Posted on Wednesday, January 1st, 2020
And so here we are in 2020. I am siding with The US Naval Observatory that says a new decade begins a year from now in 2021 and runs through 2030. But it's only natural to see a zero at the end of a year and think back to what's happened in the past decade. Fortunately, I have a blog that goes back to 2003, so I know exactly what I was doing a decade ago in 2010.
From a blogging standpoint, everything has changed. As in... ten years ago blogging was still a thing. Now, of course, blogging has been shoved aside in favor of Facebook and other social media. No idea why I stick with it. I am inclined to think it's just a habit I can't break. What I may do is rethink daily blogging and just blog when I feel like it. Problem is that once I start skipping days, I may not start again. I guess I'll cross that bridge when I get to it. If I get to it?
Personally I don't know what to think. A decade ago my mom was here and I had grandparents, now they're all gone. I was in a bad relationship, now I'm happy to be single with cats. I was much better off financially, but now I have a house and mortgage. I know I was happier a decade ago, yet I'm pretty happy with my life now too. I was a lot less healthy, but now I'm over fifty and closer to death. All things considered, I'd go back to 2010 in a heartbeat. But would I do anything differently to justify living all those years over again? Probably, if I knew what I know now.
When it comes to 2020 things are very much up in the air. Many things in my life are in strange places so it's tough to make plans. For once I think I'd be happy if things were to just stand still for a year. I do know that I will try to be grateful for every day that I have family, friends, cats, work, something to eat, and a roof over my head. Do I really need anything more?
And speaking of 2020, here is my favorite thing about it this year so far...
And to you, dear readers, here's hoping your New Year is a good one.
Posted on Friday, January 3rd, 2020
Somehow, someway I managed to seriously injure my right shoulder. I think the muscle in it is torn or something. No clue whatsoever how it happened, but it's been a couple months. Probably slept on it wrong, because that's a thing that happens after you turn the-big-five-oh.
Since I am not a pro athlete or even remotely physical in any way, this is not a big deal. It doesn't bother me at all during the day because, let's face it, there's not a lot of shoulder action that comes from typing on a keyboard, clicking on a mouse, or watching television. The only time it bothers me is when I am trying to fall asleep* and I end up laying on it funny. Then... ouchies. But, no big deal, I just load up on some Ibuprofen and take a couple Bendryl, problem solved.
Except when it isn't.
Which was last night.
As I mentioned a couple times now, Jake reeeeeally likes to snuggle with me at night now. Lord knows why with all the tossing and turning I do, but he apparently likes a wild ride while trying to sleep. Or he's just terrified I'm going to leave him for a week like I did over the holidays (=insert sad emoji=). On those nights when he wants to sleep on top of me, it's especially awkward because I'm a side-sleeper. So in order for this to work, I have to grab a pillow or two and build a "shelf" beside me that he can lay on. Because, you know, laying beside me might result in him getting crushed and he won't do it. It looks something like this...
When Jake hopped up last night and waited (im)patiently for me to build his sleeping shelf, I had to reach behind me to grab a pillow. Unfortunately I did that with my bad shoulder and twisted in such a way that I let out a yelp. Jake did not have any sympathy at all. He promptly hopped on top of me and fell asleep.
Then, at 3:00 in the morning, I could not get to sleep and simply couldn't take the agony any more. I gently lowered Jake to the bed (much to his annoyance) then escaped from under the covers so I could go drug up on an Ibuprofen and Benadryl cocktail.
And go to the bathroom... again... something else that happens after you turn the-big-five-oh.
When I got back to my bed, he had decided to lay down RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF IT, which meant I had to kinda work my way around him. Eventually he curled up BETWEEN MY LEGS... SO COMFORTABLE... and I passed out 20 minutes later thanks to over-the-counter drugs I was abusing.
When I woke up to the 7:00am cat feeding alarm blaring, Jake was sniffing my face... probably wondering if I was dead. Because if I wasn't dead, why wasn't I rushing downstairs to feed him his breakfast?!?
And so my day was spent attempting to get caught up on work while in a sleep-deprived stupor... occasionally wincing with pain.
How about you?
Though, if you're under 50 years-old without cats, I probably don't want to know.
*I lie. I found out while traveling last week that it hurts my shoulder a great deal if I offer to get a suitcase full of bowling balls down from the plane's overhead bin for a young woman who is 90-lbs. soaking wet if she's a day** and would probably be crushed in the attempt.
**Or however the fuck that metaphor goes. I am from the Pacific Northwest where we don't do that.
Posted on Sunday, January 5th, 2020
We may be on the verge of World War III as a reckless, clueless president is intent on starting a war to distract from his impeachment, but all is not lost because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Oh Deer. So there I was falling asleep last night when the security system alarm goes off on my phone telling me that there was a person on the side of my house and in my back yard. I thought it might be a cat trying to get into the catio again, but Jake and Jenny were in bed with me. Nope... definitely not a cat... it was A FAMILY OF DEER! A couple others came along after this video...
Apparently with the warmer weather they are looking for something to eat, because they spent some time in my shrubs before moving on...
I feel horrible that somebody may harm them as they try to survive by heading into suburbia.
• RIP Syd Mead. It's unbelievable how so much of how we envision the future was defined by one guy... Syd Mead. He has created a tremendous volume of incredible work, and I was saddened to hear of his passing.
2010, him. Aliens, him. Blade Runner, him. Blade Runner 2049, him. Star Trek the Motion Picture, him. Tron, him. You will be missed, sir.
• Poop. I loathe coffee. I have never liked it despite my proximity to Coffee Central (AKA Seattle). On those occasions where it's the only thing to drink, I will try it (again) and want to barf (again) so I've just stopped trying. Finally, finally I've found a video which encapsulates how I feel about the entire situation...
• Persevere. And speaking of cats... for all the challenges you meet in 2020... take courage from this cat who perseveres over whatever life throws at them!
Way to go, buddy!
• Squishy. HOLD UP A MINUTE... how many butternut squashes were y'all going to let me buy, peel, and cube before telling me that they make LUXURY BUTTERNUT SQUASH that comes pre-peeled, pre-cubed, and frozen for my convenience?
Y'all are on my list now. — I think I was dangerously close to breaking down crying in the supermarket when I saw it in the freezer case. This changes so much!
• Fly Someone. And lastly, I missed this adorable Christmas commercial from Heathrow Airport. Well worth your time to watch...
What a nice way to end Bullet Sunday! Have a good one, everybody.
Stay safe and be kind, everybody...
Posted on Wednesday, January 8th, 2020
Most of my day was spent wanting a chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting and sprinkles. Something I haven't had in over a year because I shouldn't be eating such things, which is probably why I want one so bad.
Instead I had a rice cake and a Coke Zero, which pretty much sums up my Wednesday.
Of course I also spent the day thinking it was Thursday, so there's that. Once I realized that I had two days before the weekend instead of one day before the weekend, that whole chocolate cupcake thing kind of went by the wayside.
And so here I am waiting for the premiere of the Schitt's Creek sixth and final season. I'm hoping for the best so the day isn't a total loss.
Boy, 2020 is shaping up to be a heck of a year.
Posted on Thursday, January 9th, 2020
When I first started traveling, I always went to a place with the mindset that I will likely never get to visit there again.
Sometimes it was true... but many times it was not. Places I fell in love with I would find a way to get back to. Spain is a perfect example. I wanted to see Barcelona. I went to Barcelona, loved it, then wanted to see more of Spain. So I kept going back to the country again and again and again. I also went back to Barcelona two more times. That was completely unexpected. And there are still parts of the country I am dying to see. Valencia, Seville, Toledo, Córdoba, Bilbao, Zaragoza... and dozens of others.
Italy is another example. I've been to many, many places over several trips... but there's always someplace else to see. Palermo, Como, Parma, Genoa, Bari, Catanzaro... I'd visit any of those cities in a heartbeat. I'd also be happy to return to Rome and Venice even though I've been to each multiple times.
Thanks to writing about travel journals a couple days ago, all this was running through my head when I woke up this morning and had the realization that the bulk of my traveling days are probably behind me. Now that I've got a mortgage and cats, I have more important things to spend my money and time on. I look at my travel map and think "Haven't I done enough?
And yet... there's an awful lot of open space on that map. Granted, a lot of it I probably don't need to see, but there's quite a lot I do. And probably even more that I don't realize I need to see.
So probably not this year, but maybe next year?
Assuming travel outside the USA is even a possibility in 2021. Or there's a world left in 2021.
Posted on Friday, January 10th, 2020
Today was the second time this winter that we had snow dump down on our heads. The first time we had about 8 inches accumulate, but it eventually melted away. This time it's smaller flakes, but is accumulating nicely. Problem is that the forecast for tomorrow is sun, so it may very well be gone in short order.
This is not boding well for the snow pack in the mountains. We're currently running less than 70% of where we should be. Unless we get some serious snowfall soon it could means drought this summer. Which means the wildfires will be out of control. Which means we're boned.
I was happy to have the snow hold off until I was done traveling, but now Mother Nature needs to get to work. Bring on the white stuff.
Posted on Tuesday, January 14th, 2020
Yesterday I ran to the grocery store to throw some money away on food. It never ceases to amaze me the cost of food nowadays. Every time I go shopping it seems like the prices have gone up. Ten items... $45, please.
One of the items I purchased was a bottle of spicy brown mustard.
To eat it.
Which, if you have known me for any length of time, is a surprising turn of events given that I spent the majority of my life hating mustard. Sure I've always got a bottle of that yellow stuff in my refrigerator for friends who come over for barbecue, but the only time I use it is as an ingredient for potato salad.
But then last month I had a Market Fresh Sandwich at Arby's and everything changed.
Let me back up a second there.
I don't usually buy Market Fresh Sandwiches at Arby's because I don't like having to pay for something I'm not eating. They don't have a cheese sandwich at Arby's, so I have to order the Roast Turkey & Swiss Market Fresh Sandwich and have them hold the turkey... AND DEFINITELY HOLD THE MUSTARD.
Except last month when I ordered I forgot to tell them to hold the mustard because it had been four or five months since I last had one.
The sandwich was incredible.
And it took me a minute to realize that the reason it was incredible was because there was mustard on it. I was dying to know what kind of mustard it was, so I went up to the counter and asked for an extra packet. But I didn't put it on my sandwich. I took it home so I could add it to my shopping list.
And so here we are.
Except the store didn't have spicy brown honey mustard like they use at Arby's so I had to buy regular spicy brown mustard and mix a touch of honey in.
Tonight for dinner I had a Swiss cheese sandwich with lettuce, tomato, mayo, onion, and the spicy brown mustard with honey. It was delicious, as I knew it would be. And now I am wondering what other things in life I need to try that I decided I don't like because they might be something that I actually like. Well, except cauliflower and broccoli. I know that shit hasn't gotten any better since childhood.
Posted on Monday, January 20th, 2020
Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day! Technically I have the day off but, given how behind I am at work (something not helped by being sick this past weekend), I really didn’t have the day off.
Yesterday afternoon I had somebody float the idea of creating a tiny house community. After ten seconds of thought, I decided I liked the idea. As I get older I am trying to rid myself of all my possessions so that cleaning up after me when I’m gone won’t be so much a burden. What better way to get rid of 90% of your stuff than to move into a place where there’s no room for it? Assuming a location existed where I could find work, I’d build my tiny house, drive it there, then set up until retirement. After I retire (assuming I get to retire) I can drive my home to wherever I want to end up.
Tiny house living might be a great option for me. Assuming I could find one which has a ground floor bedroom so I’m not having to climb up to a loft each night when I’m 90 years old (knock on wood).
What about Jake and Jenny?
Tiny house living with cats seems an almost impossible idea. For one thing, I think they’d go crazy if they were confined to a small space for extended periods. As it is now, they like to run all over the place and cutting down their room to roam by such a huge amount would be cruel, wouldn’t it?
And then there’s the smell of their litter boxes. I have Litter-Robots which actually do a pretty good job of containing smells, but that’s when there’s 1,800 square feet for it to dissipate. What happens in 240 square feet?
And so... I guess perhaps tiny house living isn’t such a great option for me after all.
And then last night I got to thinking... unless... what if the tiny house was built from the ground up with cats in mind?
An hour later I had roughed out an idea in Chief Architect Home Designer.
And here we are. Note that I don't know how to make a slant-roof in Home Designer, but that's the kind I would definitely use on this so the snow would slide off. It just has to be tall enough at the front-side for the Litter-Robots, and could slant towards the back no problem. Cat's don't need more than 18"-20" to run around...
Also not shown... wheels. The entire thing would be built on a trailer bed so it's movable.
Here's the back side with the catio attached. Note that Jake and Jenny would access the catio from a door in their loft...
Here you can see the upper track for the cats leading to the ventilated loft where their Litter-Robots would be located...
Here you can see how the Litter-Robots would be accessed from a door in the bedroom. An incline staircase would be lowered from the ceiling, the bed would be flipped up, and the staircase would attach beneath the door. You can also see how there are stairs leading up to the cat track (just as there are in the living room)...
You can see the vents in the cat loft here. I'd think that I'd probably get some near-silent, slow-moving fans to install in each. That would help keep small flying bugs which might get past the screen from entering while keeping any smells blowing outside...
Tiny houses are, well, tiny. There's no getting around it. I would likely have to build a small shed that I could transport with me to hold stuff I don't use that often but want to have handy. I still love the idea of a metal pipe hanging under the upper catwalk so I can hang stuff from it. As you can see from this render of the living room, there's plenty of room for it. Note that the catwalk has windows all the way around so Jake and Jenny can look out everywhere and not feel so confined...
A view from the catwalk in the bedroom for looking down at the unsuspecting human sleeping there...
The bathroom features a full-size toilet, vanity, cabinet, medicine cabinet, good-size tiled shower, plus a closet for electronics and a water supply (plus small water heater)...
In the kitchen I prioritized a good-sized refrigerator/freezer, a micro-convection oven, range top, and a decent-sized sink. You can see the "stairs" for the cats to access their catwalk here on the left...
Here's the blueprints. You can click on them to embiggen...
The best part? $80-$100K and you're done. Assuming there's space where you want to live, you'll never have to buy another house. You can just take it with you.
And it's not so bad, really! I mean, sure I'd rather have a proper-sized house... but if that's not possible, I could certainly live like this. And I'm pretty sure that since it was designed to keep cats happy, they could live like this as well.
One of these days when I have some free time, I'll have to figure out how to slant the roof and add scratching posts and stuff. Fun times. Fun times.
Posted on Tuesday, January 21st, 2020
I have been killing myself with work since October. Day and night I've been working on projects. Then I flew to a work site in Maine, flew back, and went right back to non-stop work again at the 1st of the year. Finally, as of Friday I turned in the last critical deadline project and can relax a bit.
But relaxing was apparently a mistake, because now I am sick, sick, sick.
All the adrenaline that was keeping me going is gone, so now I've got nothing left. I guess getting sick is my body's way of forcing me to take a break? Probably.
What I really need is a vacation. But one where I don't have to go anywhere or do anything.
Posted on Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020
For years now... a decade really... I've been experimenting with setting up a personal NAS (Network Attached Storage) media server that's connected to the internet. There are a lot of reasons I'd like to have such a thing, but the big one is that I want to be able to access my vast photo library from anywhere on earth. If I'm in Germany and want to show a friend a photo of the Hard Rock Cafe Yokohama (something that actually happened) it would be great if I could do that. Sure I have the option of paying for a photo service, but then I have to convert all my images from RAW format and lose the ability to access/edit the original photo remotely if I want to.
So I purchased a 1 Terabyte single-drive, internet-enabled "WD My Book Studio" NAS back in 2010 with that in mind. Everything ended up being a total mess and didn't work at all like I was hoping. It's been sitting in a drawer ever since.
Fast forward to 2019 and I decided to try again. I used money I had saved in 2014 for a trip to Norway's fjords with my mom (that we never got around to taking) and purchased a QNAP TS415+ NAS and two Western Digital 8 Terabyte RED drives to put in it. The drives are mirrored in a RAID configuration so I don't lose any data if one of them dies. Note that there's a television remote. That's because this model has an HDMI port so it can hook up directly to a television...
Today I finally set it all up. It was fairly straightforward, though not the most user-friendly thing to do. It spent hours doing a "RAID resync" (whatever the hell that is), which makes zero sense. The drives were empty and freshly formatted. How can it take over 24 hours to "resync" NOTHING? Note that QNAP doesn't bother with beta testing their apps. If they did, somebody might have noticed that the displayed percentage overwrites the text label, making it tough to read its progress...
Before you can do anything, you have to set up a "Storage Pool" from your drives. I maxed my pool out at 100% of my available drive space, because why only use part of your drives? QNAP is pretty brain-dead when you choose to do this... it will endlessly pester you with alerts because it defaults to a threshold of 80% usage. Insanity. If somebody sets their pool to 100% of drive space, why not ask if you want to disable the threshold alerts? I had to do it manually. Sadly, after setting things up, my 8TB mirrored drive resulted in only 7.1TB of space available. No idea what happened to nearly a FULL TERABYTE of storage (this seems high for overhead), but whatever.
Rather than have to install a third-party app, I decided to give the QNAP "Qmedia" app a try on my AppleTV since it's the "native" application from QNAP. It is complete and total shit. Despite "pretending" to remember where you left off when viewing videos, it doesn't. You can't even fast-forward the video you're watching, which is mind-blowing. I have no fucking idea why they even bothered. Qmedia is useless.
I'd rather not have to switch television video input sources from my AppleTV every time I want to watch something off the NAS, but apparently that's going to be how this goes. So I grabbed the QNAP remote and went for it. First I had to install an app (of course) but no big deal. Then I actually tried to use the thing and it's a total clusterfuck. The "VideoStation" app is just a fucking web browser interface. It's difficult to read because it's not sized for a television. It's impossible to use with the included remote because the remote doesn't do anything. You have to plug in a mouse and keyboard to make it work.
There's an "HD Player" app that looks like it's geared more towards television displays and using the remote control but it's fucking useless too, having many of the same problems as Qmedia. It goes non-responsive constantly, doesn't allow fast-forwarding (pressing the up arrow to skip forward is not the same thing), starts at the beginning of a video even if you tell it to resume from where you stopped, has a shitty interface that makes sorting through a large number of videos a nightmare, has crap video quality that you can't adjust for brightness or anything else, and is an overall steaming pile of fail.
I swear, QNAP is the most ridiculous fucking company. Why bother to make claims of being a multimedia center that can connect directly to your television if it does THIS shitty of a job of it? The whole thing is a fucking joke.
Fortunately there's plenty of options for serving your media from a NAS if it has a computer onboard like the TS451+ does. The "big two" are Kodi and Plex. Kodi is open source and free. Plex is free, but you can support the project by paying to subscribe to "Plex Pass" for additional features (like being able to download media on your phone for local playback instead of streaming it). Most people I know who started on Kodi ended up with Plex, so I just skipped a step and installed Plex Server on my NAS.
For what it is, Plex Server is pretty sweet. It transcodes just about anything you throw at it. Including the RAW Digital Negative photo format from Adobe (DNG) that I use. Which means I don't have to save out JPEGs in order to access my photo library remotely. Nice! I need to work on settings for this, however, because Plex compresses things pretty heavily for transmission. This results in some ugly visual artifacts, banding, and color shifts...
