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Snow Day

Posted on Friday, January 18th, 2019

Dave!We keep getting promised snow in the weather forecast, but it never comes. Then yesterday morning it started coming down like crazy. We had inches accumulate in short order. My cats couldn't get enough of it, and spent all morning hanging out in the catio watching the flakes fall. They came in for breakfast, but then it was right back outside.

When it was time to go to work, I stuck my head out to make sure all was well...

JENNY: =meow=
JAKE: =squawk=
ME: Yes, I see that. It's snowing!
JENNY: =meow=
JAKE: =squawk=
ME: Yes, how exciting!
JENNY: =meow=
JAKE: =squawk=
ME: No, you can't go play in it. You'll get all wet and make a mess in the house!
JENNY: =meow=
JAKE: =squawk=

But then I got to thinking that it's unfair they don't get to experience snow like outdoor cats do. They also don't get to experience walking on grass. What I need to do is create some kind of catio tunnel out to the yard. Then I need to find a way to bury some latches under the grass so I can secure a cage there. That way I can have a safe way for Jake and Jenny to walk on snow in the winter and grass in the summer... but also have it be removable so the lawn can be mowed.

Something to think about. In the meanwhile... I can shovel a little snow into the catio for them to play with.

Jenny ran out immediately so she could see what it was all about...

Jake and Jenny Playing in the Snow in Their Catio

Jake and Jenny Playing in the Snow in Their Catio

Jake and Jenny Playing in the Snow in Their Catio

Jake was a bit more cautious. He circled around it trying to sniff out what it could be. Probably trying to determine if he could eat it...

Jake and Jenny Playing in the Snow in Their Catio

Then he pawed around it for a while...

Jake and Jenny Playing in the Snow in Their Catio

Eventually he saw me through the window and started squawking at me. Assumably telling me that the snow made his feet cold. I tried to explain that he needs to step off the snow to fix that, but he just stood there complaining...

Jake and Jenny Playing in the Snow in Their Catio

And that was the end of that. Tonight it's pouring rain, which I'm assuming will melt all the snow. Again.

Guess it was good while it lasted.

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Home Security is for The Birds

Posted on Thursday, January 17th, 2019

Dave!This morning while I was at work, I received a notification from my security cameras that somebody was breaking into my front door. This happens whenever anybody is in the vicinity of the exterior doorknobs. I wasn't too worried because my door locks weren't reporting any tampering. But I was curious. Did somebody leave me a pamphlet or something? Let's take a look, shall we?

Well, that's disappointing...

But pretty.

I love birds. Especially in flight...

Bird in Flight

Bird in Flight

   
And now, if you'll excuse me, the first episode of Star Trek: Discovery Season Two is here! I loved the first season, so I'm hoping for more Star Trek goodness this time around...

Live Long and Prosper...

   

Spidey Marvel Time!

Posted on Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

Dave!My only complaint about Marvel Studios is that they are restricting themselves to three movies per year. This seems lacking in ambition. I understand not wanting to crowd the theaters in a wash of super-hero films, but maybe after the 21st Century Fox merger is complete they will up their game a bit? Hopefully.

In the meanwhile...

The first trailer for Spider-Man: Far From Home dropped earlier this week...

The most obvious piece of new information here is Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio...

Captain Marvel Character Posters

He doesn't seem like he's a villain... yet? I guess?

From appearances, it would seem Peter Parker is being deputized by Nick Fury to become "Spider-Man: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D." or something like that. Apparently to fight some elementals terrorizing Europe. That's seems pretty mundane and impersonal for a Marvel movie, so I'm guessing something (or more likely, someone) is behind it all.

Since the new Spider-Man takes place after Avengers: Endgame it's interesting to note that life on earth has returned to normal. Which means it returns to normal in Endgame. Which seems to indicate that Thanos and his snap were eradicated from the timeline? We shall see.

And then there's Captain Marvel...

New character posters for the forthcoming movie have been unleashed. Notably absent is a poster for Ronan the Accuser. Kinda weird that he didn't get one when everybody else did...

Captain Marvel / Carol Danvers, of course...

