I never get mad at my cats.
It doesn't matter what they do that's "bad," I can never bring myself to get upset at a cat for being a cat. My cats make that pretty easy. They're well-behaved, for the most part, and don't get into to much trouble. Now that they're grown, they never scratch at the furniture or pee on stuff or anything like that (so far, anyway)...
On occasion there are problems. One of them will get to a place they're not supposed to be and break something, for example. But... how can that be their fault? More likely my fault for not anticipating the problem and preventing it. If I'm mad at anybody, it should be me.
It occurred to me a while back that if I can't get mad at my cats, shouldn't I be able to translate that passivity to people?
The Trump presidency has caused a lot of anger in me this past year. His dangerous ignorance, utter stupidity, and inhuman ability to not give a crap about people he is supposed to be representing as president... it grates on me like nothing else ever has. I find myself consumed with rage on a near-daily basis because every day it's just more of the same horrendous shit raining down on the world from The White House. Or, more likely, whatever golf course President Trump is occupying this week.
As somebody who honestly believes that anger is more destructive on the person who has it rather than those it's directed at, I know this it not healthy. Not for me. Not for the people I care about. Not for my cats.
And so, after completely unplugging from the world for two weeks in Antarctica and becoming accustomed to not being angry every waking moment, I made myself a promise to try and be more pragmatic, caring, and less angry in the new year. To attempt to let my anger go and focus on positive things so that I can help be a solution instead of being part of the static that divides us.
And then... just as I was making my mind up, it happens. A tweet President Trump unleashed finds its way into my news cycle...
And see... here is why my "letting go" of my anger is so tough. When it comes to my new commitment to setting aside hatred, I've already failed the test. Because stupid-ass shit like this just reinforces how utterly brain-dead and dangerous this fucking asshole actually is for this country and the world, and I can't help but be angry about that.
He has no clue... none... what climate change entails, nor does he care. And yet he speaks as if he's an authority on the matter. This is the same idiot who thought that hairspray quality today isn't as good as it used to be because ozone-depleting CFCs have been banned from aerosols... the same CFCs that he said could never affect the ozone layer because his apartment is "all sealed."
And yet... here we are. And here I am. Right back to where I was in 2017.
There's more stupid-ass tweets to come, I'm sure. There always are. And that's not even the start of it. I'm sure he'll find a way to keep assaulting all the Americans he loathes in short order... the non-Christian Americans, the unhealthy Americans, the Mexican Americans, the gay Americans, the poor Americans... whatever... the list is never-ending. And that doesn't even touch crap like his assault on net-neutrality, something that I am beyond passionate about.
And so... what?
What to do with the torrents of overwhelming Trump-initiated anger that very nearly destroyed me in 2017?
I honestly don't know. I wish I could argue against his fucked-up agenda without getting so enraged about it, but that's something I'm apparently incapable of doing. President Trump is an affront to everything I care about.
And yet I have to try.
I have to do better in 2018.
I could never ignore what's going on in the world in order to make myself be happier. Ignorance just allows ignorance to propagate. But the same could be said for hate.
And so... a plan.
Easier said than done to be sure. But, as I said, I'm going to try. Finding more positive inspirations in my life that encourage me to make the jump will probably help...
And here we go...
Jake needs to lose four pounds.
Which is not easy because he will eat every bit of food that I put out as soon as he can get it. Jenny prefers to graze over time, which means the minute she steps away Jake will pounce on her food immediately.
I've gotten a little more proactive in taking food away and putting out smaller and smaller amounts that I can ration so Jake isn't devouring food meant for Jenny.
Jake is not taking his diet well.
Tonight I caught him eating from a bag of dry food I was foolish enough to leave on the kitchen counter. He knows exactly what it is... and apparently knows how to open a sealable bag as well...
I yelled for him to get down, which he did.
Not five minutes later, Jenny hopped on the counter to see if she could get away with snagging a bite or two...
I yelled at her before she could manage it, and she won't look at me now. Even once I called her to come up to bed, she refuses to look me in the eye. Which means I've been getting snubbed and side-eyed all night...
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
If I am killed in my sleep, check for claw marks.
UPDATE: I've been asked how much food they get. Jake and Jenny get three tablespoons of dry food and a tablespoon of wet food twice a day (each). Jenny doesn't know what to do about wet food. She ate it as a kitten, but now she just licks it. Jake will then walk over and polish off her gravy-free wet food before tackling his dry food. So, essentially, Jenny is eating less than a half cup a day while Jake is eating over half cup a day, when it really should be reversed...
I bought some expensive stainless steel bowls that spread the food out while keeping it centered so that they avoid "whisker fatigue"... but my cats don't seem to care, so I still use bowls for their wet food. As they wear out (or break) I've been replacing them with shallower bowls in the hopes that the cats find them easier to eat from.
Between the weather and my work schedule there's nothing much else going on in my life.
Except for the cats, of course...
Turns out I didn't close the pots and pan cupboard, so Jake and Jenny were climbing all over in there. This is great, because I was dying to wash six loads of metal in the dishwasher, and now's my chance!
"You're only as good as your last haircut."
Growing up, I never had to pay for haircuts. Or rather, my parents never had to pay for haircuts. My grandpa was a barber, and he liked me enough that haircuts were no charge...
After my grandpa retired, he still cut my and my brother's hair. He had a barber chair and all his tools in his basement and, since there's few things better than a free haircut, he was forced to come out of retirement every other month.
Eventually, cutting hair was too difficult for my grandfather's eyes and I had to venture out into unknown territory... paying for haircuts. Not that I ended up getting many haircuts at that point...
For most of my life I ended up paying for haircuts until the day came that I desperately needed a haircut but couldn't afford one. I had bought some hair clippers ages ago, but never had the guts to use them... until I had to. And it wasn't no Flowbee like I dreamed of owning either...
No, it was real, honest-to-goodness Whal brand clippers.
And my cut didn't turn out that bad...
The problem with cutting my own hair is that I don't cut it often enough. I wait until it's so long that it's not at all easy to cut.
Such was the case today.
I hadn't washed my hair since Wednesday because it's always easier to cut when it has some stank in it (which meant my Boston Red Sox cap was my best friend for the past couple days). But no amount of stank will give me a flawless cut because no matter how many times I run the clippers over my head, I always miss spots. Which is why I cut my hair on a Friday. That way I have a weekend where I can re-cut and re-re-cut before people have to see me again on Monday.
Hopefully by then all the missed spots get cut.
Interesting to note the similar images that popped up when using Google to find the blog entry where I cut my hair. It's a who's who of Dave doppelgängers...
Yeah yeah yeah... but let's take a closer look at result No. 50...
Google image search thinks I look like Ryan Reynolds!
Yes, I had to suffer 48 photos of Google thinking I look like Captain Cold from The Flash, Jason Statham, Arsenal from Arrow, Brad Pitt, Bradley Cooper, Captain America, Paul Walker, Shemar Moore, Justin Timberlake, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Zac Efron to get to Ryan Reynolds... but I totes look like Ryan Reynolds! My hetero man-crush for decades! (so much so that Jake my cat's full name is "Jacob Ryan Reynolds Simmer).
Just when you think Friday can't get any better!
Time for a shower. I'm done with my stank head.
Everybody: "Did you watch the State of the Union address?"
Me: "Fuck, no."
In an effort to remain more positive in 2018 than I was in 2017, I have made a huge effort to avoid things that will send me into fits of absolute rage.
Which is also why I am no longer accepting babysitting jobs. So please don't ask me.
This evening it snowed a little bit, but that quickly turned to rain and everything melted away.
It's the first day of February, and it's feeling very much like late March. Possibly even April. Which okay, I suppose... but we sure didn't get much winter this season. So now it's time to start worrying about drought for this coming Summer.
Turns out that if you live in my neck of the woods and want to build a snowman, your time is running out...
Note that the only reason my yard has this much snow on it is that Mr. Plow deposited everything from the driveways onto it (and took a chunk out of my lawn again).
Guess it's a good thing that my snowman-making days are behind me...
The good news to come out of all this? Pretty soon I'll be able to park my car outside and turn my garage into a wood shop again.
When I bought a house, I truly was not prepared for how much work it would be. My HOA fees cover the yard care and the snow removal... what else is there?
Turns out there's a lot.
Tons of little tasks that add up and overwhelm you day after day. For the longest time I just ignored them until forced to deal with them, but then I started writing all the little things down on a "Daily Chores List" and tackle a new task every day. Sometimes it's something quick and easy... like washing the bathroom mirrors. Other times it's something more involved like fixing the toilet handle or replacing the washers in my kitchen faucet.
Today's chore was three-and-a-half hours of cleaning out my toolbox and organizing my screws/nails/fasteners/etc. storage chests.
It would have probably gone faster, except I had "help" from my cats...
They simply would not stop "helping." They'd climb in any open box or bag. They'd root through every container and bag of garbage. Half my time was spent wrangling cats.
Jake and Jenny just loooooove to "help." Like when they "helped" with my taxes...
And, of course, they were right there to "help" when I was cleaning out my dresser and end-table...
When a new order of food and toys arrives from Chewy, the only "help" they're interested in is composting the packing paper...
I suppose I should be grateful that I have such kind-hearted and helpful cats?
After I finished mopping all my floors as my Chore-of-the-Day, I decided to get to work and turned on my television for some background noise. Then, once again, I got a "Cannot Communicate with the Satellite Dish" message. I assumed it was the cable to my DVR that was dying, because I can usually wiggle it and get things working again. But not today.
And so... I had to postpone work and go buy a new cable.
That was the easy part. The hard part was replacing the cable because I have all my cords wrapped up, and replacing one of them means having to unravel others too...
Since I was already having to wade through all my cables, I decided to just disconnect everything and start over. I've made several changes since I first organized everything, and the mess has gotten a bit out of control. Also... I wanted to relocate my stereo receiver because the cats like to lay on it for warmth, and I worry it's not getting enough ventilation and might blow out...
Unfortunately this is a much bigger project than it may first appear. The IKEA media center I have is a really poor design because the shelves don't have enough space to fit my receiver. I decided to modify the unit by taking out the middle drawer, building a shelf there, cutting out the back so I can run cables, then moving the center shelf up an inch-and-a-half...
While I was at it, I decided to see if moving my router off the top would interfere with the WiFi signal. Turns out it did not, so I decided to move it along with the receiver. This is nice, because now all I have on top of my media center is the center channel speaker and Alexa. Much cleaner, and my living room looks less cluttered.
Once the noise from drilling and sawing was done and the cats came out of hiding, I was surprised at how quickly Jake noticed that his favorite sleeping spot had vanished...
When Jenny finally noticed, she was not happy. Not happy at all...
The cats then tried to find a new "favorite sleeping spot," but nothing seemed to make them happy...
And now I realize that I should have waited a day to do all this since tomorrow is their visit to the vet, and that's going to be traumatic enough without them losing their stereo receiver napping spot.
Probably more traumatic for me than for them. Which is why I've been dreading tomorrow all year.
My addiction to home renovation shows has reached critical mass. My list of woodworking projects I want to do has gotten so long now that I would have to retire if I even wanted to make a dent in it.
Right now I'm excited for Spring to come so I can turn my garage into a woodworking shop again and get started on two (well, actually three) projects...
That's months of work given that I can only work nights and weekends.
I've got another project I'd really like to tackle.
I want a pergola on my patio.
Well, a pergola over the part of the patio which remains after I built a catio out there. It might also be cool to build a cat run into it with seating on top, like yo...
That way I could sit outside and read a book under a little bit of shade while my cats run around. Big Fun for all of us!
By far, the biggest project I've ever tackled, if I end up doing it... but it looks like a lot Big Fun to build too!
Since this past Caturday was spent discussing a cat of an entirely different kind... Black Panther... I am picking up the slack by posting my crazy cat lady stuff today.
One of my best finds in the cat toy arena is a new scratching post that the cats have been loving because it's really tall. Unlike most posts, they can stretch out as much as they want and not run out of pole. On top of that, they can climb it like a tree, which is something they both love to do. But Jake is a little more enthusiastic about making a game out of it. Set a toy on top, and he'll jump and climb his way up to grab it and throw it off...
He's kind of violent about it, so you have to be sure that your hands and other protruding body parts are kept clear...
It's all fun and games until Jenny makes noise jumping up on the couch and scares him just as he's reached his goal...
The reason Jenny is jumping up on the couch is because I set my freshly-laundered pants there. For whatever reason, that's always an open invitation for her to jump up and use my jeans as her personal scratching post. Or, as in this case, bite the crotch out. Which is exactly what I want her to do if somebody ever tries to grab my pussy...
As I've previously mentioned, nobody appreciates a good belly rub like Jenny does. Every night when I go up to bed, she sprints up for her nightly belly rub. And she will stare at you until she gets her way. Or, if she's really impatient, she'll start meowing at you...
Since Jake got a video this time, here's Jenny's...
When it comes to using the litter box, Jenny has gotten increasingly insistent on having a clean place to poop in. She loves a clean box so much that if something goes wrong with the Litter-Robot and she has to wait too long for it to cycle, she has zero problem waking me up at 4:00am to fix that. Last night I noticed her sticking her head in the litter box acting like she was scared to go in...
Then I saw that the red light was on, which meant that Jake must have beat her there, and Litter-Robot was waiting five minutes before it cycles, which allows the waste to clump and be disposed of more easily. This is no big deal, because Jenny is perfectly content to wait for it to clean itself. I've seen her do so many times.
But this time?
This time she started meowing for Litter-Robot to hurry up.
I started laughing because just when I think my cats can't surprise me... they go and do something like this.
Jenny was watching television, but I had to pause in order to take care of something and the cityscapes screensaver activated. Jenny was not please about this. Not pleased at all. In fact, I think she was quite cross.
I don't know why. That's one beautiful screensaver. I've not been to Dubai yet, and that Blade-Runner-esque view makes me want to visit real soon now.
And that's all I got. See you next Caturday... which is a short five days away!
The weather has been weird lately.
Just when you think that Winter is over and Spring us here, it snows. Lately any new snow hasn't been sticking around long... the sun or rain washes it away... but there's still been old snow hanging around.
Until this week, when the last of it finally melted...
And so... I guess that's that for Winter. At least in my neck of the woods.
Though never say never, because we could end up in a blizzard tomorrow if Mother Nature has other plans.
Ignore me if you will, but this is a subject that means something to me.
Credit card debt is a pariah that will consume you. And now that interest rates are going to increase past the already absurd rates that credit card companies charge (thank you Federal Reserve!), it's more important than ever to get yourself out of credit card debt if you have any. Large balances are designed to keep you paying high interest charges forever, without ever fully paying off your debt. It's a trap... and it's really tough to get out of once you're caught in it.
I know this, because I've been there.
During my two years in college, I accumulated huge debt. Huge.
I wasn't working very much because of school and travel (and partying), but was spending as if I were a CEO. First it was one credit card. Then it was another. Then it was another. It took *decades* for me to climb out of it. Years of barely being able to make payments. Years of getting nowhere in paying off my balances. Once I realized the thousands of dollars being blown every year on interest, I started focusing on paying off my cards. It was hard. Very hard. I'd buy nothing but the bare minimums I needed to survive. I wore clothes until they fell apart. I'd do any activity on a shoestring budget and limit expenditures any way I could. It took years of this, but eventually I clawed my way out.
And I have made it my mission to pay off my balance every month ever since. Sometimes there are emergencies. Sometimes I haven't saved enough for vacation and it takes a couple months. But I work very hard to not spend money I don't have so I can pay off my balance every time.
There are a lot of ways to get help if you need it. Apps that help you set payment goals. Books on financial planning. Websites with great advice on how to get out of credit card debt. And, if you are really in deep, financial advisors that can come up with a plan and negotiate with banks to get interest lowered... or help you find a loan. But however you mount your attack on credit card debt, it's hugely important that you start immediately. Our own government is working with banks to enslave you with debt, and it's only going to get worse. Much worse. The sacrifices needed to escape their clutches are hard ones to make, but ultimately worth it.
I honestly don't know what the future holds with our Federal Reserve manipulating things the way they have been. They don't even bother hiding it any more. This country is now designed exclusively for the wealthiest among us. That may not be you, but finding freedom amongst the ruins is a goal worth having.
Good luck to you.
Good luck to all of us.
We need it now more than ever.
Oh joy. An opening day loss for the Red Sox.
Here we go again...
All the pieces for a great season are there. They just need to fit together.
When it comes to bed sheets, I want them to stay cool and dry. I want crisp, breathable fabric that is tough enough to last. I don't like satin sheets. I really don't like "sateen" sheets, which are cotton sheets pretending to be satin sheets. When a hotel has sateen sheets, I have to kick them off (if it's warm) or wear sweats (if it's cold) because the glossy finish makes me sweat.
After being puzzled for years over things like "finish" and "thread count," I finally figured out that the sheets I want are called "percale," they're made of cotton, and the lower the thread count the better. What's great about this is that the sheets I just described are the cheapest you can buy. Also the opposite of what most people prefer, which is "sateen" in the highest thread count possible... 800 or higher.
So when I was shopping at IKEA and saw "percale" weave sheets at a mere 152 thread count, I was intrigued. Could these DVALA sheets at $25 a set (Queen) be the cool, crisp, breathable, dry sheets I've been dreaming of?
Turns out they totally are the sheets I've been looking for!
They are absolutely perfect.
No, they aren't soft and silky smooth. Truth to tell, they're actually kind of rough... even after having been washed twice. But that's exactly what I wanted because they are cooler to sleep on, they're tougher, and they have that crispy feel I love.
Cat hair sticks to them like glue, however, so I guess you can't have everything.
It's been an interesting morning at my house. At 6:02am I received a robocall from my credit card company saying that I may have fraudulent charges on my account. So I call the number they gave me, only to find out that they have no idea what I'm talking about, and they made no such call. And I'm like "THEN HOW DID I GET THIS NUMBER TO CALL YOU?" and they're all "WE DID NOT CALL YOU!" and I'm all "YOU DID, BECAUSE I JUST DID A REVERSE LOOK-UP OF THE CALLER ID AND IT'S YOU!" — I'm put on hold for a bit, then they come back and say "Oh, there's a problem with our computers calling people." Typical.
