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Snow Melt

Posted on Thursday, March 1st, 2018

Dave!The weather has been weird lately.

Just when you think that Winter is over and Spring us here, it snows. Lately any new snow hasn't been sticking around long... the sun or rain washes it away... but there's still been old snow hanging around.

Until this week, when the last of it finally melted...

Snow Melting

Snow Melting

Snow Melting

And so... I guess that's that for Winter. At least in my neck of the woods.

Though never say never, because we could end up in a blizzard tomorrow if Mother Nature has other plans.

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Born a Crime

Posted on Friday, March 2nd, 2018

Dave!I remember how gutted I was when Jon Stewart left The Daily Show... thinking that nobody could ever take his place... swearing I'd dump the show. And then Trevor Noah came and he was a little rough but I saw how it might work out if he was given a chance. So everybody gave him a chance. And it ended up working because Trevor didn't even attempt to replace Jon Stewart... he just did his own thing within the format he was given. And now it's almost impossible for me to think of The Daily Show ever having been anybody's show but Trevor's, and I am glued to my TV every week night watching him dazzle with his charisma and brutally smart commentary on current events.

A while back I mentioned Trevor's audiobook, Born a Crime, which made me want to listen to it all over again.

And so I did. Seriously, even if you don't like Trevor, The Daily Show, or his politics, his story of growing up under Apartheid is unbelievably compelling. Highest possible recommendation...

As I said, you can sign up for Audible and get a free book credit so you can listen to his book for Free. Assuming you're not already a member. If you are a member, it's worth the credit. If neither of those are an option, check to see if your local library has audiobooks. Many of them do.

In the meanwhile, if you want to get a taste of what Born a Crime is about, check out this fantastic 90-minute interview that The Guardian which touches on a lot of the book's story...

   
Absolutely amazing how things worked out for him!

And he recently renewed his Comedy Central contract to host The Daily Show through 2022, so it's also amazing how things worked out for his fans too!

   

Caturday 54

Posted on Saturday, March 3rd, 2018

Dave!Well, Jenny might be in trouble.

She keeps puking, but it's never food... it's always mostly water. She gorges herself on water, then pukes it up. When I Google this, there's a lot of things that come up, but diabetes is the most common result. Since Jenny is two-years-old and not overweight that's unlikely, but I'm taking no chances. I'm going to make some changes to try and get her stabilized, then go through the trauma of taking her back to the vet (my nightmare).

First thing I'm doing is changing Jake and Jenny's diet. Jake is overweight, so it's probably better to make changes anyway. Jenny eats dry food and licks the gravy off the wet food I serve... both are loaded in carbs, which are not natural to a cat's diet. My ultimate goal is to move to a 100% raw food diet (more on that later) but, in the meanwhile, I'm going to blend pâté food with warm water and rinse the gravy off the chunky food.

This morning my cats looks at me like I was insane when I set it down, but hunger eventually won out. Jenny was all over the pâté gravy I made, but didn't eat the chunks. Jake ate a little of both. From there, it was me hanging out with Jenny to see if she puked up the pâté gravy. She had small convulsions, but kept everything down. Next time I'm going to add less water to see if that makes things easier.

Second thing I'm doing is temporarily getting rid of the drinking fountain. In the wild, cats usually get their hydration from the food they eat and rarely drink much water. If I'm going to put water in her food and serve raw food, hopefully that will alleviate the need for a water fountain. But... the last thing I want is for my cats to get a urinary problem, so I'm going to put a fountain back after a few days to see what happens. I've also replaced my plastic fountain with a ceramic one.

And then there's raw food.

Many, many pet owners and veterinarians advocate a raw food diet for cats because it more closely mimics the diet which their digestive system has evolved to handle. This is not as simple as it sounds, however. You can't just go buy a chicken at the grocery store, grind it up, and slop out a portion. First of all, refrigeration only slows salmonella poisoning, it doesn't stop it. You would either have to use freshly-killed chicken... or fresh-frozen to eliminate risk of salmonella. Second of all, cats need taurine to survive. Raw meats have taurine but not enough when ground, so you have to supplement it. Ultimately what this all means is that you partially cook the store-bought meat enough to kill any salmonella, add a cat supplement, then grind it all up. Or... order fresh-frozen and use that (which is a lot more expensive, but the best option for some meats).

But, first thing's first... I have to order up an industrial meat grinder.

Then? Research, research, research. Starting here.

Jenny hides her eyes from bright light!

In other cat news...

I finally managed to make it to Petco so I could pick up new Blue Moppy Mouses for Jenny after she shredded the last one...

Blue Moppy Mice

That should last her the rest of the year. Assuming she hasn't changed her mind and wants something else.

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Bullet Sunday 543

Posted on Sunday, March 4th, 2018

Dave!Welcome to the place where the kisses are hers are his and hers and Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Rescue! Poachers are the lowest of the low. Especially when they kill a mother while she is caring for her young. After she's gone, the babies will die alone, scared, and confused. Fortunately, there are people who step up and fill the gap...

Just look at how this baby from another rescue looks at his surogate mom...

XXX
Photo from Anthony Caere's Instagram.

The pilot in this video, Anthony Caere, is frickin' Superman. Not only does he shuttle doctors and save animals, but he survived a horrific plane crash where he intentionally landed in trees so he wouldn't hurt anybody! This interview video is in Dutch, but is still riveting because they show footage of him getting titanium plates to hold together his crushed skull. And after he healed up? He went right back to flying so he could help more animals and people. What an amazing guy.

   
• The Big Picture! One of my favorite movies of all time is Creator with Peter O'Toole from 1985. It's a sublimely funny and moving film that was pretty much ignored by everybody. I've owned it on VHS, LaserDisc, DVD, and Digital because there's never a time I don't want to see it, and I'm always keeping up so I can watch it easily. There are a number of great performances in it (including O'Toole, Vincent Spano, Virginia Madsen, and Mariel Hemingway)... but it's David Ogden Stiers and his antagonistic "Sid" who had some of the funniest bits. It's easily my favorite role he's had (even more than M*A*S*H), and how I'll always remember him...

Well, that and as the mayor in "Doc Hollywood," another amazing role...

Thank you for sharing your talent, Mr. Stiers. You will be missed.

   
• Lucas! These animated shorts about a baby spider are gold...


You can see more of Lucas at his YouTube channel.

   
• Panther! Amber Ruffin, a writer for Late Night with Seth Meyers reviews Black Panther... in the most hilarious way possible...

I really need to start watching Seth. I don't have time to add another late night show to my DVR, but he's always got some great stuff on.

   
• Authoritay! As the smartest whore you know, I have no trouble laughing over the idea that I'm supposed to believe that this dumb whore is capable of writing a grocery list, let alone a book... even with two people helping her. Kim Davis' level of hypocrisy actually makes her lower than a dumb whore. Dumb whores are at least respectable enough to do their job. Kim Davis is just a piece of shit hypocrite who refused to do hers. Then blamed it on God instead of accepting responsibility for taking a job where she had no intent of following any laws she didn't like. So fuck her. Fuck her sideways, the hypocritical pile of bigoted garbage...

Stupid hypocritical asshole Kim Davis has a book!

Kim Davis may claim "Glory be unto God"... but her every action says "Glory be unto Kim Davis."

   
• Pathetic! When senile old pedophiles try to wage war on social media against young people who were literally born into social media, I find it charming.

   
We've a lovable space that needs your face next Bullet Sunday!

   

Wish You Were Here

Posted on Monday, March 5th, 2018

Dave!I sent postcards on my Antarctica vacation knowing full well they may never show up. Just so I would know one way or the other if they arrived, I sent cards to myself as well. The first postcard was sent from Ushuaia and never made it. The second card was given to the crew of our ship to mail from Antarctica (since our landing to the post office station had to be canceled). That one finally arrived 10 weeks later...

Antarctica Postcard

Ironically, the postcard that got here cost me $1 to mail. The one that didn't get here cost over $4. Not that it matters. $4 is a tiny drop in a very large bucket.

As soon as my tax refund gets here, I plan on paying off the last remnants of vacation that have been lingering. Go me. Closure at last!

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Puke Patrol

Posted on Tuesday, March 6th, 2018

Dave!This past Caturday, I talked about Jenny and her stomach problems which have been causing her to vomit several times throughout the day. The poor thing couldn't catch a break, and it was painful to watch her struggle. I resolved to take her to the vet on Monday if she was still puking, even though that bit of trauma was enough to make me want to start puking.

But yesterday things started getting better.

Whether it was pulverizing no-carb food into gravy so her entire diet wasn't so carb-heavy... or switching to a ceramic water fountain... or just waiting it out... I don't know. All I do know is that I haven't heard or seen her puking, and nothing has been turning up when I go on puke patrol each morning.

So far, so good.

Maybe it was just a temporary stomach bug she needed to get out of her system?

We shall see.

In the meanwhile... more research into a raw diet. I'd like to at least work some raw (or form of partially-cooked raw) into their food routine.

Maybe that will help Jenny to not be so aggressive with her Moppy Mice. This morning I noticed that she had ripped the guts out of Green Moppy Mouse...

Dead Green Moppy Mouse

Now that she's got a taste for killing her toys, I wonder how long the three new Blue Moppy Mice I bought her will last?

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Good Bye HomeKit

Posted on Wednesday, March 7th, 2018

Dave!I have spent the past 35 years falling in love with everything Apple. It started with the Apple ][ personal computer and continued through the Macintosh then continued right up through the iPhone. I jump head-first into whatever Apple releases, and I've loved it.

But recently things started to change.

After waiting way, way too long for Apple to release a new "Pro" Mac, they came out with a steaming turd in 2013 which looked pretty, but was overpriced and lacking the things that pro users need. Then... THEN... they did the exact same thing with their MacBook "Pro." And it keeps going... they standardized on an expensive Thunderbolt peripheral port, then abandoned it... they developed the brilliant MagSafe power adapter, then abandoned it... Apple TV can't stream worth a crap, even in its 4th generation model, and the remote is horrific... their mice are built to pit and deteriorate... the list goes on and on, and it's nuts.

