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Curious Jenny is Curious

Posted on Wednesday, December 4th, 2019

Dave!I have been working a crazy amount of hours and it's thrown my sleep schedule off.

Last night I worked until a little after 1:30am, woke up at 6:00am to answer emails and feed the cats at 7:00am. Then decided to take a nap. I figured if I could just get an hour or two I'd be rested enough to take on the rest of my day.

It was a good plan.

But one which was doomed to fail.

At 7:28am my phone starts sounding alerts from a web security camera. I figured I could ignore it since the wired cameras weren't setting off any alarms, but the alerts kept coming. So finally I took a look...

Security camera shot of my ceiling with Jenny the cat entering the frame.

Security camera shot of my ceiling with Jenny the cat looking into the camera.

Last night I set up my new Nest Outdoor Cam, but it was too dark and cold outside to install it. So I just set it down in the box and forgot about it.

Apparently that was a mistake. Curious Jenny decided to be all curious, so no sleep for me. She kept coming back to take another look at the camera and was setting off an alert every time. Which meant I ended up installing my new camera this morning instead of taking that nap.

My guess is I will be falling asleep at my desk sometime today.

But, hey... at least I don't have to install a security camera when I get home!

   

Amazon Echo 3rd Generation

Posted on Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019

Dave!I bought a SONOS One smart speaker with Alexa integration for my bedroom. I watch quite a bit of television while working in bed, and the poor speakers on my cheap Sony television make it difficult to hear some conversations unless I crank the volume way too high. The SONOS with its superb sound quality provided the perfect listening environment right out of the box.

When it worked.

The problem with the SONOS One is that there is no "line in" jack... so I had to connect my AppleTV to it via Apple's "AirPlay 2" technology. I have no idea who is at fault, but this was glitchy as hell, and I had all kinds of drop-outs and sound sync errors most every time I watched television. Even worse, at least twice a week I'd turn on the television and AppleTV would "forget" to play through the SONOS One, meaning I had to stop my show, go to the settings menu, switch the audio to AirPlay 2, then start my show again. Incredibly frustrating. Half the time I found myself just leaving it because I didn't want to be bothered with all the futzing around.

And so... I decided to investigate wired speakers. I could probably get a cheap one that was "good enough" for around $30, which seemed a small price to pay.

Around the time I was looking, Amazon released their 3rd Generation "Echo" device which, unlike the old Echo 1st Generation I have in my bathroom, has a 3.5mm line-in jack. This is in addition to improved speakers and sound. Problem was? It was $100. $70 more than I had to spend. Except... Amazon always puts their Echo devices on sale for Black Friday at really good prices. So I added it to my list of stuff to buy... then waited.

Sure enough, the price plummeted to $60. Double what I wanted to spend. But then I saw where I could trade-in my old Echo for $25... plus get a $15 discount for purchasing a new Echo with an Echo trade-in... bringing the net price of the Echo 3rd Gen. to $20? That's under my budget! SOLD!

The new speaker arrived yesterday and I set it up when I got home from work.

Or at least I tried to.

The speaker has a single 3.5mm audio jack that's both line-in and line-out... configurable via the Alexa app. But every time I tapped on the Audio AUX setting I got an error telling me that the page was unavailable...

An Amazon Echo error message saying that the page cannot be loaded and to please try again later.

I went to the Alexa web interface, but the one setting you can't configure from there? The audio AUX setting, of course! I wrote to Amazon for support and they eventually got back to me with an email when, naturally, the page then popped right up for me. And so... I now have an Alexa-enabled speaker for my television. Just like I always wanted!

The sound is pretty darn good for such a small speaker. Not SONOS-level good... not by a longshot... but better than I needed it to be, that's for sure. The cutaway render that Amazon provides shows how the speaker array is fitted in such a compact size (smaller than the SONOS, which means it's short enough to fit under my TV)...

An Amazon Echo cylidner plus a cutaway view showing the speaker array inside.

In the default, I found the midrange to be lacking. Fortunately that's an easy fix from the Alexa app. For television show conversations I got the best sound compromise from boosting the midrange a lot, the treble a little, and decreasing the bass a touch..

The equalizer interface of the Amazon Echo speaker, showing three sliders for bass, midrange, and treble.

