- Well, the stories circulating the net about me are true: I changed my underwear. Like many, I started as a tighty whitey in the sixties. Bikini briefs burst on the scene and I went over to those in my early twenties. Eventually, I found my way to boxers in my late twenties, and rested on that preference for several decades. In fact, I’d not bought underwear since the end of the last century. My boxer collection fit. They worked. They were wearing thin, become more like see through lingerie. I reacted, whatever. Mom used to warn me about having clean underwear without holes in them when I was a youth, in the event of an accident. We’ve all heard about that trope, haven’t we? I was rebelling agin’ it. If people could wear jeans with holes cut in them as a fashion statement, I could wear underwear with holes in them.
- The new undies are boxer briefs. They have a little sack for my sack. It’s a sack sack. They’re also made of stretchy cotton. They cradle my butt and hold it up. Sexy, yes? Well, we’ll see about that, but they are comfy. Now I must go out with the old.
- Thinking with out with the old, I looked up something on the net yesterday. Algorithms behind searches and advertising thought that I should be reminded that Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones starred in The Fugtitive in 1993. That’s a good marker for change. I was in the military at what became my final duty assignment at Onizuka in California. A few families decided to go to the ‘Drive-in Movies’ because the last one in the San Jose-Mountain View-Santa Clara-etc. area was closing in a few weeks. We bought pizzas and watched The Fugitive. It was my final drive-in movie experience.
- I loved going to the drive-in movies with my family as a child. Mom did it right. Made fudge. A big roaster of salted, buttered popcorn. Iced lemonade to drink. We took pillows and blankets. Arriving early for a good spot was a must. That meant getting there before dusks. The movies began at dusk. To kill the time until then, we spent time on a playground up in the front by the big screen. Then darkness fell. The speaker was attached to the window. Commercials played. Cartoons followed. Then the movies.
- Although, one year, at the drive-in, I was on the see-saw (or teeter totter) as a young one (five?). Dad was supervising us. He was holding me up while helping my sister off on the other end. I decided to get off. Just as the see-saw came down. Landed on my ankles. Didn’t break them but did serious damage. I was restricted to bed rest for weeks.
- Painting yesterday required me to empty the home entertainment center. To move it and paint the wall behind it. Although infrequently used, I’m loaded with CD. Hundreds. The CD player has space for 200. Bought that thing waaayyy back in Germany in 1990. Amazing it still works as designed. My wife wondered if I could part with some CDs. I declined. I’m saving them for the apocalypse. I’ll crank up a generator and my music. Meanwhile, I was listening to classic rock through Alexa as I painted, because the stereo was dismantled to move the entertainment center.
- The bee tree is humming today! Don’t know what kind of tree it is but it’s tall and fragrant. Bees love it. Early last week, I walked past it. Hearing silence, seeing no bees brought on a touch of weary depression. Then, two days later, I noticed bees had arrived and were singing as they worked. Today they had a huge chorus going. I can sit in the office and watch them flying to and from the tree and around the branches. Go, bees!
- We’ve been trying (again) to simplify. (I know, I should start with the CDs (or old underwear), but I’m not.) We usually buy used books and then sell them to book stores. If we can’t do that, we give them to Goodwill and/or swap them at tiny libraries. But circumstances (COVID-19) has prevented us from selling or donating books. We have boxes and books full of hardbacks, trade backs, paperbacks. Seeking a new way, we looked at selling them back to book stores online. We’re fans of Powell’s City of Books, so we started with them. Twenty books were selected that met their condition guidelines. I put the ISBNs in; eleven books were selected. We printed out the UPS label. Packed up the box. Took it to UPS. Powell’s received it the next day. That was over two weeks ago. Silence since then. We’re disappointed. We’re talking about trying other places.
- It’s wildfire season again here in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. Heat is rising, the drought is spreading and deepening. Vegetation is going brown. Ashand Firewise Program urges homeowners, land owners, and businesses to clean up their area. It’s an ‘or-else’ situation. They will fine you. Cut your weeds and grass to less than four inches because otherwise, it’s fire fuel. Clean up your dead leaves, or it’s fire fuel. Ditto, fallen branches. Yet, walking home along a main road in Ashland, the city’s property is covered with leaves and the debris that they urge us to clean up, or-else. Another case as do as I say, not as I do.
