Dream Overanalysis

I recently experienced an interesting phenomenon, and wonder if any of you have as well.

I was having a dream which, like most of my dreams, occurred in my childhood home in Temecula. My buddy, who was ostensibly staying the night because we’re going on a vacation together soon (that part is true), had left his electric toothbrush running, and it was just sitting there buzzing on the staircase. As if he’d vanished into thin air. Sure enough, I call out for him and start looking around the house, and realize EVERYONE has vanished (parents, etc.). There were even the empty piles of clothes laying crumpled on the ground to prove it.

Here’s the fascinating part. My higher level brain actually stepped in and said “Oh look, a ‘nobody exists’ / ‘everybody vanished’ Twilight-Zone-esque dream.. cool, never had one of these before.” Literally. It also fought with the subconscious a bit at some point, where the latter was like “don’t go in there, it could be scary!”, but the higher thought said “full speed ahead, charge!”. Or maybe that was vice-versa. Anyway, it was REALLY interesting to me looking back on it — how those two different planes of consciousness worked and interacted with each other.

Dreams are weird, man. But also really neat. If we ever invent the technology to record and replay our dreams in vivid detail, I… well, we’d drive ourselves insane, realistically. But it could be fun! =P

a blue winter dreamscape with trees and mountains and a planet in the sky
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Welcome (again)

Since WP’s ‘Page’ creator was being a recalcitrant child (to borrow a phrase from my Australian coworker — you’re required to read it in an accent, obviously), I’m writing this post to ‘stick’ to the top. You see, dear reader, I handed out a few impromptu business cards recently, advertising myself as a “small scale IT service”. Which really means I get to play with other people’s computers for money. And not much money, either, let’s be clear about that. Heck, sometimes I do it for free. But we’ll get to that in another post. Also there’s a lot of mansplaining “The Cloud”.

So, to anybody finding this page for the first time. Hi! Welcome to my personal site / blog / thing that I sometimes write stuff on. On which I sometimes write. Thank you grammar 101. You’ll find a lot of posts (that’s what you call a piece of writing in a blog, a “post”) about my grief journey from losing my wife in 2018. But hopefully you’ll also find some humor, some movie reviews, and even a bit of tech advice once in a while.

On to the point. Hopefully, I can help you (or someone you know) navigate this tech-infested world a bit better. This Zoom-tastic, TikTok-loving (God knows why), Twitter-ranting, post-millennial socially-distanced hellscape we call Earth.

Boy I sound a little doomy-gloomy, no? I promise I’m not always that way. In fact, I’m a goddamn ray of f*cking sunshine, most days. I’ve been described as ‘chipper’, by a friend and former colleague. (Not the Aussie one, but she’s never met me in person, so I can’t blame her.)

Anyway, here’s what I’ll leave you with. Contact me on social media or using either my blogs’ Contact pages. The one over here has more complete info. We’ll have a chat about what your technological pain-points are, and figure out if they’re something I can help with. And trust me, if they’re not, if you need a professional, I will be the first to tell you.

I don’t know everything. In fact I know very little about TikTok and Minecraft and how exactly Amazon seems to know what you’re thinking about before you even shop for it. (Actually that last one’s not too hard, but it’s still mind-boggling if you start down the rabbit-hole of human-machine relationship ethics, but I digress. Again.) But I know how to Google the heck out of stuff, because people a lot smarter than me have usually figured out the problem you’re trying to solve. I also love analogies. So if nothing else, I can at least explain to you how your computing device’s memory is like your stovetop and cutting board — the amount of food you can cook/prepare at once — while its storage space/drive/system is like your pantry and cabinets and fridge — the amount of ingredients and food you can store and keep long-term in total. Then you’ll have to stop me from ranting about how “Marketing ruins everything” because they call your phone’s storage its “memory”.