The sound is a bit "artificial"... I guess is the word I'm looking for? The SONOS unit has a warmth, brilliance and overall cohesiveness that just sounds better to me. This is not a big deal for television, but I absolutely prefer the sound of music on the SONOS as opposed to the Echo 3rd Gen. — No contest there at all. And yet, the Echo is perfectly good for music when viewed in its own right instead of comparing it to a speaker that's considerably more expensive (especially when I got it for $20 compared to the SONOS One $200!).

My SONOS One is now happily set up in my bathroom (where the original Echo was) so I can listen to a couple songs while I get ready in the morning. That's a huge bit of overkill in a small bathroom like mine, so I might relocate it to the upstairs hall where it can be enjoyed in the stairwell and guest bedroom as well.

So... overall, I'm pleased. $20 well-spent!

The new $38 AKASO dash cam Black Friday deal I ordered arrived as well (regular $66). Installation was tough compared to my original $20 dash cam because the cord was thicker. I had to dismantle panels instead of just poking the cable in a seam. Also? The cord was shorter as well. I barely had enough to get to my console cigarette lighter port (no idea how somebody with a big rig like a truck can have enough cord). This is a far cry from the extra two feet I had coiled in my glove box last time! And speaking of the cigarette lighter port, the plug on this camera was far nicer than the old one. Guess that's what the extra $18 gets you. Fits snug instead of wobbling and breaking connection like the old one. After installing I turned on the ignition and... IT MAKES THE EXACT SAME STARTUP SOUND AS MY CHEAP OLD UNIT! I can only guess this is because they are made by the same company, then a bunch of different manufacturers use the same component in each of their designs...

The AKASO dash cam which is a small wedge-shaped plastic doohickey with a small screen and some buttons.

But the big deal here is the WiFi connectivity, meaning I can download footage directly to my iPhone instead of having to remove the tiny SD card, find the adapter for it, find the USB stick for that, then import through the photos app.

And yet... the WiFi connectivity is far from ideal.

First you have to push a button on the unit... then you have to switch the WiFi source on your iPhone to the WiFi for the unit... then start the app... then download. Ugh. I guess the truly easy connectivity options are in much pricier cameras.

Image quality is not stellar. But it's not tragic either. A little better than my old camera... though both were 1080p, so that could be a lens issue not a sensor issue. This unit has GPS but it's not as accurate as my phone and the satellite acquisition is sometimes longer than it should be.

My new dash cam is not nearly the bargain that my new Amazon Echo 3rd Gen. is... but at least I have something in my car. Thanks to distracted drivers, I'm terrified to drive out of my garage without a camera to prove that some idiot drifted into my lane and nailed me because they were playing Candy Crush or eating spaghetti or texting their kids or whatever. Thanks to today's idiot culture, they would likely blame me for their mistake if I didn't have proof.

Until Black Friday 2020, stay frosty.

   

Soles of a Traveler

Posted on Monday, December 2nd, 2019

Dave!My boots and half of my Black Friday shopping spree bounty showed up today.

I have to say I'm more than a little sad to let my old boots go. I've literally been around the world in them (and the bottom of the world as well), so I am thinking of taking them to the local shoe shop to see if something can be done (they've been around these parts for 99 years!). With exception of the badly-worn soles they're in perfect shape and still look great. My new boots are nice too, I just think it's a genuine waste to toss out something if they can be repaired...

A photo of my new boots that look rugged in their forest green and balck... plus my old shoes which look nice except for the soles which are literally falling off the boot!

I gave up on wearing tennis shoes decades ago, much preferring a light hiking boot. They're more comfortable, easy to slip in and out of when you tie the laces low, and can be quickly laced up for those times you need good protection for your feet. For a traveler who can end up anywhere and everywhere they're everything I need. The last pair of non-dress-shoe shoes that I bought 25-30 years ago sit in my closet barely used.

As I mentioned, I had a few bucks left over from everything I was saving to buy, so I got a copy of the LEGO Jurassic World video game. I was surprised to see that when you order something LEGO, Amazon will put it in a cool LEGO Star Wars box...

An Amazon box with LEGO Darth Vader using The Force to lift LEGO bricks over a LEGO Stormtrooper!

An Amazon box with LEGO Darth Vader has imprisoned the LEGO Stormtrooper in a jail cell made of the LEGO bricks!

So clever!

In sadder news, the world received notice that BUB had passed.

She was such a sweet cat who faced a difficult life with an optimism that inspired a lot of people... and raised a lot of money and awareness for homeless pets. It was so very hard to follow along with her latest health crisis knowing that she was probably nearing her end... but, as always, she was doing her best to be happy and live her best life...

