Happy New Year's Day! Happy 2019!
I'm doing really well this morning since I decided to stay home and hang out with my cats instead of going out and drinking my weight in alcohol last night.
All was going well until the fireworks started blasting around 7:00pm. Jenny, who is usually the biggest scaredy cat over the smallest thing did surprisingly well. She was shocked at first, hid under the bed for a while, but was pretty much ignoring the noise an hour later. Jake, on the other hand, was scared out of his furry little mind. I was able to lure him out from under the bed with treats, but he was on edge the whole night and would be terrified whenever more fireworks would start banging.
Rather than be afraid alone, he decided to try and squeeze in next to Jenny on the coffee table cat bed where she had set up camp...
Jenny wouldn't budge, so Jake finally just shoved her out of the way...
Jenny was not at all happy about this. So she tried smacking him on the head to get him to leave...
When that didn't work, she decided biting him on the ear might be the answer...
Finally she decided to just squeeze in next to Jake like he had tried to do to her...
It kinda(?) worked...
I thought maybe she had succeeded in forcing him out just like he had forced her out...
But he was just getting re-situated and wasn't planning on going anywhere...
And so... they ended up sharing...
Which Jenny was not happy about because she couldn't get comfortable...
Finally she flipped around, which was just the ticket. Jake was happy to have something to hang onto since the fireworks were still going on...
But eventually Jenny was tired of being crowded and decided to find someplace else to ride out the firework noise. Jake looked a little depressed after she left...
If only cats could just do a couple shots of Jägermeister to make everything better.
Fortunately belly rubs work just as well...
But more on that tomorrow...
At the end of 2018 my mom's post office box expired and I closed it out. I had kept it open for six months so I could be sure to get all her remaining bills paid. Also to find out who hadn't heard she had died and was still sending her cards and letters and such. All she's getting now is mail from places like Degree of Honor and AARP Life Insurance. I have been marking up their crap "DECEASED - RETURN TO SENDER" for months, but they won't stop sending. I've even called them and sent them letters (strange they don't have email) but AARP Life Insurance is still mailing her every damn week. No exaggeration. EVERY WEEK! How the fuck can they afford that postage bill?
For some reason I thought that shutting down a PO Box would act as some kind of closure.
Of course it wasn't.
I've gotten rid of her clothes. I've gotten rid of her furniture. Heck, I've gotten rid of most of her possessions.* None of that worked. How stupid was I to think that letting go of a frickin' PO Box go was going to be any different? I dunno. Maybe I was just being optimistic. Or naive.
There will probably never be closure when your mom dies. Even if you weren't as fantastically close to her as I was.
Last night when I was burning through episodes of Schitt's Creek in an attempt to get caught up before the fifth season starts in a couple weeks, I noted that Marie Kodo has a new show on Netflix!
For those not in the know, Marie Kondo is a Japanese organizational consultant who developed the "KonMari Method" of tidying your home. I discovered her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up before I bought my new place. I used her methods once with my possessions before moving in. Then let things settle for a year before using her method once more to sort through my mother's things, simplify my life, and declutter my new home. It's a magical process that's difficult to explain to people who have not studied it or seen it in action. It's essentially forming a relationship with your stuff and only surrounding yourself with things that "spark joy."
KonMari changed my life.
My garage, for example, used to be a heinous mess with crap stacked to the rafters. I couldn't even park in it, things were such a mess. After KonMari, I was able to get rid of 2/3 of my junk. A huge amount of that being travel souvenirs that were never organized and just tossed into boxes. But not anymore...
On the left is my wood supply, all organized and easy to get to. Next to that in the middle of the shelf is seven plastic bins for my souvenirs (I've since bough two more for a total of nine). Originally my souvenirs were in 22 massive boxes. Most of it was stuff I didn't even care about, so KonMari made it easy to pare down to a much more manageable level, all organized by country and stored vertically for easy access. The only other things I kept were my Hard Rock T-shirt collection, some of my mom's Christmas decorations, touch-up paint for the interior and exterior of my home (with paint supplies), winter tires, plus extra bathroom tiles and extra hardwood planks in case I need to replace anything. There's also some LEGO sets I'm keeping for my grand-nephew when he gets older. Everything else? Gone. Donated or trashed.
My biggest tidy improvement in my garage was going all KonMari on my tool collection. For the longest time they were just stacked in boxes. This did not spark joy. Eventually I found that having them all hanging on a wall so I could find them is the best way for me...
Kondo-san's Netflix show is a total of eight episodes.** They are entertaining and insightful, but I don't know how helpful they would be if you hadn't read her book. At best they just show you the process in action...
I didn't learn anything new from the show, but I did enjoy watching them (Marie Kondo is ten tons of adorable in a tiny package). If you're in need of tidying your home, check out the show and see if her book might be for you.
And now back to Schitt's Creek. I should be able to watch a couple more episodes before I have to go to work.
*I still have some of mom's collectibles I need to try and sell. I am sooooo not looking forward to that. But, what else is there? leave them boxed up in the garage until I die and somebody else has to deal with it? Better to get rid of it all now while I can. Another goal for 2019 to add to the list.
**Interesting to note that the seventh episode of Tidying Up has the song A Home to Come To over the closing credits which is from the No. 6 album on my Best Music of 2018 list. How is it that Silhouettes can have their music popping up all over and still be a mystery band you can barely find?
"Perhaps it's good for one to suffer. Can an artist do anything if he's happy? Would he ever want to do anything? What is art, after all, but a protest against the horrible inclemency of life?"
A lot of artists are of the belief that their art is born out of suffering and in order to create good art you have to suffer for it. If that's the case, I'm a pretty shitty artist because I don't think I have ever "suffered" for my art. Though, to be honest, referring to myself as an "artist" is kind of laughable because that's a gross overstatement as to where my talents lay. I'm a very good designer. I'm a pretty good photographer. I'm a decent craftsman. I'm an amazing burrito-maker. But true "art" has always eluded me.
Probably because I'm just not suffering enough to create it.
Although I did come close to suffering in creating my "art" for the latest issue of Thrice Fiction Magazine, which you can get for FREE over at our website...
Delicious cover by SEIGAR, an actual artist.
Originally I had art for three stories assigned to myself. Eventually I ended up with a lot more because the holidays wrecked havoc with people's schedules and they had to drop out.
One of those original stories I had was titled The Woman Thinking of Nothing by Beth Shirley. I liked it a lot, and had an idea what I wanted to do for the image after reading the first two sentences of the second paragraph...
She ordered a vodka martini, very dry with two olives. She ordered a basket of fries after the first drink and ate nearly half of them slowly while she drank a second martini.
I absolutely loved the imagery of ordering a high-class drink like a martini with two olives and pairing it with something as low-rent as a basket of fries. When I read that, I was... I dunno... "tickled" at the thought of it, I guess you'd say.
But I worried that since the art needed to be a full page that I'd make a mess of it, so I handed the story to another artist. But when they had to bow out, I took the story back for myself. Because you don't defy The Universe when they give you a second chance.
I decided to go to a bar, order a martini and a basket of fries, take a photo, and call it a day.
After trying on four separate occasions over a period of eight days to be served what I was envisioning in my head, I came up empty. Either the bar...
Which lead to a lot of suffering because...
After spending $75 on martini lunches to no avail, I decided to stage my own photo in a studio. So I borrowed a martini glass. I found a piece of wood that looked like it could be a bar top. I had some liquor bottles I could place out-of-focus in the background. All there was left to do was go buy some fries and find a basket to put them in.
The basket, which I thought would be an easy get, was impossible to find. I wanted one of those cheap-looking plastic flat baskets like you used to find in diners all the time. You know, the ones they hand you when you play pull tabs to put your losing tickets into. Looked everywhere. Couldn't find one. The closest I could find was a blue plastic basket at The Dollar Store. And then there were the fries...
I wanted crinkle-cut. I really wanted crinkle-cut. But time was pressing and the only bar that served them would have taken too long so I went to Wendy's. I prefer Wendy's because every once in a while I like to treat myself to a tiny 89¢ Jr. Frosty, and everywhere else you go you have to buy a giant cup. Can you guess what happened on the drive back? Yep. I forgot why I bought the fries and ate them all along with my tiny Frosty on the way home!
Don't get old, folks. No good can come of it.
Frustrated that it was going on three weeks for a photo that I thought would take fifteen minutes, I grabbed my little blue Dollar Store basket, went back to the bar which had both martini glasses and crinkle-cut fries, then staged my photo.
The wall of bottles was too far away, so the background ended up being boring and I removed it...
I took a second photo for the background like so...
Compositing them and straightening out the foreground elements resulted in this...
With the exception of the basket not being what I originally had in mind, this was pretty darn close to what I was going for. But when I went to drop it into the story, it looked... odd. So I decided to paint over it and run the image through some Photoshop filters to make it look a little more interesting. And there you have it...
I toyed with at least changing the basket color to red, but the blue stood out better so I left it.
And if all that wasn't "suffering for my art" then what is?
All things considered, I'm fairly happy with it. I guess. Probably should have just drawn it from the start, but I really wanted a photo for this one.
I did a few more pieces for the issue. To understand why I decided on what I did, you might want to read the stories first. Otherwise I'm not sure how much sense this will all make.
For a pair of stories by the always-amazing Howie Good called Prayer Vigil and The Rain Side of the Rain-Snow Line, I wanted a drowning cross and a bird/person mashup. Again constructed from stock photos then Photoshopped...
For loneliness for taste, a story by dN eQ, I had wanted to do something which had to do with a barber shop. Like a pair of scissors and a comb or something. But that wasn't what the story was saying to me. I rethought things and decided I wanted to somehow illustrate life moving forward in ways that were both mundane and interesting. This is what I came up with...
For Mountain High Pizza Pie, a story by the always-interesting Matthew Dexter, I kept coming back to the way he'd echo pizza toppings and a fetus. I put the two together and... voilà...
Whenever I have a spread of two stories, like Her Love by Megan Gordon and Call Me Kumiktuq (Scratch) by Tom Sheehan, I try to find a commonality which I can illustrate that will tie them together. For Megan's story, I really wanted to find a way of showing lemons and lavender flower. I had no idea what to do for Tom Sheehan's story. Eventually I liked his line about snowflakes and lightbulbs and decided I could have the lemon play off the lightbulb, then use lavender and snowflakes in the backgrounds...
For the story Children of Survivors by Miriam Sagan I wanted quite badly to come up with something that would compel you to read the story... but without giving anything away as to what the actual story was about. So I zeroed in on a bit of conjecture by one of the characters which had somebody being killed over half an apple. This was taking place in an internment camp, so I had to be careful about showing the apple being too red and too tasty because, I figured, that if they were given apples at all they would undoubtedly be shriveled and older...
For a brutal story called Honeymoon (by Beate Sigriddaughter), I wanted a lit candle being strangled by vines. Originally I just drew it, but didn't like what I came up with, so I composited four stock photos and ran it through some Photoshop filters. On the page opposite is a vivid story called Clown Town by Couri Johnson where I wanted to composite stock balloons over a bright blue sky. This looked strange next to my drab candle, so I changed out the drab candle I used to a bright purple one. This ended up being kismet, because it actually fit the story better. The hope being that the character's brightness and light won't be completely crushed out
And that's the end of my contributions to Thrice Fiction Magazine No. 24! If you'd like to take a look at the issue (and see some real artists creating actual art)... head over to our website where you can take a look for FREE!
Last month I was reading through one of the dozens of "Little Things You Can Do to Save The Planet" type articles I found online. In the list was the idea to wear clothes more than once before washing. At first I dismissed it out-of-hand. I'm not wearing dirty clothes! I don't even wear dirty clothes when I travel! And it's true. I bring more than enough clothes to make sure I can change every day.
But then I got to thinking...
Most days I wake up, take a shower, put on a pair of jeans, go to work, then come home and change into a pair of sweats after tossing my jeans in the hamper. Which means I wear the jeans for 8 hours in a clean environment and then waste water, energy, and detergent washing something that's not dirty.
And so... for a month now I've been coming home and hanging my jeans on a different color hanger so I can wear them a second time later on. Easy.
And since it was so easy, I decided to revisit the list and see what else I might be able to do.
It looks like my next step will be trying a biodegradable cat litter. I didn't realize that the clay litter I was using doesn't biodegrade.
Hopefully my cats will use it. Because something tells me that they really don't care about saving the planet...
They do care about having a clean place to poop. And I would just as soon have it not be my floors.
I'm trying not to swear in front of my cats.
Well, technically I'm trying not to swear out loud any more. I worry about somebody hearing me being an ass who would just as soon not hear it. Including young kids, babies, church groups, and Vice President Mike Pence. As well as my cats.
The challenge is trying to come up with alternatives which adequately convey my feelings about a situation.
Like just now when I realized that I left my phone at work and have to go back and get it.
I was about to yell "Fuck!" but instead said "Poop on a Triscuit!"
Jake and Jenny seemed confused. I'm guessing it's because they hear me scream "Fuck!" all the time and are accustomed to it... but the Triscuit thing is something new.
I hope that Vice President appreciates that.
As I think I mentioned a while back, I've been working on a photo wall in my stairwell. It's a huge, expensive project, but I've been loving how it's been coming together so much that it's all been worth it.
Until I went to finally finish the dang thing only to realize I'm out of black spray paint for a couple frames that are the wrong shade of black. So after work I made a quick run to The Big City and Home Depot for a stupid (but necessary) $3 can of paint.
Then I went to finally, finally finish the dang thing only to realize that I didn't have enough Command Strips to hang all the remaining photos. So there I was at 8:00pm tonight making another run to The Big City and Home Depot to buy hangers.
The good news is that I think I will finally, finally, FINALLY be able to finish the dang thing tomorrow morning once the paint has had a chance to dry thoroughly.
If not, there will be no more trips to The Big City and Home Depot. Instead I'll just light the entire project on fire and forget I ever thought about doing it.
Because everybody has their limits.
Mine was two trips to Home Depot ago.
As I mentioned a few times (or maybe it was just yesterday), I'm building a photo wall in my stairwell. Originally it was going to be a wall for friends and family, but it became much bigger than that when I realized I wouldn't have enough wall space for everybody. So now I'm going to have a Blogger Friends Wall in the stairwell, another Blogger Friends Wall in the dining room, a Family Wall in the upstairs hall, and a Friends Wall in my entryway.
And figuring out how to go about it all is not as easy as it sounds. There are hundreds of photos to organize and frame which requires some planning. For the sixty-six photos in my stairwell, I measured all the frames I've been collecting over the past two years and drew up a schematic...
If you'd like to see a zoomable image, you can go to the project page I made right here. It has a magnifying glass so you can see everybody up-close-and-personal...
Despite being a huge amount of work and more frustration that I imagined it could be, the results are amazing...
My cats don't seem to know what to make of it yet. But they're keeping their paws off. For now.
The most important part of the plan was determining how low I could go and still see everything. If I were to put photos too far down on the wall, I'd have to be on my hands and knees to see them. After hanging test photos, I was able to see what photos I could see as I approached the stairs...
Then what I would see with each new step...
As I was testing placement I found out that my eye went to a different area depending on whether I was climbing the stairs... descending the stairs... or looking down from the second floor...
Going up the stairs I tend to look downward so I see the photos along the bottom. But going down the stairs my eyes tend to go down the middle for some reason...
This is perfect, because I end up seeing all the photos. Even the photos that are too high to be seen from the stairs are perfectly visible from above...
I couldn't be happier with how it all came together, and I actually look forward to using the stairs now so I can see my friends...
Even if hanging the photos at the top was a bit precarious thanks to my homemade scaffolding setup...
And now for my notes on creating this beautiful monstrosity...
And now on to planning my next wall.
Remember there's a zoomable image here that has a magnifying glass so you can everybody (maybe even yourself!)...
I have a dozen Marvel Studios posters hanging in my home. I love their movies and like using the posters as decoration everywhere. It was always my intent to have the first movie posters for the "Big Three" (Iron Man, Captain America, Thor) hanging together at the top of my stairwell. Thor was easy... I just used a stool on the landing. I built scaffolding to hang Captain America (and nearly killed myself in the attempt). Iron Man was just too high up for me to attempt it, so I hung him in my dining room and forgot about it. But now I need the dining room space for the second half of my Wall of Bloggers, so I had to find a way to hang Iron Man wayyyy up where he belongs...
I had no idea how I was going to do it without paying a painter to bring their scaffolding and build a ramp. I don't have that kind of money, so this wasn't really an option.
I was watching an episode of Banshee, which takes place in Amish country. Which got me to thinking about Amish barn raisings and how they manage to do it not with a forklift or a crane... but with long poles to push the frame up into place. Couldn't I do the same thing for my poster by using a Swiffer mop handle and some 3M Command Strips? The head on the Swiffer is kinda spongey, so it should have good grip on it.
First I cut some wood blocks which I mounted on the frame backing board. Then I attached the Command Strips to that. Then I nailed a piece of wood across the bottom of the posters to form a ledge. Then I stood on the landing, reached across with the poster, slid it into place, then grabbed the Swiffer handle to ease it up against the wall...
Worked like a charm!
Technically, Thor came before Captain America, but it looked better to have Cap's orange background breaking up the two blue/black backgrounds.
I'll probably leave the ledge up for a week or so just to make sure that the Command Strips have bonded to the wall properly. Each set can hold 4 pounds and I used 4 sets (16 pounds total), which means my 7-pound frame should be okay, I hope.
If not, hopefully myself or my cats won't be underneath it when it falls.
Lay's potato chips were on sale at the grocery store so I bought a couple bags. And while I love them plain right out of the bag, I was craving the chip dip that my mom used to make. It was the same dip that my grandmother used to make. I think she got the recipe from the mother of one of my mom's friends. Since both my mom and grandma are gone now, I guess I'll never know for sure where it came from. One of a million things I should have asked about but never did.
Here's the base recipe...
It's good just like that, but there are optional add-ins if you're wanting something more exciting...
Tonight I just made the base recipe with a little cayenne. It was exactly what I needed.
And everything I didn't.
It's been seven months since my mom died and there's always something there to remind me that she's gone. If it's not the pictures of her on the wall or cream cheese dip, it's something else.
There doesn't have to be a ghost for you to be haunted. All it took for me was a bag of chips.
Today I had to run into The Big City to have some dental work repaired. Going to the dentist is never fun, but today's trip was made worse by the brutal cold front that descended into the valley last night. It was so cold out that the windshield wipers fell apart after ten minutes on the road.* Which is dangerous when road-slush is fusing itself to your car...
Fortunately I was able to crank the defrost and drive carefully enough that my windshield stayed mostly-clear. At least long enough to drop by the auto parts store for new wipers.
And then it was dental reconstruction time.
Which was a piece of cake.
I can't believe how anesthesiology tech has advanced over the years. Used to be they shoot you up with novocaine and you're uncomfortably numb for an entire day... then you have that awful taste in your mouth as the drugs leach out. Gross. Then everything hurts for a while as your body recovers. Even once novocaine was replaced in the 80's, the new generation of numbing agents seem like they're improving.
Now? You feel nothing. You taste nothing. The numbness fades in hours. There's no residual discomfort or pain. The work was completed just six hours ago and I can barely tell that anything was done. How cool is that?
And speaking of cool...
There's a musician named Simon "Blanks" de Wit in the Netherlands who reimagines popular songs with his own musical arrangements on YouTube. The results are fantastic, especially when he takes contemporary music and turns it into 80's pop with a "StyleSwap"...
The result is often something I like far more than the original...
The guy is incredibly talented, posting "One Hour Challenge" videos where he attempts to remake songs in 60 minutes...
He composes his own songs as well...
His sound is still developing, and it will be interesting to see where he goes as a musician. If he can come up with an album that's 80's pop inspired, I'm so there.
*Note to self: Not replacing your windshield wipers for six years is probably not a good idea.
Today I went looking for some old, old, very old files that I knew I had backed up on CD somewhere. Turns out they were even older than I thought, because they weren't on CD after all. They were on magneto-optical discs.
This poses a problem, as I have no way of reading them.
Well, I think there's a way... but it's far from an easy way.
It will involve my dragging one of my old computers with a SCSI interface out of storage, wiring up the optical drive, copying the files to a hard disk, then taking apart the computer so I can remove the hard drive and put it in another Mac which has ethernet (but no SCSI). Or something like that. Maybe I've got a SCSI CD burner around somewhere.
My guess is that CDs and DVDs will be next to die off. Just like in Back to the Future...
At some point Real Soon Now, I need to transfer all my older files to Amazon's online storage. Then it doesn't matter if I can't read CDs or magneto-optical, or ZIP, or JAZ, or SyQuest... all I have to worry about is whether or not I can read the format that the files are in.
Years ago any time a new version of Adobe Illustrator or Adobe InDesign came out, I immediately read in all my older files, then saved them out in the new file format. That way even my oldest files would still be accessible if I ever needed them. But eventually, as the number of files I have archived skyrocketed, this became impractical.
Now I just cross my fingers that new versions of the programs will be backwards compatible enough that I don't have to worry about it.
Worst. Monday. Morning. Evar.
Which is bound to happen when your bed ends up covered in cat vomit and you pull a muscle in your back.
But we'll get to that. First let me back up to yesterday, which was a much better day for me.
As I've mentioned a few times, Jenny has a vindictive streak and knows exactly what buttons to push on poor Jake when he pisses her off. First thing on her list? Stealing Mufasa, his stuffed lion and favorite toy. Many times when Jake has done her wrong, she runs off with Mufasa and hides him away somewhere. Jake will then spend hours trying to find him.
Yesterday I found Mufasa stuffed behind the garbage can in the bathroom so I took him to Jake, who was lounging on top of the cat tree in my bedroom. It was like Christmas morning...
Jake oftentimes latches onto Mufasa with his claws and swings him around...
But it always comes back to bite-bite time...
He was all smiles for a good ten minutes...
Good times. Good times.
I am dreading the day that Mufasa gets ripped to shreds. I've already had to repair him once, so his time on this earth is coming to an end eventually. A friend checked at the gift shop "Out of Africa" in Johannesburg's airport where I got him but, alas, they are no longer selling Mufasas. Every once in a while I check eBay just to see if one will pop up, but no luck so far.
This morning at 4:00am Jake hops on the bed and wakes me up in distress. He's making chirping noises and acting like he wants to throw up, which is a rare thing for my cats to do. I'm immediately worried that he's sick with a urinary problem again, but it turns out it was just a hairball. A hairball that took him a full ten minutes to hack up, the poor guy. He was pretty whipped after that, so I threw off my vomit-covered sheets and let him rest up for a bit before I took them to the wash.
Not wanting to disturb Jake on my bed after his rough morning, I decided to take a nap on the couch. But it wasn't ten minutes before I heard a cat howling and was freaking out that Jake or Jenny was hurt... only to realize that it was coming from outside. Turns out that the people who plow my driveway piled the snow over the path that I keep shoveled for the neighborhood cat, Fake Jake, to get around my home so he can get to his food and his bathroom out back.
And so... there goes my morning nap...
And so... crisis averted...
That'll teach me not to get up and start shoveling when the snow removal team messes with Fake Jake's routine!
After my bagel and cream cheese breakfast, I took a shower and got ready for work. All was good... until... I went to get in my car and pulled something in my back. I had screwed it up last week and had been taking care to move gently until it had healed. I thought I was fine... but then had to go shoveling a path for a cat and messed things up again.
Good times. Good times.
Well, boo! Last week got an email from Best Buy saying that their "Gamers Club Unlocked" program is ending. I haven't been buying many video games the last couple years... preferring to spend my money on woodworking tools... but the 20% off you get from the club was great. Whenever there was a game I wanted, I'd wait for there to be a price drop or sale, then take the 20% off of the reduced price so I could actually afford it. Because, seriously, the $50 to $60 that games cost now-a-days is crazy. 20% off of $30 ($24) is much more my speed.
Oh well. I probably shouldn't be spending money on video games anyway. I've got plenty of games to last me.
The bummer is that I've got all these Best Buy rewards certificates I was saving up for the Next Big Game. Because paying $0 is even better than paying $24.
And by "Next Big Game" I'm guessing the remake of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening which looks plastic cartoony and wonderful...
What's truly remarkable is how they updated everything, but stayed true to the original and made it look so familiar...
So cool. And boy does that bring back video games memories.
But more on video games tomorrow...
I've been a fan of video games for as long as video games existed.
It all started in the 70's when my family was eating at Mr. Geno's Pizza and they had a Pong machine that you could play from your table on a television that was mounted in the corner. It was magical being able to turn a knob and actually control something displayed on the TV. I ended up wanting to eat at Mr. Gino's a lot.
Flashing forward... I was on a field trip to coast where we were on a ferry boat for some reason (I can't remember why or where we were going). This is where I saw Space Invaders for the first time. It was a lot of money to play... 25¢... but it was worth every penny.
Flashing forward... All I wanted was an Atari 2600 so I could play video games at home. My parents obliged me for my birthday... or Christmas... or something... and it was all I wanted to do.
Flashing forward... All I wanted was an Atari 800 computer... not so I could learn how to program one, but because I wanted to play Star Raiders.
Flashing forward... The neighboring big city gets an actual video arcade. The local pizza joint installs video games. I spend my 80's playing Q*Bert, Donkey Kong, and loads of others.
Flashing forward... And video games have been a huge part of my life. I've owned an insane number of home/handheld consoles over the years...
Flashing forward... Though I owned a PS4, Xbobx One, and a Wii U, I rarely played them because I never had time. Most all my video games were played while traveling, which meant they were played on my Nintendo 3DS. A system I loved so much that I upgraded to the 3DS XL the minute it became available.
Then the Nintendo Switch was released...
At first I mostly ignored Switch because I already had two consoles I was ignoring. But then I started spending more and more time waiting in hospitals and doctor offices with my mom throughout 2017, and the idea of playing console games on-the-go was too good to be true. So I traded in my PS4 and Xbox One and got one.
It's not as powerful as a PS4 or Xbox One... not by a long shot... but you can play games in the palm of your hands that are full-on console-quality and that's pretty amazing. Then you can also dock it to your television and play there as well. And the transition is seamless. Like the above commercial demonstrates, you can start playing Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on the plane as a handheld, then come home and dock it to pick up exactly where you left off. And the games look pretty good either way.
What's surprising is that the Switch dock doesn't have any expanded hardware in it. When you are using the Switch's built-in screen for handheld, it's running at 720p. When you dock to your television it can run up to 1080p, and it's all coming off of the Switch unit. Given how ridiculously small the system is, that's a pretty incredible feat.
Now, when it comes to games, I'm not at all hardcore. My favorite thing to do is to sit back and play the latest LEGO video game. They're relatively easy and a lot of fun. Just what I need to kick back, relax, and forget the world. And because this is as taxing as my gaming gets, I'm Nintendo's core demographic... and the ideal candidate for the Switch. But things have taken a surprising turn. The hardware is powerful enough that some decidedly non-Nintendo-ish titles are being released. Including critically acclaimed games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and my most favorite game on the Switch, Diablo III: The Eternal Collection....
And, yes, I ended up buying the blue/red version of the Switch*
It's a flawless translation. It looks wonderful in handheld or console mode. It plays like a dream no matter how much chaos is on the screen. I have no idea how they managed to do such a good job, but it's a joy to play. And I've played it a lot since it was released last November.
Do I miss my PS4 and Xbox One? Kinda. The buttery smooth 60fps, hi-res graphics and raw power of those consoles makes video games a complete dream to play... but Nintendo's plan to sacrifice power for portability is a good one. There is nothing quite like playing Diablo III on an airplane at 30,000 feet. Especially since that's about the only place I have time for video games now-a-days.
So thanks for that, Nintendo!
*When I first saw the Switch, I was horrified by the lopsided blue/red color scheme. But when it came time to buy the thing, I passed over the grey/grey version because I decided I liked the colorful one after all. It's just so unique and pretty.
...I have a cold. If that's the worse thing I caught on the plane, I'll be grateful (considering we're in the middle of a measles epidemic here in Washington State).
That being said, why in the heck haven't scientists come up for a cure for the common cold yet? Oh yeah, that's right...
There ain't no money in the cure. The money's in the medicine.
Not that it makes any difference. If they came out with an immunization that prevented colds tomorrow, there would still be people taking a pass because fucking Jenny McCarthy told them that vaccinations cause autism or some other crazy shit. Which is why we're in the middle of a measles epidemic!
Enjoy your preventable diseases, everybody.
In order to be able to take time off to go to Vegas, I had to work obscenely long hours the week before I left. Because I had to work obscenely long hours, I was sleep-deprived and my body was run down. Because I was run down, my immune system was compromised. And because my immune system was compromised, I got sick on my flight to/from Las Vegas.
It has been pretty bad. So bad that I've only been able to work part-days since returning. The rest of the time I've been plopped down on the couch watching television with my cats. But mostly Jake...
Jenny is easily spooked and would run away when I'd cough or blow my nose. Jake is somehow able to ignore it. Kinda like with the vacuum cleaner.
The good news is that I'm all caught up on my shows.
The bad news is that I'm going to have to start working late so I can get caught up on the work I missed while I was sick.
The vicious circle continues.
Well, the family of raccoons were back last night. Though this time I only counted three instead of the five that showed up last time.
Usually when another cat wanders by the catio, Jake and Jenny are dashing for the kitty-door at top speed so they can confront whomever is invading their territory. But when it's raccoons, Jake is perfectly happy to watch them pass from the comfort and safety of inside the house...
Once the gaze had passed, Jake went dashing out to make sure they were really gone, which had me all kinds of worried. What if they came back and took a swipe at him? After the problems with his urinary tract last year, I was not anxious for yet another emergency visit to the vet for a rabies check. He spent the rest of the night wandering between all the windows to make sure the danger didn't return. By the time I went to bed at 1:30am, the poor guy was thoroughly tuckered out and fell fast asleep next to me within minutes.
Jenny, meanwhile, was obliviously sleeping in the guest bedroom... never appreciating that Jake was protecting her from the threat of DEATH BY RACCOON.
I can't fathom what raccoons find to eat this time of year. And I notice that they're noticeably thinner than last time. Hopefully it's not scarcity of food that's driven them from where they normally live. Thanks to Jake, Jenny, and Fake Jake, I have my hands full caring for enough animals already.
