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New Year, New Day

Posted on Tuesday, January 1st, 2019

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

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

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

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

Jake and Jenny... BED FIGHT!

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

Jake and Jenny... BED FIGHT!

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

Jake and Jenny... BED FIGHT!

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

Jake and Jenny... BED FIGHT!

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

Jake and Jenny... BED FIGHT!

   
It kinda(?) worked...

Jake and Jenny... BED FIGHT!

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

Jake and Jenny... BED FIGHT!

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

Jake and Jenny... BED FIGHT!

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

Jake and Jenny... BED FIGHT!

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

Jake and Jenny... BED FIGHT!

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

Jake and Jenny... BED FIGHT!

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

Jake and Jenny... BED FIGHT!

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

Fortunately belly rubs work just as well...

Jake and Jenny... BELLY RUBZ!

Jake and Jenny... BELLY RUBZ!

Jake and Jenny... BELLY RUBZ!

Jake and Jenny... BELLY RUBZ!

But more on that tomorrow...

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KonMari and Closure (Or The Absence Thereof)

Posted on Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019

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

Anyway...

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

Of course it wasn't.

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

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

But, alas...

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

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

KonMari The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up Book

KonMari changed my life.

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

KonMari Organization

KonMari Organization

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

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

KonMari Organization

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

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

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

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

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

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Behind the Scenes: Thrice Fiction No. 24

Posted on Tuesday, January 8th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Except...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Martini Fries Lunch

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

Martini Fries Lunch

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

Martini Fries Lunch

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

Martini Fries Lunch

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

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

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

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

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

Cross in Water Bird Head

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

Haircut Illustration

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

Pizza Toppings and Fetus

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

Lemon and Lavender Bulb and Snow

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

Hand and Apple

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

Candle and vines Balloons and Sky

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

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A Clean Place to Poop

Posted on Thursday, January 10th, 2019

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

But then I got to thinking...

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

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

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

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

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

Jake

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

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Poop on a Triscuit

Posted on Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hope that Vice President appreciates that.

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To Home (Depot) and Back Again (Again)

Posted on Thursday, January 24th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Because everybody has their limits.

Mine was two trips to Home Depot ago.

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Photo Wall (Stairwell Edition)

Posted on Friday, January 25th, 2019

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

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

Stairwell Photo Wall Plan

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

Stairwell Photo Wall Image

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

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

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

Stairwell Photo Wall Image

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

Stairwell Photo Wall Image

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

Stairwell Photo Wall Image

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

Stairwell Photo Wall Image

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

Stairwell Photo Wall Image

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

Stairwell Photo Wall Image

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

Stairwell Photo Wall Image

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

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

And now on to planning my next wall.

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

Stairwell Photo Wall Image

   

Poster Raising with the Amish

Posted on Monday, January 28th, 2019

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

Spot Where My Iron Man Poster Goes

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

And then...

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

And so...

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

Swiffer Handle Poster Raising

   
Worked like a charm!

My Movie Posters on a Wall

My Movie Posters on a Wall

My Movie Posters on a Wall

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

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

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

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Potato Chip Hauntings

Posted on Wednesday, January 30th, 2019

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

Here's the base recipe...

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

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

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

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

And everything I didn't.

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

Everything else.

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

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Living Comfortably Numb

Posted on Monday, February 4th, 2019

Dave!Blergh.

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

Ice Fusion to My Car

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

And then it was dental reconstruction time.

Which was a piece of cake.

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

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

And speaking of cool...

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

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

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

He composes his own songs as well...

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

   

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

   

Impractically Obsolescent

Posted on Wednesday, February 6th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Back to the Future CDs LDs

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

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

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

   

A Boy and His Lion

Posted on Monday, February 11th, 2019

Dave!Worst. Monday. Morning. Evar.

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

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

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

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

Jake and Mufasa

Jake and Mufasa

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

Jake and Mufasa

Jake and Mufasa

Jake and Mufasa

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

Jake and Mufasa

Jake and Mufasa

Jake and Mufasa

Jake and Mufasa

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

Jake and Mufasa

Jake and Mufasa

Jake and Mufasa

Good times. Good times.

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

Anyway...

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

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

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

Snow Shoveling

Snow Shoveling

Snow Shoveling

   
And so... crisis averted...

Fake Jake on His Path

Fake Jake on His Path

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

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

Good times. Good times.

   

Gamers Club Locked

Posted on Tuesday, February 19th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

But more on video games tomorrow...

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Video Game Switch-Up

Posted on Wednesday, February 20th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then the Nintendo Switch was released...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So thanks for that, Nintendo!

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

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There Ain’t No Money In The Cure

Posted on Thursday, February 21st, 2019

Dave!Annnnnd...

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

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

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

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

Stupid Fucking Jenny McCarthy

Enjoy your preventable diseases, everybody.

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Afternoons with Jake

Posted on Friday, February 22nd, 2019

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

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

Sick at Home with Jake

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

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

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

The vicious circle continues.

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Raccoon Patrol

Posted on Tuesday, February 26th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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Surviving Hump Day

Posted on Wednesday, February 27th, 2019

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

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

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

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

Here's to surviving hump-day.

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Shoveling After Midnight

Posted on Thursday, February 28th, 2019

Dave!This has been a weird, wacky winter.

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

Except...

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

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

Except I couldn't open the door...

Catio Icicles at Midnight

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

Me Shoveling at Midnight

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

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

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

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

   

Crackers in Bed

Posted on Friday, March 1st, 2019

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

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

Next up? A bagel for breakfast.

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Caturday 98

Posted on Saturday, March 2nd, 2019

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

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

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

Isn't that sweet?

And speaking of bed...

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

Sick in Bed with Cats!

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

Sick in Bed with Cats!

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

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

Sick in Bed with Cats!

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

Sick in Bed with Cats!

And butt scratches...

Sick in Bed with Cats!

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

Sick in Bed with Cats!

Sick in Bed with Cats!

Sick in Bed with Cats!

Sick in Bed with Cats!

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

I guess.

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

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

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Wasted Days and Wasted Nights

Posted on Monday, March 4th, 2019

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

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

But boy I hope not.

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

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Stuck On You

Posted on Tuesday, March 5th, 2019

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

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

Falls

Selfie

Cave

Falls

Falls

Parasailing

Falls

Falls

Waimea Rails

Waimea Canyon

Jeep

Falls

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

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And Then There’s Sleep

Posted on Wednesday, March 6th, 2019

Dave!Well that was an adventure.

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

And now that I'm home?

More snow.

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

In the meanwhile though?

More sleep.

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

   

Trash Pandas on Parade

Posted on Monday, March 11th, 2019

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

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

Standing Raccoon!

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

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

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

Hello Raccoon!

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

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

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Raccoon Friends and Gold-Plated Toilets

Posted on Thursday, March 14th, 2019

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

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

Except...

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

It used to be that there were five of them.

Now there are three.

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

Raccons in My Yard

The second one is usually not far behind...

Raccons in My Yard

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

Raccons in My Yard

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

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

See you tomorrow night, raccoon friends.