BUB the cat with her Dude... both when he got her in June of 2011 as a kitten, and before he lost her on December 1, 2019... she has a large growth on the side of her face that musy be painful, but she still looks happy!

I cannot fathom my life without Jake and Jenny, so my heart goes out to Mike Bridavsky and the loss he is suffering. I find it amazing how he was so dedicated to such a special cat, and grateful for the hundreds of thousands of dollars he worked tirelessly to raise in support of animals.

Rest in peace, BUB, you will be missed by a great many people.

   

Bullet Sunday 640

Posted on Sunday, December 1st, 2019

Dave!Snow may have arrived here, but Blogography will go on as usual, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Who's Watching... ... the Watchmen? Welp, tonights episode was genius. As was every episode prior. So long as Damon Lindelof doesn't screw this up at the end (as he has a history of doing) this will easily be my favorite show of 2019...

The HBO logo with the Watchmen smiley button that has a happy face with a splotch of blood over the eye.

I love a show that's able to jerk the rug out from under you with each new episode. Watchmen excels at this. Probably because HBO doesn't force a 21 episode season and is happy to let the creators determine how many episodes they need to tell the story they want to tell.

   
• Mando! And then there's The Mandalorian over on Disney+... which is vying for the No. 2 spot in my "Best of 2019" list. I love that Disney spent the money and got all the right people to make this show work. Friday's episode was filled with action and, of course, more scenes with the terminally-adorable Baby Yoda...

Baby Yoda, the cutest thing in the universe, is drinking tea adorably then blinking even more adorably.

Interesting to note that there's this massive social media explosion going around where Werner Herzog saved Puppet Baby Yoda from going CGI. The truth it more interesting. But, then again, the truth usually is.

   
• Asshole Implosion. On behalf of my friends and co-workers who died from AIDS/HIV-related illnesses... and all those persons, INCLUDING CHILDREN, who have perished thanks to the inaction of those who came before you... those who wrote off AIDS as "a gay disease" while laughing in the face of all who were left behind begging for action to be taken... fuck you, Donald Trump Jr., you inhuman piece of shit...

A tweet by Donald Trump Jr. in response to a story titled WHAT YOU STAND TO LOSE BY NOT HAVING SEX WITH PEOPLE WITH HIV that says WELL I CAN THINK OF ONE THING.

You and yours are absolute garbage with no redeemable qualities. Nothing more than a blight on all humanity possessing neither compassion nor empathy while recklessly using your power and influence to diminish, discard, and persecute people... all in the name of drumming up book sales. If there is any justice in this world or the next, then you'll be burning in a hell of your own making. I hope I live to live long enough to see these kinds of people in power implode with their homophobia, racism, bigotry, and general assholery. This reprehensible bastard has had every possible privilege handed to his worthless life and this is what he chooses to do with it? Disgusting.

   
• Festivo Doble. This year Hallmark is introducing a new Christmas movie which also has Hanukkah in it called Double Holiday. Needless to say, the "Real Christians™®" are having a field day. How dare Hallmark acknowledge other beliefs at Christmastime!! HOW. DARE. THEY! DECEMBER BELONGS TO CHRISTMAS AND NOTHING ELSE!!! My favorite comments are not the outright hate... those are too easy... it's the passive aggressive "Über Christians" who have Jesus as their profile picture. THOSE comments are priceless. This one is my favorite so far. The movie is Double Holiday so they say "We are looking forward to Christmas Holiday!" Just to let you know that they will not so much as acknowledge that other holidays could possibly exist and have no plans on watching a movie that implies otherwise...

The HBO logo with the Watchmen smiley button that has a happy face with a splotch of blood over the eye.

How weak these people's faith must be that they feel the need for this kind of nonsense to prove just how "Christian" they are. Well, don't worry. Hallmark developed the movie for a year where Hanukkah is late enough in the season that they'll barely have time to repeat it. This year, anyway.

   
• Sweetness. And speaking of Hallmark Channel... every once in a while I am completely knocked back by how good some of their movies can be. While eating my Thanksgiving dinner of bread stuffing, cranberry jelly, mashed taters with butter, steamed green beans, baked butternut squash with maple brown sugar, and chunky applesauce crumble, I put on the movie Like Cats & Dogs (from 2017)...

A movie poster for Like Cats and Dogs with a guy and his cat and a woman and her dog smiling and looking towards you.

You can read my write-up on my Hallmark Movie Page for 2017, but suffice to say that I enjoyed it quite a lot.