And the software side isn't much better. MacOS X has developed so many problems that it feels as though it's been abandoned. They dumped Aperture, their photo cataloging software, after luring people into adopting it. They screwed up iMovie so much that a once-joyful program to use is a frustrating joke.

But the final straw for me was HomeKit.

I've long obsessed over home automation, so when I bought a home where I could install home automation devices, I went full-throttle. Apple had been developing their own home automation ecosystem, called "HomeKit," but it was tough to find any devices. And so I held off until HomeKit devices were released.

Then it happened. Schlage released "Sense" HomeKit-enabled door lock. So cool!

Until I got them, that is.

The locks are great, but the HomeKit functionality is garbage. It never works reliably, and half the time I can't even connect... despite having AppleTV's within 6-feet of them (HomeKit uses AppleTV as a hub). But that's not even the half of it. After all my waiting, HomeKit was laughably incapable and feature-poor. Tons of devices weren't supported... or even available if they were supported.

I immediately regretted buying HomeKit locks, and never bought another HomeKit device. And ever since then I've been dying to replace my locks, but couldn't bring myself to walk away from the hundreds of dollars I spent on them.

And then...

Schlage has released a WiFi interface which allows you to control your locks without having to use crappy HomeKit...

Schlage WiFi Interface

If your locks are set up with HomeKit, you have to reset them to factory defaults and start over again. If you don't, you can't connect them to the WiFi Adapter. Also... they will start screeching an alarm if you try, which I found out the hard way (sorry kitties).

Your lock has to be within 40 feet of the adapter (just like HomeKit, since both use Bluetooth connections). This was no problem for me, and I was able to use one adapter for both my locks (it supports a maximum of two).

Annnnnd...

It works as advertised. Once you set up a Schlage account as a gateway between the locks and your phone's Schlage app, you can control your locks remotely and see their status. Access is blazingly fast and reliable compared to HomeKit. Every once in a while I'll get a bit of a lag, but at least I can always connect.

Then there's the ability to ask Alexa if a door is locked... and then lock it if it isn't (for security reasons, you can't unlock a door via Alexa). I don't know how handy this would be, but it's nice to know it's there. Except when it's not. Because no matter how many times I link and unlink and re-link the skill, Alexa tells me the lock can't be reached... even though both locks show up in my Smart Home list. I've sent an email to Schlage customer service for help... fingers crossed.

And so... good bye to the massive failure known as HomeKit. And good bye to the seventy bucks it cost me to rectify this disaster. But, hey, at least I didn't have to spend hundreds to replace my locks!

My hope is that one day Apple will just bag HomeKit and buy out a company like INSTEON so they have an integrated home automation system that works. Heaven only knows they've got the cash. Until then, I'm just glad to be rid of that one piece of home automation that's never worked for me.

   

Good Bye Apple TV?

Posted on Thursday, March 8th, 2018

Dave!Yesterday I talked about finally being able to dump Apple's home automation disaster, HomeKit. Today I'm contemplating dumping Apple TV for a number of reasons...

First of all, the streaming quality of shows purchased through Apple iTunes is awful... assuming you can get them to stream at all. Do you know how many times I've gone to watch a movie or TV Show I've purchased, only to have Apple TV go catatonic? Do you know how many times I've been watching something only to have Apple TV suddenly stop streaming and then not start again unless I reset everything? And when I complain? Apple blames my internet connection. Without fail. But here's the thing... ALL OTHER STREAMING SERVICES WORK FINE! Even on Apple TV! Episodes of The West Wing I've purchased from Apple won't stream. But episodes of The West Wing stream just fine through the Netflix app... ON MY APPLE TV!!! The problem clearly isn't my internet connection. The problem is that Apple has billions of dollars but can't build a content delivery system that's worth a shit.

Second of all... digital purchases from Apple iTunes are almost always more expensive than purchasing them elsewhere. Movies that are $19.99 at the iTunes Store can be purchased at Vudu or Amazon or wherever for $12.99. Now, the one thing Apple has that other don't (yet) is a no-charge upgrade to 4K and HDR content. But what good is it if you can't watch it?

But the worst offense of all with Apple TV? Apple is happy to take your money, but they absolutely, positively do not give a shit about making sure you get what you pay for.

As an example... I use the Sundance Now app on my Apple TV to watch a show called This Close. I purchased my subscription through my Apple TV and pay my $6.99 a month to Apple. But when Sundance Now is suddenly asking me for a login... but I don't have a login because I purchased through Apple TV... Apple says "Sorry, you have to contact Sundance Now because it's their app." Except... I'm not paying Sundance Now. I'm paying Apple. And the best that Apple can do is cancel my subscription. Problem is... I'm paid up through March 21st. If Apple cancels my subscription, I'm losing almost a month of subscription I've paid for. Their response?

Apple Don't Give a Shit

That's right. They can't guarantee that they can refund me money THEY TOOK for something I CAN'T ACCESS because their only solution is to TERMINATE MY SUBSCRIPTION on THEIR PRODUCT using apps that THEY AUTHORIZE.

What a garbage company.

But here's my dilemma...

All my movie purchases through Apple are safe because Apple is a part of the "Movies Now" collective. I can watch any of my movie purchases on any other device which supports a vendor that is also a "Movies Anywhere" member.

But what about the hundreds of TV shows I've purchased?

I have no idea. I'd ask Apple to refund all my money for all the shows I've ever purchased... but we've already seen how they treat me over a $6.99 subscription fee, so that's probably out of the question.

I remember the days when Apple was an amazing company which stood behind its products. If I had a problem with something I purchased... they fixed it. Or they refunded my money. Or they made it right somehow. Now? I get the feeling they couldn't care less about their customers. Which wouldn't be such a big problem if anything they made was worth a crap now-a-days. But that's not really true, is it? Used to be you could trust Apple products to "just work." That hasn't been the case in years.

The Apple hasn't just fallen from the tree once Steve Jobs left us... it's rotted and turned to mush.

UPDATE: Just to give you an idea of how utterly shitty a product Apple TV is, I ended up purchasing a "smart plug" so I can cut the power and restart the unit when it goes catatonic. Yes, it happens often enough that spending $13 was a worthwhile investment. First the screen goes black. Then the screen goes white. Then it tries to load... something... then it fails and goes black again... lather, rinse, repeat. Over and over until I get up and unplug it, then plug it back in again. Hence... the smart plug so I don't have to climb behind my media center each time this happens...

AppleTV Goes White

Of course, then the Apple TV gives me this...

AppleTV Goes Reset

I regret ever having purchased Apple TV. Version 1. Version 2. Version 3. And Version 4. I absolutely regret having spent money buying media from Apple. You'd think I'd finally learn something here... maybe now I finally am.

   

Tail End

Posted on Friday, March 9th, 2018

Dave!It's Jake! Hello, Jake!


XXX

   
Sometimes I have the camera on my iPhone ready at just the right moment.

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Caturday 55

Posted on Saturday, March 10th, 2018

Dave!After dealing with Jenny's stomach bug and having a growing worry that she's becoming diabetic due to her crazy water consumption, I started looking for low-carb foods to hopefully head that off at the pass. This isn't that tough, because there are many wet foods which are no-carb. They're all meat. But Jenny doesn't want to chew wet food... she only wants to lick the gravy off of it. The gravy being the part with carbs. If I buy wet food with no gravy, she still tries to lick it, but won't eat it. The only food she wants to eat is dry food. But most dry foods are carb-heavy.

I started making my own low-carb gravy she can eat by puréeing paté canned food with water. It worked fantastic, but was so gross (I'm never using that blender for my food again!). Then I found Tiki Cat brand, which has a "velvet mousse" which is already blended. I just stir in a half-tablespoon of water and away she goes.

Even better? Tiki Cat also makes low-carb dry food!

Tiki Pets Products

The stuff is crazy-expensive, but my cats love it. And, if they're being honest about the contents, it's a much healthier option for Jake and Jenny than anything else I've found.

I'm also trying out the Tiki Cat Grill, which is a series of flaked fish recipes that have shellfish garnish. Or, in the case of the sardine cutlets varieties, disgusting chunks of sardines in shellfish sauce. Opening a can is gag-inducing for me, but the cats love love love to eat it (or, in Jenny's case, love to lick it).

I still want to investigate making my own raw food to work into their diet though... I'm reading way too many good things about it to let it go. Even with Tiki Cat in the picture.

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Bullet Sunday 544

Posted on Sunday, March 11th, 2018

Dave!Don't go unpacking that baggage just yet, because an all-new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• New Jones! Our long wait for new Jessica Jones is over... Netflix released a second season this past week. I binge-watched them all, of course. Unfortunately, this new batch of thirteen episodes was not the masterpiece we got in season one. It was a slapshot hodgepodge of story beats that never quite melded together. It was also horrifically slow, with characters and elements that spiraled off into nowhere. Ultimately there were parts that were entertaining... and it was great to see the character again... but the relevant bits could have been easily condensed down to five or six much better episodes...

I seriously hope the creative team gets their shit together for season three. Of all the Marvel Studios Netflix shows, this is the one with the most potential. Jessica Jones deserves better than to have it squandered, which is how I feel about what we got.

   
• And Chill! Netflix's commitment to original shows is truly mind-boggling. They are gunning to create/partner/distribute loads of unique content that takes on the big networks, and they've been doing a darn good job of it. Their Marvel shows (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, The Punisher, and The Defenders) are, for the most part, far superior to what you can get on "regular" television (most notably with the shitty Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the even shittier Inhumans). But they didn't stop there. It seems like every day I'm stumbling across more and more new stuff they've released... from comedy specials and animation to travel shows and documentaries. Right now I'm addicted to watching The World's Most Extraordinary Homes which is an architecture geek's dream show, and The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale which is essentially all new episodes of Talk Soup. More is on the way. They recently announced a new talk show built around Hasan Minhaj, which should be genius, and insures that I won't be canceling my Netflix subscription any time soon.