Video works brilliantly from Plex BECAUSE YOU CAN ACTUALLY FUCKING FAST FORWARD THROUGH IT ON APPLE TV! Plex does a really good job of cataloging it as well. Thank heavens, because I'd light my QNAP NAS on fire if I had to suffer through their shitty apps. The only problem I've run across is having the video stop and tell me that my connection isn't fast enough, which is absurd because AppleTV is literally plugged into the same high-speed hub as the NAS! There must be some kind of setting for that I'm missing. Fortunately, it's a rare event.
I don't steal media. All the movies and television shows I have are on DVD/Blu-Ray or purchased on Digital. Well, with two exceptions... Cupid (the Jeremy Piven original) and Oh Grow Up! (one of my favorite shows of all time)... are not available to purchase. Lord only knows I wish they were, because my digitized versions of VHS tapes are really poor quality. I've used Vudu's Disc-To-Digital service to convert the bulk of my DVD/Blu-Ray collection to Digital legally. But not all of my stuff is available for conversion. Now I have the option of ripping them to the NAS and viewing them digitally no matter where I am via Plex Server. Technically, any time you break the protection on a DVD you are breaking the law, but that's a bullshit law. I would happily pay to convert them to digital if the studio who owns them would allow them to be converted. What I'm not going to do is buy the same movie all over again. Fuck that. I already paid for it, I should get to pay a small fee for a new format, not have to buy it all over again. And so... I have a small collection of DVDs ripped to my NAS temporarily until the studio allows them to be converted and I can pay for that. Plex does a great job of streaming from my living room to remote locations in HD. No, the video quality is not as good as what comes off of iTunes... especially if the iTunes version is 4K... but it's plenty good enough for my iPad or iPhone. I'm sure if I didn't have tons of security cameras flooding my bandwidth I could set the quality higher, but it's really not necessary.
Music streaming (local and remote) is handled quite well through Plex, and my SONOS system can address Plex directly. This means I can download all my music from iTunes, put it on the NAS, then drop iTunes Music Match and iTunes itself with no problem.
And so... bravo Plex.
I'm going to try out "Plex Pass" for a month and see if I want to upgrade to the lifetime membership for $120. Something tells me that's a purchase I will end up making. I certainly can't do without Plex if my alternative is the QNAP crap.
UPDATE: Yeah. Easiest decision to make to get the Plex Pass... the apps for streaming are included and you're helping the team behind it to keep developing the app.
So okay... the QNAP multimedia is bullshit. What about the NAS itself? Well, I'd love to report on that, but the minute I login, it either immediately disconnects me...
...or it allows me in but gives me a shitload of error messages. My favorite? Telling me it's running out of memory. If 2GB is not enough memory to do even the most basic tasks, then why ship with just 2GB memory? QNAP has their own version of Microsoft "Clippy" to break the bad news, which is a weird choice...
Even better? If you choose "optimize" he does a happy dance when he recovers 0MB of memory! Once I can log in again, I'll turn off and uninstall absolutely everything except the bare minimum I need (which includes Plex Server, of course), so I'm hoping that will fix these problems.
My NAS can act as a Time Machine backup for my Mac, but I really don't need that any more. All my data is stored in the cloud, so the only thing that would need to be replaced on my MacBook if it were destroyed are the apps, which I can just download from the developer again.
QNAP provides Apple File Services so I can access my NAS over my local network easily. Weirdly enough, you are required to install Windows File Services in order to install Apple File Services, but (luckily) you can kill the Windows File Services after installation to save precious memory and everything seems to work fine.
Speaking of memory... QNAP is happy to sell you more, but they charge outrageous pricing for the stuff. I mean laughably outrageous pricing. Far better to buy it yourself (which I'm guessing I'll have to do sometime soon if killing apps don't work).
Remote management and access to my files is a breeze thanks to QNAP's tools and a service they call CloudLink. The NAS talks with QNAP so even though its IP address may change, you can still reach it with no trouble.
I am still relatively new to the QNAP TS451+ NAS and the Western Digital RED drives, so I can't comment much about them. I can say that Western Digital are the only brand of hard drive that hasn't disappointed me so I'm hoping that trend continues. Also, despite the shitty media center aspects and overly-difficult controls, QNAP is highly respected in the IT industry. I just wouldn't bother paying extra for an HDMI port and remote that you will probably never use because their software is shit. Put that money towards a Plex Pass where it will do some good.
Posted on Friday, January 24th, 2020
It's funny how something can start out as a lark but snowball into something else entirely.
On Monday I wrote about how the tiny house craze might not work with me having cats, then designed a tiny home with cats in mind. The friend who asked me how I felt about tiny house communities posted my plans to a tiny house forum and, next thing you know, I've got a list of ideas from people who might actually want to attempt something like this!
As I had mentioned, I started with the idea of having a ventilated loft for the Litter-Robot litter boxes. The idea being that foul odors will tend to accumulate more easily in a tiny house, and it's better to plan for that from the start. Everything else just kinda fell into place.
There were some really, really good suggestions passed my way.
The biggest was that since I have a cat walk going all the way around the interior, I might as well add some storage underneath. I was also told that while I might not mind eating on the couch, a guest might feel otherwise, and it would be good to have a dining area... even if it was all collapsible.
And so... this morning while eating my Corn Flakes, I took the ideas that people had and revised my tiny house idea.
To make room for the dining table and add a window so you're not staring at a wall while you eat, I built cat "stairs" on the back of the door and added a pole so cats could climb up if they wanted to... along with small storage cupboards below the catwalk...
And here it is from above. Having a "catwalk" adds a lot of space for cats, and I changed the litter box loft so that they can access from both sides now, which would avoid congestion with more than one cat...
One person who was most enthusiastic about my plans asked if his-and-her closets could be added rather than hanging clothes everywhere. That sounded like a great idea, so I added closets (extending the home from 30' to 34') and also added corner shelving to the bedroom. Note that there are also cat stairs on the back of this door as well...
Plus dual poles in the corners so cats can climb up to the catwalk that way if they prefer...
I had to switch from barn doors to actual doors for the bathroom to accommodate the cat stairs, but I actually like that better. I thought that barn doors would be better because you wouldn't be opening the door into somebody but, hey, people can be careful. PLUS... now that I think about it, there's no reason the doors to the bathroom/passthrough couldn't open inward which would solve everything. There's definitely enough room for both doors to do that. Hmmmm...
And here's the updated main floor plan with the dining table, closets, shelves, storage, and catwalk access poles and stairs (click to embiggen)...
Note that the bathroom is slightly larger because I was told my electronics/water-tank closet was not big enough. Now it's plenty big enough for that and maybe some linens and towels! And now that I think about that... perhaps the washer/dryer unit would be better in the bathroom so the water tank and electronics were closer to the shower and kitchen sink. Nifty!
This was a really fun project! I may continue to tweak it as new ideas occur to me.
A pity I don't have millions of dollars laying around so I could buy a chunk of land for a tiny house community and actually build the thing. But who knows? Maybe somebody with money who wants to try tiny cat house living might take the idea and run with it?
Posted on Sunday, January 26th, 2020
I may be ankle-deep in sawdust, but here I am... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Push Back. The impeachment trial is absurd. There is overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing in a number of areas, and it's clear the president is exploiting his office for personal gain at every possible opportunity. But because Republicans in The Senate are 100% willing to enable his abhorrent behavior, he's going to remain in office. Which is why This post from Dan Rather is so important. "As many of us focus on the news out of Washington, let us not forget on these cold, winter nights, many are struggling with hunger and hopelessness. There are the lonely, the homeless, the sick, and scared. Service to others is a way to push back at the cynicism of our times."
• TEMPORARY! OH MAN! TIME TO STOCK UP MY FREEZER! YOU SIMPLY CANNOT BEAT THESE SAVINGS!!!
As I've made known many, many times, I rarely buy anything at the grocery store that's not on sale. I build my meals around what I can find that's inexpensive. I very nearly grabbed these for taco night until I was like "Wait a minute! Aren't these usually about $2?!?" Stores are pretty devious. They expect people will grab something on sale without looking for how much it's on sale.
• Dance Dance Dance. A new bird has been discovered. It's feathers are like a black hole, absorbing most light. This results in a very cool mating dance you gotta see...
It's amazing that we keep discovering new animals as scores of others are going extinct.
• Scraps. It's hard to complain about working on the weekend when I get to set up my wood shop and build displays! I cut the pieces for a rack display I will assemble tomorrow, and now I am building a half-dozen little fruit-crate-inspired booklet displays. They will have a small standee sitting next to them with info and pricing...
As thrifty as I am for my own projects, I've doubly so when spending money for work. The stands had to be heavy so they wouldn't move... and deep so they wouldn't tip over. I made the tray part look nice, then used whatever scraps I had laying around for the back-stops since they don't show. Works like a charm, and they ended up costing a whopping $2.20 each. =sigh= Designing and building displays is the best part of my job. Wish I got to do more of it.
• Peanut Hell. Killing time until 10:00 so I can fire up the power tools... I'm watching SNL from last night with Adam Driver. The cold open takes place in hell where Flo from the Progressive Insurance commercials is visiting. She sold her soul to the devil so she could be on television forever. THEN can you guess what commercial comes on? Just guess! I hope that was planned and SNL contacted Progressive to have it happen, because that's genius.
In other news... POOR MR. PEANUT! Guess he shouldn't have killed all those kids with peanut allergies!
• Art. I recently read a Facebook post by Rachael Eliot Barker that's so important to me that I am reprinting it in its entirety...
"Recently, there was a dust-up over The Comedian, a piece in which Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan taped a banana to the wall of a gallery and sold it for $120,000. A gallery patron made additional news by pulling the banana off the wall and eating it. Interviews made it clear that everyone involved was trolling. The saga was catnip to people who believe that conceptual art is full of shit.
Maurizio Cattelan is clearly full of shit, but his work begs the question: could an artist ever walk into a gallery with some snacks, say 'This may look like something I picked up at the bodega on the way here, but it is in fact my Art, behold my Art,' and NOT be full of shit?
In my opinion, the answer is yes.
My opinion is heavily informed by this 1991 piece by Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Untitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.) is a pile of free candy. Visitors are invited to take one piece of candy. Frivolous, right? The piece may be staged in any gallery that follows a few simple rules. The most important rule is that the pile should weigh 175 pounds.
175 pounds was the healthy weight of Gonzalez-Torres’ partner Ross Laycock, who died of AIDS.
González-Torres had a Roman Catholic background, and taking the candy is meant to be an act of communion. The patron partakes in the “sweetness” of Ross while participating in his diminishment and torturous death.
The decision to use candy has political significance. In 1991, public funding for the arts and public funding for AIDS research were both the hottest of hot-button issues. HIV positive gay male artists were being targeted for censorship. González-Torres was desperate to be heard, and part of the logic of Untitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.) was that you can’t censor free candy without looking ridiculous. The replicability of the piece makes it indestructible; González-Torres had an intuitive, ahead-of-its-time understanding of virality that came from dealing with an actual virus rather than the internet.
I’ve never seen this piece staged, but I think about it all the time. The artist, sadly, is no longer with us. But we will always have the most brilliant, heartbreaking free candy to ever be heaped in a corner. The key to conceptual art is storytelling — how well can you tell a story without words OR a “proper” picture? The banana on the wall sucks because it doesn’t tell a story about anything but attention-seeking and greed. I can’t stand Banana Guy or the media coverage surrounding him because stunts like that make people close their minds to unconventional art and storytelling, which can be just as sophisticated and moving as conventional art and storytelling."
I always assume that there's a story like this behind every artistic endeavor. I may not understand it... I may dismiss it... I may not like it... I may disagree with it... and all that is okay. So long as it means something to the artist and not just a stunt, I can at least respect them putting themselves out there like this.
And that's it for Sunday bullets.
Posted on Wednesday, January 29th, 2020
As I mentioned in my entry for "yesterday," I broke my blog. Something that didn't get fixed until "tomorrow." I actually still wrote entries for "yesterday" and "today" but decided to save them for "tomorrow" and "the day after tomorrow."
If that's all confusing to you, just think about how it feels to be me! My head has to be in the past, present, and future at the same time. All because I decided to go messing in Blogography's guts without a backup.
I've been thinking back to what I did today (yesterday) and, other than hammer away on WordPress, I can't think of anything special.
Oh... check that... I did clean up my garage wood shop! The shelves I built got all sanded, varnished, and delivered, so I wanted to put my tools away and clean up so I'm starting my next project organized and sawdust-free. And it took a minute, I tell you what. It's shocking what a mess I had made. Why I can't put a tool back after I use it is a genuine mystery. It would certainly make my life easier.
What would also make my life easier? Throwing garbage in the trash rather than on the garage floor. Contrary to popular belief (held by me) you can't just sweep it all up at the end of the day. Dustpans can only hold so much. And so I end up having to pick it all up before I sweep. Which takes longer than if I had just tossed it in the trash in the first place.
But don't try telling me that.
When I'm being a wood surgeon, the last thing I want to hear is somebody telling me what to do. I actually became wood surgeon specifically to get away from people telling me what to do.
And, oh yeah... in case you didn't notice, I've started using the term "wood surgeon" now. I find that I prefer it over "wood worker." I toyed around with "wood doctor" for a while, but telling people that I have a doctorate in playing with wood seemed dishonest somehow. I'm amateur at best.
I bet Bob Vila never has to deal with existential crises like this (he says while wondering if whomever came up with the plural for "crisis" realized how stupid it looks and should have just made it be "crisises" like you'd expect it to be).
Probably not. He's Bob Vila. He gets to be a fucking wood wizard if he wants to!
Ooh. Now I wanna be a wood wizard.
Posted on Friday, January 31st, 2020
I started another woodworking project last night, lost track of time, and was too tired to go to the store as I had planned.
And so I went after work today.
Which was a huge, huge mistake because everybody and their dog was buying crap for their Super Bowl watch parties. The traffic is jacked up on the road to the grocery store on a good day... but today? Bedlam.
All I really needed was potatoes and eggs so I could whip up some potato salad for dinner tomorrow, but there were sweet savings in celebration of Super Bowl Weekend that I was compelled to take advantage of, so I guess it made the horrible trip worthwhile.
Now I'm too tired to blog.
Posted on Thursday, February 6th, 2020
I haven't had a chance to play video games in months.
I bought Untitled Goose Game the day it was released on Friday, September 20th, played it through the weekend, then never picked up my Nintendo Switch again. The brand new LEGO Jurassic World game I bought for Black Friday hasn't even been taken out of the wrapper. That's a darn shame, because it looks like big fun...
Monday when I got home I had to tear apart my media center to diagnose why I had no internet. I discovered pretty quickly that one of the cats was underneath and hit the fiber box so it dropped and came unplugged (found a toy there and the security cameras showed Jenny was the culprit). Since I had it pulled out, I unhooked everything and started re-wiring everything from scratch. Since I had gotten rid of cable internet and satellite TV and wired speakers and such, I was able to rip out a bunch of junk that was adding clutter for no reason.
I was seriously considering not plugging my Nintendo Switch back in and tossing it in the drawer with my PlayStation 3, Xbox One, and Wii-U. Why bother to have it out when I'm not playing it?
On one hand, this is pretty sad. I love video games and would dearly love to have more time to play them. On the other hand, I have hobbies like woodworking and drawing/painting that I'd much rather be doing over playing video games.
Which has lead me to the conclusion that the Nintendo Switch will likely be the last video gaming console I buy. And boy does that make me feel old. I mean, ME, NOT PLAY VIDEO GAMES? Insanity.
Not wanting to be this old this quickly, I plugged the Switch back into my media center. Who knows if I'll ever have time to play it, but at least it fends off my impending decrepitness for a while.
Posted on Monday, February 10th, 2020
I don't usually share work here that's not my own, but sometimes there's something that really begs to be shared, and I'm all too happy to oblige.
I ran across Michele Rosenthal's work many years ago when I was looking for an illustrator for a packaging project. She has a wonderful paper-cut-out kind of style that I love, and is able to distill concepts down to a simple presentation in a way that looks effortless. I've bookmarked her site (along with a hundred other artists) and check in from time to time to see what's new. A couple years ago, it what this work of sublime brilliance...
To see the full-size piece or buy a poster, you can visit her website.
Somebody posted it to Facebook today, and I was reminded of how great it was. But the best part was that Michele created some "stickers" that you could paste when you're debating with somebody online and they unload a logical fallacy to support their (poor) argument...
I used the stickers exactly one time.
It did not go over well... at all.
In fact, to say "It did not go over well" is a monumental understatement. Their initial reply to my sticker was pretty scathing and yet another logical fallacy. My response was another sticker.
I was unfriended and blocked.
So as not to lose the entirety of my online friends, I just set the stickers aside and decided to use them only in the event of a serious emergency.
Which is all the time, but I'm trying to show restraint. Hey, I'm guilty of logical fallacies myself. I just try not to be mean about it.
Posted on Thursday, February 13th, 2020
For months now I've had minor pain in my right arm. It's not a muscle thing... it's deep inside. Like in the bone or something. I've most ignored it and just chalked it up to getting old. Everything else hurts, so why not my arm?
Then this morning I woke up because the cats wanted breakfast, went to get out of bed, and... ouchie... searing pain shooting through my tricep (or what passes for a "tricep" on my muscle-free arms). It was so intense that I let out a yelp and was knocked down to the bed. Which wouldn't have been bad, except I missed the bed and landed on the floor. Holding my arm, I managed to climb back on the bed in agony.
Meanwhile Jake and Jenny, who had just ran downstairs in anticipation of food, came running back up to see what was taking so long. WHY HAVEN'T YOU FED US?!? WE'RE DYING!!!
And so I managed to get up and head down to the kitchen with the cats venting their frustration every step of the way. After managing to get them fed using my left arm, I took some Ibuprofen and headed back to bed so I could wallow in my misery.
And it's weird how the pain works.
I thought getting undressed would be agony. Nope
I thought shampooing my head would be painful. Nope.
I thought getting dressed would be excruciating. Nope.
What hurts... and hurts so bad... is stupid stuff like forgetting my arm is messed up and pulling the drawer open that has my toothpaste with it. THAT is so unbelievably painful that it quite literally knocks the wind out of me.
And so... doctor's appointment on the 26th.
I probably need physical therapy or surgery or something else I can't afford, but that's life.
In the meanwhile I'll try to baby my arm and use it only when I have to. Which is tough, because sometimes just walking or breathing is enough to cause stabbing pain go shooting through it.
Boy I wish I had a really good story to explain this. "I think I pulled it skydiving" or "I got stabbed in a knife fight" sounds so much cooler than "It happened during a sleeping accident."
Posted on Monday, February 17th, 2020
My arm crippling arm pain has not relented. I can keep it at bay by laying in bed, propping it so it doesn't move, and doing
To say this has cut into my productivity is an understatement. But it's either that or be hopped up on truly unhealthy amounts of painkillers. Even just Ibuprofen in wild amounts for too long can cause kidney and liver damage or stomach bleeding. And so... I'll take a big ol' pass on that.
But here's the problem... doing nothing, as enticing as that may sound, is just so boring!
I never "just watch television" or "just watch a movie." Sure there are some television shows or movies that I pay more attention to than others... especially foreign language media where I am having to read subtitles... but even then I've got paperwork I'm working on or have my laptop nearby. I just have to. But now that writing or shuffling papers or typing on a computer can potentially be excruciating, it's not quite the option it usually is.
In an attempt to find middle ground, I've been trying out Apple's speech dictation technology to type stuff into the computer. It's both shockingly good and shockingly frustrating at the same time. You can't really dictate words while watching television or a movie. But otherwise? It works great. Mostly. But when it doesn't? It makes me want to scream.
