less money, I started investigating alternatives. I had signed up for FuboTV because they had the major networks, but as I started looking around I came to realize that I rarely watch them any more. What network shows I do watch are (coincidentally) almost exclusively on CBS. And, lucky me, CBS streams all their current programming via their CBS All-Access service. Another lucky break? Almost all minor networks I watch are completely covered by a service called Philo, which is just $20 a month. They don't have Cartoon Network (gotta have my Rick and Morty!), but I can just purchase the show directly from iTunes and still come out way ahead.
So now I can switch to Philo at 1/3 the cost of FuboTV, keep Netflix, and then cycle through all the other services... Hulu one month, CBS All-Access the next month, and Peacock the next month. That will end up saving me nearly $500 a year. And could save even more if I work Netflix into the rotation of services I switch through (something that could come in handy if I'm strapped for cash).
Now that it's all coming together, I made a list of all the shows I like so I know which services I need to work with to get them...
Barnwood Builders (DIY)
Beach Hunters (HGTV)
Beachfront Bargain Hunt (HGTV)
Big Beach Builds (DIY)
Build Me Up (HGTV)
Building Off the Grid (HGTV)
Drag Race (VH1)
Drag Race All Stars (VH1)
Good Bones (HGTV)
Hallmark Movies (HALLMARK)
Hawaii Life (HGTV)
Home Town (HGTV)
House Hunters (HGTV)
Island Hunters (HGTV)
Lakefront Bargain Hunt (HGTV)
Love It or List It (HGTV)
Martha Knows Best (HGTV)
Pool Kings (HGTV)
Restored by the Fords (HGTV)
Vacation House Rules (HGTV)
In the Dark
Living with Yourself
CBS ALL-ACCESS ($6/mo.)
Bob (hearts) Abishola
Star Trek: Discovery
Star Trek: Lower Decks
Star Trek: Picard
Untitled Star Trek Section 31 Series
The Conners (ABC)
Love, Victor (HULU)
The Orville (HULU)
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (NBC)
Late Night with Seth Meyers (NBC)
New Amsterdam (NBC)
Backyard Envy (BRAVO)
Below Deck (BRAVO)
Below Deck Med (BRAVO)
Vanderpump Rules (BRAVO)
Rick & Morty (Cartoon Network)
Apple TV+ (Free Year, Will Not Renew)
PRIME VIDEO (Included with Amazon Prime)
DISNEY+ (Prepaid 3 Years)
The Falcon & Winter Soldier
Untitled Cassian Andor Series
Untitled Obi-Wan Series
HBO (Included with AT&T Mobile)
Last Week Tonight
That's a lot of television. But given we may be quarantined for the rest of our lives because people won't do jack-shit to slow the pandemic, at least it's something to do.
Posted on Friday, August 7th, 2020
In the middle of the Subprime Mortgage Crisis fiasco back in 2008 I was visiting with my sister over the mountains. As you may... or may not... remember, it was a horrific time to be alive. Thanks to Wall Street fucking over the American people (not to mention a financial crisis enveloping the world), there were a lot of people hurting. My retirement savings lost a huge amount of its value, and most all of my freelance work had dried up. After going to the grocery store my sister had to go to the mall for some reason and I tagged along. When we got there, I was shocked that the parking lot was jam-packed.
ME: "What are all these people doing here? Aren't we in the middle of a financial crisis?"
HER: "Retail therapy, baby."
I know it's a thing, but it's something I never understood. If I don't have money, I don't spend money. It's a novel concept to be sure, but once I climbed out of crushing credit card debt I decided I would do whatever I could to not get sucked back in again. If I go on vacation, I save for it. If I want to buy something, I save for it. If I have an emergency, I dip into the money I'm saving. The interest rate trap built into credit cards is a killer.
And now we're in the middle of another recession... one which makes the Subprime Mortgage Crisis look like a cakewalk.
And my way of dealing with all the uncertainty and horrors that plague us right now? Retail therapy, baby!
I bought a pricey new WiFi router last month and took the money out of my Annual Black Friday Shopping Savings. Probably could have saved some money if I had waited until Black Friday to buy it, but I needed higher speeds from my internet to make it so I can work from home more easily.
Yesterday was a pretty bad day and so I... uhhh... went a little retail therapy crazy.
Since my vacation to Amsterdam and London was canceled, I've been dipping into my Travel Savings. And why not? I may never get to travel again, so might as well do something with that money before I die. I ordered a new floor steamer. I ordered a bunch of exotic spices for cooking. I bought a bunch of movies and TV shows from the iTunes Store that were on sale. I ordered memory for my media server. I ordered materials for the kitchen remodel I'm working on. I ordered stuff to re-stock my medicine cabinet. I ordered some foods I like but don't normally buy to save money (Dutch Mayo FTW!). I even ordered some online storage to back up more of my travel photos! I didn't go into debt since this was all purchased with my savings, but it did feel weird spending money in a way I usually wouldn't dream of spending it.
And so... yeah. Blowing through Benjamins like there's no tomrrow here. I don't know that it makes me feel any better, but it did give me something to do.
And, at the rate we're going, there might not be a tomorrow anyway.
Posted on Saturday, August 8th, 2020
Happy International Cat Day, everybody! Though when it comes to my cats, EVERY DAY IS INTERNATIONAL CAT DAY so it's nothing special in my house.
I spent my early morning of the day hanging out with Jake, who wasn't feeling well for some reason. Eventually he snapped back to normal and went running upstairs for bed as if he hadn't just spent the early, early hours of the morning howling and upset.
And speaking of bedtime...
As I've mentioned a few times now, Jake sleeps at my feet every night. He's there when I fall asleep. He's there when I wake up. But here's the thing... I toss and turn constantly during sleep. I sleep on my back. I sleep on my front. I sleep on my side. I sleep on my other side. And for the past couple mornings I've woken up with a kink in my neck, so I decided to put a security camera in my room to try and figure out what I've been doing to cause it.
Nothing on the camera explains it.
But I did get an explanation as to how Jake manages to get through the night at my feet with all my tossing and turning. He wakes up. He repositions himself. He falls immediately back to sleep...
What's amazing to me is how I manage to stay asleep when he's crawling all over me all night long.
And as it gets closer to breakfast, he gets a little more aggressive... poking me to wake up and feed him...
I've been subscribed to Dr. Uri's Vancouver Vet YouTube channel for a couple years now, ever since I watched a video on how to pick up cats since mine don't like to be picked up AT ALL. The first thing you notice about this video is that Dr. Uri has two of the most chill cats ever...
A video I missed was the story of how he got his first cat, Mr. Pirate...
A very good cat indeed.
Posted on Sunday, August 9th, 2020
The heat may be on, but it's cool inside here... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Hello Kraken! Seattle's NHL team has been officially named, and they've chosen "Kraken." The name is pretty cool (albeit a little out of place) but the logo branding is incrediby cool...
Note the tentacle hidden in the "S" primary logo... and The Space Needle hidden in the anchor secondary logo. Bucketfuls of awesome. While my heart will always belong to the Chicago Blackhawks and Milwaukee Admirals, I am really, really excited at the thought of Seattle having an NHL team. Here's hoping that this pandemic crap is over in time for their debut in the 2021-2022 season, because I would love to hit a few games.
• Hello Tokyo! I agree with absolutely every word of this blog post by television writer Joseph Mallozzi: Tokyo’s lack of public trash cans is directly related to their low COVID-19 death rate. Let me explain.
I ran across this blog as I was trying to find out if the creators of the awesome sci-fi television show, Dark Matter had a plan for what would happen in the fourth season the show never got. Amazingly enough, you can find out about that there as well if you dig around a bit.
