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AIDS and The Long Run

Posted on Thursday, September 20th, 2018

Dave!I remember the AIDS crisis very well.

The first time I was exposed to it was when a guy a few years behind me in school was rumored to have the disease. Eventually he just... disappeared. No news. No nothing. I have no idea what ever became of him. I do know that his younger brother deflected it by telling unfunny gay and AIDS jokes.* I guess he was intent on making sure nobody thought he was gay too. At the time, I didn't know much about AIDS (there wasn't much to know) but it still seemed incredibly sad. If the guy did have AIDS, then even his family was ridiculing him as he was struggling.

I grew up in rural America where homosexuality was so deep in the closet that it was virtually unheard of outside of gay jokes and people like Boy George becoming famous. I'm sure gay people existed here in the 80's when the AIDS epidemic was beginning, but they were invisible in our community so far as I knew. Probably out of necessity. I heard more than one story of people being run out of town (or, more likely, being threatened with being run out of town) for whatever reason (like having the wrong color skin, for example). So if you were gay and still wanted to live here knowing how some of the natives are, you probably didn't talk about your sexuality openly.

Heck, I had a hard enough time growing up here when people just thought I was gay.** I'm not the most masculine of guys, and apparently that's enough. Never mind that I've only ever dated women and am not sexually attracted to men,*** it's what people think that matters.

Anyway... where was I? Oh yeah.

And then I graduated high school in 1984 and found my way to the real world.

At this time people didn't know much about HIV and AIDS. It was still very much thought of as a "gay disease" even though it had spread far beyond that. I remember seeing protests on the news because people didn't want to send their kids to school if another student had AIDS. Ignorance and fear were rampant and there was a huge amount of misinformation about how you get the disease. Everybody was in a panic, and our government seemed uninterested in helping matters. Despite this horrific failure by President Reagan and our elected officials, people had become better-educated by the time I was finishing up community college in 1986-87. But the stigma was still there. As were the deaths.

My occupation in graphic design is a highly creative field. For whatever reason, creative jobs attract a higher-than-average number of gay persons to their ranks. Which meant I had to set aside my sheltered upbringing and go from barely knowing homosexuality exists... to working with gay people on a regular basis. Luckily my parents provided an atmosphere of tolerance growing up which made this an easy adjustment. What was not easy was living from day to day wondering if any of my friends and colleagues were going to end up missing due to an AIDS-related illness. I'd call to speak with somebody I had been working with just the week before... only to be told that they were no longer there. They were too sick to work. You knew it was coming. They would tell you it was coming. But it was never an easy thing to hear. Sometimes I was able to make it to Seattle or Portland or San Francisco to visit them. Sometimes I wasn't. Sometimes I made it to their funeral.

After a while it became difficult to get through the week without AIDS being a part of the picture. If it wasn't news about somebody you knew, it was somebody known by somebody you knew. As we reached the 90's you'd find yourself becoming numb to it. You had to. It was the only way to stay sane. Usually hearing that somebody died is like a bomb being dropped. Even if you didn't know them very well. But now it was worked into passive conversation. You'd find out someone was gone while eating dinner. It would be "Can you pass the guacamole? Oh... did I mention Bryan died last week?"

It's almost impossible to describe what it was like if you weren't there.

And I'm straight.

I'm filled with despair trying to wrap my head around what it was like for the gay community. I had friends who told me that they spent years in hospitals. Years. Not because they were sick, but because everybody they knew was sick or dying. I am aghast if I have to attend a funeral once a year. If you were an integral part of a large gay community, you might end up at a funeral every month.

Due to the AIDS epidemic, the 80's and early 90's were a tragic time of sadness and loss for a great many people.

As I said, I remember it very well. Too well.

Which is why reading this morning that President Trump's administration has removed $260 million from cancer research, HIV/AID prevention, and other programs is hard to take. AIDS hasn't gone away. AIDS is still here. I know people living with AIDS right now. There still is no cure for AIDS. And the minute we lose vigilance, it could explode all over again. Sure, AIDS is survivable now... it's not a guaranteed death sentence as it once was... but it's still a horrible disease which can have dire consequences. And we want to take money away from making sure it doesn't become a massive health crisis all over again? I don't get it. And if people aren't completely outraged, they don't get it either.

Towleroad published an article yesterday called Wasn't That Long Ago which collects tweets by Tucker Shaw about what it was like to lose somebody back in the day. And here it is in case you didn't know or have forgotten...

I overheard a young man on the train on the way home today, talking to another young man. Holding hands. In college, I guessed. About that age anyway. Much younger than I am. He was talking about AIDS, in a scholarly way. About how it had galvanized the gay community. How it had spurred change. Paved the way to make things better, in the long run.
   
The long run.
   
Maybe he’s right. I don’t know. It’s not the first time I’ve heard the theory. He spoke with clarity and with confidence. Youthful, full of conviction. But. Remember how terrible it was, not that long ago, during the worst times. How many beautiful friends died. One after the other. Brutally. Restlessly. Brittle and damp. In cold rooms with hot lights. Remember? Some nights, you’d sneak in to that hospital downtown after visiting hours, just to see who was around. It wasn’t hard. You’d bring a boom box. Fresh gossip. Trashy magazines and cheap paperbacks. Hash brownies. Anything. Nothing. You’d get kicked out, but you’d sneak back in. Kicked out again. Back in again. Sometimes you’d recognize a friend. Sometimes you wouldn’t.
   