This entire post has been dictated while travel videos are playing silently on my television. Surprisingly, there have been few errors. But just try typing an ellipsis as three periods instead of that stupid ellipsis character (... instead of …). You cannot. If you say "word period period period," then Apple will type "word. Period." And if you've read my blog for any amount of time then you know I gotta have my triple-period ellipsis.
Which is why I think I'll just end this here instead of getting to a point where I must type another one.
Posted on Tuesday, February 18th, 2020
The weather is nice enough that I've started to walk to work again. Just have to make sure I'm in a long sleeve shirt and am wearing gloves and then, after a brisk seven-minute walk, I'm at the office.
And it was all good until I realized that I had to take home a bunch of notebooks, reference manuals, and binders that I needed for the evening's work. My initial thought was to walk home, then drive back to get everything, but I decided to use grocery bags I had squirreled away in my filing cabinet and just carry them home that way.
You may be asking yourself "Huh? Didn't he say that he had an injured arm? How did he manage that?" And, if you did, you have a better memory than I do. My arm was hurting as always, but at a comparatively minimal amount, so I didn't even think about it. I'm so used to the pain that I barely notice until I pull/twist it wrong.
Alas, I eventually did remember... when I was half-way home and unbelievable pain starting shooting up the back of my arm. Dropped half my bags on the spot. THEN I was like... how am I going to get these home now that one of my arms is useless?
I moved the two dropped bags off the sidewalk and took the other two to the field behind my house. Dropped them off, then went back. Carried those to my back porch. Then went back for the two I had dropped in the field. Surprisingly, nobody came along and stole them or kicked them, or peed on them, or whatever it is that assholes are wont to do.
My seven-minute walk ended up taking in excess of twenty, at which time I was so tired and in so much pain that I went to bed. Woke up to feed the cats. Went back to bed. Woke up to watch some television. Went back to bed.
Never opened a single notebook, reference manual, or binder that I had worked so hard to bring home.
Story of my life.
Tomorrow I'll be taking the car to work.
Posted on Monday, February 24th, 2020
I've been slowly gathering up my 2019 financials so I can get around to my taxes in a week or two. I'm in no hurry, because I am not anxious to see if my effective tax rate has gone up again. One thing I noticed just this evening is that I've gone from spending hundreds each year in credit card interest charges... to spending nothing in 2019.
That's a first.
And a far cry from 2015 where I averaged paying $45 in fees per month and getting nothing in return.
Money is expensive, y'all.
Turns out that paying off my credit cards and then working hard to keep them paid off month-to-month was worth the rather painful lifestyle changes it took to get here.
No idea where all the money I saved in credit card interest has gone... probably to my mortgage... but so long as it's going towards something instead of nothing, I'm happy.
I'd be a lot happier if I had that money in cash so I could roll around in it... but still...
Posted on Tuesday, February 25th, 2020
Thanks to Martha Stewart's meal kit service I've been cooking a lot more often. Not just her recipes, but recipes off the internet, recipes friends give me, and recipes my mom collected. I don't necessarily like cooking... I certainly don't like the mess... but it's cheaper than frozen meals and tastes considerably better.
Problem is that my cookware is less than ideal and that makes cooking difficult.
All my pots and pans were inherited from my mom. They are a mish-mash of stuff... some of which was probably a wedding gift over 50 years ago... and some of it just random stuff she purchased as she needed it. The two best pieces are Revere Ware that's in great shape but seems to have problems on my glass cooktop. They don't boil water so much as dance when you attempt it. Likely because the bottom is never in full contact with the element so it never gets hot enough to boil stuff.
Ignore my filthy stove (I filmed this right after cooking lunches for the week)...
In order to boil water, I have to stand at the stove and press down on the handle so it stops dancing. Even then it seems to take forever. For the longest time I blamed my stove, even though I bought it new when I moved in.
And so... I really need new cookware.
But do you know how many different kinds there are? Cast Iron, Enameled Cast Iron, Ceramic, Stainless Steel, Nonstick, Copper, and Aluminum, to name a few. There are pros and cons to each and I spent more time than I'd care to admit trying to figure out which would be best for me.
On Sunday I sponged off a friend's Costco membership to buy a new set (a full set being the most economical way to replace my entire eclectic collection). Turns out I needn't have wasted my time since Costco only had one set I could afford (my budget was $100, the cheapest they had was $119).
Say hello to my Kirkland Signature brand 12-piece Hard Anodized Cookware Set...
I have to say... this is some really nice stuff. Probably not compared to the high-end cookware that's out there, but definitely compared to what I was working with before. It's heavy enough to sit flat when hot. It heats evenly (something I didn't even know was important until I cooked in it*). The surface is phenomenally non-stick. It's oven-safe so I can bake in it. There's a great variety of pieces, including a deep skillet which I love. The lids have a built-in strainer that's awesome.The only down-side is that it's not recommended that you put them in the dishwasher, you're supposed to wash by hand. At first I was disappointed, but once I saw how mind-bogglingly non-stick these things are, it's actually easier to wash them by hand than trying to fit them in a dishwasher. Nice.
And, oh yeah... when it comes to boiling water? It happens SO DANG FAST that I was picking my jaw up off the floor. Turns out that having a good set of cookware is going to really up my cooking game.
I kept my mom's two Revere Ware pieces just to have them. Everything else I tossed. Usually I donate stuff I no longer need, but all the pans were Teflon (which will apparently kill you now) and the pots were banged up so badly that I'm guessing nobody would want them.
As I was going through my kitchen junk to see if there was anything else I could get rid of, I happened upon an enduring mystery... I have a missing bowl. Maybe a houseguest broke it and forgot to tell me or something, but there's one less than I purchased. It's not a big deal. It's not something I'm pining over even a little bit. But I would just like to know what happened to it, you know?
In the meanwhile I'm just going to blame the cats.
*Seriously. My old pots would bubble up in some spots but not others which causes scalding and burning. Even heating makes it so much easier to avoid this.
Posted on Wednesday, February 26th, 2020
I was told last week that all my travel for March and April has been canceled. Today I was told that I should fully expect May to be canceled as well, and nothing is being scheduled for June. And that's just domestically. International travel has been halted indefinitely.
As much as I love the idea of not having to travel for four months, I am mortified at the thought of having to make up all the trips I'm missing. If this runs into July, I don't even think it will be possible for me to make up what I missed.
It's not like I haven't got piles and piles of work right here at home to get through.
Posted on Thursday, February 27th, 2020
Today I got some rather bad news. A project I had been working hard to complete was outright canceled. But then, after giving it some thought, I decided it was actually good news. Sure it means I had been wasting my time these past three nights, but it also means I don't have to worry about it tonight or stress over tomorrow's deadline! Woo hoo!
In other news... it was announced that Vice President Pence was put in charge of the country's coronavirus response.
At first I was all "Well that's nice. It's terriffic that he has something to do with his time." But then I was like "Wait a second... isn't this the same Vice President Dumbass who said condoms don't work and smoking doesn't kill you? Holy shit!" And, sure enough, heeeeeere's Mikey!
The anti-science assholes running this country make me crazy.
But what doesn't now-a-days?
Posted on Friday, February 28th, 2020
When it comes to my own death, I'm completely at peace. I've been on this earth 53 years... almost 54 years now. I've done my best to better my world with my time, money, and heart. I've explored the planet and fell in love with its peoples. If my number comes up tomorrow, I am fine with it. I am sick at the thought of my cats not having me around to take care of them, but I am fine with it.
I've had friends and family in my life that mean everything to me and have given my existence meaning, so I'm good to go.
But when it comes to those same friends and family dying? Not so much.
A year ago today, I lost one of my oldest, dearest friends. It destroyed me. It continues to destroy me. So many days I think back to the insane stuff we did... the many, many great times we had... the adventures that defined our relationship... those moments that he and I shared which only we two can ever understand... and the weight of it all crushes me. I want to scream at the world what an amazing person he was so they remember him like I do and they know what we've lost. I want everybody to hurt like I hurt.
But all I can do is walk through my memories of him, share sorrow with friends who knew him, and keep him alive in my heart.
And on my arm...
I don't know that seeing this every day will make things better or worse, but it will definitely bring a smile to my face when I remember him, so there's that.
And I'm in good company...
Project Semicolon was started by Amy Bleuel and is explained on their site thusly: "A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you, and the sentence is your life." In later years it has become a symbol of solidarity for those who have survived the loss of someone due to depression, suicide, and other mental health issues.
For both my life and the life I've lost, it's sadly apt.
I wanted quite badly to end my life my sophomore year of high school, planned it down to the smallest detail, reached the day it was all going to end; I chose not to.
When I was caring for my mom in midst of her dementia I woke up every day wanting to escape, and was researching on the internet the best way to end it all in a way which would least impact my friends and family; I chose not to.
When I made the agonizing choice to move my mom into a care facility, failure consumed me and I sunk so low that I called a skydiving company to see if my certification was still good so I could take one final dive; I chose not to.
After my mom died I felt truly done with life and started getting my affairs in order so I could just make the pain finally, finally come to an end with the six bottles of sleeping pills I bought at six different stores two weeks after she passed; I chose not to.
Suicide has been living in my head and clawing at my soul for 38 years, 3 months, and 16 days; yet one day at a time I choose not to.
But I still struggle.
I think too many of us do.
After Robin Williams died I wrote about depression, a subject I am intimately familiar with, and have blogged about more times than I can count. It feels like my entire life has been spent battling depression, and those days before the battle started feel so distant and unnatural as to be unreal. I sometimes wonder if I dreamed my depression-free childhood because I wanted something to cling to when things are at their worst. It just seems impossible that there was ever a time when I wasn't struggling. When I wasn't broken. When I wasn't confronting the barrage of lies that depression whispers in my ear every waking hour of every day... and weighs on my mind all night, every night.
Depression has become such a part of me that, at times, it feels as though it defines me. I guess I'm lucky that it doesn't. Though I don't know that I would call myself "lucky" that I've managed to hold on this long. It feels more like work than luck. I've had to put serious work into the job of living.
Fortunately I've had help.
My family saved me. My friends saved me. Working for a charity which saves others saved me. Having to feed my cats each morning really saved me. And, because of all of them, I choose to save me and continue my life sentence.
And hold in my heart those whose pain cut so deep that they could not.
I love and miss you every day.
Posted on Wednesday, March 4th, 2020
Yesterday I saw a post from the moderator of a discussion group for my ink jet printer. She said that she went to buy some isopropyl alcohol (we use it to soak the print heads on our machines which are prone to clogging) and couldn't find it anywhere... at stores or online. She said that there's a shortage and if we could find some at sane prices we should get some.
So when I went to pick up my prescription at the drug store I grabbed a couple bottles. The shelves were full of the stuff.
When I went to check out, the pharmacist who owns the store told the cashier that they were going to have to start limiting people to one bottle after this or else their supply would be wiped out. I explained to him what I was told, what I was using it for, and asked why there was a shortage. He said it's because people are using it to make their own hand sanitizer since, thanks to the coronavirus, you couldn't buy the stuff anywhere. Apparently the recipe for Purell is two parts alcohol and one part aloe vera gel (though rolling your own is likely not a good idea).
I used to travel with a small bottle of hand sanitizer and had bottles of the stuff at home. I threw it all out after reading an article saying that products like Purell and antibacterial soap were causing mutations which lead to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This is a very, very bad thing. Regular soap and water is perfectly fine for eliminating germs, and Purell should only be used when soap and water is not available.
Fast forward to my dental cleaning appointment.
When the hygienist asked me how I was doing I joked that I was feeling a bit peaked after returning from China, but other than a fever and persistent cough I was doing great. Then I realized that somebody who sticks their hands in people's gross mouths all day long probably didn't need a joke like that. Oops.
After my teeth were made all shiny I went to Safeway to get some walnuts and a veggie wrap for lunch. Since I was there, I took a walk down all the aisles to see if there was anything else I needed. Of course there was, so I started loading up my cart with $150 worth of things I couldn't afford but couldn't live without because they were on sale. Then I got to the aisle with the disinfecting wipes. The shelves were wiped out. Just a gaping hole where the wipes used to be. And exactly one container sitting in the back...
Of course I bought it.
I'll keep it at work so I can wipe off my keyboard and mouse every day to keep the coronavirus at bay. Or whatever. Probably not effective, but at least I'm doing something, right?
Maybe I should sell them on eBay for $150.
I may end up dying from the coronairus because my keyboard wasn't wiped down, but at least I can pay for those groceries.
Posted on Monday, March 9th, 2020
I dream differently than most people in that I don’t dream very often and, when I do, I am almost always an observer of myself in the dream. It’s like I’m watching my dream on television and know I’m dreaming the entire time. Those occasions where I'm having a dream where I’m completely lost in it and believe it’s a real experience are rare. But it does happen.
Like last night.
In my dream I got an emergency request to fly to Mt. McKinley(!) in Alaska(!) so I could pick up some data from a scientist that was critical for the charity. Given that all my travel through July was recently cancelled (thanks, coronavirus) I figured it must be a dire situation, so I agreed. Hours later I’ve driven to Seattle and was boarding an Alaska Air flight to a small airport at the foot of Mt. McKinley.
When I arrive, lighting is crashing all around me. I hide under the Alaska Pipeline pipe(!) to stay safe and ask the ground crew where I should meet my contact. Somebody hands me a pair of binoculars and points to the mountain. When I look through, I see a guy frantically running while lightning is striking all around him. Then the person who handed me the binoculars said “Looks like you made a trip for nothing. That guy ain’t getting off the mountain today.”
Furious that I just flew all that way for nothing, and even more mad that I can’t risk taking photos of Mt. McKinley and have lightning hit my camera, I decided not to check into my hotel. Instead I get right back on the plane and fly back to Seattle after the turnaround.
After I get back to Seattle I call up the charity and they apologize profusely for having me risk catching the coronavirus for nothing. I hop in my car and drive back home, then snap out of my dream as I roll into my driveway.
Since that kind of realistic dream doesn’t happen to me very often, you can imagine how confused I was when I found myself sitting in my bed after having just flown to Alaska and back. It took me a few minutes to realize I had been dreaming it all.
And the first thing I do?
Grab my iPhone so I can see if there is actually an airport at Mt. McKinley.
Turns out that there is, but it has a small gravel runway and Alaska Air obviously doesn’t fly there. Then I get mad at myself for calling it “Mt. McKinley“ when I know dang well that this is the colonizers’ name for it, and the native people refer to it as “Denali.” Except to say that the airport actually is still called “Mt. McKinley Airport” even though the National Park where it’s located has been rightfully named back to Denali.
After getting mad at myself over confusing the name, I get even madder at myself for wasting a rare actual dream on something so stupid. I could have been a super-hero... or been in space... or making love to a space alien as a super-hero. But instead I have a lame dream about air travel (something I have to do all the time) and lightning (which was exciting, but hiding under a pipe the whole time? Ugh).
I’m totally blaming Daylight Saving Time for this shit.
And the coronavirus.
A part of me just wishes that I’d go ahead and catch the coronavirus so I can get it over with and have my life go back to normal. I’m tired of not being able to touch my face... or lick my iPhone... and really tired of having to wipe down my hookers with disinfecting wipes. That can’t be good for her skin. Or mine.
I'm going to have to remember to moisturize.
Posted on Wednesday, March 11th, 2020
I wake up. I go to work. I come home. I go to sleep. Then I repeat it all over again the next day. I don't go anywhere unless I have to. I don't see anyone unless I have to. I don't do anything unless I have to. I wash my hands before and after every activity. I sanitize every surface I touch. This is life in the age of the coronavirus. This is love in the time of COVID-19.
My caution came highly recommended by the organization I volunteer with. They're based in Europe where there's a perspective on things that's different from here. Italy is in major crisis, other countries will likely join them, and absolutely everything is shutting down in an effort to halt or reduce the escalating infection rate. Meanwhile here in the USA I keep running into people who think that it's all being overblown... usually as a part of a conspiracy theory to reflect badly on President Trump. It's all fake news. It's not a serious problem. It's no more dangerous than the common cold.
Which is a load of crap, of course, but I guess there are people who would rather believe a bunch of bullshit than accept that their hero is an incompetent dumbass who would rather downplay a serious situation at the cost of American lives than look like an incompetent dumbass.
Today I had to run to tourist town to return something I borrowed for work. I wanted to go today instead of the weekend so I wouldn't have to see anybody. On the way back home I decided to stop at the store to pick up the only two things I can't currently live without... Coke Zero and Quaker Brand Chocolate Chip Rice Cakes. If I'm going to be quarantined, I have toilet paper, soap, and food. I don't have beverages and dessert. So... worth the risk of stopping at the store to get some, I suppose. I just have to be mindful of people and sanitize my hands after.
It was then that I saw that perhaps Redneckistan is starting to take things seriously after all. The grocery store was rationing toilet paper and paper towels to one package per person and the shelves were starting to become bare.
Blind panic is unwarranted.
But a little panic is probably going to save lives if it makes people start taking proper precautions.
Wash your hands and stay distant, people.
Posted on Friday, March 13th, 2020
I live each day in a Benadryl-induced haze so that people don't think my allergies are coronavirus symptoms. That would be bad enough if not for the fact that I keep getting curve-balls thrown at me.
Take this morning, for example.
I worked late, late, late last night and was still dead-tired when my cats came running in after the Alexa alarm for their 7am feeding went off. So I dragged my ass out of bed and made my way past the landmine of cat toys strewn in my path to give them their food and get some household chores out of the way. At 8am I decided to go back to bed for a half-hour nap before heading into the office.
Five minutes after my head hit the pillow, Jake and Jenny were running into my bedroom at top speed. I had no idea what brought that on... until a second later when the yard-care people fired up a thatcher so they could groom the lawn for Spring. The noise was huge, the cats were freaked, and I wasn't going to get any sleep.
Then, at 8:30 the Alexa alarm I set to "wake me up" went off, which got the cats all excited because they thought it was feeding time again when they heard it.
As I was headed to the shower I realized that the thatching noise had stopped and it was quiet... even though I only heard them working on the side of my home and nowhere else. I thought perhaps the thatcher had broke down and looked outside to see if there was a problem.
Oh there was a problem alright...
Might as well go to work then.
My cats were still waiting for their second breakfast when I trudged down the stairs...
Note that Jake is ON THE TABLE WHERE HE KNOWS HE'S NOT SUPPOSED TO BE!
I'm all like "SERIOUSLY? YOU JUST HAD BREAKFAST 90 MINUTES AGO!!" But I was feeling sympathetic from the noisy yard work that scared them, so I gave them kitty snacks before heading out the door.
Where I had this greeting me...
Guess I converted my garage into a wood shop too soon?
I am going to try and do as little work-work as possible this weekend so I can get caught up on house-work that's been piling up. Because, just like with the snow that's currently falling, I really don't need an avalanche to bury me.
I'm buried enough.
Posted on Monday, March 16th, 2020
My mom never seemed to be a huge fan of cooking. It was just something she did because she had to, and not something that she ever aspired to enjoy or master. She had a set of recipes that she was comfortable with and got good at making out of sheer repetition. Every once in a while something new would enter the mix, but not often.
One of my favorite things she made was Applesauce Bread. She found the recipe in a Spices of the World cookbook by McCormick (the company who sells all those spices). It's a 1964 edition, so I'm guessing she had it from before I was born. There are a dozen recipes in the book that mom would make, but only the Applesauce Bread was made so many times that the book broke in half at the recipe page. Eventually my mom had to rubber-band the thing and keep it in a plastic bag. You can see the recipe here, right under the instructions for Welsh Pork Cake(!)...