As I'm talking to my bank, I hear the cats banging around in the catio. They've heard that I'm awake, and come charging up the stairs demanding breakfast, even though it's almost an hour away. Jake has chunky white dust all over him, and I wonder if somebody threw a bag of cocaine into the catio while being chased by the police or something. I'm not about to snort my cat since I have no idea if the cocaine is premium grade or not, so I brush it all off and try to go back to sleep. Meanwhile Jenny has found Mufasa on the window perch that was left there last night. She starts ripping into him when Jake notices. And so then I have cats chasing each other all over my bedroom when I just want to get some sleep.
When Alexa finally chimes at 7:00am and the cats come back all crazy because it's breakfast time, I see that Jake has straw in his mouth. The only place I have straw is in the garage... I keep some for Fake Jake's winter shelter. So I go running downstairs and, sure enough, I left the garage passdoor ajar and my cats have been having big fun in my garage, including knocking over a bucket which was filled with drywall dust. Which means there won't be a bag of cocaine in the catio as I had first thought.
AND THEN, as if that weren't exciting enough, I can't find Jake and Jenny's Easter baskets. So now I have treats and cat toys for Easter morning, but no baskets to put them in. Looks like I'll be tearing apart my garage looking for Easter baskets this afternoon.
So this is my Saturday.
For the money, the most versatile piece of furniture I've found has been HEMNES Shoe cabinets from IKEA. At just $99 each, The four-drawer version is nicely shallow... just 8-5/8" deep... and since it mounts directly to the wall and there's no rear legs to push it away from the molding, there's no wasted space. On top of that, the drawers themselves are deep and spacious so they are actually useful. Not just for shoes (though they are great for storing shoes) but for all kinds of things (the one in my kitchen holds placemats and napkins!).
Once I found out that I wouldn't be able to wall-mount my SONOS One speakers as I originally planned, my first thought was to purchase a couple of HEMNES units, drill holes in the top, then hide the SONOS cords behind them. They're the perfect height, allowing the speakers to rise just above my couch...
Since the table-top on these extends from the ends of the cabinet, I had to modify them slightly so I could get the two units to sit flush against each other, but they turned out great. Even more importantly, they work perfectly for giving me excellent surround sound.
And, as a bonus, my LaserDisc collection now has a home. A perfect home, actually, since they are stored vertically, but pull down at an angle so I can read the spines easily...
It's kind of weird that I now have seven of these shoe cabinets in my home considering I don't own many shoes, but they're just so versatile and functional. The shallow depth also means they can go just about anywhere. Yes, quality control at IKEA is shitty and you may get a defective part that will need replacing, but if you've got a tight spot you're looking to fill, these are definitely worth a look.
Something tells me I haven't purchased my last Hemnes shoe cabinet.
After catching a doozy of a cold on the plane back from Europe, I've spent my entire week mired in a miserable haze of over-the-counter medication abuse. Partly because I hate hate hate being sick... but mostly because I can't work when I'm sneezing and coughing my head off. This morning I finally turned a corner and felt well enough that I only took a single dose of cold meds instead of a double dose, so... putting one in the "win" column, I guess.
Where I most definitely did not win was having to skip the midnight premiere of Avengers: Infinity War last night. Because what would suck more than skipping it would be to dope up on cough suppressants then falling asleep half-way through...
Guess I get to spend the next several days avoiding spoilers until I find a day I can get away to see it.
Today I finally made the time to have my winter tires changed over to summer tires.
My plan was to arrive just when the tire store opened because you can usually get right in. Except there was an accident on the bridge into town so I was delayed 20 minutes. By the time I finally got there, the wait was up to an hour-and-a-half, and it would have been faster for me to change my own tires at home with my emergency car jack and a lug wrench.
It was a bummer, but it wasn't the wait that bothered me.
It was the reason for the wait.
As somebody at the tire store noted, there was no skidmarks on the bridge. Which means that the car (van?) which crashed into a car (which then crashed into another car) never made any attempt to stop. Which means they weren't paying attention. Which means they were probably texting or changing their baby's diaper or cooking a steak, or whatever the fuck it is that people do when not looking at the road like they're supposed to be.
Apparently the distracted driving "no-texting" law that Washington State passed has done nothing to solve a serious problem that's only going to get worse. Which begs the question... how many people have to die before this starts being taken seriously?
And speaking of dying...
As I've said many times before, I love McDonalds... despite constantly taking shit for liking McDonalds.
My favorite breakfast is a McDonald's Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Biscuit, no bacon, substitute round egg instead of spongey yellow powder egg. I could eat them every single day because it's just such a perfect breakfast food. The reason I don't eat them every day is that A) McDonald's is a 20 minute drive from my house, and B) they are expensive as hell. But right now McDonalds is running a special where you can get two of them for only four dollars! So, naturally, after getting my tires changed I did not pass GO, I did not collect $200, I went straight to McDonalds for a late breakfast.
It was, as expected, delicious.
Except I made the mistake of looking up the Nutrition Facts for my breakfast while I was eating it.
We'll set aside the 80 carbs in two Breakfast Biscuits and skip right to the 2100mg of sodium... 88% of the sodium that you're supposed to have in a day. And saturated fat? 11g which is 106% of the recommended daily ammount!
I've never been so grateful that McDonalds is 20 minutes away and their McBiscuits are usually so damn expensive, because I'd be dead if they were next door and, you know, affordable and all.
Except they are on sale... and I am driving over the mountains tomorrow... so it looks like I may be courting death once again. Curse you McDonald's and your delicious breakfast!
Today was one of those days that makes me want to stick my head in the oven. But my oven is electric, so all that would do is give me a sunburn. I also have a microwave, but it only runs when the door is closed.
And so I guess I'll be sticking around for another day. Which is probably a good thing, because my cats are in kind of a needy mood after all the time I've been spending away from home. And that's nice. Though I could have really used another day recuperating from my weekend.
And to think... yesterday I was up at Newcastle's putting green overlooking Seattle and Puget Sound on a gorgeous day...
Apparently Summer has arrived.
Time to set up shop.
Five months of woodworking bliss await.
When I woke up this morning there was an email from the charity I volunteer with and it was not filled with good news. It wasn't even filled with bad news. It was filled with disastrous news. Which meant I had a mad scramble of emails, phone calls, and texts ahead of me trying to get everything sorted. Which is fine, I suppose... that's the job... but it weighs on your spirit when you know that Real People will be worse off if you can't pull things together.
But pull things together I did.
Which was great. Except while I was doing my best to fix things for a lot of people needing help, I missed a text from one person needing help. I didn't notice it until hours later which, believe it or not, weighs even heavier on your spirit.
Fortunately somebody else who didn't miss their text was able to step up and help out... but still.
I'm not saying that I'd jump in line to be cloned if that technology were ever perfected, but I'd sure think hard about it. Problem is, I'd undoubtedly just end up taking on twice the work I have now so I would end up missing twice as many texts.
Technology can't solve everything.
But I live in a house where I can talk to a device and tell it to turn my lights on and off for me, so it certainly seems like it should be able to.
Today I had a rare 15-minute gap with nothing to do. Too little time to start a new project... too much time for a bathroom break. So I decided to update my List of Things to do Before I Die (That I’ve Already Done). It's a kind of "bucket list," but not really, because I only add things to it once I can check them off. No need to be on my death bed clutching a list of stuff I still wanted to do, thus dying a failure.
I'm up to 114 items which is probably enough for two lifetimes.
Which means I'm ready to die, I guess. And yet there's still so much left I want to do. Maybe I'll be able to add another dozens items before I check out. Maybe I'll be able to add just one. It doesn't really matter so long as I keep coming up with things to live for.
Though I've found that as I get older my idea of what makes it to my list is changing as my priorities change...
Age 20 Top Priority: Look for my dream woman. Get married. Have kids.
Age 30 Top Priority: Stay single for the rest of my life.
Age 40 Top Priority: Wreck myself having the most fun possible, then die before I'm 50.
Age 50 Top Priority: Stay healthy enough to keep on living so I can take care of my cats.
Assuming I make it there, I have no idea what my priority at 60 will be. But probably...
Age 60 Top Priority: Wreck myself having the most fun possible, then die before I'm 70.
I'm relatively certain of what comes at 70, assuming my priority for 60 falls through...
Age 70 Top Priority: Just die already.
This sounds bad, I know. But keep in mind that by that time I'll have probably added enough things to my list for three lifetimes. And isn't that more than enough? I'm close to done right now. Lord only knows how totally done with life I'll be at 70. Though who really knows? Back when I was 40 I wanted to die by the time I was 50. Now that I've reached 50... and I have cats... I'm happy to be hanging around a while longer. Perhaps when I turn 70 I'll get more cats and be good until I'm 90.
Who wants to kick the bucket list when they have cats?
I'm just going to come out and say it... health care in the United States of America is a festering pile of shit that is impossible to navigate and increasingly impossible to pay for. I'm sure this will come to a surprise to absolutely nobody, because we've all needed medical attention at some point in our lives... if not for us, for a loved one.... and then had to deal with the fallout.
Health care is a monolithic, byzantine maze of bullshit and corruption that's enough to make even the smartest person insane.
Take where I'm at, for example.
My health insurance deductible is huge. Thousands of dollars. I never get out of my annual deductible because I'm relatively healthy and, apparently, lucky. What this means is that I have to pay for absolutely everything medical-related out-of-pocket. But apparently I do get some kind of discount that's been negotiated between my insurance and my local clinic. What is this discount? Who the fuck knows. I've been trying to find out the cost of making a consultation appointment FOR TWO DAYS and have gotten nowhere.
This is how the system is designed.
The clinic doesn't want you to know the cost because you might not schedule an appointment if you knew. The insurance company doesn't want to commit to coverage for a future appointment, because they might need to increase their profits by reducing (or eliminating) their coverage before you see the doctor.
Which, if you live in an underserved region like I do, could take months to get an appointment.
What amuses me about this bullshit is that these are the bad things that people who don't want universal healthcare try and scare people with! It'll take forever to see a doctor? It takes fucking forever right now. We can't determine how much it will cost? We can't determine how much it fucking costs right now.
My issue isn't life-threatening. Well, I suppose it could end up there, but no... not really.
But what if it were life-threatening?
Well, the way it works in The United States of America is that you just have to sign on for treatment blindly and hope you don't have to declare bankruptcy so you can live.
And don't get me started about people who get sick and could be easily and cheaply treated in the beginning... but they can't afford it... so they wait and wait until they are near death and it's horrendously expensive to treat (if it's treatable at all) so taxpayers ends up paying for their bills because they end up losing everything. What fucking sense does that make? Give everybody healthcare so everybody is healthy and problems are fixed when they're cheap! As a taxpayer, I'd rather pay for what's cheap than what's horrendously expensive!
Maybe one day politicians will take a break from sucking lobbyist cock long enough to figure out how to make health care affordable for everybody.
Because the only people benefiting from the system we have now are insurance companies. And the politicians being paid off by insurance companies. Considering their health care is free and they don't give a fuck about anybody else, I don't expect them to stop sucking that lobbyist cock any time soon.
This is also how the system is designed.
It may be the last day of the week, but this holiday weekend keeps on rolling... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Pooh! Of all the movies coming up, I have to admit that Christopher Robin is the one I'm most looking forward to at the moment...
With all the advancements in special effects, it's the ability to make films like this which impress me most.
• Whoa! Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder? Sign me up!
I'm not a romantic-comedy "romcom" kinda guy, but this movie will be worth seeing for the casting alone. Not in theaters, of course, but when it hits HBO or Netflix, I'm on it.
• Hotness! I've been running across a lot of treasures from my past as I work my way through my garage. As an example... look how brutally hot I was on my learner permit!
Yep... if I were legal in that photo, I'd do me!
• Togs! The closer they get to making Mon-El have his iconic comic book costume, the closer my inner fanboy gets to peeing my pants...
Almost there. Just need that waistcoat... then call it good!
• Thanks, Obama! Yes, I had problems with some of President Obama's policies... but I never stopped admiring him as a person. That goes double Michelle Obama, who was such an exemplary First Lady. So to say that I'm anxious to get my hands on her forthcoming book is an epic understatement...
The unabridged audiobook is available for pre-order at Audible. Since Michelle Obama is narrating all 14 hours of it, I couldn't press the purchase button fast enough.
• Quilt! Hey OG bloggers! Somebody made this incredible quilt for me back in the day, but I can't remember who it was? Does anybody know?
I'm hanging it up to display in my room, and I'd like to attach a tag with the author.
What are you still doing here? The bullets are over. They're over! Go home. There's nothing more for you here.
When I moved into my home, I ended up ripping out a lot of the plant life that was there. Not because I hate flowers, but because I am not home enough to take care of them. And I know better than to ask my cats to water them when I'm away.
The only plants I left were those connected to the automated sprinkler system. They were all healthy and look nice when they come into bloom, so it was kinda a no-brainer.
One of those plants is a massive hydrangea that overwhelms my back flower bed...
A month ago I got tired of this giant bush setting off the camera alarm whenever the wind blows it. So instead of pruning it back like I usually do, I just hacked it down to the ground.
I felt like Madonna taking vengeance on Hydrangeas of the world...
Earlier this week I was looking out into the catio to see what Jake and Jenny are up to and saw that THE HYDRANGEA IS BACK! Don't ask me how it could recover so quickly. The thing is already 4 feet tall...
And so... given how it came back from being massacred, I figure it deserves to be there more than I do. After the flowers are gone and I can cut it back again, I'll dig it up and move it to a place where it won't set off my camera alarm. If it can survive being hacked to the ground, surely it can survive being transplanted.
I had to work across the mountains today which meant getting up at 4:30am so I could be on the road by 5am. Given how horrendously bad Seattle morning traffic is these days, there's really no other option. Gone are the days of leaving at 6am and arriving in plenty of time.In another 5 years, I'll probably be leaving at 4:30am. It's getting that bad.
I wonder how quickly it will end up being faster for me to fly than drive, even when going through security and driving to the airport are factored in?
Whatever happened to the Star Trek future where we get to just beam ourselves to where we need to go?
Probably languishing in some vault somewhere along with the cure for the common cold. Shelved because oil companies and airline companies would become irrelevant.
And don't get me started about flying cars...
Flowers are out everywhere, which means my allergies are exploding, which means I'm drugged up on Flonase, Zyrtec, and Allegra all the time. This is better than the old days when I had to be drugged up on Benadryl all the time. Benadryl makes me so drowsy that I can barely stay awake to work. All I wanted to do was sleep.
If there's a bright spot to be found, it's taking pictures of it all with my iPhone. It's shocking how good the camera is on the X, and it kinda freaks me out that I get better photos from it than I do the last pocket camera I bought...
When I moved into my new home, the woman who owned it previously planted loads of pretty flowers in my back yard. Including the hydrangeas I butchered which have miraculously come back. Much to my surprise, it looks like I'm going to have flowers again. Don't ask me how. This thing was razed to the ground a month ago...
I had irises on the side of my house, which is nice, but they always fall over and last for only five minutes, so I don't understand the point. What I'd like to do is pull them out and replace them with more stuff like this...
Even though it's making my life an allergy-induced haze.
My favorite flowers are crocuses and California poppies. Perhaps this weekend I'll look into getting some of those. It would be nice if the front of my house looks as good as the boack does.
The lady who owned my home before me loved flowers. She had them planted everywhere. Particularly impressive is the flower bed in the back yard, which is filled with roses and other beautiful stuff. She also had a bunch of flower pots in the front yard, but I removed them one-by-one as they died off because I'm not home to water them when I have to travel.
The flowers in the back yard continue to flourish because there's a water line that's connected to the sprinkler system. My front yard flower bed is just a bunch of river rock. I've always felt bad about this, because everybody else in the neighborhood has flowers out.
Last Fall as I was cleaning up leaves, I noticed that there was a water line poking up from under the river rocks. Turns out that there was automated watering there all along but it wasn't used for some reason. So I decided that this year I would plant some stuff so my home fits in with everybody else.
And yesterday was the day...
I didn't want to completely fill the front flower bed because that would cost a fortune... and I really didn't want stuff growing up next to the house where bugs could breed, so I decided to clear out a space in the river rock for my new flower bed. I found some nice grey brick to keep the rock from intruding. I finished building just as the sun was setting and it started raining...
This morning I woke up early to start planting stuff. After setting things up I realized that I didn't have the parts I needed to tap off of the water line, so I had to run to the hardware store... where I picked up another couple plants. I didn't notice that one of the of the purple things I bought was badly damaged, but decided to plant it anyway...
Everything turned out quite nice. I threw away the tags with the names of all the plants, but here is what I got...
Because I'm old, all that crawling around in the dirt left me pretty sore and I decided to call it a day and watch television.
So there I was... lounging around watching Ask This Old House when it occurs to me THAT I DIDN'T TEST MY NEW SPRINKLERS BEFORE I BURIED THEM! It would be just my luck that I screwed up the install and kinked a line or something, so I managed to get up off the couch (I am SO old), tell Alexa to turn on the water, then waddle out to see if they work. I am soooooo lucky...
And that's that. Now my house will be pretty just like everybody else's. And since all the flowers I bought are perennials, they'll be back year after year.
Assuming I don't end up killing them.
Too sore to get out of bed. Too tired to go to work. Too worried the cats will eat me to die and not feed them. Especially when Jake is looking at me like this...
And it's a Monday...
I wrecked my legs working on my front flower beds and installing new security cameras last weekend. This morning I thought I was finally recovering a bit, only to find that I had pulled a muscle in my back as I was attempting to walk so I wasn't hurting my legs.
Essentially trading one pain for another.
Albeit a much much more painful one.