Other nights, you’d go out to dance and drink. A different distraction. You’d see a face in the dark, in the back of the bar. Is it you? Old friend! No. Not him. Just a ghost. At work, you’d find an umbrella, one you’d borrowed a few rainstorms ago from a coworker. I should return it, you’d think. No. No need. He’s gone. It’s yours now. Season after season. Year after year.
   
One day you’d get lucky and meet someone lovely. You’d feel happy, optimistic. You’d make plans. Together, you’d keep a list of names in a notebook you bought for thirty cents in Chinatown so you could remember who was still here and who wasn’t, because it was so easy to forget. But there were so many names to write down. Too many names. Names you didn’t want to write down. When he finally had to go too, you got rid of the notebook. No more names.
   
Your friends would come over with takeout and wine and you’d see how hard they tried not to ask when he was coming home because they knew he wasn’t coming home. No one came home. You’d turn 24. When he’d been gone long enough and it was time to get rid of his stuff, they’d say so. It’s time. And you’d do it, you’d give away the shirts, sweaters, jackets. Everything. Except those shoes. You remember the ones. He loved those shoes, you’d say. We loved those shoes. I’ll keep those shoes under the bed.
   
You’d move to a new neighborhood. You’d unpack the first night, take a shower, make the bed because it’d be bedtime. You’d think of the shoes. For the first time, you’d put them on. Look at those shoes. What great shoes. Air. You’d need air. You’d walk outside in the shoes, just to the stoop. You’d sit. A breeze. A neighbor steps past. “Great shoes,” she’d say. But the shoes are too big for you. You’d sit for a while, maybe an hour, maybe more. Then you’d unlace the shoes, set them by the trash on the curb. You’d go back upstairs in your socks. The phone is ringing. More news.
   
The long run. Wasn’t that long ago.

   
No. No it wasn't that long ago.

To me it seems like it was only yesterday.

How long must it seem to the people running this country?

   

*The only joke I remember hearing him tell had something to do with a ferry rear-ending a sailboat in Puget Sound and now they both have AIDS. Yeah, hilarious.

**Many people still do, I'm sure.

***Though, if I'm being honest, I think I have better relationships with men. I'm not sexually attracted to men. I've never had sex with a man. But building a healthy relationship with women is apparently not something I'm built for because they never last. Even when the sex is great. Which is why I'm guessing I'm still single. Meanwhile, I've had non-sexual relationships with men whom I love on a near-spiritual level that have lasted decades. So... never say never, I guess. I've had sex with women whom I wasn't sexually attracted to, so maybe one day I'll meet the right guy and everything will change! If it happens, dear reader, you'll be the first to know.

   

That’s So Yeti

Posted on Wednesday, September 19th, 2018

Dave!Uhhh... okayyyyyy...


Toad!

   

   

O Captain! My Captain!

Posted on Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

Dave!I woke up at 5:00am this morning... crossing my fingers that the emails I was waiting for had been answered so I could get to work. I really, really wanted to start in early so I could get off work early and continue cleaning my garage. But, alas, no work emails.

What I did get was a notification that Marvel Studios' Captain Marvel trailer and poster had been released. Something that I've been waiting and waiting and waiting for.

Worth the wait (as if there were any doubt)...

Captain Marvel Poster

Totally worth the wait...

And so I spent the next 20 minutes obsessing over the trailer and what we were going to get out of the finished movie. As one does. Let's unpack this, shall we?

We start with Carol Danvers crashing into a Blockbuster. Just in case you needed a big ol' slap in the face that this movie takes place in the past...

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

LOL. Yep! That's aughtta do it...

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

At this point, Carol is still in her Kree warrior costume. I'm not entirely sure how the movie will interpret her long, complicated comic book history, but it would seem that she originated on earth, ended up a part of the Kree Empire due to her hybrid genetic makeup, and eventually ends up back on earth. Assumably to thwart a Skrull invasion (the Skrulls being longtime enemies of the Kree)...

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

Interesting to note that people are totally ignoring her costume. I mean, yeah, this is New York... but super-heroes are not a "thing" at this point in time so you'd think it would be a strange sight?

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

And... here's Samuel L. Jackson as Agent Nick Fury hanging around a Skrull autopsy. And that other guy in there... could it be?

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

I am guessing that this is where Carol Danvers life is changed forever. She's a fighter pilot for the US military heading into space to investigate a spaceship. I'm guessing it's at this point that her DNA is merged with that of Mar-Vell, a Kree warrior, paving the way for her to become Captain Marvel...

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

Annnnnd... here's the money shot. To me at least. Carol in full Captain Marvel gear blasting the shit out of something with her energy beams. I had a real concern that Marvel would downgrade her power set because she's Just. That. Powerful. and they didn't know what to do with her. Eliminating her energy manipulation powers was the obvious way to do that. But... here we are... praise be to Kree-Pama...

