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A Very Hallmark Christmas

Posted on Thursday, November 1st, 2018

Dave!Hooray! It's November 1st!

This is the day where I switch my television from defaulting to Home & Garden TV to defaulting to The Hallmark Channel. Now, for those of you not in the know, The Hallmark Channel is home to more crappy original Christmas romance movies than any other network. Period. Which is why their annual "Countdown to Christmas" marathon is one of the best things ever. This year they produced thirty-seven new holiday movies. THIRTY-SEVEN! That's up from 33 in 2017, 28 in 2016, and 21 in 2015.

The films are always the same story.

  • Pretty Man/Woman (usually Pretty Woman) is in a bad relationship.
  • Pretty Man/Woman (usually Pretty Woman) meets a pretty Woman/Man (usually Pretty Man) while working through the holidays or returning home for Christmas or something like that. They hate each other instantly.
  • After begrudgingly spending a few days with each other, the pretty people fall in love and the Pretty Man/Woman breaks off their bad relationship.
  • Christmas is here! Everybody lives happily ever after!

Well, maybe they're not always exactly like that... but they are all a lot like that. And you have well over a hundred to watch each season.

And I am totally addicted to them. Mostly because I can have them running while I'm working. They're so brainless that you don't have to pay much attention to them to know what's going on. And it's not like you can miss anything, because the story is all the same. I mean, just look at this shit...

Hallmark Christmas Movies

Can you tell them apart? I've seen all of them and I can't!

If you don't get The Hallmark Channel... or you live outside the USA, you might still be in luck. Netflix has seen what a raging money-maker Hallmark has on their hands, and has invested a huge chunk of money in producing their own slate of Christmas movies.

Last year they had a phenomenon with A Christmas Prince, but my favorite of theirs is The Spirit of Christmas...

As is typical, the guys they find to act in these movies are so brutally hot that they have me questioning my sexuality. Daniel the Ghost makes my ovaries explode...

Thomas Beaudoin as Daniel the Ghost from Netflix The Spirit of Christmas

And now, if you'll excuse me, The Hallmark Channel Countdown to Christmas is in full swing and I have to make sure my DVR is set to record everything.

   

Almost AirPods

Posted on Friday, November 2nd, 2018

Dave!I bought Apple's "AirPods" when I got my iPhone X.

Since there was no more headphone jack, I pretty much had to. I mean, I'd purchased wireless headphones in the past... but they never had the sound I got from my faithful Sony buds, especially in the bass. AirPods were reported to have fantastic bass and nice clarity, along with being wireless, so they should be perfect, right?

Gronk Tide Pods Says AirPods!

Not so much, no. I ended up returning them.

The sound was, as expected, fantastic (for an in-ear bud). But they would not stay put in my ears and fall out easily. Especially out of my left ear, which is apparently mutated or something. I was told I could buy some silicone "hooks" to wrap around the AirPods so they would "stick" better, but that was a crappy solution because then you have to take the hooks off in order to fit them in their recharging case.

I went back to the dongle adapter so I could plug my Sony buds into my iPhone X, which sucks ass because then I can't charge the dang thing at the same time. I bought a splitter, but it didn't work half the time. How much easier would my life be if Apple would just put the fucking headphone jack back in their fucking phones because I do not buy the bullshit excuse of "not enough room." Lazy. Apple just doesn't want to have an ugly hole on their pretty pretty phone.

Fast forward a year.

There I was trying to get rid of some expiring shopping points and I see that Apple AirPods are available. This was shocking because, despite being nearly two years old, they are still in high demand and sometimes hard to find. But... here they were (because I'm guessing that Apple is coming out with a new version any day now). My points plus $55 and they were mine. Never mind that I don't really have $55. Never mind that they don't fit in my ears. I figured that I'd buy them anyway then get some of those stupid silicone hooks. At $159, they were not worth that hassle. But $55? Maybe.

And that's when I decided to Google and see if other people were having trouble fitting them in their ears. Turns out I was not alone! I ran across a forum post on MacRumors that said dots of Nexcare tape can be applied and solve the problem.

I gave it a try and it kinda worked. But adding a third piece of the tape mostly worked...

Apple Air Pods Fit Fix!

All those dots and they still fit in the charging case! Perhaps with some experimentation I can figure out a better way of applying the tape so I won't have to use so much of it. As it is, I'm still incredibly paranoid about them falling out of my ears. I just hope I don't end up losing them, as that would be just my luck.

"But other than the fit, how do you like them?"

Well, they're pretty great.

The core to Apple's lone wireless earbud entry is their W1 chip, which allows for some interesting features. The best being the smart way that they pair and sync up with your iPhone automatically after they have been set up (speaking of which, setup is a breeze). The chip is also supposed to be highly energy efficient so you get great battery life (around 4 hours, give or take). Additional juice is stored in the charging case which, according to Apple, gives you a total play-time of 20 hours.

Ultimately "AirPods" are yet another case of Apple being Apple and coming up with something that is of exceptional quality and looks sublimely beautiful... but has questionable functionality because "functionality" always takes a back-seat to what Apple does. Perhaps if I come into some real money (unlikely given Jake's vet bills!) I can afford to get a pair of BeatsX earbuds ($120) or Beats Studio3 over-ear cans (AT THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS!!!), both of which have the W1 chip. Or, since I'm reaching for the sky here, buy both... seeing as how I prefer cans for home or work and buds for travel.

Whether or not Apple gives a shit about what people actually need and has plans beyond AirPods is anybody's guess. If they could come up with a version of AirPods with variably-sized flexible silicone flanges to keep them in your ear... and a charging case which would accomodate them... something tells me a lot of Apple whores like me would be very happy.

Which would be a nice change of pace from how I've been feeling about Apple lately.

   

Caturday 83

Posted on Saturday, November 3rd, 2018

Dave!This morning I woke up hungry for a McDonalds Egg & Cheese biscuit, but I didn't want to pay the stupid amount of money they charge for it. I also didn't want to spend the money on gas to get there (the nearest McDonalds is 20 minutes away). The good news is that I had all the necessary ingredients to make my own. The bad news is that I had to wait in bed 20 minutes before I could actually make it.

You may be asking yourself "How the heck does this breakfast biscuit drama relate to Caturday?"

The answer is "Daylight Saving Time ends tonight."

As anybody with pets will tell you, animals don't give a fuck about Daylight Saving Time. But, for some stupid reason humans do, and so our pets have to live with the consequences.

The way I try to minimize the perceived torture of feeding my cats an hour late is to adjust the time for a couple days before and after we do stupid shit with our clocks. Jake and Jenny get fed when my Alexa alarm goes off at 7:00am each morning. Yesterday I fed them at 7:10am. Today I fed them at 7:20. Tomorrow (after the change) I'll feed them at 6:30. Then on Monday it will be 6:40. Followed by 6:50 on Tuesday. Then on Wednesday they'll be back to 7:00am.

Until Daylight Saving Time starts up again. Then it's this whole mess all over again in reverse.

As I've mentioned previously, I've trained my cats to expect dinner when the Alexa alarm goes off. That saves me being woken up early by impatient cats. Since they know that absolutely nothing will happen until Alexa chimes, they don't bother with bothering me.

Except...

They seem to know when Alexa is jerking them around because their internal clocks are eerily accurate. Yesterday morning at 7:05 and this morning at 7:00am on the dot, Jenny started bringing me toys... apparently in an attempt at bribing me into feeding her. This morning after several rounds of bribes, she just kind of sat there staring at me and whimpering...

Jenny wants food

Heaven only knows how bad it's going to get when the delay gets longer and longer.

Stupid Daylight Saving Time. Can we please, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, just split the difference and finally get rid of this stupid shit once and for all?

Early this week I had decided to wash the cat beds I put on the floor. This change was apparently too much for Jake, who walked in... walked out... walked in... walked out... then walked in again. Like he didn't recognize the place...

Jake in the morning

Poor Jake. As if he doesn't have it bad enough with his health issues. So far neither the antibiotics or the anti-inflammatory has been doing any good. I'm convinced that he doesn't have an infection and his constant need to go to the bathroom has to do with lingering effects of the catheter he had, but who knows. He's got two more doses of antibiotic left, so maybe. I won't really know until the labs are back.

On Thursday I spent over an hour desperately searching for a work document that I cannot find. What I did find was the exact moment I gave up on keeping my cats off the dining room table and decided to invest in Lysol and a plastic-back table cover. I remember this like it was yesterday. I went to scoot the cats off of the table and my mom told me to just let them be so she would have some company while she ate her chicken soup...

Jake and Jenny on the Dining Room Table with Mom

And that was that. I've been disinfecting the damn thing ever since.

I also found photos of Jake's first belly rub...

Jake's First Belly Rub with Mom

Up until that point, petting my cats was something you could only do on occasion. As feral rescues, they were very wary of being touched, and the idea of touching them on their bellies was something that didn't even seem possible. Then one day I came home from work and there was my mom... belly rubbing away on Jake's tummy. I think the look on his face tells it all.

Adult Swim fans will be happy to know that Jenny's infatuation with Rick from the amazing cartoon Rick and Morty is still in full swing. I was bored of watching Hallmark Christmas movies and decided to burn through a couple episodes which, not unexpectedly, had Jenny running in the room to snuggle up next to me and watch. There is something about Rick's voice that completely captivates her...

Jenny Loves Rick and Morty

Eventually it was dinner time and the spell was broken. But until that point, wild horses couldn't have dragged her away from the television.

And lastly on this fine Caturday, a meme that was burning it's way through my Facebook this past week...

Cat Pancake Meme

Cat Pancake Meme

Cat Pancake Meme

=dies=

This could be either one of my cats when I attempt some kind of condescending cuteness with them.

I tried to track down the owner of these photos so I could give proper credit, but all I could see was that it seemed to originate on a bunch of Chinese sites and no credit was ever given. Oh well. That's the internet for you.

And now... until next Caturday, then.

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Bullet Sunday 486

Posted on Sunday, November 4th, 2018

Dave!Don't lose your mind because stupid Daylight Saving Time has ended and it's pitch black at 5:30pm... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts now...

   
• Streaming. The time when I will be ditching satellite television for content subscriptions is rapidly approaching. The turning point may be when Disney's streaming service is unleashed... not because I'm dying to watch Mickey Mouse cartoons, but because Disney owns Marvel, and the rumors are flying fast and furious as to what that might mean. First it was a Scarlet Witch mini-series. Then a Loki mini-series. And now the rumor-mill is pushing a Falcon & Winter Soldier mini-series...

XXX

Needless to say, I want to see absolutely all of that. And whatever else Marvel wants to release (a Hawkeye series please! A Fantastic Four series please! A Rocket & Groot series please!). And then there's returning shows like The Good Fight and Star Trek: Discovery which are on CBS's streaming service. Pretty soon Apple is going to have a streaming service. And that's on top of Netflix and HBO which I already have. I can't afford all that. And so... I'll cancel DirecTV and subscribe to the individual services with shows I want to watch, then rotate between them as new stuff I want to see is released. It's either that or become a pirate, and I'm no thief.