   
• Champs! I would watch Mindy Kaling read the phone book, I love her so much. So I'm watching her new show Champions. I like it well enough... the concept is good, the dorky brother character is great, and I love the kid... but I don't think the lead guy is gelling with the material at all. Hopefully it will find its footing and he'll grow into the character. Unfortunately, I don't know that this show will last very long...

Oh well. At least somebody is trying to do something different.

   
• Pharma Bro! No news story in recent memory has made me laugh my ass off more than this one right here.

   
• POP! POP! No matter how bad the episode of Saturday Night Live, I can always count on a visit from "Don Jr. and Eric Trump" to salvage the episode...

LOLOLOLOLOLOL.

   
No more bullets tonight. No more Bullet Sunday, I guess.

   

The Sunken Place

Posted on Monday, March 12th, 2018

   

   

   

   

The Sunken Place from Get Out

   

   

   

   

   

SONOS and HomePod: Part 1 of 5

Posted on Monday, March 12th, 2018

Dave!Welcome to Sonos Week here at Blogography! Each day I will be talking about my leap to the Sonos platform for "smart speakers" and how it integrates with Amazon's Alexa assistant. Because there's so much to unpack, I'm breaking it up into five parts.

And now on with the show...

Once Apple announced their HomePod, I started saving for one. "It's like having Alexa for my music!" I thought. And since I'm a Certified Apple Whore, how could I not buy some cool new tech from Apple?

Then at the last minute I changed my mind and went with their competition: the new Sonos One with Alexa. Yes, yes... I know. But I actually put some thought into this...

  • I am slowly getting to the point where I despise Apple. They keep shitting the bed over and over and I'm sick of it. HomeKit (their home automation ecosystem) is complete and total crap. Apple TV doesn't work worth a shit... even in its 4th generation. Their new "pro" laptop has none of the ports that pro users actually need. The list goes on and on. I no longer buy blindly into Apple's bullshit because I keep getting burned.
  • Apple's Siri assistant is practically useless because she can't do much. Once I gave up on HomeKit ever amounting to anything after years of waiting, I bought 100% into the Amazon Alexa ecosystem, which can do everything. Alexa runs my home. Alexa runs my life. Since Sonos One has Alexa built-in, it seems like a no-brainer to go with them.
  • Unlike HomePod, which can't do much outside the Apple bubble, Sonos is surprisingly extensible. If I end up giving up on Apple altogether one day, at least I know my investment won't be lost as it would be with HomePod. Rumor has it that Sonos is looking into adding both Google Assistant and Siri to the One, which would be pretty great if I ever need them.
  • I can get two Sonos One speakers for the cost of one HomePod. Reviews say the HomePod sounds better but if I end up expanding my Sonos system with a subwoofer and a soundbar, then there's no competition at all... the Sonos 5:1 setup will trounce HomePod... not just for my music, but for my television too (HomePod doesn't even have that as an option).

There's a caveat, of course. Neither Alexa nor Sonos cannot access iTunes Match, which is where the entirety of my music collection resides.

That's a huge deal.

I can download all my music from iTunes and put it on my local NAS drive, which Sonos can access, but Alexa can't control it there. The only thing Alexa can control is Amazon Music Unlimted, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio and TuneIn. The cheapest option is Amazon at $79 a year, but that still won't allow me to access a goodly chunk of my more esoteric songs. I couldn't say "Alexa, play Love on Your Back by Thompson Twins because the B-side to Love on Your Side doesn't exist in Amazon Music Unlimited. It used to be that Amazon allowed you to upload your music to their servers for $25 a year, but they discontinued that which is such a bummer. Music options for Sonos are a somewhat long and complex discussion, so let's save that for tomorrow.

Obviously going the Sonos route has some down-sides when it comes to listening to my music, but the down-sides for HomePod are catastrophic. HomePod isn't even an option unless I have nothing better to do with $350.

And so now I'm here...

Sonos One Speakers

   
And now that I am here, I honestly don't know if it's a place I want to be.

There are plusses and minuses to Sonos that I need to unpack and see if the system makes sense for me. Fortunately, I've got 30 days to decide. I'm not anticipating returning them, mind you, but I do want to live with them for more than a week to see if I can live with the minuses.

So far, however, the plusses are frickin' amazing.

   

SONOS and Music: Part 2 of 5

Posted on Tuesday, March 13th, 2018

Dave!Welcome to Sonos Week here at Blogography! Each day I will be talking about my leap to the Sonos platform for "smart speakers" and how it integrates with Amazon's Alexa assistant. If you haven't read past entries in Sonos Week, you'll probably want to start at the beginning by clicking here.

And now on with the show...

Yesterday I talked about deciding to bypass Apple's HomePod and leap into Sonos. Now that they've released the "Sonos One" with Amazon Alexa built-in, it was a better fit for me and my Alexa-centric lifestyle.

Alas, since Alexa has no way of accessing my iTunes Match library, my best option for having music she can control is to subscribe to "Amazon Music Unlimited" at $79 a year (that price reflects a $20 discount because I'm an Amazon Prime member). Since I can now discontinue iTunes match at $25 a year, that's a net increase of $54 annually over what I was already paying. I'm not happy about it, but there's nothing else I can do to get what I want. Something tells me that Amazon and Apple are not going to cooperate on getting things integrated, and I'm too enamored with Alexa to contemplate her not having control of my music the way she has control over everything else in my life.

Amazon Music Unlimited is nice, for what it is, but it's hardly perfect...

  • My biggest beef is that Alexa doesn't know shit about my music. If I want to listen to Paninaro by Pet Shop Boys, you'd think that all I'd have to do is ask her for it. Not so much. I don't care how I pronounce it, I can never get it to play. And if I specifically say "Alexa, play Paninaro by Pet Shop Boys, she'll say she can't find it even though the song is absolutely available on Amazon Music Unlimited. Whenever this happens (and it happens often) I turn into a rage-monster.
  • Even when Alexa can find the song I want her to play, she'll inevitably pick some freaky alternate version rather than the original song. If I say "Alexa, play Flamboyant by Pet Shop Boys," she'll fire up the demo version, not the album track. I have no clue why. If I want to listen to the demo version, I'd have said "Alexa, play Flamboyant demo version by Pet Shop Boys. It's absolutely stupid, and yet there's nothing you can do.
  • Let's say that I absolutely MUST hear the original Flamboyant track. What do I do? Glad you asked! First I have to fire up my web browser and search for it at Amazon. Then I have to add it to the "My Music" list. THEN I have to say "Alexa, play Flamboyant original version by Pet Shop Boys." Alexa won't know what "original version" means because it's not in the track name... however... when making guesses for a song she can't find, Alexa seems to give preference to songs in "My Music" before she'll play one of the millions of other songs available to her. This whole situation is just nuts but it's all there is.
  • Manually adding songs to the "My Music" list is not always a solution, however. Telling Alexa to "Play Always by Pet Shop Boys" inexplicably causes Alexa to play Always on My Mind instead... even if Always is added to "My Music." The only way I can play it is if I go to Amazon.com, find the song, then see that it’s listed as a 2017 remaster, then tell Alexa to "Play Always 2017 by Pet Shop Boys." It’s insane that I have to look up every song I want to play because Alexa is adding words to my request that I never asked for. If I wanted to play Always on My Mind I would have asked for Always on My Mind and not Always. Not getting what I ask for drives me insane, and I absolutely can't figure out why Alexa is making this a problem.
  • What's worse than having Alexa add words to what I tell her to play? Having her ignore words. Or having her hear the words and not know what to do with them. If I say "Alexa, play Starlight Goldroom Remix by Jai Wolf," she can't find it. She can only find the original Starlight song, which is not what I want. And here's the thing... I have no fucking clue how to play Starlight Goldroom Remix since Alexa refuses to acknowledge it exists in Amazon Music (even though it does). This kind of thing happens way more often than you'd think, and it's buckets of lame. I'm in no way being obtuse with my request. I am literally telling Alexa the exact name of the song, but that doesn't work? Why?
  • Alexa is useless in all new extremes when you ask her to play a song that dares to use initials or abbreviations. Love Etc. by Pet Shop Boys? Can't play it. Not if you say it as "Love Etcetera," not if you say "Love E-T-C," not if you say "Love ehtcee." Nothing. You have tell it to play the album Yes because that's where the song is. No clue how to do this directly with Alexa... I don't even know if it can be done.
  • For reasons I can't fathom, Amazon Music is not as extensive as Apple Music or Spotify. I tried to play A Home to Come To by Silhouettes... it's not there. Which means I can't play it. AT ALL via Alexa. Even though I purchased the song from iTunes and own the file, there's no way to upload it to Amazon. This is shitty in so many ways. Chunks of my music library are simply out of reach with Alexa and Amazon Music "Unlimited." Since I'm discontinuing iTunes Match, all the song not available to me from Amazon will have to be downloaded and stored on all my iOS devices (where Sonos can play them via the Sonos app by streaming off my phone).
  • The Amazon Alexa app for my iPhone is utter shit for so many things, but it's worse than shit for interacting with Amazon Music. You can't even search for a song! All you can do is perform very basic functions like skip to the next track and adjust the volume. I thought perhaps that I'd have better luck with the dedicated Amazon Music app, but it can't interact with my Alexa devices. So I have no idea how to get good control over Alexa when playing Amazon Music. I don't think you can... at least not yet... unless I'm missing something. Some of the slack is taken up by the Sonos app, which actually can search Amazon... but that's a workaround, not a solution, for interacting with Alexa.

That being said, there are some things I love about Amazon Music Unlimited too...

