This morning I had to stay home from work so the pest control guy could do his annual spraying around the condos... and so a delivery could be made... and so friends could drop off a chair they had borrowed back in February. And I mean literally drop off, because they waved and drove away after leaving it in my driveway so we could maintain proper social distancing.
They would have returned it much earlier but... well... you know... pandemic and all that.
Usually I would have invited them in for a chat.
Then again, usually they would not be returning furniture on a Tuesday morning because they would be at their respective jobs.
Then again-again, usually I would have invited them over for beers and dinner when they returned the chair after work or on a weekend.
But we are living in unusual times in an unusual situation, so I spent my morning cleaning my kitchen and talking to my cats while I waited.
Or at least what passes for "usual" now-a-days.
Posted on Monday, May 18th, 2020
This past weekend was about as unproductive a weekend as I've had in a very long time. I didn't do much of anything. I think the long weeks of not being able to hang out with friends or, you know, enjoy life, are starting to get to me.
What also gets to me? Going to watch The Abyss and finding that my DVD will no longer play despite still being in flawless condition. The good news is that HBO has it playing, so I was able to watch it after all. The bad news is that I was sent into a total panic at the thought of my massive DVD and Blu-Ray collection deteriorating into unplayability.
I've re-purchased or converted or as much of my collection as possible into digital. But so many things... so many, many, things aren't available digitally. Some movies (like The Abyss and True Lies) inexplicably never made it past DVD. So if you want to own them, that's all you got. As for television shows? Forget about it. Can't be converted, and a huge number of them not only never made it past DVD... but they are out of print and unavailable.
If my old television DVDs become unplayable, then that's all she wrote.
And so I've taken a dip into the quasi-legal arena of backing up my irreplaceable DVDs with digital copies. I say "quasi-legal" because technically breaking the DVD encryption is legally discouraged. But what the fuck else can I do? I can't buy them digitally. All I can do is buy yet another DVD copy that's likely just as old and deteriorating as the one I already own because it's gone out of print.
Like one of my favorite shows, Kitchen Confidential.
I can't believe that the show was canceled after 4 episodes. All 13 that they filmed were dementedly hilarious and featured a stellar cast (including Bradley Cooper, John Cho, and Frank Langella). It's a total bargain at $15 on DVD, but if the DVDs are becoming unplayable, it's a waste of $15.
And so I've ripped digital backups of DVDs I already own because it's all I can do to preserve what I purchased. And if FOX eventually comes to their senses and releases it digitally? Of course I'll re-buy it. I love the show and want to support everybody who worked on it.
Even if I am a bit bitter about supporting the studio which canceled it.
And speaking of bitter...
Like they always say... if you can't stand the heat, don't go into the volcano.
Posted on Sunday, May 17th, 2020
The weather is finally warming up, but the hottest place to be is right here... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• More Brothers! One of my favorite films to pop up in my foreign film binges is Kardeşim Benim, a really charming and funny Turkish film about two estranged brothers on a road trip after their father dies. A subtitled version is available on Amazon Prime streaming and for sale on iTunes...
I loved it and was happy to see that they made a sequel. Alas, Kardeşim Benim 2 was not available anywhere... even without subtitles... and all I could find was a trailer, which looked every bit as good as the first movie...
Fast forward to this past week and I saw that Amazon Prime Streaming finally had the sequel available to watch... with subtitles! It was darn good, and I enjoyed it just as much as the first film. It was a bit confusing, however, because the female lead from the first one has mysteriously disappeared. I was left scratching my head while thining "Wait... what happened to Zeynep?!? Who is Didem and where did she come from? Hakan is marrying her? Did I miss Kardesim Benim 1-1/2?!?" Still, well worth a look, especially if you saw the first one.
• Mow Your Tuna! I love languages and have studied more than a few of them. The only language I ever felt fluent enough to hold a conversation in was Japanese, which has long-since escaped my memory. Languages I studied just enough to blunder my way through when traveling have been Swedish, Thai, Portuguese, and Italian. The first language I studied was German and I studied Spanish in high school. Neither stuck. I did attempt learning French before my second trip to the country. It did not go well. Which is why I had a good laugh over this...