   
• Religion of Love. Pearls Before Swine has absolutely nailed it here...

XXX

Though so much of the time these so-called "religions of love" seem more like "religions of hate" given what they are able to support. Or, more likely, what they are able to ignore to support.

   
• Cinnabunderful. I could have sworn that I mentioned this... but I can't find anything. So here it is... IF YOU LIKE CINNABON, THEN RUN TO PIZZA HUT AND ORDER UP A TRAY OF MINI ROLLS! I ordered them on a lark thinking that they would be crappy pizza dough with cinnamon and sugar on them... but, no... it's the real deal and they are amazing...

Pizza Hut Cinnabon

This is a terrible, terrible turn of events for somebody who is supposed to be watching their carb consumption!

   
• Baker. Back when I decided to make garlic bread for the neighborhood potluck by hand, I discovered a secret to my oven. It has a reservoir at the bottom where you can pour water. The water steams as you bake the bread, which allows the crust to get crispy without getting dry. It is absolutely magical. Apparently even if your oven doesn't have a reservoir, you can put a pan of water on the bottom shelf and get the same effect. I don't know why I had never heard of this until recently... but now there is is no way I can make bread without it. If this is something you haven't tried, amazing bread awaits you.

   
• Anniversary. Brussels Airlines recreated a commercial from 2002 using the same actors to celebrate their 15 year anniversary...

How cool is that? I do like me a good television ad!

   
• Chihuly. As a huge, huge, massively huge Dale Chihuly fan, my entire week was made when I saw this Halloween costume...

For anybody who doesn't get it, here's a Chihuly blown glass sculpture I saw in Columbus, Ohio...

Dale Chihuly Columbus

And here's one I saw in The Bahamas...

Atlantis Chihuly Temple of the Sun

The fact that the mom dressed up as Chihuly himself (complete with eyepatch!) is just icing on the cake.

   
And... that's enough joy for this Sunday. See you next week.

   

Learning to Live with Disappointment

Posted on Monday, November 5th, 2018

Dave!I have work in Spokane early tomorrow morning, so I'm heading across the basin today rather than have to leave at some ungodly hour tomorrow. I really, really don't want to be away from Jake while he's sick, even for just one night, but duty calls (disappointing though that may be).

This was far from the only disappointment today.

Things went off the rails early this morning because my cats are not thrilled about Daylight Saving Time ending. As in seriously not thrilled. They were anxious at 6:00am (their 7:00am feeding time, as far as they know). Concerned at 6:10am. Upset at 6:20am. And absolutely livid by the time I went to feed them at 6:30 (I am slowly adjusting them to the hour time difference, whatever good that does). Jenny was pacing the room and meowing her head off. Jake was pawing at my face while squawking. It's exactly how you want to start a Monday.

And then...

I pulled their "Feed-and-Go" automated internet feeders out of storage so I could get them set up and filled. Except... I couldn't get them set up. The company that makes them went out of business last month. Bad enough that they had to close and shut down their cloud servers, rendering their $200 feeders useless. But it's reprehensible that they didn't bother to notify their customers... or keep their website up with a message to warn their customers... or push out an app update which warns their customers. Because otherwise there is NO WAY TO KNOW that the cloud service has been shuttered. The blue network light on the units still glows blue! Luckily I test the units every time I haul them out, otherwise my cats wouldn't have been fed. And had I been gone longer? They wouldn't have been fed FOR THREE DAYS. With the Feed-and-Go website down, I had to find out the news via a cached Google search...

Feed and Go is sad to say, it's closed it's doors.
We're extremely sad and sorry to say that Feed and Go has closed its doors. We had an amazing time helping thousands of pets eat healthier and on schedule. The time has unfortunately come to close the operation of our web app, and mobile app services. This will mean that unfortunately your Feed and Go's will no longer work as an automated feeder, and will not connect to our servers. We want to take this opportunity to thank you for being a part of our mission and wish you and your pet many happy moments ahead.

What a bunch of pig-fucking monsters. They are perfectly content to LET YOUR PET STARVE rather than contact you so you know that their product no longer works. I can only hope that whomever responsible will be roasting in hell soon. I also hope that some genius electronics expert out there will come up with a circuit board replacement that will allow the feeder to be programmed directly, instead of relying on a cloud service that's not there any more.

I had a couple other automated feeders from back when I was feeding Spanky, but they needed D batteries and I didn't have time to go get some. So instead I filled bowls with way too much food so Jake and Jenny can graze 'til their hearts' content. And hopefully not over-eat and puke everywhere.

And then...

I noticed that the motor on the drinking fountain had burned out. It's less that a year old. Guess I'm putting out a bowl of water next to the heaping bowls of food...

Way too much food and a bowl of water

And then...

Since I was coming to Spokane, I decided to get the passenger airbag replaced in my car. Toyota has been sending dozens of notices telling me that there was a recall, but I would rather die than go to the asshole who owns the local Toyota dealership. Since Spokane was where it was purchased, it made sense to go there.

After dropping off the car, I decided to get a falafel wrap at The Pita Pit. Only to find that they had gone out of business, just like Feed-and-Go...

Pita Pit Has Closed

No problem, I walked a couple blocks to a cafe with good sandwiches... only to find out they closed at 10:00 this morning for "maintenance."

And then...

Rather than wander around aimlessly, I decided to just go to Red Robin. They no longer have Boca Burgers (inexplicably replacing them with a veggie burger that's so gag-inducing awful I'd rather eat meat). I ended up eating their guacamole, salsa and chips, which wouldn't have been bad except the chips were stale. For dessert I wanted some of their cinnamon sugar mini donuts with caramel sauce. Except they came plain with no cinnamon sugar and instead of caramel, I got raspberry sauce. As if that wasn't enough, the donuts were overcooked.

And then...

The Apple iPhone Upgrade Program I've got allows me to replace my iPhone with the newest model every year. Since my replace-date is coming up, I thought I would drop by the Apple Store and take a look. I also wanted to look at the newest MacBook Pro models, as I'm sure I'll have to be replacing my 2012 model sometime soon. When I asked the Apple sales guy if there was a MacBook Pro that had an SD card slot and a USB and Thunderbolt port... you know, LIKE ACTUAL FUCKING PRO MACHINES WOULD HAVE... I was told no. "Everything has moved to USB-C, because that's the new industry standard." Alrighty then. We're back to Apple being clueless fucking assholes as to knowing what professionals need, but whatevs. So I moved on to the iPhone XS. I thought to ask if the charging cable that came with it had USB-C so I could charge it from the new MacBook Pro. The sales guy told me "No, it comes with the older USB-A and I would have to buy a $20 dongle." And so... I guess USB-C is not quite the "industry standard" I was just told it was since Apple itself isn't using it on their most popular product (by far).

Which begs the question... "Does Tim Cook, Jonathan Ivy, or absolutely anybody at all at Apple know what the fuck they are doing?" Because it honestly doesn't seem that way.

In the past their products were overpriced, but at least I knew I'd be getting something that provided value for the money and would be cutting edge when it came to features. But now? That's not even close to being the truth. Less features with less power and with less flexibility... all while being grotesquely overpriced. It's as if Apple has been working overtime to become the cliché they've always been painted as.

And then...

As I was leaving The Apple Store, I was very nearly run down by a group of amish(?!?) women on motorized scooters. They were driving on a busy sidewalk way too fast and seemed as if they were barely in control of the things. At least I think they were amish because they had those little hair covers on their heads and were wearing dresses. But I thought the amish didn't use technology... and since you have to have a mobile phone app to rent the things, maybe they weren't amish after all?

Scooter Bullshit

In any event, these stupid fucking scooters are littering the sidewalks everywhere downtown, so apparently the latest episode of South Park isn't just hype...

At the very least, they should be illegal to drive on the sidewalk. Given how fast they travel, somebody could get seriously hurt. And if somebody ever runs into me with one of them, I'm going to pick up the scooter and beat them to death with it.

And then...

After walking eight blocks in surprisingly cold weather, I picked up my car and headed to my hotel. They asked if I had a room preference, so I told them top floor and as far away from the elevator as possible so it would be less noisy and I could get some sleep. They put me on the top floor... but right across from the elevator. And next to a room with a woman coughing her head off. Which makes me even more thrilled that I wasn't able to stay home tonight.

And then...

If there's a bright side to having to drive three hours to Spokane, it's that some of my favorite pizza on earth is here... David's Pizza. Their DaVinci pizza (with tomato, pesto, and feta) is seriously delicious...

David's DaVinci Pizza

Unfortunately I had the grave misfortune to arrive on "Let Your Screaming Kids Run Apeshit Through The Restaurant Night." A whole team of the little fuckers were running around screaming and screaming and screaming and screaming... while the parents were in some kind of group meeting in the next room not giving a fuck that people were trying to eat in peace. By the time I left I had such a splitting headache that any enjoyment I got from my pizza was destroyed.

And then...

I decided to end this entry at 8:00pm tonight because I'm worried that continuing on any longer is just inviting more disappointment. Hopefully work will go smoothly so I can head home as soon as possible in the morning and be done with all this nonsense.

Until the next time, of course.

UPDATE: There it is! MobiLinc (the internet connect platform I use to control a good chunk of my home automation, has gone down...

MobiLinc FAIL!

It's been up and running 24/7 perfectly for months... so of course it goes down when I'm away from home and really need it. No idea what's wrong, as the cameras, alarms, and all the non-MobiLic devices are connected to the internet just fine. Perhaps it's time for me to go to bed and turn off the world.

   

Christmas Without the Mouse

Posted on Tuesday, November 6th, 2018

Dave!Washington State is 100% vote-by-mail, so I already voted last week.

When it comes to local races here, two of the biggest are too close to call. We won't know the outcome until the remaining mail-in votes are tallied on Friday. Frustrating, but it's a small price to pay for a system which allows you to vote in the privacy of your own home without standing in line. And now that we have automated voter registration for all of our eligible citizens, Washington State has one of the highest voter participation rates in the nation...

Lil' Dave Davetoon with a Voted Sticker on His Jacket

Now that Halloween has passed, the country is already preparing for Christmas.

Back when I had work in Orlando two and three times a year, I'd fly in for my conference then fly home the next day. I'd rarely go to Disney World (even though work would pay for it) because it got to be more of a chore than fun. I just can't handle the lines and crowds of people.

In December of 2007 I was working in Orlando when some work friends and I decided to go to Epcot for dinner in "Italy." After that we took the bus to Disney Studios to goof off for a bit. While I was there, my mom called to tell me something. "What's all that noise?" she asked.

"Oh, that's The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights," I replied.

"What's that?"