   
• Later, Tater. And speaking of Thanksgiving mashed taters... that $35 Instant Pot Clone mis-mark that I got makes pretty amazing mashed taters...

A beautiful black bowl in my hand with gorgeous, fluffy potatoes inside... covered in black pepper and butter!

Two Yukon Gold potatoes, quartered with a cup of water. Pressure Cook 12 minutes. Drain. Add a half-cup of sour cream and a quarter-cup of butter. Mash... then whip... with a table fork. Add a pat of butter, a little ground salt, and a lot of freshly-ground pepper. Cost me under $1 and is fantastic. The only mashed potatoes I've ever made have been those dehydrated boxed flakes. These are a magnitude better. And cheaper! And, to be honest, easier. Seriously, no need to drag out the hand-mixer. All you need is a fork to mush them up!

   
And so the snow goes on...

   

Caturday 137

Posted on Saturday, November 30th, 2019

Dave!Since I worked on Thanksgiving, I decided to sleep in. Probably not the smartest move this time of year, but I figure I deserve to rise late from time to time.

My day started with some entertainment.

Because this morning Jake decided to investigate the ice left from my glass of Coke Zero...

Jake sticking his face inside a glass with ice.

Jake trying to fish an icecube out with his paw.

Jake trying to fish an icecube out with his other paw.

Eventually I took pity on him and pulled a piece out for him. At which point he immediately lost interest of course.

And speaking of Coke Zero... I had a small amount left in the can that I hadn't poured over ice yet. After Jake had his grimy mits on my ice, I decided to drink it from the can as I walked out of my bedroom. When I tilted my head back to get the last drop, I freaked for a second when I saw bugs on my ceiling.

Except they weren't bugs they were staples...

Remember when Jake and Jenny brought in a bird that had wandered into the catio and I had to build a tunnel from the bathroom to the window so it could get out?

My Bird Tunnel!

Apparently I never removed the staples after I tore down the plastic. Great. One more thing to add to my list.

Jake is generally a good brother to Jenny. They chase each other, sure, yet it's all in good fun and he doesn't pick on her or abuse her in any way. But he does like to antagonize her from time to time. Usually by pawing at her from on high...

Jake reaching out to touch Jenny.

At which point I say "Jake... don't do it..."

Jake looking at me after I've called his name.

That look of "Who me?" is pretty typical. But it worked. He withdrew his paw and didn't bother her again. I'd say something like "I've trained my cats!" but I think we all know that would be a load of bullshit.

And... time to finish adding a heater to Fake Jake's shelter so I can get our local stray through another winter.

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In Blackest Friday

Posted on Friday, November 29th, 2019

Dave!And... my one shopping day of the year is here! Every month I put aside $100 for clothes and "other stuff" then wait until Black Friday to buy all the clothes and "other stuff" I need. $100 a month is quite a chunk of cash to not have in my pocket, but worth it when I end up with $1200 in November that magically becomes $2400 (or more!) on Black Friday thanks to all the sales and savings.

Below I refer to "Rakuten Cash Back" in a lot. Rakuten bought out eBates and have taken over their cashback operations. It's a pretty easy way to save even more money on Black Friday (or any other day) and you can sign up to get $10 right off the bat with my referral link right here.

And now? On with my Black Friday scores...

   
AKASO DASH CAM! • Reg. $66, Paid $38 (after Amazon cash back)
My previous dash cam was $20 and has lasted for four years before falling apart and going glitchy. As I mentioned, I am afraid to drive without one given how crazy distracted drivers are, so I was hoping hoping hoping I could get a nice one on sale. I was going to buy another $20 camera, but the cheap ones force you to remove the tiny memory card every time you want the footage. With a WiFi model like this you can just connect with your iPhone and grab the video directly. Handy! Plus... GPS! Worth the additional $18.

The AKASO dash cam which is a small wedge-shaped plastic doohickey with a small screen and some buttons.

   
SHOES! • Reg. $170, Paid $128
I should have bought shoes last Black Friday, but I thought I could get one more year out of the pair I have. I'm not rough on shoes... they usually last me four or five years... so a little Shoe Goo will keep them together right? They still look great... it's just the soles that are falling apart. But back in August the soles fell complete apart. My plan was to buy a cheap pair of $20 shoes, rip the soles off, then glue them on mine. This seemed extreme. Instead I used more Shoe Goo to piece everything together. It worked surprisingly well. But I needed new shoes. I would have loved to have found the same model I had before... but of course shoe companies don't do that. I also would have loved to have spent under $100... but of course the shoes I found that I liked weren't under $100. Oh well. It's still 25% off, which is better than nothing.

