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Caturday 75

Posted on Saturday, September 1st, 2018

Dave!Hola cat-fans!

This morning Jake and Jenny were lounging in the catio when the Alexa breakfast alarm sounded so they couldn't hear it. That's no fun for me at all, so I kept increasing the volume until they could hear it.

Kitty Napper

And boy did they come running!

I've been working long hours this past week, so my cats have been more clingy than usual. They're all over me from the minute I get home until it's time to go to bead...

Kitty Napper

Kitty Napper

Kitty Napper

And speaking of bed... a couple days ago I told Jenny it was time for bed. But instead of running up the stairs ahead of me, she decided to stay put. This happens every once in a while, and it's kind of a bummer. So I called to her again, and this time she showed up...

Jenny at Bedtime

Jenny at Bedtime

Jenny at Bedtime

Jenny at Bedtime

Jenny at Bedtime

Jenny at Bedtime

Jake eventually showed up and was looking mighty resentful that Jenny was getting all the attention...

Jenny at Bedtime

But don't worry... he showed up the next morning and stole Dorito crumbs off my breakfast nacho plate, which made us even...

Jenny at Bedtime

Nothing cuter than a kitty crunching on Dorito crumbs.

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Bullet Sunday 477

Posted on Sunday, September 2nd, 2018

Dave!When is Sunday not Sunday? When Sunday comes before Labor Day! But don't celebrate just yet... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts now...

   
• Real Problems! Couldn't find my iPhone. So I used Find my iPhone to locate my iPhone only to be told that my iPhone was not responding. So I decided to drive home and see if I left my iPhone at home in a lead vault or something. When I got to my car I found my iPhone baking in the passenger seat. Then my iPhone told me that my iPhone has to cool down before I can use it. Which is fine except then I couldn't remember what I wanted my iPhone for in the first place. Probably everything.

   
• Channel! I love history. I love smart videos. These two things collide in a brilliant YouTube Channel called Oversimplified...

All their videos are worth watching. You can visit the Oversimplified Channel here.

   
• New Ocean! Finally got around to watching Ocean's 8. I loved this movie. Not necessarily for the story, which was serviceable and smart (though lacking the abundance of fun of the Clooney flicks)... but for the cast. They made it fun. And stylish. And having it take place at The Met Gala was genius. Really, really hoping for a sequel.

Ocean's 8 Poster

Ocean's Eleven made $451 million on an $85 million budget and got two sequels. Ocean's 8 made $292 on a $70 budget. So it definitely made money... but is it enough money for the studio to greenlight another? Fingers crossed.

   
• Be Like Coke! The true power of good advertising...

I hope some ad agency is getting a bonus.

   
• Squatchie! And speaking of amazing advertising, I laughed more than a couple times at this viral marketing brilliance...

I hope some ad agency is getting a bonus.

   
• Clancey! After a lot of weeks waiting in anticipation for the latest adaptation of Jack Ryan to be released on Amazon Prime, I ended up a little disappointed.

Jack Ryan Poster

This show has a lot of activity buzzing around too little story. I ended up liking it well enough... but it could have easily been distilled into a much shorter, stronger series with a more disciplined approach to the material. The original movies (namely The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, and Clear and Present Danger) showed just how good these stories can be in the right hands. Hopefully the second season (which was greenlit before a single episode aired) will end up having tighter pacing.

   
And... back to Real Life.

   

Thrice Fiction No. 23

Posted on Monday, September 3rd, 2018

Dave!Oh look! The new issue of Thrice Fiction is out!

With everything that had been going on in my life these past months, I admit that it was tougher than usual to get things to come together. Many thanks to the artists who stepped up and helped me out, even when they had a shorter deadline than usual to work with...

Thrice Fiction Magazine No. 23

If you want to check it out, the online editions are FREE! Click here to get a copy!

The reason I enjoy working on the magazine so much is that I can use whatever style or technique I want. And I can experiment with new stuff. Thanks to goofing around for ThriceFiction, I have transitioned to creating art 98% digitally (I still do scratchboard & ink by hand). Some of the very first 100% digital art I created was for Thrice Fiction No. 1, and with our latest issue I was able to revisit a piece I made for a story by longtime blogging friend Marty Mankins (of Banal Leakage fame) seven years ago. I grabbed the original drawing, swapped out the background with a radiator, changed Aquaman trunks for Speedos, added some chest hair, and BAM! New story art! Just for fun I decided to honor the original art by adding a faux color-separation overlay like you'd find in an Aquaman comic book...

Swimwear Art

Fun stuff.

And now we start work all over again for December's issue.

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Lazy Labor Days

Posted on Tuesday, September 4th, 2018

Dave!Yesterday was Labor Day in the USA, a holiday meant to honor American workers and give most of us a day off work. Or something like that. Other countries have Labor Day too (or, as some spell it, Labour Day) but I don't know much about that.

What I do know? I had to work over Labor Day holiday weekend.

But once I was done? I decided to take Fall seriously and get my Fall-looking wreath hung on my door. I usually wait until October to put my Halloween pirate skeleton in the middle, but... eh...

Fall Wreath Halloween Wreath Time!

It doesn't seem like Summer could possibly be over... didn't we just start Summer a few minutes ago? But it has been getting noticeably chilly out in the mornings, so I guess Fall is really here.

My cats will be thrilled.

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That’s Marvelous

Posted on Wednesday, September 5th, 2018

Dave!Entertainment Weekly has a feature on the new Captain Marvel movie coming up from Marvel Studios.

I was never a fan of the original Captain Marvel and didn't care much about his cosmic exploits unless they crossed over with other Marvel characters I liked. But things got a lot more interesting when Carol Danvers (formerly Ms. Marvel, formerly Binary, formerly Warbird) took over the role. Her comic book run by Kelly Sue DeConnick was fantastic stuff and I've been a fan of Captain Marvel ever since

And now this...

Captain Marvel EW Cover

I think I peed myself a little bit when I saw it.

I cannot fathom what they are going to put her up against. She's the most powerful character in the MCU, so they will undoubtedly come up with an antagonist to match. The brutality of the battles had better be epic and put The Hulk to shame. I mean, we know the primary antagonist will be the Skrulls... but in what way? The Skrull/Kree War is a huge staple of the comic books, but how is that going to translate? No idea. I'll bet it's awesome though...

Captain Marvel Images

Another photo shows Ronan the Accuser, but this movie takes place in the 90's long before he got an Infinity Stone and was killed in the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie. So he's just a regular, albeit talented, Kree warrior...

Captain Marvel Images

Thanks to Marvel's love of de-aging characters, a young Nick Fury is in the mix. Apparently he has a major role to play, because Samuel L. Jackson's part is being touted as the first time a character has been de-aged for an entire movie!

Captain Marvel Images

Amazing, amazing stuff.

It's a long wait until Captain Marvel debuts on March 8, 2019!

   

Birds and Memory

Posted on Thursday, September 6th, 2018

Dave!The bird feeder is not depleting as quickly as it once was so I'm guessing the smaller birds are starting to head south? Still going through a lot of seed though. And Jake and Jenny still spend hours watching them out the window too.

This morning when I went out to refill the feeder (again) I saw a small gold bird sitting on the rocks around my flower bed. Usually birds take off the second I open the door, so this was puzzling to me. Thinking he might be hurt or stunned, I thought I'd fill a shallow dish with water and put it next to him. Alas he hopped away every time I tried, so there wasn't much I could do except grab my camera...

Small Bird

Fake Jake would pounce on him in a second, so I did my best to shoo him under a shrub so at least he could rest up in a spot that didn't make him an easy target. Most cats just kill birds for fun. Fake Jake will actually eat them. Which doesn't make me any happier about it (he has food, he doesn't need to hunt!) but at least the poor things aren't being killed for sport.

When I was downloading that bird photo off my camera, I noticed the photo before it was this one...

XXX

No idea where I took it. On the date that was time-stamped on the image I wasn't traveling anywhere, so I'm guessing I shot it somewhere close to home, but I have no memory of it. Boy does it suck getting old. I wonder how long until I forget how to wipe my ass?

Hopefully before I forget how to pay somebody to wipe my ass for me!

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Mesh Wifi After the Fall

Posted on Friday, September 7th, 2018

Dave!Last night as I was hanging up my laundry to dry, I slipped on a patch of wet floor and fell. Hard. No idea where the water came from. Twisted my ankle... ripped the toenail off my big toe... blood everywhere... scraped up my leg... slammed my elbow into the door frame. It was a mess. And as I was laying there in agony, I called my cats to please help. They just sat there on the cat tree and stared at me.

The peril of living alone, I guess. I'll probably end up dying while Jake and Jenny watch. I really need to find out if Alexa can call 9-1-1 for me so I can call an ambulance before I pass out and my cats eat me.

But, when it comes to bad news, that's not all!

I really don't have any extra money to spend right now because I bought a bunch of stuff I shouldn't have. New clothes and camera gear for my upcoming trip. New books and movies that were on sale. New kitchenware. A couple new tools. It's a non-stop parade of extravagance up in here. The good news is that I'll have it all paid off by mid-October and can end the year back on track.

At least that was the plan until my router died on Wednesday.

Since I don't exist without the internet, I rushed to Amazon to see if there were any cheap deals on a decent router. There were. Sweet.

But then...

As I was browsing I ran across the Google Wifi Mesh Router...

Google WiFi Mesh Router System

The reviews were stellar so I decided to research it a little bit. After a half-hour of fun-times Googling reviews on Google WiFi I had a 3-Pack in my shopping cart. $257 later* and it was ordered.

And let me tell you why.