I have been existing in a drug-induced limbo state.
I need to catch up on work, but I can't go into the office as sick as I am. So I take loads of medications which will allow me to function. But overdosing on the meds that allows me to function makes me sick to my stomach. So I work in a haze all day then end up nauseated all night. Then have to take a bunch of nighttime meds so I can even attempt to get some sleep.
It's a horrendous game of catch-22 where I get sick from the thing that makes it so I can deal with being sick.
And yet... until the weekend, I don't really have much choice.
Here's to surviving hump-day.
This has been a weird, wacky winter.
To begin with, our snow came late this year. For a while I was worried that we were in for a drought come summertime because there wasn't much of a snow pack in the mountains. After a couple false starts, the snow came down in earnest, and now it's piled up like a "normal" winter here.
We keep getting warm spells in-between the snowfalls. Warm blue skies will pop up, things will start to melt, you'll think that winter is over... and then it snows again.
Last night as I was watching television there was a rumble coming from the catio. When I looked out the window, I saw that a pile of snow had fallen off the roof, obliterating the path that Fake Jake uses to get to his food and bathroom spot. At first I thought I'd write a note to remind me to shovel it out in the morning... but then I felt bad if poor Fake Jake had to pee in the middle of the night, so I grabbed my snow shovel from the trunk of my car and headed out back to get to work.
Except I couldn't open the door...
Because of all the warm days, the catio screen door was blocked. The water drips off the roof down these massive icicles, forming a pile of ice in front of the door. Making it impossible to open. So instead I had to trudge through snow all the way around the house so I could even get to my patio...
Then I had to trudge back to get a hammer. The icicles were so big that I couldn't snap them off or break them with my shovel. Instead I had to get a hammer and chip away at them. The last thing I want is for Fake Jake to be walking there and have icicles fall and impale the poor guy.
My neighbors probably didn't appreciate my banging away after midnight, but it was all for a worthy cause.
This coming summer I need to work on clearing a pathway under my eaves to make it easier for Fake Jake to navigate in the winter. Right now it's all rocks, which are difficult to walk on, so I need to come up with something different. I also need to see about adding some kind of overhang to my pergola plans so that there's no ice buildup outside the catio. Some kind of snow removal tool in the design would be good too.
Ugh. I hope spring gets here soon so I have time to get everything done that I need to do before next winter rolls around.
This has been a tough week. My cold transitioned into stomach flu.
Which has been horrible in all the worst ways... except today when I finally managed to keep crackers down. The first thing I haven't thrown up in two days.
Next up? A bagel for breakfast.
Without being able to keep any food down for two-and-a-half days, I couldn't do much except sleep. Which was fine. My hope was that I'd be able to snooze through my stomach flu. It was a nice plan, except my head and neck ached so badly that getting comfortable enough to sleep was not easy.
This morning when the alarm to feed the cats went off, my plan was to try eating a bagel for breakfast. But when I got out of bed to go downstairs, I felt waves of nausea crash over me, so I decided to feed the cats then go right back to bed.
That's when I saw that Jake and Jenny had brought up a huge number of toys in the middle of the night... assumably to give me something to play with as I lay around recovering...
Isn't that sweet?
And speaking of bed...
My cats have been by my side for pretty much the entire time I've been confined to my bedroom. Even though I've done nothing but sleep and watch television. Both of them enjoy watching television with me, so it's the perfect holiday to them...
Though Jenny often looked at me warily. I'm guessing it's because she doesn't know whether or not the stomach flu was contagious to cats...
I swear, Jenny can give the most adorable sour looks.
Jake didn't seem to worry too much about getting sick, however...
Not that my sickness stopped Jenny from taking her turn getting belly rubs...
And butt scratches...
I think the kitties actually like it when I'm sick and spend all day with them...
Kinda nice to have somebody keeping me company all this time.
I mean, it's not like they decided to clean the house or make their own breakfast to help me out.
Now, if you'll excuse me, it's time for another nap.
There are 52 weeks in a year. I just wasted one of them being sick. I am more than a little upset about that. Didn't get much done at all. Didn't get through any work. Didn't watch hardly any of the television shows stacked up on my DVR. Didn't level up my character in Diablo III. Didn't clean my house. Just slept a lot and laid around with my cats moaning about how miserable I was.
Fortunately I don't get sick very often. I mean really sick where I'm vomiting all over the place and want to die. And for that I'm grateful. But I'm also starting to worry about all the upcoming travel I've got. It's not outside the realm of possibility that I will be so weakened from being sick that I'll just cascade from one ailment to another for my entire Spring.
But boy I hope not.
I other news... I turned off Carl the RoboVac while I was home because I didn't want him waking me up from whatever sleep I was able to get. Last night I finally let him run through the house and was shocked at how much cat hair piles up in a week. The bin was completely full! I let him charge up overnight, ran him again this morning, and the bin was completely full again! Kinda amazing how much my cats shed... but even more amazing at how incredible Carl the RoboVac is at keeping up with it all. Upstairs Carl and Downstairs Carl remain two of the best investments I've made!
Friends come and go. But good friends get stuck in your life.
When there's a friend who has been stuck with you for 34 years, saying goodbye is the hardest goodbye you'll have to say. Especially when you've had the adventures that we've had...
Some of the best times of my life have you in them, and it's impossible to me that you're gone.
Well that was an adventure.
When I drove over the mountains on Monday, it was bare roads and sunny blue skies. When I drove back this morning, it was snowy roads and overcast skies. I also had ten miles of white-out conditions where traffic crawled to 20mph as travelers struggled to even see the road.
And now that I'm home?
There have been many years of my life where winter has run well into March, but this year I'm just ready for it to be done. I need to get my garage converted to a wood shop and start in on the long list of projects I've got lined up. Several of them are going to take months of work, so the sooner I get started, the more I can get done.
In the meanwhile though?
When your heart is broken and you just don't want to face the world, what else is there?
I keep getting alerts that there's somebody on my driveway... or on my back patio... or walking along the side of my house. Sometimes they are triggered by Fake Jake or one of the other neighborhood cats, but I've tried to build my "alert zones" in areas they don't walk. This makes "cat alerts" fairly rare.
No, the real culprits when it comes to intruder alerts are the raccoons. They have no set path and end up wandering all over the place. The video below from my driveway camera shows you exactly what I mean. Early on, the lead raccoon does something that cat's do not do (at least not often)... they stand up...
Adorable... but his little head strayed in the alert zone in my front yard, so my iPhone lights up with a notification that I have an intruder (which is not so adorable when it happens at 1:00am).
Raccoons are fun to watch, so I combined various angles from my security system showing the three trash pandas making their way around my yard... and across the street into my neighbor's yard!
The second section is from the camera outside my catio. You'll see a raccoon stop and pause, looking inside my house. That was the point I tapped on the window so I could say hello...
I am dying to help them make it through the winter by feeding them... but I know if I do that they will never leave. The last thing I want is some asshole shooting at them or poisoning them or something awful like that... and so I leave them be. Hopefully as the snow melts they'll be able to find enough to eat down at the creek where they live so they won't have to wander so far from home.
In the meanwhile though? More intruder alerts... of the cutest kind.
Why is it that banking and commerce continues to get cheaper and more automated... but banking establishments and commerce facilitators keep demanding higher and higher fees? Probably because the CEOs of these organizations need a second private jet or a fucking gold-plated toilet or something.
In other news... I'm now fully invested in the raccoons that keep triggering security alerts on my phone. They have been wandering through my yard every night now, and I look forward to seeing them.
I'm still plagued with worry that somebody will harm them (accidentally or intentionally). The raccoons are obviously hungry if they are leaving their home by the creek and venturing across roads into residential territory, so it's only a matter of time before somebody catches them in their trash or something. My hope is that people will have a little compassion for their predicament and leave them be. Instead of shooting at them or setting a trap, why not just secure your garbage?
It used to be that there were five of them.
Now there are three.
Which is why I sit and stare at my security cameras once the first one appears...
The second one is usually not far behind...
The last one always lags, but never more than a minute. Tonight they were nearly two minutes behind, providing a bit of a panic attack...
As if I didn't have enough animals to worry about.
I really hope that they are finding enough food that they don't get desperate enough to attack any of the cats in the neighborhood. They look slim, but not skin-and-bones, so I'm guessing they're finding food somewhere.
See you tomorrow night, raccoon friends.
Whenever life throws a curve-ball, it feels like everything slows to a crawl and I'm trying to walk through molasses. One minute everything is a hectic mess moving at top speed... the next minute my every moment drags on and hours seem like days. It's as if some higher power is wanting me to savor every last second of misery. Which seems really cruel if that's how it works. Why can't watching a really good movie be the thing that drags on forever? Or being on vacation? Or eating a Girl Scout cookie?
Years ago I drove my mom over to Gene Juarez (a fancy spa in Bellevue) so she could have a spa-day for her birthday. It was a six hour ordeal that had three different massages, various skin treatments, lunch, hair, nails, makeup, and even a tea service. While she was being pampered, I wandered around trying to find something to do. I was bored and miserable and the six hours felt like an eternity. When I picked up my mom, I asked her if she enjoyed her day. She said that she had a great time, but it all went by too fast.
Because of course it did.
I rest my case.
It seems the answer to living forever is to just be in perpetual misery. So the next time you meet some bitter asshole trying to ruin your day, I guess you should be thankful for them trying to be your fountain of youth.
As for me? I'm going to continue using my Aveda Botanical Kinetics Hydrating Moisturizer and telling them to fuck off.
After a week of sunshine, of course it's raining on my birthday weekend. But I'm not complaining... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Change. This is my first birthday without my mom. It's also my first birthday without one of my oldest friends. I thought I would be overwhelmed with sadness, but I just feel numb. I guess you reach that point in your life when your friends and family start to go and that's just the way it is. You can either trudge on in life and make the best of what you have left... or you give in to the sadness and stop living altogether. I'm trying for the former. And if being temporarily numb to everything is what it takes, then I guess you do what you gotta do. For five decades death was a rare event for me and I suppose I'm thankful for that. Now that I'm on the back-end of my life, that's changing. I'm doing my best to accept this new reality. I'm doing my best to find new ways to be happy. I'm doing my best to keep doing my best every day. It's the least I can do to honor those I care about who aren't here any more. Life shouldn't be wasted on the living.
• Anti-Social! Stepping away from social media after having been completely submerged in social media is a weird place to be. The majority of my friends don't live anywhere near me, so things like Facebook are how we keep in touch. What I've learned these past weeks of being anti-social is this: Being in constant contact with people conditions you to take them for granted. It's a sobering realization, and something I am vowing not to forget. When I return to my social media life next week (or whenever), it's not going to be like it was. I want contact with friends to be meaningful and engaging... not empty and boring. Maybe posting less... reading less... doing less... will make my online relationships special again. Like they were back when we were all blogging. Or so I can hope.
• Dana! One of my all-time favorite shows was Sports Night, the brainchild of Aaron Sorkin (who would go on to create The West Wing). It was incredibly good television that I became obsessed with. A big reason for that was Dana Whitaker, played by Felicity Huffman. The same Felicity Huffman who is currently embroiled in a college admissions scandal. Apparently she paid a bunch of bribe money to have her daughter's SAT scores improved, thus paving her way to college acceptance. I am sure this will be spun into a heartwarming story showing the lengths a mother is willing to go to help her child... but fuck that. Her money already provided a life of unimaginable privilege for her kids. But she felt the need to shove somebody aside who actually worked hard to earn their SAT score? This is a shining example of everything wrong with this country (and the world in general). If you have money, you get to do whatever the fuck you want. Well... hopefully not this time. Hopefully, if she's found guilty, she goes to jail. How else is she going to learn?
• Dumbfuckery! Of course, not all parents learn anything from a tough lesson. Take this story, for example: It Took Two Months and Nearly a Million Dollars to Save an Unvaccinated 6-Year-Old From Tetanus. The key takeaway from the story is in the last paragraph... "The story ends mostly happily for the boy. A month later, he was completely back to normal, running and using his bike again. But it seems no lessons were learned on his family’s part. Despite the brutal ordeal and pleading by the doctors, they again chose not to vaccinate him for tetanus or any other diseases." At what point do child endangerment laws kick in? After I was run over by a shuttle van in France and arrived home, the first thing my doctor asked me after saying I fractured a rib was "Are you current on your tetanus vaccination?" When I said "I don't think so," he laid out a horrifying picture of what death by tetanus is like. It wasn't pretty. Why anybody would risk their kid's life with such a horrendous fate escapes me. Thank you, Jenny McCarthy.
• Inappropriate! It is so wrong that I nearly peed myself watching this clip?
Probably. But that's some funny shit right there.
• Off! And now I'm loading up my car for a trip over the mountains to spend my birthday with friends. I've had enough of being numb for a little while.
The End. THE END!
I'm not much of a gambler despite being luckier at gambling than most.
Sure it has some entertainment value, which is why I'll throw some money on the table or drop some in a slot machine when I'm out with friends. But gambling is not something I seek out, nor do I use it as a cure for boredom when I'm working in a place like Las Vegas. The odds are just too stacked against the player for me to find much joy in it.
For this birthday weekend with my friends at the Tulalip Casino Resort, I decided to set a gambling budget of $100. I ended up spending $0 of it because I was awarded "free play" money by the casino for staying at the hotel on my birthday. It was $50 in credit which I ran up to $78 in real money which I then used to gamble with (and ultimately lose). Perfect. Hours of entertainment that cost me nothing. That's a kind of "gambling" that I understand.
What I don't understand is people who gamble away more money than they can afford to lose. And yet it happens all the time. People have the expectation that they're going to win, when they really should have is the expectation that they are going to lose. Winning is just a happy accident... if it even ever happens.
While I was getting my $100 out of the ATM yesterday (that I didn't end up spending) there was a guy on his phone screaming at his bank because they "took his money." Except they didn't take his money... he had probably been gambling all morning and kept taking more and more out of his account. Before he knew what had happened, it all added up, and his money was gone.
Oh well. Hopefully he had enough left for rent. But, if his screaming was any indication, probably not.
The $78 in "real money" I got was won playing a slot machine called "Mega Meltdown." As I started to lose it all, I switched to a machine called "Miss Kitty Gold"...
I never truly understand how multi-line slot machines pay out... stuff flashes and you win or stuff doesn't flash and you lose. But it had cats on it, so I figured it was an entertaining way to finish off the last of my "free money" winnings.
Next thing I know, my screen is filling up with flashing pink cats and I'm up to $60 again.
It was at this point I heard a kerfuffle going on behind me and saw some woman stomping off. I must have looked puzzled because a guy standing there said "She was mad because she was going to play that machine." Now I was really confused. "There was nobody here when I started playing." And there really wasn't. "I wouldn't worry about it. If you had really stolen the machine from her there are cameras everywhere and she'd be asking for security.
One more reason to take a pass on gambling, I guess.
Well, that... and the fact that I still have my $100.
The first thing I did when I bought my house was to rip out the door locks so my keychain would be two keys lighter. My new locks are opened via keypads or via an app on my phone... no key required.
In case you haven't guessed, I am not a fan of keys. They are (literally) ancient technology that isn't necessary in this day and age. And yet I have loads of them. Most of my keys are at home in my safe. The only two I lug around with me are my car key and my office key. To carry them around more easily, I bought a minfig keychain at The LEGO Store. It looks like Greedo from Star Wars, but it's actually an ambassador from Greedo's planet named Onaconda Farr.
That was years ago.
After a while Onaconda Farr's face and clothes rubbed off. His antennae and ears also wore down. And, last week, one of his legs fell off(!).
So I found a replacement on eBay for $5 and ordered it last week. And now he has arrived...
So cool. Almost makes me not dislike keys so much.
And, oh yeah... today I drove back over the mountains from my Birthday Weekend celebration with my friends.
I was happy to see that there's still plenty of snow in the mountains. Perhaps it's enough that we don't have to worry about drought this summer? I certainly hope so...
And now back to Real Life.
Such as it is.
I've always tried to be conscious of my environmental impact. I recycle whatever I can. I reuse as much as possible. I repair instead of replace. But after reading stories about whales dying from ingesting massive amounts of plastic (among other plastic horrors), I've redoubled my efforts to use as little of it as possible.
Problem is? Trying to cut the amount of plastic we use is pretty much impossible. The junk is everywhere. Even if you stop buying stuff that's made from plastic, you can't seem to avoid buying stuff packaged in plastic. But the story gets worse. Now we're quickly getting to the point that you won't be able to recycle plastics any more.
So what to do?
Well... people are going to have to change how they buy stuff. Companies are going to have to change how they make stuff and package stuff. Everything is going to have to change.
The other day I was at the grocery store when I noticed that the dishwashing detergent I like best, Cascade Complete, was on sale. I was running out but knew I had a full container in the garage, so I was going to pass. But the price was so good. Too good to pass up. Since I have storage space for it, I decided to buy two of them.
When I got home, something funny happened though.
I lifted up the older detergent container to put the new containers under it (gotta rotate your inventory!). That's when I noticed that the old one weighed considerably less. I flip over the bucket and I see why. The new ones are lighter because there's less in them...
Was there a mistake at the factory? Did the machine that fills the buckets malfunction? Because just look at this crap...
One-third of the container looks empty! I look at the package and see that the reason it looks one-third empty is because there's a third less product in it!
Old container: 90 pods. New Container: 63 pods.
At least now I know why it was so damn cheap compared to last time I bought the shit. What's weird is that the container for less product actually looks bigger, doesn't it?
I go to Amazon to see what the "regular" price is for Cascade Complete. But when I get there, I find the story gets even stranger. The same size container has 78 pods in it...
What the actual hell?
Apparently Cascade fills the container based on the price a retailer wants to sell. Safeway wants to have a huge sale at a tiny price-point? Put 63 pods in there. Amazon with their tiny margins wants to have a price-per-unit value price? Put 78 pods in there. Target wants to have a higher dollar-ring? Put 90 pods in there.
Now, I'm not ripping exclusively on Cascade here. All companies do this. If you want to sell at a retailer, you make them the product they want to sell. But most companies don't use the same massive package for 63 pieces vs. 78 pieces vs. 63 pieces... do they?
I feel grossly misled here. I thought I was buying the same "Cascade Complete" that I had purchased before... not a container which had one-third less product! Guess that when something is too good to be true, it's really too good to be true.
States like California have packaging laws that punish companies who use excess packaging. But it's not a fair law. Massive companies want the bigger shelf facing to get their product noticed. Because they have money, they just pay the fine. Smaller companies can't afford to pay the fine, so they have to put a similar product in smaller packaging which makes it look like you get less product. Or... big companies can afford to have two packages... one for California which is smaller, and another for other states which is larger. That's even more unfair, because smaller companies can't afford to produce two different-sized packages.
And so it goes.
Cascade ain't going to change the way they do business until they are forced to change.
The only thing that is going to force them to change is their bottom line.
Because they don't give a crap about the environment, they care about profits.
I love Cascade Complete. It works better than any other dishwashing detergent I've tried... and it rinses away cleaner so there's no residue or smell clinging to my dishes. I am happy to pay a little more for it because it's worth the money. But is it worth polluting the planet with one-third more plastic than it needs to? Oh hell no. And so I won't buy the stuff ever again unless the number of pods in the container are filling the container.
Or maybe I need to see if they sell Cascade Complete in a box that you pour out... which would be cardboard instead of plastic? Do they even make that any more? I suppose I'll be looking into it.
That seems the very least I can do, doesn't it?
Or maybe I wash my dishes by hand? Except "green" dishwashers like mine use less water than washing by hand, so maybe that's a step too far. Especially since liquid soap comes in heavy plastic containers.
How are scientists coming along with that plastic-eating bacteria?
The more I pay attention to current events, the more I am convinced that stupid is winning.
Which is why I'm going to stop paying attention to current events.
If you need me, I'll be in a cave somewhere waiting for humanity to either die out... or reboot itself somehow. What else is there?
I hate to be all "Woe is me" here...
...but woe is me.
This is Day Five of not having a voice. On Monday I could have sworn I was over being sick and just dealing with my allergies acting up. Then yesterday morning I woke up feeling worse than ever. Laryngitis (still). Sore throat. Constant hacking cough. Vomiting. Random aches and pains. Not a good time to be Dave2.
Then last night... something new.
My right eye started swelling for no apparent reason, then got infected (or maybe it was vice-versa). Lucky for me I've got plenty of antibiotic gel from multiple eye surgeries, so the infection disappeared overnight. This morning when I woke up there was a little swelling left, but nothing serious.
So... one thing going right.
And now I guess I'll go back to dying.
Woe. Woe. Woe.
Sick and tired of being sick and tired.
So there I am exhausted but not sleeping because I am coughing my head off... when Jenny comes in to complain. And I'm like "Dude, I can't help it! I can't take more cough medicine for another hour"...
This does not phase her, so I try to ignore her by checking my phone.
First thing I see is an alert that the Litter-Robot is stuck. So I go downstairs and fix it so Jenny can go to the bathroom... then take more cough medicine even though it's too soon (hey, I'm already there)... then grab some crackers... then go back upstairs.
Jenny follows me the entire way... never going to the bathroom. THEN... FIFTEEN MINUTES LATER... I hear her using the UPSTAIRS Litter-Robot. Which means she got me out of bed to fix a Litter-Robot she had no intention of using? Or maybe she did, but changed her mind? Oh well. I'm not coughing anymore, so I guess we both got what we wanted in the end.
The night sky of ancient earth was different from what we see today. Mainly because people could actually see it. Thanks to ever-increasing light pollution, the true grandeur of the universe has become obscured to most humans. Even rural communities have enough light pollution to obstruct major features of the visible cosmos. It's a pity, really, because there are some spectacular sights to be seen.
While on safari in Zimbabwe, I got to experience what it's like to have little-to-no light pollution, and it's pretty spectacular...
Ancient Greeks explained the milky band of light across the night sky thusly...
One legend explains how the Milky Way was created by Heracles when he was a baby. His father, Zeus, was fond of his son, who was born of the mortal woman Alcmene. He decided to let the infant Heracles suckle on his divine wife Hera's milk when she was asleep, an act which would endow the baby with godlike qualities. When Hera woke and realized that she was breastfeeding an unknown infant, she pushed him away and the spurting milk became the Milky Way.
The Wikipedia article I'm quoting above has all kinds of ancient myths for The Milky Way from numerous different peoples around the world. It's And yet... here in modern times entirely too many people will likely never see it. A concept that's easier to explain with the Bortle Scale, which measures light pollution from 1 (hardly any light) to 9 (lots-o-light)...
I had never heard of the "Bortle Scale of Light Pollution" before, though I'm not surprised it exists. If there's one universal truth, it's that scientists just looooove to create units of measure for everything.
Which brings us to this...
I am developing my own scale of measurement called the "Dave Scale of Giving a Shit." Before you scoff, I am compelled to remind you that I have experience with this kind of thing. Back in 2007 I developed the Dave Number, My new scale of measure is just a logical extension of that, and runs from 0 to 9, just like the Bortle Scale...
So there you have it. And since my interest in writing more in my blog today is about a 2, I suppose I'm done for today.
People are always telling me I'm "funny." Even when I'm not trying to be funny which, depending on the situation, can end up being hurtful, awkward, scary, tragic, or (less often than you'd think) a pleasant surprise. Usually when somebody says "That's funny!" after I've said something I'm completely serious about, I try to replay it in my head to figure out where I went wrong... but I can never figure it out. Maybe it's just my face that makes things be funny? You got me.
This morning somebody I hadn't seen in a while asked me how I've been doing. "Oh. I've been sick with a cold or a flu or something awful, so it hasn't been a good time to be me lately. How have you been?" They laughed like I told them the funniest joke ever, said "You crack me up!," then went on to tell me about planting their vegetable garden. I replied with "I don't think I eat enough vegetables that I'd want to try growing them, but good luck with that." More laughter. Apparently not eating my vegetables is comedic gold.
I wish I could be that kind of effortless funny when I'm actually trying to be funny.
When I wrote something just in case I had to speak at my friend's memorial service (spoiler alert: I did), I wanted it to be at least a little funny so maybe everybody could remember him with a smile on their face... even for just a moment... at a time of total sadness. It was hard work. I had to edit and rewrite stuff and everything. But I think it made everybody happy and lots of people came up and told me they liked it or that I was a "funny guy" afterwards, so it was effort well-spent.
Even if I didn't know whether or not people would think it was funny when I wrote it.
But it's always been that way for me.
Years and years ago when I was working in L.A. for weeks at a time, I was encouraged to try open-mic stand-up comedy because the people I was working with thought I was a "funny guy." And so I did. I wish I could say that I totally killed it (I did not) or that I was booed off stage so I could get some sympathy (I was not), but the truth is that I was just average. People laughed, but not in a way that made me think "Holy crap! I should totally do this for a living!"
Probably for the best though. Trying to be funny on purpose is tough. Trying to be funny on purpose for a living must be excruciating.
One of these days I need to see if I can find the little Mead memo pad I bought to write jokes in. You'd think it would be a easy to find given that it's bright red like this...
The only difference being that my red Mead memo pad has "DAVE'S JOKES" written across the front in black ball-point pen. I think I even double-underlined "JOKES" so, if I lost it, anybody reading out of the thing wouldn't be left thinking "What is this crazy shit?" Well, it's jokes. It says so right on the front. Did you not see the underlines?
I can't remember what any of the jokes were, mind you. About all I do know that none of them were about L.A. traffic. That's because I decided I wanted to be "fresh" and not tell jokes that had already been done to death. Since most of my time in L.A. was spent sitting in traffic, I figured it had probably been covered already. How could I make that funny?
"I'm from a small town in Washington State, so you can imagine how shocking it is for me to be in L.A. right now. Everything here is shocking to me. Like the traffic. We don't have traffic where I live. So after I looked at a map to figure out how I was going to get to work, I estimated it would take about 20 minutes to get there. It took me 90 minutes. Ninety minutes! When I showed up for work an hour late, everybody comes rushing up and says 'We were worried that you got lost!' I didn't want for everybody to think that I was an ignorant hayseed who didn't know how a big city works, so I decided to make up a lie to explain why I was late. So I told them that my condom had come off during sex and I had trouble finding a vet with an appointment available to retrieve it from the sheep."
Of course, that joke wouldn't work now-a-days when we have Google Maps and Waze to tell us how long it takes to drive places... but back then? Hilarious!
The other day after I attempted to rip a paper towel off a brand new roll, I became infuriated because the towel wouldn't tear completely off. The perforation isn't weak enough to get a clean edge. Instead I end up either losing a chunk of the towel I'm tearing... or losing a chunk of the next towel on the roll.
"Who the hell designed these shitty paper towels?" I said out loud to nobody but my cats.
And then I noticed that the answer was staring me in the face...
Bounty! Bounty is the shitty paper towels that won't tear properly! Thank you for conveniently stamping your name on every sheet so I know which brand not to buy.
I used to buy Brawny paper towels until I was told that the heinous fucking piece of shit Koch Brothers own the brand. And so I switched. Looks like I'll be switching again.
Fortunately I didn't have to switch from Koch Brothers' Angel Soft toilet paper to Charmin, because I already use Charmin (or Cottonelle, whichever is on sale). Then this morning I noticed that Charmin stamps their name on their toilet paper just like Bounty...
I cannot for the life of me understand why this is a trend.
Does Charmin think that one of my houseguests is going to be all "HOLY FUCK! THIS TOILET PAPER IS AMAZING! IT'S LIKE WIPING MY ASS WITH VELVET! WHO IN THE HECK MAKES THIS LIFE-CHANGING BUTT-WIPE?" And then they look down at the toilet paper that they are gently caressing between their fingers and exclaim "WOW! IT'S CHARMIN BRAND! I AM TOTALLY DITCHING MY SHITTY TOILET PAPER AND SWITCHING TO CHARMIN!"
That's just silly. If my houseguests want to know what glorious toilet paper they have been wiping their ass with, they can bring it up at the dinner table like a normal person would!
Here's hoping that Scott paper towels are perforated properly, as I think that's the brand I'll be trying next.
After spending a week being sick I was ready to start feeling myself again. Alas, it was not to be, because now Spring allergies have hit me like a truck. There goes the next two months of my life. It's all sinus pressure, post-nasal drip, and coughing from here on out.
When I was younger I had allergy shots to keep me from being a complete mess. Eventually I outgrew my allergies and the shots stopped. Then, without warning, my mid-forties arrived and Spring allergies along with them. I've tried dozens of drugs... both prescription and over-the-counter... and have found only two things that help: 1) Flonase which, unfortunately, causes nose bleeds... and 2) Benadryl which, unfortunately, causes me to become useless and fall asleep. Obviously I can't go to work while falling into a coma, so I have to suffer through every day and drug myself to oblivion every night.
Such is my life.
As I mentioned a while back, every year on January 1st I convert the maximum-allowable 100 of my DVDs to digital. Sure it's $200 down the drain, but I then have access to all those movies anywhere I have internet. So much more convenient than having to dig through hundreds of DVDs to find something to watch.
Dozens of these movies I haven't seen in decades, and it's been well-worth the $2 conversion fee. I just finished Secondhand Lions which is a fantastic film I didn't even remember existed. Surprising to me that it wasn't a much bigger hit than it ended up being...
A few things...
Needless to say, if you like movies and haven't seen this one... you should probably get on that.
People who know stuff have said that in the future most people won't own cars. Instead they'll summon one of a fleet of robot vehicles in their area that will take them where they want to go. Robot cars will be smarter, faster, safer, and cheaper.
I'm fine with it. Partly because I like the idea of not having to maintain a car or buy a new one when the old one dies. But mostly because I love the idea of being able to work or play video games or read a book while traveling somewhere. How great is that?
In the meanwhile...
The weather has been way too nice for me to have any excuses not to walk to work. Not only is the brisk seven-minute exercise good for me... but I like being more environmentally friendly by not firing up my car for such a short drive into town.
And look at all the stuff I would miss if I was driving...
First of all is a rock that's asking for help...
Then there were these damn pigeons who have no respect for authority...
And just look at these blossoms...
Who knows what tomorrow's walk will bring?
Hopefully finding money.