  • Despite not having all my music, the library available is unfathomably vast. In the past I've been adamant about buying music rather than renting it. Now that I can play just about anything any time I want, I'm reconsidering. I hate that any music I want to keep will disappear the minute I stop paying for it, but that's the price you pay for such unprecedented access to a bagillion songs.
  • Being able to ask for songs based on lyrics is about as dope as it gets. One of my all-time favorite Pet Shop Boys songs is The Way it Used to Be. But, for whatever reason, I can never remember the name. I always call the song "What Is Left of Love" because that's the primary hook of the song. Now I can just say "Alexa, play that song by Pet Shop Boys with the lyrics 'What is left of love'" and she'll fire it up. Hear a song on the radio and don't know what it's called or who sang it? Request Alexa to play it from the lyrics. This is far from perfect and Alexa fails as often as she gets it right... but the fact she can do this at all is just remarkable.
  • Alexa and the Alexa app may be shit for accessing the Unlimited library, but the integration with the far superior Sonos app is seamless. Thanks to Amazon for playing nice with Sonos.
  • The quality of the music that's delivered from Amazon is pretty great when played through Sonos. Some songs which break badly on the Alexa speakers are deftly handled by my Sonos One and sound fantastic.

So I dunno. If I have to pay for a streaming music service, I'd rather it be Apple because that's where my music purchases and videos come from. But since Apple was way late to the personal assistant game and has nothing to even touch what Alexa can do, that's not going to happen. So long as I am tied to Alexa for everything, Amazon is where I am going to be. Maybe one day Apple will give up on their laughably bad HomeKit crap and buy out INSTEON or something that drags me back into the fold, but right now I'm done. It's all Alexa all the time until something better comes along. And something tells me Amazon ain't going to allow something better to come along. Alexa is getting better and more capable every day.

   

SONOS and Sound: Part 3 of 5

Posted on Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

Dave!Welcome to Sonos Week here at Blogography! Each day I will be talking about my leap to the Sonos platform for "smart speakers" and how it integrates with Amazon's Alexa assistant. If you haven't read past entries in Sonos Week, you'll probably want to start at the beginning by clicking here.

And now on with the show...

There was never any question that I would be giving up some sound quality when I went with Sonos One over Apple HomePod. Apple made sure that having awesome sound was a priority over everything else and, if that was my primary reason for getting a smart speaker, I would have bought one despite it all. But my priority was smart home integration with Alexa, so Sonos it was.

Though I'm hardly an audiophile, I do like having quality audio, and was hoping that Sonos with their years of experience would deliver. This was not guaranteed. Yes, they regularly get good reviews for their equipment, but I'm buying the smallest speakers they offer. And yet... since my home is not that big and I have cats (which means I never blast the stereo at full volume), I was optimistic.

Turns out the Sonos One is plenty enough speaker for me. Despite their diminutive size in comparison to other offerings, the One had no problem filling my home with rich, vibrant sound. I ended up putting one in the living room and one in my kitchen at opposite ends of my home, then grouping them so that they both play the same thing. I can control their volume independently, or control the overall proportional volume for both at the same time, which is handy...

Sonos Volume Controls

My dining room is closer to the kitchen than the living room, so I have the volume there a bit weaker. When I sit at the dining room table, it's a sweet spot where I am hearing sound equally from both, which is a very cool effect. People can dine and have a conversation while being enveloped in soft music for atmosphere. This... this is the true promise of Sonos. Everywhere sound that can be fine-tuned to whatever effect you want.

Obviously the problem with having only one speaker per room is no stereo sound, because pairing them for stereo in separate rooms is a bit schizophrenic. For my music, I'm not that bothered. If I end up going full-on Sonos with my television and A/V setup, then I'd have to add more speakers to get to Dolby 5:1 anyway (which is as far as Sonos can currently go... no DTS, PCM, DD+, or Dolby Atmos for you!). That being said, there is something which Sonos provides to get the best sound possible from their speakers no matter how many you have or where they're located. They call it "Trueplay" speaker tuning technology, and it's essentially an app on your smartphone that you walk around with to measure your room acoustics so your speaker can alter its output to give the best sound...

In my living room, Trueplay didn't make much different. The speaker seemed to sound the same before and after I applied it. But for my kitchen? Sound quality noticeably improved. Sonos is not blowing smoke here, there was an immediately noticeable improvement. This is a pretty great thing, even though it takes an extra couple minutes of setup to get there (Apple HomePod apparently does this automatically and constantly on its own... no need to walk around with your phone).

In the reviews I poured over before purchasing my pair of One speakers, I heard "lack of bass" mentioned more than once. This is puzzling to me, because I was thrilled to be getting so much bass out of such a small speaker. No, it's not earth-shaking (Sonos sells a subwoofer for that), but it's actually much better than I was lead to believe. Would I like more punch when I fire up All We Need by Odesza? Sure. That thumping bassline is meant to be something you feel. But I'm certainly not feeling deprived by the bass I'm getting, which is very good.

The Sonos One sound lives in the mid-range, which is pretty stellar. And while the highs are nice and bright, they can hit brassy spots that sound harsh to my ear. This is most notable when playing a song like There Must Be An Angel by Eurythmics (my go-to track for testing speakers). It handles the hook beautifully with the angelic backing vocals, but then fumbles a bit with the harmonica solo at the end. Still, it's never so bad that I'm wincing at it, and 98% of the time I'm not noticing anything but beautifully delivered acoustics that surprise me every time I fire up my speakers.

The upshot of all this is that I have no complaints about Sonos One sound quality for what I'm currently wanting to do with it. If I end up wanting to go further, I can absolutely do that buy purchasing more Sonos pieces. And that's the beauty of the system... it's just so darn extensible and configurable.

For a price, of course.

I bought two Sonos One speakers bundled at a $350 limited time price (now since expired), which is $175 each (regular $199). If sound quality is your primary concern, that kind of money can get you a larger speaker with significantly better sound quality. Sure, they won't be wireless, nor will thy have Sonos streaming capabilities or have Alexa built-in... and you'll need an amp to power them... but all that will mean nothing to a true audiophile. So know where your money is going before you plunk down for Sonos, which can get very expensive very quickly for chasing down the best sound the company offers (their largest PLAY:5 speaker, for example, is $500... so $1000 for stereo). Their 5:1 setup would require a PLAYBAR for my TV ($700) and SUB subwoofer ($700) and use my two One's as the back channels ($1750 total investment... $1800 now that the One is no longer on sale). This is a bit absurd when that kind of money can get you a Dolby Atmos-capable amp with some nice speakers for a better home-theater experience. But I'd probably go the Sonos route anyway because I love what it gets me in features and control. Maybe if I had a larger, more acoustic environment... like a custom home theater... my thinking would change. But since I don't, Sonos feels like a better fit, even for the price.

Hefty though it may be.

   

SONOS and Design: Part 4 of 5

Posted on Thursday, March 15th, 2018

Dave!Welcome to Sonos Week here at Blogography! Each day I will be talking about my leap to the Sonos platform for "smart speakers" and how it integrates with Amazon's Alexa assistant. If you haven't read past entries in Sonos Week, you'll probably want to start at the beginning by clicking here.

And now on with the show...

Sonos One speakers are designed to provide great sound in a small package and integrate a microphone so you can talk to Alexa... all while looking good. The speakers, as I mentioned in yesterday's entry, are pretty great for sound. The microphone array for Alexa, on the other hand, could use some improvement. Apparently things were much worse when the One was first released, and they've since improved it with software updates. My hope is that they continue to work on this, because it's irritating how ambient noise can obliterate any Alexa commands you might make. My Sonos One in the living room sits on my media center... exactly where my Echo used to sit. With Echo, I could have the television blasting and Alexa would still respond to commands easily. With One, that's not the case. Both my living room and kitchen speakers will hear me say "Alexa..." (I get that "beep" from both) but, if the television is on, half the time it's the kitchen speaker which is the One to reply. This sucks because I can't hear it with the television on.

Yes, this is a testament to just how good the microphones are at picking up when I ask for Alexa from across the house, but their ability to recognize where I'm at when I'm saying it is really poor. Sure I can disable the microphone on the kitchen One so there's no confusion, but that kind of defeats the purpose of having a One in my kitchen in the first place.

Another issue which may or may not be tied to the design of the Sonos One... there seems to be more lag between when I say an Alexa command and when the speaker will respond and act on that command. It seems faster on Echo and Echo Dot. No idea what that's about, because you'd think Alexa is Alexa no matter where she is. Perhaps Amazon prioritizes commands from the units they sell over third party devices? No clue.

And then there's Alexa not responding to Sonos control commands on the Sonos One speakers, but that's such a complex topic that I'm saving it for my final installment tomorrow.

When it comes to Alexa on Sonos One, the microphone problem and lag are annoying, but it's just the tip of the iceberg. If you listen to Audible audiobooks with Alexa, you can't do it on the Sonos One. At least not yet. If you use Alexa for drop-in (intercom between your Alexa units) or calling, they're not supported on a Sonos One. At least not yet. Some Alexa skills also don't work (like Sleep Sounds). At least not yet. Maybe it's Amazon that's refusing to allow these things, I have no idea. But it's scary to think how the Alexa features people rely on might one day disappear from their Sonos One speakers if Amazon decides to axe them for one reason or another.

As for the physical appearance of the Sonos One speakers, they're very pretty. Also... the design of the touch controls and indicators on the top of the unit are wonderfully unobtrusive. Rendered all in black, it's much better-looking than the multi-toned PLAY:1. Real thought went into making this a gorgeous piece of hardware.

Unless you want to mount it to a wall.

Then you have to add a bunch of shit which destroys the sleek lines of the product.