"It's a show at Disney World where they have a bunch of Christmas lights flashing to music. I'll send you a picture..."

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

"That's pretty! I want to go to Disney World!"

"I've taken you to Disney World lots of times!"

"But not at Christmas! I want to go at Christmas!"

"Okay. Next year I'll bring you along then."

One year later I kept my promise, and here she is...

Mom at The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

It immediately became her favorite thing. She loved it so much that I ended up taking her a couple more times. The last time was in 2012, I think, since that was the last year I had work in Orlando. They closed down The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights in 2015.

This morning I was flipping through my newsfeed while waiting for work to start and saw this terrific video from Disney World showing how they transform The Magic Kingdom Park for the holidays with Christmas decorations...

Pretty cool!

A part of me is glad that I don't have work in Orlando any more. Especially over the holidays. It would be really tough to go there knowing what it meant to my mother. Perhaps it will be easier over time. But right now? I just can't fathom it.

It's that way for a lot of things though.

I miss my mom.

   

Schadenfreude and Concession Speeches

Posted on Wednesday, November 7th, 2018

Dave!I have voted for many Republicans over the years. Here in Redneckistan, you kind of have to for some positions because Seattle-side politicians don't give a crap about us after they get our votes. But President Trump is so abhorrent that not only did I NOT vote for a single Trump-enabling Republican like Dino Rossi... I take great joy in their defeat. Rossi was hardly an honorable politician, but that wasn't the deciding factor for me (are any of them?). It was Trump, only Trump, and it will always be Trump. Any party that would unleash this monster on the country will not be getting a single vote from me. And may never get a vote from me again.

Rossi would have most certainly voted in support of Mitch McConnell wanting to steal from our Social Security and obliterate Medicare, both of which we pay for. He would have definitely voted to increase our debt in favor of more misguided tax breaks for the über-wealthy that will never benefit working-class Americans (no matter what Republicans say). He probably would have voted for Trump's stupid wall which will ultimately do little-to-nothing to halt immigration or drugs, but would certainly destroy animal migration and the environments which animals live. And I'm fairly certain that he would have supported stopping Mueller's investigation of the horrendous accusations against our president (seriously, shouldn't we be 100% sure about this?). I'm not sure about supporting Dear Leader's insane tariff war, which is decimating American farmers and our exports. But it's a foregone conclusion he would sit idly by as Trump continues his shitty attacks on reporters, the environment, science, poor people, immigrants, Persons of Color, the LGBTQ community, non-Christians, logical thinking, and actual human decency. I'd like to think he would have drawn the line at condemning our allies and praising the enemies of The United States of America like Cheeto Jesus does, but you never know. President Trump is very quick to make enemies of Republicans who do not offer whole-hearted support and non-stop praise of every fucked-up thing he does.

Short-term power gains that Republicans get by enabling the heinous crap Trump says and does on a daily basis will ultimately continue pushing people like me further and further Left. There's just nowhere else for politically unaffiliated people like me to go and feel sane. Or be able to live with ourselves.

It's because of this that I hope the Republican party continues to erode from within because they 100% deserve it. And after they're gone we can work on getting rid of the Democratic party too. Perhaps then we can finally find a political system that works for the people instead of corporate lobbyists. Finally get a political system run by citizens instead of billionaire puppet masters. Finally smash this two-party system that is destroying all of us with corruption, divisiveness, and fear. We've let politicians make ourselves our own worst enemy for far too long. At some point we need to put differences aside and start confronting the REAL enemy. But will we?

Fortunately, it's not up to us, because what we have now is unsustainable. Change will ultimately be coming whether people want it to or not. The question is whether we'll be annihilated in the process. The way things are headed now, it certainly feels that way. We are just too lazy, uninformed, and easily manipulated... and content to remain that way.

In the meanwhile... chocolate cake for breakfast though, so I guess it's not all bad.

   

TAKE MY MONEY!

Posted on Thursday, November 8th, 2018

Dave!HOLY CATS!

Marvel is finally confirming that Tom Hiddleston has agreed to do a "Loki" limited series for Disney/Marvel's new streaming service (debuting in 2019). This is on top of the two Star Wars Universe shows that were already confirmed... which includes Cassian, easily one of my favorite "new" characters outside the original series...

Cassian and K-2SO

With this fantastic news, it's time to revisit the possibilities that are wide open with a new streaming service which I will have no choice but to subscribe to...

Confirmed.

  • The Mandalorian with unknown cast. Won't be Boba or Jango Fett, and is apparently a "Western" type space opera (shades of Firefly!). Kinda "meh" on this one, but if they get the right people on it with showrunner Jon Favreau, who knows? — Star Wars Universe
  • Cassian with Diego Luna. A series based on my favorite character from the awesome Rogue One movie. Really hopeful that K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) is there too. — Star Wars Universe
  • Loki with Tom Hiddleston. Really hopeful that we get a guest appearance by Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and definitely Valkyrie. — Marvel Studios Universe

Rumored.

  • Scarlet Witch with Elizabeth Olsen. I really like the idea of this... however... I would LOVE the idea of it if we could have it be with Vision too. — Marvel Studios Universe
  • Falcon and Winter Soldier with Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan. Genius idea, really. Their chemistry in Captain America: Civil War was fantastic fun. — Marvel Studios Universe

My Wish List — Established Marvel Studios Characters.

  • Hawkeye with Jeremy Renner. A television show would be the PERFECT place to give us a live-action version of Matt Fraction & David Aja's amazing comic book series. — Marvel Studios Universe
  • Shuri with Letitia Wright. In the movies, Black Panther's little sister plays second fiddle to the movie's star. In a television series, she could really shine. — Marvel Studios Universe
  • Okoye & Nakia with Danai Gurira and Lupita Nyong'o. Lord, wouldn't this be a freakin' amazing show. They were integral to Black Panther's success, and would absolutely slay on their own. — Marvel Studios Universe
  • Valkyrie. Even if she pops up in Loki, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever that she couldn't carry her own show. None. Marvel Studios Universe
  • Rocket & Groot with Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel. Oh come on... you know you want this. — Marvel Studios Universe
  • Wong with Benedict Wong. I was thrilled that Wong got some serious time in Avengers: Infinity War, and that just proved that he has the chops to give us an interesting enough character for a series. — Marvel Studios Universe
  • Peggy Carter with Hayley Atwell. While her second season on ABC wasn't as good at the first, it was still a fantastic show. Perhaps we could get a third series with streaming? — Marvel Studios Universe
  • War Machine with Don Cheadle. They could so easily position this as a super-hero show with a military tech edge to it. — Marvel Studios Universe
  • The Incredible Hulk with Mark Ruffalo. The movie rights are tied up in some way which means a solo film is not likely in the cards. But how about a television series? — Marvel Studios Universe
  • Obi-Wan with Ewan McGregor. The concept may not have worked out as a movie, but it would sure as heck work as a television series! So many fascinating places this could go. — Star Wars Universe
  • Maz Kanata with Lupita Nyong'o. There's a fascinating back-story to this character that we'll never get fleshed out in the movies... so why not in a television show? — Star Wars Universe

My Wish List — Comic Characters.

  • Fantastic Four. After so many bad FF movies by not-Marvel-Studios, maybe the way to go would be to have a streaming show? — Marvel Studios Universe
  • Alpha Flight. The original books were not a big draw for me, but I enjoyed what John Byrne did with the characters during his run. And then came the 2004 book by Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente that was magic. I would love to see a series based on this team. — Marvel Studios Universe
  • Moon Knight. Kinda a no-brainer, assuming that they went back to the original concept. The character has become so convoluted that the comics are a big ol' mess. — Marvel Studios Universe
  • Captain Britain & Excalibur. This is another opportunity for Marvel to do something different than yet another USA-based movie/series. If they went heavy on the mythology, it could be a cool merging of magic and super-heroics. — Marvel Studios Universe

And that's just off of the top of my head. Give me another hour and I could at least double this list... if not triple it. Marvel just has too many amazing characters and too many talented people working at Marvel Studios to not be excited... very excited... about what's coming down the pipe next year.

   

Adobe Doesn’t Give a Shit

Posted on Friday, November 9th, 2018

Dave!I wish that I could get through just one day without being filled with rage.

Today I thought I had a good shot at it by promising myself that I would ignore the news and whatever bullshit that President Trump was doing, but that was futile because his level of incoherent crazy was so off the charts that it was everywhere.

As if that wasn't bad enough, work was awful... because I couldn't actually get any work done.

My office iMac, which is around two years old, has been slowing to a crawl for months. Over the last couple of weeks it's happening so often that I had no choice but to try and fix it. I started with doubling the memory from 32GB to 64GB. That helped a little, but the problem seemed to be with the "Fusion Drive" (a hybrid SSD/HD drive). I kept getting a message popping up that it was overheating. I finally decided to replace it, despite the fucking nightmare involved in tearing open an iMac to do so.

And today was the day.

I decided to set up the drive before tearing anything open to install it. This was relatively easy, as I had an external SATA dock that I could pop it into. I downloaded the macOS X Mojave installer, installed it onto the new SSD drive, and 25 minutes later I was booting from it. Nice.

I decided to start fresh by not transferring over my apps and data... just my system settings.

Turns out that was a mistake.

My primary tools at work are Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign, Adobe Lightroom, and Adobe Acrobat. They are all part of Adobe's "Creative Suite" which is managed by their Creative Suite desktop app. You install it, then manage all your app installs from there. Simple, right?

No. Not by a fucking longshot, because this is Adobe we're talking about.

All my apps installed fine, except Acrobat. This happened last time I had to install the thing and was solved after I ran a cleanup app. This time the app didn't work, so I spent FORTY MINUTES trying dozens of "fixes" from the Adobe forums... none of which worked. Keep in mind that this has been a known problem that people have been complaining about for over a year.

AND ADOBE HASN'T DONE A FUCKING THING TO FIX IT! How in the hell can I be expected to not become enraged after wasting this kind of time? AGAIN! And I still don't have a working copy of Acrobat on my work computer, a program I use daily.

Not that Adobe gives a shit... they don't. They bought out and buried the competition until there wasn't any competition, and now they don't have to give a fuck about anything.

I would have stayed until I got things figured out, but it was getting close to 6:00 and the alarm to feed my cats would be going off. They're already freaked out by Daylight Saving Time ending, and I was afraid that not being fed when the alarm sounds would send them over the bend. So I packed up my crap and headed home.

Except I couldn't get home because a train was running through town. It was moving so absurdly slow that it took over ten minutes to pass. And then? The crossing arms would not retract. After waiting another five minutes, I finally abandoned the crossing I was at and drove to a different crossing... screaming "FUCK! FUCK! FUCK!" the entire way home.

When I got home (nearly fifteen minutes after the dinner alarm) my cats were, as expected, going nuts.

So I guess everybody in this house is having a bad day.

The difference being that my cats were happy again after being fed. I'm still filled with rage.