Captain Marvel Character Posters

Agent Nick Fury, having been CGI youthed to his 90's self...

Captain Marvel Character Posters

Agent Phil Coulson, likewise youthified...

Captain Marvel Character Posters

Maria Rambeau, whom I'm guessing is future-hero Monica Rambeau's mom and fellow pilot...

Captain Marvel Character Posters

Goose, Carol's cat... which is named "Chewie" in the comic books (after Chewbacca)... and is apparently named after Anthony Edward's Top Gun character here...

Captain Marvel Character Posters

Mar-Vell(?) is the original Captain Marvel in the comic books but, since the origin is changing for the movies, he could be playing somebody completely different...

Captain Marvel Character Posters

Korath, whose last appearance was in the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie...

Captain Marvel Character Posters

Minn-Erva, an enemy of Carol in the comics, but apparently isn't that (yet) in the movie...

Captain Marvel Character Posters

Talos, an evil alien Skrull shown here in his human form...

Captain Marvel Character Posters

??? No idea who Annette Bening is playing in the movie... Supreme Intelligence in human form perhaps...

Captain Marvel Character Posters

March 8th can't get here soon enough.

   

Shut-Down Smack-Down

Posted on Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

Dave!And... I had to cancel all of my March travel because there's no way to plan for a US Government shutdown that has no end date. If this thing is still going through February, I'm guessing I'll have to cancel my travel for April. This is extraordinarily bad. Both for the charity I'm trying to work with and the people who rely on that charity to, you know, continue living and stuff.

Not to mention all the people who are going to have a tough time surviving right here at home. If they have government jobs (or are in industries linked to the government) I'd imagine that money for things like rent and utilities and gas and food is going to be in short supply soon. It's really tough to see people posting their worries online only to be met with helpful comments like "YOU SHOULD HAVE SAVED MONEY IN CASE THIS HAPPENED! ARE YOU STUPID? Well, if they're like so many people, they're not stupid. They're just having to live paycheck to paycheck and don't have an opportunity to save. I paid $46 for two bags of groceries the other day. That'll cover me for about a week. If I didn't already have cat food, that total would have been higher. I can't imagine how much it costs to feed a family of four for a month.

What's difficult for me to figure is the non-stop political blame game that's currently going on. DEMOCRATS WERE FOR A WALL BEFORE THEY WERE AGAINST IT! Well, not really. They were for a "Secure Fence Act"... thirteen years ago... which was attached to a lot of concessions. Needless to say, a lot has fucking happened in thirteen years, so it's not the apples-to-apples comparison it seems. DEMOCRATS ARE WEAK ON BORDER SECURITY! THEY WANT WIDE-OPEN BORDERS! Well, not really. Any Democrat I've heard speak on the subject says that border security is a priority for them... they just want to invest money into something that's actually going to work (and not bankrupt the country over a pathetically inadequate budget projection). THIS IS ALL THE DEMOCRATS' FAULT! Well, not really. According to 2013 Donald J. Trump, weak presidential leadership is at fault for government shutdowns. NO, REALLY, THIS IS ALL ON THE DEMOCRATS! Well, not really. There are Republicans opposed to the stupid-ass wall as well. Enough Republicans that President Trump couldn't get it funded before Democrats took the House earlier this month. If Republicans can't convince Republicans when they are in control of everything, it's the Democrats' fault? Really?

What's even more difficult for me to figure is how people are okay with their very lives being nothing more than bargaining chips over a wall that's not even going to fucking work. I may loathe Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi in equal measure, but they've got one thing correct: border security should be debated apart from the livelihood of Americans just trying to get by. But Clownface VonFuckstick doesn't give a shit about people who aren't millionaires, which is all the justification he needs to carry on with his temper tantrum stand-off bullshit. And that's enough for his supporters to taunt, ridicule, and otherwise rip into people wondering how they're going to be able to afford food and shelter if things keep going as they have been.

I'll ponder all that while trying to figure out how I will find space in my calendar to fit the three trips I just canceled. They're going to have to be pushed to Fall where travel dates are already scarce. But since actual lives are at stake, I'll make it work somehow.