The average US home is 2,687 square feet. Mine is smaller... around 1500 square feet. That's twice as much as I really need now that my mom is gone, but I have a room for guests and plenty of space for the cats, so it's all good. You would think that since my home is smaller and two-story that a single WiFi router would cover everything just fine.

You would think.

And to a certain extent it does.

But a reliable signal cant seem to make it from the fiber box at the back of my house all the way through my main floor and garage to the security cameras at the front of my house. This causes occasional drop-outs which can be annoying when I get an alert from the security system that motion has been detected and I can't use my cameras to see what's going on.

Also... my Ring Pro doorbell drops its signal way too often despite there being a straight-shot from the back of my house to the front door. That never happened with the original Ring doorbell, so I have no idea what's happening. Ring probably just used cheaper components to make the newer models and it requires a stronger signal.

I tried a WiFi extender, but could never get it to work very well. I was having to reboot it once a week.

And so... mesh WiFi.

Instead of one router with WiFi serving the entire house, mesh networks spread the signal out to nodes throughout your home, eliminating dead zones. I've got the node with the fiber connection at the back of my house... another node above the stairwell in the middle of my house... and a final node in the garage at the front of my house. They all work together to blanket my entire home with sweet, sweet WiFi goodness. Kinda like this...

Google WiFi Mesh Router System
Not my house, but you get the idea.

But wait, there's more!

Google has done some very smart engineering to make WiFi setup and management so much easier. First of all, you have just one network name to worry about. This has always been true for mesh networks because the system switches you to the node with the best signal automatically... just like a cell phone does as you drive around. But where Google takes it further is that your 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks also have the same name! If a device is getting good signal from the faster, but less powerful 5GHz band, it will use that. If a device needs the stronger signal on the slower 2.4GHz band, it will use that. And it's all 100% automatic. This right here was where I decided that Google Mesh WiFi was for me. You don't have to decide anything. You let the nodes and your devices figure it all out.

Setup was laughably easy.** It's literally a matter of plugging it in, scanning QR codes on your nodes, and naming your network (I used the same name as my old one so I wouldn't have to go around reconfiguring all my devices). I had the extra step of authenticating the new router with my ISP, but it was no big deal. The only irritating part was that I have fiber which doesn't have a modem, but the setup assumes there's a modem and made me wait around for a modem reboot that I never had. What a waste of time.

Turns out all the reviews were right. Google's Mesh WiFi system is amazing. Speed tests shows that I'm getting better speed than I ever got with my old router. What's really strange is that a single node with no antennas sticking out had pretty much the same range as my old router which had ugly antennas sticking out everywhere! And once all three nodes were set up, I get full bars on signal absolutely everywhere. Even in my driveway and to the edges of my yard!

And this makes for some intriguing possibilities when it comes to my home automation obsession, because Google WiFi has IFTTT (If This Then That) integration and can trigger IFTTT actions or be triggered by them. I just added two actions in minutes... one to prioritize bandwidth on my Ring doorbell when it senses motion... and another notifies me when my iPhone connects to my Google Wifi. This second one is just a test right now. What would be cool would be if Nest allowed IFTTT actions to adjust image quality on Nest Cams. That way I could have all my cameras use max bandwidth and best image quality whenever I'm out of the house, then go back to normal quality when I'm home so I can use my bandwidth for other things...

IFTTT with Google WiFi

IFTTT Alert with Google WiFi

Another thing I absolutely love about Google Mesh WiFi? The cool tools it has built in! Before I had fiber internet, it was a real struggle to balance device bandwidth... especially since I had no idea how much bandwidth each device was using. This became less of an issue when I got fiber, but it's still nice to know how much bandwidth my cameras are using so I know what quality picture to broadcast. With Google, this is a piece of cake. Open the app, find the device you're curious about, click on it, and the upload/download bandwidth is displayed. Simple. After a few hours of poking around, I found that I could increase the picture quality on some cameras without causing problems for any other devices.

Many of the "standard" toys for a router are also included. Like a firewall, NAT, DNS, WAN, PPoE, and device prioritization. But there are a few things missing for advanced network configuration. Things like being able to decide what IP block to use. Out of necessity, my non-cloud security cameras all have static IP addresses at the back-end of the 192.168.0.X block (instead of getting IPs dynamically like my cloud cams do). But Google WiFi uses the 192.168.86.X block and I found no way to change this. Which meant I had to reconfigure all six cameras in an IP reservation I made in the .86 range. Such a pain in the ass. Another pain in the ass? There's no web interface. You have to use a phone app. Which would be fine if the app were stellar, but it's really not. It's "serviceable," and that's about the best thing you can say about it. At the very least they should have an option to display IP addresses instead of just MAC addresses on your device list. It's rage-inducing to have to open every device just so you can see its IP and try to figure out what all the "Unknown Devices"*** are so you can name them.

And speaking of devices... when you run a speed test on all your devices, or click on an individual device to get more information... you can see which node the device is connecting to...

   
Google WiFi Device Hub Connect

For the most part, each device is connected to the node closest to it. But not always. My Harmony Television hub is connected to the hub upstairs... instead of the primary hub that's right next to it. No clue why that is, but I'm guessing Google WiFi has its reasons. So long as everything works, I'll choose not to worry about it.

So far the only thing that's given me pause over the whole Google Mesh WiFi experience is being forced to tie everything to Google. Believe it or not, the main node has to be connected 24/7 to your Google Account to even function. What the hell? I'm guessing the excuse is that your settings are stored in your Google Account in case you ever need to replace or upgrade your system. Which is bullshit, of course... why not just be able to download a backup? I have no idea if this means Google is tracking all my online activity, but it wouldn't surprise me. I haven't investigated migrating my Nord VPN account to run from Google WiFi, but I should probably do that.

In the end? Very happy with Google's mesh router system. It's weird to me that Google is now occupying problem-solving space that Apple used to, but the system is priced very well, is easy to set up, works automatically to give you the best possible WiFi, and seems to have solved some nagging problems I was having.

Can't help get me up off the floor when I fall, but it can't do everything.

   
UPDATE: Welp. All of a sudden my iPhone could not connect to the internet but my MacBook could. I called up the Google WiFi app but couldn't connect to the Google WiFi router, which was odd because my MacBook still had internet. Just as I was ready to start screaming, my MacBook also lost internet. Then the Google WiFi router restarted on its own and everything began working again. I hope this isn't a regular occurrence, because that will drive me batshit crazy. Also? Here is where only allowing connection via an app can really screw you. It would have been nice if I could have logged into a web interface while my laptop was still able to get internet so I could try and figure out what was going wrong. Also? WHERE IN THE HELL ARE THE LOG FILES?!? I have no idea what happened, and without log files I'll probably never know.

   

*Regular price is $300, but Amazon had the three-pack on sale for $257 plus tax as of this writing. SCORE!

**The only hiccup was that my "smart outlet" lost its internet connection during the transition, which caused it to power-cycle the Google WiFi router as I was adding nodes. Oops. Had to force-quit the Google WiFi app because it got stuck in a loop so I could start over...

Google WiFi App Error

This was my fault for not making sure my outlet was plugged into internet after I got the primary node set up... but Google needs to fix their app so it doesn't get stuck like this. You can't escape the error dialgue no matter how many times you press "OK" because it just pops back up again.

***It drives me insane when device manufacturers don't put the name of their devices... or, at the very least, their company name... in the networking table along with the MAC address. How in the hell am I supposed to know what all these "mystery" devices are on my network? Sometimes you can get a clue by looking up the MAC address owner, but not always. This results in my having to pause the device's internet access so I can try to figure things out that way. Doesn't always help, which means I'm running around the house turning devices on and off in an attempt to figure out which devices are what.

   

Caturday 76

Posted on Saturday, September 8th, 2018

Dave!Hey! It's my second catioversary!

Before I bought my condo, I specifically asked two questions of the HOA... 1) Can I have cats? and 2) Can I build an enclosure on my back porch for them? Originally it was because I had planned on bringing Spanky with me and, since he was an outdoor cat, I figured he wouldn't be happy if he didn't have a way to be outdoors. When Spanky disappeared and I got some kittens to keep my mom company, I still wanted a way for them to go outside safely.

Work was crazy, so I ended up hiring a contractor to frame it out and put the roof on (something that came back to bite me in the ass later). This was the fastest way to get my catio built, and it's been one of the best investments I've ever made...

Catio Building

Catio Building

Catio Building

Catio Building

Catio Building

It's been a big hit with Jake and Jenny since day one. These are photos from their first time outside since they were rescued as feral kittens...

Catio Building

Catio Building

Catio Building

Catio Building

The only way the cats could get out to the catio was if I opened the door for them. After a couple months, I had ordered a new door with a cat door in it so they could go out whenever they wanted. At first I was worried about them staying out at night, so I'd bribe them to come back in with cat treats...

Catio at Night

Now, of course, they're in and out in the catio at all hours. In the Summer they'll even sleep out there at night because the weather is so nice. Not that the weather does much to deter them. They'll head out on the coldest day of winter without hesitation. Their favorite catio time is Spring and Fall though, because it's so comfy during the day. They'll go out after breakfast and stay there until it's time to come in for dinner.

In new cat news... Jenny, who always bristled when I'd touch her ears in the past, now maneuvers herself as I pet her so I'll massage them...

Jenny's Ear Massage

Jenny's Ear Massage

Last night it finally rained again. Something that fills me with dread because rain can also mean lightning and still more wildfires. But I think the only thing that came with it this time was thunder. So... yay? Jake and Jenny slept through the whole thing. Didn't even twitch when the thunder was crashing. This is surprising to me, because usually strange noises send them into a panic.

I'm hopefully that this is a new trend. I'd love for them to stop being afraid when the High School cannon fires at touchdowns and when fireworks are set off.

Fingers crossed.