Now, I am the first to admit that English is no better. There are loads of homophones that make zero sense and can easily confuse anybody attempting to learn the language. But when it's the language you grow up with, it just makes sense.
• Casting! QUEEN LATIFAH AS THE EQUALIZER?!?!? SIGN ME UP, PLEASE! I am absolutely fascinated at how a show like that might work. I am so happy to have some really different television to look forward to and this fits the bill nicely.
• Electoral Math! "Democrats and losing elections is like Princess Peach and getting kidnapped by a lizard. At a certain point it starts to seem like y'all like this shit." — Oh... here we go... a total breakdown of how politics work where I live and how Democrats are 100% fucking it up. AGAIN...
He's not wrong. About any of it.
• Mo Betty! NEWSFLASH: Betty White to star in new Lifetime holiday film at 98 years old. — Squeeeeee!
• Magic! As we remain locked down in quarantine, I've been incredibly impressed with how much Disney has been doing to distract us from it all. On their blogs they've been releasing a slew of amazing recipes for some of their most popular dishes and desserts at their parks. As if that wasn't enough, theyve been posting videos to their YouTube channel of all kinds of things... from fireworks displays to attraction ride-throughs, like their latest and greatest: Rise of the Resistance...
• Hugs! And because I want to end today on a happy note, here's a video of people hugging animals hugging people...
Doesn't get much sweeter than that.
And that's all the bullets we have for today.
Posted on Saturday, May 16th, 2020
My cats have never really responded to catnip regardless of how many times I try. When they were kittens I would buy catnip toys and sprinkle it on scratching posts to entice them, but it never really did anything. Eventually I just gave up. They were happy to scratch on their posts without it (thus saving my furniture) so why bother?
The last thing I bought them were a few toys filled with Maine Organic Catnip. They would chew on them and toss them around, but it didn't seem the catnip was doing its thing.
Then this past week somebody was singing the praises of "From The Field" catnip, so I thought I would give the 'nip one last shot. When it arrived I could smell it through the bag. Heck, I could smell it through the shipment packaging!
I sprinkled it on Jake's favorite toys... Mufasa the lion and Moose the mule... plus the Maine lobster roll that already had catnip in it. He rolled around on them for a bit, but then he wandered off...
Jenny wasn't interested at all.
And so... I guess my cats just aren't genetically disposed to catnip then. I read that can happen. Oh well. At least now I know for sure. Because if they weren't going to respond to this skunk, nothing will do it.
I tossed the bag on the kitchen counter, fed us all dinner, then plopped myself down in front of the television and started working.
TELL ME. TELL ME THAT NOBODY SAW THIS COMING!
So there I am working away when I hear the cats in the kitchen goofing off. I worry that they've gotten into the garbage. But nope! THEY GOT INTO THE CATNIP! Hopped on the counter where they knocked it to the floor, then put a bunch of teethmarks in the bag before slicing an opening and getting it all over the kitchen floor. THEN they decided to roll around in it, fight in it, and go nuts in it. And then there's Jenny picking up Mufasa and throwing him at Jake at the 1-minute mark. So apparently I was making a bad assumption that they were not affected by the stuff. Because clearly...
And so I guess I just wasn't using enough of the stuff or something? The good news is that now I can throw them a 'nip party from time to time.
It's legal to get high in Washington State now, after all.
Posted on Friday, May 15th, 2020
Nobody was more surprised than I was how much I loved the new Star Trek: Discovery series that CBS All Access unleashed on their streaming platform. The first season was beautifully realized, deliciously twisty, and featured some of the best acting to ever appear in Star Trek. It truly felt like something fresh and new, and I was thrilled to experience it (even if I had to pay extra money to see it). I hadn't loved a Star Trek series this much since the original.