Assuming we're not still shut down.

   

Vast Vehicle Viaduct Vacated Verily for Vanishment

Posted on Monday, January 14th, 2019

Dave!The big news of this past week here in the Pacific Northwest is the closure (and eventual destruction) of Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct, an elevated double-decker highway that runs along the city. Built in pieces over the entire decade of the 1950's, it's long been a controversial structure because it divides Seattle from its waterfront...

Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct Highlighted in Pink
Photo by David Simmer II — Viaduct highlighted in pink, click image to embiggen.

   
Even though it's not solid like a wall, it's a big, clunky, ugly, double-layer structure which casts giant shadows that make it feel like a wall...

Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct
Photo by Waqcku — Courtesy of Wikipedia's Wikimedia Commons.

   
I've driven the viaduct many, many times when getting from my work in West Seattle to my hotel downtown. It's kinda scary at times because the lanes are a bit narrow and the exits are awkward. That being said, the views of the city and Elliott Bay could be stunning, as shown in this terrific drone video...

   
There are many reasons that removing the viaduct is a good thing. In addition to getting rid of an eyesore, it also gets rid of a major earthquake hazard. Like all cities along the Pacific Rim, Seattle is in constant danger of a major earthquake which could easily flatten the viaduct and pancake anything underneath.

To replace the viaduct, Seattle built a massive 2-mile long, $3-billion tunnel that runs the length of the city. We're told that it's far safer to be in the tunnel during an earthquake than on the viaduct, but I'm not anxious to find out first-hand if that's true. It is a really cool structure though...

Seattle's SR-99 Tunnel
Image Courtesy of WSDOT.

   
The digging began in mid-2013 using "Big Bertha," the largest tunnel-boring machine in the world at the time which cost $80-million. The construction was fraught with criticism and had its share of problems. The biggest of which was a 2-year delay that happened when Bertha broke down after less than five months of digging.

But now it's all over, the tunnel is finished, and roads are being rerouted over the next three weeks so traffic can finally use it starting February 2nd.

And while the new SR-99 Tunnel is exciting and everything, it's not a perfect solution.

For one thing, the tunnel is two lanes in each direction. The viaduct was three. This will be offset, in part, by a new surface street which runs where the viaduct used to be. But the fact remains that there is one less lane bypassing downtown Seattle, which could be highly problematic given how bad the traffic is.

Another issue is that the tunnel will be an electronic toll road to drive on. The price will vary depending on traffic and such, but it kinda sucks that you'll have to spend minimum $2 a day to get to and from work if you live north of the city and work south of the city (or vice-versa).

Another issue is the loss of an area many of Seattle homeless use as shelter.

Yet another issue? Just look at this hot mess...

Seattle's SR-99 Tunnel On/Off Ramps
Image Courtesy of WSDOT.

I hope Google Maps is ready to navigate this pretzel of a roadway.

The plans for the space once occupied by the viaduct look nice. In addition to the afore-mentioned surface street, there are plans for greenery, bike lanes, a pedestrian walkway, some parks, and other cool stuff which will completely transform Seattle's waterfront...

Seattle's Alaska Way Surface Street Project
Image Courtesy of Waterfront Seattle Program.

   
Overall, I like the plans I've seen very much. Where it falls apart for me is the proposed signage, which is trying way too hard to do way too many things. Signs should be pretty, yes, but their primary function should be to TELL PEOPLE HOW TO GET TO WHERE THEY WANT TO GO. But the "wayfinding markers" that were in the proposal kit are a jumbled mess of ideas that don't do a very good job of it...

Seattle's Waterfront Project Signage
Image Courtesy of Waterfront Seattle Program.

   
I mean, seriously, how in the hell is this ugly mess helpful? Especially from a distance. You'll have to be right on top of it to make use of the thing...

Seattle's Waterfront Project Signage
Image Courtesy of Waterfront Seattle Program.

   
The design also looks dated before they've even been built. I am hopeful that common sense will prevail and somebody will rethink things to create a more clean, simple, easy-to-read signage design which also reflects Seattle culture and its location in the Pacific Northwest.

And so...