If you've watched the terrifying video of poor Jake falling down my stairwell, you can understand why I hope to never have that happen again. In addition to the $500 vet bill, which could have been far far worse if he had broken something, it's just awful having to watch the little guy hobble around the house as his leg heals.
From what I can tell, he was lying on the narrow banister, as he is won't to do. He might have been napping there for all I know...
Then something startled him (possibly Jenny running around) which caused him to slip and fall all the way down the stairs. About a story-and-a-half...
So I am trying to come up with an added layer of protection that will help prevent slipping and falling... but also help better keep them on the ledge. I'm not sure what the best way to do this might be. But I really want to have something in place so I can travel and not worry so much. Since I don't have much time before I leave again, I thought I'd throw something together quickly now that looks good enough I can leave it in place until I have a better idea.
My thought is to have a "ledge tray" that I can temporarily screw onto my banister.
It will add width so the cats can have more room to lay down. It will be carpeted so the cats have something to grip onto if they start to slip. And it will have a small ledge that will prevent them from accidentally falling off...
So I don't have to look at an ugly carpet edge, I found a 90° molding that will act like a lip on the front. Here I am gluing it to the bottom of the tray...
Tomorrow I'll sand off the putty... paint it white to match my banister... then install it. The carpet squares I ordered (which match my hardwood floors) won't be here until next week, but at least it will be a little safer until I get back home.
The next step will be to build a narrow staircase up to it so the cats don't have to risk jumping up, overshooting the ledge, and flying over it.
After that I'll come up with some kind of ledge under the small window that's on the exterior wall. Jenny sometimes jumps up there (horrifying!) and it would be just my luck that she'll be the next one to fall down the stairwell. Something needs to be added there, I just have to figure out how to actually do it.
I will never run out of woodworking projects so long as I have cats.
My pricey new Milwaukee cordless M18 Dual Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw is choice. I love it. But more on that later. Let's talk about my new Milwaukee cordless M18 Random Orbital Sander. When it was released last year, I took a hard pass because A) It was $99 without battery, and B) My corded sander works perfectly fine, and there was no sense spending money to replace it.
But last night as I was attempting to sand down my latest project, the cord on the sander snagged on a bottle of glue that was sitting next to a pan of kitty litter and both went crashing to the floor of my single-car-garage woodshed. There just aren't many outlets in a garage, so I'm always running into problem like this (as well as running out of outlets).
While attempting to clean up the horrendous disaster that comes from glue mixing with kitty litter, I suddenly realize that "Boy, a cordless sander sure would have been handy." Minutes later I was digging into my savings as I cruised Home Depot's website. In-store pickup, here I come...
I have no idea... none how I survived without this. I thought the battery would make it heavy and difficult to navigate. Nope. Far, far less difficult than wrangling a cord, even with the added weight. In fact, as shown in the photo, I have my medium M18 instead of my smaller M18 battery, and it's perfectly fine. The kit comes with a dust-catcher extender, so I even have the option of using my mega-battery on it if I wanted to!
And it's not just the lack of a cord that makes it so fantastic... it has multiple speeds (my old one didn't) and the random sanding "pattern" seems to do a better job of making quick work of large areas to boot. If you've already got some Milwaukee M18 batteries knocking around, the convenience of cordless is pretty much a no-brainer.
And then there's the Milwaukee cordless M18 Dual Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw...
I had no intention of replacing my faithful old Ryobi... until it went out of alignment and I couldn't get good cuts from it (nor get the laser guide to aim straight). Maybe somebody smarter than I could have figured out how to fix it, but I was done. My first instinct was to spend the $220 to get another Ryobi. It provided years of faithful service, was relatively inexpensive, and I was familiar with it. But then I saw that Milwaukee had a kit with an extra maximum performance M18 battery on sale for $600 (down from $850) and decided I'd spend the money on quality now rather than having to replace another Ryobi in 4 years...
My worries were A) A cordless saw would have much less power than a corded version, and B) All the reviews talked about what a shitty job it did of collecting dust.
Turns out that A) It has plenty of power to cut through anything I've thrown at it... including Trex decking and hardwoods, and B) All the reviews were right... the dust collection is so bad that I don't even know why they bother putting a bag on it in the first place since hardly any dust ends up in there.
The dust collection problem is annoying, but not a dealbreaker. No miter saw catches all the dust, so what's a little more? Still, you have to wonder what in the hell Milwaukee was thinking that they couldn't have done a better job of it.
Just as with every Milwaukee cordless tool I've ever owned, the benefits of going cordless far outweigh any drawbacks in the ultimate design. I can move it anywhere in my garage shop without having to unplug/plug which is great. I also have one less cord to trip over and one less outlet occupied, which is really great.
Dust collection aside, there are a number of things that Milwaukee gets right. First of all, they've done away with a laser guide in favor of a shadow cut-line indicator. Before using it, I thought this was a detriment. Because lasers are awesome, yo. But then I used it and realize what a huge boost to accuracy it is. A shadow of the actual blade not only shows you exactly where the cut occurs and how much material the blade will be removing... but it also will never go out of alignment, something that plagued my Ryobi...
Another thing I like is the design of the slider. With most miter saws, the tool slides along rails that poke out behind the saw on the top. With Milwaukee, the rails are inside the unit and on the bottom. It's just cleaner with less obstruction on top, though I have no idea if this could be a problem after dust ends up on the rails. How would you clean that? I dunno.
As is par for the course with Milwaukee, the little details are nicely accommodated. The blade cover locks open for easy access (I loathed having to fumble with it on my Ryobi every time I changed blades). Changing angle or bevel is not only fast and easy, but seriously balls-on accurate. On my old saw when I had to meet two 45° angles for a corner, there was always a slight error that crept into the mix. But with my Milwaukee, they meet up flawlessly every time on the first try, corner after corner. No more sanding or filler! Another plus? The saw is fairly lightweight and can be carried from the top or side. I keep mine permanently mounted on my awesome Rigid mobile folding stand, but it's nice to know I could transport it easily.
Ten out of Five Stars. Would purchase again.
As mentioned yesterday, I'm building a ledge tray for my banister to (hopefully) keep my cats safe in the stairwell. After work I had time to paint a base coat. All I have now is a light sanding and two more coats and it will be good to go (the carpet for the bottom arrives next week)...
This unanticipated little project has me chomping at the bit to get started on my kitchen cabinets! Now THERE is a job that will make good use of my pricey new toys!
I'm so exhausted I can barely function.
Which means it must be time to clean house, pack a suitcase, drive over the mountains, and fly off to destination unknown for work, right?
Well, it's not really unknown... it's Las Vegas... but what I'm going to be doing once I get there is mostly unknown. Right now the majority of my time will be spent sitting around waiting for the phone to ring so I can leap into action.
Or, more likely, fall out of bed into action.
I'm just that tired.
I flew out of Paine Field in Everett again, because I absolutely love having an alternative to shitty SeaTac...
Since this is actually "Boeing Field" there is a cool lineup of what I'm guessing is Boeing customers as you taxi out to the runway...
And now... time for dinner with friends.I hear everybody is doing that now-a-days.
It's not like I can say my life is boring... I have been lucky enough to travel the world, meet interesting people, and do really cool stuff... but when I'm not doing that my life is as mundane as it gets. Oftentimes I question why people read this blog* when most of the time all I've got going on in my life is cats.
Take today for example.
I woke up at 5:30am, which is about average. I then check my personal email, see what's happening with my East Coast Facebook peeps, then check my work email. At 7:00am Alexa alerts the cats that it's breakfast time, so we all go downstairs where I feed them. I then do household cleaning and chores until around 8:00am when I hop in the shower and get ready for work. I am usually out the door around 8:30-ish for my 7-minute walk to the office.
I try to be out of the office at 4:00 (today I left at 4:10) and walk back home.
Today there was some excitement when I spotted an old cat with patches of fur missing walking through several yards until it decided to rest on somebody's porch (no idea if that's where home is)...
Once I got home at 4:20, I worked until Alexa chimed for the cat's dinner at 6:00pm. Since I received a notice from Home Depot that my carpet squares had arrived, I decided to run to The Big City (20 minutes away) and pick them up. Afterwards I wanted to have fries for dinner, but was too tired to make them by hand. I was going to drive to McDonalds, but Sonic was closer so I went there.
I rarely go to Sonic because they don't have vegetarian options. I only go there when they are having an ice cream promo or some kind of drink special. I've never had their fries before. AND I WILL NEVER HAVE THEM AGAIN! Holy crap! They were not very fresh, barely warm... AND THEY WERE GUMMY! As in, you had to chew through their saggy, bleak texture in a way that is usually reserved for gummy bears. And then there's my OREO Sonic Blast (AKA a McFlurry). The first third of the cup was as expected. A good distribution of OREO pieces that were large enough that they tasted like OREO. The second third was just OREO crumbs. Just a dust, really. And the final third? NOTHING! NO OREO AT ALL!
How the fuck did Sonic get to be "America's Drive-In?" Their half-assed food is a blight on the entire country!
Anyway... I head home and immediately get to work carpeting my Cat Bannister Tray when I arrive around 7:10pm. The squares were way thin, but surprisingly nice considering how cheap they were. The good news is that I have lots of spares if my cats decide to destroy the ones I installed...
And that was that.
At some point I'll build the cat-stairs up to it so it's safer for Jake and Jenny to get up there... add a shelf under the upper window so I won't go out of my mind with worry when Jenny leaps up there (nearly two full stories above the stairs below!)... and then my project will be completed. At least until I think of something else to add to it.
Around 7:40pm I threw a load of clothes in the wash then finished up a work project a little after 9:00pm.
Then it was clothes in the dryer, catching up on television, clothes out of the dryer, and I was in bed at 11:30pm so I can blog this then start it all over again tomorrow.
Thrilling, I know.
But hey, not every day can be an expedition to Antarctica.
*Yes, people actually do visit this blog. A lot. The interactivity I had from the heyday of blogging is long gone, but my wide variety of topics and daily updates means that Google sends scores of people here every day. Though it's not all search results... most days the number of people coming here directly is fairly substantial. No, I don't know why. You tell me!
This morning I put in three hours working at home before I walked to work, so I was already exhausted by the time I left the house. Apparently I'm better driving while exhausted over walking while exhausted because I kept tripping over stuff. Rocks, roots, raised seams in the sidewalk... getting my exercise in today is a dangerous business.
But then, at the half-way mark, I had a heart-stopping moment that caused me to wake right up.
As I started rounding a corner, I saw a rabbit in the middle of the road...
This is a very busy corner and, despite distracted driving laws, I regularly see people driving while texting. Driving while putting on makeup. Driving while eating a bowl of cereal. My instinct was to rush into the street and see if I could block traffic until the rabbit had a chance to get wherever it was going. But then I worried he would get scared and run away from me into oncoming traffic. So I decided to walk around it while recording video... because if some texting asshole were to run him over as I was trying to flag them down, I wanted to have footage I could use to turn them into the police.
And then a bus started barreling around the corner and I held my breath because I had no idea what their visibility might be.
But, much to my delight, the bus stopped. Cars coming from the opposite direction stopped. And the bunny ran back to the (relative) safety of the yard from whence he came...
As I walked along the sidewalk, I scoped out the bushes in the yard to see if I could see him. Sure enough...
I've lived in this town since I was five. I've seen bunnies in the wilds surrounding the town... but I've never seen a rabbit walking around civilization like this. My hope is that this is an anomaly, and he just got lost or something.
I really hope that some asshole didn't buy a rabbit for their kids at Easter then decide it was too much work so they just kicked it to the curb. I read about this happening with bunnies and chicks every year around Eastertime, and have to wonder who the fuck could be that big of an asshole. Probably the same people who want to punish poor people for being poor, which is a reoccurring theme in today's political arena. The prevailing thought seems to be that poor people want to be poor. That poor people are lazy and don't want to work. That poor people live like royalty with their free hi-def televisions and mobile phones. That poor people are to blame for high taxes. That poor people get all the breaks while honest hard-working people get none. That poor people don't deserve healthcare or places to live or food to eat... because they're poor.
Of course these same people tend to be the ones that persecute the shit out of our LGBT communities because of a couple passages in the Bible they think tells them it's okay... while completely ignoring the multitude of passages telling them that ignoring those in poverty is most definitely not okay. So I've given up on trying to apply rational thought to crap like this. But I don't blame myself here. Hypocrisy often defies rational thought.
Over the weekend I noted that G.I. Jane (a 1997 film starring Demi Moore and Viggo Mortensen) was playing as I cycled through TV channels. I've always liked this film and have never understood the contempt that critics have for it. Demi Moore seemed highly dedicated to the role and did a fine job. Viggo Mortensen's contemptible, yet oddly complex Master Chief is one of the better movie characters I've seen. And Ridley Scott's thoughtful direction, hallmark scene composition, and wonderful cinematography is a beautiful thing to behold...
I ended up watching it, of course. Or, to be more accurate, I had it on while I was working. I quickly learned to regret my decision though, because the Ovation TV network is a steaming pile of shit*... but I hadn't seen the film in at least a decade, so I was happy to get to see it again.
One notable thing (for me) about the movie is that it features a poem by one of my favorite poets, D.H. Lawrence. Much like Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, which features a line from a Lawrence poem along similar lines (Wales Weep Not), it provides a small (yet critical) expansion of the story.
Rumor has it that Viggo Mortensen himself injected it into the film...
This is absolutely remarkable if it's true, because finding out that his speech was a poem called Self-Pity and not just badass rhetoric completely changes everything about the character at the very end of the film in the best possible way...
My guess is that rabbits, discarded and unloved, probably feel no self-pity as well.
It's our job as humans to feel pity for them and we are failing miserably.
But not on my walk to work today, thankfully.
*What a fucking shitty network Ovation TV is. I swear they air more commercials per hour than any other network I've ever seen... and that's saying something. G.I. Jane has a runtime of 2 hours and 5 minutes. Ovation is taking THREE HOURS to air it. Which means anything you watch on this laughably pathetic network is ONE THIRD COMMERCIALS! And so... Ovation is being deprogrammed from my DirecTV and I'm never watching this bullshit again. It's things like this that make me want to tell cable and satellite television providers to go fuck themselves. FIRST you have to pay a massive amount of money just to GET the channel... then you have to waste your fucking time watching an abundance of ads. Ad-free streaming direct from the source is the wave of the future... like CBS All Access. If I'm going to pay a shit-load of money to watch television, why pay DirecTV to watch ads?
2019 has been surprisingly accommodating considering the milestones it's been racking up for me.
First year without my mom. First Valentine's Day with nobody to buy flowers for. First Birthday Weekend celebration without my friend of 33 years. And now, as advertising will not stop reminding me, first Mother's Day with no mother.
I will be the first to admit, that last one is proving to be tough.
For thirteen years my gift to my mom on Mother's Day was a new vacation. We traveled the globe, visited all kinds of amazing places, and had fun doing it. Recently I was going through all the travel books I made for her as a souvenir. Starting with our 2002 trip to Europe right up through our 2014 safari in Zimbabwe.
Initially I created books for her at Apple Books. They were nice enough, but I eventually switched to professional printing because I was unhappy with the photo reproduction. On our first trips, I didn't take many photos though. Just a few snapshots here and there. I took so few photos that I was able to combine the first four Apple Book trips into a single professional book (I used the colors of the cloth covers on the original books as borders)*...
The look of the book was nothing groundbreaking, but the graphic designer in me tried to create stylish introductions at least...
Photo presentation was pretty basic though...
As the years went on, I got a little more ambitious. I was designing nicer, more elaborate looking covers, for one thing...
And adding maps, travel routes, and such...
On later trips I was taking a lot of photos and putting considerably more thought into the the images I was capturing. With this in mind, I started buying "lay-flat" books and adjusting my layouts so photos could be as large as possible. I also tried to tell a story to make the content more interesting...
The final book is my favorite for so many reasons...
Every book was always ended with a photo of the both of us...
For 2015 we were going to take a cruise along the fjords of Norway. 2016 was going to be Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands. But those trips weren't to be. I thought she might be well enough in 2015 to take a Spring trip that was less ambitious. I booked flights to South Dakota so I could finally see Mount Rushmore and check the only state I haven't been to off my list (North Dakota). But a couple months before we were to leave I realized there was no way that she would be able to travel. Her confusion was far too great and it wouldn't have been a fun time for either of us. And so that was that.
Mother's Day isn't sad to me because I don't have anybody to buy a card and flowers for... after we started traveling, she never wanted me to spend money on that stuff anyway. It's now a reminder that I've lost a friend who explored the world with me. And while the books, photos, and memories are nice, ain't nothin' going to take the place of that.
*Apple Books was a part of the original iPhoto. You could select photos that you had stored there, then have the program automatically build a book for you. For the time, it was actually pretty cool. They had durable fabric covers with a nifty label stuck on the front...
There were issues though. In addition to the print quality, which was fine but not great, the books were kinda small and the layouts had a lot of wasted space and the pages were all one-sided...
By having my books professionally printed, I paid way, way, way more money... but I got to control the layouts, get superior print quality, and print both sides of the pages.
UPDATE: Interesting to note that Hallmark's prop designer used the same stock photo design for the cover of Santa's Naughty or Nice book that I used for my mom's Italy photo book...
My day began at 5:00am when I grabbed my laptop off the nightstand so I could start in on my work emails. Jake, hearing that I was awake, came running in to get his butt scratched, which is fine. What was not fine was when he jumped up to the window perch ten minutes later an immediately began puking up a hairball.
My bad. I apologized to Jake because I went to Seattle for Laser PRINCE instead of grabbing The Furminator and giving him his weekly brushing this week.
Jake was unfazed. He just moved to the other window, pushed Jenny over so he had a place to sit, then went about his business of watching birds fly around..
After catching up on work I got up to clean up the hairball puke only to find that... it was only water? No hairball to be found.
This scares the crap out of me because... A) My cats do not puke often at all... and B) the couple times they have puked and it wasn't a hairball, it was because something was seriously wrong. But Jake didn't seem sick at all, so I made a mental note to keep a careful eye on him for a while.
I tore apart the window perches so I could toss the covers in the wash and noticed that my window sill was filthy. So I ran down to the garage for a scrub brush and bucket only to find that a can in a twelve-pack of Coke had ruptured* while I was gone this weekend. It dripped out of the carton, down the shelf, then spilled out onto the floor.
Where it mixed with the sawdust and formed a gummy syrup that super-glued itself to the cement.
My choices were... A) Leave it and clean up the mess later... or B) Clean it up immediately so ants don't fill up my garage. I opted for the latter because I really don't want ants in my wood shop.
After moving tools and relocating boxes and pulling apart shelves and scrubbing and scrubbing and scrubbing, I worked up quite a sweat. This made me realize just how badly I needed a haircut... so I grabbed the clippers and went to town on my head. I have started cutting my own hair again because... A) From what I can tell I don't do a half-bad job... and B) I really don't have money to spend at Super-Cuts after getting Jake's vet bill.
By this time it was past 7am and Alexa's alarm had gone off, letting the cats know it's breakfast time.
When I went back into the house Jake and Jenny were very put out that I had dared to allow a haircut to interfere with their breakfast being delivered in a timely manner.
At least whatever was wrong with Jake this morning didn't seem to affect his appetite.
In other news... the bulbs outside my house bloomed while I was away! The ones out front look pretty good...
Whereas the bulbs on the side of the house have already collapsed from their own weight and fallen over...
Irises have to be one of the stupidest flowers. When your design doesn't allow your stem to support the weight of your flowers... how are you not extinct? Oh well. I guess they're pretty while they last.
And now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to put the window perch covers in the dryer and get ready for work.
It's a Monday, after all.
*I couldn't even figure out where the can had ruptured. They are so darn thin any more that you can barely hold onto them without crushing the can. I'm not surprised that cans are leaking at random... any thinner and soda cans will just explode when they feel like it.
There are times... not many, but enough... that I think I have my life together. Then I get smacked in the back of the head by reality and realize that I'm about as close to having my life together as I am to walking on the moon.
Not that I'm discouraged or depressed about it though. I'm most definitely not. I'm doing the best I can to keep my head above water (and mostly succeeding) so what else is there? Nothing. And I'm content with that. Perhaps one day I won't be, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.
Last night I had cashews and crackers for dinner. It was my fallback plan after the frozen pizza I bought was essentially inedible and I could only get through two slices.
Jake, as he does any time I have food, was curious to see what I was eating. Or, to be more accurate, curious to smell what I was eating. Very rarely does he try to actually taste any of it though...
Probably because a boring-ass cracker doesn't even smell like food to him.
Or to me.
I don't know why I continue to buy frozen pizza. It's always bad. But every time there's a new brand that pops up, I roll the dice anyway. This time it was another variation on the "Rising Crust" type pizza. The crust is okay, I guess, but the sauce is pretty weak and the cheese is rubber. I'd throw it out, but the thing cost me $5... so... bad pizza for breakfast... and bad pizza for lunch today.
I have got to save up money for pizza steels so I can work on my own recipe.
Until then? Crackers it is, I guess.
I've mentioned a couple times that I had worked on a comic book project decades ago. I made a lot of headway, but never completed it. The final page count was going to be in excess of 300 pages, and I just didn't have the time to commit to it.
Every once in a while I run across the 50-odd partial pages I drew and wonder what it would take to just finish the dang thing. The problem is that I would have to essentially start over from scratch because I created it in the 80's and it's hilariously outdated. The lead character has a car phone the size of a brick, and there's just no way I can go back and rewrite and redraw those parts. The entire story has to be revisited, because it won't work as a period piece.
But... 300+ pages of work.
Tonight I decided to draw/letter/ink a page of comic book art just to see how long it would take. Here's what I'm guessing is my pace...
I don't even want to think about how much time coloring would take. Possibly as long as 6 hours a page. So I'll put that on hold.
So... 5-1/2 to 8-1/2 hours per page.
Which means 1,760 to 2,720 hours if I can squeeze the story into 320 pages. Assuming I can work 4 hours weekdays and 16 hours on weekends... that's 36 hours a week. Or about 50 to 75 weeks to finish 320 pages.
A little over a year, I'm guessing.
Problem is that this would leave little time for anything else in my life. Like woodworking, which is my favorite thing right now.
So that's when I had an idea...
Maybe I take a character from the story, write a back-story series for them, and limit it to 100 pages or less so I can finish it in a year.
Worth a shot anyway. Maybe.
Today was the last day to redeem coupons from Safeway's "Monopoly Shop Play Win" game. Whenever I was asked if I am playing, I always said "yes" even though I never played the actual game. I just wanted the free stuff and discounts from the coupons you get in the game piece tickets.*
And so... against my better judgement... I drove the 20 minutes to Safeway to claim my booty...
A part of me was just going to skip the trip because I did not feel like going grocery shopping after the tough day I had... but... free stuff.
And call me crazy, but the prize I was most excited about getting was not the $10 in gift cards... it was the free bagels.
When it comes to bagels, I always buy the packages of Franz bagels when they go on sale for around $2.50. They are perfectly serviceable and delicious bagels, and I buy extra so I can freeze them for times there are no sales going.
But the bagel I crave is the Ultimate Cheddar Cheese bagel from the Safeway bakery. Not as good as an Asiago Cheese bagel, but I do love them so very, very much. Problem is, they are almost as expensive as four Franz bagels on sale, so I rarely have the opportunity to buy them. And here I am getting four of them for free!
There was no way I was passing up on that!
It was close enough to payday that I could buy my monthly groceries as well. Which goes something like this... 1) Is it on sale or do I get "Just 4U" club card savings? And 2) Is it something I will eat or want to try? If the answer to both of those are "yes" then it goes in my shopping cart. These days I don't buy anything that's not on sale... unless an emergency dictates otherwise (hey, sometimes you have to buy toilet paper, even if it's not on sale).
At the bottom of the receipt Safeway always tells you how much money you saved and I average 20%-30%. Today, thanks to Monopoly coupons, I reached 38%. That's pretty great. Though I should have cashed in all my free stuff on a separate transaction so I could have reached 100% savings. Then I could have framed the receipt.
And now, if you'll excuse me, it's double Ultimate Cheddar Cheese bagels for dinner up in here...
*The grand prize is something like $250 million, so I probably should play the main game... but it's such a huge amount of work with all those little pieces, and I never even got a game board to stick them on.
And so I nearly died again.
I cross two crosswalks on my way to work. Once when my sidewalk runs out. And then I cross back after the walk resumes on the side of the street I want to be on. At the first crosswalk a woman in a giant SUV came so close to hitting me this morning that I felt the air move. I honestly thought she was stopping and barely managed to get out of the way.
THEN, as I was approaching the second crosswalk, I saw a man and his little girl waiting to cross. THREE CARS blew by without stopping. And since this is near a school, there is a signal you can press to have blinking lights flash on the "crossing sign." SO THERE WERE FLASHING LIGHTS TELLING PEOPLE TO STOP AND YET THEY STILL DID NOT! The man yelled at the last two cars. I don't blame him. Keep in mind this is near AN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, yet people still don't give a fuck.
I guess everybody is in such a hurry that potential pedestrian manslaughter is a small price to pay.
Every day when I am walking to work I pass a "Little Library" box. Over the years there have been a wide variety of books, toys, and pamphlets crammed inside. Titles come. Titles go. It's a microcosm of what people are reading in my town. I'm not sure why these things are needed, as we already have a very good local library, but I'm in support of anything that encourages people to read.
This is what was in there today...
The Jehovah's Witnesses are forever filling all the Little Library boxes with their Watchtower propaganda. Not the intended purpose of the box, but what can you do? I'd be 100% behind this if it meant that they would stop going door-to-door with their bullshit, but I am fairly certain that they will continue to do this as well.
And I have a serious problem with that.
When my mom was first sliding into dementia, she was perfectly fine being home on her own during the day while I was at work. But every once in a while she would have a bad day and I would have to stay home and try to work from there. On one of those days there was a knock at the door. And there they stood... two women with their kids and a stack of Jehovah's Witness crap. I was just starting to politely tell them that we weren't interested when I hear "Is Pat home?"
Turns out they had been visiting their "friend" for months and just wanted to stop in and say hello.
I was instantly consumed with rage.
At this point my mom had no memory. None. Which means every fucking time these assholes visited her, she wouldn't know who they were. But of course they remembered her, called her by name, made her believe they were her friends, then get invited in for coffee and Bible chit-chat because my mom was confused and thought she must know them since they knew her.
The Jehovah's Witnesses lied to her. They took advantage of her condition. They exploited her trust.
Up until that point I had been politely indifferent to their cult because I thought they were harmless. Turns out they are some of the shittiest assholes on the planet, and I make a point of telling people just what I think of them every time the subject is brought up. I shouldn't have had to call the fuckers at "The Kingdom Hall of Jehovahs Witnesses" and tell them to never speak to my mother again or I would call the cops, but I did.
I have loathed the Jehovah's Witnesses ever since.
Which is why I am tempted to pull out anything they put in the library boxes and set it on fire, but since they'll just replace it there doesn't seem to be much point in it.
But maybe I could make up a bunch of stickers like this to slap on The Watchtower every time I see one?
It's a URL that redirects to this painful article about one woman's horrible ordeal with the Jehovah's Witnesses cult.
Since they abandon their leaflets in a public space, I don't think it would be illegal.
Though I'm sure their cultists would stake out the library boxes so they could catch me doing it once they realized what was happening. I'd just as soon not have to confront them directly, but I must admit I'd love the opportunity to tell them to go fuck themselves, the lying shitbags.
I am 100% behind freedom of (or from) religion in this country. If you want to join a cult, worship Jehovah, lie and cheat to coerce people into joining your mania, become a homophobic bigoted asshole, and put your faith in a "church" that keeps predicting the end of the world but failing miserably, then go right ahead. That's your right. You do you.
But don't bring your shit to my doorstep and fuck with my family or I'll lash out at you with the burning fury of a thousand suns. That's my right.
Is life worth living?
So long as I'm not indoctrinated into becoming a Jehovah's Witness cultist, it just might be.
Every day when I walk to work I have the opportunity to do nothing with my brain except think about stuff for the precious 7 to 10 minutes it takes to get to my office. Sometimes it's surprising was pops into my head when there's nothing else going on in there.
Today it was Grit: America's Greatest Family Newspaper.
I thought about it when I walked by the place that my middle school used to stand before they tore it down. The middle school was moved into the old high school when we got a new high school.
When I was in Middle School, I had a teacher I really liked (Mr. Behler!) who would give us a copy of Grit to read in class some weeks. It was a folksy kind of publication with stories from rural America that I found quaint... even way back then.
You may remember Grit from the many, many, many ads they ran in comic books over the years...
"BOYS! EARN $1 TO $6 A WEEK!" I guess if you're a girl, you need not apply? Girls should just go play with dolls and stuff. They even ask the question "Are you a boy?" right on the application, which makes me wonder if you get rejected for being a girl.
This one has to be my favorite though... "Remember how many times you felt left out because you were BROKE! Places the gang was going and you weren't included. They all had money for movies, games, hamburgers and soft drinks... all of them except you. WELL YOU'LL NEVER BE BROKE AGAIN!"
Boy howdy! Money for movies, games, hamburgers, and soft drinks? Sign me up! Interesting to note the checkbox that asks if you're male or female... still no clue why that matters?
America's Greatest Family Newspaper has definitely changed over the years. I was surprised to see that it's no longer a newspaper, it's a magazine. But it's still trading on the kind of folksy "Rural America Know-How" it always has.
You can get a taste of what Grit is today by visiting their website.
Sadly it looks as though they don't seem to hire kids to deliver their publication anymore and you have to subscribe by mail ($17 for 6 issues a year!). So I have no idea what kids do for money to buy hamburgers and soft drinks with the gang now-a-days. They probably end up selling drugs. Thanks for ruining America, Grit!
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll get back to the article I was reading on Grit... Bats: The Unseen Ally!
Lost yet another friend today... an internet friend I had grown quite fond of. He had been in poor health for quite a while but I never thought of him dying, so it still caught me off guard. Grant was a good guy who served his country and would help people out whenever he could. He was also damn funny. He will be missed.
Nine years ago or so, I remembered drawing a Davetoon of Lil' Dave as a "Bunny" for Grant's birthday. Probably not the kind of manga he was hoping for, but you have to draw what you know...
Grant at work during his younger days...
