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New Year, New Day

Posted on Tuesday, January 1st, 2019

Dave!Happy New Year's Day! Happy 2019!

I'm doing really well this morning since I decided to stay home and hang out with my cats instead of going out and drinking my weight in alcohol last night.

All was going well until the fireworks started blasting around 7:00pm. Jenny, who is usually the biggest scaredy cat over the smallest thing did surprisingly well. She was shocked at first, hid under the bed for a while, but was pretty much ignoring the noise an hour later. Jake, on the other hand, was scared out of his furry little mind. I was able to lure him out from under the bed with treats, but he was on edge the whole night and would be terrified whenever more fireworks would start banging.

Rather than be afraid alone, he decided to try and squeeze in next to Jenny on the coffee table cat bed where she had set up camp...

Jake and Jenny... BED FIGHT!

   
Jenny wouldn't budge, so Jake finally just shoved her out of the way...

Jake and Jenny... BED FIGHT!

   
Jenny was not at all happy about this. So she tried smacking him on the head to get him to leave...

Jake and Jenny... BED FIGHT!

   
When that didn't work, she decided biting him on the ear might be the answer...

Jake and Jenny... BED FIGHT!

   
Finally she decided to just squeeze in next to Jake like he had tried to do to her...

Jake and Jenny... BED FIGHT!

   
It kinda(?) worked...

Jake and Jenny... BED FIGHT!

   
I thought maybe she had succeeded in forcing him out just like he had forced her out...

Jake and Jenny... BED FIGHT!

   
But he was just getting re-situated and wasn't planning on going anywhere...

Jake and Jenny... BED FIGHT!

   
And so... they ended up sharing...

Jake and Jenny... BED FIGHT!

   
Which Jenny was not happy about because she couldn't get comfortable...

Jake and Jenny... BED FIGHT!

   
Finally she flipped around, which was just the ticket. Jake was happy to have something to hang onto since the fireworks were still going on...

Jake and Jenny... BED FIGHT!

   
But eventually Jenny was tired of being crowded and decided to find someplace else to ride out the firework noise. Jake looked a little depressed after she left...

Jake and Jenny... BED FIGHT!

   
If only cats could just do a couple shots of Jägermeister to make everything better.

Fortunately belly rubs work just as well...

Jake and Jenny... BELLY RUBZ!

Jake and Jenny... BELLY RUBZ!

Jake and Jenny... BELLY RUBZ!

Jake and Jenny... BELLY RUBZ!

But more on that tomorrow...

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Categories: Cats 2019, DaveLife 2019Click To It: Permalink  0 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

KonMari and Closure (Or The Absence Thereof)

Posted on Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019

Dave!At the end of 2018 my mom's post office box expired and I closed it out. I had kept it open for six months so I could be sure to get all her remaining bills paid. Also to find out who hadn't heard she had died and was still sending her cards and letters and such. All she's getting now is mail from places like Degree of Honor and AARP Life Insurance. I have been marking up their crap "DECEASED - RETURN TO SENDER" for months, but they won't stop sending. I've even called them and sent them letters (strange they don't have email) but AARP Life Insurance is still mailing her every damn week. No exaggeration. EVERY WEEK! How the fuck can they afford that postage bill?

Anyway...

For some reason I thought that shutting down a PO Box would act as some kind of closure.

Of course it wasn't.

I've gotten rid of her clothes. I've gotten rid of her furniture. Heck, I've gotten rid of most of her possessions.* None of that worked. How stupid was I to think that letting go of a frickin' PO Box go was going to be any different? I dunno. Maybe I was just being optimistic. Or naive.

There will probably never be closure when your mom dies. Even if you weren't as fantastically close to her as I was.

But, alas...

Last night when I was burning through episodes of Schitt's Creek in an attempt to get caught up before the fifth season starts in a couple weeks, I noted that Marie Kodo has a new show on Netflix!

For those not in the know, Marie Kondo is a Japanese organizational consultant who developed the "KonMari Method" of tidying your home. I discovered her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up before I bought my new place. I used her methods once with my possessions before moving in. Then let things settle for a year before using her method once more to sort through my mother's things, simplify my life, and declutter my new home. It's a magical process that's difficult to explain to people who have not studied it or seen it in action. It's essentially forming a relationship with your stuff and only surrounding yourself with things that "spark joy."

KonMari The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up Book

KonMari changed my life.

My garage, for example, used to be a heinous mess with crap stacked to the rafters. I couldn't even park in it, things were such a mess. After KonMari, I was able to get rid of 2/3 of my junk. A huge amount of that being travel souvenirs that were never organized and just tossed into boxes. But not anymore...

KonMari Organization

KonMari Organization

On the left is my wood supply, all organized and easy to get to. Next to that in the middle of the shelf is seven plastic bins for my souvenirs (I've since bough two more for a total of nine). Originally my souvenirs were in 22 massive boxes. Most of it was stuff I didn't even care about, so KonMari made it easy to pare down to a much more manageable level, all organized by country and stored vertically for easy access. The only other things I kept were my Hard Rock T-shirt collection, some of my mom's Christmas decorations, touch-up paint for the interior and exterior of my home (with paint supplies), winter tires, plus extra bathroom tiles and extra hardwood planks in case I need to replace anything. There's also some LEGO sets I'm keeping for my grand-nephew when he gets older. Everything else? Gone. Donated or trashed.

My biggest tidy improvement in my garage was going all KonMari on my tool collection. For the longest time they were just stacked in boxes. This did not spark joy. Eventually I found that having them all hanging on a wall so I could find them is the best way for me...

KonMari Organization

Kondo-san's Netflix show is a total of eight episodes.** They are entertaining and insightful, but I don't know how helpful they would be if you hadn't read her book. At best they just show you the process in action...

I didn't learn anything new from the show, but I did enjoy watching them (Marie Kondo is ten tons of adorable in a tiny package). If you're in need of tidying your home, check out the show and see if her book might be for you.

And now back to Schitt's Creek. I should be able to watch a couple more episodes before I have to go to work.

   
*I still have some of mom's collectibles I need to try and sell. I am sooooo not looking forward to that. But, what else is there? leave them boxed up in the garage until I die and somebody else has to deal with it? Better to get rid of it all now while I can. Another goal for 2019 to add to the list.

**Interesting to note that the seventh episode of Tidying Up has the song A Home to Come To over the closing credits which is from the No. 6 album on my Best Music of 2018 list. How is it that Silhouettes can have their music popping up all over and still be a mystery band you can barely find?

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Categories: Books, DaveLife 2019Click To It: Permalink  4 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

Behind the Scenes: LEGO Craig

Posted on Thursday, January 3rd, 2019

Dave!Ages ago (when blogging was still a thing) I had "met" a guy named Craig on his blog, Puntabulous! It was one of the funniest things I've ever read and I became an immediate fan (so much so that I ended up guest-posting there). Sadly, Puntabulous! Has been lost to the ages (and the Wayback Machine has only spotty entries archived). Currently Craig's old site seems to have been poached by a Slovakian link farm or something, but we'll always have the memories!

Fast-forward nine years and I'm part of a gift exchange where, miracle of miracles, I get Craig's name. I'm never sure what I am supposed to buy for gift exchanges, so I decided to to mash-up some of his favorite things and make something for him (the only way I could be sure I wasn't getting him something he already had!). And those things are... LEGO, Power Rangers, Star Trek: The Next Generation, his boyfriend Steve, and his cabin.

Custom LEGO Craig posters it is then!

This is what I came up with...

LEGO Craig Posters

I am a huge fan of LEGO video games, so I thought I could just draw little minifies doing fun things and be done with it. Except it was a lot harder than it looked to get them looking "real" so I ended up downloading a 3D model that I could pose in Blender...

LEGO Craig Posters

LEGO Craig Posters

Then drop them into the layouts I had come up with...

LEGO Craig Posters

   
Power Rangers: Ninja Craig

I didn't know much about the Power Rangers except that they would scream "It's Morphin Time!" and transform from super-powered-ninjas into robot dinosaurs. Or something like that. After little Google research I found out there were loads of Power Rangers series. I liked the logo for Ninja Steel because I could turn it into Ninja Craig. All I had to do was drop in Steve Blue Ranger and Rita Repulsa, and, done...

LEGO Craig Power Ranger

At first I had the same generic helmets for both Rangers but, upon closer inspection, I noticed that all the Rangers had different helmets! This meant I had to go back and re-draw them to be accurate...

LEGO Craig Power Ranger

   
Star Trek: The Craig Generation

I'm more of a "original series" guy than a "Next Generation guy," but had seen all the episodes (of course), so it was easy to decide what I wanted to do...

LEGO Craig Power Ranger

I drew Craig as Number One, Steve as Data, and was planning on putting a LEGO Enterprise-D in the background. But I could never get it to look recognizable in simple LEGO form. Then I did some cyber-stalking and found a photo of Craig wearing a T-shirt that had the "LEGO Space" logo drawn as an X-Wing circling the Death Star...

LEGO Star Wars

Very cool! The original logo is the one I grew up with and looks like this...

LEGO Space Logo

It was made cool again when they introduced Benny in The LEGO Movie ...

LEGO Movie Benny SPACESHIP!

It was a simple matter to redraw it for Star Trek: The Next Generation like so...

LEGO Star Trek

   
Craig's Cabin

My original idea (shown in my sketch above) was to have LEGO Craig in a majestic pose while Steve was being surprised by a bear in the background. The LEGO bear is a rare piece that goes for big money on eBay, but I was able to find enough photos of it that I could probably draw it. Problem is, the LEGO bear is kinda hard to recognize in a cartoon drawing, so I decided to give poor LEGO Steve a break and attempt to draw Craig's actual cabin in LEGO back there...

LEGO Craig Power Ranger

It ended up looking pretty good once I got the LEGO studs on the roof panels. Then I added some happy little LEGO trees and happy little LEGO plants and I was good to go. But my favorite part is the plaid shirt "print" on LEGO Craig...

LEGO Star Trek

   

Fun!

Has me anxious for February 2019 to get here so I can see The LEGO Movie 2...

Who knew that LEGO DUPLO would end up being so evil?

   

Oh Schitt!

Posted on Friday, January 4th, 2019

Dave!For the past two years, I've named Schitt's Creek "The Best Show You're Not Watching" in my annual television wrap-up. I just watched through all four seasons again to prepare for Season Five, airing on the 16th.

It's most definitely one of my favorite shows going, but it's tough to fit it on a list because I'm always behind while waiting for it to appear on Netflix. Now I see that POP TV is on my DirecTV, so I will finally be able to watch it when everybody else does. That'll be nice, and I anticipate that the upcoming fifth season will land on my Top Twelve at the end of 2019.

If you haven't seen it, the concept is pretty simple. An absurdly wealthy family loses all their money when their accountant doesn't pay their taxes. With no home to their name, they ends up moving to Schitt's Creek... the only asset they have left. It was bought as a joke for a birthday gift and was deemed too worthless by the IRS for them to bother taking it.

Hilarity ensues.

In the first and second season, much of the humor came from super-rich people having to adjust to their new life in a new town where the locals are very different from the people they're accustomed to.

I liked the show... didn't love it...

Schitt's Creek

Then everything changed in the third season.

It was at that point that The Rose Family started accepting their new lot in life and began assimilating into the community. That's when the show became total genius and one of my favorite things ever. Since New Year's, I've been rewatching the first four seasons so I can be caught up before the new season starts on the 16th. I finished this morning.

Here's what I love about the show and why you should be watching...

   
BEST TELEVISION COUPLE: DAVID & PATRICK
I'm not even joking here. This is hands-down my favorite couple on television. When they first meet, Patrick is just another new local who is in charge of approving David's small business loan. And though you know that David is pansexual, their romance comes completely out of left field. And you're there from the very start...

Schitt's Creek David and Patrick

They couldn't possibly be more opposite, but it's just one of the many things that makes their relationship so heartwarming and sweet. One thing's for sure, you'll never listen to Tina Turner's Simply the Best the same way again...

Schitt's Creek David and Patrick

For people who say that they started watching Schitt's Creek but couldn't get into it, I tell them to skip right to the third season. Patrick appears half-way through, and everything about the show changes. The fourth season is even better. After that you'll want to go back and watch the first two.

   
BEST TELEVISION BEST FRIENDS: DAVID & STEVIE
Their relationship started as disdain... evolved into friendship... blossomed into friends with benefits... then landed on best friends...

Schitt's Creek David and Stevie

David and Stevie end up best friends because it seems unlikely that they could be best friends with anybody else. It's funny, sweet, and just works...

Schitt's Creek David and Stevie

   
BEST TELEVISION SIBLINGS: DAVID & ALEXIS
Spoiled from birth, they behave exactly as you think they would. For the most part, they seem indifferent to each other, but still make a hilarious team. And Alexis's never-ending stories of horrible situations she's escaped from is always interesting. Almost as interesting? The way she pronounces "David." Which she says constantly. Day-vhed... Day-vhed...

Schitt's Creek David and Alexa

   
BEST TELEVISION FASHIONISTA: MOIRA ROSE
Catherine O'Hara has long been one of my favorite actors. Even so, nothing could prepare me for her mind-boggling performance as the Rose Family matriarch. She has adopted an accent for the role that's tough to pin down. She grew up "normal" so we can only imagine that she talks the way she does because that's how she imagines wealthy people speak. But it's not her accent that makes the character so insanely watchable... that's only part of it. What really makes Moira appealing is the outlandish wigs and outfits that she's always wearing. Where do they all come from? Who knows? You'd think she would have long since ran out of new fashion, but she's always got outfits waiting in the wings...

Schitt's Creek Moira

   
BEST TELEVISION EYEBROWS: JOHNNY ROSE
Eugene Levy is positively nuts on the show... even though most of the time it's his reaction to the state of things that's the most rational.

Schitt's Creek Moira

   
BEST TELEVISION REDNECK: MAYOR ROLAND SCHITT
Chris Elliott could have easily sleepwalked his every scene with this character, but seems to be injecting some genuine decency and sweetness into him. So instead of just being a bumbling, clueless, moron... he ends up being a genuinely nice guy that you want to root for instead of dismiss. His wife, Jocelyn, has a bit more going on when it comes to smarts. But that's probably because she's a high school teacher...

Schitt's Creek Roland and Jocelyn

   
BEST TELEVISION BEARD: MUTT SCHITT
And you don't realize it until Alexis goes nearly catatonic after he shaves it off...

Schitt's Creek Roland and Jocelyn

   
If you haven't seen Schitt's Creek, take a look.

If quirky humor is not your thing, jump to the third season. It's still quirky, but more grounded.

If you aren't in love with the show by the end of the last episode of season three, there's no hope for you my friend.

   

Caturday 91

Posted on Saturday, January 5th, 2019

Dave!For the longest time after I got Jake and Jenny, they were completely silent. They didn't meow at me or try to communicate at all. I, on the other hand, talked to them all the time.

Then Jenny started talking back. Jake tried to talk back, but he can't meow for some reason (unless he's stressed out, apparently). He kinda squawks a bit though. Especially if I look in his direction and he wants to be petted. Jenny mostly wants kitty treats when she meows.

They don't talk to each other at all. They chase each other around from time to time, however. Otherwise they just kinda work around each other. Sometimes literally.

Jenny was sitting directly in front of the cat door looking at something outside. Jake then decides HE wants to look outside, but he can't see around his sister. He tries one side... then the other side... then goes back to the other side. And still can't see out. He was not happy...

Jake Trying to Look Past Jenny

Finally he figures out that if he twists his head, he can look past her...

Jake Trying to Look Past Jenny

He looked outside sideways for several minutes until Jenny got bored and left.

Jenny gets bored easily. Which is why I think she likes watching television so much. Her favorite thing to watch is Rick and Morty. But I was re-watching Isle of Dogs recently and she was totally absorbed...

Jenny Watches Television

After a while she decided she wanted to sit next to me while watching the movie, which is what she usually does...

Jenny Watches Television

She's too adorable, even if she has a couple floopy whiskers...

Jenny Watches Television

She's even more adorable when she decides that the drawstrings on my favorite hoodie are more entertaining than what's on television. It only cost me $100 and I had to fly to the bottom of the earth to get it... but please do chew on my Hard Rock Ushuaia hoodie. It's fine...

Jenny Chews on My Favorite Hoodie

Jenny Chews on My Favorite Hoodie

Jenny Chews on My Favorite Hoodie

Jake never wants to sit and watch television with me. He just climbs on my lap and falls asleep. He does like my computer to scratch his face though. They both do...

Jake Scratches His Face on My Laptop

Jake Scratches His Face on My Laptop

With the exception of my hoodie strings, my cats are surprisingly great about not chewing on stuff they shouldn't be chewing on. They are happy to chew on their toys when they feel the need. Assuming they let each other.

After dinner one day this past week, Jake was laying on the floor gnawing on Mufasa. Jenny comes bolting through the room, snatches Mufasa, then goes running to the stairs.

"JENNY! Why are you stealing your brother's toy?" I ask. She then drops the toy, runs up the stairs, and glares at me. I grab my iPhone to capture the moment, at which time she looks away and whistles. Or appears to be whistling. Can cats whistle? I dunno. So guilty!

Jenny Steals Mufasa

Jake wasn't too bothered. A minute later he went out in the catio because he saw Fake Jake walk by.

Fickle kitteh.

See you next Caturday!

   

Bullet Sunday 494

Posted on Sunday, January 6th, 2019

Dave!I know that having to skip a Bullet Sunday for my year-end wrap-up was tough, but don't despair... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts now...

   
• Bandersnatch! This past week all the internet buzz revolved around Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, Netflix's new "Choose Your Own Adventure" movie. As the movie played you would be presented with choices which determined how the rest of the movie would progress...

Bandersnatch Choice: Thompson Twins or Music NOW!
Any guesses as to which music I picked?

This novelty alone would be pretty lame. Unless the story was really terrific, why would you want to replay it over and over to see how your choices affect things? But this is Black Mirror, and they took their excellence to another level here. First of all, the story itself addressed the idea of free will vs. control... and completely breaks the fourth wall by going meta with the concept in some story branches. It was really well done, and I ended up playing through several different scenarios to see where the story would land. Once I had gotten through the major different branches, the differences became more and more subtle, so I ended it. I'm told there are some other stories that are more hidden, but time time required to find them was too much for me. Overall, I loved Bandersnatch! It took full advantage of the concept, the performances were great, and I was entertained throughout. My only criticism was that I could play on my AppleTV (which was incompatible) and ended up having to watch on my computer. Other than that? Well worth your time to check out!

   
• Magic! Every once in a while, Disney's magic extends to their advertising. That's definitely the case with this wonderful ad that was airing for Disneyland Paris...

And now I want to go to Disneyland.

   
• Good News! If you're a little depressed with how 2018 ended up (Lord only know I am), here's the link for you: I’m Honestly Fed Up With All The Bad News So I Illustrated The Best News Of 2018 (And Recent Years).

And for all those people buying into President Trump's claim that the Mueller Probe is wasting tax dollars, here's more good news: Mueller Probe Cost $25 Million So Far, Report Says. It’s Pulled in $48 Million From Tax Cheats. It's paying for itself (and then some) as well as ripping into political corruption. What's not to like?

   
• Micropenis! I never suspected that Tucker Carlson has a tiny, minuscule, impotent, wee little penis... but here he is telling everybody about it. Study after study has shown that men who are threatened by women who make more money than them have tiny dicks... and who am I to question science?

What a pathetic, sexist, whiny, tragic, little pissant Tucker Carlson is. The amount of sublime ignorance as to how modern relationships work here is stunning. And yet, there are people believing this bullshit and faux science, so I'd imagine Tucker Carlson isn't going to be out of work any time soon.

   
• SCANDAL! Oooooh! Here it is! A SCANDALOUS video of Alexandria Ocasio Cortez was just released from her school years! I wonder what it is? Sex with animals? Doing drugs? DOING DRUGS WHILE HAVING SEX WITH ANIMALS? My gawd... what a totally reprehensible role model. SHE SHOULD RESIGN IN SHAME!!!

Seesh. From they way some conservatives are (over)reacting, you'd think that she grabbed somebody by the genitals without consent... or cheated on her spouse with a porn star and tried to cover it up... or was defending white nationalists... or hiding her tax returns. The hypocrisy is blinding.

   
• Roller Kingdom! There was a time I wanted to be addicted to roller skating instead of crack too. But times change...

Alas, the local roller rink was torn down ages ago here, so I guess crack it is!

   
• Portland! Trying to end on a happy note, this is painfully accurate... and funny...

I miss having work trips to Portland. It is really terrific city.

   
Stay frosty, everybody.

   

Bread (The Food Not The Band)

Posted on Monday, January 7th, 2019

Dave!I can pinpoint when my love affair with bread began... Elementary School. The cafeteria had these amazing rolls that defy description. But I'll try for you. They were dense without being heavy. They were drenched in butter for fantastic flavor. They were everything I love about bread. You used to be able to buy extras for a quarter. I bought a ridiculous amount of them. I even took them home for my mom because they were just that good.