   

Caturday 84

Posted on Saturday, November 10th, 2018

Dave!Today I headed over the mountains, leaving my cats alone overnight.

As if my cats didn't already hate me.

My week was spent getting death-stares from my cats (well, Jenny, anyway) because my efforts to ease them into Daylight Saving Time ending failed horribly. All they know is that I am starving them to death...

CATS WANT TO BE FED!

This next photo is from THE NEXT DAY. But you are forgiven for thinking that it was taken two minutes after the one above, because Jenny has the same sour look on her face...

CATS WANT TO BE FED!

Every day is the same. Jenny will saunter on the warming bed that sits on the coffee table. A little while later Jake will hop on the media center.

And then they will just glare at me.

And tonight, on the night I'm writing this because I was gone yesterday? On Sunday, November 11th, 2018? One week after Daylight Saving Time ended?

Same...

CATS WANT TO BE FED!

Though I should get some love, since I ended up having to free-feed them while I was gone again. They are thrilled at being the ones to decide when they get to eat (which is all the time).

I can only hope that next week they've forgotten all about Daylight Saving Time.

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Bullet Sunday 487

Posted on Sunday, November 11th, 2018

Dave!It may be cold outside, but a ray of warmth is headed your way today... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts now...

   
• Happy Veteran's Day! To all those who served, thank you! Or should I say... "Never Forget"...

A part of me is thrilled that Lt. Commander Crenshaw appears to be the kind of Republican we so desperately need... but, alas, that may not be the case. Regardless, I am most grateful for his service, and respect the sacrifice he made for our country. That kind of dedication and loss most definitely does not deserve to be mocked in any capacity, and I'm thankful that Pete Davidson and Saturday Night Live at least tried to do the right thing after doing a very wrong thing.

   
• Warm Places. A reminder. If you park your car outside, stray cats looking for a warm place might be taking shelter under your hood. Banging on your hood before you start your car gives them an opportunity to escape before they get seriously hurt...

Cats in a Car Engine
I can't find anybody to credit this photo. I think it came from Russia?

I do what I can to provide warmth and shelter for the cat that wanders around my neighborhood... but still worry about him every night as it gets colder and colder. I don't even know how to wrap my head around all the poor animals trying to survive without help every year.

   
• Welcome to Congress. Barry Blitt's cover for the upcoming issue of The New Yorker is wonderful...

Barry Blitt's Welcome to Congress by The New Yorker

A government that represents all the people? We can only hope. One day.

   
• Piglet. I saw this commercial while catching up with television...

Pigs are the sweetest animals.

   
• Triumph. I watched Beto O’Rourke's run for The Senate in Texas very closely. Partly because I positively loathe his opponent Ted Cruz and everything the asshole stands for. But mostly because O'Rourke has said some things that really resonate with me. Like this...

It was highly unlikely that Beto was going to win. Texas is insanely Red, and them giving a Senate seat to a Democrat was a long-shot at best. And yet... he O'Rourke did surprisingly well. Much better than I would have guessed at 48% of the vote to Cruz's 51%. Alas, a loss is a loss, and now the USA has to live with six more years of one of the biggest pieces of shit in American politics.

Even so, there was high entertainment to be found in this race thanks to Triumph the Insult Comic Dog...

I can't fathom how Ted Cruz got to where he is... even in Texas. He's just awful. Surely Texas could have found a better Republican than this? Apparently he's an amazing lawyer, but shouldn't that be a strike against him with Republicans? A fancy-pants Princeton/Harvard Lawyer? I have no clue.

   
• LOL. White people be like...

I laughed at this a lot harder at this than I probably should have.

   
And that's the last of my bullets for this fine Sunday.

   

Open The Pod Bay Doors, HAL

Posted on Monday, November 12th, 2018

Dave!Stan Lee, co-creator of a huge chunk of the Marvel Comics Universe... and Douglas Rain, the iconic voice of HAL 9000 (the onboard computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey), have died.

This was already a tough day for me.

But now?

When it comes to being absolutely terrified by a movie, there is no film that compares to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Not for me, anyway. And it all comes down to that one riveting exchange where HAL refuses to let Dave back on the ship. Until I saw this scene while watching the movie on VHS videotape back in the early 80's, I had always thought of computers and robots as fantastical, wonderful inventions here to make our lives better. Then here comes HAL 9000, whose psychopathic method of self-preservation dictates that he straight-up murder the crew.

This could have been a comical situation. Especially given the dialogue HAL is speaking. But the way Douglas Rain delivered HAL's lines in such a cold, detached manor was horrifying...

"Without your space helmet, Dave, you're going to find that rather difficult." — I mean, holy shit!

In the sequel, 2010: The Year We Make Contact, we find out that it wasn't HAL's fault that he went crazy. Humans were ultimately responsible... but that movie came out three years later, so it wasn't much consolation to me watching in 1981!

For years I had HAL as the ringtone on my iPhone. One of the many benefits to being named "Dave." I doubt that would have ever happened if not for the vocal talents of Douglas Rain.

   
And then there's Stan Lee...

J. Scott Campbell draws Stan Lee
Amazing Art by J. Scott Campbell

When I first started reading comics, I was mostly a DC Comics guy. That's where Batman was, and he was hands-down my favorite comic book character. But eventually (as my allowance increased) I was expanding into Marvel Comics more and more. My "gateway drug," as it were, was Doctor Strange. His surreal adventures were unlike anything happening at DC, and it was a quick hop from there to my reading other Marvel titles like The Avengers, The X-Men, The Fantastic Four, and whatever other team books I could afford (team books, you see, had more heroes in them, so it felt like more bang for my buck than solo titles).

Stan Lee co-created all of them.

And many, many more.

But his prolific comic writing output was almost incidental compared to his being the "face" of Marvel Comics. His rampant enthusiasm for their books in letter columns and his Stan's Soapbox column were the stuff of legend. He made you want to read comics.

As if that wasn't enough? He was also a wonderful man. Here's one of his most famous Stan's Soapbox columns...

Stan's Soapbox

Even if you're not a comic book fan, odds are you've seen Stan in one of his many Marvel Studios Movie cameos...

Or on one of his many, many television appearances...


The guy was legendary, and will be missed by a great many people. Thank you, Stan Lee.

Excelsior, True Believer!

'Nuff said.

   

Rating Hallmark Christmas

Posted on Tuesday, November 13th, 2018

Dave!I've been doing a pretty good job of keeping up with all the new Hallmark Christmas movies, but since they're all the same I've been losing track of which ones I've seen. So I created a page to rate them all and know when to set my DVR... Dave’s Hallmark Christmas Movie Page.

And that's what I did instead of blogitty blog blogging in Blogography today.

I can't decide if that's a better or worse use of my time.

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Patriot and The World Gone Away

Posted on Wednesday, November 14th, 2018

Dave!Last night as I went to bed with the California wildfires fresh in my mind and the smell of burning orchard brush filling the valley, my own experience with a wildfire threatening my home* came rushing back to me. Rather than try and battle that demon again, I took sleeping pills and waited for the world to go away.

When I woke up, I went through the news and saw that even more homes had been lost in California. There were a surprising number of stars in the list. Miley Cyrus & Liam Hemsworth, Gerard Butler, Robin Thicke, Shannen Doherty, and Scott Derrickson all lost their homes. Loads more famous people had to evacuate (it's as if Mother Nature doesn't give a fuck if you have your own reality show or whatever!). I feel horrible for everybody involved... and even more horrible for the poor animals who have been displaced. There's enough suffering in the world.

Yesterday when I showed up at the tire shop for my 2:30 appointment to get my winter tires put on, I was told that 50 people were ahead of me. Apparently they had a computer bug that allowed people to keep making appointments even though no slots were available. I pushed for a new appointment this morning, which meant I ended up heading back into The Big City.

That's when I got the news that my snow tires are nine years old, which means this is the last season they can be used. Apparently you're not allowed to have 10-year-old tires on your car, regardless of how much tread is left on them. This is a colossal bummer, because my tires look practically new. Then again, it's recommended that you get your tires replaced after six years, so I guess I should be grateful I got to use them for as long as I did. They were purchased for my mom, so I bought the best I could afford at the time. Maybe that's what gave them a decade of life? Probably. If there's one thing I'm certain of, it's that you get what you pay for.

And so... something new and expensive for me to buy next year! Yay.

Then my fun really began.

Today was the day I finally decided to rip apart my work iMac so I could replace the internal "Apple Fusion" drive with a shiny new 100% SSD drive. I was terrified to make the attempt because Apple no longer uses strong magnets to keep the computer together... they use glue tape! You have to use a special tool to literally cut through the adhesive, remove the glass display, then glue everything back together once you replace the drive.

Turns out it wasn't a big deal at all. The kit I purchased from Other World Computing made it fairly easy, and they have videos you can watch to explain everything.

Pretty sweet!

Except... apparently when you install macOS X on an external boot drive, you cannot then just pop it inside and have it work as an internal boot drive. Which meant I had to reformat, re-install, and re-load everything. Again. There's six hours of my life I ain't getting back.

And six hours work I have to make up for tonight.

Looks like I'll be able to burn through another couple Hallmark Christmas Movies on my DVR. Or not. There's a show on Amazon Prime Streaming called Patriot that I'm interested in giving a watch. It's actually just started its second season. Apparently I missed it when it debuted last year...

Amazon Prime Presents Patriot

The show looks very funny. And very disturbing. I guess that would make it "disturbingly funny" then?

I hope so. Given the state of the world just now, "disturbingly funny" is right up my alley.
   


*Back in September 1992, the hillside behind my apartment building caught fire. It spread so fast that the evacuations followed in short order. I didn't evacuate. I stayed behind with a downstairs neighbor to put out the fires that were starting as embers blew onto the building and the yard surrounding it. After a while, my neighbor left. I was alone, on the roof, using a garden hose to home down the flames that kept popping up.

Eventually the fire department came and I was forced to evacuate. I grabbed a photo album, my laptop, and an armload of clothes as I left, not knowing if I would have a home to come back to. Thanks to the firefighters (who later told me that they felt obligated to save my home after I had spent the entire day battling for it), I did end up having a home to come back to.

My lungs never recovered. I still have respiratory problems after all these years. And sometimes I wake up swearing I smell smoke when there is no smoke. I know it's in my head, but it feels real.

   

Congratulations! You’re Pregnant!

Posted on Thursday, November 15th, 2018

Dave!My cats do adorably insane things every day. Most of the time all I can do is say "Why?!?"... then laugh about it.

This morning Jenny woke me up at 4:30am. She jumped on the bed. Meowed in my face. Then ran out of the room. "Why?!?" I'm assuming that she's still pissed about Daylight Saving Time ending, but that was a week-and-a-half ago, so who knows? Maybe she was just upset because President Trump said some stupid shit on Twitter (again) and wants everybody to be upset about it because she's upset about it. Heaven only knows that's how I feel daily.

