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Sink or Swim

Posted on Tuesday, September 1st, 2020

Dave!Yesterday I had to get up early-early in the morning for a quick work-trip to Spokane. Three hours drive for an hour's work followed by three hours drive home. That's a lot of time on the road, which is tough when you're not used to it.

It was exhausting, but I did stop by David's Pizza, so I could have some delicious company on the way back...

A delicious pizza sitting in my passenger seat.

Just after picking up my pizza, I received a call from the plumber asking if they could come this afternoon instead of tomorrow morning. Thrilled at the prospect of having a kitchen sink with running water after three weeks of doing without, I agreed.

There are a lot of Do It Yourself projects I'm willing to tackle. Or at least attempt to tackle. Plumbing is not one of them. The potential for serious problems and even more serious damage just isn't worth the risk. I call a plumber for plumbing problems without hesitation, even though the cost is usually far more than I can afford to pay.

For installing my new sink, my new garbage disposal, and my new faucet, I had budgeted $1000. I figured it would more likely be around $800, but better to have more money saved than not enough.

The work order came out to $1400 after cash discount and some coupons I had found.

Guess I'm waiting a couple months before I get new cabinet doors and drawers.

Turns out that $1400, which expensive, was probably justified. It took the guy three hours to get my fancy hardware installed. I had installed support rails for the sink, but the hardware to secure it was not exactly easy. I had installed the new control box for the garbage disposal, but it required some wiring. And don't even get me started on the automated faucet! There are more lines and wires required to install it than I could have possibly have guessed. Just look at all this...

Jake the Cat inspecting the mass of wires and hoses under my sink.

I'm going to buy some retaining clips so I can get everything pinned to the wall and looking nice.

The garbage disposal is quite a bit more powerful than the old one that came with my home. Surprisingly, it's considerably smaller and quieter as well. The thing kinda scares me, because it can rip through anything I dump into it in seconds.

My old disposal was controlled by a wall switch. But since my new touchless faucet requires always-on power, I had to get a control box and remote switch so that the disposal wouldn't be on 24/7. I put the button where the soap dispenser is supposed to go (I wouldn't have used it anyway, because it seems like it would get crudded up easily)...

A button installed on my sink rim.

It's not electronic... it's air-activated. The button has a small bellows inside which sends a burst of air to the control box which turns it on/off. It's far more responsive than I thought it would be! It's also safe for the cats to walk over when they are naughty and being on the counters where they're not supposed to be. You have to press fairly deep to activate...

Pressing a button installed on my sink rim.

The sink itself is a stainless steel apron-front Kohler drop-in model (meaning I didn't have to rebuild my cabinets... just leave a hole cut out for it). It's very well made (as it should be for the price!) and beautiful to look at. I let some water dry in it to see if it gets badly water-spotted, and it's not terrible. Certainly no worse than other stainless steel sinks I've had...

My pretty new sink.

I totally love it. Goes with all my stainless steel appliances.

Now, about that faucet...

Originally I was getting a simple Delta faucet with a touchless sensor so I can turn the water off and on when my hands were goopy from cooking. But then a friend remarked that it was risky buying a different brand than my sink because then the finishes might not match. Enter the Kohler Sensate.

First of all, the sensor for turning off and on is up in the neck of the faucet. This is great because if my cats are up there (where they know they shouldn't be) then the odds of them being able to turn it on are slim. Also... if they do manage to turn it on, it will turn itself off after a while so I'm not wasting water...

The spout can detach and be used as a sprayer-wand, which is nice.

This faucet can integrate with Kohler Konnect so I can add Alexa voice commands at a later time if I want to. Then you can say stuff like "Alexa, dispense 2 quarts of water" and the faucet will totally do that. I didn't go to that expense because it seemed rare that I would actually need to do something like that. Maybe if I were making Kool-Aid or something? I dunno. It sure is a beautiful faucet!

And so now I just have to install my tile backsplash and finish my cabinets. Which sounds a lot easier than the work involved to actually do it, alas.

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Transplant

Posted on Wednesday, September 2nd, 2020

Dave!Two months ago? Three months ago? Some time ago a friend in Canada sent me recordings of a television show called Transplant. It was a medical drama that I wanted to ignore because I was tired of medical dramas, but felt obligated to take a look at because my friend had taken the time to send it to me.

I watched the first episode on a Saturday morning while I waited for my cats to finish breakfast. I wanted to add their dishes to the dishwasher before I ran it. I knew I had some time because Jenny is famous for eating a bit, walking away, coming back and eating a bit more, then walking away, then coming back... it can take her 20 minutes to finish a meal.

I was riveted to the screen for the entire first episode. After running the dishwasher I sat back down and watched the remaining 12 episodes back-to-back. My day was gone but I really didn't have a choice. It's that good.

Transplant is about a Syrian immigrant doctor in Toronto who can't get work so he takes a job in his uncle's restaurant. Then one fateful night, everything changes...

   
Hamza Haq should be a shoo-in for a Best Actor Grammy for his portrayal of the lead character. He plays the part with a grace, subtlty, and sympathy that seems effortless. And yet he also plays it with a certain level of detatchment that somebody who lived through the horror of civil war in Syria would have to have. It's sublimely perfect, and I don't know how he manages it. Far too many actors would go over-the-top with the material, which is the exact opposite of what the part needs. No, Haq manages to get everything perfect and strike the right note every time.

That alone would be remarkable. But it's just the beginning. The writing is top-notch and the supporting cast is equally excellent. Which is a good thing because there are times that the story will push Dr. Hamed to the background despite him being the main character. It's a brilliant play, because he's all the more impactful when he's in the spotlight.

If Transplant doesn't top my favorite shows of 2020, I will be very surprised. It's so good that NBC started airing it here in the States. The first episode aired last night, so I'm guessing it is being shown Tuesdays on NBC. If you missed it, you can sign up for a free account at PeacockTV.com and watch the first episode at no charge!

If you're looking for a way to kill time during quarantine, this is well worth a look.

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GET OFF MY UNCOMMON LAWN!

Posted on Thursday, September 3rd, 2020

Dave!When I was a kid complaining about a candy bar going from 25¢ to 35¢ I had to hear my parents tell me that they were 5¢ when they were a kid. Now, of course, candy bars are $1.50, which still sends me into sticker shock whenever I feel the need to treat myself to a sugar-filled treat.

But stuff like that doesn't bother me. Inflation happens and things are always changing so there's no sense in being bothered by it.

And then today I saw this...

   
That DOES bother me. A little bit. Kinda.

Holy crap am I old.

   
Which brings us to this...

UNPOPULAR OPINION: I fucking detest common core math bullshit.

In the REAL WORLD, you just gotta be able to multiply shit to get answers you need. Like "How many square feet do I need to buy to tile my kitchen?" or "How much is 20% off this $18 sweater?" or "If all 13 of us needs 15 copies of the program, how many copies do I run?" — You don't need the "theory" behind multiplication. You don't need to know "how it works." You just need to know how to fucking multiply as quickly and easily as possible to get the information you need. And multiplication is some easy shit to accomplish. I still use the process I learned in school decades ago. Or, more likely, I use the calculator app on my iPhone.

Want to help kids? Teach them the critical thinking required to know WHAT you multiply for real-world application, not all this "behind the scenes" Mickey-Mouse-bullshit that will likely have precious little use when they'll just end up using a calculator app anyway. Who the fuck does multiplication by hand any more? Why would you? Sure it's handy if the battery on your phone dies... BUT THEN YOU CAN JUST BORROW SOMEBODY ELSE'S PHONE!

I use mathematics every fucking day... which is FAR more than most people will ever use it... and how much benefit would I get out of having to multiply numbers using the "common core" method? FUCK ZERO! THAT'S HOW MUCH! Because unless you're a teacher who is having to teach this shit... or somebody whose job requires you to be able to break down numbers and understand the process behind how mathematical fundamentals work... YOU'LL USE IT FUCK ZERO TOO!

I have debated this common core crap with friends way too often, and it ALWAYS comes down to "preparing kids for college" or whatever. I don't buy that argument (or the argument that every person needs to attend college in the first place given the job opportunities available here)... but okay. Sure. College. I guess having to calculate out how many kegs you need for a holiday weekend party of 128 people would be totally easier if you broke it down to 1 one-hundreds, 2 tens, and 8 ones by a seven drink average! OR IT WOULDN'T BECAUSE YOU'D JUST USE A FUCKING CALCULATOR! Get the fuck out of here.

Yeah, things are always changing, but sometimes it's not for the better.

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Cilantro

Posted on Friday, September 4th, 2020

Dave!Growing up I never had much exposure to cilantro. It appeared in salsa, but that’s about it. Over the years I’ve been kinda meh on cilantro, but once I started exploring Martha Stewart’s meal service, I’ve come to love it (so much so that I’m going to try growing it eventually).

Yesterday I was craving cilantro but too tired to cook after getting some from the grocery store, so I made me some Coconut-Peanut Rice Noodles with extra cilantro for dinner tonight...

My dinner... rice noodles with cilantro and peanuts on top.

Amazing stuff. I find it sad that some people have tastebuds that register cilantro as “soap” tasting, because it’s become a favorite flavor of mine.

And speaking of Martha Stewart's meal service...

On of the meals this past week was Spinach & Tomato Lasagna Rolls. I made half without the Spinach, which I felt were far superior because the texture of the spinach was kinda gross. Great stuff though. They have you mix pesto into the tomatoes for a darn delicious sauce. The best part is that the noodles crisp up on the edges when you cook them. I honestly thought that the filling would come pouring out as they cooked, but nope...

My dinner... lasagna rolls.

Yummeh. If I can find pasta sheets, I have to make this again.

Well, that's enough cooking for a while. Back to peanut butter sandwiches for a while.

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Caturday 175

Posted on Saturday, September 5th, 2020

Dave!Well, the raccoons are back.

And this time they seem to be making friends with Jake. Used to be that when Jake would spot them and run out to the catio, they would scamper away. But now they actually come up to the fencing and make noises at him. Assumably trying to communicate.

Tonight at 11:00pm on the dot, Jake ran out to the catio at top speed. I assumed that Fake Jake was out there, but when I looked out, I saw four sets of beady little glowing eyes looking back to me.

The video footage is pretty awesome...

   
Jake just ponies up to the fencing and stares at them...

   
What's surprising is that they came back three times after. The first time they kind of do a walk-by. The second time one of the raccoons at the end approaches the catio. The last time they just go marching right up to the catio looking for their buddy...

   
As for Jenny? Not a chance that she's going out there when raccoons are in the area...

Jenny sitting inside staring outside.

   
But, hey, it was Ginger Cat Appreciation Day this past Tuesday, so I'm pretty sure she's been coasting on that through now...

Jenny getting belly rubs.

   
Of course, here at my house EVERY DAY IS GINGER CAT APPRECIATION DAY, and don't think that she doesn't know this. She is aware.

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Bullet Sunday 678

Posted on Sunday, September 6th, 2020

Dave!Summer doesn't seem to be ending any time soon, but don't let 100° days get you down... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Growth! I don't remember how I ran across this video, but it's really, really cool...

Jake and Jenny seemed to grow up exactly this fast.

   
• Squirrel! I somehow missed this amazing Mark Rober video, which is a must see...

His channel is one of those that I wish posted more often... but you just know that it wouldn't be this good if he did.

   
• Die! And the new James Bond trailer is out...

Looks almost worth risking your life going to a movie theater for!

   
• Expecting! I watched the HBO Max series Expecting Amy which is absolutely fascinating. Not because of Amy Schumer, but because of her husband Chris Fischer. In her Netflix special, Growing, her talking about him and his being on the autism spectrum is the absolute best part of the show. In Expecting Amy you get to see the reverse side of it all. The guy seems as sweet as can be and is a massively famous chef, so he's a lot more than "just Amy Schumer's husband."

So, yeah, worth a look. And also watch their cooking show Amy Schumer Learns to Cook on Food Network.

