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Curious Jenny is Curious

Posted on December 4th, 2019

Dave!I have been working a crazy amount of hours and it's thrown my sleep schedule off.

Last night I worked until a little after 1:30am, woke up at 6:00am to answer emails and feed the cats at 7:00am. Then decided to take a nap. I figured if I could just get an hour or two I'd be rested enough to take on the rest of my day.

It was a good plan.

But one which was doomed to fail.

At 7:28am my phone starts sounding alerts from a web security camera. I figured I could ignore it since the wired cameras weren't setting off any alarms, but the alerts kept coming. So finally I took a look...

Security camera shot of my ceiling with Jenny the cat entering the frame.

Security camera shot of my ceiling with Jenny the cat looking into the camera.

Last night I set up my new Nest Outdoor Cam, but it was too dark and cold outside to install it. So I just set it down in the box and forgot about it.

Apparently that was a mistake. Curious Jenny decided to be all curious, so no sleep for me. She kept coming back to take another look at the camera and was setting off an alert every time. Which meant I ended up installing my new camera this morning instead of taking that nap.

My guess is I will be falling asleep at my desk sometime today.

But, hey... at least I don't have to install a security camera when I get home!

   

Amazon Echo 3rd Generation

Posted on December 3rd, 2019

Dave!I bought a SONOS One smart speaker with Alexa integration for my bedroom. I watch quite a bit of television while working in bed, and the poor speakers on my cheap Sony television make it difficult to hear some conversations unless I crank the volume way too high. The SONOS with its superb sound quality provided the perfect listening environment right out of the box.

When it worked.

The problem with the SONOS One is that there is no "line in" jack... so I had to connect my AppleTV to it via Apple's "AirPlay 2" technology. I have no idea who is at fault, but this was glitchy as hell, and I had all kinds of drop-outs and sound sync errors most every time I watched television. Even worse, at least twice a week I'd turn on the television and AppleTV would "forget" to play through the SONOS One, meaning I had to stop my show, go to the settings menu, switch the audio to AirPlay 2, then start my show again. Incredibly frustrating. Half the time I found myself just leaving it because I didn't want to be bothered with all the futzing around.

And so... I decided to investigate wired speakers. I could probably get a cheap one that was "good enough" for around $30, which seemed a small price to pay.

Around the time I was looking, Amazon released their 3rd Generation "Echo" device which, unlike the old Echo 1st Generation I have in my bathroom, has a 3.5mm line-in jack. This is in addition to improved speakers and sound. Problem was? It was $100. $70 more than I had to spend. Except... Amazon always puts their Echo devices on sale for Black Friday at really good prices. So I added it to my list of stuff to buy... then waited.

Sure enough, the price plummeted to $60. Double what I wanted to spend. But then I saw where I could trade-in my old Echo for $25... plus get a $15 discount for purchasing a new Echo with an Echo trade-in... bringing the net price of the Echo 3rd Gen. to $20? That's under my budget! SOLD!

The new speaker arrived yesterday and I set it up when I got home from work.

Or at least I tried to.

The speaker has a single 3.5mm audio jack that's both line-in and line-out... configurable via the Alexa app. But every time I tapped on the Audio AUX setting I got an error telling me that the page was unavailable...

An Amazon Echo error message saying that the page cannot be loaded and to please try again later.

I went to the Alexa web interface, but the one setting you can't configure from there? The audio AUX setting, of course! I wrote to Amazon for support and they eventually got back to me with an email when, naturally, the page then popped right up for me. And so... I now have an Alexa-enabled speaker for my television. Just like I always wanted!

The sound is pretty darn good for such a small speaker. Not SONOS-level good... not by a longshot... but better than I needed it to be, that's for sure. The cutaway render that Amazon provides shows how the speaker array is fitted in such a compact size (smaller than the SONOS, which means it's short enough to fit under my TV)...

An Amazon Echo cylidner plus a cutaway view showing the speaker array inside.