My bad-ass new shoes being all black and forest green.

   
ALEXA! Reg. $99 • Paid $33 (with trade-in and Amazon cash back)
I bought a SONOS One for my bedroom. It's absolutely fantastic, and fills the room with amazing sound. Problem is, the AirPlay 2 on it is glitchy as hell, which means the audio has constant drop-outs when I'm playing content from my Apple TV. And Apple TV keeps "forgetting" that the SONOS exists, so I am having to reconnect several times a week. It's maddening, because 95% of the time I'm using it for my television. And so I decided to get an Echo (3rd Gen.) which has a 3.5mm audio line-in that I can run directly from my television. I traded in the old Amazon Echo I have in the bathroom for $25, so it ends up being a $35 spend. No, the sound won't be as good as my SONOS One, but it's gotten good reviews for its quality and will be good enough... plus I can transfer the SONOS One to my upstairs bathroom, which will be amazing for listening to music each morning while I shower and get ready.

An Amazon Echo cylidner plus a cutaway view showing the speaker array inside.

   
iTUNES! GIFT CARD • Reg. $100, Paid $70 (with Rakuten Sign-up Bonus)
As is my custom every year, I buy a $100 iTunes gift card at 20% off to cover the Marvel movies and sale movies I buy each year. I joined Rakuten and they gave me $10 cash back for my first purchase, so this year it was an especially sweet 30% off!

   
OUTDOOR NEST CAM! • Reg. $199, Paid $159
I have two camera systems. A wired system with local recording that has a battery backup and will run even with no power or internet... and a Nest cloud system which is constantly uploading footage to the internet. The Nest cameras are fantastic, but I was ready to ditch them all because the per-camera cloud service cost was absurdly expensive. But they made an announcement a while back that this would be changing to a much cheaper "bulk plan" where all cameras would be covered for one price. Given this, I decided to keep all my Nest cameras and replace a failed outdoor camera with another Nest. But not the new "Nest Cam IQ" which has the stupidest mounting requirements (DRILL A HOLE THROUGH YOUR HOUSE!), I got the original Nest Cam Outdoor. I budgeted to get it for $129, but the savings ended up being less steep than I had hoped.

The Nest Outdoor Cam which is a sexy white thing with a lens on it... and a butterfly on top.

   
HELLO! • Reg. $229, Paid $149
The first smart doorbell I had was the original "Ring" model. It was huge, but it worked well. Then Ring sent me an offer I couldn't refuse... a 4th generation smaller "Ring Pro" model upgrade for a fraction of the retail price. Sadly, it has never worked as well. But an even bigger problem with Ring is that it is SO slow. By the time they notify you that somebody has rang your doorbell, they've long gone. And trying to review the cloud footage is futile because it takes forever for it to upload and be available. Since my Nest cloud cameras are always available instantly and very quick to notify, I've wanted to get a Nest Hello doorbell replacement. Now that Google Nest is having a bulk deal on cloud services for multiple devices come 2020, this was a no-brainer.

The Nest Hello Smart Doorbell... looks like a small device with a button at the bottom and a camera lens at top.

   
PRESSURE COOKER! • Reg. $120, Paid $35 (after Rakuten cash back)
I already mentioned this one earlier this week. Thanks to a goof by a website (they switched the sale prices of the 6-quart and 8-quart for half-a-day) I finally got an Instant Pot (or, to be more accurate, an Instant Pot knock-off) for $35. SCORE! I bought this as a flawless egg cooker, but have ended up using it for lots of stuff. Not something I had planned on buying (or had budgeted for) but I was happy to find it.

My Best Buy Pressure Cooker Instant Pot Knock-Off.

   
UNDERWEAR! • Reg. $102, Paid $46 (after Rakuten cash back)
Half of my skivvies are literally falling apart. But I keep wearing them and repairing them because I need enough that I can do full loads of laundry. Fortunately, Old Navy had an EVERYTHING IS 50% OFF SALE plus free shipping on orders of $50 or more. I was able to get 10 pair of quality underwear, some socks, and a couple pair of touch-screen-friendly gloves for $51. Old Navy tends to hold up pretty good, so that was money well-spent. Especially since I earned $40 in SuperCash I can spend on more Old Navy, plus $5 cash-back from Rakuten, which means I am essentially getting all this for $6?!? (assuming I spend the $40).