• Hello Puppers! This morning I fell into a YouTube rabbit hole with The Dodo's Foster Diaries. They're cute stories of animals getting fostered and how that goes... which is much like you would think...
This next one is a cautionary tale. It's why I don't foster kittens, because I know that I would 100% turn into this guy...
I mean, how could you give that up? If you want to fall down this rabbit hole yourself, here's the YouTube link.
• Hello Antibodies! A year ago the volunteer work I was doing required that I get a serology test to prove I had measles antibodies. Thanks to anti-vax dumbasses, the disease had come roaring back, and if we didn't have measles immunization we couldn't fly. My Measles Antibody Test has a result of 203. Anything higher than 29 is positive for immunization. So I was like... HOLY SHIT, MOM! 203?!? EXACTLY HOW MANY TIMES DID YOU HAVE ME IMMUNIZED?!? My whole testing ordeal came roaring back to me as I was reading up on the efforts to create a COVID-19 vaccine. Depending on what you read, we're getting really close to trials... or we're years away from something which may never even happen. Which means the future of all mankind is more unknown than usual. Maybe we'll get lucky and a giant meteor will nuke the planet.
• Hello Facism! I mean, in all seriousness, this is the very definition, is it not?
• Hello COVID! Where I live, if you attend an event with 100 people or more, the certainty of encountering somebody infected with COVID-19 is greater than 99%. At an event with 10 people, the odd of encountering somebody who's infected is 42%. Such an encounter doesn't guarantee you'll be infected if you take proper precautions, but your odds are still pretty scary. But the REALLY scary part is that you can then drag it back to your family or friends. And while YOU might survive it, THEY might not. Or maybe it will be the people they infect? Hard to say. If only this country had a pandemic response that didn't get us to this point. But, alas...
If you want to see how things are looking in your neck of the woods, here's where you can find out.
• Hello George! Ending on a happier note... here's a monkey unboxing his new water bottle...
Note that, unlike myself, George bothers to read the instructions!
And that's a wrap, bullet fans.
Posted on Monday, August 10th, 2020
It's always a pleasant surprise when I watch a television show or movie for entertainment value and walk away learning something. I'm not talking documentaries and true-life story adaptations and stuff like that... I'm talking fictional stories built for entertainment purposes which have at their core some real knowledge to be had.
Most of the time, this happens with something small. Maybe you learn the capitol city of some country you never knew about. Maybe you learn some oddball scientific fact. Or maybe it's something really off the wall like the way a particular poison can be used to get away with murder. There's all kinds of small facts that are weaved into TV and movies, and it's these facts big and small which can lead your head to accepting the larger fiction.
A recent example of this is the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921. Most people had no idea that such a horrific event ever happened until the HBO super-hero show, Watchmen, made it a primary plot point for the mini-series. I'm sure some people even thought it had been invented just for the show. That's how buried it was in our history.
For me personally, the movie that most comes to mind about learning something was a 1991 film starring Danny DeVito, Gregory Peck, Penelope Ann Miller, and Piper Laurie called Other People's Money. It was based on a play of the same name by Jerry Sterner...
I went to the theater to see the movie because A) I fell in love with Penelope Ann Miller after she appeared in Kindergarten Cop and I realized she was Brenda in Adventures in Babysitting, and B) It was Danny DeVito starring in a movie that looked like he might be doing something along the lines of Ruthless People, a movie I love, and C) Piper Laurie was hot off of Twin Peaks, a show I love, and D) Gregory Peck...
Looking back at a film from nearly 30 years ago, you just know that there's going to be plenty of problematic moments. And there truly are. The sexism alone paints Other People's Money as a dinosaur from another age.
But man if I didn't learn a heck of a lot about how Wall Street works, how stocks and shareholders work, how hostile takeovers work, how money works. Just look at this scene that gets the movie ball rolling...
And don't think that the movie is all money talk. We got lawyer jokes too!
But the real education came at the end of the movie when I learned how proxy fights work. Now, if you have any plans to see this movie... and I suggest that you do see it... this video is a bit of a spoiler here. Gregory Peck has just made an impassioned plea to the stockholders to save his wire & cable company and not give in to Danny DeVito and his culture of greed. The room goes wild and he is lauded with thunderous applause. And then it's Danny DeVito's turn...
Fantastic performance there. And here's the thing... Danny DeVito makes an argument that is completely air-tight. You can't argue with what he's saying in the context of the movie. And the big lesson I took away from this was that when it comes to situations like this, it's not always black-and-white. It's shades of grey. Or, in this case, shades of green.
I've been thinking a lot about Other People's Money as it relates to contemporary times.
There are industries that are dying yet we keep propping them up just because it's politically advantageous to do so. There are many, many examples I could drop here. Many. But the one that got me thinking about this movie is the coal industry. Coal is dead. It's beyond dead. Many of its uses have become antiquated. Nobody burns coal to heat their home or make a train run any more. And while I'm sure there are some industrial uses for it... like coal-fired pizza ovens and such... coal has fallen out of use in favor of cheaper sources like natural gas and renewable energy sources (both of which are cleaner as well). The use of coal for electricity production is plummeting year-over-year. It's quickly getting to the point where nobody wants to buy coal any more. The pandemic has put that fact in vivid relief. Coal mining companies are declaring bankruptcy left and right.
And yet politicians keep dragging it along with their campaigns so that they can pick up some electoral votes in states like West Virginia, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania.
And it makes zero sense.
Other than the fact that voters fall for it hook, line, and sinker.
And you know who gets hurt by all of it? The coal miners. Coal miners get screwed along with all the workers associated with coal mining.
Because no matter how long politicians want to prop up coal... whether it's with subsidies or by coming up with idiotic nonsense like the notion of "clean coal"... it doesn't change the fact that coal is dead. And rather than accept that coal is dead and move forward by creating new jobs for coal workers with new renewable energy technology jobs, politicians keep dragging it along while foreign countries invest in renewable energy jobs which won't be going to American workers.
And why is that?
Lobbyist money, of course.
Big Coal and Big Oil and Big Pharma and all these "Big" companies OWN our politicians. They BUY them off to promote their bullshit so they continue to make money while American workers lose their jobs and American citizens get screwed.
And we have nobody to blame but ourselves because we keep re-electing them.
I feel badly for the people who keep voting for politicians who don't have their best interests at heart because the lie is always so much easier to believe. They trust the people who say they will take care of them even though it rarely turns out to be true... and is getting less true by the minute. I probably learned that from a movie somewhere, but the best way to learn is to just look at the news.
Assuming you can find actual news any more.
Much like the buggy whip and coal, actual, factual news seems to be dead...
So, game over, I guess.
Posted on Tuesday, August 11th, 2020
To say that I have zero desire to be in another relationship at this point of my life is an understatement of epic proportions. I have not been lucky in love, and the damage done to my heart has me perfectly happy to be alone for the rest of my life rather than roll the dice again.
Which is not to say that I don't have moments where I mourn the one that got away, of course...
But then I slap myself out of nostalgia and accept that we probably would have killed each other if we were trapped in quarantine together for seven months.
Posted on Wednesday, August 12th, 2020
I am trying to figure out exactly how big of a moron you have to be to attempt any kind of home renovations during a pandemic. I'm guessing it has to be fairly huge.
I am, of course, speaking from experience.
With an uncertain future ahead, I decided to bite the bullet and finally get around to the kitchen remodel that I wanted to do when I first bought the place almost five years ago. That was always in the plan because my kitchen is heinous, but I ran out of money. It's always bothered me, but it's not like I should really care. However... if I end up having to sell my home, the value will definitely drop if I don't have a much nicer kitchen than I do now.
So here we are. I liquidated my vacation fund since I won't be going on vacation any time soon and started planning. I found a countertop material I liked then scheduled the installation. They are measuring things out tomorrow, then installing two weeks later.