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Bullet Sunday 478

Posted on Sunday, September 9th, 2018

Dave!Meh. I liked Sunday a lot better when it was being followed by a holiday. But don't think that this Sunday isn't going to be great... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts now...

   
• TED! Even if Nyle DiMarco wasn't the most super-humanly beautiful person on the planet, he would still be a beautiful human being...

Love who you are.

   
• Canadians! A lot of truth to be found in humor...

And sometimes the truth hurts.

   
• Elvin! What kind of completely bankrupt society do we live in that somebody working hard to earn an honest living is shamed? Like THIS is the guy from The Cosby Show that deserves to be shamed...

Seeing as how he had to quit his job at Trader Joe's, I'm glad he's got new work on Tyler Perry's upcoming show.

   
• FUCKING GAY CUPCAKES! What's so hilarious is how dumbfucks like Santorum actually believe the shit they are saying...

I have literally seen signs which say "If you don't believe in Jesus, don't shop here" while driving through Mississippi. There are documented incidents of gay couples who dare to hold hands in a shop or business getting kicked out! And what about all these YouTube videos which show discrimination against Persons of Color when trying to shop... or dine... OR EXIST in a racist business? THIS IS TOTALLY HAPPENING NOW, AND IF YOU SAY IT ISN'T THEN YOU ARE A FUCKING MORON. Not that being a fucking moron is anything new where Santorum is considered.

   
• Just Burn It! There it is...

Though these parodies would be a lot funnier if they weren't so damn accurate.

   
• Just Exploit It! Nike is a highly profitable business. They know their customer base. As with everything they do, their Colin Kaepernik commercial was a business decision. If they thought that supporting peaceful protest and Colin Kaepernick taking a knee would hurt their bottom line, they wouldn't be doing it. All these ridiculous shoe burnings and threats of boycott are just free publicity for Nike to appeal even more to the bulk of the people who are buying their stuff in the first place...

The simple fact is that Nike is a multi-national company whose profits aren't tied solely to the USA. Even if their sales were cut in half here, they're still going to be an immensely profitable brand around the globe. But yeah... go ahead and burn those sneakers. Nike already has your money. They don't give a shit. Or... why not donate your Nike gear to homeless vets if you don't want it any more?

   
• Iron Fist 2! Well, wow. I hated the first season of Iron Fist. I couldn't stand that the character dragged down The Defenders. But the second season is pretty good! First of all... DAUGHTERS OF THE DRAGON, BABY! YEEEAH!

Finn Jones is much better this time around. He acts more like a human than a frickin' Keanu Reeves impersonating robot... though I still maintain he's the wrong guy to play Iron Fist. He isn't as fluid and fun as the comics, and it's such a missed opportunity.

As is usual for the Marvel Netflix shows, the first half of the season is slow to the point of tedium with an occasional fight scene tossed in... then the back-end slaps you in the face and makes it all worthwhile. In the case of Iron Fist, the last episode is great, and what we should have been getting all along. What we also should have been getting all along? That trademark yellow mask, which finally makes an appearance...

Iron Fist Season Two

This season starts off with Danny Rand fulfilling his promise to Daredevil to defend Hell's Kitchen... BY SETTING UP SHOP IN CHINATOWN?!?? Hell's Kitchen is west of Midtown. Chinatown is way south from there! But whatevs. The story revolves around Davos (aka Steel Serpent), the Iron Fist who wasn't, seeking revenge on Dany Rand for taking the mantle he believes is rightfully his. The guy is legit nuts, which could have been silly if not for Sacha Dhawan being so compelling in the role. Along the way we get Joy Meecham and "Mary" (aka Typhoid Mary) as supporting villains. Mary started off unbearably irritating with her personality shifts being far less entertaining than if they had made her a straight-up villain from the start, but it ended up paying off at the very end.

In lieu of The Hand this time, we get forgettable syndicate villains in the form of rival triad gangs Golden Tigers and Hatchets. On one hand, I understand the need to provide legions of bad guys for Iron Fist to plow through, but it's just so tired to have triads floating through all the Netflix shows solely as disposable Asian cannon fodder. Come up with something new.

Like I said... this new season is pretty good. Mostly because of the ending. It could lead the show in a much better direction. Also helping? The fact that they cut it down to ten episodes. Which has me wondering if it would have been an even better season if they had streamlined things even further and cut it to six. Jettisoning all the Meecham sibling crap would have been a good start, and that alone would have made things so much better. They made everything grind to a halt every time they are injected into the story.

   
And... bullets spent. See you next Sunday.

   

Luck of the Irish

Posted on Monday, September 10th, 2018

Dave!Today I walked to work because my foot was stiff after having elevated it all weekend. I also chopped off a chunk of my damaged toenail because it was itching UNDER the nail. That hurt. It probably would have hurt less if I managed to keep my eyes open the whole time I was performing home surgery, but the blood was freaking me out. After coating it with antibiotics and bandaging it, I felt much, much better.

Until I walked to work. By the time I got there my foot was on fire and I felt like I was going to pass out.

But I'm still glad that I walked. I should do that more often.

Also? On the walk back home I saw this rock next to the railroad tracks...

Rock that says Luck of the Irish

Awwww. I'm guessing this means I'm lucky now?

I could use some luck!

And so could the East Coast of these United States of America...

Hurricane Path

Yikes. Scary. What does God have against The Outer Banks? Or maybe it's because North Carolina voted for Trump. Because that's the way it works, right?

   

Top of the World

Posted on Tuesday, September 11th, 2018

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

Except...

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

Observation Deck Ticket

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

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

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

Observation Deck Ticket

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

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

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

   

Hurricane Force Hot Air

Posted on Wednesday, September 12th, 2018

Dave!More hurricanes.

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

Stormageddon

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

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

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

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

UPDATE: Jesus...

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

   

Apple Event Baby Steps

Posted on Thursday, September 13th, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apple Event: Retail

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

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

Apple Event: Apple Watch 4

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

Apple Event: Apple Watch 4

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

Apple Event: Apple Watch 4

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

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

Apple Event: iPhone

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

Apple Event: iPhone

Apple Event: iPhone

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

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

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

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

Apple Event: iPhone

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

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

Apple Event: MacOS X

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

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

   

Automation with IFTTT

Posted on Friday, September 14th, 2018

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

And so...

Let's start with smart lightbulbs.

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

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

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

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

But anyway...

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

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

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

IFFT Set Driveway Light to Default Green Color

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

IFFT Set Driveway Light to Blue Color on Google Calendar Event

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

   
And another thing I've done with IFTTT?

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

When iPhone Connects Turn on Television

   
Yet another thing I've done with IFTTT?

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

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

When Ring Doorlbell Disconnects Text Me

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

Ecobee Controls on IFTTT

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

When iPhone Connects Turn on Television

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

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

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

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

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

WiFi Range

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

   

Caturday 77

Posted on Saturday, September 15th, 2018

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

Jake and Jenny Waiting for Breakfast

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

Jake and Jenny Waiting for Breakfast

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

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

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

Jake and Jenny Waiting for Breakfast

Jake and Jenny Waiting for Breakfast

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

Such a bad cat-dad.

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

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

And speaking of Jake being lazy...

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

Cranky Jake is Cranky

Cranky Jake is Cranky

Cranky Jake is Cranky

And of course I do.

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

Until next Saturday then.

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Bullet Sunday 479

Posted on Sunday, September 16th, 2018

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

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

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

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

   
• Tourist! And speaking of travel...

It's funny because it's true.

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

Classic Redneck Tammy!

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

Solo: A Star Wars Story

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

Star Wars Movies Ranking

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

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

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

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

Star Wars Movies Ranking

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

   

Feline Assistance

Posted on Monday, September 17th, 2018

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

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

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

Jenny Helping

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

Jenny Helping

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

Jenny Helping

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jake Helping

He did a pretty good job...

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

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

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

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

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

Mom Travel Photos

And then...

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

Mom Letters

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

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

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

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O Captain! My Captain!

Posted on Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

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

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

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

Captain Marvel Poster

Totally worth the wait...

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

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

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

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

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

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

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

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

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

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

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

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

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

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

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

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

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

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

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

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

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

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

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

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

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

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

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

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

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

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

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

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

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

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

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

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

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

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

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

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

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

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

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

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

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

Yep, looks like Carol to me!

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

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

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

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

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

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

Captain Marvel Trailer Breakdown!

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

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

   

That’s So Yeti

Posted on Wednesday, September 19th, 2018

Dave!Uhhh... okayyyyyy...


Toad!

   

   

AIDS and The Long Run

Posted on Thursday, September 20th, 2018

Dave!I remember the AIDS crisis very well.

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

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

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

Anyway... where was I? Oh yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

And I'm straight.

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

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

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

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

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

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

   
No. No it wasn't that long ago.

To me it seems like it was only yesterday.

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

   

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

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

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

   

The Eighties in Salt Lake City

Posted on Friday, September 21st, 2018

Dave!This morning I threw a change of clothes in my backpack, filled the cat feeder, filled the bird feeder, then tried to figure out which route over the mountains would be the best way to get to the airport. Which was not as easy as I had hoped because pulling info out of The Washington State Department of Transportation website was far more difficult than it should have been. But that's how it goes when you're dealing with a website that looks like it came from the 90's.

Almost three hours later, I was at the airport.

Two hours after that, I was winging my way to Salt Lake City so Marty (of Banal Leakage fame) and I could go to a concert featuring Tom Bailey (Thompson Twins), The B-52's, and Culture Club.

Things did not get off to a good start.

The main reason I wanted to see this show was because I really wanted to hear Tom Bailey perform tracks off of his new album, Science Fiction, which I love. But there were technical difficulties at Maverick Center where the sound kept crapping out. For reasons I cannot comprehend, he wasn't given extra time to perform his set once the sound was restored... which meant he didn't get to perform a single new song. He barely got to perform his old songs. This was incredibly disappointing. Because what little he did get to perform was great...