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

We knew that Samuel L. Jackson would be appearing as his younger self in this movie. And while nobody does de-aging special effects better than Marvel, it does seem a little uncanny valley when you take a frame out of the context of motion...

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

"Soooo... you're not from around here..." — "It's hard to explain." — Indeed it is...

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

Back into space. I don't think this is earth, so I'm guessing this is the spaceship carrying Carol Danvers to the Kree Homeworld (which is probably Hala, at this point?)...

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

And we're jumping around time and space again. Back to earth. Here's Carol Danvers with Maria Rambeau. Not Monica Rambeau from the modern-day Marvel Cinematic Universe... but Maria "Photon" Rambeau from the past. Which makes her Monica Rambeau's mom... I'm guessing? Monica Rambeau is best known as the super-hero Photon, but was also Captain Marvel at one time. She was also "Pulsar" and "Spectrum"...

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

Here's where things get interesting. Carol Danvers falls back to earth after her run-in with the Skrulls/Kree. I'm guessing this is after her DNA has been infused with Kree goodness, because otherwise she'd be dead... wouldn't she?

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

And now we're jumping ahead again because Carol is in her blue, red, and gold uniform instead of her green Kree uniform. Apparently she's been captured. And they're experimenting on her? Or maybe just confining her...

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

Jumping back in time again... because here's Carol in her Kree warrior uniform again. In the comics there are Blue Kree (apparently the default) and Pink Kree and a long, complicated history between them. No idea how that will be streamlined for the movies...

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

And... Mr. Jude Law, everyone! My guess (along with every other fanboy on the internet) is that he is playing Mar-Vell. Which is the original Captain Marvel in the comic books...

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

The Skrulls... arriving on earth, I'm guessing...

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

Oh look! Carol is punching a kindly old woman in the face! Except... we all know that she's not a kindly old woman. She's a shape-shifting Skrull pretending to be a kindly old woman! Mark my words... the Skrulls are going to be a major story in the upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe. If events follow the comics, there are Skrulls who have replaced several Marvel super-heroes and are just waiting for their Skrull brothers and sisters to return to earth for another shot at domination...

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

And... heeeeere's Ronan, everybody! This is long before Ronan the Accuser manages to get his hands on an Infinity Stone and make trouble for the Guardians of the Galaxy. At this point he's just a regular Kree. And possibly Carol Danvers' boss...

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

There we go! It's young Phil Coulson! Whose first name I'm pretty sure is "Agent." Needless to say, I am positively thrilled to see him return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I don't watch the Marvel's Agents of SHIELD television show (loathe it so hard), so it's nice to see such a great character again...

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

It's Nick Fury with his pocket pager! A different model than the pocket pager he uses to summon Captain Marvel at the end of Avengers: Infinity War...

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

Underwater Kree! I am really hoping that this is Carol Danvers in this shot. At one point in the comics she had a mohawk, so this would be a fun nod to the source material...

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

Uh oh... somebody just got zapped...

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

Yep, looks like Carol to me!

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

Annnnnnd... could that head be MONICA RAMBEAU?!? I sure hope so! Boy oh boy am I excited to see her join the Marvel Cinematic Universe...

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

And here's Captain Marvel's final costume in all its glory...

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

"I'm not what you think I am." Nice! And we end with the movie logo, which is oh so pretty...

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

Needless to say, I am 1000% stoked to see this movie. Having to wait until March 8th, 2019 is a bit harsh, but I just know it will be worth the wait. Marvel ain't about to start screwing up now. Not that they've been absolutely killing it movie after movie for ten years!

If only I could go into a coma until then so I wouldn't have to be here all anticipating it and stuff. I am not a patient man.

   

Feline Assistance

Posted on Monday, September 17th, 2018

Dave!Going through my mom's stuff has been an awful ordeal. No matter how much I sort through, there's still so much left to go. I thought that waiting would make it easier, but two-and-a-half months later and it's far more difficult. It feels as though the more time that passes the more I realize that I'm never going to see her again, and the more the weight of it crushes me.

This weekend I sorted through some clothes I had forgotten about. It was a bundle that I didn't want to send with her to the memory care facility because it was special stuff... like all the B. Kliban Cats T-shirts she had collected. They're so cool that I was worried they would be stolen and some stranger would be wearing them. Now I'm donating them to Goodwill where strangers will be wearing them after all. Had I sent them with her, she might have at least got to enjoy them once or twice. It's the stuff like this that is so damn hard. It doesn't matter how much I did right, it's mistakes like this that my mind wants to focus on.

After that trauma, I decided to go through all of her recipes and cookbooks. When I was a kid, mom cooked all the time. Later in life she barely cooked at all. Most of her recipes are ones that I won't eat (meat) or shouldn't eat (sweets) and got tossed. Jenny was a big help in sorting things out...

Jenny Helping

Some of the recipes she was happy to rip out of a binder for me...

Jenny Helping

Recipes she really didn't like got chewed on and shredded...

Jenny Helping

There were two recipes I was hoping to find. The first was her Applesauce & Walnut Bread, which is sublime (found it). The second was her Spanish Rice, which was very different than what I've had in restaurants (never found it, dammit).

