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Bullet Sunday 627

Posted on Sunday, September 1st, 2019

Dave!Labor Day may be tomorrow but the party starts now, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Hurrican Dorian. The images coming out of the Bahamas have been terrifying. And now parts of the Georgia coast are under mandatory evacuation...

A map shoing category 5 hurrican Dorian off the coast of Florida looking scary.
Map from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Dorian is tied with a hurricane from 1935 for the highest wind speed at landfall... a staggering 185mph. I hope that's the only horrible record that ends up being broken.

   
• Lover! A lovely video for the very pretty title track off of Taylor Swift's latest album...

And I'm not the only fan of the song. Keith Urban did a beautiful cover while performing at the Washington State Fair...

I think 1989 is still my favorite T-Swifty album, but Lover is a close second. Tracks like this make it so. I know I'm late to the party here (1989 was the first time I had even heard of her), but I never cease to be impressed with her talent, wit, charm, and intelligence...

Such a remarkable person. Continued success to you, Miss Swift.

   
• Parade! A true leader celebrates all the people they represent. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes that to heart, as you can see from his taking part in this Pride parade...

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau marching in a Pride parade with rainbow flags, fun, and confetti.

Meanwhile, our leadership is doing everything they can to strip rights from our citizens. A depressing state of affairs for the so-called "Land of the Free."

   
• Rowl! Exceptional production values, gorgeous cinematography, beautiful costuming, and mind-blowing sets don't mean shit when your story is bloated and boring. It's like they took a 90 minute movie and stretched it out to 8 mind-numbing episodes. That's Carnival Row for you...

A poster for Carnival Row showing an industrial Victorian background with Orlando Bloom in formal wear being confronted by a woman with dragonfly wings hovering before him.

Guillermo del Toro, who was originally going to be working on Carnival Row, dropped out because of his movie obligations. Don't know if it would have made any difference, but his impeccable pacing and storytelling were much needed here. It's like they had the sets and all the costumes and such and wanted to get as much use of them as possible even though there wasn't enough story for that. Pity.

   
• Frexit! NOT AT ALL REDUNDANT! Unless France pulled a Frexit and is no longer a part of Europe?

A brown bag wrapped which says Artisan European Style French Bread on it.

I have yet to try any of that Asian style French bread, but I'm sure it's delicious.

   
• All The Gs! The advent of 5G wireless is going to be a huge game changer once the mesh that's required to have it work seamlessly has been built. That's a long ways away, but it's still an intriguing technology in its infancy. If you don't know what that even is, here's a fantastic video from Marques Brownlee just for you...

Pretty amazing stuff. Imagine having blazing internet available everywhere for all things... and what will come from that.

   
• Another Day, Another Mass Shooting. My first thought used to be "How many people?" But now my response has evolved to "Where did it happen this time?" Once I realized that this was how my brain was wired to react, I was disappointed in myself. It feels dismissive and disrespectful to those who just lost their lives. I could excuse it by saying "There's already been so many people killed, does it really matter how many more are added to the list?" But the answer is "yes." Every fucking one of them matters. It's when we start viewing the deaths as statistics instead of people that we lose ourselves. Unfortunately for all of us, those who can actually do something are long lost already.

I remember when the NRA was for responsible gun ownership and wanted to make sure that guns didn't get into the hands of people who shouldn't have them. I also remember when President Reagan was an advocate for that ideal. This was before the NRA was overtaken by gun manufacturers with lobbyists who buy politicians and give them an agenda to encourage as many gun sales as possible... regardless of consequences.

I support the 2nd Amendment. I also support the right of people to go through life without getting randomly shot by some toxic asshole with a gun. Going back to the original mission of the NRA... gun safety and responsible gun ownership... would go a long way to help these two things coexist. Alas that ship has sailed. We don't even pretend that human lives are more important than gun manufacturer profits anymore. What's worse is that people don't even seem to care.

   
Only 23 days of summer left... make 'em count!

   

Mufasa, Labor, and Hallmark

Posted on Monday, September 2nd, 2019

Dave!I worked late last night so I could work a half day today. For whatever reason I just wanted a small piece of my Labor Day holiday to have no work involved. The rest of my day was reading and watching the Hallmark Summer Movie Marathon in the hopes that there were movies I hadn't seen yet in the countdown.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

My day started with Jake running into my bedroom, dropping Mufasa the Lion on the floor, squawking as loud as he could manage, then running back downstairs to run around with his sister until breakfast.

Since Jenny keeps taking Mufasa away from him and hiding it, I'm guessing that Jake wanted me to watch over his most prized posesstion for him...

Mufasa the small plush toy lion laying on my brown hardwood floor.

Jenny is way more crafty than I am, so that probably wasn't one of Jake's best ideas.

And, yes, I am still on my mission to watch all the Hallmark originals.

The good news is that I was able to check several that I missed off my list. Including my new favorites Love at the Shore and Summer Villa...

   
These two movies aren't just "good for a Hallmark movie," they're good for an actual movie. Well, assuming you like cheesy romance flicks.

And now it's just a matter of waiting for October 25th, which is when all the new Countdown to Christmas movies start up. As I mentioned, this year there are forty of them. FORTY!

   

Thrice Fiction No. 26

Posted on Tuesday, September 3rd, 2019

Dave!The penultimate issue of Thrice Fiction Magazine has just been released. You can check it out on our website absolutely FREE! Our next issue... No. 27, coming in December... will be our last.

I'll be talking about all that later though. Right now I want to talk about the current issue, which is pretty darn cool if we do say so ourselves!

The cover image is something I originally created for the story Ode to Oceans in the interior. I really liked the story, and the minute I read about a cat being "a gingery thing" and belonging to the ruler of the universe who lives by the sea I knew exactly what I wanted to do. Take one of my photos of water, flip it so the sea was the sky and the sky was the sea, then have Jenny sitting on the sky as if it were ground. Because the ruler of the universe can do that. Problem was... it didn't end up fitting the story well. So I took the cat out, put the image right-side up, then used that instead. It was better for the story and had really good impact.

But I couldn't let go of the original image. It was just so cool. Cool enough for the cover...

The cover of Thrice Fiction Magazine No. 26 showing a ginger orange cat sitting on the sky while the ocean floats abover her as a new sky.

The cat is my sweet Jenny. So that means both my cats have now appeared in the magazine (Jake appeared in Issue No. 22). And here's the image for the story Ode to Oceans by Elena Botts...

That's a real photo I took. I just cut out the middle section which had a shore and some trees... then glued the sky and sea together to create a kind of weird mirror.

   
The next piece I created was for the story Way Cross, Georgia, 1937 by James Lloyd Davis...

A bottle which says Saint Godfrey's and is glowing with a bright golden light.

The story is one which has an emotional gut-punch and I wanted to have artwork to reflect that. But what I came up with originally didn't work for two reasons...

A bottle which says Saint Godfrey's and is glowing with a bright golden light and a noose is hanging over the top of the bottle.

First of all... I had second thoughts on using a noose. It's a symbol of fear and hate and just seeing it can be hurtful to many people. I justified it because it's reflective of the story, yet I was still uneasy. But the reason I ultimately took the noose out was because it was a spoiler. The story has two distinct parts, and I was very careful to have a page break occur before the first section was over so the second part would be more impactful to the reader. But what good does that do if I give away the second part in the image?

And speaking of the image (a composite of four stock photos run through a paint filter)... the characters in the story are selling fake holy oil. I wanted to make it appear authentically holy by having a golden glow emanate from behind. It sure turned out pretty.

   
The last story I worked on was called Her Climb by George Hook...

The story is the lament of a man pining after a Dutch girl who was climbing ahead of him. But, alas, the Dutch girl ended up with a French boy, and the man was left alone. He envisions the girl and boy from the climb in the room next to his being together (a climb of a different kind), which is even more painful to him.

I knew immediately what I wanted for the image. Since they were in the same building but different rooms, I imagined a hotel. And I imagined a pair of women's climbing boots handing off the door handle like a "Do Not Disturb" sign. My mom had a very nice pair of boots I bought her for our trip to Africa, but I couldn't find them to photograph them. I probably gave them to Goodwill or the Veteran's Exchange. So I ended up having to cut apart a bunch of stock images to create what I wanted... then drew around them with a heavy black outline. The resulting image was then run through a watercolor filter. I did several versions before I found one that would "read" for a small 2-1/4" square image.

   
The final two images I created for the magazine were a flower from the side of my house on the inside-front cover... and a shot of a toy riding horse I photographed in Malaga, Spain...

A beautiful maroon-colored flower against a pretty greenery background.

A colorful toy horse with a coin slot you can ride which is next to a bright green door cover sitting on a stone street.

   
And that was the end of that issue! One more to go...

   

Do You… Sling?

Posted on Wednesday, September 4th, 2019

Dave!Back in July I ditched my satellite television after yet another channel got blacked out (this time it was CBS). I was getting tired of paying for something that I wasn't getting, and was frustrated that cable and satellite companies never give a crap about compensating you... until you threaten to leave. Well, screw that, I was done.

I ended up going the the Sling "Blue" package with the "Lifestyle Extra" package (for Hallmark) and their "Enhanced Virtual DVR" which allows me to fast-forward through commercials.

So... how's that working out for you? you may be asking. Well, I'll tell you how it's been working out...

The Sling Logo in blue and orange.

First of all, the Sling "Enhanced Virtual DVR" is pretty crappy. It's slow, it's clunky, and it even fails from time to time. I'll go to watch something I've recorded on Sling via my AppleTV, get a "Having Problems Streaming This Right Now, Try Later" error message, except it never becomes available. Sometimes I can get it started via their web browser interface, then switch back to AppleTV and get it going... but that's a pain in the ass and it doesn't always work. Even if it did, I still wouldn't be happy. If you delete a show off your DVR, it doesn't disappear immediately. It can take a while. This is confusing when watching a bunch of episodes of the same show you've got stacked up. As if all that wasn't bad enough, the "fast-forward" is complete bullshit. It's not actually "fast-forward," but instead a 30-second jump forward or a 10-second jump backwards. And it can stop working at any time, meaning you have to restart the app in order to get your fast forward back. The web version is even worse... letting you hover over the time bar to pick a spot to jump to... but half the time the time bar doesn't represent the actual show's timeline, so you're perpetually trapped in the first half-hour of a two-hour show and nothing you click gets you to where you want to be. It's incredibly frustrating and desperately needs to be fixed.

On the plus side, I love that I can transition from my downstairs AppleTV to my laptop to my upstairs AppleTV to my phone and pick up where I left off each time (though sometimes it doesn't remember exactly where you were for some reason). This is really convenient. Alas, you have to have a live internet connection and cannot download, but that's the way it goes.

I pre-paid three months of Sling Blue so I could get a free Over-The-Air antennae and control box for my local channels. Alas, I can't pick up a dang thing on it, so I have no local channels. Since Sling offers no other way to get them, you're out of luck unless you buy streaming packages directly from the network. This is unfortunate, but the price of Sling is so nice when compared to what I was paying for satellite that I will still come out way ahead if I pay CBS or ABC or NBC here and there to catch up on the shows I like that they have.

So... to summarize: Happy I got rid of satellite. Happy with Sling pricing. Not happy with Sling DVR (AT ALL). Okay with Sling as an alternative to cable/satellite which has gotten way, way too expensive.

When my three months pre-paid are up, I'm not sure if I will keep going with Sling or give something else a try. Hulu's "Hulu + Live TV" option is a no-go because they don't have Comedy Central or Hallmark. AT&T, Fubo, and YouTube are way too expensive. Philo might be a good option (it's even cheaper than Sling), so I'll definitely be giving them a try.