She altered the recipe, leaving out the raisins (gross!) and substituting walnuts for pecans. But here's the real thing she did to make this recipe better... she went from one big loaf pan to three small loaf pans. The best thing about this bread was the crust. We would fight over who gets the "ends." The smaller the loaf, the most crust you get. Genius.
One day I came home from work and she had a surprise for me. It was her Applesauce Bread... BUT SHE FOUND A MINI LOAF PAN TRAY TO BAKE THEM IN! NOW WE WILL HAVE CRUST FOR DAYS! WHOOOOOO!!!
It's the only way I make her bread now...
The eight loaves in the pan she found are perfectly sized to accommodate a full batch of the recipe...
You're supposed to let it cool for 20 minutes but I never can wait. It's just too dang delicious out of the oven. Of course you have to eat it with an absurd amount of butter...
Because I love y'all (and the book is out of print), here's the recipe...
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add beaten eggs and mix together well. Sift the flour, measure, then sift again with the baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Alternate adding flour mixture and applesauce to the egg & sugar batter until it's all thoroughly mixed. Blend in walnuts. Pour batter into well-greased and floured pan(s). You can use one 9-1/4 × 5-1/4 × 2-1/4 large pan, three small loaf pans, or 8 mini loaf pans. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes (mini loaves), 50 minutes (small loaves), or 1 hour (standard loaf). Ovens vary, but tops should be golden brown with brown edges and a toothpick should come out clean. Cool on a rack for 20 minutes.
Entirely too yummy.
And now back to our regularly-scheduled coronavirus coverage...
Every day since things started getting COVID-19-serious I've tried to imagine what it would be like if I was still taking care of my mom. If she was here with me, I'd be trying my absolute best to make sure neither of us got sick. Me because I couldn't take care of her while sick. Her because I have no idea how I'd possibly know how to take care of her in that condition. If she was at the care facility, I guess all I could do was hope that the staff could keep her safe while I stayed away. Either way, I'm horrified just thinking about it.
It really makes me feel for those who are actually in this situation right now. If that's you, help is available (link is for the US, if you're outside the US, please Google for assistance near you!).
If it were me, this would probably be what sent me over the edge. Heaven only knows I was already 99% of the way there.
Here in Washington State, which is an epicenter for the virus, our governor has closed down restaurants and bars for dine-in and asks that they continue as takeout or delivery operations until things get under control. Gatherings of 50 or more people is verboten as well. This is a serious problem which demands serious solutions, and it's good to know that our State officials are at least trying to slow down the spread of COVID-19 so that our hospitals are not overrun. Of course, this being Redneckistan, there are local restaurant owners telling the governor to eat shit and they will stay open because it's their God-given right as an American to spread the coronavirus, but that's to be expected here. If it were me personally, I wouldn't want my restaurant to be forever-remembered as ground zero for a highly infectious virus, but I guess that's why I'm not in business.
I mean, we just had a man die from COVID-19 in our local hospital, but I'm sure this is all just a hoax started by the socialist communist godless liberals, right?
I dunno. All I know for certain is that I'll be skipping the Welsh Pork Cake.
Posted on Tuesday, March 17th, 2020
I am doing as well as can be expected given everything that's been going on. I occupy my time with lots of work, lots of television, lots of movies, lots of video games, and lots of time with my cats. Basically anything to keep my brain focused on anything except the outside world. Because if I start paying attention I would probably end up with a brain hemorrhage. Especially when our president is going 180º on the coronavirus. First it was a Democratic hoax that's been overblown by the media and going to disappear any day now because he's doing such an amazing job... now it's him knowing it was a pandemic before it was even declared a pandemic... all while none of his followers are calling him out on his crap. I don't expect our government to ever be truthful about anything. We know they're fucking incapable of such a thing. But I don't expect people to roll over and not call politicians out on their bullshit, regardless of which political party they support.
Oh well. I'm getting used to being perplexed by blind party loyalty.
And getting used to getting this crap out of my head by re-watching my favorite entertainment. Last night it was What We Do In The Shadows, which is a movie I love beyond all reason...
Followed by a marathon of the television series, which is SO good because the original creators are still involved (and even make an appearance in an episode!)...
A second season is dropping on April 15th, and I cannot wait to see it.
Tonight I will be watching my second-favorite Hallmark movie of all time, A Winter Princess, which was just released on home video...
Hallmark movies are cheesy and ridiculous to extreme levels which is what makes them so entertaining. I particularly like this version of the holy-shit-it-turns-out-they're-royalty trope because the actor playing the princess (Natalie Hall) actually looks like a frickin' princess. I mean... damn is she brutally gorgeous. The story in this one is tired, but the movie is actually pretty good. Interesting to note that they filmed it at the Big White ski resort (outside of Kelowna, BC) doubling for a ski resort called "Snowden Peak" in Colorado. It is an amazing location and they (surprisingly) make pretty good use of it. From a design perspective, I loved how they made the "Snowden Peak" logo an exact duplicate of the "Big White" logo so that they didn't have to change it out in the long shots. Smart, smart production team there. Anyway... worth a look if they are playing it on the Hallmark Channel, which I have started watching again since they've been working with GLAAD to not be such homophobic idiots.
Posted on Wednesday, March 18th, 2020
Food has gotten so incredibly expensive that I do everything I can to not waste it. Wasting food is literally burning money. But now that trips to the grocery store could come with a COVID-19 bonus and shelves are bare, it's even more critical to not waste any edibles.
Late last night I pulled everything out of my cupboards and organized it by expiration date. Then I pulled everything out of my refrigerator and arranged it by expiration date. Then I worked up a meal plan to try and use as much of it as I can before it goes bad... and freeze everything else. It's making for some eclectic meal planning.
Potato salad with applesauce.
Veggie dogs with yogurt.
Macaroni and cheese with beans.
Tacos and summer salad.
Veggie burger and cheese sticks.
It's like a 5-year-old is creating the menus up in my house. Not that I'm complaining. I'm grateful that I have food to eat. And, one thing's for certain, it will really help me clean out my cupboards and refrigerator/freezer from stuff that's been sitting there for months.
Eventually... when (if?) things ever get back to normal... I'd like to do more meal planning in advance. Right now I go to the store and buy anything I can eat that's on sale, then just do whatever I can with what I end up with in my cart. That's how I end up with these weird orphan ingredients that don't really go anywhere and just take up space for months at a time. Perhaps if I could think about what meals I can make from what's on sale at the moment, I can stick to buying only the stuff I need to be getting.
In other news... yet another childhood hero has left this cold, cruel world. Lyle Waggoner passed away at age 84. I, like oh so many others, remember him as the lucky bastard who got to star opposite the incomparable Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman... my childhood crush and the most phenomenally perfect woman to have ever existed...
Photo from Warner Bros. & DC Comics
How many times did I dream of being Steve Trevor getting wrapped up in her magic lasso as a kid? Entirely too many to be healthy, I'm sure.
Even though his time on The Carol Burnett Show came before Wonder Woman, I didn't see it until it came to reruns years later...
Photo from CBS Television
The series was more memorable to me for Carol Burnett, Tim Conway, and Harvey Korman... but Vicki Lawrence and Lyle Waggoner were excellent supporting characters and it's hard to imagine The Carol Burnett Show without them.
The remainder of his career seemed to consist of appearances on shows of the day like The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Murder She Wrote, and even a spot on The Golden Girls. I don't remember him doing a regular series after, but he must have been keeping busy.
And speaking of keeping busy...
If you're in isolation and looking for something to entertain you, then a good place to start would be visiting the Great Big Story channel at YouTube. It's filled with cool and interesting videos that will lead you down a rabbit hole several hours deep. Here's a few to get you started...
Any of these Great Big Story videos could lead you to Google for more information. I end up there after every new video they release. The last video on the Kryptos statue is something I actually keep up with because I'm interested to see it get solved. Especially since clues are released from time to time, with the latest clue having been dropped back in January. I'll save you from having to Google it by pointing you to a very good Wikipedia article on Kryptos right here.
Stay vigilant, viral warriors!
Posted on Thursday, March 19th, 2020
As I probably mentioned once or twice... or a hundred times... I have killer seasonal allergies. They are pretty harsh in the Fall when all the vegetation is rotting. Summer is marginally annoying, but I don't notice it any more. Winter is my least favorite season, but the absolute best time for my allergies.
Spring... what's happening right now... is my favorite season. I love Spring.
But my allergies are at their absolute worst.
I survive it by taking more Benadryl than is probably healthy. It's the only thing that works despite it making me drowsy. Every day at work it's a fight between the allergy meds putting me to sleep and the caffeine in Coke Zero keeping me awake. At home I stop taking pills and happily cough my head off.
Today I left the office early to work at home because I was already tired, and taking another Benadryl would have done me in. I managed to work through the coughing for a couple hours before my lungs ached and I finally took a Benadryl and a bunch of cough syrup...
...and fell asleep.
Until the alarm to feed the cats... as well as the cats themselves, of course... woke me up at 6:00pm.
After making sure they had their food, I sat down with a grilled cheese sandwich to tide me over until my pizza dough defrosts for dinner. I turn on the television and this commercial is playing...
Isn't that an amazing ad? It's like a Hallmark movie in 30 seconds... but less sappy and more sweet. Man, I love great advertising!
And speaking of Hallmark... I see that they are airing a Christmas movie marathon so people who are self-isolating can re-live memories of a happier time. I've already seen them all, of course, so I'll spend any free time I have playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which releases tomorrow. OR... at midnight tonight, I'm guessing? Yeah, no. The last thing I need to do is become addicted and stay up until 3am playing a game.
Posted on Monday, March 23rd, 2020
I think I've completely given up on being worried about what the future may bring. I'm just going to roll with life day to day and see what happens. Worst case scenario is that I die broke, penniless, and alone while living on the street. If I end up with anything more than that, I'll consider it a gift.
Because, in all honesty, do I have any other option?
No. No I do not.
So why waste my sanity worrying about it?
I'm exhausted from being exhausted.
Posted on Tuesday, March 24th, 2020
As I celebrate my birthday in self-imposed isolation, I've decided that I'm too old to learn new stuff. And definitely too old to remember old stuff. I'm just going to stick to the bare minimum of stuff I need to bumble through life in the now.
I came to this life-changing new direction as I was talking to a friend who called to wish me a Happy Birthday. I was trying to remember the word "blender" and ended up saying "The thing that goes BZZZZRRRR BZZZZRRRR... you know, the drinky mixy upper thingy!" And then... THEN... I got to "clothes steamer," couldn't think of it, and ended up calling it "the PSHHHH PSHHHH thingy."
Welcome to my new onomatopoeia life.
"Onomatopoeia" meaning that you name something by what it sounds like.
So from now on, Jake and Jenny will be called "meow meows" and Alka Seltzer will be called "bloop-de-bloop fzzhhhhh." Which is pretty much what it's called anyway thanks to those "plop plop fizz fizz" commercials.
See? We're halfway there!
Now, if you're excuse me, I am going to celebrate my special day by playing games on the "pew pew bloop bloop."
Happy Birthday to me.
Posted on Thursday, March 26th, 2020
Today I was discussing an article about how Hollywood predicted a pandemic happening a decade ago. "Ten years seems like a lifetime ago. I don't even remember what I was doing back then... do you?"
The first thought that entered my head was "I barely know what I was doing a week ago!" The second thought was "Finally! My blog is actually good for something!" Because all I have to do is call up Blogography on my iPhone and there it is... on March 26, 2010 I was in Prague visiting the Hard Rock Cafe. And boy was that a great trip. Prague is one of the most beautiful cities on earth and I'm really grateful to have been able to visit...
Meanwhile, back in the plague-ridden future of today...
I've been pleasantly surprised to see the many authors, artists, filmmakers, and other creative types releasing their works to the public so everybody has distractions to keep them occupied while coronovirus-quarantined. One of my favorite discoveries has been a "Free Movie of the Week" over at Oh You Pretty Things. Last week was the documentary Helvetica, which was great. And now they are streaming Objectified through Monday. It's a documentary about designers and the objects they create for us. The draw for me was Jonathan Ive (formerly of Apple fame), but everybody in it is interesting. And the little stories around the objects being discussed are fantastic. You can watch it for free through Monday. Highly recommended.
Stay safe, y'all.
Posted on Tuesday, March 31st, 2020
I have enough groceries to last another two or three weeks. Probably longer. I may be eating pasta with frozen vegetables and cheese for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but I will survive just fine. My cats have enough prescription food for another month. I also have two bags of "regular" dry food with a year left on the expiration date (which I keep on-hand for emergencies), so Jake and Jenny are good.
Because I've got food for a while I hadn't planned on a grocery store run... until I got a call from a friend in Seattle. They were wondering if I was headed to the store any time soon and, if I was, could I please pick up some things for their elderly mother who can't risk going to the store due to health concerns in our new COVID-19 Reality. I could drop them on her back porch and they would happily Venmo me money to cover the cost.
And so... off to the grocery store for me.
I figured that since I was going, I might as well cash in a bunch of Safeway Monopoly Instant Winner Free Product Tickets and Instant Winner Discount Coupons I won before they expire. I would also pick up ingredients I need to make more of my mom's Applesauce Bread...
Well, silly me, the four things I needed were all out of stock. They did have applesauce and walnuts, but they were the tiny containers which cost a fortune, so I passed.
The lack of flour had me concerned about not being able to bake bread for much longer, so I ended up buying a loaf that I could freeze. I also bought Coke Zero, Lay's Potato Chips, and Quaker Brand Chocolate Rice Cakes. They are not things I need, but they are things I want. Surprisingly, produce was in good supply so I picked up some onion, garlic, cilantro, scallions, tomatoes, and tomatillos to add some nice variety to my meal planning.
Plus I bought two apples, just because it would be nice to have a fresh fruit treat in the face of armageddon.
The store had everything on my friend's mom's list except paper towels and toilet paper, of course, but I had some extra rolls to stick in with her groceries so it was all good. Most of the things she wanted were prepared foods like soups and boxed/frozen meals, all of which were in good supply.
Atmosphere at the store was generally cheery. People didn't seem overly-angsty or angry. A few people with facemasks and gloves and everybody trying to keep their distance... but otherwise it was just like any other shopping day.
Except I won free AAA batteries, free cooking spray, and a free sesame bagel playing Safeway Monopoly, so that was a bonus. And these days I'll take as many bonuses as I can get, thanks.
Tonight I continued my Quentin Tarantino movie marathon, but I watched only one Tarantino film, Jackie Brown. That way I can have Kill Bill parts 1 and 2 as a double feature tomorrow night...
Jackie Brown is an adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel Rum Punch, a book I ran out and bought immediately after finding out it was the basis for this amazing movie. Surprisingly, the movie follows the book fairly closely. There's some elements jettisoned from the secondary characters out of necessity, but Jackie's story is pretty much left intact. She's an airline flight attendant running drugs for the wrong people and just trying to get by in life and get out of a life of crime. It's really smart and surprisingly funny in spots. What's nice about reading the book after seeing the movie is that you can imagine Tarantino's version of the characters while you read plus get additional details as to everybody's back-story and motivations. Rum Punch is a sequel to another Elmore Leonard novel called The Switch, which is also very much worth reading (which could be said of most everything Leonard ever wrote).
And because the prequel to Jackie Brown was The Switch and because that book had been adapted into a movie called Life of Crime (starring Jennifer Aniston and Tim Robbins), I decided to watch it to complete my double feature since I hadn't seen it before (iTunes $7.99)...
Surprisingly, it's a decent movie! I mean, not Jackie-Brown-level-great, but still worth a look. The plot is the same as Ruthless People in that a wealthy woman is kidnapped and held for ransom only to have an adulterer husband who wants her dead anyway and refuses to pay. Ordell Robie is played by Mos Def instead of Samuel L. Jackson... and Louis Gara is played by John Hawkes instead of Robert DeNiro... so there's a considerable adjustment you have to make mentally, and yet there are certainly worse actors you could have cast as younger versions of the originals! The movie is definitely worth a watch if you're a fan of Elmore Leonard and Jackie Brown (though I thought Ruthless People was more entertaining).
And now I think it's time for a crisp apple and a Quaker Brand Chocolate Rice Cake to top off my evening's events. Good thing I ended up at the grocery store today.
Posted on Wednesday, April 1st, 2020
My mom loved peanut butter. She would be happy to eat a peanut butter sandwich for lunch and dinner every day. When her memory was failing her, I saw her eat them for breakfast on more than one occasion. Whenever she was bored and hungry, a peanut butter sandwich was her go-to snack. I once remember her laughing while reading an article out loud to me which had somebody saying that peanut butter breaks down after three months and shouldn't be eaten. For a jar of peanut butter to last her more than two weeks was a rarity.
After I had to move her out of the house, I threw out a jar with a few spoonfuls left in the bottom and stopped buying peanut butter.
That was almost four years ago.
Yesterday when I was buying groceries for a friend's mom, one of the items on her list was peanut butter. It sounded delicious after so long not having it, so I bought a jar. Mom preferred creamy JIF, but she would buy Extra Crunchy JIF too because she was happy to eat it as an occasional change of pace and knew that it was what I preferred.
And, oh yeah, that loaf of bread I bought yesterday? I thought I would try the new Franz "Keto" bread in case I couldn't find flour to bake my own. But before I stuck the loaf in the the freezer, I pulled out two slices and put them in a baggie to give it a try with lunch today. People were raving about the stuff, so why not? Well, to start with, there's the $6 price tag. Secondly, the loaf is a small.
Turns out there's a third reason why not... it tastes like crap.
Maybe it's because I'm used to the delicious breads I bake, but this dry, tasteless, boring "Keto" bread was awful. Don't get me wrong... if you can't have carbs, it's definitely better than nothing... but I will not be buying it again, that's for sure. Even when loaded with tons of Extra Chunky JIF peanut butter I had a tough time choking it down.
As tonight is my third night of Quentin Quarantino I watched the next two films in his catalog... Kill Bill Volumes 1 & 2...
Likely one of the most stylish revenge flicks ever put to film, Kill Bill features Uma Thurman hacking her way through her former fellow assassins until she gets to her former boss, Bill. It's a brilliant and bloody spectacle with amazing fight sequences. The movie features cool wire-work which gives it a magical quality... but not so much that it feels surreal. The dialogue is pure Tarantino and, because he decided to cut the movie in two rather than cut down on the dialogue, it makes for a good balance.
Like the balance between my delicious homemade bread and this here JIF peanut butter I'm eating while blogging.
Can't believe I waited four years.
Posted on Thursday, April 2nd, 2020
I worked extra hours over the weekend and through Wednesday so I could take the rest of the week off. It's time for my seasonal cleaning ordeal to prepare for Spring houseguests. This year, thanks to COVID-19 quarantining, I won't be having any houseguests until June or July, at earliest, but I still want to get a jump on my filthy home.
Well... it's filthy to me. It's not like I ever let my house get overrun with dirt and grime. It's just the little things that bug me. Walls need to be wiped down... rooms need to be torn apart so I can scrub the floors... books and furniture needs to be pulled out and cleaned... windows need to be washed... that kind of thing. I decided today I would jump on the kitchen when I fed the cats at 7:00am, then work my way to the living room.
I went back to bed after feeding Jake and Jenny, then slept and lounged aroud until 10:00am. Then ate a late breakfast. Then read a book on world mythology.
I wanted to beat myself up over wasting half my day, but I so rarely get time to do what I want that I decided to congratulate myself instead. Cleaning can commence tomorrow.