   
• Bash! Earlier this week I had mentioned that NBC had picked up the amazing medical drama, Transplant, starring Hamza Haq. I know absolutely nothing about the guy, so I searched YouTube for some interviews. He does not disappoint...

But the real treat was spending the day with him during Ramadan during quarantine...

Very much looking forward to a second season.

   
• Christie! Back when cable TV first came to town, we got a 6-month trial package that included HBO or Showtime or both or something. It was then that I discovered that one of my favorite Agatha Christie novels, Death on the Nile, had been turned into a film. I watched it many, many times. Now, after a successful remake of Murder on the Orient Express, we're getting a remake of Death on the Nile as well...

Interesting to note that both versions of the film has quite a few name-brand stars...

ROLE1978 VERSION2020 VERSION
Hercule PoirotPeter UstinovKenneth Branagh
Louise BourgetJane BirkinRose Leslie
Linnet Ridgeway DoyleLois ChilesGal Gadot
Marie Van SchuylerBette DavisJennifer Saunders
Jacqueline de BellefortMia FarrowEmma Mackey
Mr. FergusonJon Finch 
Rosalie OtterbourneOlivia HusseyLetitia Wright
Manager of the KarnakI.S. Johar 
Andrew PenningtonGeorge Kennedy 
Andrew Kathchadourian Ali Fazal
Salome OtterbourneAngela LansburySophie Okonedo
Simon DoyleSimon MacCorkindaleArmie Hammer
Colonel RaceDavid Niven 
Mrs. BowersMaggie SmithDawn French
Dr. Ludwig BessnerJack WardenRussell Brand
Euphemia Annette Bening
Syd Adam Garcia
Bouc Tom Bateman

Looks like it will be worth a look!

   
And that's the end of that. No more bullets to be had this week.

   

Worlds on Fire

Posted on Monday, September 7th, 2020

Dave!75,000 acres on fire to the South... 65,000 acres on fire to the North... and I'm stuck in the middle with so much smoke in the air that I've been feeling sick for hours. I guess I should be uhhh... grateful?... that this is happening now instead of in July, but it still sucks. I honestly thought we'd make it though the Summer without major fires, but here we are.

At least the sunsets will be pretty? I guess?

A sky filled with smoke outside my back door.

I haven't read what caused the fires. My guess is that some people were careless over the holiday weekend.

And then there's this...

A pyrotechnic device at a gender reveal party sparked one of the California wildfires, burning over 8,600 acres.

This idiotic gender reveal bullshit is reaching all new levels of stupid. This isn't even the first time that one of these moronic events has gotten out of hand. God only knows the damage. The number of animals killed or left homeless.

If there's any justice, the people responsible will be having their new baby in jail.

   

Smoke Gets in Your Orifices

Posted on Tuesday, September 8th, 2020

Dave!I have a terrible reaction to smoke... mostly revolving around cramping and a bloody nose. It's been this way for as long as I can remember, which has always made camping problematic. Usually I can just escape to another part of the state when everything is on fire but that would be tough this time even if there weren't a pandemic. The smoke is bad just about everywhere...

A map of Washington State with some very poor Air Quality Index numbers.

And so... not a fun time to be me.

Last night I thought I would take some sleeping pills and ride it out until this morning. But then I woke to what looked like a murder scene in my bed and the smoke worse than ever. I have a spill-proof mattress cover, so my mattress was okay... but I think the sheets are a goner. Fortunately I have three sets exactly the same, so I have more available to destroy tonight.

There was a bright spot in my day, however... the new trailer for Star Trek: Discovery is here...

After an incredible first season, I was let down a bit by the second. But now things are looking very interesting for the third...

Star Trek Discovery Logo.

Despite now being set hundreds of years into the future, Michelle Yeoh is back as Mirror-Universe Georgiou, which is odd since she will be heading the new Section 31 show sometime in the future back in the present(!)...

Michelle Yeoh is back as Mirror-Universe Georgiou.

But we knew she was coming back. Somebody I didn't know was coming back (but am thrilled that they are) is Tig Notaro as Jett Reno!

Michelle Yeoh is back as Mirror-Universe Georgiou.

   
And speaking of Tig Notaro, I rewatched her documentary this weekend...

If you haven't seen it and have Netflix, it's well worth your time.

   
And now I guess I'm back to feeling sick. Blergh.

   

The Sleeper Must Awaken

Posted on Wednesday, September 9th, 2020

Dave!To say that I'm excited for the new Dune film is a massive understatement. The original Frank Herbert book is one of my favorite novels ever, I've read it at least a dozen times, and have been mesmerized with the entire "universe" that Herbert built since I first read it on summer break before my freshman year of high school.

There was a previous Dune film in 1984 by David Lynch that I very much enjoyed... despite it not being a very deep take on the material. This is not really Lynch's fault because the novel is essentially unfilmable. Much of what's going on is what's in people's heads and that's difficult to translate to screen. Even so, Lynch did an amazing job of translating the worlds and technologies to the big screen, and any subsequent readings of the book had his visuals in my head.

We don't talk about the 2000 Sci Fi Channel mini series adaptations.

The new Dune film by director Denis Villeneuve is apparently on track for release in theaters on December 18th, and I will likely risk COVID-19 to see it. His track record in cinema is exceptional... Prisoners, Sicario, Arrival, and Blade Runner 2049... so I'm guessing his take on Dune will be, if nothing else, interesting and visually stunning.

And that was my take before I saw the trailer, which was released today...

There's a lot to unpack here.

And since there are many, many geek websites doing exactly that, I'm going to restrain myself and just focus on a few things I saw which interest me.

Dune 2020 Movie Logo

SETS

What makes Dune so incredible is the "world-building" that Frank Herbert accomplished. The planets, the politics, the social structure, the technology... it's just all so solid. It's so deep that you feel it actually exists, and translating that to screen is not an insignificant challenge. I thought Lynch did a brilliant job at a time where practical effects were the norm. Now, of course, you can CGI whatever you can dream up, so of course the visuals have a better chance of mirroring what your imagination built from the books. Villeneuve's take on Blade Runner was about as perfect as you can get, so I have little doubt that his vision for Dune will be incredible. From what little I can see, it looks like he is trying for a muted, less ornate and fussy take on the sets, which is smart... I think? The Lynch film was so warm, lush, and gorgeously visualized, that you can't blame Villeneuve for striking out in a different direction. His take on Caladan feels much more Game of Thrones being more rough-hewn and utilitarian...

A massive stone study with books lining the walls. Paul is facing down the Reverend Mother who is seated with a box at her hand.

A large room in shadow made from stone.

Contrasting with the deep shadows of Caladan is the blown-out sunlight of Arakis...

Troop transports landed on Dune in glaring sunlight.

Interesting to see that the sand seems to permeate everywhere on a planet full of the stuff...

A large hallway in shadow with a fight happening in the middle, sand piled on the floor.

CASTING

PAUL: Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides seems a good fit. He's 24, but looks younger, which is what we need. In the book, Paul is like 15 or 16 or something, and that's an important point. He's a kid thrown into a situation beyond his years and his story is becoming a man under extraordinary circumnstances. I think Kyle MacLachlan was also 24 in the first Dune film, but looked older than Chalamet, which was a bit of a misstep, in my opinion...

Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides.

CHANI: Like Chalamet, Zendaya skews younger in this movie than Sean Young did in the previous Dune. In the books, if I remember correctly, she's older than Paul by a bit, but I like the idea of her also being a kid being thrown in a war spanning the known universe...

Zendaya as Chani.

DUNCAN: Jason Momoa wouldn't have come to mind for Duncan Idaho, but it looks as though he's playing it a bit more "every man" in which case he's a good choice.

Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho.

LETO: I admit that I know precious little about Oscar Isaac outside of his character on the final Star Wars movies, but he certainly looks the part of Duke Leto...

Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho.

BARON: Villeneuve has said that he's wanting the Harkonnens to be more evil and menacing than we've seen, which certainly has my stamp of approval if he can pull it off! Stellan Skarsgård was an inspired choice, especially if you've seen him in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo!

Stellan Skarsgård as Baron Vladamir Harkonnen, rising from the mud.

RABBAN: Dave Bautista is a delightfully versatile actor, and it will be very, very interesting to see his take on The Beast, especially if we're getting something truly villainous from the character...

Dave Bautista as The Beast Rabban.

MOHIAM: If there was one area where I thought Lynch's film faltered, it was the weird shaved-head look given to the Bene Gesserit. It absolutely played into the cult-like elements from the sisterhood, but it was distracting. Going with these heavy veils seems a lot more interesting, and you couldn't ask for a more interesting choice as Charlotte Rampling for The Reverend Mother...

Reverend Mother Mohiam holds a Gom Jabbar at Paul's neck.

GURNEY: Okay, Josh Brolin is perfect for Gurney. No surprise at all he was cast, because it really is flawless. What surprised me is...

THUFIR: Holy cats, that's Stephen McKinley Henderson as Thufir Hawat beneath that parasol in back there! I loved him as Omar in the 2008 series New Amsterdam, and this is truly inspired and brilliant casting news. And boy did Villeneuve come up with a fantastic look for the Mentat Master of Assassins! Completely unexpected...

Paul walking with Gurney and Thufir in the Dune sunlight.

TECHNOLOGY

If you've read the Dune novels, you know that technology has a bit of a strange place in the story. Thanks to an uprising by "thinking machines," artificial intelligence has been banished and any advancements are strictly utilitarian. We don't get to see much in the trailer... but we do get a glimpse of the Emperor's Sardaukar troops dropping in with their battle armor...

Sardaukar troops landing on Dune. Uh oh.

We do get a better look at the Holtzman personal shields in use. I have to admit that I think Lynch's take was a more visually interesting approach... and his having it centrally located on a belt seems a more logical place to have it instead of on some kind of hand-strap. That being said, Villeneuve did come up with a look that seems a heck of a lot more realistic...

Holtzman shield fighting practice between Paul and Gurney.

Holtzman shield fighting practice between Paul and Gurney.

SANDWORMS

Now, as cool as giant worms may sound when you read about them in a book... it's an absolutely absurd visual when translated to the screen. Lynch did as best he could, but the effort ultimately looked silly. We were told they were terrifying instead of seeing they were terrifying. Welp... thanks to CGI, that's not a problem any more. Sandworms are like something out of a nightmare, exactly as they should be...

A sandworm chomping down on a spice harvester.

A massive sandworm approaches figures in the dessert... thousands of teeth crowding its maw.

STORY

Dune is Dune. The political backstabbing and intrigues... the fight for power... the complex family interactions... the fascinating religion and customs of the peoples... it's all woven together into something far more amazing than the sum of its parts. Lynch's movie had to gloss over a lot of it out of necessity. There's only so much you can do in a two-hour movie. Villeneuve caught a bit of a break in that he was able to split the movie into two parts... plus he is getting a companion series on HBO Max. Whenever Dune: The Sisterhood airs, it will allow considerable more world-building than two films could accomplish on their own. This is truly exciting, because it will (hopefully) allow for many of the subtleties and complexities to play out in a way we've never seen. We get a tiny glimpse of this when Paul says "My father rules an entire planet." The Reverend Mother responds "He's losing it." Paul fires back with "He's getting a richer one." Reverend Mother nips that one at the bud with "He'll lose that one too." It's this kind of immense scope that you truly need if Dune is to have the proper weight to it.

With any luck, we're going to get a movie which Dune fans have been dying to see for over 50 years. And if it fails? Well, I guess I can always re-read the book for the hundredth time.

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A Garage is for Parking?

Posted on Thursday, September 10th, 2020

Dave!With the exception of a quick drive to Spokane and back last week, I haven't gone anywhere. I likely won't end up going anywhere else for the remainder of this year. Perhaps a trip over the mountains at Christmas, but even that isn't a certainty.

Even more jarring is that I haven't had any houseguests since early January.

Used to be that I would have weekend guests sporadically through the Spring and Summer... then a non-stop parade of guests in Fall and Winter as friends stay with me so they can enjoy the festivities in Tourist Town down the road.