Or giving up television altogether.

One of those things.

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Cleanliness is Next to Nothing

Posted on Thursday, September 5th, 2019

Dave!Thanks to my two cats, my home will never be impeccably clean. Their fur is everywhere. Their toys are everywhere. Their kitty litter tracks everywhere. And their cat trees are pretty gross. And yet... I do what I can to keep my house as clean as possible. Partly because I don't want it looking like a disaster area when guests drop by unexpectedly. But mostly because I don't want bugs in my house, and I've found constant cleaning goes a long, long way towards keeping them out.

Carl the RoboVac runs every day to keep my floors mostly clean (I vacuum by hand when needed to get the rest). I steam-clean the cat feeding station every week (Jenny makes a bit of a mess when eating wet food because she licks it instead of bites it). I keep countertops clean and my kitchen mopped. I wipe up or vacuum food crumbs whenever I spot them. I scrub everything with a baking soda wash on a rotating schedule. I do whatever I can to keep my home as clean as possible so bugs don't show up. Yes, it's a lot of work, but it's worth it because it actually seems to help. I am lucky to see few insects in my house.

Except...

Lately my cats have been catching giant spiders out in the catio then bringing them inside to play with.

As you can imagine, this has me more than a little freaked out. Nothing quite like spotting something on the floor out of the corner of your eye... going to investigate... then seeing it's a spider that the cats tortured to death.

And here I thought that Jake and Jenny eating bugs out in the catio was the worst thing that could possibly happen. I love my cats more than I know how to adequately express, but this is driving me insane. But what can you do? I refuse to yell at my cats for being cats. When I adopted them to keep my mom company, I knew what I was getting into. Any problems that come out of that decision are my fault, not theirs.

And so... occasional spiders are in my future, I guess.

Meanwhile in TV Land...

Hallmark has finally confirmed their new Christmas movie schedule and I've updated my 2019 movie page so that all forty of them are in my winter television schedule. Hopefully at least half of them are worth a crap. It seems as they increase the number of movies year after year, the overall quality has been declining.

On the bright side, however, this year we're getting A Christmas Love Story starring KRISTIN CHENOWETH and Scott Wolf...

Kristin Chenoweth and Scott Wolf staring into each other's eyes in front of a Christmas tree.

Just when you think that everything that could possibly be said about Christmas from Hallmark has been said... here comes Kristin! So at least one of the movies will be insanely chipper in the way that only Kristin Chenoweth can deliver!

Ho! Ho! Ho! 50 days to go until October 25th...

   

The Cats Before The Fall

Posted on Friday, September 6th, 2019

Dave!This morning I woke up and felt, for the first time this year, that Summer is on its way out. Instead of the beautiful mornings that permeate the months of June, July, and August, things looked considerably less bright. More dreary and foreboding. The afternoons will still be sunny and warm for a while yet, but the mornings and evenings will be colder, dimmer, and less life affirming. Don't get me wrong... I love Fall... but the transition to get there is darn depressing. Not enough that I want to move south so I can avoid it, but enough that I don't want to get out of bed in the morning.

Especially early in the morning, like today.

Usually I am awake and working at 5:30am. Checking email, going through my to-do's, setting up things that need to be done when I get into the office... that kind of stuff. But I don't get out of bed until the Alexa alarm goes off at 7am and it's time to feed the cats. Then I work a little more before getting ready to go into the office at 9am. Most days this means I've put in two or three hours before I even go to work, but I'm okay with it because I'm not completely overwhelmed once I get there.

If I get out of bed earlier than 7am, it's almost always because I'm traveling. This morning it was because I had to shoot some video.

But Jake and Jenny don't know that. All they know is that their daily routine is being disrupted. In their mind, I'm going to be gone for days, which causes a major freak-out. Jenny's crying on the banister. Jake is running after me so he can rub up against my legs. It's like a Greek feline tragedy unfolding, and I always feel terrible about it. I try to explain that I'll be back this afternoon, but they're cats... so... well, you know...

Jake the cat hovering around my feet while.

I wish for the ability to talk with my cats almost daily. Most of the time it's to ask them "Why did you just do that? What are you thinking here?" But times like this would be to tell them what's going on so they wouldn't be so upset.

Instead all I can do is distract them with cat treats while I sneak out the front door.

Then spend the rest of my day wondering how they're doing after the cat treats are gone.

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Caturday 125

Posted on Saturday, September 7th, 2019

Dave!I know my cats like me. They greet me when I arrive home. When I'm around, they are always in whatever room I'm in. Heck, they're always waiting outside the door when I'm come out of the bathroom. Granted, their adoration is probably because I feed them, play with them, pet them, scratch them, and buy them stuff... but I'll take it.

This is not to say that it's non-stop adoration around here.

This morning I had to get started cleaning the house. I put it off so I wouldn't interrupt their post-breakfast nap. But when their post-breakfast nap turned into a pre-lunch nap, I finally bit the bullet and started with my weekly chores.

Jake was irritated.

Jenny was livid. She gave me a death-stare that came dangerously close to melting my skin off.

My sweet girl has had a bit of a sour face from the beginning...

Kitten Jenny with her sour face.

So when she's irritated, you definitely know it...

Adult Jenny with her sour face.

But even when she's grumpy and irritated one minute...

Jenny with her sour face.

...the next minute she can be all adorable and melt your heart again...

Jenny with her sour face.

In other Caturday news, Jake and Jenny have been pretty buddy buddy lately. Usually they coexist without much interaction... but now they've been hanging out together quite a bit...

Jake and Jenny sitting on the cat scratch lounger.

Jake and Jenny out in the catio together in the dark.

My guess is that it's getting cooler, so they're snuggling up for body warmth?

I hear that. We're supposed to be getting a thunderstorm tonight!

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Bullet Sunday 628

Posted on Sunday, September 8th, 2019

Dave!Summer may be in its last gasp but the weather couldn't be better, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Thunder Rolls. Well, the weather couldn't be better now. Last night was an entirely different story. The thunder was shaking the entire house. The lightning was so bright that it was illuminating everything like it was daytime...

Mufasa the toy lion sitting in my window with a massive bolt of lightning firing behind him, illuminating the entire sky and my bedroom.

Lightning striking a nearby hillside.

Lightning striking a nearby hillside.

The cats were not happy. Jenny came in crying when all the ruckus started. Jake arrived ten minutes later, and I heard him whining all the way up the stairs. I pet them for a while before finally jumping to the window to take photos.

Then today... no clouds and flawless blue skies...

Jenny laying down in the catio squinting because the sunshine is so bright.

Enjoy it while it lasts, pretty girl. Winter is coming.

   
• Baked. September is my most favorite month of the year to bake stuff, and I do so often. Something about the combination of temperature and humidity creates the perfect storm for high-rising, wonderfully-textured bread. Today I made some beautiful bread and amazing hamburger buns...

The most gorgeous loaf of homebaked bread you've ever seen.

The most beautiful pan of homebaked bread you've ever seen.

And, let me tell you... homemade hamburger buns are the best! Tonight's selection was a veggie burger with lemon garlic mayo, dijon mustard, thinly-sliced tomato, and pickle on homemade bun...

My burger dinner.

Pretty fantastic, if I do say so myself.

   
• Very Berry. On Thursday when I dropped by the market to pick up some flour, I saw that strawberry cartons were on sale 2 for $5. I bought them on a whim and have been stressing ever since. Fruit usually goes on sale when it doesn't have much life left, so I've been eating them non-stop so I don't waste my $5. I was eating strawberries morning, noon, and night for two days, but I finally managed to power through. I may be sick of strawberries now, but they were some beautiful berries...

A bowl of beautiful sliced strawberries.

Strawberries sliced on top of a sliced and toasted bagel with cream cheese.

Boy does being single suck when it comes to grocery shopping. I always end up having to buy more than I can eat. The good news is that I'm done with strawberries for the year... just in time for the final summer crop to leave us!

   
• Scary Tech. The trailer for JEXI has been released. It's a comedy exploring what happens when the artificial intelligence on a guy's phone gets a little too smart. It's supposed to be a comedy. But when I watch this trailer I can't help but look at it as a near-future horror story...

I mean, seriously... isn't this the nightmare scenario that's entirely too plausible? Yeah, that's what I thought.

   
• Hellmark. Usually I don't give a crap about somebody's politics. I am easily able to separate an actor from their work, and do so all the time. Democrat? Republican? I'm neither, so I honestly don't care. But there's no way I'm supporting the career of somebody who is in bed with the toxic waste assholes at the Family Research Council like Dean Cain. Guess I'll have to be happy with watching all the Hallmark movies except the handful he appears in.

And speaking of Hallmark, Flip That Romance was finally repeated today...

This movie is genius. IT'S GENIUS! I've been anxiously waiting seeing Flip That Romance since the moment I found out it exists. The film combines two of my favorite things... home renovation shows and Hallmark movies. And it's good! Funny! Hallmark heaven, as it were.

   
• Nonstarter. You know... the more I use my Apple Card, the more I absolutely love it. It's just so absurdly easy and the features are crazy-good. So good. The only problem is that the benefits are total shit. 2% back? 3% on Apple products? So lame. I hope that other credit card companies take note of what Apple is doing and step up their game. Or Apple gets with the program and starts offering 5% back like a real card... even if it's just on Apple products (As it is, it's cheaper to buy Apple products on Amazon with my Amazon Card because I get 5% back on Amazon purchases... what sense does that make?). It will be interesting to see if Apple drives change in the industry like it has for so many other things. I would certainly hope so.

   
Hope your new week is a good one!

   

Hell of a Day, Isn’t It?

Posted on Monday, September 9th, 2019

Dave!Back in the late 80s when my friend Doug and I were in Kauai, we looked at a map (yes, this was before Google Maps because I'm old) and saw a massive beach on the Western side of the island called "Barking Sands" and decided to go. Little did we know that Barking Sands Beach is a part of the Barking Sands Naval Base, home of the Pacific Missile Range Facility. We were (of course) halted at a fence and told to turn around and vacate the premises. Then were told that there was a public beach north of the facility if we wanted to go there. It was called "Polihale Beach" and we decided it was better than nothing after having driven all the way across the island.

If you look at it on a map, you can see what the deal was...

A map of Kauai showing how our condo in Wailua is on the other side of the island from Barking Sands Beach... and how Polihale Beach is north of Barking Sands.
Map From Google Maps

Problem was... our map was pretty vague about the area. We ended up taking a very wrong turn and ended up headed inland. When we tried to turn around using a drive into a sugar cane field, we were met by a guy with a gun who told us to get the hell off his property.

And so we did. Quickly.

Just one of many bizarre misadventures we we got into on that trip.

Once we got back to the road we needed to be on, we eventually spotted a road that looked like it maybe kinda possibly wouldn't get us shot... so we headed to the beach. This was an undeveloped off-the-beaten-path situation, so once we saw water we just pulled off the road and parked in an area where it looked like we might be out of the way.

This Google Maps satellite image may or may not be where we actually ended up, but you can get an idea of what I'm talking about...

A map of Polihale Beach showing the possible access road and possible parking area up off the beach.
Map From Google Maps

After parking, we headed to the beach.

Just as we turned the corner, we ran across a couple who had attempted to drive their rental SUV ONTO THE BEACH.

Needless to say, they immediately became stuck. Then they made things worse by slamming down on the gas pedal, which only dug the car deeper into the sand...

A map of Polihale Beach showing the possible access road and possible parking area up off the beach.
Map From Google Maps

Apparently they didn't get the memo on why you don't want to drive on sand with a vehicle not designed for that purpose.