Because there's no screw mount on the back, all the screw-mount hardware used to hang the very similar Sonos PLAY:1 on a wall won't work. You have to use a specialized mount which has stupid restraining wires to hold on to the unit (something which seems ugly, flawed, and unsafe). I have run this over and over and over in my head trying to figure out why the screw mount was omitted, but keep coming up empty. This is profoundly stupid. Your options for mounting hardware goes from dozens to one or two, and neither are that great (the Midlite cable-conceal mount is not compatible, which is the one I wanted to use, but can't). Perhaps this was a ploy by Sonos to get kickback money? Maybe Sonos hates their customers and wants everybody replacing their PLAY:1 speakers with One speakers to have to buy all new mounts? Maybe they think the Sonos One is too pretty, so they want you to have to ugly it up if you mount it on a wall? I mean, come on... just look at this janky crap hanging off the back...

Janky-Ass Ugly Stupid Sonos One Wall Mount

   
That stupid wire will never stay straight, as you can see if you look close. Maybe Sonos just hates OCD types like me? And it takes two wires... TOP AND BOTTOM to restrain the damn thing...

Janky-Ass Ugly Stupid Sonos One Wall Mount

   
This idiotic shit is rage-inducing. Why even bother designing such a pretty speaker if you have to fuck it up to mount it on a wall?

Regardless of how ugly or stupid, I'm sure more mounts are coming. Hopefully somebody can find a more creative way of solving this which doesn't require a big ass wires and massively ugly clips hanging off the back.

Another design decision which may be problematic... you cannot create a stereo pair between a Sonos One and a Sonos PLAY:1, or any other Sonos product other than another Sonos One. While this may be a bummer to some, I don't know that I'd want a stereo pairing between two speakers that aren't identical anyway. I'm OCD like that. What Sonos should do is come out with a Sonos One "Lite" speaker which looks the same as a Sonos One, but doesn't have Alexa in it. That way it would be cheaper (no Amazon licensing fees or additional microphone hardware) and a much better option for those wanting to create a stereo pair. It's not like you need two Alexas in the same space (you'd probably turn one of the microphones off anyway), so this seems like a no-brainer.

But it's hard to give much credit to Sonos for brains when they screwed up the mounting so heinously bad.

And tomorrow we wrap all this up on an even more sour note, so be sure to tune in for that.

   

SONOS and Problems: Part 5 of 5

Posted on Friday, March 16th, 2018

Dave!Welcome to Sonos Week here at Blogography! Each day I will be talking about my leap to the Sonos platform for "smart speakers" and how it integrates with Amazon's Alexa assistant. If you haven't read past entries in Sonos Week, you'll probably want to start at the beginning by clicking here.

And now on with the show...

I'm just going to start this entry off by saying "I love my new Sonos One speakers." Because after you read the problems I've been dealing with, you may begin to wonder.

The whole point of the new "One" model over everything else Sonos has ever released is the Amazon Alexa integration. Without Alexa, the Play One would be just a prettier version of the PLAY:1 that they already have. With that in mind, you'd think that a company with the stellar reputation that Sonos has would make damn sure that the Alexa integration was rock solid and dead simple.

Yeah, you would think.

In reality? Not so much. This comes down to two issues...

  1. The Alexa Sonos Skill.
  2. Ducking.

In order to get Alexa to do things on top of the basic functionality that's built-in, you have to add app extensions to her "brain in the cloud" which are called "skills." Want to play Jeopardy with Alexa every night? You have to add the Jeopardy Skill. Want to control your Sonos speakers by talking to Alexa? You need the Sonos Skill. There are hundreds of skills to do all kinds of things, and part of the magic of Alexa is using these skills to customize your Alexa experience. Lord only knows I have. Alexa is such a huge part of my life that I find myself asking her to do things even when she's not around. I'm not entirely sure what half of the wall switches in my home do because I haven't used them in years. If I want to turn on a light, I either program it to happen automatically... or ask Alexa to do it.

The issue being that whatever you're wanting Alexa to do is only as good as the skill she uses to do it.

When it comes to Sonos, the skill is really rough.

On the third day of owning my Sonos One speakers, I woke up to an Alexa alarm to feed the cats... my path being lit by lights Alexa turns on. I then get to the kitchen and have Alexa play songs from Depeche Mode's 101 on my Sonos One while I'm dishing up cat food. Then I get myself cleaned up and head to work for the day. When I get home I ask Alexa to play songs by Roxette while I'm unloading my stuff and cleaning up the house. She dutifully complies and The Look starts blasting through my home.

I ask Alexa to turn the volume down and she won't.

I ask Alexa to stop playing music and she ignores me.

I ask Alexa to skip this song and she doesn't know what I'm talking about.

Eventually I'm screaming "ALEXA, STOP!!!" and she cooly asks me what I'd like to listen to while Roxette continues to blare. I yell "OPEN THE POD BAY DOORS, ALEXA!" but the joke is lost on her.

After the song is over, Alexa goes quiet. As a test, I ask her to play songs by Matt & Kim, but she ignores me. Anything else I ask her to do... tell me the time... turn on some lights... read my notifications... she will do. But she categorically refuses to act on commands to control my Sonos speakers. It's as if she has forgotten that my Sonos speakers even exist.

Just to make sure she's hearing me, I look through my request history on the Alexa app. Yep, she heard me alright. Apparently Alexa has gone brain dead when it comes to Sonos, so it's off to the Sonos "Community" forums to find out if other people are having this problem. Turns out they are. This is not an isolated incident or Alexa disobedience... this is the Sonos Skill being wonky as fuck.

What follows is hours of disabling/re-enabling skills... logging-out/logging-in to accounts... deleting/reinstalling apps... forgetting/discovering devices... renaming devices... factory resetting speakers... the list goes on and on and on. Nothing seems to work, so I try everything. Eventually I accidentally get things running again. I say "accidentally" because I have no idea which thing... combination of things... or order I did things... ended up being what got Sonos working with Alexa again. Not a frickin' clue.

And she seems to be working correctly now, though a couple times I've asked her to pause my music and when I ask her to resume, she sends the command to my television instead of my Sonos, at which point I'm back to disabling/re-learning skills.

Obviously, Sonos and/or Amazon has some work to do.

For the sake of anybody coming to this page via Google search because they are having the same problem I was and are ready to smash their Sonos speakers with a hammer, I have three tips (in addition to all the stuff you'll find out there already)...

  1. The thing that seemed to make the biggest difference was forgetting all my devices under "Smart Home" in the Alexa app, renaming my speakers to something entirely unused ("Galley" instead of "Kitchen" and "Lounge" instead of "Living Room" in my case) then rediscovering everything.
  2. When you connect an Amazon Music Unlimted account to Sonos, you're asked to name it. Sometimes (especially if you use different names) you end up linked to more than one account. If you have the individual plan, you'll get caught in a loop of "Amazon Music Unlimited is already playing on another device. Pause that device to play on this one." This drove me insane because I only have one device using my account, but it ended up that it was being used twice. At this point, delete ALL Amazon Music accounts from the Sonos app and then re-add it.
  3. The minute things even start to go wrong, don't keep hammering away at it to try and get it to work through brute force of will. It never works. Start with disabling/re-learning the Sonos skill immediately and you might get lucky that this is all it takes. The longer I spent avoiding disabling/re-learning, the more crazy crap I ended up having to do to get things working again.

This whole ordeal was frustrating to the point of rage for me, and I'm still not quite sure what in the hell is going on. I can only hope that it all gets figured out... soon... so that I don't burst a blood vessel or something.

And now for "ducking"...

Yesterday I mentioned that Alexa on Sonos One has trouble figuring out where you are located so that the correct speaker is talking to you. I ask it a question in the living room and it responds in the kitchen... that kind of thing. But there was something I left out.

"Ducking" is when Alexa will drop the volume of whatever she is playing through her speakers so she can hear your commands. And while it sounds logical, it's actually stupid, stupid, STUPID!

Alexa has a microphone optimized to pick your voice out of other sounds in the room. As an example... when I have the television blaring, I can still talk to the Alexa device sitting next to it. Alexa can't control my television volume, so she does her best to hear around it. And it works... mostly... unless the volume is so loud that she can't make out what I'm saying.

But when your music or your television is plugged into your Sonos system, Alexa can control its volume. And she will lower it each and every time you ask her to do something. And that's not the worst part. If I say "Alexa, next!" to skip a song that's playing, she starts ducking the volume seconds after I'm done speaking... which means she is ducking for nothing!

And it gets better!

Alexa doesn't just duck the volume on the speaker you're talking to... she ducks the volume on ALL Sonos speakers in your whole house.

This is a major bug which I'm told Sonos is working with Amazon to fix.

I sure as hell hope so, because it's a seriously demented flaw that will be especially insane when you have several people living in your home and they are all talking to Alexa in different rooms. Jimmy asks Alexa what time it is in his bedroom on the second floor and the speaker you're listening to in the basement drops in volume? What sense does that even make? Did nobody at Sonos notice this when they were designing the One speaker? NOBODY?!? Good Lord. There's stupid... and then there's... whatever this is. This issue should have been resolved with Amazon long before the product was released to market.

Assuming Sonos makes it so that ducking only happens with the speakers in the room where somebody is talking to Alexa, that will be a big improvement... but I still won't be happy. I want to be able to turn ducking off completely. I never needed it when Alexa didn't have control over my speakers, and I don't need it now that she does. Maybe some people like it or need it, but those of us who don't should have the option of turning it off. Until we do, integrating Alexa with Sonos is kinda stupid.

And so...

The only option for Sonos to work the way it's supposed to and not duck your volume is to disable Alexa from having anything to do with your Sonos speakers. Which is insane for somebody like me who purchased the speakers specifically for their Alexa integration.

Ultimately Sonos One is a very cool speaker with some amazing features which was rushed to market to beat out Apple's HomePod. Unfortunately the thing that makes the Sonos One so compelling... having Alexa integration... is not done very well. Which is a real shame, because this is something which could potentially take Alexa to another level.

