Posted on Friday, January 1st, 2021
Happy 2021 to my blogging family and friends!
My day started with my cats chasing each other around the house, jumping on my bed at 5:10am. Rather than get all salty about not being able to sleep-in on my day off, I got up and set my SourJo bread starter out so I’ll have no excuse to not bake a couple loaves today. I tell you what, there can’t be a better way to start the year than kitties and freshly-baked bread, amiright?
2020 was a tough year. Without the usual nonsense in my life and my travels to distract me, I have been mired in my failures and obsessing over the people in my life that didn’t make it to 2021. Sometimes I wake up with my heart grinding in my chest and find it difficult to breathe because I just want my life The Way It Used To Be instead of what I have left. That’s not on the pandemic though. I think it’s just a part of growing older and being on the back-side of your life here on earth (unless I actually live to be 108. Oh God, please don’t let me live to be 108).
2021 is going to be a year of change for me. Hopefully for the better, but you never know. Absolutely everything is up in the air right now, and what becomes of it is anybody’s guess. For the time being I’m grateful to have a roof over my head, food to put on the table, cats to keep me company, a job to pay for it all, and people in my life I care about. I take nothing for granted because, as I’ve been made painfully aware, nothing lasts forever and life can change on a dime.
I don’t do resolutions, but I hope that I can find it in my heart to be a kinder person... a better person in 2021. I’ve been so beat down by the atrocities that unfold in the news every day that I’ve had to harden my heart and become more cynical to survive it. That’s no way to live, and hate is always more destructive to you than those you’re hating. I’ve tried so very hard not to hate. It’s been the overriding path I’ve attempted to walk since I started studying Buddhism in 1998. But I’m always tested. There’s always tests. And recent years have tested me like no other because there’s just so much awfulness in this world TO hate. But... maybe I can find enough peace in this new year to be more hopeful. To talk less and learn more. To look with wonder instead of being blinded by ignorance. To do more. Care more. Love more.
Don’t get me wrong... I’m still calling out the fucked up shit people do and say which brings harm myself and others. I’m not insane. If you know me at all, you know that NOT speaking out against pieces of shit is something I’m incapable of. If you’re willfully ignorant, I am not having your dumbassery. If you’re persecuting people living their best life at zero cost to anybody else, I am not tolerating your hatred. If you’re being an asshole, I am not embracing your abuse. It’s just that in 2021 I’ll be taking a blowtorch to your fucked up bullshit with 15% more love in my heart. Because I’m a good person that way.
And so... here’s to a new year. Hopefully a better year than the one we’re leaving behind. I’ll be doing my best to make it happen for me and for everybody, because I’ll be taking a blowtorch to my fucked up bullshit where I find it too. But mostly I’ll be watching trash television, scrolling through TikToks, and petting my cats which, let’s face it, probably does more good for the planet than being all shouty on my blog.
Besides, I have bread to take out of the oven...
All my best to you and yours from me and mine for a happy, healthy, and productive 2021!
Posted on Saturday, January 2nd, 2021
When I got my cats, they were inseparable. They would hide together, play together, sleep under the couch together, sneak out to eat together... there was not a single minute that they spent apart. Part of this came from them being rescues that were scared shitless of anything and everything. Over a long period of time I was eventually able to gain their trust, but I was so worried at the beginning that I actually planned for them never wanting to be apart.
One of the first purchases I bought was a dog bed. I figured that when they eventually grew up that they would outgrown sleeping in the cat bed together. Eventually they were able to spend time apart without problem, and the dog bed sat empty. Jenny occasionally slept in it, but it went largely ignored.
Until this past month.
Jenny started sleeping in it all the time. And, of course, once Jake saw that his sister had something she was enjoying, he just had to have it as well.
So now they take turns crashing in it. Or, if you're Jake, crashing out of it...
Not that Jenny's immune. For some strange reason, she's started sleeping in the thing riiiiiiiiight on the edge of the couch...
AND THEN... I looked up a couple evenings ago and saw this...
Now, finding them sleeping together is not impossible. I was treated to this sight just a couple weeks ago...
But I had never seen them together in the doggy bed. Needless to say I had to get up and investigate further...
Tonight Jake has laid claim to it all by his lonesome again, however. He's watching television with me all comfy-like...
I was a part of a holiday gift exchange. As what has become a tradition, my cats end up getting gifts as well. This year it was these adorable "Baby Yoda" (Grogu) ornaments filled with catnip...
Jenny really goes nuts over the things...
Not surprisingly... Jake, of course, still only has eyes for Mufasa. Other toys come and go, but his stuffed lion is always the favorite.
Posted on Sunday, January 3rd, 2021
The New Year may feel like the Old Year, but there's still something new to be had... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• TikTok! The thing that I love so much about TikTok... besides the fact that the video size is limited which forces content creators to get to the damn point already... is that it's got people constantly playing off of each other. In weird, wonderful ways. Lots of times it's clapbacks and condemnation, sure, but every once in a while you get something absolutely magical like this...
What's cool is that the woman who was (accurately) sumarizing Country music so dead-on in her parody was actually made a collaborator, and is now promoting the song on her TikTok...
#duet with @georgebirgeofficial♬ original sound - George Birge
This is not something that happens on other social media platforms so easily and organically, which is why I am still addicted to TikTok. Plus... lots of adorable animal videos.
• TokTwo! Not to mention moments of absolute happy like this...
Is is any wonder I can blow through an hour on this app and not even realize it?
• Her Name Was Bernice! Not that it's all fun and games...
This amazing woman is a graduate of Liberty College and has some fascinating takes on Christianity that comes from having lived through her past... and living her Faith in the present.
• What's Logic! I mean, damn...
This guy is phenomenally entertaining while addressing some very touchy subjects. I could just sit for an hour and blow through nothing else on TikTok but this guy.
• TokFour! Seriously. I need to come up with a Blogography page of all the TikToks I follow, because if you are looking for some incredible takes on everything from cooking to woodworking to current events to just plain fun... I'm following it all.
• Luke! And just because it's not all TikTok this Sunday... I remember very well standing in line on opening night for The Empire Strikes Back. By the time the movie was released I was already the biggest Star Wars fan on earth, and there was just no way I could wait to see it. I was dropped off with the older brother of a friend who didn't mind having me tag along. Back in 1980, there was no "internet" to speak of, and the movie magazines were always months behind what was being released in the theaters. So when it came to one of the most surprising and shocking moments in cinematic history, I was completely caught off guard. There was simply nothing that could have prepared me. Which is why I just love videos of young kids reacting to the scene when they also have no idea what's coming...
Now-a-days, of course, it would have been spoiled either weeks before... or immediately upon release. Because people are assholes and online publications are competing for pageviews. Fortunately, nobody cares as much "old" movies like this, so there are still surprises to be had. For some of us, anyways.
• Mary Ann! I would be remiss to not mention the passing of Dawn Wells from complications due to COVID this past week. I ALWAYS picked "Mary Ann" over "Ginger" as my Giligan's Island crush...
Rest In Peace, Dawn Wells. You were a huge part of my childhood.
And that's it for the first bullets of 2021.
Posted on Monday, January 4th, 2021
Well today is sure shaping up to be a treat.
I started work very early today because I noticed before going to be last night that I had quite a load of emails piled up which I had been avoiding since last Thursday. I was tired, but I had a Coke Zero to keep me on-point, so it was all good. I fed the cats when Alexa chimed and Jake and Jenny came running into my room at top speed, grabbed an apple for breakfast, then went back upstairs to work while in bed. Because it's warm and comfy up there.
And proceeded to trip on the stairs and twist my ankle because I was trying to avoid a cat toy that I didn't notice on the way down.
It was all downhill from there.
Culminating with the knee on my jeans completely ripping out when I sat down in my car...
I think that there was a small hole there that I could live with. But something happened in the last wash which took things to another level entirely. Oh well. Since I now look so fashion-forward (don't people pay to have their jeans pre-ripped so they look worn?), I went ahead and wore them into the office. And nobody said a thing.
In other news to give you an idea of how my day started...
You know how you wash your hair in the shower but then FORGET that you washed your hair so you wash your hair AGAIN... but since your hair is already clean, it doesn't know what to do with the shampoo and just becomes a mass of foam? — Well, guess what, that also happens when you forget that you've already washed your BODY. Which is what happened to me this morning. Not sure if women get this as badly as many men would... but... BODY WASH FOAM PARTY IN MY SHOWER THIS MORNING! The good news is that I am super-clean today. The bad news is that I am getting old enough that I forget when I've already washed myself.
Oh well. My brain was pretty good to me while it lasted.