Tom Bailey

I fully anticipated The B-52's to come out and play songs off of Cosmic Thing (their most popular album by far) and be done with it. But that wasn't what happened at all. They played a set that was very much geared towards The B-52's Faithful. Half the stuff they played was off their self-titled debut album, including Planet Claire, Dance This Mess Around, Lava, 52 Girls, and Rock Lobster. Their second album Wild Planet got two tracks... Private Idaho and Give Me Back My Man. Mesopotamia got no tracks. Whammy got Whammy Kiss. Bouncing Off the Satellites got no tracks. Cosmic Thing got Roam and Love Shack only(!). Funplex got the title track. And that was it...

The B-52's

The B-52's

I would have loved to have heard Legal Tender and Song for a Future Generation, which are two of my favorite B-52's songs. They are a fantastic bridge between the two eras of the band in their journey from post-punk new wave to pop sensations. But overall I was thrilled that they played so much from their early days, which was when I fell in love with them.

Culture Club was one of those bands that I appreciated, but never became obsessed with as I did other bands of the day. That being said, I was still very much looking forward to seeing them perform. And I wasn't disappointed. Boy George (and the dozen musicians on-stage with him) blew through all their biggest hits that people wanted to hear (It's a Miracle, I'll Tumble 4 Ya, Time (Clock of the Heart), Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?, Miss Me Blind, Church of the Poison Mind, and Karma Chameleon)... threw in some interesting covers (Let's Dance by Bowie, Everything I Own by Bread, Addicted to Love by Robert Palmer, and Chain of Fools by Aretha Franklin. They also tossed in a couple of more esoteric later tracks (The Truth is a Runaway Train, Different Man, Life)...

Boy Geroge and Culture Club

Boy Geroge and Culture Club

I have no idea what was going on with the sound at Maverick Center, which was pretty bad. In addition to Tom Bailey's sound problems, Kate and Cindy's vocals were obliterated through most of the B-52's tracks, and the sound for Culture Club sounded horribly brassy at first... but evened out half-way through (Boy George's vocals were pretty well presented throughout, however). I don't remember these kind of problems when I saw Depeche Mode's "Tour of the Universe" show here.

And so... fun!

Even though I think that I must be getting too old to enjoy concerts any more. I used to love live music. But between shitty sound at the venues and the unbelievably rude behavior of people attending concerts now-a-days, I just feel done.

I mean... never say never... but there's a nice symmetry to my first concert being The Thompson Twins in 1984 and my last concert being Tom Bailey of The Thompson Twins 34 years later.

And on that sad note... time for bed. I fly back home tomorrow.

   

Caturday 78

Posted on Saturday, September 22nd, 2018

Dave!I flew back to Seattle today so I could drive home this afternoon. Between lane closures and torrential rains over the passes, the drive was not fun. What was fun? Walking through the door and having Jake and Jenny act like I had been gone for a month instead of one day. I think when I'm gone longer, my cats eventually get accustomed to my absence. But with quick trips they haven't adjusted to my being gone, so they more excited to see me. Or something like that.

But Jake and Jenny's weird behavior when I come home is nothing compared to when I am getting ready to leave.

When I drag out the automated pet feeders, they know.

I didn't take a suitcase this trip, but when the suitcase comes out, they definitely know.

Both of them stick to me like glue when they know I'm going to be gone. On Wednesday night, I brought out the feeders. When I went to bed, Jenny ran to the cat's bedroom and dragged a kitty bed in my room so she could sleep near me. The next morning I picked it up and put it on my bench. After she ate breakfast she came back upstairs, flipped it on the floor, then slept in it up-side down...

Jenny Up-Side-Down Bed

Thursday night she flipped the bed that's on the coffee table onto the floor and took a nap in that...

Jenny Up-Side-Down Bed

No idea what the up-side-down bed is about.

Even when I manage to get the bed right-side-up, Jenny still has problems to deal with. Like Jake coming in and falling asleep on top of her...

Jenny Squished by Jake

Jake is one big kitty so that can't be comfortable. I went to the cat's bedroom and brought another bed in so they could each have one...

Jenny Squished by Jake

But eventually Jake decided he wanted to sleep on my bed...

Jake Sleepy Beddy Time

And then? I was flying off to Salt Lake City and back again...

Salt Lake City View

In other cat news... I opened the door to go to work and Fake Jake was there to say hello. My cats immediately ran to the door. And by "my cats" I mean "Jake" because Jenny preferred to say her hello from a distance...

Jake Says Hello to Fake Jake

Jake Says Hello to Fake Jake

Come mid-October I'll have to tear apart Fake Jake's shelter to put the heating pad back in. I'm thinking I might also see if I can mount a motion sensor or a camera inside so I can track when he's in and out to make sure he's warm and safe when the freezing temperatures come.

Which will be entirely too soon.

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Bullet Sunday 480

Posted on Sunday, September 23rd, 2018

Dave!Pull up on that pumpkin spice latte... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts now...

   
• Boston! My beloved Red Sox are American League East champions for the third year in a row...

Dave Loves the Red Sox!

LET'S GO, BOSTON!

   
• The Last O.G.! I was watching... something... on TBS and saw a commercial for Tracy Morgan in The Last O.G.. As a huge, huge, mega-huge fan of Tracy, I was excited to see it. Only to find out that it had already aired this past Spring...

It is phenomenal. Funny as hell. But touching too. I loved every episode and am relieved to find out that it has already been renewed for a second season. Highest possible recommendation. If you haven't seen it, please do yourself a favor and take a look.

   
• Believer! The last thing I would ever want to do is convict an innocent person for a crime they did not commit. That being said, Brett Kavanaugh is up for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. There is no walking this back. And since it makes no sense whatsoever that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford would invite a felony by lying to the FBI (or invite death threats towards her and her family), I think it's critical that an investigation be done. Especially now that more women have come forward. Anybody who thinks otherwise is either an asshole or wanting to serve a personal agenda over the good of this country...

I believe women. I believe in due process. I believe in innocence until proven guilty. I believe in justice. And I seriously question those who would sidestep any of that. Like the fucking piece of shit publisher of our local newspaper who equates rape to cheating at golf and smoking (you only think I'm joking). I don't expect people appointed to the Supreme Court to be perfect. They're human, after all. But I do expect them to not be rapists. Because no, not all boys do it, and rewarding this heinous behavior only propagates the rape culture that keeps creating new generations of rapists. It's got to finally end sometime. That time is now. Because time's up.

   
• Family! To all the single parents... to all the double dads... to all the double moms... to everyone who is trying to raise the best kid they can while listening to people scream "EVERY CHILD NEEDS A MOM AND A DAD!" over and over and over... know that you are exactly enough. Love alone makes a family. It always has...

Mom is Dad for Dad Day

I saw this meme floating through my Facebook feed and was reminded for the hundredth time that the people who think it's their business to stick their nose into other people's business are the ones most likely guilty of whatever it is they are professing to hate. So you do you. Everybody else is just doing the best they can with the cards they were dealt and don't deserve your stupid-ass judgement.

   
• Cold! This has got to be the most insane political commercial I've seen yet...

What kind of piece of shit do you have to be to have all your siblings not only not vote for you... but take out a devastating opposition ad to boot? Cold!

   
• Chewie! It's the little things that add up to make a good thing great. Nobody is more aware of this than Marvel Studios. In their new movie poster for Captain Marvel, people have been noticing a cat walking off-frame in the shadows. I took a look in there with Photoshop and, sure enough, there's a cat there...

Chewie the Cat?!?

This is undoubtedly meant to be Carol Danvers' cat, Chewie! Who is not actually a cat, but an alien species called "Flerken" which resemble and earth cat. He's a rather large part of the Captain Marvel comic books, having made several appearances...

Chewie the Cat?!?

Chewie the Cat?!?

Holy crap does Marvel know how to handle their characters. And now it's been confirmed that Kevin Feige will be overseeing The X-Men and The Fantastic Four in addition to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As it should have been all along! So long, FOX, your shitty, shitty, unbelievably shitty super-hero movies will not be missed.

And that's not all in Marvel news... rumor has it that Loki and The Scarlet Witch may be getting their own TV series on Disney's new streaming service. That will be fantastic, if it happens. But if I'm being honest? The character I most want to get a TV show is Hawkeye. If they were to base it on the Matt Fraction and David Aja comic book run, it would be absolutely amazing.

   
And... I'm done with bullets for the day. I got things to do.

   

James Bond Themes: RANKED!

Posted on Monday, September 24th, 2018

Dave!I've decided this will be a week of ranking random things! And to start? I'm ranking all the James Bond themes.

As a big fan of the franchise, seeing who they get to crank out the movie's theme song is always part of the fun because it's a real hit-or-miss with me. And here we go...