In the default, I found the midrange to be lacking. Fortunately that's an easy fix from the Alexa app. For television show conversations I got the best sound compromise from boosting the midrange a lot, the treble a little, and decreasing the bass a touch..

The equalizer interface of the Amazon Echo speaker, showing three sliders for bass, midrange, and treble.

The sound is a bit "artificial"... I guess is the word I'm looking for? The SONOS unit has a warmth, brilliance and overall cohesiveness that just sounds better to me. This is not a big deal for television, but I absolutely prefer the sound of music on the SONOS as opposed to the Echo 3rd Gen. — No contest there at all. And yet, the Echo is perfectly good for music when viewed in its own right instead of comparing it to a speaker that's considerably more expensive (especially when I got it for $20 compared to the SONOS One $200!).

My SONOS One is now happily set up in my bathroom (where the original Echo was) so I can listen to a couple songs while I get ready in the morning. That's a huge bit of overkill in a small bathroom like mine, so I might relocate it to the upstairs hall where it can be enjoyed in the stairwell and guest bedroom as well.

So... overall, I'm pleased. $20 well-spent!

The new $38 AKASO dash cam Black Friday deal I ordered arrived as well (regular $66). Installation was tough compared to my original $20 dash cam because the cord was thicker. I had to dismantle panels instead of just poking the cable in a seam. Also? The cord was shorter as well. I barely had enough to get to my console cigarette lighter port (no idea how somebody with a big rig like a truck can have enough cord). This is a far cry from the extra two feet I had coiled in my glove box last time! And speaking of the cigarette lighter port, the plug on this camera was far nicer than the old one. Guess that's what the extra $18 gets you. Fits snug instead of wobbling and breaking connection like the old one. After installing I turned on the ignition and... IT MAKES THE EXACT SAME STARTUP SOUND AS MY CHEAP OLD UNIT! I can only guess this is because they are made by the same company, then a bunch of different manufacturers use the same component in each of their designs...

The AKASO dash cam which is a small wedge-shaped plastic doohickey with a small screen and some buttons.

But the big deal here is the WiFi connectivity, meaning I can download footage directly to my iPhone instead of having to remove the tiny SD card, find the adapter for it, find the USB stick for that, then import through the photos app.

And yet... the WiFi connectivity is far from ideal.

First you have to push a button on the unit... then you have to switch the WiFi source on your iPhone to the WiFi for the unit... then start the app... then download. Ugh. I guess the truly easy connectivity options are in much pricier cameras.

Image quality is not stellar. But it's not tragic either. A little better than my old camera... though both were 1080p, so that could be a lens issue not a sensor issue. This unit has GPS but it's not as accurate as my phone and the satellite acquisition is sometimes longer than it should be.

My new dash cam is not nearly the bargain that my new Amazon Echo 3rd Gen. is... but at least I have something in my car. Thanks to distracted drivers, I'm terrified to drive out of my garage without a camera to prove that some idiot drifted into my lane and nailed me because they were playing Candy Crush or eating spaghetti or texting their kids or whatever. Thanks to today's idiot culture, they would likely blame me for their mistake if I didn't have proof.

Until Black Friday 2020, stay frosty.

   

Soles of a Traveler

Posted on December 2nd, 2019

Dave!My boots and half of my Black Friday shopping spree bounty showed up today.

I have to say I'm more than a little sad to let my old boots go. I've literally been around the world in them (and the bottom of the world as well), so I am thinking of taking them to the local shoe shop to see if something can be done (they've been around these parts for 99 years!). With exception of the badly-worn soles they're in perfect shape and still look great. My new boots are nice too, I just think it's a genuine waste to toss out something if they can be repaired...

A photo of my new boots that look rugged in their forest green and balck... plus my old shoes which look nice except for the soles which are literally falling off the boot!

I gave up on wearing tennis shoes decades ago, much preferring a light hiking boot. They're more comfortable, easy to slip in and out of when you tie the laces low, and can be quickly laced up for those times you need good protection for your feet. For a traveler who can end up anywhere and everywhere they're everything I need. The last pair of non-dress-shoe shoes that I bought 25-30 years ago sit in my closet barely used.