Posted on Tuesday, January 5th, 2021
Eastern Washington is home to many, many small unincorporated towns which are basically just places which have some kind of historical reason for existing... a stop on a now-abandoned railroad or trail... an important business that used to be there... or maybe a place which intersects land owned by local farmers. And, to many of them, the nearest major city (usually Spokane) is 1 to 2 hours away. They usually don't have stores, shops, or restaurants to speak of (those being anywhere from 30 minutes to 45 minutes away). If they're lucky, there might be some kind of general store with a few edible staples and various sundries amongst the grain and feed, but there's no full-on grocery store. Instead they have to make their own meals from what they can get at the nearest grocery store when they go once or twice a month. That's just how it goes.
I've been thinking about this a lot lately.
Partly because I am sick to fucking death of seeing political maps of Washington State where the entirety of Eastern Washington is painted red making it look like a gajillion people vote red and it's unfair that "blue Seattle gets to dictate who runs the state." That's a pretty gross exaggeration. Some of these towns which turn counties red have like A DOZEN PEOPLE in them. And land doesn't vote. So Washington State is getting the political representation which is actually representing the majority of the voters in it, regardless of what story a map is presenting.
However... the other side of that coin is the fact that these small towns DO exist. These dozens upon dozens of rural communities and the people in them DO endure. Often times they are the people who farm our land and grow our food and have communities which MEAN SOMETHING. So having them wholesale ignored by our State government is fucked up beyond all reason.
Is what's best for Seattle always going to be what's best for little Benge, Washington with its 50 people? Fuck no. But the rules Benge lives by are the rules major population centers over the Cascades dictate to them. District and County governments are supposed to have power to make sure they get fair representation but, let's face it, their power is severely limited in the grand scheme of things. Ain't nobody with major political power speaking up for the good people of Benge...
Benge, WA as seen from Google Maps, ©Google
The red dot on this map points to where Benge is in Washington State...
Benge, WA as seen in relation to Washington State from Google Maps, ©Google
Now, I've never been to Benge. Odds are I will never step foot in this town.
But a part of me really, really wants to.
I would love to travel to all these small, so-called "nothing" towns that dot my side of the state as a way of acknowledging that they exist. That the people who inhabit them deserve to be recognized for the thankless work they do to grow our food. To remind myself that they are a part of Washington too, and that the lives of their citizens mean something when it comes to the rest of the state.
Even when they get lumped into politics of a city that's four hours away.
I dunno. Benge is 2-1/2 hours from where I live. However, it's an easy 35 minute drive off I-90 on my next trip to Spokane... so maybe one day? I'd like to think that Benge would have a kind word for a stranger passing through town. It's a nice thought to have, isn't it? I'm from a small, rural, Eastern Washington community too, after all.
I just won't mention that there's a grocery store ten minutes from my house. No need to flaunt my big-little-city luxuries like that.
Posted on Wednesday, January 6th, 2021
I'm just going to get this out there... not a fan of JaBiden.
I never wanted Joe Biden as my president. I definitely didn't want ex-prosecutor Kamala Harris as my Vice President. And Hillary Clinton, who is the very model of a garbage politician, was nowhere near my list of desired presidential candidates when she was shoved down our throats last election. But my thinking that she's "garbage" isn't saying much because 98% of our politicians are lobbyist-fed garbage as far as I'm concerned. So long as MONEY is allowed to corrupt our politics and buy off the government, the entire system is garbage.
But my loathing of Biden, Harris, and Clinton pales in comparison to how much I outright despise President Trump. His every single move was made to exclusively benefit himself, corporations, and the über-wealthy wealthy... in that order. Anybody who says otherwise has never actually looked at what he did for his four years in office and asked "Who does this really benefit? He exploited people's ignorance, bigotry, and Faith to screw us all.
So, yeah, I'm saying good riddance to Trump and will be very happy to say good riddance again when JaBiden leaves office.
Good Lord. How in the hell have we gotten here? That Trump and Biden are what we end up with as our leaders is is both inexplicable and sad. It's like the bar is now so low now that nothing will surprise me any more. Big Bird winning the presidential election in 2024? Yeah, sure. Whatever.
But what really gets me is how people become fanatically devoted to politicians in the first place. They're just people... not Jesus... or The Beatles. It makes zero sense... and I'm saying that about both Republicans and Democrats. I was absolutely bewildered by the Cult of Hillary Clinton. What was it about her that had people so consumed? And we don't even need to talk about the Cult of Donald Trump, which is even more bizarre to me. I mean...
Um... well... that's... unique? Is the word I'm looking for? Photo from the European Press Agency
From what can be theorized, anybody this devoted (yet this different in their varying ideology) are just all hating the same thing. Hate is what binds them together. It has nothing to do with loving their country, which was made quite clear when they assaulted the police, stormed the Capitol, tore down the American flag, then raised a Trump flag in its place. I mean, aren't those all the things that anybody who truly loves the USA would say are a bad thing?
What's amusing (for lack of a better word) is the sublime ignorance which is driving all this.
I've heard more than a couple times how people are branding this as a "revolution." I keep hearing things like "This is what had to happen! When we declared our independence in 1776, did we write a letter to the British telling them that we were going to be America? NO!! We went to war and kicked them out!"
Except... um... yeah... not so much.
The entire history of American Independence is well-documented, if anybody should care to investigate it. In actuality we wrote a rather important "letter" and did indeed "send it" to King George of England by publishing its text in colonial newspapers. It's called the Declaration of Independence. Perhaps you've heard of it? From what we know, the letter arrived in Britain via papers in Belfast the month after it was signed. It was all a formal affair, and the British even published a rebuttal to it and everything.
Also? There was massive support for the Revolutionary War. Like everybody in the colonies was behind it. This wasn't a splinter group who wanted to break away from England... absolutely everybody wanted it to happen. So a handful of people buying into completely unfounded election conspiracy theories which have been disproven over and over and over again... and even been disproven by Trump-voting Republicans... does not a revolution make.
I mean, I'm not happy Biden is our president either... but holy shit! SEDITION?!?
And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm having another idiopathic angioedema attack. Half of my tongue has swollen so large that I am having difficulty swallowing. Which is a bummer, because that's he only way I can take huge loads of antihistamines in order to stop it from getting so large that it chokes me to death. What I'm having to do is crush them into powder, mix with water, then use a straw shoved way back in my mouth to get them in me. How fun!
My evening will be spent propped up by pillows with an epi-pen in my hand, just in case.
And, assuming there's a country left when I wake up in the morning, I guess we'll see what tomorrow brings for the United States of America.
Posted on Thursday, January 7th, 2021
I have passed out exactly once in life, a long time ago. I was in high school. I wasn’t feeling well and had to have my blood drawn at the clinic so they could try to figure out what was going on. My mom and I were standing at the elevator and the next thing I knew I was waking up minutes later with strange people surrounding me and my face being slapped. I don’t remember anything about it and had to be told that I passed out.
Last night at around 10pm, my tongue swelled up on one side. I battled it with the antihistamines I was given for just this purpose... crushing them up so I could use a straw shoved back in my mouth to swallow them. I had my epi-pen ready just in case. I passed out around 7:30am. I remember the alarm going off to feed the cats. I remember coming back up stairs. And then... nothing. I woke up at 11:05, kinda half in bed. My tongue and the floor of my mouth still swollen a bit. Lips a little swollen too, which was new. But there was no pain, which was nice.
Passing out is so weird. One day I’m going to have to read up on the science about it. The thing that bugs me about it is not the losing consciousness, but the memory loss. I don’t remember ANYTHING. So weird!
...I remembered that I had my Apple Watch on, and it had recorded everything.
And the data it had collected is interesting...
As you can see from the above, I nodded off a little after 1:00am. Then I was wide awake (or being still) around 1:30am. I finally drifted off to sleep around 5am when the antihistamines I had been chugging all evening started to work. I was awakened from a deep sleep at 7am when the Alexa alarm went off to feed my cats breakfast.
I only thought that I passed out at 7:30am. What happened is that I passed out again immediately after I got back upstairs to my bedroom. And you can see it. No blue bars where I was drifting off into sleep... just an immediate crash from green to purple when I lost consciousness. Something I've never seen before.
Now, from a health standpoint, this is kinda scary.
But from a technical medical standpoint? How cool is that?!
The rest of the day was rough. I managed to go into the office, but my tongue was still swollen a bit, so it was not a comfortable experience for me. I think I may have even drooled during a Zoom meeting?
It's so hard to tell. Apple Watch doesn't record that information. Yet.
Posted on Friday, January 8th, 2021
I got up early this morning to get some work done before feeding the cats and running into Tourist Town to do some grocery shopping. Early morning shopping is the best shopping because the store is so empty. But also? My cupboards and refrigerator are low on staples, so I was excited about having food in the house again.