Some cool Banana Republic underwear and socks!

   
CLOTHES! • Reg. $947, Paid $367 (after Rakuten cash back)
My favorite jeans, hands down, are Banana Republic slim-fit. They are comfortable, look good, and (most importantly) they last forever. Seriously, I have jeans from four years ago that look new. Unfortunately, my American Eagle jeans do not hold up as well and are needing to be replaced. I took Banana Republic up on their 50% off Black Friday offer and buy four pair. With the Rakuten cash back, they're knocked down to $41.25 a pair! SCORE! Then I headed over to The Gap and Banana Republic Factory for some dress shirts, T-Shirts, casuals, and gloves at 60% off off $480 plus $20-something in Rakuten cash back. Not too shabby.

Banana Republic slim-fit jeans on some guy with brown boots and a sweater shirt. And a long-sleeved poplin shirt on some other guy.

   
Grand total? $1025 spent for $2032 in merchandise. Or almost exactly 50% in savings. With tax adding $82, my total spend this year was $1107. So... woohoo! I've got $93 left!

I should keep it in the bank and roll it over for next year... but... the LEGO Jurassic World video game for Nintendo Switch is on sale for twenty bucks!

A scene from the LEGO Jurassic World video game showing LEGO characters in cars and motorcycles running from a LEGO T-Rex.

   
I guess I'll just blow the remainder on cocaine and hookers. Does anybody know where I can find cocaine and hookers for $70?

And so there it goes. I now have enough new clothes and toys to last me until next Black Friday. And until then... time to start squirreling away another $100 a month. Which never seems like much fun until today.

   

Thankful and Good Enough

Posted on Thursday, November 28th, 2019

Dave!I was never much into Thanksgiving. Though I've always been into being thankful.

When I was a kid, Thanksgiving was just a bump in the road on the way to Christmas. The family would get together at grandma's house where we'd all partake in her amazing cooking... and even more amazing dessert. When I became a vegetarian in 1986 I was anticipating problems. But my grandmother took it completely in stride. She made the stuffing outside the bird and used vegetable broth. Beans no longer had bacon in them. I was able to eat more than my fill without eating meat, and it was fine.

My grandmother was pretty great like that.

When grandma couldn't cook large-scale meals any more, Thanksgiving became progressively more scaled back. Instead of her roasting an entire turkey, there would be a "turkey loaf" (whatever that was). Dessert was store-bought. And when she had to be moved to a care facility, some of the family would show up and order extra plates from the cafeteria so we could still have dinner together. It wasn't the same. It sure didn't taste as good. But it meant something special to her for everybody to get together, and that's all that mattered.

After my grandmother passed there would be no more Thanksgiving dinners.

Before the next one rolled around, my mom would already be in a care facility. Her first Thanksgiving there, my brother and I were able to take her to the Denny's up the road. The next Thanksgiving was too difficult for her to travel even a short ways, so we had it in her room with to-go plates from that same Denny's. It was at that point that we found out she had difficulty feeding herself, making her last Thanksgiving a depressing affair for all three of us.

She didn't make it to the next Thanksgiving.

And so now I'm just done with it all. I am not interested in going to another Thanksgiving dinner. All it would do is be a painful reminder of all I've lost, even as I continue to be thankful that I had so many good Thanksgivings with my mom and grandmother in the past.

For however many years I have left, I'm happy to cook up some mashed potatoes with bread stuffing and cranberry jelly and spend the day with my cats.

That's a good enough Thanksgiving for me.

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Eggs Under Pressure

Posted on Wednesday, November 27th, 2019

Dave!I have always resisted the "Instant Pot" pressure cooker craze because it seemed as if it would be a waste of money for me. There's simply not a lot of things I would use it for. I don't make many soups, my sauces don't call for one, I already have a rice cooker and, since I don't eat meat, all those recipes for "the moistest, most succulent meat you'll ever eat" are lost on me. It's not worth the $120 they cost when I'll barely use it.

But then I got one of those bargain shopper emails which had an 8-quart Instant Pot imitator on sale for $35 and I thought "why not?"

For one reason and one reason only... hard boiled eggs! I am tired of buying a carton of eggs, having to wait weeks and weeks so they'll be "old enough" to peel easily, then inevitably be disappointed because one or two of them still don't peel that great. And every time I've complained... EVERY TIME... a dozen people perk up with "You should get an Instant Pot! The shell practically falls off the egg!"