What I was surprised to find was the recipe for my grandma's enchiladas (from my dad's mom). I have refined her recipe over decades in order to come up with my own vegetarian version. They're awesome. But they're not the same. Now I am very interested in going back to her original recipe and substituting Beyond Meat crumbles for hamburger to see if they're the same as I remember. Wouldn't that be a treat? And speaking of treats... grandma made a marshmallow popover roll that was divine. You roll a marshmallow in melted butter, shake it in a cinnamon & sugar mixture, wrap dough around it, then bake. The marshmallow melts, which causes this amazing gooey mess in the middle that ends up being the kind of thing I'd imagine they serve in heaven. I can't fathom what the carb load must be for something like that. I'm sure it's substantial. But what a way to go!

I have great memories of my grandmother and her many pets, but my favorite memories are of her cooking. She skinned tomatoes by sticking them on a knife and holding it over the flame on a gas-top stove. She opened enchilada sauce cans by chopping into them with a cleaver. She laughed a lot while trying to teach me how to make the food I loved so much. She called me "her little politician" because I liked to talk so much when I was a baby. I didn't get to see her very often because she lived in California and I live in Washington, but I remember an awful lot about those moments.

I also found recipe's from my other grandma (my mom's mom). Including her award-winning apple pie. I've had the recipe for ages... but it's not the same when I make it. Grandma would taste the apple then decide what it needed to make a great pie. More sugar. Less sugar. More lemon juice. Less lemon juice. How much spice got added. It wasn't just a recipe... it was a complex negotiation between ingredients until grandma's apple pie became grandma's apple pie.

My grandpa's pickles can't be duplicated either. He used a measuring cup, but it was never a level measure. He always seemed to over-pour on everything. His specialty was dill pickles and hot pepper dill pickles, but he also made sweet pickles because my grandmother wanted them for her macaroni salad. I remember him measuring out the sugar and watching it spill out over the measuring cup for what seemed like forever. The recipe says "one cup sugar" but there was a lot more than one cup in that brine. It's what made grandpa's sweet pickles become grandpa's sweet pickles.

I suppose I shouldn't even attempt to duplicate foods where the best thing about them was the people who made them. It's an endeavor that's certain to be met with failure.

Today I started putting away my wood shop so I can park my car in the garage now that it's getting frosty in the mornings. I'll still be working whenever I can... at least until the snow comes... but The Big Projects are done for the year. Really hoping that next year I have more time in the shop.

Among the things in the garage that need to be put away are all the photos I had canvased for my mom. I made them when we moved into my new house so she'd understand it was where she lived when she saw pictures of herself... and it was a fantastic investment that actually worked. They worked so ell that I took them with her when she had to leave. After she died I brought them all back home with me so I could hang them... somewhere.

Ultimately I decided they should go in Jake and Jenny's bedroom. When I relocated the guest bedroom to the main floor, I ended up with blank walls, so it was the perfect spot. And just like Jenny "helped" me out with the recipes, Jake decided to "help" me decide how the photos should be arranged...

Jake Helping

He did a pretty good job...

Mom Travel Photos
TOP ROW: Trevi Fountain in Rome, Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska, The Grand Canyon, Temple of Poseidon in Greece, Beach at Natural Bridge in Aruba. BOTTOM ROW: Amalfi Coast in Italy, Southmost Point Key West in Florida, The Colosseum in Rome, Mykonos in Greece, Angkor in Cambodia.

Mom Travel Photos
LEFT: Kauai Beach in Hawaii, Oak Alley Plantation in Louisiana. MIDDLE: Neets Bay Float Plane in Alaska, Chilkat River rafting outside of Haines in Alaska. RIGHT: The Great Pyramid in Egypt. The Sphynx in Egypt.

Mom Travel Photos
LEFT: Wild Africa Trek in Walt Disney World Florida. RIGHT: Phone booth in London, England.

One of these days I really need to put together the bed I bought so this could become a second guest room if I ever needed it. There's always One. More. Thing. isn't there?

I had two canvases left over, so I moved the photos of Mom with Donald and Me & Mom with Micky to my bedroom next to the Mickey patent reproduction hanging on my door...

Mom Travel Photos

And then...

Remember when I was lamenting that I didn't know much about my mom when she was younger? Well, she just delivered! I found over a hundred letters she wrote to my grandparents when she left home. Guess there's stuff to know if I ever want it...

Mom Letters

I honestly thought that this small suitcase was filled with sewing stuff! Of course I never looked inside when she was here... I just put it in her closet for her. Then when she left, I put it into storage with the rest of her stuff. I was getting ready to throw it out but, of course, I had to open it first to make sure it was just sewing junk. Guess it's a good thing I did.

And that was enough fun for a Monday. More than enough.

Now I get to hammer out a guard for the feeding station so Carl the Robovac will stop ramming into the water fountain and pushing food dishes all around the house. Not the best pick for the last project I create before putting away my wood shop for the year, but a necessary one!

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Bullet Sunday 479

Posted on Sunday, September 16th, 2018

Dave!Fall has arrived and warm Summer days are over, but all is not lost... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts now...

