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.