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Life in Slow Motion

Posted on Monday, March 18th, 2019

Dave!Whenever life throws a curve-ball, it feels like everything slows to a crawl and I'm trying to walk through molasses. One minute everything is a hectic mess moving at top speed... the next minute my every moment drags on and hours seem like days. It's as if some higher power is wanting me to savor every last second of misery. Which seems really cruel if that's how it works. Why can't watching a really good movie be the thing that drags on forever? Or being on vacation? Or eating a Girl Scout cookie?

Years ago I drove my mom over to Gene Juarez (a fancy spa in Bellevue) so she could have a spa-day for her birthday. It was a six hour ordeal that had three different massages, various skin treatments, lunch, hair, nails, makeup, and even a tea service. While she was being pampered, I wandered around trying to find something to do. I was bored and miserable and the six hours felt like an eternity. When I picked up my mom, I asked her if she enjoyed her day. She said that she had a great time, but it all went by too fast.

Because of course it did.

I rest my case.

It seems the answer to living forever is to just be in perpetual misery. So the next time you meet some bitter asshole trying to ruin your day, I guess you should be thankful for them trying to be your fountain of youth.

As for me? I'm going to continue using my Aveda Botanical Kinetics Hydrating Moisturizer and telling them to fuck off.

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Bullet Sunday 504

Posted on Sunday, March 24th, 2019

Dave!After a week of sunshine, of course it's raining on my birthday weekend. But I'm not complaining... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Change. This is my first birthday without my mom. It's also my first birthday without one of my oldest friends. I thought I would be overwhelmed with sadness, but I just feel numb. I guess you reach that point in your life when your friends and family start to go and that's just the way it is. You can either trudge on in life and make the best of what you have left... or you give in to the sadness and stop living altogether. I'm trying for the former. And if being temporarily numb to everything is what it takes, then I guess you do what you gotta do. For five decades death was a rare event for me and I suppose I'm thankful for that. Now that I'm on the back-end of my life, that's changing. I'm doing my best to accept this new reality. I'm doing my best to find new ways to be happy. I'm doing my best to keep doing my best every day. It's the least I can do to honor those I care about who aren't here any more. Life shouldn't be wasted on the living.

   
• Anti-Social! Stepping away from social media after having been completely submerged in social media is a weird place to be. The majority of my friends don't live anywhere near me, so things like Facebook are how we keep in touch. What I've learned these past weeks of being anti-social is this: Being in constant contact with people conditions you to take them for granted. It's a sobering realization, and something I am vowing not to forget. When I return to my social media life next week (or whenever), it's not going to be like it was. I want contact with friends to be meaningful and engaging... not empty and boring. Maybe posting less... reading less... doing less... will make my online relationships special again. Like they were back when we were all blogging. Or so I can hope.

   
• Dana! One of my all-time favorite shows was Sports Night, the brainchild of Aaron Sorkin (who would go on to create The West Wing). It was incredibly good television that I became obsessed with. A big reason for that was Dana Whitaker, played by Felicity Huffman. The same Felicity Huffman who is currently embroiled in a college admissions scandal. Apparently she paid a bunch of bribe money to have her daughter's SAT scores improved, thus paving her way to college acceptance. I am sure this will be spun into a heartwarming story showing the lengths a mother is willing to go to help her child... but fuck that. Her money already provided a life of unimaginable privilege for her kids. But she felt the need to shove somebody aside who actually worked hard to earn their SAT score? This is a shining example of everything wrong with this country (and the world in general). If you have money, you get to do whatever the fuck you want. Well... hopefully not this time. Hopefully, if she's found guilty, she goes to jail. How else is she going to learn?

   
• Dumbfuckery! Of course, not all parents learn anything from a tough lesson. Take this story, for example: It Took Two Months and Nearly a Million Dollars to Save an Unvaccinated 6-Year-Old From Tetanus. The key takeaway from the story is in the last paragraph... "The story ends mostly happily for the boy. A month later, he was completely back to normal, running and using his bike again. But it seems no lessons were learned on his family’s part. Despite the brutal ordeal and pleading by the doctors, they again chose not to vaccinate him for tetanus or any other diseases." At what point do child endangerment laws kick in? After I was run over by a shuttle van in France and arrived home, the first thing my doctor asked me after saying I fractured a rib was "Are you current on your tetanus vaccination?" When I said "I don't think so," he laid out a horrifying picture of what death by tetanus is like. It wasn't pretty. Why anybody would risk their kid's life with such a horrendous fate escapes me. Thank you, Jenny McCarthy.

   
• Inappropriate! It is so wrong that I nearly peed myself watching this clip?

Probably. But that's some funny shit right there.

   
• Off! And now I'm loading up my car for a trip over the mountains to spend my birthday with friends. I've had enough of being numb for a little while.

   
The End. THE END!

   

Miss Kitty Gold

Posted on Monday, March 25th, 2019

Dave!I'm not much of a gambler despite being luckier at gambling than most.

Sure it has some entertainment value, which is why I'll throw some money on the table or drop some in a slot machine when I'm out with friends. But gambling is not something I seek out, nor do I use it as a cure for boredom when I'm working in a place like Las Vegas. The odds are just too stacked against the player for me to find much joy in it.

For this birthday weekend with my friends at the Tulalip Casino Resort, I decided to set a gambling budget of $100. I ended up spending $0 of it because I was awarded "free play" money by the casino for staying at the hotel on my birthday. It was $50 in credit which I ran up to $78 in real money which I then used to gamble with (and ultimately lose). Perfect. Hours of entertainment that cost me nothing. That's a kind of "gambling" that I understand.

What I don't understand is people who gamble away more money than they can afford to lose. And yet it happens all the time. People have the expectation that they're going to win, when they really should have is the expectation that they are going to lose. Winning is just a happy accident... if it even ever happens.

While I was getting my $100 out of the ATM yesterday (that I didn't end up spending) there was a guy on his phone screaming at his bank because they "took his money." Except they didn't take his money... he had probably been gambling all morning and kept taking more and more out of his account. Before he knew what had happened, it all added up, and his money was gone.

Oh well. Hopefully he had enough left for rent. But, if his screaming was any indication, probably not.

The $78 in "real money" I got was won playing a slot machine called "Mega Meltdown." As I started to lose it all, I switched to a machine called "Miss Kitty Gold"...

Miss Kitty Slots!

I never truly understand how multi-line slot machines pay out... stuff flashes and you win or stuff doesn't flash and you lose. But it had cats on it, so I figured it was an entertaining way to finish off the last of my "free money" winnings.

Next thing I know, my screen is filling up with flashing pink cats and I'm up to $60 again.

It was at this point I heard a kerfuffle going on behind me and saw some woman stomping off. I must have looked puzzled because a guy standing there said "She was mad because she was going to play that machine." Now I was really confused. "There was nobody here when I started playing." And there really wasn't. "I wouldn't worry about it. If you had really stolen the machine from her there are cameras everywhere and she'd be asking for security.

Alrighty then.

One more reason to take a pass on gambling, I guess.

Well, that... and the fact that I still have my $100.

   

The Keys of Onaconda Farr

Posted on Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

Dave!The first thing I did when I bought my house was to rip out the door locks so my keychain would be two keys lighter. My new locks are opened via keypads or via an app on my phone... no key required.