As I mentioned, I had a few bucks left over from everything I was saving to buy, so I got a copy of the LEGO Jurassic World video game. I was surprised to see that when you order something LEGO, Amazon will put it in a cool LEGO Star Wars box...

An Amazon box with LEGO Darth Vader using The Force to lift LEGO bricks over a LEGO Stormtrooper!

An Amazon box with LEGO Darth Vader has imprisoned the LEGO Stormtrooper in a jail cell made of the LEGO bricks!

So clever!

In sadder news, the world received notice that BUB had passed.

She was such a sweet cat who faced a difficult life with an optimism that inspired a lot of people... and raised a lot of money and awareness for homeless pets. It was so very hard to follow along with her latest health crisis knowing that she was probably nearing her end... but, as always, she was doing her best to be happy and live her best life...

BUB the cat with her Dude... both when he got her in June of 2011 as a kitten, and before he lost her on December 1, 2019... she has a large growth on the side of her face that musy be painful, but she still looks happy!

I cannot fathom my life without Jake and Jenny, so my heart goes out to Mike Bridavsky and the loss he is suffering. I find it amazing how he was so dedicated to such a special cat, and grateful for the hundreds of thousands of dollars he worked tirelessly to raise in support of animals.

Rest in peace, BUB, you will be missed by a great many people.

   

In Blackest Friday

Posted on November 29th, 2019

Dave!And... my one shopping day of the year is here! Every month I put aside $100 for clothes and "other stuff" then wait until Black Friday to buy all the clothes and "other stuff" I need. $100 a month is quite a chunk of cash to not have in my pocket, but worth it when I end up with $1200 in November that magically becomes $2400 (or more!) on Black Friday thanks to all the sales and savings.

Below I refer to "Rakuten Cash Back" in a lot. Rakuten bought out eBates and have taken over their cashback operations. It's a pretty easy way to save even more money on Black Friday (or any other day) and you can sign up to get $10 right off the bat with my referral link right here.

And now? On with my Black Friday scores...

   
AKASO DASH CAM! • Reg. $66, Paid $38 (after Amazon cash back)
My previous dash cam was $20 and has lasted for four years before falling apart and going glitchy. As I mentioned, I am afraid to drive without one given how crazy distracted drivers are, so I was hoping hoping hoping I could get a nice one on sale. I was going to buy another $20 camera, but the cheap ones force you to remove the tiny memory card every time you want the footage. With a WiFi model like this you can just connect with your iPhone and grab the video directly. Handy! Plus... GPS! Worth the additional $18.

The AKASO dash cam which is a small wedge-shaped plastic doohickey with a small screen and some buttons.

   
SHOES! • Reg. $170, Paid $128
I should have bought shoes last Black Friday, but I thought I could get one more year out of the pair I have. I'm not rough on shoes... they usually last me four or five years... so a little Shoe Goo will keep them together right? They still look great... it's just the soles that are falling apart. But back in August the soles fell complete apart. My plan was to buy a cheap pair of $20 shoes, rip the soles off, then glue them on mine. This seemed extreme. Instead I used more Shoe Goo to piece everything together. It worked surprisingly well. But I needed new shoes. I would have loved to have found the same model I had before... but of course shoe companies don't do that. I also would have loved to have spent under $100... but of course the shoes I found that I liked weren't under $100. Oh well. It's still 25% off, which is better than nothing.

My bad-ass new shoes being all black and forest green.

   
ALEXA! Reg. $99 • Paid $33 (with trade-in and Amazon cash back)
I bought a SONOS One for my bedroom. It's absolutely fantastic, and fills the room with amazing sound. Problem is, the AirPlay 2 on it is glitchy as hell, which means the audio has constant drop-outs when I'm playing content from my Apple TV. And Apple TV keeps "forgetting" that the SONOS exists, so I am having to reconnect several times a week. It's maddening, because 95% of the time I'm using it for my television. And so I decided to get an Echo (3rd Gen.) which has a 3.5mm audio line-in that I can run directly from my television. I traded in the old Amazon Echo I have in the bathroom for $25, so it ends up being a $35 spend. No, the sound won't be as good as my SONOS One, but it's gotten good reviews for its quality and will be good enough... plus I can transfer the SONOS One to my upstairs bathroom, which will be amazing for listening to music each morning while I shower and get ready.