Which means I will be without a kitchen for at least two weeks.
Step one was to rip out my old countertops. Originally I was hiring a contractor to do it in July. But when they had to reschedule I decided to just bag it and do the tear-out myself. Not only would this save me some money, but it would also help to limit the number of potentially infectious people coming into my home. How hard could it be? Demo-day always looks like a piece of cake on all those home renovation shows!
Turns out it's a total nightmare. Whomever installed my laminate-over-particle-board countertops went way, way overboard. They laid down a stupid amount of glue... then nailed AND screwed them to the cabinetry. It was absurd. In some places there was so much glue that the particle board could only be removed in chunks with a chisel. A process I thought would take a couple hours ended up taking almost my entire day.
But the countertops weren't even the worst part.
That would be removing the cast-iron kitchen sink. The fucker was well over 100-lbs. Maybe a good 150-lbs. And as macho as I like to think I am (ha!) there's just no way. Not with something this big and unwieldy.
Since my new countertop measurements are being taken tomorrow, I could either A) pray I could find somebody to help me last-minute... or B) attempt to use brain over braun and see what happens.
I'll take door number two, Monty.
Much as I'd love to replace my kitchen floor, that's a dollar amount I do not have, so they are staying. But since a 150-lb. sink dropped on the floor would likely smash the tiles, I had to come up with a plan.
First I laid down a thick slab of heavy-foam insulation. Then I put wood on top of that. Then I constructed a cardboard "cradle" to flop the sink upon. This was tricky, because it needed to be designed to crumple. Otherwise the sink might bounce off the cardboard and smash the tile. I need it to fall flat. Then, just to cover my bases in case the sink didn't land as planned, I rolled in my winter snow tires and put them around my cradle...
I managed to pull the sink up on the countertop ledge...
Then... bombs away...
I left the faucet attached so I had something to grab onto, and that worked pretty well. My cardboard cradle slowed the fall then crumpled flat exactly as I designed it to do, so there was no bounce at all.
Then I had to wiggle a towel under my cradle so I could pull everything into my garage. Much like the way that aliens moved all those giant stone blocks when they built the pyramids.*
The rest of my night was spent chiseling glue. A futile gesture to be sure. I am going to have to use a belt sander to remove it and get down to the cabinets, which is crazy-stupid. I'm also going to have to repair a bunch of drywall, because whomever installed the backsplash used a warped piece of wood that they had to ANCHOR into the wall with steel flanges. Which means the only way to remove the backsplash was to literally rip it out of the wall. And that wasn't easy considering they used enough glue to repair the Titanic.
So... yay... I get to do drywall repair, which is like my most favorite thing in the world!
But I guess that's what you gotta do if you don't have money to throw at people to do the work for you. Unless you don't mind having big chunks torn out of your kitchen walls.
*Despite the fact that there are records showing exactly how the Egyptians built the pyramids, apparently it's easier for dumbasses to believe that aliens built them? Alrighty then.
Posted on Thursday, August 13th, 2020
For some reason, I thought the templating for my new countertops would happen with a tape measure and a pad of graph paper.
Not even close.
There's a templating machine which far more accurately measures the exact specifications needed to cut your countertops with scary precision. It looks kinda like a metal stylus attached to a wire that's attached to a measuring machine. I went looking on YouTube to see if there was a video of the thing and, sure enough, here it is...
Now I've got a two-week wait until my countertops have been cut and are installed... followed by a three day wait until my sink, faucet, garbage disposal, and disposal switch are installed. It's probably going to feel a lot longer than it actually is.
And while I can do without a sink and countertops for that amount time, I pretty much have to have a working dishwasher. My bathroom sink isn't big enough to do dishes, and washing them in the shower seems like an ordeal. And so... I've MacGyvered a pretty terrible solution using pipes and waterproof repair tape. It seems to work okay... but I definitely won't be running it unattended.
Everybody wish me luck that my kitchen doesn't end up underwater.
Posted on Friday, August 14th, 2020
Now that I'm hip-deep in my kitchen remodel, I've been trying to take a serious look at how I cook so I can streamline how I organize things and get rid of stuff that I no longer use.
Oh... and also make room for tons and tons of spices.
As a vegetarian, things can get a little boring, so I am always looking for something different. Back when I was able to travel the world, discovering new flavors was a huge part of what made it so much fun. Since I may not be able to travel for a long time, I decided to bring the flavors of the world to my kitchen. Thanks to the exceptional spices and blends to be found at The Spice House in Chicago, it's pretty easy.
I ordered 33 items... old friends and new ones to try. Tonight I decided to fry up some potatoes and try six of the blends I bought...
Then I wrote some notes so I could find out which ones I liked best...
But here's the thing... I LOVED THEM ALL!
And my kitchen smells amazing.
Around the world in 15 minutes. Whether it was Parisian Shallot Herb Blend from France or Garam Masala from Southern Asia or Za'atar from the Mediterranean or Market Blend from Marakesh or Adobo from Spain or Village Blend from the Ukraine... they were all really different and tasty! The most surprising blend was the Garam Masala, which had cinnamon and cloves that I most associate with sweet foods... but they were really savory in the absence of sugar. Tomorrow night I want to try out some of the spicy blends I bought. I expect I'll love those as well.
I suspect that I'll be placing another order for more spices soon. Because once I have my new kitchen, I'm going to want to cook in it, and I'm piling up recipes to use all these spices with.
The Spice House gave me a 15% Off link if you're looking to spice up your life. Click here to shop!
Posted on Saturday, August 15th, 2020
Jenny has been irritable lately and I am fairly certain it's because of the kitchen remodel I've got going on. She doesn't like change, and having everything ripped apart certainly qualifies. Most of her irritability is reserved for her brother. Usually she's able to ignore Jake's shenanigans, but now? Not so much.
Earlier in the week her brother wanted to lick her head for some reason. Instead of just walking away like she usually does, Jenny kept pushing him away until he got the message...
If Jake's upset by the remodel, he doesn't show it. His favorite place to seep now is on top of the dishwasher after it's been run because it's toasty warm up there without a counter carrying it up...
When the dishwasher isn't running, I guess I'm the next best thing...
The rest of the time Jake is chewing on my tools...
Mmmm... tasty pliers.
Three more weeks. Fingers crossed.
Posted on Sunday, August 16th, 2020
Six months in quarantine and dumbass idiots just keep our pandemic going strong, but at least there's something to read... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• So Very COVID! U.S. Coronavirus Outbreaks Are Increasingly Tied to Small Family Gatherings, according to this Vice article: If You Love Your Family, Stay the Hell Away From Them. This pandemic is never going to end. This is why.
• WOMAN, CAMERA, TV! Sarah Cooper has just been given a comedy special deal by Netflix. After her many hilarious videos and this monologue for Kimmel, it's easy to see why...
Good on you, Miss Cooper.
• JAJA DING DONG! If you saw the Will Ferrell Netflix movie, Eurovision: The Story of Fire Saga, you know that he plays an Icelandic singer who dreams of competing in the Eurovision song competition. A joke in the movie is when he sings a song called Jaja Ding Dong, which is about exactly what you'd think it would be about. Well, the real-life Iceland Eurovision contestant, Daði Freyr, is constantly being asked to cover the song, and he finally relented...
• Puppies! When I was in Zimbabwe, I was very, VERY lucky to see wild dogs. They are rare to spot, and there was a group of people that flew in a couple weeks prior to my visit who came specifically to photograph them... but never saw a single pup after a week of searching. They are really remarkable creatures, and it's cool that they have found ways to help restore the wild dog populations of Africa...
They're beautiful creatures, to be sure.
• Cats! Tell me that you don't think of Jake and his beloved toy Mufasa when you see this...