But this year? Zero. Zero houseguests. I just can't do it given that my reduced lung capacity puts me in very real danger of death should I contract COVID-19. Not that it matters, because I think all the festivities in Tourist Town have been canceled for the year anyway.

As you might imagine, any incentive to keep my home clean has vanished like a fart in the wind.*

The RoboVacs have been turned off and I just manually vaccum a couple times a month. I haven't mopped my floors all year. I bought a steam cleaner for disinfecting my floors, but haven't bothered to turn it on even once. Rather than hiding all my kitchen utensils, gadgets, appliances, pots, pans, storage containers, and everything else neatly in the garage while I remodel, they're just stacked on the dining room table and laying around. Needless to say I haven't dusted in months. Why bother if only me and my cats are here to see it? They don't care and I don't want to be bothered. Far better to sit on the couch watching television and eating potato chips than to make my life any less pleasant than it already is.

Nah. No need to clean. I'm good.

And don't even get me started on my garage, which is part wood shop and part dumping ground for crap I don't want to deal with. Like empty cardboard boxes and literal garbage.

Except you kinda do need to get me started on my garage, because before you know it Autumn frost and Winter snows will be here and I need to be able to park inside.

I've decided that cleaning my garage will be my weekend project. But only because it HAS to be. Otherwise I'll have to scrape my car off every morning, and I think we all know how much I absolutely don't want to be doing that.

Check back Monday to see if I actually managed to get motivated to dig in... or whether I've just kicked that football down the field to next weekend.

Right now I think my chances are 50/50.

Probably less than 50/50 if the massive cloud of smoke from Oregon and California blows up this way as it is expected to do. But in that case it's totally not my fault, right?

   
*Many thanks to the movie The Shawshank Redemption, which has made this analogy a part of my vocabulary.

   

As If We Ever Could

Posted on Friday, September 11th, 2020

Dave!2001 feels like it was a lifetime ago. 2001 feels like it was yesterday.

And while I've said all I have to say on 9-11 with a post you can find here, if you'd like to revisit it, the pandemic has added a new perspective on things that cannot be ignored. Namely, that 2,977 people lost their lives then... while 193,586 people have lost their lives due to COVID-19 or COVID-19 factors right now. Dividing that by the 191 days since they started recording the numbers on March 4th... and you get around 1013 people dying per day in the USA.

Which is to say that essentially a 9-11 death-toll is happening to us every three days.

Now, there are people who are still on the "THEY ARE COUNTING ALL DEATHS AS COVID-19 DEATHS TO MAKE THE PRESIDENT LOOK BAD!" bandwagon. Personally, I think this is bullshit. They are absolutely not doing that. If you have a heart condition, then get shot through the heart and they are unable to repair it because of your existing problems, your heart condition didn't kill you... the fucking bullet did. Regardless of health problems you have, if they are usually manageable but contracting the coronavirus made them unmanageable and you die, then it was COVID-19 which was responsible for your death. And given all the horrific stuff they're learning every day about what the virus does to your body even if you're perfectly healthy... well... it's not just death you have to worry about. The complications and long-term health problems from surviving an infection could push the numbers much higher.

And sure you're still alive if your recover from COVID-19 and end up with lung scarring that makes it so that you're unable to walk 20 feet on your own... but that's just semantics. Because the life you had prior to the coronavirus infection is dead as all get-out.

It seems disrespectful and wrong to those lives lost on 9-11 to be comparing their deaths to other deaths and politicizing such a horrific tragedy, but that's our reality right now. And we do it all the time. 2019 pandemic deaths are compared to bubonic plague deaths. HIV/AIDS deaths are compared to heart disease deaths. Car crash deaths are compared to smoking deaths. Humans are always quantifying by comparison, regardless of how disrespectful and wrong it may be. Alas, that's just who we are. That's how we process.

As for politicizing? Well, it's tough to get away from that as well. We have a president who ran on a platform of protecting our lives from "foreigners" and is wasting billions on a wall which will ultimately accomplish very little. Meanwhile, the killer was in the house all along, because now we have the tapes of President Trump saying that he intentionally downplayed the deadliness of the pandemic.* He told the public that the coronavirus was not a big deal and something no worse than the flu that would disappear in April... even though he knew this was a lie. This just encouraged people to ignore a huge threat to their very lives, all while they further spread the virus, leading to countless unnecessary deaths and the destruction of our economy.

Now, of course, the president and his FOX "News" apologists are telling us that he did this because he "didn't want to cause a panic." But apparently he didn't give a shit about sending us into a panic on everything else he unleashed... and continues to unleash... using fear to get himself re-elected. THE MEXICANS ARE COMING TO KILL US, BUT I CAN STOP IT! CHINA IS STEALING OUR JOBS, BUT I CAN STOP IT! DEMOCRATS WANT TO GIVE YOU AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE WHICH WILL DESTROY HEALTH CARE, BUT I CAN STOP IT!

The guy is blowing fear and panic up our asses on a daily basis. And we're really supposed to believe that the reason he lied about COVID-19 was to not sow panic? Get the fuck out of here! Far, far more likely he was protecting his billionaire backers who didn't want the stock market to tank and ruin their profits... and even more likely that he didn't want workers to stop working and ruin his job numbers.

   
The terrorist attacks of 9-11 is a tragedy for this country and the world which will long be in our heads and hearts. And while it's comforting to think that it's an event which happened 19 years ago and is long-since over... it's really not over at all. Just like the pandemic we currently face, 9-11 is ongoing. There are First Responders still alive who are facing horrific health problems from a time they risked their lives in an attempt to save others. And since their every waking hour is a political struggle, politicizing their plight is actually necessary, and it seems only appropriate to leave you with this...

Trump administration secretly withheld millions from FDNY 9/11 health program

Trump officials interfered with CDC reports on Covid-19

Never forget? As if we ever could.

   
*And, while I'm at it, fuck Bob Woodward for keeping a lid on this information all this time... choosing only to release it for when his book was ready. What a complete and total piece of shit. Lives were lost because of you too, sir, and no amount of spin will ever... EVER... erase that. Screw exposing Watergate. THIS is your legacy now. It should be your legacy now.

   

Caturday 176

Posted on Saturday, September 12th, 2020

Dave!The smoke, which was getting better, has taken a turn for the worse as winds push the contaminated air from Oregon and California up our way.

And as hard as it is on me and my allergies, it's double-tough on my cats.

Usually, I let them go outside in the catio while wildfires are burning because they don't last long out there when the smoke is bad. But, for whatever reason, Jake and Jenny were spending way too long out there given how bad the air quality is...

Air Quality: HAZARDOUS!

I worry about their little kitty lungs, so I went ahead and blocked the catio door so they can't get out. They are not at all happy about this... especially Jake, who sat and stared out the window for over an hour...

Jake sitting on the cat lounger so he can see out the window.

And, as expected lately, he will not leave my side. He's on me when I fall asleep...

Jake asleep on my legs at night.

And he's there when I wake up...

Jake asleep next to me in the morning.

And if I wait too long in bed, I'll have both of them on me...

Jake and Jenny laying next to me on the bed.

Jake is clingy when he's upset...

Jake laying on top of me.

Jenny is looking for inspiration elsewhere...

Jenny staring at a Wonder Woman poster.

Really, really hoping that this smoke subsides next week. Between my allergies and nausea and the cats' anxiety... this is more than enough.

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Bullet Sunday 679

Posted on Sunday, September 13th, 2020

Dave!The world may be on fire, but don't let that dissuade you from pulling out the marshmallows... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Transplant! I've written a couple times about my favorite show of 2020, the Canadian medical drama Transplant. It's just fantastic television and deserves a look. If you're heere in the US, NBC is airing it on Tuesdays and on their Peacock streaming service. Today I found out that Apple iTunes Store is offering a Season Pass for all 13 episodes for $25. It didn't take me even one second to purchase it, even though I already have Canadian recordings of all the episodes. I support shows I like by purchasing them whenever I possibly can. This was a no-brainer.

   
• Farmer! In an age where laughs are getting harder to find, this was exactly what I needed...

Almost makes me want to get on TikTok to keep up with him.

   
• HEADLINE! Face masks could be giving people Covid-19 immunity, researchers suggest. Not that anything wil ever dissuade the dumb-fuck anti-mask brigade, but any news is good news, right?

   
• Float! Apple sure does know how to create amazing retail spaces. Every store I've visited around the world... even the most basic... is incredible. My favorites are those which take classic old buildings and turns them into jaw-dropping shops. But there's something to be said for their mind-blowing original creations...

Apple Stores are practically destination-worthy. If we were in different times, I'd take a diversion to Singapore to see this marvel.

   
• New New Order! One of my all-time favorite bands has released new music!

It's different. But as a huge fan of dream-pop, this half-step in that direction is not something I hate. I actually rather like it, even though it's not what I was expecting.

   
• Lunch! Yesterday I was going to get up at 7am, get some bread started, clean the kitchen, put another coat of paint on the cabinets, then cook up a vegetable bake with dumplings for lunch. But then I took one look out my window as smoke was pouring into the valley and decided I'd sleep until noon. This was lunch...

Now-a-days, you do what you can do and try not to feel like a failure for not doing what you feel you should be doing. Just getting up in the morning to feed my cats was doing good during a pandemic. But while the world is on fire during a pandemic? Vodka Coke and frozen veggie corn dogs is a frickin' miracle.

   
And now... once more into the breach.

   

Virtual Hellscapes

Posted on Monday, September 14th, 2020

Dave!I am not ashamed to say that I am most definitely not doing well.

Not only is Central Washington being blanketed with smoke from our own wildfires, massive amounts of smoke is being blown in from the fires in Oregon and California as well. And despite five air purifiers running day and night, my allergies are in overdrive, making for a miserable existance. I have had a crushing headache for a week. Breathing is painful. Nosebleeds happen at random. My eyes and nose are running almost constantly. Sleep is almost impossible. Not a great day to be me, that's for sure...

   
Last night I finally passed out around 2:30am. I woke up shortly after 3:00am choking on blood from yet another nosebleed. That is a scary enough way to wake up... but I had aspirated and couldn't breath. The wheezing as I struggled to catch a breath freaked my cats, both of which ran out of the room at top speed. Eventually I managed to work through it, but getting back to sleep was impossible. I called in sick and have been nodding off and on ever since.

Poor Jake and Jenny. The fires have been so tough on them.

After terrifying her early-early this morning, Jenny ended up sleeping in the room next to mine...

Jenny sleeping in a cat bed.

Jake... is more complicated. He has been really clingy lately and sleeping with me every night. After he ran out scared, I heard him come walking back in about an hour later. He didn't hop back on the bed, so I wasn't sure where he went. This morning I found him hiding in the cat tower...

Jake hiding in a hidey-hole in a cat tower.

My cats rarely go in those hidey-holes. As in very rarely. But Jake wanted to sleep near me while also being scared and this was his solution. Naturally I feel terrible about it. Note the smoke out my window.

And so here I am taking a sick day at home with two cats who are afraid of me.

In-between trying not to work because it makes my headache worse, I've been zoning out in front of the television. One think I saw today was that Drew Barrymore has a new talk show. I was interested in seeing how they were going to manage a new talk show, fully expecting it to be remote chats on Zoom or something. But that wasn't the case. Drew's Charlie's Angels co-stars Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu were there with her... albeit socially distanced...

Drew, Lucy, and Cameron on a chat show set.

Except...

That wasn't the case at all. While Drew nd Lucy were in New York... Cameron was still in Los Angeles, appearing in the studio virtually...

Cameron Diaz disappearing from Drew's chat show.

Cameron Diaz disappearing from Drew's chat show.

Weird to think that things like this will quickly become our new normal.

In the meanwhile I'll just go back to the virtual hellscape that's my life right now.

   

Apple Watch What Happens

Posted on Tuesday, September 15th, 2020

Dave!Apple had yet another virtual "event" today, focusing on the Apple Watch Series 6 and new iPad models for the Classic and Air varieties.

As I've mentioned every single time Apple has released a new Apple Watch, I detest wearing watches. I can never seem to get used to them and question the need to have one since I can get the time from my iPhone any time I want to. Also... the Apple Watch is just too dang thick. I thought maybe if they ever came out with a thinner model with the battery in the strap or something, I might be able to manage it.