An Amazon Echo cylidner plus a cutaway view showing the speaker array inside.

   
iTUNES! GIFT CARD • Reg. $100, Paid $70 (with Rakuten Sign-up Bonus)
As is my custom every year, I buy a $100 iTunes gift card at 20% off to cover the Marvel movies and sale movies I buy each year. I joined Rakuten and they gave me $10 cash back for my first purchase, so this year it was an especially sweet 30% off!

   
OUTDOOR NEST CAM! • Reg. $199, Paid $159
I have two camera systems. A wired system with local recording that has a battery backup and will run even with no power or internet... and a Nest cloud system which is constantly uploading footage to the internet. The Nest cameras are fantastic, but I was ready to ditch them all because the per-camera cloud service cost was absurdly expensive. But they made an announcement a while back that this would be changing to a much cheaper "bulk plan" where all cameras would be covered for one price. Given this, I decided to keep all my Nest cameras and replace a failed outdoor camera with another Nest. But not the new "Nest Cam IQ" which has the stupidest mounting requirements (DRILL A HOLE THROUGH YOUR HOUSE!), I got the original Nest Cam Outdoor. I budgeted to get it for $129, but the savings ended up being less steep than I had hoped.

The Nest Outdoor Cam which is a sexy white thing with a lens on it... and a butterfly on top.

   
HELLO! • Reg. $229, Paid $149
The first smart doorbell I had was the original "Ring" model. It was huge, but it worked well. Then Ring sent me an offer I couldn't refuse... a 4th generation smaller "Ring Pro" model upgrade for a fraction of the retail price. Sadly, it has never worked as well. But an even bigger problem with Ring is that it is SO slow. By the time they notify you that somebody has rang your doorbell, they've long gone. And trying to review the cloud footage is futile because it takes forever for it to upload and be available. Since my Nest cloud cameras are always available instantly and very quick to notify, I've wanted to get a Nest Hello doorbell replacement. Now that Google Nest is having a bulk deal on cloud services for multiple devices come 2020, this was a no-brainer.

The Nest Hello Smart Doorbell... looks like a small device with a button at the bottom and a camera lens at top.

   
PRESSURE COOKER! • Reg. $120, Paid $35 (after Rakuten cash back)
I already mentioned this one earlier this week. Thanks to a goof by a website (they switched the sale prices of the 6-quart and 8-quart for half-a-day) I finally got an Instant Pot (or, to be more accurate, an Instant Pot knock-off) for $35. SCORE! I bought this as a flawless egg cooker, but have ended up using it for lots of stuff. Not something I had planned on buying (or had budgeted for) but I was happy to find it.

My Best Buy Pressure Cooker Instant Pot Knock-Off.

   
UNDERWEAR! • Reg. $102, Paid $46 (after Rakuten cash back)
Half of my skivvies are literally falling apart. But I keep wearing them and repairing them because I need enough that I can do full loads of laundry. Fortunately, Old Navy had an EVERYTHING IS 50% OFF SALE plus free shipping on orders of $50 or more. I was able to get 10 pair of quality underwear, some socks, and a couple pair of touch-screen-friendly gloves for $51. Old Navy tends to hold up pretty good, so that was money well-spent. Especially since I earned $40 in SuperCash I can spend on more Old Navy, plus $5 cash-back from Rakuten, which means I am essentially getting all this for $6?!? (assuming I spend the $40).

Some cool Banana Republic underwear and socks!