- I’ve made a resolution for 2022: don’t go to the emergency room. Been to the ER three years running. 2019 was for an enlarged prostate/blocked urethra. 2020 saw me break two bones in my left arm. 2021 had me in being treated for a kidney stone. That’s enough, okay?
So, here we go again, first world blues. I’m just a jaded American who is too easily irritated and prone to whining.
Amazon and the USPS are at my issue’s center. Really, it’s more than that. I have a cat getting on in age. He’s been puking often. Give him hairball stuff. These are hard little pellets. He likes them. They help some. But still, a puke every other day. He’s otherwise a happy, healthy, good-looking boy.
Reading online, others suggest a raised tilted food bowl will help alleviate the issue. Well, why not? I will try that.
I searched locally. Nada. Widened the local search. Nada. Reluctantly turned to the net. Ended up on Amazon. I really try to avoid ordering from Amazon. Amazon is wealthy. Its founder, Bezos is super-wealthy, as wealthy as a small nation. Doesn’t pay much in taxes, he or his corporation. That sort of matter irritates me. Plus, I hear his employees aren’t overly happy working for him.
So, avoid them when I can. But I went with the bowl on Amazon because, reviews, and convenience. Well, so much for convenience.
It shipped right out. Great. Was due for delivery yesterday. USPS. Okay. Was out for delivery at 6:10 AM. Either my wife and I were home all day. Never a time when both of us were out.
Checked the front porch throughout the day. Nada. Talked to Alexa about it. Chirpy as always, she assured me it was out for delivery. Went up and checked the mailbox at 6:30 PM. Nada. Checked online. Out for delivery. Okay.
First thing this morning, I asked Alexa about the delivery. “Your package was delivered to your selected pick up point.”
What the hell does that mean? I checked the front porch. Nada. Dressed, I prepared to walk up to our mailbox. On a whim, though, I checked online.
They said it was waiting for pick up. The USPS claimed that they tried delivering it at 4:02 PM. Now it happens that I know that I was at home at 4 PM. I was at that moment reading a book, “Law of Innocence” by Michael Connolly. I was doing that in the dining room, about fourteen feet from the front door. Facing the kitchen window. Which looks out at the front porch. I know that time because I was thinking that I had to make dinner but I wanted to walk a few miles and what time would I do these things? If someone walked onto the front porch, I would have seen them. Had they knocked, I would have heard them. If they rang the bell, you get it.
I was annoyed. No, pissed. Mostly because the USPS lied to me. Then they shifted the burden of delivery to me. I can either walk or drive a few miles to get the package they’d been hired to deliver.
Yes, I know. First world blues, right?
I decided to contact Amazon ‘customer service’ about. Can’t really call it customer service. It’s a bot that sent me around in circles without satisfaction. The bot said it was delivered. I replied, “I didn’t get it.”
“Did you look around the house?” the bot inquired.
No, I’m an idiot and this is the first time that I’ve ever had something delivered, I snapped back, but that answer wasn’t available to enter. You can only enter pre-canned responses. It makes it easier on Amazon. I selected, “Yes, I didn’t find it.”
“Well,” the bot replied, “the status was updated too early. It’ll get there.”
That was it.
I searched for ways to contact Amazon. They provided me a number to call USPS. I imagined how that call would go.
Yes, I know the answer to all of this. “You get what you pay for.”
I finally succumbed to talking to Amazon. Didn’t want to. Like most Americans, I prefer written correspondence. But I hit the button. Amazon called. I talked them through it. They contacted the USPS and brought them up on the call. “It was an early scan,” the USPS rep said.
“It’ll be delivered tomorrow.”
They thanked me for my patience.
I hung up.
Sun broke in the day at 5:37 AM, kicking the heat up to 71 degrees F. We hit 101 at my house yesterday, and it only dropped to 64 during the night. We expect the high to be a more merciful 96 before the Earth’s rotation moves us away from the sun again at 8:41 PM.
Today is Wednesday, June 2, 2021. We’re almost to the year’s midpoint. As for COVID-19 vaccinations, we’ve passed 54 percent in Oregon for at least one shot. Our neighbors to the north and south, Washington and California, are about the same. Idaho to the east, though, is leveling off at below forty percent. It’s like they’re not even trying.
