Posted on December 31st, 2019
For those who only read one of my posts each year... or anybody wanting a recap of the past year here at Blogography... this post is for you! As customary, I've jettisoned loads of the usual junk so this entry is "mostly crap" instead of the "total crap" they usually are.
Last year losing my mom was the worst year of my life. This year couldn't help but be better by comparison. But I lost one of my oldest, dearest friends right off the bat, so now I'm horrified at what 2020 may have in store. I guess I've reached the stage of my life where it's all tragedy and loss from here on out? Lord, I hope not.
• Took a look at Schitt's Creek, one of the best TV shows ever...
Took a look at the Seattle Tunnel... and the horrible design of the new spaces it will allow.
• Built a magnificent photo wall in my stairwell...
• Experienced Poster Raising with the Amish...
• Converted another batch more DVDs and Blu-Rays to digital... and explained how you can do it too.
• Wished Jarrod Saltalamacchia, one of my favorite ball players, a happy retirement...
• Dedicated a post to Mufasa, Jake's toy lion, his favorite thing in the universe...
• Lamented the fact that SeaTac International Airport is still a shitpile of fail, even when they build something new.
• Watched as my home keeps getting invaded by trash pandas.
• Spent my 101st Caturday taking inventory of the cats in my neighborhood...
• Watched the funniest stand-up of the year with Nate Bargatze's The Tennessee Kid (highest possible recommendation if you have Netflix)...
• Took Jake back to the vet after he ended up sick again. Still amazed that the little guy can't meow ever... EXCEPT when he is in distress...
• Found out the reason Jake was sick was because he fell off the stairwell banister. Absolutely heartbreaking (and more than a little scary), but he recovered like a champ...
• Built a bannister ledge tray to keep my cats from falling down the stairwell again...
• Talked about the series of travel books I made for my mom to commemorate each of the trips we took together...
• Shared my thoughts on the fucking disaster that was the Game of Thrones final season...
• Once again shared a video on how tax brackets work because I am sick and tired of people believing the bullshit lies that are being propagated. I honestly don't know if this is the best way, but if we're going to discuss tax brackets let's at least be informed as to what they are. And with that in mind, here we go again...
• Said goodbye to Grant, an internet friend who will be sorely missed.
• A visit to the Chihuly Garden of Glass, a magical place crafted by one of my favorite living artists...
• Spent my lazy summer days floating down a river...
• Finally cut the cord and got rid of the toxic mess that my satellite television had become.
• Ooh... Upgrades (a process that is ongoing, by the way!).
• I have opinions. And they get me in trouble by all sides.
• Back in Vegas for the third? Fourth? time in 2019 and decided to take stock of my one-time Planet Hollywood obsession...
• Got to see Janet, Miss Jackson if you're nasty...
• Discovered the total magic of my favorite new thing... THE IMPOSSIBLE WHOPPER at Burger King...
• Got myself an Apple Card... an interesting beast to be sure.
• My obligatory Apple Card unboxing entry...
• Total outrage that Hallmark can't seem to ever get the details right.
• Jake and Jenny's cat personality analysis...
• Hell of a Day, Isn’t It? Talked about what happens when you lose that person you share an inside joke with.
• Impressed the internet when I joined in on the SHOW US A PHOTO OF YOUR KITCHEN CABINET meme...
• Shared my brief attempt at being a home designer.
• Put my iPhone 11 Pro through it's paces... and shared my thoughts in it's incredible camera capabilities...
• Took my iPhone 11 Pro camera for a spin in my favorite American city.
• Ranting against changing the clocks because it fucks up my cats like nothing else... and the quail are back...
• Flew to Minneapolis so I could experience Avengers: Damage Control in real-live kinda virtual reality...
• Caring for somebody with dementia involves telling lies and making decisions.
• Disney+ finally debuted with a slew of watchable stuff to occupy time I don't have.
• Get Angry, Then Laugh... same as it ever was... same as it ever was.
• And, oh yeah, I joined the Instant Pot cult!
• Finally replaced my dying MacBook Pro... with a MacBook Pro...