Originally I was going to have my Quarantino Double Feature be Tarantino's Grindhouse: Death Proof with Robert Rodriguez's Grindhouse: Planet Terror (since they were originally released that way), but I was anxious to get to Inglourious Basterds, so I resisted...
Now, Death Proof is just an excuse to have a car chase with tons of stunts worked into it. There's not a lot of brainpower that the viewer has to summon. Kurt Russell is a sadistic bastard who picks a fight with the wrong women. Zoë Bell, cars, and violence ensue. Surprisingly, as is the case with most of Tarantino's films, dickhead reviewers based their critiques on what the film WAS NOT instead of WHAT IT IS. Go in with the proper mindset, and it's just a fun thrill ride that's a terrific movie experience to have. Go in expecting Shakespeare and you're just an idiot. Not my favorite Tarantino flick, but I do like it a lot.
Inglourious Basterds, on the other hand, is escapist revisionist history cinematic genius. I love this film to an unhealthy degree. I've seen it at least twenty times. After Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill, it's likely my favorite Quentin film. But there are days I like Basterds better than both of them. From the gorgeous cinematography and brilliant performances to the fantastical story and crackling dialogue. It's the complete Tarantino package all wrapped up in a war movie, and an experience I never get tired of. God bless Christof Waltz for giving Quentin his movie.
And God bless us all as the Coronavirus death toll keeps climbing. Due to our complete lack of preparation and our government completely ignoring and denying what was happening, the deaths here in the USA yesterday were double the worst daily death toll from the flu. And we're just getting started. The highly contagious nature of COVID-19 along with extended incubation period and overall lethalness... not to mention dumbass governors who are still not quarantining the public at large to prevent spreading... are all going to make sure of it.
Posted on Wednesday, April 8th, 2020
I have tried and tried and tried to wear watches. Thanks to my bony arms, I just can't do it. They are bulky and uncomfortable and I never seem to be able to get used to having one on me. I have one watch that my sister gave me which I love and wear on special occasions, but that's it.
As you can imagine, this is incredibly frustrating because I would love to have an Apple Watch. They look to be an incredible tool and I am really interested in the heart rate monitor (which can detect irregular rhythms) and ECG functionality.
Problem is that I know what would happen if I got one. I would buy it... try to get used to it... fail... then end up selling it. Which is what happened with my Pebble watch (remember them?). That's an expensive experience to relive.
It might be easier if Apple Watch were thinner so it didn't stick up so much. Or narrower so I could bend my wrist without noticing it so much. But all that power comes with a need for hefty real estate, so that's probably not happening any time soon.
But I still want one.
Enter Wyze Band.
Wyze is a company that makes some cheap technology products which also happen to be very, very good. Their cameras are so amazing that they seem almost too good to be true. I have a half-dozen of them that I use to supplement my wired and wireless security system. And because they're just $20, they are the cameras I also glue to the top of the cat shelters I build so I can keep an eye on Fake Jake...
I also have Wyze Plugs (smart internet-controlled electrical plugs), Wyze Bulbs (smart lightbulbs), and Wyze Sense (motion and contact sensors for home security). If I didn't already have smart-locks on my doors, I'd absolutely be buying Wyze Locks. And that's not all... Wyze recently released a Wyze Scale (which I'll be reviewing later) and Wyze Band. And since it was just $25, I thought I might as well get it. If, for no other reason, to see if I could train myself to wear it so that maybe I'd be more confident in buying an Apple Watch.
As with all Wyze products, it's really good quality. It's thick, which I have trouble with, but it's also pretty narrow, which I like...
The Wyze Band itself has a clock (of course) plus heart, sleep, and activity monitors, a running monitor, Alarms, smart home controls, and Alexa built-in. For $25, it's pretty darn capable. And stylish. To a point. Unlike Apple Watch which is designed to be as smooth as possible, Wyze Band had all kinds of seams and nooks and crannies which can collect dust and dirt. The seam around the display is pretty big (relatively) and would have really benefitted from being made flush, as mine started getting dust in it almost immediately.
Controlling all the Wyze Band functions is pretty straight-forward. You use swipes and taps to move between apps, and there's a small "home bar" at the bottom of the screen which is used to exit apps (short press) or activate Alexa (long press). The Alexa integration is pretty incredible if a bit flaky (it uses your phone's cellular data connection to get to the internet). I can tell Wyze Band to turn on a light at my home when I'm away... it will work just fine and I can see the light turn on... but it will respond with ""Sorry, I don't understand" even though it obviously did. I have no idea why the feedback is so poor when the implementation is working great, but maybe that will be addressed in an update. Regular Alexa functions... like asking a question... works flawlessly every time...
There is a "Shortcut" feature which allows you to bundle a bunch of actions into a single command. Right now you don't have a lot of options here... it's only other Wyze products which can be input... but I'd imagine there will be more options in the future.
The heart rate monitor seems capable, though I can't really vouch for its accuracy without having an actual heart rate monitor to compare it with. I have a relatively high resting heart rate (I seriously need to start exercising) so this feature is appealing. Though I don't know if there are any alerts if there's a problem. You can measure your heart rate on demand from Wyze Band, or look at your reading trend all graphed out on the Wyze iPhone app.
The "Steps" feature will count the number of steps you take... kinda like a FitBit. I'm not terribly interested in this (though I should be!) but it seems kinda-sorta-accurate from what I can tell. Wave your arm around enough and you'll be getting "steps" without getting up from the couch, but the margin of error for stuff like that is probably small if you are actually going for walks and such.
There is a "Find" feature which will play a tone on your iPhone when you can't find it... though you have to (obviously) be in bluetooth range for it to work. You can also use your iPhone to find your Wyze Band, but it's almost useless because all the Wyze Band can do is vibrate since it doesn't have a speaker. No idea how you're supposed to "hear" a vibration happening between the couch cushions, but it's there if you want it.
The last function for Wyze Band is a weather app. At first I found it pretty useless because I had to scroll through several other apps to get to it, but once I found out that I could rearrange them, it was a lot more useful. If there were a way of displaying the time on the weather app, that would become my default screen. It seems silly that this isn't an option, because the main clock face has a huge swatch of unused space in the middle! A big blue worthless blobby thing that could be displaying information! (I customized it to be a photo of my cats instead of the blue blob). I dunno. Maybe there's a way to make this happen and I just haven't found it yet?
There are some down-sides, however. First of all, I've read that unless the Wyze app is running on your phone, the Alexa integration fails. Since my iPhone doesn't seem to have a way of forcing an app to stay running in the background, I'm assuming that iPhone will close it out due to inactivity at some point, and Alexa will be gone until I restart. Another problem is that Apple Health integration was promised to work out of the box. But after failing to figure out how to make this happen, I see that it's "coming soon." Well, BOOOOOOOOO! I'm increasingly loving how Apple Health integrates with my health chart at my doctor's office so he can monitor my activity any time he thinks he needs to do so. Adding the heart rate data was a big selling point for Wyze Band to me.
Another down-side is the iPhone app. On the tiny screen of the Wyze Band, the visual interface is pretty good. Easy to navigate and operate. But on my iPhone, which has a much bigger screen and touch-surface area, they decided to not take advantage of any of that real estate... instead they inexplicably just blow up the watch's interface...
This makes absolutely NO sense. Just give me my damn data! Don't wrap it up in a cutesy interface that has no damn business being on a phone! There's is no reason... absolutely none... for Wyze to have done this other than they could. It makes no logical sense why you would force people to swipe and tap through all this crap when you have plenty of room for something better, and I hope to God that they revisit this in an app update.
In the end, Wyze Band is a fairly impressive product for just $25. More of a FitBit competitor than an Apple Watch competitor, it's good at what it's designed to do and yet another feather in the cap for Wyze. Considering a FitBit is minimum four times the price, it's hard not to recommend Wyze Band if you're in the market for "smart band."
Will this lead to me eventually getting an Apple Watch? That's the goal. Right now I am mostly able to ignore Wyze Band, which is a good start. Whether that will be the case long-term I honestly don't know.
Posted on Thursday, April 9th, 2020
It's funny the things you miss.
Today I had a massive craving for these date-filled soft oatmeal cookies I used to eat as a kid. I haven't had them in at least a decade... maybe two... I'm not even sure if they sell them any more. Usually I would hop in my car and head to the grocery store so I could see if I could find them. But I'm trying to be a good citizen and stay socially quarantined, so I just added them to my grocery list for when I'm out of food and am forced to go get more.
In lieu of the cookies I had some Eggo toaster-waffles.
It's weird to think that we're a month into quarantine and there's still weeks to go if we want to keep from overrunning our hospitals with people dying from the Cornavirus. Every time I turn around there's some promising news about vaccine trials or drugs that may help with recovery... but it's all hypothetical until it isn't, so it's not like quarantine is ending tomorrow.
The thing I find both surprising and totally not surprising is all these churches encouraging their parishoners to break quarantine and go to church. I guess filling that donation plate is more important than keeping people safe. It wouldn't bother me so much if we could somehow tag these people so that if they end up catching COVID-19 and need hospitalization they can be denied for being fucking assholes. That would free up hospital beds for those in need who didn't actively try to get infected.
Well I guess that's all she wrote for the Coronavirus!
And it's about time. I really want some of those cookies.
Posted on Monday, April 13th, 2020
I had big plans for today's post but I just can't Monday today. Everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong, and I just need to plug into Animal Crossing: New Horizons for a few hours and decompress.
And speaking of Animal Crossing...
My terraforming efforts to reshape my island into something I can live with is proceedingly nicely. This is an island map that I drew up last night in order to plan how everything fits together and so I could figure out where all my residents and buildings have to move...
I was originally going to build a literal Disneyland... which you can kinda see from the arrangement of my map. But without a train to circle it all, the endeavor seemed pointless so I went my own way...
City of Daveport was Main Street
Lord Dave Island was the "Hub"
Brick Beach was Tomorrowland
Dutch Gardens was Adventureland
Cemetery was New Orleans Square ("Liberty Square" in WDW)
Museum Square was Fantasyland
Forest Park was Frontierland... etc.
And my original inspiration (which is actually "Magic Kingdom" from Walt Disney World)...
It's changed quite a lot since my original idea. You can still kinda sorta see where it was though.
And, with that, I'm off to Fantasyland. Or, er, "Museum Square" as it were.
Posted on Tuesday, April 14th, 2020
As I mentioned when I reviewed the cool and capable little $25 "Wyze Band" fitness wearable, I would be reviewing the new "Wyze Scale" later. Well, it's now later.
I am not somebody who has ever really struggled with their weight. When I was a kid I was impossibly skinny no matter what I did or how much I ate. As I've gotten older I've definitely managed to fill out but, as I discovered when I had to go on a carb-restricted diet for a while, the weight can fall of scarily easily. I remember crying on the bathroom scale because every day I was losing weight with no end in sight. I did not want to go back to that skinny kid I was in high school. Eventually I was able to eat carbs again and quickly put on too much weight. Oh well.
Even so, I'm a big fan of Wyze products and decided to buy their $20 "smart scale" despite the fact that I never really use a scale...
And why did I part with $20 for something I haven't historically had much use for?
First of all, it does more than just weigh you. It also sends low-level electricity through your body for a "Bio-electric Impedance Analysis" of your physical make-up. Because of the way that electricity flows through muscle and fat, the resulting measurement gives you a fairly accurate body fat percentage. This is used to calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI), Lean Body Mass (LBM), Muscle Mass, Body Water Percentage, Protein Percentage, Visceral Fat, Bone Mass, Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), and Metabolic Age. I have no idea what half that stuff is, but...
Second of all, it integrates with Apple Health right out of the box. Which means all those calculations I don't understand can be available to my doctor if he ever needs them because I have Apple Health syncing with my medical chart.
If there were a third thing, it would be that Wyze Scale can also measure your heart rate. Something my Wyze Band already does.
I have two other scales. One is a classic physical spring model, the other is a cheap digital scale. Both of which my mom bought and I inherited. Comparing my weight on all three, the Wyze scale and spring scale were almost identical. The cheap digital scale had me almost a pound heavier. Given that it is a cheap digital scale, I'm just going to say that the Wyze Scale is accurate since it matches up with the my "tried-and-true" original spring scale.
I have no way of knowing if the "Bio-electric Impedance Analysis" measurements and calculations are accurate. My guess is that they are not perfect compared to what you'd get at the doctor's office, but they are likely accurate enough to get a general picture of what those readings might be.
Wyze Scale syncs with the Wyze App when you open it via Bluetooth. I put the scale in my personal bathroom which is two rooms down from my bedroom and the app had no problem reading it from there. I couldn't get a reading downstairs, but Bluetooth does have its limits, of course.
And then we get to the Wyze app for Wyze Scale... which is abysmally bad. Parts of it are even worse than the abysmally bad Wyze Band app, if you can believe it. Once again Wyze has decided to dumb down and spread out the information as if you were viewing it on a tiny watch face instead of a frickin' phone and it's infuriating. I mean, at a glance, the home screen is fine. Kinda. Well, no, not actually...
Just look at all that wasted space! Holy crap! They could have easily put everything on one screen, but nope. Once again we get this idiotic tiny-watch-face-screen mentality that plagued the app for Wyze Band!
I mean just look at THIS...
Wyze could have listed every damn reading that the scale calculates in that massive blank space. But instead we get ONE reading floating in the middle of a blank screen? You have to swipe to get to all the others! And that's not even the worst part... see where you have to click "See More" because the text explaining the reading is cut-off? There must be a book's worth of text left to display, right? Nope!
Five lines were truncated. Five lines! and they displayed them NOT in a link to another page... BUT ON THE SAME DAMN PAGE! Seriously, Wyze, WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?!? Why in the hell didn't they just display the full text on the original page? And it's not just this "Muscle Mass" page... IT'S EVERY FUCKING PAGE!
Good Lord. Just display ALL the information on the home screen. There's plenty of room for it. And then have people click on each reading if they want more information. That's like APP DESIGN 101, isn't it? Are users really going to need to read this every fucking time they want to know their reading? I'm betting not. Unless they have 24-hour amnesia or something. And where is a graph of my data over time like you gave me for my weight? This is senseless.
But here's the real kicker. How the fuck do I know what a Muscle Mass of 130.2 even means? Oh... that's right... I'm not a doctor, so I don't! Wyze couldn't even be bothered to say what a "normal" range for me would be. I had to Google that shit. And even then I had to pull out the calculator, because the way that everybody else on earth calculates Muscle Mass is to display it as a percentage! Wyze gives it to you as a weight. When I divide it by my weight, I get 71%. The desirable muscle mass for men my age is 73% to 86%. And so... I need more muscle or I am going to die, I guess? Who knows. But holy crap. Wyze just drops the ball here badly with their app. It's so bad that I'm dangerously close to saying their $20 scale is a bad buy. Hopefully Wyze takes a seriously hard look at their app and figures out how the hell to make something useful out of it. Because right now? Horrifically bad.
As I get older and have to deal with the inevitable host of problems that come with age, I am more and more interested in using available technology to keep track of what's happening with my body and (hopefully) give me a health picture so I can stave off potential problems. With Wyze Scale (and, alas, Google), for example, I now know that my muscle mass is below where it should be and maybe I should do something about that while I am still able. It's just such a shame that Wyze makes it so damn difficult to use the data that Wyze Scale and Wyze Band are collecting. Technology should be making my life easier, not harder.
In the end, my experience with Wyze has me appreciating all the more how Apple is approaching the same idea to their products. They are all about collecting data for your health then simplifying it and explaining it so you can make positive changes to improve your life. Wyze just collects the data, spits it out at you in difficult, confusing, and inexplicable ways, and leaves it to you to figure out what in the hell to do with it.
But, hey, Wyze Scale is $20. Wyze Band is $25. Apple is considerably more expensive, so bravo to Wyze for at least trying to make the tech affordable... if not understandable. But man is it disappointing that the app for their cameras shows so much pollish when the newer apps are just so bad. Surely they are working on improving things, right? I sure hope so.
If Wyze Band and Wyze Scale has done nothing else for me, they've made me really want to get to the point that I can wear an Apple Watch. I look at the amazing things it can do to help me manage my health and it's almost a no-brainer. Except for that "I hate wearing watches" thing. And the price tag, of course.
Posted on Wednesday, April 15th, 2020
This morning I was awakened at 5am by the sound of a cat puking. Since this happens so rarely, I immediately grab my iPhone so I can use the flashlight on it to see who's sick. Turns out nobody is sick. Jake just had a hairball and, of all the places in my home, he decided to puke it up in my bedroom. Thanks, buddy!
Guess I need to step up my brushing with the Furminator.
And now for something entirely not cat-related.
I have been craving bread for a week. But I haven't baked any because 1) I don't want to use up what precious little flour I have left... and 2) I am too tired after work for a long process of multiple rises. And so... tonight I decided to just whip up a loaf of single-rise "wet bread" which doesn't taste as amazing as my beloved SourJo bread, but it does taste like bread. AND I NEEDED IT!
Bread. At last.
Dutch oven bread always gives me the nicest crust. I used to have a cast-iron Dutch oven that I inherited, which I hated. Eventually I replaced it with an Emile Henry potato pot after a friend and I were discussing bread and she recommended it. The thing is made in France and was really expensive... $100 I think?... but it's so perfect for bread. The reason being that "regular" dutch ovens are deep with a shallow lid. It can be tough to get in and out of it when you're dealing with a "wet loaf" that doesn't hold its shape and may be sticky. The potato pot is less deep but has a tall lid. So there's room to rise, but it's easy to work with. Apparently so many people ended up using this potato pot for bread that it's been rebranded "bread & potato pot" by Emile Henry (a company founded 1850 in Burgundy!).
Which is all a convoluted way to say that my Dutch oven is a French oven, I guess.
UPDATE: The pot is indeed pricey. The red one I have is now $120 at Amazon, but they have a black one for $110 as well. As you can see, the pot is split in the middle instead of the top so that the lid is deeper and the base is more shallow, making it much nicer for bread-making...
And it also does a bang-up job of cooking potatoes, as it was originally designed for.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I just ate dinner and am going to have a slice of bread for dessert!
Posted on Thursday, April 16th, 2020
You'd think that the time I'm not spending hanging out with friends and traveling would be spent doing something constructive. But, alas, it's not to be. You'd think I'd at least make the effort to learn a foreign language... or even clean my kitchen... but you'd think wrong.
Instead I've been playing Animal Crossing, watching movies, sleeping, and being otherwise lazy. For a month now.
But, hey, maybe next week?
And now this...
I am open to a lot of different ideas, philosophies, and beliefs. I try to have an open mind and an open heart and accept that I don't know everything (even though I obviously do). The hope is that by trying to understand why somebody thinks the way they do it will lead to a better understanding of my fellow humans. Even ideas which I am personally opposed to I try to understand and respect. But there are certain no-go areas for me. Bigotry, racism, homophobia... persecution of minorities, the poor, and disenfranchised... to name a few.
Privatization of the USPS is another no-go area. There is literally NOTHING you can tell me that will make me change my mind that this is a horrific idea. Politicians have screwed over, exploited, and villainized our postal service for decades. All of it is bullshit of the highest order... often to distract from larger problems. Because just like the fire department, our mail system is an essential service for a host of very important reasons, and privatizing it so that eventually only wealthy individuals or powerful corporations can afford to send mail is an abomination. The very notion that privatization will make the USPS "more efficient" or "cheaper" or "better" is laughably absurd, and you can just keep the fuck away from me with this idiocy. Privatization would eliminate mail as we know it and disenfranchise a goodly chunk of Americans when they eventually become deemed "unprofitable."