Most times Ibuprofen can handle it. But the minute I twist wrong or bend in a way my back doesn't like... unbelievable searing pain goes shooting through my back that hurts so bad I can barely breathe. The worst pain is when I lay down. It's so awful that I've tried sleeping while sitting up, but I can't manage it. My back brace helps, but not enough.
Not a great time to be Dave2 right now.
It would be great if I could just dope up on pain-killers and muscle-relaxers and sleep all day, but... off to work I go.
My cats have been stalking each other as I sit here trying to figure out how to not say what I can't talk about. Every once in a while, one of them will make a break and a chase ensues. Then they are all over the house. The living room. The dining room. The kitchen. The stairs. My bedroom. Their bedroom. The guest bedroom. The catio. Then the tables will turn and the chase will reverse itself.
Truly the best entertainment that a can of sardines can buy...
And the best therapy.
I don't think there's anything that makes me smile quite so much as kitty claws on hardwood floors.
Another trip over the mountains today.
This will be one of the hardest trips I've had to make in this life. I wish my cats could come with me, because oh so many days lately they've been the salve that soothes my grief... but I don't think they would do well on a car trip.
Not well at all. Though they love to sit and watch the occasional car drive by, I think a highway full of cars would be too much...
Sad to be leaving. It's so hard to say goodbye.
We were best friends from the start.
So many days spent being so grateful that I had such a kind, caring, wonderful person as my mom!
Love you always.
A lot of people can tell their moms "I love you around the world and back," but in my case it's literally true. She's been traveling the globe with me for almost twenty years on an annual vacation we take together. And since it's her Mother's Day gift, she gets to pick where we go and what we're going to do once we get there. Riding a camel at the pyramids of Egypt? Done it. Trekking the rainforest of Costa Rica? Done it. Climbing a glacier in Alaska? Done it. Exploring temples in Cambodia? Done it. Taken a safari in Zimbabwe? Done it.
My mom's love of adventure has always been a never-ending source of joy in my life.
And tonight I had to say goodbye to her.
Losing a parent is a soul-crushing, heartbreaking ordeal which creates a wound that will never heal. But as I sit here looking through hundreds of photos of all the places we've seen and all the things we've done... it's hard to stay sad. What time we had together on this earth was put to very good use, and you can't ask for much more than that.
The travel bug was something that bit her late in life. She ended up enduring a horrific tragedy that would crush most people, and her way of putting it behind her was to roam the planet. Mom wanted to see as much of the world as she could while she was on it, and would pore over travel magazines and TV shows for ideas all year long. And the things she would come up with for us were always interesting. I could write a book about it... maybe I should write a book about it... because the situations we often found ourselves in make for great stories.
But as many times as she would come up with something out of the blue (Vietnam?!?) she was not above wanting to return to old favorites. We ended up in Rome four times because she loved the city. Especially The Colosseum, for some reason, which we visited all four times. She also had this weird love of helicopters, and was always looking to see if there were helicopter rides available wherever we landed. I've lost count of how many times we'd end up lifting off into some incredible places with chopper blades whirring above. Maybe it was just being able to see the world from a different perspective? I dunno. I never thought to ask her about it.
About the only thing Mom didn't like about traveling was wrinkles. She was always up long before I was, ironing away on the day's clothing. When I finally bought her a travel steamer you'd think it was her own personal helicopter, because getting those pressed-in wrinkles out was just so much easier now. Anybody who knows me knows that I hate ironing and couldn't care less about wrinkled clothes, so that was the one thing I most definitely did not inherit from her.
But the wanderlust to roam the planet? That's all her.
Thanks for a lifetime of adventures, Mom. I'll love and miss you every day...
We had traveled to places like San Francisco, New York, Orlando, Los Angeles, and the like... but this was the first international trip we took. My mom had to get a passport, which she was very proud of.
My mom will rarely ask me to take a photo. Like... very rarely. This was one of those times. She really wanted a photo of her coming out of a phone box for some reason.
Obligatory Eiffel Tower shot. I knew that this is what mom's friends would most want to see when we got back, so I made her stand there for way too long so I could be sure I got a good shot.
My all-time favorite shot of my mom. Arizona was our first trip after a horrific ordeal she endured, and it was great to see her smiling and having fun again.
While in Sedona, we took a "Pink Jeep" tour out in the rocks. Mom asked our driver for this photo because she wanted to remember the time we took a trip together. Little did she know... it was just the beginning.
We're on a Caribbean cruise here at a stop in Tulum, Mexico as it rained and rained. We had a great time anyway. I am not a cruise person, but my mom loved them because you get to stop in a lot of different places without packing and unpacking.
Dunn's River Falls in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Mom was terrified of slipping and falling on the climb up because she wasn't sure-footed. She made it just fine, I, however, slipped twice. This was a triumphant moment for her.
New Orleans is my favorite US city, so of course I had to take her for beignets at Cafe Du Monde!
Obligatory Leaning Tower of Pisa shot on one of our five trips to Italy (which I think was my mom's favorite country to visit... it's certainly one of mine!).
Trevi Fountain in Rome. My mom threw in a coin and made a wish but wouldn't tell me what it was because she wanted it to come true. Years later when she saw this photo, she told me that she had wished for more vacations like this one. See, kids... wishes can come true!
A foggy day in Tuscany. Out of all our travels, this was probably the most disappointing stop. We really wanted to have our "Under the Tuscan Sun" moment, but rarely saw the sun the entire time we were there. Still had a fantastic time though... the food and history are incredible.
My mom wanted to go to Greece and bought a whole book to plan out the stuff she wanted to do... mostly centering around visiting the Greek islands. I said okay, and started planning. Then one day at work my mom calls me. She was looking at a map and "...noticed that Egypt is really close to Greece, so we should go there too!" I was going to explain that an inch on the map was actually hundreds of miles, but thought "Hey, I'd like to see Egypt too!" The logistics of such a trip were a little crazy, but about a week later I got a cruise brochure which included Greece, Egypt, and Türkiye. So there you go.
As we were making our way around the Acropolis area, this dog comes running up. Here is where I told my mom to stand still so the dog wouldn't feel threatened and possibly attack her. Then I took this picture for some reason. I was walking towards them when the dog ran up to my mom and she was petting him, so I missed that shot. She thought it was hilarious that I thought she was in imminent danger, but stopped to take a photo.
At the Mosque of Muhammad Ali in Cairo. Mom absolutely loved mosques because the interiors were always so gorgeous... and very different from all the churches she had seen. We visited quite a few over the years.
"I thought they would be taller!" said my mom... and most every other person that visits the pyramids.
Be fore we leave on a trip, I always ask my mom if there's something special she wants to do so I can be sure to arrange it. Since she was obsessed with reading travel magazines and watching travel shows, I didn't want her to miss something that made her choose to go there in the first place. For Egypt the only thing she cared about was riding a camel at the pyramids. She later told me that it was the reason she wanted to go to Egypt because it looked like fun.
The camel's name was "Daisy." As mom was forgetting things and our travels were fading away, she rarely forgot Daisy. Even when she did, I'd remind her of Daisy and she could start pulling memories out of the experience. Thank heavens I asked about what she wanted to do, because this became one of her most enduring travel memories and I would be gutted if she had missed it.
Mom was disappointed that Cairo was so close (it literally comes right up to the pyramids, which you can see if you look at Google Maps). She thought that they were out in the dessert somewhere and we'd be riding camels out to see them. We actually went inside of The Great Pyramid, which is a good story unto itself. I'll have to blog about it one day.
A stop at Ephesus in Türkiye. The crowds were insane, and it took several attempts to find a spot where I could get a shot where people weren't walking in front of her. I thought it funny that she wanted to bring her purse for this excursion, but she did that a lot. No idea why. I had all the money. Guess she just liked to be prepared. She had everything in there.
Mykonos, I believe? Not the first time mom asked a total stranger to take our photo... with my pricey camera. I was always worried that somebody might run off with it one day, but it always worked out!
Gorgeous sunset in Maui, one of my favorite places on earth.
I had my mom bring a jacket and gloves to Hawaii because I knew we'd be going to the top of Mt. Haleakala and it's cold. She was upset she didn't bring a hat and scarf, so we improvised with a Bad Monkey cap and a beach towel that were in the trunk of our rental car. We looked ridiculous, which is why mom insisted on getting this photo.
I have been to Hawaii many, many times. I always hope for an eruption so I can see lava. This is as close as I ever got.
This photo is deceptive on a number of fronts. First of all, the volcanic rocks are sharp, and falling could cut you up good. Second of all, you can't tell here, but there is a massive drop off a rocky cliff behind my mom, and if she had slid on loose rocks, she'd probably go over the edge and end up dead. Or severely broken. I was distracted taking photos and the next thing I know... there she was... being a total daredevil and completely unaware of it. So naturally I took pictures.
One of many, many helicopter rides we took. This time on Kauai. Mom loved helicopters to a crazy degree, so I always tried to get her a front seat. Sitting next to the pilot was her favorite thing.
"Do you think we can go down there?" Um, sure mom... we just need to rent a boat or hike miles and miles! From a previous trip to Kalalau Lookout, I knew that the it was mostly cloudy most of the time and that the saw-tooth ridge there photographs as a jagged black blob. And so I looked into HDR photography so I could pull some detail out of the shadows. This is the result.
Neither one of us were beach people, but hanging out on a really nice beach was still a great way to spend time in Hawaii... especially when there was nobody else there!
I had work in Orlando for many years... both for contract jobs with The Mouse and later for charity presentations. I'd often ask my mom if she wanted to tag along and we could stay an extra three or four days to play at Disney World. She never refused, as she loved to have something to do that wasn't work or sitting around the house.
I love Mickey Mouse, and will gladly stand in line for a half hour to get a photo op with him. Mom always thought I was nuts, but would stand in line with me without complaining. And she had to do so many, many times.
Of the many helicopter trips we took, this was our hands-down favorite. A ride up the Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska. Amazing scenery and a fun hike on top!
Mom had this photo on her dresser for years, but it got lost when we moved. I always meant to print out another one, but never got around to it. I try not to have regrets, but that's one of them.
On top of the Mendenhall Glacier. If you look next to my ear, you'll see hikers scaling the glacier in the background. We actually got in trouble here. The guide told us to have fun wandering around but stay close. So we headed out. Then the guide yelled at us to come back because he wasn't done talking. We were both rolling our eyes at that one.
My mom fell in The Icicle River when she was a kid and nearly drowned. She has been terrified of moving water ever since (but joined the Navy!). When I booked this eagle-watching rafting trip in Alaska, my mom (who was usually fearless and up for anything) was constantly telling me how worried she was and saying she didn't want to do it. I told her "fine, you can ride with the trailer driver to the pick-up point and I'll meet you there. When we got to the drop off and told the guide our plan, he walked out into the river... which was around six-inches deep. "If you fall out, you can always just stand up... it's not much deeper than this the whole way." Mom was then all "Well I can do that!"
You can't see it here, but our vests have names written on them. Mine was "Digger" (or something like that) and my mom's was "Buzzard" (which you can kind of see in the previous photo). She absolutely loved it, and I had to call her "Buzzard" for the rest of the trip. I got a lot of Eagle shots, which was amazing. We loved this so much that mom said she would do it again.
We took a float plane to a fish hatchery for bear watching... and I got some fantastic black bear photos. Mom had to inform me that the plane ride was more fun than she thought it would be, but she'd still rather ride in a helicopter.
We had a day's layover in Atlanta before flying to Barcelona, so I took us to World of Coke. My mom was a serious fan of Coca-Cola, so it was kinda a no-brainer. She loved bears, so we had to stand in line so she could get a photo with this one.
My mom decided she wanted to go back to Italy after watching the movie "Only You" starring real-life couple at the time Robert Downey Jr. and Marisa Tomei (decades before they would appear together in Spider-Man). In the film Fisher Stevens plays a roofer trying to find out what happened to his wife, so he calls the credit card company to find out where the charges on it were from. They tell him and he says "Positano? Where's That?
My mom told me on several occasions that The Colosseum was one of her favorite spots. And so we went back again and again. 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.
After standing in line for yet another Mickey Mouse photo with me on a Disney Cruise, mom saw a line for Donald Duck and said she wanted to get a picture with him. "Really? You like Donald?" I asked. "Sure! We were both in the Navy!" she replied. What you don't see here is that "The YMCA" by the Village People started playing and Donald grabbed my mom's hand to get her to dance it with her. So, yes, I totally have photos of my mom doing The YMCA with Donald Duck.
Eating Fettuccini Alfredo at the restaurant where it was invented... Alfredo alla Scrofa in Rome. It is my favorite restaurant on earth, and I never pass up a chance to eat there.
Santa Margarita Legure, I think? I was trying to gain weight in preparation for a medical ordeal where I'd always drop
Pirate Night onboard the Disney Magic. Mom and I were totally up for the pirate bandanas they handed out. We were probably the only ones who kept them on for the whole dinner. We were goofy like that.
Okay... on our first trip to Venice, all mom wanted to do was take a gondola ride. But when we arrived in the city on a gorgeous day, I was not feeling well and asked if we could wait until tomorrow. So we did. And it rained every day afterwards. So she didn't get her gondola ride and I felt awful about it. So when I got free tickets to Europe anywhere British Airways flew, I asked her if she wanted to go back to Venice for that gondola ride. Of course she said yes. I was worried the entire flight that it would rain the whole time (again)... but the weather was absolutely gorgeous. We're in the shadow of a building here, but once we got out on the Grand Canal it was fantastic. It ended up being a really fun trip, so I was glad we went back.
Aruba. I love taking pictures of storm clouds and was taking a lot of them when I looked over to see where my mom was. That's when I saw this, her pink sweater and blue jeans standing out against the gloom!
At a turtle farm in Grand Cayman. I asked mom if she wanted her photo taken with a turtle. She said "no" because she thought it would be mean to the turtle... but a guide there said they weren't bothered by it, so she relented. After we got home and she saw this photo she told me "I'll bet that guy was lying, that turtle doesn't look happy at all."
After a dozen trips to Disney World for work, I was tired of doing the same thing over and over and stopped going to the parks. This trip my mom came along, so I knew we'd be visiting them and so I was asking co-workers if there was anything new to do. I was asked if I had done the "Wilderness Trek" in Animal Kingdom, which I hadn't. It's a kind of "behind the scenes" tour of the fake 'Africa' they had built. We both absolutely loved it. Here we are harnessed up and ready to go.
Mom climbing on a hanging bridge over gators (or crocodiles?). She thought this was an absolute riot. Me, being afraid of heights, was slightly less enthused. Disney went to great lengths to make the journey seem perilous... breaking boards on the bridge and having the netting fall away and stuff... but it was Disney, so 99% safe. But it looked dangerous and cool.
After we finished the "Wilderness Trek," my mom was gushing over how much she loved it. One of the cast members said that if she liked this, she'd love an "Adventured by Disney" vacation! You know... one of those hideously expensive vacations where everything is Disney-fied and the opposite of what I want on vacation? Mom, of course, loved the idea.
Mom got the Adventures by Disney brochure and declared that she wanted to go on the Africa trip. It was heinously expensive, but I thought "Hey, I've always wanted to go to Africa!" and so I called them up. Alas, the only times I could go were sold out, so I asked mom if we could do it next time and have her pick somewhere else. So here we are at a cooking class in Vietnam.
We made those lanterns! Adventures by Disney is geared towards families with kids, but they have trips which are "Adults Only." Needless to say, I booked the first "Adults only" trip because the last thing I want on my vacation is a bunch of screaming kids. But here's the thing... even though it's an "Adults" trip, the itinerary is the exact same as the "regular" version... so there are lots of activities geared towards kids that you get to do. Like lantern-making. We both loved it.
Mom loves animals and won't hesitate to get her picture taken with them. Our resort in Hoi An has an ox that rakes the beach smooth each morning. When my mom found out about it, she wanted to go meet him. And so here we are... up at some gawdawful time in the morning. Mom asked the guy what the ox did when he was done with work... "eat and sleep!" we were told.
Another crafting project. This time we got to pick out a paper maché mask and paint it. Mom had them hanging in her room for a while, but I eventually took them down when she didn't know what they were any more.
Remember what I said about mom hating wrinkles? Here we are in our perfectly-pressed tai-chi exercise outfits, because mom was up ironing them at some ridiculously early hour. Oddly enough, it was while ironing these that I remember my mom having her first serious memory lapse. She was standing there with an iron in her hand and it was like she forgot where we were and what she was doing. It passed quickly, and so it was forgotten. Little did we know that it was just the start.
Mom rubbing a turtle's head for luck in Vietnam. She always thought the perspective on this photo was funny.
The mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi. Normally, you can get a ticket to view his preserved body inside, but "Uncle Ho" was out for his annual cleaning, so we didn't get to do that. Mom said "I don't know why, but I would have liked to have seen that."
Getting ready to offer Buddhist monks some rice as they make their morning processional to a nearby temple. Mom and I were totally into it... nobody else seemed to care. That happened a lot. We loved new and different things.
Many great photos as we climbed up to the temple. Here we are taking a break along the way.
Mom having big fun with an ox again. And once again she was concerned that the ox was working too hard and was asking if he got to have fun after he got off work. "Of course," the Adventures by Disney guide said.
"Do you want to feed him?" they asked. "Sure!" mom said... "Do you have some soap and water so I can wash his face first? He can't have lunch with a dirty face!" Holy crap I loved traveling with my mom. If you ask me why, it was moments like this.
And here we are in Cambodia. As we went hiking around from temple to temple, I kept asking her if she was tired and wanted to go back to the hotel. "No. I want to see them all!"
The next day, still trying to explore every temple in Cambodia.
And... Africa (two years after mom had asked about going... we had a cruise around South & Central America and through the Panama Canal before this). At this point my mother couldn't make new memories. Our lovely guide was so wonderful about it, and never let on when my mom would introduce herself five times a day. Eventually he told me that one of his wives had the same condition, so he was used to it. Fate, as it turns out, is always the best guide.