• Let's take a Very Special edition of Caturday to talk about how technology helps Fake Jake survives the winter!
And there you have it... my 2019 year in review.
Thanks once again to my cats, family, and friends for making life bearable through even the worst of times.
Here's to a good 2020, everybody.
Posted on December 27th, 2019
Winter in the Northeast is not as nice as Winter in the Northwest for some reason. For one thing (and I honestly don't understand how this happens considering I live farther North than I am right now) it seems to get darker sooner. Our 4:00pm is their 3:30. Maybe the weather patterns hold the overcast in tighter so it just feels that way? I dunno. But it's pretty depressing.
This morning my entire life was put on hold so I could watch the season finale of The Mandalorian (AKA "That Baby Yoda Show"), which was actually quite good...
It's strange how this 8-episode television series felt more "Star Wars" than just about anything which followed The Empire Strikes Back. Perhaps Rogue One is the exception for me (I loved that movie)... but I'll definitely take The Mandalorian over Episodes 1-3 and Episodes 6-9 of "The Skywalker Saga." And I haven't even seen Episode 9 yet.
Hopefully we'll get something a little more ambitious for Season Two. As great as Season One was, it still dragged quite a bit in the middle.
After that was over it was time for my 2-1/2-hour drive north. Which sounds bad, but I'll take it over the 3-1/2-hour drive that I get to make in the Summer when the roads are swarming with tourists. That's travel torture right there.
And speaking of travel torture... now it's time to decide if I want to eat questionable hotel food for the second night in a row... or brave the cold and try my luck at a restaurant.
Either way, it's likely I'm setting myself up for disappointment.
Posted on December 26th, 2019
My last trip of the year is usually in early December. This year it's the week after Christmas. AKA the worst possible days to travel. I know this from personal experience, having done this twice before. Once because I was stranded by bad weather while traveling. And once because I didn't know any better.
I stopped my Christmas drinking early and went to bed early so I would be able to wake up early this morning. Neither helped, because I was still completely exhausted when my alarm rang at 4:30am. Fortunately I was already on the coast so I only had to drive a half-hour to the airport instead of 3-1/2 as I usually would.
It was foggy at Seatac which meant the plane sat on the tarmac for an hour while traffic cleared.
The flight was completely uneventful once we finally took off, which is the best kind of flight to have.
And now I'm eating questionable airport hotel food so tomorrow morning I can drive to my worksite. Not really sure what the traffic will be like on a Friday after Christmas, but I'm preparing for the worst.
Like I always do when I travel.
Posted on December 19th, 2019
I woke up this morning, grabbed my laptop to start my work day, noticed the date, then had the wind completely knocked out of me. Maybe one day I won't feel completely and utterly crushed on my mom's birthday, but it's not today. The second birthday without her is no easier than the first.
After feeding the cats I thumbed through a few of the travel books I made for her, then felt a little better. I'm so overwhelmingly grateful for the time we had and the many, many amazing memories from our trips together that it seems selfish to stay sad.
...it's the little things which happen day-today that keep destroying me.
Running across a note with her handwriting in the glovebox.
Finding small wooden elephant she bought in Laos while looking for a paperclip.
Seeing a potholder she bought from Disney World while baking bread.
Getting a Christmas card addressed to her in my mailbox.
Having somebody ask how she's doing while buying groceries.
The list goes on and on and on. Every day. All the time. In places where I'm least expecting it.
Happiest of birthdays to you, mom. I love and miss you every day.
Posted on December 2nd, 2019
My boots and half of my Black Friday shopping spree bounty showed up today.
I have to say I'm more than a little sad to let my old boots go. I've literally been around the world in them (and the bottom of the world as well), so I am thinking of taking them to the local shoe shop to see if something can be done (they've been around these parts for 99 years!). With exception of the badly-worn soles they're in perfect shape and still look great. My new boots are nice too, I just think it's a genuine waste to toss out something if they can be repaired...
I gave up on wearing tennis shoes decades ago, much preferring a light hiking boot. They're more comfortable, easy to slip in and out of when you tie the laces low, and can be quickly laced up for those times you need good protection for your feet. For a traveler who can end up anywhere and everywhere they're everything I need. The last pair of non-dress-shoe shoes that I bought 25-30 years ago sit in my closet barely used.
