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Caturday 185

Posted on Saturday, November 14th, 2020

Dave!What a day, right?

This evening at 5:10pm, Jenny came running in like she heard the Alexa alarm go off for dinner. I was forced to explain that no, Jenny, you're just being silly... there's 50 minutes until it's dinner time. This was her reaction...

Jenny stares, mouth agape.

Jenny stares, mouth agape.

And then I got this for the next 15 minutes until she got bored and took a before-dinner nap...

Jenny sits on the cat lounger judging me.

Not that Jake gets a pass. This was him on Friday morning waiting impatiently for breakfast...

Jake at the end of my bed staring at me.

Jake at the end of my bed staring at me.

Jake at the end of my bed staring at me.

Eventually Jake ran out of the room... but don't worry, he was waiting in his box downstairs for me as usual...

Jake sitting in his box at the bottom of the stairs.

And right now? I just want to put my feet up. But alas...

Jake sitting in his box at the bottom of the stairs.

Such is my life with cats.

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Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max

Posted on Friday, November 13th, 2020

Dave!Back when my iPhone was mostly used as a phone, I didn't care so much about upgrading. But now that my iPhone is used mostly as a camera, getting the latest model has become increasingly important to me. The better my camera-phone gets, the less I have to lug around my "real" DSLR camera. And thanks to the Apple iPhone Upgrade Program I can actually afford to upgrade. This year, getting the best camera came with an added surprise... it's not available on the "Pro" model, it's only on the "Pro MAX" model. AKA Apple's "HUGE F#$!%@ PHONE" model. Knowing Apple has a two-week return policy, I decided to see if the MAX was something I could live with because I want that phone.

And today it arrived.

Let's just go straight to the elephant in the room... or, to be more accurate, the elephant in my hand. This phone is ridiculously huge. Almost bordering on comically impractically huge. And heavy. From a usability standpoint, Apple seriously should not have gone this large. Because there's simply no getting around the fact that this is a two-handed device. Even when Apple has features like a slim "side keyboard" for typing one-handed, you will still have way too many controls out of reach and end up using a second hand. Even when you have fairly large hands like I do.

But we'll get to that. We'll get to all of that
   

Packaging and Contents

The packaging for my new iPhone is a classy, minimalistic affair. Apple kindly has pull-tabs on everything so it's easy to unwrap and open...

The iPhone 12 Pro Max sitting in its box.

I bought the Pacific Blue color, which is very nice... though difficult to photograph. As has been widely reported, Apple does not include a charger or headphones. All you get is a cable. Apple says that this is because there are too many charger bricks out there already, but it's an absurd stance to take. The vast, vast majority of chargers are USB-A. Furthermore, even if you have a USB-C charger, it's very likely not the 20 watt brick which means you won't get fast charging. The brick I got with the 11 Pro is only 18 watt, so even last year's model isn't good enough. I guess I'm not too mad about it... my phone charges overnight so it can be slow... but it's still more than a little bit infuriating.
   

Stylings & Construction

My favorite iPhone of all time is the iPhone 4. Absolutely stunning construction with that classy metal band holding everything together like a glass sandwich. They more-or-less carried over the design to the iPhone 5, but the 4 remained my favorite. Everything that followed was a step down... until Apple decided to resurrect the design for the iPhone 12 Pro. And, let me tell you, it's gorgeous. The band is now tinted stainless steel and looks amazing...

The iPhone 12 Pro Max stainless steel band.

I deeply regret having to put a case on the thing because it's just so pretty, but I have to keep it in flawless condition for the Apple iPhone Upgrade Program. Oh well. When it comes to construction, the iPhone 12 Pro Max sure feels substantial and solid. The glass back is etched for grippability, but still feels a little slickery. The thickness seems the same as my old 11 Pro... with the exception of the camera bump which pokes out quite a bit more. So much more that the phone doesn't lay flat when you put a case on it and set it on a table. That's annoying, but it's the price you pay for the camera you get.
   

Jacked

I'm going to break this out in it's own space because it' just so idiotic... the iPhone 12 line still doesn't use a USB-C jack for charging or connectivity! They finally moved iPad and Macs to USB-C, but iPhone is still tied to Apple's proprietary "Lightning" connector. This is just inexcusably stupid. Apple says they keep it because there's so many Lightning devices out there, but that's a laughably weak argument to make considering they've abandoned absolutely everything in their recent history. You are trying to tell us that there were not a lot of USB-A devices out there? Go sell that crap somewhere else. Just move to USB-C and get it over with.
   

Setup

A hallmark of Apple products is their ease of setup and use. But that's not always the case, and it seems that setup complications keep getting more and more severe while happening more and more often. Sadly, my iPhone 12 Pro MAX experience was far from ideal. The concept is that you set your old phone next to your new phone when you turn it on and everything transfers over. That part was fairly smooth. My activation and settings magically popped up with no problem. Mostly. Some apps, like Amazon Alexa and Schlage, required a login to get started. Other apps, like Smart Life and Hue, were ready to go immediately. No big deal. What was a big deal was when I got to my Apple Watch. You are not allowed to just click on the Watch app and have everything working. Nope! First you have to unpair with the old phone. Which would be fine. Except I couldn't make it happen because nothing... and I mean nothing I tried work. Either nothing happened or I couldn't get verified by the Apple ID Server...