This Twitter thread is essential reading for every American...
By Dingus J McGee, ESQ*, OBE*
Okay, I've been with USPS for several years now, so here's my big dumb #SaveThePostOffice thread. I don't know how many tweets it's gonna take for me to ramble through my thoughts, so stick with me. Or don't, whatever.
First things first: we're not taxpayer funded. At all. Sure, we get government monopolies on certain things of value (and things like cheap loan terms), but the budget isn't by the taxpayer. It's by the services provided. If you buy stamps, you fund us. If you don't, you don't.
Second: our financial issues, while not ENTIRELY from the 2006 PAEA bill that required 70 years of retiree prefunds, are mostly artificial. They would not exist if not for a congressional lame duck bill passed mostly by a certain political party on their way out the power door
Third: We're in the constitution. Literally. You know that thing you occasionally pretend to love when it serves your interests? It's explicitly in there. We're legally required to exist.
Fourth: Certain nameless people want us privatized because we're worth a lot of $. Even without the physical materials (truck fleet, offices, computer networks, etc), we have billions in proprietary data (route sequences, mailing lists, logistics, etc) that businesses would love
Fifth: You can be certain, if given the chance, certain politicians would love to GIVE AWAY this infrastructure, a la the $70 billion in digital broadcast licenses they gave away for free to Telecom companies in 1996 with no strings attached.
So, why should you not want this? Well, for starters, if you're not in a major city, you've been subsidized by one via the post office for decades. It's a lot cheaper to mail and deliver in dense population centers. But we charge the same in rural Delaware, too.
Why? Because the idea is everyone in America, no matter where they are, should have the same, guaranteed access to a valuable line of communication. A birthday card from across country is as valuable as a wedding invite from one town over.
Now, no one likes their junk mail, but you know what? Carrying 4 Geico ads and a Subway coupon in my satchel with your card is the reason the latter only cost $0.50 to cross the country. And if you'd like to name a cheaper way to ship a book or a record, I'd like to hear it.
But the one thing I pride myself on the most in terms of service is something you can guarantee won't happen in privatized, for-profit model. UPS, FedEx, Amazon, DHL, etc ALL dump packages on our docks every single day. Ones they say aren't profitable. We take them the last mile
Why? Because Every. Single. Address. In. America. deserves service. Even places accessible by only boat and plane. They'll be cut off in a second in a private market. Heck, it's only because of our last mile service that you don't realize the private sector already cut you out.
I work in a position called a "T6," or a "Carrier Technician." Put simply: USPS delivers 6 days a week, and employees work 5 days. For every 5 routes in an office, there's a T6 to carry the 6th day on each of those 5 routes who have a regular the other 5 days. Full-time position
In my case, that's 5 routes, averaging 700 addresses each, totaling 3,500 addresses, and approx 10K names and faces. Names and faces that I recognize, communicate with regularly, and can identify the forwarding information for, without even consulting a reference sheet.
I know which senior residents would like their mail delivered to the door, even if they have a curbside box. I know who needs their packages (often for home business) tucked into a corner behind the garage. Who is going to need an extra minute to get to the door to sign.
I know whose lawns to not cut across, whose dogs want to bite, and whose want to play. I know whose day will be made brighter with a short convo, and who wants me to go away. I know who is bad at checking the mail, and who to call for a wellness check on if it starts to pile up
For millions across the country, we're the only face they often see all day, even before social distancing. Their connection to the world around them, even if it's just for a comment on the weather, or to be a two minute ear for a rant about "kids these days."
Read it. Then go buy some stamps. I've bought a load of stamps and I send maybe two or three letters a year. But I rely on the USPS for RECEIVING mail every day. This is a critical time for a service so important that most people don't even have to give it a second thought. But rest assured that you will miss the USPS when it's gone.
Posted on Friday, April 17th, 2020
Usually I work on the weekends so Friday is just another day to me. But given that my charity work has ground to a halt, my travel has ended, and I spend no time hanging out with friends, I'm in this bizarre place where my weekend is actually going to be a weekend without work. At first I was going to do something crazy... like absolutely nothing... but then I decided I would rather catch up on housework. So now Friday is the same sucky day it always is with no weekend to look forward to.
The good news is that Disney released another one of these amazingly adorable Frozen shorts...
I like the baby snowmen better than I like Olaf!
So I guess that's something?
Posted on Monday, April 20th, 2020
So... not a great day.
The volunteer work I do has been suspended indefinitely. No travel through all of 2020 and while there's a hope we can get things back together in 2021, it's looking grim indeed. Which is pretty much where we're all at right now, I think.
Sure this opens up some free time I could use for other endeavors, but it also takes away some of my purpose for being on this earth. I suppose I could look into other organizations where I could donate my time (and maybe I will eventually), but I don't know that my heart would be in it. Not like it has been for the past five years.
I guess we'll see. I try to remain hopeful.
Because life goes on.
I've been doing everything I can to avoid going to the grocery store. For the second time in a month, I took everything out of my cupboards and took inventory of my freezer and refrigerator to see what I can make from what I already have.
There's a lot of pasta. A goodly amount of cheese with a month or two on the expiration date. A surprising amount of canned beans. A couple cans of soup. Not much else by way of ingredients. I do have a stash of boxed rice dishes. And a half-dozen frozen meals. I think I could get away with another week... possibly two... before having to go shopping.
Tonight my tomatillos felt ripe enough that I could pull out the ingredients I've been saving to make one of my favorite recipes I got from the meal service I've been using (Martha Stewart and Marley Spoon, which you can read about here). I had never cooked with tomatillos before, and have fallen in love with them. They make a great green sauce. I bought some weeks ago, but they were pretty tough. And so I kept them in the refrigerator in the hopes they would take their time to ripen so I could have something nice as my food supply ran out.
And tonight was the night...
That's "Cheesy Baked Quesadillas with Green Enchilada Salsa"... but the filling is actually a mix of canned refried beans, onion, garlic, and taco seasoning with cheese. It's pretty fantastic, as you can imagine. My leftover cilantro and green onion had not held up that great, but I managed to salvage enough to drop on top with some crema and more cheese.
'Dillas on a Monday evening of the apocalypse won't compensate for what I lost today... but it's a good enough start, I suppose.
Posted on Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020
Remember when computer operating systems started allowing multitasking... but the hardware wasn't really capable of handling it, so it never really worked right? You'd start burning a CD and switch to a word processor, then have the burn fail while you're writing because the computer didn't have the resources to do both at the same time... that kind of thing?
That's been me recently. I am trying to do way too much all at the same time without the mental resources to manage it, and I'm starting to worry that my multitasking abilities are going to fail me.
This was made perfectly clear this morning when I took out the garbage and didn't realize that I did it in my underwear. There I was... climbing into the shower... and realized that I didn't take off any pants. That's when I was all "Did I just take out the garbage in my underwear?" Which, of course, was easy enough to verify on the security cameras. And sure enough...
I should really try to get more sleep.
Posted on Tuesday, April 28th, 2020
My allergies are not improving. In previous years my body manages to adjust after Spring starts springing. As I get older, it takes longer. But usually in early April I start to feel better. It's almost May and I am feeling worse. And last night in the middle of my geek documentary marathon, I ran out of the only thing that works... Benadryl.
I thought perhaps I could make it until I was done with work, but at 10am I couldn't take my running nose and itchy eyes any more and decided to put on my mask and head to the grocery store for more. While there I picked up some groceries which, much to my surprise, included toilet paper, paper towels, and flour! The only thing on my list I couldn't get was yeast and Comet cleanser scrub. I forgot to check and see if rice noodles were available this time (last time I found it strange that they were out of stock).
Grocery shopping was a horrific experience thanks to one dumbass who was proudly proclaiming that he was an asshole who wasn't going to wear a mask. Which, fine, whatever, you do you. Right now there's no law here about masks being required even though they help halt the spread of the Coronavirus, so be an idiot if you want to. But then he leaned into me as he was passing and said "You know, it's okay if you catch it!" which was rage-inducing. THIS is the kind of thing I worry about when forced to leave my home. There is ALWAYS going to be something out there... now it's COVID-19, later it will be something else... and some people are just going to be fucking assholes when it comes to the greater good and protecting their fellow citizens, friends, family, and neighbors. Just like drunk drivers, their stupidity hurts us all.
I did not react well to this particular asshole and said something I really shouldn't have. It was all downhill from there as I attempted to curb my allergies by taking way too much Benadryl. Not a fun day to be sure.
And so... $190 spent restocking my pantry, refrigerator, and shelves for another month or two.
At which point I'll have to go out amongst the assholes again. Wheee.
Posted on Wednesday, April 29th, 2020
There was a time I loved going to the movies. Me and my friends meeting up to catch some Summer blockbuster that I'd been dying to see. Sitting in front of that big screen waiting to be blown away by the lush sounds and the smell of popcorn. It was an experience like no other.
But then my attitude started changing as time marched on. There's always been rude people at the cinema, but it just keeps getting worse and worse as society degrades further and further. And once mobile phones became commonplace, the experience became unbearable. I actually blogged about it ten years ago when I went to see the Angle Jolie thriller Salt while in Chicago. The entire fucking film was spent looking at a sea of mobile phones glowing in the darkness...
I was livid.
Going to the movies is not cheap. And now that movie studios are demanding a bigger cut of the films they release, theater owners have to compensate for their losses by charging huge amounts of money for popcorn, candy, and drinks.
At this point I downright loathe going to a movie theater. You pay absurd amounts of money to be constantly distracted by rude assholes. It sucks.
So I don't go to the cinema any more. I'm done. Occasionally I make exceptions so I can see a Marvel Studios movies before any spoilers leak... or will go to hang out with my friends if there's a movie they feel strongly about seeing in a theater... but that's about it. Even then I never go to a "regular" theater but instead go to the "premium" theater in the hopes of having a decent experience.
The beauty of it all is that I really don't have to go to the theater any more. Not when I have a theater of my own at home. I've got a big-screen TV with a great picture and really good surround sound. Popcorn and drinks at my house are dirt-cheap. There's no assholes to spoil my movie-viewing experience unless I invite them over. It's perfect, really. I love watching movies at home! And, thanks to digital downloads, I can get them the minute they are released! No trudging to the store for a DVD or waiting for it to arrive in the mail.
The only down-side is that it takes months for the movies to be released digitally because first they have to have a theatrical release. At least they did.
Thanks to people having to quarantine and movie theaters having to close, movie studios are having to release movies to home video without a theatrical release. It's expensive, sure... $20 to rent the movie... but is it really more expensive than going to the cinema? After you buy a ticket and get gouged for popcorn and a Coke, you're likely in for $20 anyway. And if you are a family of four? A $20 rental is far, far less expensive than going to the theater.
Right now there is a huge dust-up over the movie Trolls: World Tour because Universal Pictures claims that the film made $100 million without ever having seen the inside of a theater. This disclosure made the AMC theater chain so livid that they quickly banned all Universal films from being shown in their cinemas (once they reopen).
Which is about the most stupid thing they could have possibly done given how it's going to be a long while before people are comfortable sitting in a theater with a bunch of people who may be carrying the plague.
Furthermore, anybody wanting to see a Universal film is going to have to go to AMC's competition... or not bother seeing it in theaters at all. They should have been understanding as to why Universal had to do a home-rental release to get their money back on a film that was being lost in the Coronavirus shuffle. And why they had to release the non-box-office numbers so they could assure stockholders that they weren't losing money with their decision. Universal literally didn't have a choice here!
And, who knows, Universal may very well end up saying "Okay then. Fuck it. We don't need theaters anyway!" and just release their movies directly to consumers at $20 a pop rental. Or even $40 a pop if it's a huge expensive movie. I'd gladly pay $40 to watch Black Widow and all the Marvel Studios movies at home! Hell, I'd pay $75 if it meant I didn't have to go to a movie theater to see it on opening night! The theater experience is so shitty now-a-days that I'd do just about anything to avoid it. Whether that means waiting months (for movies I think I like) or paying more up-front (for movies I know I'll like), it doesn't really matter.
One thing is for certain... when this whole COVID-19 thing is over (if it's ever over!), it's doubtful we will ever go back to how things used to be. Every decision we make is going to have to be tainted with the realization that there is a risk involved. People will have to weigh whether going to a movie theater is worth potentially being exposed to a virus or disease. On top of all the other risks that we take just by walking out the door.
It's a hard truth for AMC to face, I know. And I most certainly don't blame them for the pandemic we're all living with. They are losing money every day and I'm sure a lot of theaters will end up closing in the fallout, so I understand their frustration. The situation is sad for them and for people who love to go to the theater. But lashing out at the hand that feeds you at a time like this is just bad business. Everybody is doing the best they can to accommodate what's happening in the world right now, so let that sink in before making rash decisions... like banning movies from your theater.
People need to stop acting like it's "business as usual" when it's anything but "business as usual" right now.
Posted on Thursday, April 30th, 2020
Life doesn't hold enough pleasant surprises. All too often the surprises we get are crap. Especially lately. Take, for example, the Coronavirus. Could there have been a worse surprise for 2020? Though, given how health experts have been warning that a pandemic was nigh, I suppose the real nasty surprise was how ill-prepared that world governments have been for it actually happening.
What's nice is how people are stepping up to drop some nice surprises in our laps to make our quarantine-filled days a bit sweeter. My favorite is the bands who are either streaming old concerts for free or live-streaming new performances. Tomorrow one of my favorite contemporary bands, The 1975, is having a listening party... then on Saturday Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark is unleashing their 2019 Hammersmith Apollo show with new footage.
A lot of other bands are doing something... so check in with your favorites on social media to see if they've got something going on.
The problem is that so many of these things are starting to overlap. No sooner did I get The 1975's listening party in my calendar than Erasure announced that they would be having a "Conversation About Nothing in Particular" at the exact same time! Two of my favorite bands competing for my affections! What to do?
I'm going to try doing both.
I used to roll my eyes over movies like Mrs. Doubtfire and 27 Dresses having characters double-booked for two critical events, then letting hijinks ensue to make it somehow "funny." It's just too ridiculous to be taken seriously... even in a comedy. Who does something that idiotic?
Apparently the answer is me. I do something that idiotic.
Wish me luck!
Posted on Friday, May 1st, 2020
It just sucks. It sucks so hard.
Posted on Monday, May 4th, 2020
Look, if I end up contracting the Coronavirus and die, so be it. I've been as cautious as I can be. I've had a decent life. Shit happens. I'm good to go.
But if I end up dying because I was attacked by a murder hornet? Yeah, just kill me now. I have no desire to wait around for that.
As you have undoubtedly read, so-called "murder hornets" have reached the United States and... in what I can only describe as a fucking horror story and just my luck... where they've landed IS RIGHT HERE IN MY HOME OF WASHINGTON STATE!
Disturbing photo by Yasunori Koide via Wikipedia Commons
My reaction to the news?
You know that moment in Galaxy Quest where Sigourney Weaver finds out they have to run through "The Chompers" in order to keep the ship from being blown up? And her line is "Well fuck that!" but they changed the film from an R-rating to a PG-rating, so she ends up saying "Well screw that!" but her mouth is still saying the original line?
It was like that.
Murder hornets (which actually aren't called that anywhere but here in the USA where absolutely everything has to be sensationalized) are 2-inch long death-bringers from the sky who get their kicks ripping the heads off of bees and pulping their thorax to feed to their baby murder hornets.
Considering that a huge chunk of our food supply either directly or indirectly comes from bees polinating flowers and crops, this is insanely bad news. I hope that once everybody studying the Coronavirus comes up with a vaccination or cure or whatever... they turn their attention to finding a way to kill every last one of these bastards before I have to worry about running into them when I walk out to check my mailbox.
I tell you... the way things keep going on this planet, the more I am hoping for alien abduction.
Posted on Tuesday, May 5th, 2020
I've been spending a couple hours each day puttering around my flower beds. A neighbor was kind enough to pick out some new plants for me, so I've been working hard to create a home for them.
One of the things I've been meaning to do for years is pull out the irises in the front of my house. I've never understood these flowers. They're pretty for a few days, sure...
But they are top-heavy and fall over... many times before they even bloom, which means they bloom on the ground. Then the yard care team runs over them with the mower and they look horrible until they finally die. Then it all repeats next year. I try to move them off the lawn so they at least don't get torn up by the mower, but they still look pretty bad and have to go...
And yesterday was the day. I ripped out the two plants in the front of my home. But those flowers got their revenge, let me tell you.
The pollen got all over me and I had an allergy attack unlike any I've had in years. It was so bad that I had to take a big dose of Benadryl, then have a nap.
When I woke up an hour later, I was covered in blood.
I ended up with a nosebleed that would not stop, though it did slow to a trickle when I finally fell asleep around 3:00am. I was expecting to wake up and have to slog to the clinic to get it cauterized, but it had miraculously stopped overnight.
The irises on the side of my house can stay right where they are. I'm afraid of these flowers. I missed a half-day of work because I had to catch up on sleep because of these flowers.
Today I tried to take it easy and definitely not sneeze or blow my nose. Instead I laid on the couch and watched television, including a clever movie called The Great Seduction which is not some period romance bullshit as you would expect from the title...
I love it when I happen across a movie I've never heard of and actually end up enjoying it!
Kinda a nice way to end a day that started out so badly.
Posted on Wednesday, May 6th, 2020
I cannot catch a break this week.
I should have known better.
This morning my long-time blogging friend, Jester, posted this to my Facebook wall...
After failing to find an apropriate amount of barf emojis for both the concept of adding raisins to potato salad AND the fact that people think a "French tuck" doesn't look like ten bags of stupid (I WILL NEVER FORGIVE YOU FOR THIS MR. TAN FRANCE!)... the first thing to pop into my head was "Say, don't I have some leftover potato salad in the refrigerator?"
I had forgotten about that! Turns out that, yes, indeed I did.
Breakfast is served.
Except it tasted funny, at which point I remembered it's been there for a week and was probably overrun with bacteria or whatever. And so... I set it next to the bathroom sink so I could take a shower before headed down to the kitchen to toss it.
Likely no surprise to anybody what ensued...
"Jake. What are you doing?"
"Jake. Please don't eat that."
At which point I had to get out of the shower soaking wet and put the bad potato salad on top of the bathroom cabinet.
What happened next will shock you...
"Jake. What are you doing?"
"Jake. Please don't climb up there."
I know better than to think tomorrow will be much better.
It's all raisin-filled potato salad for the foreseeable future.
Posted on Thursday, May 7th, 2020
YOU YIELD TO TRAFFIC IN THE CIRCLE. It's that simple. That's the only rule. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand it. If there's a car already in the traffic circle, you wait until it's passed before entering. And yet...
25% of the time... at least 25% of the time... I run into somebody who doesn't yield.
Like yesterday when I was driving home. And of course the guy is pissed at me even though he was 100% in the wrong for cutting in front of me instead of yielding like he should have. And I honestly don't get the mentality. I'm supposed to just slam on the brakes in the middle of the traffic circle and back up traffic to let people in? That's the complete opposite of how it's supposed to work.
I continue to wade my way through the massive list of movies and shows I've flagged to watch so I can see if there's anything good on TV. My latest obsession is Plan Coeur (aka The Hook Up Plan) on Netflix. It's a French romcom that has its fill of stupid moments, but is otherwise fantastic. The characters are all beautifully realized and you want to care about them even when they aren't at their best.