Thank you for your service, sir! I wish the government would have taken better care of you after you risked your life for their decisions.
2019 is not shaping up to be much of an improvement over 2018, the worst year of my life. I guess that point where everybody you know starts departing this earthly plane is coming earlier for me than it does for everybody else?
Doesn't seem fair, but it does feel typical.
As I've probably mentioned numerous times, I was a massively huge comic book fan for many years. Now-a-days I purchase everything digitally and don't buy many titles, but I've got an entire storage room filled with the physical comics from my past.
Back when I first started collecting, I hated subscribing to comics from the comic book companies because they would arrive in a brown wrapper with no protection and often came damaged. Instead I'd go to the two local drug stores and hope that the comics I wanted were stocked. Popular titles like Batman could always be found. Less popular titles may not be. I'd show up on the day they arrived whenever I could so I could get a mint copy instead of one that had been mangled on the rack.
When the comics I wanted weren't available at the drug store, I'd have to beg my mom to take me to The Big City so I could visit the News Agency there. The Agency was a wholesale distributor of magazines and newspapers to businesses. But they also had a retail store. The general public had to pay full price, but they usually had a copy of everything available.
What I remember most about the News Agency was the smell when you walked in.
All that paper. Like a book store, but fresher and less musty. I loved it there.
Jack, the guy who owned the place, sold it in 1995. By that time I was actually living in The Big City and buying my comics at the local comic book shop that had opened a decade earlier. I think the News Agency maybe lasted another five years before shutting down. I have no idea where local businesses get their magazines now.
The News Agency isn't all fond memories though. Three or four years ago I read an article about an apparent unsolved murder of one of the News Agency employees back in the 70's. His car was found abandoned in a hotel parking lot and he was never seen again. The article was about his family wanting the cold case re-opened to see if anything new could be discovered.
I was thinking about all this on my walk to work this morning.
How even the things that build our happiest memories can be tainted by tragedy.
And I'm pretty sure it relates back to how David Ortiz, one of my favorite baseball players to ever play the game, was shot in the back on Sunday. I can't get it out of my head. The Boston Red Socks, something which has given me so many happy memories, has been tainted by tragedy.
The news is reporting that Big Papi is resting and in good condition after a second surgery, so here's hoping the tragedy ends with him being shot.
Leave it to The Universe to ruin comic books and baseball for me.
What's next? Ice cream?
My walk to the office each morning is something I look forward to. A nice chance to clear my head before diving into work for the day. And an opportunity to see cool stuff. This morning I saw the cat that appears from time to time... which would already make me happy. Except this time the cat was with... KITTENS?!??
I'm assuming that this is mom cat, who was content to watch over her kids while they were playing...
Upon closer inspection, I noticed that there's another adult cat in the porch...
Is this where the cats live? Have they been spayed/neutered? They look well-fed, so they're obviously not suffering... I just hope that somebody is taking care of them outside of food.
This is a dangerous time of year for me. The local Humane Society shelter is overflowing with kittens, and it's all I can do to keep from running down and bringing a dozen of them home with me. But that's not really an option, and so I have to make do with seeing random kittens at times like this.
Which just makes me want more cats, of course.
Another trip over the mountains.
Another friend gone... the third in four months.
Another day remembering how we all seemed immortal not so long ago.
Another ending when all I'm hoping for is a fresh beginning.
I've been a massively huge fan of Dale Chihuly's glassworks for many years.
He used to be the subject a PBS specials where he would donate works to people who pledged a certain dollar amount in support of the Seattle station. Of course I was dying to own one of his glass concept paintings or an actual glasswork, but they were way out of my price range as a student in the 80's. Now that his popularity has skyrocketed, those same works are worth thousands... even tens of thousands... of dollars, so now I really can't afford it.
But I have made a point of visiting his many exhibits and installations around the world over the years, including his permanent exhibit at The Seattle Center, Chihuly Garden and Glass.
Today one of my friends from the early blogging days, Copasetic Beth, was in town and so I got to visit again...
Well worth a visit if you're ever in Seattle!
My morning walks to work are starting to become the best part of my day. When I'm not nearly getting run down in the sidewalks, I'm discovering all kinds of things that make life interesting.
Far and away my most favorite thing each morning is looking to see if the family of cats that live on my route is out. The kittens spark joy in my cold, dead heart, so it's always a good day when I can start it out with kittens. Today they were indeed lounging in the front yard, watching me warily as I approached like they always do...
Much to my dismay, the little puffball cat was not there again. That's the third time in a row, and I'm heartbroken at the thought that he was attacked or got run over or something...
The only thing keeping me from going crazy and adopting every kitten I see is space and money. I had better never win the lottery or else I will end up buying a big house and filling it with homeless cats. I think we all know that this never ends well.
UPDATE: Well would you look at that! The kitten is back! All three accounted for...
Interesting how the puffball sibling is always alone or hanging out with mom. It's never playing with the other two (who are forever wrestling around).
In other news... inside the "Little Library Box" this morning was a new book. A children's book made famous because it was written by Madonna. This one from her The English Roses series is called A Rose by Any Other Name...
I remember when Madonna released her first English Roses book and went on MTV(?) to read it to a group of kids. She was trying to read with an English accent but it wasn't working out so well.
I thought I might grab the book because I was intrigued about the offer for a free MyEnglishRoses.net access card... but the domain is dead now, so I guess it's not quite the bonus I was lead to believe.
Guess I'll spend the rest of my day wondering where that kitten ended up. I think I might choose to believe that he was adopted and is now living happily in a new forever home.
Sometimes the best ending we can hope for is the one we make up for ourselves.
I am writing this at near-midnight on Friday knowing that by the time I finish my post it will be tomorrow... and the one-year anniversary of my mom's death. Of course I still miss her. If anything I miss her more than I did a year ago. I think it's because the memories of her declining health are becoming dimmer while my happier memories are becoming brighter. Happier, but also more painful, because they are a constant reminder of what I've lost.
Mentally I still have a lot of work to do, as I can't stop bouncing between extremes.
One minute I'm jealous... even angry... that other people have moms living into their 80's and 90's who are still living active, happy lives. It's not fair. Then the next minute I'm gutted because I hear that somebody's mom died in their 40's and they didn't get the time I had. That's not fair either. Cursed because my mom started sliding into dementia at 70 years old. Blessed because somebody else's mom was just diagnosed with dementia at 52 years old. Unlucky that my mom died before we could get to all of our travel plans. So very lucky that we got to see as much of the world together as we did. Happy that we were so close. Devastated that we were so close... because would it hurt this bad if we weren't?
It goes on and on.
I think the thing that hurts the most is knowing that I would give absolutely anything for just five minutes to talk with her again. The mom she was before she got sick. Just to tell her I love her. To tell her how much she means to me. But also to ask her if the deicions I had to make were okay so she could assure me that they were and she knows I did the best I could. Because of course she would say that even if she hated what I did. She's my mother, after all.
I know it doesn't make sense that I would want to ask my mom a question when I already know how she would answer, but I can't help it. The unthinkable choices I had to make won't stop haunting me. It's pointless to second-guess something I cannot change. And probably wouldn't change. My whole heart was invested in every decision, so what would I have done differently? I honestly don't know. But probably nothing.
It's now 12:11am on Saturday, June 29th.
Since it's unlikely that I will get much sleep... or any sleep... tonight, I suppose I will look through all of the travel books I made for my mom. It will probably just make me miss her more than I already do, but what's another drop of heartache to an ocean of grief?
Nothing. And everything, I suppose.
Okay... you've all seen my refrigerator.
There's nothing in it except soda, beer, salad dressings, condiments, and tons of cheese. I don't have a lot of food-stuffs in there because there's only myself and my cats in the house, and I usually end up freezing stuff instead so it doesn't go to waste. If I refrigerate something, it just sits there until it eventually spoils, because there's only so much food I can eat...
And yet... when I opened it this morning it smelled like a fish had died in it. Which is odd, because I don't eat fish. Tonight when I got home it was STILL reeking like low tide. And so I took absolutely everything out and did a smell test. Perhaps one of my cream cheeses went bad? But no. Everything smelled fine. UNTIL I GOT TO THE BAKING SODA! YOU KNOW, THE STUFF YOU PUT IN THE REFRIGERATOR TO KEEP IT FROM SMELLING?!? HOLY CRAP! Arm & Hammer are on my list now, buddy!
It's weird how this could happen because I buy baking soda in bulk (it's useful for SO many things) and my house reminds me to change the baking soda in my refrigerator every four months!
The stuff that started smelling awful was just under 3 months old!
Which begs the question... can baking soda go bad?
I changed out the Arm & Hammer in my refrigerator, so I guess we'll find out.
I've been consumed with work for the past week and will continue to be consumed by it until the holiday. It's just that time of year.
This is tough for a number of reasons, but mostly because I have no life outside of work for the month of June. About all I get to do is occasionally look through my Facebook feed and see how the other half live.
Today as I was waiting for a project to render so I could move on to the next project, I was scrolling through Facebook and happened across a photo of David Farrier and a cat...
Photo by David Farrier on Facebook
Somehow this awesome cat staring back at me was just what I needed after yet another very bad day. It also inspired me to revisit David Farrier's Netflix show: Dark Tourist.
I mentioned a while ago that Dark Tourist has my favorite opening credits of all time...
If you're interested in the show (and you should be!), here's a trailer...
At least now I have something to watch as I work through the night tonight.
I think I've finally taken care of all the donations from my friend Grant's estate. Medical supplies dropped at a shelter. Bandages and medical tape put in storage so I can add them into AnySoldier.com care packages. And some of Grant's stuff that was going to his friends has been shipped.
My inheritance from Grant consisted of three 2-liter bottles of Coke Zero (since drank) and a cash box (cash not included). Grant's executor was kind enough to give me the box so I could store my foreign currency collection in it... and it works great! Much nicer than the cardboard box I was keeping it in!
So thank you for the box, sir. I still miss you muchly.
Interesting to note that inside that cardboard box was something I was not expecting to find...
My very first earring!
Back in the 80's I wanted my ear pierced in the worst possible way, but my parents wouldn't endorse it... AT ALL. So I waited until I went skydiving. I figured they would be so happy that I survived that they wouldn't mind that I had an earring! Not so much. But they were pretty good about ignoring it for the seven(?) years I had it.
This replaced the stud you get when they shoot your ear with that piercing gun (something I would never use again, now that I am smarter about piercing). Little golden hoops were what the style was at the time (circa 1986 I think?) so that's what I got. This was a cheap-o hoop that came in a set of two for $5 or something. I didn't want to spend a lot of money because I didn't know how long I'd want my ear pierced.
I wore it for probably a year... maybe a year-and-a-half... until I replaced it with a better quality hoop. By then I figured that I'd have my ear pierced forever, so why not invest in something that wouldn't turn my ear green?
Eventually the tiny little hoops went out of style. Which means I probably wore it for another 3 years after that.
Then one day I woke up, decided I was done with it, and threw my earring in the trash.
I've toyed with the idea of getting my ear(s) pierced again just for the hell of it. But I think I'm good. After I started getting tattoos, it just felt like it would be redundant.
That's okay though. I'm undoubtedly too old for this kind of stuff anyway.
I just finished a big project at work that's been consuming my every waking moment for weeks. A part of me is anxious to move on and start on something new (heaven only knows there's enough to be done), but there's a part of me that wants so badly to do nothing at all. Just for a little while.
Good thing I'm on vacation for a week...
Maybe if I wasn't so exhausted I'd be motivated to do something, but I'm really just not.
Apparently I had some motivation in me after all?
Today was so beautiful out that I ended up floating the river with friends instead of lounging around the house doing nothing.
Though laying on a floatie drinking booze and letting the river take you is pretty close to nothing...
At the end of our float, there was a couple with their too-cute dogs out enjoying the sun. One of the pups was tuckered out and decided to take a nap under a cap...
But this is Caturday and not Dogurday, so back to the usual feline madness that Saturday brings...
I ended up having to leave the post-float party early because I have ghosts...
Asking Jenny to go close the door had no effect.
Behind my house is a big field filled with dandelions that have gone to seed. So leaving the door open like that will guarantee that dandelion fluff will fill my living room if I don't take care of it, so off I went.
Whenever I have guests staying over, my cats cower upstairs in my storage closet until everybody goes to bed... then they come out and goof around until everybody wakes up and they hide upstairs again. This morning poor Jake was lounging in the catio and didn't make it upstairs before we were all awake. This is the look on his face when he realized he was "trapped" in the catio until we all left for the day...
He didn't have to wait long, but enjoyed staring at us from behind the safety of my massive pole...
I have tried many, many times to get my cats so they are not afraid of people. It never works. After a few days Jake might come wandering out for a minute if it's quiet and calm, but he's completely scared and on edge the entire time. Jenny won't even think about it. This makes me terrified as to how my cats will manage if I'm in some kind of horrible accident. Will anybody want to adopt them if they are this frightened? Are there kind souls who are patient and caring with a feral rescue who's terrified of people? I sure hope so.
Of course, just getting ready for guests is an adventure unto itself. I try to get everything cleaned up and organized, but this is never easy. "Oh, you just made the bed? Here, let me get on that, even though I haven't been on the bed in weeks...
And now, as I retire on this fine Caturday, I leave you with this...
Oh. And this...
Cats are the best.
Yesterday morning I spent my vacation working.
Clearly I am doing my vacation all wrong and need to change things up.
So yesterday afternoon I spent my vacation drinking blueberry margaritas...
...then making an impulse decision to go floating down the river with friends again. It's just such a relaxing way to spend a lazy summer day...
The river is getting really low in spots, so I spent a good chunk of my time lifting my butt so I wasn't dragging on the riverbed...
It was a nice day, and ducks were out everywhere...
As the sun started falling, it got to be pretty shivery. Having your butt in cold water with cool breezes is fine when the sun is warming you... not so fine when it's not. By the time we made landfall, I was a popsicle.
And then my cold, dead heart was warmed watching a momma duck with her four babies...
The little ones move so fast they were almost impossible to photograph...
That poor mom had her wings full, I tell you. Two of her babies would go one way... two would go another way... then she'd have to run back and forth until she had them all corralled. It's a tough job. But she was up to the task.
That's pretty good vacationing, isn't it?
Which is why I didn't feel quite so bad that today I spent half the day working, then cut my hair, cleaned my house, and paid my bills.
I did go swimming in the late afternoon though, so I guess it's all good.
I cannot seem to catch a break on this vacation thing. This morning a full city maintenance crew started working in front of my house AT SIX FORTY IN THE FUCKING A.M.! At the time I have no clue what in the hell they are doing, but it's so noisy that the cats wouldn't even come out to eat breakfast.
Why do I even bother taking a vacation if I can't sleep in and have to go to work all the time?
After me and my houseguest got up to start our day, we quickly figured out why The City was making so much noise so early in the morning.
The water was out.
Yes, please feel free to make noise at any time of the day or night to restore water service. I am perfectly okay with that!
Especially since I had a doctor's appointment today. I spent yesterday afternoon in a pool and would prefer not to smell like chlorine, sweat, and laziness while I'm being examined by a doctor who deserves much better than that.
Lucky me, the water was restored in time for me to take a shower, wash some clothes, and get on with my life.
And now? A drive over the mountains so my real vacation can start...
Happy hump-day, everybody!
Today was the first day I've felt like I'm actually on vacation. I mean, sure I answered a few work emails and made a few work calls... but I didn't do any actual "work" the entire day. That's exceedingly rare.
One of the things I did do was accompany my grand-nephew to Everett's Imagine Interactive Children's Museum. Sometimes these things end up being pretty janky, but this one was actually very cool. Plenty of imaginative exhibits to keep kids entertained for hours. Like an air-tube exhibit where you can see how air-flow can be used to push a scarf through some clear pipes...
Young kids won't get the air pressure science that's being demonstrated... but they sure have fun chasing down those scarves! Pretty slick. Though I guess nobody at the museum has ever heard of a fart before...
It's a museum built for kids, but no worries... the adults were able to have fun as well...
I got to be a chef with plastic food...
I got to play with glow-in-the-dark puzzle pieces...
I got to milk a giant plastic cow...
I got to shoot water-guns at balls...
I got to play with wooden monkeys...
I got to build some interesting architectural structures...
And I also got to watch kids go nuts at the rooftop play-space, which is pretty great...
They even have a dinosaur dig!
Kids absolutely love this place and, if you've got young ones and are in the Snohomish County region, it's worth a visit.
An aside here... I was surprised that they allow you to take photos inside the place. I was careful not to get kids in my shots and, for those photos where kids were in them, to never photograph their faces. I'm pretty sure most people who were snapping away with their mobile phones were not so careful, and this raises some privacy concerns. Yes in this day and age you can pretty much be photographed anywhere at any time but, in a space that's exclusively meant for children, you'd think that it would be in everybody's best interest if photography was not allowed? I dunno. Perhaps I'm just overly paranoid.
Though the paranoia may not be entirely my fault.
There are statues with creepy eyes right out in front, so the museum kinda puts you in a paranoid state before you even step inside the place...
It's a nice enough artwork, but the white eyes make grandpa look like a pervy child predator or something. And is it just me, or does the little girl look like she's possessed by demons?
Probably just the paranoia again. I should probably look into that.
And so there was an earthquake near me early, early this morning. I was semi-awake at the time and thought that somebody had dropped something heavy in the kitchen above me. I didn't really think much of it until I woke up and saw the news.
The epicenter of the 4.6 magnitude quake was at Three Lakes, which is about 15 miles from where I'm staying...
Earthquake Map by the USGS
This should probably be cause for concern, given the earthquakes that have been hitting California lately. Maybe the Pacific Ring of Fire is getting ready to blow? I guess we're all doomed.
Of course I checked on my cats to see if they noticed.
I don't know if they were able to sense it, but they were definitely active. At the time of the quake, Jake went running to the stairwell and started staring up there...
A couple minutes later, Jake left and Jenny ran downstairs...
After that they just kinda wandered around until sunrise. This is fairly odd, because usually they're sleeping...
But no worries. I'm sure they will make up for it by sleeping all day.
Unfortunately the West Coast is not alone in natural disasters. I've been gutted seeing the photos of the flooding that has hit New Orleans due to Tropical Storm Barry. My favorite American city can't seem to catch a break.
And neither can I. I'm Heading back home a day early to get to an appointment I had to make yesterday. For my next vacation I'm hoping to be air-dropped into a place with no internet and no mobile phone service.
No people would be icing on the cake.
Growing up I was plagued with allergies and ended up sick constantly because of it. If there was even a hint of a cold going around, I'd catch it. I had horrible growing pains that were so bad I could end up incapacitated. I was always battling some kind of infection, and ended up having my adenoids cut out twice. I was on allergy shots for years. It was a non-stop parade of awful, and I sometimes wonder how my parents managed to deal with it all.
I'm pretty sure if I were my kid, I'd have abandoned myself.
Then one day, as if by magic, all my health problems started to disappear. Before I knew it I no longer needed allergy shots and had a fairly healthy life (Accutane side-effects aside).
Fast forward to today...
Given the rise of nasty preventable diseases (like measles) which have come roaring back thanks to all the anti-vax idiocy, the charity I work with is requiring those of us of a certain age (ahem) who travel for the organization to get re-vaccinated. Fortunately my mom kept detailed records of all my various health-related issues from childhood so I have a reference point to discuss things with my doctor...
Reading through all the crap I had to endure as a kid is a sobering experience.
Partly because I was so accustomed to being sick from allergies that I didn't truly realize how negatively they impacted my life. Partly because I'm so incredibly lucky to have outgrown all the health problems that plagued my youth. But mostly because I'm so grateful that my family had insurance and could afford to care for me. More and more it seems that this is increasingly rare as US healthcare continues to deteriorate into a pile of shit.
But hey, billionaires got tax cuts that are bankrupting the country, so at least we're focusing on what's important.
I've taken to blogging in the early mornings before I go to work instead of late evenings when I'm done with work. It's not been working out for me. How am I to comment on my day's events when I have barely started the day? And so... I will probably go back to late-night blogging, even though I'm usually so tired that all I want to blog about is how tired I am.
In the meanwhile though? Here was my yesterday!
Last year when I learned I needed to keep my blood sugars intact, I started walking to work so I can still eat bread and pasta. It's a short walk... 7 to 9 minutes... and I've come to really enjoy it. It's a chance to plug and clear my head, which is something that's kinda rare these days. The good news is that switching to Coke Zero and walking has been working for me. I had a great checkup with my doctor, and everything is going well. And so... more bread and pasta.
On yesterday's walk I was assaulted by a rose that was reaching outside its garden fence...
You don't get nice surprises like that driving a car.
But the bigger surprise was later that evening when I made guacamole for the first time. It was Taco Tuesday and a nice chunky guac as a topper was exactly what I needed...
It was phenomenal. And perfectly chunky enough for tacos (and chips!). And easy.
But not as pain-free as I was expecting.
In order to eliminate waste, I've been making a lot of changes in my house. Instead of buying single-use products like plastic wrap, I've been using something more sustainable or learning to live without it. I have one roll of Saran Wrap left and, at the slower rate I'm using the stuff, it should last me the rest of my life. And I've not stopped there. I've bought my last box of plastic straws. I've switched to reusable grocery bags. I'm transitioning from poly to paper wherever I can.
And I've eliminated single-use latex gloves from everywhere except my emergency kits.
The latex gloves I used to wear while chopping jalapeño peppers.
I (foolishly) thought that if I just washed my hands after cutting the peppers for my guac that everything would be fine.
As I found out later that night while falling asleep watching television, things did not turn out fine.
I reached up to rub my eyes and... ZOMG! THE BURNING!!! From the level of pain I was experiencing, you'd have thought that I squeezed a full jalapeño in my face. I can safely say that now I know what it feels like to be doused in pepper spray. It hurt a little bit when my eyes were closed... it was excruciating when my eyes were open. I have no idea why washing my hands didn't prevent this, but now I know better. I had tried some reusable kitchen gloves but they were too thick to work easily, so I guess next time I'll use a towel or a piece of wax paper or something.
One other thing that happened yesterday? The 2019 Emmys nominations were announced. For some inexplicable reason Game of Thrones, on its worst season ever, managed to rack up 32. As you can probably tell from the wrap-up I wrote, I totally don't get it. Seven seasons of brilliant set-up that was rushed to a shitty, mind-bogglingly bad conclusion deserves 32 nominations? INCLUDING BEST WRITING?!? Um. No. About the only category I think they should win is Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, because Peter Dinklage was still exceptional. He was making all the stupid be entertaining right up until the very end. He won last year, so I'm not sure he'll get it, but I sure hope so.
There was a pleasant surprise, however. Schitt's Creek, long one of the best shows on television, was nominated for Best Comedy Series. And the awesome Catherine O'Hara and Eugene Levy were nominated for respective Best Actress and Best Actor in a Comedy Series. Of course I think they should win, even though this season was not as good as the previous two seasons (when they really should have been winning all the awards). Alas, Emmy voters will probably give it to Fleabag (which probably deserves it) or Veep (because it's the final season) or The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (which I don't like at all). If Schitt's Creek can't win it, I'd hope for Barry or Russian Doll, but those seem like longshots too.
I was happy to see My Dinner with Herve got nominated for Best Television Movie, even if Peter Dinklage wasn't nominated for Lead Actor in it (which he deserves).
If anybody is interested, I've put my picks for the major awards in an extended entry. If you're not interested, I'll see you tomorrow. Probably tomorrow evening.→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
It's the little things that tear you apart, you know?
Last night I headed to bed around 10:00pm. That's earlier than usual, but I'm on the Left Coast trying to adjust to Eastern Daylight Time before I head to the Right Coast.
My plans were thwarted as I was falling asleep around 11:00pm because I noticed there was no glow coming from my comic book storage closet*. This is where Jake and Jenny like to hide out, so I wanted to make sure that I replaced the nightlight before I fell asleep and forgot. Otherwise it's pitch black in there, and even cats with their awesome eyesight need some light to function.
So I headed downstairs to the hutch drawer where I keep the batteries and small lightbulbs to see if I had something.
Right next to the pile of lightbulbs I bought for my mom's nightstand lamp.
As she started sliding deeper and deeper into dementia, trying to keep everything exactly the same from day to day became a full-time job. But it's something I had to do because even small changes could result in confusion that would spiral out of control. One minute her blanket isn't on her bed where she expected it to be... the next minute she's in a full-blown panic thinking that she "left it at the lake" (wherever or whatever that was).
One of the worst nights came when the bulb for her weird nightstand light burned out. It was weird because it was meant to look like an oil lamp with a chimney, but it had a second light in the base where the "oil" was supposed to go. Depending on how many times you rotated the switch, it would illuminate the upper light, the lower light, or both lights.
When things first started to go wrong she began insisting that the upper light always be on while she's sleeping. I think she felt safer that way. You can see her lamp in this great photo I took of Spanky laying on top of her while she slept...
The lamp was small, top-heavy, and prone to being knocked over. I spent a lot of time worrying that she would knock it off her nightstand and break it. The fallout from that disaster would have been catastrophic. I'm not sure where she got the thing, but probably from her mom, and so I'm sure she would notice if it went missing.
One night as I was getting mom ready for bed, I went to turn on the upper lamp and it wouldn't turn on. The weaker bottom light wasn't acceptable, so I had her get dressed so we could go to the grocery store for a replacement bulb. Unfortunately they didn't have the right bulb (it was small and round and weird... just like the lamp itself). Once we got back home I tried explaining that we would have to wait until morning to get a new bulb.
Complete and total meltdown.
She thought somebody broke into her room and stole her lightbulb. This made her inconsolable because she thought they were going to come back and kidnap her. Then she wanted to go to her parent's house (long since gone) because she was convinced that people were going to break into her room and kill her. She was screaming for the police. It... was... awful. Eventually I took her out to the living room and had her watch television until she fell asleep.
The next morning before work I packed her up and took her to Home Depot for a new bulb. They had one left. Not wanting to go through this ever again, I went home and ordered four more from Amazon.
Then something weird started happening. Bulbs that were lasting years were suddenly lasting just a couple months. Not knowing what was going on, I ordered three more bulbs from Amazon. Better safe than sorry.
Eventually I caught her taking the bulb out of the lamp, smacking it repeatedly on the nightstand, then putting it back in. At that point she started having trouble using a fork, so I have no idea how in the heck she managed to disassemble the lamp (which had multiple pieces to it)... let alone put it back together again. Like so many things at the time, it made no sense.
When I asked her what she was doing, she told me that she was "fixing it" because the bulb was too bright and hurting her eyes.
The weaker bottom light still wasn't bright enough for her, so I ordered a bunch of different bulbs in the hopes that one of them would be a little less luminous...
Turns out it was these weird plastic bulbs from Korea that she wanted, so I ordered a pile of them.
• • •
Once I had moved my mom to a memory care facility over the mountains and was able to accept that she was never coming home, I started getting rid of everything in her bedroom. I hired a junk hauler to take away her dresser, her chest-of-drawers, her nightstand, her shelves, her bed, her mattress... everything. I didn't want the reminder. I didn't want to spend weeks trying to sell or donate it. I just wanted it gone.
As for that stupid lamp?
I threw it in the trash and smashed it to pieces with a hammer.
The lamp had become a symbol of all the horrors my mom had to endure way too soon in life, and I thought it would be therapeutic if I were to take out my anger and frustration over her fate by destroying it. This didn't end up making me me feel better about anything, of course. And it would be just my luck that it was some kind of heirloom worth thousands of dollars. But I didn't care then. I don't care now.
Apparently I never threw out all those bulbs I bought though.
And so here they are haunting me.
Like all the things in my life that remind me of her.
Which is pretty much everything, I think.
• • •
*My house is strange. It essentially has two primary bedrooms. The one on the main floor was for my mom and is now a guest room. It's big, has a massive picture window, a bigger closet, and a changing area. Upstairs there's a small bedroom (which my cats have claimed) with a regular closet... and a larger bedroom (mine) with a regular closet and a large storage closet behind the regular closet. That's where I keep my worthless comic book collection in case I ever want to read them again one day...
When my kittens were brave enough to come out from underneath the couch after a few weeks, I tried to keep them from going upstairs by blocking off the stairwell. I was not successful. Eventually they had explored every nook and cranny in my home, including the comic book closet (which I keep open all the time because I don't want the paper smell to accumulate).
This quickly became their favorite hiding spot, and remains so to this day. Whenever I have company over, this is where Jake and Jenny are at.
They hop on the vacuum canister, then leap up onto the stacks at the end, then hide behind all the stuff I've got stacked up on the very top (my stereo and old photography stuff). They love it there, even though it gets way too warm in the summer.
I should probably start calling it "the cat closet" instead of the comic book closet.
As I previously mentioned, the organization I work with keeps insisting that I have my measles vaccination verified. Given the way the disease has come roaring back, they don't want us volunteers ending up with it while we're out trying to do good. Since I very much don't want to get measles at this stage of my life, I'm all for it.
So I got my childhood health records together and asked my doctor if I needed to worry. He suggested a measles titer test which will check for antibodies in my blood. Cool.
Yesterday afternoon I dropped by the clinic to get a cost for the test in case my insurance won't cover it (I was told by the charity it may be as high as $60). After I make my request they have to run and get billing codes (5 minutes) then I have to take a seat while they figure out how to bill it out (10 minutes). They then hand me the quote and it's THREE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-FIVE FUCKING DOLLARS!
So I call my insurance and ask how much of that will be covered. They won't even speak to me unless I have a "diagnosis code" and an "NPI code." So while I'm waiting for my tires to be changed, I go online to see if there's a testing lab nearby that might be cheaper. Google presents an ad for a $12.95 test...
So when I message my doctor and ask for the two codes my insurance is wanting... I also ask if he thinks that a $13 online test would be accurate. He said "The online tests are accurate and if you can get that done for $13 I'd do that."
And so I did.
There's an $8 blood draw fee I have to pay... and there's no draw center near me. But there's one near the airport in Seattle for when I fly out next week, so no big deal...
And there you have it. The test is going to cost me $20.95, which means that the actual cost of the test is probably around $10 or less. Which means that my local clinic has a minimum $365.56 markup on it. And I believe this calculates out to a THREE THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED AND FIFTY-FIVE PERCENT MARKUP!