Mornings in Africa were surprisingly cold. Fortunately, we were well-prepared. Because she got cold easily, I packed her different sweaters and jackets for layering. As it started getting warmer and warmer each day, our guide would say "Pat, aren't you getting hot? Can I take your jacket?" Mom, without missing a beat, would respond "I just put it on because I'm cold."
When you can't remember where you are or how you got there, seeing elephants outside your window is an amazing thing. Which means my mom was in a constant state of disbelief... "My goodness! There are elephants out there!"
The sunsets in Africa are some of the most beautiful I've ever seen. After this photo, my mom asked if we were going back to the house or if we were going out to eat, which I found really funny for some reason. "Well, we're in Africa and our house is thousands of miles away... but we might be able to find something to eat back at camp." "Oh. That would work too."
Hiking around Victoria Falls (or Mosi-oa-Tunya, as the non-colonizer locals call it). We also took a helicopter ride over the falls, of course. Her memory may be screwed up, but she totally loved it... as I knew she would.
The end of our last trip together... high tea at The Victoria Falls Hotel in Zimbabwe where we were staying. It was a good run.
Our last vacation together was to Africa in 2014. When her health declined too much for trips like that, I tried to come up with something a little closer to home. I had booked us a trip to the Dakotas, since North Dakota is the one state I haven't yet been to, but it had to be canceled. In many ways I'm thankful for that. Africa is a heck of a place to go out on, and the memories made that final trip are some of the best travel memories I have.
Where my mom is at now, I don't know. Hopefully it's someplace at least as amazing as all the places we've been.
When you've unloaded your life on the internet for fifteen years, it probably seems hypocritical to claim to be a "private person," but for me it's still true. Rarely does my blog touch on my personal life, my work, my family, or my offline friends. That's entirely by design, because there are some things I'd rather keep to myself. Not just for me, but out of respect for the privacy of everybody else connected to my life.
Long-time readers were probably surprised to find out that so many of my travels which have been documented here on Blogography were made with my mother, because I never mentioned her being with me at the time. The reason for this is long, complicated, and nobody's business... but... at the same time it really should be everybody's business. Partly because it may help others who are going through a similar trajectory, but mostly because there's a lot of inspiration to be found there.
For all the time we've spent together over the years, my mom was never given to talking much about her life before I came along. I know practically nothing about her years growing up, and I honestly don't know why that is. What little insight I have is from old photos I've run across or out-of-the-blue comments that would pop up. Once while we were out for breakfast I ordered my eggs over-medium instead of scrambled like I usually do. Mom took that as an opportunity to mention that when she first got married and was cooking breakfast for my dad, she'd throw out eggs with broken yolks because she didn't want him to think she was a bad cook.
And so it went for as long as I knew her.
When things didn't work out between my mom and dad, she moved to a neighboring city. I ended up moving there with her because I was attending college there at the time. After a year of starting a new life for herself she spent most of her time with her boyfriend and was rarely around, making her the perfect roommate.
I spent way too long trying to figure out what to do for a career, but eventually found my way to graphic design. Once that had been decided, I took a job offer with a brand new company that was starting up in San Diego. It was sent my way via an ex-girlfriend who was living there, and seemed like an opportunity I couldn't pass up. The opening was seven months away because offices were still being built, so I asked my mom if she wanted to take a trip before I left. She had accompanied me on work-trips around the US from time to time, but this was to be a grand vacation in Europe... visiting London, Edinburgh, and Paris. We went. We had a great time. And I was happy to have some terrific memories before leaving home.
Not long after returning, it came to light that her boyfriend was a heinous, abusive, shit-stain on all humanity. And my mom's world fell apart. I'd say this "man" was garbage, but that would be an insult to the bag of cat shit I just tossed in my trash can. I maintain to this day that prison was too good a punishment for the atrocities he committed, and consider anal warts to be a higher form of life than him on his best day.
My mom never fully recovered.
She blamed herself for not seeing what he was... blamed herself for not knowing what he was hiding... blamed herself for everything and anything because that's all she had left. On the day she got a phone call from her now-ex piece of crap demanding she come bail him out of jail, I knew that San Diego would have to wait. First I had to try and get her the help she needed. This involved attempting to carry her down the stairs of her apartment, which I was not capable of doing. I essentially ended up dragging her down the stairs as she was sobbing uncontrollably. She couldn't walk. She could barely breathe. Days later I saw how badly she was bruised because I was not strong enough. It was the first time I felt as if I had completely and utterly failed her as a son. It would not be the last.
Months later as she was slowly... so painfully slowly... recovering from the trauma that life had thrown at her, she asked me if we might go on another vacation together one day.
You also now know why she was never mentioned as I documented our travels on my blog.
I didn't want her disgusting pig of an ex to know anything about her or what she was doing, even though deep down I loved the idea that he would know she recovered from his abuse and managed to live a great life without him in it. She had crawled out of the wreckage, picked up the pieces, and did the best she could to carry on. Sure all the fantastic places we traveled had helped, but make no mistake that it was her strength, determination, and drive that were ultimately responsible.
This was not the life she had hoped for, but it would be good enough.
At least for a while.
A decade after our European vacation, her memory started failing her. She would chalk it up to having "senior moments," but after a while it was becoming a problem. She would write herself notes constantly. More notes than anybody could ever read. She'd go through a pack of Post-It's in a week (eventually she'd go through a pack in a day). Then, three months before we were to leave for Africa, I woke up and found her wandering around in a daze. She was so confused that I thought she might have had a stroke, and rushed her to the hospital. But it wasn't a stroke.
The specialist was not entirely sure what had happened to have caused the "permanent brain injury" which my mom was now dealing with. He didn't think it was Alzheimer's, but couldn't know for sure. Subsequent sleep studies found that she would stop breathing for dangerously long periods in the middle of the night. Her doctor felt that oxygen deprivation was most likely responsible for her brain trauma. He immediately started her on a CPAP machine, but the damage had been done.
There was no reversing what had happened, and her slide into dementia had begun.
And now it was my turn to have my life fall apart.
First thing I had to do was get a note from her doctor so I could cancel our trip to Africa and get a refund from the insurance company. "Why would you want to do that?" he asked me. Well... probably because her brain was incapable to making new memories and it would be a horribly confusing ordeal for her. But her doctor thought canceling would be a mistake. Since her older memories would be preserved for a while, he thought she would be able to go and still have a good time. Sure she would remember absolutely none of it, but that wouldn't stop her from having fun at the moment.
And so we went.
It was bizarre, tragic, and beautiful all at the same time. Every morning we'd wake up and she wouldn't know where we were or how we got there, but then she'd see an elephant wander by our tent (or whatever), remember that we had been planning a trip to Africa, put two-and-two together... and, surprise, we must be in Africa.
And, no, the irony of an animal that supposedly never forgets helping me come to terms with a mother who always forgets is not lost on me.
It's funny how things sometimes work out.
I am beyond grateful that we had taken that first trip to Europe, because that showed her she could have fun in life without her boyfriend in it... right before her boyfriend was carted off to prison.
I am even more grateful for her doctor encouraging me to take her to Africa despite her brain damage... because it showed me that her life was not done yet. Yes, things would continue to fall apart, but I didn't just writer her off after diagnosis like I probably would have if we hadn't gone to Africa.
Everything after returning home is a blur of heartbreak and tears as I struggled to figure out how to help my mom have the best life she could when life was throwing every possible obstacle in her path.
Eventually her apartment wasn't safe for her. Those same stairs I had dragged her down years before became a barrier to getting her in and out of the apartment. So I bought a home in the old neighborhood I grew up in where she could be in a familiar area (so that's why he bought a new home!). I had to install security cameras all over my home so I could keep an eye on her while I was at work (so that's why he has all those cameras!). My mom was scared and lonely when I wasn't there, so I decided to get some cats to keep her company (so that's why Jake and Jenny are there!). It goes on and on. Every day was a new challenge. But it's my mom and I love her, so what else was there to do?
I'm not going to sugar-coat it, dealing with dementia is a horrendous ordeal, and just when you think you have a handle on it, things get worse. They always get worse. And then there comes a point where you don't think that your life will ever be anything but worse.
After six months in my new place, my mom was declining badly. She was on a host of drugs to help her with the depression and confusion, but they sometimes only worsened what they were supposed to be helping. Mom would become angry for no reason. She'd scream at me because a son shouldn't be kidnapping his mother. She'd pound on windows to try and escape. She'd start crying and couldn't stop.
One day she complained of chest pains. Thinking she was having a heart attack I ran her to the ER. It wasn't a heart attack, it was constant stress generated by never-ending confusion. Her doctor was very concerned.
But not for my mom.
He was concerned for me.
"What are you doing? You can't take care of her like this." And he was right. My entire life had become about trying to keep my mom from going off the edge, but I didn't realize she had already fallen off. And I was falling with her. It was then I knew that she should have been put somewhere that could help her months ago, but I would never admit it to myself because admitting it would feel like I was giving up on her.
After weeks of searching, I found a place I could live with where she could live.
Driving her across the mountains to her new home was about the hardest thing I've ever had to do. Maybe it is the hardest, I don't know. All I do know is that it felt worse than any heartbreak I've ever had and I spent a lot of time after wanting to die.
But it was just a warm-up for what was to come.
When it comes to dementia, things always get worse, remember?
There is nothing... and I mean nothing... that can prepare you for that moment where your own mother doesn't recognize you. You can read all the books that exist on dementia... you can think you are prepared and be able to accept it when that day comes. But you're wrong.
If you want to know what that's like, there just aren't words to describe it. There is no pain... no suffering... that will cut you quite like it. This video might give you the smallest inkling of how it goes. The whole thing is worth watching, but you can fast forward to 23 minutes in if you want to see what it looks like when somebody has been completely and utterly destroyed...
And that was me.
Sitting in the parking lot of my mother's memory care facility trying not to die of a broken heart.
They say that when it comes to dementia you say goodbye twice, and that's absolutely true. I said goodby to my mom when everything that I was to her was gone. I said it again last night when she died. The first time was a lot harder because it was the one that matters. Relatively speaking, the second time was easier because it was just saying goodbye to the body of who my mom used to be.
And so now you know.
The reason my blog stopped on June 4th, 2016 is because I had to find a home for my mom. The reason it didn't really start up again until October 31st, 2016 is because that's how long it took for me to recover from it. You can fill in the blanks on all the entries after that where I'm having a bad day or feeling depressed or didn't feel like blogging.
Tomorrow's Bullet Sunday will be bullets talking about what I have learned in dealing with dementia. Which is almost nothing, but it still might help somebody out there who is going through the same thing. I don't think it will be published tomorrow, but when it is published, that's what it will be.
To my family and friends who have helped me so much over these past years... sometimes without even knowing it... thank you. I could not have made it through without you.
To my mom's doctors, nurses, and all the people who work at The Cottages Memory Care in Mill Creek... thank you. I cannot fathom how you manage to do what you do with such compassion and grace, and am more grateful to you than you will ever know.
And to Jake and Jenny, who gave me a reason to get up in the morning after my mom had moved out (and almost certainly kept me from killing myself on more than one occasion)... thank you too. I mean, I know you're just cats, but you're still far better humans than a lot of people I know.
And so... until whenever I start feeling a little more like myself, take care of yourself and each other.
When it comes to death, we humans have a crazy variety of customs, superstitions, and rituals. Most people would agree that a lot of them are really weird, which is to say that they're weird to you To other people, maybe it's your customs that are weird.
My beliefs are a bit complex, largely falling into Buddhist ideals, but sometimes straying into the other belief systems which have shaped my thinking. Buddhists believe in reincarnation, so death is just a natural thing that happens... like a flower that blooms, dies, then returns year after year. While I don't know that I believe in reincarnation, I do believe that death is natural and nothing to be afraid of. I also believe it's not the end of you, though what happens to the energy that was you I do not know. I'm actually glad about that because it means there's one final mystery solved when you leave this earthly plane.
When I die, I honestly don't care what becomes of my body. I'm not there anymore, it was never anything really special to me, and it can get tossed in the garbage for all I care. I do like the idea of having my ashes spread over Mt. Haleakala in Maui though... just in case my friends want an excuse to take a vacation.
My mom was raised Catholic, so I am doing my absolute best to act according to what I believe her wishes to be. The whole "last rites" thing was a bust because apparently Catholic priests have better things to do than serve their flock now-a-days, so I'm already off to a bad start. I know she wanted to be cremated. I know she didn't want a church service. I know she wants to be buried in her plot next to her parents. Everywhere else I'm just filling in the blanks the best I can.
And it's been a bit weird, I don't mind telling you.
The local funeral home here went out of business one week before my mom went into hospice. I was really saddened by this, because the guy who ran it is the brother of a friend and I really appreciated how he helped me out when my grandmother passed. And so I found a new funeral home by doing a Google Maps search near my mom's care facility, picking the one that looked the nicest, and then dropping by to take care of everything. Years ago I had bought my mom's car from her and put the money into a funeral insurance policy, so the money to pay for everything was already there.
I sat down with the funeral director where I was served a plate of freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies. Assumably to provide comfort to grieving clients. Which... I must admit... it actually did. Or maybe I was just hungry because I hadn't eaten breakfast that morning. In any case, they were some really tasty cookies.
While the lovely person handling my mom's final affairs was off photocopying her birth certificate, Navy discharge papers, and all that kind of stuff, I started looking around at all the urns and casket options when I saw this...
That's right... for a hefty chunk of money, you can turn your loved one's remains into jewelry! Remember when I said that this was all a bit weird? This is what I was talking about. I mean, how does that go? "My that's a lovely pendant you're wearing!" — "Oh thanks... it's grandma!"
But that's just the beginning. You can also get your loved one fingerprinted and turn that into jewelry...
"Do you have any wishes for your mother's remains?" — "Yeah... book 'em, Dano!"
And lest you think that your pet has been left out of the fun... you can also get paw-print jewelry and even nose-print jewelry made! I mean, hey, I love my cats and all, but I can't picture a scenario where I would want to wear Jake and Jenny's noses around my neck.
After nearly an hour of cookies and paperwork, it was ultimately decided mom would be cremated then put in a nice metal jar I selected. I'll then pick up her ashes at a later date and have them interned in her plot just before concrete is poured for her marker, then say one last goodbye to the remarkable woman that will always be my mother. And check in with grandma and grandpa next door, of course.
I have decided against any kind of graveside service. I feel badly about that because I'm sure there's many of mom's friends who would like to say goodbye and have closure. But it would be just my luck to have her fucking pig of an ex-boyfriend show up, and I think it would be in bad taste to have a murder occur as she's being laid to rest. So... instead my family will set aside some time at the next reunion and remember her then. I like this idea anyway because a lot of people will already be there and not have to drive hours for a ten-minute goodbye.
And so... plans made. I guess I'm done with all the weirdness then, right?
LOL. No. There was a call from the medical examiner which was another bucket of weird to deal with. I won't go into all the details of my spilling details... but I will say that it was surprisingly thorough and specific. As if they suspected foul play. Which had my mind racing in a dozen different directions. Have there been a slew of "accidents" at mom's care facility? Has there been a chain of suspicious deaths surrounding my mom's doctor? Who knows. But my mom used to read mystery novels by the hundreds, so I kinda like the idea of her getting one final mystery before leaving this earthly plane.
I currently have 146,427 images in my photo library. And while they are all fairly well organized by date and location, I tend to rely on the facial recognition in Adobe LightRoom if I'm trying to find a picture of a person. It does a pretty good job, though there's a lot of room for improvement. Fortunately there's a "training mode" where you can fine-tune the algorithm's picks.
Take for example pictures that LightRoom thinks are me that are actually me.
And... some pictures not so much of me.
So... pretty good job, actually.
And yet... Apparently I look like a skeleton doll... a painting of a grody old saint... a statue of some Thomas Jefferson looking guy... a drawing of a woman in curls... and a black blob.
Among other things.
No accidental comparison to Ryan Reynolds this time, however. Just a woman in curls.
Sometimes technology lifts you up.
Sometimes technology kicks you in the balls.
I have long wanted a dash-cam to record all the crazy shit I see while driving. It's all so wacky that even I don't believe it sometimes, so it's good to have photographic evidence.
Since I didn't want to invest a ton of money in tech that was going to be obsolete in five minutes, I decided to buy the cheapest camera I could find until the newest generation of cameras with all the cool bells and whistles dropped in price. I ended up paying $28 on Amazon for a dash-cam that was usually $70 (I think it was on closeout?) and that would be good enough. Sure, the picture is crap and it doesn't have many features... but it would be better than the nothing I had at the time.
Last night while I was waiting for an email response, I ran out to the car and grabbed the card. Turns out I had four videos saved. Two of them were of my garage door when I installed the thing and kept accidentally pressing buttons. But the other two were from my last drive back over the mountains...
The first was of a guy peeing on the side of the road. Didn't bother to go in the bushes or nothin'... just whipped it out and was peeing. At least his back was turned, but still. Problem is... all the camera captured was his car. And since the video quality is crap, you can barely see that...
The next video I saved was a deer...
I was hoping that Amazon's Prime Day would have a massive discount on a camera with a GPS, voice-activated save, and wireless download... but it was not to be.
And speaking of Amazon Prime Day, it was a total bust. The only thing I really care about is gift cards at a discount but I can never snag one. I set my alarm... wait for the card I want to be offered... then click to purchase the second it shows up as available... but it's always, always, always sold out. I couldn't get Petco. I couldn't get Panera. I couldn't get American Eagle. The only card I managed to get was iTunes, which is great... but it's insane that Amazon doesn't offer enough cards to last more than 2 seconds.
The only real bargain I managed to find was a white SONOS One speaker for my bathroom. I had a $100 gift card that was gifted to me when I watched a friend's dog plus I had $65 in Amazon Credit Card points... so I only had to come up with $35 to buy it (except I didn't have it, so hello credit card). The Prime Day Special was the speaker bundled with a $50 gift card, which I could not pass up because SONOS rarely goes on sale, and this is as close as it gets.