Then I graduated to Middle School and that was the end of it. I never had them again, though I would often think back to those heady days of breaded bliss.

I'd eat a lot more bread over the years, of course, but none of it quite compared.

Then one day at a family holiday dinner, my sister-friend's mother-in-law brought homemade garlic bread. And there is was... the bread I had been missing for decades was on my plate.

Naturally I was immediately obsessed. Turns out it's a sourdough hybrid that uses both sourdough starter and yeast to rise. This means you can get good flour density without being heavy like a brick. And it wasn't sour despite having sourdough in it. I ended up taking a jar of sourdough starter home with me so I could make my own. For years I rarely bought bread, I made my own.

Then tragedy struck.

When I moved to my new place, I accidentally left my starter out in my car for a week. I thought it would be fine since it was winter, but when I finally remembered it, the poor thing was in pretty bad shape. I could never get it to rebound, and eventually it developed a reddish-pinkish hue and had to be thrown out.

My life was in turmoil back then, so it was easier to just buy bread, and I forgot about making it.

But then it was served at Christmas dinner last month and I fell in love all over again. I was given another jar of starter and have been making my own bread again ever since...

Homemade Bread

Homemade Bread

Homemade Bread

So good.

Lately I've been experimenting with the amount of flour I add. More flour results in denser bread that's not too dry, if you don't overdo it. Less flour results in a higher rise, when you want flakier bread or use it to make cinnamon rolls.

And this time I promise to take good care of my starter so he won't ever go pink again.

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Categories: Food 2019Click To It: Permalink  3 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

Behind the Scenes: Thrice Fiction No. 24

Posted on Tuesday, January 8th, 2019

Dave!"Perhaps it's good for one to suffer. Can an artist do anything if he's happy? Would he ever want to do anything? What is art, after all, but a protest against the horrible inclemency of life?" —Aldous Huxley

A lot of artists are of the belief that their art is born out of suffering and in order to create good art you have to suffer for it. If that's the case, I'm a pretty shitty artist because I don't think I have ever "suffered" for my art. Though, to be honest, referring to myself as an "artist" is kind of laughable because that's a gross overstatement as to where my talents lay. I'm a very good designer. I'm a pretty good photographer. I'm a decent craftsman. I'm an amazing burrito-maker. But true "art" has always eluded me.

Probably because I'm just not suffering enough to create it.

Although I did come close to suffering in creating my "art" for the latest issue of Thrice Fiction Magazine, which you can get for FREE over at our website...

Thrice Fiction Magazine No. 24
        Delicious cover by SEIGAR, an actual artist.

   
Originally I had art for three stories assigned to myself. Eventually I ended up with a lot more because the holidays wrecked havoc with people's schedules and they had to drop out.

One of those original stories I had was titled The Woman Thinking of Nothing by Beth Shirley. I liked it a lot, and had an idea what I wanted to do for the image after reading the first two sentences of the second paragraph...

She ordered a vodka martini, very dry with two olives. She ordered a basket of fries after the first drink and ate nearly half of them slowly while she drank a second martini.

I absolutely loved the imagery of ordering a high-class drink like a martini with two olives and pairing it with something as low-rent as a basket of fries. When I read that, I was... I dunno... "tickled" at the thought of it, I guess you'd say.

But I worried that since the art needed to be a full page that I'd make a mess of it, so I handed the story to another artist. But when they had to bow out, I took the story back for myself. Because you don't defy The Universe when they give you a second chance.

I decided to go to a bar, order a martini and a basket of fries, take a photo, and call it a day.

Except...

After trying on four separate occasions over a period of eight days to be served what I was envisioning in my head, I came up empty. Either the bar... A) Didn't serve their martinis in a martini glass, or B) Had classy fries that looked too upscale for what I wanted, or C) Didn't serve their fries in a basket.

Which lead to a lot of suffering because... A) DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH A MARTINI COSTS?!? HOLY CRAP!, B) I am not a martini drinker at all, and C) I went to these bars for a late lunch because I didn't want there to be a lot of people watching me take photos, which meant I was drinking at 1:00 on a work day.

After spending $75 on martini lunches to no avail, I decided to stage my own photo in a studio. So I borrowed a martini glass. I found a piece of wood that looked like it could be a bar top. I had some liquor bottles I could place out-of-focus in the background. All there was left to do was go buy some fries and find a basket to put them in.

The basket, which I thought would be an easy get, was impossible to find. I wanted one of those cheap-looking plastic flat baskets like you used to find in diners all the time. You know, the ones they hand you when you play pull tabs to put your losing tickets into. Looked everywhere. Couldn't find one. The closest I could find was a blue plastic basket at The Dollar Store. And then there were the fries...

I wanted crinkle-cut. I really wanted crinkle-cut. But time was pressing and the only bar that served them would have taken too long so I went to Wendy's. I prefer Wendy's because every once in a while I like to treat myself to a tiny 89¢ Jr. Frosty, and everywhere else you go you have to buy a giant cup. Can you guess what happened on the drive back? Yep. I forgot why I bought the fries and ate them all along with my tiny Frosty on the way home!

Don't get old, folks. No good can come of it.

Frustrated that it was going on three weeks for a photo that I thought would take fifteen minutes, I grabbed my little blue Dollar Store basket, went back to the bar which had both martini glasses and crinkle-cut fries, then staged my photo.

   
The wall of bottles was too far away, so the background ended up being boring and I removed it...

Martini Fries Lunch

I took a second photo for the background like so...

Martini Fries Lunch

Compositing them and straightening out the foreground elements resulted in this...

Martini Fries Lunch

With the exception of the basket not being what I originally had in mind, this was pretty darn close to what I was going for. But when I went to drop it into the story, it looked... odd. So I decided to paint over it and run the image through some Photoshop filters to make it look a little more interesting. And there you have it...

Martini Fries Lunch

I toyed with at least changing the basket color to red, but the blue stood out better so I left it.

And if all that wasn't "suffering for my art" then what is?

All things considered, I'm fairly happy with it. I guess. Probably should have just drawn it from the start, but I really wanted a photo for this one.

I did a few more pieces for the issue. To understand why I decided on what I did, you might want to read the stories first. Otherwise I'm not sure how much sense this will all make.

   
For a pair of stories by the always-amazing Howie Good called Prayer Vigil and The Rain Side of the Rain-Snow Line, I wanted a drowning cross and a bird/person mashup. Again constructed from stock photos then Photoshopped...

Cross in Water Bird Head

   
For loneliness for taste, a story by dN eQ, I had wanted to do something which had to do with a barber shop. Like a pair of scissors and a comb or something. But that wasn't what the story was saying to me. I rethought things and decided I wanted to somehow illustrate life moving forward in ways that were both mundane and interesting. This is what I came up with...

Haircut Illustration

   
For Mountain High Pizza Pie, a story by the always-interesting Matthew Dexter, I kept coming back to the way he'd echo pizza toppings and a fetus. I put the two together and... voilà...

Pizza Toppings and Fetus

   
Whenever I have a spread of two stories, like Her Love by Megan Gordon and Call Me Kumiktuq (Scratch) by Tom Sheehan, I try to find a commonality which I can illustrate that will tie them together. For Megan's story, I really wanted to find a way of showing lemons and lavender flower. I had no idea what to do for Tom Sheehan's story. Eventually I liked his line about snowflakes and lightbulbs and decided I could have the lemon play off the lightbulb, then use lavender and snowflakes in the backgrounds...

Lemon and Lavender Bulb and Snow

   
For the story Children of Survivors by Miriam Sagan I wanted quite badly to come up with something that would compel you to read the story... but without giving anything away as to what the actual story was about. So I zeroed in on a bit of conjecture by one of the characters which had somebody being killed over half an apple. This was taking place in an internment camp, so I had to be careful about showing the apple being too red and too tasty because, I figured, that if they were given apples at all they would undoubtedly be shriveled and older...

Hand and Apple

   
For a brutal story called Honeymoon (by Beate Sigriddaughter), I wanted a lit candle being strangled by vines. Originally I just drew it, but didn't like what I came up with, so I composited four stock photos and ran it through some Photoshop filters. On the page opposite is a vivid story called Clown Town by Couri Johnson where I wanted to composite stock balloons over a bright blue sky. This looked strange next to my drab candle, so I changed out the drab candle I used to a bright purple one. This ended up being kismet, because it actually fit the story better. The hope being that the character's brightness and light won't be completely crushed out

Candle and vines Balloons and Sky

   
And that's the end of my contributions to Thrice Fiction Magazine No. 24! If you'd like to take a look at the issue (and see some real artists creating actual art)... head over to our website where you can take a look for FREE!

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The Catio Murder

Posted on Wednesday, January 9th, 2019

Dave!There are two reasons I decided that Jake and Jenny were going to be indoor-only cats. The first reason was to protect them. I don't want them attacked by dogs... run over by a car... or hurt by some heinous excuse for a human being. No, for my peace of mind and their safety, they are staying indoors.

The second reason was to save the poor birds, mice, and other critters that cats seem to relish torturing.

That being said, I really didn't want to deny my cats access to the outdoors. There's too many interesting things to look at (and even more interesting things to smell) which can help make their lives more exciting than if they were trapped inside all the time. and so... I built a "catio" for them so they can go out when they feel like it. Jake and Jenny love the catio... especially in Spring and Summer when they are out there all day lounging around.

Unfortunately, an occasional bird wanders into the catio. It's happened twice. The first time I was able to build a tunnel to shoo the poor thing outside. The second time I managed to rescue it and get it un-stunned so it could fly off.

Then yesterday it happened a third time. Unfortunately I wasn't home to rescue the poor thing, so I came home to a dead bird yesterday...

Poor Dead Bird

I had no idea which of my cats were responsible. My money was on Jake. He was the one who caught the birds the other two times. So I check the security cameras and, sure enough...

Jake sure can move like lightning when he wants to!

A part of me wants to add a fence screen to the bottom foot of the catio to hopefully prevent birds from hopping in. But then I worry that if a bird comes in from above and wants to get out, a screen might make that tough. And so... since it has only happened three times in three years (with only one fatality), maybe I should just hope it continues to be a rare event and leave well enough alone.

Having to disinfect my home because the cats bring in dead birds is no fun at all. I mean just look at Jake going nuts and tossing that poor bird carcass around...

Bring on the Pine-Sol.

And not just for dead birds.

Tonight Jake threw up his dinner.

This is scary and worrisome to me. I'm hopeful that he somehow ate a shred of cheese from my pizza to make him vomit. Because the alternative could be that he's got urinary problems again. The first time was such a horrible ordeal for the little guy that I am in no hurry to go through that again.

And I'm sure Jake would agree.

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A Clean Place to Poop

Posted on Thursday, January 10th, 2019

Dave!Last month I was reading through one of the dozens of "Little Things You Can Do to Save The Planet" type articles I found online. In the list was the idea to wear clothes more than once before washing. At first I dismissed it out-of-hand. I'm not wearing dirty clothes! I don't even wear dirty clothes when I travel! And it's true. I bring more than enough clothes to make sure I can change every day.

But then I got to thinking...

Most days I wake up, take a shower, put on a pair of jeans, go to work, then come home and change into a pair of sweats after tossing my jeans in the hamper. Which means I wear the jeans for 8 hours in a clean environment and then waste water, energy, and detergent washing something that's not dirty.

And so... for a month now I've been coming home and hanging my jeans on a different color hanger so I can wear them a second time later on. Easy.

And since it was so easy, I decided to revisit the list and see what else I might be able to do.

It looks like my next step will be trying a biodegradable cat litter. I didn't realize that the clay litter I was using doesn't biodegrade.

Hopefully my cats will use it. Because something tells me that they really don't care about saving the planet...

Jake

They do care about having a clean place to poop. And I would just as soon have it not be my floors.

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Habitat for Inhumanity

Posted on Friday, January 11th, 2019

Dave!I am trying my best to not dump politics in my blog day-in and day-out, but this fucking wall business is driving me insane. The government has been shut down because of it, AND IT WON'T EVEN WORK! But that's not the reason I'm losing my shit. The government spends tons of our money on stuff that doesn't work all the time. What's another $5 billion on top of the $2 trillion that Cheeto Jesus has already added to our $20 trillion national debt?

No, the reason I am beside myself with angst over the wall scenario is because of the ecological disaster it would pose. Which, in turn, would have a horrific effect on animals in the region that need to migrate to survive. Out-of-control government spending is upsetting. But destroying the habitat animals need to survive is rage-inducing.

So fortify the border where needed, yes. Increase manpower there to keep us safe, yes. Be smart about border security, yes. Invest in technology to fortify our country, yes. But get over this damn wall already. It's not going to work anyway. Even if it ever could be built (which, legally, it probably can't be).

But don't take my word for it.

Ladies and gentlemen, Amy Patrick...

Howdy.
   
To recap: I’m a licensed structural and civil engineer with a MS in structural engineering from the top program in the nation and over a decade of experience on high-performance projects, and particularly of cleaning up design disasters where the factors weren’t properly accounted for, and I’m an adjunct professor of structural analysis and design at UH-Downtown. I have previously been deposed as an expert witness in matters regarding proper construction of walls and the various factors associated therein, and my testimony has passed Daubert.
   
Am I a wall expert? I am. I am literally a court-accepted expert on walls.
   
Structurally and civil engineering-wise, the border wall is not a feasible project. Trump did not hire engineers to design the thing. He solicited bids from contractors, not engineers. This means it’s not been designed by professionals. It’s a disaster of numerous types waiting to happen.
   
What disasters?
   
Off the top of my head...
1) It will mess with our ability to drain land in flash flooding. Anything impeding the ability of water to get where it needs to go (doesn’t matter if there are holes in the wall or whatever) is going to dramatically increase the risk of flooding.
2) Messes with all kind of stuff ecologically. For all other projects, we have to do an Environmental Site Assessment, which is arduous. They’re either planning to circumvent all this, or they haven’t accounted for it yet, because that’s part of the design process, and this thing hasn’t been designed.
3) The prototypes they came up with are nearly impossible to build or don’t actually do the job. This article explains more. And so on.
   
The estimates provided for the cost are arrived at unreasonably. You can look for yourself at the two-year-old estimate that you see everyone citing. It does not account for rework, complexities beyond the prototype design, factors to prevent flood and environmental hazard creation, engineering redesign... It’s going to be higher than $50bn. The contractors will hit the government with near CONSTANT change orders. “Cost overrun” will be the name of the game. It will not be completed in Trump’s lifetime.
   
I’m a structural forensicist, which means I’m called in when things go wrong. This is a project that WILL go wrong. When projects go wrong, the original estimates are just *obliterated*. And when that happens, good luck getting it fixed, because there aren’t that many forensicists out there to right the ship, particularly not that are willing to work on a border wall project— a large quotient of us are immigrants, and besides, we can’t afford to bid on jobs that are this political. We’re small firms, and we’re already busy, and we don’t gamble our reputations on political footballs. So you’d end up with a revolving door of contractors making a giant, uncoordinated muddle of things, and it’d generally be a mess. Good money after bad. The GAO agrees with me.
   
And it won’t be effective. I could, right now, purchase a 32 foot extension ladder and weld a cheap custom saddle for the top of the proposed wall so that I can get over it. I don’t know who they talked to about the wall design and its efficacy, but it sure as heck wasn’t anybody with any engineering imagination.
   
Another thing: we are not far from the day where inexpensive drones will be able to pick up and carry someone. This will happen in the next ten years, and it’s folly to think that the coyotes who ferry people over the border won’t purchase or create them. They’re low enough, quiet enough, and small enough to quickly zip people over any wall we could build undetected with our current monitoring setup.
   
Let’s have border security, by all means, but let’s be smart about it. This is not smart. It’s not effective. It’s NOT cheap. The returns will be diminishing as technology advances, too. This is a ridiculous idea that will never be successfully executed and, as such, would be a monumental waste of money.

And, lastly...

Remember when everybody in our district was thrilled when Dr. Kim Schrier, Democrat won over Dino Rossi, Republican in a miraculous upset victory in the last election? Remember when I said that Dino Rossi was a piece of shit and I was happy to have somebody in office who was probably still going to be a piece of shit, but not as big a piece of shit as Dino Rossi?

Yeah. Never mind.

   

Caturday 92

Posted on Saturday, January 12th, 2019

Dave!Ever since Jake got home from his week-long stay at the vet, he's been more clingy than usual. He also doesn't want to be left alone. If Jenny follows me upstairs while he's asleep, he'll wander around crying when he wakes up until I holler down for him.

This has been tough of Jenny, who likes her independence.

I've tried to make sure that everywhere there's a bed she likes to sleep in, there's a second bed for Jake. This was a little confusing for her at first...

Dueling Cat Beds

But it actually ended up working...

Dueling Cat Beds

For a minute or two. Then Jake was right back to crowding in on her...

Dueling Cat Beds

Needless to say, she isn't thrilled...

Dueling Cat Beds

After a while Jenny escapes, leaving poor Jake alone again...

Dueling Cat Beds

Every once in a while Jenny does a bit of rearranging, which kinda works...

Dueling Cat Beds

But the minute things are back to the way they were, Jake wants to share again...

Dueling Cat Beds

Dueling Cat Beds

It's been three months since the vet, so I can only guess Jake's behavior change is here to stay.

How this is going to affect Jenny's behavior remains to be seen.

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Bullet Sunday 495

Posted on Sunday, January 13th, 2019

Dave!Don't let the long cold nights of winter get you down... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts now...

   
• Duck! It's no secret that I love museums. I've made it my mission in life to see many of the world's great (and not-so-great) museums as I can. Which is why I got a big kick out of this article: Museums around the world are soliciting duck pics from each other...

A very old duck photograph
Image Courtesy of The Museum of English Rural Life.

If you're even a little fan of art, this article is a must-see.

   
• Cars! These Walmart curbside pickup "cars" commercials are phenomenal...

I can't fathom how much money it cost to license all these properties.

   
• Akeem! One of my all-time favorite movies is Coming to America starring Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall in multiple roles. It's a great story chock-full of funny situations and had some real heart to it...

Coming to America Movie Poster

There are many other things to love about the film... namely James Earl Jones and Madge Sinclair as Eddie Murphy's parents. But there are also the incredible designs for the country of Zamunda. Make no mistake, Zamunda was Wakanda way before Wakanda was the benchmark for fictional African countries!

And now it comes to light that there is a sequel in the works with Eddie Murphy reprising his role as Prince Akeem. Right now, I am deliriously happy about that. But given how badly things could go wrong, I'm also more than a little nervous.

   
• Again! Again! Speaking of an Eddie Murphy movie getting sequels... apparently Boomerang, another movie I love more than butter, is getting a television sequel...

Coming to America Movie Poster

The show will continue the story with Marcus and Angela's son and Jaqueline's daughter. No word if Eddie Murphy, Halle Berry, or Robin Givens will be making an appearance. But I sure hope so. The thing that gives me hope is that Lena Waithe is onboard. As is Halle Berry as an executive producer. Fingers crossed.

   
• Monument! As somebody who loves travel photography but can't stand people walking through my shots, I was excited to hear about "Monument." This new technology that Adobe is developing will automatically remove moving objects from photos. It's a fascinating idea that I'm anxious to try out. There's a video which takes a look at Moment but Nick Offerman is an idiotic distraction throughout. Why in the hell they couldn't have just presented the tech without the comedic bullshit is beyond me...

It's only a matter of time before machine learning with this kind of smarts gets dropped into all our cameras. As popular attractions become more and more crowded, it will be a handy and very welcome thing to have.

   
• Puck! My new brown sugar container came with a small terra cotta coaster in the box. I was telling a friend about it and laughing because I don't have any glasses small enough to fit on it. "ARE YOU HIGH? YOU SOAK IT IN WATER AND PUT IT IN THE CONTAINER SO YOUR BROWN SUGAR DOESN'T DRY OUT!" In my defense, there weren't any instructions. Just the little puck thingy in a baggie. How was I to know?

Brown Sugar Terra Cotta Disc

Is this some secret everybody knows but me? Is there some brown sugar conspiracy to exclude me from this magic?

   
And... I'm spent. No more bullets for you.

   

Vast Vehicle Viaduct Vacated Verily for Vanishment

Posted on Monday, January 14th, 2019

Dave!The big news of this past week here in the Pacific Northwest is the closure (and eventual destruction) of Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct, an elevated double-decker highway that runs along the city. Built in pieces over the entire decade of the 1950's, it's long been a controversial structure because it divides Seattle from its waterfront...

Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct Highlighted in Pink
Photo by David Simmer II — Viaduct highlighted in pink, click image to embiggen.

   
Even though it's not solid like a wall, it's a big, clunky, ugly, double-layer structure which casts giant shadows that make it feel like a wall...

Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct
Photo by Waqcku — Courtesy of Wikipedia's Wikimedia Commons.

   
I've driven the viaduct many, many times when getting from my work in West Seattle to my hotel downtown. It's kinda scary at times because the lanes are a bit narrow and the exits are awkward. That being said, the views of the city and Elliott Bay could be stunning, as shown in this terrific drone video...