I'd say "This is the end of SONOS Week at Blogography... thanks for reading!," but I cannot. Tune in tomorrow to find out why.

   

SONOS and PLAYBAR: Part 6 of 5

Posted on Saturday, March 17th, 2018

Dave!Welcome to Sonos Week here at Blogography! Each day I will be talking about my leap to the Sonos platform for "smart speakers" and how it integrates with Amazon's Alexa assistant. If you haven't read past entries in Sonos Week, you'll probably want to start at the beginning by clicking here.

And now on with the show...

"Dodge this."

When I started SONOS WEEK here at Blogography, I broke down what I wanted to say into five parts. Little did I know that a sixth part would unexpectedly appear.

Sonos gear is incredibly expensive. Whether it's worth the money is debatable. Given what it can do and how it works, it was worth it to me and my needs. I was able to afford the $350 for the pair of Sonos One speakers because I had a $120 credit at Amazon plus some tax refund money. And while I thought I might buy more pieces eventually, it was not on my radar. I have a nice Denon receiver plus a decent speaker setup and a living room wired for surround sound, and that's more than enough.

But then I had a long-time online friend notice I was reviewing Sonos on my blog who offered to sell me his PLAYBAR for cheap (well, maybe not "cheap," but for less than I could buy it new). He had upgraded to a Dolby Atmos 7.1 setup (Sonos can only do 5.1) and his PLAYBAR was sitting in his attic.

He had all the original packaging and said it was in perfect condition, so I said "Wrap it up, I'll take it."

The next day the UPS driver paid a visit and Christmas morning came early.

I anticipated that setting things up would be a bit problematic because I was having to shuffle around my existing Sonos speakers to get a surround sound system. The PLAYBAR would become the Left, Right, and Center channels... my existing Sonos One speakers (from the living room and kitchen) would become the Rear-Left and Rear-Right channels. Turns out it wasn't a problem at all. I plugged in the PLAYBAR, used the Sonos app to set it up, then was asked if I had rear speakers. Since I did, I tapped a button on the backs of them when instructed and everything was reconfigured for me automatically. Such is the joy of Sonos.

I was worried that a single PLAYBAR speaker taking the place of three speakers would destroy the stereo separation I was used to, but that was not the case at all. The Left, Right, and Center channels were fairly distinct after TruePlay tuning. The rear channels being in separate speakers were even more distinct, as expected. My go-to movie for demonstrating surround-sound is The Matrix, and it sounded terrific through Sonos.

It's a great system and the amount of wires and crap it replaces is very cool...

Bunch of old speaker stuff.
Denon receiver: $500 - Speakers: $300 - I should have just bought the $700 PLAYBAR to begin with.

   

There are some caveats to PLAYBAR, however...

  • Sonos does not support DTS, a popular multichannel sound system. A friend warned me about this ahead of time but I still find it more than a little shocking. Many an audiophile loves their DTS, and Sonos not implementing it is kinda weird. If you buy DVD or Blu-Ray for their DTS encoding option, PLAYBAR ain't for you.
  • Sonos also does not support PCM, DD+, or Dolby Atmos (among others). All you get is regular stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. If your devices can't output or convert to these formats, they won't work (I lucked out... my Blu-Ray player can be set to encode all outgoing sound as Dolby Digital).
  • PLAYBAR only supports an optical TOSLINK connection. Nothing else. Nothing. I was fully expecting to plug my devices in via HDMI cables or a single cable from the HDMI ARC port on my television. Nope. The only ports on your PLAYBAR are two ethernet ports and the single optical-in port.
  • With that in mind... some televisions don't have optical output... most televisions don't output 5.1 sound via their optical port. When I saw this was my only option, I nearly shit myself because I had no idea if my TV downgraded its optical sound to 2-channel stereo or not. I scrambled to Google it, but couldn't find my model listed anywhere. When I did find a list, all the Samsung televisions said No-No-No-No-No-No-No. Since HDMI is a current standard and optical is antiquated, this is a problem I never even considered. Turns out my particular TV is one of the rare Samsung models which can output Dolby Digital 5.1 via optical, but holy crap!
  • The PLAYBAR debuted in 2013. I don't think it has been updated since then. This means its aesthetic does not match the current black-on-black scheme which my Sonos One speakers use (along with the PLAY:5 and PLAYBASE). I'm not saying the thing is ugly... far from it, this is one beautiful piece of equipment... but it's kind of lame that even if you're buying a brand new unit you can't get a matching system. Mine are on opposite sides of the room, so it's not a big deal, but still. Would be nice if you could buy a strip to put across the metal piece so it can match.
  • The fabric covering the speaker array is a thin, stretchy dust-magnet and tough to clean. Sonos recommends vacuuming it, but if something won't vacuum off, you're kinda screwed. I used a damp towel to brush it in spots, which was better, but I worry about how the fabric is going to end up looking after years of service. There are so many audio-neutral fabrics out there which are much tougher... the choice they used here is perplexing. Ideally, Sonos would use a metal grill like they do on their other speakers.
  • The PLAYBAR is designed to sit on a table in front of your TV or be hung on a wall above or below it. The friend I bought it from said that it sounds much better on the wall. This meant I had to order some mounting hardware ($40 down the drain) and an electrical-code-compliant kit for putting the wiring in the wall ($50 down the drain). I'd like to mount it above my TV so my cats can't mess with it... but I think that's weird, so I'll end up mounting it below. Then pray my cats don't claw at the flimsy fabric mesh.
  • When it comes to music, I'm not so enamored with the PLAYBAR. I don't know what it's trying to do with the stereo separation, but it feels lacking. Fortunately I've got my two Sonos Ones in the rear channel to pick up the slack. If you're in a large room, you'd probably want a pair of PLAY:3 speakers in the rear for music (which would be expensive, but totally doable).

Some really nice things about PLAYBAR before I go...

Sonos PLAYBAR Exploded View

  • The sound on this thing, as I said, is very nice. Its nine-speaker array can separate sounds well and come in a good-looking package.
  • The "Speech Enhancement" option on PLAYBAR is surprisingly good. No more having to crank the volume to hear dialogue. I've always hated having to do that, but have found all the "enhancers" I've run across don't do a very good job. It seems to work with Sonos, probably because their speaker quality allows it to be good. On my wishlist... a way to temper it to a lower setting because on some movies it can be a bit too powerful.
  • In my old setup I had a subwoofer because the bass wasn't very punchy on my stereo. I like to feel the rumble of an explosion when I'm watching a movie. With PLAYBAR I'm liking the bass just fine. If my opinion ever changes, I can get a Sonos SUB. But for right now? I'm happy to save myself the $700.
  • I can't overstate how easy PLAYBAR is to set up. It's a simple step-by-step process with the Sonos app. Most things are handled automatically.

One horrible downside for me is that I lost my kitchen Sonos One speaker so it could fill out my rear channel. No more listening to music while I cook dinner or load the dishwasher. Replacing it is another $200, so that's the end of that.

The good news? Now that I could put my Amazon Echo in my bedroom and my Echo Dot in my garage, I have Alexa in every room of my house. All I need now is to embed an Echo Dot inside my brain and I guess I'm set.

Meanwhile, Neo has just realized he's The One and a fight has ensued, so I gotta get back to The Matrix.

   
UPDATE: And so my POWERBAR mounting kit came. It's pretty basic for $40... just a metal plate and some drywall screws. But it does the job. Kinda. There's a major problem with it.

Electrical codes make it illegal to run a power cable behind a wall. You have to purchase a electrical outlet wall kit which is code compliant. Then you can plug stuff into the outlet. But the six-foot power cable that came with my POWERBAR can't fit behind the speakers, so it has to hang below it in a big wad...

Bunch of old speaker stuff.

Kinda defeats the whole purpose. You'd think that since SONOS makes you buy a kit to wall-mount the thing that they would include a tiny power cable with it. Assumably they know that you can't run the cable in the wall, right? I mean, come on, every single photo they ever show of their stuff being wall-mounted shows the cables hidden in the wall... so how are they doing it? No frickin' clue since I can't find where they sell a short power cable anywhere. Maybe they don't care about complying with the electrical code and are mounting their stuff illegally.

I've emailed Sonos Customer Service, so I guess we'll see what they say.

UPDATE: Sonos Customer Service is all... "Uhhhh... nope, we don't sell that. We hire professional installers for our photos and they use adhesives and stuff to hide the wires!" (or something to that effect). Well, whatever. It really chaps my ass that Sonos has most every damn photo with the wires hidden, yet it's something they don't really provide for.

UPDATE: I found a Dell laptop 4.5-inch power cable that works much better than the 6-foot cord from Sonos. The plug is a tad too long, so it sticks out at the bottom a tiny bit, but it's better than the wad of Sonos cable I was dealing with. Hopefully one day Sonos will get off their asses and sell a short power cable with a small plug so you can legally get hidden wire mounting like they show in all their photos.

UPDATE: I have given up on wall-mounting my Sonos One speakers. With no screw-mount on the back, the solutions I've found are far from pretty. Furthermore, even if you buy short power cables, there's no really solution to bury the cables legally... at least not yet. Instead I'm using two IKEA 4-drawer shoe cabinets that are only 8 5/8-inches deep, wall-mounted, to put my Sonos One speakers on. They are the perfect height for the speakers to rise above my couch, but not so tall that they take up a lot of wall space. By drilling new holes to shift the top board, they can be set side-by-side. And once I drill holes in the top boards for power cables, they drop through and are completely hidden. Best solution I could find given hiding power cables in the wall was not an option for me.

   

Bullet Sunday 545

Posted on Sunday, March 18th, 2018

Dave!Don't click that "Back Button" just yet, because an all-new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• To Infinity! And so... here we are. A little over a month until the beginning of the end. Ten years of build-up all comes down to Avengers: Infinity War in April and its sequel next year...

So much to unpack here, which is not surprising considering the final movie has a runtime is 2 hours 36 minutes.