The second season was a bit of a disappointment to me. It featured a convoluted time travel narative instead of the shocking turns we got in the first season. Even so, I still found a lot of things to enjoy about it. And by far the biggest thing? We got to see Spock before his tenure under Captain Kirk. It was when he was serving as First Officer to Captain Christopher Pike... which Trek fans know from the fantastic two-part Original Series show: The Menagerie. Pike was wonderfully realized by Anson Mount and Rebecca Romijn turned in a fantastic appearance as Number One.
But it was Ethan Peck as Spock that made me desperately want to see more of their adventures aboard The Enterprise...
Courtesy of ViacomCBS and CBS All Access Television
And today we got the news that we actually will be seeing more of them...
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds will pick up with the crew where their appearance on Star Trek: Discovery left off.
And so... a great time to be a Star Trek fan. We've got a third season of Discovery on the way... along with the Michelle Yeoh spin-off Star Trek: Section 31. And if that wasn't enough, the intriguing Star Trek: Picard has been renewed for a second season and we're getting a new animated show called Star Trek: Below Decks. And now Strange New Worlds too!
I dunno about you, but I'm thrilled to be getting some good news for once.
I think we're due.
UPDATE: And, just like that, we're back to the Twilight Zone as President Trump's "Space Force" unveiled its new flag...
I mean, it's not my imagination... that's the Starfleet logo on the Space Force flag, right?
Bad enough this country is going into even bigger debt over something so stupid... but to steal the logo from Star Trek? The insanity of it all makes my head hurt.
Posted on Thursday, May 14th, 2020
I don't know which I detest more... Kool-Aid Drinking Conservatives or Kool-Aid Drinking Liberals. At least with Kool-Aid Drinking Conservatives they can usually point to That One Thing which makes them a Kool-Aid Drinking Conservative. Let's pick abortion as an example. They are against abortion, everything else is secondary, so they live and die for their Republican candidates and the GOP no matter how big of a stupid Republican asshole ends up in office. Mitch McConnell has built his entire existence as a career politician relying on exactly this kind of idiocy. He can literally do no wrong and get away with as much hypocritical fucked up bullshit as he wants because his base will support him and believe him no matter what he does or how obviously he lies.
Whether it's abortion, guns, lower taxes, or the right of Christians to persecute people they don't like, Conservatives know exactly which hot-button issues sends them to the voting booth over and over again. And that's regardless of all the other issues Conservatives saddle them with that are against their best interest. There's always That One Thing which keeps them loyal. "Sure I can't afford health care, the water is poisoned, and I have to work three jobs just to scrape out a living, but at least my local hospital can refuse to treat queers!"
That's fucked up, but I can kinda respect it. I feel the same way about Daylight Saving Time. I fucking hate it, it's fucking stupid, and I am so fucking sick of it that I often joke about voting for whichever candidate promises to get rid of it forever. Asshole politicians come and go, but dicking with the clocks twice a year is (apparently) forever.
But it's not the same for Kool-Aid Drinking Liberals, is it?
Some of them have That One Thing... like a woman's right to choose, perhaps. But most of the liberals I know can't boil it down like that. They can't point to a single issue and say "THAT'S WHY I'M A BLEEDING HEART LIBERAL!" Their reasoning is usually far more complex and esoteric. Ask them and you'll end up with something like "I'm a liberal because I believe in human rights and equality!"... and then they will yammer on for hours to rationalize their blind devotion to the DNC. And I get it. Honestly I do. I usually vote for Democrats now-a-days because even though they are bought and paid for by lobbyists just like Republicans, at least I know that social issues which favor regular people over billion dollar corporations and favor oppressed minorities over religious persecution will (hopefully) be addressed.
I feel you on all of that.
But it's still horribly frustrating for me to understand drinking the DNC Kool-Aid and believing that Democratic politicians are above reproach and can do no wrong.
Take for example, Senior Senator Patty Murray from my home state of Washington.
Public domain photo provided by the United States Congress
I fucking despise her.
Well, I should clarify... I despise all politicians, but I really despise Senator Patty Murray.