Cats are the most incredible creatures.
• Cohen! Michael Cohen's new book is coming, and it promises to be a doozy. I won't give the piece of shit a single cent of my money no matter how much dirt he's dishing... and there's really no reason to. I'm sure all the tea will be spread far and wide without me having to buy a thing. If nothing else we'll finally get confirmation that the pee pee tape exists...
I believed it all along.
And that's they way it goes. Enjoy your pandemic.
Posted on Monday, August 17th, 2020
Welcome to Technology Week at Blogography, where I will be reviewing tech purchases I've made over the last month or so.
I have mixed feelings about eh QNAP TS-451+ NAS (Network Attached Storage) unit I bought.
On one hand, it seems capable, reliable, and does a swell job of storing my media and other files. On the other hand, the HDMI video it generates is shit, the software is overly complex, and the thing feels underpowered for the price. The biggest drawback being that it only comes with 2GB of memory. The unit can barely function on 2GB without resorting to swap even if you're just running the bare minimum of apps. If you add any additional apps... like my Plex media server... it's Welcome to Swapsville: Population You.
The skimpy memory is a mystery. 8GB is the maximum that QNAP will support (although there are people who have installed 16GB with no problems) and that's cheap. Well, it's cheap unless you're buying your memory from QNAP. The TS-451+ is $362 if you order it with 2GB... it's $599 if you order with 8GB. That's $237 for an additional 6GB of RAM. Which is fucking insane. Purchased from Crucial, a memory brand I trust, I was able to get two 4GB DDR3L SODIMM modules for $55. QNAP, who undoubtedly can buy memory wholesale in bulk for a lot less, wants nearly FOUR AND A HALF TIMES THE MONEY I PAID.
If you buy the memory upgrade direct from QNAP it's $220, so even that route saves you $17 order buying it pre-installed.
I do not in any way understand this bullshit.
Needless to say, I told QNAP to blow it out their ass and I ordered the SODIMM modules direct from Crucial.
The upgrade took about 15 minutes (it would have taken less, but I was exceedingly careful every step of the way because screwing up meant voiding my QNAP warranty). Despite the upgrade not being a cake-walk, it was pretty easy and everything turned out just fine.
And just because I know I'll be getting Google searches from TS-451 owners wanting to upgrade their RAM, here's the tear down. PLEASE NOTE: THIS APPARENTLY VOIDS YOUR WARRANTY! PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK!...
Here's the QNAP opened up with the cage removed. Don't mind Jake, he's "helping"...
Note how the second memory slot is underneath the lower cage assembly. I absolutely didn't want to start jerking out parts to have clear access, so I just carefully squeezed the SODIMM module underneath and managed to gently press it into place. NOTE ALSO how QNAP runs a red Sharpie marker over the screws so they can more easily tell if you've opened it up. Wankers...
This whole process is pretty stupid.
It's stupid because the memory module placement is more difficult to access than it should be.
It's stupid that QNAP doesn't just make 8GB the standard memory in the unit rather than forcing you to upgrade because you'll find out really quickly that 2GB is not enough if you actually want to DO anything with your NAS.
And it's beyond stupid that even if QNAP doesn't want to have 8GB be the standard memory configuration that they charge such an absurdly stupid price for their "official" bullshit SODIMM upgrade modules.
So... it's buckets of stupid all the way around, but now I've got 8GB installed so I guess I don't care...
Interesting to note that running only the bare QNAP necessities plus Plex Server uses 2GB of memory. Which means that 2GB I initially had in my TS-451+ was barely enough memory to just hold the apps!
Absurd that they even sell a model that only comes with 2GB because it's clearly not enough.
If you want to order up your own upgrade direct from Crucial for the QNAP TS-451+, here's the direct link to the page on their website.
Posted on Tuesday, August 18th, 2020
Welcome to Technology Week at Blogography, where I will be reviewing tech purchases I've made over the last month or so.
UPDATE: This router is expensive garbage. It has almost NO configurable features you need to keep your network safe. Doesn't even have a simple IP blacklist. No way to configure the built-in firewall (assuming one even exists). No Teleport VPN software for Mac or Windows... it's mobile only. The longer I have this router the more I wish I had bought ANYTHING else. You can't even view the log files! I've owned $49 routers that had a better feature set than this pile of $380 shit. Ubiquiti's response is always "This is a consumer product and does not have professional features." SO HOME USERS DON'T NEED TO KEEP THEIR NETWORK SAFE?!? Outrageous. And also keep in mind that if you want a mesh access point added, your only choice is to spend another $380 for a second unit. Trash.
Since I'm doing a lot more working from home these past months, I finally bit the bullet and upgraded my fiber internet speed. I'm now at a full 1000mbs download / 100mbs upload. Problem is that I wasn't getting much better results than the 100/10 I had previously. Which meant the extra $24 a month I'm spending was wasted. I could downgrade back to where I was, but I'd have to pay yet another change fee to do that.
So I did that thing I loathe to do... call tech support at my ISP.
I don't know why I dread it. The tech agents taking calls are always friendly and always seem knowledgeable. Perhaps I just don't like asking for help?
After running through a bunch of stuff, the tech support guy ultimately thought the problem was my Google Wifi mesh router system. It just couldn't get me the full bandwidth I was paying for. My reaction to this was "Sure, Jan"... because isn't that what tech support always does? Blame somebody else? But then I decided that they could be right since my Google WiFi setup was the first generation model. I was wanting to purchase a new router anyway (I've been frustrated with the lackluster feature set Google has)... but I wanted to wait until Black Friday so I could (hopefully) get a good deal.
But... $24 out the window each month means I'd blow through $120 before the end of November with nothing to show for it.
And so I Googled to find the fastest possible WiFi 6 compatible router. I kept seeing Ubiquiti's Amplifi Alien pop up, so I searched through my YouTube reviewers to see what they had to say. Chris Majestic really liked it (see video below), so I cleared out my Black Friday fund and ponied up the THREE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY DOLLARS it costs. Three days later... the Alien has landed...
Introducing the Alien
Ubiquiti's router is a large-ish black cylinder with a thin vertical touch-display on the front. It's cool-looking, even though I haven't found the touch-display to be particularly useful. I'm not about to get up off my comfy couch and walk across the room to see any stats when I can pick up my iPhone and use the Amplifi app to get even more information. There's a cool green glow around the bottom which is distracting to me, so I turned it off. The size seems like overkill, but given the number of WiFi radios that are packed inside, I guess it's not unreasonable. The case doesn't seem to have very good ventilation (just a small series of holes in the back), and I'm pretty sure there's a fan inside to compensate. When I put my hand behind it I can feel the hot air being forced out. This gives me serious concerns as to the operating temperature killing the product's longevity, but I guess we'll see. There are four ethernet ports on the back, but since the router maxes out at 1Gbps connections, its useless for anybody running a multi-gig network (absurd for a router costing THREE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY DOLLARS... future-proofing be damned!).
Amplifi claims you will be up-and-running within minutes. That was not the case for me. On top of having to call my ISP and have them register my MAC address, I also ran into issues where the Alien was dropping all connections every five minutes or so. This was hugely frustrating, and resulted in my upgrading the firmware then resetting the unit four times before it would function reliably. I have no idea what that was all about, but it was closer to 30 minutes than a few minutes. I did use the same network name and password as my old router so I didn't have to go update all my devices, so at least that went smoothly.
Alien WiFI 6
The latest and greatest WiFi standard is WiFi 6. It promises better speed, more reliable connectivity, and far better support for having numerous wireless-connected devices. Since my home is a "smart home," that last point was important for me... even though none of my smart devices or cameras support WiFi 6. One day, when I upgrade everything, they likely will and I don't want to have to buy yet another router so they can use it. In the meanwhile my iPhone and my iPad do support it, so that's a start I suppose.