And it's shit like this that makes my blood boil when it comes to the American "health care" system.
Our health... our very lives... are not in the hands of doctors any more. They're in the hands of insurance companies. Hospitals have to charge insanely high prices to cover the shitload of costs involved in getting their money out of insurance companies... and then add cost on top of that because they know that insurance companies are so powerful that they'll never agree to pay for the full amount it costs the hospital. If hospitals don't charge a shit-ton of money, they'll end up losing money.
Health insurance companies are massively, massively profitable. They are so profitable that they are able to spend billions buying off our politicians to keep our "health care" in the incredibly broken state it's in now... and has been in for a very long time.
So if you're saying to yourself... "Wow. Sounds like if we'd just eliminate health insurance companies and have hospitals bill patients directly for the actual fucking cost of what they do, we'd all be better off! And that's a fair assessment. Except if you end up with a health crisis that's so incredibly expensive that even fair direct pricing is more than you can afford. Hence insurance can be a good thing.
The U.S. spends more on healthcare than any other country — but not with better health outcomes.
And it's the fucking monsters at our insurance companies that took us there.
In the case of my measles antibodies test, I am grateful that I have options. Far, far, far more affordable options. But my next health-related expense likely won't have many options. Possibly even zero options. And, even though I have health insurance now, I could still end up bankrupted if the problem was serious enough. Because health insurance company profits must be protected at all costs, after all.
And what if I end up losing my health insurance one day? What then?
It's questions like this which have me advocating for a single-payer health care system. Despite the lies we're told, it works well for many other countries. Countries which have health care rated better than ours. And I am done buying the lies of politicians who would tell us otherwise when their asses are bought and paid for by insurance company lobbyists...
Our health care system IS shit. And getting worse. But we don't seem to want it fixed badly enough to do anything about it, so we get what we deserve.
And for some of us... that's a preventable death because we aren't profitable enough to live.
UPDATE: Oh here we go. This is from the UK side of the issue, but it has a scathing commentary on the lies which are being forced on Americans. Thanks to Jan for the video link...
I was awakened by leg cramps so painful this morning that I honestly think I passed out screaming. I don't remember. I just know that when I was awakened by the alarm to feed the cats, I could barely walk. The rest of my day was spent downing painkillers in an attempt to be able to work.
This is not a good time to be incapacitated. I've been trying to get ready for my impending travel and there's a strict schedule of events that needs to occur...
When I got home from work today I tried to pack my suitcase but my right leg is still having random spasms, so I thought I'd just give it a rest for a while. Besides, packing is so much more fun when you are throwing everything together as you're rushing out the door, isn't it?
Probably not, but that's reality for you.
I've been thinking a lot about reality lately.
Not reality-reality, but the carefully-constructed "reality" that's been crafted for idiots which the rest of us are forced to live in. I think what got my brain working on the subject was a map that I saw hanging up while I was waiting for a friend to get her hair cut last week...
I found it fascinating that they had to put a disclaimer in the title informing you that, while it may look as though it's a "relief map"... it is, in fact, not a relief map but, in fact, a relief-LIKE map.
Which is to say that whatever "relief" you are experiencing from looking at this map is artificially induced. There's no actual depth to it. Things just look that way because it's painted to produce the illusion of depth.
Which begs the question... why the fuck did they need to explain this? Were the relief-map-making companies incensed that people might get confused and accidentally buy a "relief-like" map instead of an actual "relief" map as they intended?
You may laugh at that, but you shouldn't.
Remember a while back when I mentioned that Mississippi is making it a jailable offense to call non-meat-based burgers "veggie burgers?" This is a primary example of creating a reality which caters to the lowest common denominator. People too stupid to comprehend that a "veggie burger" isn't made from beef... almond milk doesn't come from a cow... and a map with no physical depth isn't a "relief map."
I'd weep for the future but, reality is, the future is now.
I don't mind living in the future, I just wish it wasn't this one.
I've somehow reached an entirely new level of exhaustion.
I went to bed at midnight expecting to get seven hours sleep before Alexa chimed for the cats' breakfast. I didn't manage to fall asleep until sometime around 1:00-1:30, so I was already off to a bad start.
Then the thunder and lightning started lighting up the sky and booming through my morning.
Surprisingly, Jake and Jenny were not phased, even when the thunder was so loud it was shaking the house. They were in the window ledges of my bedroom watching the lightning and trying to figure out where all the noise was coming from (when, basically, it was coming from the entire valley). This was a bit confusing for them. I mean, just look at the lightning strikes hitting Washington State today...
Lightning Strikes Map from Lightning Viewer, National Interagency Fire Center
I'm kinda in the middle of all that. Which meant I just lay there in my bed not sleeping while the world exploded.
Usually it takes 2-1/2 hours to drive to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. But this being summer and all, I have to allow an extra hour for multiple road construction stops. Then I had to add a half hour to that so I could get my $13 measles antibodies test blood draw. Then I thought I might as well add another half hour for lunch.
So basically I ended up getting no sleep and barely had time to check all my home security cameras and alarm sensors before walking out the door.
Three hours driving through road construction (which never fucking ends... NEVERRRR!) followed by lunch at Fatburger followed by a blood draw followed by a quick trip to IKEA to get a glass topper for my second guest bedroom nightstand followed by a two hour wait at the airport followed by a five-and-a-half-hour flight followed by a thirty minute ordeal getting to my hotel followed by fifteen minutes writing this blog entry.
And... I'm so done.
Here's hoping that all the lightning fires that got started were quickly contained and put out.
I'm in the future! This post is for Wednesday but I'm writing it on Thursday because stuff happened.
My flight to Boston was great (thanks, Alaska Airlines!). My hotel at midnight was nice. My drive up to Maine was painless. My lunch was very good. My hotel is great as always. But work was pushed back several times over many hours, so I'm kinda in that limbo state that happens when you're sleep-deprived yet having to concentrate on the job.
Somewhere in all that, I needed a snack so I grabbed a bag of Mango Pineapple Mix. I love dried pineapple and mango, so it was an easy choice.
When I started chowing down, I noted that there was hardly any mango or pineapple taste to be found. As you chew it, it tastes more like peanut butter and raisins...
INGREDIENTS: PEANUTS, RAISINS, SUNFLOWER KERNELS, MANGO, PINEAPPLE, CASHEWS.
Here in the USA, ingredients must be listed in order of volume. But they don't have to tell you the percentage of each ingredients. For my "Mango Pineapple Mix" my guess is that it's something like this...
So... not really a Mango Pineapple Mix after all. The ingredients might as well have read...
Mango, pineapple, and cashews are expensive, so they are used sparingly. Peanuts, raisins, and sunflower seeds are cheap, so they are used as filler. Which is fine, except in this case the filler is so overwhelming that you never really taste the ingredients that the mix was named after.
The product is a lie.
Which is nothing new. Companies lie to sell their crap all the time.
Just like politicians.
As the presidential race starts heating up, you quickly realize that all the threats and promises the candidates are making are just filler. Cheap lies they say so they can get elected. Promises, after all, cost nothing. If I were to break down the ingredients for a politician's motivations when running for office, it would probably go something like this...
Yes, I realize that all adds up to 500%, but you've seen how politicians operate... tell me that I'm wrong. And don't kid yourself, that 2% is very much dependent on whether having "concern" will jeopardize their bigger priorities.
The product is a lie.
Which is nothing new. Politicians lie to sell their crap all the time. Their "ingredients" might as well read...
Why American citizens don't give a shit about this obvious scam is beyond me. I see the headlines and marvel at the fact that people aren't rioting in the streets. Take this one, for example...
Trump said he wouldn’t cut Medicaid, Social Security, and Medicare. His 2020 budget cuts all 3.
You work your entire life so that one day you can retire. Significant chunks of your paycheck are taken for Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare, with the expectation that this money will come back to you so that you don't have to spend your "golden years" living in disease and poverty.
And yet here we are.
If you're one of the wealthy individuals benefitting from the money being stolen from working-class America, congratulations, you got the country you paid for. If you're not one of those individuals, then I hope you enjoy your "golden years" living in disease and poverty. You voted for it, after all.
Change your mind? Here's a checklist for a good start...
That last one is the ballgame. It's also complex and interesting. Fortunately, CPG Grey has you covered. Watching these videos is well worth your time if you're at all concerned about just how badly fucked you are by our current political system...
And... back to work. And my shitty trail mix.
The people of Maine are truly a gem. They are a lovely combination of Canadian courtesy, Southern hospitality, and Midwest sensibility... all rolled into some of the nicest people you will ever meet.
Until you put them behind the wheel of a car, that is.
Every time I come here (and I've been doing it for a while now) I am in utter shock at just what aggressive assholes Maine drivers are. They are brutal, unforgiving, ruthless, and just overall mean.
Take today, for example.
I was driving back to my worksite after lunch at one of those weird Taco Bell/Kentucky Fried Chicken hybrids*. The speed limit is 30. I am driving about 42 because that's the pace that the cars ahead of me are setting. They are about ten car-lengths ahead, but I'm going the same speed that they are.
Then, out of nowhere, some woman comes blazing up behind me. She's revving her engine. She's swerving from one side of the lane to the other as if she's trying to see what could possibly be slowing me down to a mere 12 miles per hour over the speed limit. She is driving so aggressively that I become genuinely worried that she's going to crash into me. And that's the point... she is trying to intimidate me into going faster even though I'm already well above the speed limit.
And then it occurs to me.
I am driving a rental car with full LDW (Loss Damage Waiver) coverage.
So when I see a man limping across the street, having just cleared my lane, I use it as an excuse to stop. Then I'm all Let's see what happens, shall we? as I brace for impact.
She didn't hit me, but she did have to slam on her brakes and swerve off the road where it looked like she was having a heck of a time regaining control so she could keep her car on the shoulder and not slam it into the guardrail.
I can only guess that she was not happy.
But I sure was. Next time don't be such an asshole, you fucker!
Except she didn't learn anything, because she caught right back up to me, then illegally used an exit lane to burn past me at 50+ miles per hour. In a 30 mile per hour zone. I didn't look at her as she passed. I assumed there would be hand gestures I was not wanting to see. Because I'm the asshole in this scenario, apparently.
What's so stupid is that after she made all that effort to pass me, she was immediately stuck behind a whole string of cars going 40-42 miles per hour, so she was being a total asshole and almost wrecked her car for nothing. Eventually she pulled into the center lane for a left turn. I did look at her as I passed that time. Everything normal. She was focused on finding an opening so she could turn... no ugly glaring at me at all.
Look, if there's an emergency and she was trying to get her kid to the hospital emergency room because it's dying (or whatever), then fine. You should be driving like somebody's life depends on it. But then you'd be honking your horn and having your emergency flashers on so people would know to move, right? You wouldn't zoom up on somebody's bumper and act like a psychotic fucking piece of shit.
I miss my cats.
I look in on them several times during the day (and night) to make sure nothing is amiss, and it's all good. But it's still tough. This morning Jenny had an itchy ear. She keeps stopping to scratch it. She doesn't have fleas or mites or anything, this just happens sometimes with her. When I notice it, I usually step in to scratch it for her real good. There have been a couple times when I review security camera footage of her while at work that I've dashed home for a couple minutes to scratch her ears. But when I'm 2,400 miles away? All I can do is watch in frustration...
Generally speaking, my cats are very good about not jumping up on my dining room table... which I appreciate, because it saves on disinfectant cleaner from having to wipe it down all the time. But when I'm gone? Jenny seems to live on top of my table. I don't know if it's because she is always looking for me and thinks it makes a great spot to see everything... or whether she does it because she knows she's not supposed to be up there, and it's some kind of revenge for me having abandoned her. Eventually I gave up on trying to think of ways to keep her off, and just slapped a pair of my jeans down so at least she's not sitting directly on the table (because... ewwww... cat butt table). For whatever reason, Jenny absolutely loves sitting and laying on my jeans, so I never throw them out anymore. Any time they get damaged or torn beyond repair I just wash them and set them out as cat beds. Problem solved...
All day and all night...
At least she's content this way. Or as content as she can be when I'm not home, poor thing!
Jake seems to handle my absence better.
Until I get home. Then he wants me to know exactly how he feels about it.
*I like Taco Bell. They have great vegetarian options (7-Layer Burrito, Swap Black Beans for Refried beans... and their Cheesy Potato Griller is sublime) even though they may not be the healthiest options. But, when you're on the road and need vegetarian in a hurry... well... thank heavens I can "Make a Run for The Border." Though it's weird at the Taco Bell's with KFC inside, because then you are staring at weird stuff like this...
Methinks The Colonel may be reconsidering where his "chicken" comes from.
RUN, MICKEY! RUNNNNNN!!!
As I mentioned a few days ago, I got a free over-the-air antennae and an "AirTV Play" unit when I pre-paid the first three months of my Sling TV service in advance. I received the unit today and, as expected, I couldn't get any channels to show up. I live in a valley surrounded by hills and mountains, and the odds of picking up anything were slim. No big loss... it's not like the channel report I ran gave me even a prayer of getting a major network like ABC, NBC, or CBS. Just some weird local channels like "NCW Life" which I would never watch anyway, or a FOX affiliate that wouldn't give me anything I can't get streaming...
Oh well, the stuff was all free, so it was worth a shot.
So I guess I'm set.
Some shows on CBS I'm just out of luck on. I will have to wait until Star Trek: Discovery or The Good Fight or Star Trek: Picard is released so I'll be subscribing to CBS All-Access and can binge the archives then. Or perhaps they can be streamed from CBS online for free, I'll have to check...
There's also a few shows I can't seem to get on Sling Blue, Hulu, or Amazon Prime, but think I can stream online from the official websites.
The majority of my shows I can watch via Hulu or Sling Blue (with a couple coming free from the HBO Now which is bundled with my AT&T Wireless). Sling is preferred because I have their "Enhanced DVR" where I can fast-forward past commercials. But Hulu is just fine with commercials (because I don't want to pay extra to watch without them)...
Yesterday I had to make a trip to The Big City to return some things for work... and to drop off my DirecTV receiver at FedEx. As I feared, they completely brick the thing once your service is canceled, so when I checked to see if the last show I had on my DVR was still there, I couldn't even get to the menu. I guess that's only fair. I was renting the box, and my rental contract ended Sunday at midnight, so I shouldn't be able to use it. But... damn. That's cold. You'd almost think it was MY fault that I had channels missing and was forced to cancel.
I guess there's no going back now!
Not that I'd want to. I'm still bitter over the expensive packages that cable companies and satellite companies have forced us to buy for decades... because more often than not they're filled with shitty channels you'll never watch, which means you're forced to pay more than you should. Thanks to the internet we're finally to the point where channels can be purchased individually... or at least in smaller packages... which make more sense. Hopefully in the future our television programming will get to the point where it's 100% ala carte, and you can pay for exactly the channels you want.
We can dream, can't we?
This morning after I fed my cats Jenny started making "yummy noises" while she ate breakfast. It caught me off guard because I've never heard her do that before. It was so subtle I would have missed it if I hadn't leaned over to fill the water fountain... and so adorable that I very nearly fell over laughing.
Not sure what brought this on, but it made my day.
For a little while, anyway.
Because then I decided to have tacos for breakfast and was all "SUCK IT, HATERS... only God can judge me! Wooooooo!!"
About twenty minutes later I spent an hour in "intestinal distress." Apparently God's judgement hath cometh and it cometh for me.
Guess that's what I get for ignoring Fish Friday! Though if the point of Fish Friday is to abstain from eating meat, these were vegetarian-safe tacos, so no harm no foul (no beef no fowl?). Maybe this Wrath of God stuff would make more sense if I had paid more attention in Catholic Sunday school? I dunno. I never found anything about "Fish Friday" in the Bible, so I'm guessing this came from the Catholic Church, much like "purgatory.".
In other news... my measles antibody test came back as 203. Anything higher than 29 is positive for immunization. Which left me looking at the results like... HOLY SHIT, MOM! My antibodies are at 203?!? TWO-OH-THREE?!? EXACTLY HOW MANY TIMES DID YOU HAVE ME IMMUNIZED?!?
It's nice that I'm protected as well as I can be protected from the measles plague while traveling. One less thing to worry about. Now I can focus all my worry on the plane crashing where it belongs!
Just kidding. That's probably the last thing I worry about while traveling. The way the world is going right now, sometimes I think a plane crash is the best thing that could happen to me.
And the second-best thing? Freshly-baked bread for dessert...
I'll take bread and butter over cake and ice cream any day of the week!
My turn to make yummy noises.
Last week somebody told me that they still find themselves thinking “I need to tell my mom about this!” whenever they see something, hear something, or think of something that reminds them of their mom... even though she has been gone for almost five years now. They then asked if it's the same for me. I had to answer "no" because for the three years before she died, my mom likely wouldn't have been able to understand or process what I was talking about. Thanks to dementia, I had years for that impulse to be driven out of me. Had she died when she could still make sense of stuff you'd tell her, then yeah, I think I absolutely would still have that impulse. As I have for most all of my other friends and family who have passed.
Whenever I run across something truly bizarre and messed up on Facebook, my impulse is to DM it to Grant. He died 2 months ago today.
Whenever I meet up with a mutual friend from "back in the day" and some hilarious memory comes up, my impulse is to reminisce with one of my dearest friends Doug. He died 6 months ago.
Whenever I hear a new song from some artist we mutually liked, my impulse is to message my friend Howard about it. He died 2 years ago today.
Whenever I order a Manhattan I think of my Grandpa and his wife Lois, who made epic cocktails that would blow your hair back. He died over 3 years ago. She died some years before that.
Whenever I eat apple pie my impulse is to run and tell my grandma that she still makes the best apple pie on planet earth. She died nearly 4 years ago.
Whenever I see an example of epic snark in my Facebook feed, my impulse is to forward it to my fellow blogger friend Kaply. She died 5 years ago.
Whenever I see a handmade bracelet that's especially crappy, my impulse is to take a photo and have a laugh with my fellow blogger friend Lisa about it. She died 10 years ago.
Whenever I see anything related to Dr. Who, my impulse is always to talk with one of my oldest bestest friends Howard about it. He died 18 years ago.
Whenever I make enchiladas from my grandmother's recipe, my impulse is to call her and tell her how mine never taste as good as hers do. She died like... 20... 25 years ago, I think?
Whenever I give myself a haircut, my impulse is to run and ask my barber grandfather how good a job I did. He died 29 years ago.
I think it's normal that we still think of people who are gone from our lives as if they are still around. Which is why I'm more than a little sad I can't feel this way about my mom... unarguably somebody I was closer to than anybody listed above. I mean, yeah, I still miss her terribly. There's not a day that goes by that I'm not thinking of her and wishing I could have her back. It's just that the impulse to run and tell her stuff is completely absent, and that's a bitter pill to swallow.
And speaking of dementia...
As we get older, our memory isn't as good as it used to be. And it's weird how that works. The lyrics to some obscure song I liked 20 years ago and probably haven't heard in a decade? Totally remember every word. What I had for breakfast last Tuesday? Yeah, I remember that. But the name of the person I was just introduced to 30 minutes ago? Gone. Vanished. No idea who they are, only that I should know their name.
But that kind of stuff doesn't worry me. Heck, I've been immediately forgetting people's names since birth! It's just that I notice it more now, I suppose.
What worries me... what terrifies me... is something like forgetting to turn the burner off after I've boiled some pasta and not noticing until 20 minutes later. Or forgetting to close the door flap after I've filled my car with gas and not realizing it until 2 days later. All those little things that should totally be ingrained in every fiber of my brain as habitual behavior... but obviously must not be because I've somehow forgotten to do it. Those things are about as unnerving as it gets.
After the whole pasta burner incident this past week, I ran to consult Dr. Google. This is what they say about dementia over at alzheimers.org...
In most cases, vascular dementia itself is not inherited.
However, a parent may pass certain genes that increase the risk of developing vascular dementia.
Sooo... good news bad news then? I guess?
Could be I'm overly-tired because I just can't seem to get my sleep back on schedule after my last trip, and that's the reason for it. Who knows?
If it is a sign of early onset dementia, however, at least I have the consolation of knowing that I'm on my way to not being troubled because I can't still think of my mom as being alive like I do everybody else who's died in my life. That would be great.
I don't get it either.
Which only proves I'm sane, I guess.
This morning while I was waiting for my laptop to render out the project I had been working on for an hour-and-a-half, I grabbed my iPhone to take a look at what's going on in the world. Granted in this day and age that's most always a mistake, but I'm a glutton for punishment.
After glossing over the "news" tab I clicked on the "entertainment" tab because that's always a much happier place to be. One of the first stories was The Movies Directed By Quentin Tarantino, Ranked. I'm a big Tarantino fan, so I had clicked through without even thinking about it. The list (over at Film School Rejects) was an interesting one. They put Inglourious Basterds at the top, not Pulp Fiction, which is usually not how these lists go. Most times I never know if the person making the list puts Pulp Fiction as #1 because they honestly feel that way... or because it's expected of them to have it there. Then I noticed that the Film School Rejects list was a composite list by a group of people, and suddenly everything made sense. Since the list wasn't being attributed to a single person's name, people could vote how they wanted to with no pressure to vote as they feel people expected them to.
While I prefer lists that I can attribute to a single person, I do like the idea of lists that are voted on by multiple people. If, for no other reason, because it feels as though it gives a better barometric of truthiness due to the anonymity of it all.
Then I discovered the website Ranker and fell down a rabbit hole.
Ranker is a site where any visitor can vote on lists of things (and also has regular news stories). Clicking on the "entertainment" tab and I see Every Song in Cats, Ranked by Singability and The Best TV Shows Streaming on Hulu and The Greatest Animated Series Ever Made and Famous Women You'd Want to Have a Beer With.
Then I see the list that compels me to start ranking... The Best Hallmark Channel Original Movies of 2019. ON THIS SUBJECT I HAVE VERY STRONG OPINIONS!
...my rendering finished ages ago and I'm running in danger of being late to work. That's what happens when you feel compelled to vote on things like Funny Names to Give a Chicken (before you judge me, 4,300+ other people were in on this)...
I mean, come on... "Tyrannosaurus Pecks?" "Mother Clucker?" "CLUCK NORRIS?!?!?" Personally, I give the edges to "Sir Clucks-A-Lot" for a boy and "Margaret Hatcher" for a girl, but that's just me.
Also just me? Ranking The Very Best Pop-Tart Flavors... so, if you'll excuse me, I've got work to do.
Yesterday on my way back across the mountains I stopped at the grocery store. Braving the crowds while food shopping was pretty much the last thing I wanted to do after five hours of travel, but I didn't have much choice. My cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer were all bare.
Before I went to Maine back in July, I made sure to eat all the food that could spoil so none of it would be wasted. Then I got called to Las Vegas, still didn't want to buy any new food that would go bad, so I just kept eating absolutely everything I already had. The night before my flight, I shit you not, I had pickles and saltine crackers for dinner. Not something I was interested in repeating any time soon. And so... a stop at the grocery store it was.
My shopping strategy is simple. Never buy anything unless it's on sale.
I am not terribly picky about what I eat, so this makes it easy to buy ingredients or prepared meals only when they are cheap. Except... groceries are never cheap any more, so I guess I should say "cheaper than normal." Fortunately my local grocery store has an iPhone app with all their coupons, specials, and discounts, so I also save money by making my list ahead of time and only buying what's on the list. I never "browse" at a store because then I'll just end up buying stuff I want instead of what I need.
And so... I made my list on the plane and was ready to go when I got back home. This time I scored big because a lot of key ingredients I needed were on sale. Flour so I can make bread. Tomato sauce and tortillas so I can make enchiladas. Veggie dogs so I can make veggie dogs. That kind of thing.
Another reason I like a list? It keeps me from buying things I should not be eating.
There I was at the store looking for "Sargento Balanced Breaks" healthy snack packs (on sale plus I had a 75¢ off coupon for club members!) when I saw a package of "break and bake" raw cookie dough. Something I absolutely, positively, should NOT be eating. Usually it's easy to resist cookies... I just avoid that aisle in the grocery store, and am not terribly fond of cookies any more anyway... BUT FRESH-OUT-OF-THE-OVEN COOKIES?!? How could I NOT buy that? They weren't on sale, but the generic brand was so much cheaper than the name-brand version that they were practically on sale! Close enough! And since they are crappy generic, they probably taste awful and I'll just end up throwing them in the garbage anyway, right? Sold!
Tonight I gave them a try. Not so appetizing out of the bag...
But then? OH HELL NO! THESE THINGS ARE FRICKIN' MAGIC!!!
I'm not joking. These things are phenomenal. Probably because I haven't had a fresh out-of-the-oven cookie in a decade or more.
This is terrible.
I'm thinking I can restrain myself by baking no more than three at a time... and only baking them when I already have the oven heated from cooking something else. The loophole being that I can cook up a second batch of cookies because the oven will still be warm from cooking the first batch of three cookies.
At least I think that's how that works.
And now it's time for the new Invader Zim movie on Netflix! I am so psyched I can't even stand it.
With the new television season a month away, I'm in an odd position of having very little television to watch. Since I like background noise while I work, this means I've been re-watching shows I like or checking off shows and movies I've been meaning to watch but haven't gotten around to.
One of these being Easy to Learn, Hard to Master: The Fate of Atari which is currently streaming on Amazon Prime...
This was not the first movie which chronicled the downfall of my video-gaming childhood... there was Atari: Game Over which came out three years before... but Easy to Learn, Hard to Master was the one which had the most interesting assortment of talking heads discussing the rise and fall of Atari in the video game arena. Nolan Bushnell, Al Alcorn, Howard Warshaw, Steve Wozniak, David Crane, and more were all interviewed. It also included insight from Manny Gerard and Ray Kassar from the Warner side of the disaster.
The movie was a good watch, even though I didn't learn anything astonishingly new. Atari's meteoric rise and fall has been commentary fodder for decades and is well-known. It did, however, get me thinking about the whole video game revolution that was my childhood. Along with comic books, the Atari 2600 was probably the most important part of my childhood...
As I've mentioned before, I coveted the thing from the minute I was aware that it existed. I think it was being sold at Sears, and my non-stop begging eventually wore my parents down. I finally got one for my birthday or for Christmas or something. And from that moment onward... I was playing video games, saving my money for video games, and begging for new video games at every turn.
I amassed quite a collection.*
Well, not really... I managed to get 32 of the 532 games that were available in North America.
Which brings me to my next movie: Nintendo Quest...
In this movie, a guy named Jay Bartlett attempted to collect all 687 Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) games that were released in North America... in 30 days... but without using the internet. Nope, he drove around northern North America trying to find them.
To be honest, I was more than a little bored throughout it. The actual collecting didn't have much going on. It was the stuff in-between than made it worth watching. And remembering back to so many of those awesome NES games!
And my last video game movie? A "mocumentary" film that was clearly trying to be the This Is Spinal Tap for video games called Going for Golden Eye...
While nowhere near the level of This is Spinal Tap, I thought it was a pretty good effort. It definitely had some funny moments to make it all worthwhile.
And I think I've had my fill of video game movies for a while.
Until the next one comes along, I'd imagine.
*And here's the Atari 2600 titles I ended up collecting...
Third Party Games...
I worked so hard for so long to make relationships work, but eventually came to realize that being in a relationship isn't for me. That was a tough realization to come to after spending my entire life convinced I couldn't be complete without somebody else in my life. But I've made my peace with it. Relationships make me happy in the short run, but being single has made me happier in the long run.
Except when grocery shopping.
After my dentist appointment today I went to Petco for kitty litter... to Burger King for an Impossible Whopper... and to Safeway for food.
The problem with shopping for food while single is that it's more expensive than shopping for food with a family (per person). As an example? I need hamburger buns to go with my veggie burgers. Unless I eat veggie burgers every day, I can eat maybe four buns before they go stale. They come in packages of eight. Which means I have to freeze four and they never taste as good after being frozen. Cost for eight buns? $3.49. Or on sale at two for $5. Some stores will let you buy one for $2.50, but most won't. So do I spend an extra $1.50 for a bunch of buns I'll just have to freeze? That's the question I face every time I go shopping. At least buns can be frozen if I decide to go that route... some things cannot.
Like buns for veggie burgers, cream cheese for bagels is another thing that drives me nuts. They are never on sale at the same time. Fortunately cream cheese usually has an expiry date for 6 months, so I can stock up and wait for bagel prices to drop.
But it's not all bad news.
Because of the way my blood sugar spikes, I need to limit carbs. That's tough for a vegetarian, but I do my best and try to plan around it. It's just making choices. Do I want to spread my carbs throughout the day so I can have bread and fruit? Or do I want to splurge on carbs at one meal and go low-carb the rest of the day? If I have pasta for an early dinner (must be eaten before 6 so I have time to burn it off before bed), that means I am having eggs for breakfast and cheese sticks with hummus and veggies for lunch. It's not science, but it works. My doctor is please with my A1C levels, and that's all I need to know.
And while I have gotten rid of a lot of sugar in my diet, I can still enjoy sweets a couple times a week. My favorite is cake, but if I were to make or buy a cake, it would perish long before I got around to eating even a fraction of it.
Fortunately, there are several companies making microwavable "desserts for one" and they're pretty great (also great are break-and-bake cookies, but I wrote about them last week).
And even more fortunately, Safeway had a bunch of them on sale and on closeout...
That's enough to last me for the rest of the year (there's 4 per box), and most of them were under $3.00! I prefer the Duncan Hines treats (in the red boxes) because they don't have icing. The Betty Crocker "Mug Treats" do have icing, but I always have to toss it out to save carbs.
No, they're not as fantastic as a real oven-baked cake or muffin, but not having to worry about food waste goes a long way for me.
And another thing that's pretty sweet? The upcoming Disney+ streaming service I've been writing about for weeks!
I don't know if this will help anybody out there, but... if you are planning on signing up for Disney+ and don't care about a bundle with ESPN and Hulu, there's a deal to be had by pre-ordering a membership NOW for when it begins in November.
Disney's official fan club is D23.com and basic membership is free. There are higher tiers with more benefits, but they are not necessary to get this offer. So if you are NOT a member, go sign up for a free membership. If you ARE a member, login and go to the My Account drop-down and choose "View My Account." There you will have the option to buy a 3-year Disney+ membership for $140. That's 33% off the "regular" price...