   
CLOTHES! • Reg. $947, Paid $367 (after Rakuten cash back)
My favorite jeans, hands down, are Banana Republic slim-fit. They are comfortable, look good, and (most importantly) they last forever. Seriously, I have jeans from four years ago that look new. Unfortunately, my American Eagle jeans do not hold up as well and are needing to be replaced. I took Banana Republic up on their 50% off Black Friday offer and buy four pair. With the Rakuten cash back, they're knocked down to $41.25 a pair! SCORE! Then I headed over to The Gap and Banana Republic Factory for some dress shirts, T-Shirts, casuals, and gloves at 60% off off $480 plus $20-something in Rakuten cash back. Not too shabby.

Banana Republic slim-fit jeans on some guy with brown boots and a sweater shirt. And a long-sleeved poplin shirt on some other guy.

   
Grand total? $1025 spent for $2032 in merchandise. Or almost exactly 50% in savings. With tax adding $82, my total spend this year was $1107. So... woohoo! I've got $93 left!

I should keep it in the bank and roll it over for next year... but... the LEGO Jurassic World video game for Nintendo Switch is on sale for twenty bucks!

A scene from the LEGO Jurassic World video game showing LEGO characters in cars and motorcycles running from a LEGO T-Rex.

   
I guess I'll just blow the remainder on cocaine and hookers. Does anybody know where I can find cocaine and hookers for $70?

And so there it goes. I now have enough new clothes and toys to last me until next Black Friday. And until then... time to start squirreling away another $100 a month. Which never seems like much fun until today.

   

Thankful and Good Enough

Posted on November 28th, 2019

Dave!I was never much into Thanksgiving. Though I've always been into being thankful.

When I was a kid, Thanksgiving was just a bump in the road on the way to Christmas. The family would get together at grandma's house where we'd all partake in her amazing cooking... and even more amazing dessert. When I became a vegetarian in 1986 I was anticipating problems. But my grandmother took it completely in stride. She made the stuffing outside the bird and used vegetable broth. Beans no longer had bacon in them. I was able to eat more than my fill without eating meat, and it was fine.

My grandmother was pretty great like that.

When grandma couldn't cook large-scale meals any more, Thanksgiving became progressively more scaled back. Instead of her roasting an entire turkey, there would be a "turkey loaf" (whatever that was). Dessert was store-bought. And when she had to be moved to a care facility, some of the family would show up and order extra plates from the cafeteria so we could still have dinner together. It wasn't the same. It sure didn't taste as good. But it meant something special to her for everybody to get together, and that's all that mattered.

After my grandmother passed there would be no more Thanksgiving dinners.

Before the next one rolled around, my mom would already be in a care facility. Her first Thanksgiving there, my brother and I were able to take her to the Denny's up the road. The next Thanksgiving was too difficult for her to travel even a short ways, so we had it in her room with to-go plates from that same Denny's. It was at that point that we found out she had difficulty feeding herself, making her last Thanksgiving a depressing affair for all three of us.

She didn't make it to the next Thanksgiving.

And so now I'm just done with it all. I am not interested in going to another Thanksgiving dinner. All it would do is be a painful reminder of all I've lost, even as I continue to be thankful that I had so many good Thanksgivings with my mom and grandmother in the past.

For however many years I have left, I'm happy to cook up some mashed potatoes with bread stuffing and cranberry jelly and spend the day with my cats.

That's a good enough Thanksgiving for me.

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Anticipatory Damages

Posted on November 26th, 2019

Dave!Lately my life has become more about anticipating the future than living in the "right now." I don't know that this is necessarily a bad thing... looking forward to stuff is a healthy way to stay positive, isn't it? But I do feel like my head is in the clouds more than it should be.

As the days start getting really, really cold, most of my activities are indoors. Work all day. Watch movies and television all night.

And, boy is it a great time for television. My crappy Hallmark movies are running 24/7. Fridays we got The Mandelorian and The Morning Show... Sundays are new Watchmen and Rick and Morty... Just to name a few. My DVR is jam-packed whenever I check it!