Thanks to the quad-core 2.2GHz CPU, the Alien is more than able to blaze through tasks with no bottleneck. It easily handles the full speed of my fiber internet, which is all I could hope for...
Not sure if these results include the devices which are connected.
My biggest problem with the Google WiFi app was that it was woefully underpowered, lacking many capabilities I wish it had. I was disappointed to find that the Amplifi app wasn't much better (indeed, in some ways it's worse). Sure it has great features... like being able to create a static IP address for a device with just a click... but so many things I expected from a THREE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY DOLLAR ROUTER are missing. I guess that's because Alien is considered a "consumer" product, but holy shit... is it too much to ask that I be able to see a device's MAC address in the main device list instead of having to click through to a second screen to get to it? This is amateur hour bullshit, and it makes trying to track down and name all your devices a total nightmare. THEY DON'T EVEN DISPLAY THE IP ADDRESS! So of course you can't sort by IP address... or anything else (like bandwidth usage, which is an important thing to be able to sort out when you have a bandwidth-hogging device on your network). The ONLY list sort you get is alphabetical, which is handy for looking up a device when you remember what you named it, but useless as a pile of dog shit for actual practical information you might need...
NO sort options. NO way to display IP or MAC addresses.
This kind of underpowered idiocy is rampant in the app. Information is sparse or requires additional clicks to get to. A lot of settings are dumbed down to a shocking degree, and there's no "pro mode" to fix that. Devices can have "Normal Priority, Streaming Priority, or Video Game Priority" but I have no idea what in the hell any of that means in actual numbers. Streaming Priority is likely higher than Normal Priority, but is Video Game Priority higher than that? Who the fuck knows? And where is Low Priority? That would be handy for devices that I don't give a crap about when my bandwidth load is high! But it doesn't exist because Ubiquiti apparently thinks dumbing everything down is what people what from a THREE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY DOLLAR ROUTER. Insanity. The Amplifi app is also where you can create and configure a guest network with a time limit (nice!) or access Amplifi's "Teleport" service which allows you to tunnel back to your router as if you were back at home (very nice, but iPhone only?!?). I seriously hope that either Amplifi gets off their asses with this bullshit and comes up with a "pro mode" for their app, or some third party company comes up with a new app which fixes this.
Alien Web Interface
Even worse and more incomplete than the app. The device list sort order is apparently completely random this time, which had me glad that at least with the app I have them listed alphabetical. Why did they even bother?
Alien Mesh Network
A smart feature of the Amplifi Alien router is that you can add another Amplifi Alien router to your network and create a mesh network. This is nice, but absurdly expensive at THREE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY DOLLARS a pop. You'd think that Ubiquiti would have far less expensive mesh nodes you can purchase since this is hella overkill, but that's not the case. At least not yet. But here's where things really start to suck. There is no dedicated mesh backhaul band. None. Nada. Zip. Zero. This means when you create a mesh network, you're cutting into the total network bandwidth, at least as I understand it. And if I am understanding correctly, this is just bonkers. Mesh routers costing far less than THREE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY DOLLARS each have dedicated 160MHz backhaul channels for exactly this, but for reasons I simply cannot fathom, Ubiquiti didn't include it. You can partition out your various WiFi bands and use the WiFi 6 band as a dedicated backhaul, but then you apparently lose being able to have a WiFi 6 network? Doesn't that like... oh... I dunno... DEFEAT THE ENTIRE PURPOSE OF HAVING A WIFI 6 ROUTER?!? Right now I only need the one router, because Alien does a darn good job of saturating my home with decent bandwidth, but the fact that a so-called mesh router is not good for mesh networking is pretty inexcusable. If I am misunderstanding this and somebody wants to set me straight, please do so in the comments. If you are needing a mesh network, I would absolutely look elsewhere.
Alien Band Partitioning
As mentioned above, you can partition out the three bands on the Alien and give them each their own unique SSID, or leave them combined on the same SSID (which is what I did). The three bands are 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi 6 bands plus a 5GHz WiFi 5 band. I had toyed with the idea of separating out a band exclusively for my security cameras, but it ultimately wasn't necessary, as everything works just fine as it came out of the box.
Alien and My Conclusions
In the end I have to say that I'm lukewarm on the Amplif Alien. The shitty, under-powered app was enough to sour me all on its own... but the lack of a dedicated mesh backhaul and total lack of future-proofing just added to my dissatisfaction. I struggled with whether or not I wanted to return it or keep it for a couple weeks... but ultimately kept it because it fit my current and near-future needs just fine and I didn't want to be bothered. If I were starting all over, I would probably seriously look at the Netgear Orbi 6, which seems a bit more powerful and far more future-proof... but I think you have to buy them as a mesh pair, and that's $700 I don't have. If you aren't looking for pro features, don't care about future-proofing, and just want a WiFi 6 router with good coverage and great speeds... and have THREE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY DOLLARS burning a hole in your pocket, then perhaps the Alien Amplifi by Ubiquiti is for you.
Posted on Wednesday, August 19th, 2020
Welcome to Technology Week at Blogography, where I will be reviewing tech purchases I've made over the last month or so.
After I moved into my new home I bought a set of cloud security cameras... then bought a second set of redundant wired security cameras with battery backup. It's not that I'm overly-paranoid (though I probably should be), they are left over from wanting to watch over my mom while I was at work. After my mom had to leave, I found the cameras were a handy thing to have for keeping an eye on my cats when I travel. Now-a-days I mostly ignore them unless I am trying to solve a mystery that Jake and Jenny have left for me.
The cloud cameras are by Nest, a company that was bought out by Google. They are the best of the cloud cameras I tried, but have always been hampered by the absurdly high cost of the "Nest Aware" cloud service that enables them to record footage. If you don't subscribe to Nest Aware you can watch a live stream, but that's it. No more recording. With my mom gone, I didn't need to spend the money and decided to let all but two camera subscriptions lapse. Instead I switched to $20 Wyze cameras which are an incredible value for the money and, if you put an SD card in them, they are actually more capable than Nest cameras without Nest Aware.
Last year Google announced that they were changing Nest Aware from a pay-per-camera subscription to a new plan which covers all your cameras for one price. If you have a couple cameras, it's more expensive. But if you have a lot of Nest cameras like I do? Huge bargain. $120 a year gets me 10 days of cloud storage for an unlimited number of cameras. "Unlimited" being a relative term. Technically it's unlimited, but eventually you'll saturate your bandwidth, so there's a limit based on what internet access you have.
But there's a catch.
In order to sign up for the new Nest Aware service with unlimited cameras, you have to migrate your Nest account to a Google account. Which didn't seem like a big deal to me because I already had one for my Google WiFi mesh internet system. The problem is that when you login to your cameras on the web, you now get a login with Google screen...
Then you have to select your Google account before having access...
That's two extra steps from when I had a Nest account, because the Nest account info was stored in a browser cookie so you end up at the cameras immediately.
This may seem like a small thing, but it really isn't. Usually when I am accessing my cameras, I need to get to them right away because my security system has detected something I want to check. Calling up the Nest system is slow to begin with. Now, thanks to the Google login, the process horrendously slow because you're in a hurry.
Ultimately, Nest is still a pretty good system. No, it doesn't do everything they claim as well as they claim (I still get occasional alerts that there's a person in my house and it ends up being a cat) and, yes, the Nest Aware you need to buy to make use of your cameras is pricey... but they are dead-simple to set up and use. More importantly, the quality and reliability is great (assuming you have the bandwidth), which is the most important thing of all.