And so... I ponied up the $35 to see what all the fuss was about. At best I had the most amazing egg cooker money could buy. At worst I blew $35 on something I'd use twice a year...

My Best Buy Pressure Cooker Instant Pot Knock-Off.

After I got it, I was shocked at how huge this thing is. It's massive! I was not expecting something this gigantic for $35! So I went back to the site and found out why... somebody made a boo boo. The 6-quart was supposed to be $35, the 8-quart was supposed to be $70. At first I was wishing that I would have gotten the 6-quart so I had space to store it in the kitchen... but after thinking about it, I was happy to have the larger capacity in case I have to cook for a crowd. I'll just have to find a spot in the garage to store it.

Seriously, this thing is huge!

And intimidating.

The manual, which they insist you read from cover to cover before operation, is pretty serious. You can get burned. You can release the pressure wrong. You can die. That kind of thing. And so... I was sure to read everything. Twice.

And then? Bring on the eggs!

Except... first of all, THERE'S A CAKE BUTTON?!? And, second of all, where was the hard boiled eggs button on this thing?

My Best Buy Pressure Cooker Instant Pot Knock-Off Control Panel.

Umm... there wasn't one. And so I went online to look up at how to do this. The instructions were not rocket science. Dump in one cup of water, let cook for 5 or 6 minutes on low pressure, then drop the cooked eggs in an ice water bath. Simple. Except... where is my "low pressure" button? Apparently you have to use low pressure or else your eggs will crack open. So I read the manual again and... unlike a pricey Instant Pot, my knock-off doesn't allow you to set the pressure.

Well, shit.

Apparently with my pressure cooker you are forced to select a "recipe button" and adjust it. I went with "Vegetable Steam" and reduced the timer from 8 minutes to 5 minutes. Then I pressed the start button. Much to my dismay, the timer didn't start. Instead lights were chasing each other on the display. Back to the manual. Apparently this is what happens when the cooker comes up to pressure... then the timer starts. Okay then.

Once the cooker beeped I clicked it off and unplugged it so it wouldn't stay on "Keep Warm" forever. Then I turned the release valve to let the steam blow out and waited for the little pressure valve to drop. At which point I opened the lid and expected to find a bunch of crushed eggshells stuck in a giant egg pie. But the eggs were intact and looked perfect. So into the ice water bath they went! Ten minutes later it was time to peel them.

THE SHELL REALLY DOES FALL OFF THE FRICKIN' EGG... EVEN FRESH EGGS!

Alrighty then! $35 well-spent! So happy I didn't throw that money down the drain. And then I cut one open and... BOOOOOOO! It wasn't cooked all the way! The yolk wasn't runny, but they weren't done. This made me mad because eggs aren't free, and I was having to throw out a half-dozen of them. Except... they're still edible, right? Back to Google, where I found out that what I had were medium-cooked eggs. Cooked, but with a soft center instead of a firm center. Something I have never had before. So I sprinkled on some freshly-ground salt and pepper and...

HOLY CRAP! THESE ARE AMAZING!!!

A boiled egg chart showing what boiled eggs look like when cooked for a certain amount of time... starting with practically raw at one minute all the way to overcooked at fifteen minutes.
Egg chart taken from Mamabee... the arrow is pointing to what my eggs look like.

I HAVE BEEN EATING BOILED EGGS WRONG MY ENTIRE LIFE!!!

Medium-cooked eggs have creamy yolks... not dry and pasty. Medium-cooked eggs have whites that are soft... not firm and rubbery. And I could not stop eating them... I downed four of them for dinner right then and there. Then I sliced a fifth one to put on an English muffin for dessert.

I've since found out that I should have let them sit for five minutes in the cooker after releasing pressure before dumping them in the ice bath so the yolk finishes cooking. Then I'll get the firmer hard-boiled eggs I need for potato salad and stuff. I'll figure it out eventually. In the meanwhile... I would not be opposed to more "failures" like my first batch. Delicious!

I'm excited to try mashed taters next. Apparently mashed potatoes are amazing when pressure-cooked, and I do love me a good mashed tater.

And chili. Vegetarian chili would be great!

Oooh... and what about risotto?

And... CAKE(!?!) of course.

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Anticipatory Damages

Posted on Tuesday, November 26th, 2019

Dave!Lately my life has become more about anticipating the future than living in the "right now." I don't know that this is necessarily a bad thing... looking forward to stuff is a healthy way to stay positive, isn't it? But I do feel like my head is in the clouds more than it should be.