As we approached we saw that a woman was seated in the passenger side of the SUV fuming. A man was attempting to dig it out with a frisbee. A futile effort if there ever was one, because the SUV was sunk up to the floorboards. The only way he was ever going to get off that beach would be if somebody parked off the beach with a winch and pulled him off of it.

As we passed, the guy looks up at us and says "Hell of a day, isn't it?" And Doug was all "Um. Yeah." Because the only thing going through both of our heads was how we were going to escape if this guy asked us to help him dig his car out. But he never did. So we walked up the beach, which was quite nice. Beautiful golden sand with turquoise waters and hardly any people...

A photo of gorgeous Polihale Beach with pretty water and a looming cliff in the distance.

One of the (many) things I love about Google Maps is that you can literally pinpoint where I took the above shot...

A satellite view looking down at Polihale Beach with pretty water and a looming cliff in the distance.
Satellite View From Google Maps

It's not a great beach for swimming thanks to the waves, which were rough, but pretty to look at otherwise...

A photo of gorgeous Polihale Beach with some people far off in the distance.

I did not take a photo of the guy digging his SUV out. This was before the days of being able to sneak a shot with a mobile phone, and I really didn't want him to get pissed at me for exploiting his misfortune if I were caught... so I restrained myself. In the shot above, he is just to the left out of frame.

Wow. These shots I took really are from the 80's. Just look at that film grain when I zoom in...

A closeup of Polihale Beach with massive film grain.

Anyway... After twenty minutes of bumming around, we walked back to our jeep. The guy was still there attempting to dig the SUV out. A part of me wanted to ask if we should call a tow truck for him when we got back to civilization, but I didn't want him getting more pissed than he already was. Instead we took a long loop around him. We were on vacation, after all. If he had shouted out to us as we walked by, we absolutely would have called AAA for him (or whatever) but, well, you know...

Once we made it back and climbed into the jeep, Doug turned to me and said "Hell of a day, isn't it?" And then we both laughed our asses off because we're mean that way. But, hey, at least we know better than to try and drive in sand, amirite?

Fast forward to a couple years later. The movie Total Recall had just come out. It featured a scene where Arnold Schwarzenegger wakes up in a cab being driven by a robot. After some confusion as to how he got there, the Johnny Cab robot says "Hell of a day, isn't it?"...

I don't know if Doug was with me in the theater when I saw Total Recall. I'd like to think that he was. He probably was. Or maybe he wasn't and I talked to him about it later after we had both seen it. I honestly don't remember. What I DO remember is laughing my ass off when Johnny Cab said "Hell of a day, isn't it?" Because that's exactly how the guy digging out his car said it. The people in the theater probably thought I was insane, but it was damn funny in a "You Had To Be There" kind of way.

Over the years, every once in a while when we saw each other, one of us would inevitably say "Hell of a day, isn't it?".

Last week I ran across a story about a car that had been driven out onto the beach, then abandoned in the face of Hurricane Dorian because it got stuck...

A photo of a red SUV stuck on the beach while waves crash around it.

After it was discovered, social media happened. Because of course it did. Then #JeepWatch2019 took over. The meme was popping up everywhere...

A guy labeled NEWS REPORTERS is ignoring a woman labeled HURRICANE DORIAN and staring at a pretty woman labeled JEEP ON THE BEACH as she walks by.

The Joy of Painting artist Bob Ross is adding a red SUV to a painting of a beach while saying LET'S ADD A HAPPY LITTLE RED SUV.

Rose and Jack from Titanic on top of the beached car which is now sinking into the North Atlantic Ocean.

Now, as you can imagine, the minute I saw this my first instinct was to create my own meme and text it to Doug...

A photo of a red SUV stuck on the beach while waves crash around it... and I've added the text HELL OF A DAY, ISN'T IT? to the bottom.

Except I couldn't.

It took me a minute to remember that Doug is gone.

That's one of the worst things there is, isn't it? Having a shared experience that only one other person on earth could possibly relate to... but for them to no longer be around to share it with? Not even the guy who was trying to dig his SUV out of the sand with a frisbee that day can possibly know what it that moment was to us. My writing this long-ass blog entry can explain what happened, but it's not the same as having lived through it. There was only the two of us.

And now there's just one of us.

And while it's a funny memory for me, knowing that I will never again have that one person to laugh about it with is a weight that came crashing down on my like a ton of bricks. And it's weird, isn't it? How I never heard about a car getting stuck on a beach when it could have meant something hilarious... but now that it can't, I'm probably going to be hearing about it happening all the time? Because isn't that the way these things go? Maybe it's just how The Universe likes to dick with us. Or maybe it's how our brains like to dick with us by noticing things only after they've become more hurtful than hilarious? Heaven only knows that a Google Image Seach for "Car Stuck on Beach" sure turns up a lot of photos of it happening.

Today I found out that they were finally able to rescue that SUV from the beach after the hurricane passed. I still have no idea how the guy at Polihale Beach, Kauai ever managed to get his SUV off the beach.

Jeep

Hell of a day, isn't it?

   

iPhone 11 Pro, et al.

Posted on Tuesday, September 10th, 2019

Dave!AND LO DID TIM COOK DESCEND FROM ON HIGH TO DELIVER A NEW iPHONE TO THE APPLE FAITHFUL FROM THE SANCTITY OF THE APPLE SPACESHIP HEADQUARTERS!

He dropped some other Apple stuff too, but the only thing I really cared about was the iPhone. And the only reason I cared about a new iPhone was the possibility of an improved camera inside of it.

Apple Event screen showing the Apple logo constructed from transparent pastel-colored ribbons.

And here's all the crap Apple talked about, along with my notes...
   

Apple Arcade

I love video games. I've loved video games since video games were invented. Alas, I never have time to actually play them, which means my Nintendo Switch sits mostly unused and any game I buy for my iPhone is never finished. So when Apple announced "Apple Arcade" I was ready to take a big 'ol pass... but then you find out it's just $4.99 a month (a third less than I was expecting) and a part of me is like Hmmmmmm?!? $5 is (on average) what I pay for a single game. Now I can get hundreds of games for that same price? That's a pretty sweet deal. And every one of the games are exclusive to Apple. So who knows? Maybe a couple times a year I'll pay my $5 and play when I can for a month just to see what's up. Sure beats paying $5 for one game that will never be completed. There's a one-month free trial to check it out on September 19th...

XXXXX.
   

Apple TV+

I already pay far more for television every month than I am comfortable with (or can afford). But looking at the cool shows that Apple has lined up for their streaming service is certainly compelling. And, again, I'm more than a little blown away that Apple is only going to charge $4.99 a month given the money and quality of shows they are producing. This will be yet another case of paying for a month of service a couple times a year so I can binge all their content. And then Apple drops the other shoe... any purchase of a new iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV comes with a FREE year of Apple TV+, which is pretty mind-blowing. Apple developed a streaming service not as a monthly revenue model... BUT TO SELL MORE OF THEIR PRODUCTS! No idea if people like me who are a part of the iPhone Upgrade Program will get a free year every time they trade in their old phone for a new phone, but that would be pretty sweet...

XXXXX.
   

iPad

I have a new-ish model of iPad which I purchased to paint with. And I love it for painting. The Apple Pencil is fast, intuitive, and there's all kinds of apps available to unleash your creativity. But what I need an iPad for is drawing, not painting. I want to be able to draw on the thing, and I have a really hard time with that. I just can't seem to get the precision needed for drawing down, and every time I try I end up reaching for a pencil and paper. What I need to do is just sit down for a week and force myself to learn. But I can never find the time so my iPad sits in a drawer. For that reason, iPad news is kind uninteresting to me... but I do tune in, because nothing would make me happier than to use an iPad for travel instead of lugging my laptop everywhere. And if things keep advancing like they have been, we are closer to that becoming a reality than ever before. Would I buy a new 7th Generation iPad if I could afford one in the first place? Probably not. But I still want one, and that's how Apple gets you. The latest model is sublimely fast, capable, and beautiful to look at and draw on. What's not to want?

XXXXX.
   

Apple Watch

The only way that I would ever buy one of these would be if they made it considerably thinner. Because while I would absolutely love to own one... I would likely never wear it. But, again, I want one anyway because Apple makes such a compelling case as to why I can't live without one. The health features alone are pretty spectacular. But now the display is ALWAYS ON which addresses my other major pet peeve about Apple Watch. The fact that they innovated a way to make this happen without sacrificing battery life is insanely great. All the other new stuff in Series 5... like a compass... is cute, but not compelling enough for me to shell out $500.

XXXXX.
   

iPhone

iPhone 11. This is the new entry model iPhone, which I'll just skip right over, since it doesn't have the cameras I am looking for. Faster, better Face ID, better cameras, blah blah blah... it's dope, we get it. The base model starts at $699.

iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max. Here we go...

Durability. They claim that the new iPhone Pro models are constructed with the toughest glass ever created for a mobile phone. Will this preclude giving up a protective case? That would be nice, but I'll have to wait until somebody tests that. Since I am on the iPhone Upgrade Program and have to return my iPhone in pristine condition if I don't want to pay a fine to get a new one, I'll probably end up with a case unless the glass is so tough that it's impossible to scratch. Not likely.

Display. Apparently "Super Retina" displays just aren't good enough now. Apple has leapt forward with Super Retina XDR. It's got better contrast, better color gamut, better brightness... all while being 15% more energy efficient.

A13 Bionic Chip. Apple's line of chips has been fine-tuned specifically for doing exactly what Apple wants their phones to do and nothing more or less. There's no wasted energy going anywhere because Apple designs them that way. This makes them crazy-powerful all while drawing less power from the battery. Nowhere is this more evident than with Apple's dedication to "machine learning" via their "Neural Engine." This is a special set of routines that can analyze massive amounts of data and provide tools to use that data in intelligent ways. Feed it a bunch of images of an object to define an object, for example, and you can ask it to look for the object in new images with very little coding. That's pretty basic scenario, and creative programmers are able to do much, much more. This is a case of Apple providing killer tools so developers can come up with killer apps.

Battery. I don't use my phone a lot, so the battery has barely drained when I charge it each night. Even when I travel and am using my phone constantly, it still lasts me all day. I rarely ever run out of battery (which used to happen all the time with earlier iPhone models). Even so... the new Pro has up to 4 hours more battery life... the new Pro Max has up to 5 hours more battery life. And they are including a more powerful charger, so you can charge your phone quicker as well (assuming you still want to use a cord... ugh!). It was expected that Apple would introduce "reverse wireless charging" so you can use your iPhone battery to charge another phone... or your Apple Watch... or your AirPods... or whatever. This was introduced in the previous version of the Samsung Galaxy phones, but didn't happen this time for the iPhone. Maybe next year.

Haptic Touch. As rumored, Apple has eliminated 3D Touch from its displays, which allowed a "deep touch" to perform different functions from a "touch." This is a real shame, because 3D Touch is a frickin' amazing feature (no wonder it wasn't even mentioned at the event!). So now instead of a display that's pressure-sensitive, we instead get "Haptic Touch" which relies on the length of a touch instead of the hardness of a touch to deliver different functions. This is most decidedly not the same thing, even though Apple is essentially selling it that way. I'm sure it will just be a learning adjustment. But it's weird that Apple would be removing features like this. I guess it makes for cheaper displays... but how is that a consolation in a phone that starts at $1000?!?

Lightning Again. The dream was that Apple finally move to USB C for the cable hookup. They didn't. It's still a Lightning connector, which means you have to continue to pack stupid Lightning cables with you everywhere. I rarely use a cable at home thanks to wireless charging, but I use it all the time when I travel, which is why this sucks.

Sound. Dolby Atmos on a phone is an absurd claim... probably more "Dolby-Atmos-like," but I don't doubt that the spatial sound abilities are much improved.