I've disagreed with her on several matters. But my true loathing started after she voted against affordable drug re-importation from Canada. She offered up all kinds of fucking bullshit to excuse her stance... like questioning the "safety" of allowing drugs coming from Canada... but it was all crap. I mean, where are all the news stories of Canadians dying by the thousands due to bad drugs? You won't find them. What you will find is hundreds of stories of thousands of Americans who can't afford critical drugs and have to go without, damaging their health and ending their lives. No, the real reason that Patty Murray voted against drug re-importation was because she takes piles of money from Big Pharma and has a vested interest in protecting their profits.
Just like all the other politicians, Senator Murray has her price, and is willing to sell out herself and the State of Washington to anybody who will pay it.
And Democrats don't fucking care.
I've heard all the excuses, but this is my favorite: "She's a senior politicians with lots of power in the Senate! We can't lose Patty Murray because then Washington State will lose the power that we get from having her entrenched in office! We need her fighting for us!" To which I can only respond "What good is all that power if she uses it against us from time to time? Shouldn't we vote in a politician who won't sell us out for lobbyist cash?" But then Democrats just take another sip of the Kool-Aid and smile. They don't care. "Vote Blue No Matter Who isn't just a catchy slogan, it's a way of life. But why can't it be a different blue than Patty Murray?
And that brings us to good ol' Mitch McConnell and his love of taking a shit on The Constitution. Yesterday the US Senate voted to allow the feds to grab your online history with NO WARRANT and NO DUE PROCESS. They can essentially spy on you online with absolutely no oversight whatsoever.
Now, don't get me wrong here... I fully support our government agencies doing what they can to fight terrorism and keep us safe. And they should absolutely be given the tools to do that. No question there at all. But to have such sweeping power without oversight? To be able to intrude on our personal lives without cause or due process? Who the fuck supports that? Who the fuck thinks this is enforcing our right to privacy and freedom?
Senators Ron Wyden (Democrat, Oregon) and Steve Daines (Republican, Montana) asked this same question and came up with the same answer I did. We absolutely don't support warrantless intrusions on American citizen lives. And they drafted an amendment to prevent it from happening. 59 out of 100 senators agreed with them and voted to support it. But because you need a 60 vote majority to pass anything, the legislation failed.
Four senators... Patty Murray (Democrat, Washington), Bernie Sanders (Democrat, Vermont), Lamar Alexander (Republican, Tennessee), and Ben Sasse (Republican, Nebraska) didn't bother to vote. Had Patty Murray showed up to do her fucking job... the job we fucking pay her to do... the amendment would have passed.
Or maybe it wouldn't. Maybe the behind-the-scenes manipulations that go on in American politics would have still set up the amendment to fail because secretly all our senators want it to fail. And all of this bullshit is just a dog and pony show that endangered politicians can point to when they run for reelection. Who can say? All I know is that worthless piece of shit Senator Patty Murray who represents me didn't bother to go on record saying that invasions of our privacy should have oversight and warrantless invasions of American lives should not stand.
Which is why the cynic in me is thinking "God only knows what skeletons the FBI dug out of Patty Murray's closet to make her sit out the vote like this."
As you might have guessed, I am fucking livid.
Because as more and more of our lives is digitized and put online, we lose more and more control over what we choose to share of ourselves. Now the feds can LEGALLY perform a search WITHOUT a warrant and WITHOUT due process. They can break into your life on a whim whether you have done anything wrong or not. Your right to online privacy is gone. So what’s next? Senator Patty Murray sits out on a vote for legislation which says we can be dragged off to prison without cause as well?
Fuck that and fuck her.
We need to find somebody new to represent us who is serious about serving the people of Washington and supporting the legislation which preserves our right to privacy. Find somebody who will actually show up to vote on legislation which affects our lives. Find somebody who will actually do their job. That "somebody" sure as hell is not Patty Murray, so let's get her out of office and find somebody new who will show up for us. President Trump is constantly railing against "Do-Nothing Democrats," which is a laughable and provable lie (most of the stuff Democrats are trying to do gets blocked by Mitch McConnell, natch) but it turns out sometimes it's true. And we deserve better.
As I close out this rant on the horrors which pile on the "new normal" for American citizens, I'd like to leave you with this clip from the film The Pelican Brief (copyright Warner Bros. Pictures)... assuming it hasn't been taken down for copyright infringement...