In case you haven't guessed, I am not a fan of keys. They are (literally) ancient technology that isn't necessary in this day and age. And yet I have loads of them. Most of my keys are at home in my safe. The only two I lug around with me are my car key and my office key. To carry them around more easily, I bought a minfig keychain at The LEGO Store. It looks like Greedo from Star Wars, but it's actually an ambassador from Greedo's planet named Onaconda Farr.

That was years ago.

After a while Onaconda Farr's face and clothes rubbed off. His antennae and ears also wore down. And, last week, one of his legs fell off(!).

So I found a replacement on eBay for $5 and ordered it last week. And now he has arrived...

LEGO Keychain!

So cool. Almost makes me not dislike keys so much.

And, oh yeah... today I drove back over the mountains from my Birthday Weekend celebration with my friends.

I was happy to see that there's still plenty of snow in the mountains. Perhaps it's enough that we don't have to worry about drought this summer? I certainly hope so...

Winter Mountain Pass!

Winter Mountain Pass!

Winter Mountain Pass!

And now back to Real Life.

Such as it is.

   

Cascade Incomplete

Posted on Friday, March 29th, 2019

Dave!I've always tried to be conscious of my environmental impact. I recycle whatever I can. I reuse as much as possible. I repair instead of replace. But after reading stories about whales dying from ingesting massive amounts of plastic (among other plastic horrors), I've redoubled my efforts to use as little of it as possible.

Problem is? Trying to cut the amount of plastic we use is pretty much impossible. The junk is everywhere. Even if you stop buying stuff that's made from plastic, you can't seem to avoid buying stuff packaged in plastic. But the story gets worse. Now we're quickly getting to the point that you won't be able to recycle plastics any more.

So what to do?

Well... people are going to have to change how they buy stuff. Companies are going to have to change how they make stuff and package stuff. Everything is going to have to change.

The other day I was at the grocery store when I noticed that the dishwashing detergent I like best, Cascade Complete, was on sale. I was running out but knew I had a full container in the garage, so I was going to pass. But the price was so good. Too good to pass up. Since I have storage space for it, I decided to buy two of them.

When I got home, something funny happened though.

I lifted up the older detergent container to put the new containers under it (gotta rotate your inventory!). That's when I noticed that the old one weighed considerably less. I flip over the bucket and I see why. The new ones are lighter because there's less in them...

Cascade Dishwasher Detergent

Was there a mistake at the factory? Did the machine that fills the buckets malfunction? Because just look at this crap...

Cascade Dishwasher Detergent

One-third of the container looks empty! I look at the package and see that the reason it looks one-third empty is because there's a third less product in it!

Old container: 90 pods. New Container: 63 pods.

At least now I know why it was so damn cheap compared to last time I bought the shit. What's weird is that the container for less product actually looks bigger, doesn't it?

Cascade Dishwasher Detergent

I go to Amazon to see what the "regular" price is for Cascade Complete. But when I get there, I find the story gets even stranger. The same size container has 78 pods in it...

Cascade Dishwasher Detergent

What the actual hell?

Apparently Cascade fills the container based on the price a retailer wants to sell. Safeway wants to have a huge sale at a tiny price-point? Put 63 pods in there. Amazon with their tiny margins wants to have a price-per-unit value price? Put 78 pods in there. Target wants to have a higher dollar-ring? Put 90 pods in there.

Now, I'm not ripping exclusively on Cascade here. All companies do this. If you want to sell at a retailer, you make them the product they want to sell. But most companies don't use the same massive package for 63 pieces vs. 78 pieces vs. 63 pieces... do they?

I feel grossly misled here. I thought I was buying the same "Cascade Complete" that I had purchased before... not a container which had one-third less product! Guess that when something is too good to be true, it's really too good to be true.

States like California have packaging laws that punish companies who use excess packaging. But it's not a fair law. Massive companies want the bigger shelf facing to get their product noticed. Because they have money, they just pay the fine. Smaller companies can't afford to pay the fine, so they have to put a similar product in smaller packaging which makes it look like you get less product. Or... big companies can afford to have two packages... one for California which is smaller, and another for other states which is larger. That's even more unfair, because smaller companies can't afford to produce two different-sized packages.

And so it goes.

Cascade ain't going to change the way they do business until they are forced to change.

The only thing that is going to force them to change is their bottom line.

Because they don't give a crap about the environment, they care about profits.

I love Cascade Complete. It works better than any other dishwashing detergent I've tried... and it rinses away cleaner so there's no residue or smell clinging to my dishes. I am happy to pay a little more for it because it's worth the money. But is it worth polluting the planet with one-third more plastic than it needs to? Oh hell no. And so I won't buy the stuff ever again unless the number of pods in the container are filling the container.

Or maybe I need to see if they sell Cascade Complete in a box that you pour out... which would be cardboard instead of plastic? Do they even make that any more? I suppose I'll be looking into it.

That seems the very least I can do, doesn't it?

Or maybe I wash my dishes by hand? Except "green" dishwashers like mine use less water than washing by hand, so maybe that's a step too far. Especially since liquid soap comes in heavy plastic containers.

How are scientists coming along with that plastic-eating bacteria?

   

Stupid is Winning

Posted on Tuesday, April 2nd, 2019

Dave!The more I pay attention to current events, the more I am convinced that stupid is winning.

Which is why I'm going to stop paying attention to current events.

If you need me, I'll be in a cave somewhere waiting for humanity to either die out... or reboot itself somehow. What else is there?

   

Woe

Posted on Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019

Dave!I hate to be all "Woe is me" here...

...but woe is me.

This is Day Five of not having a voice. On Monday I could have sworn I was over being sick and just dealing with my allergies acting up. Then yesterday morning I woke up feeling worse than ever. Laryngitis (still). Sore throat. Constant hacking cough. Vomiting. Random aches and pains. Not a good time to be Dave2.

Then last night... something new.

My right eye started swelling for no apparent reason, then got infected (or maybe it was vice-versa). Lucky for me I've got plenty of antibiotic gel from multiple eye surgeries, so the infection disappeared overnight. This morning when I woke up there was a little swelling left, but nothing serious.

So... one thing going right.

And now I guess I'll go back to dying.

Woe. Woe. Woe.

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Overmedicated Irritation

Posted on Thursday, April 4th, 2019

Dave!Sick and tired of being sick and tired.

So there I am exhausted but not sleeping because I am coughing my head off... when Jenny comes in to complain. And I'm like "Dude, I can't help it! I can't take more cough medicine for another hour"...

Jenny is Irritated!

This does not phase her, so I try to ignore her by checking my phone.

First thing I see is an alert that the Litter-Robot is stuck. So I go downstairs and fix it so Jenny can go to the bathroom... then take more cough medicine even though it's too soon (hey, I'm already there)... then grab some crackers... then go back upstairs.

Jenny follows me the entire way... never going to the bathroom. THEN... FIFTEEN MINUTES LATER... I hear her using the UPSTAIRS Litter-Robot. Which means she got me out of bed to fix a Litter-Robot she had no intention of using? Or maybe she did, but changed her mind? Oh well. I'm not coughing anymore, so I guess we both got what we wanted in the end.

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The Dave Scale of Giving a Shit

Posted on Friday, April 5th, 2019

Dave!The night sky of ancient earth was different from what we see today. Mainly because people could actually see it. Thanks to ever-increasing light pollution, the true grandeur of the universe has become obscured to most humans. Even rural communities have enough light pollution to obstruct major features of the visible cosmos. It's a pity, really, because there are some spectacular sights to be seen.