Camera. I use my iPhone as a camera more than anything else. By a ridiculous margin. To me, it's not a phone at all... it's a camera which happens to be able to use the internet and make phone calls. When I travel now-a-days, I rarely take my actual camera with me. My iPhone is enough. And with each new version that Apple unleashes, my "professional camera" is less necessary. I haven't needed to buy a new mobile phone in years. But I do so anyway because I want a better camera.

Night Mode. Apple has always had pretty good low light capabilities. But with the advent of mobile phones like the Google Pixel with its amazing "night sight," Apple's efforts are downright pitiful. But now they've addressed this shortcoming in a big way to add far better low light photography to the iPhone. This is a pretty big deal...

XXXXX.
   

Lens Trio. Saying that the iPhone Pro has "three lenses" is actually wrong. It has three cameras, each with a different lens. A 12MP 26mm f/1.8 Wide Camera, a 12MP 52mm f/2.0 Telephoto Camera, and a 12MP 13mm f/2.4 Ultra-Wide Camera...

XXXXX.

Note that we haven't gotten an increase from 12MP in a while now. This is probably smart given the massive storage space needed, but they really need to get to at least 16MP real soon for those who want it... maybe even giving just one of the lenses 24MP or something. Anyway... it's the ultra-wide that's important here...

XXXXX.

Most any time I've taken scenic photos I end up having to take panoramas, which are great but problematic. Far better if I can take a wide photo in one shot, which is going to be much more likely now.

Deep Fusion. And here's where things get interesting! Deep Fusion is a technology which uses the iPhone's machine learning to to build fantastic detail out of multiple shots... automatically. Every time you initiate the shutter, iPhone takes nine photos (four of them happen before you even touch the shutter). It then analyzes every pixel of all the images and builds a finished image which combines the best pixels from each... in less than a second. The demo image is phenomenal, and has me totally sold...

XXXXX.
   

Video. All three cameras can shoot in 4K. New editing tools allow for adjusting attributes like brightness. That's impressive. But it's Mickey Mouse stuff when you consider what it can actually do with these cameras. To demonstrate that, Apple had the CTO from FiLMiC show off the next version of their app which takes full advantage of the fact that the iPhone Pro can record from MULTIPLE CAMERAS AT THE SAME TIME!

XXXXX.

So you can have coverage at the wide and telephoto levels in the same shot. And you can use the selfie cam as one of those cameras.... Which means you can record both sides of a talking heads conversations in one go...

XXXXX.

Insanity. But in the best possible way.

5G. Ain't got it. Which is a bit of a dangerous game to play. As the 5G rollout gains momentum, having a phone with the option of connecting to it seems like something you want to have in a $1000 phone for future-proofing. But Apple, of course, doesn't want to future-proof. They want you to keep buying new phones to get those sweet new features.

Price. No increased retail on the Pro. Still $1000 for the "regular" sized one... which seems absurd, even when considering all it can do. I don't have $1000 to throw around, so I will be upgrading from my current iPhone with the iPhone Upgrade Program I bought into last year...

XXXXX.
   

Artistry. Apple gave some of the new iPhone Pro phones to professional photographers and let them loose. Using the new tech, they created some amazing images...

XXXXX.
   

XXXXX.
   

XXXXX.
   

And that's all she wrote.

My iPhone Upgrade Program renewal date isn't until the 20th, and I'm too cheap for an early buy-out, so I'm fine waiting until then (which, coincidentally, is the actual release date). Of course by that time the waiting list queue for backorders will likely have me getting my new iPhone 11 Pro in October, so I won't get to try out the awesome new camera(s) until then.

Think of all the cat photos I'll be missing out on.

   

The Memory of It All

Posted on Wednesday, September 11th, 2019

Dave!Every year since 9/11 I would remember back to the memory of it all... still fresh in my head after all these years... then write about what I was feeling. It's a singular event which most all Americans alive at the time can relate to regardless of the politics and issues which has divided us so badly.

Most times it went okay. Sometimes somebody would slap back with "YOU WEREN'T EVEN THERE! YOU WERE ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE COUNTRY! WHAT DO YOU KNOW?" or maybe something like "IT'S PATHETIC HOW AMERICANS GET SO CHOKED UP OVER ONE DAY WHEN 9/11 IS HAPPENING EVERY SINGLE DAY IN SYRIA!" In all cases I'd try to be empathetic. Those were words said more out of hurt than anger, and I get it. I resisted the urge to reply, which would solve nothing, delete the comment, then move on with my life the best I can.

All those years of coming up with something to share for 9/11 were eclipsed by The Story that I couldn't share. It encapsulated everything I feel about the anniversary of the terrorist attacks, but I wasn't going to share while my mom was still here. After I could no longer take care of her and she had to be moved to a facility over the mountains in June of 2016, I felt I could finally talk about it. That entry was pretty much my final word on 9/11.

There's not much more to be said.

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EFFECTIVE ENOUGH!

Posted on Thursday, September 12th, 2019

Dave!In an effort to save money, I've been investigating a lot of "off-brand" alternatives to the stuff I buy. This is a complete 180 from my previous attitude where I'd always pay extra for the "good one." Then I read an article about how often times the "cheap one" is times made by the same company and is identical in every way except the packaging.

This has not always proven true, but it's been true often enough that I have switched my buying habits as a result.

Where this has saved me the most money is food. As an example... instead of buying Hunts tomato paste, I buy the Safeway Signature Select. There is no difference except I save a little by buying Safeway brand. And that little bit of cash adds up to quite a lot in the long run.

I was thinking of this when I took a photo of my cupboard after I was tagged in one of those "SHOW US A PHOTO OF YOUR..." memes (the last one I did was my refrigerator). There's a significant amount of off-brand stuff in there...

A photo of my cupboard with boxes, cans, and pouches all neatly arranged and organized so I can find things easily.

There are two things I can think of that I don't buy off-brand. I like Campbell's Tomato Bisque and Tomato Rice soups. All you can get as an alternative is plain old tomato soup, which I don't like as well. The other thing is pasta sauce. I prefer to make my own from scratch, but I always keep jars on hand in case I don't have time. The Classico is my favorite, and often times tastes as good as what I make. The off-brand is not as good, so I pay double to get something I enjoy eating.

I have been buying off-brand for more more than just food.

Today I received new air filters for my Coway Air Purifiers. Surprisngly, there are a number of off-brand alternatives. Most of them are cheaper because they are not true HEPA filters. But, if you shop carefully, you can find off-brand that are HEPA. One of the off-brand filter sets by Cabiclean was highly reviewed and $5 cheaper so I decided to go for it. Much to my amusement, this was printed on the box...

A photo of the box for my new air filters. Along with the list of features it says EFFECTIVE ENOUGH!

Clearly this wasn't written by somebody with great English skills but, hey, I don't need great marketing if it saves me $5... this is perfectly fine so long as it works. I guess time will tell, but I honestly couldn't see a difference between my new and old filters when I looked closely, so I'm guessing it's all good.

Well, maybe not "all good," but hopefully it's EFFECTIVE ENOUGH!

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SuperGlue by CorningWare

Posted on Friday, September 13th, 2019

Dave!When I get screwed over by a company, I'm pretty unforgiving.

Sometimes it's because their product is total shit and they won't stand behind it, like Panasonic... sometimes it's because the customer service treated me like total shit, like Hewlett Packard (both of which I talk about here).

And sometimes it's because of a reason even I think is stupid, like CorningWare.

When I moved to my new place, I had to buy new everything. New television. New furniture. New cleaning supplies. And... new dishes.

One of the many new dishes I bought was a set of six different-color CorningWare "Meal Mugs." I loved all the CorningWare stuff I had purchased previously, and these looked like a fantastic thing to have...

CorningWare Meal Mug... a big red mug with a cover that has a steam vent on it.

You can mix, bake, heat, store, freeze, and serve in the things. The cover even has a steam vent for when you microwave. On top of all that, it's dishwasher safe! And they're a good enough size that they're practically a bowl... which is why I like them for soups, pastas, cereals, oatmeal, and even cakes. They're just so beautifully versatile. One of my better purchases, and I love them.

Except...

When they arrived they had labels on the front and the back. LABELS THAT WERE ADHERED WITH SOME KIND OF FUCKING SUPER GLUE. I am not even kidding. Peeling off the labels was impossible. Soaking them did nothing. Running them through the dishwasher dozens of times didn't touch them. The only thing that worked was a half-bottle of "Goo Gone" (THE LARGE BOTTLE!) and a plastic scraper. And even then I still feel a patch of label glue on them... TO THIS VERY DAY! So idiotic.

It was so rage-inducing that I never bought another CorningWare product.

This morning as I was unloading the dishwasher, I dropped one of my Meal Mugs. The red one, which is my favorite. I held my breath when it fell because this presented a real quandary. Would I break my ban on CorningWare to get a new one? Do I really want to waste a bottle of Goo Gone and an hour of my time to remove the labels? What does life even mean?

Fortunately, it didn't break after all and I held my breath for nothing.

So I guess I get to kick that can a little further down the road.

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Caturday 126

Posted on Saturday, September 14th, 2019

Dave!And so begins the season when I have houseguests coming and going. Since I spend most of my time here alone, I rather enjoy the company. Jake and Jenny, on the other hand? Not so much.

Despite trying and trying and trying to get them accustomed to other people, they are having none of it. They hide in the storage closet attached to my bedroom and don't come out until the coast is clear. This becomes a problem when I have overnight guests, because they gotta eat, drink, pee, and poop.

I've kinda solved the problem by moving their food, water, and upstairs Liter-Robot into my bedroom and closing the door. It's not a perfect solution, because if there's any noise at all going on in the house, they won't come out to use them, but at least they know they are there when things settle down.

And it's better now than they used to be. Instead of continuing to hide when everybody is asleep, my cats will roam the house until people wake up. Instead of taking days or hours to recover and come out of hiding, they are out reclaiming the house within minutes of my guests leaving.

Even so, I'm thinking of doing some work in the storage closet to make things more cat-friendly. Maybe rethinking things so that they have more comfortable places to hide? Add some ramps and scratching posts to make it more fun?

I feel bad about them feeling they need to hide, so the least I can do is try to make it easier on them.

And speaking of feeling bad...

This time I had people with cat allergies coming over. This is, technically, not a huge problem... thanks to my air purifier, Carl the RoboVac, and a good deep cleaning... but there is one thing that makes a real deep cleaning impossible... the ratty old cat tree that Jake and Jenny love. Thanks to the cheap, ugly fuzzy fabric which covers the thing, it's impossible to keep clean. It's so gross, but I dare not get rid of it. Instead I temporarily moved it to the catio.

Jake was livid. Boy was he mad. He was squawking at me while I was moving it.

Jenny just sat there staring at me like WTF, dude?

So they've been out in the catio all over the thing... still angry at me for having moved it...

Jenny outside in the catio on top of her beloved cat tree, staring at me.

The top of the cat tree is Jake's favorite place to sleep so he's out there all the time, bless his little heart...

Jake out in the catio asleep on top of that filthy old cat tree.

Just look at how disgusting the thing is! And this is after I vacuumed it! I honestly don't want that filthy thing back in my house, so I made a decision. Well, two decisions, actually. First I ordered a replacement cat tree of the exact same model. Once it arrives on Wednesday, I'll put it together and hope that they will transition to it. Then, come Spring, I'll take the old cat tree, strip it apart, then rebuild it from better materials that I can actually keep clean. Should be a fun project. I hope.

In the meanwhile? Here's to my cats not hating me too much.