Today’s music is dream inspired. I joined the blues society in my dream. I thought one of my favorite performances of a song called “Why I Sing the Blues” would be a satisfying theme song. Thanks to technology, we can enjoy this moment. Here’s B.B King, Albert King, Gladys Knight, Etta James, Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Billy Ocean, Doctor John, Chaka Khan…and more. What a line-up.
Get the vax, wear a mask as needed, test negative, and stay positive. Enjoy the blues. Cheers
- Besides COVID-19, the drought and the threat of wildfires, we’re wondering about how the crazy worms will affect us.
- I’m also concerned that I’m not cheugy.
- Well, not that concerned.
- I’ve been accepted by Medicare. As a military retiree of a certain era, I’m covered by Tricare. Tricare requires me to get Medicare A and B when I turn 65. That happens in July. I applied when I became eligible. A few days later, I was accepted. Meanwhile, I receive phone calls, emails, and snail mail from individuals and companies offering to help me navigate making my Medicare choices. It’s another industry. Everything becomes an industry, and as you reach certain milestones, they make you aware of it. It used to be that my junk mail was all about buying a new car, shopping for clothes, or taking vacations. Now it’s about hearing aids, funeral services, Medicare, reverse mortgages, and Viagra.
- Of course, there’s a few new industries afflicting all of us who own a home or car. We receive regular phone calls about our car and home warranties. In our house, we don’t answer the phone unless we recognize the number. The other industry that’s aggressively chasing us is insurance against our water pipes bursting in our yard. A WaPo article says, in essence, yeah, it’s another scam.
- I think one of my cats has short-term memory issues. Whenever Boo encounters our other cats, Papi and Tucker, he reacts like, “OMG, who the hell are you?”
- To mitigate the fire threat in our town, a ‘firewise’ program has been established. Basically, don’t use any bark mulch on the ground. Don’t grow any flammable plants within five feet of the house. Store wood products that you might have at east thirty feet from the house. Trim back all branches so they’re not touching the house or close enough for flames to leap from the tree to the roof. Get rid of wooden decks, wooden fences, conifers and blackberries. Walking around Ashland, I can see that the program has made little progress. We were affected by a fire last year. There were actually three fires on the same very windy day. All three were started by individuals. The firewise program can’t address the wind or deliberate fires.
- They also tell us to keep your plants watered so they don’t dry out and become fuel, but we’re in an extreme drought, so hey, there’s little water to water plants. The only option appears to be to pull out all your plants except those of a desert variety and put small stones or pebbles in your yard to help reduce moisture. Of course, I’m also exploring polymers that are supposed to help the soil retain moisture.
- Delivering decorative bark (or mulch) had become a growing industry. Go to any hardware store’s garden area and there’s bags and bags of variations. Blower trucks will load up and come to your house and spread it for you with a giant reverse vacuum cleaner. Now, I suspect a new industry, to vacuum it all back up, will begin taking root.
- I thought that killer bees and murder hornets were bad. Now we can add crazy worms to the list of things nature has devised to make the world more interesting. The MSN story says, “Pick one up, and you’ll see why, as the creepy-crawly jerks, writhes and springs out of your hand. (It may even leave its tail behind, as a grim souvenir.) And now, scientists are finding the wrigglers have spread to at least 15 states across the U.S.” They resemble regular worms and are bad for the soil.
- I have a crazy cat. I really don’t want crazy worms.
- My wife is on her weekly coffee clatch call. Pre-COVID-19, they’d meet after exercise class every M-W-F. Their pandemic compromise is to meet every Friday after exercise class. They have a good time. Lots of laughing. I hear her now talking about her sagging breasts and my drooping scrotum. I’d told her that my sack hung in the water in the hotel toilet during our visit last week. Disgusting, right? Once you feel and know it, you can take action by not sitting all the way down. This is another reason why I prefer to stand and pee, even though I’m cursed with a forked stream. Aging. There’s always something.
- Haven’t smelled any skunk for over thirty days, yeah, knock on wood. I’m superstitious that way. Haven’t smelled the skunk, or sighted one, but my wife reports that she heard a thump last night for the first time in weeks. Time to block the entry (again) and see what happens. I would mount my camera but it has quit working. I’ve not been able to reset it and connect it nor receive any images from it. I don’t want to buy a new one because, waste. We’re such a throw-away consuming society. It’s frustrating.