While on safari in Zimbabwe, I got to experience what it's like to have little-to-no light pollution, and it's pretty spectacular...

Zimbabwe Night Sky Milky Way

Zimbabwe Night Sky Milky Way

Ancient Greeks explained the milky band of light across the night sky thusly...

One legend explains how the Milky Way was created by Heracles when he was a baby. His father, Zeus, was fond of his son, who was born of the mortal woman Alcmene. He decided to let the infant Heracles suckle on his divine wife Hera's milk when she was asleep, an act which would endow the baby with godlike qualities. When Hera woke and realized that she was breastfeeding an unknown infant, she pushed him away and the spurting milk became the Milky Way.

The Wikipedia article I'm quoting above has all kinds of ancient myths for The Milky Way from numerous different peoples around the world. It's And yet... here in modern times entirely too many people will likely never see it. A concept that's easier to explain with the Bortle Scale, which measures light pollution from 1 (hardly any light) to 9 (lots-o-light)...

I had never heard of the "Bortle Scale of Light Pollution" before, though I'm not surprised it exists. If there's one universal truth, it's that scientists just looooove to create units of measure for everything.

Which brings us to this...

I am developing my own scale of measurement called the "Dave Scale of Giving a Shit." Before you scoff, I am compelled to remind you that I have experience with this kind of thing. Back in 2007 I developed the Dave Number, My new scale of measure is just a logical extension of that, and runs from 0 to 9, just like the Bortle Scale...

  1. No shits given. This is so far below my ability to care about that I couldn't muster a half-a-fart, let alone a shit. This is reserved for things like Kim Kardashian or kale.
  2. Shart. An accidental shit. Something I don't really care about, but somehow end up devoting a minutia of time to when forced. Like Eric Trump or The Bachelor.
  3. Diarrhea. I am not able to muster an actual shit, just a sloppy approximation of one. I'd use this for embarrassments like Anne Coulter that don't deserve my attention but interrupts my calm from time to time.
  4. Pebble Shit. When I don't want to give a shit, but I kinda have to because the object in question has consequences for things I care about. Like Pat Robertson, President Trump, or pineapple as a pizza topping.
  5. Turdlette. I give a bit of a shit, but not enough that I'm able to muster a full turd. Works for things like most DC Comics movies, low-fat ice cream, or Diet Pepsi.
  6. Poop. I totally care. But my attention can be easily diverted. Happens for things like Saturday Night Live or Taco Bell.
  7. Crap. Here is where I start being devoted to something. Like cheese, New Orleans, or Elizabeth Hurley.
  8. Full-On Shit. This is something that has my full attention. Like a woodworking project or an interview with RuPaul.
  9. Colon-Busting Turd. This is something I care about enough to devote intense scrutiny. Music I'm passionate about comes to mind. Or maybe truly excellent television like Veronica Mars or Wonderfalls.
  10. Total Bowel Destruction. Reserved exclusively for things that mean the entire world to me. Like my cats or Marvel movies.

So there you have it. And since my interest in writing more in my blog today is about a 2, I suppose I'm done for today.

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Being Funny on Purpose

Posted on Monday, April 8th, 2019

Dave!People are always telling me I'm "funny." Even when I'm not trying to be funny which, depending on the situation, can end up being hurtful, awkward, scary, tragic, or (less often than you'd think) a pleasant surprise. Usually when somebody says "That's funny!" after I've said something I'm completely serious about, I try to replay it in my head to figure out where I went wrong... but I can never figure it out. Maybe it's just my face that makes things be funny? You got me.

This morning somebody I hadn't seen in a while asked me how I've been doing. "Oh. I've been sick with a cold or a flu or something awful, so it hasn't been a good time to be me lately. How have you been?" They laughed like I told them the funniest joke ever, said "You crack me up!," then went on to tell me about planting their vegetable garden. I replied with "I don't think I eat enough vegetables that I'd want to try growing them, but good luck with that." More laughter. Apparently not eating my vegetables is comedic gold.

I wish I could be that kind of effortless funny when I'm actually trying to be funny.

When I wrote something just in case I had to speak at my friend's memorial service (spoiler alert: I did), I wanted it to be at least a little funny so maybe everybody could remember him with a smile on their face... even for just a moment... at a time of total sadness. It was hard work. I had to edit and rewrite stuff and everything. But I think it made everybody happy and lots of people came up and told me they liked it or that I was a "funny guy" afterwards, so it was effort well-spent.

Even if I didn't know whether or not people would think it was funny when I wrote it.

But it's always been that way for me.

Years and years ago when I was working in L.A. for weeks at a time, I was encouraged to try open-mic stand-up comedy because the people I was working with thought I was a "funny guy." And so I did. I wish I could say that I totally killed it (I did not) or that I was booed off stage so I could get some sympathy (I was not), but the truth is that I was just average. People laughed, but not in a way that made me think "Holy crap! I should totally do this for a living!"

Probably for the best though. Trying to be funny on purpose is tough. Trying to be funny on purpose for a living must be excruciating.

One of these days I need to see if I can find the little Mead memo pad I bought to write jokes in. You'd think it would be a easy to find given that it's bright red like this...

Jake and Jenny Cat Snuggles

The only difference being that my red Mead memo pad has "DAVE'S JOKES" written across the front in black ball-point pen. I think I even double-underlined "JOKES" so, if I lost it, anybody reading out of the thing wouldn't be left thinking "What is this crazy shit?" Well, it's jokes. It says so right on the front. Did you not see the underlines?

I can't remember what any of the jokes were, mind you. About all I do know that none of them were about L.A. traffic. That's because I decided I wanted to be "fresh" and not tell jokes that had already been done to death. Since most of my time in L.A. was spent sitting in traffic, I figured it had probably been covered already. How could I make that funny?

Unless...

"I'm from a small town in Washington State, so you can imagine how shocking it is for me to be in L.A. right now. Everything here is shocking to me. Like the traffic. We don't have traffic where I live. So after I looked at a map to figure out how I was going to get to work, I estimated it would take about 20 minutes to get there. It took me 90 minutes. Ninety minutes! When I showed up for work an hour late, everybody comes rushing up and says 'We were worried that you got lost!' I didn't want for everybody to think that I was an ignorant hayseed who didn't know how a big city works, so I decided to make up a lie to explain why I was late. So I told them that my condom had come off during sex and I had trouble finding a vet with an appointment available to retrieve it from the sheep."

Of course, that joke wouldn't work now-a-days when we have Google Maps and Waze to tell us how long it takes to drive places... but back then? Hilarious!

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Like Wiping My Ass with Velvet

Posted on Tuesday, April 9th, 2019

Dave!The other day after I attempted to rip a paper towel off a brand new roll, I became infuriated because the towel wouldn't tear completely off. The perforation isn't weak enough to get a clean edge. Instead I end up either losing a chunk of the towel I'm tearing... or losing a chunk of the next towel on the roll.

"Who the hell designed these shitty paper towels?" I said out loud to nobody but my cats.

And then I noticed that the answer was staring me in the face...

