Popcorn Night

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.

March Monday Madness

  1. Thinking of the post’s title brings back memories and a smile. Pre-pandemic, I used to regularly visit a coffee shop. I usually ordered mochas there. So, it was Michael’s mocha. Going with the alliteration scheme, Michal’s Mocha sometimes became Michael’s March Madness Monday Mocha. It also took place in May. Just harmless fun, banter between me and the ‘ristas.
  2. The skunk under the house was active last night. Lots of squeaking under the master bath and then arose that smell. We admire this skunk for her persistence and tenacity. She’s like a writer, never giving up, you know?
  3. I shut down the skunk’s activity last nightwell, it was this morning, really, one twenty-five AM by all the standard references — with the iPad. Turning it on, I called up a video of David Frost interviews. Setting the iPad on the bathroom floor with the volume turned up, I plugged it in so it wouldn’t run out of juice, and closed the door. As soon as David Frost began speaking, the squeaking ceased.
  4. Just to make home life more interesting, we now have what seems to be a gopher hole in the back yard. Investigations are ongoing. More reports forthcoming. We’re a no-kill household, so I’ll probably be turning to sonic stakes to drive them away.
  5. I’m always fearful of calling down the muses’ wrath when I mention that writing is going well, that I’m enjoying the process and entertaining myself with what I write, so I won’t mention it.
  6. I really enjoyed the 60Minutes interview with Colson Whitehead that aired Sunday. First novel rejected twenty-five times and never published. He writes for himself but hopes that one person will identify with and like what he writes, and maybe one will become ten, etc. That’s me paraphrasing, based on what I heard, and perhaps what I wanted to take away from his outlook. He’s won two Pulitzer Prizes, which, great, congratulations to him. More importantly, those two books are in the house in my reading pile. My wife read both and recommend them to me. I seriously trust and respect her judgment in these matters. So, I’ll put those books higher on the pile.
  7. The reading pile is always growing, it seems. Books get recommended or passed on. Reviews are read and chords are struck. Friends publish new books and must be read. A new favorite author is discovered and other works are hunted down for reading. Then, there’s the non-fiction side. Reading is a constant requirement. I’m fortunate to have the time to indulge myself.
  8. I was reading in the living room yesterday afternoon. The book at hand was Countdown City by Ben Winters. It’s a quick, engaging noir adventure. Sunshine bubbled in over my shoulders through the blinds. Sitting, listening, in a pause from reading, I heard no electronics running. No lights were on. The furnace and refrigerator were silent. Radios and television were off, though clocks are running. The home weather station was running, and so was the net and laptops and the associated equipment. But none of these things made sounds. I enjoyed the sunny stillness.
  9. Thinking of clocks…four ‘clocks’ are in the house. Two are in the kitchen, in the microwave and range. Another is in the bedroom. The fourth is a battery operated clock in the snug. But then, we wear Fitbits, which offer us the time. So do the phones, the thermostat, and laptops, printer, and tablets. We track time everywhere.
  10. I’m fussy about synchronizing the clocks, too. I think, or at least, pretend, that it harkens back to my military career. Being synchronized to the second was important to us in that life.
  11. Also to keep life interesting — because these are such boring, tedious times — credit card fraud struck us. I was reviewing my credit card billing last week. It’s a weekly habit for me to go online and review all the finances, a time-killing activity to fill space when I’m putting off doing something else. It just takes a few minutes. Well, lo’, there was a small charge that I didn’t recognize. After verifying it didn’t belong to my wife, I challenged it with the company. They responded by cancelling that card and sending me a new one. However, they didn’t tell me that they were doing that. First I know of it was when the credit card was rejected. That spun me up fast. Suspecting it was related to the fraud that I reported, I checked into the account to look for notice that such is what happened. No notice. A chat with an agent was required to verify cause and effect. It would have been nice to be warned or notified that they’d done this, right? Irritating customer service policy, to say the least.
  12. We have only two credit card accounts. Each is used for certain activities, to help limit exposure. That meant, though, that we are down one credit card. Momentarily, yes, but it’s a domino effect. Emails arrive, hey, your card was rejected, what up? No idea when the new card will arrive so some activities are on stuck in a queue. Whereas I had reduced checking the mail to once a week in general, sometimes twice in one week, I’ll now be going to the mailbox daily.
  13. Also, I knew that credit card information. I could rattle off the number, expiration date, and security code without hesitation. Now I’m forced to learn a new number and particulars. Yeah, I like whining, don’t I?
  14. Got my coffee. Ready to write like crazy at least one more time.

Netfloof

Netfloof (floofinition) – Video content production company and streaming service operated by and provided to animals headquartered in Los Floofos, Califloofia. Founded in 1997, the company currently provides service to multiple planets and dimensions via quantum electronics.

In use: “Some of the original content that Netfloof offers includes shows such as House of Floofs and Floofless, offerings which mirror original human content.”