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Bullet Sunday 629

Posted on Sunday, September 15th, 2019

Dave!I had to add a blanket to my bed last night but it's still toasty warm up in here, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Since You're Gone. I was saddened to learn that Ric Ocasek, lead singer of The Cars died. I first became acquainted with the band after their second album, Candy-O, was released in 1979. The Vargas pinup art on it remains one of my favorite album covers. Apparently Vargas came out of retirement to paint it because his niece was a fan of the band...

The cover of the album Candy-O by Vargas as performed by The Cars. It depicts a red-haired woman laying across the hood of a Ferrari 365 GTC/4 dressed in a sheer black body suit.

It was from Candy-O that the track Let's Go came, which is still one of their best songs. Two albums later they would come out with Shake It Up and explode in popularity all over again. Thanks to some innovative videos on MTV (at a time when MTV still played music videos) their fifth album, Heartbeat City, was the peak of their popularity. One album later we got Door to Door and The Cars would disband. They came back together in 2011 for the album Move Like This, and then it was all over. Through it all, there was Ric Ocasek. He had a solo career, sure, but it was as the voice of The Cars that I knew him and loved his work. Interesting to note that nobody knows his real age. According to conflicting sources, it's either 70 or 75. Not knowing for certain seems about right when it comes to Ric! Thanks for the music, sir, you shall be missed.

   
• Staten Island Funtime. CGP Grey has, without a doubt, my favorite YouTube channel. I anxiously await every new video he posts. Awesomeness like this is why...

If you haven't watched every single one of his videos, what are you waiting for?

   
• Count on It. Time until this deranged individual gets caught in a bathroom stall with an underage male prostitute? 5... 4... 3... 2...

   
• Phone Problems Well this is pretty sweet...

Cool Catch, Bro.

   
• Filibustery. So the Senate wasn't designed by the founding fathers to be a dysfunctional shithole after all. We made it that way...

Is there any doubt... any at all... that we need to scrap the idiotic institution that is our government and start over with something that actually works and truly represents the people of the United States of America? Something without all the stupid fucking waste we have now which exploits our time and money to ABSOLUTELY NO EFFECT? What we have now is just people elected to nothing and being extremely well-paid for doing it.

Tonight John Oliver took an interesting look at "legal immigration"...

And so... "legal immigration" is actually another phrase that politicians use for "no immigration"... unless your daughter is married to the President of the United States of America, of course. Hope The First Lady's parents enjoy picking crops, cleaning houses, and working the brutal, thankless jobs which are customarily filled by immigrants. Thanks to mass deportations and constant threats, those jobs are readily available. Oh... wait a second... never mind.

   
• Dumb Dumb DUMMMMMB. And speaking of this dysfunctional government... could it possibly get any more stupid than these absurd Democrat "debates?" They make the party look like its run by idiots. Which, let's be honest, it probably is. Though, in their defense, they're no more stupid than the Republicans propping up the dumbass that's currently occupying The White House for re-election, so I guess we're all fucked. Again. Democratic leadership will manipulate things to pick whomever they hell they want to run... and Republican leadership will continue to endorse a total fucking lunatic who only gives a shit about his own personal interests. Try not to be shocked by the predictability of it all. Though, odds are, you don't have the money it takes to get to decide how this country will be run, so being shocked is about all you have left. Sorry for ruining that for you.

   
See you in a week, sports fans.

   

Housing Memory

Posted on Monday, September 16th, 2019

Dave!Four years ago today my offer was accepted on my condo.

Four years ago two days prior I toured the condo and had my real estate agent make a full-price offer. There would be no negotiating. No back-and-forth. I wanted the deal closed as quickly as possible.

Four years ago three days prior I was looking through real estate websites. Yet again. And I wasn't hopeful. Over a month of searching had turned up nothing. But there it was. A brand new listing for a condo in my old neighborhood. Four doors down from where I grew up. The home wasn't perfect, but the location was ideal. With some remodeling the home could be exactly what I needed and, with some luck, my search was over.

Little did I know that it would be four-and-a-half months of torture before I could move in... but that's another story.

As is the lead-up to four years ago today...

When my mom first started having trouble climbing stairs and walking on carpet at her apartment, I knew it was time to move. There was no way she would be able to safely live in a space where she was in constant danger of falling. Problem is, finding rental housing where I live is difficult even when you have no restrictions. But if you require a single story home with no carpet? Might as well be wanting to live on the moon.

I was left with two options: Buy or Build.

I didn't want to do either, but when you're left with no "option three" you do what you gotta do. I called up somebody I knew who's very good with local real estate and asked her to find me a house I could remodel or land I could build on. Then I purchased a home design software package and got to work.

After a conversation with a friend of a friend on the East Coast who has worked on creating homes for peoples with disabilities, I spent weeks coming up with dozens of floor plans for houses that would be best suited for my mom. Once I narrowed in on a couple designs, I just kept refining them over and over. The idea was to have a large central room with the kitchen, dining, and living room all together, then have the other rooms radiate around that. This simple concept would minimize confusion, because it's hard to get lost in. But something so simple in concept turned out to be far more difficult in reality...

House floor plan.

In the above plan, for example, there was no bathroom directly off the main "hub" of the home. That has disaster written all over it, so I had to come up with something different...

House floor plan.

And even that had problems. So it was back to the drawing board over and over and over.

Land within the city limits is scarce, but my agent had a lead on some possibilities. And so long as there was a chance, I was going to keep designing homes. Then that listing for my condo popped up and that was the end of my being an architect. It was fun while it lasted.

My mom's health declined far faster than anticipated, so instead of the five years I was hoping for, she only lived with me for 8 months. Then the doctor told me that she needed more care than I could provide on my own and it was over.

My first thought was to sell the condo since it was far more home than I needed (or could really afford). Everybody and their dog advised against it. The costs involved in buying a home and selling a home within a span of a year would be more than if I were to just hold out for a while. And so here I am, still here after all these years.

No lie... mortgage payments and HOA dues are a killer... but I'm happy I stayed.

Maybe one day I'll have to move. Maybe sooner than I'd like. But, in the meanwhile, this place is probably better than I deserve. And I've still got a kitchen remodel I want to work on, so there's that.

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Cat Tree Returns

Posted on Tuesday, September 17th, 2019

Dave!Remember when I said that I would not be dragging Jake and Jenny's filthy cat tree back into my home? Remember also when I said that I ordered a replacement that will be here Wednesday, and they can just deal until it gets here?

Well...

Jake had decidedly different ideas about that.

He's been spending all his time out in the catio lounging on it... and whenever he's in the house, he's whining to me about it... or looking mournfully out into the catio at his favorite place to hang out.

I felt so bad that I really had no choice but to drag that filthy thing back inside last night...

Jake climbing all over his cat tree again.

Jake climbing all over his cat tree again.

Jake climbing all over his cat tree again.

Jake climbing all over his cat tree again.

The new cat tree is supposed to arrive tomorrow. If they don't take to it, there's no way... no way... I am dragging this gross thing back in my home. There's just no way.

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The Battle Inside Me

Posted on Wednesday, September 18th, 2019

Dave!Today was flu shot day at work.

I got the shots for the longest time... then stopped because I ended up getting the flu a couple times anyway... then started getting shots again when I got a nephew and wanted to do everything I could to not be sick around him. My doctor said that the flu vaccine can't possibly fight every strain of flu, but it can combat some big ones and decrease severity and duration of others... so why not?

Oh... I dunno... BECAUSE I HATE GETTING SHOTS?!?

And I honsetly don't know why.

It's not the needle. That doesn't bother me at all. Tattoos are lots and lots of needles, and I am unphased.

And it's not the shot itself. When I was a kid I had to get three allergy shots a week, so I am unphased.

What I think it is? The stuff they shoot into you.

Despite my head knowing how vaccines work... knowing they are safe... and knowing that I trust science... there's something about knowing they are shooting dead (or weakened) viruses into me that freaks me out! The minute they jab me with that needle, all I can do is imagine that stuff floating through my blood stream... then my immune system going HOLY SHIT! and unleashing a torrent of antibodies to kill it all... and kill it dead (or, more likely, dead-er). Probably because I saw Fantastic Voyage as a kid and it's been in my head ever since...

What's going on inside me right now is disconcerting. I mean, just LOOK at this...

But the alternative? Having all that happen and getting really sick.

No thank you.

So there I was... rolling up my sleeve so I could get shooted.

And here I am now... imagining my antibodies attacking viruses.

I should probably take a couple sleeping pills tonight so I sleep through the battle raging in my body. GO ANTIBODIES! FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!

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It ain’t CHEEZ-IT nor is it Pizza

Posted on Thursday, September 19th, 2019

Dave!I get it. Most of my readers don't even bother to look at other sites. Blogography gives you everything you need to survive, so it's pointless to go anywhere else. Which is why I feel it's important for me to review stuff that may be an essential piece to your well-being. Like the latest food monstrosity from Pizza Hut... CHEEZ-IT Pizza!

And I have to admit... I was looking forward to this experience. I love pizza. I love CHEEZ-ITs. And Pizza Hut is okay in my book.

So I dropped by to pick up an order of the cheese-stuffed version (they also have pepperoni) just to see if combining some of my favorite stuff was magic... or tragedy.

My first impression was good. The box is a beautiful flaming red. I spent a minute holding it up to the light just so you can get an idea how pretty it is...

A stunningly red Cheez-It Pizza box, glinting in the sunlight of my car passenger seat.

Inside you get four massive squares that look somewhat like inflated CHEEZ-ITs. You also get a tub of Pizza Hut marinara sauce...

Four big squares that look like inflated orange Cheez-It crackers.

Now... here's where things start going terribly wrong. I was anticipating that these would be crunchy like a CHEEZ-IT cracker. They most definitely are not. They are more like a pastry than a cracker. Kinda flakey... but not necessarily in a good way because the texture becomes a bit gummy when you chew it. Like flour paste...

A Cheez-It pizza that's been broken open to show a white cheese center.

A Cheez-It pizza that's been broken open to show a white cheese center.

A few thoughts...

  • The CHEEZ-IT "cracker" is supposed to be a sharp cheddar. I wasn't getting that at all. There was a vague cheddar flavor, but mostly it tasted like flour.
  • The cheese inside is greasy. No real flavor... just greasy.
  • Eaten hot out of the box, they at least have a pleasant ooze to them. The second they start to cool, however, they are just a congealed mass.
  • Didn't Pizza Hut used to warm their marinara sauce? I thought I remember them ladling it out of a crock-pot like warmer. The stuff I got was cold. Not cool, but cold. Makes a bad experience even worse.
  • The price of $7.50 is outrageously expensive for how cheap these things are.

Overall I found Pizza Hut CHEEZ-IT Pizza to be a bit gross. I'd certainly never buy them again.

If I'm being honest, this was a bit shocking to me. After the amazing Cinnabon product launch they had, I was expecting something at least passably good. But this was a complete misfire on all fronts, and it has me questioning why Pizza Hut would risk serving up something like this. I was expecting another Doritos Locos Taco mashup that Taco Bell gave us... instead I got something that shouldn't have ever been sold in the first place.

Dave2 rating for CHEEZ-IT PizzaBomb!Bomb!Bomb!Bomb!Bomb!Bomb!Bomb! (7 bombs out of 5 stars)

If you want my advice, just go buy a brick of decent-quality sharp cheddar and a box of giant CHEEZ-IT crackers. It'll cost you less while giving you a much better eating experience.

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Technology Welcomes Sleep Success

Posted on Friday, September 20th, 2019

Dave!I've been having a tough time of it lately. I either pulled something in my leg... or twisted something in my leg... or maybe it's a blood clot in my leg... or perhaps nerve damage... I dunno. All I do know is that it feels as though all the bones in my left leg are being broken over and over again. It's excruciating. And sleep has been tough to come by because of it.