As the days start getting really, really cold, most of my activities are indoors. Work all day. Watch movies and television all night.

And, boy is it a great time for television. My crappy Hallmark movies are running 24/7. Fridays we got The Mandelorian and The Morning Show... Sundays are new Watchmen and Rick and Morty... Just to name a few. My DVR is jam-packed whenever I check it!

And then there's Black Friday and Cyber Monday coming up, which is essentially the only time of year that I "shop" for stuff. I am looking forward to getting some affordable, quality clothing (the stuff I could never afford at full price, which is awesome) and some shoes. And... oh yeah... I am really looking forward to getting new underwear since half of mine are on the verge of falling apart. Other than that, I've got my budget set and my list made, so hopefully I won't buy more than I can afford without going into credit card debt and not buy stuff I don't need. Thanks to some companies providing "Black Friday Sneak Peaks" all week long, I have a pretty good idea of what I will be buying and how much I will be paying for it. The only thing I'm not entirely sure about is a new dash cam for my car. It's getting to the point where so many lunatics are driving distracted that I'm almost afraid to drive without one anymore. I bought a $30 one years ago that has been doing okay, but now it has to be taped together because it's falling apart and barely working. I'd feel a lot better about driving if I can find a good one on sale. Fingers crossed.

Thanksgiving will be spent working. I love working on holidays because I can get so much more done when I'm left alone in silence. And, let me tell you, I really need to get a lot of work done. Thanksgiving dinner will be spent with my cats. Stinky sardines for them, bread stuffing with cranberry jelly for me. Friday will mostly be working... but my morning will be spent climbing on Black Friday deals as fast as I can. Saturday and Sunday I will be working on a shelter upgrades for Fake Jake (the stray in our neighborhood) and finishing up whatever work I have left.

Which will hopefully won't be too much.

Because what I'm really looking forward to is some time off before Monday rolls around and I'm buried in work once again.

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Functionally Extinct Humanity

Posted on Monday, November 25th, 2019

Dave!All too often we humans speak of the planet as if humanity is the only thing living on it.

This attitude is mortifying, and a huge part of why animals of all kinds are rapidly losing their homes. Whether it be due to climate change... or deforestation... or pollution... or any number of other human-induced disasters, our fellow creatures are not long for this earth. "Adapt or die" is a phrase that's tossed around like it excuses everything, which is easy to say when you are able to adapt more quickly than all the so-called "lesser species" on this planet. If our home is destroyed, we rent a U-Haul and drive ourselves to someplace else that we've created to be just like the place we've left. Animals (especially those with special diets) don't have this option.

This past week articles were hitting the news saying that koalas have become "functionally extinct" thanks to horrible wildfires raging through Australia.

Subsequent responses are all over the map. Some say that this is a vastly-overblown statement and koalas are nowhere near going extinct. Others say that "functionally extinct" is a statement considering future trends, and is completely accurate. In any event, Forbes changed their headline from "Expert claims Australia's beloved marsupial is 'functionally extinct' after bushfires destroyed 80 per cent of their natural habitat and killed thousands"... to "Fires Have May Have Killed Up To 1,000 Koalas, Fueling Concerns Over The Future Of The Species"... which they claim is to "better reflect the content of the reporting." So make of it what you will. Interesting to note that the original headline is still part of the URL...
https://www.forbes.com/sites/trevornace/2019/11/23/koalas-functionally-extinct-after-australia-bushfires-destroy-80-of-their-habitat/

As I am neither an expert on koalas nor their survivability chances, I'll bow out of that fight.

I will, however, weigh in with my opinion, which is this: Once humanity stops caring for all life on this planet, we are dooming ourselves just as surely as if we found a way to crash the earth into the sun. Life here is co-dependent and if you want to be exposed to something that will keep you up at night, start reading articles on how close we may be to eliminating a keystone species. Well, at least those "keystone species" we know of.

Koalas may... or may not... be a keystone species upon which most life on this planet relies (it's something you can only ever truly know in hindsight). But they are amazingly sweet, gentle, inoffensive, and adorable creatures who deserve better than what they've gotten by our hand. When I visited the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Australia, theirs seemed like such a dire predicament eight years ago... and it's just getting more hopeless as time goes on.

Me holding a koala... both of us looking into the camera while I'm having the time of my life.

How much better off would life on this planet be if we weren't here fucking it up?

Humans, such as we are, may not be functionally extinct... but we are quickly becoming functionally inhuman.

   

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