As I mentioned, I had a few bucks left over from everything I was saving to buy, so I got a copy of the LEGO Jurassic World video game. I was surprised to see that when you order something LEGO, Amazon will put it in a cool LEGO Star Wars box...
In sadder news, the world received notice that BUB had passed.
She was such a sweet cat who faced a difficult life with an optimism that inspired a lot of people... and raised a lot of money and awareness for homeless pets. It was so very hard to follow along with her latest health crisis knowing that she was probably nearing her end... but, as always, she was doing her best to be happy and live her best life...
I cannot fathom my life without Jake and Jenny, so my heart goes out to Mike Bridavsky and the loss he is suffering. I find it amazing how he was so dedicated to such a special cat, and grateful for the hundreds of thousands of dollars he worked tirelessly to raise in support of animals.
Rest in peace, BUB, you will be missed by a great many people.
Posted on November 15th, 2019
This is a post... FROM THE FUTURE!!!
Something went wrong when I updated my blog yesterday (Thursday) and so I gave up on trying to post until I could re-install it tonight (Saturday).
Just thought I would post my photos from the Seattle Aquarium. It's a decent enough aquarium, but the entrance fee is insane... $30 if you're a Washington resident, $35 if you're not!
And yet... fish and stuff with my grand-nephew...
A fun outing... but I question whether it's worth $30.
Posted on November 7th, 2019
Last night after experiencing Avengers: Damage Control, Kyle and I went to an amazing Cuban restaurant in southern Minneapolis. It was a tiny place, but had a big heart which contained by lovely graffiti-strewn walls...
My iPhone's "Night Mode" came in real handy when trying to read them...
My dinner was a vegetarian plate. Seasoned black beans with rice... a Cuban slaw... sweet plantains... and, of course, yuca frita!
Kyle had a shrimp dish that was worthy of an umbrella!
I had to be up and getting ready at 4:30am, so it was an early night for me.
Once my hotel shuttle had deposited me at MSP, I started looking for a breakfast snack. Surprisingly, not much was open at 5:00am. But eventually I ran across Dunkin Donuts which, much to my surprise, had BOTH a veggie option AND Coke Zero! They were using Beyond Sausage on a muffin with egg and cheese. It was fantastic! I wish more restaurants would offer this kind of thing...
Burger King is having one of its best quarters ever thanks to their vegetarian Impossible Whopper causing a surge of 10% in sales. And it's easy to see why. It tastes fantastic. Probably due in part to the fact that it's cooked with real meat products, which I'm fine with because Burger King didn't have to kill any animals for what I'm eating. Apparently McDonald's is working on their own vegetarian burger. Which is kind of silly when the McVeggie Deluxe they once offered at their Times Square location was amazing and they could just do that.
I am genuinely excited to see vegetarian options being adopted like this. They don't always work for my tastes (Qdoba has the Impossible Fajita Burrito which tastes "off" to me) but the fact that I can go to so many restaurants and at least have something I can eat is fantastic. I wish it wasn't made more expensive than the meat options (thanks government subsidies!), but I'll gladly pay a premium if it's something I like. Most places the Impossible Whopper is just $1 more than a regular Whopper... worth every penny, and Burger King gets my business.
Anyway... before I knew it I was back at SeaTac which wouldn't be SeaTac if at least one thing I needed to use wasn't busted to shit...
The drive home was uneventful (thankfully) and here I am hanging with my cats for an hour before going into work at noon. They are, needless to say, happy to have me home.
If, for no other reason, that the heat will no longer be on "Away Mode."
Posted on November 6th, 2019
Well that was fun.
I flew to Minneapolis for one day because I am a Marvel Studios completist and just HAD to do Avengers: Damage Control at The Void (thanks to Kyle for being a good sport and doing it with me!). It's an immersive VR experience that's part game, part virtual world. You strap on a backpack filled with tech, don a VR helmet, then walk through a physical "studio" which has been remapped in your goggles with an entirely new reality. Along the way you fight Ultron robots and stuff...