Verification Failed.

After trying over and over and over to get past this, I finally Googled to see if I could do it another way. Turns out I could unpair by remotely wiping it from iCloud. Jeez. That was a mess with a lot of trial-and-error that took 20 minutes of my time, but eventually it happened. But that was only the beginning. THEN I got this...

Reset your Apple ID message.

Which sucks because now I'm going to have to change the password on all my Apple devices. It's just so phenomenally stupid. YOU HAVE TO LOGIN WITH YOUR CURRENT PASSWORD TO CHANGE THE PASSWORD. IF SOMEBODY WASN'T ABLE TO GET IN TO BEGIN WITH, WHAT DOES THIS SOLVE?!? As it turns out, nothing. Because THEN I got this...

Pairing Failed message.

And this is exactly what I was talking about. Apple's ease of setup is only good when it works. When it doesn't work, the entire system is a massive barrier to getting anywhere. After nearly an hour-and-a-half of work, I finally got my watch to unpair, erase, pair and restore. But holy crap what a stupid ordeal. Do better, Apple. This is Microsoft-Windows-level pathetic.
   

Battery

My iPhone arrived this morning at 11:15am at about 75% full. It's now 10:00pm and it's down to 50% full. My guess is that it only dropped that much because of all the setup and playing around I've been doing. It seems likely that I won't ever have to worry about battery life seeing as how I charge it every night and never once had my iPhone X or iPhone 11 Pro run out of power. I expect that it will continue not being a problem with the 12 Pro MAX. The MagSafe charging puck I ordered hasn't arrived yet, so I can't comment how it works or how fast it is with my 18 watt charger instead of the brand new 20 watt charger you're supposed to buy in order to get fast charging. The phone is so huge that it's tough to position on my Qi wireless charger and I'm assuming the MagSafe puck will be easier. It better be for $30.
   

Display

The OLED Super Retina display is definitely pretty. It's bright and saturated and anything you put on it looks great, just like it did on my old iPhone 11 Pro. However... after having seen the new "ProMotion" display on my iPad Pro which refreshes at 120 Hz, the poky 60 Hz refresh rate on this phone seems almost primitive. Other manufacturers have gone to 120 Hz, so I don't know what the deal is with Apple. My guess would be battery life, but it seems weird that they haven't been able to figure it out so that the user can choose whether display or battery is important to them. I barely use 25% of my battery each day, so I'd absolutely click the preference for ProMotion. Because once you've seen the buttery-smooth optics of a high refresh rate, going backwards is really quite jarring. For Apple's sake, I hope iPhone 13 Pro has ProMotion, because anything less is pretty embarrassing.
   

Sound

For some reason I thought that massive size of the MAX would have better sound than the "standard" size iPhone Pro. This doesn't seem to be the case. Out of their respective cases, the sound is not noticeably different between my old phone and new phone. Not that this is disappointing... far from it. I still cannot fathom how Apple manages to get such phenomenal sound out of a frickin phone that's so thin. No, it's never going to rival what you can get out of a dedicated speaker, but what you do get is better than I ever expect.
   

Size

And so here we are. Remember how I was talking about how the iPhone 4 and iPhone 5 were my favorite iPhone designs of all time? One of the things I loved about them was how beautifully compact they were. When I made the jump from iPhone 8 to the iPhone X, the size increase was tough to take. Jumping up again to the MAX is beyond tough to take. Just look at the iPhone 5 next to my new iPhone 12 Pro MAX...

The tiny iPhone 5 next to my new iPhone 12 Pro MAX.

The MAX is what's considered a "phablet," which is a hybrid phone/tablet. I never thought I would own one. Who wants a massive phone to lug around? The jump from 11 Pro to 12 Pro MAX looks like this...

The tiny iPhone 5 next to my new iPhone 12 Pro MAX.

After spending the day with it, I'm still not sure how I feel about the size. I really hate not being able to operate it one-handed. With practice I might be able to get some functionality back, but way too many controls are always out of reach. It's hugely frustrating. On the plus side, the other size-related drawbacks that I thought would be a problem ended up not being a problem at all. It fits in my pockets just fine (shirts, pants, jeans, and jackets). I can shoot with the camera one-handed. It's not uncomfortable to hold or use as a phone. And it doesn't seem to get in my way like I imagined it would.

When it comes to what I like about the size? That large screen is phenomenal for looking at photos. This cannot be overstated. The difference is not subtle. It may not seem like a massive change on paper, but the MAX feels more like looking at a photograph. I absolutely love that. I think back to all the times I've shown people images from my phone and how they have to squint and put their face up to it... and it's hard to imagine going back. And then there's gaming. Slow 60 Hz refresh rate aside, the larger size is SO much nicer for playing games. And watching movies. And reading. And just looking at... well... everything. The larger size allows for things to display a touch larger as well, so if you have aging eyes like mine it offers a slightly better experience to boot.

My guess is that I will be keeping the MAX rather than returning it for the "regular" 12 Pro. Even setting the superior camera aside, there are too many nice things about the large screen I'm enjoying which offset the inconvenience of having to use two hands sometimes.
   