  1. The original James Bond Theme (John Barry, Dr. No) — The fact that this is one of the most well-known pieces of movie score ever written (and has endured as such even to this day) is a testament to just how amazing it is.
  2. Live and Let Die (Paul McCartney & Wings, Live and Let Die) — Quintessential James Bond movie theme song with all the complexity you'd expect from Paul McCartney. He started soft, building to a frantic assault on your brain... then dropped into a near-whimsical interlude before slamming forward again... then dropped into another interlude of strings and romance... before bringing it home with a bold crescendo of a finish. No theme song that followed captured the entirety of a James Bond story the way that this one did. In lesser hands, it would have undoubtedly been a mess, but that's McCartney for you.
  3. For Your Eyes Only (Sheena Easton, For Your Eyes Only) — In many ways, this is my favorite James Bond theme song. Elegant, powerful, and sublimely beautiful in the way that it set the stage for the film. Lyrically, vocally, and musically is all came together to just work. This was the first James Bond movie I saw in a theater, which probably taints my feelings a bit, but I'm making no apologies for that.
  4. Moonraker (Shirley Bassey, Moonraker) — This is the song that mires any list I make in controversy, because Shirley Bassey's other tracks (for Goldfinger and Diamonds are Forever) are widely regarded as James Bond mainstays and far superior to Moonraker. I disagree. If anything, I feel that this is the song which best uses her immense talent to best service the James Bond aesthetic. Rather than plowing over the top of the music with her power, Bassey's restraint here allows the majesty of a soaring musical score to shine while still showcasing what makes her the Queen of Bond Theme Songs. If there's a misstep, it's the annoying "ting ting" of a triangle that should have been more subtle by at least half, but it's a small blot on an otherwise flawless track.
  5. A View to a Kill (Duran Duran, A View to a Kill) — An exciting theme song opening with a pop flare that only a band like Duran Duran could give it, this is exactly what you want when you ask "the band of the moment" to write the opening track for your Bond movie. Despite being a song so obviously rooted in the 80's I honestly don't think it's badly dated by today's standards, which is quite an accomplishment.
  6. Skyfall (Adelle, Skyfall) — It's weird. I love Adelle, the person, but don't care for her music much. Then Skyfall comes along... and she absolutely nailed it. So painfully Bond it hurts, this is how you you do it. Wonderful, wonderful stuff.
  7. The World is Not Enough (Garbage, The World is Not Enough) — On the surface, this seems like an odd match-up... I mean, Garbage? Really? But then you hear Shirley Manson's flawless vocals carrying you through a dream-like trance of a soaring orchestral score and you totally get it. What's so cool is that it breaks free of being boring with occasional punch and a fantastic finish that leads you right into the movie... which really should have been better than what we got.
  8. License to Kill (Gladys Night, License to Kill) — Gladys Knight totally killing it as you knew she would. This is a beautiful, powerful song with some great vocal and musical moments which make it next-level stuff. The lyrics were perfect as well, feeling very Bond from start to finish.
  9. Nobody Does it Better (Carly Simon, The Spy Who Loved Me) — The most secretly overtly sexual theme song in the entire Bond franchise, this is one of those songs that is both so very James Bond and the least Bond-sounding. It's probably that conundrum that makes me appreciate it over more appropriately-themed tracks on this list.
  10. The Living Daylights (a-ha, The Living Daylights) — Seeing as how a-ha is one of my all-time favorite bands, it should comes as no surprise that I love this track. It's a beautiful song, and I think it was an imaginative way to reflect the themes in the movie (as all good theme songs should). But I seriously struggle a bit as to where it belongs on this list because it lacks the gravitas that songs need to work as a good Bond theme. Rounding out my top-ten felt "right" even though there are tracks below which feel more "Bond" to me.
  11. Goldeneye (Tina Turner, Goldeneye) — Perhaps it was having to work the word "Goldeneye" into the lyrics which made this song not quite come together... but it's otherwise got a lot going for it. Like Tina Turner crooning over a sultry score that feels both retro and modern at the same time. Not quite timeless, but memorable enough to make me like it.
  12. Die Another Day (Madonna, Die Another Day) — This song does not hold up as well as a James Bond theme should. It's badly dated by the autotune trickery, and I can't help but feel that Madonna had a much, much better Bond theme in her somewhere. Even so, I've always liked this track and felt the rabid criticism of it was unjustified. At least it tries to be interesting both musically and vocally, which is more than you can say for a lot of songs on this list. Sure, there are distractions dragging it down ("Sigmund Freud?!?"), but it paired very well with the Pierce Brosnan torture scenes it was played to.
  13. Diamonds are Forever (Shirley Bassey, Diamonds are Forever) — Despite having the unimaginably powerful vocals of Shirley Bassey behind it, the lyrics and singing are a bit of a slog for me. Where this track really shines is in the music, which has some really great moments in there.
  14. Goldfinger (Shirley Bassey, Goldfinger) — Yeah, yeah, I'm a heathen for having the most memorable of all the Bond theme songs not make my top ten... but it just doesn't "do it" for me. Bassey can belt it out with the best of them, but this was all power all the time with no subtle moments to make all that power feel as impressive as her other two takes on a Bond theme song. And that ending? Lord. So over the top as to be grating. I just don't get it.
  15. You Only Live Twice (Nancy Sinatra, You Only Live Twice) — This is such a beautiful musical arrangement that it pains me to drop it so low on my list. But the vocals just kill it. Nancy Sinatra didn't have the power to pull it off and the lyrics were forgettable.
  16. Tomorrow Never Dies (Sheryl Crow, Tomorrow Never Dies) — Despite liking Sheryl Crow and finding the musical arrangement to be nice enough, this song doesn't work for me. It seems more disjointed than Live or Let Die, which is really saying something. As if that weren't enough, it's so sleepy and boring that you're nodding off before the movie even gets going.
  17. Thunderball (Tom Jones, Thunderball) — Gag-inducing song with lyrics so awful that Tom Jones attempts to compensate by blasting them out in the most annoying way possible. ANY WOMAN HE WANTS, HE GETS! HE'LL BREAK ANY HEART WITHOUT REGRET! =insert eyeroll emoji= This was the only song on this list that I could not bring myself to listen to all the way through.
  18. You Know My Name (Chris Cornell, Casino Royale) — Just awful. I still can't fathom how the first movie of the brilliant reboot of James Bond with Daniel Craig managed to be saddled with such a horrendous clash of lame rock stylings and dated vocals. The only thing that places it this high on my list is that I think they lyrics have something to say.
  19. All Time High (Rita Coolidge, Octopussy) — This song starts out so subtle and beautiful, which leads you to believe that it's building to something. Except it never does. It dives into sleepy and boring tedium and never escapes. Maybe with someone like Shirley Bassey behind it this track could have broken free of what we got... but, alas, snoozefest.
  20. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (John Barry, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) — Despite being a musical number, the beautiful build-up feels very James Bond to me, and I can't help but wonder if some vocals would have elevated it past where it ended up, which is notable but not great. What was great? We Have All the Time in the World by Louis Armstrong, which was also in the film.
  21. From Russia with Love (John Barry, From Russia with Love) — A very pretty musical arrangement, but kind of dour and boring too. A James Bond theme needs to slap you in the face and this one puts you to sleep.
  22. The Man with the Golden Gun (Lulu, The Man with the Golden Gun) — If I had to sum up this song in one word it would be "irritating." Everything from Lulu's grating vocals to the inane lyrics were subpar.
  23. Another Way to Die (Jack White & Alicia Keys, Quantum of Solace) — I don't get it. I like Jack White. I love Alicia keys. But put them together and you get this disaster. This is the film that followed the incredible James Bond reboot heading in an amazing new direction... and was a prelude for the movie being a major step down. Blargh.
  24. Writing’s on the Wall (Sam Smith, Spectre) — What a whiny pile of overindulgent shit. Not just the worst James Bond theme song ever, maybe the worst song ever. I cannot understand why people enjoy Sam Smith, as I don't think he can craft a tune to save his life. But plenty of people do, so I'm guessing it's just me? The only song on this list that I didn't bother to listen to because I already know I loathe it on every possible level. I still remember sitting in the theater in utter disbelief that this horrendous crap was blasting through the speakers. The stuff of nightmares. This is what's playing non-stop on the radio in hell. Cannot possibly come up with the words to even remotely describe how much I hate this track, which not only makes me lose my will to live, but also to never watch another James Bond movie again. Just dredging up my suppressed memories of hearing Writing's on the Wall is enough to make me wish I was never born. Or, if I were capable of clearer thinking while writing about such a travesty, that Sam Smith was never born. A song like this ends civilizations. Heaven only knows its very existence killed ours. Lord save us from the universe-leveling apocalypse which must surely be imminent. Or don't. We totally deserve to be wiped from all creation for allowing such a monstrosity to be unleashed on an unsuspecting universe. I hate this song. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it times infinity. Nay, even the infinite does not put my loathing into proper perspective. I hate it far more than that. This is multi-dimensional, timeless, all encompassing hatred which spans everything, everywhere, in realms both real and imagined. And those yet to be imagined. And those unimagined. Oh I hate this song so much.

In retrospect, I probably should have ranked the actual movies. Oh well. Maybe one day.

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LEGO Video Games: RANKED!

Posted on Tuesday, September 25th, 2018

Dave!As any long-time reader of this blog already knows, I am hopelessly addicted to the LEGO video games. They are mostly (fairly) simple puzzle games which involve looking for various objects and trying to figure out how to combine them to complete a task needed to advance in the game. Most all of the titles are really funny, even with the source material can be rather gory (I'm looking at you Jurassic World!). And that's the appeal. LEGO games are a mindless distraction from all the horrors of the world that I like to escape into from time to time...

And so... here's my ranking of all the console LEGO games I've played (I haven't played the latest LEGO online game, LEGO Worlds yet because I am hesitant to buy into an online game that could be set down like LEGO Universe was).