If I was starting over from scratch today I don't know that I would still choose Google Nest for my cloud system. All the glitchy service interruptions that plagued me seem to have been minimized over the past several months (knock wood), but there's still plenty of things that should be addressed...
In the end I think Google buying out Nest was probably a good thing, but so many of the things I loved about Nest have changed or been eliminated... so perhaps not? My Nest Protect fire alarms are still chugging along, so at least that much hasn't changed. For now.
Final Grade Nest Protect: A
Final Grade Nest Cam: C
Posted on Thursday, August 20th, 2020
I am not a weather bug. Unless I'm on vacation, I honestly don't care what the weather does. When it's hot, my Ecobee smart thermostat turns on the air conditioner. When it's cold, my Ecobee turns on the heat. When it's going to be hot, my Rachio smart irrigation controller adds more water to the lawn when it waters at 3:00am. When it's raining, my Rachio waters less or not at all.
The small town where I live lost its weather station last year. This means that my Rachio irrigation controller has to pull its weather forecast data from a neighboring town. This is not optimal because they don't always have the same weather we do. The city to the West is more in the mountains... the city to the East is less in the mountains.
Enter the WeatherFlow Tempest Weather System...
The main weather sensor has an array of functions for monitoring and collecting weather data...
There's sensors for light/UV, air pressure, rain, wind, temperature, and lightning, all in the same unit. It's solar-powered, so there's no mucking about with taking the batteries out to charge them. It then broadcasts its data to a base station which you keep indoors that in turn sends it to your account on the internet where you can retrieve it on a smart phone app and view forecast information...
It's all pretty nifty and setup on my iPhone was a breeze. I started with mounting it to a tripod set on my back porch. When the data seemed to be reliable, I mounted the Tempest to a wood pole I had laying around in my garage and screwed it to the catio. They say it's ideal to have it 6 to 9 feet from the ground, but that's not realistic because my home will obstruct the wind. When mounted to the catio pole, the wind is still being partially obstructed by the second story of my condo, so that's not great either. Eventually I'd like to mount it on a PVC pole that puts the Tempest above the roof-line so that wind direction will be accurate. This will be way, way higher off the ground than 6 to 9 feet, but what else can I do? I guess you're supposed to buy an acre of land so the sensor can be placed the way they want it to be?
Now, granted the weather here has just been different shades of hot for a long while, but there was a day with sprinkles of rain and that registered just fine. It will be interesting to see how it registers snow... if it registers snow. Since I will likely install a pole for it sometime soon, I guess we'll find out and I'll report back.
If this was all that the WeatherFlow was capable of, it would be pretty impressive. But it goes so far beyond just monitoring and recording the data. It uses AI (artificial intelligence) to forecast weather. It communicates with other WeatherFlow units to build a more accurate weather picture. It has an open API (application programming interface) so that it can be made to work with just about any other technology out there... including Alexa. It can broadcast accurate weather data which can be used to control roof heating lines and anything else you can think of. It can be set up to forward your data to Weather Underground so you can help with reporting weather conditions. And you can even get designated as a weather station so that devices like my Rachio irrigation controller can decide whether to water or not.
I haven't had a lot of time to look into all the stuff the Tempest can do (the weather here is just hot all the time now so my incentive to do that is fairly low) but it will make for a very cool Fall project.
With all the unit can do, it will come as no surprise that the unit is not cheap. I got it in a Kickstarter for $300 and it's currently selling for $330 at their store. But if you're wanting to have good weather data and need good weather information to integrate into your smart home, it's money well spent.
Posted on Friday, August 21st, 2020
The remote that comes with AppleTV is total shit.
I'm not even kidding. It's absurdly small, easy to fall through the couch cushions and lose, difficult to tell up from down, has a crap "trackpad" for navigation, and is an overall loser for functionality and user experience.
As you might have guessed, I am not a fan.
Before I cut the cord, I had to use an assortment of remotes for my television, satellite box, and AppleTV. I mostly watched satellite TV. and that remote was just fine. But now that I've cut the cord and everything is streaming through apps on AppleTV, this shitty little remote is what I'm using 100% of the time. And I hate it. I hate it. I hate it.
"Surely I'm not the only one who hates this piece of shit! I wonder if there's a third-party remote for AppleTV that has actual buttons and is pleasant to use?"
Turns out there is. The majority of options are programmable remotes, however, and that's overkill for me because I just have the one device now. What I want is a simple remote for AppleTV only.
Enter the Function 101 Button Remote for AppleTV...
Exactly what I always wanted!
When the remote arrived, I immediately noticed a few great things...
Alas, it's not all a bed of roses. There are problems to be had.
First of all, there is no "Home" button. I believe this is a technical limitation of AppleTV, because I never had a "Home" button on my Harmony remotes either. Some of the functionality can be had by long-pressing the "Menu" button... but that doesn't work to turn off the AppleTV quickly. Bummer.
Second of all, the button layout is not like the original crappy Apple Remote. This is incredibly frustrating and makes zero sense. I am CONSTANTLY hitting the "Channel Up/Down" instead of volume, which immediately forwards you to the next episode in many apps. This is horrible. If I had been the one to design the remote, I would have laid it out exactly like the Apple remote so you can easily switch between them and have the buttons where you expect them to be...
Third of all, this is an IR-only remote. Which means you must have clear sight of the AppleTV and be pointing the remote directly at it in order for signal to be received.
And Lastly, It did not work with my AppleTV 4K right away. Every time I pressed a button I would get three rapid flashes on the AppleTV, but nothing would happen. It took days of back-and-forth with Function Tech Support (who were very responsive) and it still wouldn't work. Through a lot of Googling, I tried the following suggestions...
Ultimately it was a suggestion from a friend who's an Apple Store "Genius Bar" employee to Reset & Update AppleTV that got things working. This is a terrible last-ditch effort because you have to sign back into all your apps again. You'd think this would be a simple matter since Apple added a unified AppleTV subscription provider login, but none of the apps seem to use it properly. You tell the app to use your provider login, then still have to jump through hoops to get signed in. Incredibly frustrating.
Ultimately the Function 101 remote is a mixed bag. It's so much better than the crappy Apple remote in form, function, and feel... but the button arrangement is incredibly problematic because it's different from the Apple original which means you're pressing the wrong buttons all the time. This is a shame. If they were to fix this, it would be a seriously good buy at $29.95.
UPDATE: I revised this to reflect that I eventually got the remote working.
Posted on Saturday, August 22nd, 2020
My cats have no problem whatsoever letting me know when they are upset.
Jenny will whine her sad little meow when she wants to be petted or wants to be fed. Jake never bothers me for food, oddly enough, but he definitely lets me know when he wants attention.
Or I'm making too much noise.
My kitchen renovation is in high gear and it's not something he's happy about. Jenny just runs and hides when I am using power tools. Jake kinda-sorta sleeps through it. But then I had to buy a more powerful belt sander which is far noisier than my old one, and Jake can't sleep through it. So he runs and complains to me, then goes and hides with his sister.
But this morning I started sanding again with the expectation that he would come running to complain, but he didn't. I looked in on the cat tree and he was... sleeping?
Guess he's adapting. By the time I'm finished he'll probably be completely accustomed to it. Typical.
And speaking of complaining...
Jake loves potato chips. And every time I open a bag, he comes running because he knows I'll be passing a couple his way...
And a couple chips is usually enough. He'll smack on them for a while until they're gone, then wander off. But lately he complains that he wants more. So much for not bothering me for food.
He's still adorable in all the right ways though, so it's all good...
And speaking of adorable...
I do not close the door when I have to use the bathroom. But, like the good kitties they are, Jake and Jenny don't disturb me. Though they are often waiting for me when I get out...
See you next Saturday, cat-fans.