   
• Dark! Whilst looking for something new to watch on Netflix I happened upon Dark Tourist. The show was a bit meh until the fourth episode when host David Farrier visited Turkmenistan. Holy shit. If not for North Korea, this would be the most bizarre restricted country on earth! Even if you don't want to watch the show you owe it to yourself to at least watch the animated intro, which is fantastic...

And here's the trailer for the actual show...

If you're bored and like off-the-grid travel, Dark Tourist is worth checking out!

   
• Tourist! And speaking of travel...

It's funny because it's true.

   
• Tammy! And speaking of things that are funny because they're true...

Classic Redneck Tammy!

   
• Solo! It's difficult to sort through my feeling on a movie which was essentially two hours of Easter eggs. Most likely because this ended up being both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it firmly entrenches the film in the Star Wars universe. A curse because you spend the entire film going "So that's why that happens" and "So that's how that started." Fun as this was, it was a bit distracting. And not in a good way...

Solo: A Star Wars Story

The story was actually kind of good, and having it constantly being interrupted with made for a bit of a slog. Even so, it's a beautiful film to look at. It has a great cast. The special effects and sound design are incredible and the action sequences are well-constructed. I just wish it had more of an imagination about it and broke new ground to keep moving the Star Wars Universe forward. Instead it's more of the same. Which puts it in the middle of the pack of Star Wars movies for me...

Star Wars Movies Ranking

I was hoping for a bit more, but still liked it quite a lot. I wish I had seen it in a really good theater, but I bought into the rumors that Alden Ehrenreich was so terrible that he required an acting coach and the movie was going to be terrible. But he was terrific as Han Solo. Guess that's what I get for believing internet rumors.

   
• Caught! You know how you happen across a video and it's pretty great and you want to see more so you click over to YouTube to see what else there is? Yeah... this started it all...

Adorable. Wouldn't it be wonderful if all judges were like this instead of megalomaniac assholes? If you want to fall down a YouTube rabbit hole of entertaining videos, the Caught in Providence channel is worth a look!

   
• Heart! Ooh! The latest book from Thrice Publishing is out! This wonderful tale of growing up in Ireland from longtime Thrice Fiction contributor James Claffey is a perfect add to your Fall reading list, and is now in-stock at Amazon with Free 2-Day Shipping for Amazon Prime members!

Star Wars Movies Ranking

   
And that's a wrap. Have a great week!

   

Caturday 77

Posted on Saturday, September 15th, 2018

Dave!As I've mentioned, my cats are conditioned to expect being fed only after an Alexa alarm sounds. This is fantastic, because they don't bother me for food at all hours of the day and night. It most definitely does not mean that they don't get impatient for that alarm to sound, however. On days they are particularly hungry, they will sit and stare at me around breakfast/dinner time. And heaven forbid I have to go to the bathroom near the breakfast hour. When I exit, this is what will be waiting for me...

Jake and Jenny Waiting for Breakfast

Lately I've been dividing their food up. I give half when the alarm rings, then wait an hour before giving them the rest. Jenny prefers not to eat all her food at once, which means Jake will swoop in and eat everything if I don't. Yesterday I fed them breakfast then went back upstairs to take a shower and check my email. When Jake and Jenny hear me walking around, they know I'm about to head down so they can get more food. Usually they wait for me down there like this...

Jake and Jenny Waiting for Breakfast

Yesterday when I came downstairs I saw that there was cat puke waiting for me at the bottom.

This is highly alarming, because my cats rarely puke. Jake had a hairball and spewed once. Then I had a couple days of Jenny vomiting when she got sick. That's it. They just don't puke much, for which I am grateful.

After cleaning up barf, I went back through the security cameras so I could see if Jenny was sick again. Turns out it was Jake...

Jake and Jenny Waiting for Breakfast

Jake and Jenny Waiting for Breakfast

Then I was all "Oh thank heavens Jenny isn't sick again!" and "Oh well, Jake could stand to lose weight anyway."

Such a bad cat-dad.

I remain impressed that Jenny didn't immediately start puking once Jake had puked right next to her. I suppose I should be grateful he didn't puke on her.

He probably would have liked to have puked on her but he's just too lazy to make it happen.

And speaking of Jake being lazy...

I leave Catnip Lobster on the cat shelves that are in my bedroom window. Both of them just love to lay up there and chew on it. Problem is that they get too excited and sometimes toss it off the shelf. Jenny will immediately jump down and continue to wrestle with it. Jake on the other hand? Nope. He just glares at me until I get it for him...

Cranky Jake is Cranky

Cranky Jake is Cranky

Cranky Jake is Cranky

And of course I do.

Guess I'm a good cat-dad after all.

Until next Saturday then.

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Automation with IFTTT

Posted on Friday, September 14th, 2018

Dave!Every time I mention my various home automation projects, I get emails with questions. After mentioning "IFTTT" while talking about my new Google WiFi router system, there were people asking about it. So I thought I'd go through ways that I use IFTTT so I can explain better.

And so...

Let's start with smart lightbulbs.

There are a lot of programmable LED multi-color lightbulbs out there. Probably the most famous brand is Philips "Hue" bulbs. They are very cool lights with a lot of capabilities and incredible flexibility. But they require a "Hue Hub" in order to operate. This is just silly in 2018, so I ignore them.* Maybe if I start changing all my lights out, I'll switch to Hue where having to buy a hub makes more economic sense.