And then there's Black Friday and Cyber Monday coming up, which is essentially the only time of year that I "shop" for stuff. I am looking forward to getting some affordable, quality clothing (the stuff I could never afford at full price, which is awesome) and some shoes. And... oh yeah... I am really looking forward to getting new underwear since half of mine are on the verge of falling apart. Other than that, I've got my budget set and my list made, so hopefully I won't buy more than I can afford without going into credit card debt and not buy stuff I don't need. Thanks to some companies providing "Black Friday Sneak Peaks" all week long, I have a pretty good idea of what I will be buying and how much I will be paying for it. The only thing I'm not entirely sure about is a new dash cam for my car. It's getting to the point where so many lunatics are driving distracted that I'm almost afraid to drive without one anymore. I bought a $30 one years ago that has been doing okay, but now it has to be taped together because it's falling apart and barely working. I'd feel a lot better about driving if I can find a good one on sale. Fingers crossed.

Thanksgiving will be spent working. I love working on holidays because I can get so much more done when I'm left alone in silence. And, let me tell you, I really need to get a lot of work done. Thanksgiving dinner will be spent with my cats. Stinky sardines for them, bread stuffing with cranberry jelly for me. Friday will mostly be working... but my morning will be spent climbing on Black Friday deals as fast as I can. Saturday and Sunday I will be working on a shelter upgrades for Fake Jake (the stray in our neighborhood) and finishing up whatever work I have left.

Which will hopefully won't be too much.

Because what I'm really looking forward to is some time off before Monday rolls around and I'm buried in work once again.

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Professional Prosumer Consumer

Posted on November 20th, 2019

Dave!Most times I am happy that the nitty-gritty details of how electronics work are hidden from me. All I want is for my stuff to "just work" and do what I need it to do with as little drama as possible.

This is a double-edged sword, however.

Apple is famous for wrapping up complex tech into an easy-to use wrapper. This is mostly okay... except when they start taking away needed features in the name of "simplification." In cases like this, just let the user decide whether they want the feature active or not. Because Apple's idea of what's best may not be the same as their customers.

Right now I am fighting this same issue with my Google WiFi mesh router/node system...

Google WiFi Mesh Router System

While not an overly powerful or fast setup, it's worked just fine for me. My entire home and outdoor space has excellent coverage, which has been nice for my cloud cameras and such. If you just want basic Wifi and need it to extend over a large area, it's a decent pick.

Problem is that the app behind it is laughably inadequate.

It lacks so many basic functions that using the label "router" on it feels way generous.

Want to grant traffic priority to a device? Like your AppleTV so it doesn't run into buffering problems? You can do that... FOR A LIMITED TIME PERIOD! There's no way to permanently give a device "priority status." You have to go into the app and set it up EVERY TIME YOU NEED IT. This is asinine. At the very least you should have the option to tell it not to expire until you turn it off!

And then there's the anemic connected devices display. Can't be sorted by device name, IP address, MAC address, or anything else (bandwith usage is the only metric used to order the list). Can't be searched. Can't be exported. Can't be flagged. Can't be throttled. Can't be ordered. Can't be scheduled. Can't be grouped. You can't even have it notify you when a new device is connected. I don't know why they even bother to allow you to look at a list of connected devices since the whole fiasco is functionally useless.

While having just the bare minimum in features would be nice... what Google WiFi really needs is some smarts. What I want is for my cameras to be automatically prioritized when I'm away... and my AppleTV to be prioritized when I'm home. Since Google Wifi already gets this information the second my iPhone comes within range, why is it so fucking difficult to have this happen? It's such an obvious feature that the fact you can't do this is more than a little silly. You can kludge it together with IFTTT... kinda... but prioritization only lasts 2 hours, so that's useless too.

Ultimately, Google WiFi just isn't cutting it. I thought that their Nest WiFi replacement might be the answer, but it uses the same shitty app and doesn't even have WiFi 6 despite just now being released!

Guess this will be something to research come the new year. I don't even want to think about it when I've got a list of a million other things waiting to be done.

   

Let the Madness Begin

Posted on November 18th, 2019

Dave!I do not carry balances on my credit cards.