   
There are many reasons that removing the viaduct is a good thing. In addition to getting rid of an eyesore, it also gets rid of a major earthquake hazard. Like all cities along the Pacific Rim, Seattle is in constant danger of a major earthquake which could easily flatten the viaduct and pancake anything underneath.

To replace the viaduct, Seattle built a massive 2-mile long, $3-billion tunnel that runs the length of the city. We're told that it's far safer to be in the tunnel during an earthquake than on the viaduct, but I'm not anxious to find out first-hand if that's true. It is a really cool structure though...

Seattle's SR-99 Tunnel
Image Courtesy of WSDOT.

   
The digging began in mid-2013 using "Big Bertha," the largest tunnel-boring machine in the world at the time which cost $80-million. The construction was fraught with criticism and had its share of problems. The biggest of which was a 2-year delay that happened when Bertha broke down after less than five months of digging.

But now it's all over, the tunnel is finished, and roads are being rerouted over the next three weeks so traffic can finally use it starting February 2nd.

And while the new SR-99 Tunnel is exciting and everything, it's not a perfect solution.

For one thing, the tunnel is two lanes in each direction. The viaduct was three. This will be offset, in part, by a new surface street which runs where the viaduct used to be. But the fact remains that there is one less lane bypassing downtown Seattle, which could be highly problematic given how bad the traffic is.

Another issue is that the tunnel will be an electronic toll road to drive on. The price will vary depending on traffic and such, but it kinda sucks that you'll have to spend minimum $2 a day to get to and from work if you live north of the city and work south of the city (or vice-versa).

Another issue is the loss of an area many of Seattle homeless use as shelter.

Yet another issue? Just look at this hot mess...

Seattle's SR-99 Tunnel On/Off Ramps
Image Courtesy of WSDOT.

I hope Google Maps is ready to navigate this pretzel of a roadway.

The plans for the space once occupied by the viaduct look nice. In addition to the afore-mentioned surface street, there are plans for greenery, bike lanes, a pedestrian walkway, some parks, and other cool stuff which will completely transform Seattle's waterfront...

Seattle's Alaska Way Surface Street Project
Image Courtesy of Waterfront Seattle Program.

   
Overall, I like the plans I've seen very much. Where it falls apart for me is the proposed signage, which is trying way too hard to do way too many things. Signs should be pretty, yes, but their primary function should be to TELL PEOPLE HOW TO GET TO WHERE THEY WANT TO GO. But the "wayfinding markers" that were in the proposal kit are a jumbled mess of ideas that don't do a very good job of it...

Seattle's Waterfront Project Signage
Image Courtesy of Waterfront Seattle Program.

   
I mean, seriously, how in the hell is this ugly mess helpful? Especially from a distance. You'll have to be right on top of it to make use of the thing...

Seattle's Waterfront Project Signage
Image Courtesy of Waterfront Seattle Program.

   
The design also looks dated before they've even been built. I am hopeful that common sense will prevail and somebody will rethink things to create a more clean, simple, easy-to-read signage design which also reflects Seattle culture and its location in the Pacific Northwest.

And so...

I am anxious to see how all the plans pan out. Seattle has the potential for one of the most beautiful waterfronts in the country. But it's been buried under chunks of steel, concrete, pavement, and heavy shadows for far too long.

It will be nice to see all that change.

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Shut-Down Smack-Down

Posted on Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

Dave!And... I had to cancel all of my March travel because there's no way to plan for a US Government shutdown that has no end date. If this thing is still going through February, I'm guessing I'll have to cancel my travel for April. This is extraordinarily bad. Both for the charity I'm trying to work with and the people who rely on that charity to, you know, continue living and stuff.

Not to mention all the people who are going to have a tough time surviving right here at home. If they have government jobs (or are in industries linked to the government) I'd imagine that money for things like rent and utilities and gas and food is going to be in short supply soon. It's really tough to see people posting their worries online only to be met with helpful comments like "YOU SHOULD HAVE SAVED MONEY IN CASE THIS HAPPENED! ARE YOU STUPID? Well, if they're like so many people, they're not stupid. They're just having to live paycheck to paycheck and don't have an opportunity to save. I paid $46 for two bags of groceries the other day. That'll cover me for about a week. If I didn't already have cat food, that total would have been higher. I can't imagine how much it costs to feed a family of four for a month.

What's difficult for me to figure is the non-stop political blame game that's currently going on. DEMOCRATS WERE FOR A WALL BEFORE THEY WERE AGAINST IT! Well, not really. They were for a "Secure Fence Act"... thirteen years ago... which was attached to a lot of concessions. Needless to say, a lot has fucking happened in thirteen years, so it's not the apples-to-apples comparison it seems. DEMOCRATS ARE WEAK ON BORDER SECURITY! THEY WANT WIDE-OPEN BORDERS! Well, not really. Any Democrat I've heard speak on the subject says that border security is a priority for them... they just want to invest money into something that's actually going to work (and not bankrupt the country over a pathetically inadequate budget projection). THIS IS ALL THE DEMOCRATS' FAULT! Well, not really. According to 2013 Donald J. Trump, weak presidential leadership is at fault for government shutdowns. NO, REALLY, THIS IS ALL ON THE DEMOCRATS! Well, not really. There are Republicans opposed to the stupid-ass wall as well. Enough Republicans that President Trump couldn't get it funded before Democrats took the House earlier this month. If Republicans can't convince Republicans when they are in control of everything, it's the Democrats' fault? Really?

What's even more difficult for me to figure is how people are okay with their very lives being nothing more than bargaining chips over a wall that's not even going to fucking work. I may loathe Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi in equal measure, but they've got one thing correct: border security should be debated apart from the livelihood of Americans just trying to get by. But Clownface VonFuckstick doesn't give a shit about people who aren't millionaires, which is all the justification he needs to carry on with his temper tantrum stand-off bullshit. And that's enough for his supporters to taunt, ridicule, and otherwise rip into people wondering how they're going to be able to afford food and shelter if things keep going as they have been.

I'll ponder all that while trying to figure out how I will find space in my calendar to fit the three trips I just canceled. They're going to have to be pushed to Fall where travel dates are already scarce. But since actual lives are at stake, I'll make it work somehow.

Assuming we're not still shut down.

   

Spidey Marvel Time!

Posted on Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

Dave!My only complaint about Marvel Studios is that they are restricting themselves to three movies per year. This seems lacking in ambition. I understand not wanting to crowd the theaters in a wash of super-hero films, but maybe after the 21st Century Fox merger is complete they will up their game a bit? Hopefully.

In the meanwhile...

The first trailer for Spider-Man: Far From Home dropped earlier this week...

The most obvious piece of new information here is Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio...

Captain Marvel Character Posters

He doesn't seem like he's a villain... yet? I guess?

From appearances, it would seem Peter Parker is being deputized by Nick Fury to become "Spider-Man: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D." or something like that. Apparently to fight some elementals terrorizing Europe. That's seems pretty mundane and impersonal for a Marvel movie, so I'm guessing something (or more likely, someone) is behind it all.

Since the new Spider-Man takes place after Avengers: Endgame it's interesting to note that life on earth has returned to normal. Which means it returns to normal in Endgame. Which seems to indicate that Thanos and his snap were eradicated from the timeline? We shall see.

And then there's Captain Marvel...

New character posters for the forthcoming movie have been unleashed. Notably absent is a poster for Ronan the Accuser. Kinda weird that he didn't get one when everybody else did...

Captain Marvel / Carol Danvers, of course...

Captain Marvel Character Posters

Agent Nick Fury, having been CGI youthed to his 90's self...

Captain Marvel Character Posters

Agent Phil Coulson, likewise youthified...

Captain Marvel Character Posters

Maria Rambeau, whom I'm guessing is future-hero Monica Rambeau's mom and fellow pilot...

Captain Marvel Character Posters

Goose, Carol's cat... which is named "Chewie" in the comic books (after Chewbacca)... and is apparently named after Anthony Edward's Top Gun character here...

Captain Marvel Character Posters

Mar-Vell(?) is the original Captain Marvel in the comic books but, since the origin is changing for the movies, he could be playing somebody completely different...

Captain Marvel Character Posters

Korath, whose last appearance was in the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie...

Captain Marvel Character Posters

Minn-Erva, an enemy of Carol in the comics, but apparently isn't that (yet) in the movie...

Captain Marvel Character Posters

Talos, an evil alien Skrull shown here in his human form...

Captain Marvel Character Posters

??? No idea who Annette Bening is playing in the movie... Supreme Intelligence in human form perhaps...

Captain Marvel Character Posters

March 8th can't get here soon enough.

   

Home Security is for The Birds

Posted on Thursday, January 17th, 2019

Dave!This morning while I was at work, I received a notification from my security cameras that somebody was breaking into my front door. This happens whenever anybody is in the vicinity of the exterior doorknobs. I wasn't too worried because my door locks weren't reporting any tampering. But I was curious. Did somebody leave me a pamphlet or something? Let's take a look, shall we?

Well, that's disappointing...

But pretty.

I love birds. Especially in flight...

Bird in Flight

Bird in Flight

   
And now, if you'll excuse me, the first episode of Star Trek: Discovery Season Two is here! I loved the first season, so I'm hoping for more Star Trek goodness this time around...

Live Long and Prosper...

   

Snow Day

Posted on Friday, January 18th, 2019

Dave!We keep getting promised snow in the weather forecast, but it never comes. Then yesterday morning it started coming down like crazy. We had inches accumulate in short order. My cats couldn't get enough of it, and spent all morning hanging out in the catio watching the flakes fall. They came in for breakfast, but then it was right back outside.

When it was time to go to work, I stuck my head out to make sure all was well...

JENNY: =meow=
JAKE: =squawk=
ME: Yes, I see that. It's snowing!
JENNY: =meow=
JAKE: =squawk=
ME: Yes, how exciting!
JENNY: =meow=
JAKE: =squawk=
ME: No, you can't go play in it. You'll get all wet and make a mess in the house!
JENNY: =meow=
JAKE: =squawk=

But then I got to thinking that it's unfair they don't get to experience snow like outdoor cats do. They also don't get to experience walking on grass. What I need to do is create some kind of catio tunnel out to the yard. Then I need to find a way to bury some latches under the grass so I can secure a cage there. That way I can have a safe way for Jake and Jenny to walk on snow in the winter and grass in the summer... but also have it be removable so the lawn can be mowed.

Something to think about. In the meanwhile... I can shovel a little snow into the catio for them to play with.

Jenny ran out immediately so she could see what it was all about...

Jake and Jenny Playing in the Snow in Their Catio

Jake and Jenny Playing in the Snow in Their Catio

Jake and Jenny Playing in the Snow in Their Catio

Jake was a bit more cautious. He circled around it trying to sniff out what it could be. Probably trying to determine if he could eat it...

Jake and Jenny Playing in the Snow in Their Catio

Then he pawed around it for a while...

Jake and Jenny Playing in the Snow in Their Catio

Eventually he saw me through the window and started squawking at me. Assumably telling me that the snow made his feet cold. I tried to explain that he needs to step off the snow to fix that, but he just stood there complaining...

Jake and Jenny Playing in the Snow in Their Catio

And that was the end of that. Tonight it's pouring rain, which I'm assuming will melt all the snow. Again.

Guess it was good while it lasted.

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Caturday 93

Posted on Saturday, January 19th, 2019

Dave!I am telling you... if I end up dead under mysterious circumstances, my cats are likely responsible.

Earlier this week I was awakened by my cats raising holy hell in the guest bedroom downstairs. Wanting to know what in the heck was going on, I grabbed my phone to look at the security camera and got... a black screen. Reviewing the footage revealed that one of them had pushed the camera off the dresser at 1:02am. The last thing recorded was A GIANT ALIEN CAT EYE STARING AT THE LENS!!! ZOMG!

Cat in the Security Camera!

Which means their shenanigans this morning were premeditated. I don't bolt the camera to the wall because I need to remove it when guests are staying with me. I honestly didn't think that would be a problem. But there I go again... underestimating my cats...

Cat in the Security Camera!

In other news...

Jake has started sitting like this now...

Jake Perching

He does it everywhere...

Jake Perching

And he's thoroughly irritated that I'm photographing him all the time. Look at that face!

Jake Perching

Awwww... look at that face...

Jake in Blue

And in Jenny news...

I try not to interfere in my cats' skirmishes. I worried about Jenny for the longest time since she's smaller than Jake... but it turns out that she's more than capable of taking care of herself. Not only that, but she often is the instigator. Take, for example when Jake was out in the catio running around acting the fool. She sits there watching him through the window... AND THEN... when Jake wants to come back inside, she lunges for the cat door and scares him off. SHE DID THIS THREE TIMES IN A ROW!...

Jenny Attack

Jenny Attack

I finally had to intervene so poor Jake could come inside.

But they still hang out together otherwise, so I guess it's all good...

XXX

XXX

   
And now... it's kitty dinner time. Can't keep the little monsters waiting.

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Bullet Sunday 496

Posted on Sunday, January 20th, 2019

Dave!Rejoice and be saved... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts now...

   
• Stuck In Your Head! Oh man, I cannot wait for February 8th!

And... it's stuck in my head! So good!

   
• Judas? Two of my favorite YouTubers are John Crist and Trey Kennedy. Every once in a while they collaborate on a video and the result is darn funny. Like their latest: If Bible Characters Had iPhones...

Here's another one that's entirely too funny...

More, please.

   
• Baroque! There's an artist named Christy Lee Rogers who is creating these stunning underwater photos that look like amazing baroque paintings...

Underwater Paining by Christy Lee Rogers

The article over at My Modern Met is a must-see.

   
• NEWS! Conservatives are outraged a gay couple is on the cover of ‘Parents’ magazine
“Mothers and fathers are seeing more and more similar examples of children being indoctrinated to perceive same-sex couples as normal, especially in the media,” an unsigned blog post on One Million Moms’s website says. — Oh dear. My eyes just rolled to the back of my head and are stuck there. I am typing this while blind, so please excuse any spelling mistakes.

If a same-sex couple is what you have for parents... and they love you, care for you, provide for you, and foster your growth into adulthood... THEN YOUR PARENTS ARE FUCKING NORMAL! Likewise, if you have only one parent (for whatever reason) and they are doing their best to provide the same? THAT'S A FUCKING NORMAL FAMILY TOO!

XXX

“It could be displayed in waiting rooms of dentist and doctor offices, where children could easily be subjected to the glorification of same-sex parents,” the blog post says.YES, GOD FORBID YOUR CHILDREN SEE A PHOTO OF A HAPPY FAMILY. THEY MIGHT THINK IT'S OKAY TO NOT BULLY THE KID WHO HAS TWO DADS!

   
• Dads! AND, YES, IT DOES OCCUR IN NATURE. IT IS ACCORDING TO GOD'S PLAN. AND ALL YOUR ENERGY HATING PEOPLE WOULD BE BETTER SPENT NOT BEING ASSHOLES. WHY NOT TRY BEING ACTUAL CHRISTIANS FOR ONCE?

Penguins are the best!

   
• Jesus Christ. When you lie, like, ALL THE TIME... it gets hard to keep your lies straight...

I mean, holy shit...

You know it's fucking bad when the Saturday Night Live parodies aren't as funny as our actual government...

This is just exhausting. I am physically and mentally checked out.

   
And... I'm done. DONE!

   

MLK Peanuts

Posted on Monday, January 21st, 2019

Dave!

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day, everybody!


Peanuts on MLK Day

Peanuts on MLK Day

Peanuts on MLK Day

Peanuts on MLK Day

   

Steaming for Dollars

Posted on Tuesday, January 22nd, 2019

Dave!I used to love going out to the movies. Then it got ridiculously expensive and you basically end up paying obscene amounts of money to watch people text on their mobile phones... or listen to them talk... or endure their kids acting like idiots. So you spend even more money to go to the VIP theater so the experience is at least tolerable. And that's an expense I'm just not going to make unless it's a movie I'm dying to see (like anything from Marvel Studios).

So, by not going to the movies, I'm saving $12 for a ticket plus $8 for popcorn and a drink... that's $20, which is how much it costs to just buy most movies on iTunes now-a-days. Or, if you're patient, you can always wait and rent it for $5 or see if it shows up on HBO or something.

More and more I'm getting my entertainment from my television, but that too is quickly getting crazy-expensive.

DirecTV is pricey and I'm starting to wonder if it's worth it. I pay $53.57 per month for the bare minimum they offer just to get Seattle-local networks and a bunch of stuff I never watch (the big exception being HGTV). This is better than it used to be. Since I'm an AT&T wireless subscriber, the $53.57 reflects a $25 bundle credit. I remain incensed that I can't just pick and choose the networks I want to see. I will never, ever watch Fox "News," so why the fuck am I paying for it?

The obvious option here is to go 100% streaming...

  • HBO Go. Free with my AT&T mobile plan.
  • Apple. Free with my iPhone/iPad/Mac.
  • Amazon Prime. Included with my Amazon Prime account (already pay $120/year $10/mo.).
  • Hulu ($6/mo). A&E, ABC, Adult Swim, AMC, Animal Planet, BBC America, BET, Bravo, Cartoon Network, CBS, Cheddar, Comedy Central, Discovery, E!, Epix, Food, FOX, Freeform, Fuse, FX, FXx, HereTV, HGTV, History, Hulu Originals, Lifetime, MTV, National Geographic, NBC, Nickelodeon, Paramount, Science, SyFy, TBS, TLC, TNT, Travel, VH1... plus select shows from other networks like Showtime.
  • CBS All Access ($6/mo.). For all CBS shows and originals like Star Trek: Discovery and The Good Fight.
  • Disney+ (???/mo.). The upcoming must-have streaming service thanks to Disney/Marvel/Lucasfilm content.
  • Sundance Now ($7/mo.). Only when shows I want to watch are airing (like This Close)

Interesting to note that Hulu has actually lowered their ad-supported pricing...

Hulu is Cheaper

What I don't like about cutting the cord is that some networks withhold streaming their shows on Hulu for a while. As an example... Home Town has started its second season on HGTV, but only the first season is available on Hulu just now. For many programs, this wouldn't be a big deal... but for shows I really like, it's an issue.

Right now, receiving local channels from Seattle is worth the cost to me. But eventually my feelings may change. Saving $200+ a year on entertainment is no small amount of money.

   

Poop on a Triscuit

Posted on Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019

Dave!I'm trying not to swear in front of my cats.

Well, technically I'm trying not to swear out loud any more. I worry about somebody hearing me being an ass who would just as soon not hear it. Including young kids, babies, church groups, and Vice President Mike Pence. As well as my cats.

The challenge is trying to come up with alternatives which adequately convey my feelings about a situation.

Like just now when I realized that I left my phone at work and have to go back and get it.

I was about to yell "Fuck!" but instead said "Poop on a Triscuit!"

Jake and Jenny seemed confused. I'm guessing it's because they hear me scream "Fuck!" all the time and are accustomed to it... but the Triscuit thing is something new.

I hope that Vice President appreciates that.

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To Home (Depot) and Back Again (Again)

Posted on Thursday, January 24th, 2019

Dave!As I think I mentioned a while back, I've been working on a photo wall in my stairwell. It's a huge, expensive project, but I've been loving how it's been coming together so much that it's all been worth it.

Until I went to finally finish the dang thing only to realize I'm out of black spray paint for a couple frames that are the wrong shade of black. So after work I made a quick run to The Big City and Home Depot for a stupid (but necessary) $3 can of paint.

Then I went to finally, finally finish the dang thing only to realize that I didn't have enough Command Strips to hang all the remaining photos. So there I was at 8:00pm tonight making another run to The Big City and Home Depot to buy hangers.

The good news is that I think I will finally, finally, FINALLY be able to finish the dang thing tomorrow morning once the paint has had a chance to dry thoroughly.

If not, there will be no more trips to The Big City and Home Depot. Instead I'll just light the entire project on fire and forget I ever thought about doing it.

Because everybody has their limits.

Mine was two trips to Home Depot ago.

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Photo Wall (Stairwell Edition)

Posted on Friday, January 25th, 2019

Dave!As I mentioned a few times (or maybe it was just yesterday), I'm building a photo wall in my stairwell. Originally it was going to be a wall for friends and family, but it became much bigger than that when I realized I wouldn't have enough wall space for everybody. So now I'm going to have a Blogger Friends Wall in the stairwell, another Blogger Friends Wall in the dining room, a Family Wall in the upstairs hall, and a Friends Wall in my entryway.

And figuring out how to go about it all is not as easy as it sounds. There are hundreds of photos to organize and frame which requires some planning. For the sixty-six photos in my stairwell, I measured all the frames I've been collecting over the past two years and drew up a schematic...

Stairwell Photo Wall Plan

   
If you'd like to see a zoomable image, you can go to the project page I made right here. It has a magnifying glass so you can see everybody up-close-and-personal...

Stairwell Photo Wall Image

   
Despite being a huge amount of work and more frustration that I imagined it could be, the results are amazing...