Posted on Sunday, August 23rd, 2020
Fan conventions may be on hold, but don't get your super-suit tights in a bunch... because an all new DC Comics Fan Dome Edition of Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• FAN DOME! In the absence of fan conventions (like Comic-Con) there's been an awful lot of "virtual cons" happening. DC Comics held their own virtual con event this weekend, called Fan Dome. The only thing I actually tuned in live for was Wonder Woman 1984 and Suicide Squad. Everything else was just when it hit YouTube. Precious little information was dropped for Aquaman 2, Shazam 2, or a new Superman film, but everything else happening in the next 2-3 years was touched upon. Let's take a look, shall we?
• THE SUICIDE SQUAD! Technically, this is Suicide Squad 2, but in order to distance James Gunn's take on the franchise from the previous installment, they added "The" in the front and left "2" off the back. Packed to the gills with characters even more obscure than the original team, Gunn promises a unique take on the material which follows his incredible success with the Guardians of the Galaxy flicks over at Marvel. Out of all the films DC is unleashing on us, this has the best shot of my liking it...
ODDS TO LIKE IT: 85%
• WONDER WOMAN 1984! I was completely unprepared for Patty Jenkins' incredible Wonder Woman movie, released in 2017. It was a fantastic, faithful, and fully entertaining representation of everybody's favorite Amazon for the silver screen. Three long years later, we're finally getting a sequel. I am not 100% sure how exactly how this wacky throwback is going to play out, but the trailer sure looks encouraging...
ODDS TO LIKE IT: 75%
• THE BATMAN! When it comes to Batman live-action movies, the character has fared better than most, but there have been some serious missteps...
With the exception of The Dark Knight Rises, the best Batman going has been the LEGO games/movies and the animated cartoons. And here we go again, this time with Matt Reeves directing Robert Pattinson in The Batman. Alas, it's looking like a bit of a mess in the trailer, but who knows?
ODDS TO LIKE IT: 25%
• BLACK ADAM! I hate hate hated the Shazam! movie. Now we're getting a movie around one of Shazam's biggest villains, Black Adam. I have no clue what this is supposed to be. Is he fighting Shazam? Is he going to be an actual villain? Who knows. I'd abandon all hope, except Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is starring in it, so I guess that's something.
ODDS TO LIKE IT: 20%
• THE FLASH! One of the worst parts of Zack Snyder's shitty Justice League was his take on The Flash. Wrapped in one of the shittiest movie super-hero costumes of all time, Ezra Miller's godawful versions looked like a pile of junk instead of the sleek, elegant character from the comics. And those horrific "jokes" that he simply would. not. shut. up. with (courtesy of Joss Whedon, I'm guessing?). has me not giving a crap about this movie. About the only thing even remotely interesting to me is the fact that Michael Keaton's Batman will be making an appearance. Otherwise? Ugh.
ODDS TO LIKE IT: 10%
• JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE SNYDER CUT! One of the worst super-hero films ever created, Justice League was a horrific pile of shit that followed Zack Snyder's truly awful Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice and Man of Steel fiascos. While the fact that Snyder has created it guaranteed it would suck, the fact that Joss Whedon was brought it to make it "funny" in the hopes it would perform like his two Avengers movies made it even worse. An inconsistent mish-mash that I hated more than I ever thought possible. Now Zack Snyder has been given millions of dollars so he can "restore his vision" for the film. Which means it's still going to be a pile of shit... it's just going to be a consistent pile of shit.
ODDS TO LIKE IT: 2%
I suppose if theaters ever open up in the USA again, I might actually get to see some of these. But, more likely than not, I'll just be waiting for home-video. If I'm going to risk death in a theater, it won't be for anything coming out of DC Comics, that's for sure.
Posted on Monday, August 24th, 2020
It's not the pandemic... it's the people.
Posted on Tuesday, August 25th, 2020
It's not that I give a shit what sexual stuff Jerry Falwell Jr. is into... it's that he has ruthlessly persecuted other people for exactly the same kind of thing he's done. And while he can claim that God has forgiven him, his wife, and the pool boy, he won't be getting one fucking iota of forgiveness for me. Pieces of shit like Falwell are responsible for creating an atmosphere so toxic that our LGBTQ youth are killing themselves rather than having to spend one more day living in it, so Falwell can go fuck himself. While his wife and the pool boy watch.
Image from Getty Images
Not that I believe for a second that all Falwell did was watch the pool boy rail his wife. At the bare minimum, his dick was in-hand. More likely he was all up in that pool boy. Or the pool boy was all up into him. Or both. Who can say?
Image from REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
And of course Falwell Jr. is claiming that all of this is a criminal conspiracy and has asked the FBI to investigate. He claims that people who were feeding information to the press were "cowardly" for not using their names. I guess it's less cowardly if you claim to do something in God's name? Well, whatever. Absolutely none of the salacious details coming to light should surprise anybody. This is just one in a long, long line of church scandals that are continuously being unearthed which feature hypocritical assholes who are 100% in the "Do as I preach, not as I do" camp.
Image from REUTERS/Scott Morgan
But what does it matter? Whenever this happens (and it happens a lot), all you have to do is say that Jesus forgives you, therefore everybody has to forgive you.
Image from Twitter
Falwell and his wife are, after all, most certainly "Very Fine People™®" and totally worth forgiving despite the fact that they have condemned their own behavior in the eyes of God on a regular basis.
Image from MSNBC
In the end, I guess there's nothing to see here. This is just another day on planet earth, and raging hypocrites being hypocritical is happening every day.
Posted on Wednesday, August 26th, 2020
Home renovations on your own is a lonely, tough game to play.
It doesn't help that I totally have no idea what I'm doing and have to figure everything out from looking at YouTube videos.
One of the bigger challenges I've face so far is that I've got huge chunks missing out of my kitchen wall. The contractor who built the kitchen used warped boards for the backsplash. Instead of finding boards that weren't warped, they used a ton of glue... and some metal flanges pounded into the wall to flatten things out. When I removed the backsplash, the wall came with it...
The holes were way too big for spackling paste. My first instinct was to just cut out the damaged areas and patch with new drywall. THAT I know how to do. But sheets of drywall board won't fit in my car, so I had to wander the aisles of Home Depot until a solution presented itself. Fairly quickly I came across cans of GREAT STUFF BIG GAP FILLER. I found an employee and asked them if I could just squirt it at the wall and use a putty knife to fill the holes. That was apparently hilarious, and they had to explain that gap filler expands into gaps and wasn't something I could use like spackling.
I bought it anyway because GREAT STUFF BIG GAP FILLER sounded like it could be made to work somehow. There were big fucking gaps in my wall, after all.
My solution? Use cardboard backed with wax paper stapled to the wall, poke holes in it, then pump the gap foam into the cavity behind my makeshift wall mold. With any luck, the foam wouldn't stick to the waxed paper and I'd be good to go. Home Depot guy was right about one thing... the stuff expands like a herpes outbreak. I barely squirted anything in there and it came gushing out of the holes immediately...
The next morning I pulled the cardboards off the walls and it worked like a charm...
Once dried, the stuff is pretty darn tough! Actually felt stronger than drywall. I used a hacksaw blade to trim off the excess, then filled the bubble holes with spackling...
After sanding it down I was left with a perfectly flat surface that I can eventually tile over. Sweet!
I decided that I didn't want to tile on the wall that came out from under my cabinets because I thought it would look weird. So after using the BIG GAP FILLER and spackling I just sprayed some wall texture over the top. Once I paint it, I think it will look just fine...
Jake and Jenny inspected my work and were obviously impressed...
And... one more task down... a couple hundred to go.
But tomorrow there's just one task on my mind. I need to paint the frames on my lower cabinets before my new countertops arrive on Friday.
What's another night without sleep?