I am anxious to see how all the plans pan out. Seattle has the potential for one of the most beautiful waterfronts in the country. But it's been buried under chunks of steel, concrete, pavement, and heavy shadows for far too long.

It will be nice to see all that change.

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Bullet Sunday 495

Posted on Sunday, January 13th, 2019

Dave!Don't let the long cold nights of winter get you down... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts now...

   
• Duck! It's no secret that I love museums. I've made it my mission in life to see many of the world's great (and not-so-great) museums as I can. Which is why I got a big kick out of this article: Museums around the world are soliciting duck pics from each other...

A very old duck photograph
Image Courtesy of The Museum of English Rural Life.

If you're even a little fan of art, this article is a must-see.

   
• Cars! These Walmart curbside pickup "cars" commercials are phenomenal...

I can't fathom how much money it cost to license all these properties.

   
• Akeem! One of my all-time favorite movies is Coming to America starring Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall in multiple roles. It's a great story chock-full of funny situations and had some real heart to it...

Coming to America Movie Poster

There are many other things to love about the film... namely James Earl Jones and Madge Sinclair as Eddie Murphy's parents. But there are also the incredible designs for the country of Zamunda. Make no mistake, Zamunda was Wakanda way before Wakanda was the benchmark for fictional African countries!

And now it comes to light that there is a sequel in the works with Eddie Murphy reprising his role as Prince Akeem. Right now, I am deliriously happy about that. But given how badly things could go wrong, I'm also more than a little nervous.

   
• Again! Again! Speaking of an Eddie Murphy movie getting sequels... apparently Boomerang, another movie I love more than butter, is getting a television sequel...

Coming to America Movie Poster

The show will continue the story with Marcus and Angela's son and Jaqueline's daughter. No word if Eddie Murphy, Halle Berry, or Robin Givens will be making an appearance. But I sure hope so. The thing that gives me hope is that Lena Waithe is onboard. As is Halle Berry as an executive producer. Fingers crossed.

   
• Monument! As somebody who loves travel photography but can't stand people walking through my shots, I was excited to hear about "Monument." This new technology that Adobe is developing will automatically remove moving objects from photos. It's a fascinating idea that I'm anxious to try out. There's a video which takes a look at Moment but Nick Offerman is an idiotic distraction throughout. Why in the hell they couldn't have just presented the tech without the comedic bullshit is beyond me...

It's only a matter of time before machine learning with this kind of smarts gets dropped into all our cameras. As popular attractions become more and more crowded, it will be a handy and very welcome thing to have.

   
• Puck! My new brown sugar container came with a small terra cotta coaster in the box. I was telling a friend about it and laughing because I don't have any glasses small enough to fit on it. "ARE YOU HIGH? YOU SOAK IT IN WATER AND PUT IT IN THE CONTAINER SO YOUR BROWN SUGAR DOESN'T DRY OUT!" In my defense, there weren't any instructions. Just the little puck thingy in a baggie. How was I to know?

Brown Sugar Terra Cotta Disc

Is this some secret everybody knows but me? Is there some brown sugar conspiracy to exclude me from this magic?

   
And... I'm spent. No more bullets for you.

   

Caturday 92

Posted on Saturday, January 12th, 2019

Dave!Ever since Jake got home from his week-long stay at the vet, he's been more clingy than usual. He also doesn't want to be left alone. If Jenny follows me upstairs while he's asleep, he'll wander around crying when he wakes up until I holler down for him.

This has been tough of Jenny, who likes her independence.

I've tried to make sure that everywhere there's a bed she likes to sleep in, there's a second bed for Jake. This was a little confusing for her at first...

Dueling Cat Beds

But it actually ended up working...

Dueling Cat Beds

For a minute or two. Then Jake was right back to crowding in on her...

Dueling Cat Beds

Needless to say, she isn't thrilled...

Dueling Cat Beds

After a while Jenny escapes, leaving poor Jake alone again...

Dueling Cat Beds

Every once in a while Jenny does a bit of rearranging, which kinda works...

Dueling Cat Beds

But the minute things are back to the way they were, Jake wants to share again...