Stairwell Photo Wall Image
My cats don't seem to know what to make of it yet. But they're keeping their paws off. For now.

   
The most important part of the plan was determining how low I could go and still see everything. If I were to put photos too far down on the wall, I'd have to be on my hands and knees to see them. After hanging test photos, I was able to see what photos I could see as I approached the stairs...

Stairwell Photo Wall Image

Then what I would see with each new step...

Stairwell Photo Wall Image

   
As I was testing placement I found out that my eye went to a different area depending on whether I was climbing the stairs... descending the stairs... or looking down from the second floor...

Stairwell Photo Wall Image

   
Going up the stairs I tend to look downward so I see the photos along the bottom. But going down the stairs my eyes tend to go down the middle for some reason...

Stairwell Photo Wall Image

   
This is perfect, because I end up seeing all the photos. Even the photos that are too high to be seen from the stairs are perfectly visible from above...

Stairwell Photo Wall Image

   
I couldn't be happier with how it all came together, and I actually look forward to using the stairs now so I can see my friends...

Stairwell Photo Wall Image

   
Even if hanging the photos at the top was a bit precarious thanks to my homemade scaffolding setup...

Stairwell Photo Wall Image

   
And now for my notes on creating this beautiful monstrosity...

  • When planning a collage, I found it's important to not only vary frame placement by size, you also need to be mindful of randomizing the depth of the frames. Otherwise you end up with high spots or low spots that look weird. This was harder than it sounds. I used all black frames, so it was easier than it could have been. I have no idea how insane it would be to add different colors to the mix. I drew out the above template on my computer so I could move things around to try and get a pleasing pattern. Frame depth was shown as different colors so I could more easily come up with something looking random.
  • Finding picture frames I could afford was a lot of work. The only time I went truly crazy was when the local Michaels Crafts store went out of business. The prices (which were already pretty good) were crazy cheap, so I bought as much as I felt comfortable piling up on my credit card. Everything else was purchased from buy-one-get-one sales (Fred Meyer's is great for these), special sales (Pier One is insanely expensive, but their sales are terrific), or clearances (Target flushes out their old stock at great prices to make room for the newer stuff). Some stores (like IKEA) have good quality and decent prices all the time, which was handy for filling in spots where I didn't want to wait for a sale.
  • I tried to be sensitive to people who were friends that had a falling out or couples who are no longer together, but there were a few times I didn't have any choice but to use what I had available. I also tried to avoid shots with people I don't know, but that too was unavoidable a few times. I'm okay with this. I hope the people in question are.
  • There are people I've tried hard to erase from my life, and leaving them off my wall is just another opportunity to remove them. It's tough, however, when they were so prominent in your life that Photoshopping them out of photos you'd otherwise like to use is often times impossible.
  • On the flip-side, running into photos of people you love that are gone is tougher.
  • Few things are more frustrating than trying to find photos you know exist but can't locate. Either because you've lost them or they were taken by somebody else and you don't have the originals to work from (or it's just a low-res image that got posted to your blog). There are people and shots I would have loved to have included, but simply could not find anything workable. I am trying hard to track them down in the hopes that those I missed can go on my second Wall of Bloggers.
  • Originally the smallest frame in my plan was 5x7. I had to change everything when I realized that some of the photos I had were of such low resolution that this was too big for them. So I went down to 2.5x3.5. There's not too many photos that can't go down that small, and even web-resolution images look okay. At first I was blowing them up anyway and trying to paint out some of the JPEG noise, but then everything looks fake. Better to print at a smaller size and have it look good than printing too big and have the problems magnified so the photo looks bad.
  • I was shocked at how many photos I wanted to use were blurry and awful upon closer inspection. Which is to say I'm not shocked that most of my blurry photos were taken at events where I was drinking.
  • On the wall, there's not much difference between a $4 frame and a $20 frame, because people are looking at the photo not the frame.
  • Quality is not governed by price. One of my most expensive frames that I really loved ended up falling apart when I took it apart to put the photo inside. That being said, cheap-cheap frames are going to be exactly that.
  • I found it much easier to work from the top down in strips rather than assembling a collage from side to side. And starting from the middle and working outwards was the smartest decision I made. Check your measurements often, especially if you are centering your photos on a wall.
  • To hang everything, I used 3M Command Strips which I bought in bulk to save money (thanks, Tim Gunn!). I also used a small level, which is essential for getting things to hang straight. There are pluses and minuses to using Command Strips. The plus is that it's very easy to get things placed where you want and they can be easily removed without damaging the wall. The negative is that they are visible on thin frames where you want to use every last bit of frame to attach them to. Also... not as environmentally-friendly as a nail and far, far more expensive. For a project like this though, the pluses far, far outweighed the negatives, and I am happy with the results.
  • Acrylic does not look the same as real glass for some reason. Unless my frame is so big that glass would be dangerous, I've been buying only frames that have real glass because I like the look better.
  • Working those little metal tabs that hold in the picture/backer/glass on most frames got to be painful after a while. Eventually I started using a putty knife to save my nails and fingertips.
  • Manufacturers who staple their corner protectors to the frame should be slapped.
  • I printed all my photos on an old HP printer that I had stored in the garage and hadn't used in years. The printheads were completely plugged and it took many soaks and flushes with cleaning fluid to get them unclogged. The ink cartridges were all dead, which meant I had to track down replacements. When I couldn't find them for a reasonable price, I ended up getting refillable cartridges that worked amazingly well at a fraction of the price. Now that I've printed all my photos, I'm pretty sure the printer is due for recycling, but I'm extremely grateful it lasted long enough to get through what I needed. Not that I am endorsing HP printers, mind you. The company is complete and total shit, and I won't be buying anything from them ever again if I can help it. The paper I had saved was still good, except one corner where moisture or something got to it. No big deal, but it was sealed in a plastic bag so I'm not sure how it happened.

And now on to planning my next wall.

Remember there's a zoomable image here that has a magnifying glass so you can everybody (maybe even yourself!)...

Stairwell Photo Wall Image

   

Caturday 94

Posted on Saturday, January 26th, 2019

Dave!This morning Jenny demanded belly rubs after she had breakfast. She hopped on the bed, sauntered up to me, then flopped over on her back and waited impatiently. I was happy to comply... except she was irritated at the way I was rubbing her belly. She'd grunt. She'd flop around. She'd paw at my hand to move it. She'd contort herself to get me to the right spot. But no matter what I did, Jenny was having none of it. She kept getting more and more frustrated until she meowed in disgust and walked off.

When I went downstairs to work while my bread was rising, Jenny sat next to me on the back of the couch, but refused to look at me no matter how many times I tried to talk to her...

Jenny Ignores Me

After some butt-scratches for a little while, she started to forgive me, but was still perturbed...

Jenny Ignores Me

There are times I'd give anything to be able to talk to my cats. This was one of those times.

But then, with a little patience...

Jenny Forgives Me

Jenny Forgives Me

   
In other news... my cats are still trying to kill me. Yesterday's morning tributes included Mufasa, a piece of rope I used to make the massive scratching pole in the catio, and one of my mom's rubber stamps. Made of wood. Which hurts a LOT when you step on it. Where did it come from? How did they bring it here? How did they fit it in their mouth? What does it mean? How long does it take foot pain to go away? WHY ARE MY CATS TRYING TO KILL ME?!?...

Jenny Ignores Me

   

My Philips HUE light in my bedroom lights up on "low" a half hour before I get up at 7am to feed the cats. It then keeps increasing in brightness until my Alexa alarm goes off. It's supposed to be simulating a sunrise or something. Anyway... the minute light clicks on at 6:30am, Jake has learned that this means it's getting close to breakfast. He then hops on the bed to stare at me for a half hour...

Jake Wants Breakfast

IS IT BREAKFAST TIME YET? I'M LITERALLY DYING OF STARVATION! I'M JUST GOING TO SIT HERE STARING AT YOU UNTIL YOU FEED ME. I HOPE THIS MAKES YOU FEEL BAD.

If he's feeling really frisky (or hungry) he will hop on top of me...

Jake Wants Breakfast

Or, if he's feeling lazy, he'll lay down beside me and fall asleep...

Jake Stretch

Jake is pretty much back to normal after his health scare. Still likes to sit on my lap when I'm trying to work...

Jake Laptop Cat

And he still watches for birds to land in the catio so he can attack them...

Jake Waits

But his behavior has definitely changed, because he still doesn't want to sleep alone...

Jake Loves Jenny

Jake Loves Jenny

He will sleep in the guest bedrooms alone if I'm at home. If I'm downstairs, he'll sleep in the downstairs guest bedroom... it I'm upstairs he'll sleep in the upstairs guest bedroom. But his days of being fully independent when sleeping seem to be over.

So long as Jenny doesn't mind, I guess it's all good.

Hey, maybe she can train Jake the right way to scratch her belly? He speaks cat, so maybe...

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Bullet Sunday 497

Posted on Sunday, January 27th, 2019

Dave!The Trump Shutdown may be only temporarily suspended, but don't let that get you down... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts now...

   
• Vax! =sigh= I was fully vaccinated as a kid, but it's been recommended that I get the MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) shot again because of a measles outbreak here in the Pacific Northwest. Since it's highly contagious, I never had it as a kid, I regularly climb into a confined metal tube with lots of people, and I only received one shot (not the series that's now recommended)... it's better safe than sorry I suppose. Fun! Thanks, anti-vax parents, for continuing to bring back diseases with gusto that we thought we had dealt with long ago. Polio, anyone?

   
• Just Die! And... apparently another idiot missionary is rolling the dice. If forced to choose between the death of a tribe of indigenous persons who are not equipped to handle the germs, disease, and overall bullshit that the outside world brings when it intrudes on their lands... or the death of some piece of shit missionary who KNOWS that it's illegal and KNOWS their actions can cause irreparable harm... I'm going to root for the asshole missionary to die. Hopefully in the most brutal way possible as an example to other assholes who might have similar ideas. Except that didn't seem to work the first time, because you just can't fix stupid. In the meanwhile, these Christian groups calling for the tribe to be arrested can go fuck themselves.

   
• Other Other! When I first heard that SNL alums Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider had a new series coming to Comedy Central, I was intrigued. Shows that fall out of Saturday Night Live talent are hit or miss, but the ones that hit are usually the most interesting and imaginative stuff to appear on television. And now The Other Two has arrived and it is about the funniest thing I've seen in a while...

Yes, that's Molly Shanon as the mom, and she's as good as you'd expect. And, yes, that's Wanda Sykes in there too (Lord, I wish they would find a starring vehicle for her that's worthy of her talent). It's a raunchy show to be sure, so it's not going to be for everybody... but, if you're intrigued, you can watch the first episode for free over at Comedy Central.

   
• London! I've wondered about London's airports for a long, long time. At last there are answers...

And... part two...

This guy's entire "Unfinished London" channel is gold.

   
• Out of Network! Regardless of where you land on the health care debate, this is essential reading. Now more than ever you have to be very careful about what care plan your doctor comes up with for you. It's critical that you know to question everything so as to avoid getting blindsided by outrageous medical costs.

   
• TransBan! The irony is not lost that President Trump (AKA Cadet Bone Spurs), who dodged the draft with a fake ailment, is in charge of deciding who gets to serve their country now (yes, it was fake... the daughter of the physician who signed off on his foot problem came forward). His desire to strongly curtail (or outright ban) transgender persons from serving was recently upheld by The Supreme Court. To those who understand that a strong military requires talents from all sorts of people, this makes no sense. So what is the president thinking? Not surprisingly, there's a series of tweets to explain it...

“Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming ... victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”
— President Donald Trump

Huh. Looks like our Commander in Chief doesn't know how the fuck our modern military works. But what does he understand? Let's hear what an actual fucking soldier has to say...

"When I was bleeding to death in my Black Hawk helicopter on that dusty field in Iraq, I didn't care if the American troops risking their lives to help save me were gay, straight, transgender, black, white, male or female. All that mattered was they didn't leave me behind."
— Senator Tammy Duckworth

Oh, and forgive me for completely discounting his fucking bullshit about the "medical costs" being a disruption to our military. It's not like he gives a shit about the millions of taxpayer dollars our military spends shuttling his fat ass to golf courses around the world.

   
Have a pleasant week, everybody!

   

Poster Raising with the Amish

Posted on Monday, January 28th, 2019

Dave!I have a dozen Marvel Studios posters hanging in my home. I love their movies and like using the posters as decoration everywhere. It was always my intent to have the first movie posters for the "Big Three" (Iron Man, Captain America, Thor) hanging together at the top of my stairwell. Thor was easy... I just used a stool on the landing. I built scaffolding to hang Captain America (and nearly killed myself in the attempt). Iron Man was just too high up for me to attempt it, so I hung him in my dining room and forgot about it. But now I need the dining room space for the second half of my Wall of Bloggers, so I had to find a way to hang Iron Man wayyyy up where he belongs...

Spot Where My Iron Man Poster Goes

I had no idea how I was going to do it without paying a painter to bring their scaffolding and build a ramp. I don't have that kind of money, so this wasn't really an option.

And then...

I was watching an episode of Banshee, which takes place in Amish country. Which got me to thinking about Amish barn raisings and how they manage to do it not with a forklift or a crane... but with long poles to push the frame up into place. Couldn't I do the same thing for my poster by using a Swiffer mop handle and some 3M Command Strips? The head on the Swiffer is kinda spongey, so it should have good grip on it.

And so...

First I cut some wood blocks which I mounted on the frame backing board. Then I attached the Command Strips to that. Then I nailed a piece of wood across the bottom of the posters to form a ledge. Then I stood on the landing, reached across with the poster, slid it into place, then grabbed the Swiffer handle to ease it up against the wall...

Swiffer Handle Poster Raising

   
Worked like a charm!

My Movie Posters on a Wall

My Movie Posters on a Wall

My Movie Posters on a Wall

Technically, Thor came before Captain America, but it looked better to have Cap's orange background breaking up the two blue/black backgrounds.

I'll probably leave the ledge up for a week or so just to make sure that the Command Strips have bonded to the wall properly. Each set can hold 4 pounds and I used 4 sets (16 pounds total), which means my 7-pound frame should be okay, I hope.

If not, hopefully myself or my cats won't be underneath it when it falls.

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Flat Flat Super-Flat

Posted on Tuesday, January 29th, 2019

Dave!The weather has been exceptionally nice these past couple days, which is both good and bad. Good because I can park outside and do some light woodworking in my garage. Bad because I worry about us having enough of a snow pack in the mountains to avoid drought this summer.

Yesterday when I got home from work I started experimenting with making cabinet doors and drawer facings. What I want are simple shaker-style pieces which look like they would be easy to build. And, relatively speaking, they are...

Jake Perching
These are the doors and drawers I want... almost exactly. Photo from HGTV.

But getting doors and drawers that will look great takes great patience, attention, care, and time.

Take the drawers in the above photo, for example. It looks like you just saw off a piece of wood, paint it, slap a handle on it, then crack open a cold one because you're done. But it's not that simple. Every edge has to be routed because a sharp corner has little strength and will be nicked up and dented in no time. But you can't overdo it or else they won't look like they're meant to look. And then there's the biggest issue I face... having flat, flat, super-flat boards to work with.

This is a surprisingly weird thing to have to worry about.

You'd think that the boards you buy would be cut flat (which they are) then processed in such a way that they remain flat. This is not even remotely the case. After the wood has been cut from a log it's usually dried so it doesn't warp too badly, but temperature, humidity, and other factors work on the wood over time and cause it to bend. Every single "true-wood" board I have ever bought has been warped in some way. Every board. This is a huge problem when you are trying to build something that's supposed to be flat. Like a drawer face or a picture frame.

So... what to do?

Option A is to use a material like MDF (medium density fiberboard) or hardboard. It's real wood fibers mixed with resin and heat-pressed into sheets for building. It's inexpensive, smooth, flat, won't warp, paints super-smooth, and is easy to work with. In the past it was fairly weak and lacked the strength of true wood, but now-a-days it's pretty durable stuff and can be almost as strong. As a bonus, it's easy to work with as well. The downside is that it can chip or come apart easily if you're not careful about how you use nails and screws. Since I'm painting everything white, this may be a good choice for me because you'll never see the material. I also like the idea that it's cheaper and won't warp or split.

Option B is to use "true wood" and buy a planer. Running everything through a planer will provide the super-flat boards I need to build nice doors and drawers. This is wasteful and time-consuming, but you get the durability and strength that's made wood the material of choice since cabinetry began.

Option C buy fresh-planed wood from a cabinet shop. Not really an option because it's far more money than I have to spend.

My plan is to build a couple drawer faces and cabinets with MDF and see how it goes. Once I get them built I'll beat on them a little bit to make sure they're not going to fall apart. If they hold up well, then I guess I've found my material. If not, I guess I'm getting a planer. Which is something I wanted to buy anyway, but my kitchen remodel is such a huge deal that I am not thrilled with the time involved in having to use it.

For the most part I am anxious to get started on my kitchen and excited to tackle such a challenging project. But there's a small part of me who is very aware that I don't know what I'm doing yet and no amount of YouTube videos will prepare me for the real thing. Which is why it's nice that the weather has been so good and I can experiment. I'll be a lot more confident about my plans if I have some experience under my belt.

Also? By starting in on cabinetry early I'll have more time this summer to work on more catio projects. Jake and Jenny are wanting new adventures!

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Potato Chip Hauntings

Posted on Wednesday, January 30th, 2019

Dave!Lay's potato chips were on sale at the grocery store so I bought a couple bags. And while I love them plain right out of the bag, I was craving the chip dip that my mom used to make. It was the same dip that my grandmother used to make. I think she got the recipe from the mother of one of my mom's friends. Since both my mom and grandma are gone now, I guess I'll never know for sure where it came from. One of a million things I should have asked about but never did.

Here's the base recipe...

  • 8oz. cream cheese brick, softened.
  • Two heaping tablespoons of mayonnaise.
  • Splash of lemon juice.
  • Garlic powder to taste.

It's good just like that, but there are optional add-ins if you're wanting something more exciting...

  • Splash of Worcestershire sauce (for non-vegetarians).
  • Two heaping tablespoons of sour cream.
  • Ground pepper to taste.
  • Cayenne pepper to taste.
  • Minced garlic to taste.
  • Dash of hot sauce.
  • Chopped scallions (or chives) and paprika as a topper.

   
Tonight I just made the base recipe with a little cayenne. It was exactly what I needed.

And everything I didn't.

It's been seven months since my mom died and there's always something there to remind me that she's gone. If it's not the pictures of her on the wall or cream cheese dip, it's something else.

Everything else.

There doesn't have to be a ghost for you to be haunted. All it took for me was a bag of chips.

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Hairy Obsolescence

Posted on Thursday, January 31st, 2019

Dave!This morning before heading off to work I decided to dust off my entertainment center. It's a futile endeavor with two cats, because everything will go back to being covered in hair within seconds. As I was dodging in and out of the many crevasses with my Swiffer duster, I made my way to the fancy Blu-Ray player I had bought and couldn't recall the last time I used it. Probably to watch one of those rare movies I love that never made its way to digital.

This is more than a little depressing because the thing was top-of-the-line back in the day and cost me a small fortune. At the time it seemed like a wise investment because it could play both 3D and 4K Blu-ray discs. Little did I know that 3D would be a stupid feature because the special glasses eat batteries like crazy... and all the discs are glitchy.* As for 4K? Apple started releasing most new movies in 4K digitally (no Blu-Ray required) within months of my hooking up the player.

And so the pricey but useless piece of tech just sits there collecting more dust and hair until I want to watch Undercover Blues or True Lies or The Abyss or Strange Days again. WHICH JUST HAPPEN TO BE FOUR OF MY FAVORITE MOVIES OF ALL TIME...

Undercover Blues Movie

True Lies Movie

The Abyss Movie

Strange Days Movie

   

The rumor mill has been going on for years that James Cameron is working on bringing True Lies and The Abyss to Blu-Ray and (hopefully) digital. I have no idea what the holdup is with Kathryn Bigelow & James Cameron releasing Strange Days (which is oddly more relevant now than it was when it was released 20 years ago). And then there's Undercover Blues. This movie is 100% awesome, and it seems impossible that nobody has released it digitally since it actually has a Blu-Ray release (albeit not a great one).

So many television shows and movies that have been lost to time. It seems... weird... somehow, that everything released within the past 25 years isn't out there for digital purchase. Though I should count myself lucky. At least these movies have DVD releases. Entirely too many of my favorite television shows (like Jeremy Piven's Cupid and Alan Ball's Oh Grow Up!) do not.

Which has me wondering how long it will be before they won't be making DVD/Blu-Ray players any more. These things always seem to happen sooner than you think.

   
*Seriously, I have yet to find a 3D Blu-Ray which will play properly all the way through. Their quality is for shit.

   

Digitalization Proclamation

Posted on Friday, February 1st, 2019

Dave!Are you converting your DVD/Blu-Ray library to digital? Upgrading your SD DVDs to digital HD?