  1. LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham — Where do I even start? Dozens of awesome DC characters on amazing adventures that are far, far more entertaining than and DC movies hitting the screen. This is the Justice League people deserve to see, and it's a fun, hilarious, entertaining ride from start to finish.
  2. LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga — What's so fantastic about LEGO games like this is that they follow the general narrative of the movies... but add so much more. The "Complete Saga" has games covering everything from the original trilogy (mind-bogglingly good) to the crappy prequels (which are so much more fun in LEGO than the actual movies). Like most LEGO games, the vehicles are a mess to control and I don't have much fun on the spaceship missions, but everything outside of that is gold.
  3. LEGO City Undercover — When this game was first released, it was a Wii U exclusive. I didn't have a Wii U, so I just held tight and thought I would wait until it got released on other systems. Then I got to actually play the game at a friend's house. I was so absorbed into the massive city and all the clever missions that I had to have it. So I bought a Wii U just to play it. Expensive way to play a game, but worth it. The integration of the Wii U controller into the game was great, the levels are hilarious, and some of the challenges were more difficult than in other LEGO games. A winner all the way around.
  4. LEGO Dimensions — Blending so many licensed properties in a single game was a fantastic concept that worked exceedingly well. You start out with LEGO Batman, Gandalf (from The Lord of the Rings, and Wildstyle (from The LEGO Movie)... but you can add any other character you want from any other franchise to any Free Play mission you want. Want to team up The Wicked Witch of the West with Bart Simpson and Beetlejuice? Have at it. I loved LEGO Dimensions and bought every single set that LEGO released for it. Needless to say, I was gutted when they discontinued LEGO Dimensions. But I guess it's okay because I still have a ton of stuff left to explore on all the expansion packs I bought. Hopefully they won't shut down the servers before I have a chance to complete everything.
  5. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes — This is a fantastic game which feels inspired by the Marvel Studios movies, but encompasses all the Marvel characters. It's also massive. It feels like the entire city of New York has been recreated in LEGO form and there's just so much to see and do. With each new release the LEGO games just keep getting bigger and better. I can't imagine what LEGO: The Incredibles and LEGO DC Super-Villains are going to be like!
  6. LEGO Batman 2: DC Super-Heroes — Well, here we go. I had no idea how they were going to put powerful characters like Superman and Wonder Woman into a game and have it work (they are invulnerable and can literally fly anywhere, go anywhere), but they obviously put a lot of thought into that dilemma, because everything works flawlessly. I got this game on a Friday, then ended up playing all weekend and taking a vacation day at work on Monday because I was so absorbed in unlocking all the secrets hidden around Gotham City. Fantastic follow-up to the original game.
  7. LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens — I wasn't going to buy this one... I was going to wait until all of the new trilogy games were collected in a single game... but I couldn't resist. Hearing that all the characters were voiced by the original actors was compelling enough to make me buy in. I did not regret it. This is a hilarious parody with improved game-play from the earlier Star Wars games. As if that wasn't enough, it has levels that link Return of the Jedi to The Force Awakens which makes this a must-have game not just for LEGO fans, but for any Star Wars fan as well.
  8. LEGO Marvel's Avengers — A direct lift of Marvel Studios films of the day (Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Winter Soldier, etc.), this game doesn't feel as "open" as later games, but is still a heck of a lot of fun. All the characters are Marvel Cinematic Universe versions, which makes for a slightly different mindset than other games which are more tied to the comic books. That just made me love it even more, and I had a blast playing it.
  9. LEGO Ninjago Movie — I'm only half-way through this one, but I'm really enjoying it. I'm only barely familiar with the Ninjago franchise (I've never seen the movie but I have all the characters from the LEGO Dimensions game... but, fortunately, familiarity isn't required to play. Experiencing the game makes me really want to see the movie, so I guess that's as big an endorsement as you can get.
  10. LEGO Harry Potter (Years 1-4 and 5-7) — I am not a fan of the Harry Potter movies or books. I honestly don't get their popularity, because they seem like derivative works that rely on deus ex machine to tie up the endings of each story. That being said, the LEGO games are awesome. They seem a bit more "puzzley" than other games, and that worked to keep me interested through the entire series. I do think the game would have been enhanced if I had seen the films, but I was okay without it.
  11. LEGO Batman: The Videogame — I am a huge Batman fan and a huge LEGO fan, so I bought this game not knowing anything except it combined two of my favorite things. Before this, I had been playing the LEGO Star Wars games and liked them, but here is where I became obsessed. They got a lot right with the Batman franchise from the very start and everything that followed was gravy.
  12. LEGO Indiana Jones (Volume I and II) — The Indy Trilogy films were born to become LEGO games, and the result did not disappoint. I had a lot of fun roaming from adventure to adventure... so much so that I bought this game twice! Once on my Xbox 360 and once on my Nintendo DS handheld (which was surprisingly different than the console version). Released in two parts, I thought the second half was lacking compared to the first, but still enjoyed the whole game.
  13. Pirates of the Caribbean — This title felt way too much like "more of same" that we had been getting, but lacked the variety of games which preceded it. Despite all that, it was a lot of fun to play and looked beautiful. I lost interest in the movies after the first two, but this game kept me interested all the way through.
  14. LEGO Jurassic World — Putting Jurassic Park in a LEGO game is kinda a no brainer (the LEGO Dimensions pack was fantastic). What made this game shine was having the original actors voice all the characters. The game would have ranked higher on my list if there were more dinosaurs used as playable characters... otherwise it's just regular human after regular human. Sure they have unique skills, but still. If I have a serious complaint, it's the annoying as hell Compsognathus dino attacks which beseige you far too often to stay entertaining. By the end of the game I was thinking "Holy crap, did anybody beta test this?"
  15. LEGO Lord of the Rings — As a big fan of Tolkien's books and somebody who really enjoyed the Peter Jackson movie adaptations, I could not wait for this game to be released. And it was definitely worth the wait. Except... it kinda fell short when compared to the other LEGO games being released at the time (namely, LEGO Batman 2 and LEGO Marvel Super-Heroes). Even so, it was highly entertaining and had me absorbed from start to finish.
  16. LEGO The Hobbit — I thought that Perter Jacksons' absurdly drawn-out movie adaptation of the beautiful and simple story that's The Hobbit was way overboard. This should have been one movie... not three! That being said, if you're going to do a video game movie adaptation, you'd better finish what you started. In this case, they did not. The final Hobbit film (The Battle of the Five Armies) was supposed to be released as a downloadable content pack, but wasn't. How lame is that? The game didn't have a lot of variety in characters, but made up for it in other ways, which was nice... but lack of a finale kept the game from ranking high on my list. As it is, there's only two games left which disappointed me more.
  17. The LEGO Movie Videogame — I have no idea what went wrong, but this is one of the few LEGO games I was unable to complete. It was glitchy as hell, which was hugely disappointing given that this was a LEGO game about a LEGO movie and had so much promise. It's kind the height of irony that this is the game that failed so badly. In the LEGO games there are always little glitches that pop up... but none that kept me from enjoying the game like this one did.
  18. LEGO Universe — What a mess. I signed up to be an early beta tester because they were developing a MacOS X version of this MMPORG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game). Apparently it was running under emulation, so it was slow and glitchy in spots. Especially when a lot of characters were on-screen. Even so, I loved playing the cool missions and seeing what new insanity they would add to the game next. Until they stopped adding. And then shut down the servers so you couldn't play anymore. I mean, I know that each game has a shelf-life, but LEGO Dimensions felt as though it was shut down way before its time, and I'm still pretty raw about it.

That's a lot of LEGO games. And it doesn't even include the versions I've bought for my iPhone, iPad, Gameboy, and Nintendo DS! And next up? LEGO: The Incredibles! How awesome is that?

   

Pixar Movies: RANKED!

Posted on Wednesday, September 26th, 2018
Dave!With the exception of the Cars trilogy, there aren't any Pixar films I actively dislike. For everything else, it's just a matter of degrees. Some of them are exceptionally brilliant... others are just really good animated features. Here's my ranking from favorite to not-so-favorite...
  1. Monsters Inc. In my mind, there's no more perfect Pixar film than this. Compelling story. Loads of humor. Amazing characters (including Sully, my favorite). Everything I love about Pixar in one movie.
  2. The Incredibles The best Fantastic 4 film yet made. And, until Marvel Studios hit the scene four years later, one of the best super-hero films ever made. The architectural style of this film is over-the-top beautiful.
  3. The Incredibles 2 More of the same. Which would usually be a bad thing... but they pushed it into another level of brilliance.
  4. Toy Story 2 I was mortified when I heard there was a sequel happening to Toy Story because I was convinced most sequels were crap. Boy did I get proved wrong. A brilliant follow-up that actually improved on the first one.
  5. Up Pixar has a way of putting a lot of heart into their projects. This is probably the film that tugged on the most heartstrings for me. And, as if that wasn't enough, they went and put Dug in there too.
  6. Toy Story The film that started it all, and Pixar completely knocked it out of the park.
  7. Toy Story 3 A lot of people put this at the top of their list. It's easy to see why, but it felt a little emotionally manipulative and deliberate to me. Still an amazing film.
  8. Finding Nemo What I love about this film is how beautifully the story all came together. Sure it looked good. Sure the plot was clever. But it flowed so naturally from scene to scene... from moment to moment... from start to finish.
  9. Coco One of the most beautiful movies ever made. If the story wasn't so overtly manipulative, I probably would have ranked it higher.
  10. Wall-E I think my expectations were too high here. It was a wonderful film, but I had a tougher time buying into the story than I probably should have given that it was about robots. I can say that it had the best end-credits of a Pixar film.
  11. Monsters University A terrific flick, but it seemed like a missed opportunity to go back in time for a prequel. Nobody could come up with a sequel idea worth working on? Even so, Sully remains my favorite Pixar character by a wide margin.
  12. Brave A movie that's insanely gorgeous to look at, but kinda fell apart for me story-wise. Merida seems short-changed, which is a shame, because you can tell they were trying to push the idea of "Disney Princess" into a better direction.
  13. Finding Dory I'm not entirely convinced this was a sequel worth telling. But, then again, it was still a really good movie.
  14. Inside Out This is consistently one of the best-rated Pixar films... and I get that. It's a beautiful, heartfelt story, but it also has a level of detachment to it that made it tough for me to buy into.
  15. Ratatouille Cute characters that are beautifully rendered. But the human characters, particularly the lead, dragged everything down for me.
  16. A Bug's Life It would be easy to say that this movie hasn't held up well, which is why it's so low on my list. That's not entirely true. I think it's just as visually stunning as it ever was. The voice acting and story are entertaining. It's pretty fantastic so far as cartoon movies go. But when compared to all the other Pixar films? It's a weak link for me. Didn't dislike it, just didn't care for it as much as others.
  17. Cars I couldn't get into the world they were building here. Anamorphic cars just did not work for me (surprising given my love of the Chevron cars), and I didn't care for the story much to boot.
  18. The Good Dinosaur It's not that I hated the film... it certainly looked pretty... and it's way above other cartoon crap... it's just that it lacked the multi-level appeal that allows adults to find fun in a juvenile film.
  19. Cars 3 So bad. I was bored, bored, bored. Repetitive and dull from start to finish. Can't believe this got a theatrical release.
  20. Cars 2 So very bad. This was the movie that convinced me that Pixar's magic was in serious decline. The reason I place it dead-last is because of the stupid-as-shit "spy" plot-line. Fortunately, Pixar regrouped and got their crap together. But that didn't stop them from releasing Cars 3.
Next up is Toy Story 4. Not exactly sure that was a smart move given how nicely things got wrapped up in the last one, but I'm trying to keep an open mind.
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Legion of Super-Heroes RANKED!