Camera

The initial hot take from reviewers who got an advanced phone sent to them was that the photography difference between the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone Pro 12 MAX was not quite the leap everybody was expecting. The larger sensor does have slightly less noisy images in low-light... but it's nothing mind-blowing. You get more detail in the shadows... but not so vast that most people will notice. There's extra length on the telephoto at 2.5x vs. 2x... but it's not going to make a massive difference in the long run (so to speak). The sensor-shift optical stabilization reduces shake a bit... but not so much that you'll be able to get radically sharper photos while moving. It's all subtle degrees of change instead of some kind of revolution. And yet... I will take whatever advantage I can get, no matter how small. Most all I care about when it comes to my iPhone is the photos I can take. If the MAX is what it takes to get the best, then that's what I want.

Though the difference between 12 Pro and 12 Pro MAX cameras may not be huge, the difference between them and my 11 Pro very much is. The first photo I took was of Jake when he plopped down next to me after I got home. It was starting to get dark, so it wasn't especially bright. First I shot it with the 11 Pro, which dropped into 1-second Night Mode and got me this image (cropped to about 70%)...

Jake next to my on the iPhone 11 Pro.

Then the 12 Pro Max, which did not drop into Night Mode, got me this image (cropped to about 70%)...

Jake next to my on the iPhone 12 Pro MAX.

Now, I don't mind saying that I was a little disappointed. They both look similar, don't they? The 12 Pro MAX is a little bit more clear, but that's just because it didn't have to expose the scene for a full second. Then I zoomed in further and saw just how much more clear the 12 Pro MAX is. Here's the 11 Pro...

Jake next to my on the iPhone 11 Pro (close-up).

And here's the 12 Pro MAX...

Jake next to my on the iPhone 12 Pro MAX (close-up).

And... there it is. This is why I'm so grateful that Apple has an iPhone Upgrade Program which allows me to afford to upgrade every year. This is not a small difference. This is huge. The 12 Pro MAX has superior imaging which will allow me to zoom in tighter... print larger... and do more... with every shot I take. And this is just the first photo I took! I can't fathom what I'm going to see when I goof around with the camera over the weekend. I'm guessing I'm going to be blown away. I expect to be blown away.

One thing I'm dying to experiment with is Apple's new ProRAW photo image format. The file size is around 25 MB... each... but there's more information with less artifacts and a higher dynamic range. And the raw data you capture isn't touched as you adjust it in the Photos app, so the image doesn't degrade. You can always go back to exactly what you captured at any time. I won't be shooting ProRAW for casual shots, but I'm very excited at having it available when I'm shooting serious shots. Vacation scenery shots, portraits, photos for work... any time the bigger file is worth it. Alas, ProRAW isn't coming until iOS 14.3 which hasn't come out yet, so something to look forward to.

I'm sure early next week sometime I'll be posting photos I've been taking.
   

Accessories

I ordered the (PRODUCT)RED version of the silicone case along with my iPhone like I always do. The red color makes it easy to spot, it will look all Captain America with my blue phone, and the Apple-branded cases have always been quality. The fact that some of the profits go towards fighting AIDS in Africa is just icing on the cake. Now Apple has a new "iPhone Studio" tool where you can see what your iPhone will look like when paired up with various color cases and MagSafe wallets...

Apple iPhone Studio Options.

Apple iPhone Studio Options.

The new MagSafe that intelligently (and magnetically) attaches things to the back of your phone actually is pretty cool. My case is red, so when I pop it on the phone it is able to recognize that and give you a cool special effect that pulses across your display...

Apple iPhone Studio Options.

Had my case been green, the effect would be green, and so on. A nice touch.
   

Conclusion

Nice as the iPhone 12 Pro MAX is, it's not a foregone conclusion that I'm keeping this phone. There are times that I am not bothered by the massive size... there are times that it's just so overwhelming that I don't know if I can live with it. Maybe after a week it will seem "normal" but it sure doesn't now. I hate that it's so bad for working with one-handed. Part of that is just not being able to grip something so big. But a chunk of that is also Apple and 3rd party developers not doing a good job of adapting their apps to function well on a huge display like this.

But then...

...I pick up my old iPhone 11 Pro and it feels like a toy (I pick up my old iPhone 5 and it feels like it's fake). I love that bigger display so much that any time I drop back to a phone without it the thing feels wrong somehow.

I guess I'll have to wait and see.

Once thing I do know is that I can't wait to see what kind of photos I can get out of it.

   

Cruising Down the Apple M1

Posted on Wednesday, November 11th, 2020

Dave!Yesterday Apple resurrected Steve Jobs for a One More Thing event. And, try to check your shock, I'm going to talk about it!

Veteran's Day started early for me when the cats found a golf ball and decided to play with it in my bedroom... on my hardwood floors... AT 3:30 AM!! This is the golf ball that disappeared well over a year ago. As mentioned previously Jake can fit the ball in his mouth and carry it around. Before falling back asleep I heard them rolling it around downstairs but saw no sign of it when I went to feed them later this morning.