In the meanwhile I buy GoSund "Smart Life" bulbs which do not requite a hub. They connect to WiFi directly. There are quite a few bulbs that connect directly, but the Smart Life bulbs are cheaper than most. Also? I have a half-dozen other Smart Life products, and find them reliable and easy to use.

But most important? Smart Life products support IFTTT.**

For those unfamiliar with it, IFTTT (If This Then That) is a free service which allows you to create all kinds of triggers to control IFTTT-enabled devices. There are scads of triggers. Scads upon scads. And the number of things you can do with the triggers is vast. Want to get a text every time the International Space Station flies over your house? NASA has a trigger you can connect to a Text Service to do that. Depending on which IFTTT-enabled devices you have, you could have just about anything happen every time the International Space Station flies over your house!

But anyway...

Where I live they pick up your garbage every Thursday morning. But EVERY-OTHER Thursday, they also pick up your recycle bin. I can never remember which Thursday is which when I set my garbage out on Wednesdays, so I decided to have my driveway light turn blue on days before recycle days using IFTTT.

It sounds simple, but the cheaper Smart Life bulbs don't have a lot of capabilities within their own app (which I use to turn outside lights on at sunset and off at sunrise). To do what I want to do, I have to use IFTTT and get creative to makes sure that things work reliably the way I want them to.

Every day at 11:00am, I have IFTTT set the Driveway Light to 100% Green at 100% Brightness (but leave the light itself off). This is the default color I choose because I support the Greenlight a Vet Project. I do this to be absolutely sure that my light is set to default every day in case I have to manually mess with the color for some reason. This also puts my light back to default the day after it goes Blue for Recycle Day...

IFFT Set Driveway Light to Default Green Color

I don't use my Google Calendar for anything EXCEPT a reoccurring event every-other-Wednesday at 1:00pm called "Recycle." Every time that event happens, I have IFTTT set the Driveway Light to 100% Blue at 100% Brightness, then turn it on. So when I come home from work I will have a reminder that I need to set out my recycle bin (in addition to my regular garbage). And when my neighbors see my blue light they know to set their bin out too...

IFFT Set Driveway Light to Blue Color on Google Calendar Event

And that's that. It really is this simple, and creating your own "recipes" for triggers and action is easy. If you want some tips on how to do all that, then a YouTube search will result in a lot of videos showing you how.

   
And another thing I've done with IFTTT?

I have my television on 90% of the time I'm home. Even when I'm not watching it, I like the background noise while I work. The first thing I usually do when I get home? Tell Alexa to turn on the television. But now I don't have to. When I come home and my iPhone connects to Google WiFi, the router automatically triggers IFTTT to have my Harmony Hub turn on my television. It's on when I walk in the door***...

When iPhone Connects Turn on Television

   
Yet another thing I've done with IFTTT?

I have a "Ring" smart doorbell. Thanks to Ring, I can answer my doorbell and see/talk to anybody who rings it no matter where I am. Problem is? I made the mistake of replacing my awesome Ring doorbell with a Ring Pro, which is a pile of shit. It disconnects from WiFi at random times for no reason at all. Even now that my Google WiFi Mesh provides plenty of signal, it's still disconnecting. And of course the piece of shit doesn't reconnect automatically. I have to remove the cover with a special screwdriver, press a button, then run through setup again. And the problem with that? How do I know when the doorbell drops WiFi?

Well, thanks to IFTTT, I have my Google WiFi router text me when my Ring doorbell goes offline...

When Ring Doorlbell Disconnects Text Me

   
I used to use my iPhone's location services to create a "fence" around my home. That way when I arrive or leave home, I can trigger events. But location services, while more accurate than ever, are still not entirely reliable. What is accurate and reliable? My iPhone connecting to my Google WiFi mesh network when I arrive home.*** Which is why I now use that to tell my house that's I'm coming or going. IFTTT then triggers things like setting my smart thermostat to either "Home" or "Away"...

Ecobee Controls on IFTTT

   
The possibilities are limited only by your imagination... and how many IFTTT-enabled devices you own... and what IFTTT services are available. The numbers are growing every day. Heck, even Dominoes Pizza has linked their Pizza Tracker technology to IFTTT! Have your garbage disposal turn on when your pizza goes in the oven... then have your garage door open when it's out for delivery...

When iPhone Connects Turn on Television

Regardless of how much home automation you have, there's still a lot of useful stuff you can o with IFTTT. For the longest time the only action I had was triggering Alexa to call my iPhone when I couldn't find it so I could follow the ring. That's magic right there.

   
*Also? There's some wacky hoops to jump through to get them connected to Alexa I think? I dunno. Whenever I "discover devices" with Alexa, I get some kind of warning for Hue stuff.

**Well, kinda. The ability to change bulb colors with the GoSund bulbs is kinda messed up right now... but I'm assured they are working on it!

*** I also have an IFTTT trigger to set my SONOS to a low volume so I don't give my cats a heart attack on days I was blasting music the night before.

**** Speaking of my Google WiFi mesh network... the sucker got range. When I was walking home from work today I had my phone out so I could see when I first started getting signal... it was here...