Julia Roberts is right. They are wrong.
UPDATE: The Patriot Act reauthorization bill passed the Senate today in an 80-16 vote. Senator Patty Murray voted "no," but fat good that does us when she fucking knew it was going to pass. And that's awful. But it could have passed with an amendment to prevent warrantless invasion of privacy when it comes to our online lives. Whether this is due to Patty Murray's incompetence or indifference is anybody's guess. All she gives a shit about is that she can point to the Patriot Act and say "I opposed that!" when it's time for her to be reelected. And, while technically true, it's actually a lie. But what else do you expect from a politician?
Posted on Wednesday, May 13th, 2020
Every year I do a little more to make my home my own. I figure I might as well because, more likely than not, it won't be my home forever.
Most of the things I do are on the inside. That's where I live. That's what I see the most. That's where my experience is. I didn't have to do much on the outside because the woman who lived here before me did a really lovely job so I left as much of it alone as I could. The only thing I really had to do... and do most reluctantly... was tear things out. Because of my travel schedule, I am not always home to water and weed and take care of the things that require that kind of time and attention.
The first thing to go were the flowers out front, most of which were in planters that had to be manually watered. I wasn't here to do it and so they died. When I planned out what would replace them, I had two things in mind...
And so I wanted two flower beds. A large one where most of the drip-lines were, and a second smaller bed on the corner where there was less water available.
The large flower bed I created back in 2018...
My mom died twenty days after I completed it. I couldn't find the motivation to care about flowers after that.
Nearly two years later, and I finally decided to finish what I started...
It's hard work for an old guy like me... shoveling rock and digging up dirt! Especially when my job is to sit at a computer all day.
It turned out okay though...
It will take a week or two of watering before I can tap the border bricks level and get them positioned correctly.
The purple thing in the back is supposed to get three feet tall, and so I tried to give it a little more space to grow. You can't tell from this photo because the lens is distorting things, but the rock border is equal in the front and the sides.
And so... I am done with flowers for the year.
Well, mostly done with flowers for the year. There are two of the plants that don't look to be surviving their relocation, so I'll probably have to replace them.
One of my favorite tech vloggers is Marques Brownlee. He has a clarity of focus and some really good insights which he presents flawlessly. In a time where there is just so much video out there, I regularly make the time to watch Brownlee's videos twice. Like this video on Apple's $700 wheels, which I just watched again before adding it here...
The more I delve into theories as to how Apple works, the more I can't help but appreciate how genius they are. Look at all the press and exposure they're getting... OVER WHEELS!
Posted on Tuesday, May 12th, 2020
I've finally reached my potato salad nirvana.
It's been a long road to get here. I've experimented with dozens of recipes and married that to the way my mom and grandma used to make it. My biggest breakthrough occurred when I didn't have any eggs so I decided to add small cubes of Dubliner Cheese as a substitute.
It was sublime.
Hard boiled eggs are squidgy and don't add any flavor that isn't already well-represented by the mayo. They also add a stink to the salad that's a bit off-putting.
This is my current recipe, and I think I'm done now because it's exactly where I want it to be and I've reproduced it a half-dozen times now...
Mix above together and put in refrigerator to chill. Cook 1 package of Simply Potatoes dices in a mesh basket in an Instant Pot with 1-1/4 cup of water for 6 minutes, then quick-release. Put potatoes in the refrigerator to cool for 10-15 minutes. Fold potatoes into dressing mixture, then chill for 20 minutes or more before serving (I usually can't wait and end up eating it while still a bit warm, and it's delicious). Garnish with paprika (or, if you have it, smoked paprika) and chopped fresh dill or green onions sliced thin. Because I can't help myself I always add more little cubes of Dubliner on top. Sometimes I like crushed potato chips on top too!
After refrigeration, the potatoes soak up a bit of the mayo and sour cream so things can get a little dry, I just stir in a tablespoon of mayo and everything is good again!