Yesterday I talked about my Blu-Ray player and how I rarely use it. I haven't bought a DVD or Blu-Ray in years, preferring to purchase everything digitally. And mostly on sale. Few movies are worth paying full price for,* (usually if you wait a couple of months they'll drop to $10 or less). I do still have bunches of old DVDs and Blu-Ray discs hanging around. Those I watch over and over again I repurchased digitally for convenience... but most movies aren't worth buying twice.

Until Vudu joined up with Movies Anywhere, that is.

Movies Anywhere is an alliance of digital media stores and movie studios which allow you to buy a film from one store... then watch it at any other. Buy a movie from Google Play and, so long as it's a part of Movies Anywhere, it will show up in your Apple iTunes (or whatever).

This also goes for DVDs/Blu-Rays converted by Vudu, so long as...

  1. The movie is available digitally at Vudu (some aren't).
  2. The movie in question is participating in Movies Anywhere (some aren't).
  3. The movie is available for conversion (some aren't).

Assuming these conditions are true, you're in luck!

  • DVDs will covert to SD Digital for $2. Most of them can also convert to HD Digital for $5 if you prefer.
  • Most HD Blu-Rays will convert to HD Digital for $2. For some reason there are a few titles which will still cost $5 for HD.

Since I want to play everything on iTunes, here's how I've been converting my DVD/Blu-Ray library...

1) Look up my disc on MoviesAnywhere.com. If they have it, scroll to the bottom for the title info and verify that it's a part of Movies Anywhere...

Vudu Purchase

2) If the movie is eligible, I grab my iPhone and point its browser to Vudu.com/disc (GPS location and camera are required). From there you can scan the UPC code off of you DVD or Blu-Ray and see if it's available for digital conversion...

Vudu Purchase

3) If it is, you select SD or HD, and off you go!

For older movies I own on DVD, I mostly choose the cheaper $2 conversion. Many modern televisions will upscale the SD picture to something that looks just fine, even on a large display. But if it's an older movie I love which underwent remastering or it's a more recent movie which will benefit from the HD image, I spend the $5. Weirdly enough, Vudu will only allow you to convert 100 movies per calendar year. After that, you have to wait until January 1 in order to convert any more... just in case you're flush with cash and have a huge DVD library.

It will take me a few years yet to be able to afford to convert all the titles I want into digital format, but it's sure nice not having loads of DVDs taking up space in my home. It's also handy to have movies I like in digital format that can be watched anywhere. There is a drawback to conversion, however. Most digital movies don't have "iTunes Extras," so those DVDs which come with "extra features" will likely be lost. If that's something important to you, be sure to check what features iTunes has before spending your hard-earned money.

And now, if you'll excuse me, my biological clock is ticking like this... =stomp stomp stomp= so I've got My Cousin Vinny to watch.

   

*The exception being all the Marvel Studios movies. I buy those the minute they go on sale.

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Caturday 95

Posted on Saturday, February 2nd, 2019

Dave!As I've bragged many times, my cats are remarkably well-behaved.

They don't bother me when I'm sleeping. They don't scratch or chew on things they shouldn't. They rarely go where they're not supposed to. And they really don't try to get at my food while I'm eating it. Even Jake has the manners to wait until I'm finished before sniffing my dishes for crumbs. Jenny, on the other hand, doesn't seem interested in people food at all.

At least that's what I thought... until she made a bee-line for my chip dip...

Jenny Tries Dip

Once she smelled garlic, she was over it in a real hurry, however.

Instead she and Jake decided to stare me down in the hopes of getting an early dinner...

Jake and Jenny Want Dinner

In other news, Jake has started snuggling up with me since his sister has been getting more and more annoyed with him trying to snuggle up to her...

Jake Looking

Jake Looking

Jenny, who has always loved watching television, has started getting interested in computer videos now. Last night I was watching an otter video when she leaped up on the couch behind me to take a look...

Jenny Watches Otters on YouTube

She must really like otters, because she came in for a closer look...

Jenny Watches Otters on YouTube

Guess I need to install YouTube on the cats' iPad.

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Bullet Sunday 498

Posted on Sunday, February 3rd, 2019

Dave!Don't the mistake of clicking that back button now... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts now...

   
• Carnivore! I choose to be vegetarian because humans can adapt to vegetarian/vegan diets. Cats and dogs were not designed to be vegetarian/vegan, and forcing them on this "diet" is unhealthy... even deadly. If you won't feed your pets the meat they were built to eat, then get a pet that is made for a vegetarian/vegan diet. Like a hamster or something. Better yet, don't get a pet at all if you don't have their health and well-being as a priority.

   
• Salty! After it was announced that Jarrod Saltalamacchia was retiring from baseball I started to write a blog post about it, but could never figure out what I wanted to say. I'm a huge fan...

Jarrod Saltalamacchia by Keith Allison
Photo by Keith Allison @ Flickr

I'm such a fan that I ended up bidding on (and winning) his dugout jacket from the 2013 World Series...

Saltalamacchia Dugout Jacket

I first became a fan when he started playing for the Red Sox (of course), but I kept up with his career as he moved on to Miami, Arizona, Detroit, and Toronto...

Saltalamacchia Dugout Jacket

Best of luck in retirement, Salty!

   
• Taxable! Heaven only knows I'm not 100% onboard with the current taxation scheme that we're subjected to here in the US. And I don't much agree with many of the proposed alternatives either. That being said, I'm getting increasingly pissed off with those politicians who are lying assholes about how tax brackets work. Forget what you're being told and watch this short video...

It's pretty simple, yet people are incredibly stupid when it comes to what they choose to believe. No surprise there.

   
• Stop Doing That! Samantha Bee's Full Frontal had a segment on the challenges that deaf persons have in dealing with the police. If that's not enough to get you to take a look, Nyle DiMarco stops by to help out... and take his shirt off...

If only those who can hear will take the time to listen.

   
• Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch! Now this takes talent...

When I was in Wales, I had trouble pronouncing the four letter words. Attempting to pronounce this would probably kill me.

   
• Infinity Paint! And, lastly, this is my favorite thing on the internet this past week.

   
And... life goes on even though Bullet Sunday is over.

   

Living Comfortably Numb

Posted on Monday, February 4th, 2019

Dave!Blergh.

Today I had to run into The Big City to have some dental work repaired. Going to the dentist is never fun, but today's trip was made worse by the brutal cold front that descended into the valley last night. It was so cold out that the windshield wipers fell apart after ten minutes on the road.* Which is dangerous when road-slush is fusing itself to your car...

Ice Fusion to My Car

Fortunately I was able to crank the defrost and drive carefully enough that my windshield stayed mostly-clear. At least long enough to drop by the auto parts store for new wipers.

And then it was dental reconstruction time.

Which was a piece of cake.

I can't believe how anesthesiology tech has advanced over the years. Used to be they shoot you up with novocaine and you're uncomfortably numb for an entire day... then you have that awful taste in your mouth as the drugs leach out. Gross. Then everything hurts for a while as your body recovers. Even once novocaine was replaced in the 80's, the new generation of numbing agents seem like they're improving.

Now? You feel nothing. You taste nothing. The numbness fades in hours. There's no residual discomfort or pain. The work was completed just six hours ago and I can barely tell that anything was done. How cool is that?

And speaking of cool...

There's a musician named Simon "Blanks" de Wit in the Netherlands who reimagines popular songs with his own musical arrangements on YouTube. The results are fantastic, especially when he takes contemporary music and turns it into 80's pop with a "StyleSwap"...

The result is often something I like far more than the original...

The guy is incredibly talented, posting "One Hour Challenge" videos where he attempts to remake songs in 60 minutes...

He composes his own songs as well...

His sound is still developing, and it will be interesting to see where he goes as a musician. If he can come up with an album that's 80's pop inspired, I'm so there.

   

*Note to self: Not replacing your windshield wipers for six years is probably not a good idea.

   

Bird Boxing

Posted on Tuesday, February 5th, 2019

Dave!A while back Jake managed to murder a poor bird that wandered into the catio, leaving me a not-so-nice present when I returned home.

My hope was that this would be a rare incident. But the little maniac struck again last night. Luckily this time I was home and could run out and admonish him so the bird could escape...

If I weren't so mortified at Jake's homicidal tendencies, it would actually be funny. The minute I open the back door he's like "whut?" and the bird plops right out of his mouth and wanders out to the back porch.

As soon as the bird had escaped I immediately ran to get a box I could cut open as a temporary shelter to keep the snow off of him and (hopefully) keep him safe from another cat. But by the time I had made it back there he had flown away...

Box for a Bird

He didn't look gravely injured, just shocked, so I'm hopeful he was able to recover. I have no idea how much damage Jake does when he attacks, but I'm assuming there's some kind of puncture wound from his claws/teeth. Poor bird.

Except...

A couple weeks ago I got an alert that somebody was breaking into my house. It ended up being a bird...

Bird in Flight

Just before it snowed, it happened again...

Bird in Flight

Bird in Flight

   
Maybe these bird break-ins are not accidental.

What if... they are seeking revenge?!?

Somebody alert Tippi Hedren.

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Impractically Obsolescent

Posted on Wednesday, February 6th, 2019

Dave!Today I went looking for some old, old, very old files that I knew I had backed up on CD somewhere. Turns out they were even older than I thought, because they weren't on CD after all. They were on magneto-optical discs.

This poses a problem, as I have no way of reading them.

Well, I think there's a way... but it's far from an easy way.

It will involve my dragging one of my old computers with a SCSI interface out of storage, wiring up the optical drive, copying the files to a hard disk, then taking apart the computer so I can remove the hard drive and put it in another Mac which has ethernet (but no SCSI). Or something like that. Maybe I've got a SCSI CD burner around somewhere.

My guess is that CDs and DVDs will be next to die off. Just like in Back to the Future...

Back to the Future CDs LDs

At some point Real Soon Now, I need to transfer all my older files to Amazon's online storage. Then it doesn't matter if I can't read CDs or magneto-optical, or ZIP, or JAZ, or SyQuest... all I have to worry about is whether or not I can read the format that the files are in.

Years ago any time a new version of Adobe Illustrator or Adobe InDesign came out, I immediately read in all my older files, then saved them out in the new file format. That way even my oldest files would still be accessible if I ever needed them. But eventually, as the number of files I have archived skyrocketed, this became impractical.

Now I just cross my fingers that new versions of the programs will be backwards compatible enough that I don't have to worry about it.

   

Excuse Me

Posted on Thursday, February 7th, 2019

Dave!I've been preoccupied with work lately, starting up at at 5am and working until late. This is no fun for me... but it's even less fun for my cats. I still make time for them whenever they want attention or need to be petted, of course, but I'm not going out of my way. This is confusing to them, resulting in Jake and Jenny being a little more needy than usual.

"Excuse me. Do you have a moment to talk about our Lord and Savior, Hill's Prescription Diet Ocean Fish Dinner?"

Jake Looking Over My Computer Screen

   
After next week I'm hoping to be caught up enough that things can get back to normal.

Or whatever passes for normal when you have cats.

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Presidential Nonstarter

Posted on Friday, February 8th, 2019

Dave!   

I don't even know where to start.

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Caturday 96

Posted on Saturday, February 9th, 2019

Dave!And so we're in the middle of a Winter Storm Warning.

Which sounds like a bad thing, but I'm so grateful that there will be more snow accumulating in the mountains that I just don't care. Not having to go through a drought come Summer is worth it.

Jake doesn't care much about the snow or rain. He mostly ignores the weather. If the snow is really coming down, he might go out in the catio and watch for a while. Jenny on the other hand?

Jenny Watching Snow

Jenny Watching Snow

Jenny Watching Snow

Jenny is greatly upset by the weather. When it rains, she meows at the drops falling on the roof. When she sees big snowflakes falling, she meows at them (and her brother) through the window...

Jenny Watching Jake Out eh Window with Snow

Or hides in a paper bag...

Jenny in a Paper Bag

Jenny in a Paper Bag

Jenny in a Paper Bag

   
In other news... Jenny is still stealing Mufasa from Jake whenever he does something to piss her off.

So there I was headed to take a shower when Jenny comes charging up the stairs with Mufasa in her mouth at top speed. She dashes into her bedroom and I hear rustling as she runs through the cat tunnel... then strolls out of the room like nothing happened. I must say, this is not a very inventive hiding spot...

Jenny Puts Mufasa in a Tunnel

Don't worry about Jake though. He knows how to console himself by eating my junk food picnic...

Jake Steaking Junk Food

And demanding consolation scratches...

Jake Wants Scratches

Jake Wants Scratches

   
And... it looks like the foot of snow we got is going to be it. Not much of a "winter storm" if you ask me.

But don't try to tell Jenny that.

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Bullet Sunday 499

Posted on Sunday, February 10th, 2019

Dave!Don't go fretting that you aren't in touch with what's new in life... because a Very Special Edition of Bullet Sunday starts now...

   
• NEW Disco! I tell you what... Star Trek: Discovery has been knocking it out of the part again this season. Even slow, throw-away episodes (like the latest one) have surprising depth. But, then again, any time spent with my favorite Kelpien, Saru, is time well-spent...

Doug Jones as Saru Star Trek Discovery

There is a campaign to get Doug Jones an Emmy for his work as Saru, and I can't think of another actor more deserving. Jones has flawlessly constructed movement, voice inflections, and mannerisms that feel completely alien, and the skill to be doing all that while completely encased in makeup and facial appliances is remarkable. He had better at least get nominated.

If you like sci-fi and are not watching Disco, you owe it to yourself to take out a free trial for CBS All Access and see what you've been missing. I am a diehard fanatic of Star Trek: The Original Series, and feel that this is the best series to come out in the Star Trek Universe since then. I was not impressed with any of the Next Generation/DS9/Voyager/Enterprise shows, but this? This is great stuff (despite the bitching and moaning from "Star Trek fans" that hate it... which, if that's you, don't worry... you'll be getting your Next Generation pablum when Captain Picard comes back with his new show).

   
• NEW! Netflix has just unleashed the third season of the One Day at a Time reboot, and it did not disappoint...

If there's a flaw, it's that the show feels the need to continue addressing absolutely every social issue in existence. It's handled really well, but it can still be exhausting. Yes, it's great to see the show address current events, but it's at its best is when it focuses on the people behind the issues. Fortunately there's plenty of that as well, and I'm hoping we get a fourth season.

   
• NEW Boys! Pet Shop Boys have a new EP that just dropped called Agenda. And it's as relevant and interesting as you would expect...

And then there's thinly-veiled political message, perhaps?

Yeah. Just when we needed it most.

   
• NEW Ellen! What would it take to coax Ellen DeGeneres to do her first standup special in 15 years? Apparently it's the $20 million that Netflix ponied up for Relatable, which was released back in December...

I just watched it again last night and I gotta say... it's worth the money. Ridiculously funny. Probably my favorite of all her specials so far. Until Netflix lures her back with $50 million maybe?

   
• NEW Boarding! CGP Grey released a new video this past week on how to best board an airplane. It's an interesting discussion, to be sure...

   
• NEW Country! With rare exceptions, I am decidedly not a country music fan. Though recently Casey Musgraves has me re-thinking this stance with her amazing Country-Pop fusion, which is some of the best music I've heard in a while. Because of that, I found this analysis on the current state of Country to be a fascinating watch...

The fact that the finger-snapping madness is becoming such a predominant force in music today is pretty disheartening. Time will tell if it's eventually replaced by something even worse.

   
No more new for you. See you next Sunday.

   

A Boy and His Lion

Posted on Monday, February 11th, 2019

Dave!Worst. Monday. Morning. Evar.

Which is bound to happen when your bed ends up covered in cat vomit and you pull a muscle in your back.

But we'll get to that. First let me back up to yesterday, which was a much better day for me.

As I've mentioned a few times, Jenny has a vindictive streak and knows exactly what buttons to push on poor Jake when he pisses her off. First thing on her list? Stealing Mufasa, his stuffed lion and favorite toy. Many times when Jake has done her wrong, she runs off with Mufasa and hides him away somewhere. Jake will then spend hours trying to find him.

Yesterday I found Mufasa stuffed behind the garbage can in the bathroom so I took him to Jake, who was lounging on top of the cat tree in my bedroom. It was like Christmas morning...

Jake and Mufasa

Jake and Mufasa

Jake oftentimes latches onto Mufasa with his claws and swings him around...

Jake and Mufasa

Jake and Mufasa

Jake and Mufasa

But it always comes back to bite-bite time...

Jake and Mufasa

Jake and Mufasa

Jake and Mufasa

Jake and Mufasa

He was all smiles for a good ten minutes...

Jake and Mufasa

Jake and Mufasa

Jake and Mufasa

Good times. Good times.

I am dreading the day that Mufasa gets ripped to shreds. I've already had to repair him once, so his time on this earth is coming to an end eventually. A friend checked at the gift shop "Out of Africa" in Johannesburg's airport where I got him but, alas, they are no longer selling Mufasas. Every once in a while I check eBay just to see if one will pop up, but no luck so far.

Anyway...

This morning at 4:00am Jake hops on the bed and wakes me up in distress. He's making chirping noises and acting like he wants to throw up, which is a rare thing for my cats to do. I'm immediately worried that he's sick with a urinary problem again, but it turns out it was just a hairball. A hairball that took him a full ten minutes to hack up, the poor guy. He was pretty whipped after that, so I threw off my vomit-covered sheets and let him rest up for a bit before I took them to the wash.

Not wanting to disturb Jake on my bed after his rough morning, I decided to take a nap on the couch. But it wasn't ten minutes before I heard a cat howling and was freaking out that Jake or Jenny was hurt... only to realize that it was coming from outside. Turns out that the people who plow my driveway piled the snow over the path that I keep shoveled for the neighborhood cat, Fake Jake, to get around my home so he can get to his food and his bathroom out back.

And so... there goes my morning nap...

Snow Shoveling

Snow Shoveling

Snow Shoveling

   
And so... crisis averted...

Fake Jake on His Path

Fake Jake on His Path

That'll teach me not to get up and start shoveling when the snow removal team messes with Fake Jake's routine!

After my bagel and cream cheese breakfast, I took a shower and got ready for work. All was good... until... I went to get in my car and pulled something in my back. I had screwed it up last week and had been taking care to move gently until it had healed. I thought I was fine... but then had to go shoveling a path for a cat and messed things up again.

Good times. Good times.

   

No Frills Air

Posted on Tuesday, February 12th, 2019

Dave!Air travel is expensive, yo.

And as somebody who has done their fair share of finding fair fares, I can tell you that it's just getting worse and worse. Airlines are raking in millions... billions... in profit, and they're doing it by raising the cost to fly and nickel-and-diming you to death for absolutely everything. Most airlines still serve you a tiny cup of Coke and a cookie or a wee bag of snack mix for "free"... but if you want to actually have something to eat, you'll have to pay for it. Want to check a bag? You'll pay for that too. Want to sit in the front of the plane? How about have a reserved seat? Oh yeah, most airlines are definitely charging for that now.

It reminds me of a cartoon series by Al Jaffee from MAD magazine back in 1975...

Al Jaffee No-Frills Airline
Artwork by Al Jaffee and ©1975 Mad Magazine — from Heritage Auctions


Al Jaffee No-Frills Airline
Artwork by Al Jaffee and ©1975 Mad Magazine — from Heritage Auctions


Al Jaffee No-Frills Airline
Artwork by Al Jaffee and ©1975 Mad Magazine — from Heritage Auctions


Al Jaffee No-Frills Airline
Artwork by Al Jaffee and ©1975 Mad Magazine — from Heritage Auctions


Funny thing is... Jaffee wasn't that far off. Kinda.

Well... unless you are an elite flyer with the airline. Then you get some of those perks at no additional cost. There's also perks (like checked bags) which you can get by having a credit card from the airline.

But for the casual traveler? Most of the things you pay for now are stuff that you didn't have to not so long ago. Given the price to fly, it's like adding insult on top of injury, but that's the way it goes.

A while back my home airline, Alaska Air, was facing stiff competition in critical markets from discount no-frills airlines. Rather than continue to lose infrequent flyers to these bargain-basement alternatives... or have to cut fares on their "Basic Economy" seats and lose money... they introduced "Saver Fares" which give you a cheaper rate with some serious restrictions...

  • Non-Refundable. Something happens and you need to cancel? Not so much.
  • Not changeable. Did your plans change? Looks like you're buying a new ticket!
  • No front-of-cabin seats. Back to the back of the bus you go.
  • No complimentary upgrades. Even if you fly 500,000 miles annually!

As an example of the savings, here's a Seattle to Boston flight, each way...

Alaska Air Saver Fares

So... $60 savings total, roundtrip.

Unless I was really strapped for cash and positive my plans wouldn't change, there's just no way I'd ever do this. Sure you save $60... but if something happens with your travel plans (this happens to me all the time), you're out $468 for a ticket you can't use.

Despite my having an aversion to "Saver Fares," I am awfully glad that Alaska has them for people who only care about price. I want my local airline to be successful, and anything they can do to be competitive is something I am in favor of.