WiFi Range

Pretty great, right? My old router had 1/3 the range.

   

Apple Event Baby Steps

Posted on Thursday, September 13th, 2018

Dave!As my enthusiasm for Apple has waned, so too has my enthusiasm for their "events" where they unleash their new products and services on the world.

I do watch them of course. I may not be the raving Apple Whore™ I once was but, as there is no better alternative, I am still tied to the Apple ecosystem.

   
THIS IS BIG
If you want to watch the event before reading what I have to say about it, knock yourself out...

If you'd rather just get an 108-second summary, here you go...

Gotta hand it to Apple... boy do they know how to make "stuff" seem cool.

   
APPLE PARK
After moving from Apple Campus to Apple Park (home of the Giant Donut HQ, AKA "The Apple Mothership"... a building larger than The Pentagon), information on the massive complex in Cupertino has been relatively scarce. Yes, there's been a good article, a few videos, and some interviews, but nothing showing a major behind the scenes look at any of it. At this year's event (held in the Steve Jobs Theater), there were new bits and pieces shown in the cute video that started things off. If you didn't watch the entire keynote above, here it is...

Gorgeous. Obviously I'm dying to visit. But since the only thing you can see when you show up is the 100 million-dollar visitor center, I don't know that it's worth the trip.

   
APPLE RETAIL
If there's one area where Apple continues to impress me, it's with their retail operations. The stunning architecture that is the hallmark of these gorgeous new spaces is mind-blowing...

Apple Event: Retail

Now that Hard Rock Cafes have gone all hipster-lounge and are not nearly the destination-worthy attractions they used to be, one could make a strong argument for visiting Apple Stores around the globe.

   
APPLE WATCH
As I have said every time a new Apple Watch is released, the product is not for me. I have tiny wrists and wearing a massive piece of tech on my arm is not something that works. I'd much rather keep my iPhone in my pocket and use that than to be uncomfortable. Not that I don't see the appeal. Having so much so readily available is definitely something that interests me. Especially with the new Series 4 watches, which add all kinds of things that have me reconsidering my stance...

Apple Event: Apple Watch 4

The sizing issue is helped by more of the product being devoted to the watch face... and that it is supposed to be thinner. Probably not so thin that I'd be happy to wear it, but anything to take bulk away is a step in the right direction. Perhaps it's time that I visit an Apple Store and see if the smaller watch is something I could handle? Maybe. Or, if you factor in the new EKG capabilities, probably...

Apple Event: Apple Watch 4

Yes, you read that right, the thing has a frickin' EKG built into it! I've always had issues with rapid heartbeat, so maybe the new pulse sensors and EKG stuff makes Apple Watch Series 4 a smart move? And now they've also added fall detection to the mix. Considering I just had a bad spill earlier this week, maybe this is more of a necessity than a luxury as I get older? It's certainly very cool. If my cats won't help me and I can't ask Alexa to get help because I'm unconscious, perhaps now is the time to invest...

Apple Event: Apple Watch 4

We don't have an Apple Store in my corner of Redneckistan, but I think AT&T stores will be carrying them... so maybe there's that. Or a trip to Seattle to check things out.

   
iPHONE XS
It would be easy to dismiss the evolution of the iPhone X to iPhone XS with a big "meh" since things haven't changed a huge amount there. But there are three things that make Apple's latest and greatest worth a look. The first is that they are coming out with a "XS Max" version of iPhone X with a larger screen. I don't care about this, but I know a lot of people do. I was not happy having to go with the larger size of the "X" but ultimately adjusted. There's no way I want to have to get used to something even bigger in my pocket. Assuming it would even fit in my pocket...

Apple Event: iPhone

The second? Photography. The faster processor of the next-gen A12 Bionic chip sounds pretty sweet. The machine learning enhancements of the "Neural Engine" alone make for some exciting possibilities down the pipe... particularly in the arena of Augmented Reality stuff. I use my phone primarily for calls, texts, home automation control, and Facebook... none of which will benefit from all this additional power. What will benefit? The thing I use my camera for more than any other function (by a long shot!)... photography. And here's why... the new processing power will allow you to adjust aperture after the photo has been taken! So you don't have to tap anywhere to set focus points and depth of field, you just fire away and adjust after the fact. Amazing...

Apple Event: iPhone

Apple Event: iPhone

More than anything else Apple has tossed out at this event, this is what makes me covet the new iPhone XS. Well, this and the fact that they've upgraded the camera itself again. Better low-light shots with less noise and more detail. Better HDR. Better Bokeh. Stronger dual-lens capabilities. Apple just keeps getting closer and closer to DSLRs. Heck, I wish I had some of these capabilities with my DSLRs!

And that third thing? The display. Hands-on reports say that the display fidelity of the XS is pretty spectacular and a noticeable upgrade from the X. This intrigues me because I thought the OLED Super Retina X display was pretty great already.