The Goal

I’m swearing about modern technology again. It’s all so easy, so taken for granted, they have groomed me to complain.

Today’s target is my Fitbit. It needs recharged, again. Every few days, this takes place. I wear the thing almost 24/7, removing it only to save it from the showers. The rest of time finds it hugging my right wrist, monitoring my activity. Sure, it sends me an email when it needs recharged. That email arrives at 1:30 to 2:00 AM. I supposed, if I’m more rigorously disciplined and attentive, I can train myself to check it each night when I’ve reached my goal and see how much remains on the charge. Yeah, I could, but I’m lazy.

“It wouldn’t need to be recharged so much if you didn’t keep using it,” my wife observes.

A growl is given back. This is not time for humor. Charging the fitbit means removing it from my wrist and waiting while it charges. While it charges, I’m not collecting steps. My goal each day is twelve miles. It’s a new goal every morning, achieved every night. No, I haven’t walked it, didn’t run it, swim it, bike it; it’s an accumulation of twelve miles of activities, twelve miles achieved each day, something tangible.

Writing is different. I use word counts as mileposts but they don’t matter. I may have added words but the novel isn’t finished. I’m not certain how close to being done it is. I have guesses which makes sense, but I know, even when it’s ‘done’, it isn’t done. It needs revised and edited. Even then, it’s not done. It’s not published, not finalized in some concrete form. Until it reaches that final moment, it remains a work in progress. It’s like going from Earth to Mars; it’s gonna take a while.

So, I pursue my twelve miles every day, a goal established each morning, something achieved each night, something to make me feel good, damn it.

Friday Laments

More first world blues…I’m just cryin’ in my coffee.

  1. One problem with the local C-19 vaccination plan: teachers are a high priority. Great! Many agree with this. But, boo, the shots are being administered during school hours. It’s not a dash and do, either.
  2. Our biggest issue in Oregon is as it is elsewhere, just not enough C-19 vaccine to do the job. People are generally accepting and patient, because that’s how it goes for now.
  3. I went for years without a doctor. Then I had trouble in Peckerville and ended up with a urologist. The trials exposed my hypertension, so I ended up with a GP. Each prescribed medications for conditions – BHP and BP – that I’ll probably take for the rest of my life. Less than three years later, both of these medical professionals are gone. They’d moved into the area, it didn’t work out, and they moved away. I liked both and they did a good job, but I’ll need to find someone new when my prescriptions expire this year.
  4. The healthcare insurance front grows more expensive for me. As a veteran and military retiree after twenty years, I had good healthcare insurance via Tri-Care. There were no premiums. That went on for years. Now, starting this year, I must pay $25 per month premiums. Not bad. But, since I’m turning 65, I’m required to get Medicare Parts A and B in order to keep my Tri-Care. A is free; B is about $150 per month. Guess this is all due to that wonderful ‘support the troops’ rhetoric that I often hear. As it so often happened, big promises were made with great patriotic fanfare and furor. Then, when the bill came, everything changed.
  5. I’ve ordered meals online from restaurants three times in the last three months. Each was to give us breaks from what’s in our larder and breaks from cooking. It’s a treat. But each time, they’ve offered a coupon, and then, each time, there’s no place to enter the coupon code when the order is processed. Small matter, but irritating: like a lot of modern life, it seems like a false promise.
  6. What I’m watching: “Baptiste” on PBS via Prime — terrific series; “His Dark Materials” on HBOMax, very strong, good production values and acting, faithful to the trilogy; “Doom Patrol” on HBOMax but it’s falling in our appreciation as the characters become sillier and seem to take forever to come to grip with matters; “All Creatures Great and Small”, a remake of the first series of that name, based on the books, and it’s almost as entertaining and charming as the first go-around. We’re not watching “The Undoing” which just seemed too insipid in too many ways after three episodes; we prefer more dynamic and intelligent characters. Just recommended to us is Portait of A Lady on Fire and Mary Shelley, so they’ve been added to the list. Still working through the last of “Vera” and “The Wire” during late night down time.
  7. Hulu manages to continue to irk me. Their system often seems to think we’ve watched an episode that we haven’t and wants to jump us ahead. It’s happened enough times that I don’t just click and go, but make mental notes: what’s the season, episode number, and title that I’m watching now? What was the last one watched? What’s the summary? Did we see this? No. I saw others experienced this. The fix is the digital equivalent of a hard reboot or a hammer to an appliance: sign out and sign back in. That works most of the time, it’s claimed. Guess I’ll try it. Haven’t done so yet because logging in with a remote is a pain, you know? I’m such a whiner.
  8. Meanwhile, Prime Video, the service previously known as Amazon Prime Video, has the opposite issue, insisting that I haven’t watched an episode when I’ve already watched it.
  9. Got my coffee. Time once again to write like crazy. Meeting Text for the first time today. She’s the late Zipper’s daughter. Looking forward to what she has to say.

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

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