The other big draw for my grocery shopping today was a coupon I had which gives me $11 off a total of $110 or more. That's 10% off... on top of the other coupons I have. I love it when opportunities like this comes along, because it's the one time I allow myself to buy stuff that's not on sale. But you have to be careful. One penny under $110 and no discount for you. I kept careful track in my head and got to $120 (actual total $116.88), so way to go, me.
Along with a shiny new iPhone, I changed my service plan with AT&T. My new phone can do 5G, my service plan didn't have 5G, and even though I probably won't see 5G any time sooon where I live, I'd like it available when I travel (assuming I travel again). AT&T had a deal where I could get my two lines for $65 a line (with auto-pay and paperless billing enabled), and I'd actually be saving money in the long run over what I had, so sign me up...
Before (virtually) signing on the dotted line, I went over the details of what I would be charged very, very carefully with the phone rep. I wanted to be darn sure there weren't going to be any hidden fees above what I was already paying. After a very patient person went through everything with me... twice... I changed my plan to the new $65 per line.
My previous bill was a mess. I had no idea what was going on because AT&T jerks you around with pro-rated billing and activation fees and other stupid shit that I had no way of understanding. But then today my current bill with none of the extras arrives. And I looked it over very carefully. And, wouldn't you know it, only ONE of my lines was $65. The other was $75...
So I online-chat with AT&T and explain the problem. After pulling up my account, I'm told this:
I see that you have been charged for monthly service charge. That is why you got high in your bill.
I explain that my bill very clearly shows one of the lines was charged $75. Then I get this:
I see that you have been charged $65 for one account and $65 for another account. But this time they have added $8.33 for one account.
I then have to tell them that I am looking at my bill and it clearly shows one line is $75, so I don't know where they're seeing both are at $65. I don't care what the fees are showing, the amount per line I was quoted (and which is still showing on their website) is NOT being honored.
After a while of them "looking into it" I get this:
Yes you are right. Sorry for that. Let me go ahead a note to change that for you. So it will not reflect in your next billing cycle.
Look, I really want to give AT&T the benefit of doubt here, but I see this shit ALL THE TIME, so it's tough not to be cynical. I signed up for a new plan so I could get 5G at $65 a line (if I use auto-pay and paperless billing, which I do). but I'm charged $75 for one and $65 for the other. And the ENTIRE TIME I'm chatting with customer support, I think back to my grandmother and mother being easily confused by pages of bills that are designed to obscure how much YOU'RE ACTUALLY BEING BILLED FOR, and I know beyond any doubt that they would have just paid the overcharge month after month because they didn't know any better. And if they did call customer support, they undoubtedly would have believed the bullshit about "extra fees" and not pressed the issue any further.
This is rage inducing.
And I cannot help but ask... is AT&T doing this on purpose? Do they make their billing statements confusing and encourage auto-pay and paperless billing so they can rip you off and have less chance of being caught? I am seriously outraged right now. I'd dump these assholes in a second if other carriers were any better... but they're all the same, aren't they? So what good would it do?
If the Democrats in power want to make me happy after they're done sucking off the lobbyists lining up to pay them to betray US citizen interests... FIRST they can put us on permanent Daylight Saving Time so we're not dicking with the clocks twice a year. THEN they can pass an act which forces all these asshole companies to not hide all their charges when you sign up for shit. The price they advertise should be the price you pay... AND IT SHOULD INCLUDE ALL THE FUCKING FEES AND OTHER BULLSHIT THAT **NEVER** ALLOW YOU TO KNOW WHAT YOU'RE PAYING BEFORE YOU COMMIT TO A CONTRACT!
But you know what? AT&T probably shovels millions upon millions upon millions to politicians so they can just keep doing exactly what they're doing. Which means nothing is going to change any time soon. Our politicians won't do anything to threaten that sweet, sweet lobbyist payola now would they?
At least not in my State. Senator Patty Murray is OWNED by the medical lobby, and we all know how much they just LOVE to obscure costs in their billing. Major surgery results in pounds of never-ending bills that are intentionally confusing so you just shut up and pay. Which is exactly the kind of behavior our politicians crave... "I'll shut up just so long as you pay."
God bless America.
Posted on Saturday, January 9th, 2021
The holidays being over aren't all that sad for me... I don't celebrate any of them... but I kinda feel bad for my cats. Always something new and exciting for them. Lights hanging outside the windows... Christmas cards they can chew on (which is appropriate considering 5 out of the 8 I received were addressed to them)... and all kinds of other stuff that's new and different...
One thing that I wasn't anticipating was Jake and Jenny shedding like it's the middle of Summer when there are some weeks of Winter left to be had. The fur is literally flying everywhere, and petting them results in handfuls coming off in my hand...
And apparently all that shedding is itchy, because my cats will not leave me alone. They want to be petted and scratched and scrubbed...
From the minute I get home until the minute I fall asleep, they are wanting never-ending scratches.
I'd write more exciting details about my needy cats but, well, my cats are being needy.
Posted on Sunday, January 10th, 2021
Free speech has consequences, which is nothing new to bloggers like me... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Colosseo! My mom's favorite landmark is the Roman Colosseum. She asked to visit it every trip we made to Rome which, I believe, was four times (it was a cruise stop twice and a trip stop twice). I'd ask her why she loved it so much and she'd say "I don't know... I just do." When I told her that maybe she was a gladiator in a previous life, she thought that was funny and started telling people that when showing this photo...
Because of this, I very much wish she was still alive, because Rome is renovating the Colosseum, and I think the idea of being able to stand on the floor of the Colosseum arena would be so thrilling to her that we would have definitely made a fifth trip once it was completed. This is really, really cool, and I'd love to be able to visit again. But it won't be the same without my mom there to share it.
• LEGO! I have to say... whomever works in LEGO advertising which came up with this ad for a "Make Your Own MiniFig" game apparently doesn't have the same filthy mind that I do, because, well...
Is that a hotdog in your pants, madam, or are you just happy to see me?
• PERFECT! I've watched this TikTok more times that I'd ever admit. It's hilarious because it's true...
Though I'd argue the point that this is how girls make coffee, because I see plenty of guys doing essentially this. And given my distaste for coffee, this would absolutely be me as well.
• Cute Gay Shit! TikTok is so much more than funny coffee memes. There is some genuinely touching stuff on there that gives me hope for all humanity...
And just KNOW that this gentleman gets lumped in with people he’s condemning because of how he looks and talks. You know it. God bless you, sir.
• NEWSFLASH! FORBES: Close To A Worst-Case Scenario—Former CDC Director Issues ‘Horrifying’ Outlook For New Covid Strain. If your balls don't shrivel up after reading this, then you probably don't have balls. But you are alive if you're reading this, balls or no balls, which means you should be horrified that there are still people not taking this shit seriously. Protect yourself. Protect others. This has catastrophe written all over it.
• Specs? Apple is the most ridiculous fucking company. They want to make their products as simple to use as possible by taking all the "tech" out of everything. Which is fine. EXCEPT YOU CAN NEVER MANAGE TO GET ANY FUCKING SPECS FOR ANYTHING THEY SELL. Will this cable work for charging? I dunno. What is the maximum transfer rate for this cable? I dunno. Can I quick-charge with this cable? I dunno. What about the charger? I dunno. Can you at least tell me if it is USB-PD compliant? I dunno. They literally tell you NOTHING in their support docs or on anything in their entire store. — If you want to shield your customers from scary tech-speak, fine. But at least have the fucking information SOMEWHERE for the people who need to know this shit. Their solution for everything is to say "Well, if it doesn't work, you can always return it." Which is an astound attitude to take considering that it wastes my time and their resources, and I'm getting seriously tired of it.
• Apolitical! My existence right now:
REPUBLICANS: You're just a Democrat shill.
DEMOCRATS: You're just a Republican shill.
ME: I AM NEITHER A DEMOCRAT NOR A REPUBLICAN! I DON'T UNDERSTAND THE NEED TO WORSHIP POLITICIANS AND FALL IN LINE WITH A POLITICAL PARTY RUN BY WEALTHY ASSHOLES THAT ARE PROPPED UP BY WEALTHY CORPORATIONS WHO DON'T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT US! WHY CAN'T I JUST BE A NON-PARTY SHILL?! WHY DOES MY SHILLNESS HAVE TO BE ATTACKED LIKE THIS? I AM A SHILL FOR ALL HUMANITY! AND A SHILL FOR CATS! TOWANDAAAAAAA!!!
Because, like, how could you not be a shill for floofy bellies like dis?
Stay frosty out there, my friends.
Posted on Monday, January 11th, 2021
After nine years, Thrice Fiction magazine (the amazing venue for short-form fiction that I created with RW Spryszak), came to an end with our December 2019 issue (You can still read all 27 issues absolutely FREE on our website).
But we're not dead yet.