- Being cheugy doesn’t offend me. And, from what I understand, I am cheugy. Apparently emerging from TikTok, cheugy is the new ‘square’, a way of saying something is passé, or out of it. Tres important, right? I’m bothered by too many other things, like crazy worms and skunks under the house, to think about being trendy.
- Got my coffee. Time to go write like crazy at least one more time. Before the crazy worms get here. We’re already full up on crazy. Even bought a warranty. It was offered on the phone.
Our county library has changed its system.
I was happy with the old system. They didn’t ask me. Running the library was outsourced to a private, for-profit firm several years ago. They asked me. I voted against it. I was outvoted. As a result of that move, the library hours were immediately cut, and people were let go.
Then came the coronarivus…
They’ve been doing a pretty good job during the pandemic. Kinda hard to screw up. Put a book on hold. When it’s available, present self at door. Provide name and card number. Librarian checks book out and gives it to you. You return the book to a drop box when you’re done with it.
That all worked well but changes were required. Technology sprints ahead. We must catch up. ‘They said’ in their notice that it would be easier to search online content and find my books. I was having no problem with those things. They can’t be easier than that, can they?
‘They’ also told me that the first time I logged in, my PIN would be the last four digits of my telephone number. I logged in today and entered the last four digits of my telephone number. ‘That information is incorrect’, the system told me. Okay, reset password.
I went through that, receiving the link to do this in my email account. After I reset my PIN, I went to my account to see what telephone number was in my account.
It was a number that I didn’t know.
Naturally. Technology, right. GIGO. Garbage in, etc.
I changed the number. The system told me a librarian would review the information before updating my account.
I logged out.
A few hours passed. My wife wanted to know what books were on the hold list. She uses my account because she didn’t want to go through the bother of getting a new library card the last time that the system changed, a few years ago.
I logged in.
‘That information is incorrect’, the system told me.
WTF? No, it isn’t.
Well, the system disagreed. Everyone knows that the system wins in these instances.
I reset my password again via an email link. For extra points, I used the PIN that I’d previously created.
Yeah, it took.
I remained logged in afterward. But then again, I decided, log out, because if it doesn’t recognize me and I need to reset my PIN, well, three times is a charm, right?
Does technology know that?
I have my telemedicine video call today. It has an element incorporated that I knew nothing about: digitized smell.
Apparently, recent software improvements has been added to many video-conferencing systems. These improvements capture local air, digitize it, send it through the net to the other end, and then reproduces the smell. This is being done in conjunction with telemedicine calls because studies show that patients develop greater confidence and feel calmer when they experience ‘hospital smells’. That mélange of odors isn’t by accident. It’s actually a carefully contrived blend created by psychologists and marketing specialists over decades of study. It is the smell which makes people feel safer, more secure, and soothed.
Trippy, right? All this time, I thought the smells were an accidental by-product.
The second aspect of the technology is that it allows the healthcare practitioners to smell you. That aids them in their assessment about your state of health.
I can see that. Makes total sense. It’s also fake news. Yes, fiction. Made it all up. Yep, I lied.
- On day five of the three-day green smoothie fast. Yesterday, besides three green smoothies, I enjoyed a few celery sticks, four prunes, a boiled egg, a cup of cubed watermelon, eight raw almonds and a handful of raw walnuts. I feel great, so why not continue? Sure, I was constantly mildly hungry throughout the day. And yes, my stomach talks to me in squeals, growls, and grunts all day, too.
- Okay, I cheated and ate a protein bar in the mid-afternoon.
- Well, the credit card ordeal might be over. Brief recap: was given new cards after reporting fraud on the previous cards. New cards received and activated. Wife wasn’t given chance to set her PIN. We tested: her old PIN didn’t work. Neither did my new one work on her card. Calls were made. A new PIN was set to her. We tested it. Nope. So, I commenced to pursue a fix. After spending over an hour on the phone with three different credit union reps, calling the numbers they specified, etc., I was turned over to a person in the credit card payment division. She listened to the tale. “You’ve been calling the wrong number.” I’d been calling the number the reps had given me. She gave another number. I called it. PIN changed, at least telephonically. We won’t be certain until we use it.