So far as the technology goes... it’s pretty glitchy. You're in the "experience" with three other people and move from area to area with them. But the physical representations of the other "players" is not entirely stable or accurately mapped. Sometimes you'll look over at somebody and they will be walking in place oddly or randomly switch directions. The hybrid Black Panther /slash/ Iron Man suits you get mapped on you are pretty cool though...
The mapping of your real hands to your virtual hands is... okay-ish. But many times my hands would disappear or jump to a wildly different spot. Kyle has tattoos on his arms and hands which made it so one of his virtual "hands" rarely functioned at all. And it’s a little tough to “get into the action” when your hands keep disappearing! So... helpful hint, I guess... if you have arm/hand tattoos, maybe you need to wear white lycra sleeves and gloves or something?
That being said... the coolest part of the experience is not the "game" part. It's being able to look around at the world they created, which is absurdly cool. I almost wanted to go back through again so I could ignore the battle and just see all the stuff going on in your environment that's 360° around you. You go from Shuri's training center to Doctor Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum to a full-on battle with Ultra-Ultron on a New York City rooftop. And along the way you meet a goodly selection of Avengers...
The major characters in Damage Control are Shuri, Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, and The Wasp. And they actually got Letitia Wright to act in it, plus Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Rudd, and Evangeline Lilly to voice their CGI characters (which is why it was worth my flying to Minneapolis to see it all, since it's the real deal and not some imitation video game. Though all the other characters who speak were imitation, but done pretty well. I guess they ran out of budget to get all the stars?
Seattle doesn't have a The Void location. And not all locations have Avengers: Damage Control. I just picked the cheapest to get to, which was the Mall of America in Minneapolis (surprisingly, it would have taken more miles to get to Las Vegas or a South-California location, which is weird because they're closer). The price of admission is $40. I don't know that it's worth that to somebody who isn't a fan of Marvel movies... and felt a little overpriced even for somebody like me who is. Apparently the Avengers experience is a limited-time engagement through the 15th, so if this is something you absolutely must try, then you might want to get some tickets and get on that.
Right now, things are still a bit glitchy, and those glitches do take away from the experience. I'd imagine within another five years you'll just put on some VR specs and be able to do this kind of stuff in your living room perfectly. Until then, you can invest in an Oculus VR headset and have a non-walk-through experience at home, or go to a VR space like The Void and take what you can get.
And what I need to get is some sleep, because I have to be up at 4am to head home.
Posted on November 5th, 2019
The idea was simple, really... fly out tonight for a quick trip, then fly back home on Thursday morning.
And things started out totally great. Really they did. The weather was absolutely gorgeous for my drive over the mountains and I made it to Seattle Tacoma International Airport in record time. I then managed to find a parking spot at WallyPark in only 15 minutes (which sounds a lot easier than it is, even with a reservation). The TSA PreCheck line wasn't longer than the regular line (for once), so I even made it through security fairly quickly!
The inbound flight was a little late, but they can "make it up in the air" so no harm no foul.
Then a valve wouldn't work that they need to pressurize the plane... or depressurize the plane... or something like that... so we headed back to the gate to wait for repairs.
My money was on it being the Fetzer valve. In which case I was hoping they had some ball bearings, 3-in-1 oil, gauze pads, and about ten quarts of anti-freeze (preferably Prestone) so we can get this show on the road...
So eventually they fixed the valve.
Then we went out onto the tarmac again.
Then the valve was still broken, so we went back to the gate again.
Then they decided it would be best to switch to an entirely different plane some hours later.
I was already going to be arriving pretty late, but now we were arriving four hours late on top of that. Which sounds bad until you think about how it's much better to have mechanical problems on the ground than in the air.