But then... Apple actually started adding features that mean something to me.

I very nearly bit with the 2018 Series 4 model because of the ECG feature.

Then today Apple unleashed Series 6 which adds blood oxygen monitoring and sleep monitoring. Since I finally managed to train myself to wear a $25 Wyze Band without it bothering me, I went ahead pulled the trigger...

Apple Watches intertwined on each other.

Apple Watches come with a crazy number of options...

FACE SIZE: 40mm • 44mm
Since I have bony little arms, there really wasn't a choice here. Even 40mm is likely too big, but it's the smallest they offer.

CASE MATERIAL: Aluminium • Stainless Steel • Titanium
Given that stainless steel starts at $699 and titanium starts at $799, I was juuuuust fine with aluminum.

CASE FINISH: Space Grey • Silver • Gold • Blue • Red
I wanted a Project RED case with a black band. But you can only get a Project RED case with a Project RED band which I thought might be a little too bright and flashy for work. I ended up going with Space Grey since I really like it on my MacBook Pro.

BAND TYPE: Solo Loop • Braided Solo Loop • Sport Band • Sport Loop
Interesting to note that Apple now offers closed loop bands! No buckle or clasp or any overlapping material... just a single closed loop of either squishy silicone or a braided material. I wanted to go with the braided one because I thought it might trap less heat... but it was $50(!) more and looked kinda hippy, so I decided on the silicone. Kinda excited about it since it means I won't have a clasp digging into my wrist! In order to get the right size, Apple has you print out a measuring guide and wrap it around your wrist to get a size number. We'll see how that goes.

BAND COLOR: Citrus • Navy • Green • Yellow • Red • Black • White
I really, really coveted that Project RED, but there's just no way I could wear something like that for work... especially if I get back into volunteerism. So I went with classic black to pair well with my Space Grey watch. Still more than a little bummed that I couldn't get a Project RED watch with a black strap. It makes no sense that Apple doesn't allow that.

CONNECTIVITY: GPS • GPS+Cellular
Even if I wanted to pay an extra $100 to get Cellular on the thing so I can text and talk without my iPhone nearby, I didn't want to spend extra money on my AT&T bill each month to get it. I am never without my iPhone nearby anyway, so it would have been a wasted expense for me.

Thanks to wanting to having to have something I can wear for any occasion, this is the kinda boring watch I ended up with...

Dark grey watch with a black loop band.

Keep in mind that the watch I wanted to order would look like this, assuming Apple let me make it...

Red watch with a black loop band.

Seriously... HOW COOL IS THAT!!! So why, Apple? In order to get this I would have had to have ordered the Project RED watch with a Project RED band, then purchased a separate black band for $50. Yikes. I was already going $50 over my $350 savings... I can't afford to add another $50 on top of that. Oh well. The Space Grey is a more subdued, classic look so I can't be too mad about it.

Another thing I can't be too mad about? Apple's continuing efforts to become a more sustainable company. The list of "green" features of the Apple Watch just keeps getting longer...

A bunch of green features... including eliminating some toxic chemicals, using recycled materials, minimal packaging, and such.

INTERESTING TO NOTE... Apple is no longer including the little USB charger brick in the box. If you need one, that'll cost you $19 extra. All you get is the cable with magnetic charging pad. Apple is actually touting this as a "feature" because most people already have a bunch of the chargers so it's not wasting materials and adding to their CO2 footprint. And I'm like... okay... I guess that makes sense. But you will note that they did not decrease the price by $19, so I am smelling a fair amount of bullshit here. If you watch the event video, you will note that nothing is said about how much money this is adding to Apple's bottom line. Given how many watches they sell, I'm guessing it's a considerable chunk of change.

So... $400 plus tax. Plus an additional $80 if you want to purchase 2 years of AppleCare+. That's about $200 more than I wanted to spend. A better option for my budget was the Series 3 at $200 or the new Watch SE at $279... but they don't have ECG functionality or blood oxygen monitoring, which is the whole reason I want the watch in the first place. Still wish it was thinner by at least 1/3, but Apple seems in no hurry to get there, so I guess this is what I get.

Apple says my new potentially-life-saving toy will arrive by the end of the month. Given that they currently have a 0 for 3 track record in hitting promised delivery windows with me, I'll believe it when I see it.

In other news? I'm officially poor now!

But what else is new.

   

LIARS!!!

Posted on Wednesday, September 16th, 2020

Dave!I became a vegetarian because the girlfriend I had at the time didn't want to kiss me because she said I smelled like meat. That was on Earth Day 1986. We broke up after that, but I stuck with the diet because the horrific allergies I had been plagued with all my life evaporated. It also fit in with my newly acquired Buddhist philosophies, so it was good all the way around.

Back then, vegetarian versions of my favorite foods were not easy to find. And most of them you could find tasted like ass. But all that changed when I walked into a Johnny Rockets diner in Santa Monica, California where they offered "Boca Burgers" for sale. I ordered one (no grilled onions or mustard), tasted it, then had to call the waitress over because I was convinced I was accidentally served a meat burger. But nope! It was just that good.

Eventually I found them at my grocery store and was eating them at least once a week for decades.

But then my world came crashing down when Kraft bought out Boca Burger and "new and improved it." They claim that they updated the texture and taste to serve modern consumers. But to me? It tasted like liquid smoke and burning hair smeared on pencil erasers. It was fucking disgusting. But no big deal... I could still eat the "Vegan Original" which had the original taste. Until Kraft discontinued it and replaced it with a fake turkey burger. When people complained, they said that when their customers wanted a vegan burger, what they really wanted was turkey. Which is a load of fucking horseshit... which, coincidentally, is what I'd rather eat than one of their fucked-up "turkey" burgers.

And so I stopped buying their horrific "food" products.

A lot of other people probably stopped as well, because when I was at the grocery store yesterday I was shocked to see that the "Vegan Original" had returned! SWEET! I looked very carefully at the box. The photo indeed showed the light color of the original instead of the dark brown plastic look of the "new and improved" model. I bought two boxes and couldn't wait to have one for dinner.

Then I opened the box...

Dark brown actual burger next to the light colored patty on the box.

LIARS!!!

These are NOT the original recipe. Not by a fucking longshot. And now I'm stuck with two boxes of this gortesque shit. So as not to waste my hard-earned money, I did cook one up to give it a shot. It's not as horribly over-flavored as the non-vegan option, BUT IT'S STILL NOT THE ORIGINAL THAT THEY PROMISE YOU RIGHT ON THE FUCKING BOX!

100% false advertising. I'm writing to Kraft and insisting on a refund based on their fucked-up lies. I mean, why in the hell not put the ACTUAL product's picture on the damn box? Had I seen it was this new brown plastic crap, I would have never bought it!

And so I guess I'm finally done with Boca Burger now. After clinging to the memory of that amazing burger I ate in a Santa Monic Johnny Rockets so very many years ago, this was the last straw. I'll cook up Impossible Burgers or whatever else isn't going to taste like the physical manifestation of fucking disappointment.

Red Robin, Johnny Rockets, and everybody else has already moved on from Kraft's Boca bullshit, I guess I can as well.

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No More Borders

Posted on Thursday, September 17th, 2020

Dave!I am a huge, huge, massively huge fan of Johnny Harris.

If you read my blog with any regularity, you know who Johnny Harris is even though you may not be able to place his name. The guy is a remarkable travel blogger whose videos I have watched over and over and over again. He is the one person I can point to and say "I want to see the world like that!" Given how much travel I've done over the years, that's a pretty bold statement, but it's 100% true.

The best outlet for his work is the series Borders which was published by Vox. At least it was. The series has ebeen canceled... even though the new season (Borders USA) was mostly shot already...

Borders, which sent Johnny to interesting border zones between countries, was an exceptional look at the world and its peoples. I learned so much from this series and it actually changed the way I travel and what I do when I'm out of the country.

So... needless to say, I'm completely gutted at the news.

All is not lost, however. Johnny has been posting on his personal channel and has some very cool stuff there (he's a map-lover like I am and his map videos are amazing). His latest? This piece of brilliance...

I hope you'll give Johnny's videos a look because they're really something special.

And if you like what you see, you can help support his work via his Patreon for as little as $3 a month. A pittance given that it keeps him making really cool videos that are as good as anything you'll find on television.

So... no more Borders.

That always sounded like such a good thing for the people of planet earth. At least until now.

   

Merely Unhealthy

Posted on Friday, September 18th, 2020

Dave!Despite air quality improving from "Hazardous" to "Very Unhealthy" to merely "Unhealthy" yesterday, I ended up being the sickest I've been yet. I left the office with a headache but was otherwise doing okay. By the time I got home ten minutes later I was in terrible shape. Blinding headache, so dizzy I could barely stand, and not able to keep anything down... including water.

Eventually I managed to eat some dry toast for dinner, which helped, but couldn't sleep even a little bit. Around 10:30 I finally gave up and took sleeping pills, curled up in a ball on my bed, then waited for the world to go away. Which it did. Until I woke up at 6:30am with a mouth full of fuzz because Jake was squished up against my face. Apparently while I was passed out he decided to use me as a cat bed.

I've had it worse.

On my way to Spokane a couple weeks ago I was seeing an awful lot of Amazon trucks on the road. Just as I was reaching the city I saw that their new Amazon Fulfillment Center was up-and-running. It's a massively huge warehouse filled with tons of stuff you can't live without. This morning I thought to look at my dashcam footage because I had snapped a photo of it. I thought it was pretty nifty how they tried to make it an interesting-looking building instead of just plopping down a boring grey cement structure...

A delicious pizza sitting in my passenger seat.

I find it interesting that it was more cost-effective for Amazon to build a new center to service The Inland Empire instead of just fulfilling out of Bellevue or Kent on the West Coast. Even more interesting? Amazon has so much business that they are opening up yet another fulfillment center in Idaho! Can you imagine? So many packages are being sent out that Nampa, Idaho is getting a warehouse!

I guess Jeff Bezos is well on his way towards becoming a trillionaire then?

   
In other news... The Emmy's are on this Sunday! Rarely do the shows I want to win ever win (or even get nominated), but I always put my list of favorites out there anyway just because I'm a total whore for television...

OUTSTANDING DRAMA
I would have loved to have picked Killing Eve but it took a drastic step down in Season 2, then shit the bed in Season 3, so I'm going with The Mandalorian. Which is a long-shot given how enamored everybody is with Succession.

OUTSTANDING COMEDY
I would be happy with What We Do in the Shadows winning, as it's the funniest thing on television right now... but I won't be upset when Schitt's Creek wins for it's final season because I love that show.

OUTSTANDING LIMITED SERIES
Impossible that any series except Watchmen could win this. The show was phenomenal from just about every conceivable angle.

OUTSTANDING TV MOVIE
When it comes to simple storytelling done really well, you can't do much better than Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings. I don't think there was a single episode I didn't enjoy. The nominated episode, These Old Bones, was remarkable for getting Kathleen Turner to play the lead and that made the episode for me.

OUTSTANDING VARIETY TALK SERIES
I'll take either John Oliver for Last Week Tonight or Trevor Noah for The Daily Show. They both deserve it... though I think Noah has the edge given how he has to keep it fresh five days a week.

OUTSTANDING COMPETITION PROGRAM
RuPaul's Drag Race is the only one of these that I actually enjoy.

OUTSTANDING DOCUMENTARY/NONFICTION
I thought McMillions was a stronger series than Tiger King, but there's no denying what the latter managed to accomplish in terms of sheer public consciousness.

OUTSTANDING DOCUMENTARY/NONFICTION SPECIAL
I really, really enjoyed Beastie Boys Story, which was a love-letter to the band in general and Adam Yauch in particular.

OUTSTANDING ANIMATED
The Vat of Acid Episode from Rick and Morty just continued to demonstrate how fantastic this series is.

LEAD ACTOR, DRAMA
I suppose that Jeremy Strong or Brian Cox will deserve their win for Succession, but I thought Steve Carell had the best performance from The Morning Show.