My guess is that it will probably have to be amputated. But I suppose that's for a doctor to decide.

Today I was too exhausted and in too much pain to get anything done, so I left work early to drug up, wrap my leg in hot packs, and take a nap.

I don't want to brag, but it was a huge success. I slept so good that there was a cat on me when I woke up. That's some great sleeping right there...

Jake laying next to me in bed

I would have liked to have stayed in bed for the rest of the day, but I have a massive to-do list that I need to be working on before winter arrives.

First up was figuring out why some of my SONOS speakers are showing up as "offline" to Alexa. It happened after the last update and it's been driving me crazy. It's also been driving the cats crazy, because one of the speakers that Alexa can't recognize is the speaker which plays their breakfast and dinner alarms.

The horror.

A half hour later and I eventually solve the problem by uncoupling my surround sound setup, making all the speakers be individual "rooms," then running "discovery" so Alexa could see all of them again. Then setting up my surround system from scratch again. What a pain in the ass that was.

But that's technology for ya. Making things easier for you while making things more difficult at the same time.

But try explaining that to a cat.

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Caturday 127

Posted on Saturday, September 21st, 2019

Dave!As I mentioned last Caturday, I ordered a brand new cat tree to replace the disgusting pile of filth that the old one had become. My biggest worry was that the cats wouldn't like new cat tree smell and reject it. So after I put the new one together on Wednesday, I thought I'd keep both trees out so there could be a transition. Turns out it wasn't necessary. They were all over the thing from the minute they saw it...

Old cat tree. New cat tree. Both cats on the new cat tree.

Jake knawing on the new cat tree.

Jenny sitting on top of the new cat tree.

During their dinner time I hauled the old tree to the garage so I can eventually rebuild it. The new one slid to the old location and the cats didn't seem to notice that anything was different...

The new tree in the old location with Jenny sitting on top of it.

   
Yesterday I heard some commotion in the dining room. Not knowing what I was in for, I walked in and saw that Jenny was on the dining room table. At first I was all "GREAT! NOW I HAVE TO DISINFECT THE TABLE AGAIN!" But then I saw how neatly she had bundled up the table runner that I had up for dinner last weekend, and was all "Awwwww! Aren't you just the cutest thing!"

Jenny sitting on top of the new cat tree.

And she really is. I just melt every time I look into that little sour-puss face. And since it's been getting colder, I brought out the cat beds they like to snuggle up in this time of year. So now I get to look into her little sour-puss face every evening when I watch television...

Jenny waking up in her cat bed with her little adorable frowny-face.

   
First I added a second blanket to my bed... then this week I added my electric blanket. Something Jake and Jenny just love. But this year Jake has been all over it...

Jake laying on the electric blanket looking very content.

He even gave himself a pedicure on it the other day...

Jake biting the claws on his rear foot.

Jenny is pretty aggressive when grooming her claws... but Jake takes it to the next level. There were times I honestly thought he was going to rip his claws right off his foot.

   
and that's all the cat-news for another cat-week. See you in seven cat-days... same cat-channel... same cat-time!

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Bullet Sunday 630

Posted on Sunday, September 22nd, 2019

Dave!I can't believe the weekend is already gone! But all is not lost, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• FAKE FOOD! Like many large cities, Tokyo has several districts which specialize in various goods. If you want to see electronics, head to Akihabara. If you want Western fashion and high-end restaurants, you need to go to Ginza. That kind of thing. One of my favorite places to look around is Kappabashi Street, which specializes in restaurant supplies. Pots, pans, dishes, utensils... and a staple of Japanese restaurants... fake food. Because most all restaurants have their windows filled with representations of the dishes they specialize in so people will get their mouths watering and want to come inside. Most of the plastic foods you can buy here in the US are crap, whereas in Japan it's a true artform...

Yes most of the stuff has a bit of a high-gloss sheen to it, but once it's wrapped in plastic to keep it from getting dusty it's pretty darn realistic. The above video is a fascinating look at how it's made.

   
• Goose. After a long time of reading about it being "released in early 2019," Untitled Goose Game is finally here! The object of the game is to be a complete asshole, which is something I can totally do...

I blazed through everything in just one morning, which is disappointing, but it's a pretty fun game otherwise. Nintendo's eShop has it on sale for Switch at 25% off for a limited time.

   
• Drugs are Bad, Mmkay? This commercial where the girl takes off her seatbelt and runs her car into a dumpster so she can get more Vicodin? More disturbing than any horror movie I've ever seen...

   
• X-Pan I had no desire... none at all... to see X-Men: Dark Phoenix. For one thing, it's the capper of a slew of shitty X-movies, after which Marvel will be bringing the X-Men to the MCU and completely rebooting it to (hopefully) something that doesn't suck. So it's essentially a wasted effort and makes no difference. And, if this hilarious "honest trailer" is anything to go by, it's a pile of shit anyway...

Maybe if it shows up on Hulu or HBO or Disney+ or something I'm already paying for, I'll invest my valuable time. But buying or renting it? Not even a little bit.

   
• Name. An interesting article: Names That Are Unfamiliar to You Aren't "Hard," They're "Unpracticed"

My first "real" international trip was to Japan in the late 80's for work. In Japanese, the "V" in my name doesn't exist as a sound. The closest they have is a "B." And yet they made an effort to say the "V" as best they could, even though it was a struggle and unnatural for them. That kindness has never left me, and I feel incredibly blessed that I learned how important a name can be so early in my travels. Which is why I try my very best to listen when I hear names and put my every best effort into pronouncing them correctly.

So many times I've had co-workers, friends, and people I meet who have "difficult for English speakers to pronounce" names who will say their name... then follow it with "But you can call me..." and give either a completely different "English" name... or some butchered version of their name. Whenever I can, I've asked about their actual name, worked with them to get an acceptable pronunciation, then ask if they mind that I use their real name. And the result is always the same appreciation that I felt that first trip to Japan so many years ago.

Your name... whether it's yours by birth or the name you've chosen for yourself... is key to your identity. Endeavoring to respect a person's name by listening, working to pronounce it, and saying it with your best effort, is such a small thing, really. But it means so much.

   
• Emmys. I do not watch the Emmys. The television I like is rarely represented, so I just don't bother. That being said, I do read the results the next day and have some thoughts...

  • DRAMA: The fact that Game of Thrones can take the big prize seems odd given what a pile of shit the final season ended up being, but okay.
  • SUPPORTING ACTOR, DRAMA: That being said, Peter Dinklage 100% earned that Emmy for his performance in the final season. He elevates any material to new levels, and this was no difference.
  • LEAD ACTOR, DRAMA: This was kind of an absurd category because winner Billy Porter from Pose was about the only one who I felt deserved it. Maybe Jason Bateman from Ozark, but Billy owned this and I'm glad he won.
  • COMEDY: I would have taken Fleabag, Barry, Russian Doll, or Schitt's Creek... but was secretly hoping for Schitt's Creek. Yet... not the least bit upset that Fleabag took the prize.
  • VARIETY: I am really torn here. Yes, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver deserves tons of recognition. But overlooking The Daily Show with Trevor Noah is really a tough pill to swallow. Trevor is killing it every night.
  • LIMITED: I would have liked if When They See Us won because A) It deserves awards, and B) It deserves attention. But Chernobyl was incredible. So good. I ended up watching it all the way through twice because it's such a powerful story.
  • DIRECTING: That being said, Ava DuVernay should have gotten the Emmy for best director when it came to When They See Us. Oh well.
  • COMPETITION: I was very happy to hear that RuPaul's Drag Race won this. It is, by far, the most entertaining of all the nominations.
  • LEAD ACTRESS, COMEDY: While I would love for Catherine O'Hara and Natasha Lyonne to get recognition for the incredible work they do, Phoebe Waller-Bridge earned this one for Fleabag.
  • LEAD ACTOR, COMEDY: I'm thrilled that Bill Hader took the Emmy for his work on Barry! The show is 100% bananas in the best possible way, and his work there is just above and beyond.
  • SUPPORTING ACTRESS, COMEDY: I simply do not get the appeal of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, as I find it neither funny nor entertaining. But Alex Borstein definitely does a fantastic job in the show, so I'm kinda torn on this one. I would have preferred that Kate McKinnon won for Saturday Night Live, however.

   
• SNUBBED! A few nominations that should have been made...

  • Ricky Gervais for acting and/or writing After Life. I am still a bit shocked he got no recognition at all for this one.
  • Tracy Morgan for The Last O.G.. That show is hilarious, and his performance is fantastic. For either to get some recognition is not out of left-field.
  • While I'm not sure The Good Place deserved all the nominations it got, I am sure that D’Arcy Carden should have gotten nominated for Supporting Actress, Comedy... AND WON IT. This is criminal.

   

And... I'm spent. See you in a week with more bullets.

   

Cook, Baked, Done

Posted on Monday, September 23rd, 2019

Dave!In one of those "I'm surprised but not that surprised" situations, I awoke to the news that Thomas Cook has shuttered operations. If you're in the US, you're probably thinking "You mean those little places at the airport where you can exchange money?" And the answer is... not really. I think money exchange places died over a decade ago when ATMs became universally available. No, the Thomas Cook in this case is the world's oldest travel company. They've been wracked with financial problems for years, hence my lack of surprise...

An announcement from Thomas Cook's Twitter feed saying that they have stopped trading with immediate effect.

   
Well-known in Europe, I've actually used their services couple times, but I've never flown their airline. Sadly, a lot of people do, and they now have no way of getting home. Estimates are at 150,000 people stranded. If this sounds familiar, it's because WOW Airlines shut down back in March which stranded a bunch of people too. Or maybe you're thinking of Primera Air or Germania, both of which shuttered in 2018.

Surprisingly, I've never been in a situation like this.

Sure I've been temporarily stranded several times... mostly due to weather... but not once has the airline said "Sorry, we're closed for business, good luck getting home!"

As I watch the crazy number of reactions on social media... or the pandemonium videos that inevitably pop up from airports... I always try to put myself in the same situation to imagine how I would react.

The answer is inevitably... "Meh."

I'm single and nobody relies on me for anything. Even when my mom was still able to be left alone for a while at home, I could always call one of a half-dozen people to look in on her. Right now I've just got my cats. And so long as I could call a sitter and have them add food to their automated feeder, water to their fountain, and empty the Litter-Robot when it gets full, they're good. Sure work could be a challenge, but I could do most everything remotely for a while.

So, no, I would not be one of those people in the videos screaming "BUT IT'S MY HONEYMOON!" or "WHO WILL FEED MY BABIES?!?" or "I HAD BETTER NOT FUCKING MISS THE SEASON PREMIERE OF MAGNUM, P.I.!"

Well, okay, that last one could be me, because I love that show so much but, even then, so long as I have internet, I can just stream all my shows.

My "plan of action" would likely be to call up a hotel immediately so I had a place to stay, keep calling until I find a room, then head to the nearest bar and get completely shit-faced while I wait for the initial storm to blow over and I can make other travel arrangements. Yay, a vacation!

That being said, I really do sympathize with people who have pressing responsibilities back home... or no room on their credit card to book a hotel and new flights. That would be awful, especially if you're in a foreign country.

And if Magnum P.I. was premiering, which is does in four days on September 27th on CBS!

   

FlyPad

Posted on Tuesday, September 24th, 2019

Dave!This is the first post I’ve written entirely on my iPad. Thanks to iPadOS 13 (which was released today) and other apps stepping up their game, it’s actually a realistic option for me now.