At 6'2" what I'm not in favor of is cutting legroom... yet again... though it would seem the FAA has put a stop to that. At least for now. Heaven only knows what regulations Presidebt Trump is going to abolish next that fuck people over in favor of his corporate owners.

But something tells me it will resemble something straight out of Mad magazine, like everything else he does.

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Winky the Bichon Frise

Posted on Wednesday, February 13th, 2019

Dave!Don't ask me why, but I watch the Westminster Dog Show every year.

This year my dedication was rewarded with "Winky"... a little Bichon Frise running the agility course. This hilarious pup was in no hurry at all to complete the course, and was happy to stop for applause a couple of times. Needless to say, the crowd loved Winky...

   
Definitely not the fastest time, to be sure, but my favorite run of the show.

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Last Chance Valentine

Posted on Thursday, February 14th, 2019

Dave!For the first time in nearly 40 years, I didn't buy any flowers for today.

When I was young, my mom would give me money to buy flowers for my grandmother on Valentine's Day. Once I started earning money of my own I carried on, buying grandma flowers every year until she died in 2015. Because of that, it's tough not to think of my grandmother whenever February 14th rolls around. Even those years I had a girlfriend and would load her up with flowers and candy, it was still my grandma's holiday.

I would sometimes buy flowers for my mom, but every time I did she would tell me I should save the money for our next vacation instead. And so I did. Mostly. After she couldn't travel any more I started buying her flowers for Valentine's Day again in the hopes it would brighten her life a bit. Lord only knows she could use it given that her days were spent being confused and confined to a building.

But now she's gone as well.

And I am single.

So no flowers. But I do have my annual Valentine's Day card...

Happy Valentine's Day 2019

For past year's Blogography Valentine cards, click here!

   

Snowmageddon Las Vegas

Posted on Friday, February 15th, 2019

Dave!I woke up not knowing whether or not I'd be on my way to Las Vegas today.

The forecast for this week was "partly cloudy" but it ended up being "Snowmageddon Part 2: The Snowpocalypse" and flights were being canceled left and right. I don't think I single flight left my local airport yesterday. Driving over the mountain passes was out of the question because they keep closing.

But because this is one of those rare trip to Vegas for fun with friends where I don't have a deadline... all my flights were fine. Better than fine, actually, thanks to a First Class upgrade...

Dave in First Class

It's only when I have to be at a critical meeting at a precise time that all my flights are delayed, canceled, or otherwise screwed up.

And so...

Glitter Gulch awaits.

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Neon Refrigeration

Posted on Saturday, February 16th, 2019

Dave!I end up in Las Vegas for work a lot. Four to six times a year. On those trips, it's not my favorite place. Because when you're here for work, it can be the loneliest city on earth. It's not like most cities where you can wander to a small corner cafe, soak up the atmosphere, and feel a part of something real. Partly because there are no small corner cafes (at least not on The Strip or in Old Town), but mostly because nothing in Las Vegas is real.

But when you're here with friends?

Las Vegas is one of the most exciting cities on earth.

Tonight we wandered around and ended up at the fountains at the Bellagio, which is always nice...

Fountains a the Bellagio

From there, some of us went to Brilliant, which is a light show at the Neon Museum "boneyard" where to play popular songs associated to Vegas while signs light up and videos play. I've seen it before, and it was actually quite nice...

Briliant Neon Museum Show

Briliant Neon Museum Show

Briliant Neon Museum Show

Briliant Neon Museum Show

Except...

As you can tell from that bottom photo where everybody is bundled up an shivering, this time is was bitter cold. As in "I'm wearing my winter coat but still freezing my ass off" cold. And thank heavens I had my winter coat, because I would have been a wreck without it. I rarely travel to Vegas in the dead of winter, so I had no idea this was what was awaiting me. Fortunately, I had dressed for the weather back home to get to the airport, so I was (somewhat) prepared.

At the end of the day, I was up $36 thanks to a lucky pull at a slot machine in the Paris hotel. If I play my cards right (or, better still, don't play cards at all) I just might go home with my shirt on my back.

Given the weather both here and back home, that's actually my best-case scenario.

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Bullet Sunday 500

Posted on Sunday, February 17th, 2019

Dave!Five hundred days of bullets and counting... because Bullet Sunday live from Las Vegas starts now...

   
• Fremont! I'm not much of a gambler, but if I'm going to do so, my preferred place to throw away my money would be "Old Town Vegas" AKA Fremont Street. It's a little more laid back, the slots are looser, and it doesn't take 20 minutes to walk between casinos. And then there's the giant canopy which helps protect you from the rain... like what was coming down last night in sprinkles. Also? It's pretty...

Fremont Street

Fremont Street

Fremont Street

Fremont Street

Fremont Street

   
• Alaska! I've never had an "Alaskan Waffle" before. I've never even heard of the term. Essentially, it's a waffle with ice cream, which is genius. Needless to say, I had to try it...

Alaskan Waffle at th Blueberry Hill restaurant

Alaskan Waffle at th Blueberry Hill restaurant

Alaskan Waffle at th Blueberry Hill restaurant

Way. Way. Way too sweet for me. I could only eat half of it. But I give it a 9 out of 10... would order again.

   
• Venice! Most of the big theme hotels on the Vegas Strip are beautiful and well done. But The Venetian is probably my favorite. When we passed through for dinner, they had a fantastic Chinese New Year display up...

Chinese New Year at the Venice Hotel

Chinese New Year at the Venice Hotel

As you might guess, It's "The Year of the Pig." And this little piggy was huge. And gold.

   
• Dessert! One of the many restaurants in The Palazzo (at The Venetian) is Mott 32, a high-end Chinese affair. We went there for dessert after dinner at The Factory, because they're just so amazing. "I had The Bamboo Green Forest"...

The Bamboo Green Forest Dessert

Pretty phenomenal. The base is a scoop of yogurt lime sorbet floating in heavy yuzu cream. On top is shredded matcha sponge cake surrounded by crispy yoghrt crumbs and topped with white chocolate bamboo spears and crumbles.

   
• Wonder! Finally got a chance to play Wonder Woman slots...

Wonder Woman Slots

I'd seen it before, of course, but never had a chance to give it a shot. Princess Diana was not kind to me. Ended up walking away with 10¢ after spending $20.

   
Until next week when I'll be back home. I think...

   

Home is Where the Layover Is

Posted on Monday, February 18th, 2019

Dave!Today I got to Las Vegas McCarran Airport just in time to see that my flight to San Francisco was being delayed. Since I had a tight connection to my Seattle flight followed by a tight connection home, I went to the Alaska Air ticket counter to find out if I was going to make my connecting plane in SFO. They thought I probably could, assuming there were no further delays, but were happy to put me on a Seattle-direct flight that was leaving right away.

This was a huge relief, because spending the night in San Francisco... or Seattle... because I missed one (or both) of my flights was not how I wanted to spend my Monday.

After arriving in Seattle I had just over four hours to kill, so I had some dinner and hung out until it was time to go to my gate.

Which was... D25?!??

I found this funny because I knew full well that the D Concourse at SeaTac doesn't go that high. Out of curiosity, I headed down D and find a way-too-small sign pointing to a new expansion, which still doesn't make much sense (where could they fit the planes?). So there I was, going DOWN to gate D25... only to find that there are no planes. Which means that they built this multi-million dollar expansion to bus people to their planes? Oh yay!

SeaTac Terminal D Expansion

SeaTac Terminal D Expansion

Just when I think that this piece of crap airport couldn't possibly be a bigger piece of crap... here it is. On top of having to bus, which is already a bummer, whomever designed this steaming pile obviously doesn't ever spend time at airports, because there are STILL not enough seats! As in ALMOST NO SEATS! There was one flight going out of the terminal... ONE... and people were still having to stand around and sit on the floor...

No Seats at SeaTac Terminal D Expansion

I wish I could say I'm surprised. Like everywhere else at SeaTac, there aren't enough places to sit down because they've been ripping out all the chairs to make room for retail shops. Here they had a golden opportunity to FINALLY make sure there was ample seating available in a brand new building... and completely blew it. Turns out this massive new "concourse" is MOSTLY VACANT SPACE! Hardly any seating at all. GREAT JOB, PORT OF SEATTLE! Probably rubber-stamped by the same brilliant decision-maker who decided to take down the entire fucking food court for months and months and months to make cosmetic changes to something that wasn't that old to begin with. Brilliant use of money. How the fuck do I get a job where I can do nothing but sit back and think of ways to waste tons of money and screw over weary travelers?

But the lack of seating was just the beginning.

They also put in stairs instead of escalators. How stupid is that? The vast, vast majority of people WHO ARE AT AN AIRPORT are going to have luggage with them. A burden that's far easier to navigate with an escalator... WHICH IS WHY THEY FUCKING PUT ESCALATORS IN AIRPORTS! Not that SeaTac can keep their escalators running for shit anyways. They're constantly breaking down.

And so your choices to get down to the bus gates are as follows...

  1. Drag your bag down the stairs anyway, because it's the quickest way to get down.
  2. Use the one elevator, which is meant for people in wheelchairs and such.
  3. Walk down a massive ramp that's longer than the damn building and takes forever.

And then there's this bussing business.

Look, I get it. Having to add more and more flights means more and more planes and, after a while, you simply run out of space. That being said, bussing to planes is an absolutely horrendous fucking solution, and one I absolutely hate. Especially in a city like Seattle that's known for rain. Nothing like getting completely drenched while waiting to go up a bunch of stairs after unpacking from a frickin' bus.

Even worse? Seattle's airport is simply not set up to bus efficiently because there's no room for a bus route to go. Most of the time on the ride was spent waiting for planes and service vehicles to get out of the way. And you'd think that once you finally get to your plane your troubles are over. But that's not the case. Because the aircraft is still way, way at the other side of the airport. So servicing the plane means that airport personnel also have to make their way out to the aircraft. And that takes a while, as we learned when this announcement was made...

"Sorry for the extended delay, but this spot is really difficult to get to, and we had to wait for them to find us with the paperwork we need before we can take off."

Right now you may be thinking "How much worse can this fiasco get?"

Let me tell you!

THE PILOT HAD TO NAVIGATE THE AIRPORT IN REVERSE IN ORDER TO GET TO THE RUNWAY. I SHIT YOU NOT! They actually had to drive the plane BACKWARDS... ALL THE WAY TO THE FUCKING RUNWAY! That's how much room there is in the tarmac backwater where they are piling up planes to bus us to.

You can't make this stuff up.

Just another layover at lovely SeaTac airport.

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Gamers Club Locked

Posted on Tuesday, February 19th, 2019

Dave!Well, boo! Last week got an email from Best Buy saying that their "Gamers Club Unlocked" program is ending. I haven't been buying many video games the last couple years... preferring to spend my money on woodworking tools... but the 20% off you get from the club was great. Whenever there was a game I wanted, I'd wait for there to be a price drop or sale, then take the 20% off of the reduced price so I could actually afford it. Because, seriously, the $50 to $60 that games cost now-a-days is crazy. 20% off of $30 ($24) is much more my speed.

Oh well. I probably shouldn't be spending money on video games anyway. I've got plenty of games to last me.

The bummer is that I've got all these Best Buy rewards certificates I was saving up for the Next Big Game. Because paying $0 is even better than paying $24.

And by "Next Big Game" I'm guessing the remake of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening which looks plastic cartoony and wonderful...

What's truly remarkable is how they updated everything, but stayed true to the original and made it look so familiar...

So cool. And boy does that bring back video games memories.

But more on video games tomorrow...

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Video Game Switch-Up

Posted on Wednesday, February 20th, 2019

Dave!I've been a fan of video games for as long as video games existed.

It all started in the 70's when my family was eating at Mr. Geno's Pizza and they had a Pong machine that you could play from your table on a television that was mounted in the corner. It was magical being able to turn a knob and actually control something displayed on the TV. I ended up wanting to eat at Mr. Gino's a lot.

Flashing forward... I was on a field trip to coast where we were on a ferry boat for some reason (I can't remember why or where we were going). This is where I saw Space Invaders for the first time. It was a lot of money to play... 25¢... but it was worth every penny.

Flashing forward... All I wanted was an Atari 2600 so I could play video games at home. My parents obliged me for my birthday... or Christmas... or something... and it was all I wanted to do.

Flashing forward... All I wanted was an Atari 800 computer... not so I could learn how to program one, but because I wanted to play Star Raiders.

Flashing forward... The neighboring big city gets an actual video arcade. The local pizza joint installs video games. I spend my 80's playing Q*Bert, Donkey Kong, and loads of others.

Flashing forward... And video games have been a huge part of my life. I've owned an insane number of home/handheld consoles over the years...

Flashing forward... Though I owned a PS4, Xbobx One, and a Wii U, I rarely played them because I never had time. Most all my video games were played while traveling, which meant they were played on my Nintendo 3DS. A system I loved so much that I upgraded to the 3DS XL the minute it became available.

Then the Nintendo Switch was released...

At first I mostly ignored Switch because I already had two consoles I was ignoring. But then I started spending more and more time waiting in hospitals and doctor offices with my mom throughout 2017, and the idea of playing console games on-the-go was too good to be true. So I traded in my PS4 and Xbox One and got one.

It's not as powerful as a PS4 or Xbox One... not by a long shot... but you can play games in the palm of your hands that are full-on console-quality and that's pretty amazing. Then you can also dock it to your television and play there as well. And the transition is seamless. Like the above commercial demonstrates, you can start playing Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on the plane as a handheld, then come home and dock it to pick up exactly where you left off. And the games look pretty good either way.

What's surprising is that the Switch dock doesn't have any expanded hardware in it. When you are using the Switch's built-in screen for handheld, it's running at 720p. When you dock to your television it can run up to 1080p, and it's all coming off of the Switch unit. Given how ridiculously small the system is, that's a pretty incredible feat.

Now, when it comes to games, I'm not at all hardcore. My favorite thing to do is to sit back and play the latest LEGO video game. They're relatively easy and a lot of fun. Just what I need to kick back, relax, and forget the world. And because this is as taxing as my gaming gets, I'm Nintendo's core demographic... and the ideal candidate for the Switch. But things have taken a surprising turn. The hardware is powerful enough that some decidedly non-Nintendo-ish titles are being released. Including critically acclaimed games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and my most favorite game on the Switch, Diablo III: The Eternal Collection....

Diablo III on Nintendo Switch
And, yes, I ended up buying the blue/red version of the Switch*

It's a flawless translation. It looks wonderful in handheld or console mode. It plays like a dream no matter how much chaos is on the screen. I have no idea how they managed to do such a good job, but it's a joy to play. And I've played it a lot since it was released last November.

Do I miss my PS4 and Xbox One? Kinda. The buttery smooth 60fps, hi-res graphics and raw power of those consoles makes video games a complete dream to play... but Nintendo's plan to sacrifice power for portability is a good one. There is nothing quite like playing Diablo III on an airplane at 30,000 feet. Especially since that's about the only place I have time for video games now-a-days.

So thanks for that, Nintendo!

   
*When I first saw the Switch, I was horrified by the lopsided blue/red color scheme. But when it came time to buy the thing, I passed over the grey/grey version because I decided I liked the colorful one after all. It's just so unique and pretty.

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There Ain’t No Money In The Cure

Posted on Thursday, February 21st, 2019

Dave!Annnnnd...

...I have a cold. If that's the worse thing I caught on the plane, I'll be grateful (considering we're in the middle of a measles epidemic here in Washington State).

That being said, why in the heck haven't scientists come up for a cure for the common cold yet? Oh yeah, that's right...

There ain't no money in the cure. The money's in the medicine.

Not that it makes any difference. If they came out with an immunization that prevented colds tomorrow, there would still be people taking a pass because fucking Jenny McCarthy told them that vaccinations cause autism or some other crazy shit. Which is why we're in the middle of a measles epidemic!

Stupid Fucking Jenny McCarthy

Enjoy your preventable diseases, everybody.

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Afternoons with Jake

Posted on Friday, February 22nd, 2019

Dave!In order to be able to take time off to go to Vegas, I had to work obscenely long hours the week before I left. Because I had to work obscenely long hours, I was sleep-deprived and my body was run down. Because I was run down, my immune system was compromised. And because my immune system was compromised, I got sick on my flight to/from Las Vegas.

It has been pretty bad. So bad that I've only been able to work part-days since returning. The rest of the time I've been plopped down on the couch watching television with my cats. But mostly Jake...

Sick at Home with Jake

Jenny is easily spooked and would run away when I'd cough or blow my nose. Jake is somehow able to ignore it. Kinda like with the vacuum cleaner.

The good news is that I'm all caught up on my shows.

The bad news is that I'm going to have to start working late so I can get caught up on the work I missed while I was sick.

The vicious circle continues.

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Caturday 97

Posted on Saturday, February 23rd, 2019

Dave!Like most people with cats, I do what I can to keep them amused. I put cat trees in the windows so they can look out. I buy all kinds of toys. I put scratching posts everywhere. I built a catio so they can go outside. And I play with them when I can find time.

But Jake and Jenny are also fairly inventive when it comes to entertaining themselves. Which mostly involves them chasing each other all around the house.

Jake's latest entertainment? Climbing up to the top perch in the catio, knocking icicles off the roof, then running down and playing with any pieces that landed inside the catio...

Jenny doesn't like the racket, but will gladly go out and play with any ice on the ground once the commotion is over.

The icicles on the catio are pretty small. They don't have the water volume to get very big, so they're not much of a danger. The icicles off the roof, however, are pretty severe. Once Jake and Jenny hear one drop, both cats will rush to the window and hang out for long periods of time waiting for more to drop...

Icicles out my window

Unfortunately, Jake will stare out any window waiting for icicles, even on a side of the house where there are no icicles. My neighbor slams a car door and away he goes, staring not at the neighbors, but at the roof-line...

Jake staring at icicles that don't exist

It's okay that he's not terribly bright, because he's awfully handsome...

Jake looking handsome

Maybe once the icicles are gone, I'll have to see if tossing some ice cubes in the catio will end up being something they want to play with. It's certainly worth a shot because it beats spending money on toys they get bored of in ten minutes.

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Bullet Sunday 501

Posted on Sunday, February 24th, 2019

Dave!Don't let Oscar-mania get you down... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts now...

   
• Oscar! I stopped watching the Oscars and other award shows years ago. The movies I like best rarely win anything and, given how little weight awards seem to carry in casting, it seems like pointless endeavor anyway. Just an excuse for Hollywood to congratulate itself in a pricey spectacle that seems to award based on factors outside of actual talent. Suffice to say I want Black Panther to win as many awards as possible (even though it will be passed over for Best Picture by The Favourite or (more likely) yet another white savior tale with Green Book. I am also pulling for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse to win for Best Animated Feature. Other than that? =yawn=.

   
• WAKANDA FOREVER! One bit I did see from The Oscars was this hilarious intro of Black Panther by Trevor Noah...

But it gets better. Not soon after the video was posted, I ran across this...

The real translation is 'white people don't know I'm lying' ahahahahahahahahahaha

Xhosa is a fascinating language. And every time I hear it, I think of this video I saw years ago which attempts to explain the sounds...

Things like this makes me love this planet. How exciting is it that there's so much incredible diversity out there waiting to be discovered?

   
• Whiskey! While I did not watch The Oscars, I most certainly watched Whiskey Cavalier which followed The Oscars...

Whiskey Cavalier Poster

I was not disappointed. It's kinda a James-Bond-ish spy show with some humor and a darn good cast. Time will tell if they fall into the trap of having to two lead characters fall in love (which is always when things go terribly, terribly wrong). Hopefully if they do jump that shark, it will happen later rather than sooner, because I'd like to enjoy it for a while longer.

   
• Oh Captain! While I am absolutely dying to see Avengers: Endgame on April 26th, I think I'm even more excited for Captain Marvel to be released next month. Everything about it looks amazing, and the fact that Carol Danvers will play a big part in Endgame is interesting to me. And speaking of Captain Marvel... I really wanted the original one-sheet movie poster that was released, but couldn't find it available for a sane price anywhere. It was Wonder Woman all over again, where I wanted the gorgeous pre-release poster but could only find it second-market for obscene amounts of money. I think they were under printed because "women super-heroes won't sell," which is really a shame. But then I was looking to see if there were any pre-orders available for Spider-Man: Far From Home when I saw that both posters had gotten a second printing! Sweet! Now they're both hanging in my upstairs hallway where they belong...

Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman hanging in my hallway

Such amazing colors in both of them! So happy that they were reprinted at something I could afford.

   
• Curiosity! The Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity were incredible feats of engineering that exceeded their projected lifespan or two years by quite a wide margin. Spirit ran for 6 years and traveled nearly 5 miles. Opportunity ran for 14 years and traveled nearly 28 miles. And then there's Curiosity, which landed in August 2012 and is still running. Or so NASA thinks. On its most recent reboot, the poor thing went into an unexpected "safe mode" and engineers had to get that straightened out...