Dueling Cat Beds

Dueling Cat Beds

It's been three months since the vet, so I can only guess Jake's behavior change is here to stay.

How this is going to affect Jenny's behavior remains to be seen.

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Habitat for Inhumanity

Posted on Friday, January 11th, 2019

Dave!I am trying my best to not dump politics in my blog day-in and day-out, but this fucking wall business is driving me insane. The government has been shut down because of it, AND IT WON'T EVEN WORK! But that's not the reason I'm losing my shit. The government spends tons of our money on stuff that doesn't work all the time. What's another $5 billion on top of the $2 trillion that Cheeto Jesus has already added to our $20 trillion national debt?

No, the reason I am beside myself with angst over the wall scenario is because of the ecological disaster it would pose. Which, in turn, would have a horrific effect on animals in the region that need to migrate to survive. Out-of-control government spending is upsetting. But destroying the habitat animals need to survive is rage-inducing.

So fortify the border where needed, yes. Increase manpower there to keep us safe, yes. Be smart about border security, yes. Invest in technology to fortify our country, yes. But get over this damn wall already. It's not going to work anyway. Even if it ever could be built (which, legally, it probably can't be).

But don't take my word for it.

Ladies and gentlemen, Amy Patrick...

Howdy.
   
To recap: I’m a licensed structural and civil engineer with a MS in structural engineering from the top program in the nation and over a decade of experience on high-performance projects, and particularly of cleaning up design disasters where the factors weren’t properly accounted for, and I’m an adjunct professor of structural analysis and design at UH-Downtown. I have previously been deposed as an expert witness in matters regarding proper construction of walls and the various factors associated therein, and my testimony has passed Daubert.
   
Am I a wall expert? I am. I am literally a court-accepted expert on walls.
   
Structurally and civil engineering-wise, the border wall is not a feasible project. Trump did not hire engineers to design the thing. He solicited bids from contractors, not engineers. This means it’s not been designed by professionals. It’s a disaster of numerous types waiting to happen.
   
What disasters?
   
Off the top of my head...
1) It will mess with our ability to drain land in flash flooding. Anything impeding the ability of water to get where it needs to go (doesn’t matter if there are holes in the wall or whatever) is going to dramatically increase the risk of flooding.
2) Messes with all kind of stuff ecologically. For all other projects, we have to do an Environmental Site Assessment, which is arduous. They’re either planning to circumvent all this, or they haven’t accounted for it yet, because that’s part of the design process, and this thing hasn’t been designed.
3) The prototypes they came up with are nearly impossible to build or don’t actually do the job. This article explains more. And so on.
   
The estimates provided for the cost are arrived at unreasonably. You can look for yourself at the two-year-old estimate that you see everyone citing. It does not account for rework, complexities beyond the prototype design, factors to prevent flood and environmental hazard creation, engineering redesign... It’s going to be higher than $50bn. The contractors will hit the government with near CONSTANT change orders. “Cost overrun” will be the name of the game. It will not be completed in Trump’s lifetime.
   
I’m a structural forensicist, which means I’m called in when things go wrong. This is a project that WILL go wrong. When projects go wrong, the original estimates are just *obliterated*. And when that happens, good luck getting it fixed, because there aren’t that many forensicists out there to right the ship, particularly not that are willing to work on a border wall project— a large quotient of us are immigrants, and besides, we can’t afford to bid on jobs that are this political. We’re small firms, and we’re already busy, and we don’t gamble our reputations on political footballs. So you’d end up with a revolving door of contractors making a giant, uncoordinated muddle of things, and it’d generally be a mess. Good money after bad. The GAO agrees with me.
   
And it won’t be effective. I could, right now, purchase a 32 foot extension ladder and weld a cheap custom saddle for the top of the proposed wall so that I can get over it. I don’t know who they talked to about the wall design and its efficacy, but it sure as heck wasn’t anybody with any engineering imagination.
   
Another thing: we are not far from the day where inexpensive drones will be able to pick up and carry someone. This will happen in the next ten years, and it’s folly to think that the coyotes who ferry people over the border won’t purchase or create them. They’re low enough, quiet enough, and small enough to quickly zip people over any wall we could build undetected with our current monitoring setup.
   