Not that it’s easy, mind you.

It’s time consuming and clunky.

Take getting an image to appear in this post, for example. First I have to open the image in Adobe Lightroom for iPad so I can adjust it a bit. THEN I have to save it to my iPad so I can open it in Image Resize, because Lightroom DOESN’T ALLOW YOU TO FUCKING SPECIFY PIXEL DIMENSIONS WHEN YOU CROP A PHOTO. Once I crop it To 1200 × 800, I then have to save it to FTPManager Pro so I can upload it to my blog. It sounds simpler than it actually is. And it doesn’t end there. I then have to open up my WordPress admin panel to write the actual post. But since I want to use images where I put them instead of where WordPress wants them, I have to copy and paste code from old entries into new entries.

Like these photos of Jenny going after a fly in the window this morning...

Jenny stretching her neck up to look at a fly in the window.

Jenny stretching up the window under the window blinds to find a fly.

She’s adorable, I know.

Eventually (hopefully) one of these days it will be a more streamlined process to edit and upload images and write posts. I’m guessing it took me three times longer to post this on my iPad than it would have on my MacBook Pro. With practice, perhaps I could get it down to twice the time? I dunno. Right now I’m just happy I can do it. An iPad is a lot easier to lug around than a laptop.

   

Alexa, Ask Sam What Time It Is…

Posted on Wednesday, September 25th, 2019

Dave!With the exception of Apple Events, which I will watch live whenever I can, I generally don't care about other tech companies enough to clear my schedule and watch their press shows. Like today's "Amazon Hardware Event," which I was happy to read in summary rather than have to sit through. Unsurprisingly, it consisted of things I don't need and won't buy (with one minor exception), so at least my wallet is safe.

The one thing I will be buying is the "Samuel L. Jackson Celebrity Voice" for Alexa. And, yes, I will absolutely turn the profanity option to ON.

Sadly, you can't just switch Alexa over to Samuel L. Jackson and have his voice be the voice of Alexa permanently. You have to tell Alexa to ask Sam something. This is pretty lame, but for 99¢ I'm not going to complain too much. Having Samuel L. Jackson tell me that it's "motherfucking cold outside" is what technology was made for...

A screenshot of the Samuel L. Jackson Celebrity Voice skill for Alexa on Amazon.

There were a few announcements which were of interest to me.

The first, and by far the most important if it actually works, is "Frustration Detection" for Alexa. The idea is that Alexa will be able to tell when you're getting pissed off at her. Like when all of a sudden she's doing stupid shit after working flawlessly for years. No idea what she's going to do when I'm raging... hopefully stop being an idiot... because that would be incredibly helpful. As an example, here's a typical conversation...

DAVE: "Alexa, Turn off bedroom light."
ALEXA: "I cannot find a device named bedroom lights. Which device do you mean?"
DAVE: "LIGHT NOT LIGHTS YOU STUPID FUCKING PIECE OF CRAP! I VERY CLEARLY ENUNCIATED LIGHT WITH NO 'S' ON THE END SINCE YOU ALL OF A SUDDEN STARTED MAKING EVERYTHING PLURAL AND ARE TOO DAMN STUPID TO TO TRY UN-PLURALIZED NAMES BEFORE MOUTHING OFF WITH THIS BULLSHIT!"
ALEXA: "I'm sorry, but I can't do that right now."
DAVE: "ALEXA, JUST DIE YOU FUCKING WORTHLESS PILE OF FESTERING SHIT!"
ALEXA: "That's not very nice."
DAVE: "I'LL KILL YOU! I'LL KILLLLLL YOOOOOOU!"

I know I'm kinda subtle when expressing my frustration, but hopefully Alexa will be able to pick up on it anyway.

The second item of interest is Amazon's "Certified for Humans" program, which will make setting up smart devices easier. That's nice and all... but I'd really like for devices to keep functioning properly once you've got them set up. Every couple months one of my SONOS speakers will stop responding and go offline. No idea why. I always have to set everything up again, which is a huge pain in the ass. And don't get me started on device naming, which randomly works... randomly sticks... and randomly decides to be ignored. It drives me insane. What really drives me crazy is that I didn't have any of these problems for years. It's a recent thing.

And now for the hardware...

ECHO LOOP ($130). From the "nobody asked for this department" comes a massive clunky ring which allows voice-only interaction with Alexa once it's been paired to a phone...

A woman talking to a giant ring on her finger.

How is this helpful? So Alexa can read off your shopping list... what are you supposed to do, memorize all 30 items you added to it as she speaks them? Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. If you want a big wearable that's worth a shit, just get an Apple Watch.

   
ECHO FRAMES ($180). And here's a bulky pair of glasses to sit on your face! This is just beyond stupid. Google Glass had an actual visual display and failed miserably. How in the heck is a pair of glasses with voice-only interaction going to be helpful?

A woman with giant glass frames on her face pretending that they are not at all obtrusive.

Again, just get an Apple Watch. This is categorically absurd.

   
ECHO BUDS ($130). This one actually makes sense. Alexa built into a pair of headphone buds. Hopefully, unlike Apple AirPods, they will actually stay in your damn ears...

A woman with giant headphone buds sticking out of her ears.

I use Alexa to listen to Music Prime Unlimited all the time. Having her in my earbud is actually a great idea. I can play Amazon's streaming music service through my AirPods, but it's not very well integrated. Even so... I'll probably stick with Apple because I own an iPhone and Siri is incredibly handy in an earbud.

   
ECHO STUDIO ($200). Clearly meant to compete with SONOS and Apple HomePod, this is a high fidelity speaker system in a single unit. If I didn't already have SONOS everywhere in my home, perhaps I would have gone this route...

A woman looking way too happy listening to her Echo Studio speaker... like WAY WAY WAY too happy.

Taking a cue from Apple, the audio has been tuned to fill a room with "3D Stereo Sound" from a single speaker. No word if it can work as an AirPlay 2 device for my AppleTV, but somehow I doubt it. The good news is that, unlike SONOS, there's an audio in jack for 3.5mm/TOSlink which I'd rather use over AirPlay anyway. It's also Dolby Atmos certified, which is excellent. Of all the devices that Amazon released, this is the one I'd most likely buy if I had the $200 to buy one. It's actually a better "fit" for my bedroom over the SONOS One I have in there now. That audio input jack is such a smart idea.

   
ECHO 3 ($100). This is yet another upgrade to the basic Alexa device we've seen over and over. It has the design and fabric cover of the previously released Echo Plus, which means it has improved sound quality over the Echo 2 I guess. All these Echos are confusing...

The cylindrical Echo 3 with it's 360-degree fabric cover and a light ring on top.

To be honest, my original Alexa has pretty darn good sound. Definitely good enough for my morning shower music (I keep her in my bathroom). If it keeps getting better and better, this thing probably sounds pretty great. I mean, it has equalizer settings, for heaven's sake! The fact that it has a 3.5mm line in/out is just icing on the cake. If you don't need the additional bass and great mid-range sound from the Echo Studio (above), this is likely a great choice... and half the price!

   
ECHO FLEX ($25). It's a compact smart speaker plug with Alexa built in for $25! Which is a good idea, I suppose. Especially for places like the garage where you might not need awesome sound quality, but would like to have Alexa handy (I have an old Echo Dot in my garage for exactly this reason)...

An Echo Flex compact speaker shown plugged into an outlet at a work bench with tools around it..

A nice feature is that there's a USB plug on the bottom, which allows you to charge your phone or add optional accessories like a nightlight or a motion detector. In most cases, I think an Echo Dot is a better option, but this will undoubtedly fill a niche somewhere!

   
ECHO SHOW 8 ($130). I like the idea of the Alexa "Show" devices, I just don't think I would ever get much use out of them. If I want to FaceTime, I'll just grab my phone. Everything else is already on my phone or my television. I suppose it would make a nice bedside clock that can also show you your security cameras on demand, but that's a pretty expensive clock!

An Echo Flex compact speaker shown plugged into an outlet at a work bench with tools around it..

I dunno. If I had money to burn? Sure. It would be handy to have in some situations. But not enough that I'm going to go rush out and buy one.

   
ECHO GLOW ($30). Oh boy! A smart lamp for kids! This is essentially a Philips HUE type device which pairs with Alexa so you can control colors and such...

A glowing orb light sitting on a child's dresser with wooden toys around it.

Pretty sure they are marketing this as a fun device for kids because it's essentially useless for much else. No idea why somebody wouldn't just buy a smart bulb for their bedside lamp and be done with it.

   
ECHO DOT 3 ($60). For sixty bucks, you can now get an Echo Dot with a clock inside. I guess if you didn't have any other Alexa device in your bedroom this could be handy? But it seems really expensive for what you get...

An Echo Dot sitting on a corner table with the time serenely glowing through the fabric of the speaker cover the circles the hockey-puck-shaped device.

Cute, I suppose... and a (relatively) inexpensive way to test the waters of the Alexa ecosystem, but I think you'd be better off spending a little more to get a "real" Echo device and buy a cheap LED clock to go with it.

   
AMAZON SMART OVEN ($250). Amazon had previously released a "smart microwave" which could be paired with an Alexa device. Now they are going a step further and have created a combo microwave/convection/air fryer/food warmer oven, which is a lot more versatile...

Oddly enough, Alexa isn't actually inside the device itself, so it comes with an Echo Dot. There's a lot of bells and whistles... and Amazon is partnering with food manufacturers to have the UPC code on their packaging be able to instruct the oven how to perfectly cook your food once it's been scanned with a smartphone... which sounds nice, I suppose...

An Amazon Oven, looking much like a microwave, sitting on a kitchen counter next to a bowl of popcorn.

I'm not exactly sure how all the tech in the oven works together to know about things like servings being cooked and such, but I'm certainly open to the idea of an oven which can perfectly cook your food every time. Cheap micro/convection ovens are around $150. Most of them are more like $200. I'm not entirely sure that an Amazon Oven is worth the extra $50, but it certainly could be if it lives up to the promises they are making.

   
RING CAM INDOOR ($60). If these things weren't so butt-ugly, they might be a really nice smart-cam option. I most certainly prefer the Amazon Ring Protect Service (which adds cloud recording) to the heinously overpriced Nest Protect Service I have now...

The butt-ugly Ring Cam Indoor, which is a white chunk of plastic with an ugly speaker grill on the bottom which has a big black panel on the front where the lens sticks out... seriously, this is not attractive!

But holy crap is this thing ugly! I mean, seriously... a little $20 Waze Cam is a work of art next to this monstrosity. Somebody at Amazon needs to start putting a little more effort into the appearance of something meant to be displayed in your home.

   
eero MESH ROUTER ($100 each). This is Amazon's answer to Google Wifi, which is what I have. I'm actually interested in this, because the Google units are being left in the dust when it comes to technology advances. Newer mesh routers are smarter, faster, and able to handle more devices. They also have better options for monitoring and controlling bandwidth. Alas, the eero stuff doesn't have any features which would make it worth the upgrade for me...

An eero mesh router pod sitting on a desk and looking like shit.

Interesting to note that the "basic" eero units can handle speeds up to 550 Mbps. To make use of anything faster than that (like fiber) you have to double the cost and buy an eero Pro Router (which also offers the 5.8GHz band in addition to 2.4GHz and 5GHz). Even more interesting? None of the eero devices support WiFi 6 or WPA3, which means they are essentially obsolete the minute they ship. That's pretty bad. I honestly don't understand why mesh router manufacturers don't seem interested in being cutting edge... but they never seem to be there. I like my Google Wifi, but the app control (while easy) is tragic. You can't even permanently prioritize a device, for heaven's sake. One day... hopefully one day soon... somebody is going to come out with an affordable mesh option that's packed with modern features, is easy to use, and is worth a crap. Until that day, it's just more of the same. So lame. Even more lame? This eero iteration has its branding stenciled on top, and the device itself looks like it's melting. At least my Google Wifi has a more elegant cylinder shape with only a discreet "G" on top.