Bounty Paper Towels

Bounty! Bounty is the shitty paper towels that won't tear properly! Thank you for conveniently stamping your name on every sheet so I know which brand not to buy.

I used to buy Brawny paper towels until I was told that the heinous fucking piece of shit Koch Brothers own the brand. And so I switched. Looks like I'll be switching again.

Fortunately I didn't have to switch from Koch Brothers' Angel Soft toilet paper to Charmin, because I already use Charmin (or Cottonelle, whichever is on sale). Then this morning I noticed that Charmin stamps their name on their toilet paper just like Bounty...

Charmin Toilet Paper

I cannot for the life of me understand why this is a trend.

Does Charmin think that one of my houseguests is going to be all "HOLY FUCK! THIS TOILET PAPER IS AMAZING! IT'S LIKE WIPING MY ASS WITH VELVET! WHO IN THE HECK MAKES THIS LIFE-CHANGING BUTT-WIPE?" And then they look down at the toilet paper that they are gently caressing between their fingers and exclaim "WOW! IT'S CHARMIN BRAND! I AM TOTALLY DITCHING MY SHITTY TOILET PAPER AND SWITCHING TO CHARMIN!"

That's just silly. If my houseguests want to know what glorious toilet paper they have been wiping their ass with, they can bring it up at the dinner table like a normal person would!

Lil' Dave Buying Charmin Toilet Paper

   
Here's hoping that Scott paper towels are perforated properly, as I think that's the brand I'll be trying next.

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Secondhand Allergies

Posted on Wednesday, April 10th, 2019

Dave!After spending a week being sick I was ready to start feeling myself again. Alas, it was not to be, because now Spring allergies have hit me like a truck. There goes the next two months of my life. It's all sinus pressure, post-nasal drip, and coughing from here on out.

When I was younger I had allergy shots to keep me from being a complete mess. Eventually I outgrew my allergies and the shots stopped. Then, without warning, my mid-forties arrived and Spring allergies along with them. I've tried dozens of drugs... both prescription and over-the-counter... and have found only two things that help: 1) Flonase which, unfortunately, causes nose bleeds... and 2) Benadryl which, unfortunately, causes me to become useless and fall asleep. Obviously I can't go to work while falling into a coma, so I have to suffer through every day and drug myself to oblivion every night.

Such is my life.

As I mentioned a while back, every year on January 1st I convert the maximum-allowable 100 of my DVDs to digital. Sure it's $200 down the drain, but I then have access to all those movies anywhere I have internet. So much more convenient than having to dig through hundreds of DVDs to find something to watch.

Dozens of these movies I haven't seen in decades, and it's been well-worth the $2 conversion fee. I just finished Secondhand Lions which is a fantastic film I didn't even remember existed. Surprising to me that it wasn't a much bigger hit than it ended up being...

Secondhand Lions Movie Poster

A few things...

  1. Haley Joel Osment deserved a lot more films as he grew up. He's spectacular in Secondhand Lions, and it's a shame that he wasn't getting more work after he was no longer that adorable "Sixth Sense" kid.
  2. Kyra Sedgwick can play literally anything. Her role in this film was unlike anything else I've seen her do... and yet it was still her.
  3. Casting Robert Duvall and Michael Caine as two cantankerous old farts with a rather exotic and interesting past was total genius.
  4. Christian Kane and Kevin Haberer could not possibly have been more convincing action stars for their roles. They managed to be younger versions of Robert Duvall and Michael Caine without being enslaved to the idea of becoming Robert Duvall and Michael Caine.
  5. Few movies which switch between the past and the present do so in a way that "clicks" this beautifully. There are subtle echos going both ways that are wonderfully crafted.
  6. Whomever trained the dogs used in this movie should have been given some kind of award. The canines have small, but critical roles to the story.
  7. It is fucking criminal that Secondhand Lions only has a 59% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The bad reviews are completely vexing to me. I read the criticisms and can't help but wonder if they watched a different film than I did.
  8. "What Every Boy Needs to Know About Being a Man" is one of the most inspired speeches in cinema (even though you only get to hear a part of it). Not because of what it says, but because of how they wrap it up with a disclaimer that it may not be true but you should believe in it anyway.
  9. If you don't feel for what Walter is going through (thanks to Haley Joel Osment's inspired performance) you don't have a heart. I'll say it again... it is a tragedy that Osment didn't get put into more movies when he was at this age. He's a sublime actor, and could have brought everything to "coming of age" movies of the day.
  10. I'd give just about anything to see all the comic strips and artwork that Berkeley Breathed created for the movie. Some of it pops up online, but I'm sure there's pages and pages of stuff that we've never seen.

Needless to say, if you like movies and haven't seen this one... you should probably get on that.

   

The (Not So) Long Walk Home

Posted on Monday, April 22nd, 2019

Dave!People who know stuff have said that in the future most people won't own cars. Instead they'll summon one of a fleet of robot vehicles in their area that will take them where they want to go. Robot cars will be smarter, faster, safer, and cheaper.

I'm fine with it. Partly because I like the idea of not having to maintain a car or buy a new one when the old one dies. But mostly because I love the idea of being able to work or play video games or read a book while traveling somewhere. How great is that?

In the meanwhile...

The weather has been way too nice for me to have any excuses not to walk to work. Not only is the brisk seven-minute exercise good for me... but I like being more environmentally friendly by not firing up my car for such a short drive into town.

And look at all the stuff I would miss if I was driving...

First of all is a rock that's asking for help...

Rock with HELP ME Written on It

Then there were these damn pigeons who have no respect for authority...

Pigeons Ignoring a Sign That Says KEEP OFF!

And just look at these blossoms...

Tree Blossoms!

Who knows what tomorrow's walk will bring?

Hopefully finding money.

   

Come Back Off the Ledge

Posted on Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019

Dave!If you've watched the terrifying video of poor Jake falling down my stairwell, you can understand why I hope to never have that happen again. In addition to the $500 vet bill, which could have been far far worse if he had broken something, it's just awful having to watch the little guy hobble around the house as his leg heals.

From what I can tell, he was lying on the narrow banister, as he is won't to do. He might have been napping there for all I know...

Stairwell

Then something startled him (possibly Jenny running around) which caused him to slip and fall all the way down the stairs. About a story-and-a-half...

Stairwell

So I am trying to come up with an added layer of protection that will help prevent slipping and falling... but also help better keep them on the ledge. I'm not sure what the best way to do this might be. But I really want to have something in place so I can travel and not worry so much. Since I don't have much time before I leave again, I thought I'd throw something together quickly now that looks good enough I can leave it in place until I have a better idea.

My thought is to have a "ledge tray" that I can temporarily screw onto my banister.

It will add width so the cats can have more room to lay down. It will be carpeted so the cats have something to grip onto if they start to slip. And it will have a small ledge that will prevent them from accidentally falling off...

Stairwell

So I don't have to look at an ugly carpet edge, I found a 90° molding that will act like a lip on the front. Here I am gluing it to the bottom of the tray...

Stairwell

Tomorrow I'll sand off the putty... paint it white to match my banister... then install it. The carpet squares I ordered (which match my hardwood floors) won't be here until next week, but at least it will be a little safer until I get back home.