Because it's French, I have to watch with English subtitles, which adds another level of amusement to the show...
Most of the time, the show is smartly written and has clever one-off lines throughout to bring the funny...
And, of course, it's French, so the romantic moments are flawlessly orchestrated...
What really took me by surprise is the music, which is haunting and beautiful. It's practically another character in the series and makes even mundane moments something to be savored...
I was compelled to track down the composer, which is Frédéric Magnon, and became an instant fan. When Elsa shows her sister her new apartment, I had to rewind the scene and play it over and over because it's just that good...
The entire soundtrack is fantastic and worth hunting down (Amazon Prime Unlimited has it).
So... if you're looking for a show to binge while you're stuck at home, I highly recommend giving The Hook Up Plan a try. Both series of the show are available on Netflix...
As much as I loved the show and want to see a third series, I almost think I'd rather they left things where they were at in the finale. It was the perfect way to end things even though you'll definitely be wanting to know what happens next.
Which is what makes great television, isn't it?
Posted on Friday, May 8th, 2020
I'm not "running out of things to watch," but I am getting bored with the massive amount of stuff that's available to watch. Binging Plan Coeur (The Hook Up Plan) yesterday really made me want to revisit some of my favorite French films, but it's tough to work and read subtitles at the same time, and I can't afford to lose the hours like I did yesterday. I thought that I would instead put on some of my favorite Japanese anime since I was once fairly fluent in the language and "it's just cartoons," but that didn't work out at all. My Japanese comprehension is so out of practice now that I have to stop and think about what's being said, which is actually more distracting than reading subtitles.
I was lamenting the idea of starting in on another Netflix series when a friend in a Zoom meeting mentioned that they've been watching a lot of YouTube videos. This seemed like an excellent idea, because that's somewhere below mindless entertainment, and the YouTube app for my AppleTV will just keep playing them one-after-the-other all night long!
When I asked for suggestions, the first one out of their mouth was Mr. Beast. I was going to take a pass because the only thing I had ever heard about the guy was that he drops a lot of homophobic slurs, but my friend said "He's done so many good things," and I was intrigued.
At first I was just going to start at his first video and run through them all, but he's been doing this for six years(!) and most of his earliest videos are just him playing video games and stuff. He then made a slew of videos speculating on the wealth of other YouTubers and making fun of other YouTubers. Then he went through a phase of counting to really high numbers... reading the entire dictionary... and doing other time-consuming and inane stunts.
Yeah. No thanks.
But then things started getting interesting about two years ago.
Mr. Beast started giving away hundreds of thousands of dollars (which he gets from sponsorship and branding deals). He'd give somebody $10,000 for winning a video game challenge. He'd tip a server $20,000. He'd give random subscribers to his channel huge amounts of cash. And he also started doing crazy stuff like trashing his friend's car then give them a new car... buying every billboard in his city... spending 24 hours in prison... and having his friends do random challenges for huge cash prizes.
I began to see his appeal. His stunts are genuinely interesting.
My favorite stunt he pulled was buying a house then ordering a pizza from Dominos. He offered the pizza delivery guy $2,000 if he would help them go shopping for stuff to move into the house "for a friend," then he gave the fully furnished house to the delivery guy after they were done. Watch the video. It's pretty great...
After a while you start really getting invested in the lives of his friends. Poor Cameron kept losing challenge after challenge and never won anything. You really started to feel sorry for the guy because he was constantly made fun of. Then, finally, he won one and I was far more happy for him than I had a right to be...
Yeah, this is not highbrow entertainment, but it is entertaining. I've certainly seen worse uses of time and money on YouTube.
After my Mr. Beast marathon, I started catching up on all the YouTubers I follow but have neglected over the past several months. Like Unbox Therapy, who unboxed Apple's SEVEN HUNDRED DOLLAR WHEELS for their MacPro computer so you don't have to. It looks to be an oddly unsatisfying experience...
Don't worry. Eventually he made a skateboard out of the wheels.
Yahtzee at Escapist's Zero Punctuation took a look at Animal Crossing: New Horizons and it's oddly comforting in its raw predictability...
John Kirkwood made cheese & onion pasties... something I am dying to make and will attempt soon, because it's like a gorgeous blend of some of my favorite things...
Ryan at ScreenRant unleashed another hilarious pitch meeting...
Two amazing thinkers (who just happen to be brilliant comedians) discuss atheism and other deep topics in a fascinating conversation...
And lastly there's Johnny Harris, who actually spent his valuable time looking into flerfers (insert eye-roll)...
After all that, I was ready to start watching regular ol' television again, and started in on Ryan Murphy's latest... Hollywood... which is currently airing on Netflix. Not exactly sure this is going to be my thing, but it sure looks like it was expensive to make.
Posted on Wednesday, May 13th, 2020
Every year I do a little more to make my home my own. I figure I might as well because, more likely than not, it won't be my home forever.
Most of the things I do are on the inside. That's where I live. That's what I see the most. That's where my experience is. I didn't have to do much on the outside because the woman who lived here before me did a really lovely job so I left as much of it alone as I could. The only thing I really had to do... and do most reluctantly... was tear things out. Because of my travel schedule, I am not always home to water and weed and take care of the things that require that kind of time and attention.
The first thing to go were the flowers out front, most of which were in planters that had to be manually watered. I wasn't here to do it and so they died. When I planned out what would replace them, I had two things in mind...
And so I wanted two flower beds. A large one where most of the drip-lines were, and a second smaller bed on the corner where there was less water available.
The large flower bed I created back in 2018...
My mom died twenty days after I completed it. I couldn't find the motivation to care about flowers after that.
Nearly two years later, and I finally decided to finish what I started...
It's hard work for an old guy like me... shoveling rock and digging up dirt! Especially when my job is to sit at a computer all day.
It turned out okay though...
It will take a week or two of watering before I can tap the border bricks level and get them positioned correctly.
The purple thing in the back is supposed to get three feet tall, and so I tried to give it a little more space to grow. You can't tell from this photo because the lens is distorting things, but the rock border is equal in the front and the sides.
And so... I am done with flowers for the year.
Well, mostly done with flowers for the year. There are two of the plants that don't look to be surviving their relocation, so I'll probably have to replace them.
One of my favorite tech vloggers is Marques Brownlee. He has a clarity of focus and some really good insights which he presents flawlessly. In a time where there is just so much video out there, I regularly make the time to watch Brownlee's videos twice. Like this video on Apple's $700 wheels, which I just watched again before adding it here...
The more I delve into theories as to how Apple works, the more I can't help but appreciate how genius they are. Look at all the press and exposure they're getting... OVER WHEELS!
Posted on Tuesday, May 19th, 2020
This morning I had to stay home from work so the pest control guy could do his annual spraying around the condos... and so a delivery could be made... and so friends could drop off a chair they had borrowed back in February. And I mean literally drop off, because they waved and drove away after leaving it in my driveway so we could maintain proper social distancing.
They would have returned it much earlier but... well... you know... pandemic and all that.
Usually I would have invited them in for a chat.
Then again, usually they would not be returning furniture on a Tuesday morning because they would be at their respective jobs.
Then again-again, usually I would have invited them over for beers and dinner when they returned the chair after work or on a weekend.
But we are living in unusual times in an unusual situation, so I spent my morning cleaning my kitchen and talking to my cats while I waited.
Or at least what passes for "usual" now-a-days.
Posted on Wednesday, May 20th, 2020
The latest meme making its way around social media is people sharing photos from their "last day of normal." I don't even know what that means, but I do know the last day that I did something normal with my friends before lockdown was when we all got memorial tattoos on February 28th.
But things in my life were far from normal, even back then.
My volunteer work had been shut down 11 days earlier. Usually by late May I'd have already taken anywhere from four to six trips for that. This year I haven't been anywhere. The last time I traveled was December 26th. I have no idea when I'll travel next.
Given I have no idea when my normalcy went away, I try to create it by slipping into comfort meals I like. Up near the top of that list is heating up a bag of Uncle Ben's Ready Rice Whole Grain Medley, toss in a handful of almonds, and call it dinner. When I was at the store last month, I was sure to grab a couple bags.
Then tonight when I finally cooked it I noticed that it looked funny. It smelled funny. It tasted funny.
I dug the garbage to see if I purchased expired rice only to find that it wasn't what I usually buy... my local grocer replaced the "Whole Grain Medley" I get (which was apparently subtitled "Brown and Wild") with a new blend that's "Quinoa & Brown with Garlic." I didn't notice because the packaging had been changed...
So much for my comfort food. This is not comforting at all. QUINOA ISN'T EVEN A FUCKING RICE!
AND ON CARB APPRECIATION DAY, NO LESS!
I might have been able to overlook gross quinoa if it actually had garlic as advertised, but the garlic was barely there. Uncle Ben's? More like Uncle Bullshit! They even got rid of the guy's awesome bow tie on the package!
Just one more sign that things will never go back to normal again.
Posted on Friday, May 22nd, 2020
My house is a total disaster. Which leads me to believe that the only reason I've been keeping everything obsessively clean all these years is because I had people dropping by and regular houseguests staying with me. Now that there's nobody here but me and the cats, I just don't bother. And it's getting completely out of hand.
This morning I noticed a smell coming from the dishes piled in the sink and finally decided to (begrudgingly) do something about it. Then I looked over at my pile of dirty clothes and decided to do something about that too. But that's as far as I managed to get before running out of motivation. Again.
It's all psychological of course, and that's something I've been trying to get sorted. Mostly it comes down to acknowledging that I took a great many things in life for granted.
I never really thought of myself as a social person, but apparently I'm far more social than I realized. Now that I can't just hop in my car and go visit my friends. It makes my world feel very, very small. Which is ironic considering the entire world is literally at my fingertips every time I open my computer.
That's not the same though, is it?
I've decided to keep my grocery store visits to once a month. I live in an area where masks are considered "a violation of American freedom" and people are overtly assholish towards you when you wear one. Never mind that it's for their protection in case I've been exposed... I still catch crap for looking out for others. And the fact that they can't extend the same courtesy to me is disheartening, to say the least. Apparently they've bought into all the idiotic nonsense about "masks cause carbon dioxide build-up that will kill you" and "Bill Gates wants to insert microchips in everybody" and whatever else wing-nut anti-science propaganda bullshit is out there being force-fed into social media. Guess it's more fun to believe the stupid shit than the simple reality of it all.
Not that I wouldn't rather skip out on reality, mind you.
I try to do exactly that every chance I get.
This month it's by watching movies from Central and South America that have been piling up on my watchlist. One of the better ones I've seen is a movie from Venezuela called Azul y no tan rosa (which translates to My Straight Son)...
I very nearly stopped watching because there's a horrific violent scene in the beginning that I really didn't need right now. The world is depressing enough. But man am I happy I kept watching. What a fantastic movie. Highest possible recommendation if you're looking for a sweet film to hunker down with over your Quarantine Memorial Day Weekend.
When I needed a break from subtitles, I happened upon an interesting art-house sci-fi film run amok called Infinity Chamber...
I avoided it for the longest time because there were some bad reviews and people were saying that the acting was amateur. This was bizarre to me because I thought Christopher Soren Kelly, upon whose talents the entire movie hinges, was fantastic. Sure the movie went on too long and the ending was a bit meh, but I liked it well enough.
Beats cleaning my house, that's for sure.
Posted on Monday, May 25th, 2020
It may be a holiday Monday, but it's still a Monday.
I worked a little bit today, but not much. Even worse, I didn't get to the dozen chores I've been meaning to get to. Considering that in pre-COVID-19 days I would have been hanging out with friends all weekend and getting nothing done, I shouldn't beat myself up over it.
The one thing that hasn't changed is taking a moment to honor and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms we enjoy. Freedom isn't free, but it is something we take for granted. Maybe more-so this year than others.
Posted on Tuesday, May 26th, 2020
Today was not a great day.
The brain rewiring I've had to learn in order to deal with my dyslexia falls apart when I'm tired or stressed or upset, and today I was all three. This makes reading a challenge... but also creeps into my ability to speak properly when things get really bad. Today I had multiple times where I couldn't find my words, something that hasn't happened in years. It's frustrating. It's embarrassing. It's just plain tough to deal with.
It's the pandemic. It's the easily debunked conspiracy theories. It's the politics. It's the uncertainty. It's the inhumanity. It's the lack of empathy and kindness.
It's a woman in Central Park weaponizing her white tears in a staged 9-1-1 call in an attempt to "kill via police" a Black man who had the audacity to ask her to obey the law and please leash her dog.
It's all of it. It's everything.
The world we have right now is not conducive to my living in it, and I honestly don't know what I can do about it. Probably nothing.
But I gave it a try when I bought Minecraft Dungeons from the Nintendo Switch eShop.
After all things LEGO, my favorite genre of video game is dungeon crawlers. I love the exploring and discovery and secrets and, of course, battling monsters for loot. The Diablo trilogy... the Baldur's Gate games... even the cutesy RPG crawlers like Fire Emblem, Trials of Mana, and (of course) the myriad of Final Fantasy games... I enjoy them all (and it's thanks to the first one I played, Dungeon Master on my Atari ST computer).
And while I don't play Minecraft, I was intrigued when I found out we were getting Minecraft Dungeons because I could use a fun dungeon crawler right about now.
The game starts out pretty simplistic. Exploration is curbed as you learn to fight enemies and follow the linear path laid out before you. At the mid-point of the game, things become more challenging and, if I'm being honest, a lot more fun. There's more to see, explore, and do, and the enemies no longer roll over and die at the sight of you. I've likely got another hour or two of gameplay left, but right now I'm digging it because I'm having to put a little more thought into how I'm approaching a level. Would have been nice if they started here, but it's all good.
I'm not anticipating things getting absurdly difficult, but I'm guessing the end won't be a cake-walk either. Apparently once you beat the game you can replay it at a higher difficulty, so that might be fun. And since the maps are (reportedly) procedurally-generated, it might be a slightly different experience, which is nice.
If you've played Diablo, you've pretty much played Minecraft Dungeons. The similarities are striking, even if the visuals are radically different. Mojang Studios used the same 8-bit blocky graphics they used for the original Minecraft, but they're really pretty and polished in this game. Sure, sometimes it can be annoying because it can be tough to get a bead on things quickly, but overall I really enjoy the aesthetic they dreamed up (and would probably appreciate it even more if I was more familiar with Minecraft).
Another departure from this Diablo clone is the class and weapon enhancement system. As in, there isn't classes and weapon enhancements can be recovered and redistributed as you upgrade your weapons. Being able to define and change your play style by not having to commit to a character class is simplistic and unrealistic (in context) but I rather like it. And you're not going to hear me complain about being able to transfer enhancements (or "enchantments" as they call them) to new weapons I like.
Right now I'm playing solo, but Minecraft Dungeons allows for 4-player co-op, which is something I'd really like to try. It seems like the entertainment value from multi-player would probably allow me to more easily gloss over the shortcomings of a simplistic game like this. The problem is that I can't cross-play with my friends who are playing on a platform other than another Nintendo Switch. This blows and, when I searched for it on the internet, I found that Mojang Studios is planning on providing a free update that will allow it. Since the only other people I know playing this are not doing so on a Switch, I guess I just have to be patient and hope that they aren't bored with the game by the time cross-play is released.
Ultimately I like this game. It feels like it's going to be a bit short and lacking the complexity I usually enjoy in a dungeon crawler, but it's also just $19 so at least it's priced accordingly. The fact that it's essentially a LEGO video game with different visuals is the real draw for me, however. In a time when the Real World seems like a void of despair from which I can never escape... being able to escape into Minecraft Dungeons is a welcome distraction.
Posted on Wednesday, May 27th, 2020
Last night I stayed up until 1:30am working, so I decided I deserved to leave work early today. So at 1:30pm I gathered my things... I hopped in my car... I screamed at the world... I sucked it up... and went grocery shopping.
This is most decidedly not something I wanted to do. If you remember last time I did this one month ago, it did not go well. I could have probably held out for another week... perhaps two... but I didn't like the consequences of doing so. At the end of that second week, I'd be eating saltines with ketchup or something.
As an added incentive? My Safeway Monopoly Instant Winner prize tickets expire tomorrow, and I will absolutely risk COVID-19 (and dealing with assholes) for $44 in free stuff.
Little did I know that 2/3 of my tickets could not be redeemed. So many of the things I was supposed to get for free or at discount were out-of-stock. Free bottle of hand-sanitizer? Don't make me laugh. Discount on Vlassic pickles? Nope. No Vlassic pickles to be had. Discount on chocolate milk? Denied. What I estimated to be $44 in savings ended up being... $17 total. Wheeee. My biggest score was a bottle of aspirin that I will never use. I only take Ibuprofen. But it was free, and who knows? Maybe one day I'll need it.
One hour and $200 in groceries later, I escaped no worse for wear.
That I know of, anyway.
I'd estimate that less than half of the people shopping with me were wearing masks. Which is not surprising. A lot of people here still think that the pandemic is a hoax, masks will kill you with carbon monoxide poisoning, and a litany of other nonsensical things. Logic has gone right out the window.
Which is why I'm more than a little worried about Washington State starting to open up again. Don't get me wrong, I certainly hope that we can reopen safely and not get a second bigger wave of COVID-19 infections, but it wouldn't surprise me after observing how some people are acting. If everybody was observing proper distancing, wearing masks, and generally giving a shit about other people, I'd feel a lot better about it.
Oh well. Not much I can do about it... except protect myself as best I can, look after others as best I can, and listen to people calling me names because of it.
Posted on Thursday, May 28th, 2020
The two days it took to build flower beds, fill pots, and plant flowers seems to be paying off. From what I can tell, only one plant died and all the rest of them are doing really well. I should probably weed everything again, but I'm in no hurry for that. All I know is that my yard doesn't look like a disaster area any more, and that's probably a good thing... even though I won't be having guests to appreciate them any time soon...
The irises on the side of my home are in peak bloomage, which is to say that they're all falling over because the flowers are too heavy for the stalks holding them up. I propped them up where I could and took photos so they can at least be appreciated before they all start dying...
I think I mentioned that I'm in the process of backing up all my DVDs before they rot to unplayability. But I'm also looking into the best way of backing up my 8mm cassette tapes. For quite a long time all my shows were recorded on 8mm because the quality was better than VHS and they were much smaller and easier to store. Over the years as the shows have become available to purchase digitally, I've been tossing the tapes out... but there's still quite a few shows which I can't purchase and will have to digitize. Including two of my favorite shows of all time... Cupid (1998, starring Jeremy Piven) and Oh Grow Up! (1999, starring the late Stephen Dunham). I cannot for the life of me understand why television studios don't just release their entire catalogs to scrape up some cash, as there are many shows I'd gladly buy if only I could.
Including some shows I never even knew existed.
Yesterday I became aware of a 2016 show from the UK called Hooten and the Lady when a friend let me stream it from his Sling DVR. Apparently The CW acquired the USA rights and broadcast it in 2017. He thought I might like it... and I absolutely do...
I liked the first three episodes so much that I went to buy it so I could see the five remaining episodes. Alas I can't buy them. It isn't available here in the USA in the iTunes Store, nor can I purchase it on DVD or Blu-Ray because it's region-encoded and won't play on my machine. Which is a pity, because it's really, really good. Kinda Indiana Jones meets Romancing the Stone. Or something like that. It's got action and has some funny moments to it. Guess I'll have to see when my friend will let me schedule some time with his Sling Box again so I can finish it up. Alas it never got a second season, which is inconceivable to me. It's such a great show.