LEAD ACTRESS, DRAMA
If Killing Eve hadn't been so terrible, Sandra Oh would easily get my nod... but I'm going to go with Zendaya for Euphoria, which was a pretty amazing bit of work.

LEAD ACTOR, COMEDY
While I enjoyed Eugene Levy in Schitt's Creek, I don't know that his work eclipsed Ramy Youssef for Ramy or Ted Danson for The Good Place... but I absolutely won't be upset when he wins.

LEAD ACTRESS, COMEDY
Catherine O’Hara for Schitt's Creek is the only acceptable answer.

LEAD ACTOR, LIMITED SERIES
I sincerely doubt Jeremy Irons will win for Watchmen, but he darn well should.

LEAD ACTRESS, LIMITED SERIES
Regina King for Watchmen is the only acceptable answer.

SUPPORTING ACTOR, DRAMA
There are some good performances here... I particularly like Jeffrey Wright on Westworld... but Mark Duplass was exceptional on The Morning Show, so I'll go with that.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS, DRAMA
I'm going to go with Fiona Shaw for Killing Eve even though I didn't like the third season at all.

SUPPORTING ACTOR, COMEDY
I do love all things Kenan Thompson, and he would be a great choice... but Daniel Levy WAS Schitt’s Creek, and totally deserves the win for playing David Rose.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS, COMEDY
D’Arcy Carden never ceased to surprise me as Janet on The Good Place. Easily my favorite character on the show. On most shows.

SUPPORTING ACTOR, LIMITED SERIES
Jim Parsons was a revelation on Hollywood, playing a complete monster in a role I never in a million years would have cast him for. But I'll take either Yahya Abdul-Mateen II or Louis Gossett Jr. for Watchmen (with a nod to Gossett Jr. for his long career of exceptional work).

SUPPORTING ACTRESS, LIMITED SERIES
Toni Collette is a phenomenal actor, but Jean Smart was a big part of why Watchmen was as phenomenal as it was.

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Caturday 177

Posted on Saturday, September 19th, 2020

Dave!For the first time in weeks we caught a break in air quality. After being Hazardous, Very Unhealthy, Unhealthy, then "Unhealthy for Sensitive Persons"... today air quality was GOOD! This was nice for me, because I might get to not feel sick for a couple days... but really nice for my cats, who have been begging to go out in the catio for way too long.

Seriously. They will sit on the scratcher lounge and look outside for hours...

So I went to the back door... pulled the door off the cat-flap to the catio... then nearly got trampled as Jake and Jenny bolted to go outside...

Jake was laying out there for about 45 minutes. Jenny, on the other hand, would not leave...

I kept checking security cameras to see if she had come inside without my seeing her, but she was there right up until the Alexa dinner alarm sounded...

Before the catio re-opened for business, Jenny was occupying her time by watching television with me. I had dusted off my DVD collection of all the James Bond films and was watching them in order. This was my view for a good 20 minutes of Goldfinger...

Jenny looking at James Bond in Goldfinger on the television.

Methinks she might want to be a Bond girl! She gave me an annoyed stare when I told her that the name "Pussy Galore" had already been taken...

Jenny looking at James Bond in Goldfinger on the television.

Here's hoping that our air quality remains good so I can keep the catio open.

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Bullet Sunday 680

Posted on Sunday, September 20th, 2020

Dave!The country may be on the brink of fascism, but you've got bigger fish to fry... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Long! Ewan McGregor has made two documentary series about long-distance motorcycle trips... Long Way Round (London to New York City, 19,000 miles) and Long Way Down (Scotland to Cape Town, 15,000 miles). Both were really good series, and I was happy to learn that Apple TV+ had another series being released... Long Way Up (Ushuaia to Los Angeles, 13,000 miles)...

It was weird watching Ewan and Charley arrive in at Malvinas Argentinas Ushuaia International Airport, which was where I landed for my Antarctica expedition, and be able to say "Hey! I've been there!" The series is notable for a number of reasons, the biggest being that this time they are using electric motorcycles! Indeed, most of the show is dealing with running out of electricity and not being able to charge (25% is being cold, 25% is actual journey). The first three episodes dropped on the 18th and now they are releasing the rest of them, one each week. If you like motorcycles or travel or really cool people having amazing adventures... or, if you're like me and love all three... this is the series for you. All it takes is an Apple TV+ subscription!

   
• RGB! Very sad to hear of the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Her dedication to the law and this country resulted in a lot of good things. Even sadder at the thought of a Supreme Court Justice landing in The Court who will strip rights from women... from LGBTQ persons... from minorities... from the poor... from the disenfranchised... from anybody who doesn't fit into the singular mold of making sure that straight, white, wealthy, Christian men are the only people who have rights and protections in this country. But, alas...

   
• Minutes! I've stumbled across a YouTube channel called "minutephysics" that's pretty great. And it all started when I saw their video on masks this past week...

The entire channel is gold, and you can check it out right here.

   
• Yo! And, on that note, WE GOTTA YEET THIS VIRUS, YO!

SO DOPE!

   
• Closer! Because I rotate through my streaming services, I didn't get to Sundance Channel in 2019 so I could watch the second season of So Close when it debuted. Instead I got to it late... which worked out okay because I saw it at a time I needed to see it most...

In the first episode, there's a laugh-out-loud moment that really got me into the new season. But then it crashed right into showing just how big a mess that Michael and Kate are. Again. And if you thought that Michael was screwed up the first time around, you haven't seen anything yet. Because it's not him being deaf or gay that defines him... it's that he's a fucking disaster. A bomb just waiting to explode all over everybody. Again. And I had gotten to the point where I was going to stop watching because we've seen this all before. But I stuck with it. And then they kinda used that to take the show into an interesting place and I was hooked. By the time we were at the final episode I was in love with the show and wanting more. Again. Except... NOT IF WE'RE JUST GOING TO END UP BACK WHERE WE WERE FOR THE THIRD TIME! For the love of God, get these people to a healthier place and grow their characters from there. Anything else is just more of the same and we're bored of it. You can watch This Close on The Sundance Channel.

   
• Criminal! And speaking of television... I absolutely love happening across a show I’ve never heard of before and finding something really good to watch. Criminal: UK is fascinating, and the stories and guest stars for each episode are great! Worth a look of you’re into this kind of show...

I binged every episode, and am looking forward to watching the other versions of this show... Criminal: Germany, Criminal: Spain, and Criminal: France.

   
• Conspiracy! Sometimes you see something float by on Facebook and feel it to your very soul...

Pretty much how it goes.

   
And that's all she wrote, true believer.

   

Bullet… MONDAY?!?

Posted on Monday, September 21st, 2020

Dave!No, your eyes are not deceiving you. So much stuff happened yesterday and today that I'm having back-to-back bullet posts. So sit back and enjoy... because an all new Bullet Sunday Monday starts... now...

   
• Watch! My new Apple Watch Series 6 arrived in the time-frame Apple actually promised (which was not expected given their track record). It's bigger than the Waze Band I had been "training" myself to wear, but I think I'll do okay. I just wish they could find a way to slim the thing down so it doesn't look and feel so massive when you have skinny arms like I do. Because, seriously, this is the small watch...

Apple Watch Series 6 looking big on my puny arm.

The height is just so offensively big. How about your big "feature" for Series 7 is a thinner watch, Apple...

Apple Watch Series 6 looking big on my puny arm.

I have many, many thoughts already (the first being HOLY CRAP! THE BLACK BAND IS NOT BLACK AND THE GREY COLOR IS NOT THE SAME COLOR TONE AS THE SPACE GREY WATCH?!? WTF, APPLE?!?), so a blog post will land in a day or two.

   
• Make Mine Marvel! The first trailer for WandaVision dropped and it looks pretty bonkers. Like they're channeling Leave it to Beaver and Bewitched or something. In the comics, The Scarlet Witch has reality-warping powers that haven't found their way into the MCU movies, but it looks like all that's about to change...

Two things. First, they have made the character costumes from the comic books into Halloween costumes or something, which is a nice nod to the source material for fans...

Wanda, The Scarlet Witch, in her comic book costume.

Vision in his comic book costume.

Second of all... Monica Rambeau, is that you?!?

Probably Monica Rambeau laying on the ground looking at the camera.

Can't wait to see WandaVision later this year. Especially since Falcon and The Winter Soldier has been pushed back to next year. This pandemic blows.

   
• Emmys! Thrilled that Schitt's Creek and Watchmen did so incredibly well. They are some of my favorite television shows of all time, and having that be acknowledged is a bit surprising, if I'm being honest (Regina King OWNED that award!). All well-deserved! Also happy that Zendaya got some love for Euphoria, which was also well-deserved. A little upset that The Good Place was snubbed for their beautiful final episode... and I still don't get all the fawning over Succession, but you can't have everything.

   
• Cobb! Gutted to learn that Ron Cobb has died. I've been a fan of him and his work for decades. He's been a huge part of some of my favorite movies (including Alien, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Total Recall, The Abyss, Firefly and Back to the Future, to name a few)...

Ron Cobb Art: The DeLorean from Back to the Future.

Ron Cobb Art: An airlock interior from Aliens.

Rest in Peace, sir. You are leaving a legacy that few will ever eclipse.

   
• Ellen! I have always loved Ellen DeGeneres. Her standup is some of the best and funniest I've ever seen. I liked her talk show, but just couldn't watch any more because the constant audience screaming is annoying as fuck. But still... love Ellen. So when the allegations about abuse on her show started surfacing, I was understandably concerned. It seemd way, way out of left field. A part of me was... "Holy crap! Ellen is not allowed to ever get upset... lose her temper... be angry... be a human? Because I was sure that's what was happening. Ellen is focused on her show, some people expect her to be "on" 24/7, and when she's not or is like... being human... people are upset with her. Which is bullshit. But then so-called "stars" started speaking up and I thought "Well, maybe? But even then in the back of my head I'm going Though perhaps they feel that Ellen didn't treat them enough like a "star" and went looking for nasty things to say? In the end, I honestly don't know. But Ellen finally addressed it all, and I have to say that this is pretty much what I expected...

So... yeah. I'm happy that Ellen took the allegations seriously, fired those who let things get so bad, and is promising to do better. That's all we humans can really do. And maybe since the audience is now "virtual" they will tone down all the fucking screaming so I can watch the show again? Anything is possible.

   
• Fascism! Holy fucking SHIT! Is anybody giving a crap what's going on in this country? Anybody? We've got a president trying to scare people with outright lies so they vote for him after telling people that he didn't want to cause a panic with the pandemic so he lied to the American people about it? Are you fucking kidding me? I don't give a crap which political party you ascribe to, just look at this shit...

I honestly don't know what to say. If anybody should be outraged about this, it's Republicans. What's happening is diametrically opposed to what Conservatives are SUPPOSED to be about... yet the GOP seems to be doing fucking nothing except enabling the maniac in charge. It's like we're living Bizarro World. Especially when you consider that are alternative to all this is fucking Joe Biden? How fucked is this country? Oh well. At least with Biden we'll (hopefully) not have anti-science Nazi fascism actively working to destroy the country and screw its citizens. Assuming he can get elected... which is not the slam-dunk it should be, alas.

   
See you tomorrow for a non-bullet post. Or so I assume. Who knows what might happen before then? The world seems to be exploding daily.

   

Apple Watch: Series 6

Posted on Tuesday, September 22nd, 2020

Dave!As I mentioned when I ordered my Apple Watch, I am not comfortable wearing watches. Never have been. But I decided to "train" myself using a comparatively-small Wyze Band so I could eventually work myself up to an Apple Watch. They keep getting more and more relevant to me as they add new features, so I wanted to save up for one. With ECG, Heart Monitoring, and the new Blood Oxygen Monitoring, I was finally sold with the Apple Watch Series 6.

Let's just run through it all point-by-point, shall we?

UNBOXED
I ordered my watch directly from Apple. Which means my origami-style packaging arrives factory-sealed. Inside there's the band box and a watch box. As you'd expect from Apple, it's all so very clean, minimalist, and pretty...