Fortunately, I have the internet to keep me distracted from stupid shit with even stupider shit. Like a young cat named Ulla from Dyrenes Venner i Grønland (Friends of the Animals in Greenland) who underwent an ultrasound to verify she was pregnant...

Kitty Ultrasound by Dyrenes Venner
Photo from Dyrenes Venner i Grønland

Kitty Ultrasound by Dyrenes Venner
Photo from Dyrenes Venner i Grønland

Kitty Ultrasound by Dyrenes Venner
Photo from Dyrenes Venner i Grønland

Kitty Ultrasound by Dyrenes Venner
Photo from Dyrenes Venner i Grønland

Kitty Ultrasound by Dyrenes Venner
Photo from Dyrenes Venner i Grønland

   
As you can tell by Ulla's reaction, she was indeed pregnant... with four to five kittens!

My guess is her shock is because her boyfriend told her that he had been fixed. All men are liars!

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The Google Maps Mystery

Posted on Friday, November 16th, 2018

Dave!As I've mentioned here a few times, I love maps. Because of this, Google Maps is a never-ending source of wonder to me. I could wander around the world for weeks and never get bored. There's just so much amazing stuff to see.

So when I dropped by Google Maps tonight so I could grab directions for some guests I have coming, it should come as no surprise that I got distracted and started poking around my home town in satellite view. It was then I saw something quite odd. An irrigation ditch just outside of town (which I was aware of) seemed to disappear into a big hill (something I was not aware of)...

Missing Ditch Map
Image courtesy of Google Maps

If you look in the lower-right there, you'll see that a ditch winds itself around then... poof.

WTF?!?

Where did it go? It looks like it goes in a tunnel. But where does it come out? After a little while scrolling around, I found it...

Missing Ditch Map
Image courtesy of Google Maps

This raises all kinds of questions. Because this is a good-sized hill that it travels through...

Missing Ditch Map
Image courtesy of Google Maps

When I traced the path of the tunnel in map view (not a straight line, as I had thought) and measured its distance... the tunnel ended up being a mile long!

Missing Ditch Map
Image courtesy of Google Maps

   
Things like this are fascinating to me.

Is it, in fact, a tunnel? If it is, then when was it built? Who built it? How did they build it? How is it maintained? If leaves and garbage and stuff blocks it, how do they unblock it? And how in the heck can something like this exist without me knowing about it? What other wacky stuff is waiting to be discovered around my home town?

There's only one way to find out...

UPDATE: I found an abbreviated history of the Greater Wenatchee Irrigation District on their website. No mention of the tunnels though. And so... I will continue to investigate.

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Caturday 85

Posted on Saturday, November 17th, 2018

Dave!I've been steeped in cat drama again this week. Jake and Jenny are still pissed off that the clocks had to change when Daylight Saving Time ended.

But instead of sitting in front of the television hating on me, they are climbing up the cat tree to hate on me from above...

Jake and Jenny Don't Want to Wait for Dinner

Jake and Jenny Don't Want to Wait for Dinner

In other news, I finally decided to put one of my security cameras in the guest room (temporarily) so I could find out how Jake is getting up on top of the hutches...

I thought he found a way to grab onto something and pull himself up. It never occurred to me that he could jump this high!

The camera has also allowed me to see what else my cats are up to in there.

Now that the weather is cooler and it's colder in the house, Jenny has taken to sleeping in the little kitty bed I put in the guest room. It was a great plan, until... Jake decided that he wanted to sleep there. He'll watch her go in and get comfortable, then go in and squish her until she leaves...

Jake Steals a Bed

Though sometimes he is more careful about climbing in with her, and they end up squished together...

Jake and Jenny in a Bed

No idea how they are comfortable in there like that.

After seeing what was happening, I added a second bed...

Jake and Jenny in a Bed

Though sometimes they still end up in the same one...

Jake and Jenny in a Bed

Jenny had a bad dream a couple days ago. It's the first time this has happened in several months (unlike when she was a kitten and had frequent nightmares). She's been a bit clingy after, which is usually just fine. Except when I am trying to do something and she gets in the way...

Jake Steals a Bed

When the box she was in fell off the couch, Jenny retreated to the cat tree where she could keep a wary eye on it...

Jake and Jenny Don't Want to Wait for Dinner

And now... time to clean the litter boxes. Yay.

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Bullet Sunday 488

Posted on Sunday, November 18th, 2018

Dave!You're in for a culture treat... because a Very Special All Caravaggio Edition of Bullet Sunday starts now...

   
• Caravaggio! As any long-time reader already knows, I am a massively huge fan of art. All kinds of art. I can be at my happiest when getting lost in a good art museum. Or even a bad art museum. And when I first started studying art, I quickly became a fan of Caravaggio. His stunning use of deep shadow and mastery of composition is the beginning of Baroque art, which was revolutionary at the time. On top of all that, he's a fascinating historical figure whose violence came to a head when he killed a guy in Rome and had to flee to Naples. I highly recommend taking a look at his profile on Wikipedia...

Chalk portrait of Caravaggio by Ottavio Leoni
Chalk portrait of Caravaggio by Ottavio Leoni, circa 1621

When I began traveling in Europe, I made it my mission to see as many publicly-displayed Caravaggio works as I could. This has brought me many adventures over the years... and resulted in me visiting some amazing museums. For this (and the pleasure of viewing his work, of course) I owe a huge debt to this fascinating artist.

   
• Alive! The inspiration for this post came about when I saw "Caravaggio living paintings by Ludovica Rambelli Theater". They selected some paintings and attempted to recreate them like so...

Now that's cool. So cool that I'm running through the paintings depicted...

   
• Judith Beheading Holofernes.

Judith Beheading Holofernes

✔ National Gallery of Ancient Art -Palazzo Barberini, Rome, Italy. Odds are I would have eventually visited the museum at Palazzo Barberini just because it housed so many incredible works of art. But when I finally visited there, it was specifically to see one of the most shocking Caravaggio works in existence, Judith Beheading Holofernes. Like most of his works, this is a big painting... nearly 6-1/2 feet wide... and its impact on you is immediate when you enter the room.

   
• The Flagellation of Christ.

The Flagellation of Christ

✘ Museo di Capodimonte, Naples, Italy. When I visited Naples, it was a cruise ship stop and I had very little time. My choice was to charter a limo and see the Amalfi Coast (somewhere I was dying to see) or take a taxi to The Capodimonte. Ultimately I picked Amalfi and don't regret it (amazing, amazing sights), but a part of me really wishes I would have seen The Flagellation of Christ, which is a powerful work.

   
• The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew.

The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew

✔ San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome, Italy. The ceiling of this church is so magnificent that I almost forgot why I had walked here! This is a massive work... 11 feet tall(!).

   
• The Annunciation.

The Annunciation

✘ Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nancy, Nancy, France. Never been to Nancy. Would very much like to visit, not just for The Annunciation.

   
• Rest on the Flight into Egypt.

Rest on the Flight into Egypt

✔ Doria Pamphilj Gallery, Rome, Italy. I finally made it to The Doria after putting off for my first three trips to Rome. The painting is nice, but the museum is exceptional.

   
• The Entombment of Christ.

The Entombment of Christ

✔ Pinacoteca Vaticana, Vatican City, Italy. I believe that The Entombment of Christ was the first Caravaggio I ever visited, and seeing it in it's 10-foot-tall glory was quite a bit different than seeing it in a book. Which just made me want to see more of his works.

   
• The Raising of Lazarus.

The Raising of Lazarus

✘ Museo Regionale, Messina, Sicily, Italy. I've wanted to visit Sicily like... forever, and being able to see The Raising of Lazarus in person is as good an excuse as any.

   
• Saint Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy.

Saint Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy

✘ Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut, USA. Never been to Hartford. Never had a desire to visit Hartford. No idea how Saint Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy ended up in Hartford. Except... this painting is absolutely beautiful and I would love to see it.

   
• Bacchus.

Bacchus

✘ The Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy. When it comes to my favorite Carvaggio paintings, Bacchus is not really on the list, but I was already at The Uffizi to see his The Head of Medusa (and Michelangelo's David, of course).

   
Four out of nine visited. Not bad! And then...

   
• The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist. Of all the Carvaggio masterpieces I've seen, my favorite is this one...

Beheading of Saint John the Baptist

St. John's Co-Cathedral, Valletta, Malta. Probably one of the most interesting compositions in art history, The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist is a stunning work that is widely considered to be Carvaggio's crowning achievement. And it's huge. 16-1/2 feet across.

   
• John the Baptist. Of all the Caravaggio paintings I've not yet seen, the one I most want to see is Saint Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy, which is relatively easy to get to in Connecticut. The second painting I most want to see is John the Baptist...

Bacchus

Museo Tesoro Catedralicio, Toledo, Spain. Not that I really need an excuse to visit Spain... I absolutely love the country and would very much like to go back again... but this Carvaggio is an amazing work that I hope to see before I die.

   
And that's enough art for the day.

OR IS IT?!? Probably not.

   

Fly Away Felines

Posted on Monday, November 19th, 2018

Dave!When I first got Jake and Jenny I was unable to travel because I couldn't afford to pay a service to watch my mom. When I absolutely had to travel, I would bite the bullet and hire somebody. My cats would be terrified of them, but Jake and Jenny would sneak down to the feeders after the caregiver had filled them and walked away.

Once my mom had been moved to a facility, I wouldn't think anything about travel. I had cameras everywhere to look in on the cats. I have a kick-ass home security system to keep them safe. The automatic feeders and Litter-Robot would take care their needs. And they have each other to keep themselves company. If I was gone for more than two days, I'd hire a petsitter to visit every-other-day to make sure everything was tended to. Easy.

When I went to Antarctica and had no internet to check in on the kittehs, I was a little worried about leaving them... but not overly so. Why would I be? They're fine on their own.

But then Jake had his urinary blockage which, if left unattended, would have killed him in days. And now I am absolutely terrified to leave for more than two nights. Jake has been doing better and better over the last couple weeks, so my worries about leaving him have been lessening, but I still can't shake the idea that he's going to have another problem while I'm away.

And then there was tonight.

Several weeks ago, Jake ate two or three small shreds of cheese that fell on the floor when I was grating. A couple minutes later, he puked and puked and puked. Tonight while waiting for dinner, I had myself a snack of some cubed Velveeta. When I was done, there was no cheese left on the plate. So I didn't think anything of it when Jake jumped on the couch and started licking the plate. Sure enough... minutes later he started heaving. No puke, because there was no cheese for him to eat, but the smudges of residue were enough to trigger his stomach. So apparently any amount of dairy protein is enough to make the little guy sick. Which is strange. Because before his procedure to unblock his urinary tract, he would occasionally eat ACTUAL pieces of cheese off my plate with absolutely no problem. No idea what that's about, but I now know to keep anything dairy... no matter how small... away from him.