Except it actually is totally conceivable to me because all the good shows seem to get premature deaths.
Posted on Friday, May 29th, 2020
"It is impossible to build one’s own happiness on the unhappiness of others. This perspective is at the heart of Buddhist teachings." — Daisaku Ikeda
Like a lot of people, I'd imagine, I have been looking towards my faith to find comfort in and make sense of this world we find ourselves living in. To which people are all "Awww, me too!" Until they realize that the faith I'm talking about is not Christianity, which leads to an uncomfortable silence as my imagination has them adding me to their okay-to-hate-list.
Because that's pretty much how it goes, doesn't it? Your interpretation of a special book says that it's okay to hate certain people, so you ignore the larger message of love and forgiveness and focus on the hate because it's so much easier. And since your interpretation serves as justification for your hate, you've got some kind of divine permission which makes it all okay no matter how ugly it may be.
I'm sure I've been hated for a lot of things. I came to this conclusion early in life thanks to being smart in a world that prefers ignorant, unremarkable in a world that prefers beautiful, sickly in a world that prefers virility, and willful in a world which prefers submissiveness. Somebody feels I fall short of an idealized goal, so I get hated for it. And, yeah, it can hurt. I've bought into the brainwashing as well... because how could anybody not... and I've spent plenty of time hating myself too. No need to point out where I don't measure up because, honestly, I'm right there with you.
Attacking on my masculinity (or lack thereof) is the go-to way that people have been hating on me for decades. I've been called "faggot" more times than I can count. I'm not gay... but that doesn't matter because I'm not masculine. And since masculine guys (and masculine-worshipping guys and gals) think that being masculine is everybody's ultimate goal in life, it's easy to throw a little hate my way.
When I was younger, it bothered me. I may not have even fully understood what the word meant, but it must be something terrible if it was being directed at me, right? I'm a nerdy weak kid, so the strong perfect people pretty much had no choice but to bully me. It's my fault for choosing to be a nerdy weak kid, after all. I deserve it.
Then I grew up, stepped out of my bubble, went out into the world, and started meeting actual gay people, for whom the slur had been created. I quickly learned that these were some of the strongest people I had ever met. They had to be in order to survive a society which had been designed to persecute and hate them. — And yet I'm supposed to be upset that somebody wants to count me amongst their ranks? Holy shit, what an absolute honor. Of course I've met people in the LGBTQ community that are total assholes who are happy to bully me right along with the rest of society's toxic elements... but, by and large, the LGBTQ community has been far more kind and accepting of me than any other, which is why most of the people I love, respect, and admire make their home there.
So, yeah, people call me a "faggot" whether it's intended to be imasculating or because they think I'm gay. And the whole time I'm laughing because I see it as such a huge compliment... all while being angry and sad that such an ugly word has been created to hurt people I love.
All of this came crashing down on me this morning when I read the latest news concerning Brian Sims, a Representative from Pennsylvania. Yesterday he posted a live melt-down video because Republican House members tested positive for COVID-19... but only told other Republicans about it. People who had been in contact with those testing positive were still showing up to chambers... unmasked, and Democrats were never told a thing. They only found out because a reporter found out. Representative Sims disclosed that the reason he's so angry is that he's high-risk for infection because he donated a kidney, and it was a horrific scenario for his fellow representatives and staff who might have taken the coronavirus back to their families unknowingly.
Fast-forward to today when Representative Sims showed up to voice his renewed disgust at how horribly Republicans had acted throughout this entire ordeal... only to have Republican Representative Jerry Knowles yell out that Sims was "a little girl" as he was finishing up his speech.
There it is...
That's manly masculine man Jerry Knowles on the left and little girly girl Brian Sims on the right.
You wouldn't think "little girl" of Brian Sims because he's outraged that he was willingly exposed to people who were exposed to the coronavirus and it's risky for him to contract it because he answered the call to go under the knife and donate a kidney... would you?
I mean, holy crap, they have to practically rip you in half to get at the kidney and it's far from a cakewalk. There's significant risks during and after you donate, and if your remaining kidney fails for some reason, you are in some serious shit. You have to be made of pretty tough stuff just to consider donating a kidney.
You wouldn't think "little girl" of Brian Sims when you look at him because, let's face it, the guy is fire and just about any man on earth would be happy to look like this ruggedly handsome individual... would you?
I mean, holy crap, the guy even pals around with his big fucking manly dog...
So what could it be? What could it possibly be as to why Representative Jerry Knowles was screaming "LITTLE GIRL" across chambers while Representative Brian Sims was speaking? What?
Oh. I see.
He was called a "little girl" because he's gay, thus not at all masculine. Yes, I recognize it all too well.
Fortunately, just like I've come to understand that people calling me "faggot" is actually an incredible compliment, Brian Sims was basking in the honor of being called a "little girl" because he knows what it actually means. Not what some bigoted old fart thinks it means... what it actually means to be a little girl growing up in the world. Having to look a certain way or act a certain way or else being told she's not a girl. Having to work harder to achieve success only to be rewarded with less. Having to deal with non-stop harassment and intimidation yet still be expected to smile. Being made to feel unsafe because "boys will be boys" somehow excuses everything, no matter how horrific. And that's just a taste of the gauntlet that little girls have to navigate. The list goes on and on. This is supposed to be an insult? Representative Knowles should be so lucky to have somebody call him a "little girl." Little girls are tough. They have to be. And a pathetic coward like Knowles wouldn't know tough if it sat on his face. What a fucking embarrassment.
Representative Brian Sims has been an interesting political figure to watch over the years. Interestingly enough, I wrote about him here on my blog a decade ago before he ever ran for office. It all started with this inspiring video...
Since then, Sims has not been without controversy. Some of it was inevitable. He's an out and proud hardcore liberal gay man in public office. There are people who are vehemently opposed to any and all of this, and I'm sure the Representative has to wade through their vitriol daily...
His responses are sometimes shocking and controversial... sometimes surprising... sometimes funny. Sometimes, they're all three...
Other controversies are a bit more complex, but not at all surprising. He is, after all, a politician. And apparently you can't be a politician without being party to some shady shit. Politicians and shady shit go together like peas and carrots. He posted videos of himself confronting praying Planned Parenthood protestors that were cringe-inducing even to Planned Parenthood supporters, then issued a "non-apology apology" after the fact. He's been the subject of an ethics investigation after accepting speaking fees in violation of policies which forbid it. He regularly says and does things that are inappropriate for his office... like posting a photo of himself flashing a middle finger saying that it's his "welcome message" to Vice President Pence when he visited. I mean, come on, take the high ground so people don't have to make excuses for voting for you. If a Republican were to flip the bird as a "welcome message" to Vice President Biden, Democrats would lose their damn minds.
Not that I don't appreciate the sentiment, mind you. Vice President Pence and everybody party to the Trump Administration can absolutely fuck right off. But you're a public servant and supposed to be held to a higher standard than that of a vile asshole such as myself. And hey, I'm trying to be better. Really I am. Building my happiness on the unhappiness of others is not what I'm supposed to be about. Daisaku Ikeda was not wrong when he says that it's an impossible thing to do. Every structure has to start with a strong foundation or what you build on top of it is likely to crumble.
That being said, I suppose you kind of have to cut some slack to Brian Sims and people like me for going off the rails from time to time. Just look at the horror story of the world we have to live in.
Well, okay, I deserve a little more slack than Brian Sims does. Because at the end of the day, he gets to look like Brian Sims and I... well... I most definitely do not...
I'm allowed to be a little bit bitter about that.
Posted on Friday, June 5th, 2020
When I was a kid, we'd climb into our big Chevy Blazer each month after payday and head into the nearby Big City for dinner out (hopefully at Pizza Inn, my favorite)... then head to Prairie Market for groceries.
Prairie Market doesn't exist any more (neither does Pizza Inn, at least not here), but it was a discount warehouse grocer from the 60's which was most notable for all the inexpensive generic foods they sold. Black and white boxes. Black and white labels on cans and bottles. Black and white signs on the big bulk food bins. It was nothing like the "generic" foods sold today, which are essentially re-branded in-house store brands, these were generic-generic. And it all came rushing back to me when I removed the sleeve from my tub of Feta Cheese and saw this...
All of a sudden I was 4th grade again.
Just like shopping for groceries today, nothing at Prairie Market had prices on it. But unlike today, where things are rung up by their UPC bar code, at Prairie Market you grabbed a grease pencil and wrote the price on every item. My mom would pick out what she wanted. My dad would write the price on it with his impeccably perfect handwriting, then my brother and I would stack it on the giant slab cart (like you find at Home Depot) before heading to the next item.
It was a really smart way to shop, because the food was just as good as the name-brands you could buy (probably because the name-brand companies manufactured it) but cheaper because every aspect of the experience was done as cheaply as possible. In addition to not paying to price-sticker stuff, they didn't stock anything on the shelves. They just cut the face off the case and threw it on a rack. There were checkers to ring you up, but they had to key-in every item. And they were fast. You bagged your own groceries, of course (in real paper bags, natch).
I don't remember when Prairie Market closed. I think in the late 70's or early 80's maybe? Probably when all the grocery chains started consolidating and developed their own name-brand alternatives. And UPC code scanners came along.
The giant cement building that Prairie Market built is now a toy store-slash-sporting goods store. I shop there once or twice a year, and I'm able to remember exactly how it used to be every time. The ghost of all those generic packages still haunt me.
As do the banana chips.
One hot summer day we ended up buying a big bag of dried bulk banana chips. Then my brother and I ate them all the way back home. In a hot car. For twenty minutes. Not long after we pulled into the driveway I was puking my guts out and everything tasted... and smelled... like bananas to me for days. It was years before I could eat banana chips again. And I still can't eat them alone, even to this day. Only if they're scattered in a trail mix or something. And even then I have unpleasant flashbacks.
If only food prices were as cheap now as they were at Prairie Market back then.
Holy crap are things expensive now. Even when adjusted for inflation, food in 1970's was crazy cheap compared to today. Vegetables for 15¢ to 20¢ a can? I think only meat and dairy are cheaper now (with adjusted pricing) than they used to be... and that's thanks to government subsidies artificially making them cheaper. Without it, I'm sure they'd have massive price tags like everything else.
But, hey, the packaging is prettier, so there's that.
Posted on Friday, June 12th, 2020
You may (or may not) have noticed that many times lately my daily posts to Blogography are showing up days late. I still write every day, but I've taken to holding off a while before I publish what I've written. Most of my posts now-a-days are blistering rants about current events and, after I've cooled down, I realize they don't really add anything to the conversation. So I delete them and dig into the drafts I've got written about cats, computers, and stuff, then put that up instead.
It's a tough thing to do, because these are NOT short posts. They are pages of material that can take some time to write...
But... maybe the therapy of writing them is enough for me. They don't really need to see print.
And so today's rant, which was not really something that should see print, has been tossed and I will instead be sharing photos of the flowers growing in my yard.
The flowers in my back yard were here when I bought the place. I can't take any credit for them at all. I pretty much just leave them alone and every year these beautiful flowers show up. There's these really pretty big fluffy flowers I like. No idea what they are called, but how cool are they?
Some are mostly pink...
Whereas others have a lot of yellow in their middles...
There are a bunch of roses... that I think are called "tea roses." They come in a variety of shapes...
The flowers from the previous owner in the front were all in pots that had to be hand-watered. Problem is that I travel too much to take proper care of them so I had to get rid of the plots and plant a bunch of new flowers that could be watered by the automated system. This year a neighbor picked out a bunch of different flowers for me and I was left with some extras. I bought a big wooden planter and just tossed them all inside. They've all done really, really well! Except at the time I planted them I didn't know what size they would end up. If I did, I would have put the taller ones in the middle instead of the outside. Oops...
Still pretty though.
Speaking of leftover flowers... I stuck one of them between the two giant purple things I bought previously. I thought for sure it would die from lack of sunlight, but it's actually been thriving! He seems happy there...
The rest of the flowers I planted are doing great too. I especially like the pansies...
And speaking of those big purple things, they are doing great. The bees absolutely love them...
Guess we'll see if tomorrow's post has to be deleted. It's Caturday, so I sure hope not.
Posted on Monday, June 15th, 2020
Home ownership is the money pit which never ends. No sooner than one expensive problem is solved than another pops up to take its place. Or, in my case, several things.
In an effort to save a hit to my wallet, I'm taking on the repair tasks myself. Some of them are difficult and require research. Others are easy but require money. My favorite things are those that are easy and cheap. Those tasks I tend to do right away because easy and cheap are my middle names.
Well, you know what I mean.
When I bought my new place, I had to do a lot of remodeling so my mother could live there safely. She couldn't walk on carpet very well, so I had to rip it out and put in hardwood. Simple tasks were becoming difficult and messy for her to manage, so I tried to accommodate that as well. I ripped out tubs and enlarged showers so it was easier for her to get in and out of... and clean. I also replaced the toilets from two-part standard models to one-piece "comfort height" models. I did whatever I could to make things easier for both of us.
I don't know if you have ever shopped for toilets, but single-piece models are expensive. Even the cheapest ones are double or even qradrupal what it costs for the standard stool/tank model that's commonly used. I ultimately went with Kohler because I found them on sale for $400 each (regular $600). Given that you can easily find decent 2-piece models for under $100 each, that's a heck of an investment.
You would think that a $400 toilet would have pretty good quality parts for the money.
Yeah... not so much.
From the get-go, both toilets would randomly start running for around a minute. At first I'd notice it happening a couple times a month. Then weekly. Then daily. Aghast at the water that was being wasted, I managed to fix the downstairs toilet just by taking it apart and putting it back together. The upstairs toilet, however, never managed to be fixed no matter how many times I worked on it. If anything it got worse, running 4 or 5 times a day. Because of the lockdown I ended up with extra time on my hands and decided to take another crack at it. I started taking it apart and... snap! The middle of the "AquaPiston" flush valve snapped. Rather than just buying a replacement for that, I decided to spend $20 and get an all new AquaPiston. Despite being advertised as having "leak-free performance," it was the only part that could really be the problem. Wanting to make sure that it was a genuine Kohler part and not a knock-off, I ordered direct from Kohler.
The part finally arrived and, viola, the problem was totally solved...
Apparently the AquaPiston which came with my toilet was defective.
Note in the photo above that the handle trip-rod has rusted. $400 doesn't get you a non-rust part, I guess.
I've now reached the point where the projects I'm facing are far more pricey. Some I can't even do myself. I was really hoping that this year would be the year I got to replace my countertops, sink, and garbage disposal. All of them are awful, and there are issues with the disposal that simply can't be fixed. The worst part is that it leaks underneath when the waste/water level gets too high. But it doesn't make much sense to replace it if I don't replace the sink (which is cheap, damaged, and looks terrible). And it makes no sense to replace the sink before replacing the countertops (which are just cheap and terrible). I was making good progress with my savings until the pandemic, now I don't know if it's an expense I can swing no matter how badly it's needed. Maybe I'll look into a home equity loan or something, because the longer I wait the more it's going to cost.
So much for having the luxury of being cheap and easy, I guess.
Posted on Wednesday, June 17th, 2020
Today was the first time I've had a semi-normal day in a very long time. Nearly four months, which seems like forever given lockdowns and such.
After canceling appointments and locking myself away at home for everything except grocery shopping, today was the day I finally threw caution to the wind and headed out into the wilds of Redneckistan. I had an appointment that I really didn't want to reschedule for a third time. That went fine. Everybody I spoke to was masked and respected social distancing norms. Pretty much all that I could hope for.
So then I decided to get really crazy and get some take-away lunch (I'm not quite to the point where I want to chance dining in). I decided to get an Impossible Whopper at Burger King as a "thank you" for continuing to support vegetarians. I was so excited that I actually took them up on a "Two for $6" special. They so rarely include Impossible Whoppers on specials, so I decided on a second one instead of fries.
They tasted incredible.
I ate them slowly, savoring each bite, while sitting in my air conditioned car.
Surprisingly, most people visiting Burger King were masked and respecting the 6-foot rule! The only customer not masked was a construction guy two people ahead of me. Color me shocked.
Then I went to Petco because I was running out of kitty litter. Same thing. Most people masked again! Could it be that Redneckistan and their idiotic "FUCK GOVERNOR INSLEE!" rhetoric were finally getting a clue? That Inslee isn't out to kill their businesses and strip them of their freedom... he's just following expert advice of people smarter than him when it comes to pandemics to try and keep Washingtonians safe?
And then I went to Safeway to pick up some rice noodles, Sriracha sauce, and Tamari sauce so I can make loads of the Coconut-Peanut Rice Noodles with Blistered Green Beans that I love so much...
And... there I was... right back in the Redneckistan I know and love.
Not only were at least half of the people going without a mask, some of them were acting like outright assholes about going unmasked. Not that they have to go out of their way... the fact that they weren't wearing a mask is enough to tell me that they're an asshole. We wear masks to protect others in case we're infected! So of course there are selfish people who don't give a fuck about other people. Of course! Never mind that research shows a 90% drop in COVID-19 infections where masking is mandatory. Never mind that it's such a simple fucking thing to do. THAT'S AN ASSAULT ON MY FREEDUMB! And since Washington State went into lockdown before the the infections in Seattle came across the mountains in force, I'm guessing a majority of the people here still think that the pandemic is overblown (at best) or a Democrat hoax (at worst). But, when you think about it, who can blame them? Those who worship all things Trump see him setting a horrifically irresponsible personal example and are just following suit.
But hey... even if I did end up with the Coronavirus, at least my cats have something to poop in and I managed to get my first fast food in nearly half-a-year. That's not nuthin'.
In other news, I picked up some contact lenses to try out today. I stopped wearing contacts almost a decade ago when I started needing progressive lenses. Problem is... glasses fog up when wearing a mask. So now I'm trying to figure out a contacts/reading glasses combination which will make things a little easier (and less foggy) in our new COVID-19 reality.
Posted on Monday, June 29th, 2020
I did not sleep last night because I knew better than to try.
I stayed up watching television and working on fundraising to take my mind off of the clock hitting midnight when June 29th would once again drop on me with the weight of a hundred bricks. Two years ago I said goodbye to my mom, and it still hurts the exact same today as it did then.
Just like last year, it has gotten easier to live with, however.
I almost never think of the awful years at the end when the mom I loved was fading away bit by bit. I'm also a lot less angry over having to lose her twice. I don't think I will ever be over mourning her, but now it's gotten to the point where all I have is the love in my heart, which is as it should be, I suppose. Sometimes I feel like I should be angry, but I'm too grateful for what time we had. How lucky am I to have so many happy memories traveling the world and going on adventures together?
Maybe in another couple of years I will be able to sleep at night on June 28th.
Perhaps in another decade I'll not dread seeing June 29th appear on my calendar.
That would certainly be nice. In the meanwhile I'll just have to get through as best I can and try to keep focused on what's important...
Love and miss you every day, mom.
Posted on Thursday, July 2nd, 2020
Today was the second time this year I had to cancel major plans so I can sit at home. Thanks to our shitty handling of the pandemic, The USA is experiencing record high infections... whereas countries that took this shit seriously from the start continue to slow. Now they're starting to open back up because the threat is manageable... whereas here in these United States we continue to open up despite things being worse than ever.
Which, of course, means that things will just continue to get worse.
Which, of course, means we're just dragging this out longer and longer.
Which, of course, means that we're just ruining the economy even more than it was.
So congratulations to the entire Trump Administration and all the State governments who have hopelessly fucked us. I hope people remember them on Election Day.
As for me? I'm just going to sit here being bitter about losing my entire summer.