Oh, and use a password manager. For the love of all things holy. It can literally be a paper notebook, if you must, but please. Know your dang passwords. I can’t read your mind and I can’t hack your iPhone. It’s not that difficult to recover forgotten ones, so I can help walk you through that, but srsly. You’re not dumb, you’re not crazy, you just have way too many frickin’ things to remember. Password managers solve this specific problem and they solve it well. Get one.

Fifty percent of the time, it works all of the time.
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Giving Tuesday

I didn’t know this was a thing until this year. To be fair to myself, it seems it only started in 2019, so I’m not terribly late to the party. But anyway. I’m not really here to write about the movement itself, but it seemed a fitting click-bait topical title.

Christmas has been a struggle for me since my wife passed away in 2018. It was her favorite time of the year, and she was always the one to organize and manage our gift-giving efforts. That first year, a mere 2 months after her death, I frankly don’t even remember what I did. In 2019, I was able to pull myself together and give some pretty thoughtful/needed gifts, to some, while to others I reverted to (what may become a habit) “wait til after it’s over, ask them what they didn’t get that they still really want, and see if I can make that happen.” Which, honestly, I kinda like. It makes things more fun but also WAY less stressful.

Maybe I’ll still do that, in some limited ways. But the big change this year is that I’m buying a brand-new house. So every spare penny of my budget is going toward that, because, as much as there is to NOT worry about with a new build (maintenance/upkeep, renovations, etc.), there is an equal amount of stuff TO worry about — namely, for one, the backyard, which will be a big ol’ rectangle of plain-ass dirt. (Also appliances — I will need a fridge and washing machine; dryer is on-hand thanks to my wonderful parents.)

Anyway. None of that is an excuse to “not participate” in the Christmas tradition of gift-giving. Instead, what I’m proposing is, hopefully, meaningful and acceptable in light of the trials and tribulations that this Year of Our Lord 2020 has wrought on the world, and in the spirit of #GivingTuesday.

Because as bad as 2020 has been for many, many folks — and it’s a shit-show, believe me, for some — for me, it’s been alright. I’m fortunate enough to have kept my job, to be making good money, and to not have lost anybody I love to COVID. I thank God for that every day that I hear the news. And I pray for those that have, or that are in danger of it. But the point is, I’m okay. I’ve got my health, and I’ve got a roof over my head (soon to be a different and new roof!). I’ve got my loving family, my supportive friends, my wonderful church, my brilliant colleagues, my fantastic bosses, and my amazing workplace.

Yes, I lost the love of my life. Yes, I was devastated. I grieved. I wept. I dealt with it.. in unhealthy ways, at first, but I’m getting better. I’m coping in healthier ways. I’m learning to see the good in things; the “silver linings”, as she would say.

Anyway, the point here is really, if you’re doing okay, GIVE BACK. Find a charitable cause, and back it; find a need, and fulfill it. Don’t circle the same old tired Starbucks cards and Visa Prepaids and Amazon Gift Cards and “that thing that was on sale that looked like a good manly gift for a manly man”. (Seriously, nobody really likes it.)

But don’t pull a George and write a card saying “I gave to this charity in your name, as your Christmas gift.” At least not without discussing it. Because gift exchanging IS a part of the American holiday tradition, and if you suddenly flip the script on everybody without warning, while they all got YOU some pretty nice stuff, you’ll look like the asshole. So communicate, first and foremost. Then decide if you’re really gonna do things drastically different, or perhaps just start small on a personal, self-reflective level.

Final thoughts. I’m not saying I’m converting to Festivus. But I AM saying that I’m scaling back this year. And those who read this, who ARE usually on my list (and I on yours), should be aware of that. For all of the above reasons. I hope I made that clear without sounding selfish — it’s not “just” that I’m buying a house, or “just” that I think you should give to charity instead of buying gifts. I want the whole picture considered — the whole ball of wax, as my old pastor used to say.

So that’s that. I hope you have a safe and warm holiday season, and a Merry Christmas, if you celebrate it. Cheers!