Hopefully no other allergies pop up.

Especially when I'm away.

I'll be sure to turn off Carl the Robovac just in case.

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Energy!

Posted on Tuesday, November 20th, 2018

Dave!I am a total miser when it comes to electricity usage... in that I try to use as little of it as possible. When I moved into my home I replaced every single light with LED bulbs. I replaced all appliances with the highest Energy Star rated devices I could find. I replaced the insulation on my doors. I joined a maintenance plan for my HVAC (Heating/Cooling) to make sure it's running at peak efficiency. I bought a whole-home humidifier to put moisture in the air during our dry winters to help hold more heat in the room. I purchased a smart thermostat to automatically turn the heat down when I'm not at home. Basically, anything I could think of to reduce my electricity bill... I did it.

Most people are surprised to learn that I went to such effort and expense given that electricity is so cheap where I live. But money saved is money saved no matter how much money it entails, and being energy-responsible is a good thing regardless.

Thanks to my energy sensor, I know exactly where my money is going month-to-month. In the Summer my electricity bill is around $17-$20 because the device with the highest energy consumption (air conditioning) is rarely used. My home is fairly well insulated against heat and stays cool with just the ceiling fans running.

In the winter, however, it's a different matter entirely.

The highest energy consumption in my home by far is the heating. Last year it raised my bill to $32 in early winter and $44 during the coldest months. But in order to get those amounts, I had to set my thermostat to 67 degrees. Which isn't bad with a sweater and good socks on. I mean, yeah, it's not entirely comfortable, but you get used to it.

But when I have houseguests staying for one or two nights at a time, they aren't given much time to "get used to it," so I've had to change my strategy. Sunday through Thursday, the thermostat sets the temperature to 70 degrees. Friday and Saturday (the days when guests are usually here) it sets to 72 degrees. Now admittedly, that's not a huge difference. A shift of 3 degrees and 5 degrees is hardly anything, right?

And yet...

My bill increased from $32 this time last year to $40.

$8 doesn't seem like a lot (though if these vet bills keep piling up, it'll seem like a lot to me!) but you have to keep in mind that a small temperature change resulted in a bill 125% higher than it used to be. If your winter electricity bill is $350 (typical for the coast)... it skyrockets to $438! Insanity!

If this pattern holds, my bills in January and February will go from $44 to $55. Again, not a huge leap when you have relatively cheap electricity... but it's tough to see that extra $11 on your electricity bill when you've spent hundreds to keep it low.

I'd buy sweaters and good socks for all my guests, but something tells me that would cost more than $11.

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iPhone Xs and Defects

Posted on Wednesday, November 21st, 2018

Dave!When the iPhone X was released last year, I wanted one. Badly. For one reason and one reason only... the camera. The dual-lens dream had abilities far better than the camera on my old iPhone 6 from 2014. And since I use my phone far more for photography than actual phone calls, it's nice to have a great camera on it. Problem was I couldn't afford it. I had a trip to Antarctica coming up that took every spare dollar in my possession (and then some). Except... along with the X, Apple also released something which put their latest and greatest within my reach: The iPhone Upgrade Program.

This interesting financing option is essentially a loan from Citizens One which amortizes the cost of the phone, plus AppleCare, plus interest over a 24 month period. That, in itself, is not all that "interesting," but I'll tell you what is interesting... after 12 payments you can trade your iPhone in for the latest model. You also have the option of paying off all 24 payments and owning the phone, but what fun is that? *

I didn't want to get the new phone before my trip to the bottom of the world (I probably would have dropped it into the ocean or smashed it on an iceberg or something) so I waited until I got back and ordered my iPhone X on December 20th. It's a great phone. I love the camera. And all was good in the world.

And then...

This past Monday night I received an email from Apple with the good news... my twelfth payment had processed and I was now eligible for an upgrade to the iPhone Xs! Guess my Monday wasn't as crappy as I had thought!

iPhone Xs

My first instinct was to wait three weeks and get a little life from the $56.16 payment I had just made. If I ordered the Xs right away, I'd have to pay that payment again (first month is in advance), which seems financially reckless. But then I remembered that I had a credit of $42 from a return I made, so I decided "What the heck?" And ordered anyway.

It arrived today.

I'm returning it on Monday (UPDATE: No I'm not... see below).

But before we get to that...

The new camera is even better than the X with a wider lens, 30% larger sensor, higher dynamic range, and machine learning image processing which does all kinds of magic so casual users get much better shots...

1 trillion operations per photo!

For professional photographers (and professional wannabes like myself) you'll need to get a camera app that shoots RAW and can put the power of the new camera within reach. Like the $6 Halide app (the developers of which wrote a great article on what the new Xs camera is capable of). I haven't done much shooting yet, but I'm pretty impressed with what I'm getting so far.

In the day I've had to play with the iPhone Xs, there's a lot to love about it beyond the new camera...

  • So Much Faster. The new "A12 Bionic" chip is frighteningly smart and fast. Everything seems snappier and scrolling, in particular, is noticeably smoother. Lag is minimal in places that I definitely noticed before. If you never hear from me again, it's probably because my new phone has murdered me and is joining with other iPhones to enslave all mankind.
  • Tougher Construction. My iPhone X is pristine after a year because I keep it in a case and have a glass cover on the screen to protect it. And yet I worry, because dropping your phone can have bad consequences if it breaks. Especially if you're far from home. Early tests are showing that the Xs is really tough, and that's a good thing.
  • Dual SIM cards. Right now I have to carry two phones with me on days that I have to be accessible for my charity work. But hopefully not for much longer. The Xs has a "regular" SIM card slot... plus an eSim which will (eventually) allow you to have two separate cellular plans in a single handset. But there's more! Once eSIM becomes widely available, I look forward to using cheap data plans when traveling internationally instead of being price-gouged by AT&T's international roaming rates. Both of these things are a big deal to me.
  • Faster Face ID This is one of those features that I didn't think much of... until I started using it. This unlock feature (which uses your face as the key) was so fast that I barely noticed it on my X... now it's practically instantaneous.
  • Superior Display. The display on the X was very nice. This one is stunning. The color fidelity is unreal... or more real... depending on how you choose to look at it. I definitely notice a difference side-by-side with the X.
  • Better Battery Life. I have yet to run out the battery on my X... but there have been times I've come close. Having a little extra battery is a handy thing to have.
  • Gigabit LTE. Needless to say, rural America isn't getting the faster new data standard any time soon, but it will be nice to have faster internet when visiting a Big City that has it. Still not sure why Apple is calling it "Gigabit-Class LTE" instead of just "Gigabit LTE" but any time internet is faster is good. At least until 5G gets here, which will be insanely fast.

And now for the bad news...

As you can tell, I'm fairly pleased with the iPhone XS. It really is better in every way from the X that I got just one year ago. Except... even though it's essentially the exact same form as my old iPhone, the camera bump on the back is slightly larger at the bottom, so my old iPhone X case is a bit "off" on the new model. The pig-fuckers at Apple are expecting me to shell out $40 for a new silicone case, which is the cheapest case they make! I've never trusted third-party cases, so that was really my only option here.

Or so Apple wants you to believe!

Instead I took an X-ACTO blade and carved a bigger hole. Works just fine and saved me $40.

I positively loathe stupid, money-grabbing bullshit like this. Since the Xs was likely waaaayyyy down the road in development when Apple released the X, they probably knew they should have made the phone hole on the cases larger, but didn't. Because... well... $40 per case times millions of users equals serious money, yo.

And now for the WORST news...

The speakers on my X were fantastic. The Xs is supposed to have even better speakers. NOT THAT I WOULD KNOW THIS, BECAUSE MY UPPER SPEAKER IS DEFECTIVE AND I'M GOING TO HAVE TO RETURN MY BRAND NEW PHONE AND GET A NEW ONE. There's an annoying crackling plus audible distortion which plagues all sound coming from it. Whether it's a phone call or playing music, it's there. And it doesn't matter what volume it's at. Louder, softer, whatever.

UPDATE: Today when I answered a call, it was garbled as usual. I set my phone down to look for a paper, picked it back up, and suddenly it was sounding better? So I looked closely at the phone speaker and saw a tiny piece of film was pushed down into it, but had come out half-way. I pulled it out all the way and, just like that, PERFECT SOUND! No idea if the film came off the protective plastic you pull off or what, but I am so so so so happy that I don't have to exchange my new iPhone!

Anyway...

I was supposed to get a kit to return my old phone. It wasn't with my initial shipment, but Apple sent me an email telling me it will arrive soon. I hope so, because if I don't get the phone returned within 14 days, I'm billed for it.

In conclusion...

If it weren't for my being on the iPhone Upgrade Program, I would not have upgraded to the Xs from the X. Yes, it's a better phone... but not that much better. Because I am on the program I decided to go for it even though I have to return my old phone and lose the money I've put towards it. Since I donate my old phones, this isn't an issue for me, but if you sell your old phones you might was to go the full 24 months and pay it off so you own it.

With my iPhoneX I bought the 256GB model. I barely used any of that memory. So this time I just went with the cheaper 64GB model. Even with everything I had installed, I still have 18GB free. Such is the beauty of having a phone that can upload my hi-res original images to iCloud so the thousands of photos I've taken aren't filling up my phone. Even so? I wish Apple had a 128GB model so I could split the difference in cost and have a bit more memory to play with. Might save me from swapping apps in and out of memory.

Unlike last time, this time Apple offered me two options for my AppleCare. The original AppleCare+... and a new "AppleCare+ with Theft and Loss Protection" for about $5 extra per month. I leapt at it. Sure this essentially eradicates the money I saved by getting a phone with less memory, but the peace of mind over not being on the hook for 100% of my $1000 phone if something happens? Worth it. Here's the deets: "Your coverage includes up to two incidents of accidental damage, theft, or loss. Each incident is subject to a deductible of $29 for screen damage, $99 for all other accidental damage, or $269 for a theft or loss claim." I'm not sure how this works. If I have my screen repaired twice at $29, then my iPhone gets stolen, am I completely screwed? Hopefully it's two incidents each, but who knows? Something I need to check into, I guess.

Ultimately I'd be happy with my iPhone Xs if Apple's quality control had ensured I got one with a working speaker. Here's hoping my next one doesn't have to be returned as well.


*I used to always keep my old phone in case I lose or break the new one, then donate my old-old-phone from before that to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Sure I won't be able to donate any more if I choose to upgrade, but Apple gives millions upon millions to charities with their money, so at least I know some of the money Apple makes off the program is going to good causes.

   

Cat Thanksgiving

Posted on Thursday, November 22nd, 2018

Dave!For the first Thanksgiving in my entire life, I have nowhere I have to be. No heading to grandma's house for a family dinner. Grandma is gone. No driving over the mountains to buy a turkey plate for my mom at Denny's. Mom is gone. And while I'm grateful that I have places I could be, I think not being anywhere is what's best for me right now.