   
And that's all she wrote. Kinda sad that the only thing which has a guaranteed sale for me is a 99¢ Samuel L Jackson voice add-on for the Alexa crap I already have.

   

Winter Is Coming…

Posted on Thursday, September 26th, 2019

Dave!This morning I woke up to a news report that there will be a cold snap in the Cascades starting Friday night. Snow is expected to accumulate anywhere from 4 to 10 inches.

Oh hell no. I am not ready for snow.

Now, usually I don't panic on these things, because any snow that lands will melt in short order this early in the season. I'll be driving over in the afternoon and there likely won't be much of anything on the ground. On top of that, I have been driving in the snow all my life and am pretty good at it, so it isn't a concern. And I have chains just in case things get unexpectedly bad.

But my snow tires expired last year which means I have to get new ones this year. This is a definite cause for concern. If you wait too long, it will be slim pickings or... worst case scenario... there will be a waiting list because they're all sold out. Making matters worse, sometimes you can't get an appointment to get your new tires mounted, balanced, and put on your car because the appointments are fully booked.

So this time I ain't waiting.

I made an appointment during my lunch, and away I went. And now my car has pretty new shoes...

A close up of my new winter tires showing monster tread and lots of siping.

If I drove a lot, I would probably have waited a month to save some tread. But I drive so few miles each season that my tires expire long before the tread is too low to be legal, so I figured I'd just beat the rush so I don't have to worry about getting an appointment when the snow hits.

Buying tires is kinda a weird deal. The advice is always "Buy the best tires you can afford!" because so much is (literally) riding on them. I always followed that advice for my mom's car... buying her the absolute best tires I could get, regardless of cost. When it came to my own car I was far less picky. I always bought mid-quality all-weather tires that were half the cost (and I never bought snow tires). When my mom couldn't drive any more, I donated my crappy Saturn to the veterans and took over the car I got her since it was newer and less crappy. It's a cheaper model 2007 Toyota Corolla, but it's clean, dependable, and in great shape. Since I already had the snow tires for it, I went ahead and had them put on.

And was subsequently shocked at how nice it was to drive through snow, slush, and ice with proper winter tires on!

It's so nice that I don't ever want to go back to all-weathers for winter driving, even if that means I have to spend money I don't have to get new ones. Because not having to brake six feet early on icy roads so you don't slide into an intersection is totally worth it. I remember one time I was driving to the airport at 4:30 in the morning and had to turn around and take an alternate route because my car didn't have enough traction to drive my regular route. At the time I was like "Oh well." But now I know this wouldn't have happened if I had winter tires, so driving my mom's car has been a game-changer.

Especially to my wallet.

In other news...

My cats haven't left tributes in a while. This morning I awoke to Blue Ball, Pretzel, Moose the Mule, the skin from a toy that's been ripped off the cat tree (which they brought in from the catio), and a ball of cat hair. No idea what they are wanting. Maybe it's to turn the heat on? I think it must be to turn the heat on...

Cat toys and crap left on my bedroom floor.

I kinda miss waking up to find what my cats brought me in the middle of the night. They used to do it in exchange for food, I'm guessing. Because once they were trained to wait for the Alexa alarm, they stopped bringing me stuff. Surprisingly, they know enough to not bring tributes to Alexa. Smart kitties.

I wonder if Jake and Jenny will appreciate that we'll be riding on awesome new winter tires when I take them in for their annual vet checkup in February?

Probably not.

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A Million and One Things

Posted on Friday, September 27th, 2019

Dave!Facebook has a features called "Memories" which allows you to revisit posts for the day of years past. Most of the time, it's kinda cool to look back and see what was happening last year... three years ago... five years ago... and so on. Other times? Not so much.

A year ago today I was burying my mother.

It's weird... very weird... to think back to that day.

She had died three months prior, but it took a while for her marker to be made and shipped from the Veteran's Affairs office. I ultimately decided to go with the free marker they provide to veterans because the local funeral home had gone out of business and I just didn't want to shop for another one. Also? I really liked the simplicity of it all...

Mom's Marker

Placing that marker was symbolic of so many things.

For the previous three months I had been in a constant state of stress and anxiety. Closing out accounts. Paying off bills. Writing thank you notes. Sending out death certificates. Disposing of possessions. — It's a million and one things and it seems like it will never, ever end.

Until the marker is set, you write an obituary, and it does.

Except it really doesn't, of course.

It was never a sprint, it was always a marathon. And as I sit here one year later, I'm really glad I didn't know this back then or I probably would have gone insane.

Though it's early. I still might.

In the meanwhile, I have cats to keep my mind off things...

Jenny, an orange cat, sitting in front of the television looking at me as Samuel L. Jackson lifts up Goose, an orange cat, in the movie Captain Marvel.

A job for which they are exceptionally well-suited.

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Caturday 128

Posted on Saturday, September 28th, 2019

Dave!What happened to the transition between Summer and Fall? Does anybody know?

Usually there's a "grace period" before it starts getting really cold... but not this year. One minute it was blue skies, sun, and warmth... the next minute it's overcast, dreary, and cold. This is a bit of a bummer because I like a month with a low electricity bill since I'm not running the air conditioner or the heater. This year it was just three days before I made the switch.

When it's cold, there's nothing better than a warm cat laying on top of you. Jenny doesn't do this very often, but Jake is totally into it...

Jenny and her floopy whisker.

Um... not exactly what I had in mind.

Oh that's better! In other news...

Jenny has had a floopy whisker since she was a kitten...

Jenny and her floopy whisker.

Jenny and her floopy whisker.

A while back it fell out and left me wondering if it would grow back straight or floopy again. I noticed it was back... and, yep... it's floopy again. This makes me strangely happy, because it's one of the things that makes Jenny uniquely my cat...

Jenny and her floopy whisker.

With the weather getting colder and rainy-er I set out the cat shelters for Fake Jake. On Friday I saw that we were due for a cold snap this weekend, so I braved the rain to install heating pads. Good thing too, because Fake Jake has been all over them...

Fake Jake huddling on a heating pad in the shelter.

He showed his gratitude by running up to me for butt scratches when I ran out with the garbage. Unfortunately, I left the door open and Jake and Jenny saw me betraying them for another cat...

Fake Jake getting butt scratches while Jake and Jenny watch through the window of the screen door.

I tried making up for it by giving them their own butt scratches, but they seemed oddly detached...

Fake Jake huddling on a heating pad in the shelter.

Anxiously awaiting them pooping in my shoes.

See you next Caturday!

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Bullet Sunday 631

Posted on Sunday, September 29th, 2019

Dave!Snow may have arrived but the internets are toasty warm, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• THE END? Years ago I told myself I'd stop blogging after 5,000 posts. Earlier this week I thought to look and see how close I am to that. I've posted 6,124 posts. And so... I guess I'm stopping at 10,000 then. You're welcome!

   
• Spidey! So maybe Sony isn't filled with buckets of dumbass after all. It was announced earlier this week that Marvel and Sony have come to an agreement for another Spider-Man film to be set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Given how FREAKIN' AMAZING a job Marvel has done with the character, AT LAST!, I'm unapologetically enthusiastic...

Tom Holland as Spider-Man

Apparently the deal may include bringing more Spider-Man-based characters than just Spider-Man. A part of me wonders if that's a good thing. But if anybody can figure out how to make it work, that would be Marvel.

   
• Stumptown! And... just like that, I have a new favorite show. Cobie is absolutely 100% bad-ass in every frame of Stumptown and I love it. You can watch the first episode on the ABC app for free without an account. I suggest you do...

Based on the comic book of the same name, it's remarkably faithful while changing enough to make darn good television. And, as if that wasn't good enough, it features a cast with Jake Johnson! Michael Ealy! Tantoo Cardinal! Camryn Manheim! They pulled out all the stops in casting this show. Top shelf all around!

   
• Flerfer Dumbassery! "IF THE EARTH IS ROUND AND SPINNING AT 1000mph, THEN WHY DON'T I GO FLYING OFF WHEN I JUMP UP IN THE AIR?!? THE EARTH MUST BE FLAT IF WE CAN JUMP UP AND DOWN WITHOUT MOVING!!!" — GAAAAAAAHHHH!!! IT'S SCIENCE, BITCH!

Literally EVERY SINGLE THING that dumbass flat earthers come up with as a reason that globe-earth cannot exist can be refuted with science. Not that that's going to stop anything. Dumbassery is contagious.

   
• Assholes! NEWSFLASH: Every word Ajit Pai says about Net Neutrality is a lie, including "and" and "the." — Well no shit! Ajit Pai only cares about the Telco lobbyist dicks he has been sucking. He's never given a crap about American consumers. Not even a tiny pebble shit. It's assholes like this who should be strung up and shot for selling out the country. Just like the rest of President Trump's administration of assholes.

   
• TV! I hate to say it, but here it goes... APPLE'S TV APP FOR MaCOS X IS A STEAMING PILE OF SHIT AND I AM FUCKING EMBARRASSED FOR THE ENTIRE COMPANY FOR RELEASING IT! It's comically inept, buggy, and stupid... and once again has me regretting that I ever bought into Apple's media ecosystem. First of all, it's a crappy experience. You never know what's clickable because the cursor never changes. And when something is clickable, you don't know if your click is registered because the button state doesn't change and there's no feedback whatsoever. This means that you end up clicking again and again and again because you don't know if anything is happening. And the app is so fucking slow that it takes forever to acknowledge when something does happen. Apple essentially developed the modern home computer interface. And they are destroying their legacy with this bullshit. And it just gets worse. Have tons of purchases in your library? Hope you like scrolling! There is NO FUCKING SHORTCUT to get to what you need to be! Want to watch those Magnum P.I.? episodes you purchased? Typing "M" to get there does NOTHING! Just scroll and scroll and scroll and scroll.

Second of all, it's hard to search for the stuff you want to buy. You type in the search box and often times get random shit for an explicit search term. Then, assuming you do all kinds of acrobatics and manage to navigate to what you want, actually buying something is a joke. It's all a bunch of clicking and clicking and clicking because you have no fucking idea if you actually bought it or not because there's no acknowledgement until an email receipt arrives. AND THEN once you finally manage to buy something, IT DOESN'T SHOW UP IN YOUR LIBRARY UNTIL YOU QUIT THE APP AND START IT UP AGAIN?!? Oh... and when you DO quit and restart? It doesn't remember where you were, so you have to navigate back there again.

This is insanity, and I cannot fucking believe that Apple actually let this shit go out of beta. Assuming they even bothered to beta test it at all. I never thought I'd be longing for the original iTunes to come back, but here we are. Fuck you, Apple.

   
See You Next Sunday!

   

Enter the Snowman

Posted on Monday, September 30th, 2019

Dave!When I drove over the mountains on Saturday the weather was pretty harsh. Snow was really coming down, and it was sticking to the road... in September! Guess it's a good thing I got new snow tires put on, though I would have been okay without them. The snow was evaporating as soon as you drove over it.

Coming back home today promised to be a much different experience because the weather had turned beautiful again...

Driving home with sunny skies and snowy scenery.

Oddly enough, Washington State doesn't require you to carry chains until November 1st. I've got mine in my trunk already, of course. Last year they ended up being required for a trip over in December, which was the first time in a decade I've had to use them. If this snow keeps up, I'll likely be using them again this year.

Such are the perils of living in a winter wonderland.

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