- Makes me wonder, though, you know? Why did it take so long for that number to emerge? Why is there a different number? Customer service and focus continues to die a slow death.
- Ah, technologically. I have a telemedicine call tomorrow. Video with a new family nurse practitioner. Annual event, to renew my meds for BHP and hypertension. Did the hardware check yesterday. Couldn’t connect to the video. Whaaat? The webcam worked last year. Went through all settings for hardware, software, security, privacy, etc. All was as should be. Even said that website had been given permission to use the camera. So…?
- Searched the web for advice and ideas. Microsoft, Kaspersky, HP. Talked to Chatbots for support. Uninstalled, reinstalled, updated drivers, rebooted machine several times, installed new webcam software, checked the device manager, registry, and so on. After three hours, the hardware check claims it works but I get nothing. Tested it on Zoom. Nothing. Nothing, nothing, nothing, except exasperation and frustration. Tested it this morning, just in case. No change.
- Forums are a joke in this regard. Many people reporting the same issue. No solutions found that work. Hell, most solutions were the previously-tried solutions. Ditto, the search engines on every browser and search site tried. They all regurgitate the same results. Remember GIGO? Garbage in, garbage out. Yep.
- Screw it, is my final position. I can use the iPad, which would be tres small. My wife generously offered me her iPad. That might be the way I go.
- Dad is out of the hospital. He was in at least two weeks, but don’t have greater details. He’d told me, don’t call, I’ll call you in a few days. That was weeks ago. He finally called yesterday. Has issues with fluid in legs. Turn bright red, swell, blister, etc., Medicos finally concluded, yep, heart weakening, kidney issues contributing. Wasn’t surprised, as he’s had COPD for decades. Some pulmonary issues were bound to reveal themselves. He’s in great spirits, mind remains sharp. That’s a tale I hear with many, many friends, though. I see the signs, and know where he’s going. Not unexpected, as that’s where we all go. Primary questions are about how long he’s in this declining state, how much pain and suffering he endures, and what his wife and family will experience during this watch.
- Dad and I are both retired military. Twenty-year vets. We receive pensions and healthcare. He retired about twenty-five years before I joined. That makes all the difference. He’s not paying anything for care. Tricare covers everything for him. Then launched into a “no wonder this country is going broke” stand. My Tricare is good, but I have co-pays. Dad does not. I have monthly premiums. Dad does not. I pay a small amount for prescriptions; Dad doesn’t. He also lives in San Antonio. A large military and retired presence there helps him. I live in rural southern Oregon. Time, age, location: that sums up the changes, right? Oh, yeah, and people are living longer, healthcare is constantly evolving, and it all costs. For example, he now has five people coming in each day to help him with different functions, from PT and leg exercises to bathing. He is married, and his wife is there, but I know how hard it is for a spouse to be a care-giver. She’s but a few years younger than him and has her own issues.
- Dissatisfied with offerings from U.S. television, we now watch a lot of foreign stuff. Mostly European. Dramas and comedies don’t work well, but thrillers, mysteries, and procedurals do. We try American offerings. We find them shallow, formulaic, and simplistic. Pretty people with fake issues to enhance tension dominate. Cry us another, you know? Right now, we’re watching Swedish, German, French, Italian, and British offerings. Don’t have anything coming out of Canada that entices me, which is a surprise. Same with the Aussies. But this might be the streaming gap, you know?
- Watching foreign television shows, we’re often entices by the settings. The procedurals often take place on the coast, an island, or a lake. They’re beautiful, intriguing places. I told my wife that we should set up tours to these places. That would cost a mint, and it’s impossible during the pandemic. If I had to chose one, I’d go to the Stockholm archipelago where “The Sandhamm Murders” is set.
- Okay, have my coffee. Time to write like crazy, at least one more time.
I’m always complaining, ranting, and whining about things that don’t work. Especially technology that doesn’t work or that doesn’t live up to the initial hype. Like ATMs. Teller machines. They were supposed to save us all money, they claimed, back in the beginning. Why, with the savings they would make, they’d be paying us zillions of dollars in interest. Sure.