Now all I need to complete my SONOS home experience is a SONOS BEAM for my bedroom and two SONOS One speakers (one for the guest room and another for the main-floor bathroom). Then there will be no corner of my home that can't be blanketed in sound... or that's not Alexa accessible. Gotta tell you... this SONOS stuff is addicting. It's just too amazing to have your television or music playing everywhere you want so you can move around the house for chores (or whatever) and not miss anything. If only they made some kind of a SONOS-style video device for my kitchen so I could keep up with television video as well as audio.
That way I won't have to miss a minute of Love It or List It when I am unloading the dishwasher or making dinner.
Jake has adapted to living at my place a little better than his sister. Where she's still nervous and runs away from anything and everything, Jake is a little more adventurous. Front door opens? Jenny runs away and hides. Jake will watch... from a distance... to see who it is. If it's me, he runs up for butt scratches. If it's not me, he will run and hide with his sister.
But he's a sweet cat. Just look at that face...
My cats haven't been on the kitchen counters since I started letting them in the kitchen nearly a year ago. I was so grateful to not have to keep disinfecting my countertops. Then... for whatever reason... probably chasing a fly or whatever... here we are...
Time to pull out the scrub brush and cleaner, I guess.
And speaking of cats named Jake... Fake Jake is still around.
Yesterday I was testing my lawn sprinklers so I can figure out why parts of my lawn are brown. Little did I know that Fake Jake was wandering through when the sprinklers activated. He was Not Happy. I decided to show him some love to cheer him up...
A new season of Trial and Error is starting! Woo hoo!
Breakfast was leftover pizza. Lunch... was also leftover pizza. For dinner there was no more leftovers to be had, so I decided I'd wait 3 or 4 hours, put down my laptop, and venture out for a late supper. But then I heard thunder booming around 4:00, and decided I would rush out to eat before a torrential flood of rain unleashed like it did yesterday.
Dinner was uneventful... thank heavens.
The walk back from dinner? Mostly uneventful...
• There was a scuffle in the parking lot between two guys whom, it would seem, arrived together in the same car. It was more verbal than physical... except for one poorly-timed slap that landed badly and a spit-response. Then one of them ran off while the other got in the car. Apparently to give chase and run him down.
• Whenever I come to the Auburn/Lewiston Area, I note that the Androscoggin River (which divides the two cities) is bordered by "Great Falls Boulevard" on the Auburn side. Problem is... in the years I've been coming here, I've never seen the "Great Falls" be that great. I'm guessing it's great in the Spring, but I'm here in the Summer and Winter when it's just rocks. Today I finally asked about it. "Well, it's not really that great most years any more."
• Today I finally decided to make a quick stop at Veteran's Park next to the above-said-not-so-great-falls. I knew it was here... never stopped. It's dedicated with a marker, which I sadly noted didn't have any women in service on it (sorry for the glare)...
Until I took a closer look(?)...
The hands-on-hips should have given her away.
• Other than the odd choice to have a gun firing at a jeep(?) it's actually a nice little park...
In case you are wondering... off to the right there are the Great Falls.
• As I was nearing the end of the bridge, I noticed that there was a Trump Protest going on across the street, almost all of them (I'm guessing) being senior citizens. They were calling for his impeachment...
Maine, like my home state of Washington, is a Blue State. But Androscoggin County, like my home county of Chelan, is a Red County. Meaning more than 50% of the people voting voted for President Trump. Don't know if that would be the case today.
• As I walked up to my hotel, the thunder was growing in intensity, but there was still no rain. As I walked in the sliding doors to the glass-enclosed vestibule, I saw a poor little bird flying back and forth. He was smashing into the windows from one side to the other, and I felt terrible about it. And so... I spent the next five minutes corralling the little fellow until I could shoo him out the front door. Time well spent, even though everybody in the lobby thought I had gone insane.
• When I got back to my hotel room, I noticed that there was a photo of the Great Falls (where there were actually falls) hanging in the bathroom (sorry again for the glare)...
Okay, I have to admit that this does look pretty great!
And thus ends my big day. Tomorrow it's back to work again.
It's Friday! And I'm heading over the mountains again! Where, hopefully, there will be a lot less smoke than there is here. I'm having a hard time understanding how there's anything left around us to burn. We've had fires every summer for years now. Is it too much to hope for just one summer where I'm not having to struggle to breathe?
I need a vacation from smoke. But that's just over six weeks away. Hope I survive that long.
Continuing on with my revisiting of every Marvel Studios movie...
MARVEL STUDIOS MOVIE OF THE DAY, No. 16: Spider-Man: Homecoming
Original Grade: A+ • Today's Grade: A+
I thought that the first two Tobey Maguire
SCENE TO BEAT: Every scene between Tony and Peter is gold... especially the first one. But when Peter opens the door to Liz's house and you get that reveal? Then the follow-up drive to the prom? Sinister.
COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: I question turning the Spider-Man suit into Iron Man suit light. They address this in the film when Stark takes it away, but it still seems to go against the character. Not nearly as much as the suit he gets in Infinity War, but still.
SIDENOTE: Having Tony Stark be Peter Parker's mentor was yet another stroke of genius from Marvel Studios. What I was unsure about was turning Aunt May from a decrepit old woman to Marisa Tomei in Civil War. But once you see how it works, it's actually really smart. And now that she's found out that Peter is Spider-Man? Well... no old woman having a heart attack. Instead we've got Aunt May saying "What the f#@%?" more genius. Aunt May is fun instead of a wet blanket on the movie. That's a good thing. An observation... I noticed that the principal in Peter's school is the same actor who played one of Cap's Howling Commandos, so I Googled it. Sure enough, it's the same guy: Kenneth Choi. Relative? Descendant? Another observation... When Happy Hogan is loading up the transport plane he talks about a new shield prototype for Captain America. Why would he be making a new shield for somebody he took the original shield from? Weird. One last thought... Michael Keaton's The Vulture was far better, scarier, and capable villain than we got from Ultron, which makes me appreciate this film even more. The great soundtrack was just icing on the cake.
Attempting to battle my way through the smoke... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Fires! The weather over the mountains was a bit hazy, but the skies were clear much of the time which was a nice change. Looking towards home this morning revealed what was awaiting me. At the top of the pass it was socked in and it never let up all the way home...
Supply trucks are on the road, headed towards the fire front...
And... I'm home. Such as it is...
The largest of the fires, Cougar Creek (currently 36719 acres), is just 16 miles north of me. It's spread a bit since I last checked, but is now 35% contained, which is pretty impressive work by our firefighters considering it was just 5% contained on Monday...
I guess now is the time we pray for rain. But no lightning, which is what started this fire in the first place.
• Entertainment! Turns out the best toy for a cat is still a cardboard box...
Anything I can do to keep the cats entertained inside the house instead of out in a smokey catio is a good thing.
• Soul. Aretha Franklin passed away which means the Queen of Soul has left us. There are many songs she's given us which put her on the throne... but my favorite is her duet with George Michael for I knew You Were Waiting...
Too many classic artists are leaving us too soon. Rest in peace, Miss Franklin.
• Bears! This video came across my newsfeed and I had to watch it multiple times...
I always feel bad for animals who have their territory encroached on by humans. The least we can do is let them take a dip in our pools from time to time.
• Outrage! Oh... I am outraged alright, Pat. Don't you worry your foolish old head about that.
Lock children in cages and separate them from their parents perhaps never to return because of a line on a map = God's work.
Reading to children = Work of the devil and the end of all humanity.
Just die already you vile, worthless, repugnant piece of shit.
• EnChroma! Instead of spending billions on a stupid wall that won't work... and a military parade to compensate for a tiny, tiny penis on a fucking lunatic... why not buy these EnChroma glasses for everybody who needs them? There are literally thousands of things that are a better use for money this country doesn't have...
And yet... here we are. Getting exactly what we deserve.
And that's a wrap on bullets for this week. Tune in again in a mere seven days...
Continuing on with my revisiting of every Marvel Studios movie...
MARVEL STUDIOS MOVIE OF THE DAY, No. 18: Black Panther
Original Grade: A+ • Today's Grade: A+
"Hey Auntie." =sigh= As I had mentioned, My favorite Marvel heroes have always been Doctor Strange and Black Panther. To get movies this amazing for both characters was a dream come true. Though calling Black Panther "good" is an epic understatement. This film was sublime. Steeped in African culture, we got something truly different than the Western super-hero fare which had come before. The fact that they were so painfully faithful to the source material is just a bonus. It was all here. The vast hidden wealth and mind-boggling technical superiority of Wakanda. The Dora Milaje. Character references old and new. And then they went and made T'Challa into a super-hero James Bond!
SCENE TO BEAT: That casino fight and subsequent car chase in South Korea was pretty spectacular.
COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: Not a dang thing.
SIDENOTE: I want sequels to all the Marvel movies. All of them. There is not a single film that's left me thinking "Well, that's enough of that." But when it comes to the sequel I want to see right this minute... it's Black Panther. Things could head in a hundred different directions and almost all of them are going to be fascinating. And then there's the Wakanda outreach program, which has fascinating implications for the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. Surely another movie is coming soon, right? The first one made like... a billion dollars!
As a kid, I was obsessed with magic. I saw all those David Copperfield specials on TV and dreamed of being a magician just like him. Whether he was walking through the Great Wall of China or making a Learjet disappear or vanishing the Statue of Liberty, he made the magic of magic entirely too cool.
My attempts at becoming a magician were not terribly successful (as you probably guessed). My parents were really supportive about it... ordering magic sets from the Sears & Roebuck catalog for Christmases and birthdays... but all of the mass-produced toy crap in the world wasn't going to turn me into a master magician.
Don't tell that to me at the time though.
I was convinced that all I really needed to be successful was the latest and greatest magic set. It all culminated with "The Magic Hat," which was a fairly expensive toy that I was certain would get me my own television special when I saw it in the catalog...
Photo Credit: thargoids/eBay UK
But when it arrived, it was pretty shitty. The "hat" was hard plastic... and heavy. There was no way you could ever actually wear it. The tricks were crap as well. There was a hidden compartment for a wand in the sides that was obvious... a hidden swing-door compartment in the bottom that wouldn't fool anybody who bothered to look at it... and it had a tank in it so you could pour in a glass of water which would "disappear" that you could then pump out with a hidden bladder under the band. Awful, awful stuff.
Eventually I graduated to more professional tricks. Most of which were purchased from a magic shop hidden away in Seattle's Pike Place Market. Well, I say they were professional, but they were pretty much crap as well. You'd get a plastic baggy with some kind of prop inside that came with instructions mimeographed on colored paper. Perhaps tons of practice would make the investment pay off down the road, but I guess I wasn't patient enough.
Eventually my obsession with performing magic died out (as most obsessions do) and I went on to whatever was next. I still enjoyed watching magic though.
At least I did until Breaking the Magician's Code: Magic's Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed started airing in 1997. It revealed how all the most famous tricks were done and all the magic kind of died after that.
But magic was always in the back of my mind. Whether it was seeing a Penn & Teller show in Las Vegas or seeing their television show Fool Us... or watching shows like Deception (now canceled) which had magic at its core... there was always something magical going on somewhere.
The latest is a Netflix show from Justin Willman called Magic for Humans which is pretty great...
Another show on Netflix that approaches magic from an entirely different angle? Magicians: Life in the Impossible. It's actually a bit depressing, but interesting as well...
What I really need right now is not magic... it's some kind of miracle to save us from all this smoke. Two weeks of feeling sick and not being able to sleep is more than enough.
It's been two months since my mom died. It seems like it was years ago. It seems like it was yesterday. Sometimes it seems like it was just a bad dream.
Most days I come through it just fine. Her mind was gone long before she passed, she's no longer suffering, and I have so much to be grateful for in the time I got to spend with her. Whenever a wave of despair comes crashing down on me because I don't have a mom any more, I remember this and manage to keep from being overwhelmed. It doesn't mean I miss her any less, however. My heart still aches and that's something that's never going away. But my life seems less and less defined by her passing as time goes on, so I guess I'm going to survive this.
What's been going on with all that over these past months...
Funeral planning was pretty easy. My mom wanted to be cremated and buried in the plot next to her parents which they gifted her many years ago. I had bought her a funeral insurance policy, so most everything was set. Two weeks ago I drove over the mountains to pick up her ashes, which were kindly placed in an urn I bought to match the one I got for my grandma back in 2015. My mom said that a graveside service was all she wanted, but I decided against it. The last thing I needed was her piece-of-shit ex to show up. I figured mom would be okay if I didn't end up going to prison for murder over a service she didn't even care about, so that was that. The next time there's a family reunion, I'll show up with all my mom's travel books and that will be a better way to remember her anyway.
Because my mom was a veteran, I was able to get the VA to provide a memorial marker for free. When you order the marker, you get to select a "symbol of belief" to put on it. Since the Catholic Church didn't seem to give a fuck about providing her last rites, I was not going to put a Catholic cross on her marker. I thought I might compromise and choose a Catholic Celtic cross, since she absolutely loved the cemeteries in Ireland we visited, but I didn't feel comfortable with that either...
I briefly toyed with the idea of putting the Hammer of Thor on it, but I don't know that mom would find that particularly funny so I decided to leave it blank...
Then I noticed that the form said you could go online and find an updated list of emblems. So I visited the site and saw that they had added a heart to the options...
Interesting to note... my mom served in the Navy during the Vietnam War. When I filled out the paperwork, you can check a box for wartime service if the person qualifies. I checked the box and didn't think anything of it... until a week later when it popped into my head and triggered a panic attack. Should I have checked that box? So I called the VA and asked if it was disrespectful to veterans who fought in the war to be having her war service added to her marker since she was a state-side doing paperwork. Turns out that it's not. All parts of a war effort get recognized, and he encouraged me to leave it on her marker order. So I did.
And so now I wait for the marker to arrive so I can bury her ashes under it on the day they cement it in.
I decided to not post a notice in the newspaper until after mom's been buried. I have, however, written her obituary already. I wrote it the night she died.
My mom died with only one day left in the month of June. I did not realize how significant this timing was until I started dealing with the paperwork. Since there was just the one day, everybody is content to just write it off. No repaying of benefits. No weird requests for pro-rated reimbursement of coverage. No letters to cancel stuff. Pretty much no anything. I closed her bank account the next day and everything else just took its course. Insurance companies could just be ignored and, after a month of pestering, they went away on their own because there was no money in it for them. Ditto for her various memberships and such. Given time... they just... disappeared. This is a massive change from the nightmare I faced when my grandmother died. She passed with a little over a week left in the month and that drama went on for months. So... note to self: when it's time to go, be sure to die on the last day of the month. It's easier for everybody. I mean, it really shouldn't be... but it is.
I don't get much physical mail. All my bills are paid online and the vast majority of what shows up is junk mail. Once I had to start checking my mom's post office box to get her mail, I changed my address to the same box so I'd only have one spot to worry about. Now that she's passed, I've switched my address to my house and will close down the post office box when it runs out in December. In the meanwhile I have the key to the box around my neck so I don't forget to check it. This morning when I woke up the key was gone from my nightstand and could not be found, even when I moved everything to search for it. When I went to feed the cats, I saw that the key was laying on the stairs. Sure enough, checking the security cameras revealed that Jake had hauled it off at 2am. And he was so stealthy about it that I didn't even wake up.
My mom was not a foodie, nor was she overly-fond of cooking. She cooked when she had to, but most of the meals we preferred were ready-made canned or frozen that got microwaved. I took her out to eat as often as I could because it offered a bit more variety over the soups and peanut butter sandwiches she would usually end up eating. I would love to eat out every day myself, but A) I don't want to drive 20 minutes into The Big City just for myself, and restaurant options in my small town are minimal... and B) I can't really afford to eat out very often anyway. So I cook a lot. Which is difficult given that all my mom's kitchenwares are so old that they're falling apart or worn so badly that they're tough to cook with. And so... I've been slowly buying all new stuff. Muffin tins... cookie sheets... bread pans... that kind of thing. My latest acquisition? Mixing bowls! I splurged and bought stainless steel bowls with non-skid bottoms and lids. They are so much nicer than the beat-up old warped plastic bowls I've been living with. And while I would much rather spend my money on new power tools, my next purchase will be a nice set of new pots and pans. Really looking forward to that.
As I mentioned previously, I bought loads of photos of my mom and her travels to put up around the house so she would understand that she lived there even if she didn't recognize the place. It worked so well that I transferred them to her memory care facility when she moved out. Once she died, I ended up getting them all back. Some of them I've got hanging in my kitchen and hallway. All the rest I've decided to hang in Jake & Jenny's bedroom... which I may end up turning into a combo cat bedroom /slash/ second guest bedroom. They are some awesome travel photos, so they would make for a nice decoration for a houseguest to look at.
After I had to move my mom out of my house, I managed to slowly work my way through most of her belongings... tossing or gifting or donating them as appropriate. After a while it got to be too hard to keep going through her stuff, so I packed it all up into cardboard boxes and shoved it in the closet that's in Jake and Jenny's bedroom. My plan was to go through them this weekend. But now I've changed my mind. I'm just not ready. Maybe in another two months. Maybe never.
I had already given mom's best clothing (jackets, sweaters, and stuff) to family. Anything that was left got donated. When she died, the memory care facility said I could leave anything I didn't want and they would go through it all... giving anything worth saving to residents in need. Which leaves two items hanging in my closet. 1) Her high school sweater, and 2) A Mickey Mouse sweatshirt I bought decades ago that she loved so much that she wore it only for special occasions to keep it in good shape. I think I might build a shadow box for the sweater. Like what they do at Hard Rock Cafes for their memorabilia clothing. That would be kind of cool. I'm not sure about the Mickey sweatshirt. I might just leave it hanging in my closet. Maybe I'll build a box for it as well one day. It's strange to be so indecisive about "stuff." This goes against the Buddhist concept of detachment that I strive for, and I'm not sure how I should feel about it. Maybe I shouldn't feel about it at all? About the only thing I'm certain of is that I don't want to part with it. At least not yet.