I know three years is a big commitment but, for me, it was a no-brainer. Considering there's exclusive Marvel Studios, Star Wars, Disney, Pixar, and National Geographic content... all of which I love... I was all over it. Sure I don't have $140 to be spending just now, but the offer expires after the weekend and I wasn't going to miss it (that's less than $4 a month!). Hello credit card debt, it's been a long time!
Despite having a bill to pay off, it's nice knowing that I don't have to worry about paying for Disney+ until November of 2022!
I am not one to partake in gossip because I honestly don't care that much about other people's lives. Unless it directly affects me or someone/something I care about, does what other people do in their personal life really matter?
This is not to say that I am above listening to news which features somebody awful having shit rain down upon their head, however. I am all about the schadenfreude to those who deserve it because it usually has such high entertainment value.
In practice, this is not in line with my belief structure, but I am inconsistent and evil that way.
Today I heard something particularly juicy through the grapevine, and it was a doozey. The person in question is a reprehensible excuse for a human being who has caused suffering for people I know, and I was happy to hear that their comeuppance had finally arrived.
"Happy" is actually not adequate to describe my state of mind... perhaps "gleeful" or "ecstatic" would be more accurate? I dunno. I had a smile on my face for most of the evening, so there's that. I mean, it's not that I want this person dead or anything, but knowing that they were having to suffer in a way quite similar to the suffering they had caused was a nice capper to my day.
Another capper to my day?
Netflix finally released their movie Falling Inn Love which has been teased for a while now...
And it's fairly obvious what happened here. Netflix went to MarVista Entertainment, the studio for many of the Hallmark movies, and said "We will give you a budget big enough to out-Hallmark the Hallmark." In their infinite wisdom, MarVista didn't hire famous writers or top-shelf actors... instead they merely took the same old movie they always make and relocated it to New Zealand. Genius! I mean, come on, if it ain't broke, don't fix it... just give it an expensive change of scenery! And also some scenery you won't often find on Hallmark, like some guy with his shirt off...
So far as "Hallmark" movies go, it was pretty good. The actors were all pretty great. But since it's for Netflix, there are some big changes from what you see on everybody's favorite greeting card network. First of all, there's a gay couple who own the local coffee shop. Not "hinted at" gay... but two men who are full-on married and refer to each other as "husbands." Second of all... he's white, she's African Cuban, which is something you rarely see on lily-white Hallmark... and certainly not as the leads. So, from that perspective, Netflix actually HAS out-Hallmarked Hallmark. Good on them.
Now I guess I better watch sports or rebuild a car engine or whatever else I'm supposed to do to assimilate back into our toxic-masculinity-based culture after watching another one of these crap movies.
As I mentioned last week, I used my new Apple Card credit card to buy a print from The Night Sky. You tell them the time, date, location on earth, and they will create a star map for you using the design options you choose.
I picked a nice navy blue color with coordinate lines and constellation lines with a dark blue background. Then I personalized the text in remembrance of my mom from when we were looking at The Milky Way while on safari in Zimbabwe.
I also made the big mistake of getting it framed. But more on that in a minute.
My home has a weird, narrow, angled wall leading to the stairwell. Originally, the handrail wrapped along it, but my mom would consistently fall down the final two stairs because her hand would run out of rail and she wouldn't see them (I nearly fell a couple times myself). I solved this by designing a small shelf so the handrail went all the way down.
For the longest time, I filled the space by putting one of my National Park posters from around the corner there. But I always wanted to find something else so my Park posters would be complete again. I thought the star map print would be perfect...
The print itself is pretty great. I've seen other companies that do this, but the design from The Night Sky was the best I had seen. I wanted navy ink instead of black ink because I through it looks more like the sky I remember...
It's an eerily perfect match...
Using the Star Walk app on my iPhone, I've been able to draw in the horizon and The Milky Way so I can see the area of the sky I was looking at that night...
It's printed on acid-free paper with archival inks, has a great design aesthetic, and ships free... so the $60 price tag feels worth it.
The $60 frame that came with it, however? Not so much.
It's not even made of wood and glass... it's some kind of lightweight composite with a thin acrylic sheet. But the worst part? It's garbage. For $60 I'd expect that, AT THE VERY LEAST, would have corners that meet and are filled. But they don't. Even worse? The paint job is utter crap (UPDATE: SEE BELOW)...
They put a Kraft paper on the back, which is nice. There's a sawtooth hanger at the very top and felt feet on the bottom, which is also nice. But the feet aren't thick enough to offset the hanger, so I had to add some silicone bumpers to make the print be truly vertical on the wall...
I cannot for the life of me figure out how they justify a $60 price tag for this terrible frame. I wouldn't have paid $20 for this mess. So now, in addition to the $60 I've already paid, I'm going to have to sand it, fill it, then repaint it so it looks half-way decent.
If you're going to buy a print from The Night Sky, I would pass on their frames and go buy a much better one for much less that's on sale at Michaels or something. Or, if you're like me, you could build a similar one for under $10.
If you want a star map print of your very own, The Night Sky is the place!
UPDATE: After reading my review and my experience with their frame, The Night Sky sent me a replacement. So much nicer! The paint isn't peeling off. The corners actually all meet up. I'm still not sure if it's worth $60, but at least now I don't regret having spent $60 on it. If this is what the quality is usually like, and my bad frame was just a fluke, then it could be worth it to you. The paper backing and hanger certainly add value over what you'd get at a craft store.
Thanks to my two cats, my home will never be impeccably clean. Their fur is everywhere. Their toys are everywhere. Their kitty litter tracks everywhere. And their cat trees are pretty gross. And yet... I do what I can to keep my house as clean as possible. Partly because I don't want it looking like a disaster area when guests drop by unexpectedly. But mostly because I don't want bugs in my house, and I've found constant cleaning goes a long, long way towards keeping them out.
Carl the RoboVac runs every day to keep my floors mostly clean (I vacuum by hand when needed to get the rest). I steam-clean the cat feeding station every week (Jenny makes a bit of a mess when eating wet food because she licks it instead of bites it). I keep countertops clean and my kitchen mopped. I wipe up or vacuum food crumbs whenever I spot them. I scrub everything with a baking soda wash on a rotating schedule. I do whatever I can to keep my home as clean as possible so bugs don't show up. Yes, it's a lot of work, but it's worth it because it actually seems to help. I am lucky to see few insects in my house.
Lately my cats have been catching giant spiders out in the catio then bringing them inside to play with.
As you can imagine, this has me more than a little freaked out. Nothing quite like spotting something on the floor out of the corner of your eye... going to investigate... then seeing it's a spider that the cats tortured to death.
And here I thought that Jake and Jenny eating bugs out in the catio was the worst thing that could possibly happen. I love my cats more than I know how to adequately express, but this is driving me insane. But what can you do? I refuse to yell at my cats for being cats. When I adopted them to keep my mom company, I knew what I was getting into. Any problems that come out of that decision are my fault, not theirs.
And so... occasional spiders are in my future, I guess.
Meanwhile in TV Land...
Hallmark has finally confirmed their new Christmas movie schedule and I've updated my 2019 movie page so that all forty of them are in my winter television schedule. Hopefully at least half of them are worth a crap. It seems as they increase the number of movies year after year, the overall quality has been declining.
On the bright side, however, this year we're getting A Christmas Love Story starring KRISTIN CHENOWETH and Scott Wolf...
Just when you think that everything that could possibly be said about Christmas from Hallmark has been said... here comes Kristin! So at least one of the movies will be insanely chipper in the way that only Kristin Chenoweth can deliver!
Ho! Ho! Ho! 50 days to go until October 25th...
This morning I woke up and felt, for the first time this year, that Summer is on its way out. Instead of the beautiful mornings that permeate the months of June, July, and August, things looked considerably less bright. More dreary and foreboding. The afternoons will still be sunny and warm for a while yet, but the mornings and evenings will be colder, dimmer, and less life affirming. Don't get me wrong... I love Fall... but the transition to get there is darn depressing. Not enough that I want to move south so I can avoid it, but enough that I don't want to get out of bed in the morning.
Especially early in the morning, like today.
Usually I am awake and working at 5:30am. Checking email, going through my to-do's, setting up things that need to be done when I get into the office... that kind of stuff. But I don't get out of bed until the Alexa alarm goes off at 7am and it's time to feed the cats. Then I work a little more before getting ready to go into the office at 9am. Most days this means I've put in two or three hours before I even go to work, but I'm okay with it because I'm not completely overwhelmed once I get there.
If I get out of bed earlier than 7am, it's almost always because I'm traveling. This morning it was because I had to shoot some video.
But Jake and Jenny don't know that. All they know is that their daily routine is being disrupted. In their mind, I'm going to be gone for days, which causes a major freak-out. Jenny's crying on the banister. Jake is running after me so he can rub up against my legs. It's like a Greek feline tragedy unfolding, and I always feel terrible about it. I try to explain that I'll be back this afternoon, but they're cats... so... well, you know...
I wish for the ability to talk with my cats almost daily. Most of the time it's to ask them "Why did you just do that? What are you thinking here?" But times like this would be to tell them what's going on so they wouldn't be so upset.
Instead all I can do is distract them with cat treats while I sneak out the front door.
Then spend the rest of my day wondering how they're doing after the cat treats are gone.
Back in the late 80s when my friend Doug and I were in Kauai, we looked at a map (yes, this was before Google Maps because I'm old) and saw a massive beach on the Western side of the island called "Barking Sands" and decided to go. Little did we know that Barking Sands Beach is a part of the Barking Sands Naval Base, home of the Pacific Missile Range Facility. We were (of course) halted at a fence and told to turn around and vacate the premises. Then were told that there was a public beach north of the facility if we wanted to go there. It was called "Polihale Beach" and we decided it was better than nothing after having driven all the way across the island.
If you look at it on a map, you can see what the deal was...
Map From Google Maps
Problem was... our map was pretty vague about the area. We ended up taking a very wrong turn and ended up headed inland. When we tried to turn around using a drive into a sugar cane field, we were met by a guy with a gun who told us to get the hell off his property.
And so we did. Quickly.
Just one of many bizarre misadventures we we got into on that trip.
Once we got back to the road we needed to be on, we eventually spotted a road that looked like it maybe kinda possibly wouldn't get us shot... so we headed to the beach. This was an undeveloped off-the-beaten-path situation, so once we saw water we just pulled off the road and parked in an area where it looked like we might be out of the way.
This Google Maps satellite image may or may not be where we actually ended up, but you can get an idea of what I'm talking about...
Map From Google Maps
After parking, we headed to the beach.
Just as we turned the corner, we ran across a couple who had attempted to drive their rental SUV ONTO THE BEACH.
Needless to say, they immediately became stuck. Then they made things worse by slamming down on the gas pedal, which only dug the car deeper into the sand...
Map From Google Maps
Apparently they didn't get the memo on why you don't want to drive on sand with a vehicle not designed for that purpose.
As we approached we saw that a woman was seated in the passenger side of the SUV fuming. A man was attempting to dig it out with a frisbee. A futile effort if there ever was one, because the SUV was sunk up to the floorboards. The only way he was ever going to get off that beach would be if somebody parked off the beach with a winch and pulled him off of it.
As we passed, the guy looks up at us and says "Hell of a day, isn't it?" And Doug was all "Um. Yeah." Because the only thing going through both of our heads was how we were going to escape if this guy asked us to help him dig his car out. But he never did. So we walked up the beach, which was quite nice. Beautiful golden sand with turquoise waters and hardly any people...
One of the (many) things I love about Google Maps is that you can literally pinpoint where I took the above shot...
Satellite View From Google Maps
It's not a great beach for swimming thanks to the waves, which were rough, but pretty to look at otherwise...
I did not take a photo of the guy digging his SUV out. This was before the days of being able to sneak a shot with a mobile phone, and I really didn't want him to get pissed at me for exploiting his misfortune if I were caught... so I restrained myself. In the shot above, he is just to the left out of frame.
Wow. These shots I took really are from the 80's. Just look at that film grain when I zoom in...
Anyway... After twenty minutes of bumming around, we walked back to our jeep. The guy was still there attempting to dig the SUV out. A part of me wanted to ask if we should call a tow truck for him when we got back to civilization, but I didn't want him getting more pissed than he already was. Instead we took a long loop around him. We were on vacation, after all. If he had shouted out to us as we walked by, we absolutely would have called AAA for him (or whatever) but, well, you know...
Once we made it back and climbed into the jeep, Doug turned to me and said "Hell of a day, isn't it?" And then we both laughed our asses off because we're mean that way. But, hey, at least we know better than to try and drive in sand, amirite?
Fast forward to a couple years later. The movie Total Recall had just come out. It featured a scene where Arnold Schwarzenegger wakes up in a cab being driven by a robot. After some confusion as to how he got there, the Johnny Cab robot says "Hell of a day, isn't it?"...
I don't know if Doug was with me in the theater when I saw Total Recall. I'd like to think that he was. He probably was. Or maybe he wasn't and I talked to him about it later after we had both seen it. I honestly don't remember. What I DO remember is laughing my ass off when Johnny Cab said "Hell of a day, isn't it?" Because that's exactly how the guy digging out his car said it. The people in the theater probably thought I was insane, but it was damn funny in a "You Had To Be There" kind of way.
Over the years, every once in a while when we saw each other, one of us would inevitably say "Hell of a day, isn't it?".
Last week I ran across a story about a car that had been driven out onto the beach, then abandoned in the face of Hurricane Dorian because it got stuck...
After it was discovered, social media happened. Because of course it did. Then #JeepWatch2019 took over. The meme was popping up everywhere...
Now, as you can imagine, the minute I saw this my first instinct was to create my own meme and text it to Doug...
Except I couldn't.
It took me a minute to remember that Doug is gone.
That's one of the worst things there is, isn't it? Having a shared experience that only one other person on earth could possibly relate to... but for them to no longer be around to share it with? Not even the guy who was trying to dig his SUV out of the sand with a frisbee that day can possibly know what it that moment was to us. My writing this long-ass blog entry can explain what happened, but it's not the same as having lived through it. There was only the two of us.
And now there's just one of us.
And while it's a funny memory for me... knowing that I will never again have that one person to laugh about it with is a weight that came crashing down on my head like a ton of bricks. And it's weird, isn't it? How I never heard about a car getting stuck on a beach when it could have meant something hilarious... but now that it can't, I'm probably going to be hearing about it happening all the time? Because isn't that the way these things go? Maybe it's just how The Universe likes to dick with us. Or maybe it's how our brains like to dick with us by noticing things only after they've become more hurtful than hilarious? Heaven only knows that a Google Image Seach for "Car Stuck on Beach" sure turns up a lot of photos of it happening.
Today I found out that they were finally able to rescue that SUV from the beach after the hurricane passed. I still have no idea how the guy at Polihale Beach, Kauai ever managed to get his SUV off the beach.
Hell of a day, isn't it?
Every year since 9/11 I would remember back to the memory of it all... still fresh in my head after all these years... then write about what I was feeling. It's a singular event which most all Americans alive at the time can relate to regardless of the politics and issues which has divided us so badly.
Most times it went okay. Sometimes somebody would slap back with "YOU WEREN'T EVEN THERE! YOU WERE ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE COUNTRY! WHAT DO YOU KNOW?" or maybe something like "IT'S PATHETIC HOW AMERICANS GET SO CHOKED UP OVER ONE DAY WHEN 9/11 IS HAPPENING EVERY SINGLE DAY IN SYRIA!" In all cases I'd try to be empathetic. Those were words said more out of hurt than anger, and I get it. I resisted the urge to reply, which would solve nothing, delete the comment, then move on with my life the best I can.
All those years of coming up with something to share for 9/11 were eclipsed by The Story that I couldn't share. It encapsulated everything I feel about the anniversary of the terrorist attacks, but I wasn't going to share while my mom was still here. After I could no longer take care of her and she had to be moved to a facility over the mountains in June of 2016, I felt I could finally talk about it. That entry was pretty much my final word on 9/11.
There's not much more to be said.
In an effort to save money, I've been investigating a lot of "off-brand" alternatives to the stuff I buy. This is a complete 180 from my previous attitude where I'd always pay extra for the "good one." Then I read an article about how often times the "cheap one" is times made by the same company and is identical in every way except the packaging.
This has not always proven true, but it's been true often enough that I have switched my buying habits as a result.
Where this has saved me the most money is food. As an example... instead of buying Hunts tomato paste, I buy the Safeway Signature Select. There is no difference except I save a little by buying Safeway brand. And that little bit of cash adds up to quite a lot in the long run.
I was thinking of this when I took a photo of my cupboard after I was tagged in one of those "SHOW US A PHOTO OF YOUR..." memes (the last one I did was my refrigerator). There's a significant amount of off-brand stuff in there...
There are two things I can think of that I don't buy off-brand. I like Campbell's Tomato Bisque and Tomato Rice soups. All you can get as an alternative is plain old tomato soup, which I don't like as well. The other thing is pasta sauce. I prefer to make my own from scratch, but I always keep jars on hand in case I don't have time. The Classico is my favorite, and often times tastes as good as what I make. The off-brand is not as good, so I pay double to get something I enjoy eating.
I have been buying off-brand for more more than just food.
Today I received new air filters for my Coway Air Purifiers. Surprisngly, there are a number of off-brand alternatives. Most of them are cheaper because they are not true HEPA filters. But, if you shop carefully, you can find off-brand that are HEPA. One of the off-brand filter sets by Cabiclean was highly reviewed and $5 cheaper so I decided to go for it. Much to my amusement, this was printed on the box...
Clearly this wasn't written by somebody with great English skills but, hey, I don't need great marketing if it saves me $5... this is perfectly fine so long as it works. I guess time will tell, but I honestly couldn't see a difference between my new and old filters when I looked closely, so I'm guessing it's all good.
Well, maybe not "all good," but hopefully it's EFFECTIVE ENOUGH!
When I get screwed over by a company, I'm pretty unforgiving.
Sometimes it's because their product is total shit and they won't stand behind it, like Panasonic... sometimes it's because the customer service treated me like total shit, like Hewlett Packard (both of which I talk about here).
And sometimes it's because of a reason even I think is stupid, like CorningWare.
When I moved to my new place, I had to buy new everything. New television. New furniture. New cleaning supplies. And... new dishes.
One of the many new dishes I bought was a set of six different-color CorningWare "Meal Mugs." I loved all the CorningWare stuff I had purchased previously, and these looked like a fantastic thing to have...
You can mix, bake, heat, store, freeze, and serve in the things. The cover even has a steam vent for when you microwave. On top of all that, it's dishwasher safe! And they're a good enough size that they're practically a bowl... which is why I like them for soups, pastas, cereals, oatmeal, and even cakes. They're just so beautifully versatile. One of my better purchases, and I love them.
When they arrived they had labels on the front and the back. LABELS THAT WERE ADHERED WITH SOME KIND OF FUCKING SUPER GLUE. I am not even kidding. Peeling off the labels was impossible. Soaking them did nothing. Running them through the dishwasher dozens of times didn't touch them. The only thing that worked was a half-bottle of "Goo Gone" (THE LARGE BOTTLE!) and a plastic scraper. And even then I still feel a patch of label glue on them... TO THIS VERY DAY! So idiotic.
It was so rage-inducing that I never bought another CorningWare product.
This morning as I was unloading the dishwasher, I dropped one of my Meal Mugs. The red one, which is my favorite. I held my breath when it fell because this presented a real quandary. Would I break my ban on CorningWare to get a new one? Do I really want to waste a bottle of Goo Gone and an hour of my time to remove the labels? What does life even mean?
Fortunately, it didn't break after all and I held my breath for nothing.
So I guess I get to kick that can a little further down the road.
Four years ago today my offer was accepted on my condo.
Four years ago two days prior I toured the condo and had my real estate agent make a full-price offer. There would be no negotiating. No back-and-forth. I wanted the deal closed as quickly as possible.
Four years ago three days prior I was looking through real estate websites. Yet again. And I wasn't hopeful. Over a month of searching had turned up nothing. But there it was. A brand new listing for a condo in my old neighborhood. Four doors down from where I grew up. The home wasn't perfect, but the location was ideal. With some remodeling the home could be exactly what I needed and, with some luck, my search was over.
Little did I know that it would be four-and-a-half months of torture before I could move in... but that's another story.
As is the lead-up to four years ago today...
When my mom first started having trouble climbing stairs and walking on carpet at her apartment, I knew it was time to move. There was no way she would be able to safely live in a space where she was in constant danger of falling. Problem is, finding rental housing where I live is difficult even when you have no restrictions. But if you require a single story home with no carpet? Might as well be wanting to live on the moon.
I was left with two options: Buy or Build.
I didn't want to do either, but when you're left with no "option three" you do what you gotta do. I called up somebody I knew who's very good with local real estate and asked her to find me a house I could remodel or land I could build on. Then I purchased a home design software package and got to work.
After a conversation with a friend of a friend on the East Coast who has worked on creating homes for peoples with disabilities, I spent weeks coming up with dozens of floor plans for houses that would be best suited for my mom. Once I narrowed in on a couple designs, I just kept refining them over and over. The idea was to have a large central room with the kitchen, dining, and living room all together, then have the other rooms radiate around that. This simple concept would minimize confusion, because it's hard to get lost in. But something so simple in concept turned out to be far more difficult in reality...
In the above plan, for example, there was no bathroom directly off the main "hub" of the home. That has disaster written all over it, so I had to come up with something different...
And even that had problems. So it was back to the drawing board over and over and over.
Land within the city limits is scarce, but my agent had a lead on some possibilities. And so long as there was a chance, I was going to keep designing homes. Then that listing for my condo popped up and that was the end of my being an architect. It was fun while it lasted.
My mom's health declined far faster than anticipated, so instead of the five years I was hoping for, she only lived with me for 8 months. Then the doctor told me that she needed more care than I could provide on my own and it was over.
My first thought was to sell the condo since it was far more home than I needed (or could really afford). Everybody and their dog advised against it. The costs involved in buying a home and selling a home within a span of a year would be more than if I were to just hold out for a while. And so here I am, still here after all these years.
No lie... mortgage payments and HOA dues are a killer... but I'm happy I stayed.
Maybe one day I'll have to move. Maybe sooner than I'd like. But, in the meanwhile, this place is probably better than I deserve. And I've still got a kitchen remodel I want to work on, so there's that.
Today was flu shot day at work.
I got the shots for the longest time... then stopped because I ended up getting the flu a couple times anyway... then started getting shots again when I got a nephew and wanted to do everything I could to not be sick around him. My doctor said that the flu vaccine can't possibly fight every strain of flu, but it can combat some big ones and decrease severity and duration of others... so why not?
Oh... I dunno... BECAUSE I HATE GETTING SHOTS?!?
And I honsetly don't know why.
It's not the needle. That doesn't bother me at all. Tattoos are lots and lots of needles, and I am unphased.
And it's not the shot itself. When I was a kid I had to get three allergy shots a week, so I am unphased.
What I think it is? The stuff they shoot into you.
Despite my head knowing how vaccines work... knowing they are safe... and knowing that I trust science... there's something about knowing they are shooting dead (or weakened) viruses into me that freaks me out! The minute they jab me with that needle, all I can do is imagine that stuff floating through my blood stream... then my immune system going HOLY SHIT! and unleashing a torrent of antibodies to kill it all... and kill it dead (or, more likely, dead-er). Probably because I saw Fantastic Voyage as a kid and it's been in my head ever since...
What's going on inside me right now is disconcerting. I mean, just LOOK at this...
But the alternative? Having all that happen and getting really sick.
No thank you.
So there I was... rolling up my sleeve so I could get shooted.
And here I am now... imagining my antibodies attacking viruses.
I should probably take a couple sleeping pills tonight so I sleep through the battle raging in my body. GO ANTIBODIES! FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!
I've been having a tough time of it lately. I either pulled something in my leg... or twisted something in my leg... or maybe it's a blood clot in my leg... or perhaps nerve damage... I dunno. All I do know is that it feels as though all the bones in my left leg are being broken over and over again. It's excruciating. And sleep has been tough to come by because of it.
My guess is that it will probably have to be amputated. But I suppose that's for a doctor to decide.
Today I was too exhausted and in too much pain to get anything done, so I left work early to drug up, wrap my leg in hot packs, and take a nap.
I don't want to brag, but it was a huge success. I slept so good that there was a cat on me when I woke up. That's some great sleeping right there...
I would have liked to have stayed in bed for the rest of the day, but I have a massive to-do list that I need to be working on before winter arrives.
First up was figuring out why some of my SONOS speakers are showing up as "offline" to Alexa. It happened after the last update and it's been driving me crazy. It's also been driving the cats crazy, because one of the speakers that Alexa can't recognize is the speaker which plays their breakfast and dinner alarms.
A half hour later and I eventually solve the problem by uncoupling my surround sound setup, making all the speakers be individual "rooms," then running "discovery" so Alexa could see all of them again. Then setting up my surround system from scratch again. What a pain in the ass that was.
But that's technology for ya. Making things easier for you while making things more difficult at the same time.
But try explaining that to a cat.
This morning I woke up to a news report that there will be a cold snap in the Cascades starting Friday night. Snow is expected to accumulate anywhere from 4 to 10 inches.
Oh hell no. I am not ready for snow.
Now, usually I don't panic on these things, because any snow that lands will melt in short order this early in the season. I'll be driving over in the afternoon and there likely won't be much of anything on the ground. On top of that, I have been driving in the snow all my life and am pretty good at it, so it isn't a concern. And I have chains just in case things get unexpectedly bad.
But my snow tires expired last year which means I have to get new ones this year. This is a definite cause for concern. If you wait too long, it will be slim pickings or... worst case scenario... there will be a waiting list because they're all sold out. Making matters worse, sometimes you can't get an appointment to get your new tires mounted, balanced, and put on your car because the appointments are fully booked.
So this time I ain't waiting.
I made an appointment during my lunch, and away I went. And now my car has pretty new shoes...
If I drove a lot, I would probably have waited a month to save some tread. But I drive so few miles each season that my tires expire long before the tread is too low to be legal, so I figured I'd just beat the rush so I don't have to worry about getting an appointment when the snow hits.
Buying tires is kinda a weird deal. The advice is always "Buy the best tires you can afford!" because so much is (literally) riding on them. I always followed that advice for my mom's car... buying her the absolute best tires I could get, regardless of cost. When it came to my own car I was far less picky. I always bought mid-quality all-weather tires that were half the cost (and I never bought snow tires). When my mom couldn't drive any more, I donated my crappy Saturn to the veterans and took over the car I got her since it was newer and less crappy. It's a cheaper model 2007 Toyota Corolla, but it's clean, dependable, and in great shape. Since I already had the snow tires for it, I went ahead and had them put on.
And was subsequently shocked at how nice it was to drive through snow, slush, and ice with proper winter tires on!
It's so nice that I don't ever want to go back to all-weathers for winter driving, even if that means I have to spend money I don't have to get new ones. Because not having to brake six feet early on icy roads so you don't slide into an intersection is totally worth it. I remember one time I was driving to the airport at 4:30 in the morning and had to turn around and take an alternate route because my car didn't have enough traction to drive my regular route. At the time I was like "Oh well." But now I know this wouldn't have happened if I had winter tires, so driving my mom's car has been a game-changer.
Especially to my wallet.
In other news...
My cats haven't left tributes in a while. This morning I awoke to Blue Ball, Pretzel, Moose the Mule, the skin from a toy that's been ripped off the cat tree (which they brought in from the catio), and a ball of cat hair. No idea what they are wanting. Maybe it's to turn the heat on? I think it must be to turn the heat on...
I kinda miss waking up to find what my cats brought me in the middle of the night. They used to do it in exchange for food, I'm guessing. Because once they were trained to wait for the Alexa alarm, they stopped bringing me stuff. Surprisingly, they know enough to not bring tributes to Alexa. Smart kitties.
I wonder if Jake and Jenny will appreciate that we'll be riding on awesome new winter tires when I take them in for their annual vet checkup in February?
Facebook has a features called "Memories" which allows you to revisit posts for the day of years past. Most of the time, it's kinda cool to look back and see what was happening last year... three years ago... five years ago... and so on. Other times? Not so much.
A year ago today I was burying my mother.
It's weird... very weird... to think back to that day.
She had died three months prior, but it took a while for her marker to be made and shipped from the Veteran's Affairs office. I ultimately decided to go with the free marker they provide to veterans because the local funeral home had gone out of business and I just didn't want to shop for another one. Also? I really liked the simplicity of it all...
Placing that marker was symbolic of so many things.
For the previous three months I had been in a constant state of stress and anxiety. Closing out accounts. Paying off bills. Writing thank you notes. Sending out death certificates. Disposing of possessions. — It's a million and one things and it seems like it will never, ever end.
Until the marker is set, you write an obituary, and it does.
Except it really doesn't, of course.
It was never a sprint, it was always a marathon. And as I sit here one year later, I'm really glad I didn't know this back then or I probably would have gone insane.
Though it's early. I still might.
In the meanwhile, I have cats to keep my mind off things...
A job for which they are exceptionally well-suited.
It is easier to set my Alexa alarm to 7:04am than to reset the clock on the cat auto-feeder which has been gaining time and drifting a little bit later and later every day. So that's what I did last night. There's no sense messing around with the feeder until stupid Daylight Saving Time ends on November 3rd.
This morning Jenny was NOT having it.
At 7am ON THE DOT she was on my bed meowing her head off wanting breakfast and was very cross indeed that Alexa hadn't chimed in on that. Can you imagine what my life will be like in November when I have to set the clocks back and she has to wait ONE HOUR?!? No extra hour in bed for me... I can guarantee that. Actually it will be two weeks of no sleeping in, because I change their clock in 15 minute increments over time until they are off DST. Apparently it helps them adjust easier...
In other news... I was very nervous testing my blood sugar this morning. After all the potato salad I ate last night... and the huge bowl I had just before bed at 1am... I was sure it would hit 300. But nope! My spleen totally had my back and was a chipper 117 this morning. IT'S A POTATO SALAD MIRACLE!
Not a bad way to start my Thursday.
I am celebrating by having a bowl of potato salad for breakfast.