Customer service is usually my target. I’m still dealing with the PIN issued for the new credit card because the PIN still doesn’t work —
But that’s not what this post is supposed to be about, so let me make that shift. This is instead about doing my income taxes.
I use software to do my taxes, been doing that for over twenty years. I’ve been using H&R Block’s software for the last nine years. Each year, the whole process becomes a little better. This year, it sparkled with amazing efficiency. I completed the taxes and filed a few weeks ago. “Your return should be accepted without two to three days,” the software told me. Zap, my Fed return was accepted in thirty minutes. Thirty minutes later, Oregon accepted it.
Well, cool, isn’t that great? I thought so. “You should receive your refund in two to three weeks,” the software told me. The IRS has made this part really easy, establishing a place online where you can put in some info and see what’s going on with your tax return. I figured that I’d check that the next week for an update.
Two days later, I checked into the checking account online. Lo, a deposit was pending, and gave the date when it would be received, along with the amount. Yes, it was my tax refund. I was receiving it less than seven days after filing.
I thought that deserved a shout out.
Digital lapse was endured.
Familiar with it? That’s when you click or press and nada takes place. But, being experienced, you know that something has taken place. It’s just not revealed. Novices will think nothing has happened and press buttons or click more. The clicks and taps accumulate, causing a crash or a sudden surge of activities that take you to somewhere that you don’t want to be, digitally speaking, like the wrong screen.
I’m not a novice. I’ve been clicking remotes on digital devices for a decade. Digital lapse is an old adversary. I experience it most with our streaming devices for viewing television shows and movies. Disney Plus is the worst offender in my current stable of providers. But finally I was on the screen where “The Mandalorian” was being offered. One blessing from the Disney Plus site is that it doesn’t immediately start playing trailers. It’s just quiet. Waiting.
I jumped up and set down the remote. Head down, a cat eyed me, ears moving toward my racket. “Popcorn?” I moved around my desk.
We were in the office. We are spoiled people. Although we have a sixty-five inch curved-screen 4K ultra-high definition smart TV in the living room, with surround sound, we do ninety percent of our television viewing in the home office. My wife calls it the snug. A twenty-seven inch flat screen television is mounted on one wall. My desk faces it. So does a recliner in the corner. My wife reclined there. Busy with a game on her AirMac or whatever her Apple machine is called, she nodded.
Making popcorn has become simple. Back when I was a child, popping corn required oil, popcorn, and a big black cast iron Dutch oven. Oil was spread across the bottom. The Dutch oven’s bottom, not mine. You know, inside it. Heat applied. Three kernels were dropped in. A lid applied. The kernels were monitored. Once they popped, kernels were poured in and spread across the hot oil, covering the bottom. Lid applied, a pot holder was acquired. I’d stand there, shaking the Dutch over as the kernels popped.
Jiffy Pop changed it. No need to pour everything. Just peel off the cardboard lid, hold the tin pan over the flame, and shake as the kernels cooked and the foil cover rose.
Microwaves changed it up again. We experimented with several methods before Pop Secret came along. It was just a folded bag. Put it in the microwave, one side up, and press the button. Then monitor as the popping proceeded.
Monitoring has remained the constant. The popcorn was always being monitored. Was that the last pop? Time to stop.
Deciding that we didn’t like that kind of microwave popcorn, our household had regressed back to where I’d started, oil in pan, kernels, lid, popping, add corn, lid, shake. No longer, though. We’d acquired a silicon microwave popcorn maker last year. No oil. Pour the popcorn in to the line. Apply silicon lid. Turn microwave on for four minutes. Monitor. Is that the last pop? Count to five.
It’s amazingly simple, quiet, and easy. So is clean up. I fear that it won’t last. News will break. Scientists will announce that radicalized burrblelons released from the silicon attacks your nervous system when you ingest popcorn made in such a manner. That’s how everything seems to be: something good is found and announced. We like it. Then we discover it’s bad for you or the world.
I poured the popcorn into bowls, flavored it with nutritional yeast, cleaned out the silicon popper and put it away, and headed back to the snug.
The cat had taken my seat. Curled up tightly, he didn’t bother looking up. Ears and tail were still. His eyes were closed. Probably pretending to be asleep.
Dropping to my knees on the carpet beside him, I picked up the remote and pressed play. Digital lapse was endured. Then the show began.