Seems like a lot of stuff in there for a company priding themselves on being eco-friendly? Probably all recycled, so there's that. Of course there's barely any instructions (remember when things came with an entire book for a manual?)... Apple likes to think that they make things so easy to understand that you don't need instructions. And, in this case they're mostly right. Everything is found on your iPhone... when you can find it.

DESIGN
I am still a bit salty with Apple that they claim you can order any combination of watch color/style and band color/style... except I sure couldn't get the PRODUCT RED Aluminum Watch with a black Solo Loop Band I wanted, for whatever reason. Instead I got the "Space Grey" version. The watch itself is gorgeous, looking stylish and slick. That was never an issue. For me it's always been the size of the thing that bothers me. I have tiny wrists, so even the "small" 40mm option looks giant...

Apple Watch Series 6 looking big on my puny arm.

But it's the thickness that is the bigger pill to swallow...

Apple Watch Series 6 looking big on my puny arm.

And yet, even that isn't the thing that bothers me most. Note that the "black" band I ordered is actually blue-grey. Which wouldn't be a big deal, except it's a cool grey-tone and the Space Grey watch is a warm grey-tone. Leaving me wondering who the hell coordinated this shit. My guess is that nobody did. The watch team and band team never saw what the other was doing. This color disparity bothers me. A lot. So much so that I may see if I can exchange the band for something that will actually match my watch. Note that the Apple website shows something completely different, having the color tones look the same...

Dark grey watch with a black loop band.

100% bait-and-switch right there. Steve Jobs is rolling over in his grave.

SOLO LOOP BAND
Other than the crap color match, what's the new "Solo Loop" like? Well, it's mostly fantastic (except for the price, because $50 is insane). I used the size gauge that Apple had me print and I think it was mostly accurate. My "size" was a 6-1/2, but since Apple doesn't have half-sizes, I ordered the 6 because that's what I read was suggested. At first I thought the 6 might be a bit too snug... but after a single day it's already loosened up a bit. Will it be too loose after a week and not stay put on my arm? I worry about that given the high price tag. What also worries me is that it will be sweaty in the heat since it can't breathe. Maybe I shouldn't have gone with a Loop given the potential problems. An old-fashioned watch band may not be as comfortable, but at least it won't be money down the toilet because it's too loose and sweaty.

WEARING IT
As I've mentioned, I have tiny arms. With a protruding wrist bone. The Solo Loop band is comfortable enough to wear above the bone, but the large size of the watch is uncomfortable there so I just wear it below the wrist bone and it's fine. I have no idea if this positioning is good or bad for the sensors to do their job. Once I get used to wearing the watch I hope I won't notice it.

SETUP
Initial setup is accomplished via the Watch app on your iPhone. Don't have an iPhone? That's too bad. You'll have to find somebody with an iPhone to do it for you. Overall the process is pretty easy, and pairing is automated by using the camera on your iPhone. Alas, some sections of the setup are tough to see clearly if your iPhone is using enlarged text (WHY IN THE HELL DOESN'T APPLE TEST THIS? THEY SCREW IT UP EVERY DAMN TIME!), but it works. Speaking of enlarged text, if you have old eyes like mine, you'll be happy to know that you can bump up the sizing...

The iPhone Watch app to set the text size on your watch.

After setup (which takes a weirdly long time to process on the watch once you're done), many settings can be handled within the watch itself. Others are much easier being set with the iPhone Watch app. So far as I can tell, the only way to get new faces sent to your watch it through the iPhone app, but I guess the customization would be difficult if you attempted it on the Apple Watch.

BATTERY
This is really hard for me to figure out. Time to charge Apple Watch is 1.5 hours. Battery life is 18 hours. So there's 19.5 hours accounted for out of a 24-hour day. Keep in mind that this is a watch featuring SLEEP TRACKING! So ideally you will wear it to bed in order to take advantage of that. You'll actually want to wear it as much as possible to take advantage of all the health things it can monitor. So do I just charge my Watch for 6 hours even though that's overkill and cuts into my wear time? Or do I charge it once when I get home from work and again when I wake up in the morning so I can wear it the maximum amount of time? It's like... DOES ANYBODY AT APPLE EVER THINK ABOUT THIS STUFF? You need a battery that lasts 22.5 hours and charges to capacity in 1.5 hours SO THAT IT ADDS UP TO 24 HOURS AND YOU GET MAXIMUM WEAR-TIME!

DISPLAY
The resolution of the 40mm display is 324 × 394. That may not seem great, but the screen is so small that it works out to be 324 dpi(!). That's amazing, and even the tiniest details are crystal clear with no pixelation at all. The high resolution also comes with an apparently high refresh rate, which makes everything move buttery smooth (the second-hand sweep on the watch face is mesmerizing because it just looks so real!). Apparently the Series 6 is brighter than previous series. I have mine set to medium brightness and it's plenty bright. Like the Series 5, Apple uses an "always on" display (before that the screen went black until you raised your arm or tapped the face). The "always on" is dimmed, but perfectly readable (and is apparently 2.5 times brighter than Series 5). I don't know what more I can say... except the thing is gorgeous.

SOUND
Apple keeps pushing the enevelope when it comes to getting great sound out of unlikely devices. My MacBook Pro sounds incredible and I have no idea how they do it. My iPhone and iPad sound far, far better than they have a right to be given their size. But how could a frickin' WATCH have sound that could on any level be considered "good?" I don't know, but Apple has done it. You're not going to use the internal watch speaker for listening to music or anything, but it is wonderfully clear and plenty loud when making a phone call and listening to voicemail... using the virtual Walkie-Talkie app... interacting with Siri... or listening to Mickey Mouse tell you the time. Yet another audio feather triumph in Apple's cap.

INTERFACE
Considering I have the "small" 40mm version of the watch, I was worried that it would be entirely too small to interact with. But, not surprisingly, Apple did a great job of making it work surprisingly well. Everything is exceedingly well thought-out. I love the way the icons for the various apps float and ooze across the face as you navigate through them. Icons grow as they approach the center so you can get to the one you need. So nifty! This is the kind of stuff Apple does best...

The app selection screen.

There is a physical button on the right-side which brings up the recently-used app cards. Double-clicking brings up ApplePay. The "crown" controller is also a button and can be used to bring up the app selector from anywhere, then get back to the clock. Rotating the crown will scroll through options in various ways. It's fairly intuitive even after just a short time using it.

FACES
Apple includes a variety of watch faces... most of which can be customized to show extra information along with the time. There's some really cool options, including Mickey Mouse, the watch I had as a kid! But even better than that? You can display Mickey in black-and-white so it's less garish and more "adult." Even better than that? Tap on Mickey and he'll tell you the time! I've customized mine to have the weather in the upper-right, a "Shazam" button in the upper-left (to listen to songs and tell me what the name/artist is), and my heart rate along the bottom...

A Mickey Mouse watch face.

Some faces are artsy and minimalist... some are packed with information. All are beautifully-designed and you can swap between the ones you've added by swiping horizontally. When Mickey doesn't have what I'm looking for, a quick swipe and I'm in the GMT face, which has the battery level in the lower-left and a remote control for my AppleTV in the upper-right...

GMT watch face.

The crappy part? NO OPTION TO CREATE YOUR OWN FACES! Which is insanity. The closest you can get to creating something all your own is by using your photos...

A photo of Jake my cat as a watch face.

Why Apple hasn't come up with an "Apple Watch Face Construction Kit" over SIX generations is inexplicable. This just cements the criticism that Apple feels they know better than you what you need from their products.

CONNECTIVITY
The "GPS" model of the watch I have includes WiFi and Bluetooth, but mostly gets its data from my iPhone. For extra money (and a monthly fee from your mobile company) you can get a cellular version that will allow you to make/take calls, text, and access the internet even when you don't have your iPhone on you (which for me is almost never).

ALERTS
I have a myriad of alerts set on my iPhone. But they are easy enough to ignore because my phone is almost always on silent mode while I work. When I set up my Apple Watch, I just had the alerts mirrored from my phone. But this became distracting in a real hurry, as I was constantly looking to see what alerts were bombarding my wrist. Including the NestCam in my bedroom once again thinking that Jake hopping on my bed is a person...

My Apple Watch on my wrist showing an alert from my NestCam that there's a person in my bedroom... except it's actually Jake my cat.

I ultimately ended up turning most all of my alerts off. Only the most urgent alerts which I would definitely want distracting me are turned on. I really wish that Apple's notifications were more powerful. I'd love to be able to schedule what happens when and have alerts that automatically turn off and on based on my location. But, alas, not yet.

HEALTH & STUDIES
The many health functions of you Apple Watch integrate into the Health app on your iPhone for an easy way to visualize all the data collected. This data, in turn, can be automatically integrated into your medical chart (assuming your doctor's office has a system which is compatible). Here where I live, Confluence Health owns the majority of doctor offices, the local clinic, the larger clinic in the next city over, and the hospitals in neighboring cities. Their system is compatible with the Health app, but it's a crap integration. From what I can tell, it's one-way. I can pull data from their "MyChart" system, but nothing from the Health app will be sent to my doctor. This is ten buckets of lame. Ideally, the data should be accessible by my doctor whenever he needs to see it. Furthermore, if there's a problem detected, the clinic should get an alert so a doctor or nurse can decide if I need to be seen. Anything less is not as useful as it should be. Oh well. Maybe one day Confluence Health will get off their asses and join the year 2020. Somebody who has joined the year 2020? Apple. They allow you to volunteer your data to various health studies you can sign up for. Naturally I want to help science make us healthier, so I signed up for every study they have available and will sign up for any future studies they offer...

The iPhone Watch app to set the text size on your watch.

When I was researching the various studies I found that there are some people bitching that they don't get monetary compensation for submitting their data. =insert eyeroll= All I can think of is how the life that the science saves or improves from your data MIGHT BE YOURS, dumbass.

ECG
My resting heart rate is 80-85bpm, which is more elevated than I'd like but is considered "normal" as it falls smack-dab in the middle of the 60bpm to 100bpm range. One of the reasons I've wanted an Apple Watch is to help me get a lower resting heart rate and be healthier. Then Apple added an ECG (electrocardiogram) which is a smaller, less accurate version of the EKG heart rhythm monitor you see on medical dramas. It can be useful in detecting a heart problem before you have a serious issue, which is very cool. You just open up the ECG app then hold your finger on the crown so Apple Watch can monitor your heart. After 30 second you get a report...

My Apple Watch ECG report.

No sign of atrial fibrillation, so I guess I'm good to go? I'll likely set an alert so I remember to run an ECG once a day or something. Apple doesn't really tell you how often you're supposed to do it.

BLOOD OXYGEN SENSOR
What made me finally pull the trigger on an Apple Watch was the addition of a Blood Oxygen Sensor. But after using it multiple times, I'm not sure I can trust its accuracy. I'll run it and get 98%. I'll immediately run it again and get 100%. That's not so bad. A 2% variance isn't the difference between life and death. But then I run it again and get 92%...??

My Apple Watch screen showing a 92% blood oxygen level.

I understand that Apple is not claiming that this is a medically accurate reading (they tell you over and over again), but it seems weird that it is so wildly inconsistent. Maybe it's me. Maybe I'm not in the exact same position every time and that's a problem. Or there's some other factor. I dunno. I have it set to automatically take measurements, so maybe over time I'll have a better picture of what my blood oxygen levels are. But right now? "Normal" is considered 80% to 100%, so perhaps it's enough that I (apparently) don't have hypoxemia and (hopefully) my watch will let me know if I ever do.

SLEEP
As I've written many, many times, I am an insomniac and don't get much sleep. Three or four hours a night and maybe a nap or two (if I'm lucky). That's it. A far cry from the 8 hours we're supposed to be getting. I've been so concerned about it that I've gone to the doctor for help. But since I am fully-functional when awake... able to work and play without issue... able to concentrate... not falling asleep... and not getting sick due to lack of rest... apparently there's nothing to be done. And thanks to all the crazy shit happening in the world, things have only gotten worse. Take last night for example...