I honestly don't understand my cats. 99% of the time Jake and Jenny sleep when I sleep. I am almost never bothered or awakened by them at night. But every once in a while...

Ugh. Not. Enough. Coke Zero. To get me through this day.

I had planned on spending my Veteran's Day morning boxing up all the stuff I bought for my AnySoldier.com care packages so I can get them mailed for Christmas arrival. Instead I spent my morning taking a nap before work. THANKS, CATS!!!

2020, amiright?

And now back to Apple's third(!) "special event" of the season which, as expected, ended up being product announcements for their new Apple-based silicon Macs...

Sunrise from Cadillac Mountain in Acadia

I'm not going to recap everything here. There are tech sites taking care of that. But I do have some thoughts. If you haven't seen the event and want to watch, here's where you can do that.

  • This has been a long, long time coming. In all honesty I thought that Apple would be using their own chips in Macs before they started doing it in their iPhones and iPads. Intel kept overpromising and underdelivering on their wares, and Apple made no bones about how disappointed they were to be locked into Intel silicon. But here's the thing... I never blamed Intel for this. I blamed Apple. Intel chips are, for all intents and purposes, generic. They are used in Windows computers, Linux computers, specialty computers... all kinds of computers. And while Apple is certainly an important customer, Microsoft Windows is where the money is at. So the idea that Intel was supposed to gear their chips towards making Apple happy is laughable. If Apple don't like it... go somewhere else or make their own. So here we are. At last.
  • Apple's strength has always been that they control the hardware and operating system of their Macs. Because of this, they can have tight integration between the two and do things that other companies can't. No need to worry about third party PC manufacturers breaking under your shiny new OS... you're the only Mac hardware game in town. At the macro-level Apple can do whatever they want and optimize things however they want. Now they are at the micro-level, and it's going to be a complete and total gamechanger for the Mac. As it should be.
  • In general, I've found Apple's "special event hype" to be fairly accurate. If they make a claim of battery life, for example, then you can pretty much count on them being truthful about it. But when it comes to their claims of their custom M1 chips being hugely more powerful compared to Intel chips, I am a bit dubious because it's just lines on a chart. What is the basis for these claims? We don't know. I have zero doubt that these chips are more powerful in many respects, but at what, specifically? I guess we'll know next week when real-world tests are unleashed.
  • The transition from Motorola Power PC chips to Intel was pretty much a non-event for Mac users. There were a few hiccups, sure. But the emulation was speedy, seamless, and, "universal binary" apps (which had code for both Power PC and Intel in the same file) just worked. I am 100% confident that the transition from Intel to Apple will be just as seamless. Probably more so, since Apple's Swift programming language does all the heavy lifting for developers.
  • And so the days of RAM upgrades are over. GPU upgrades are over. CPU upgrades are likely over. Apple puts absolutely everything on a single M1 chip and solders it to the board. This disturbs me greatly. Not that they are putting everything on a single chip... that's awesome because things will run faster using less power and everybody wins. But what happens when the M2 comes out? The M3? You can't just pop out your old M1 chip and pop in a newer more powerful chip. You're buying new computers every time you need something faster... and tossing out your old one. In some respects, I kinda get it. Computers are so speedy now that they just don't need to be replaced as often. Solid State Drives are fast enough for memory swapping that RAM upgrades aren't as necessary. And since everything is being shoved through Thunderbolt/USB-C, the external bus is also really fast and powerful. And Apple has had a habit of making their OS releases be backwards-compatible to a decent degree. Plus it's not like Mac users have had any kind of true expandability for decades. But even so... a part of me is bummed. It would seem that a company as environmentally-oriented at Apple would move towards upgradability instead of planned obsolescence.
  • Within a decade I would be very, very surprised if MacOS and iOS don't merge into a single entity. It's where Apple has been headed all along. My iPad is one of the most amazingly powerful machines I've ever owned... it feels more powerful that my newer MacBook Pro. And now that everybody is going to be running on the same chip architecture, it just makes sense. I don't exactly hate the idea, but the files system on iOS is atrocious and the Mac has been stagnant. I don't know where the leap will be here, but a drastic leap is due. Once that gets figured out, everything else is academic.
  • Take for example file icon thumbnails. Used to be that if you save a file in Photoshop under MacOS, Photoshop would save a tiny "thumbnail" image WITHIN THE FILE so that your Mac could display the contents of the file instantaneously. When Apple transitions to MacOS X, embedded thumbnails were eliminated. Now every thumbnail is dynamically generated on demand. This is fucking outrageously stupid. When trying to find an image I need to work on I have to sit and wait... and wait... and wait... AND WAIT for my Mac to generate a ton of thumbnails until I see what I'm looking for. It's insane. I hate it. I means I HATE IT! And, yes, I name my files carefully, but visual representations are often far more efficient at finding a visual file. Except on a Mac where they definitely are not. Until Apple fixes this kind of stupid shit, they will just be baking in even more stupid into their OS's... however many there may be.
  • Apple scraping the low-end bottom of their product line for their first M1 products is hardly shocking. Far safer to test the waters with machines that aren't "mission critical" until they have a few refresh cycles under their belt. Easier to deal with having a potential recall on a $700 Mac mini somebody uses for web surfing instead of a $10,000 Mac Pro that's the primary machine running a business, just sayin'.
  • That being said... I can easily see an entire business being run on a Mac mini if Apple's claims about the speed and power are across-the-board and it's as revolutionary as it seems like it might be. From the early tests I've seen, the little Mac mini is more powerful than the iMac I use at work. And it's 1/4 the cost. This could result in a big, huge, mega-huge expansion in the number of people buying Macs instead of Windows PCs.
  • Naturally, I am excited about having a more powerful machine using less power. Who wouldn't be? But it's what comes along with that which has me more excited than I should be... the machines run cooler. Interesting to note that the new M1 MacBook Air, M1 MacBook Pro, and M1 Mac mini are all using the same chips. Where the MacBook Pro and Mac mini gain their speed and power advantage over the MacBook Air is that they have cooling fans. The M1 MacBook Air does not. The chips can run faster because they are cooled and can generate more heat. That's kinda bonkers when you think about it. Apple doesn't make a slow M1, a medium-speed M1, and a fast M1... the limiting factor on speed is how cool they can be kept. Slap your M1 MacBook Air on top of an ice pack and I'm guessing it can run just as fast as the "more powerful" machines. Kind of makes you wonder what kind of cooling technological advancements this might end up driving, doesn't it?
  • 720p IS NOT ACCEPTABLE FOR A CONFERENCING CAMERA! Holy crap, Apple... how frickin' dense do you have to be?
  • All things considered, my dream "Mac" is a 26-inch iPad running MacOS apps. It would attach to a stand for desktop use... then pop off so I can paint while sitting on my couch. I've never felt closer to being able to buy this machine than I do right now. Watching iPad apps run natively on the M1 Macs gets your brain churning over the idea of it going the other way around as well.