As usual when I return from a trip, my cats have been taking turns glomming all over me. Poor Jake acts like I've been gone for years, and will sleep on my bed for two or three nights before things get back to whatever passes for "normal" in my house.
Though at some point in the middle of the night, he left me long enough to go downstairs and grab Mufasa and Moose the Mule and bring them upstairs. I went to take a photo of them when I woke up this morning and was surprised that iPhone decided to use the flash instead of Night Mode. The flash washes everything out, so I turned it off and Night Mode kicked in, giving much better results. Apple needs to work on this. Maybe the camera should know how to cut back on flash and create some kind of “Half Night Mode” for cases like this? Just a little flash on top of Night Mode would have cut down on grain, but preserved color fidelity and detail. Oh well. Until that day, I’ll just keep the flash turned off. It just seems to ruin things...
I don't know what's going on with my cats and their toys. When I got home from work yesterday, I walked in the door to this...
I don't know what chain of events led up to it. Maybe Jake did Jenny wrong, so she took Mufasa away from him and was going to ship him back to Africa? Silly cats.
Yesterday I made potato salad (again) and it was the first thing I thought of for breakfast when the cats' feeding alarm went off...
As I was taking my tater salad back to bed so I could go through my email and get some work done, I noticed that my thermostat was glaring at me. Apparently it's time to turn on the whole-home humidifier...
I would have turned it on right then, but all my woodworking tools are piled in front of it, so I guess that will have to wait until the weekend.
When I managed to get back up to my work, my laptop let me know that the final version of MacOS X "Catalina" dropped while I was in New Orleans (I've been running the betas since they were first released)...
There goes my morning productivity. Fortunately Jenny came up after her breakfast and kept me company while I waited...
As usual with Apple, first there's a time to download screen... followed with a time to install screen... followed with a time to update screen. Which not only made it so I couldn't get any work done, it make it so I was late to the office. Yay.
Just another Thursday morning.
Ugh. Where do I even start?
Bad enough that I didn't get to relax this past weekend. Bad enough that the Fall Harvest movie marathon on Hallmark are all movies I've already seen. Bad enough I have to put up with shitty people trotting out "HAPPY COLUMBUS DAY!" not because they care about Christopher Columbus, but because they want to piss off people who know the brutal truth: the guy was a mass-murdering psychopath, sadistic butcherer, serial enslaver, and overall fucking horrendous bastard who didn't "discover" jack-shit.
And, oh yeah, bad enough that I didn't get much sleep last night.
But that was just a warm-up for what was to follow...
Here's my Monday morning, assuming you care to read about my series of misfortunate events...
Guess these jars aren't as tough as they look. I didn't even close the lid tightly...
And if you think that this was the end of my Monday woes, I got news for you... it wasn't. Now that it's getting colder, I am getting more and more worried about Fake Jake, who isn't as young as he used to be. I worry that the cold might be harder on him as he ages, so I've been trying to find a door for the igloo shelters I put up for him... thinking it might keep more heat inside. Alas, I haven't been able to find any, even though the shelter has holes drilled for one. This morning I finally got a reply from the company who makes it...
Wait... FROSTED?!? Surely they offer a flap in CLEAR, right? Alas, nope. So I wrote back...
Thank you for your reply. I am, however, dumbfounded that the only door flap you make for the Kitty Kat Condo is FROSTED! It’s already hard enough to get a cat to go into a shelter with only one exit because cats don’t like to feel trapped. The only thing that makes it tolerable is that they can look outside if they hear something out there. Your door flap being opaque makes this impossible, and has me wondering why anybody would buy it when a frosted flap will just make cats reluctant to go into the shelter in the first place! Oh well. Guess I get to try and make something myself.
I suppose I know what my next project with be when I finally get some free time. Assuming I manage to get some free time.
And keep in mind that all this happened before I started work! The rest of my day was shaping up to be no picnic, I tell you what.
Lastly, just because people apparently need a fucking reminder...
And that's a sanitized version of all the sociopathic shit he did.
Happy Indigenous Peoples Day, everybody.
I'm an adult and I get to do adult stuff whenever I want... like having a hamburger for breakfast!
Back when I was very young, my family lived within a short distance to the local A&W hamburger drive-in. We didn't eat out a lot... eating out is expensive... but this just made the burgers all the more special. And boy were this burgers special. Sometimes, especially after we moved to a neighboring town and had to drive there, we'd eat in the car. I vividly remember sitting in the backseat with my brother... waiting for the car-hop to attach that big metal tray with the webbed orange liner to the driver-side window... then waiting for my parents to pass back that magical foil bag which had my burger in it... and a big frosty mug of A&W root beer, of course.
A&W had PapaBurger, MamaBurger, TeenBurger, and BabyBurger... and the foil bags used to have a cartoon printed on the front to tell you what was inside. You can still find them floating around eBay for sale...
Photo taken from WorthPoint whom I'm guessing took it from eBay?
I started with the BabyBurger, which had a smaller burger patty on it. Then one day I felt I was grown up enough to graduate to the TeenBurger, so I ordered that. It came with cheese and bacon on it and it was the best thing I had ever eaten. And even though I use a veggie burger patty with soy "bacon" now, I still love cheese and bacon on my burger and I owe it all to the A&W.
Sometimes we wouldn't eat in the car... especially when we lived close-by and could walk there. We'd sit inside the restaurant on a big orange booth seat at one of those wooden-looking laminate tables with the metal edges on it. On those occasions when I was still very young, I wouldn't be handed over a magical foil bag... mom would instead take the BabyBurger out of the bag, cut it in half for me, set it on the bag, then slide it across the table.
I don't know why.
If I could handle a whole burger when eating in the backseat of the car, then why couldn't I handle it when dining in the restaurant? Why cut it in half for me then? Just one of many, many things which will remain forever a mystery.
Isn't it terrible how many things you think of to ask somebody after they're gone and you're no longer able to ask?
This morning when I was an adult and having a hamburger for breakfast, I looked at it sitting there on the plate... took out a knife... and cut it in half, almost without thinking about it. Something I don't think I've ever done before in my entire life...
And suddenly I'm not an adult any more.
I'm just a little kid sitting in the A&W restaurant with my burger wanting his mom.
I don't know why some memories are so vivid in my mind where others have faded. I don't know how it is that I am able to remember something that happened when I was so young. I don't know what it is about eating at the A&W that makes it so unforgettable. I guess how our minds choose what to archive is just another mystery.
As is what happened to my old battered A&W mug that was bought for a quarter and sat in my cupboard for... like... forever. Did it break? Did I lose it? Did I throw it out? Did mom throw it out? I dunno. But I do know that A&W has an online merchandise shop where I can probably buy another one.
And, holy crap, did you know that it's their 100th anniversary this year?!?
Boy, I could sure go for a frosty mug of A&W root beer right about now.
UPDATE: While I was trying to fall asleep, I Googled for an image of the old A&W that I used to eat at when I was a kid. One photo came up, but it was from an expired Panoramio account and Panoramio has shut down... so I have no idea if this is actually the restaurant, who to credit the photo to, or whom to ask about it. This would be the view looking away from the restaurant towards the drive-in stalls and the parking lot. It certainly looks like it could be my old A&W...
The awning over the stalls... the menu-boards... it all looks much like I remember. What gives me pause is the price on the billboard of $849 (assumably $8.49) for an all you can eat shrimp dinner. That seems high for the era that my A&W existed. The cars also look too modern. I think the local drive-in A&W was torn down before this was taken? Maybe not. Another thing I question is the entrance here... from this direction, I think the entrance would have been on the right side of the photo. And I want to say that our stalls were straight instead of at an angle like this? In any event, this is definitely the kind of experience I so vividly remember, even if it's not the actual restaurant.
When I first moved into my home, I was ecstatic about having a garage. Not only for the covered parking... but all the extra space available to me. It was a luxury I hadn't experienced before. All of a sudden I could buy stuff in bulk to save money. I could have a collection of tools beyond a hammer and screwdriver. I could store wood and other building materials. I could have my winter tires with me instead of having to beg for space from a friend. It was a Very Big Deal. And I thought I'd never be able to fill it all up.
Yeah, I was adorable back then, wasn't I?
Of course I managed to fill it up.
Which is fine when my garage is functioning as a wood shop... but not so fine when I need it to fuction as a garage. This year I had to shove my table saw, canister vacuum, table router, and a bunch of wood boards and other stuff to the front of my garage because there was no room left to put them anywhere else. Which leaves me with less space for parking, and that's tricky. If I pull in too far, I can't get around my car. If I don't pull in far enough, I risk the garage door coming down on my back bumper.
I thought I'd eventually get a "feel" for how far to drive in. But I still can't get to the right spot consistently. And so I hung a washer from my garage door opener to help out. When the washer hits my windshield, I stop. It works perfectly...
I've already thrown out So. Much. Stuff... and my mantra when I run out of space is to get rid of even more. Marie Kondo's KonMari book has been a huge help in reorganizing the stuff in my life after the deaths of my grandmother and my mom, so it looks like I'll be giving it another read-through before tackling my garage yet again.
Hopefully the next thing to go won't be my car.
I was craving French fries when I left the house, so I called in an order at the local drive-thru when they opened.
Best lunch ever.
And yet I saw something disturbing me when I picked up my order.
When I was a kid I LOVED burgers from Rusty's (in my town) and Dusty's (in the neighboring big city). To give you a clue of just how much I loved my local joint, you should know that the last meat I ever ate when I stopped eating it back in 1986 was a Rusty Burger. Yep. When I made the decision to go vegetarian, that's the meat I wanted to go out on.
And it's tough dropping meat from your diet, let me tell you.
For years after I axed meat I would still crave it. I remember driving by Burger King where they blow the smell of flame-broiled beef out into the street and get triggered. Holy crap did I want a Whopper right then. Giving up bacon was also incredibly difficult. Any time I saw a piece, something deep inside me was suddenly willing to kill for it. Pepperoni was the worst though. Going from having an intimate relationship with pepperoni pizza... then downgrading to a cheese pizza... is what nearly broke me. It still might break me one day. Because while there are some pretty great burger and bacon substitutes, I've yet to find a truly great pepperoni substitute.
But I endure.
Partly because the allergies which plagued me as a kid vanished practically overnight when I stopped eating meat. Partly because the meat industry is literally killing our planet. But mostly because I am horrified by the inhumane, cruel, and disgusting conditions under which mass-produced meat is raised. In all honesty, I simply cannot understand how anybody could become aware of the abhorrent treatment of cows, pigs, lambs, chickens, and other animals before they're slaughtered and still eat the stuff. Which is why most people close their eyes to it, I'm sure.
Meanwhile, back at the drive-ins that are in my neck of the woods, Dusty's eventually added a GardenBurger. I was ecstatic at the time, but came to realize that I prefer a Grilled Cheese with Goop (burger sauce and fixin's), so it goes mostly ignored.
Rusty's, on the other hand, always held out. No vegetarian option for you. Fortunately, they have really good fries.
Then today, miracle of miracles, I saw that they are finally adding a GardenBurger to their menu. I was instantly elated because I'm sure it will be fantastic. Until I saw the price... NINE DOLLARS AND TWENTY CENTS?!?? Holy crap! AND THAT'S WITHOUT CHEESE!!! Keep in mind that this is not an "Impossible Burger" which is an expensive meat substitute (but worth it)... it's a frickin' GARDENBURGER! For contrast, a QUADRUPLE MEAT, QUADRUPLE CHEESE meat burger WITH BACON is just $8.75!
WHAT THE HELL?!?
Either Rusty's is jacking up the price to an insane degree because they don't want to sell many of them and only have it available because people ask for it all the time...
...government subsidies to the "Big Meat" industry are so massive that FOUR piece of meat are considerably cheaper than ONE GardenBurger. If that's the case, this is bordering on criminal. Let's check Google here... and... yep. THIRTY-EIGHT BILLION A YEAR props up the meat and dairy industry. This is despite the fact that the meat industry is literally destroying the planet. It's also widely regarded as unhealthy and should only be eaten in moderation. And yet, here we are. I guess Big Pharma is working with Big Beef to push cheap meat so they can sell more pills (eating beef daily makes you TRIPLE more likely to get heart disease). And we (and, more directly, the children) are paying the massive cost with our health and our world.
But that's our government for you. Killing us for the profit they make from being bought off by industries that don't give a shit about us.
I suppose I should be used to it, but the fact that US citizens continue to sign off on this kind of crap never ceases to amaze me. "YES! KILL US SO YOU CAN GET RICH! DESTROY THE ENVIRONMENT TO LINE YOUR POCKETS! BETRAY THE PUBLIC TRUST AT EVERY TURN FOR MONEY! WE SUPPORT YOU!"
Eventually, I'm guessing that I'll cough up the NINE DOLLARS AND TWENTY CENTS that this thing costs just to satisfy my curiosity. I hope it's horrible. I don't have that kind of money to be throwing at a burger. And apparently the government is doing it for me already anyway.
Last year I slowly came to realize that during colder months my feet were always cold when I'm at home. Even with a pair of socks on, they feel freezing. At first I chalked it up to getting older... maybe my circulation isn't what it once was... but eventually came to the conclusion that it was my floors. When I'm upstairs, my feet aren't cold. When I'm downstairs, my feet get cold fairly quickly.
My guess is that it's because my home is built on a concrete slab. To my knowledge, that's never happened to me before...
So upstairs apartments and homes with crawlspaces apparently have warmer floors than homes built on concrete slabs. Which kinda makes sense. The concrete absorbs the cold from the earth and, since heat rises, they are cold to the touch when you walk on them. YEAH SCIENCE, BITCH!
So last year I ordered a pair of slippers for 50% off from a post-winter sale, then tucked them away for when cold days came again. After a week of suffering with cold feet, I remembered that I had them... pulled them out of storage... then put them on my feet only to find that they are too big. Like... a whole inch too big. Unfortunately, it's way too late to return them for a different size.
And so I've been wearing three pairs of socks so the slippers aren't falling off my feet... which, as it turns out, makes my feet too hot. But wearing three pairs of socks without the slippers makes it difficult to navigate stairs since I'm sliding all over the place, and so I guess I fail at life or something.
Making a note to add slippers to my Black Friday shopping list.
Cold floors don't seem to bother my cats at all. Though Jenny is sleeping exclusively in the "self-warming beds" I bought them, and Jake is snuggled up against me on the electric blanket all night now...
I move a lot when I sleep, but he doesn't seem bothered. At some point I'd like to put a camera on us all night so I can see exactly how mad he gets when he has to wake up and move because I've moved. Apparently it's not irritating enough for him to give up the electric blanket, because he's still there when I wake up in the morning.
The things we do for a warm place to sleep and a snuggle buddy.
Well, this was a crappy week.
Since I'm not really supposed to have candy (I save all my allowable carbs for bread and pasta), I try to buy my candy for Halloween as close to the date as possible. This year I didn't do a very good job, having purchased it two-and-a-half weeks ago. Even worse, I picked an assortment with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups in it, which is a lethal guarantee that I'll be digging into the bag almost immediately.
So when I opened it one hour after getting home from the store two-and-a-half weeks ago, I was dismayed to find that the candy I purchased wasn't "Fun-Size" like it normally is... it was more like "Bite-Sized." Today I went back to the store to get something more acceptable only to find that it's ALL "Bite-Sized" now. If they still make "Fun-Size" my store sure didn't have it. Oh well. I guess everybody showing up at my house will be getting two pieces.
Not two pieces of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, of course. Those are long-since gone.
I headed home from work in daylight hours so I could put out Dead Jake and Dead Jenny, convert my HUE lighting to spooky purple and green, dump my candies in a bowl, then leafblower all the leafs in the front of my home so they won't blow in my house every time I open the door...
Rather than running to the front door and back to my living room all night long, I just stay in the kitchen and deep-clean everything while trick-or-treaters are coming. Which is a far, far better way of spending my evening than two years ago when I was doing a clean-out for my colonoscopy on Halloween. What a massive mistake THAT was. Trying to spend the entire night on a toilet while running to the door to pass out candy? Total nightmare.
And speaking of nightmares, Halloween is truly the scariest night of the year... for my poor cats. I have tried everything to get them used to people, but they just aren't having it. So having dozens of people ringing the doorbell and screaming "TRICK-OR-TREAT!" all night long is not their idea of a good time. Usually I feed them at 5:00 so they can hide before trick-or-treaters arrive, but this year kids were showing up before 5:00. Well, whatever. Maybe they are afraid of the dark or afraid of other kids and this is how they have to enjoy Halloween. But it sure would have been nice to be able to make a sandwich for dinner before people start arriving expecting a candy hand-out.
Alas, Trick-or-Treating is not the same as it was when I was young. Back then hundreds of kids would canvas the entire city and make a massive candy haul. And now? I get around 50 kids maximum. I guess it's too big an effort for too little reward? Maybe it's time better spent playing video games. And kids today have it easy thanks to global warming. Back in my day it snowed for a couple of my Halloweens!
I shouldn't complain though. More candy for me!
Plus... I've got a really clean kitchen now.
I have been trying... really trying to get my life together lately. Alas, I've been met mostly with failure at every turn.
I'm going to get caught up with work! Then something happens to heap even more work on me and I get even further behind.
I'm going to start eating healthier! Then magically cupcakes end up in my shopping cart and that idea vanishes like a fart in the wind.
I'm going to save more money! Then something expensive comes up to wipe out my entire savings and end up slapped on my credit card.
I'm going to clean my yard before winter! Then something even more dire pops up and there goes my weekend.
I'm going to work on my book tonight! Then I run out of hours in the day, it's suddenly time for bed, and I have no idea what happened.
I'm going to catch up on all the shows on my DVR! Then Hallmark unloads yet another huge batch of movies I haven't seen yet, so my DVR is even more packed than usual.
I'm going to exercise more! Then I realize that I just don't feel like it.
Maybe I'll try again next year.
Back when my mother's dementia had robbed her of her ability to make new memories, it was understandably a confusing time for her. Out of necessity I devised all kinds of deceptions to make both our lives easier. One of the most important was a big sign I put on the inside front door which said "David will be back in 15 minutes so we can go out to eat... please wait here." I tried to take my mom with me everywhere I went because it was just easier. If I needed to run to the store or drop off something for a friend, she went too. But for the three years where she had no memory (but was perfectly able to stay home by herself), I couldn't take her to work or out to dinner with my friends. Rather than leaving her confused as to where I was, I put the sign up before I went anywhere. Then checked in on her every ten minute or so with the security cameras.
And it worked great.
Usually television kept her occupied. If she heard the television was on, she'd sit down to watch it for hours. But every once in a while she'd walk around looking for somebody, then try to leave the house when she realized she was alone.
Which would be disastrous.
And so I came up with the sign.
Rather than go outside, she'd see the sign and go get ready to go out to eat. She'd make sure her purse was by the door... comb her hair... change her clothes... whatever she felt she needed to do to be ready and look presentable. Sometimes she would do all that, forget she did all that, go back to the door, then start all over again in a loop. Then eventually she'd hear the television and get absorbed in it again... until the next time.
Yes, I was lying to her, but if the lie meant she wasn't constantly leaving the house in confusion... or experiencing massive anxiety because she didn't know where she was or where anybody was at... and meant I could leave the house to go to work... was it really such a horrible thing?
Before the sign, she was upset constantly and I worried constantly anytime I had to leave. Then one day I put the sign up so she could get ready for dinner while I ran to get gas, realized what a total game changer it would be if I just put it up every time I left, and never stopped using it.
When I was in support forums for dementia caregivers, some people thought it was genius and decided to try it. Some people were already doing something similar. And some people thought I was the most vile, evil person on earth for lying to my poor mother like that.
In every case of the latter I would reply with "And how many people do you have helping you with your mother's care? How many people can you call to help watch her when you have to go out? How many immediate family members will step up to give you a break when you need one? If the answer is greater than zero, then kindly keep your opinions to yourself because I have NOBODY." And I did not give a single fuck what they had to say afterwards. My mother, who was suffering through a horrific problem, was happier and less stressed. I, who was there suffering along with her, was less worried and less stressed. So why would I give a fuck about what you think? Especially if you've got a team of friends and family helping you out?
This is not to say that I can't say these things to myself, of course.
Nobody... and I mean nobody... beat me up over the things I had to do to survive my mother's dementia more than myself. Not even close.
I lost untold hours of sleep wrestling with decisions. Questioning the decisions I had to make. Second-guessing the decisions I had already made (and, all too often, crying myself to sleep because I wasn't sure I made the right decision). Because that's what it all comes down to doesn't it? Decisions?
Some decisions made themselves. If there were three options and you could only afford one of them, that's not a decision that's a reality. But other decisions, sometimes over the stupidest things, can destroy you.
Which care facility do I choose?... now that was a decision. You can see how that would tear me up inside, both before and after making it. To this day I question whether I made the right choice.
Do I sign the papers to enter mom into hospice?... was a decision that seemed so easy ("God, yes... she would have never, ever wanted to live this way!") but it was also an agonizing one to make. How do I sign what is essentially her death warrant?
Which of these pajamas do I pick?... sounds idiotic, I know, but just think about it for a minute. When you have no memory, all you have is the "right now." Spending the only thing you have with pajamas that itch... or pajamas with a design you hate... or pajamas where the color disturbs you... it's tantamount to torture, isn't it? So what do I buy? How will I know if they are uncomfortable or upsetting? Sometimes she wouldn't respond. Sometimes she'd tell her caregivers at the facility if something was wrong and they would pass it along, but most of the times all I could do was wonder if I made the right decision.
Is telling a lie wrong if it helps make life better?... if I'm honest, I still have no idea. And I questioned it every time I put that sign up.
But what was the alternative? I never tried a sign which said "David probably WON'T be back in 15 minutes, but believe it anyway because I have no idea what I'm doing or how to make things better... but I will be back eventually because I love you."
Eh... probably wouldn't have been the best decision I could have made.
Or would it?
I can't decide.
At least now I have that luxury.
Happy Veteran's Day to all who have served or are serving!
I haven't had time to put my "DO NOT BOTHER ME!" sign back up after Halloween. And, wouldn't you know it, the Mormons came-a-knockin' last week. I don't have any problem with them, I just don't appreciate having them intrude on my calm. Especially during the dinner hour.
Regardless, I have always tried to be friendly with them whenever I see them... especially when traveling in foreign countries... because I know they are usually far from home and just trying their best to live by their convictions whileI find missing their friends and families. I have yet to meet an LDS church member that hasn't been kind and generous, so I try to respond in kind.
I was shocked to see that the two Elders standing outside my door were in thin sweaters with no coats or gloves. It's already 38 degrees out and falling. I told them that I have friends in the church, but I'm not going to be joining them. I then told them to stay safe, try to stay warm, and have a good evening. They asked if there was anything they could do to help me out, and I told them to get some warm jackets.
And now I'm going to feel guilty that I didn't invite them in for a cup of hot chocolate so they could warm up for a minute. Or seeing if I could scrounge up some gloves. I dunno though. Maybe being cold is how they prey on people's sympathies to get them invited inside or whatever? Even so, whether by accident or design, I think it's sad that they have to be cold. Isn't somebody looking out for them? Assuming there are, they are grossly negligent.
Guess I should put my sign back up so as to avoid these moral dilemmas...
Though, as we learned the hard way, that's no guarantee they'll leave me alone.
I do not carry balances on my credit cards.
The "why" is something I have talked about before (credit card debt is hell, y'all), and I've done a fairly good job of sticking to this goal. If I want or need something, I save for it. If it's an emergency, I clear out my savings to pay for it. The only reason I will carry a credit card balance is if it is the absolute last resort because my mission is to have $0 in interest charges at the end of the year.
There are exceptions, of course.
My Australia trip ended up being much, much, much more expensive than I has saved for. It took seven months to pay it off.
My Antarctica trip was totally saved for... until I was put on a keto diet and lost so much weight I had to buy new winter clothes... five months to pay that off.
Last year I wanted a SONOS Sub (subwoofer) so badly that I could not pass up their Black Friday $100 savings. This dropped the cost to $600... but I only had $120 saved for it. This meant paying off a credit card balance of $480 over the next three months. I didn't care that I had to eat cheap pasta, not eat at restaurants or go out, not buy anything but absolute necessities, and cancel Netflix... getting my credit card balance to $0 is all that matters.
Thanks to SONOS Sub putting me behind in my savings for this year's Black Friday madness, I had to tighten my belt and set aside extra money each month to reach my goals. I'm a little behind in my clothing savings (which is bad because my boots are falling apart!) but a little ahead in my gadget savings (which is good because I have to replace some outdoor security cameras). Since I try to make it so that this is the only time of year I buy clothes, I may have to shift monies between accounts, but overall I'm happy with how much cash I've managed to save.
And tonight I made my Black Friday shopping list. I need henley shirts, long-sleeve dress shirts, underwear, and a pair boots. I would like two new outdoor security cameras and a couple pair of jeans (what I have are fine, but some occasions call for a newer, nicer pair). I want iTunes gift cards (assuming I can find them on discount, which is the only reason to buy iTunes gift cards... full-price cards get me nothing).
Assuming I can find deals like I've done in past years, I should be in good shape to get everything on my list.
And still have a $0 balance on my credit cards after it's all over.
Most times I am happy that the nitty-gritty details of how electronics work are hidden from me. All I want is for my stuff to "just work" and do what I need it to do with as little drama as possible.
This is a double-edged sword, however.
Apple is famous for wrapping up complex tech into an easy-to use wrapper. This is mostly okay... except when they start taking away needed features in the name of "simplification." In cases like this, just let the user decide whether they want the feature active or not. Because Apple's idea of what's best may not be the same as their customers.
Right now I am fighting this same issue with my Google WiFi mesh router/node system...
While not an overly powerful or fast setup, it's worked just fine for me. My entire home and outdoor space has excellent coverage, which has been nice for my cloud cameras and such. If you just want basic Wifi and need it to extend over a large area, it's a decent pick.
Problem is that the app behind it is laughably inadequate.
It lacks so many basic functions that using the label "router" on it feels way generous.
Want to grant traffic priority to a device? Like your AppleTV so it doesn't run into buffering problems? You can do that... FOR A LIMITED TIME PERIOD! There's no way to permanently give a device "priority status." You have to go into the app and set it up EVERY TIME YOU NEED IT. This is asinine. At the very least you should have the option to tell it not to expire until you turn it off!
And then there's the anemic connected devices display. Can't be sorted by device name, IP address, MAC address, or anything else (bandwith usage is the only metric used to order the list). Can't be searched. Can't be exported. Can't be flagged. Can't be throttled. Can't be ordered. Can't be scheduled. Can't be grouped. You can't even have it notify you when a new device is connected. I don't know why they even bother to allow you to look at a list of connected devices since the whole fiasco is functionally useless.
While having just the bare minimum in features would be nice... what Google WiFi really needs is some smarts. What I want is for my cameras to be automatically prioritized when I'm away... and my AppleTV to be prioritized when I'm home. Since Google Wifi already gets this information the second my iPhone comes within range, why is it so fucking difficult to have this happen? It's such an obvious feature that the fact you can't do this is more than a little silly. You can kludge it together with IFTTT... kinda... but prioritization only lasts 2 hours, so that's useless too.
Ultimately, Google WiFi just isn't cutting it. I thought that their Nest WiFi replacement might be the answer, but it uses the same shitty app and doesn't even have WiFi 6 despite just now being released!
Guess this will be something to research come the new year. I don't even want to think about it when I've got a list of a million other things waiting to be done.
All too often we humans speak of the planet as if humanity is the only thing living on it.
This attitude is mortifying, and a huge part of why animals of all kinds are rapidly losing their homes. Whether it be due to climate change... or deforestation... or pollution... or any number of other human-induced disasters, our fellow creatures are not long for this earth. "Adapt or die" is a phrase that's tossed around like it excuses everything, which is easy to say when you are able to adapt more quickly than all the so-called "lesser species" on this planet. If our home is destroyed, we rent a
This past week articles were hitting the news saying that koalas have become "functionally extinct" thanks to horrible wildfires raging through Australia.
Subsequent responses are all over the map. Some say that this is a vastly-overblown statement and koalas are nowhere near going extinct. Others say that "functionally extinct" is a statement considering future trends, and is completely accurate. In any event, Forbes changed their headline from "Expert claims Australia's beloved marsupial is 'functionally extinct' after bushfires destroyed 80 per cent of their natural habitat and killed thousands"... to "Fires Have May Have Killed Up To 1,000 Koalas, Fueling Concerns Over The Future Of The Species"... which they claim is to "better reflect the content of the reporting." So make of it what you will. Interesting to note that the original headline is still part of the URL...
As I am neither an expert on koalas nor their survivability chances, I'll bow out of that fight.
I will, however, weigh in with my opinion, which is this: Once humanity stops caring for all life on this planet, we are dooming ourselves just as surely as if we found a way to crash the earth into the sun. Life here is co-dependent and if you want to be exposed to something that will keep you up at night, start reading articles on how close we may be to eliminating a keystone species. Well, at least those "keystone species" we know of.
Koalas may... or may not... be a keystone species upon which most life on this planet relies (it's something you can only ever truly know in hindsight). But they are amazingly sweet, gentle, inoffensive, and adorable creatures who deserve better than what they've gotten by our hand. When I visited the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Australia, theirs seemed like such a dire predicament eight years ago... and it's just getting more hopeless as time goes on.
How much better off would life on this planet be if we weren't here fucking it up?
Humans, such as we are, may not be functionally extinct... but we are quickly becoming functionally inhuman.
Lately my life has become more about anticipating the future than living in the "right now." I don't know that this is necessarily a bad thing... looking forward to stuff is a healthy way to stay positive, isn't it? But I do feel like my head is in the clouds more than it should be.
As the days start getting really, really cold, most of my activities are indoors. Work all day. Watch movies and television all night.
And, boy is it a great time for television. My crappy Hallmark movies are running 24/7. Fridays we got The Mandelorian and The Morning Show... Sundays are new Watchmen and Rick and Morty... Just to name a few. My DVR is jam-packed whenever I check it!