The "why" is something I have talked about before (credit card debt is hell, y'all), and I've done a fairly good job of sticking to this goal. If I want or need something, I save for it. If it's an emergency, I clear out my savings to pay for it. The only reason I will carry a credit card balance is if it is the absolute last resort because my mission is to have $0 in interest charges at the end of the year.

There are exceptions, of course.

My Australia trip ended up being much, much, much more expensive than I has saved for. It took seven months to pay it off.

My Antarctica trip was totally saved for... until I was put on a keto diet and lost so much weight I had to buy new winter clothes... five months to pay that off.

Last year I wanted a SONOS Sub (subwoofer) so badly that I could not pass up their Black Friday $100 savings. This dropped the cost to $600... but I only had $120 saved for it. This meant paying off a credit card balance of $480 over the next three months. I didn't care that I had to eat cheap pasta, not eat at restaurants or go out, not buy anything but absolute necessities, and cancel Netflix... getting my credit card balance to $0 is all that matters.

Thanks to SONOS Sub putting me behind in my savings for this year's Black Friday madness, I had to tighten my belt and set aside extra money each month to reach my goals. I'm a little behind in my clothing savings (which is bad because my boots are falling apart!) but a little ahead in my gadget savings (which is good because I have to replace some outdoor security cameras). Since I try to make it so that this is the only time of year I buy clothes, I may have to shift monies between accounts, but overall I'm happy with how much cash I've managed to save.

And tonight I made my Black Friday shopping list. I need henley shirts, long-sleeve dress shirts, underwear, and a pair boots. I would like two new outdoor security cameras and a couple pair of jeans (what I have are fine, but some occasions call for a newer, nicer pair). I want iTunes gift cards (assuming I can find them on discount, which is the only reason to buy iTunes gift cards... full-price cards get me nothing).

Assuming I can find deals like I've done in past years, I should be in good shape to get everything on my list.

And still have a $0 balance on my credit cards after it's all over.

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Cold Hands, Hot Chocolate

Posted on November 11th, 2019

Dave!Happy Veteran's Day to all who have served or are serving!

I haven't had time to put my "DO NOT BOTHER ME!" sign back up after Halloween. And, wouldn't you know it, the Mormons came-a-knockin' last week. I don't have any problem with them, I just don't appreciate having them intrude on my calm. Especially during the dinner hour.

Regardless, I have always tried to be friendly with them whenever I see them... especially when traveling in foreign countries... because I know they are usually far from home and just trying their best to live by their convictions whileI find missing their friends and families. I have yet to meet an LDS church member that hasn't been kind and generous, so I try to respond in kind.

I was shocked to see that the two Elders standing outside my door were in thin sweaters with no coats or gloves. It's already 38 degrees out and falling. I told them that I have friends in the church, but I'm not going to be joining them. I then told them to stay safe, try to stay warm, and have a good evening. They asked if there was anything they could do to help me out, and I told them to get some warm jackets.

And now I'm going to feel guilty that I didn't invite them in for a cup of hot chocolate so they could warm up for a minute. Or seeing if I could scrounge up some gloves. I dunno though. Maybe being cold is how they prey on people's sympathies to get them invited inside or whatever? Even so, whether by accident or design, I think it's sad that they have to be cold. Isn't somebody looking out for them? Assuming there are, they are grossly negligent.

Guess I should put my sign back up so as to avoid these moral dilemmas...

NO SOLICITING. NO UNINVITED VISITORS. NO RELIGIOUS APPEALS. NO POLITICAL CAUSES. NO SALESPEOPLE. NO PETITIONS, NO CHARITY.

Though, as we learned the hard way, that's no guarantee they'll leave me alone.