Curiosity Mars Rover

Curiosity Mars Rover

Personally? I think it was a moment of silence to honor the end of Opportunity's mission, which NASA called on February 12th after it had gone silent since June 10th last year. Great job, buddy. Hopefully humans will get to visit you one day.

   
• Pika! I've never been into Pokémon that much (despite enjoying Pokémon Let's Go on the Switch), but I gotta say... I'm looking forward to Detective Pikachu on May 10th...

Probably because they gave him Ryan Reynold's voice and rendered all the Pokémon so brilliantly. One more interesting-looking movies in a string of interesting-looking movies for 2019. With some exceptions, of course...

Will Smith as Genie in the live-action Disney's Aladdin movie

Absolutely no idea how Disney's Aladdin is going to pan out. By and large I haven't been enjoying the live-action remakes that much, but this one looks like the diciest translation yet.

   
And the award for best bullets goes to...

   

The Real Green-Book

Posted on Monday, February 25th, 2019

Dave!Last night the Oscar for Best Picture went (unsurprisingly) to Green Book, yet another "white savior" film where stories detailing the lives of Black people are told through the lens of the white people who "rescued them" from racism and made life better for the entire Black race because of it. It's a trope that's been done to death, but Hollywood just can't seem to help themselves.

Whether it's a story of outright theft, as in The Help where a young white woman "liberates" Black servants in the 1960's by publishing their stories in her best-selling book (the story of which was stolen in real-life too)... or real events being reframed, as in 42 where Jackie Robinson's story is snatched away from him to be viewed from the perspective of the white Major League Baseball executive who decided to integrate the sport (and his white teammates who overcame their prejudices to accept him as a player)... or the unforgivable revisionist history in Hidden Figures where white Kevin Costner rips down a "whites only" sign on the bathroom so Katherine Johnson didn't have to run across campus to pee (something that never fucking happened)... it's a tired trend of making white people the hero in the lives of Black heroes when the actual stories are compelling enough as they are.

In the case of the Oscar-winning film Green Book, we get the story of real-life Black pianist great Don Shirley hiring a racist white chauffeur to drive him for a concert tour. Something which would be a great story, right? Except it ends up being the story of how Don Shirley's driver overcame his racism to build a friendship with him instead, making the white guy the hero of the movie. Because of course he was. Getting a movie about Don Shirley told from the perspective of Don Shirley is apparently asking too much. That film wouldn't get an Oscar for Best Picture because white voters wouldn't have somebody to root for (Black Panther had white Agent Ross, but he was only a minor hero in the movie... if Marvel wanted Black Panther to be a real Oscar contender, they apparently should have told T'Challa's story from the perspective of the white guy and how he saved all of Wakanda).

But I digress...

I'm not holding my breath that we'll get a major motion picture about Don Shirley from Don Shirley's perspective, but tonight on The Smithsonian Channel we did get a documentary on The Negro Motorist Green-Book, which inspired the name of the big budget film that did see release...

The Green Book Guide to Freedom Poster

Titled The Green Book Guide to Freedom, the documentary is a terrific exploration of the "travel and survival book" for African-Americans who dared to travel during a time when traveling while Black was a potentially life-ending experience. Stay out too late in the wrong city with the wrong color of skin, and it could mean your death. Something that we like to think happened hundreds of years ago in this country... but "Sundown Towns" were still in existence into the 1960's... less than 60 years ago. Meaning that there are people alive today who survived this horrific segregation brutality first-hand (and some of them are interviewed in this program).

If you have the opportunity to see it, The Green Book Guide to Freedom gets my highest possible recommendation.

NOTE: The documentary is excellent, must-see material that's well worth your valuable time. As of this writing, iTunes has it available for FREE and I think other streaming services may be giving it away as well.

NOTE: Another resource I enjoyed was this article from the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture which has links to digitized copies of The Green-Book as well as a US map where locations have been mapped out... and even a Green-Book travel planner tool!

The first I had heard of The Green-Book was when I was visiting one of the best museums I've ever seen... The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. They explained that away-games for Black players was often a difficult ordeal given that there may not be restaurants, hotels, gas stations, and other kind of services available between cities (or even in the city once you got there). Everything had to be meticulously planned, and even then you could still end up in danger if a bus broke down or some other pitfall ensued.

As I was reading about this abhorrent concept, I overheard a couple nearby talking about "The Green-Book." I had never heard of it before, so I investigated further on Wikipedia when I got back to my hotel...

Cover for the 1940 Edition of the Negro Motorist Green-Book

I found out that it's essentially an AAA Guide with a specific audience in mind. Namely, Black motorists during the time of segregation. Inside you get a list of African-American friendly hotels, restaurants, and other businesses designed to make travel safer and more enjoyable...

Page from the 1940 Edition of the Negro Motorist Green-Book

Page from the 1940 Edition of the Negro Motorist Green-Book

As explained on The Green Book Guide to Freedom, the books often-times had editorials and articles that went beyond travel, delving into civil rights issues of the day. As also explained on the program, the book was created in the hopes that one day it wouldn't be needed. Ultimately creator Victor Hugo Green got his wish, and the final issue was published the year I was born, 1966. Sadly Green died in 1960, four years before the Civil Rights Act came into being and six years before his book ceased publication.

Not that the end of segregation was the end of segregation. South Carolina Republican Governor Henry McMaster infamously refused to give up his all-white country club membership when he took office... just two years ago in 2017. Not to mention a president who has said white nationalists have some very fine people in their ranks. Apparently to some people, The Negro Motorist Green-Book was not a symbol of escaping oppression but a symbol of "the good ol' days." Which kinds of puts that whole "Make America Great Again" bullshit into proper perspective, doesn't it?

Seek out The Smithsonian Channel's The Green Book Guide to Freedom. You'll be glad you did.

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Raccoon Patrol

Posted on Tuesday, February 26th, 2019

Dave!Well, the family of raccoons were back last night. Though this time I only counted three instead of the five that showed up last time.

Usually when another cat wanders by the catio, Jake and Jenny are dashing for the kitty-door at top speed so they can confront whomever is invading their territory. But when it's raccoons, Jake is perfectly happy to watch them pass from the comfort and safety of inside the house...

Once the gaze had passed, Jake went dashing out to make sure they were really gone, which had me all kinds of worried. What if they came back and took a swipe at him? After the problems with his urinary tract last year, I was not anxious for yet another emergency visit to the vet for a rabies check. He spent the rest of the night wandering between all the windows to make sure the danger didn't return. By the time I went to bed at 1:30am, the poor guy was thoroughly tuckered out and fell fast asleep next to me within minutes.

Jenny, meanwhile, was obliviously sleeping in the guest bedroom... never appreciating that Jake was protecting her from the threat of DEATH BY RACCOON.

I can't fathom what raccoons find to eat this time of year. And I notice that they're noticeably thinner than last time. Hopefully it's not scarcity of food that's driven them from where they normally live. Thanks to Jake, Jenny, and Fake Jake, I have my hands full caring for enough animals already.

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Surviving Hump Day

Posted on Wednesday, February 27th, 2019

Dave!I have been existing in a drug-induced limbo state.

I need to catch up on work, but I can't go into the office as sick as I am. So I take loads of medications which will allow me to function. But overdosing on the meds that allows me to function makes me sick to my stomach. So I work in a haze all day then end up nauseated all night. Then have to take a bunch of nighttime meds so I can even attempt to get some sleep.

It's a horrendous game of catch-22 where I get sick from the thing that makes it so I can deal with being sick.

And yet... until the weekend, I don't really have much choice.

Here's to surviving hump-day.

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Shoveling After Midnight

Posted on Thursday, February 28th, 2019

Dave!This has been a weird, wacky winter.

To begin with, our snow came late this year. For a while I was worried that we were in for a drought come summertime because there wasn't much of a snow pack in the mountains. After a couple false starts, the snow came down in earnest, and now it's piled up like a "normal" winter here.

Except...

We keep getting warm spells in-between the snowfalls. Warm blue skies will pop up, things will start to melt, you'll think that winter is over... and then it snows again.

Last night as I was watching television there was a rumble coming from the catio. When I looked out the window, I saw that a pile of snow had fallen off the roof, obliterating the path that Fake Jake uses to get to his food and bathroom spot. At first I thought I'd write a note to remind me to shovel it out in the morning... but then I felt bad if poor Fake Jake had to pee in the middle of the night, so I grabbed my snow shovel from the trunk of my car and headed out back to get to work.

Except I couldn't open the door...

Catio Icicles at Midnight

Because of all the warm days, the catio screen door was blocked. The water drips off the roof down these massive icicles, forming a pile of ice in front of the door. Making it impossible to open. So instead I had to trudge through snow all the way around the house so I could even get to my patio...

Me Shoveling at Midnight

Then I had to trudge back to get a hammer. The icicles were so big that I couldn't snap them off or break them with my shovel. Instead I had to get a hammer and chip away at them. The last thing I want is for Fake Jake to be walking there and have icicles fall and impale the poor guy.

My neighbors probably didn't appreciate my banging away after midnight, but it was all for a worthy cause.

This coming summer I need to work on clearing a pathway under my eaves to make it easier for Fake Jake to navigate in the winter. Right now it's all rocks, which are difficult to walk on, so I need to come up with something different. I also need to see about adding some kind of overhang to my pergola plans so that there's no ice buildup outside the catio. Some kind of snow removal tool in the design would be good too.

Ugh. I hope spring gets here soon so I have time to get everything done that I need to do before next winter rolls around.

   

Crackers in Bed

Posted on Friday, March 1st, 2019

Dave!This has been a tough week. My cold transitioned into stomach flu.

Which has been horrible in all the worst ways... except today when I finally managed to keep crackers down. The first thing I haven't thrown up in two days.

Next up? A bagel for breakfast.

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Caturday 98

Posted on Saturday, March 2nd, 2019

Dave!Without being able to keep any food down for two-and-a-half days, I couldn't do much except sleep. Which was fine. My hope was that I'd be able to snooze through my stomach flu. It was a nice plan, except my head and neck ached so badly that getting comfortable enough to sleep was not easy.

This morning when the alarm to feed the cats went off, my plan was to try eating a bagel for breakfast. But when I got out of bed to go downstairs, I felt waves of nausea crash over me, so I decided to feed the cats then go right back to bed.

That's when I saw that Jake and Jenny had brought up a huge number of toys in the middle of the night... assumably to give me something to play with as I lay around recovering...

Isn't that sweet?

And speaking of bed...

My cats have been by my side for pretty much the entire time I've been confined to my bedroom. Even though I've done nothing but sleep and watch television. Both of them enjoy watching television with me, so it's the perfect holiday to them...

Sick in Bed with Cats!

Though Jenny often looked at me warily. I'm guessing it's because she doesn't know whether or not the stomach flu was contagious to cats...

Sick in Bed with Cats!

I swear, Jenny can give the most adorable sour looks.

Jake didn't seem to worry too much about getting sick, however...

Sick in Bed with Cats!

Not that my sickness stopped Jenny from taking her turn getting belly rubs...

Sick in Bed with Cats!

And butt scratches...

Sick in Bed with Cats!

I think the kitties actually like it when I'm sick and spend all day with them...

Sick in Bed with Cats!

Sick in Bed with Cats!

Sick in Bed with Cats!

Sick in Bed with Cats!

Kinda nice to have somebody keeping me company all this time.

I guess.

I mean, it's not like they decided to clean the house or make their own breakfast to help me out.

Now, if you'll excuse me, it's time for another nap.

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Bullet Sunday 503

Posted on Sunday, March 3rd, 2019

Dave!The King of Pop may be gone, but he's not forgotten... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts now...

   
• WAH! WAAAAH! WAAAAAAAAHH! WAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH! Walmart has released a new online ad series called "Love is in the Aisle" which is a dating show that takes place in their stores. The second episode features two guys, so naturally hate organizations (like The American Family Association) are losing their fucking minds...

Dating is in the Aisle

Which is kinda pathetic and sad, but it's not like you can expect anything less from a bunch of homophobic bigots who hide behind their warped ideal of "family" while persecuting actual families who happen to have two moms or two dads. Looks like these assholes are running out of places to shop.

   
• Porn and Candy. The new HBO documentary, Leaving Neverland, has finally aired. It details allegations of sexual abuse against Michael Jackson, and a $100 million lawsuit by his estate has already been unleashed...

Michael Jackson photo by Dave Hogan and Getty Images
Photo by Dave Hogan and Getty Images

As you can imagine, it's incredibly fucked up. What's surprising to me is in the way it's fucked up. The sexual abuse was horrific, yes, but the mental abuse was magnitudes worse. One minute you're made the center of Michael Jackson's life and promised the world... the next you've been replaced with another young boy and made to wonder what you did wrong to deserve that. I'm not a huge Michael Jackson fan, but there are songs of his I like. Until this documentary, I was able to separate the art from the man. But now? There's just no way. I believe his victims. It's entirely too likely that Michael Jackson was a total piece of shit and I'm glad he's not around to abuse children any more.

   
• Sparkly! "Will she spit or poop?" — A question that always makes date night interesting...

And to think... I had to make do with G.I. Joe when I was a kid.

   
• Worthy! And lo did Steven Spielberg descend from his throne in Hollywood to decree that films from online studios like Netflix should be exempt from Oscar consideration. Apparently he feels that only films which have a full theatrical run (as opposed to a limited run just to qualify for awards) should be classified as "real films." Or something like that. You know... real films... like Hook or Joe vs. The Volcano.

Ummm... yeah... no.

I love a movie theaters better than most. I love the cinema. I love viewing films where the entire experience, from the size of the screen to the sounds you hear, are all optimized for the best enjoyment of a movie and the way the filmmakers wanted it to be seen. But how often does that happen? Now-a-days, you've got people texting and talking on their mobile phones... people eating and making noise... people letting their kids run wild... people being overall assholes who don't care that they are ruining the movie for everybody else. And that doesn't even begin to cover the reality that many movies could never be made or even get distribution within the major Hollywood movie system. Unlike Steven Spielberg, they are locked out and wouldn't get to tell their stories if not for alternative studios like Netflix. Movies that deserve recognition if they're worthy of recognition.

So... Spielberg can just take a damn seat and shut the entire fuck up. I'd argue that my home theater "experience" is far better than dealing with the constant distractions from assholes at the theater. AND I don't have to pay $20 for a popcorn and a Coke. AND I get to see movies that Hollywood would never touch in a million years. God Save Netflix.

   
• Flerf! And speaking of Netflix, they've got a documentary on the "flat earth" movement called Behind the Curve. It's mostly ridiculous, but a part of it seems to be advocating for... tolerance? BWAH HA HA HA HAAA! Yeah, right. I am not going to "respect the opinion" of dumbass flat earthers. I have zero problem mocking idiots who deny what can be observed with their own eyes and goes against fundamental scientific truths and irrefutable evidence. Every hilarious "explanation" that flat earthers come up with for things like eclipses, how GPS works, Antarctica, and the curvature of the earth, are so fucking stupid that I can't even fathom how anybody could possibly buy into it. Unless they're fucking idiots as well. These tin foil hat wearing morons aren't even worth debunking... so this documentary doesn't even try. They just present mentally deficient people like Mark Sargent and Nathan Thompson in their LITERAL bubble-reality worldview. It's all more infuriating than fascinating or enlightening. But they do have an occasional moment where they drop actual knowledge (including a hysterical bit at the end), so I guess that's something.

   
Until next week, stay vigilant, young crusader...

   

Wasted Days and Wasted Nights

Posted on Monday, March 4th, 2019

Dave!There are 52 weeks in a year. I just wasted one of them being sick. I am more than a little upset about that. Didn't get much done at all. Didn't get through any work. Didn't watch hardly any of the television shows stacked up on my DVR. Didn't level up my character in Diablo III. Didn't clean my house. Just slept a lot and laid around with my cats moaning about how miserable I was.

Fortunately I don't get sick very often. I mean really sick where I'm vomiting all over the place and want to die. And for that I'm grateful. But I'm also starting to worry about all the upcoming travel I've got. It's not outside the realm of possibility that I will be so weakened from being sick that I'll just cascade from one ailment to another for my entire Spring.

But boy I hope not.

I other news... I turned off Carl the RoboVac while I was home because I didn't want him waking me up from whatever sleep I was able to get. Last night I finally let him run through the house and was shocked at how much cat hair piles up in a week. The bin was completely full! I let him charge up overnight, ran him again this morning, and the bin was completely full again! Kinda amazing how much my cats shed... but even more amazing at how incredible Carl the RoboVac is at keeping up with it all. Upstairs Carl and Downstairs Carl remain two of the best investments I've made!

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Stuck On You

Posted on Tuesday, March 5th, 2019

Dave!Friends come and go. But good friends get stuck in your life.

When there's a friend who has been stuck with you for 34 years, saying goodbye is the hardest goodbye you'll have to say. Especially when you've had the adventures that we've had...

Falls

Selfie

Cave

Falls

Falls

Parasailing

Falls

Falls

Waimea Rails

Waimea Canyon

Jeep

Falls

Some of the best times of my life have you in them, and it's impossible to me that you're gone.

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And Then There’s Sleep

Posted on Wednesday, March 6th, 2019

Dave!Well that was an adventure.

When I drove over the mountains on Monday, it was bare roads and sunny blue skies. When I drove back this morning, it was snowy roads and overcast skies. I also had ten miles of white-out conditions where traffic crawled to 20mph as travelers struggled to even see the road.

And now that I'm home?

More snow.

There have been many years of my life where winter has run well into March, but this year I'm just ready for it to be done. I need to get my garage converted to a wood shop and start in on the long list of projects I've got lined up. Several of them are going to take months of work, so the sooner I get started, the more I can get done.

In the meanwhile though?

More sleep.

When your heart is broken and you just don't want to face the world, what else is there?

   

Aquaman: The Movie

Posted on Thursday, March 7th, 2019

Dave!I missed Aquaman in the theater. I had wanted to see it but life kept getting in the way and, to be honest, it was not a priority for me. Despite a home run with Wonder Woman, DC has a horrendous track record with their new "universe" of films, and I just don't give a shit. Especially not enough to have to sit with a bunch of rude assholes at the local cineplex. If ever there was a movie studio screaming "wait-for-video," it's DC.

But now that Aquaman is on iTunes, I plunked down my $20 to take a look. Not as good as it could have been... much better than what I was expecting. I don't plan on spoiling anything major here... but, if you haven't seen it yet (and are planning on doing so), you might want to wait before reading.

There was some stuff I liked...

  • This was essentially a super-hero mash-up of Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider. Which sounds awful, but it mostly worked.
  • Jason Momoa does not disappoint. His frat-bro demeanor may be a bizarre character choice, but it does make him different amongst the crowded field of super-heroes and that's a good thing.
  • We finally get to see Aquaman in a costume that respects the source material...

Aquaman Movie Poster

  • Amber Heard, Nicole Kidman, and Willem DaFoe were perfectly cast. And the fact that they made Heard's take on Mera a hero instead of damsel in distress was a pleasant surprise...

Mera Aquaman Movie Poster

Atlanna Aquaman Movie Poster

Vulko Movie Poster

  • The underwater effects are pretty great.
  • The movie's visual design is mostly excellent.
  • The sound design is amazing.
  • The soundtrack is fantastic.
  • The chase through Sicily is one of my favorite action sequences in a super-hero movie, which is weird given that this movie centers around an underwater world.
  • The final underwater battle is spectacular. I wish I had seen it in IMAX.
  • In stark contrast to the steaming pile of shit that Zack Snyder brought to Batman vs. Superman and Justice League, this movie is actually fun.

And the stuff I didn't...

  • As much as I loathed Justice League, it seems moronic that they completely ignored what happened in that movie. Aquaman is supposed to be a part of a bigger universe but failed, utterly, to remember that.
  • In the comic books, Mera is an alien from another dimension... which explains her powers. In the cinematic version her powers are basically unexplained?
  • While I did like the visual design, they made Atlantis into underwater Asgard (complete with Odin and the Rainbow Bridge) which was lame...

Atlantis in Aquaman

  • Black Manta, one of the coolest villains in comics, was kinda wasted. They essentially made him DC's answer to Iron Man (where does his tech training come from though?), then disposed of him... hopefully to return, as teased in the end-credits...

Black Manta Movie Poster

  • I like Patrick Wilson well enough, but didn't feel he brought much to the role of Orm. This is probably more the fault of the dialogue he was given than his talent as an actor. And then there's his metal Ocean Master mask which distorts to show his emotions. It looked really tacky and stupid, which is why I'm glad he wasn't in it very often...

Orm Ocean Master Movie Poster

  • The attempted slapsticky comic beats are juvenile and stupid. The octopus playing drums. The goat on the plane. Holy shit, why do this absurd bullshit when your movie doesn't need it?

In the end, Aquaman wasn't a bad effort. Far from it, there was actually a lot to enjoy here. Partly because of the imagination at work in bringing Atlantis alive... but mostly because director James Wan went out of his way to run as far away from Justice League as he could. The problem with DC movies being that he had to do so in the first place. Still, they've already announced a sequel to be released in 2022, so maybe the best Aquaman movie is yet to come? Time will tell.