   
• A Brief History of Time. Stephen Hawking is gone! So remarkable that he managed to live so long with a disease which he was told would kill him decades ago. And look what his brilliant mind accomplished while trapped in a body which betrayed him! That he was a character on The Simpsons is just icing on the cake. An amazing, amazing man...

Stephen Hawking on The Simpsons

And funny...

Rest in peace, sir.

   
• LOLZ! Probably the funniest thing I've ever seen on Twitter...

Sarah Silverman Tweet

And yet... this is utterly insane as well. How in the hell do you confuse Kumail Nanjiani, Kunal Nayyar, and Kal Penn? They look nothing alike! I guess some people just see skin color and don't look any further.

   
• Fourth World! Looks like DC is finally moving past Zack Snyder's laughably bad take on super-heroes. After Patty Jenkins hit gold with Wonder Woman, they're striking a deal with another celebrated woman to helm New Gods for the big screen. Congrats to Ava DuVernay! My first choice would be Taika Waititi since his love letter to Jack Kirby in Thor: Ragnarok was so perfect... but this is a great choice too...

Kirby New Gods Cover

It will be interesting to see if DuVernay goes full-on Kirby or heads in another direction entirely.

   
• Incredible! ZOMG ZOMG ZOMG ZOMG... It's REAL!

Incredibles LEGO Game

Needless to say, I want want want want this game!

   
• Chain Gang! Since subscribing to Amazon Music Unlimited, I've been going a bit crazy over music. Now that I have "tens of millions" of songs available anytime, anywhere, I'm asking Alexa to play esoteric stuff all day long that it would never have occurred to me to play before I subscribed. Something pops in my head? Play it Hear a song mentioned somewhere? Play it. Song pops up on a commercial? Play it. For the past two days I've been obsessed with Sam Cooke. He was mentioned on an episode of The West Wing, and I've been listening to everything available ever since. So many songs of his I recognize but never really knew where they came from.

 

Such an amazing talent. Which makes the bizarre circumstances of his death even more tragic.

   
Until next Sunday then...

   

Lords of the Flies

Posted on Monday, March 19th, 2018

Dave!I worked all weekend, so this Monday was just more of the same. Except I spent most of the day feeling like it should be Saturday because I didn't get a Saturday.

=sigh=

In other news... the flies have started waking up. Not that I've seen any of them in my house, but the cats are going insane out in the catio chasing them around the place...

Jake and Jenny Chasing Flies in the Catio

From the minute I got home, I've been hearing BUHDA BUHDA BUHDA as Jake and Jenny run up and down and up and down.

Though sometimes Jenny prefers to just observe from the safety of her home...

Jenny Watching Flies in the Catio

Jenny Watching Flies in the Catio

Not that I blame her. It's still getting too cold out there for my tastes.

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To The Cat Lair!

Posted on Tuesday, March 20th, 2018

Dave!No toy I ever buy from Chewy will ever compare to the joy my cats get out of the box and packing paper that the toy comes packed in.

This past weekend the packing paper was finally nothing more than a pile of shreds, so it got thrown out. The box survived just fine, but the cats lost interest in it when the packing paper went away.

Until I moved it to the laundry room. Now any time I open the door, Jake goes running for it balls-out...

Jake in his Cat Lair!

   
I think he feels this is his secret lair where he can plot world domination.

World domination being the tiring work that it is, he usually ends up napping after a while. Apparently my lap makes for a better spot to sleep than a Chewy box...

Jake Lap Lair!

   
Among other places...

Jake Lap Lair!

   
Rough life, my cats have.

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Debt and Freedom

Posted on Wednesday, March 21st, 2018

Dave!Ignore me if you will, but this is a subject that means something to me.

Credit card debt is a pariah that will consume you. And now that interest rates are going to increase past the already absurd rates that credit card companies charge (thank you Federal Reserve!), it's more important than ever to get yourself out of credit card debt if you have any. Large balances are designed to keep you paying high interest charges forever, without ever fully paying off your debt. It's a trap... and it's really tough to get out of once you're caught in it.

I know this, because I've been there.

During my two years in college, I accumulated huge debt. Huge.

I wasn't working very much because of school and travel (and partying), but was spending as if I were a CEO. First it was one credit card. Then it was another. Then it was another. It took *decades* for me to climb out of it. Years of barely being able to make payments. Years of getting nowhere in paying off my balances. Once I realized the thousands of dollars being blown every year on interest, I started focusing on paying off my cards. It was hard. Very hard. I'd buy nothing but the bare minimums I needed to survive. I wore clothes until they fell apart. I'd do any activity on a shoestring budget and limit expenditures any way I could. It took years of this, but eventually I clawed my way out.

And I have made it my mission to pay off my balance every month ever since. Sometimes there are emergencies. Sometimes I haven't saved enough for vacation and it takes a couple months. But I work very hard to not spend money I don't have so I can pay off my balance every time.

There are a lot of ways to get help if you need it. Apps that help you set payment goals. Books on financial planning. Websites with great advice on how to get out of credit card debt. And, if you are really in deep, financial advisors that can come up with a plan and negotiate with banks to get interest lowered... or help you find a loan. But however you mount your attack on credit card debt, it's hugely important that you start immediately. Our own government is working with banks to enslave you with debt, and it's only going to get worse. Much worse. The sacrifices needed to escape their clutches are hard ones to make, but ultimately worth it.

I honestly don't know what the future holds with our Federal Reserve manipulating things the way they have been. They don't even bother hiding it any more. This country is now designed exclusively for the wealthiest among us. That may not be you, but finding freedom amongst the ruins is a goal worth having.

Good luck to you.

Good luck to all of us.

We need it now more than ever.

   

Playdate Mufasa

Posted on Thursday, March 22nd, 2018

Dave!So I come in from working in the garage and hear one of the cats thumping around on the stairs. I walk around the corner and it's Jake wrestling with Mufasa, his stuffed lion toy. The minute he notices me, he throws Mufasa against the wall and pretends he wasn't just playing with it.

Apparently he's too cool for toys now...

Jake and Mufasa

After that we hung out watching television for a while...

Jakespreading

Well, I say we watched television... but Jake doesn't like TV. He just likes hanging out. Jenny, on the other hand, is enamored with television even more than I am. She can stare at if for hours... especially if it's a show she likes (her favorite is Rick & Morty, and she'll come running any time she hears it)...

Jenny Watches TV

How was I ever entertained at home before I had cats?

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Payment

Posted on Friday, March 23rd, 2018

Dave!There is no arguing this.

This is where we are.

If the Austin bomber was a Muslim, he would be portrayed as a representative of all Muslims. But he's a Christian Conservative, so that logic does not apply. No white Christian Conservatives will be persecuted because of what happened in Austin. And yet look at the persecution Muslims continue to endure over the actions of individuals professing to be of that faith.

XXX

I am sickened to my core that our society, built on a foundation of liberty and freedom, continues to enslave us by defining narratives that protect white Conservative Christians at all costs.

And those costs are always paid by persons of color and other faiths.

Always always always always.

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Caturday 56

Posted on Saturday, March 24th, 2018

Dave!Sardines are my cats' new favorite thing.

Even Jenny will eat the disgusting giant chunks after she's sucked all the sauce off of them. This is the one food that is guaranteed to be licked clean out of the dish every time. So who cares that my house smells like I'm storing a kettle of fish? My cats are in heaven. =gag=

I mean, just look at this nightmare...

Tiki Cat Chunks of Sardines

I can't say that sardines are responsible, but Jenny is sure turning into a heck of a lap cat. Used to be that her jumping on the couch was a rarity. But now she's all over me almost every day...

Jenny LapCat

Jenny LapCat

   
Makes it tough to get much work done, but she's just so darn adorable that I can't say no...

Jenny LapCat

Jenny LapCat

Jenny LapCat

   
Even when she gets irritated because she wants more space. Then she just keeps kick-kick-kicking me until I move over...

Jenny LapCat

   
But, so long as she's happy...

Jenny LapCat

Jenny LapCat

   
And don't worry about Jake... he still gets plenty of lap-time too...

Jake LapCat

   
And now? Time to bring out the bottle of Febreeze. That sardine smell ain't going away on its own.

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Bullet Sunday 546

Posted on Sunday, March 25th, 2018

Dave!Welcome to the place where the kisses are hers are his and hers and Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Paint! Really good television ads are so rare that they might as well be said not to exist. I certainly spend enough time fast-forwarding through crappy ads. Which is why running across one that's a joy to watch is so great...

Computer animation is getting cheaper and easier every day. But coming up with ideas to use it for effective advertising is as tough as its always been. Congrats, Sherwin-Williams for putting your ad dollars to such good use.

   
• LEGOtron! This new LEGO set is amazing, though I wish it was from the original film instead of the Tron: Legacy sequel...

LEGO Tron Legacy

LEGO Tron Legacy

Oh please oh please oh please can we get a LEGO TRON video game?

   
• FAIL! Don't get me wrong... I love that I can get some fairly decent quality furniture at good prices thanks to IKEA... but their quality has taken a total nose-dive. For the third time now I've purchased something that had a mistake in it. This time they stained the wrong edge of a board, leaving the front edge bare...

IKEA Fail... AGAIN!

Given that it's a 3-hour drive back to the Renton showroom, here's hoping that they are able to send me a replacement part in the mail.

   
• Mr Pool! As the rare X-men film that was actually worth a crap, I loved Deadpool. The sequel is looking even better...

No telling what could happen if Marvel gets the movie rights back for all their mutant comics. Hopefully it's a complete reboot with some decent films which know how to respect the source material.

   
• Krapton! And speaking of comic book translations... I don't get it. The people behind the new SyFy TV show, Krypton, didn't even attempt to make Krypton seem foreign... let alone alien. So what's the point? They could have saved a lot of money on the special effects and set this in Cleveland or somewhere in England since they say "mate" a lot, have English accents, and use phrases like "chip on your shoulder."