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The Pajama Decisions

Posted on November 8th, 2019

Dave!Back when my mother's dementia had robbed her of her ability to make new memories, it was understandably a confusing time for her. Out of necessity I devised all kinds of deceptions to make both our lives easier. One of the most important was a big sign I put on the inside front door which said "David will be back in 15 minutes so we can go out to eat... please wait here." I tried to take my mom with me everywhere I went because it was just easier. If I needed to run to the store or drop off something for a friend, she went too. But for the three years where she had no memory (but was perfectly able to stay home by herself), I couldn't take her to work or out to dinner with my friends. Rather than leaving her confused as to where I was, I put the sign up before I went anywhere. Then checked in on her every ten minute or so with the security cameras.

And it worked great.

Usually television kept her occupied. If she heard the television was on, she'd sit down to watch it for hours. But every once in a while she'd walk around looking for somebody, then try to leave the house when she realized she was alone.

Which would be disastrous.

And so I came up with the sign.

Rather than go outside, she'd see the sign and go get ready to go out to eat. She'd make sure her purse was by the door... comb her hair... change her clothes... whatever she felt she needed to do to be ready and look presentable. Sometimes she would do all that, forget she did all that, go back to the door, then start all over again in a loop. Then eventually she'd hear the television and get absorbed in it again... until the next time.

Yes, I was lying to her, but if the lie meant she wasn't constantly leaving the house in confusion... or experiencing massive anxiety because she didn't know where she was or where anybody was at... and meant I could leave the house to go to work... was it really such a horrible thing?

Before the sign, she was upset constantly and I worried constantly anytime I had to leave. Then one day I put the sign up so she could get ready for dinner while I ran to get gas, realized what a total game changer it would be if I just put it up every time I left, and never stopped using it.

When I was in support forums for dementia caregivers, some people thought it was genius and decided to try it. Some people were already doing something similar. And some people thought I was the most vile, evil person on earth for lying to my poor mother like that.

In every case of the latter I would reply with "And how many people do you have helping you with your mother's care? How many people can you call to help watch her when you have to go out? How many immediate family members will step up to give you a break when you need one? If the answer is greater than zero, then kindly keep your opinions to yourself because I have NOBODY." And I did not give a single fuck what they had to say afterwards. My mother, who was suffering through a horrific problem, was happier and less stressed. I, who was there suffering along with her, was less worried and less stressed. So why would I give a fuck about what you think? Especially if you've got a team of friends and family helping you out?

This is not to say that I can't say these things to myself, of course.

Nobody... and I mean nobody... beat me up over the things I had to do to survive my mother's dementia more than myself. Not even close.

I lost untold hours of sleep wrestling with decisions. Questioning the decisions I had to make. Second-guessing the decisions I had already made (and, all too often, crying myself to sleep because I wasn't sure I made the right decision). Because that's what it all comes down to doesn't it? Decisions?

Some decisions made themselves. If there were three options and you could only afford one of them, that's not a decision that's a reality. But other decisions, sometimes over the stupidest things, can destroy you.

Which care facility do I choose?... now that was a decision. You can see how that would tear me up inside, both before and after making it. To this day I question whether I made the right choice.

Do I sign the papers to enter mom into hospice?... was a decision that seemed so easy ("God, yes... she would have never, ever wanted to live this way!") but it was also an agonizing one to make. How do I sign what is essentially her death warrant?

Which of these pajamas do I pick?... sounds idiotic, I know, but just think about it for a minute. When you have no memory, all you have is the "right now." Spending the only thing you have with pajamas that itch... or pajamas with a design you hate... or pajamas where the color disturbs you... it's tantamount to torture, isn't it? So what do I buy? How will I know if they are uncomfortable or upsetting? Sometimes she wouldn't respond. Sometimes she'd tell her caregivers at the facility if something was wrong and they would pass it along, but most of the times all I could do was wonder if I made the right decision.

Is telling a lie wrong if it helps make life better?... if I'm honest, I still have no idea. And I questioned it every time I put that sign up.

But what was the alternative? I never tried a sign which said "David probably WON'T be back in 15 minutes, but believe it anyway because I have no idea what I'm doing or how to make things better... but I will be back eventually because I love you."

Eh... probably wouldn't have been the best decision I could have made.

Or would it?

I can't decide.

At least now I have that luxury.

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