There are a few other notable improvements. Apparently the new XS models are capable of "Gigabyte class" LTE cellular speeds. The lack of which was a big criticism of mine on the old X model. But until I know if "Gigabyte class LTE" equals "Gigabyte LTE" I have no idea what this means. It only matters if you travel in an area where it's available but, if you are in that area, it does matter. Another interesting change? Apple has gone with eSIM rather than traditional SIM cards. This is fantastic if you have two phones and would like to be able to use both in a single handset. I have no idea how this affects being able to use foreign SIM cards for cheap foreign service when I'm out of the country though. Everybody knows to contact me with WhatsApp, so the carrier doesn't matter when I'm abroad... all that matters is the price. If I can't easily change SIMs with eSIM, that kinda sucks.

   
iPHONE XR
In general, I've preferred to grab an older model phone over a new cheaper model if I don't have the cash for the latest and greatest. In my head, "former top-of-the-line" beats "cheaper newer alternative" when it comes to tech. Not necessarily every time, but often. Apple once again dips into "cheaper newer" territory with their XR model. And, once again, it's the only way to get cool colors like Blue, White, Black, Yellow, Coral, and Red...

Apple Event: iPhone

Boy would I like to have me a red iPhone! Guess I'll have to settle for a red case again. But anyway... the XR features the same amazing Bionic 12 chip, cool wireless charging, and fantastic TrueDepth sensor array (so everybody can use Face ID to unlock their phone, a feature I love). Where Apple cut corners to get a cheaper price is mainly with the display. Being LCD, its contract ratio is 1,400:1 instead of the stunning 1,000,000:1 ration of the OLED on the XS. Also? No 3D Touch on these displays. Another savings is with the single camera vs. the dual-cams in the flagship models. None of these are terrible compromises. Whether it's worth the $250 savings is the question people are going to have to answer. If I weren't already going with Apple's iPhone Upgrade Program, I would probably pick the XR in red and be done with it. But since I am with Apple's iPhone Upgrade Program (the only way I can really afford any new-model iPhone now-a-days), I'll just swap my X for an XS when my renewal comes in December.

   
MACINTOSH
Not surprisingly, MacOS X was once again shit upon at the event. Apple has long been used their World Wide Developers Conference for all things Macintosh, so all we got from Tim was a reminder that "OS X Mojave" is coming on the 24th and it has "Dark Mode." Wheee...

Apple Event: MacOS X

Boy I wish Apple would put some serious money into redefining the desktop experience. Despite annual upgrades, MacOS X feels stale (at best) and downright stagnant (at worst). Giving us "dark mode" ain't going to fix that. Given how most of their revenue comes from iOS, neglecting the Mac is hardly surprisingly. But it is disappointing. Almost as disappointing as their "pro" model hardware that's not really "pro" at all.

   
And that's a wrap. Until next time. Where hopefully we will get an update on Apple's AirPower charging mat... something that was supposed to be released by now?

   

Hurricane Force Hot Air

Posted on Wednesday, September 12th, 2018

Dave!More hurricanes.

And whether you believe that climate change is man-made (spoiler alert: very likely) and question whether it is responsible for the increase in hurricane activity (spoiler alter: very likely) everybody can agree that the death and destruction caused by these monster storms is a tragedy that never seems to end...

Stormageddon

But no worries... a crazy old racist bigot piece of shit is on the case!

Hey, nobody hopes that he's right more than me.

After what another crazy old racist bigot piece of shit has done, the aftermath of a catastrophic storm is something we simply are not able to deal with.

To everybody in the path of these storms, be safe. Evacuate if you can.

UPDATE: Jesus...

Just when you thought that Hurricane Florence was the worst thing happening to this country right now.

   

Top of the World

Posted on Tuesday, September 11th, 2018

Dave!As I said last year, pretty much all I have left to say on the subject of 9/11 can be found here. Now that my mom is gone, that's even more true since it's her story too. And so I'll just be linking to that entry from here on out when it comes time to remember the tragedy of the terrorist attacks.

Except...

When I was going through my mom's stuff last month I found this...

Observation Deck Ticket

She saved her ticket stub from when I took her up the "Top of the World" at The World Trade Center on that day.

Mom saved a lot of stuff from our travels. Tons of stuff. I'm finding things like matchbooks and coasters from restaurants to brochures and pamphlets of activities we did to receipts and ticket stubs like this one. I had asked her why she'd want to save all this kind of stuff and she'd explain that it was just souvenirs. One day she thought she'd want to look back and remember all the things we did when she was too old to travel any more.

It's sad that she never got that chance. But kinda cool that she was so busy visiting new places that she never had time to look back on old travels while she was alive. Well, except for the photo books I made her. She'd look at those often. Many times while showing them to other people. Where the first words out of her mouth would be "Are your hands clean?"

Observation Deck Ticket

Funny how I didn't start out as much of a picture-taker, but the books kept getting thicker and thicker as I was taking more and more photos. There's no book for 2006 because I helped her buy a car instead of taking her on vacation that year. I think I ended up taking her with me on a work trip to San Francisco or something, but it wasn't the same.

One of these days I really need to look at these again. And create a book for all the miscellaneous trips we took from 1994 to 2001 that I never got around to. Most of these I haven't opened in years. And one of them I can't find. Her book from Cambodia and Laos (Southeast Asia Vol. 2) has gone missing.

Even if I don't find it, I'm sure there's a matchbook from Cambodia around here somewhere.

   

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