The next step will be to build a narrow staircase up to it so the cats don't have to risk jumping up, overshooting the ledge, and flying over it.

After that I'll come up with some kind of ledge under the small window that's on the exterior wall. Jenny sometimes jumps up there (horrifying!) and it would be just my luck that she'll be the next one to fall down the stairwell. Something needs to be added there, I just have to figure out how to actually do it.

I will never run out of woodworking projects so long as I have cats.

   

The Joy of Going Cordless

Posted on Wednesday, April 24th, 2019

Dave!My pricey new Milwaukee cordless M18 Dual Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw is choice. I love it. But more on that later. Let's talk about my new Milwaukee cordless M18 Random Orbital Sander. When it was released last year, I took a hard pass because A) It was $99 without battery, and B) My corded sander works perfectly fine, and there was no sense spending money to replace it.

But last night as I was attempting to sand down my latest project, the cord on the sander snagged on a bottle of glue that was sitting next to a pan of kitty litter and both went crashing to the floor of my single-car-garage woodshed. There just aren't many outlets in a garage, so I'm always running into problem like this (as well as running out of outlets).

While attempting to clean up the horrendous disaster that comes from glue mixing with kitty litter, I suddenly realize that "Boy, a cordless sander sure would have been handy." Minutes later I was digging into my savings as I cruised Home Depot's website. In-store pickup, here I come...

Milwaukee Cordless M18 Random Orbital Sander

I have no idea... none how I survived without this. I thought the battery would make it heavy and difficult to navigate. Nope. Far, far less difficult than wrangling a cord, even with the added weight. In fact, as shown in the photo, I have my medium M18 instead of my smaller M18 battery, and it's perfectly fine. The kit comes with a dust-catcher extender, so I even have the option of using my mega-battery on it if I wanted to!

And it's not just the lack of a cord that makes it so fantastic... it has multiple speeds (my old one didn't) and the random sanding "pattern" seems to do a better job of making quick work of large areas to boot. If you've already got some Milwaukee M18 batteries knocking around, the convenience of cordless is pretty much a no-brainer.

And then there's the Milwaukee cordless M18 Dual Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw...

I had no intention of replacing my faithful old Ryobi... until it went out of alignment and I couldn't get good cuts from it (nor get the laser guide to aim straight). Maybe somebody smarter than I could have figured out how to fix it, but I was done. My first instinct was to spend the $220 to get another Ryobi. It provided years of faithful service, was relatively inexpensive, and I was familiar with it. But then I saw that Milwaukee had a kit with an extra maximum performance M18 battery on sale for $600 (down from $850) and decided I'd spend the money on quality now rather than having to replace another Ryobi in 4 years...

Milwaukee Cordless M18 Random Orbital Sander

My worries were A) A cordless saw would have much less power than a corded version, and B) All the reviews talked about what a shitty job it did of collecting dust.

Turns out that A) It has plenty of power to cut through anything I've thrown at it... including Trex decking and hardwoods, and B) All the reviews were right... the dust collection is so bad that I don't even know why they bother putting a bag on it in the first place since hardly any dust ends up in there.

The dust collection problem is annoying, but not a dealbreaker. No miter saw catches all the dust, so what's a little more? Still, you have to wonder what in the hell Milwaukee was thinking that they couldn't have done a better job of it.

Just as with every Milwaukee cordless tool I've ever owned, the benefits of going cordless far outweigh any drawbacks in the ultimate design. I can move it anywhere in my garage shop without having to unplug/plug which is great. I also have one less cord to trip over and one less outlet occupied, which is really great.

Dust collection aside, there are a number of things that Milwaukee gets right. First of all, they've done away with a laser guide in favor of a shadow cut-line indicator. Before using it, I thought this was a detriment. Because lasers are awesome, yo. But then I used it and realize what a huge boost to accuracy it is. A shadow of the actual blade not only shows you exactly where the cut occurs and how much material the blade will be removing... but it also will never go out of alignment, something that plagued my Ryobi...

Milwaukee Cordless M18 Random Orbital Sander

Another thing I like is the design of the slider. With most miter saws, the tool slides along rails that poke out behind the saw on the top. With Milwaukee, the rails are inside the unit and on the bottom. It's just cleaner with less obstruction on top, though I have no idea if this could be a problem after dust ends up on the rails. How would you clean that? I dunno.

As is par for the course with Milwaukee, the little details are nicely accommodated. The blade cover locks open for easy access (I loathed having to fumble with it on my Ryobi every time I changed blades). Changing angle or bevel is not only fast and easy, but seriously balls-on accurate. On my old saw when I had to meet two 45° angles for a corner, there was always a slight error that crept into the mix. But with my Milwaukee, they meet up flawlessly every time on the first try, corner after corner. No more sanding or filler! Another plus? The saw is fairly lightweight and can be carried from the top or side. I keep mine permanently mounted on my awesome Rigid mobile folding stand, but it's nice to know I could transport it easily.

Ten out of Five Stars. Would purchase again.

As mentioned yesterday, I'm building a ledge tray for my banister to (hopefully) keep my cats safe in the stairwell. After work I had time to paint a base coat. All I have now is a light sanding and two more coats and it will be good to go (the carpet for the bottom arrives next week)...

Cat Banister Tray Painted

This unanticipated little project has me chomping at the bit to get started on my kitchen cabinets! Now THERE is a job that will make good use of my pricey new toys!

   

Monday is for Travel

Posted on Monday, April 29th, 2019

Dave!I'm so exhausted I can barely function.

Which means it must be time to clean house, pack a suitcase, drive over the mountains, and fly off to destination unknown for work, right?

Well, it's not really unknown... it's Las Vegas... but what I'm going to be doing once I get there is mostly unknown. Right now the majority of my time will be spent sitting around waiting for the phone to ring so I can leap into action.

Or, more likely, fall out of bed into action.

I'm just that tired.

I flew out of Paine Field in Everett again, because I absolutely love having an alternative to shitty SeaTac...

Paine Field Everett, Washington

Paine Field Everett, Washington

Since this is actually "Boeing Field" there is a cool lineup of what I'm guessing is Boeing customers as you taxi out to the runway...

Paine Field Everett, Washington

And now... time for dinner with friends.I hear everybody is doing that now-a-days.

   

Thursday is for Shitty Sonic Fries

Posted on Thursday, May 2nd, 2019

Dave!It's not like I can say my life is boring... I have been lucky enough to travel the world, meet interesting people, and do really cool stuff... but when I'm not doing that my life is as mundane as it gets. Oftentimes I question why people read this blog* when most of the time all I've got going on in my life is cats.

Take today for example.

I woke up at 5:30am, which is about average. I then check my personal email, see what's happening with my East Coast Facebook peeps, then check my work email. At 7:00am Alexa alerts the cats that it's breakfast time, so we all go downstairs where I feed them. I then do household cleaning and chores until around 8:00am when I hop in the shower and get ready for work. I am usually out the door around 8:30-ish for my 7-minute walk to the office.

I try to be out of the office at 4:00 (today I left at 4:10) and walk back home.

Today there was some excitement when I spotted an old cat with patches of fur missing walking through several yards until it decided to rest on somebody's porch (no idea if that's where home is)...

Old Cat Taking a Walk!