   
Time to update my "Y2K Super-Hero Comic Book Renaissance" scorecard...

→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
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Captain Marvel: The Movie

Posted on Friday, March 8th, 2019

Dave!Happy International Women's Day! It seems only fitting that I saw Captain Marvel, the first movie by Marvel Studios to headline a woman, today.

When you are a huge fan of comic book movies... but also well-versed in the original comics which inspired them... you have a fine line to walk. On one hand, you have to understand that what works in comic books doesn't always translate to screen, so there will be changes made. On the other hand, movies that stray too far from the source material are throwing away what made them popular enough to be made into movies in the first place.

DC Comics' attempt at a "shared universe" of stories has been a complete disaster. They not only take a steaming shit on their source material*, they can't even be consistent between films. Batman vs. Superman, Justice League, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman don't match up, even though the entire point of rebooting everything was to make it so they do match up.

Marvel, on the other hand, has made painstaking strides to ensure that their entire "Marvel Cinematic Universe" is consistent and everything syncs together. There have been minor missteps but, for the most part, they have succeeded beyond all reason. On top of that, they have also been exceedingly respectful of their source material. Changes are made, of course, but they are changes that (mostly) make sense.

And then along comes Captain Marvel...

Captain Marvel Poster

The comic book character has a long... very long... history. "She" was originally a "he" and explaining how we got from point A to point B would take pages to explain. Suffice to say that the original (male) was a Kree warrior. An explosion of an alien device merged his DNA with that of Carol Danvers, turning her into a super-powered Human/Kree hybrid known as "Ms. Marvel." Over the years she became "Binary" followed by "Warbird." Eventually she came back around to "Ms. Marvel" before landing on "Captain Marvel" in her character-defining series of the same name by Kelly Sue DeConnick. Last year Marvel completely changed her origin. Instead of being a human that became a Kree hybrid in an explosion, it turns out her mother was a Kree all along, and the explosion just "awakened" her powers.

Personally, I thought that the change was a load of shit that was entirely unnecessary. But apparently Marvel wanted a strong, independent female character whose powers weren't derived from a man, so this is what we got.

The movie is something entirely different. Ordinarily this would be a major sticking point for me... but, in this case, I understand why they did what they did. Unlike the Marvel Comic Book Universe which is going on 60 years now, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is just 10 years old. Adding a new character with such an extensive and complicated history like Captain Marvel and having them work within such a truncated timeline is nigh impossible unless liberties are taken. How do you have her get her powers from the original Captain Marvel without having to explain who he is? Well, within a 2-hour movie, you don't.

That being said, I think Marvel did the best they could to find a way to get Captain Marvel into their Cinematic Universe while still respecting the source material as best they could. Sure, there's a part of me that believes better choices could have been made, but only if the MCU was standing still. Which it's not. The current Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame storylines are massive undertakings which are the culmination of a decade's worth of films. Even by having Captain Marvel take place in the 1990's, there's only so much you can do.

And what Kevin Feige and Marvel did do is make a pretty darn good movie.

The story is mostly entertaining and cohesive within the bigger MCU picture. The characters are well-crafted, the dialogue is well-written (even if the humor doesn't always land), and Samuel L. Jackson turns in a computer-youthified performance that's as great as you would expect. Brie Larsen was terrific as Carol Danvers, though parts of her character felt oddly detached and lacking in subtlety. I'm hoping that this was an attempt to make her seem more "alien-like," but we won't know that until her future appearances (such as Avengers: Endgame, coming next month!).

If I have a criticism of the film, it would be that the action is not as engaging as it should have been. If you're going spend a good chunk of the movie playing detective so you can uncover Carol's past, you'd better darn well deliver when the fighting starts. Except the battles weren't quite "there"... sometimes bordering on tedious. I wish a little more thought had been put into providing more memorable action beats.

If you want to read my spoiler-filled comments on the film, you can do that in an extended entry.

→ Click here to continue reading this entry...

   

Caturday 99

Posted on Saturday, March 9th, 2019

Dave!Now that the weather has been nicer, Fake Jake is spending a lot more time outside of the heated shelter I built for him. The nights are still bitter cold though, so he's still hunkered down after sunset.

Many days he is waiting for me when I return home from work so he can get scratches. If it's warm out, I'll even leave the door open so he can visit with Jake through the screen door...

Jake Visits With Fake Jake

Fake Jake is too violent with other cats for me to risk letting him inside for a visit, but I think it's good for my cats to interact with other cats from time to time.

Though Jenny would still prefer to do so from a distance...

Jenny Visits With Fake Jake from Afar

But not always. Sometimes when she's out in the catio, she'll sit quietly as one of the neighborhood cats walks by...

Jenny in the Catio Watching a Cat Walk By

If they turn to engage her through the fence, however, she'll run back inside as fast as her little legs will carry her.

My cats have been doing a lot of rough-housing lately, but it must all be in good fun since they still get along just fine...

I'm really proud of Jenny. She will happily stand her ground (or even be the one to engage in battle) despite the fact that she's 1/3 smaller than Jake. This was not always the case. She used to run away if Jake even thought about taking a swipe at her. But now? She is a scheming death machine who will happily hide in waiting to ambush Jake when she is feeling sassy.

Last night Jake shoved her out of her cat bed (again) at which point she retreated to the cat tree so she could stare daggers down at him...

Jenny Giving Jake the Death Stare

Meanwhile Jake is blissfully unaware that death is lurking from above...

Jake Sleeping

Lucky for Jake, Jenny was really tired and face-planted while she was planning her attack...

Jenny Falls Asleep

   
This has been an incredibly difficult week for me, and I think my cats can sense that. On the days I've spent home, they've worked in shifts to keep me company. Jake has even taken to spending the entire night sleeping next to me...

Jake Being My Sad Company

Jake Being My Sad Company

This is a bit unusual because usually Jake and Jenny will only sleep next to me while I'm awake and petting them. The minute I fall asleep and stop petting them, they'll leave.

And speaking of leaving... looks like we've come to the end of another Caturday.

   
UPDATE: Tonight was a night filled with cat drama. Jake and Jenny saw raccoons outside and got all fired up. This resulted in a lot of running around the house for no particular reason. But, so long as they are entertained, I'm entertained.

Until...

There I was catching up on television when I heard a massive crash upstairs. After running up to see what happened, I see that my nightstand has been knocked over. Jenny is sitting there like "Whut?" and Jake is nowhere to be found. Eventually I find him under the bed and manage to coax him out. Unfortunately he's limping, which has me filled with dread over a possible vet visit. But... Jake's done this before, so I stop panicking and wait it out. Sure enough, pretty soon he forgets that he was ever limping.

All of my dressers and shelves have been anchored to the wall. I heard about kids getting squashed by unanchored furniture, so I took no chances with my cats. It never occurred to me to anchor the nightstands because they're so small... but I guess that's something I need to look into.

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Bullet Sunday 502

Posted on Sunday, March 10th, 2019

Dave!Stop worrying your pretty little head over whether Spring is here or not here... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Free! As I've mentioned more than a few times on this blog, I'm a huge fan of Alex Honnold. He's a world-famous free solo rock climber who recently rocketed into the limelight because of the Oscar-winning documentary film Free Solo (sadly, I didn't get to see it in IMAX like I wanted to, and ended up renting it). I first heard of the guy in 2007 or 2008 after he free soloed Yosemite. At first I thought he was a lunatic with a death-wish, but after reading numerous interviews over the years, I found him to be one of the most philosophical, funny, genuine people on the face of the planet. And the most talented athlete on earth...

If you haven't seen free Solo yet, it's absolutely worth your time. It's an amazing film that changed my perception of Honnold yet again. But if you want to see Alex being the Alex that I became obsessed over the past decade, here he is (watch to the end, because it gets better as it goes on)...

It used to be that every year on Christmas as a part of my "End-of-Year Checklist" I would Google Alex to see if he was still alive. Now that he's so incredibly famous, I don't have to. If something were to happen to him I'm sure the entire world would know.

   
• Zero Stars! When I had to start eliminating carbs, the transition from "regular" to "sugar-free" sodas was a tough leap to make. What made it easier was Coke Zero, which is far and away my favorite carb-free pop (followed by Diet Dr. Pepper, Diet A&W Root Beer, and Sunkist Orange). One of my favorite sodas, Stewart's Orange Cream, has no diet equivalent... which is why I was thrilled to see "Coke Zero Orange Vanilla" at my local Safeway...

Coke Orange Vanilla

Holy shit what a horrendous load of toxic sludge! It tastes nothing like an orange cream soda, but instead tastes like an extremely artificial vanilla cola with a weird orange aftertaste. Really gross, which is why I am mad I bought an entire 12-pack. Looks like I need to investigate adding a hint of vanilla to Sunkist Diet Orange Soda to see if I can get what I'm looking for.

   
• Life! Ricky Gervais is one of the most brilliant minds in entertainment, and I'm always looking forward to what he's doing next. Turns out it's the Netflix series After Life, and it's one of my favorite things he's done thus far...

The show has a rocky start because his character is pretty awful. But the 6-episode series is a journey that ends in a very different place, and it's a worthwhile trip to take. With all the horrors I've been facing these past couple years, it's nice to run across something that is saying exactly what I need to hear. Highly recommended.

   
• Stick! One of my favorite kitchen brands is OXO Good Grips. I ended up replacing almost all my bakeware with their stuff and was happy with that... at first. Then I found out that my "non-stick pizza pan" can't even cook biscuits without them sticking like cement...

Non Stick Sticking on OXO Good Grips

Even worse? The bread pans and jelly roll pan are rusting under the folded edges. And so... I guess OXO Good Grips is no longer my favorite kitchen brand. Really sad that I wasted my money on this garbage.

   
• Billions and Billions! Wealth inequality is something that I don't really think about because there's nothing I can do about it. Obscenely wealthy people own this country and get to decide how things are going to be. The fact that what they decide inevitably benefits only them (and their pocketbook) regardless of how it screws the rest of us... or the environment... or whatever else is in their way, is just our sad reality. Which is why shit like this is so unsurprising...

Thinking that these horrible people will ever have to pay for the lives they've destroyed is laughable.

   
And, on that note, I guess we're out of bullets...

   

Trash Pandas on Parade

Posted on Monday, March 11th, 2019

Dave!I keep getting alerts that there's somebody on my driveway... or on my back patio... or walking along the side of my house. Sometimes they are triggered by Fake Jake or one of the other neighborhood cats, but I've tried to build my "alert zones" in areas they don't walk. This makes "cat alerts" fairly rare.

No, the real culprits when it comes to intruder alerts are the raccoons. They have no set path and end up wandering all over the place. The video below from my driveway camera shows you exactly what I mean. Early on, the lead raccoon does something that cat's do not do (at least not often)... they stand up...

Standing Raccoon!

Adorable... but his little head strayed in the alert zone in my front yard, so my iPhone lights up with a notification that I have an intruder (which is not so adorable when it happens at 1:00am).

Raccoons are fun to watch, so I combined various angles from my security system showing the three trash pandas making their way around my yard... and across the street into my neighbor's yard!

The second section is from the camera outside my catio. You'll see a raccoon stop and pause, looking inside my house. That was the point I tapped on the window so I could say hello...

Hello Raccoon!

I am dying to help them make it through the winter by feeding them... but I know if I do that they will never leave. The last thing I want is some asshole shooting at them or poisoning them or something awful like that... and so I leave them be. Hopefully as the snow melts they'll be able to find enough to eat down at the creek where they live so they won't have to wander so far from home.

In the meanwhile though? More intruder alerts... of the cutest kind.

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Pepperidge Farm Remembers

Posted on Tuesday, March 12th, 2019

Dave!Back in September I went through my mom's recipes with the intent of throwing them all away. I ended up keeping seven of them... which was five more than I had anticipated. Most recipes are either meat-based entrées or sugar-based desserts, neither of which I eat.

What I wanted to find was her Applesauce & Walnut Bread and Spanish Rice recipes. What I actually found was these...

  • Applesauce & Walnut Bread. It was originally from an old "Spices of the World" book, but my mom revised it several times (the most important revision being the first one where she eliminated the stupid raisins). It's pretty amazing stuff with really good flavor.
  • Danish Puff. A very good pastry recipe that I'll likely never make because it's all sugar. But I like having it on hand in case I ever need to take a homemade dessert somewhere.
  • Pewter Pot Apple Pinwheels. A local restaurant in town (long since closed) had a sublime dessert that I loved. My mom got the recipe and made it for me a few times.
  • Fraternal Grandmother's Marshmallow Rolls. Absolutely sublime rolls with dough wrapped around a big marshmallow that melts when it cooks, leaving a hollow rolls filled with gooey-sweet deliciousness. These are way too carb-heavy to eat with any regularity... and I'd have to track down vegetarian marshmallows... but I will certainly make them one of these days.
  • Fraternal Grandmother's Enchiladas. I came up with my own vegetarian version by altering her recipe over the years, but hadn't made her originals decades. I finally did so back in December. They are very good... and very different from mine... which is a nice change of pace.
  • Maternal Grandmothers' Apple Crisp. It's probably the same or similar to hundreds of other apple crisp recipes you can find, but it's the only one I would ever make.
  • Maternal Grandmothers' Pie Crust & Apple Pie. The best pie I have eaten. Anywhere. Ever.

The apple pie is one of the few recipes that I have experience making with the originator. My grandmother let me help her make her signature dessert numerous times. Everybody who tasted it fell in love with it. I tried to encourage her to enter it into an apple pie contest, but she never would. So one year I tricked her into making me a pie "for a bake sale" and entered it into a contest for her.

She won first prize, as I knew she would.

Making a seriously good apple pie is more of an art than the science of following a recipe because the apples are always different. Sometimes they are sweeter... sometimes they are more tart... sometimes they are small... sometimes they are big. And sometimes the variety of apple you want isn't available so you have to use something entirely different and make it work. My grandmother always tasted the apples before deciding how she wanted to proceed. Sometimes she uses extra sugar, sometimes less. Sometimes she added lemon juice. Sometimes she altered the spices too. Decades of making apple pies taught her just what she needed to do to get a consistently amazing pie. And she tasted and re-tasted every step of the way.

In order to develop the skills my grandmother had, I would have to make a pie a week for five years. Maybe even a decade. It's a lot of trial and error, and she's not here to offer advice on dealing with the crazy-huge number of variables.

Which is why I haven't made a single pie since she stopped baking them.

I thought I might give it a try after she passed, but I just haven't been able to bring myself to do it. And every apple pie I've ever eaten that's not hers falls short by comparison, so I stopped eating apple pie.

What I eat instead? Pepperidge Farm apple turnovers...

Pepperidge Farm Apple Turnovers

These things are better than they have a right to be. And, since they are frozen, I can cook up just one as a treat when I have some room for carbs available. Easy and delicious.

But one of these days... one of these days... I will make my grandmother's apple pie again. Or try to.

Because "Pepperidge Farm Remembers," but so do I. And what I remember is how amazing my grandmother's apple pies were.

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Like a Door Mat

Posted on Wednesday, March 13th, 2019

Dave!This evening when I got home from work, I sat down to make a list of what I needed to do/buy/pack before leaving, and spotted Jake out in the catio poking his little paw at the ice which had flowed inside. Now that it's getting warmer, the ice is starting to melt, which means thin pieces of it are floating on little puddles. The cats like to bat at them to send ice chips flying across the catio. It's adorable and fun to watch, though you can tell neither Jake nor Jenny are accustomed to getting their paws wet. Each of them will take a swipe then shake, shake, shake their little foot to get the water off.

But only Jake comes running inside to wipe his paws off on me.

No joke. If he gets it wetter than he likes, he will come inside, hop up on my lap, paw at me until he's confident that the water is off, then run right back outside to play some more...

Jake Paws

I've never resented the fact that my cats think of me as a food dispenser.

But I am starting to resent it a little bit that Jake thinks of me as a literal door mat. Can you believe that cat owners sign up for this nonsense?

Sure they make up for it in other ways, but still...

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Raccoon Friends and Gold-Plated Toilets

Posted on Thursday, March 14th, 2019

Dave!Why is it that banking and commerce continues to get cheaper and more automated... but banking establishments and commerce facilitators keep demanding higher and higher fees? Probably because the CEOs of these organizations need a second private jet or a fucking gold-plated toilet or something.

In other news... I'm now fully invested in the raccoons that keep triggering security alerts on my phone. They have been wandering through my yard every night now, and I look forward to seeing them.

Except...

I'm still plagued with worry that somebody will harm them (accidentally or intentionally). The raccoons are obviously hungry if they are leaving their home by the creek and venturing across roads into residential territory, so it's only a matter of time before somebody catches them in their trash or something. My hope is that people will have a little compassion for their predicament and leave them be. Instead of shooting at them or setting a trap, why not just secure your garbage?

It used to be that there were five of them.

Now there are three.

Which is why I sit and stare at my security cameras once the first one appears...

Raccons in My Yard

The second one is usually not far behind...

Raccons in My Yard

The last one always lags, but never more than a minute. Tonight they were nearly two minutes behind, providing a bit of a panic attack...

Raccons in My Yard

As if I didn't have enough animals to worry about.

I really hope that they are finding enough food that they don't get desperate enough to attack any of the cats in the neighborhood. They look slim, but not skin-and-bones, so I'm guessing they're finding food somewhere.

See you tomorrow night, raccoon friends.

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Getting Along

Posted on Friday, March 15th, 2019

Dave!Yet another mass-shooting by a white supremacist in the news. This time in New Zealand where 49 people were murdered while at worship. It's a horrific event in a series of horrific events where innocent people are targeted by some deranged asshole who has been systematically conditioned to hate people of different races and religions.

Meanwhile back home, our president is inciting his followers to violence. Yet again...

"The left plays a tougher game, it’s very funny. I actually think that the people on the right are tougher, but they don’t play it tougher. Okay?
   
I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump... I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough. Until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.
   
But the left plays it cuter and tougher. Like with all the nonsense that they do in Congress … with all this invest[igations]—that’s all they want to do is –you know, they do things that are nasty. Republicans never played this."
— President Donald J. Trump, 3/13/19

And, of course, the president's Twitter feed is nothing but a running commentary telling his followers that we are at that "certain point" right now. Which is why it's not surprising that President Trump is praised as "a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose" in the shooter's 74 page manifesto.

Because of course he is.

Trump is regularly singled out as an inspiration to white nationalists here in the USA and around the globe. And, despite what we are constantly being told by his supporters, it's not some kinds of accident over which The White House has no control. The Trump Administration has been working overtime to embrace their cause. Anybody thinking otherwise is seriously deluded.

Wouldn't it be nice to have a president who inspires us to all just get along?

I've traveled to a lot of places in this world and my biggest take-away has always been this... people are inherently good and just want to live their lives in peace. Whether it's in Tunisia or Istanbul or Bali or even the USA... anywhere that Christian churches, Islamic mosques, Jewish temples, and other houses of worship are built side-by-side and people of different faiths have built a community together... people want to just get along.

Until somebody comes along and tells them why they shouldn't.

And there are a lot of evil people in the world doing just that.

Our leaders shouldn't be those people.

And yet here we are...

   

Caturday 100

Posted on Sunday, March 17th, 2019

Dave!I am not home on my 100th Caturday... I'm over the mountains saying goodbye to a friend.

It used to be that leaving my cats even for one night was a traumatic experience. Even with a house full of security cameras, I worried from the minute I walked out the door to the minute I walked back through. In my head I knew that cats were solitary, self-sufficient little beasts... but it's still tough not to worry about all the things that could go wrong when Jake and Jenny are left to fend for themselves.

But then I was gone for two weeks on an expedition to Antarctica. With no internet available to check the security cameras, I hired a pet sitter to stop by every day and make sure everything was okay. The rest I left the rest to fate.

Of course everything was fine. Eventually I started having the cat-sitter stop by every-other day instead of every day. Now I only hire a cat-sitter if I'm gone for more than five days. Everything from the litter boxes to the feeder is automated, so that's all that's needed.

Except...

Tonight, for the first time, the cat feeder jammed. A little bit of food dropped out and then... nothing.

I was going to call a neighbor to have them unclog it or put some food out manually, but I figured Jake and Jenny would be fine until I get home tomorrow. Having a small meal for dinner and getting a late breakfast wasn't going to kill them.

But don't tell them that.

Usually when I get home, Jake hears me fiddling with the door and comes running down to greet me. Jenny waits until she knows it's really me before she more cautiously comes to say hell.

But not tomorrow (this is being written on Sunday... sorry I'm late).

When I walked in they were not there. I called for them but they did not come. They weren't in the catio... the living room, or the guest bedroom. So I went upstaris and found them in the other guest bedroom...

Cats in Their Bedroom

Apparently they were pretty mad about having been ditched with a non-working cat feeder.

And they had no intention of forgiving me.

Until I went back down to the kitchen and started shaking the bag of cat treats. They forgave me really quickly after that.

Cat bribery works every time.

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