My Apple Watch screen showing 3 hours and 47 minutes of sleep last night.

That's pretty bad, right? But average for me. The Wyze Band has sleep tracking, but it isn't very accurate. Yet at least it tries to sense all the times you sleep. Apple Watch is programmed to only look for your sleeping during a time range you set. This sucks because it doesn't recognize any naps you might take outside that range. And you can't just make the sleep range be 24 hours, because it puts your watch to sleep during the whole time! BUT IT GETS WORSE!. What if you have an early travel day or something? From what I can tell, there's no way to tell Apple Watch to wake the hell up permanently. Only temporarily until the time range you set is over. What you have to do to get your watch back is go change the time range for your sleep so it ends and your watch will wake up. This is ten pounds of stupid. And it sure would be nice if there was a "I'm gonna sleep now" button you could press before a nap so the total amount of sleep you're getting is actually counted. So damn frustrating. You can look at a compilation of sleep data when you go the the Health app on your iPhone. It not only shows your heart rate while sleeping, but when your sleep actually happened as well...

The iPhone Health app Sleep screen.

See that short break at 7am? That was when the Alexa alarm went off to feed my cats. After dishing up their breakfast, I returned to bed and was miraculously able to fall right back asleep again until I got up at 9am to answer emails, do some work, grab a shower, and head into the office. Apple Watch captured all of it. If I had to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, I have no doubt that Apple Watch would show that as well. I liked the idea of using Apple Watch to help me deal with my insomnia, but it's just so horribly brain dead and the procedure you have to take so clunky that I haven't decided if I'm even going to bother. I cannot for the life of me understand how Apple got all this so wrong.

FITNESS & ACTIVITY
The big draw of Apple Watch for a great many people is that it can be programmed to manage your workouts, track your fitness, and be generally helpful through all of it. What's so brilliant is that you can go as deep or as shallow into the fitness pool as you like. Since I am not into any of it, but want to do better, I am starting out with the bare minimum. This means using Apple Watch's Activity app to improve in three areas... MOVE, EXERCISE, and STAND. All of which are necessary for good health...

Live a better day with ACTIVITY!

After confirming details about your stats, you enter details of a plan in each area and you're good to go. Apple Watch then keeps track of what you do and displays the data in rings. Your goal each day is to close your MOVE, EXERCISE, and STAND rings. Here was where I was at at noon today...

My activity rings on Apple Watch!

The MOVE ring (red) comes from just walking around during my day. The STAND ring (blue) is an area I really need to improve upon because I sit at a computer desk all day. The EXERCISE ring (green) is something I just don't do... but need to. And I think I will begin by walking to work each day like I did pre-COVID. Your watch can even be set up to send you reminders if you want to get things done...

Reminder to Stand on Apple Watch!

You did it! on Apple Watch!

And once you are regularly closing all your rings you can then increase your goals to keep improving. It's all so insanely great because it's as encouraging or passive or overbearing as you want it to be. I don't think it's inside me to become a fitness fanatic, but I would like to be more healthy than I am. Apple Watch is part of my plan to get there.

PHONE
Since I don't have the version of Apple Watch with a cellular radio, the watch has to be tethered to my iPhone to make a cellular call. HOWEVER... you can make a phone call from your watch even if you left your phone at home if you have "Add WiFi Calling for Other Devices" enabled on your account (my carrier, AT&T, supports this). So long as you can connect to Wifi, you can make or receive a call and listen to your voicemails. FROM YOUR WATCH!

A phone... ON MY WATCH!!!

This is some next-level Dick-Tracy-style amazement right here. As mentioned above, the sound is perfectly good. I can hear just fine and people can hear me just fine. I am rarely without my iPhone so the odds of me using Apple Watch as a phone are slim, but it's nice to know I can still use it for calls when I left my phone downstairs or something.

WALLET
Your entire arsenal of cards from your Apple Wallet are available on your phone, including credit cards and ApplePay. Which is to say that you can use ApplePay anywhere it's accepted without taking your phone out of your pocket. Groovy.

HAND-WASHING
A nifty idea in the age of COVID-19 is Apple's new hand-washing app. But the implementation? Kinda wonky. It uses your location to remind you to wash your hands when you get home. Yesterday it reminded me 2-1/2 hours after I arrived. Today after about three minutes. But then the stupid reminders were going off CONSTANTLY. After the sixth reminder I got since being home today I finally turned the damn things off..

An alert to wash my hands!

Yesterday it didn't recognize the motion of my hands and the sound of running water until I was almost finished. Today it recognized washing quicker, but was still quite late. I don't know if the solution is to decrease the countdown to compensate... or wait to see if it gets better at recognizing the sound of my sink...

A soapy countdown!

Either way, handwashing is effective in combating the pandemic, so this is a good feature to have. They just need to fix the reminder notifications so they shut the hell up once you're home.

APPS
Your Apple Watch comes with all the various Apple apps you'd expect it to... including Mail, Messages, Music, News, Calculator, Compass, Timer, Weather, and such. All of them are beautifully crafted. I really love the look of Compass...

A beautiful compass on my Apple Watch!

And extra information your watch has is just a scroll on the crown-knob away...

Extended compass info such as Lattitude, Longitude, Incline, and Elevation on my Apple Watch!

Nothing makes you nostalgia for the early-80's era of calculator watches like calling up that app...

A mini calculator on my Apple Watch!

Fortunately you have the option of deleting apps you won't use. For me that means the Cycle Tracking app which tracks your mensural cycle...

Deleting the CYCLE app on my Apple Watch!

There is, of course, an Apple Watch App Store. I haven't done a lot here because I just don't see myself using an abundance of apps on my watch, but some are nice... like a SONOS controller app I picked up for a couple bucks. Some of the apps I have on my iPhone have a companion app you can get for WatchOS, which is good. A few, like watch apps for my Ecobee thermostat and Hue Lighting, may even be useful. And then there are some iPhone apps which really should have a companion watch app but don't (I'm looking at you, Schlage). It's a mixed bag all the way around.

CONCLUSION
Is Apple Watch worth it? I've only had one for two days, so I don't know if I can answer that. I suspect it could be based on the health features alone (borderline-accurate though they may be). If Apple were to address my biggest disappointments... namely creating bands that match the watches, making the watches thinner, having battery life make sense, making sure the iPhone setup app can be read if you're using large text, allow you to design your own watch faces, increase accuracy of the sensors, fix the insanely stupid sleep tracking mess, improve hand-washing so it doesn't KEEP BOTHERING YOU TO WASH YOUR HANDS WHEN YOU GET HOME AFTER YOU'VE BEEN HOME FOR HOURS... then I'd say Apple Watch is absolutely worth it. As it is though, I feel kinda like a beta-tester for a new product that's been around for five years and has gone through six revisions. Too many things are half-baked and poorly thought out for this to in any way be a homerun. Maybe with Series 7?

   

Half-Way to Nowhere

Posted on Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020

Dave!"Where are you going?"
"I just don't know."

I have been trying really, really hard to be understanding and accepting of people during these trying times. Nobody is thinking straight, everybody is on edge, and there's no way of knowing what people are going through in their lives.

That being said... holy shit are some people being truly awful right now.

   

Life Has Been Canceled

Posted on Thursday, September 24th, 2020

Dave!I live and die by my planning calendar, and absolutely everything gets entered there no matter how big or small. Usually it's a lot of travel. Dates I'm gone. Where I'm at. What my flight times are. Where my hotel is. What rental car company I check into. Any appointments I've got. This year, of course, there hasn't been any travel, so my calendar is mostly empty.

Except for those plans that I made before the pandemic that are still on my calendar and didn't get deleted. This morning I got an alert that the New Order and Pet Shop Boys concert I'm attending is coming up this Saturday.

Except it's not.

The concert, along with so many other things in my life lately, has been canceled.

Or, to be more accurate, it has been rescheduled, which is how TicketMaster wants to play it so they don't have to refund tons of money for all these canceled events. This is a bummer because I've never seen New Order perform live and have always wanted to... but less of a bummer than being in the audience with potentially hundreds or even thousands of COVID-infected attendees.

And now I'm off to make breakfast burritos for dinner. I had them last night and they were so good that I couldn't not have them again this evening. Scrambled eggs, tater tots, cheddar cheese, and salsa in a flour tortilla with sour cream and more salsa on top. I would add guacamole as well, but the batch I made yesterday is gone.

The guacamole, along with so many other things in my life lately, has been canceled.

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Lord of the (Fitness) Rings

Posted on Friday, September 25th, 2020

Dave!After living with my Apple Watch for an entire weekday week, I thought I'd revisit the thing while stuff is still freshly accumulating in my head. If you haven't read my initial impressions, you can find that here.

Shall we begin?

SURPRISE
My Apple Watch is surprising me daily. When I bought it, I fully expected that the only reason I'd be using it would be for the health risk stuff. A safety net for my declining years, as it were. That hasn't been the case at all. It has proven useful in a number of areas, most of which you can't anticipate before having one on your wrist. After ordering, there was a part of me thinking it might be returned to Apple. Now I don't want to live without my Apple Watch! Good on you, Apple! Another surprise? There's already an update out...

Watch face with the DATE on it.

The notification that an update was available popped up on my iPhone, and it's your iPhone which downloads and installs it. Pretty easy and seamless.

DATE?!?
Once the "newness" had worn off... let's say, Day Two... I was looking for things my watch could do for me. I rarely need to know what time it is, but I am constantly needing to know what DATE it is. I tried adding it to the various watch faces I had set up, but it proved impossible. Most faces don't even have an option to display the date... A BASIC WATCH FUNCTION FOR FOREVER. But even the watch faces which do, don't seem to work. "Infograph" makes you THINK it can display the date. All you have to do is turn it on, right?

A watch face option for Date which has been set to OFF.

Not so much, no. Even if I turn off every other option to make room for the date, there's no way to turn it on. Just a way to confirm that it's OFF...

A watch face option for Date which CANNOT be set to ON.

This is the most inexcusable, inexplicable disaster for a watch imaginable. How in the hell can you not tell your watch... IN ANY CAPACITY... to display the damn date? Apple Watch can tell you your blood oxygen level, can make phone calls, but can't display the date? Is ANYBODY at Apple paying attention? Do you know how I finally got my Apple Watch to display the date? I PAID TWO DOLLARS TO PURCHASE A "COMPLICATION" CALLED "BETTER DAY"...

The Better Day Complication on the Apple Watch App Store.

Once installed, Better Day can add the date to any watch face which allows "complications"...

Watch face with the DATE on it.

Including Mickey Mouse...

Mickey watch face with the DATE on it.

As an added bonus, you also get a full month calendar when you tap on the date...

Mickey watch face with the DATE on it.

Apple CEO Tim Cook must be out of his damn mind to allow this idiocy to propagate at his company. Does he even wear an Apple Watch? If he does, he must not care about what day it is.

UNLOCK
After a couple days, all three of my Macs dropped an alert asking me if I wanted my Apple Watch to automatically unlock them. I thought "Well that's nice!" and agreed. The model MacBook Pro I have includes a little fingerprint sensor for unlocking it that's easier than typing a password, but the Apple Watch unlock is even easier. Press a key to wake it up... and you don't even see a login screen! It's just... ON... and ready to go. Ditto for my other Macs...

A notice that my Mac has been unlocked by my Apple Watch.

The watch makes a little "clink" unlock sound once your Mac has been unlocked. Very cute. This is exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about when I say "I don't want to live without my Apple Watch.

INPUT
Since I've always got my iPhone on me, I did not anticiapte ever using my watch for anything requiring text input. But that hasn't been the case at all. My iPhone is often left in my backpack now. It's just so much easier to use my watch for simple text replies and such. There are third-party keyboards you can buy, but Apple's built-in "Scribble" is pretty great...

I'm not saying that I would type a letter on it, but I do use it for text more often than I imagined I would. It's quick, easy, and accurate.

SOUND
I was anticipating my Apple Watch telling me that the sound level is dangerous to my hearing when I'm at a concert or something, but the other day I got this alert... in the shower...