Once I got home at 4:20, I worked until Alexa chimed for the cat's dinner at 6:00pm. Since I received a notice from Home Depot that my carpet squares had arrived, I decided to run to The Big City (20 minutes away) and pick them up. Afterwards I wanted to have fries for dinner, but was too tired to make them by hand. I was going to drive to McDonalds, but Sonic was closer so I went there.

Huge mistake.

I rarely go to Sonic because they don't have vegetarian options. I only go there when they are having an ice cream promo or some kind of drink special. I've never had their fries before. AND I WILL NEVER HAVE THEM AGAIN! Holy crap! They were not very fresh, barely warm... AND THEY WERE GUMMY! As in, you had to chew through their saggy, bleak texture in a way that is usually reserved for gummy bears. And then there's my OREO Sonic Blast (AKA a McFlurry). The first third of the cup was as expected. A good distribution of OREO pieces that were large enough that they tasted like OREO. The second third was just OREO crumbs. Just a dust, really. And the final third? NOTHING! NO OREO AT ALL!

OREO-Free OREO Blast from Sonic!

How the fuck did Sonic get to be "America's Drive-In?" Their half-assed food is a blight on the entire country!

Oh.

Never mind.

Anyway... I head home and immediately get to work carpeting my Cat Bannister Tray when I arrive around 7:10pm. The squares were way thin, but surprisingly nice considering how cheap they were. The good news is that I have lots of spares if my cats decide to destroy the ones I installed...

Carpeted Cat Banister Tray

And that was that.

At some point I'll build the cat-stairs up to it so it's safer for Jake and Jenny to get up there... add a shelf under the upper window so I won't go out of my mind with worry when Jenny leaps up there (nearly two full stories above the stairs below!)... and then my project will be completed. At least until I think of something else to add to it.

Around 7:40pm I threw a load of clothes in the wash then finished up a work project a little after 9:00pm.

Then it was clothes in the dryer, catching up on television, clothes out of the dryer, and I was in bed at 11:30pm so I can blog this then start it all over again tomorrow.

Thrilling, I know.

But hey, not every day can be an expedition to Antarctica.

   
*Yes, people actually do visit this blog. A lot. The interactivity I had from the heyday of blogging is long gone, but my wide variety of topics and daily updates means that Google sends scores of people here every day. Though it's not all search results... most days the number of people coming here directly is fairly substantial. No, I don't know why. You tell me!

   

Rabbits, Discarded and Unloved

Posted on Monday, May 6th, 2019

Dave!This morning I put in three hours working at home before I walked to work, so I was already exhausted by the time I left the house. Apparently I'm better driving while exhausted over walking while exhausted because I kept tripping over stuff. Rocks, roots, raised seams in the sidewalk... getting my exercise in today is a dangerous business.

But then, at the half-way mark, I had a heart-stopping moment that caused me to wake right up.

As I started rounding a corner, I saw a rabbit in the middle of the road...

Bunny in the Road!

This is a very busy corner and, despite distracted driving laws, I regularly see people driving while texting. Driving while putting on makeup. Driving while eating a bowl of cereal. My instinct was to rush into the street and see if I could block traffic until the rabbit had a chance to get wherever it was going. But then I worried he would get scared and run away from me into oncoming traffic. So I decided to walk around it while recording video... because if some texting asshole were to run him over as I was trying to flag them down, I wanted to have footage I could use to turn them into the police.

And then a bus started barreling around the corner and I held my breath because I had no idea what their visibility might be.

But, much to my delight, the bus stopped. Cars coming from the opposite direction stopped. And the bunny ran back to the (relative) safety of the yard from whence he came...

Bunny in the Road!

As I walked along the sidewalk, I scoped out the bushes in the yard to see if I could see him. Sure enough...

Bunny in the Bushes!

I've lived in this town since I was five. I've seen bunnies in the wilds surrounding the town... but I've never seen a rabbit walking around civilization like this. My hope is that this is an anomaly, and he just got lost or something.

I really hope that some asshole didn't buy a rabbit for their kids at Easter then decide it was too much work so they just kicked it to the curb. I read about this happening with bunnies and chicks every year around Eastertime, and have to wonder who the fuck could be that big of an asshole. Probably the same people who want to punish poor people for being poor, which is a reoccurring theme in today's political arena. The prevailing thought seems to be that poor people want to be poor. That poor people are lazy and don't want to work. That poor people live like royalty with their free hi-def televisions and mobile phones. That poor people are to blame for high taxes. That poor people get all the breaks while honest hard-working people get none. That poor people don't deserve healthcare or places to live or food to eat... because they're poor.

Of course these same people tend to be the ones that persecute the shit out of our LGBT communities because of a couple passages in the Bible they think tells them it's okay... while completely ignoring the multitude of passages telling them that ignoring those in poverty is most definitely not okay. So I've given up on trying to apply rational thought to crap like this. But I don't blame myself here. Hypocrisy often defies rational thought.

   
Over the weekend I noted that G.I. Jane (a 1997 film starring Demi Moore and Viggo Mortensen) was playing as I cycled through TV channels. I've always liked this film and have never understood the contempt that critics have for it. Demi Moore seemed highly dedicated to the role and did a fine job. Viggo Mortensen's contemptible, yet oddly complex Master Chief is one of the better movie characters I've seen. And Ridley Scott's thoughtful direction, hallmark scene composition, and wonderful cinematography is a beautiful thing to behold...

G.I. Jane Poster!

   
I ended up watching it, of course. Or, to be more accurate, I had it on while I was working. I quickly learned to regret my decision though, because the Ovation TV network is a steaming pile of shit*... but I hadn't seen the film in at least a decade, so I was happy to get to see it again.

One notable thing (for me) about the movie is that it features a poem by one of my favorite poets, D.H. Lawrence. Much like Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, which features a line from a Lawrence poem along similar lines (Wales Weep Not), it provides a small (yet critical) expansion of the story.

Rumor has it that Viggo Mortensen himself injected it into the film...

This is absolutely remarkable if it's true, because finding out that his speech was a poem called Self-Pity and not just badass rhetoric completely changes everything about the character at the very end of the film in the best possible way...

Self Pity by D.H. Lawrence!

My guess is that rabbits, discarded and unloved, probably feel no self-pity as well.

It's our job as humans to feel pity for them and we are failing miserably.

But not on my walk to work today, thankfully.

   
*What a fucking shitty network Ovation TV is. I swear they air more commercials per hour than any other network I've ever seen... and that's saying something. G.I. Jane has a runtime of 2 hours and 5 minutes. Ovation is taking THREE HOURS to air it. Which means anything you watch on this laughably pathetic network is ONE THIRD COMMERCIALS! And so... Ovation is being deprogrammed from my DirecTV and I'm never watching this bullshit again. It's things like this that make me want to tell cable and satellite television providers to go fuck themselves. FIRST you have to pay a massive amount of money just to GET the channel... then you have to waste your fucking time watching an abundance of ads. Ad-free streaming direct from the source is the wave of the future... like CBS All Access. If I'm going to pay a shit-load of money to watch television, why pay DirecTV to watch ads?

   

Mother’s Day Traveler

Posted on Sunday, May 12th, 2019

Dave!2019 has been surprisingly accommodating considering the milestones it's been racking up for me.