And that's that, I guess. There's no reason for me to buy any of the new M1 Macs. My MacBook Pro isn't even a year old and my work iMac is slower than I'd like at some things but still fully useable for everything I do. It's nice to think that by the time I'm ready to replace either of them, a far cheaper computer will likely be available that's more powerful than what I was using. If nothing else, that's my ultimate takeaway from Apple's "One More Thing."

   

A Cold Day in Berlin

Posted on Tuesday, November 10th, 2020

Dave!I am fortunate that my home is fairly energy efficient. It must have pretty good insulation to keep the heat out, because I barely have to run my air conditioning in the Summer. The Winter is a different story. It gets so cold where I live that the heat has to run often just to maintain a temperature of 72º F when I'm home. My smart thermostat drops to 70º F while I'm at work and 66º F when I'm sleeping. The cats don't seem to be much bothered, but they have heating pads to sleep on if things are too chilly for them. As for me? I wear wool socks and extra layers... and I have a heated throw for my couch and a heated blanket for my bed. It's not ideal, but it aves me a lot of money on my energy bill. And it works.

Except when it doesn't.

At around 2:30am I woke up with terrible leg cramps. And I was freezing.

Apparently the heated blanket on my bed has died.

The coldest I've ever been was not Antarctica. Not even close. The coldest I've ever been was at a Berlin train station in the middle of Winter. It was so cold that I couldn't feel my legs... and my fingers and toes (once I managed to heat them back up) were tingly for days. The second-coldest I've ever been was on top of Cadillac Mountain in Maine waiting for the sun to rise. That one was on me. I just had to get photos from the first place to see sunrise in the United States. Worth it though...

Sunrise from Cadillac Mountain in Acadia

This morning was nothing that bad. But it sure felt like it. And so I guess I need to order a new hot blankey. This is a no-brainer purchase because the money saved on my power bill will pay for a new blanket in just one month. I toyed with the idea of trying to repair it, but I think an electric blanket is one of those rare cases where that isn't an option. It's just my luck I would screw something up in the electrical system and the blanket would burst into flames in the middle of the night.

Slightly worse than waking up cold, I think.

A shame it couldn't have failed closer to Black Friday though.

That's also just my luck.

   

The Implausibility Index

Posted on Monday, November 9th, 2020

Dave!When it comes to conspiracy theories and other crazy-ass crap, I assess everything according to an internal "Implausibility Index." I kinda have to, because I believe in things that are outside our ability to experience (or even conceive of), but fully believe in science and observational fact.

Flat Earth "Theory" has an Implausibility Index of 10.0 because you can literally observe that earth is a globe with your own two eye-holes. People have been doing it from before the time of Christ. Heck, Eratosthenes (a Greek mathematician) even calculated the size of the globe we live on by measuring the length of a shadow in two different far-apart places at the same time. It's just utter nonsense to think that the earth isn't a sphere and has been for thousands of years. But here we are.

I've never quite understood why people would willfully ignore loads of empirical evidence to believe in things that simply are not true. The only thing I can guess is that they just don't want truth to be true so badly that no amount of observable fact can change it.

Things like aliens or ghosts don't hit a perfect 10 because how can we really know? Their existence could be unobservable with our current abilities and technology.