RW and I just wanted to be freed from the thrice-yearly schedule that was becoming more and more difficult to keep. We don't get paid, we just do this for the love of it all, so the magazine always has to take a back-seat to Real Life. This kind of scenario is not conducive to a deadline.
And so we've relaunched with Volume 2, which no longer has a schedule. It's also no longer free, but it's as cheap as we can possibly make it (neither of us is getting rich here, we just need something to help cover our costs, which are more than you might think).
Here's our fist issue of the new Thrice Fiction...
For the next two or three entries here at Blogography, I thought I'd go over the design process that went into it.
Starting with the new logo.
My goal with the original Thrice Fiction was to have the design fade away. Elements were intentionally stark, plain, and forgettable. The logo I came up with wasn't so much a "logo" as some of the plainest type I had available stacked up and centered...
I actually had people comment about how "Thrice is pretty in execution, but plain in presentation." And I was like "Well, yeah, that's what it was designed to be!" We had some amazing artists contribute to our covers, and making sure a fancy logo didn't detract from their generously-donated work was all part of the plan.
But since Volume 2 was going to be sold in book stores and such, a different approach needed to be had. Slapping some plain type on it was not going to work, so I made a list of objectives...
The last one, cheap was probably the biggest part of the puzzle. And so when I designed the interior I picked from typefaces which I already owned licenses for. The main typeface then became the base for the logo upon which I could build. The only "design" thing I did here was to rough in an extension for the leg of the "R" so I'd know to leave space for it...
Now comes the part where my ADHD kicks in. I am obsessive about spacing consistency and working to make sure that elements are lined up as much as possible. It just makes for a cleaner logo that way. A lot of work goes into a project like this before I even get to a starting place...
It's not uncommon for me to use dozens... or even hundreds of guides as I am figuring out the placement of all the pieces...
The "T" at the beginning of "Thrice" is problematic, because its width is defined at the very top by the crossbar. This leaves the "F" in "Fiction" looking off-center. I wanted to address this in case the logo ends up in a place where it would be helpful to look more balanced, so I roughed in a swash there so it would add visual width...
Note that at this point I planned on putting the "3" endmark (which signifies the end of each story of the interior) within the "C" because I thought it would look cool. It did look very cool. But it also added clutter and distraction, so it was dropped. Also note that I was planning on hiding a backwards "3" in the swash to be clever. This would also be dropped for clutter.
And here you can see me once again going crazy with the guides so I can line everything up in a mathematically-pleasing manner...
From there it's just endless futzing around.
Making the leg of the R be swoopy and pretty. Adding curls on the R, C, and E to tie them to the curls on the swash across the T and H. Cleaning up the letterforms by narrowing or widening the space they occupy to better line things up. That kind of thing...
This is what I went to print with because I ran out of futzing time. There are still some minor tweaks I need to take care of until I'm happy with our new logo (starting with the swash going too narrow too quickly and looking jerky as it crosses the "T", which really, really bugs me). The work is never truly done until the deadline arrives, and even then it doesn't stop.
That's "design" in a nutshell.
Overall I'm quite happy with the logo because I think it fits my objectives well and looks nice on the shelf. So way to go, me!
If this kind of stuff interests you, tune in tomorrow when I discuss the cover art... then again on Wednesday when I discuss the interior art. Big fun awaits.
Posted on Tuesday, January 12th, 2021
This is part two of a three-part dive into the redesign of Thrice Fiction magazine on the occasion of releasing the first issue of Volume 2. If you missed it, you can read Part One right here.
After the type had been selected and the logo had been designed, I moved to the cover. Our old magazine was graced with a variety of amazing artists contributing their talents but, just like with Volume One, I decided to do the first one myself.
I had many, many ideas.
For the longest time I had it in my head that since this was a relaunch, I was going to have a young boy on a tropical island looking up to the heavens... while a bunch of missiles were ready to launch nearby. I liked that it was implying even paradise can be meanacing. I ultimately abandoned this idea for being too dark but, never fear, I repurposed the idea for a piece on the interior.
The next day I woke up and couldn't remember the name of my favorite restaurant in Prague (maybe I was dreaming about it?), so I went to my blog and searched for it (the name is Lehká Hlava, and it has my highest recommendation). Two images above where I was talking about the restaurant is one of my most favorite photos I've taken of all time...
Now... you may be asking yourself... is that angel drowning a cupid baby angel in a bathtub? Or maybe a chicken? I honestly don't know, but it sure looks that way to me!
Despite the horror element, I always thought she was gorgeous. And the fact that I was blessed with those stormy skies just makes the photo that much more beautiful to me.
And that's when I had a thought... if Thrice Fiction is undergoing a rebirth, of sorts, we're essentially drowning Volume 1 in a bathtub (even though you can still read all 27 issues for FREE on our site). Maybe this is the image I'm going for?
Except this is going to be sold in book stores, and I thought the angsty, brooding, dark imagery has been done to death. Such a cover would fade into the rest of the books. Soooo... what if the angel was drowning the cupid in broad daylight... under bright blue skies? How disturbing would that be? Very. And so... I went through my photo archives to find the original image and see if it was something I could work with.
Bad news. It was cropped too tight and there wasn't enough in the original image to create a cover out of. Oh well. Back to the drawing board. Except... I had visited that cemetery on the day prior when it wasn't rainy and dark. Maybe with better weather I stuck around longer to take more photos? Turns out I did!
The second photo had the same angle I liked from the original photo, but it wasn't the cover I wanted. Too dark. Cropped too tight. It would never work.
Except... maybe it would if I put some work into it? Let's take a look, shall we?
Well, lightening it up a bit showed that there's enough pixel information in the shadows to work with... but how will I fill in the missing information at the bottom? Hmmm... remember that first photo that was kinda boring and flat? How about I cut out of that one and see if I can make use of it...
Oh yeah. That's perfect. I can easily warp it into a base for my murdering angel...
Cool. But there's still a long ways to go before this is the cover I've got in my head. First of all I have to paint in the missing bits and paint out the panels with stock photos so the names of our contributing authors can be easily read. It also needs to be much, much brighter. And maybe I could place a building back behind it to add a little visual interest? I've got tons of photos of Prague, so I could probably find one that works. And, say, what if instead of a bright blue sky I tried a brilliant orange sky in an attempt to tie everything together into a cohesive image?
Blergh. That building is adding nothing but confusion. It needs to go. And while I like the idea of an orange sky, that's a color that doesn't reproduce well in CMYK printing, so I really think it needs to be blue like I originally envisioned...
Now we're getting somewhere.
From here on out it's a lot of painting. There's a "watercolor" filter I use to speed up the process, but you can't just push a button and have all the work done for you. Well, actually you can do that, it's just that the results aren't that great. I go in and repaint features... do the watercolor filter... see what works and what needs to be worked on... undo the watercolor filter... then repeat. FOR HOURS! The face of the angel is practically untouched, and I went very light on the watercolor, because I wanted it to be easily "understood" by the reader. The further I got away from her face, the more radical the repainting becomes. I adjust contrast... add stock photo paint splotches for interest... simplify details to be more impressionistic for the watercolor filter... it's just refine... refine... refine...
Eventually I get to a point where I've gone too far. So I step back to a previous version and I'm done. Thrice Fiction is reborn...
You'll note that the black strip on the left side (a carryover from the original magazine design) was abandoned. There's precious little horizontal space on the smaller book size, and I wanted to devote as much cover area as possible so our artists can fill it up. I also zoomed in on the angel quite a lot because I thought it was more impactful and prettier to look at this way.
Not exactly what I had in my head, but pretty close... murdered cupid and all. You can buy a copy with its glorious 128 pages for just $12 at the Lulu Book Shop.
Tomorrow I'll take a look at the interior of the book and go through all that drama for you. Sounds like fun, no?
Posted on Wednesday, January 13th, 2021
This is part three of a three-part dive into the redesign of Thrice Fiction magazine on the occasion of releasing the first issue of Volume 2. If you missed it, you can read Part One right here and Part Two right here.
With all 27 FREE issues of Volume 1 of Thrice Fiction, I had the luxury of color. It was designed from the very beginning with color in mind. The focus of each issue, the stories, were (out of necessity) black and white for readability. I carried this theme to the contributor photos, which were also black and white. Everything else (i.e. the art) would be in color.
The problem with color is that it's expensive. Very expensive. But you can justify it when you have a small number of pages because the cost doesn't have a chance to accumulate that much. Since the format for Volume 2 was over a hundred pages, it wasn't an option. All interior pages would be black and white so we wouldn't have to charge $50 a copy.
All our artists were in a pandemic for 2020, so I decided to just do all the interior art myself after a few false starts in rounding up contributors. This actually turned out for the best, because I had no idea how our publisher (Lulu) would reproduce greyscale art. Since it's just me, I made a list of different styles to experiment with... line art... photo art... vector art... and so on.