I wish I had something insightful to say in order to wrap up this post, but I don't.
I just really miss my mom.
Yesterday was Labor Day in the USA, a holiday meant to honor American workers and give most of us a day off work. Or something like that. Other countries have Labor Day too (or, as some spell it, Labour Day) but I don't know much about that.
What I do know? I had to work over Labor Day holiday weekend.
But once I was done? I decided to take Fall seriously and get my Fall-looking wreath hung on my door. I usually wait until October to put my Halloween pirate skeleton in the middle, but... eh...
It doesn't seem like Summer could possibly be over... didn't we just start Summer a few minutes ago? But it has been getting noticeably chilly out in the mornings, so I guess Fall is really here.
My cats will be thrilled.
The bird feeder is not depleting as quickly as it once was so I'm guessing the smaller birds are starting to head south? Still going through a lot of seed though. And Jake and Jenny still spend hours watching them out the window too.
This morning when I went out to refill the feeder (again) I saw a small gold bird sitting on the rocks around my flower bed. Usually birds take off the second I open the door, so this was puzzling to me. Thinking he might be hurt or stunned, I thought I'd fill a shallow dish with water and put it next to him. Alas he hopped away every time I tried, so there wasn't much I could do except grab my camera...
Fake Jake would pounce on him in a second, so I did my best to shoo him under a shrub so at least he could rest up in a spot that didn't make him an easy target. Most cats just kill birds for fun. Fake Jake will actually eat them. Which doesn't make me any happier about it (he has food, he doesn't need to hunt!) but at least the poor things aren't being killed for sport.
When I was downloading that bird photo off my camera, I noticed the photo before it was this one...
No idea where I took it. On the date that was time-stamped on the image I wasn't traveling anywhere, so I'm guessing I shot it somewhere close to home, but I have no memory of it. Boy does it suck getting old. I wonder how long until I forget how to wipe my ass?
Hopefully before I forget how to pay somebody to wipe my ass for me!
Today I walked to work because my foot was stiff after having elevated it all weekend. I also chopped off a chunk of my damaged toenail because it was itching UNDER the nail. That hurt. It probably would have hurt less if I managed to keep my eyes open the whole time I was performing home surgery, but the blood was freaking me out. After coating it with antibiotics and bandaging it, I felt much, much better.
Until I walked to work. By the time I got there my foot was on fire and I felt like I was going to pass out.
But I'm still glad that I walked. I should do that more often.
Also? On the walk back home I saw this rock next to the railroad tracks...
Awwww. I'm guessing this means I'm lucky now?
I could use some luck!
And so could the East Coast of these United States of America...
Yikes. Scary. What does God have against The Outer Banks? Or maybe it's because North Carolina voted for Trump. Because that's the way it works, right?
Going through my mom's stuff has been an awful ordeal. No matter how much I sort through, there's still so much left to go. I thought that waiting would make it easier, but two-and-a-half months later and it's far more difficult. It feels as though the more time that passes the more I realize that I'm never going to see her again, and the more the weight of it crushes me.
This weekend I sorted through some clothes I had forgotten about. It was a bundle that I didn't want to send with her to the memory care facility because it was special stuff... like all the B. Kliban Cats T-shirts she had collected. They're so cool that I was worried they would be stolen and some stranger would be wearing them. Now I'm donating them to Goodwill where strangers will be wearing them after all. Had I sent them with her, she might have at least got to enjoy them once or twice. It's the stuff like this that is so damn hard. It doesn't matter how much I did right, it's mistakes like this that my mind wants to focus on.
After that trauma, I decided to go through all of her recipes and cookbooks. When I was a kid, mom cooked all the time. Later in life she barely cooked at all. Most of her recipes are ones that I won't eat (meat) or shouldn't eat (sweets) and got tossed. Jenny was a big help in sorting things out...
Some of the recipes she was happy to rip out of a binder for me...
Recipes she really didn't like got chewed on and shredded...
There were two recipes I was hoping to find. The first was her Applesauce & Walnut Bread, which is sublime (found it). The second was her Spanish Rice, which was very different than what I've had in restaurants (never found it, dammit).
What I was surprised to find was the recipe for my grandma's enchiladas (from my dad's mom). I have refined her recipe over decades in order to come up with my own vegetarian version. They're awesome. But they're not the same. Now I am very interested in going back to her original recipe and substituting Beyond Meat crumbles for hamburger to see if they're the same as I remember. Wouldn't that be a treat? And speaking of treats... grandma made a marshmallow popover roll that was divine. You roll a marshmallow in melted butter, shake it in a cinnamon & sugar mixture, wrap dough around it, then bake. The marshmallow melts, which causes this amazing gooey mess in the middle that ends up being the kind of thing I'd imagine they serve in heaven. I can't fathom what the carb load must be for something like that. I'm sure it's substantial. But what a way to go!
I have great memories of my grandmother and her many pets, but my favorite memories are of her cooking. She skinned tomatoes by sticking them on a knife and holding it over the flame on a gas-top stove. She opened enchilada sauce cans by chopping into them with a cleaver. She laughed a lot while trying to teach me how to make the food I loved so much. She called me "her little politician" because I liked to talk so much when I was a baby. I didn't get to see her very often because she lived in California and I live in Washington, but I remember an awful lot about those moments.
I also found recipe's from my other grandma (my mom's mom). Including her award-winning apple pie. I've had the recipe for ages... but it's not the same when I make it. Grandma would taste the apple then decide what it needed to make a great pie. More sugar. Less sugar. More lemon juice. Less lemon juice. How much spice got added. It wasn't just a recipe... it was a complex negotiation between ingredients until grandma's apple pie became grandma's apple pie.
My grandpa's pickles can't be duplicated either. He used a measuring cup, but it was never a level measure. He always seemed to over-pour on everything. His specialty was dill pickles and hot pepper dill pickles, but he also made sweet pickles because my grandmother wanted them for her macaroni salad. I remember him measuring out the sugar and watching it spill out over the measuring cup for what seemed like forever. The recipe says "one cup sugar" but there was a lot more than one cup in that brine. It's what made grandpa's sweet pickles become grandpa's sweet pickles.
I suppose I shouldn't even attempt to duplicate foods where the best thing about them was the people who made them. It's an endeavor that's certain to be met with failure.
Today I started putting away my wood shop so I can park my car in the garage now that it's getting frosty in the mornings. I'll still be working whenever I can... at least until the snow comes... but The Big Projects are done for the year. Really hoping that next year I have more time in the shop.
Among the things in the garage that need to be put away are all the photos I had canvased for my mom. I made them when we moved into my new house so she'd understand it was where she lived when she saw pictures of herself... and it was a fantastic investment that actually worked. They worked so ell that I took them with her when she had to leave. After she died I brought them all back home with me so I could hang them... somewhere.
Ultimately I decided they should go in Jake and Jenny's bedroom. When I relocated the guest bedroom to the main floor, I ended up with blank walls, so it was the perfect spot. And just like Jenny "helped" me out with the recipes, Jake decided to "help" me decide how the photos should be arranged...
He did a pretty good job...
TOP ROW: Trevi Fountain in Rome, Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska, The Grand Canyon, Temple of Poseidon in Greece, Beach at Natural Bridge in Aruba. BOTTOM ROW: Amalfi Coast in Italy, Southmost Point Key West in Florida, The Colosseum in Rome, Mykonos in Greece, Angkor in Cambodia.
LEFT: Kauai Beach in Hawaii, Oak Alley Plantation in Louisiana. MIDDLE: Neets Bay Float Plane in Alaska, Chilkat River rafting outside of Haines in Alaska. RIGHT: The Great Pyramid in Egypt. The Sphynx in Egypt.
LEFT: Wild Africa Trek in Walt Disney World Florida. RIGHT: Phone booth in London, England.
One of these days I really need to put together the bed I bought so this could become a second guest room if I ever needed it. There's always One. More. Thing. isn't there?
I had two canvases left over, so I moved the photos of Mom with Donald and Me & Mom with Micky to my bedroom next to the Mickey patent reproduction hanging on my door...
Remember when I was lamenting that I didn't know much about my mom when she was younger? Well, she just delivered! I found over a hundred letters she wrote to my grandparents when she left home. Guess there's stuff to know if I ever want it...
I honestly thought that this small suitcase was filled with sewing stuff! Of course I never looked inside when she was here... I just put it in her closet for her. Then when she left, I put it into storage with the rest of her stuff. I was getting ready to throw it out but, of course, I had to open it first to make sure it was just sewing junk. Guess it's a good thing I did.
And that was enough fun for a Monday. More than enough.
Now I get to hammer out a guard for the feeding station so Carl the Robovac will stop ramming into the water fountain and pushing food dishes all around the house. Not the best pick for the last project I create before putting away my wood shop for the year, but a necessary one!
As any long-time reader of this blog already knows, I am hopelessly addicted to the LEGO video games. They are mostly (fairly) simple puzzle games which involve looking for various objects and trying to figure out how to combine them to complete a task needed to advance in the game. Most all of the titles are really funny, even with the source material can be rather gory (I'm looking at you Jurassic World!). And that's the appeal. LEGO games are a mindless distraction from all the horrors of the world that I like to escape into from time to time...
And so... here's my ranking of all the console LEGO games I've played (I haven't played the latest LEGO online game, LEGO Worlds yet because I am hesitant to buy into an online game that could be set down like LEGO Universe was).
That's a lot of LEGO games. And it doesn't even include the versions I've bought for my iPhone, iPad, Gameboy, and Nintendo DS! And next up? LEGO: The Incredibles! How awesome is that?
Time to remember the past and move forward... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Marker. My mom's marker finally arrived. I placed her remains on Thursday and the stone was set shortly thereafter...
Burial vaults used to be big cement things. Now they're tiny plastic! She barely fit! The guys at the cemetery helping me were incredibly kind a respectful, which was very much appreciated.
It still seems strange for her to be honored as a Vietnam veteran when she wasn't in combat, but the VA assures me that her service during wartime absolutely qualifies her for the honorarium. I think this means the American Legion will put a flag on her grave come Memorial Day? That would be nice.
• Obituary. After my mom was buried, I could finally send in her obituary. I was surprised that I was able to do the entire thing online. I didn't have to talk to anybody...
I picked a photo from our last trip together. She's sitting across from me at the five-star Victoria Falls Hotel Restaurant in Zimbabwe. Sure she's in a T-shirt, but what the heck. She was an adventurer. That's the kinda stuff she wore when tearing up the planet doing awesome shit.
A sidenote... The photo I used for my mother's obituary was taken exactly four years from the day I sent it in to the newspaper, and I didn't even know it until I saw the date stamp of the photo. Weird how things line up from time to time if you pay attention. Here's my blog entry from September 27th, 2014. Amazing how the universe works.
And so I guess that's it. The last thing to do in a long list of things to do so we can both move on. Or not...
• Memoriam. When I purchase a copy of our local paper today so I can see my mother's obituary in print, I will also be purchasing yet another opinion piece by the paper's publisher who previously compared rape to cheating at golf and smoking. Did he apologize for his flippant and tone deaf attitude? No. No he did not. He doubles down and says that men have nothing to be ashamed of... we were born this way, after all. Most of us are good guys, so the horrible way that women get treated is not our fault.
Then whose fault is it?
You're saying the toxic masculinity which permeates our society and is a constant and consistent threat to women is nothing to be ashamed of? Men can hold their heads high while women are harassed, humiliated, beaten, raped, and even killed? Are you serious?
The idea that men should just keep going on about their business while a society which endangers women is thriving is categorically absurd. Jeff Ackerman says we should just keep drinking from the milk carton, mowing the lawn, and ignoring rape culture because most of us are nice guys. It's nothing to do with us. Men should stick together against these evil women who want to be able to walk down the street at night without fearing for their life. Apparently that's what he considers "behaving like a man."
I call bullshit. Real men should be standing together with women to put an end to this. Real men should be actively dismantling toxic masculinity at every opportunity. Real men should be teaching their sons that being a man means being a partner to women, not dominating over them. Real men set an example by respecting women, cherishing women, valuing women, and supporting women. Real men work for a society where women are heard.
My mother was victimized by a man who professed to be her boyfriend... but she was never a victim. She picked herself up, pulled together the pieces of her life, then moved on the best she could. She loved her family. She served her country. She was kind to those she met. She worked hard. She traveled the world to understand it better. And her reward for having such courage? To be memorialized in a newspaper where the publisher says that what she went through is none of my concern because that's just the way men are.
My mom deserves better than that. I'm a better man that that. And society will be far better off when "old men" like Jeff Ackerman are gone.
• Love. And in yet another "Making History" segment... MIKE PENCE BECOMES FIRST VICE PRESIDENT TO ADDRESS ANTI-GAY SUMMIT — But I'm sure he was hating the homosexualizers with Christian Love® in Jesus® name... so it's all good. I mean... these "Christians" have branded their hate as "Christian Love®" so I'm assuming they've trademarked that. Oh... and Jesus® of course. Can't go having The Wrong People co-opting The Savior® can we? They might tell people to love everybody as He did instead of weaponizing His name to push an agenda. We can't be having THAT! Can you imagine? People coming together to love one another? Why, the notion! So silly! Christian Love® is reserved for those who believe EXACTLY LIKE PENCE DOES... and nobody else! Lord, what a piece of shit. Pence, Trump, and their entire administration is garbage. Way to represent all Americans.
• Political Climate. When given the choice from here on out, I am voting exclusively for progressive women candidates. I honestly do not give a single fuck's worth of thought to any of these old white men destroying this country. I'm voting all women, all persons of color, all LGBTQ, all ANYTHING but the status quo from here on out. These assholes had their chance. The future belongs to anybody but them. Because the only way we are going to get FAIR REPRESENTATION in government is to have ACTUAL REPRESENTATION IN GOVERNMENT.
And until next Sunday, when I'm sure there will be a whole new set of horrors to deal with, I bid you adieu.
Things not going quite as well as we had hoped. Jake still has way too much blood in his urine, so no next steps can't be decided.
I got to visit him this afternoon. The poor little guy is so confused and scared. I've never been able to acclimate him to other people. There are people everywhere. He's terrified of other animals. There are animals everywhere. He's in a cone, which freaks him out because he can't see. He's tethered with a catheter and an IV, which is no fun at all. He's on drugs, which just heightens his confusion.
The good news is that I'm told he's usually sleepy and lethargic, so maybe he's not quite so bothered by it all. He was sure active when I was there though. He was rubbing up against me... probably wanting me to take him home...
So heartbreaking. It was all I could do to hold it together.
Things are not much better at home.
Last night Jenny was super excited when the dinner alarm rang. But when I put the food out, she wouldn't eat. Instead she wandered around... presumably looking for her brother. They have never not eaten together, so she was understandably upset. Eventually she just flopped on the floor of the guest room and nothing I could do would convince her to come eat.
After I left her alone for a while, she came back into the living room and lay next to me, but still wouldn't eat, even when I would hold the food in front of her...
She finally climbed onto the back of the couch and cried and cried and cried. Trying to console her just caused her to cry more, so I tried ignoring her instead...
Eventually she gave up and went to sleep on the small couch. Still hadn't eaten. At one point I got excited because she woke up... but she just gave herself a pedicure and went back to sleep...
When I started turning everything off and packing up my stuff, she decided to go eat. At last...
After I turned in for the night, Jenny wandered in to fall asleep next to me.
I woke up to her meowing again around 5:00am. Still looking for her brother.
It was around this time that Jenny realized I was laying on a heating pad. She then flops down and uses her back to keep pushing me over until she's claimed the whole thing. I tried explaining that I need the heating pad for my back or I won't be able to bend over to feed her breakfast, but she did not care. Here's me trying to slide her over a little bit... note the foot kicking me away. She is NOT having it. Oh well. I didn't need a back anyway...
After taking a shower, she was still soaking up the residual heat from the pad (which I had turned off). Guess it's time to pull our "her" electric blanket...
Really, really hoping that Jake has improved when I visit him tomorrow. It would be so much easier to climb on a plane Friday morning if I knew he was getting better.
Not that climbing on a plane is going to be easy. Poor Jenny will be all by herself for the first time in her life for three days.
Since I'm supposed to be on vacation this week, but ended up home with a sick cat instead, I've been working
He hopped on the bed with me after he'd eaten his breakfast... then proceeded to puke all over me. And, let me tell you, it was an impressive amount of vomit. Kind of shocking he was even able to contain so much spew in such a tiny body. Fortunately, it was all contained on my blanket so all I had to do was stick it in the wash... four times (just to be sure).
Afterwards he hopped right back on the bed and fell asleep...
I wanted to keep an eye on him for a while, hence my being an hour late to work.
Before heading home to see if Jake had left any puke for me to find, I headed to the grocery store since my refrigerator and cupboards are bare. While there, I was excited that there was a new brand of mayo for me to try (Heinz!)... until I looked at the price tag...
SIX DOLLARS AND TWENTY-NINE CENTS?!?? FOR MAYO?!? WTF?!? IS THERE GOLD IN IT? DOES IT COME WITH A FREE PONY? WHAT?!? Needless to say, no new mayo for me. Perhaps when I get to The Big City next I'll see if they have it for a reasonable price at the Safeway.
And... back to my home.
Which was pleasantly puke-free!
A quick look at the security cameras and I saw that Jake it still able to pee... many, many times... so I'm chalking this day up as a win.
After I run my blanket through the wash just one more time.
First of all...
I wish I could say that I never doubted... but there were definitely some moments! That third game? EIGHTEEN INNINGS loss to The Dodgers? Brutal. And I watched the entire thing from beginning to end while holding my breath. Last night was easier, but I was still a bit anxious all the way through. This is baseball, after all.
Blogography has never been a money-making endeavor. Even when I sold stuff it was always at-cost, which usually meant I lost money in the end. Nope, this is just a place to write my thoughts of the day and I never wanted to clutter it up with ads and other crap.