I've always given God an even 5.0 because while I have always believed that there is something "more" than us (and choose to call whatever it is, "God"), I fully acknowledge that the idea of some omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God sitting up in the sky judging our exploits to be a bit farfetched. Wouldn't He, by possessing such abilities, automatically be above such petty nonsense? Especially since He made us how we are? God I hope so. It's for this reason that I can give Pat Robertson attributing hurricanes to gay marriage an Implausibility Index of 16.875. It's beyond all rational thought... entering a realm where the word "implausible" loses all meaning.

I don't know where I put the claims that Democrats "stole" the election yet. It's not a perfect 10.0 because, well, I don't put anything past politicians. It's a dirty, filthy game where power is the prize, and historically we all know where that leads. But the number has got to be really high. Probably in the 9's. It just doesn't make sense that Republicans like Mitch McConnell would still be in power if Republican votes were tossed out. It doesn't make sense that Republicans would gain seats in The House if votes were faked for Biden. It doesn't make sense that there will be a run-off election in Georgia if Republican votes were being suppressed. None of it makes sense. And every time somebody has cried "FRAUD!" it's been debunked (seriously, people, step outside your bubble and Google that shit). Odds are much higher that even Republicans were getting sick of President Trump's crap and wanted him out... but still wanted their state offices to be held by Republicans. That's not fraud, that's Republicans wanting a better presidential candidate to vote for.

Heaven only knows I understand it because I have voted Republican locally and Democrat nationally for decades. Locally Republican because the area where I live is completely fucked by Democrats or, even worse, forgotten by Democrats after Election Day.* — Nationally Democrat because the Conservative ideal of the government staying the fuck out of people's lives is ironically not embraced by Republicans. In my mind the votes just kinda balance each other out... even though my vote doesn't really matter in the end because Washington State is insanely blue for state and federal government and Eastern Washington is insanely red for local government. My vote just never matters all that much despite what you hear on television. Even this time where I refused to vote Republican out of protest. I am more than sick of President Trump's crap, and could not bring myself to support anybody who wasn't outright denouncing his outright lies and heinous behavior.

Oh well.

Two-party system and all that crap. Not like Republicans or Democrats are letting go of that any time soon.

   
*I used to be an Independent, but finally registered as a Democrat so I could vote for the Democratic candidate in primary elections which would fuck us over the least. It hasn't worked, of course. Democrats over in Olympia who fuck us the most time and time again still manage to get elected. Apparently Washington State, as a whole, just reeeeeally likes getting fucked by our politicians?** You got me.

**Could actually be said of the entire country, it would seem.

   

Bullet Sunday 687

Posted on Sunday, November 8th, 2020

Dave!The election may be (mostly) over, but don't destress just yet... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• FAME! One of my earliest blogging friends is Heather Scarbro Dobson (formerly of Coal Miner's Granddaughter). She's an author and paranormal investigator living in Georgia. We've met up several times when I was in town for work and I've been on two investigations with her. The first was to Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville, Kentucky in 2011 (which I wrote about here). It was on that trip where we saw a board that had photos of all the "famous" paranormal teams who had investigated there. I knew none of them. But one of the photos stood out because it was a glossy, fully-staged production which had a team of brooding, pouty badboys... and it was autographed!

I mentioned to Heather that their tagline might as well be "Bustin' Ghosts and Breakin' Hearts!" And ever since then we've been joking back and forth about who the sexiest member of the team was. She picked Chris, I picked his brother Brannon, and we've had a faux fight going on ever since...

I mean, seriously, Brannon is totally the hottest, amiright? Anyway, Heather writes about the time that we met up in Jefferson City to go on an investigation with The Wraith Chasers in her new book, Recollections of a Future Ghost...

A page from Recollections of a Future Ghost.

Naturally I wrote about the trip here on Blogography. If you want to read about it, here's your link.

   
• Count! I laughed way, way too hard at this...

The best part about visiting Australia is the Australians.

   
• Chappelle Show! Just like after the last election, the host for Saturday Night Live this election was Dave Chappelle. He is one of my most favorite comedians because his form of insightful commentary illuminates in a way comedy so rarely does...

"Don't let hunger dictate your life" is almost prophetic about where we're headed.

   
• Trebek! Many times, the host of a game show just has to rely on their personality to get the job done. It's not like Pat Sajak requires anything past the bare minimum of smarts to get through a game of Wheel of Fortune. But the host of a show like Jeopardy really has to be on their toes. They have to review all the clues prior to the show. Be sure to grab the right clue from 30 clues. Read the clue in a fluid way that makes it easy to understand. And be sure to pronounce even the most complex words from clues correctly in order for them to be correct. On top of having a winning personality. Alex Trebek has done all this by reading the answers on Jeopardy in the most brilliant way possible for years. That alone deserves kudos... but the fact that he was such a good sport about being lampooned over it all was what made him so beloved...

Trebek was parodied for years on Saturday Night Live, but the best bit was when the Alex Trebek himself made a cameo appearance...

Business Insider did a really cool behind-the-scenes with Trebek last year...

But my favorite appearance out of everything he's ever done? When he was a man in black on The X-Files...

What a sport. I've been watching Alex Trebek on Jeopardy for most of my life... and was saddened that he passed away at 80 years old today, losing his battle with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He was a truly great and talented personality and will be missed.

   
• Masked! At this point, I don't know why anything more on this subject needs to be said, but here you go...