In a way... I’m disappointed at this missed opportunity I had here. I’ve seen many, many things in my decades of air travel. I’ve seen a fist-fight mid-flight. I’ve seen a fire in the galley while over the Pacific Ocean. I’ve been on a plane that’s had to make an emergency landing... twice. I’ve had police board the plane to remove a drunk passenger. I’ve been detoured to some random city four or five times. I’ve missed connecting flights more times than I can count. I’ve been trapped in cities for days because no flights were going out. I’ve even been in a “crash landing” where the plane ran off the runway and we had to be driven to the terminal on a bus (no emergency slide, darn it!). But I have never been in a cabin depressurization where the masks drop from the ceiling! Apparently this valve malfunction we had would have meant they could not pressurize the cabin (or something to do with cabin pressure) and maybe I finally could have checked that one off my list!
Oh well. Maybe on the way back?
Posted on October 27th, 2019
A busy, busy week for me has ended but I'm just getting started, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Monster. I have been toning down the politics on Blogography because it's just so pointless. Unless you are living under a rock, you already know the horrific shit our president is doing, so there's really no need to repeat it here. But lately it's gotten so bad that my disbelief has escalated to a level I didn't even know I had in me. Fortunately John Oliver was back tonight to put one of the most tragically awful events into perspective...
There really is no bottom. President Trump lives in a fantasy world where everything he does is perfect and everybody loves him for it. Somebody this detached from reality has no business running the country, and I hope that people are really, really scared about what damage could come next.
• Idiocity. And speaking of damage, I saw this headline on The Verge yesterday: Donald Trump wants the iPhone home button back. OH FUCK NO! With all due respect Mr. President, go back to using a flip-phone and leave technology advancements to those of us who know how to form complete sentences which people can actually make sense of.
• Good. When I was at Uluru (which the colonizers dubbed "Ayer's Rock") in Australia, there was a sign saying that it was a sacred place to the people who own it and they ask you not to climb it... despite there being a chain path to climb it. So I didn't climb it. There were also signs posted at a few points around Uluru asking you not to photograph it at that point because something sacred to people happened there. So I didn't photograph it there. I don't understand why it's so difficult to follow the wishes of the people whose land you are visiting. You're their guests, and should be grateful that they allow you to visit their home at all. I know I sure was...
By banning people from climbing on it after the month is over, Australia is righting a great wrong. I hope people respect the new ban on climbing Uluru and adhere to the Anangu People's request. It literally is the least people can do.
• Kangaroo Cats. I ran across an interesting Facebook post this week which was talking about the "primordial pouch" which appears on some cats. I think it’s genetic. Jake and Jenny both have big pouches. When they run, the skin flops back and forth... it’s kinda hilarious, but doesn't seem to bother them at all. For the longest time I just assumed they were mutants. But apparently that's not the case...
Interesting stuff, that evolution!
• Rhinos! Will of Burrard-Lucas Photography is the reason I selected the Antarctica tour that I did. His wildlife photography is the most inspiring and beautiful I've ever seen, and getting a behind the scenes look at how he does what he does is about the coolest thing you'll see on YouTube this week...
Thanks to his BeetleCam invention, nobody does wildlife photos like Will Burrard-Lucas. He amazes me with each new book he publishes.
• Pepper. You really do learn something new all the time. My homemade pizza sauce recipe calls for green peppers. I don't normally eat them because I prefer the sweeter red peppers, but the recipe tastes so good that I do what is called for. On Tuesday I came home from work and was already too tired to cook... but then realized that I actually needed to clean my kitchen before I could cook. Double the horror. It's while cleaning that I notice something strange... WHAT HAPPENED TO MY GREEN PEPPER?!?
It's then that my Facebook friends had to inform me that green peppers aren't ripe and, like tomatoes, they will turn from green to orange to red as they ripen. I honestly had no idea. Until Tuesday, I truly thought that they were all different species of peppers.
• Hallmark Moment. As you can imagine, I am in full-on Hallmark Movie Mode now that their 10th Annual Countdown to Christmas is in effect. I almost never watch live, choosing instead to DVR the movies so I can jet past commercials. But the new movies for 2019 I have been watching live, and this commercial came up...
Well done. Somebody at World Market really knows their Hallmark audience. I don't understand why any company spending the huge amount of money required for a national ad doesn't put this kind of care into creating them. Most ads are just terrible and something you want to skip. Why would you waste money like that?
And now... time to wash underwear so I have something clean to wear to work tomorrow. You're welcome, my co-workers.