And here's how that went.
Ann Bogle is a remarkable writer and it's always been a thrill to see her work in our pages. Needless to say that when RW informed me that she would be the "featured contributor" for our debut issue, I was thrilled. I read through all her stories a couple times looking for an idea... but I kept coming back to the second paragraph of her very first story, Credenza, where it was Abe Lincoln's 200th birthday. It's just too dang good an image to ignore. So I didn't...
Originally there was no "happy birthday" banner in the background, as the idea was to put a party hat on top of Lincoln's famous stovepipe hat. It proved too clutzy, so I made the change. Also? Abraham Lincoln was originally drawn as a decomposing corpse, because that's the only way I could still have his beard on there. But that was pretty gruesome, so I went with a skeleton head, left the beard, and took all the rotting flesh off his hands. No, it doesn't make sense, but I actually think it's more humorous this way. This was knocked out on my iPad in ProCreate over a couple nights while watching Hallmark movies.
If you read yesterday's entry, you know that I was originally planning on the cover being a little boy looking up to the heavens as missiles stand ready to launch (for our relaunch, get it?). I thought this might be a little dark, but I liked the idea of the image so much that I decided to draw it up and slap it in the interior as a break-point...
I thought this actually turned out better than what was in my head. I also think it probably works better as a block-cut than a color painting. The palms are extracted from a photo I took on the Big Island of Hawaii. The boy, Saturn, and the missiles are stock photos I cut out. It was all assembled in Photoshop, had extraction filters and edge filters run on it, then I imported it to ProCreate on my iPad so I could add texture and linework.
Amantine Brodur's work was a tough challenge to typeset because half of what makes it work is the formatting. Translating the formatting of The Anaphora House from a MS Word document to book pages took a long, long time of goofing around until I was satisfied that I had done the best job I could. Then a couple days later I would look at it again and decide to change half of it. =sigh= There was an abundance of riches to be had when it came time to figuring out what I wanted to do for the art. But once I got to the section titled Empires of Toast I just knew that was going to be where my piece came from...
This is just pure symbolism, "empires" being represented by a chess set. I knew I wanted a toaster ejecting "toast" on the board, but I took it a bit further than that. The "theme" of our "Subject Paper" this issue was discussing "cultural appropriation." I drew a white pawn also ejecting from the toaster, the idea being that it wants to appear black, but couldn't take the heat that comes from being black. Deep, I know.
Eckhard Gerdes packs a lot in the slightly more than four pages of The Babble-Ons. I went from worrying that there wouldn't be enough visual ideas to draw from... to being completely overwhelmed by how much there was to choose from. I abandoned the idea of pulling literal passages and instead combined a rowboat and snails because I thought it would make for a fun image...
Don't ask me how that snail is rowing his boat. This is a half-dozen stock photos which have been reworked and combined into a single image in Adobe Photoshop... then outlined in Adobe Illustrator. I wanted to have an example for future artist contributors so they could see how photos reproduce at Lulu and how contrast has to be heightened to get something other than a mushy grey blob. It took a lot more effort than I was anticipating, and I'm pretty sure I put in just under three hours for an image that would have taken me 20 minutes if it were in color.
Art was never going to be the focus of Volume 2. It was always going to be the written word. But I still wanted some art in there to add breaks between sections and pieces. This was an idea I had years ago that I never did anything with, but kinda liked the thought of dusting it off and retooling it to be a collage overlaid by block-print. Something about the concept of aliens invading and not caring which god you worship reeeeeally stuck with me...
I cannot for the life of me remember where I took the photo of the monk with baby Jesus. I want to say Italy maybe? Columbia? I think it was in a courtyard somewhere. Could even be New Orleans. Since I pulled the photo out of my archives quite a long while ago, I can't remember. Everything else is composed of eight stock photos that I chopped up and combined. Before I started converting, painting, filtering, and drawing on top of it, this is what it looked like...
Had I done this in color, I would have painted over everything to make it "more my own" since all the pieces around the statue were created by somebody else. But it worked really well as a block-cut, so I spent considerable time massaging the pieces in Photoshop so it would work well. Minutes before publishing this issue, I went in and changed baby Jesus's eyes and the cross on the monk's robe to pure white and did a heavier outline around Jesus so they stood out better.
Originally I had created this art for the subject essay Who Do You Think You Are? by Franny Forsman which discusses cultural appropriation. This is a subject which hits at me personally from a number of different directions, and almost everybody has an opinion... from weak ("I don't care and don't see anything wrong with it because it doesn't affect me") to very strong ("This is pillaging my people and my culture and using it in inappropriate ways which I find deeply insulting"). Despite being 100% white boy with a "cultural heritage" that consists of a hodgepodge of other cultures (AKA "no culture to speak of"), I am in the latter category. And it stems from the simple idea of just being fucking decent and kind to people. If somebody tells you that their culture is not a costume and they are offended when people treat it that way... just pick a different Halloween costume. If somebody tells you that your football team has a shitty name and mascot because it is taken from a painful slur celebrating genocide against their people... just pick a different name. This is not rocket science, and you have to be kinda awful to not want to change when it's pointed out to you. And that's what I was trying to say with this piece depicting a butterfly seeing a poster advertising a movie about a butterfly... starring a cockroach...
This is a composite of a bunch of stock photos that I cut into Photoshop (though I think the butterfly image is mine, taken from a butterfly sanctuary in Australia). The butterfly wings on the cockroach were drawn on in Procreate because I wanted them to look like they were badly colored with a crayon. The credits for my fake movie Butterfly are actually taken from the movie poster for White Boy Rick, which seemed appropriate. Ultimately I worried that any art put in front of such a serious subject would be distracting and inappropriate and decided to go with no art at all. But I kinda liked what Cheap Imitation was saying, so I stuck it at the back of the book.
And there you have it... all the art I came up with for the first issue of Volume 2! You can see it all in print by buying a copy with its glorious 128 pages for just $12 at the Lulu Book Shop. A bargain at half the price with some cool stuff to be had!
Posted on Thursday, January 14th, 2021
I honestly thought that once I got my Uninterruptible Power Supply that I'd never have a power outage again. That's just how things go for me. A problem comes up again and again and again... spend money to handle the problem for next time... the problem never happens again. I'm sure I'm not alone.
Installed my UPS on November 18th... had a power outage this past Tuesday.
Well I'll be darned!
Must to my delight, the UPS operated exactly as it was supposed to. My home automation, internet router, and NAS drive never lost power and there was no need to spend hours restarting and recovering my data with an "integrity check." Nice. So a big thank you to CyberPower for making a product that actually works. I was beginning to think that such a thing didn't exist any more.
Like my Samsung television. Less than five years old and the backlighting is already starting to screw up. My previous Sony television (now in my bedroom) has lasted over a decade. My television before that (a massive Sony widescreen tube television) lasted over 15 years. At this rate, my next television will last for 1-1/2 years? Holy crap.
Winter has been a massive disappointment this year.
Despite getting plenty cold for snow, it's mostly been rain. Any snow we get turns to rain the next day which leaves us with a mushy mess and icy streets. The day of my power outage two days ago, I found myself waking to at least 6 inches of snow. Then it sprinkled rain. So when I peeked out my window and could see cars sliding and getting stuck, I decided to work at home for a bit and wait for the snowplow. But eventually I needed to go into the office and took a chance. It's a tricky business. You have to drive fast enough so that you don't get stuck... but slow enough that you're not spinning out. I had a few dicey moments, but eventually made it to the main road. Just as I was congratulating myself, the snowplow turned onto my road.
Of course the guys hired to plow my driveway did it before the snowplow arrived, which meant a massive berm of snow was blocking my driveway when I got home. Not wanting to get out and shovel, I decided to accelerate to ramming speed and just bust my way through. Which went fine... but it sure felt like parts were going to be ripped out of my undercarriage.
As the berm has melted and re-froze each day, it's now become more of a ice curb than a snow berm. That cannot be solved by busting through it, so I've kinda created a path for my tires to drive through that gets me into my garage.
Probably should have just shoveled it while I had the chance.
But I know the minute I spend money for a snow shovel to solve the problem next time, it will never happen again, so I'm just going to pretend to be oblivious so I can save a buck.
You should know by now that I never learn.
Posted on Friday, January 15th, 2021
And so now I know what it's like to be wealthy!
I had a coupon for trying out the HelloFresh meal service. And, since their vegetarian options no longer seem to revolve exclusively around mushrooms (which I can't eat) and cauliflower or broccoli (which I won't eat), I took them up on their introductory offer. I signed up, selected vegetarian meals that sounded good, and got excited over trying something new.