Science has laid it all out on the table. There it is. Masks can halt the horrific effect of the pandemic and save lives. But too many people refuse to fucking listen, so here we are.

   
• Maya! I tell you... every single time I see Vice-President-Elect Kamala Harris speak, all I can think of is just how totally on-point Maya Rudolph's impression of her is...

Maya Rudolph being Kamala Harris.

I sure hope that this means we'll be seeing more of her on Saturday Night Live!

   
• Burn! Soooo... is Bernie Sanders psychic?!? No. He just saw what so many people saw was going to happen...

"For whatever reason?" Come on, Bernie. Democrats were specifically told by Biden to vote safely by mail. Republicans were specifically told by Trump to vote in person. What happened is exactly what was always going to happen given how Republicans were cutting into Post Office operations, restricting drop-off locations, and doing whatever they can to delay or eliminate votes coming by mail... up to and including calling those votes "illegal" with no evidence at all. What's funny is that they also dictated in some states that votes couldn't be counted as they were received, but instead had to be counted after Election Day... once again to provide the illusion that votes were being "found" after Election Day. It's such a transparent load of bullshit. But that's politics for you. Don't hate the players, hate the game for allowing this kind of stupid shit to keep happening.

   
And that's your election coverage for this fine Sunday.

   

Caturday 184

Posted on Saturday, November 7th, 2020

Dave!Every Caturday I set aside time to make sure my cats are being well cared for by cleaning everything they come into contact with. I steam-clean their feeding station... take apart and clean their water fountain... make sure their Litter-Robot litter boxes are clean... inspect all their favorite sleeping spots and clean anything that needs it... take a quick look at their toys to make sure that they are all safe and not falling apart... that kind of thing. I'm pretty religious about it all because I know if I depended on somebody for all that stuff that I'd want a clean place to eat, go to the bathroom, sleep, and play.

The one thing I have not yet found a way to clean is the covers on their heated pads. They both love the things and are on them all the time. I've tried washing them in the washing machine, but cat hair and stuff stick to them like glue. I guess at some point I'm going to have to sew replacements that are easier to maintain.

In other heating pad news... they both seem to want to have their rear foot in their face while sleeping on them. I noticed this early in the week and keep seeing it...

Jake sleeping on his heating pad with his foot in his face.

Jenny sleeping on her heating pad with her foot in his face.

Oh well. Whatever keeps them happy.

I've been keeping a close eye on Fake Jake every night to make sure he's made it to the warming pad in the shelter I set up for him. But sometimes he keeps an eye on me. Or at least comes over for a playdate with Real Jake...

Jake looking out the screen door of the catio at Fake Jake who's there looking inside.

Jake has kinda-sorta adapted to the end of Daylight Saving Time. Or, even if he hasn't, he at least stopped complaining. Jenny on the other hand? Holy crap. Not even a little bit. When 5:00pm rolls around she is ready to eat because to her it's 6:00pm and dinner time, even though I've been easing them into the time change 15 minutes at a time. And when the alarm doesn't sound for food? SO SALTY! She is mad, mad, mad. She just scrunches up into a little anger ball on her heating pad and glares at me...

Jenny glaring at me with the red-hot intensity of a thousand suns.

Make no mistake... she is the sweetest cat ever... but she hates the whole dicking-with-the-clocks thing more than even I do, and I didn't think that was even possible.

I sure wish that belly rubs would distract her from things as easily as it does Jake...

Jake getting yet another belly rub.

Oh well. So thrilled to think that I get to do it all over again in six months.

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Life of a Chinstrap Penguin

Posted on Friday, November 6th, 2020

Dave!There's a feature in iOS 14 where you can have a "photo widget" on your home screen. It pulls photos from my phone that I see every time I wake it up. Most of the pictures displayed are of my cats because most of the photos on my phone are of my cats. But there are occasional photos of my travels... or my friends... or my mom and my family... or scenery I thought interesting enough to capture. Every once in a while it pops up with a photo I transferred from my "real" DSLR camera to my phone.

This morning when I woke up it was a penguin from my epedition to Antarctica...

A penguin looking at me in Antarctica.

I remember taking this shot with perfect clarity.

You are instructed not to approach within a certain distance of any wildlife... like six feet or something. But it's okay if wildlife approach you. It's not like if a penguin walks up that you have to turn tail and run away or anything like that. This happened to me a couple times. The first time was at Hydrurga Rocks where the above photo was taken. The penguin was bobbing along as penguins do when I dropped down to take a photo of him. He stopped, looked my way, then hopped over within a couple feet...

Penguin checking me out.

Penguin coming over to me.

Penguin navigating rocks to come see me.

Penguin come to see me.

I would have offered him a fish if I had one on me, but I did not, so he gave me a once-over then wandered away...

Penguin hopping away.

Penguin looking back as he wanders off.

And so I found myself thinking about this penguin for a good chunk of my morning. What's going on with him? Is he still around? Still healthy? Hasn't been eaten by a seal or something? How long does a penguin live anyway? What's the life of a chinstrap penguin?

Turns out the Chinstrap Penguin AKA Pygoscelis Antarcticus can live for up to 20 years.