But that hasn't stopped people from trying to advertise here.
For a while there, I had a Google Page Rank of 7 out of 10. This is about as good as it can possibly get for a personal blog (8 and higher means you're a massively popular site like Apple or YouTube). Despite saying that I don't want ads unless you're willing to pay an obscene amount of money on my About Page, I was getting advertising requests several times a week. Vitamin supplements, clothing, vacation packages, makeup, cameras... even other blogs. I very nearly buckled when I got an offer of $1800 for six months... but it was for a sketchy online gambling site, so I declined.
Over the years my Google traffic has remained fairly good, but my Page Rank has plummeted to 5. When I read up on what this means, I found that it's because I am not using SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and am not actively building link-backs. Oh well. The benefit of a lower rank means that people stopped bothering me for ads, so there was a silver lining to all of it.
Then, as the internet turned into a social media machine instead of being blog-driven, Google Page Rank fell out of favor with advertisers. Sure it's still kinda a big deal if you're trying to make money... Page Rank says where you'll end up in a Google search, after all. But since social media is so huge and bypasses Google's ranking system, it's not the indicator of a website's draw power (especially blogs) like it used to be.
This little blog has been around for a very long time, is updated constantly, has a massive amount of content, and has hugely diverse number of topics (seriously, is there anything I won't write about?). On top of that, it currently has 105,483 backlinks and 1,428 referring domains. Which is nothing to sneeze at. Which is why I still occasionally get advertising offers. Like this one, which was waiting for me when I checked my email this morning...
Another sketchy gambling site, I'm sure.
Maybe... maybe... I would run an ad luring people to lose all their money if I were offered $10,000 annually. Maybe even $5,000 if I get another vet bill (STAY HEALTHY, JAKE!). But I'm not quite that desperate... yet.
Maybe I should be?
I dunno. If you ever see an ad on my blog, I haven't necessarily sold out or given up. It's just that I need the cash and my body ain't pulling on the street corner like it used to.
I have work in Spokane early tomorrow morning, so I'm heading across the basin today rather than have to leave at some ungodly hour tomorrow. I really, really don't want to be away from Jake while he's sick, even for just one night, but duty calls (disappointing though that may be).
This was far from the only disappointment today.
Things went off the rails early this morning because my cats are not thrilled about Daylight Saving Time ending. As in seriously not thrilled. They were anxious at 6:00am (their 7:00am feeding time, as far as they know). Concerned at 6:10am. Upset at 6:20am. And absolutely livid by the time I went to feed them at 6:30 (I am slowly adjusting them to the hour time difference, whatever good that does). Jenny was pacing the room and meowing her head off. Jake was pawing at my face while squawking. It's exactly how you want to start a Monday.
I pulled their "Feed-and-Go" automated internet feeders out of storage so I could get them set up and filled. Except... I couldn't get them set up. The company that makes them went out of business last month. Bad enough that they had to close and shut down their cloud servers, rendering their $200 feeders useless. But it's reprehensible that they didn't bother to notify their customers... or keep their website up with a message to warn their customers... or push out an app update which warns their customers. Because otherwise there is NO WAY TO KNOW that the cloud service has been shuttered. The blue network light on the units still glows blue! Luckily I test the units every time I haul them out, otherwise my cats wouldn't have been fed. And had I been gone longer? They wouldn't have been fed FOR THREE DAYS. With the Feed-and-Go website down, I had to find out the news via a cached Google search...
Feed and Go is sad to say, it's closed it's doors.
We're extremely sad and sorry to say that Feed and Go has closed its doors. We had an amazing time helping thousands of pets eat healthier and on schedule. The time has unfortunately come to close the operation of our web app, and mobile app services. This will mean that unfortunately your Feed and Go's will no longer work as an automated feeder, and will not connect to our servers. We want to take this opportunity to thank you for being a part of our mission and wish you and your pet many happy moments ahead.
What a bunch of pig-fucking monsters. They are perfectly content to LET YOUR PET STARVE rather than contact you so you know that their product no longer works. I can only hope that whomever responsible will be roasting in hell soon. I also hope that some genius electronics expert out there will come up with a circuit board replacement that will allow the feeder to be programmed directly, instead of relying on a cloud service that's not there any more.
I had a couple other automated feeders from back when I was feeding Spanky, but they needed D batteries and I didn't have time to go get some. So instead I filled bowls with way too much food so Jake and Jenny can graze 'til their hearts' content. And hopefully not over-eat and puke everywhere.
I noticed that the motor on the drinking fountain had burned out. It's less that a year old. Guess I'm putting out a bowl of water next to the heaping bowls of food...
Since I was coming to Spokane, I decided to get the passenger airbag replaced in my car. Toyota has been sending dozens of notices telling me that there was a recall, but I would rather die than go to the asshole who owns the local Toyota dealership. Since Spokane was where it was purchased, it made sense to go there.
After dropping off the car, I decided to get a falafel wrap at The Pita Pit. Only to find that they had gone out of business, just like Feed-and-Go...
No problem, I walked a couple blocks to a cafe with good sandwiches... only to find out they closed at 10:00 this morning for "maintenance."
Rather than wander around aimlessly, I decided to just go to Red Robin. They no longer have Boca Burgers (inexplicably replacing them with a veggie burger that's so gag-inducing awful I'd rather eat meat). I ended up eating their guacamole, salsa and chips, which wouldn't have been bad except the chips were stale. For dessert I wanted some of their cinnamon sugar mini donuts with caramel sauce. Except they came plain with no cinnamon sugar and instead of caramel, I got raspberry sauce. As if that wasn't enough, the donuts were overcooked.
The Apple iPhone Upgrade Program I've got allows me to replace my iPhone with the newest model every year. Since my replace-date is coming up, I thought I would drop by the Apple Store and take a look. I also wanted to look at the newest MacBook Pro models, as I'm sure I'll have to be replacing my 2012 model sometime soon. When I asked the Apple sales guy if there was a MacBook Pro that had an SD card slot and a USB and Thunderbolt port... you know, LIKE ACTUAL FUCKING PRO MACHINES WOULD HAVE... I was told no. "Everything has moved to USB-C, because that's the new industry standard." Alrighty then. We're back to Apple being clueless fucking assholes as to knowing what professionals need, but whatevs. So I moved on to the iPhone XS. I thought to ask if the charging cable that came with it had USB-C so I could charge it from the new MacBook Pro. The sales guy told me "No, it comes with the older USB-A and I would have to buy a $20 dongle." And so... I guess USB-C is not quite the "industry standard" I was just told it was since Apple itself isn't using it on their most popular product (by far).
Which begs the question... "Does Tim Cook, Jonathan Ivy, or absolutely anybody at all at Apple know what the fuck they are doing?" Because it honestly doesn't seem that way.
In the past their products were overpriced, but at least I knew I'd be getting something that provided value for the money and would be cutting edge when it came to features. But now? That's not even close to being the truth. Less features with less power and with less flexibility... all while being grotesquely overpriced. It's as if Apple has been working overtime to become the cliché they've always been painted as.
As I was leaving The Apple Store, I was very nearly run down by a group of amish(?!?) women on motorized scooters. They were driving on a busy sidewalk way too fast and seemed as if they were barely in control of the things. At least I think they were amish because they had those little hair covers on their heads and were wearing dresses. But I thought the amish didn't use technology... and since you have to have a mobile phone app to rent the things, maybe they weren't amish after all?
In any event, these stupid fucking scooters are littering the sidewalks everywhere downtown, so apparently the latest episode of South Park isn't just hype...
At the very least, they should be illegal to drive on the sidewalk. Given how fast they travel, somebody could get seriously hurt. And if somebody ever runs into me with one of them, I'm going to pick up the scooter and beat them to death with it.
After walking eight blocks in surprisingly cold weather, I picked up my car and headed to my hotel. They asked if I had a room preference, so I told them top floor and as far away from the elevator as possible so it would be less noisy and I could get some sleep. They put me on the top floor... but right across from the elevator. And next to a room with a woman coughing her head off. Which makes me even more thrilled that I wasn't able to stay home tonight.
If there's a bright side to having to drive three hours to Spokane, it's that some of my favorite pizza on earth is here... David's Pizza. Their DaVinci pizza (with tomato, pesto, and feta) is seriously delicious...
Unfortunately I had the grave misfortune to arrive on "Let Your Screaming Kids Run Apeshit Through The Restaurant Night." A whole team of the little fuckers were running around screaming and screaming and screaming and screaming... while the parents were in some kind of group meeting in the next room not giving a fuck that people were trying to eat in peace. By the time I left I had such a splitting headache that any enjoyment I got from my pizza was destroyed.
I decided to end this entry at 8:00pm tonight because I'm worried that continuing on any longer is just inviting more disappointment. Hopefully work will go smoothly so I can head home as soon as possible in the morning and be done with all this nonsense.
Until the next time, of course.
UPDATE: There it is! MobiLinc (the internet connect platform I use to control a good chunk of my home automation, has gone down...
It's been up and running 24/7 perfectly for months... so of course it goes down when I'm away from home and really need it. No idea what's wrong, as the cameras, alarms, and all the non-MobiLic devices are connected to the internet just fine. Perhaps it's time for me to go to bed and turn off the world.
Washington State is 100% vote-by-mail, so I already voted last week.
When it comes to local races here, two of the biggest are too close to call. We won't know the outcome until the remaining mail-in votes are tallied on Friday. Frustrating, but it's a small price to pay for a system which allows you to vote in the privacy of your own home without standing in line. And now that we have automated voter registration for all of our eligible citizens, Washington State has one of the highest voter participation rates in the nation...
Now that Halloween has passed, the country is already preparing for Christmas.
Back when I had work in Orlando two and three times a year, I'd fly in for my conference then fly home the next day. I'd rarely go to Disney World (even though work would pay for it) because it got to be more of a chore than fun. I just can't handle the lines and crowds of people.
In December of 2007 I was working in Orlando when some work friends and I decided to go to Epcot for dinner in "Italy." After that we took the bus to Disney Studios to goof off for a bit. While I was there, my mom called to tell me something. "What's all that noise?" she asked.
"Oh, that's The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights," I replied.
"It's a show at Disney World where they have a bunch of Christmas lights flashing to music. I'll send you a picture..."
"That's pretty! I want to go to Disney World!"
"I've taken you to Disney World lots of times!"
"But not at Christmas! I want to go at Christmas!"
"Okay. Next year I'll bring you along then."
One year later I kept my promise, and here she is...
It immediately became her favorite thing. She loved it so much that I ended up taking her a couple more times. The last time was in 2012, I think, since that was the last year I had work in Orlando. They closed down The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights in 2015.
This morning I was flipping through my newsfeed while waiting for work to start and saw this terrific video from Disney World showing how they transform The Magic Kingdom Park for the holidays with Christmas decorations...
A part of me is glad that I don't have work in Orlando any more. Especially over the holidays. It would be really tough to go there knowing what it meant to my mother. Perhaps it will be easier over time. But right now? I just can't fathom it.
It's that way for a lot of things though.
I miss my mom.
I wish that I could get through just one day without being filled with rage.
Today I thought I had a good shot at it by promising myself that I would ignore the news and whatever bullshit that President Trump was doing, but that was futile because his level of incoherent crazy was so off the charts that it was everywhere.
As if that wasn't bad enough, work was awful... because I couldn't actually get any work done.
My office iMac, which is around two years old, has been slowing to a crawl for months. Over the last couple of weeks it's happening so often that I had no choice but to try and fix it. I started with doubling the memory from 32GB to 64GB. That helped a little, but the problem seemed to be with the "Fusion Drive" (a hybrid SSD/HD drive). I kept getting a message popping up that it was overheating. I finally decided to replace it, despite the fucking nightmare involved in tearing open an iMac to do so.
And today was the day.
I decided to set up the drive before tearing anything open to install it. This was relatively easy, as I had an external SATA dock that I could pop it into. I downloaded the macOS X Mojave installer, installed it onto the new SSD drive, and 25 minutes later I was booting from it. Nice.
I decided to start fresh by not transferring over my apps and data... just my system settings.
Turns out that was a mistake.
My primary tools at work are Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign, Adobe Lightroom, and Adobe Acrobat. They are all part of Adobe's "Creative Suite" which is managed by their Creative Suite desktop app. You install it, then manage all your app installs from there. Simple, right?
No. Not by a fucking longshot, because this is Adobe we're talking about.
All my apps installed fine, except Acrobat. This happened last time I had to install the thing and was solved after I ran a cleanup app. This time the app didn't work, so I spent FORTY MINUTES trying dozens of "fixes" from the Adobe forums... none of which worked. Keep in mind that this has been a known problem that people have been complaining about for over a year.
AND ADOBE HASN'T DONE A FUCKING THING TO FIX IT! How in the hell can I be expected to not become enraged after wasting this kind of time? AGAIN! And I still don't have a working copy of Acrobat on my work computer, a program I use daily.
Not that Adobe gives a shit... they don't. They bought out and buried the competition until there wasn't any competition, and now they don't have to give a fuck about anything.
I would have stayed until I got things figured out, but it was getting close to 6:00 and the alarm to feed my cats would be going off. They're already freaked out by Daylight Saving Time ending, and I was afraid that not being fed when the alarm sounds would send them over the bend. So I packed up my crap and headed home.
Except I couldn't get home because a train was running through town. It was moving so absurdly slow that it took over ten minutes to pass. And then? The crossing arms would not retract. After waiting another five minutes, I finally abandoned the crossing I was at and drove to a different crossing... screaming "FUCK! FUCK! FUCK!" the entire way home.
When I got home (nearly fifteen minutes after the dinner alarm) my cats were, as expected, going nuts.
So I guess everybody in this house is having a bad day.
The difference being that my cats were happy again after being fed. I'm still filled with rage.
As I've mentioned here a few times, I love maps. Because of this, Google Maps is a never-ending source of wonder to me. I could wander around the world for weeks and never get bored. There's just so much amazing stuff to see.
So when I dropped by Google Maps tonight so I could grab directions for some guests I have coming, it should come as no surprise that I got distracted and started poking around my home town in satellite view. It was then I saw something quite odd. An irrigation ditch just outside of town (which I was aware of) seemed to disappear into a big hill (something I was not aware of)...
Image courtesy of Google Maps
If you look in the lower-right there, you'll see that a ditch winds itself around then... poof.
Where did it go? It looks like it goes in a tunnel. But where does it come out? After a little while scrolling around, I found it...
Image courtesy of Google Maps
This raises all kinds of questions. Because this is a good-sized hill that it travels through...
Image courtesy of Google Maps
When I traced the path of the tunnel in map view (not a straight line, as I had thought) and measured its distance... the tunnel ended up being a mile long!
Image courtesy of Google Maps
Things like this are fascinating to me.
Is it, in fact, a tunnel? If it is, then when was it built? Who built it? How did they build it? How is it maintained? If leaves and garbage and stuff blocks it, how do they unblock it? And how in the heck can something like this exist without me knowing about it? What other wacky stuff is waiting to be discovered around my home town?
There's only one way to find out...
UPDATE: I found an abbreviated history of the Greater Wenatchee Irrigation District on their website. No mention of the tunnels though. And so... I will continue to investigate.
I am a total miser when it comes to electricity usage... in that I try to use as little of it as possible. When I moved into my home I replaced every single light with LED bulbs. I replaced all appliances with the highest Energy Star rated devices I could find. I replaced the insulation on my doors. I joined a maintenance plan for my HVAC (Heating/Cooling) to make sure it's running at peak efficiency. I bought a whole-home humidifier to put moisture in the air during our dry winters to help hold more heat in the room. I purchased a smart thermostat to automatically turn the heat down when I'm not at home. Basically, anything I could think of to reduce my electricity bill... I did it.
Most people are surprised to learn that I went to such effort and expense given that electricity is so cheap where I live. But money saved is money saved no matter how much money it entails, and being energy-responsible is a good thing regardless.
Thanks to my energy sensor, I know exactly where my money is going month-to-month. In the Summer my electricity bill is around $17-$20 because the device with the highest energy consumption (air conditioning) is rarely used. My home is fairly well insulated against heat and stays cool with just the ceiling fans running.
In the winter, however, it's a different matter entirely.
The highest energy consumption in my home by far is the heating. Last year it raised my bill to $32 in early winter and $44 during the coldest months. But in order to get those amounts, I had to set my thermostat to 67 degrees. Which isn't bad with a sweater and good socks on. I mean, yeah, it's not entirely comfortable, but you get used to it.
But when I have houseguests staying for one or two nights at a time, they aren't given much time to "get used to it," so I've had to change my strategy. Sunday through Thursday, the thermostat sets the temperature to 70 degrees. Friday and Saturday (the days when guests are usually here) it sets to 72 degrees. Now admittedly, that's not a huge difference. A shift of 3 degrees and 5 degrees is hardly anything, right?
My bill increased from $32 this time last year to $40.
$8 doesn't seem like a lot (though if these vet bills keep piling up, it'll seem like a lot to me!) but you have to keep in mind that a small temperature change resulted in a bill 125% higher than it used to be. If your winter electricity bill is $350 (typical for the coast)... it skyrockets to $438! Insanity!
If this pattern holds, my bills in January and February will go from $44 to $55. Again, not a huge leap when you have relatively cheap electricity... but it's tough to see that extra $11 on your electricity bill when you've spent hundreds to keep it low.
I'd buy sweaters and good socks for all my guests, but something tells me that would cost more than $11.
Black Friday is the one day of the year I set aside to shop for clothes. Not in stores, of course... never in stores... but online. I put aside money every month so that when today arrives I can buy my clothes for the following year at 40% to 80% off. This year all my savings went to pay for vet bills, so I didn't end up buying a stitch of clothing. But it wasn't a big deal. I have a pile of summer clothes I bought for my Hawaii vacation (but didn't get to use because Jake got sick) and I still have loads of winter clothes left from the stuff I bought for Antarctica last year.