Posted on Thursday, September 27th, 2018

Dave!When I first got into comic books, I was more a DC guy than a Marvel guy. The biggest reason for this was The Legion of Super-Heroes which gathered dozens of differently-powered individuals from different worlds in the far future. For a very long time, it was that one book I could count on no matter who the creative team behind it was. It was pretty good even when it was bad.

And when it was great? Holy cow was it great!

Eventually sales were such that they let Keith Giffen try something entirely new by taking them from hopeful super-powered teens in a bright future to hopeless super-powered adults in a dystopian nightmare. I absolutely loved it. The comic book I had loved forever had somehow changed completely yet was somehow even better. But then DC wanted to go back to the teen Legion and things started to slide. It was fine for a while... but then kept getting worse and worse until I just wasn't interested anymore. By then I had mostly moved on to Marvel anyway, but it was still a sad day.

For this ranking, I'm taking the Gold/Silver/Bronze age Legionnaires and figured out which I liked best... and which I liked least...

  1. Mon-El/Valor — Easily my favorite Legionnaire. He started as a throw-away Superboy story element from the past that became far more interesting when he was transplanted into the future.
  2. Brainiac 5 — His incredible intellect brought a lot to The Legion (the flight rings are all him) and writers seemed to have the easiest time making him interesting (his force-field belt was a terrific add-on). Heck, when they turned him insane, he became one of the best LOSH villains ever.
  3. Ultra Boy — What I like best about Ultra Boy is how they took Superboy then made him interesting by limiting him to using one of his powers at a time. In the hands of a good writer, the character had to be clever to work... being both the most powerful and the weakest character from moment to moment.
  4. Princess Projectra/Sensor Girl — I never really got a bead on the character or her powers until they gave her a medieval spin which made my head do a 180. From then on she was a favorite. But that wasn't all! She also got a turn as Sensor Girl, one of the more fascinating characters in the history of the team.
  5. Dawnstar — A character who could navigate the depths of space unaided was a natural and brilliant fit for The Legion. The fact that she always seemed to be the smartest character in the room didn't hurt.
  6. Timber Wolf — Basically a more interesting Wolverine character that isn't tied to a long, convoluted back-story that is never as interesting as writers seem to think it is.
  7. Wildfire — An effort to do something truly different with the membership, and a successful one at that. His relationship with Dawnstar was one of his best qualities.
  8. Saturn Girl — Her telepathy made her a naturally-interesting character, but it's what they did with her as a person — that made her crack my top-ten.
  9. Chameleon Boy — He started out as an interesting alien diversion, but gained a crazy-level of depth when they tied him to the origin of the entire team in a very cool way.
  10. Cosmic Boy — The boy scout of the Legion who had the worst possible costume for years. Even though he was pure vanilla for much of his super-powered career, he had enough interesting moments.
  11. Supergirl — Superboy was marginally more interesting on his own than this the Legion. Supergirl was the complete opposite. I found her much more entertaining here than in her rather dull solo adventures. If only they had utilized her more often.
  12. Superboy — A great character that was essentially show-horned into a crazy number of Legion stories... and not always for the better. Even so, he was the link that kept on giving, and always worked in the context of The Legion's future-tales.
  13. Karate Kid — Buying into the Bruce Lee karate fad of the day wasn't enough, so they made him a master of martial arts from dozens of worlds and gave him the ability to find the inherent weakness in things. His wacky over-the-top costume was a weird diversion when he was in a group scenario.
  14. Laurel Gand — I liked her well enough when she debuted... she was a distant relation of Mon-El that was used to interesting effect (hence her high placement on this list). Had I been able to consider her fascinating turn as Supergirl-replacement Andromeda from her Post-Crisis days, she would have ranked even higher.
  15. Lightning Lad — Other than being a founding member of the team, the most interesting thing about him was that he was dead for a time. Not a ringing endorsement to be sure.
  16. Invisible Kid II — His origin in the Legion annual he debuted was extremely well handled even if he was a bit boring afterward. Still, there's something to be said for him being a competent addition to the team rather than yet another bizarrely-powered oddity.
  17. Dream Girl — Her powers were easy to underestimate, but she proved herself to be an invaluable part of the team many times.
  18. Element Lad — Easily the most powerful Legionnaire going (well, depending on who was writing him) speculation about his sexuality by readers seemed to be more interesting than the actual character.
  19. Phantom Girl — She was definitely given more interesting stories than many of her teammates... but her relationship with Ultra Boy was more defining than anything else, which was criminal given how interesting her powers were. Or rather, how interesting they could be.
  20. Tyroc — A fascinating idea for a character that was woefully underutilized. Kinda a trippy Black Canary type. Maybe writers didn't know quite what to do with him?
  21. Sun Boy — Definitely a middle-of-the-road character that had his moments to shine... but he just wasn't as interesting as similar energy-based characters.
  22. Light Lass (Lightning Lass) — Starting out, she was a Lightning Lad clone (which makes sense, given that she's his sister. In an effort to make her less redundant, they changed her powers to make things super-light. This made her more interesting than Star Boy, but only just barely.
  23. Duo Damsel (Triplicate Girl) — A somewhat dull character made worse when she lost a third of what made her interesting. Her relationship with Bouncing Boy was the thing that really had her stock dropping.
  24. Shadow Lass — Another female character who was made interesting solely because of her love-life (with Mon-El). Kinda lame that her powers, which could actually be interesting, so often were not.
  25. Star Boy — Used to be a Superboy clone. Eventually gained the ability to make things super-heavy. Another one-note Legionnaire who was rarely notable.
  26. Colossal Boy — He could grow big. But most of the time he just ended up doing a lot of damage when he fell down and went boom.
  27. Invisible Kid — He never really got a shot back in the day. Finally they performed a mercy-killing and had him join the ranks of dead Legionnaires.
  28. Kid Quantum — A character that was never as good as his concept. The potential wasn't really fulfilled until his little sister took over the role.
  29. Polar Boy — As a member of the loser-squad (Legion of Substitute Heroes) he didn't gain that much when
  30. Shrinking Violet — Post-Crisis, they did a lot with the character. Pre-Crisis, however, she was incredibly, unforgivably boring.
  31. White Witch — It's not that she's not an interesting character... it's just that she was never very interesting to me. Unless there was a magic-based adversary like Mordru around. Otherwise I rememeber her being more irritating than anything else.
  32. Chemical King — Most notable for being mysteriously dead, then getting a bit of a moment before becoming dead-dead.
  33. Blok — A direct copy of The Thing from Marvel's Fantastic Four — who never really went anywhere.
  34. Magnetic Kid — Cosmic Boy's younger (more boring) brother. Nothing new here. Move along.
  35. Matter-Eater Lad — He can eat anything. Woo-hoo. The only reason he's not dead-last on my list is that it was pretty awesome how Braniac 5 got him to consume The Miracle Machine, which caused him to go insane.
  36. Ferro Lad — The most interesting thing about him was that he was the first dead Legionnaire. Happily, this was rectified in reboots, but it was fairly depressing in those early days.
  37. Bouncing Boy — Good Lord. "Super bouncing" as a power was sublimely stupid in just about every possible way.
  38. Tellus — Pointlessly bizarre character who, along with Quislet, was apparently an effort to get a larger non-human element in The Legion.
  39. Quislet — Another pointless non-human who added practically nothing to the series. I rank him worst because he was so poorly defined and utilized.

I maintain that The Legion could make an excellent television series. We got a taste in the last season of Supergirl but there is still so many places they could go. Maybe one day.

   

Depeche Mode Albums RANKED!

Posted on Friday, September 28th, 2018

Dave!There were three bands that defined my love of 80's music. Thompson Twins, Pet Shop Boys, and Depeche Mode. Of the three, Pet Shop Boys has been my most enduring favorite (Thompson Twins quit long ago, though Tom Bailey has recently come back). As for Depeche Mode? Well... things happen from time to time that remind me why they were my favorite band for nearly 20 years, but it's been tough for me from Exciter onward.

Here's a ranking of their albums from love to loathe...