Last night I took a handful of sleeping pills so I wouldn't have to think about Thanksgiving. My cats decided to have a party.

  • Jake tried to get into the new auto-feeder and knocked it away from the bowls... so food was EVERYWHERE this morning.**
  • Jenny stepped on the "All Lights On" button on the home remote which lit up the entire ground floor at 2:30am.
  • Jake brought all his toys upstairs.
  • Jenny chased Jake on top of the writing desk and knocked over my Tiffany vase* (which wasn't broken).

So I woke up and got to clean up cat food, turn off lights, pick up toys, and gather toys for my Thanksgiving. Perfect!

Then I got to answer emails while being visited by my cats...

Jake Thanksgiving

Jenny Thanksgiving

Cat Thanksgiving

It was a great way to start my day.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!


*Back when Northwest Airlines was being merged with Delta, they sent out really nice Tiffany vases to their top-tier flyers as a "welcome gift" to Delta's SkyMiles frequent flyer program. Every once in a while I see them pop up on eBay (or other auction sites) for ridiculously low prices (usually around $40-$50).

**Guess I'm coming up with a way of securing the feeder so it can't move. Oh what fun...

Cat Feeder and Jake

Cat Feeder and Jake

Cat Feeder and Jake

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Gray Friday

Posted on Friday, November 23rd, 2018

Dave!Black Friday is the one day of the year I set aside to shop for clothes. Not in stores, of course... never in stores... but online. I put aside money every month so that when today arrives I can buy my clothes for the following year at 40% to 80% off. This year all my savings went to pay for vet bills, so I didn't end up buying a stitch of clothing. But it wasn't a big deal. I have a pile of summer clothes I bought for my Hawaii vacation (but didn't get to use because Jake got sick) and I still have loads of winter clothes left from the stuff I bought for Antarctica last year.

Guess I'll be wearing a lot of Hawaiian prints next year at Summertime. I rather like Hawaiian though, so I'll survive.

And so... no new clothes. But that doesn't mean I didn't purchase anything for Black Friday. On the contrary, I just blew my tax refund before I even have it! Something I try very hard not to do... but there were some bargains I could not refuse...

   
SONOS SUB
Ever since investing in the SONOS wireless speaker ecosystem (which I love, for the most part) I've been saving money for the subwoofer to complete my Dolby 5.1 setup. My existing SONOS speakers already have pretty good bass, but I miss that punch you can feel when watching movies. Problem is, the thing is SEVEN HUNDRED DOLLARS!!! The amount I've managed to save? $120. Which means buying a SUB was a few years off yet. And then SONOS went and had a Black Friday sale for $100 off the regular price...

SONOS Sub Speaker

I could not pass up $100 savings, even though I only had a fraction of the remaining $599 I needed. And so... there goes a huge chunk of my tax refund!

   
Philips Hue LED Smart Bulb Starter Kit
I was set against the Hue LED lights because they were hideously expensive and require a hub. Instead I went with hub-less bulbs that were a fraction of the price. And... you get what you pay for. The cheaper bulbs I bought are crap, and refuse to stay connected to the internet (even though they are practically sitting on top of my Google WiFi router). They also refuse to change color via IFTTT, which is what I use to remind me when it's recycle day. So I made up my mind that I'd invest in the Gold Standard of smart-bulbs (Hue) next year. But then Amazon had the $149.99 starter kit on sale for a ridiculous $79.99, and I couldn't pass that up...

Hue Hub Lighting Kit

The side-benefit of investing in Hue is that Alexa can control them directly, which is kinda nice. I probably won't be turning my porch lights on manually (they're programmed to turn off/on automatically based on sunrise/sunset times), but it's nice to know I could tell Alexa to do it if I needed her to.

   
iTunes $100 Gift Card
I buy all my apps, movies, music, and TV shows from Apple. Which is why I wait for Amazon to put their $100 iTunes cards on sale for $80, because it's like getting free money... money I'd end up spending anyway. I do this every year. Sometimes I get lucky and manage to find a different store (like Best Buy) who put theirs on sale as well. $200 covers the bulk of the stuff I buy at Apple in a year, so paying $160 is a no-brainer...

iTunes Card

UPDATE: I kept checking all day to see if Best Buy dropped their price. They just did. Not on the $100 card, but $10 off their $50 cards, so I got two of them. Sweet!

   
Dyson V7 Animal Absolute Vacuum
I am not a fan of Dyson. Their technology is great, but their construction is cheap. I still have the one I bought my mom sitting in the garage with a burnt out motor (which I really need to have fixed one of these days since it's still under warranty). So when I wanted to buy a cordless "stick" vacuum to replace the dying vacuum I use to clean my hardwood, it was not going to buy a Dyson. But when I did the research, the Dyson models came out on top every time. And so I bit the bullet and bought the model they make for pet hair (V7 Animal) because it was on sale for $240 (regular $399)...

Dyson V7 Animal Vacuum

I am really hoping that this last longer than my mom's upright, which didn't even make it a year. I'll only use it once or twice a month (Carl the RoboVac does the day-to-day cleaning) so fingers crossed.

UPDATE: I received a notice from Dyson that the V7 "Absolute" which also comes with a fluffy head for better cleaning on hardwood (which is all I have) was on sale for $238 (regular $450)... two dollars less than the "Animal" I bought that doesn't have the fluffy head! So, essentially I'm getting the $100 head for free, PLUS a "deep clean kit" that retails for $80... plus everything that comes with the "Animal" version. This is pretty shitty... why didn't Dyson offer this deal yesterday with all the other deals? And so... I ordered one of those and will just refuse delivery of the original shipment. If you buy direct you get a money-back guarantee, and I am definitely taking advantage of that.

   
What I Spent
My grand total for the day? $1078. Factoring in the $120 I had saved up for my SONOS SUB, I ended up putting $958 on my credit card (probably close to $1000 once tax is added). I loathe, loathe, loathe having credit card debt, but I'm trying to be okay with it since I'll be able to pay it off with my tax refund next year. Given that the full price of all the crap I bought was $1580, I can't complain about getting 1/3 off.

   
What I Didn't Buy
There were a few things I had in the back of my head to purchase. Stuff I want... not need. But once I ended up getting the SONOS SUB, everything else was taken off the table because that ate up way more money than I was wanting to spend. Guess these Black Friday deals will have to wait until next year...

  • Nintendo Switch — Probably wouldn't have time to play it much anyway, so I'm good.
  • Beats Solo3 Wireless Headphones — I have a nice pair of wired headphones, so I'm good.
  • Cookware Set — The old stuff I inherited from my mom works fine, so I'm good.
  • Cat Tree — Jake and Jenny's cat tree is getting pretty raggedy. My ultimate goal is to build one that doesn't look crappy (like most all cat trees do). But, in the meanwhile, I was going to get a fresh replacement. Theirs still works just fine though, so they're good.

And so... until next year then...

   

Caturday 86

Posted on Saturday, November 24th, 2018

Dave!This morning I woke up at my usual 5:30am. About ten minutes later I heard the = whirrrr crunch = of a car sliding on frosty roads and running into something. This happens a lot in early mornings this time of year.* It's slick enough to cause a problem if you're going too fast... but not so slick that they are sanding the roads because the frost melts as soon as the sun comes up.

The commotion got the attention of my cats, who decided to go bat-shit insane. They would haul ass from my bedroom window down to the catio and back again trying to see what was going on. Alas, nothing was visible, so there was nothing to see and the cats went back to staring at me in the hopes I'd serve breakfast early.

Today was the day I got the holiday lights from the HOA to hang them around the building. I don't celebrate Christmas, but they sure look pretty hanging outside my window...

Jake by the Window with Christmas Lights

   
Jenny is not interested in the lights much, but she did hang with me for a while and watch cat videos...

Jenny Watching Cat Videos

   
And now I guess I wait for snow.
   


*The most popular place to crash in town is a 90° bend in the road that's behind my house across the field. People are going too damn fast, can't make the turn, then plow into a rock wall. Sometimes they can back out of it and continue on their way. Sometimes a tow truck has to be called.

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Bullet Sunday 489

Posted on Sunday, November 25th, 2018

Dave!Do you enjoy the ramblings of somebody with frozen feet? Then you're in for a treat... because Bullet Sunday starts now...

   
• Pooh! I was anxious to see the new Disney movie Christopher Robin, but it was never showing on any flight I was on, so I had to buy it from iTunes when it was released. It's a good (not great) film that I enjoyed quite a lot. Mostly because the CGI version of the animals are amazing. Jaw-dropping amazing. The way they are rendered and the way they move is remarkable. You can believe these stuffed animals are alive...

Christopher Robin Screencap

Christopher Robin Screencap

Christopher Robin Screencap

Christopher Robin Screencap

Christopher Robin Screencap

And here's the trailer...

I adore the wit and wisdom of Winnie the Pooh. All the Winnie the Pooh. I love the original A.A. Milne books, the Disney movies and book adaptations, and the Benjamin Hoff Tao of Pooh and Te of Piglet books too. If you are a Winnie the Pooh fan (and why wouldn't you be?) the movie is worth a look. Disney movie magic!

   
• Care! Hallmark has been airing some wonderful commercials for their #CareEnough campaign...


This last one reminded me of one of my all-time favorite ads...

Always amazed that people can create commercials I want to stop and watch!

   
• Proposal! This was my favorite thing on the internet this past week...

So sweet. And that reminded me of this...

The effort that must go into planning these things is mind-boggling.

   
• Winter is NEVER Coming!

"George R.R. Martin will be on Colbert to promote his new book..."

"WINDS OF WINTER IS FINISHED?!??"

"Of course not. He wasted his time on yet another Westeros history book. He still has no idea when Winds of Winter will be completed."

In all honesty, I don't think Martin will ever finish A Song of Ice and Fire. I don't think he gives a shit (regardless of how much he pretends to care). He's got the HBO money coming in. He's got a Nightflyers series coming up. He's got the Game of Thrones prequels coming up. He's got millions of dollars. And he has said repeatedly that writing the Song of Ice and Fire books is hard work, so why would he bother? The HBO series will wrap things up so he doesn't have to, and he can keep getting distracted with writing "easy books" that still make him tons of money. What incentive is there to finish up Westeros? It's all too easy to procrastinate until you die and leave your notes to another author so THEY can deal with it.

All that being said... how excited am I for April to get here so we can see the final season of Game of Thrones?

   
• Unpossible! Mission Impossible: Fallout (AKA MI6) is easily the best of the entire series. Everybody is brilliant in it, and Henry Cavill is exceptionally good. Which makes me all the happier that Paramount told Warner Bros. to go fuck themselves when they wanted Cavill to shave his mustache for reshoots as Superman on the abysmally shitty Justice League movie. Otherwise Cavill's continuity would be jeopardized and he may have had some of his part cut in a far, far better film...

