Fresh WP Madness

Don’t know what’s going on in WordPress world this week. There’s probably a blog post somewhere explaining some shit. Not interested in chasing it down.

On my side, I’m not having ‘issues’, per se; WP is just up to a different level of annoying. Whenever I publish a blog, it doesn’t announce that it’s published; instead it comes up and presents the ‘Update’ button in the upper right hand corner. When I then leave that post after publishing it, WP asks, “Leave site? Changes you made might not be saved.”

That leaves me asking, “Changes? WHAT CHANGES? I just published the friggin’ thing.”

Anyone else seeing any of this? Or am I alone in the madness?

Amazonitis

A brief bout of Amazonitis hit our house this week. Don’t know if you’ve ever been afflicted. Essentially, it’s a common medical condition brought on by something that Amazon or its affiliates do. First, someone’s mood grows foul. The person is then often afflicted with spurts of anger and short temper, accompanied by swearing at the computer. Side-effects include swearing at other people, the news, and animals.

My wife was afflicted first. Her book club is meeting on Wednesday next week. The book chosen for 2021 is Girl, Woman, Other. As soon as the announcement was made in early December, I went online to the library, checked for copies, and put it on hold. I was number two billion on five copies. (Yes, that’s an exaggeration for effect; actual number was seventeen on six copies.) (My wife’s library card doesn’t permit her to put books on hold online. Her card is part of an older system. The system was revamped five years ago. One needed to go in and get a new card. She never did that, so my card is used for her requests along with my requests. I don’t mind; I need to keep the karma points.) (Okay, I mind a little.)

I tracked progress of the book on hold. I’d reach number nine by the last week of December. Okay, the library book wasn’t going to be received in time. In lockdown, finding it locally was something she shied away from doing. The book was ordered online from Amazon.

Amazonian wheels began turning. The order was processed. Shipment took place. Estimated delivery was by 8 PM on January 8th. Candles were lit. The vigil began. Shipment notifications claimed it was out for delivery. The front lights were turned on to help the deliverer find their way.

Eight PM passed without a delivery. “It’s not here,” my wife growled, the first stage of Amazonitis. “Let me see what the tracking notification says.” She opened her computer. “What the actual fuck! They say it’s in Hillsborough, Oregon.”

Hillsborough is a suburb of Portland, about two hundred ninety miles away.

My wife turned to me. “It’s not going to be here until between the twelfth and fourteenth now. Book club is on the thirteenth. I won’t have time to read the book. Where can I get it?”

I did online searches of local bookstores to see what could be done. Wasn’t in.

“Can you order on Kindle?” my wife asked. “Do you have an app? Can I read it on the iPad?” Lots of questions, for which I thought, sure. That’s when my Amazonitis struck.

I went to Amazon, found the book, and ordered a digital copy. Amazon said, “Download our free app and read it now!” I downloaded the app. “Your devices don’t support the app,” Amazon answered. “Want to buy a new device that does?”

WTAF? You’re telling me that I can’t read it with your app on my ‘puter? WTAF?

I didn’t realize it then, but I’d already caught the Amazonitis.

The bug was spreading fast through me. Two of our floofs, Tucker and Boo, started a hissing and growling contest under my desk. “If you two don’t stop now, I’ll give you two something to hiss and growl about!” I yelled.

My wife laughed. “That’s something that I bet your Dad never said to you.”

The Amazonitis had attacked my sense of humor. I wasn’t in the mood. I’d followed a link to another app they recommended, downloaded and installed it. Then I clicked to read the book.

Unfortunately, the book was completely blank. Hundreds of blank pages. In fact, there were no pages with any words, letters, or numbers.

The Amazonitis crept deeper into my muscles. “What the actual fuck?” I snapped. On the Kinder app, my newly purchased book didn’t even show up. As Amazonitis wrapped its tentacles around me and my anger surged, I went back to my orders. Under the book on my order page was a little ‘Read Now’ button. I clicked it to see what would happen.

The book opened.

That was it? Why, oh ‘great Amazon’, I snarled in my angriest internal voice, did you have me go through all that shit about downloading apps and chasing links if I could just order it and click and read it right there on the page? Huh? Why? Why, why, why?