  1. 101 — Depeche Mode is at their best when performing live. Truth to tell, there are few bands which can compare to their live performances. And if one needs proof, you need look no further than 101 from their "Tour for the Masses." Not only did it include several songs off that incredible album, it included the best tracks from those that preceded it. Magic in a bottle. And still my favorite DM album.
  2. Some Great Reward — A remarkable album from just about any angle, it was the inclusion of People are People, Blasphemous Rumors, and Master and Servant that had me completely absorbed. It was right here that Depeche Mode became my favorite band on earth for decades.
  3. Black Celebration — I listened to this one nearly-continuously for a year after it was released. Decidedly dark in tone, it spoke to every corner of my soul as I headed into adulthood.
  4. Music for the Masses — Up until this album I was a big fan of the band... but I was a big fan of a lot of bands. And yet once I saw the "Tour for the Masses" and finally got to experience Depeche Mode live for the first time (see 101 above)... I was a big obsessive fan of the band. It was the album which brought true fame to the band here in the States (at last) but bigger things were yet to come. Would probably rank higher if 101 (essentially the live version) didn't exist.
  5. Songs of Faith and Devotion — The last truly great Depeche Mode album. I don't think it's a coincidence that it's also the last album to feature Alan Wilder. Mercy in You remains my favorite track by the band, but there was so much more to love on this album. There was a track-for-track re-release as a live album, and I think I actually like it better than the studio version.
  6. Violator It took a while for DM to break the USA wide open. Thanks to standout tracks like Personal Jesus and Enjoy the Silence, this was the album to do it. I loved it, of course, but older albums were still the ones I was listening to most.
  7. Construction Time Again — Some really great songs here as the band found its footing. Mostly thanks to the track Everything Counts, which went on to be a staple of their live shows.
  8. Ultra — After Alan Wilder left, I really didn't think that the band would be the same. And they weren't. Still, they did manage to rally with Ultra which was different, but not necessarily in a bad way. Half the album was as good as ever. The other half was meandering and kind of fell flat for me.
  9. Playing the Angel — When the first single, Precious, was released, I was flying high over the idea that just maybe the band had rebounded from the previous album (Exciter). And rebound they did. Sure the album version of Precious wasn't as good and there were a few tracks that never quite landed... I was still very happy with the album... and the tour.
  10. Sounds of the Universe — The last album by the band that I truly enjoyed. Not all of it... but enough of it. And the tour was fantastic.
  11. A Broken Frame — In their second album, things started coming together for the band. This was quite a feat given that their songwriter (Vince Clarke) had left.
  12. Speak & Spell — The first Depeche Mode album (and the only album with original member Vince Clarke) was pretty raw. But there were some gems to be had.
  13. Exciter — The first album by the band that truly disappointed me. A couple decent tracks, but nothing to write home about. They rebounded a bit, but never reached the heights we got from Songs of Faith and Devotion.
  14. Delta Machine — I do not, for the life of me, understand how the band got to this point. Before release, I was actually excited about Delta Machine — because there was talk they had returned to their roots. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was yet another album filled with angels and redemption, but was a joyless mess. I went to the supporting tour, but was only interested in the tracks that weren't from Delta Machine.
  15. Spirit — Hated every single song on it. Never bought it. Never saw the tour. Shocked that things could get worse than Delta Machine, but here we are.
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Caturday 79

Posted on Saturday, September 29th, 2018

Dave!I try really hard not to project human gender traits on my cats. First of all, they're cats. Second of all, they're cats. But it's hard not to. Jenny is a petite and refined little lady. Jake is a big bruiser of a boy. Jenny is complex, scheming, and opinionated. Jake is simple, straightforward, and easy-going. Not that those are necessarily gender-specific traits... but my cats seem to fall into the stereotypes of human society quite well.

And though their personalities are very different, that doesn't seem to matter at the end of the day.

When I first got them and they were scared little kittens, they clung to each other like their life depended on it. After a while, they drifted apart, not really choosing to hang out together. But lately that's been changing. They are back to bathing each other again, which is just too sweet...

A half-hour later...

Jake and Jenny Snuggle Sleeping

Note the large bed I bought them goes ignored. They would much rather snuggle up in a tiny little bed instead.

That's cats for you.

If only humans with all our different personalities could get along together this well.

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Bullet Sunday 481

Posted on Sunday, September 30th, 2018

Dave!Time to remember the past and move forward... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts now...

   
• Marker. My mom's marker finally arrived. I placed her remains on Thursday and the stone was set shortly thereafter...

XXX

Burial vaults used to be big cement things. Now they're tiny plastic! She barely fit! The guys at the cemetery helping me were incredibly kind a respectful, which was very much appreciated.

Mom's Marker

It still seems strange for her to be honored as a Vietnam veteran when she wasn't in combat, but the VA assures me that her service during wartime absolutely qualifies her for the honorarium. I think this means the American Legion will put a flag on her grave come Memorial Day? That would be nice.

   
• Obituary. After my mom was buried, I could finally send in her obituary. I was surprised that I was able to do the entire thing online. I didn't have to talk to anybody...

Mom's Obituary: Patricia A. Monroe Simmer passed away on June 29, 2018 in Mill Creek, WA. She was born December 19, 1944 to Marie and Charles “Ray” Monroe in Bremerton, WA. Her family then returned to their home in Cashmere. Pat graduated Cashmere High School in 1963, then joined the Navy and underwent training in Bainbridge, MD. In 1964 she was stationed at Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay where she married David L. Simmer. She left the Navy in 1965 and moved to San Diego where she had two children. Pat returned to Cashmere in 1971 and worked at the Aplets & Cotlets factory for 31 years from 1978 to 2009.
An avid traveler, Pat circled the globe visiting dozens of countries from Aruba to Zimbabwe. Her travel led her to such adventures as riding a camel at the pyramids of Egypt, climbing a glacier in Alaska, trekking the jungles of Costa Rica, exploring temples in Cambodia, and going on safari in Africa. Pat is survived by her sons David Simmer II and John Simmer, her brothers Jerry Monroe and Ron Bromfield, and was preceded in death by her parents and brother, Bobby Monroe. She was laid to rest in a private service in Cashmere.

I picked a photo from our last trip together. She's sitting across from me at the five-star Victoria Falls Hotel Restaurant in Zimbabwe. Sure she's in a T-shirt, but what the heck. She was an adventurer. That's the kinda stuff she wore when tearing up the planet doing awesome shit.

A sidenote... The photo I used for my mother's obituary was taken exactly four years from the day I sent it in to the newspaper, and I didn't even know it until I saw the date stamp of the photo. Weird how things line up from time to time if you pay attention. Here's my blog entry from September 27th, 2014. Amazing how the universe works.

And so I guess that's it. The last thing to do in a long list of things to do so we can both move on. Or not...

   
• Memoriam. When I purchase a copy of our local paper today so I can see my mother's obituary in print, I will also be purchasing yet another opinion piece by the paper's publisher who previously compared rape to cheating at golf and smoking. Did he apologize for his flippant and tone deaf attitude? No. No he did not. He doubles down and says that men have nothing to be ashamed of... we were born this way, after all. Most of us are good guys, so the horrible way that women get treated is not our fault.

Then whose fault is it?

You're saying the toxic masculinity which permeates our society and is a constant and consistent threat to women is nothing to be ashamed of? Men can hold their heads high while women are harassed, humiliated, beaten, raped, and even killed? Are you serious?

The idea that men should just keep going on about their business while a society which endangers women is thriving is categorically absurd. Jeff Ackerman says we should just keep drinking from the milk carton, mowing the lawn, and ignoring rape culture because most of us are nice guys. It's nothing to do with us. Men should stick together against these evil women who want to be able to walk down the street at night without fearing for their life. Apparently that's what he considers "behaving like a man."

I call bullshit. Real men should be standing together with women to put an end to this. Real men should be actively dismantling toxic masculinity at every opportunity. Real men should be teaching their sons that being a man means being a partner to women, not dominating over them. Real men set an example by respecting women, cherishing women, valuing women, and supporting women. Real men work for a society where women are heard.

My mother was victimized by a man who professed to be her boyfriend... but she was never a victim. She picked herself up, pulled together the pieces of her life, then moved on the best she could. She loved her family. She served her country. She was kind to those she met. She worked hard. She traveled the world to understand it better. And her reward for having such courage? To be memorialized in a newspaper where the publisher says that what she went through is none of my concern because that's just the way men are.

My mom deserves better than that. I'm a better man that that. And society will be far better off when "old men" like Jeff Ackerman are gone.

   
• Love. And in yet another "Making History" segment... MIKE PENCE BECOMES FIRST VICE PRESIDENT TO ADDRESS ANTI-GAY SUMMIT — But I'm sure he was hating the homosexualizers with Christian Love® in Jesus® name... so it's all good. I mean... these "Christians" have branded their hate as "Christian Love®" so I'm assuming they've trademarked that. Oh... and Jesus® of course. Can't go having The Wrong People co-opting The Savior® can we? They might tell people to love everybody as He did instead of weaponizing His name to push an agenda. We can't be having THAT! Can you imagine? People coming together to love one another? Why, the notion! So silly! Christian Love® is reserved for those who believe EXACTLY LIKE PENCE DOES... and nobody else! Lord, what a piece of shit. Pence, Trump, and their entire administration is garbage. Way to represent all Americans.

   
• Political Climate. When given the choice from here on out, I am voting exclusively for progressive women candidates. I honestly do not give a single fuck's worth of thought to any of these old white men destroying this country. I'm voting all women, all persons of color, all LGBTQ, all ANYTHING but the status quo from here on out. These assholes had their chance. The future belongs to anybody but them. Because the only way we are going to get FAIR REPRESENTATION in government is to have ACTUAL REPRESENTATION IN GOVERNMENT.

   
And until next Sunday, when I'm sure there will be a whole new set of horrors to deal with, I bid you adieu.

   

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