My first box was due to arrive next week. For whatever reason, they screwed up and sent it this week. Which wouldn't have bothered me, except they sent meat dishes. I contacted them to explain the problem, they immediately credited me the cost, then told me to dispose of the carnivorous meals as I wished. So I gave all the meat to a neighbor and decided to try to refashion the recipes to be vegetarian with the ingredients which were left over.
The reason I now know what it's like to be wealthy is that my box from Martha and Marley Spoon also arrived this week, which means I had six complete meals in my refrigerator ready to be cooked for dinner with leftovers for the following day's lunch. SCORE! I could never afford to do this on a regular basis, but boy is it awesome knowing that I don't have to think about what to cook or worry about going to the grocery store.
The first meal I wanted to try was "Bulgogi Lime Pork Tenderloin"... without the tenderloin.
It was essentially sweet potato and pepper dices sauteed with scallions, garlic, and Bulgogi sauce mixed with lime. Not much of a meal without the pork, but if I cook some hard rolls with cheese to pair with it, I thought it might be nice.
One of the first things you have to do is zest the lime. "Zesting" is not a new concept for me because Martha Stewart wants you to do it all the time in her recipes... it's just that I've never understood how to do it. When I searched on YouTube I saw that people "zested" by using what looked like a teeny-tiny cheese grater. Something I didn't have.
Except I thought that I did, because when you look inside the handle of my box grater, there looks like what appears to be a small grater. Alas, any time I attempted to use it for zesting, all it did was gum up with lime peel and I never actually got any tiny grated anything out of it. Wanting to know what I was doing wrong, I Facetimed a friend who works in a kitchen restaurant and asked her by holding it up to the camera and asking her how to use it.
The first thing she said was "Well, first thing you have to do is remove it so that the peel doesn't end up in the handle." It was charming that she thought me that dense, but I explained to her that it doesn't come out easily. In order to get it out, I had to use two pair of pliers and nearly busted the thing.
"Wait. Let me look at that again... move it close so I can see."
"I have no idea what that is, but it's not a zester!"
"See how there's no grates? It just looks like pokey spikes!"
"Maybe it's supposed to be a masher or tenderizer of some kind?"
"Yeah, you need to go buy an actual zester. Sorry."
And so I did. And it arrived today. I got one by Oxo Good Grips, which makes my favorite kitchen utensils and gadgets. It was expensive... $12 compared to others costing less than half that... but I knew it would probably be safer, smarter, and last longer, so I invested the money...
Martha Stewart would be so proud.
And so now I can finally zest a lime or a lemon and make all those recipes correctly that call for zesting a lime or a lemon.
Pretty grate, huh? (HA HA HA HA HAAAA! I slay me!)
So wish me luck with my first zesting experience. I'll let you know if I end up with my fingertips missing.
Posted on Saturday, January 16th, 2021
When I first got Jake and Jenny, it was recommended I get a Feliway diffuser which releases pheromones that calm nervous cats. I kept using them even after they had acclimated, because I felt it probably helped when I was away traveling as well. The other night I noticed that the diffuser had ran out, which helped to explain why my cats had been curiously cautious lately. Like when I come home and they book up the stairs and won't come down right away when I call them...
So I replaced it. The next day they were all over each other. When I came home they didn't even come greet me. They were too busy giving each other a bath and couldn't be bothered...
When I looked at the security camera footage I saw they were being sweet to each other all night as well...
In other cat news... Jake came in crying one morning while I was working in bed. I assumed that he couldn't find Mufasa, so I went to look (otherwise I wouldn't be able to get back to work). Mufasa was on top of a pile of toys that Jenny was building, so I grabbed him and went to give him to Jake. He turned his head and would not even look at his favorite toy...
I thought they were friends again when Jake dragged him in the next morning...
But then throughout the day, Mufasa was left on my bed...
I went to bed at midnight, but Jenny woke me up at 2am crying her head off. I had no idea why, so it was back to the security camera footage. Turns out that Jenny was sleeping when Jake came up and woke her up. This made her so upset that she decided to wake ME up. And that's when I noticed that Mufasa was still where Jake had left him...
So is the honeymoon between Jake and Mufasa over?
Keep tuning in to find out!
Posted on Sunday, January 17th, 2021
Don't let the Wintertime blues get you down... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Betty! As somebody who loved Betty White long before it was cool, I am thrilled to wish her a happy 99th birthday today!
Betty's last work was reprising her role as the voice of "Bitey White" from Toy Story 4 in 2019. Wisely, she has quarantined herself against the pandemic so as to stay safe throughout 2020. I sure as heck hope that there's some televised special featuring the legions of stars who she's worked with over the years on the occasion of her 100th birthday.
• It Worked! This is the best thing I found on the internet this past week... and it's from August 2019...
Live your dreams, people. The guy in the photo is Abdul, an astrophotographer with some incredible images on his Twitter feed.
• Public Record? “I believe we will find that there’s going to be a huge hole in the historical record of this president because I think there’s probably been serious noncompliance of the Presidential Records Act.” — Because the first thing a totally innocent person does is destroy evidence, right?
• WandaVision! Last Thursday night I stayed up for the midnight release of WandaVision's first two episodes on Disney+. While they are obviously building towards something, both of them seemed like a waste of time. If I wanted to watch cheesy old black-and-white TV shows, I'd tune in to Nick at Night (or whatever). The first episode was only 20 minutes of actual show (the second was closer to 30), and they STILL felt too long. If the setup is that Wanda is mentally trapped in old TV shows, they could have crammed all that in the first episode and moved on to the ACTUAL show after. As it is, it just seems like senseless padding. So I dunno.
Maybe as they go deeper into the story these episodes will feel worth it. But right now? Not really.
• NEWSFLASH! Footprints Lead to Missing Hikers Lost on California Mountain for 5 Days. I'm just going to put this right here as a reminder... if you go hiking without a LifeStraw... even if it's just supposed to be a simple day hike that you've done a hundred times before... you may very well be risking your life. Anything can happen. You can go a fairly long time without food. You can't last long at all without water. LifeStraw can turn even a muddy puddle into water that won't kill you. Indeed, it could be a puddle that saves your life. Amazon has LifeStraw available for $15 right here.
• Magical? Magic Spoon low-carb, no-grain cereal is practically tasteless... when I first tried it, I thought I had The COVID because I couldn't taste anything. I will not be ordering again. Except the shit was SO expensive, that I've been trying to eat it all so I'm not wasting money. But the biggest issue I have... even more so than the lack of taste? It's their stupid fucking boxes. They sell the cereal direct. There's no need to glue the thin-as-paper box so heavily that there is NO WAY to open them without ripping them to shit. On my fourth box I was even trying to use a knife so I could open it without tearing anything. NOPE! The glue is actually HEAVIER THAN THE DAMN BOX MATERIAL. Why? It's not like it's sitting on a shelf somewhere! They really don't need to use glue on the lid AT ALL since the bags are sealed and it's going direct to consumers! This is the stupidest damn thing, and I just don't get it.
It's almost as if Magic Spoon is saying "FUCK YOU! HA HA HA! JUST TRY TO GET THE FUCKING BOX OPEN IN ONE PIECE!!!" Which is an interesting tact to take when your cereal is this bland. I mean, I never expected it to taste like sugar cereal, but dang. Artifical flavors are cheap. Try adding some.
Have a great rest of your Winter, everybody.
Posted on Monday, January 18th, 2021
Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day, everybody!
I am fortunate enough to get the day off, but I still ended up working so I could get caught up while not having new work dropped on me. That's almost like a holiday right there!
As is my custom, I started my day by listening to his I Have A Dream speech in its entirety. I also pulled out my copy of The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. which I haven't re-read in a while. Last year I re-read Where Do We Go from Here and the year before that Strength to Love, so it's time to be inspired.
Illustration from Doodles by Drea
And now... I should probably clean my house or wash clothes or make dinner or do something productive. Though I've already performed a firmware update on my NAS and backed up my files, so maybe that counts as productivity?
Still need to make dinner and clean my kitchen though.
That's more than enough productivity.
Posted on Tuesday, January 19th, 2021
tl;dr... I'm too old for this shit
This is undoubtedly Too Much Information, but I've gone without sex for so long now that I think that I might be over it. As in... I'm done. It's over. Pack up my dick, put it on a shelf, and call it a day. I've managed to survive since August, 2019 without it, so sayonara sexy time. We had a good run.
Because whether you're in a relationship or not, sex always has a cost. And the longer I've gone without, the more I'm beginning to think the cost is too damn high. Not literal "cost"... as in money (though that can certainly be a factor when you're single)... but the cost that comes any time you invest yourself mentally, emotionally, and physically with another person.
In other words, I really am too old for this shit.