It’ll actually make you happier… promise!
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COVID-19 Update

Because click-bait, why not. But seriously, who else is tired of these? Yeah, we get it, your PR team wanted to make sure your company looked good and seemed like they were making some effort to do “the right thing” in this pandemic crisis, whatever that is. You can stop frickin’ pretending now. We still see your commercials. We still see you selling your products to people who really don’t need them but are convinced they do by your partners-in-crime, the Marketing department.

Oh, and let’s be clear, I’m not talking about my company. My company’s business is doing fine, but that’s because we serve a fairly unique segment of the population and we’ve established ourselves as THE leader in our market niche. And we have a CEO who knows his shit and doesn’t pander to ignorance or FUD.

Let me put one particular company on blast. (Right, because I have SO MANY READERS, AMIRITE??) Partly because this turned into a rant-y text to one of my friends who works there.

boycott disney logo

Disney. Disney as the ultra huge mega-corporation that owns like 90% of the modern American entertainment industry.

Disney had, and still has, the resources to:

A) Make a massive difference in the fight against the pandemic. Mask & PPE production & delivery via repurposed factories and logistics resources. Scientific research funding and vaccine development funding. Etc.

B) Keep all workers employed WITHOUT re-opening the parks (said re-openings having led to new outbreaks and hot-zones). Rides and facilities still need maintenance even without customers. “Cast members” (gag me with a spoon) could have been outfitted to give virtual tours and rides to people who could watch and even participate from their phones or connected devices. Not hard to come up with this stuff, seriously.

And obviously any & all workers capable of performing their duties from home, should have been given the means to do so. For a company of that size, with such resources and innovation at its disposal, surely SOME kind of role-restructuring and digital transformation efforts could have turned the tide for even MORE workers anxious to remain employed yet unsure of their legacy job’s effectiveness-if-turned-remote.

But no. Disney has done nothing of the sort. They furloughed my friend, and hundreds of others like them. And that’s just a corporate office desk-job position. Imagine the ones in the trenches — the food service and sanitation folks, for example — lord knows if they even got their vacation hours paid-out before they were (likely permanently) shown the door.

The FACT that Disney has done nothing helpful — actually they’ve been harmful, as I said, by prematurely re-opening parks — is a reflection of modern corporate greed in our society, of which Disney is one of the biggest culprits and practitioners. Amazon, Facebook, and several others are right up there with ’em, so don’t get it twisted. But Disney is inarguably one of the worst offenders.

And why? Why do they continue to operate this way? More importantly, why do they get away with it? Because they OWN your kids now. Everything your child loves to watch and play is, as I said, about 90% likely to be some product or offshoot or relation to Disney. Not only that, but their pockets are deep, and deep pockets pay the political bills. Think about it. Nobody in their right mind on Capitol Hill is going to want to regulate (or to the extreme, break-up and force restructure of) a gargantuan titan like Disney. They’re “Too big to fail!”, as we heard in the financial crisis of the late 2000’s.

Two quotes/sayings I want you to remember right now.

The fish rots from the head down.

and…

The love of money is the root of all evil.

Let me close on a positive note. The company I was going to order some audio equipment for the podcast from, Behringer, stopped making their products around March. Went completely offline. They’re not a huge corporation, and I’m sure they had to make some tough decisions about their workforce. But at least they tried to do what was right. Now I hear they’ve spun back up, at least in part, and the thing I wanted should become available soon. But that’s neither here nor there. Unless you’re a fan of the podcast, then it’s kinda exciting.

Be good to each other. See ya next time.

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Singles and Widows Awareness Day

I’m not bitter. Let’s just get that straight. I was blessed for 10 years. More than blessed. And now I’m trying to make peace with the fact that I may never be that loved again.

K. was the best Valentine’s Day giver in the world. Creative, adorable, spontaneous, funny, and always incredibly heartfelt. She made a WHOLE WEEK of it, one year. Actually more than once. Every day for seven days in a row, a little love note and a cute gift. And always the best, warmest, sweetest hugs and kisses. I’ll try to find the photo book she made one year and post pictures.