The crises had been averted, more or less. My wife couldn’t read the book on the iPad but she could read it on her Mac. (None of the apps had been downloaded and installed on her Mac, BTW. It was all done on the iPad or my Dell. So, she could read it on her Mac without any app.) No, she couldn’t take it to read in the bath, but, oh, well. The Amazonitis began to creep out of our systems.

Today, she checked on the tracking notification for the other book. You know, the hard copy that was supposed to be delivered by 8 PM on the 7th. The one which had suddenly been changed to a delivery date of between Jan 12 and 14.

“They say it’s been delivered,” she said.

“Where?” I asked. It was about two PM. I went to the front porch.

There it was, sitting on the mat.

I felt a new bout of Amazonitis coming on.

A Dream

Last night’s main feature on the dream stage was a lengthy one, like Boyhood length (two hours forty-five minutes). (So it felt in the dream.) Expressing several layers, I thought I’d touch on highlights.

I was traveling on a jet. I knew that because I was told at the beginning that we were leaving on a jet, but never saw the aircraft. It was big; I had a large suite with several bedrooms on it. That was at the end of a long hallway.

Toward the middle of the dream, a friend (B) visited from Alaska. She and I sat at a window drawing with pencils. When she finished, she handed me a detailed drawing of me. Her skill amazed me. “I drew this for you,” she said. After thanking her, I studied it a bit, then decided it could be improved. I commenced doing that in stages. I showed her and told her what I’d done. She answered, “It’s yours, so do what you want.” She went off to get a drink.

My cat, Rocky, drew my attention. As an explanatory note, Rocky passed away about sixteen years ago. He was the only survivor of a litter found in a hoarding situation when we lived in Germany.

Rocky was approaching a square hole in the carpeted floor. I worried about him, as a red creature had been spotted at that hole, threatening a child earlier in the dream.

Rocky went up to the hole and stopped. The red thing came out, as I’d feared. Rocky retreated. The thing went after him.

I jumped up to go help Rocky, but Rocky swatted the thing off a ledge, which knocked it out of the aircraft. “Smart kitty,” I said. He then went off exploring, and was looking over the edge, out of the aircraft. I told him to be careful.

Then I was busy with other things. One thing I noticed was that the suite door was open. I closed it. When I turned around, I saw Rocky disappear over the ledge. Rushing over, I called him. There was scratching at the door. I hurried over and opened it to Rocky. He strolled in, nonchalant as ever.

The dream continued. I’m leaping forward in it. The others, who were my wife’s family and traveling with us, had returned. Someone ordered a beer from room service. We were talking about what we were going to do that day. I had one of my old Blackberry phones. On a whim, I decided I wanted to call the voice mail from the past. I couldn’t remember the number but just told the phone, call voice mail. A woman started talking. Assuming it was voice mail, I pressed some buttons to stop that. The system asked me if I was certain I wanted to reset it. I pressed escape.

After starting over, I heard the same female voice talking. I put her on my speaker. Then I realized that it was a live call. I wasn’t certain if she was calling from the past or if I’d slipped into the past. She was telling me a conversation with one of our engineers. “We use BlackICE 2.2 to run our security. It’s just a basic installation. He thought we’d still be able to do it but we’d need a key to do it and needed to talk to you.”

BlackICE was a startup that I worked with around 2000. All of what she said aligned with my BlackICE role.

I told her, “No. It can’t be done. That was almost twenty years ago. BlackICE 2.2 would no longer work. It’s no longer a product, and the company has been bought by other companies. I’m afraid that you need to move on.”

The dream continued — it was long, believe me — but those on the highlights for me.

Comfloofter

Comfloofter (floofinition) – A a machine that can be instructed to carry out sequences to find, share, or impart information about animals.

In use: “He got on his comfloofter and connected to the net every day to read stories about animals – animals helping animals, animals being adopted, people helping animals. The stories made him feel a little better about the world.”

Thursday’s Theme Music

After thinking about the dreams and feeding the cats, I was making breakfast and started singing “Black Balloon” by the Goo Goo Dolls (1999). I thought, why not have a song about falling into addiction as a theme song? Seems appropriate for this social media age.

Yeah, my thoughts are slightly spun by the impact of a dramamentary, or docudrama, The Social Dilemma, and all about the efforts to push us to like more and more to make these platforms money. Many people find themselves caught up in chasing information. I go in and out of it, but it mostly bores me. The same stuff is displayed again and again.