And then there's Black Friday and Cyber Monday coming up, which is essentially the only time of year that I "shop" for stuff. I am looking forward to getting some affordable, quality clothing (the stuff I could never afford at full price, which is awesome) and some shoes. And... oh yeah... I am really looking forward to getting new underwear since half of mine are on the verge of falling apart. Other than that, I've got my budget set and my list made, so hopefully I won't buy more than I can afford without going into credit card debt and not buy stuff I don't need. Thanks to some companies providing "Black Friday Sneak Peaks" all week long, I have a pretty good idea of what I will be buying and how much I will be paying for it. The only thing I'm not entirely sure about is a new dash cam for my car. It's getting to the point where so many lunatics are driving distracted that I'm almost afraid to drive without one anymore. I bought a $30 one years ago that has been doing okay, but now it has to be taped together because it's falling apart and barely working. I'd feel a lot better about driving if I can find a good one on sale. Fingers crossed.
Thanksgiving will be spent working. I love working on holidays because I can get so much more done when I'm left alone in silence. And, let me tell you, I really need to get a lot of work done. Thanksgiving dinner will be spent with my cats. Stinky sardines for them, bread stuffing with cranberry jelly for me. Friday will mostly be working... but my morning will be spent climbing on Black Friday deals as fast as I can. Saturday and Sunday I will be working on a shelter upgrades for Fake Jake (the stray in our neighborhood) and finishing up whatever work I have left.
Which will hopefully won't be too much.
Because what I'm really looking forward to is some time off before Monday rolls around and I'm buried in work once again.
I was never much into Thanksgiving. Though I've always been into being thankful.
When I was a kid, Thanksgiving was just a bump in the road on the way to Christmas. The family would get together at grandma's house where we'd all partake in her amazing cooking... and even more amazing dessert. When I became a vegetarian in 1986 I was anticipating problems. But my grandmother took it completely in stride. She made the stuffing outside the bird and used vegetable broth. Beans no longer had bacon in them. I was able to eat more than my fill without eating meat, and it was fine.
My grandmother was pretty great like that.
When grandma couldn't cook large-scale meals any more, Thanksgiving became progressively more scaled back. Instead of her roasting an entire turkey, there would be a "turkey loaf" (whatever that was). Dessert was store-bought. And when she had to be moved to a care facility, some of the family would show up and order extra plates from the cafeteria so we could still have dinner together. It wasn't the same. It sure didn't taste as good. But it meant something special to her for everybody to get together, and that's all that mattered.
After my grandmother passed there would be no more Thanksgiving dinners.
Before the next one rolled around, my mom would already be in a care facility. Her first Thanksgiving there, my brother and I were able to take her to the Denny's up the road. The next Thanksgiving was too difficult for her to travel even a short ways, so we had it in her room with to-go plates from that same Denny's. It was at that point that we found out she had difficulty feeding herself, making her last Thanksgiving a depressing affair for all three of us.
She didn't make it to the next Thanksgiving.
And so now I'm just done with it all. I am not interested in going to another Thanksgiving dinner. All it would do is be a painful reminder of all I've lost, even as I continue to be thankful that I had so many good Thanksgivings with my mom and grandmother in the past.
For however many years I have left, I'm happy to cook up some mashed potatoes with bread stuffing and cranberry jelly and spend the day with my cats.
That's a good enough Thanksgiving for me.
And... my one shopping day of the year is here! Every month I put aside $100 for clothes and "other stuff" then wait until Black Friday to buy all the clothes and "other stuff" I need. $100 a month is quite a chunk of cash to not have in my pocket, but worth it when I end up with $1200 in November that magically becomes $2400 (or more!) on Black Friday thanks to all the sales and savings.
Below I refer to "Rakuten Cash Back" in a lot. Rakuten bought out eBates and have taken over their cashback operations. It's a pretty easy way to save even more money on Black Friday (or any other day) and you can sign up to get $10 right off the bat with my referral link right here.
And now? On with my Black Friday scores...
AKASO DASH CAM! • Reg. $66, Paid $38 (after Amazon cash back)
My previous dash cam was $20 and has lasted for four years before falling apart and going glitchy. As I mentioned, I am afraid to drive without one given how crazy distracted drivers are, so I was hoping hoping hoping I could get a nice one on sale. I was going to buy another $20 camera, but the cheap ones force you to remove the tiny memory card every time you want the footage. With a WiFi model like this you can just connect with your iPhone and grab the video directly. Handy! Plus... GPS! Worth the additional $18.
SHOES! • Reg. $170, Paid $128
I should have bought shoes last Black Friday, but I thought I could get one more year out of the pair I have. I'm not rough on shoes... they usually last me four or five years... so a little Shoe Goo will keep them together right? They still look great... it's just the soles that are falling apart. But back in August the soles fell complete apart. My plan was to buy a cheap pair of $20 shoes, rip the soles off, then glue them on mine. This seemed extreme. Instead I used more Shoe Goo to piece everything together. It worked surprisingly well. But I needed new shoes. I would have loved to have found the same model I had before... but of course shoe companies don't do that. I also would have loved to have spent under $100... but of course the shoes I found that I liked weren't under $100. Oh well. It's still 25% off, which is better than nothing.
ALEXA! Reg. $99 • Paid $33 (with trade-in and Amazon cash back)
I bought a SONOS One for my bedroom. It's absolutely fantastic, and fills the room with amazing sound. Problem is, the AirPlay 2 on it is glitchy as hell, which means the audio has constant drop-outs when I'm playing content from my Apple TV. And Apple TV keeps "forgetting" that the SONOS exists, so I am having to reconnect several times a week. It's maddening, because 95% of the time I'm using it for my television. And so I decided to get an Echo (3rd Gen.) which has a 3.5mm audio line-in that I can run directly from my television. I traded in the old Amazon Echo I have in the bathroom for $25, so it ends up being a $35 spend. No, the sound won't be as good as my SONOS One, but it's gotten good reviews for its quality and will be good enough... plus I can transfer the SONOS One to my upstairs bathroom, which will be amazing for listening to music each morning while I shower and get ready.
iTUNES! GIFT CARD • Reg. $100, Paid $70 (with Rakuten Sign-up Bonus)
As is my custom every year, I buy a $100 iTunes gift card at 20% off to cover the Marvel movies and sale movies I buy each year. I joined Rakuten and they gave me $10 cash back for my first purchase, so this year it was an especially sweet 30% off!
OUTDOOR NEST CAM! • Reg. $199, Paid $159
I have two camera systems. A wired system with local recording that has a battery backup and will run even with no power or internet... and a Nest cloud system which is constantly uploading footage to the internet. The Nest cameras are fantastic, but I was ready to ditch them all because the per-camera cloud service cost was absurdly expensive. But they made an announcement a while back that this would be changing to a much cheaper "bulk plan" where all cameras would be covered for one price. Given this, I decided to keep all my Nest cameras and replace a failed outdoor camera with another Nest. But not the new "Nest Cam IQ" which has the stupidest mounting requirements (DRILL A HOLE THROUGH YOUR HOUSE!), I got the original Nest Cam Outdoor. I budgeted to get it for $129, but the savings ended up being less steep than I had hoped.
HELLO! • Reg. $229, Paid $149
The first smart doorbell I had was the original "Ring" model. It was huge, but it worked well. Then Ring sent me an offer I couldn't refuse... a 4th generation smaller "Ring Pro" model upgrade for a fraction of the retail price. Sadly, it has never worked as well. But an even bigger problem with Ring is that it is SO slow. By the time they notify you that somebody has rang your doorbell, they've long gone. And trying to review the cloud footage is futile because it takes forever for it to upload and be available. Since my Nest cloud cameras are always available instantly and very quick to notify, I've wanted to get a Nest Hello doorbell replacement. Now that Google Nest is having a bulk deal on cloud services for multiple devices come 2020, this was a no-brainer.
PRESSURE COOKER! • Reg. $120, Paid $35 (after Rakuten cash back)
I already mentioned this one earlier this week. Thanks to a goof by a website (they switched the sale prices of the 6-quart and 8-quart for half-a-day) I finally got an Instant Pot (or, to be more accurate, an Instant Pot knock-off) for $35. SCORE! I bought this as a flawless egg cooker, but have ended up using it for lots of stuff. Not something I had planned on buying (or had budgeted for) but I was happy to find it.
UNDERWEAR! • Reg. $102, Paid $46 (after Rakuten cash back)
Half of my skivvies are literally falling apart. But I keep wearing them and repairing them because I need enough that I can do full loads of laundry. Fortunately, Old Navy had an EVERYTHING IS 50% OFF SALE plus free shipping on orders of $50 or more. I was able to get 10 pair of quality underwear, some socks, and a couple pair of touch-screen-friendly gloves for $51. Old Navy tends to hold up pretty good, so that was money well-spent. Especially since I earned $40 in SuperCash I can spend on more Old Navy, plus $5 cash-back from Rakuten, which means I am essentially getting all this for $6?!? (assuming I spend the $40).
CLOTHES! • Reg. $947, Paid $367 (after Rakuten cash back)
My favorite jeans, hands down, are Banana Republic slim-fit. They are comfortable, look good, and (most importantly) they last forever. Seriously, I have jeans from four years ago that look new. Unfortunately, my American Eagle jeans do not hold up as well and are needing to be replaced. I took Banana Republic up on their 50% off Black Friday offer and buy four pair. With the Rakuten cash back, they're knocked down to $41.25 a pair! SCORE! Then I headed over to The Gap and Banana Republic Factory for some dress shirts, T-Shirts, casuals, and gloves at 60% off off $480 plus $20-something in Rakuten cash back. Not too shabby.
Grand total? $1025 spent for $2032 in merchandise. Or almost exactly 50% in savings. With tax adding $82, my total spend this year was $1107. So... woohoo! I've got $93 left!
I should keep it in the bank and roll it over for next year... but... the LEGO Jurassic World video game for Nintendo Switch is on sale for twenty bucks!
I guess I'll just blow the remainder on cocaine and hookers. Does anybody know where I can find cocaine and hookers for $70?
And so there it goes. I now have enough new clothes and toys to last me until next Black Friday. And until then... time to start squirreling away another $100 a month. Which never seems like much fun until today.
My boots and half of my Black Friday shopping spree bounty showed up today.
I have to say I'm more than a little sad to let my old boots go. I've literally been around the world in them (and the bottom of the world as well), so I am thinking of taking them to the local shoe shop to see if something can be done (they've been around these parts for 99 years!). With exception of the badly-worn soles they're in perfect shape and still look great. My new boots are nice too, I just think it's a genuine waste to toss out something if they can be repaired...
I gave up on wearing tennis shoes decades ago, much preferring a light hiking boot. They're more comfortable, easy to slip in and out of when you tie the laces low, and can be quickly laced up for those times you need good protection for your feet. For a traveler who can end up anywhere and everywhere they're everything I need. The last pair of non-dress-shoe shoes that I bought 25-30 years ago sit in my closet barely used.
As I mentioned, I had a few bucks left over from everything I was saving to buy, so I got a copy of the LEGO Jurassic World video game. I was surprised to see that when you order something LEGO, Amazon will put it in a cool LEGO Star Wars box...
In sadder news, the world received notice that BUB had passed.
She was such a sweet cat who faced a difficult life with an optimism that inspired a lot of people... and raised a lot of money and awareness for homeless pets. It was so very hard to follow along with her latest health crisis knowing that she was probably nearing her end... but, as always, she was doing her best to be happy and live her best life...
I cannot fathom my life without Jake and Jenny, so my heart goes out to Mike Bridavsky and the loss he is suffering. I find it amazing how he was so dedicated to such a special cat, and grateful for the hundreds of thousands of dollars he worked tirelessly to raise in support of animals.
Rest in peace, BUB, you will be missed by a great many people.
I bought a SONOS One smart speaker with Alexa integration for my bedroom. I watch quite a bit of television while working in bed, and the poor speakers on my cheap Sony television make it difficult to hear some conversations unless I crank the volume way too high. The SONOS with its superb sound quality provided the perfect listening environment right out of the box.
When it worked.
The problem with the SONOS One is that there is no "line in" jack... so I had to connect my AppleTV to it via Apple's "AirPlay 2" technology. I have no idea who is at fault, but this was glitchy as hell, and I had all kinds of drop-outs and sound sync errors most every time I watched television. Even worse, at least twice a week I'd turn on the television and AppleTV would "forget" to play through the SONOS One, meaning I had to stop my show, go to the settings menu, switch the audio to AirPlay 2, then start my show again. Incredibly frustrating. Half the time I found myself just leaving it because I didn't want to be bothered with all the futzing around.
And so... I decided to investigate wired speakers. I could probably get a cheap one that was "good enough" for around $30, which seemed a small price to pay.
Around the time I was looking, Amazon released their 3rd Generation "Echo" device which, unlike the old Echo 1st Generation I have in my bathroom, has a 3.5mm line-in jack. This is in addition to improved speakers and sound. Problem was? It was $100. $70 more than I had to spend. Except... Amazon always puts their Echo devices on sale for Black Friday at really good prices. So I added it to my list of stuff to buy... then waited.
Sure enough, the price plummeted to $60. Double what I wanted to spend. But then I saw where I could trade-in my old Echo for $25... plus get a $15 discount for purchasing a new Echo with an Echo trade-in... bringing the net price of the Echo 3rd Gen. to $20? That's under my budget! SOLD!
The new speaker arrived yesterday and I set it up when I got home from work.
Or at least I tried to.
The speaker has a single 3.5mm audio jack that's both line-in and line-out... configurable via the Alexa app. But every time I tapped on the Audio AUX setting I got an error telling me that the page was unavailable...
I went to the Alexa web interface, but the one setting you can't configure from there? The audio AUX setting, of course! I wrote to Amazon for support and they eventually got back to me with an email when, naturally, the page then popped right up for me. And so... I now have an Alexa-enabled speaker for my television. Just like I always wanted!
The sound is pretty darn good for such a small speaker. Not SONOS-level good... not by a longshot... but better than I needed it to be, that's for sure. The cutaway render that Amazon provides shows how the speaker array is fitted in such a compact size (smaller than the SONOS, which means it's short enough to fit under my TV)...
In the default, I found the midrange to be lacking. Fortunately that's an easy fix from the Alexa app. For television show conversations I got the best sound compromise from boosting the midrange a lot, the treble a little, and decreasing the bass a touch..
The sound is a bit "artificial"... I guess is the word I'm looking for? The SONOS unit has a warmth, brilliance and overall cohesiveness that just sounds better to me. This is not a big deal for television, but I absolutely prefer the sound of music on the SONOS as opposed to the Echo 3rd Gen. — No contest there at all. And yet, the Echo is perfectly good for music when viewed in its own right instead of comparing it to a speaker that's considerably more expensive (especially when I got it for $20 compared to the SONOS One $200!).
My SONOS One is now happily set up in my bathroom (where the original Echo was) so I can listen to a couple songs while I get ready in the morning. That's a huge bit of overkill in a small bathroom like mine, so I might relocate it to the upstairs hall where it can be enjoyed in the stairwell and guest bedroom as well.
So... overall, I'm pleased. $20 well-spent!
The new $38 AKASO dash cam Black Friday deal I ordered arrived as well (regular $66). Installation was tough compared to my original $20 dash cam because the cord was thicker. I had to dismantle panels instead of just poking the cable in a seam. Also? The cord was shorter as well. I barely had enough to get to my console cigarette lighter port (no idea how somebody with a big rig like a truck can have enough cord). This is a far cry from the extra two feet I had coiled in my glove box last time! And speaking of the cigarette lighter port, the plug on this camera was far nicer than the old one. Guess that's what the extra $18 gets you. Fits snug instead of wobbling and breaking connection like the old one. After installing I turned on the ignition and... IT MAKES THE EXACT SAME STARTUP SOUND AS MY CHEAP OLD UNIT! I can only guess this is because they are made by the same company, then a bunch of different manufacturers use the same component in each of their designs...
But the big deal here is the WiFi connectivity, meaning I can download footage directly to my iPhone instead of having to remove the tiny SD card, find the adapter for it, find the USB stick for that, then import through the photos app.
And yet... the WiFi connectivity is far from ideal.
First you have to push a button on the unit... then you have to switch the WiFi source on your iPhone to the WiFi for the unit... then start the app... then download. Ugh. I guess the truly easy connectivity options are in much pricier cameras.
Image quality is not stellar. But it's not tragic either. A little better than my old camera... though both were 1080p, so that could be a lens issue not a sensor issue. This unit has GPS but it's not as accurate as my phone and the satellite acquisition is sometimes longer than it should be.
My new dash cam is not nearly the bargain that my new Amazon Echo 3rd Gen. is... but at least I have something in my car. Thanks to distracted drivers, I'm terrified to drive out of my garage without a camera to prove that some idiot drifted into my lane and nailed me because they were playing Candy Crush or eating spaghetti or texting their kids or whatever. Thanks to today's idiot culture, they would likely blame me for their mistake if I didn't have proof.
Until Black Friday 2020, stay frosty.
I have been working a crazy amount of hours and it's thrown my sleep schedule off.
Last night I worked until a little after 1:30am, woke up at 6:00am to answer emails and feed the cats at 7:00am. Then decided to take a nap. I figured if I could just get an hour or two I'd be rested enough to take on the rest of my day.
It was a good plan.
But one which was doomed to fail.
At 7:28am my phone starts sounding alerts from a web security camera. I figured I could ignore it since the wired cameras weren't setting off any alarms, but the alerts kept coming. So finally I took a look...
Last night I set up my new Nest Outdoor Cam, but it was too dark and cold outside to install it. So I just set it down in the box and forgot about it.
Apparently that was a mistake. Curious Jenny decided to be all curious, so no sleep for me. She kept coming back to take another look at the camera and was setting off an alert every time. Which meant I ended up installing my new camera this morning instead of taking that nap.
My guess is I will be falling asleep at my desk sometime today.
But, hey... at least I don't have to install a security camera when I get home!
I have been working day and night to complete a project by my Friday deadline. It hasn't been easy because my brain has turned mooshy and it's difficult to think when you have a mooshy brain.
One consequence of concentrating everything I have on work is that I am completely ignoring the outside world. To be honest, I'm probably better off. When I was flipping through channels so I could get to Hallmark, I landed on some kind of news program discussing some people's desire for a "second civil war" if President Trump is impeached, and that was enough. I mean, come on. He did it. There is overwhelming evidence he abused the power of his office for personal gain and should be impeached... and quite possibly removed. Cases like this is why impeachment exists! And yet... there are people who say this should be ignored because they are so caught up in the non-stop lies of the Trump Administration that they refuse to listen to the truth. Seriously, if President Obama had done even the tiniest fraction of the crap Trump has done, these same people would be calling for him to not only be impeached and removed, they'd want him to be executed. It's complete madness.
But oh well. Such is the world we live in.
I had my nose in my laptop and didn't look outside all night. When I did, I was surprised to see that it's snowing out...
Only time will tell if it will last. Tomorrow's forecast says it will be sunny skies through the afternoon with the temperature gettiing up to 42 degrees... which then has a 70% chance of leading to rain in the evening. In which case, bye bye snow. Personally, I would be happy if the snow didn't stick around and hold off until I'm done traveling on the 31st.
But since when do I get what I want?
Some little kid who is much more pure of heart than I is probably wishing for a white Christmas and we all know who Santa is going to listen to.
Aquiring a mortgage and other massive expenses makes it so that I really have to watch where my money goes. One of the best tools I've found for that is the "pro" version of the TrueBill app on my iPhone. For $3 a month, the app helps me to track my spending and plan for expenses, all while keeping me on top of my bills and credit cards. It also makes it easy for me to squirrel away the money I save for my Black Friday Shopping day... and my vacation. It's surprising just how helpful it's been and I wish I had started using it earlier.
One of the things that surprised me most after tracking expenses was how much I was spending on groceries. I knew they're expensive every time I end up at the store. What I didn't expect was how much it was all adding up to. The monthly total was staggering and caught me off guard when I saw it. A trip here... a trip there... the amount going towards groceries was absurd.
That's when I started buying generic or store brands instead of name brands... making my own meals instead of buying prepared... and, of course, only buying something when it was on sale (unless I had no choice). In short order I had cut my grocery bill by 30%. After a while I was pushing 40% because I got smarter about buying ahead, freezing, not buying stuff I don't need, and hunting down sales and specials.
And then there was eating out at restaurants.
I used to eat out at least twice a week. Sometimes much more when work was piled up. Which, this time of year, is often. I never gave it a thought. I never kept track. I never kept a total. But TrueBill put the expense in vivid relief. If the money I was spending on groceries was surprising, the money I was spending on restaurants was downright shocking. Once I had it spelled out for me, I stopped eating out.
From there it was only a short reach to canceling magazine subscriptions, cutting cable, and reducing the amount of money spent on entertainment.
So now, all these months later, I've gone from having absolutely nothing at the end of the month and wondering where all the money went... to not having to stress so much and being able to set aside a few bucks for when unexpected expenses come up. Which is almost certain to include a new water heater or (shudder) a new HVAC system one day all too soon.
It's a far better feeling than I ever got from the money I was tossing at things I didn't need to be spending it on.
All it took was finally taking a look at what I was spending. And finding an app to help me do it.
I woke up this morning, grabbed my laptop to start my work day, noticed the date, then had the wind completely knocked out of me. Maybe one day I won't feel completely and utterly crushed on my mom's birthday, but it's not today. The second birthday without her is no easier than the first.
After feeding the cats I thumbed through a few of the travel books I made for her, then felt a little better. I'm so overwhelmingly grateful for the time we had and the many, many amazing memories from our trips together that it seems selfish to stay sad.
...it's the little things which happen day-today that keep destroying me.
Running across a note with her handwriting in the glovebox.
Finding small wooden elephant she bought in Laos while looking for a paperclip.
Seeing a potholder she bought from Disney World while baking bread.
Getting a Christmas card addressed to her in my mailbox.
Having somebody ask how she's doing while buying groceries.
The list goes on and on and on. Every day. All the time. In places where I'm least expecting it.
Happiest of birthdays to you, mom. I love and miss you every day.
Yesterday is was overcast but generally pleasant weather. Then the next thing I know it's snowing. It's snowing a lot. I generally accept that the location I live at is going to be filled with snowy winter days, so it's not the actual snowfall that bothers me. It's the people driving in it.
My five minute drive home took closer to 20 because everybody in Snow Central has forgotten how to drive in the snow. Once I got home, the garbage and recycle cans were put away, Fake Jake got a snack when I checked to make sure his shelter was snow-free, and I shoveled a path for him so he can get to the places he likes to go. Though most of his time was spent sitting on my sidewalk runner waiting for the snow to stop...
Alas, it was not to stop any time soon and he had to trudge through a little snow to get back to his warm and comfy spot.
A quick look at the forecast said that it would be stopping and turning to rain in the evening, but it never did. It just kept snowing and snowing and snowing.
When I finally turned in at 1:00am, there looked to be a foot accumulated. Which means Fake Jake will be running up and complaining that his path is blocked when I get home tonight. I'm really getting too old for shoveling all the way around my house, so perhaps it's time to invest in one of those "power shovels." I didn't like that they had a power cord and had to be "scooped," but now they have cordless models from Earthwise with wheels that look pretty well-constructed and have decent reviews...
Guess that will be what I'm saving up for in the New Year. Assuming it continues to dump snow like it has been.
The last thing I want is for a cat who knows where I live to be mad at me.
Unlike last year when I had to chain up and drive through a snowstorm, this year it was a piece of cake to drive over the mountains.
It always surprises me how there are people who must not drive except that one time of the year when they have to... because Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are the absolute worst. People just have no clue and I'm surprised that there aren't more accidents than there are. Because ideal road conditions just means that people pay even less attention to what they're doing.
Oh well. I survived the journey, so I guess now I just get to relax and settle into some holiday meriment...
Hope everybody has a good pre-holiday holiday.
I may not celebrate the holiday now, but when I was growing up Christmas was a huge deal. And because of that, my childhood Christmases are well-documented. There are many, many photos from over the years. Thanks to them being digitized, I can look at them any time I want. And what better day than today?
Here is just a tiny sampling...
Christmas Day was always the same routine when I was young...
My brother and I wake up way too early and wait for mom and dad to wake up so we can open presents.
We'd tear into the mountain of gifts under the tree.
Mom would pull out a tray of Svenhard's Swedish Bakery "Horns A Plenty" sweet Danishes, slather them with butter, then heat them under a broiler. Then serve them up with hot chocolate. Best breakfast ever.
We'd play with our Christmas loot until it was time to pack up the car and head to grandma and grandpa's house.
More presents followed by Christmas dinner at the grandparents.
Back home to play with new toys until we'd pass out.
As I got older, Christmas was increasingly more sedate, but Svenhard's "Horns A Plenty" for breakfast never changed. Except eventually we got a microwave, so mom would nuke them instead of broiling them. A couple years ago I bought some for nostalgia's sake and was shocked at how sweet they were. I remember them being more "buttery" than "sweet" and now it's the opposite.
But the memories themselves are pretty sweet.
And so... to all those who celebrate it... have yourself a happy Christmas!
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.
Last year losing my mom was the worst year of my life. This year couldn't help but be better by comparison. But I lost one of my oldest, dearest friends right off the bat, so now I'm horrified at what 2020 may have in store. I guess I've reached the stage of my life where it's all tragedy and loss from here on out? Lord, I hope not.
• Took a look at Schitt's Creek, one of the best TV shows ever...
Took a look at the Seattle Tunnel... and the horrible design of the new spaces it will allow.
• Built a magnificent photo wall in my stairwell...
• Experienced Poster Raising with the Amish...
• Converted another batch more DVDs and Blu-Rays to digital... and explained how you can do it too.
• Wished Jarrod Saltalamacchia, one of my favorite ball players, a happy retirement...
• Dedicated a post to Mufasa, Jake's toy lion, his favorite thing in the universe...
• Lamented the fact that SeaTac International Airport is still a shitpile of fail, even when they build something new.
• Said good bye to one of my oldest and dearest friends...
• Watched as my home keeps getting invaded by trash pandas.
• Spent my 101st Caturday taking inventory of the cats in my neighborhood...
• Watched the funniest stand-up of the year with Nate Bargatze's The Tennessee Kid (highest possible recommendation if you have Netflix)...
• Took Jake back to the vet after he ended up sick again. Still amazed that the little guy can't meow ever... EXCEPT when he is in distress...
• Found out the reason Jake was sick was because he fell off the stairwell banister. Absolutely heartbreaking (and more than a little scary), but he recovered like a champ...
• Built a bannister ledge tray to keep my cats from falling down the stairwell again...
• Talked about the series of travel books I made for my mom to commemorate each of the trips we took together...
• Shared my thoughts on the fucking disaster that was the Game of Thrones final season...
• Once again shared a video on how tax brackets work because I am sick and tired of people believing the bullshit lies that are being propagated. I honestly don't know if this is the best way, but if we're going to discuss tax brackets let's at least be informed as to what they are. And with that in mind, here we go again...
• Said goodbye to Grant, an internet friend who will be sorely missed.
• A visit to the Chihuly Garden of Glass, a magical place crafted by one of my favorite living artists...
• One year on without my mom...
• Spent my lazy summer days floating down a river...
• Finally cut the cord and got rid of the toxic mess that my satellite television had become.
• Ooh... Upgrades (a process that is ongoing, by the way!).
• I have opinions. And they get me in trouble by all sides.
• Back in Vegas for the third? Fourth? time in 2019 and decided to take stock of my one-time Planet Hollywood obsession...
• Got to see Janet, Miss Jackson if you're nasty...
• Discovered the total magic of my favorite new thing... THE IMPOSSIBLE WHOPPER at Burger King...
• Got myself an Apple Card... an interesting beast to be sure.
• My obligatory Apple Card unboxing entry...
• Total outrage that Hallmark can't seem to ever get the details right.
• Jake and Jenny's cat personality analysis...
• Jenny's perpetually adorable resting cranky face...
• Hell of a Day, Isn’t It? Talked about what happens when you lose that person you share an inside joke with.
• Impressed the internet when I joined in on the SHOW US A PHOTO OF YOUR KITCHEN CABINET meme...
• Shared my brief attempt at being a home designer.
• Put my iPhone 11 Pro through it's paces... and shared my thoughts in it's incredible camera capabilities...
• Took my iPhone 11 Pro camera for a spin in my favorite American city.
• Your Heart Disease, Courtesy of Big Beef.
• Ranting against changing the clocks because it fucks up my cats like nothing else... and the quail are back...
• Flew to Minneapolis so I could experience Avengers: Damage Control in real-live kinda virtual reality...
• Caring for somebody with dementia involves telling lies and making decisions.
• Disney+ finally debuted with a slew of watchable stuff to occupy time I don't have.
• Thirty Dollars for Fish Entertainment...
• Get Angry, Then Laugh... same as it ever was... same as it ever was.
• Happy Birthday, Jake and Jenny!
• And, oh yeah, I joined the Instant Pot cult!
• Finally replaced my dying MacBook Pro... with a MacBook Pro...
• Let's take a Very Special edition of Caturday to talk about how technology helps Fake Jake survives the winter!
• It's the little things which happen day-today that keep destroying me...
And there you have it... my 2019 year in review.
Thanks once again to my cats, family, and friends for making life bearable through even the worst of times.
Here's to a good 2020, everybody.
My life has become a delicate balancing act between taking enough Benadryl to keep post-nasal drip down so I'm not coughing my head off... and enough caffeine to stay awake so I can work. Too much Benadryl and I'm unconscious. Too much caffeine and I won't be sleeping at night. Not enough of either and I'm non-functional. It's a tough spot to be in, I tell you what.
Any time not spent trying to stay awake enough to work is spent trying to stay awake enough to catch up on television and play Animal Crossing: New Horizons (a game I think I've played long enough to comment on in a semi-review post on Friday). And hang out with my cats, of course. But that's something they feel they can do while I'm asleep. I keep waking up to find them sleeping next to me. Awwwww.
I maintain that cats have a sixth sense and know when something is wrong. Whether they are looking to be comforting or are looking to be comforted doesn't really matter... I'm awfully glad to have my furry companions at a time when I'm living my life in a Benadryl-induced haze while trying to self-isolate.
Not that I'm knocking my Benadryl-induced haze, mind you. It's dulling down the horrors of a world gone to shit, and that's kinda nice.