Posted on Monday, May 11th, 2020
I finally watched First Lady Michele Obama's Becoming on Netflix.
Love her or don't love her, there's no denying that she's a fascinating person...
I really enjoyed the show (and her book) even though I've not always been a fan. Some of the things she's been party to I've vehemently disagreed with, as I think they've been an attempt to do a good thing badly. Take, for example the new "Nutrition Facts" label. It's meant to help people eat healthier. But ultimately it's just another expense and hardship for small business food manufacturers who have to invest a rather large chunk of money into something which is ultimately not worth it.
The calories font is bigger. How does that help? They tweaked a few values. How does that help? People who want to eat unhealthy foods already know that they are eating unhealthy foods, and they're not going to change their mind because the calories font is bigger. Stuff like this is what Democrat detractors can point to and, with good reason, say that they make things harder on American businesses.
But then she also worked very hard to get kids healthier meals in school and a bunch of other wonderful things, so you gotta have perspective. In the end I can say that, if nothing else, I believe that Michele Obama was a patriot who honestly thought that she was doing what's best for the people she served. Can't say that about too many political figures.
Posted on Sunday, May 10th, 2020
XXX, but XXX... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• TAIKAAAAAAA! And lo did an angel descend from the heavens and declare that Taika Waititi will be writing and directing a Star Wars movie, and it was good. I frickin' adore Taika. What We Do In the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Jojo Rabbit, Thor: Ragnarok (Korg!)... everything the guy touches turns to gold whether he's writing, directing, or acting. As if that's not enough, he just seems like a genuinely smart, talented, funny, interesting, and exceedingly nice person...
We got a taste of Taika in the Star Wars universe when he directed an episode of The Mandelorian (and provided the voice of IG-11). Now he's bringing us more Thor (Thor: Love & Thunder), a new Flash Gordon, a new Time Bandits, plus a new Star Wars. Naturally, I couldn't possibly be more thrilled that he's working on projects I desperately want to see.
• Swoop! I love stories like this...
Birds are awesome.
• BMO! I had no plans... none to invest any more money in television. Especially HBO Max, which has nothing to offer me. Well... almost nothing...
BMO is one of the best parts of Adventure Time and I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to see where they take the character.
• PATATJES MET! I found this article on A Global Taxonomy of French Fry Dips to be especially enlightening. I, of course, choose fries with Dutch mayo. It's the only way to fry.
• Wood! Watching Netflix's Hollywood left me mildly entertained, but I can't stop thinking that they're trying to do a good thing badly while missing a bigger opportunity. Revisionist history is a fine line to walk. You either go for broke, rip up the rulebook, and grab your reimagining of history unapologetically by the throat... or you float through history making random changes that are all rainbows and cotton candy but ultimately don't mean anything to anybody but you. Quentin Tarantino *IS* revisionist history cinema, and Inglourious Basterds is a genius-level event of just how powerful a tool it can be. Ryan Murphy's Hollywood is just whispy fluff in a genre wrapper that "what-ifs" real events to mild effect. The final episode is just ridiculous with its pie-in-the-sky over-the-top goofiness. THAT BEING SAID... holy cats is Jim Parsons good in this thing! His character is a predatory monster which perfectly illustrates how power in the wrong hands can lead to a nightmare of a human being. I am guessing his take on Rock Hudson's manager is based on a real person who did these horrible things, and that's a really scary thought...
Good on you, Mr. Parsons. I'm excited to see where you take your post-Big Bang Theory career next.
• Advice! I generally roll my eyes at all these "lists of life advice" that make the rounds of the internet a couple times a year. But this one, titled 68 Bits of Unsolicited Advice is pretty great and some of them (such as "A vacation + a disaster = an adventure" are exceptional. Well worth a read.
• Monk! Okay... this is pretty cool. I kept hoping and hoping that we'd get a Monk movie or two so we could see what he was up to now...
And now I just want a Monk movie even more than I did.
• Remember! And, lastly, just read this. There are some remarkable people doing wonderful things in the middle of our current crisis. They should be recognized and appreciated.
And that's a wrap on Bullet Sunday. At least for today.