Anyway, here’s the music. Hope you find something in it. Remember, stay positive, test negative, wear a mask, and get the vaccine. Cheers

The Finds (2)

“Shit! Shit!” Scratched, exhausted, and dehydrated, Bruce fell to his knees and stared. There was no air yacht. There was nothing but an empty field of lightly waving weeds. “Shit.”

Trotting ahead, Jasper the dog paused to look back at him. Bruce let himself sink to his knees. That whole climb up, he’d been going through ideas about what an air yacht looked like. Between those ideas, he’d rested, questioning if there wasn’t a better way to get up the damn hill, and entertained ideas about the couple and their demise. Seemed weirder as he thought about it. As weird, the dog didn’t seem to care. The dog, in fact, appeared to have the best grasp of events.

Now, up here at almost dusk, knees quaking, back aching, stomach rumbling, Bruce wanted to spew. Stupid of him. Stupid. Jerking weeds out, he tossed them aside in anger. “Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit.” So erudite. His teachers and parents would be proud. Maneuvering to sit, he pulled out his water. The dog was still watching him, like he was waiting. “What?” Bruce called. “What?” Now he’d have a dog following him. Getting food and water for himself was enough struggle without adding a canine mouth to feed. Fuck. He should have never gotten involved. Should’ve just kept walking. That would teach him to be humane to another. Never again, no, never again.

Standing, he remembered the fob, peered around, and dug it out of his pocket. Nothing special, just one of those made for keyless entry to cars. Light gold, it had three buttons, none marked. What the hell, he decided, pressing the top button.

A series of short tones sang through the air, then the side of a vehicle appeared. Vehicle? Forty, fifty feet long…yeah, “A yacht,” he scoffed. “What the hell?” Gawking as Jasper trotted toward it, Bruce stumbled forward. The thing was tall, like three stories (levels?). Lights were on. It had a porch running most of its length. Steps led up onto the porch, where there was an open door. Jasper was just going through that.

“What the hell.” Suspicious, Bruce put a hand on the old man’s gun and exercised a slow three sixty of the area. No others were around. It was cooling as the sun turned red and drooped toward the horizon, less like it was done and more like it was giving up. Yeah, what the hell.

Pulling the gun out (may as well, in case he needs it) (and hoping he didn’t shoot himself — he really wasn’t comfortable with guns), he sucked in a few deep breaths and strode for the vehicle’s door.

Alexa, Stop

My wife is arguing with Alexa again.

Alexa is the persona ’employed’ by Amazon Echo. My wife and the machine often argue. Usually it’s about the weather.

“Alexa, what will the temperature be at eleven?”

“Here’s information that might answer your question. Band members turn their speakers up to eleven in the 1984 mockumentary, This is Spinal Tap.”

“No, Alexa.” Alexa is still talking. “Alexa, stop. What will the temperature be in Ashland at eleven?”

“The temperature in Ashland, Montana — “

“No, Alexa, stop. What will be the temperature at eleven AM in Ashland, Oregon, today?”

We don’t understand why Alexa will suddenly shift states on us. Alexa’s been with us for a few years. She knows that we live in Ashland, Oregon. We suspect she’s bored and messing with us.

Today’s argument is about music. My wife likes belly-dancing. George Abdo is one of her favorite performers for belly-dancing music. She plays the music almost every day, sometimes several times a day. It’s quite catchy. I sometimes find myself hearing it and belly-dancing. Well, that’s what I call it. My wife doesn’t agree.

“Alexa, play music by George Abdo.”

“Playing music by George Straight.”

“No! Alexa, stop! Alexa, play music by George Abdo.” She carefully enunciates the last name.

“Playing music by Paula Abdul.”

“No, Alexa, fucking stop. What’s wrong with you? You JUST PLAYED IT AN HOUR AGO.”

Alexa doesn’t answer.

“Alexa, play music by George Abdo.”

“Here’s information that — “

“Alexa, stop. Just forget it.”

Just Sayin’

I think some people miss the point behind cutting the cable.

Cutting the cable has been around for a while. It’s an expression used when you decide to terminate cable service. That would’ve once been unthinkable. When I was a child — yeah, here we go.

I’m a boomer, in my sixties. I’ve seen the rise of the microwave and electronics. Cable television came to my neighborhood while I was in high school. Before cable, we were dependent on ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS. One of those networks had two channels in our area.