SyFy Channel Krypton Series

I dunno. Maybe it gets interesting after a few episodes. But it all seems pretty lame to me so far.

   
• Mission? Apparently a sign that says "NO SOLICITING. NO UNINVITED VISITORS. NO RELIGIOUS APPEALS. NO POLITICAL CAUSES. NO SALESPEOPLE. NO PETITIONS, NO CHARITY." means nothing to some people...

NO SOLICITING. NO UNINVITED VISITORS. NO RELIGIOUS APPEALS. NO POLITICAL CAUSES. NO SALESPEOPLE. NO PETITIONS, NO CHARITY.

When I asked the missionaries who showed up tonight AT 8:45PM what part of the giant red sign they didn't understand, they said they were curious about what's behind putting a sign up like that. Well, genius, it's not a big fucking mystery. The sign is up because I don't want to listen to your shit... and I really don't want you terrorizing my feral rescue cats by ringing my doorbell.

What kills me is that they have a laugh over ignoring the sign before they ring the bell. They also ignored they sign telling them that they were being recorded...

And apparently after you've violated somebody's posted request, then are specifically told to leave because the property-owner is not interested... the way to change their mind is to leave unwanted pamphlets on their door?

Unwanted Mormon Jesus Pamphlets

I have no problem with a person's beliefs, just so long as they don't infringe on mine. Like showing up at my home uninvited and not respecting my request for privacy. You can believe that Joseph Smith dug up some magical plates with Bible 2.0 on them if you want (something which, if you have studied The Bible even a little bit, is a hysterical concept)... but when somebody tells you to please leave them alone, your believing that you have a right to disrespect that request makes you a fucking asshole... I don't care who you are.

   
Happy trails to you, until next Sunday...

   

A Waste of Time and Energy

Posted on Monday, March 26th, 2018

Dave!One of the best benefits of having a "smart home"... other than being able to tell Alexa to control everything... is being able to have a better handle on how your home works. One of my obsessions this year has been to lower my energy bill. This was actually an easy expense to tackle, because the majority of my power goes towards my furnace. During the colder months of November through February, it accounts for 55% of my bill. No other expense comes close (the second largest energy consumption is from my water heater at 7%). So it's easy to see that reducing the heat will reduce my bill at the most expensive time of year...

2017 Power Bill

In January of 2017, my utility bill was around $93 for electricity...

January 2017 Power Bill

   
So I made some changes to my thermostat program. Last year my temperature was set at 72° when I was awake and 68° when I was sleeping or away at work. A lot of this was an attempt to keep my cats comfortable, which was kind of silly once I realized my cats were perfectly happy hanging out in the catio in 34° weather.

This year I set my temperature at 68° when I was awake, 64° when I was sleeping, and 62° when I was away at work. And just in case my cats wanted some warmth while I was gone, I had low-energy heating pads, self-warming pads, and my stereo receiver for them to lay on. The result on my power bill was pretty dramatic. Instead of my graph topping out at 4,000kWh, it now topped at only 3,000kWh...

2018 Power Bill

In January of 2018, my utility bill dropped to around $67 for electricity...

January 2018 Power Bill

   
That's a 28% savings. Granted, $26 doesn't seem like a lot... I'm lucky that power is fairly inexpensive where I live... but I'll take it. If I lived in a region where power was expensive, 28% would be a huge amount.

Over the course of the winter I've saved nearly $85, which is real money. My goal for the year is to save $150 over 2017. Once April arrives, I'll be turning the heat off and coasting on $17 power bills until June or July, then I'll adjust my air conditioner temperature a bit and see what happens.

Two years of this and my energy monitor will have paid for itself! Score!

   

Mufasa

Posted on Tuesday, March 27th, 2018

Dave!As I had mentioned last Thursday, Jake's favorite thing on earth is a small stuffed lion named Mufasa. Given how much he loves the thing, I've started to worry about the day it's no longer around, because things have been getting a little weird around here where Mufasa is concerned.

Namely, Jenny has found out that the quickest way to irritate her brother... or, more likely, get revenge on her brother... is to take Mufasa away. And usually when she does that, she rips into the thing, just like Blue Moppy Mouse, which she's destroyed.

As an example... a week ago Jake pushed Jenny off of the cat tree. Next thing I know, she's grabbed Mufasa and is dragging him up the stairs. I check on the security cameras and, sure enough, she's tearing into it. Then she just sits there behind the doorway... apparently waiting for Jake to realize his toy is gone so she can ambush him...

Jenny Steals Mufasa from Jake

Jenny Steals Mufasa from Jake

Jenny Steals Mufasa from Jake

From time to time I'll hear a ruckus going on. Used to be it was general tomfoolery. But now when I investigate, Mufasa is in the middle of it all. Jake does something to piss Jenny off, Jenny steals Mufasa, then Jake will chase her down to get him back...

Jake Catches Jenn yWith Mufasa

Now-a-days when I check in on Jake, if he's awake he's usually playing with Mufasa...

He carries it with him everywhere...

Jake and Mufasa

So while I was waiting for my work files to upload yesterday, I started searching the internet for a Mufasa replacement in case Jake's beloved toy wears out. The way he's been tossing it around and the way Jenny has been ripping into it has me worried for Mufasa's health. No luck so far...

Mufasa Jake's Lion

Looks like I need to fly to Johannesburg's airport in South Africa to get a new one. Or seven.

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Salted for Your Pleasure

Posted on Wednesday, March 28th, 2018

Dave!Remember when you would order fries and they would come lightly salted… but include little salt packets so that those people who want to court heart disease with heavy salt can go for it?

Those were the days.

Now it seems as though every time I order fries they are caked with salt. So much salt that I can barely taste the potato. Guess restaurants think that this is cheaper than providing salt packets...

Salt Packet!

Though a case of NINE THOUSAND of them costs just $63, so you'd think it wouldn't be a problem. And if it were, couldn't they just ask people if they want salt when they ask them if they want ketchup?

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to sit down while my arteries are hardening over the bag of fries I had for lunch.

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Opening Day Blues

Posted on Thursday, March 29th, 2018

Dave!Oh joy. An opening day loss for the Red Sox.

Here we go again...


Dave Loves the Red Sox!

All the pieces for a great season are there. They just need to fit together.

Here's hoping...

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Right on Schedule

Posted on Friday, March 30th, 2018

Dave!Never let it be said that nobody saw this shit-show coming.

Most people with any brains in their head saw it coming from a mile away.


Carl Sagan Quote from The Demon-Haunted World

   
Well, maybe not a mile... but however far away 1995 was.

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Between the Sheets

Posted on Saturday, March 31st, 2018

Dave!When it comes to bed sheets, I want them to stay cool and dry. I want crisp, breathable fabric that is tough enough to last. I don't like satin sheets. I really don't like "sateen" sheets, which are cotton sheets pretending to be satin sheets. When a hotel has sateen sheets, I have to kick them off (if it's warm) or wear sweats (if it's cold) because the glossy finish makes me sweat.

After being puzzled for years over things like "finish" and "thread count," I finally figured out that the sheets I want are called "percale," they're made of cotton, and the lower the thread count the better. What's great about this is that the sheets I just described are the cheapest you can buy. Also the opposite of what most people prefer, which is "sateen" in the highest thread count possible... 800 or higher.

So when I was shopping at IKEA and saw "percale" weave sheets at a mere 152 thread count, I was intrigued. Could these DVALA sheets at $25 a set (Queen) be the cool, crisp, breathable, dry sheets I've been dreaming of?

IKEA DVALA Bed Sheets

Turns out they totally are the sheets I've been looking for!

They are absolutely perfect.

No, they aren't soft and silky smooth. Truth to tell, they're actually kind of rough... even after having been washed twice. But that's exactly what I wanted because they are cooler to sleep on, they're tougher, and they have that crispy feel I love.

Cat hair sticks to them like glue, however, so I guess you can't have everything.

But anyway...

It's been an interesting morning at my house. At 6:02am I received a robocall from my credit card company saying that I may have fraudulent charges on my account. So I call the number they gave me, only to find out that they have no idea what I'm talking about, and they made no such call. And I'm like "THEN HOW DID I GET THIS NUMBER TO CALL YOU?" and they're all "WE DID NOT CALL YOU!" and I'm all "YOU DID, BECAUSE I JUST DID A REVERSE LOOK-UP OF THE CALLER ID AND IT'S YOU!" — I'm put on hold for a bit, then they come back and say "Oh, there's a problem with our computers calling people." Typical.

As I'm talking to my bank, I hear the cats banging around in the catio. They've heard that I'm awake, and come charging up the stairs demanding breakfast, even though it's almost an hour away. Jake has chunky white dust all over him, and I wonder if somebody threw a bag of cocaine into the catio while being chased by the police or something. I'm not about to snort my cat since I have no idea if the cocaine is premium grade or not, so I brush it all off and try to go back to sleep. Meanwhile Jenny has found Mufasa on the window perch that was left there last night. She starts ripping into him when Jake notices. And so then I have cats chasing each other all over my bedroom when I just want to get some sleep.

Abandoned Mufasa on a Window Perch

When Alexa finally chimes at 7:00am and the cats come back all crazy because it's breakfast time, I see that Jake has straw in his mouth. The only place I have straw is in the garage... I keep some for Fake Jake's winter shelter. So I go running downstairs and, sure enough, I left the garage passdoor ajar and my cats have been having big fun in my garage, including knocking over a bucket which was filled with drywall dust. Which means there won't be a bag of cocaine in the catio as I had first thought.

AND THEN, as if that weren't exciting enough, I can't find Jake and Jenny's Easter baskets. So now I have treats and cat toys for Easter morning, but no baskets to put them in. Looks like I'll be tearing apart my garage looking for Easter baskets this afternoon.

So this is my Saturday.

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