Watch face with the DATE on it.

Perhaps water droplets hit the microphone or something? Bizarre.

OXYGEN
And so... guess this whole "masks cause hypoxemia" idiocy can be verified as bullshit by scientists... medical professionals... and now me. I tested my blood oxygen level several times during the day. Seems my "normal" is 97% (though I sometimes hit higher). That's what I keep getting. Including this morning at 10:12am...

Blood Oxygen Level: 97%

It was also 97% immediately after a brisk walk home from work... WEARING DOUBLE MASKS AS I ALWAYS DO IN CASE I RUN INTO SOME RANDOM STRANGER ON THE STREET...

Blood Oxygen Level: 97%

So there. Maybe all the scientists and doctors of the world are totally lying to us all the time... but you can totally trust me to tell the truth! OR CAN YOU? You may never know for sure.

RINGS
For somebody who's not fitness-oriented, I didn't think that Apple's fitness goal tracking was going to be something I cared about. Turns out I was really wrong about that. Once I started paying attention to how much I MOVE, EXERCISE, and STAND, I was caring quite a lot about closing my "fitness rings" each day. It doesn't hurt that my watch is spurring me on with inspirational messages and congratulating me as my rings close one-by-one...

Apple Watch filling in my fitness rings!

An alert telling me I reached one of my fitness goals!

I haven't thought much about the Fitness Achievements you can earn... that may be going too far for me... but who knows? Maybe one day getting all these checked off will be something I feel like doing...

Goal awards available on Apple Watch.

What I'm hoping is that Apple Watch will make me want to do more and more exercise, which can only benefit me health-wise. But even if that never happens I'm still much better off than I was by having moderate fitness goals instead of no goals at all. Thanks, Apple Watch!

STAND
One of the three parts of Apple's fitness ring theory is to "stand" 12 hours a day, and Apple Watch will give you regular reminders to do that...

An alert telling me that I need to stand!

This is a weirdly large amount of time and makes zero sense to me. Unless I change to a standing desk (which is something I hate) I will never make this goal. And so I dropped it down to a more manageable 8 hours which I can meet if I get up and walk around when my watch tells me to. That's probably a good thing since sitting or laying down for too long can contribute to health problems.

BREATHE
My Apple Watch was pestering me to "breathe" a couple times a day. At first I was like "Pshaw. I'm already breathing! Leave me alone!" But then one day I decided to humor the watch and just do the breathing exercise it's been asking me to do. It's only a minute of my time, so what's the big deal...

A summary of my breathing session... 1 minute!

I was surprised that my heart rate was 92bpm during an exercise meant to calm and center myself, but I have to be honest here... it was a really nice little break during my day! And so now I am taking a breathing break every time my watch wants me to. I'm totally into it, and think it's absolutely beneficial.

SLEEP
I touched on this in my first impressions, but the more I have to deal with Apple's absurdly stupid "sleep tracking" feature the more outraged I get. Apple Watch will only track your sleep during a set period of time that you have to tell it. Contrast and compare this inflexible nonsense on a $400 (minimum!) Apple Watch... with a $25 Wyze Band. Sure, the Wyze Band isn't as accurate, but if you were forced to have it be on a sleep schedule it sure would be! I just randomly set a schedule because I have to... even though I'm rarely in bed by 11:00pm...

My sleep schedule 11:00pm to 7:00am!

It's just so bad! If you have a variable sleep schedule? Too damn bad. You have to go in and manually change your sleep schedule and risk losing sleep data when you do EVERY TIME! If you have to get up early for a trip? Too damn bad. Your watch is scheduled to be asleep during this time since you're scheduled to be asleep, so you have to force it awake in order to even use it. Have to stay up late? Too damn bad. You told your watch you would be sleeping, so it's asleep now and you have to force it awake in order to use it. Want a nap to count towards your sleep? Too damn bad. There is no way to tell your watch that you're sleeping outside of the schedule you're forced to set. And it just gets worse from there. Once I went to bed after midnight (something I do a lot) and my data was posted on the following day's sleep. Which means the data from that night didn't post at all because Apple Watch thinks I had already been to sleep? I cannot express in mere words just how jaw-droppingly crazy this all is. Trying to get a handle on my insomnia was something I was fully expecting to accomplish easily on an Apple Watch. Turns out that unless you go to sleep AT THE EXACT SAME TIME EACH NIGHT and get up AT THE EXACT SAME TIME EACH MORNING, Apple's way of doing things won't work for you. At least not very well. At the absolute bare minimum Apple needs to add a "complication" button which allows you to manually tell Apple Watch you're sleeping. That's a lot more work than I was planning on putting into sleep monitoring... but it's better than the worthless pile of crap Apple's handed me now. This is a 100% FAIL! on every possible level.

BATTERY
Turns out the battery longevity /slash/ charging stuff I was complaining about wasn't quite the issue I made it out to be... for me! If you are using the watch a lot... and using it for extra tasks like listening to music or texting all day long... then the use/charge disparity is likely still a problem. As for myself, I charge my watch to 100% every night around 9:00pm. It takes anywhere from an hour to an hour-and-a-half, and then I'm good to go. My iPhone alerts me when it's done charging and I can check the battery level and charge status there any time...

My battery level and charge status for Apple Watch as shown on my iPhone.

When I wake up in the morning I've got around 75% battery left, which keeps me going until I charge at 9:00pm again...

Good Morning! Your batter is at 76%!

This is a huge relief, because the idea of having to charge the battery twice a day in order to use the sleep tracking was a major sticking point to me. I guess Apple was being conservative with its battery life estimate and trying to factor in people who use their watch a lot more than I do.

BAND
Welp. My Solo Loop watch band went from being a little too snug... to being just perfect... to now being a little loose. OVER THE COURSE OF FIVE DAYS! I am understandably worried that it's going to continue to loosen over time, which would suck since that means the watch will float up and down my arm instead of staying in place. What sucks is that you only get 14 days to return an item to Apple. By the time I know if it's going to be too loose for me to keep using it, the return period will be over. Hopefully Apple will consider this to be defect if it's not the size I ordered after a month or two. Guess we'll see. I sure love not having to buckle/unbuckle a watch band.

LYD
If you have a SONOS system, Lyd (which means "sound" in Norwegian) is a must-buy app for your Apple Watch. For only $2 you gain control of your SONOS system, and its abilities are far more extensive than I had expected. Everything from volume and track fast-forward/rewind to playlists and speaker group management...

Lyd for Apple Watch showing track controls and volume while the song SOME KIND OF LOVE by The Killers is playing!

You can even record a message on your watch and play it on speakers around your home! Fantastic work all the way around. It can also be used as a "complication" so it's ridiculously handy to immediately be able to access SONOS control from your main watch face. Congratulations to Alexander Heinrich for making me love my Apple Watch even more than I already do!

WISH-LIST
It hasn't been a week yet, so I'm still discovering how my watch can help me through the day and what it can do for me. I'm also still discovering things I wish it did (or did better) and am keeping a list...

  • WiFi Indicator Complication. It would be nice to see at a glance if my Apple Watch is connected to WiFi without having to swipe up for control center. Important info like this should be avaiable at a glance with no futzing.
  • FIX SLEEP TRACKING! Seriously. This is insane. Sleep monitoring on a $400 Apple Watch is crappier than what you get on a $25 Wyze Band. Embarrassing.
  • ADD THE DATE! The fact that I have to spend an additional $2 to get the damn date on my watch is absolutely bonkers. AGAIN, THIS IS A $400 WATCH!
  • Matching Accessories. I am still very, very raw that the "black" band is shown as matching the warm tones of my Space Grey watch on Apple's website... but the band you get is blue-toned and doesn't match at all. It's horrifying that an overly-image-conscious company like Apple is okay with this. Somebody on quality control was asleep at the wheel, then Apple lied to customers by Photoshopping the band color on their website. Not cool at all for something that costs FIFTY DOLLARS!!! Bait and switch bullshit.
  • Watch Face Builder Kit. Come on. Here we are at Series 6 and we're still stuck with only the faces Apple dictates we get to have? Granted they are beautiful and highly customizable, but I want to build MY OWN faces. Is that really too much to ask? At the very, very least Apple should allow third-party faces to be sold.

There will be more to come, I'm sure.

GOING ON ONE WEEK...
On one hand I'm sad I waited so long to jump on the Apple Watch bandwagon... it's just such a hugely useful and handy piece of tech to have. On the other hand, it's nice that I jumped on with Series 6 because some of the things I really love about having an Apple Watch are recent additions to the hardware. The good news is that this was the last piece of the Apple ecosystem I was missing, so I guess my status as a Certified Apple Whore is still in good standing. At least until they release Apple Glass, which is something I'm really excited to see happen.

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Caturday 178

Posted on Saturday, September 26th, 2020

Dave!Given how Jake is the cat that's a little chonky, you'd think that he would be the one constantly begging for food and first to the bowl when the automated feeder dispenses a snack. But, nope, that would be Jenny.

When the automated cat feeders goes off, she is first to her bowl. And every time I go to the kitchen, she comes running no matter where she is because she's hoping for a treat. It's like she spends her entire day waiting for it to happen. And when I don't give her a treat? Let the meowing commence...

Jenny waiting for a treat.

I mean, she is the sweetest, most loving and gentle kitty you'll ever meet. But when she is expecting a treat and doesn't get one?

Jenny looking very angry.

As the weather gets colder, Jake is more inclined to use me as a heating pad. How I don't wake up when he's crawling all over me is a wonder. I finally started putting a pillow out so he will lay on that instead of on me...

Jake crawling all over me as I sleep.

Jake crawling all over me as I sleep.

But it is fun waking up and finding him there. He's such a sweet boy...

Jake crawling all over me as I sleep.

Always happy to remind me I need to take a break from work...

Jake crawling all over me as I try to work.

Always happy to remind me that cats love boxes, even when their flat...

Jake laying on a flattened box.

In other cat news, there's a new cat in the neighborhood. My cats are not happy about it. Whenever the cat comes to visit Jake goes running out howling and Jenny goes running out hissing her most intimidating hiss. But the guest cat? Isn't the least bit phased. He just stands there...

Jake and Jenny howling and hissing at a beautiful blonde cat outsie the catio.

Jake and Jenny howling and hissing at a beautiful blonde cat outsie the catio.

Eventually he gets bored of Jake and Jenny's drama, so he turns and sashays away...

Jake and Jenny howling and hissing at a beautiful blonde cat outsie the catio.

Speaking of the catio... the afternoons are perfect weather right now. Not too hot. Not too cold. And even when it was pour rain out earlier this week, they can't get enough of it. The view from my window is often this...

Jenny staring at me from the cat ramp in the catio while Jake hangs out in the background. Cloudy grey skies and rain are happening.

And that's my Caturday.

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Bullet Sunday 681

Posted on Sunday, September 27th, 2020

Dave!September may be coming to a close, but not everything has to end... because an all new Special Video Edition of Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Yikes! Need to be filled with awe and wonder today? Need to be filled with awe and wonder while shitting your pants? Well here you go...

There are some places you'd swear that man was not meant to go. Which is why they go, I suppose.

   
• Panda! Think wrangling kids is tough? Try looking after pandas...

It's the cutest kind of mischief, I suppose.

   
• Circles! I may not like a lot of Posty's music... but this song and video are sublime...

That he had a hand in writing it as well just makes it all the mor impressive a track.

   
• Hello! "912, what's your white emergency?"

If. Only.

   
• Enola! Looking for something good to watch? Netflix has a movie about Sherlock Holmes's teenage sister, Enola Holmes...

Really, really hope that we will be getting a sequel.

   
• Ted! Dang. Apple TV Plus is finally releasing shows compelling enough that I may actually want to pay for it when my free subscription runs out. Mythic Quest, Central Park, and Long Way Up are great television. But Ted Lasso is next level. Funny, sweet, and surprisingly deep... it's sure to make my Best of 2020 list...

And to think... Foundation is still on the way!

   
There it was... that was the last bullet for September.

   

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