Reruns were the norm. “Bonanza”, “Gunsmoke”, “Gilligan’s Island”, and “Perry Mason” came on throughout the day, along with every version of a Lucille Ball’s offerings, game shows like “Jeopardy” and “Password”, and talks shows like “The Merv Griffin Show”. As this was a rural, churchy area, so we also had a lot of gospel music sang off-key with with a twang, and plenty of Bible thumping.

Cable, then, expanded our ability to watch different reruns on other channels. We had, I think, thirty-two channels and we paid about twenty dollars a month. None were ‘premium’ channels; HBO, Showtime, and offerings like that were just being thought of and begun in those days. It didn’t come to my area until I’d left the area in 1974.

Still, cable offered us more. That was the point. Then, the point became, cable is offering the same thing over and over, or offering us things that doesn’t interest us. Upon returning to the United States after some overseas assignment, my wife and I subscribed to cable television. It was pretty good for a while. A&E was delivering fresh BBC television shows like “Ballykissangel” and “Doctor Who”. TBS provided reruns. “Original” programming was still a number of years away, along with reality shows.

Off we went to somewhere else outside the U.S. This time, upon returning, we signed up for cable, with some premium offerings.

It was no longer a sweet deal. The price had jumped to over fifty dollars a month. Pausing to put that into perspective, my income was about twenty-five thousand. Our new sports car cost fifteen thousand. Our phone bill (cell phones weren’t on the scene yet) was about twenty-five dollars a month. So fifty a month was a chunk.

Back to cable. Premium movies had already been seen, so I was paying for movie reruns, and they showed them over and over and over. The cable company boasted that we had one hundred channels. Our point was, there was nothing on that we wanted to watch.

That trend worsened, in my mind. We went to a hundred and forty plus channels, two hundred channels, dozens of premium offerings. Prices climbed, but nothing was on. By the time I cut the cable, we’d curtailed the premium offerings. No reason to subscribe because they offered so little. By then, we could rent videos, and then discs at Blockbusters and other places. Eventually, Netflix evolved.

We cut the cable ten years ago. I went with Roku and subscribed to Netflix. I remain a Netflix subscriber. I also subscribe to Hulu basic and Amazon Prime. Others come and go, usually for a month at a time. I’m not the demographic target, though; I have no interest in watching television on my phone.

I monitor streaming offerings, and frequently try them out on a trial basis. They’ve become bloated and useless. Let’s talk SlingTV as an example. They’re offering over a hundred channels for just $65 a month. But looking at them, I know that I’ll end up watching very little of that.

The same happens with countless offerings. They think signing on to more channels is a big deal. It’s not; it goes back to the same problem that plagued us when we had four channels: nothing was on that we wanted to watch.

Original programming helps the situation these days. So does stealing ideas from other countries or importing television series and movies from other countries. As we discovered with A&E, and then BBC America, the rest of the world has fantastic stuff. In example, one show that’s currently doing well in the U.S. in “The Masked Singer”. Just as “Survivor” was an import, so is “The Masked Singer”; it came from Korea.

In the end, this is another rant, innit? Just an aging American musing about the ways that the world does and doesn’t change.

At least with remotes, it’s easier to change the channel. You know what we had to do when I was in high school?

Great Recommendation

I complained about my crusty keyboard in a previous post (Key Crust). A friend who is a member in good standing of Brains on Beer, aka The BoBs, read of my plight. Bob Hoesch suggested SYOSIN Dust Cleaning Mud.

Well, it looked interesting. I thanked Bob for the suggestion with the thought that I’d order it sometime. The product looked intriguing. Many things have looked intriguing though; would it work?

Sometime was this week. The product was ordered and arrived yesterday. It’s like glistening, funky blue Jello, at once gross and appealing. I immediately wanted to play with it and tested it. They recommend that electronics be turned off before using it on them, to avoid shorting systems. My computer was on and I didn’t want to turn it off, so I used it on a phone.

All I did was press it against the face a bit, and then roll it around several times.

It worked great. Surprised and impressed, I hunted other objects for tests. More phones were rounded up, along with the remote controls. The stuff worked so damn well, I was forced to turn off my laptop and try it on the crusty keyboard.

Verdict: wow.