So maybe he's still around. Swimming in ice-cold waters. Hunting for fish. Sunning himself on rocks. Doing whatever other penguin stuff that penguins do.

That would be nice.

I know thanks to climate change things are getting tough for arctic and antarctic wildlife, so it's nice to think that he's doing okay.

Or she's doing okay? Males and females look exactly the same and the only way I could ever tell was if they were next to each other since males are larger than females. Which is probably why they are the ones who end up fighting over pebbles to build nests? I should probably look into that one of these days. Maybe the next time a penguin pops up on my iPhone home screen.

Wouldn't want to misattribute penguin outrage.

In Washington State, so long as your ballot is postmarked by Election Day, it will still be counted even if it arrives at the polling station up to 20 days after Election Day. Obviously we are not a battleground state... WA is about as blue as blue can get thanks to the massive progressive voting block on the Seattle-side of the mountains... but, technically, our election is not over until November 23. So when I hear people in Washington going on a tirade because votes are still being counted in other states... it takes all my willpower to keep from telling them to take a seat. If we were a battleground state deciding the election and the vote was close, WE would be potentially delaying things for weeks. But it's all good. The Office of the President doesn't transfer until noon on January 20th.

Save your human outrage for something else.

   

Comfort Food Takes Effort

Posted on Thursday, November 5th, 2020

Dave!I've been buying less and less meal boxes from Martha Stewart and Marley Spoon because... A) They are expensive, and... B) It's sometimes tough to find two new recipes I want to try on the same week. Most of the older recipes I like have been made numerous times on my own for less money, so it's only the new ones I really care about. This week finally had two that I wanted to try, so I coughed up the money to pay for them.

Tonight was Indonesian Vegetable Nasi Goreng with Crispy Shallots...

My dinner.

I was dubious about the taste because the sauce has ketchup, vinegar, teriyaki sauce, chili garlic sauce, salt, and... sugar? But it was actually very good.

Last night was Black Bean & Quinoa Taco Bowl with Crispy Tortilla Strips. And I guess I owe an apology to Martha Stewart. I ordered this one even though I don't care for quinoa very much. I do love me a good taco bowl though, and it sure looked great in the photo...

Martha's dinner.

It was a lot more work than I expected, but hey... TACO BOWL FOR DINNER! Then I got to the part of the recipe where you slop marinated romaine and tomatoes OVER HOT QUINOA AND SPICED BLACK BEANS! And I was all... BLECH! The lettuce is going to wilt immediately and I'm going to end up with a gross, sludgey, toxic mess. Bad Martha! But NOPE! Martha is always right, and I should have known she wouldn't endorse a bad recipe. This was ONE PHENOMENAL SALAD! Absolutely loved it, even though mine didn't look as nice as the photo...

My dinner.

And while it wasn't as good for my leftovers lunch as it was fresh, it was still pretty good...

My lunch.

Boy, gotta hand it to Martha's meal service... she's opened me up to so many amazing recipes that I never would have found on my own! And now I have two more. Both of which might actually be good for me? Say it isn't so!

Now that's some food for thought.

Because thought has to be put somewhere now-a-days.

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OKAY ALREADY, I VOTED!

Posted on Wednesday, November 4th, 2020

Dave!And that's all I can do. That's all there is.

So last night I took a sleeping pill, watched a movie, then watched television until I fell asleep. There was no point fretting over whether or not limp Uncle Joe will limp-dick across the finish line with all those uncounted votes... or whether we get four more years of whatever the fuck this is. Odds are the Democrats will hold The House. Republicans will retain control of the Senate. And the president will be whomever they're gonna be.

I did fill in my best-guesses just for fun, however...

An election map showing a Biden win.

At the time I checked my news feed, Arizona seemed likely to be called for Biden... as determined by FOX "News," of all places... so I went with that even though I was truly questioning whether it would actually happen. Wisconsin and Pennsylvania seemed a safe bet for Biden because I read that much of the untallied votes were from larger cities where they tend to vote Democrat.

The big mystery of the night was Pennsylvania. Assuming I guess right on everything except Pennsylvania, that still doesn't seal the deal for Trump's reelection...

An election map showing a Trump win.

So I guess that's all she wrote?

On my lunch hour today, I took a look at Nate Silver's projections and got this...

An election map showing nothing called.

Florida, Georgia, Ohio, and North Carolina tipping for Biden seems unlikely... but given how crazy things are, I guess anything is possible. I think it will help people accept a Biden win if it's not as close as I was guessing (even though I fully realize his biggest fans will never accept it because he will never accept it). And, hey, none of this is a sure thing anyway. Remember 2016?

NPR, which tends to be more cautious about calling states while actually calling states looks like this...

An election map showing nothing called.

Which means that if everything trending blue stays blue, the NPR-designated toss-up states won't matter and President Trump will still lose even if he sweeps them (which seems likely, with the exception of Arizona).

So I dunno.

Obviously I have never been a fan of President Trump. I sincerely doubt I will become a fan of Presumed-President Biden. But I can't help but think that I won't be gritting my teeth so much with the regime change that maybe-possibly-could be coming.

Given the horrific two-party system that we've married to, I guess that will have to do.

   

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