Posted on Thursday, August 27th, 2020
After de-greasing, cleaning, rinsing, sanding, scrubbing, and drying my lower kitchen cabinets this past week, it was finally time to start painting!
First with a base coat of KILZ oil-based primer to seal and prime the surface... which made my home smell like a toxic waste dump. It's seriously bad (from what I can tell, the smell is so toxic that they can't even sell the stuff in half the USA or something). But I wouldn't dream of using a water-based primer for kitchen cabinets... it's just not tough enough for the beating they're going to take. And so I open every window in the house and turn on every fan I own to help air things out. The GOOD news about going oil-based is that the stuff is dry and ready for sanding in an hour! Then I could spray another coat of KILZ, wait an hour, sand smooth again, THEN START PAINTING AT LONG LAST!
My worry about the smell led me to feed Jake and Jenny in my bedroom. Since cats will only eat something they can smell, I added stinky fish flakes to make sure they could smell their dinner over any KILZ primer fumes that might have driften upstairs.
I tested five different "whites" for my kitchen cabinets. I ended up using "Simply White," which is on my walls and not the "Cloud White" that's on my trim nor the "Snowfall White" that's on my furniture nor the "Decorator White" that's on my Insets nor the "Oxford White" that's washed on my guest room IKEA. — It's weird how "white" works in paint. In order to match everything, you have to accommodate lighting, gloss, finish, surface, AND matching flooring... it's exhausting.
I am very happy with the Simply White that I ended up with. It's warm enough to not be sterile, but still very, very white...
And tomorrow my countertops get installed.
Posted on Friday, August 28th, 2020
It's strange how you just kinda get numb to the horrors of the day. A pandemic is ravaging the world. California is burning from wildfires. Louisiana is getting devastated by a hurricane. It just never stops. Everything is awful and seems to be getting worse.
Then today Chadwick Boseman dies... at 43 years old?
Best known for playing Jackie Robinson in 42 and T'Challa in Black Panther, this is truly awful news. The guy was incredibly talented and his career had just gone stratospheric...
I was so looking forward to seeing him in Black Panther 2. It's one of the things that's been keeping me going through these dark days.
Condolences to Boseman's wife and family. So incredibly sorry for your loss.
Posted on Saturday, August 29th, 2020
I've had a headache for since I woke up with it on Wednesday. It's worse in the mornings so I've been taking an aspirin and a nap before starting my day.
At least I try.
After they've had their breakfast, Jake and Jenny take turns wanting belly rubs. And who am I to say no? So I check my email with one hand while taking care of business with my other hand...
They never return the favor, however.
Posted on Sunday, August 30th, 2020
Summer may be coming to a close, but the bullets are just beginning... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Forever! This weekend I held a Chadwick Boseman memoral marathon... starting with 42, Gods of Egypt, and Marshall yesterday... then blowing through all his Marvel movies, Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity Gauntlet, and Avengers: Endgame today. Mr. Boseman was diagnosed with third stage colon cancer in 2016. Which means he had to be feeling effects while filming Civil War and Marshall... and was battling it in force while filming Black Panther and the Avengers movies. His amazing acting talent is on screen for all to see. But the strength it took to be filming while undergoing treatment for cancer? You never saw that...
It's been weighing on me all day. I've read that he said that he prayed that he would get the role of Black Panther before he was cast. I can only imagine that playing the character kept him going. I don't know. What I do know is that I sure would have loved to have seen more movies from him. But, man, what we got was sure amazing wasn't it?
• Jeopardy! Seems an apt time to remember when Chadwick Boseman was responsible for one of the funniest sketches to ever air on Saturday Night Live...
And now I want potato salad.
• EXCELLENT! One of my favorite movies of all time is Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. Far from being a high school stoner comedy (albeit without the drugs), it was actually an incredibly smart film. Time travel was handled exceedinly well, the soundtrack was fantastic, and the casting was genius. George Carlin was an inspired choice as Rufus... and of course Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter were genre-defining in the title roles. The sequel, Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey fell short, but was still a fun ride. And now, 30 years after the original debuted, Bill & Ted are back...
While it's not in the same league as the original... and how could it be when George Carlin is gone?... it was still pretty darn entertaining. I am not going to say a word about the movie because you really need to see for yourself. And you can do that with a $20 rental or $25 purchase price through iTunes and other streaming services. I don't know if it's worth the first-run cost, but it's not like you can run out and see it in theaters.
• #GiantMeteor2020! Well, dang.
• Bird Shit! Johnny Harris does it again... this time with a fascinating video on why the US has all these islands scattered around the Pacific...
Truth is so often stranger than fiction.
• HAN SHOT FIRST! Restoring old films so they will appeal to modern audiences is nothing new. Cleaning up the dust and scratches. Minimizing grain. Sharpening the picture. It's pretty cool what technology can do to help make old films look new. But there is such a thing as going too far. I first remember this kind of controversy when Turner Network Television "colorized" old black-and-white movies. I never thought this was so terrible, but a lot of people did. What I do think is terrible is when classic films are altered so that the story changes. Guns becoming walkie-talkies in E.T. The Extra Terrestrial... and, of course, Greedo shooting first in Star Wars.
There was a lot of outcry over Star Wars... so much so that when they released the modified "Special Edition" on DVD they included a "Bonus Disc" which had a cleaned up version of the original film. I was happy to have it, because the only way I could watch the original was on my LaserDisc copy, which was a very nice picture for 1982, but disappointing for 1997. I didn't mind so much that they replaced the special effects shots with new CGI versions... but the other changes (like Han not shooting first) were pretty crappy.
Now there's a new technique for "stacking" multiple sources of the film so that you can build a more detailed picture...
Here's a still from the original film off LaserDisc...
Here's the same still from the DVD Special Edition Bonus Disc of the original film...
And here's the restoration version which uses details from multiple sources to create a far sharper version...
Pretty amazing. Here's an explanation video. Fast forward to 40 minutes if you just want to see what's happening...
Technology so nifty, eh? THIS is a kind of restoration that does more good than harm.
And that's a wrap on my Sunday.
Posted on Monday, August 31st, 2020
I'll tell you what I want, what I really really want...
I just love the industrial look of them. So the first thing I did when I finally got the money together to start working on my kitchen was to inquire about having them installed. What I was told was "Sure we can do that, but you might want to look into fake concrete manufactured stone. The fake stuff has a more consistent finish (not so blotchy), doesn't have to be sealed, is more resistant to scratches and staining, and could ultimately be cheaper. Furthermore, concrete may be a turn-off when it comes to re-sale value, as not everybody appreciates the look."
Well okay then.
I pulled four samples of "concrete" countertop material. One of them looked awful under my kitchen lights and was immediately eliminated. Since I couldn't afford to replace my kitchen floor tile, I eliminated another sample because it didn't go very well...
I liked the more "gray" color of "Concrete" because it seemed more authentically concrete-like to me... but the "Stormy Sky" had a hint of brown warmth that made it a better fit with my hardwood flooring (which you can kinda sorta see in this photo, but not really)...
It ultimately seemed a better match all the way around as I looked at it under different light, so I ponied up the downpayment and had a slab ordered. They templated my kitchen on the 13th, then this past Friday they got installed...
They are absolutely amazing-looking. They have the concrete "look" I wanted, but are more refined... and a better color match for everything else in my kitchen. Including my new stainless steel sink you can see there. But what I love most? They are perfectly smooth! I can easily disinfect them and feel comfortable kneading breads and preparing other foods directly on top. With my old, ugly laminate countertops, I wouldn't dare because they had a rough texture where germs can hide. Really excited to make cinnamon rolls and pizza crusts now that I have a large, sanitary surface I can work on!
And tomorrow my plumbing gets installed. After three weeks without running water or a kitchen sink, it's been a long time coming!