Non-toxic and reusable, it’s made of water, ethanol, and guar gum. Its neon blue color began changing with use. I reckon that I have a few months of use in a jar.

And it is fascinating and impressive. My wife had turned off her Apple, so I used it on it, too. Then the printer. Then I walked around the house, trying it on other things. It worked on them all. It wasn’t always perfect, and sometimes required a few minutes of rolling the stuff around the object or pressing it firmer in, but overall, I’m damn pleased. It’s $6.98 that was well spent.

So, thanks for the recommendation, Bob. Keep ’em coming.

Key Crust

As a writer, I’m forced to work from home during the pandemic. It’s not my preferred place. For some reason, the rambunctious noisiness of coffee shops draw out my muse. I think it’s because I’m there for the purpose of writing.

Unlike home. At home, it’s me, my wife, the cats, the phone, and the world outside my house. As with any job, distractions arise at home that interrupt the work flow. For instance, this morning forced me to address a major distraction: what is that stuff between and around the keys on my keyboard, and how do I get rid of it?

I don’t know why. Maybe I’m embarrassed by the key jam (you know, like toe jam?). I don’t know why; nobody sees my laptop and its key jam (key crust?), so why should I be concerned?

But logic doesn’t always drive my thinking. Neither does emotion nor physical input. There seems to be other realms forcing behavior.

I’ve had this HP Envy for six years. I’ve noticed the key crust before. I’ve tried cleaning it off before. Today, as I finished a second page, sipped coffee and addressed what happens next, I stared down at the crust. Resolution filled me: the crust must be removed.

First, though, the HP Envy name amuses me. Nobody has ever expressed envy at my laptop. The name seems like wishful marketing.

I’ve attacked the crust before. Compressed air has been used on previous machines. (My god, I’ve been using and cleaning computer keyboards since 1981, part of me thinks with a little horror.) I also have a little whisk tool. I’ve used these on the Envy, but the crust is impervious. I next employed toothpicks, q-tips, and various other slender pieces of things. None worked.

But now…ho, ho. I purchased an eyeglass repair kit this week. It has a thousand screws. The screws were what I wanted. I already have two sets of eyeglass screwdrivers. Between my wife and I, we have five pairs of glasses that we use that have suffered detached lenses or stems. In each case, a screw had popped out. As the glasses were otherwise fine, we certainly weren’t going to dispose of them. No we needed to repair them.

We’ve both been wearing prescription glasses since our early teens, dutifully going to doctors, get new prescriptions, and then buying new glasses as regularly as full moons. (At least, it seems like that.) We have a basket full of glasses. We often give old prescription glasses to charity so others can use them, but we have sentimental favorites that we can’t abide to surrender. Naturally, these are the afflicted glasses.

Although I’ve had the tiny screwdrivers for two or three lifetimes, they’ve never been at hand when I stared down at the key crust. Since I’d repaired a pair of glasses last night, the screwdriver set was right there beside me.

And the crust was right before me, almost…mocking me.

This had to end.

Selecting the smallest screwdriver, I carefully worked it around and under the keys, appalled and fascinated by the stuff I was recovering. This, I figured, was an amalgam of cat fur, human hair, and dandruff from us both, along with what the hell else, you know?

I had to employ an exact, tender angle. Each key was individually addressed. Rushing was out of the question. After a relatively short time (yeah, I have no idea how long), the key crust was gone, and the keyboard presentable once again. It really looks so much better.

Then, because I’d been at it so long, my coffee was cold, and but a swallow remained, so fresh coffee was required. Also, since I’d been sitting an hour, some quick exercise. Also, since it was lunchtime and breakfast had been four hours ago, lunch. Also, since my wife made some energy balls yesterday, a couple of them wouldn’t be remiss. Also, I hadn’t checked Facebook or emails (there could be something important there, right?). Also, it looks miserable outside (whose truck is on the street? Why are they parked across from my house?), so what’s the temperature? It rained all night – how much rain did we get? (Less than an inch.) How many more days will it rain? Oh, there’s a winter advisory out for snow over four thousand feet. That’ll end tomorry. Well, we’re not going anywhere, anyway – COVID-10, you know.

Finally, though, it was all addressed and out of the way. Now I’ve got fresh coffee. Time to write like crazy, at least one more time.

Now where the hell was I?

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