Tom Cruise does the majority of his own stunts. And the dedication he has in delivering some really scary and dangerous scenes really pay off in Fallout. If you haven't seen it and like a good action flick, this is the movie for you.

   
• No NOAA! Now that winter is here, I wanted to see if I could re-code the program which controls the heat tapes on my roof. Right now they turn on when it's 33° or less. Which is better than having them on all the time, but also not ideal because they turn on whether there's snow on my roof or not. What I want to do is capture NOAA data to see if it's snowing and then turn on the heat tapes. If we have heavy snowfall with a lot of accumulation, then I'll switch to the old temperature-based program until it's melted.

NOAA Weather Data

Problem is... the local NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) station has closed. So now I'm having to pull data from 6 miles away. Which would be fine if I lived on a flat plain, but I'm in a valley. The weather 6 miles away will be similar, but different. And so... better than nothing, but now I don't know if trying to adapt for snow is going to be worth it since the data may not apply to me. Time to start my own weather station, I guess.

   
And there's your bullets this fine Sunday.

   

All About That Bass

Posted on Monday, November 26th, 2018

Dave!I was upset with myself for going into credit card debt to buy the Sonos SUB (subwoofer) to complete my Dolby 5.1 setup... but couldn't pass up the $100 Black Friday savings. The thing is SEVEN HUNDRED DOLLARS and knocking a Benjamin off the price was just too good to be true. Even if it means that I've spent my tax refund before I've even seen it.

Now that I have it installed though? Amazing. Absolutely amazing. No regrets. Totally worth the three months' worth of groceries this thing cost me.

XXX

I knew that adding a subwoofer would give me better bass. I had one with my old audio system, so I knew what to expect. What I didn't expect is that Sonos would take the bass load off my front and rear channels so they can focus on producing bright, crisp midtones. Movie dialogue is phenomenal. My music is more alive. The room sounds bigger, fuller, and sound fills the space better. Acoustics with the SUB enabled are drastically improved.

As expected from Sonos, the build quality is excellent. The SUB weighs 36 pounds so you know the thing is capable of pushing serious air volume. The face-to-face drivers cancel cabinet vibration, which means it can be placed upright or lay flat. Sonos had mentioned you could put it under your couch if you wanted, so I attached the felt pads to a face, placed it on its side, then shoved it underneath mine (where the cats can't get to it). This has the side benefit of adding a nice punch under your butt when the bass is firing!

Setup is dead simple. You just open the Sonos app, tell it you want to add a SUB speaker, press a button on the unit, and everything happens automatically. You can then balance the sound by sitting where you'll be listening from and having the phone app "listen" to the room acoustics. Then you can use Sonos Trueplay tuning to walk around the room while the app "listens" to the space and adjusts to best fill it. The app makes the entire process fairly painless.

The first thing I did once I was all set up was to play Postiljonen's Plastic Panorama which is a beautiful piece of music that has soft, haunting vocals that can be overwhelmed by the punchy bass-line on a bad stereo. My Sonos system with the SUB added played the track beautifully. I've never heard the song sound so good...

Halsey's Without Me is particularly good with the SUB in play...

I then proceeded to play a wide variety of different music from every style and genre I could think of. Sonos took everything I threw at it and performed flawlessly. I then ran some movies with excellent sound design through the Sonos Dolby 5.1 separation and was consistently thrilled by what I was hearing (Blade Runner 2049 is incredible). I thought my stereo system sounded good before... and it did... but now it's next level. I turn the SUB off and on while listening and the difference is not subtle. This is one piece of equipment that will not be returned to the manufacturer because I don't want to live without it! I spend a huge chunk of my time listening to music and watching television or movies. It deserves to be the best experience it can be in my life. Even if I had to go into debt to do it.

I was worried about the cats adjusting to the increased bass, but they have completely ignored it. Don't ask me how they can sleep while music is playing, but they've never had a problem. There are quiet places they can retreat to but they don't. With that in mind, I try not to get too loud so as not to damage their sensitive ears.

So... to sum up...

If you've got a Sonos audio setup... especially if you've got a PLAYBAR with rear speakers for your home theater... the SUB is a fantastic addition. Perhaps even a necessary addition if you spend a lot of time watching movies at home like I do. Without it, you're kinda missing out.

The problem, of course, is the price tag. $700 is insanity. The $600 I paid on sale was still absurd. This is a $500 piece of audio equipment, tops. And yet... it sounds like a million bucks, so go figure.

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Three’s Company

Posted on Tuesday, November 27th, 2018

Dave!How could I ever be lonely?
I'm never left alone for very long in this house.

Jenny Stalking Me

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Re-Remodeling

Posted on Wednesday, November 28th, 2018

Dave!When I bought my home, there was a lot of remodeling that needed to be done so that my mom would be safe living here. She couldn't walk on carpet very well, so I had to replace all the flooring with hardwood. She couldn't use the showers because there was a lip she'd trip over, so I had to put in a zero-entry pan. I had to remodel the stairwell railing so she wouldn't fall down the stairs. It went on and on. And that's not even touching on some of the cosmetic things I wanted to change (the sponge-painted accent walls had to go).

When it came time to hire a contractor, I had to be sure they were available ASAP and would do high-quality work. I ended up going with one of the most expensive options, but I felt I'd get what I paid for. My mom's safety was worth more than money.

After the work was completed, I was fairly happy with everything. I ended up being more expensive than quoted... took longer than quoted... and was one of the most frustrating things I've ever done... but it's all good.

Then I started living with it and noticing things.

Fixtures were crooked. Workmanship was shoddy. Paint bled onto my floors. And these were not isolated incidents... they were everywhere. I paid a premium price for shitty work.

Which meant I had to remodel my remodel. I started with the horrific job they did on my "California corners" on my baseboards. Instead of being sanded smooth, they just painted over their shitty mis-matched bullshit...

Remodel Wall Sag

Then back in August I saw that the paint was sagging off the wall of my guest bathroom...

Remodel Wall Sag

Upon inspection I noticed that the texture which was still stuck to the wall was applied badly. They didn't bother to sand down the patchwork they applied after ripping the mirror off the wall...

Re-Remodel Wall Repair

Not only that, but they didn't bother to match the texture that was already on the wall. There are no less than six texture patterns across the whole bathroom along with ugly smooth spots where they didn't apply texture at all...

Re-Remodel Wall Repair

This is infuriating.

Everything is so messed up that the only realistic way to fix it is to scrape everything off, sand it all smooth, then start over from scratch.

I don't have time for that right now, so I started removing the texture that was sagging. The reason it was sagging is that they didn't sand off the paint from the previous texture, so the new texture couldn't stick to it...

Remodel Wall Scrape

And then something horrible started happening. The patch material that they used where the mirror used to be (and didn't sand down) was starting to turn to power. The texture would peel off the wall with the slightest scrape of my putty knife...

Remodel Wall Scraped

Even worse? As you can see, chunks of the patchwork was falling out of the wall as well.

What a fucking joke. My contractor's team did the shittiest job possible and apparently didn't give a crap that it would fall apart within two years. Some of the repairs were so badly applied that I had to cut them out of the wall so it would flatten out.

After scraping practically the entire wall and sanding around the area that fell off, I was ready to tape off everything and re-texture...

Re-Remodel Wall Repair

Despite coming from a can, the new texture went up easy. I dare say that my effort matched the walls better than the various textures my contractor used...

Re-Remodel Wall Repair

After painting, the wall looked far from perfect... but at least it wasn't sagging and flaking any more...

Re-Remodel Wall Repair

Maybe next Summer I'll be able to take a week off work, pull out the fixtures and furniture, strip everything down, then do a proper repair. In the meanwhile, this will have to do.

I remain dumbfounded that people don't seem to take pride in their workmanship or build anything to last anymore. The only way to make sure of anything now is to do it yourself.

   

Travelversary

Posted on Thursday, November 29th, 2018

Dave!I have been incredibly fortunate to have visited many places on this earth. I made travel a priority in my life and, for better or worse, that's where much of my money, energy, times, and thought has been devoted. Despite missing out on some things I would have liked to have done with my resources, I have no regrets.

A year ago today I petted my cats goodbye and drove to Seattle for the night. The next morning I would head to the airport where I hopped a flight to Atlanta, then changed planes to Buenos Aires. It was the beginning of my trip to Antarctica, a journey I had been dreaming of for decades.

So far as vacations go, it was all I could have hoped for...

Neko Harbor, Antarctica

Neko Harbor Penguins, Antarctica

Glacier Icebergs

Whales of Antarctica

Deception Island Antarctica

Half Moon Island Antarctica

Half Moon Island Antarctica

Half Moon Island Antarctica

   
There are many, many places left on the planet I would like to visit. Earlier this year I finally made it to Budapest and Vienna, which have been on my bucket list for ages.

But where to next?

XXX

I look at my travel map and think about that question often. The Big Three left are India, New Zealand, and Peru/Galápagos. I'd also like to visit Jordan/Israel, the Brazilian Rainforest, Russia (particularly St. Petersburg), Nepal, and the Norwegian Fjords. And I'd really like to go back to Africa to see gorillas in Uganda.

Except...

Now I have a mortgage. And while I could sell my home, find a place to rent, and use the money to check off the rest of my travel dream list... that's not where my head is at. Right now I'm perfectly happy staying home, doing my woodworking projects, hanging out with my cats, and leaving those big trips behind. I still have to travel for work, and that's more than enough. I can always add a few days to those trips here and there to explore new places.

Maybe one day I will change my mind and finally get to those two weeks in India. Maybe that day is tomorrow. I don't know.

But if that day never comes, Antarctica was certainly a fantastic trip to go out on.

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Absolute Paint

Posted on Friday, November 30th, 2018

Dave!When it comes to working on my home, painting is easily the chore I loathe the most. But I don't really have much choice. I had to put a second coat of paint on the wall I repaired two days ago, and decided to take the opportunity to do some touch-up throughout the house. I had some nail holes to fill, a scrape to repair, and a small tomato sauce stain on my kitchen wall to cover up. Oh... and one more thing as well.

When I put up the cat trees in front of two of my windows, I didn't want the cats getting caught up in the blinds, so I removed them. It was then I discovered that the painters didn't bother to take them down when they painted. Which means the only window insets that got fully painted were the ones upstairs (because I removed those). All of them downstairs window insets were left in place. Which makes absolutely no sense at all. But that's pretty much par for the course with the contractor I hired, so I'm not surprised.

When it comes to painting, there is one rule that is absolute...

If you spend the time to mask and cover everything, you won't spill a drop and won't accidentally get paint where you shouldn't. If you don't spend the time to mask and cover, you will get paint on all the things you don't want paint to get on.

Every time I risk not masking, I regret it. This time I masked everything except the wall with the scrape behind my front door. Sure enough, I splattered paint all over my baseboard and my floor.

Will I ever learn?

Probably not.

Which is why loathe painting so much.

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