First year without my mom. First Valentine's Day with nobody to buy flowers for. First Birthday Weekend celebration without my friend of 33 years. And now, as advertising will not stop reminding me, first Mother's Day with no mother.

I will be the first to admit, that last one is proving to be tough.

For thirteen years my gift to my mom on Mother's Day was a new vacation. We traveled the globe, visited all kinds of amazing places, and had fun doing it. Recently I was going through all the travel books I made for her as a souvenir. Starting with our 2002 trip to Europe right up through our 2014 safari in Zimbabwe.

Initially I created books for her at Apple Books. They were nice enough, but I eventually switched to professional printing because I was unhappy with the photo reproduction. On our first trips, I didn't take many photos though. Just a few snapshots here and there. I took so few photos that I was able to combine the first four Apple Book trips into a single professional book (I used the colors of the cloth covers on the original books as borders)*...

Mom Travel Book!

The look of the book was nothing groundbreaking, but the graphic designer in me tried to create stylish introductions at least...

Mom Travel Book!

Photo presentation was pretty basic though...

Mom Travel Book!

As the years went on, I got a little more ambitious. I was designing nicer, more elaborate looking covers, for one thing...

Mom Travel Book!

Mom Travel Book!

Mom Travel Book!

And adding maps, travel routes, and such...

Mom Travel Book!

On later trips I was taking a lot of photos and putting considerably more thought into the the images I was capturing. With this in mind, I started buying "lay-flat" books and adjusting my layouts so photos could be as large as possible. I also tried to tell a story to make the content more interesting...

Mom Travel Book!

Mom Travel Book!

The final book is my favorite for so many reasons...

Mom Travel Book!

Mom Travel Book!

Every book was always ended with a photo of the both of us...

Mom Travel Book!

For 2015 we were going to take a cruise along the fjords of Norway. 2016 was going to be Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands. But those trips weren't to be. I thought she might be well enough in 2015 to take a Spring trip that was less ambitious. I booked flights to South Dakota so I could finally see Mount Rushmore and check the only state I haven't been to off my list (North Dakota). But a couple months before we were to leave I realized there was no way that she would be able to travel. Her confusion was far too great and it wouldn't have been a fun time for either of us. And so that was that.

Mother's Day isn't sad to me because I don't have anybody to buy a card and flowers for... after we started traveling, she never wanted me to spend money on that stuff anyway. It's now a reminder that I've lost a friend who explored the world with me. And while the books, photos, and memories are nice, ain't nothin' going to take the place of that.

   
*Apple Books was a part of the original iPhoto. You could select photos that you had stored there, then have the program automatically build a book for you. For the time, it was actually pretty cool. They had durable fabric covers with a nifty label stuck on the front...

Mom Travel Book!

There were issues though. In addition to the print quality, which was fine but not great, the books were kinda small and the layouts had a lot of wasted space and the pages were all one-sided...

Mom Travel Book!

By having my books professionally printed, I paid way, way, way more money... but I got to control the layouts, get superior print quality, and print both sides of the pages.

   

It’s a Monday, After All

Posted on Monday, May 13th, 2019

Dave!My day began at 5:00am when I grabbed my laptop off the nightstand so I could start in on my work emails. Jake, hearing that I was awake, came running in to get his butt scratched, which is fine. What was not fine was when he jumped up to the window perch ten minutes later an immediately began puking up a hairball.

My bad. I apologized to Jake because I went to Seattle for Laser PRINCE instead of grabbing The Furminator and giving him his weekly brushing this week.

Jake was unfazed. He just moved to the other window, pushed Jenny over so he had a place to sit, then went about his business of watching birds fly around..

Jake and Jenny Sharing a Window Perch!

Jake and Jenny Sharing a Window Perch!

After catching up on work I got up to clean up the hairball puke only to find that... it was only water? No hairball to be found.

This scares the crap out of me because... A) My cats do not puke often at all... and B) the couple times they have puked and it wasn't a hairball, it was because something was seriously wrong. But Jake didn't seem sick at all, so I made a mental note to keep a careful eye on him for a while.

I tore apart the window perches so I could toss the covers in the wash and noticed that my window sill was filthy. So I ran down to the garage for a scrub brush and bucket only to find that a can in a twelve-pack of Coke had ruptured* while I was gone this weekend. It dripped out of the carton, down the shelf, then spilled out onto the floor.

Where it mixed with the sawdust and formed a gummy syrup that super-glued itself to the cement.

Yay.

My choices were... A) Leave it and clean up the mess later... or B) Clean it up immediately so ants don't fill up my garage. I opted for the latter because I really don't want ants in my wood shop.

After moving tools and relocating boxes and pulling apart shelves and scrubbing and scrubbing and scrubbing, I worked up quite a sweat. This made me realize just how badly I needed a haircut... so I grabbed the clippers and went to town on my head. I have started cutting my own hair again because... A) From what I can tell I don't do a half-bad job... and B) I really don't have money to spend at Super-Cuts after getting Jake's vet bill.

By this time it was past 7am and Alexa's alarm had gone off, letting the cats know it's breakfast time.

When I went back into the house Jake and Jenny were very put out that I had dared to allow a haircut to interfere with their breakfast being delivered in a timely manner.

At least whatever was wrong with Jake this morning didn't seem to affect his appetite.

In other news... the bulbs outside my house bloomed while I was away! The ones out front look pretty good...

Bulbs in Bloom!

Whereas the bulbs on the side of the house have already collapsed from their own weight and fallen over...

Bulbs in Bloom!

Irises have to be one of the stupidest flowers. When your design doesn't allow your stem to support the weight of your flowers... how are you not extinct? Oh well. I guess they're pretty while they last.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to put the window perch covers in the dryer and get ready for work.

It's a Monday, after all.

   
*I couldn't even figure out where the can had ruptured. They are so darn thin any more that you can barely hold onto them without crushing the can. I'm not surprised that cans are leaking at random... any thinner and soda cans will just explode when they feel like it.

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Of Crackers and Mondays

Posted on Monday, May 20th, 2019

Dave!There are times... not many, but enough... that I think I have my life together. Then I get smacked in the back of the head by reality and realize that I'm about as close to having my life together as I am to walking on the moon.

Not that I'm discouraged or depressed about it though. I'm most definitely not. I'm doing the best I can to keep my head above water (and mostly succeeding) so what else is there? Nothing. And I'm content with that. Perhaps one day I won't be, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Last night I had cashews and crackers for dinner. It was my fallback plan after the frozen pizza I bought was essentially inedible and I could only get through two slices.

Jake, as he does any time I have food, was curious to see what I was eating. Or, to be more accurate, curious to smell what I was eating. Very rarely does he try to actually taste any of it though...

Jake Wants Crackers!

Probably because a boring-ass cracker doesn't even smell like food to him.

Or to me.

I don't know why I continue to buy frozen pizza. It's always bad. But every time there's a new brand that pops up, I roll the dice anyway. This time it was another variation on the "Rising Crust" type pizza. The crust is okay, I guess, but the sauce is pretty weak and the cheese is rubber. I'd throw it out, but the thing cost me $5... so... bad pizza for breakfast... and bad pizza for lunch today.

I have got to save up money for pizza steels so I can work on my own recipe.

Until then? Crackers it is, I guess.

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