I suppose it only stands to reason that this would happen. I have been done with actual relationships for at least a decade. Maybe two. Sure I stumble into them on occasion but, try as I might, it's just not something I'm able to make work long-term. And despite my being brutally up-front about this, there are still women who seem to want to give it a go... I get all goofy and say "okay"... then give it my best shot because relationships are so nice at the beginning that I want it to work... then try to act shocked when it doesn't, even though I knew better.
At least she believes me when we both realize things are not working out and I say "It's not you, it's me"... I said as much at the very beginning.
Is it any wonder that I am so addicted to crappy Hallmark rom-coms? Watching a fantasy world where people fall in love and live happily ever after... all in 90 minutes or less? Well, technically you never SEE a "happily ever after" because the movie ends on their first kiss. For all we know they DON'T live happily ever after. For all we know that kiss was bad. And they've only known each other for a week, after all. I'm sure the bad habits, annoying quirks, and love of banjo music doesn't come out until Week Two (though "Did I happen to mention that I have a meth addiction?" probably doesn't come out until ten years of marriage, three kids, and no teeth). I guess my point is that it's nice to think that they live happily ever after (with or without the meth).
So there you have it. Hallmark movies in lieu of relationships. Porn in lieu of sex. I guess all my bases are covered then?
You tell me. I use blogging in lieu of therapy.
Posted on Wednesday, January 20th, 2021
This is the drama I inevitably go through whenever I attempt to remember how to spell a word that I don't use very often...
Faroe: ALSO: Faeroe Islands (/ˈfɛəroʊ/; Danish: Færøerne) are a North Atlantic archipelago located 320 kilometres (200 mi) north-northwest of Scotland, and about halfway between Norway and Iceland.
No. That's not it.Farrow: María de Lourdes Villiers "Mia" Farrow (/məˈriːə di ˈlʊrdz ˈvɪljərz ˈfæroʊ/; born February 9, 1945) is an American actress, activist, and former fashion model. Farrow has appeared in more than 50 films and won numerous awards, including a Golden Globe Award and three BAFTA Award nominations.
No. That't not it.Farroll: was an admiral in the GalSec troops. She was in charge of an attack on a Wirrn. She was later injured because of a Wirrn. She was infected by the Wirrn to become the new Wirrn Queen. (SEE: British science fiction television programme Doctor Who)
No. That's definitely not it.Farro: Farro refers to the grains of three wheat species, which is sold dried, and cooked in water until soft. It is eaten plain or is often used as an ingredient in salads, soups, and other dishes.
Oh yeah! There it is!
Until recently, I don't know for 100% certain that I've ever had farro before. It certainly never showed up on the dinner table when I was growing up. I have vague-ish memories of probably eating it when I was traveling... like once I think it was served in an airline meal with apricots in it or something like that? I don't know. I'm old and my memory is going.
Suffice to say that farro has not played a big part in my life.
Both Martha Stewart (via Marley Spoon) and HelloFresh have been dropping farro bombs into my life, and I am totes here for it. The stuff is fantastic. Kinda like bulgur or quinoa but not really. I may plow under the grass in my front yard and try to grow it... that's how in love with the stuff I am! Then I'll set up a mill in the back yard so I can process what I grow. Sure it's all gluten, but isn't everything tasty in life? Except cheese, maybe? Cheese and ice cream? Yeah. That sounds about right.
Martha Stewart first dropped farro in my life via "Creamy Farro Fonduta with Roasted Winter Vegetable Medley" that turned out like this...
Except you can't see the cheesy farro fonduta stuff under all that, so here you go...
It's basically farro mixed with cream cheese and fontina. AKA MAGIC ON A FUCKING PLATE!
Then last night my dinner was "Roasted Veggie Farro Bowls with Marinated Cranberries & Salsa Verde Sunflower Pepitas" from HelloFresh...
"But, Dave I thought you hated arugula?" — Well, I do. Arugula is what I imagine sadness and death tastes like. But I examined the recipe carefully and thought "Hmmm. Just maybe the sweet of the sweet potatoes, the tart of the cranberries, the sour of the lemon, and the aroma of the onions will be enough to counteract THE HEINOUS FUCKING BITTERNESS of the arugula? I think I'll try it!" — Then, just to make sure, I wasn't stingy with the salt and pepper AND I threw out 1/3 of the arugula. Worked like a charm! The blending of all the different tastes is incredible. I did end up having to throw out the "veggie stock" that was included (mushroom is a vegetable?) and use my own, but other than that... delicious! HelloFresh "Roasted Veggie Farro Bowls with Marinated Cranberries & Salsa Verde Sunflower Pepitas" FTW!
Boy. Kinda cool that after 54 years on this earth Im still discovering new foods to enjoy!
Posted on Thursday, January 21st, 2021
"So... what knife are you using?"
After 30 years of eating crap, I decided I wanted more out of life than frozen food reheated in a microwave so I signed up for Martha Stewart's meal service via Marley Spoon. It changed everything. I don't necessarily enjoy cooking, but I do love what comes from it. I am eating better now than I have in decades, and it would be tough to ever go back. And once I realized this truth, I started buying new stuff for my kitchen to make my cooking experience better. New tools. New cookware. New gadgets. New ingredients. New knives.
Again and again I heard THE ONE THING EVERY COOK NEEDS BEFORE ANYTHING ELSE IS A GOOD KNIFE! I was told that I could scrimp on a lot of things, but a cook's knife was not one of them. "Spend the $200 it takes to get the very best knife you can afford... it will last a lifetime and be an essential part of every meal you cook!" After I got done changing my underwear at the thought of spending TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS ON ONE FRICKIN' KNIFE I calmed down and scrolled past entire knife sets costing $50, and started researching what the best "fit" for me might be.
I was more accustomed to German-style knives which are total workhorses. They have heft and power to cleave through anything, and I came very close to purchasing a $195 Wüsthof that was most similar to the cheap-ass $18 plastic-handled chef's knife I had been using forever. But then I took another look at Japanese knives. They were harder, thinner, sharper, and seemed more suited to my vegetarian diet. If I wasn't hacking apart cuts of meat, what did I need with a heavier knife?
The rabbit hole you fall into when knife shopping is really, really tough to escape from.
I waffled between various brands for quite a while until I decided on a MAC Professional 8" Chef's Knife. Many, many professionals swore by it, the reviews were stellar, the price wasn't as bad ($150 at discount), and the more I read about it, the more it seemed like it was exactly what I needed.
Then it arrived.
I've always had a knife sharpener which easily and inexpensively keeps my cheap knives at peak sharpness. But it turns out my knives were never sharp at all. Not really. Compared to the MAC Chef's Knife I bought, I might as well have been using a frickin' spoon to slice tomatoes all these years...
I honestly don't know how to adequately describe how sharp this thing it. I really don't. It's razor sharp. It's
This knife scared the shit out of me.
The first thing I did was order a pair of cut-resistant gloves to wear when I cut tough, larger vegetables (like squash). The second thing I did was make a mental note to never use it barefoot. The third thing I did was decide to not toss out my old chef's knife. When I have company cooking with me, the last thing I would want is for them to seriously injure themselves... which is a frightening (but entirely realistic) scenario...
The MAC itself is a work of art.
Yeah, it's ridiculously sharp, but it's also extremely well-balanced. It has some heft, but doesn't get in your way. The bolster is enough to be comfortable, but not too much to keep me from holding it properly. And once I trained myself to cut with such a thin, sharp tool, I felt more in control than I ever did with previous knives. After the fear factor wore off, I grew to love it.
So damn sharp. For softer veggies (like tomatoes) you can just set the knife on it and the thing will practically cut itself. You can shave a sheet of paper with it. After a year of using it, the thing can still scare the shit out of me. Since the steel used can rust easily, you have to clean and dry it immediately after use. No leaving it in the sink until morning. If you're cutting citrus, you have to occasionally rinse it while you're working with it. I learned how to clean knives from a food stylist. You hold the blade edge away from you and wipe from the spine edge only. If you were to foolishly wipe from the blade edge, you'd slice clean through your sponge and your entire hand. That's a doctor visit I definitely do not want, so I am beyond cautious whenever I have this thing in my hands.
To explain just how cautious... I never use it when I've been drinking.
Once you've used a good knife, you kinda get addicted to really great steel. I've since bought a few other quality knives that cost a fortune but are ultimately worth the investment. What I will not be buying is a pointed paring knife. I ended up getting a round-tip paring knife because it seemed safer to me, and that will do just fine, thank you very much!
Unless I actually do need to murder somebody. Seems like the compact size of a paring knife would be a lot easier to conceal than an 8" Chef's Knife!
Posted on Friday, January 22nd, 2021
Despite working my ass off all week I didn't accomplish much of anything. After catching up by working on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I was behind again by the end of the day today.
I won't even mention the loads of chores that need to be done around my house.