Let’s have border security, by all means, but let’s be smart about it. This is not smart. It’s not effective. It’s NOT cheap. The returns will be diminishing as technology advances, too. This is a ridiculous idea that will never be successfully executed and, as such, would be a monumental waste of money.

And, lastly...

Remember when everybody in our district was thrilled when Dr. Kim Schrier, Democrat won over Dino Rossi, Republican in a miraculous upset victory in the last election? Remember when I said that Dino Rossi was a piece of shit and I was happy to have somebody in office who was probably still going to be a piece of shit, but not as big a piece of shit as Dino Rossi?

Yeah. Never mind.

   

A Clean Place to Poop

Posted on Thursday, January 10th, 2019

Dave!Last month I was reading through one of the dozens of "Little Things You Can Do to Save The Planet" type articles I found online. In the list was the idea to wear clothes more than once before washing. At first I dismissed it out-of-hand. I'm not wearing dirty clothes! I don't even wear dirty clothes when I travel! And it's true. I bring more than enough clothes to make sure I can change every day.

But then I got to thinking...

Most days I wake up, take a shower, put on a pair of jeans, go to work, then come home and change into a pair of sweats after tossing my jeans in the hamper. Which means I wear the jeans for 8 hours in a clean environment and then waste water, energy, and detergent washing something that's not dirty.

And so... for a month now I've been coming home and hanging my jeans on a different color hanger so I can wear them a second time later on. Easy.

And since it was so easy, I decided to revisit the list and see what else I might be able to do.

It looks like my next step will be trying a biodegradable cat litter. I didn't realize that the clay litter I was using doesn't biodegrade.

Hopefully my cats will use it. Because something tells me that they really don't care about saving the planet...

Jake

They do care about having a clean place to poop. And I would just as soon have it not be my floors.

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Categories: Cats 2019, DaveLife 2019Click To It: Permalink  0 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

The Catio Murder

Posted on Wednesday, January 9th, 2019

Dave!There are two reasons I decided that Jake and Jenny were going to be indoor-only cats. The first reason was to protect them. I don't want them attacked by dogs... run over by a car... or hurt by some heinous excuse for a human being. No, for my peace of mind and their safety, they are staying indoors.

The second reason was to save the poor birds, mice, and other critters that cats seem to relish torturing.

That being said, I really didn't want to deny my cats access to the outdoors. There's too many interesting things to look at (and even more interesting things to smell) which can help make their lives more exciting than if they were trapped inside all the time. and so... I built a "catio" for them so they can go out when they feel like it. Jake and Jenny love the catio... especially in Spring and Summer when they are out there all day lounging around.

Unfortunately, an occasional bird wanders into the catio. It's happened twice. The first time I was able to build a tunnel to shoo the poor thing outside. The second time I managed to rescue it and get it un-stunned so it could fly off.

Then yesterday it happened a third time. Unfortunately I wasn't home to rescue the poor thing, so I came home to a dead bird yesterday...

Poor Dead Bird

I had no idea which of my cats were responsible. My money was on Jake. He was the one who caught the birds the other two times. So I check the security cameras and, sure enough...

Jake sure can move like lightning when he wants to!

A part of me wants to add a fence screen to the bottom foot of the catio to hopefully prevent birds from hopping in. But then I worry that if a bird comes in from above and wants to get out, a screen might make that tough. And so... since it has only happened three times in three years (with only one fatality), maybe I should just hope it continues to be a rare event and leave well enough alone.

Having to disinfect my home because the cats bring in dead birds is no fun at all. I mean just look at Jake going nuts and tossing that poor bird carcass around...

Bring on the Pine-Sol.

And not just for dead birds.

Tonight Jake threw up his dinner.

This is scary and worrisome to me. I'm hopeful that he somehow ate a shred of cheese from my pizza to make him vomit. Because the alternative could be that he's got urinary problems again. The first time was such a horrible ordeal for the little guy that I am in no hurry to go through that again.

And I'm sure Jake would agree.

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