Guess I'll be wearing a lot of Hawaiian prints next year at Summertime. I rather like Hawaiian though, so I'll survive.
And so... no new clothes. But that doesn't mean I didn't purchase anything for Black Friday. On the contrary, I just blew my tax refund before I even have it! Something I try very hard not to do... but there were some bargains I could not refuse...
Ever since investing in the SONOS wireless speaker ecosystem (which I love, for the most part) I've been saving money for the subwoofer to complete my Dolby 5.1 setup. My existing SONOS speakers already have pretty good bass, but I miss that punch you can feel when watching movies. Problem is, the thing is SEVEN HUNDRED DOLLARS!!! The amount I've managed to save? $120. Which means buying a SUB was a few years off yet. And then SONOS went and had a Black Friday sale for $100 off the regular price...
I could not pass up $100 savings, even though I only had a fraction of the remaining $599 I needed. And so... there goes a huge chunk of my tax refund!
Philips Hue LED Smart Bulb Starter Kit
I was set against the Hue LED lights because they were hideously expensive and require a hub. Instead I went with hub-less bulbs that were a fraction of the price. And... you get what you pay for. The cheaper bulbs I bought are crap, and refuse to stay connected to the internet (even though they are practically sitting on top of my Google WiFi router). They also refuse to change color via IFTTT, which is what I use to remind me when it's recycle day. So I made up my mind that I'd invest in the Gold Standard of smart-bulbs (Hue) next year. But then Amazon had the $149.99 starter kit on sale for a ridiculous $79.99, and I couldn't pass that up...
The side-benefit of investing in Hue is that Alexa can control them directly, which is kinda nice. I probably won't be turning my porch lights on manually (they're programmed to turn off/on automatically based on sunrise/sunset times), but it's nice to know I could tell Alexa to do it if I needed her to.
iTunes $100 Gift Card
I buy all my apps, movies, music, and TV shows from Apple. Which is why I wait for Amazon to put their $100 iTunes cards on sale for $80, because it's like getting free money... money I'd end up spending anyway. I do this every year. Sometimes I get lucky and manage to find a different store (like Best Buy) who put theirs on sale as well. $200 covers the bulk of the stuff I buy at Apple in a year, so paying $160 is a no-brainer...
UPDATE: I kept checking all day to see if Best Buy dropped their price. They just did. Not on the $100 card, but $10 off their $50 cards, so I got two of them. Sweet!
Dyson V7 Animal Absolute Vacuum
I am not a fan of Dyson. Their technology is great, but their construction is cheap. I still have the one I bought my mom sitting in the garage with a burnt out motor (which I really need to have fixed one of these days since it's still under warranty). So when I wanted to buy a cordless "stick" vacuum to replace the dying vacuum I use to clean my hardwood, it was not going to buy a Dyson. But when I did the research, the Dyson models came out on top every time. And so I bit the bullet and bought the model they make for pet hair (V7 Animal) because it was on sale for $240 (regular $399)...
I am really hoping that this last longer than my mom's upright, which didn't even make it a year. I'll only use it once or twice a month (Carl the RoboVac does the day-to-day cleaning) so fingers crossed.
UPDATE: I received a notice from Dyson that the V7 "Absolute" which also comes with a fluffy head for better cleaning on hardwood (which is all I have) was on sale for $238 (regular $450)... two dollars less than the "Animal" I bought that doesn't have the fluffy head! So, essentially I'm getting the $100 head for free, PLUS a "deep clean kit" that retails for $80... plus everything that comes with the "Animal" version. This is pretty shitty... why didn't Dyson offer this deal yesterday with all the other deals? And so... I ordered one of those and will just refuse delivery of the original shipment. If you buy direct you get a money-back guarantee, and I am definitely taking advantage of that.
What I Spent
My grand total for the day? $1078. Factoring in the $120 I had saved up for my SONOS SUB, I ended up putting $958 on my credit card (probably close to $1000 once tax is added). I loathe, loathe, loathe having credit card debt, but I'm trying to be okay with it since I'll be able to pay it off with my tax refund next year. Given that the full price of all the crap I bought was $1580, I can't complain about getting 1/3 off.
What I Didn't Buy
There were a few things I had in the back of my head to purchase. Stuff I want... not need. But once I ended up getting the SONOS SUB, everything else was taken off the table because that ate up way more money than I was wanting to spend. Guess these Black Friday deals will have to wait until next year...
And so... until next year then...
When I bought my home, there was a lot of remodeling that needed to be done so that my mom would be safe living here. She couldn't walk on carpet very well, so I had to replace all the flooring with hardwood. She couldn't use the showers because there was a lip she'd trip over, so I had to put in a zero-entry pan. I had to remodel the stairwell railing so she wouldn't fall down the stairs. It went on and on. And that's not even touching on some of the cosmetic things I wanted to change (the sponge-painted accent walls had to go).
When it came time to hire a contractor, I had to be sure they were available ASAP and would do high-quality work. I ended up going with one of the most expensive options, but I felt I'd get what I paid for. My mom's safety was worth more than money.
After the work was completed, I was fairly happy with everything. I ended up being more expensive than quoted... took longer than quoted... and was one of the most frustrating things I've ever done... but it's all good.
Then I started living with it and noticing things.
Fixtures were crooked. Workmanship was shoddy. Paint bled onto my floors. And these were not isolated incidents... they were everywhere. I paid a premium price for shitty work.
Which meant I had to remodel my remodel. I started with the horrific job they did on my "California corners" on my baseboards. Instead of being sanded smooth, they just painted over their shitty mis-matched bullshit...
Then back in August I saw that the paint was sagging off the wall of my guest bathroom...
Upon inspection I noticed that the texture which was still stuck to the wall was applied badly. They didn't bother to sand down the patchwork they applied after ripping the mirror off the wall...
Not only that, but they didn't bother to match the texture that was already on the wall. There are no less than six texture patterns across the whole bathroom along with ugly smooth spots where they didn't apply texture at all...
This is infuriating.
Everything is so messed up that the only realistic way to fix it is to scrape everything off, sand it all smooth, then start over from scratch.
I don't have time for that right now, so I started removing the texture that was sagging. The reason it was sagging is that they didn't sand off the paint from the previous texture, so the new texture couldn't stick to it...
And then something horrible started happening. The patch material that they used where the mirror used to be (and didn't sand down) was starting to turn to power. The texture would peel off the wall with the slightest scrape of my putty knife...
Even worse? As you can see, chunks of the patchwork was falling out of the wall as well.
What a fucking joke. My contractor's team did the shittiest job possible and apparently didn't give a crap that it would fall apart within two years. Some of the repairs were so badly applied that I had to cut them out of the wall so it would flatten out.
After scraping practically the entire wall and sanding around the area that fell off, I was ready to tape off everything and re-texture...
Despite coming from a can, the new texture went up easy. I dare say that my effort matched the walls better than the various textures my contractor used...
After painting, the wall looked far from perfect... but at least it wasn't sagging and flaking any more...
Maybe next Summer I'll be able to take a week off work, pull out the fixtures and furniture, strip everything down, then do a proper repair. In the meanwhile, this will have to do.
I remain dumbfounded that people don't seem to take pride in their workmanship or build anything to last anymore. The only way to make sure of anything now is to do it yourself.
When Jake got sick, I turned off Carl the RoboVac because I didn't want him running through puke and smearing it all over the house. Now that Jake has been puke-free for two months, I'll likely turn Carl back on. Because there's nothing quite like having your floors vacuumed when you come home after a hard day at work. Especially if you have pets shedding all over the place.
While Carl has been hibernating, I've been using my cheap cordless Hoover to pick up all the kitty litter and cat hair. For what it is, the thing does a pretty good job. Not so good that I can use it for my monthly deep-clean... for that I have to pull out the Shop-Vac (which my cats hate more than just about anything)... but for day-to-day cleaning it's fine.
But Hoover has been acting up lately so it was time to find a newer, better, stronger, faster vacuum. The only requirements being that it had to be cordless and it had to be lightweight. So when Black Friday rolled around, I did my due diligence Google research and found that Dyson came out on top every time for the things that were important to me. I loathed to get in bed with Dyson again (which was explained here), but they had a deal that was very good and so away I went.
Believe it or not, the two features I was most looking forward to were these...
Being able to clean baseboards and above door-frames without getting on my hands and knees or climbing on a stool is a pretty big deal. And so I've been counting the minutes until my Dyson V7 Absolute would get here. And today was the day.
Overall? I like it. But it's not perfect...
Compared to what I have, the Dyson V7 Absolute is a dream. Sure I wish it had more power in "regular mode" but it still does a very good job of making quick work of dirt, cat hair, and random cleaning tasks. Though there is an up-side to the lower power... the thing is so quiet! That goes a long ways towards my liking my new vacuum. If you can get it on a good sale, I wouldn't hesitate picking one up. But, once again, if you have hardwood floors you must get the "Absolute" version that comes with the fluffy cleaning head! For me, the V7 would be half the vacuum it is without it.
My mom was an avid Teddy bear collector. She had tons of them. So many that she ended up donating a bunch of them to a firefighter drive. Apparently when firefighters respond to an emergency where a child has lost everything, they will give kids the bears in order for them to have something of their own from which they can start rebuilding their lives. It's a pretty incredible concept. But, then again, firefighters are pretty incredible people.
When my mom couldn't stay with me any more, I packed up some of her bears and took them to her new home. The rest of them I boxed up and stuffed in a closet because I couldn't bear to give them away.* Now that she's gone, there's not much point in hanging on to them.
Last month, I decided I would start donating her massive bear collection to the annual "Toys for Tots" drive. Almost all the bears are brand new, have never played with, and still have the tags attached. I'm sure mom would be happy to know that her bears are making kids happy for the holidays instead of sitting in a closet collecting dust, so it really is the perfect solution.
And so... every weekend I've been unboxing another crate to make sure they're in good shape, give them a vacuuming, then bag them up for the Marines...
There are a couple bears I've run across that I'll probably hang onto. Sunday I found the first bear of her collection which, coincidentally enough, I bought for her. Then there's her Teddy Ruxpin, which I also bought for her. I don't know that I want to keep it, but I'm interested in selling it if I can get a good price! Probably a long shot since there's no box for it, but you never know.
I was told that getting rid of mom's stuff is good therapy for accepting that she's really gone.
That's a therapy I don't need. I know she's really gone every single day.
*See what I did there?
If Facebook has a redeeming quality, it's their "Memories" feature where they give you a run-down of what you were doing on this day a year ago... two years ago... three years ago... and so on.
Well, kinda redeeming. I find that much of the time there's at least one painful memory which you'd just as soon not re-live, but that's life I guess. In general, it's a good thing though.
And that got me to thinking...
I should be able to do something like that for my blog!
I started writing out the code I would need, then remembered that there's nothing new with WordPress, and surely somebody else had already done this. Sure enough, there's a bunch of plugins available.
Alas, none of them work for me.
And so... I'm back to coding.
How else would you know that a year ago today I was returning from my Antarctica trip?
Or two years ago I was wishing you a Happy World Monkey Day?
Or five years ago I was saying goodbye to Peter O'Toole?
Or twelve years ago I accidentally smacked myself in the balls with a shampoo bottle?
Heaven only knows your life isn't complete without reading all about that!
The thing about life is that your "normal" is always changing. Just when you think you've got things figured out, BLAM! Suddenly what you thought you knew goes out the window and you're scrambling to figure out what your new normal is and how to live there.
When I look around, my life has remained relatively steady (comparatively speaking). I've lived in the same valley for 47 years. I've worked at the same place for 35 years. I've had my closest friend for 32 years. It goes on and on. Most of the significant factors that make up my life are unchanging. I've had three "major" relationships (and a few not-so major relationships) but even my being single feels unchanging and consistent.
Then my mom dies, everything changes, and I haven't been able to find my new normal since.
It all hit me like a ton of bricks on Thanksgiving when I realized that I wouldn't be hauling my ass over the mountains to get turkey take-out from Denny's so I could have dinner with her this year.
Or any year ever again.
I had plenty of places to go for Thanksgiving, but decided to stay at home this time and let that sink in.
Except it didn't, and I was no closer to normal than I had been for the past five months. Apparently sixteen years of prioritizing my mom in my life doesn't leave quickly. Nor should it, I suppose. Howard once told me that a breakup takes twice as long as the relationship to get over. Technically, my relationship with my mom has been 52-years long, so I guess I'll finally be back to finding normal when I'm 104.
Something to look forward to.
Happy Birthday, Mom.
Apparently squatting down to apply and remove chains to my car for the drive over the mountains yesterday worked some muscles I haven't used in a while... because my gluteus maximus is all kinds of sore today. Guess I need to look into assercize or something like that. Or, I dunno, just exercise at all maybe?
And speaking of chains...
Yesterday after I made my way through Tourist Town, there's a sign before you head into the mountains advising you as to road conditions and closures and such. If the roads are impassable, there's also an arm-block that drops down to keep people from going any further.
This was the sign which warned me that chains were required over the pass... 21 miles ahead.
Some people decided that they didn't want to wait 21 miles and were pulling over to apply chains for driving on bare roads. Since the roads were bare, everybody with chains was driving way too fast. And so... chains were flying off tires and being busted to shit left and right. Which meant that some people wouldn't have chains for the pass and would be ticketed if caught.
Welcome to the hazards of winter driving.
But it was worth it to spend the holidays with friends...
Bring on the jolly fat man!
I'm not sure how I'm supposed to feel about Christmas now that both my grandma and my mom are gone. For my entire life, they were Christmas. Even once I decided I didn't need to celebrate the holiday, it still meant something to me because it meant something to them.
But now? Forever more, it's just another day without them here.
Which is to say that it's just a day like any other day.
Might as well see a movie?
We ended up seeing Vice which I was a bit excited about because Adam McKay wrote and directed it. Having his wit turned towards the steaming pile of garbage that is former Vice President Dick Cheney...
Didn't care for it.
It was funny in spots (and really funny in one particular spot), which was entertaining... but it was a kinda slapped-together documentary-style movie that didn't expose or enlighten. And while it did present some of the horrible shit Cheney unleashed... it didn't show it in any real context, nor did it really explore the consequences. It's just laid out the stuff we already knew.
Dick Cheney is a fucking monster.
I want to see a movie that takes what he did and follows it through to what happened because of it. Not with a title card at the end of the movie, but with and actual exploration of just what a heinous blight on all humanity he has been.
All that being said, the performances in this flick are phenomenal. Christian Bale... Sam Rockwell... Amy Adams... they all deserve their Golden Globe nominations, and are a shoe-in for Oscar nominations as well. Truth be told, Steve Carell was brilliant as well. But best picture?!? Seriously? Nah.
Have a happy Christmas, if that's a thing you celebrate. Otherwise? Happiest of Tuesdays to you.
Christmas is such a weird holiday. All this drama build-up to one day... then, just like that, it's all over and you're expected to return to Real Life. I worked for a little while before I drove home yesterday. Then worked a little in the office once I got back. Then today I only worked a half-day. So I guess I'm kinda easing my way back into Real Life.
What I'd like to do is ease my way into a new tattoo so I have some fresh ink for 2019... but my artist is in San Francisco,* so that will have to wait a bit.
Instead I've decided to set my top ten goals for 2019...
That aught to keep me busy. Assuming I can manage to live through 2019.
*For which I'm thankful. If my tattoo artist was local, I'd be covered in ink and broke.
For those who only read one of my posts each year... or anybody wanting a recap of the past year here at Blogography... this post is for you! As customary, I've jettisoned loads of the usual junk so this entry is "mostly crap" instead of the "total crap" they usually are.
As you can imagine, 2018 was the worst year of my life so far. Just surviving it feels like a major accomplishment. All I can do is hope that 2019 is better.
• This year was largely about my cats and the hijinks they got into. So... no change from last year...
• Found out that Google thinks I look like Ryan Reynolds when I have the right haircut...
• Another year, another traumatic trip to the vet for Jake and Jenny...
• Saw the best movie of 2018: Black Panther.
• Finally bought into the SONOS smart speaker ecosystem...
• Said good bye to long-time blogging friend Kelly "Hot Coffee Girl."
• Took my new macro lens to The Keukenhof in the Netherlands...
Another day of Keukenhof wonderment at macro level...
• Finally made it to lovely Budapest...
• Finally made it to lovely Vienna...
• Returned to St. Louis and its Gateway Arch...
• Headed to Jefferson City to hunt ghosts at the old Missouri State Penitentiary with Coal Miner's Granddaughter and the Tennessee Wraith Chasers...
• Jake gets a new favorite toy...
• Saw another amazing P!NK show in Seattle...
• Had to rescue another bird from my savage kittehs...
• Started organizing my souvenirs from around the world...
• Spent my weekend building a flower bed in my front yard...
• Upgraded Jake and Jenny's catio with a ramp and a massive climbing pole...
• Had the worst day of my life when I said good bye to my mom...
• Remembered my many travels with mom...
• Took a look back and wrote about The Elephant Out the Window...
• Wrote about finding inspiration amongst the heart-crushing tragedy of dementia...
• Built my cats an indoor feeding station...
• Another trip to Maine... this time with a torrential flood of rain.
• Saw an amazing show by one of my long-time favorite bands, Erasure...
• Installed a mesh network with Google WiFi.
• Remembered back to the AIDS crisis, which wasn't that long ago.
• Flew to Salt Lake City to catch a show by The B-52's, Boy George, and Tom Bailey with Marty from Banal Leakage...
• Wrote an obituary and buried my mom when her marker finally arrived from the VA...
• Was gutted when Jake got seriously ill...
• Had to make a short one-day trip to Hawaii and back...
• THE RED SOX WIN THE PENNANT! THE RED SOX WIN THE PENNANT!
• Was forced to remodel my remodel.
• Remembered my trip to Antarctica on my one year travelversary...
• Happy birthday, Mom...
And there you have it... my 2018 year in review.
Thanks once again to my cats, family, and friends for making life bearable through the not-so-great times.
Here's to a better 2019, everybody.