What I need is two more of me. Well, not two more exactly like me... more like two of me that haven't been beaten down by a year of COVID and aren't mired in a quarantine malaise. I need two of me from 2019. Or how about two of me from 2000? Sure I didn't know as much, but I had a lote more energy and enthusiasm for life, that's for sure.
I mean, just look at me back in 2000...
Me on the visitation deck of Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur
It's all downhill from there, buddy.
Posted on Saturday, January 23rd, 2021
This biggest news to come out of this past week? I made a major discovery about Jenny, and I have no idea how I failed to realize it before now.
As I've mentioned a couple times, there are nights that Jenny refuses to eat her wet food. It's the same stuff she always gets... mixed with water and mooshed up so she can lick it up... and yet she is 100% uninterested. It drives me crazy, because it's NOT because she's not hungry. That cat is always hungry. So why? Why does she take one sniff and walk away until the dry food is dispensed? Why?
I'll tell you why... odds are I cooked with yellow onions.
There I was having just cooked the filling for some bean and onion flautas. The Alexa alarm rings for dinner time and Jake and Jenny are incredibly excited about it because I'm already in the kitchen. So I dish up the food, mix Jenny's up, microwave for 6 seconds to take the chill off, then set it down. Jake starts wolfing it down immediately. Jenny walks away.
The next evening she's back to normal and laps it right up.
The evening after I am frying up the rest of the onion to use in a tomato sauce. The Alexa alarm rings. I put the food out. And... nothing.
It was as if a light switch turned on in my head.
So I tested my theory three nights later... and yep, there it is. Onion stank is the reason. Apparently if the house has that smell in it she can't smell the wet food enough to think it's "safe to eat" and takes a big ol' pass.
And so I guess any time I am cooking onions I need to start after the cats have been fed and make a late dinner of it. Problem solved.
In other food-related news... last night I had baked potatoes for dinner. Right after taking them out of the oven and getting them dresssed up for consumption, Jake was all over me. He followed me from the kitchen into the living room and stared at me the entire time I was eating...
Look at those owl ears!
I tried multiple times to explain that this was my dinner and he had finished his dinner just ten minutes ago, but he was having none of it.
And in other Jake news... When I came home earlier this week, he didn't come running to the door to meet me like he usually does. When this happens it's 95% likely that the heat is running. And if the heat is running, he climbs the cat tree so it will blow down on him. He loves that. So I take a look and, sure enough, he's up in the cat tree with the heat on. And that's when I notice that this is not the only thing that has happened.
Apparently his lunch did not agree with him, because he projectile vomited it onto the window where it slid down and piled on the window sill...
Since he pukes so rarely, I guess I really don't have cause to complain. It's just that he really knows how to pick his moments, doesn't he?
Oh well. It could always be worse. He could have puked on my bed.
Posted on Sunday, January 24th, 2021
A new era may be dawning, but some things will never change... because an all new Q&A Edition of Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Does the stair shelf you built for your cats work?
Yep! No falls since I installed it! Jenny has never been a banister girl, so she just walks along it on occasion. But Jake still lays up there all the time. Especially in the Summer when the sun shines on it. Since the catwalk I built adds a couple inches to the width, he's a lot more comfortable laying on it, and like to prop his head on the ledge to watch me and Jenny on the stairs. This, along with the catio, are two of the best things I've made to keep my cats safe and healthy.
• Which meal service do you like best?
Are you talking between Martha Stewart & Marley Spoon and "Hello Fresh," the two I am currently using? That's actually a very good question! Both of them allow you to skip weeks (which I do often because they are expensive) so when I do order, I have been bouncing back and forth. Comparing them in a face-off is actually a good idea for a post. I'll do that sometime in the coming week!
• Japanese knives RUST... they are NOT stainless steel!
Yes. When I reading up on knives, this was brought up many, many times. I made my purchase with my eyes wide open. I expected for rust to appear. But it was still the best knife for what I would be cooking, and I just made a mental note to be sure and wash the blade after every use. And I've never seen rust. Until one day I did! I went into a Google panic, found out the easiest way to deal with it was a Rust Eraser, ordered one, and then found out it wasn't actually rust before the eraser ever arrived. It was a piece of food that I didn't get wiped off and only looked like rust. Since I first got it a year ago, I've never seen a speck of rust and my Rust Eraser hasn't even been taken out of the wrapper. My MAC Chef's Knife and Bread Knife are from their "Professional" series which is "rust resistant" but will still rust if you don't wash and dry them immediately after use. I also have some "Original" series knives which are supposed to rust more easily but, as I said, I've never seen any rust on them because I keep them clean and dry.
• Are you still playing Animal Crossing?
Sadly, no. I haven't had time. And I'm scared to look and see how many weeds I'll have to pull in order to get my island back. It's a great game and helped a lot when we were first under quarantine, but I was spending 2+ hours a day playing it and had stop because there were other things I need to do with my time. Might pick it back up one day and just force a time limit so it's not consuming me like it was. Now I've got TikTok for that!
• Where's your Bernie meme?
Ummm... right here!
My house is kept fairly cool in the winter in order to save on heating costs, so Bernie judging me for the temperature... along with Jenny (and Jake, who has clearly turned his back on me)... seems appropriate.
• Are you finally happy now that Biden is president?
No. No I am not. As I have said quite a few times now, Biden was never my guy so I'm not "finally happy" that he's president. I am, however, elated that Trump is no longer president. So there's a big difference there. I won't be truly "happy" until all the career politicians and other assholes who exploit their office for personal gain at the expense of the American people are out of office. I will also be happy once all the pieces of shit who have so severely divided this country are out of office. Alas, what this would take is the American people WAKING THE FUCK UP and realizing that they are being majorly played. But that takes thinking for themselves, and we all know that this is not something we seem to be very good at right now. So... here we are.
• Where's the first place you'll go once you can travel again?
Well, odds are I won't be traveling for work or for volunteering again... at least not any time soon... so it will likely be a personal trip. My guess is it will be one I've been planning for over a year with friends to Maui. We have unfinished business there that we need to take care of. Otherwise? Not entirely sure. It will take a while for the world to get back to normal and I have no idea where my life will be by then.
And that's the last of my answers to questions I've been asked.
Posted on Monday, January 25th, 2021
Back when I was a kid, my family visited my grandmother in California. While there, I was reading the comics in the newspaper and saw that her paper had Garfield, which I thought was about the funniest thing ever. When I got home, my local paper didn't carry it, so my grandmother would cut them out of her paper and send them to me every couple weeks or so. It was a Big Deal.
Eventally, Garfield books were released. My grandma kept sending them.
Eventually, my local paper had Garfield. My grandma kept sending them.
Eventually, I had mostly outgrown Garfield. My grandma kept sending them.
By the time my grandma died, I had quite a stack of them piled up waiting to be read. One day I sat down and started reading them and realized that the real treasure was never the Garfield comics. Sometimes she would send other comic strips that struck her funny. Sometimes she would send a photo of her pets. Sometimes she would send newsclippings of things happening where she lived. And sometimes she would send a letter.
The letters were the most special because reading them made it feel like she was still alive.
That's when I had the idea to save the remaining letters so I could open one every year on her birthday. Which, as you could probably guess, is today. And when I went to the box with all my remotes where I keep them, I saw that there were only two left...
After shaking off the shock of what I had clearly forgotten last year, I started reading through them all...
And now there's just one envelope remaining.
I have to wonder if I'll be opening it one year from now... or saving it for a time I really need it... or never opening it at all because I like the idea of holding onto it. And to her.
My grandmother called me her "Little Politician" because when I was little I used to talk more than any politician she ever heard. She loved animals, and I'm pretty sure that's where I inherited my love of animals from. She made the best enchiladas I've ever had. And she sent me Garfield strips because I liked to read them.
Happy birthday, grandma.
Posted on Tuesday, January 26th, 2021
I have been trying to wrap my head around the logic behind attacking workers who have to enforce mask mandates. They have literally NO control over it. They don't control what elected officials dictate... they don't control what their county dictates... what their company dictates... what their manager dictates. So screaming at them with your anti-mask tirade when there's nothing they can do just makes you the worst possible kind of asshole.
So congratulations! You made a waiter at a cafe break down in tears. And that wasn't good enough, so you started shouting homophobic slurs at him, because apparently you feel his life isn't hard enough already. So... we get it. You are outraged that you have to wear a mask. And you are grossly intolerant of homosexuality. But making this poor minimum-wage earning kid completely break down doesn't win you any victory points. It just shows people how cruel, heartless, and utterly bankrupt you are as a person. You had the opportunity to reach out with kindness and understanding to a young kid just trying to earn a living during these difficult times, but instead you decided to destroy him for no reason over something he has no control over.
Whatever you're taking that allows you to sleep at night... can I get some? Because I haven't been sleeping so well lately and this sounds like it REALLY must knock you out.