It was incredible. It was so much more than I deserved. She was so much more than I deserved. That is the realization I’ve had to come to. It is, perhaps, a bit of idolizing that many grievers do out of necessity — we put our deceased loved ones upon a pedestal and ignore their shortcomings and faults, focusing exclusively on their positive and endearing qualities, sometimes to the point of magnifying them beyond reality. But that is in our nature. We romanticize our lost loves because it’s far easier to do so, than to dwell on the imperfections and the errs of their humanity.

And yet. Yet. I will hold steadfast to this. That she was the most incredibly kindhearted, loving, creative, caring, romantic soul that I’ve yet had the privilege of being bonded with.

So what’s my point? To brag about what I had only to wallow in the misery that it was taken away, so suddenly and irrevocably? No. To remind you, my fair reader, that life is short, and we are not guaranteed tomorrow. So BASK in your lover’s arms, in your partner’s romantic gestures and demonstrations of devotion. MAKE time to express your love in nauseatingly adorable ways. Because I guarantee you, you will not regret one moment of your life spent in making your soulmate smile.

That is all. ❤

a woman on a swingset reaches her hand toward an empty swing
I reach to the skies, and call out your name.
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OMG PRONOUNS!

This has gotten well and truly ridiculous. I don’t care what side you come down on. It’s absolutely inane, the amount of angst and energy and dogmatism and “hurt feelings” this shit has caused and effected. (Yes, grammar nazis, that is a purposeful rule-bend.)

What am I talking about? Just skim these 4 links:

So for those of you too lazy to read, and/or who don’t understand what this online community IS, I’ll break it down for you.

StackExchange is a vast and popular Q&A site which started back in the 2000’s as a programming-help resource (coined StackOverflow). Think of it like Yahoo Answers or Quora but 100 times better (1000 times better, in relation to Yahoo), because the community actually cares about quality and takes time to curate and research and maintain the wealth of information therein.

One of the biggest and most important parts of this online community is the moderator staff — a group of volunteer users who have risen up in the ranks to have “phenomenal, cosmic powers” to be used for the good of said community. They review questions and answers, they keep other uses behaving nicely, they facilitate the ebb and flow of good quality information and contributions, and they’re generally pretty awesome guys & gals.

Oh noes! I gender-ified them! (Genderized? Engendered?) WHAT EVAR SHALL WE DO!?! Sound the alarms!!

(That’s totally not the right word, but I’m too lazy to look up what it’s supposed to be. And it’s not “gentrified”, that’s completely unrelated.)

So the drama, the uproar, the righteous indignation and press fallout, surrounds one such moderator and her discussions with the actual company staff (the corporation that owns StackExchange, i.e. the website, the software, and now apparently the content), over what was being proposed in a new/revised “Code of Conduct”.

To be clear, “Code of Conduct” is just fancy words for “expected behavior” when you’re using the site / participating in the community. The old-guard believed in the KISS principle, and basically just said “Be nice.” In other words, “don’t be a jerk.” Easy, right? However, as time went on, the size of the community (the # of users and the amount of activity) exploded, and people, being people, weren’t always “nice” to each other.

you don't say?
Shocking!

Now, the mod (short for moderator) in question was a bit concerned with the proposed CoC revision that essentially forces you to acknowledge (ok), respect (fine), and actively affirm (uhh) anybody else’s preferred gender pronoun (wat?). But it’s more nuanced than that. See, this mod, like many of us who call ourselves “writers” (loosely, of course), has developed her habits for coping with this brave-new-world where gender is no longer a binary construct (and I’m not going into that here; that’s a whole other discussion topic, dumpster-fire and flame-bait galore).

Her habits include using collective and neutral pronouns, or even avoiding them altogether with other language mechanisms; and when all else fails, disengage from the conversation with the person(s) who are having issues with it. I, for one, think this is a fantastic philosophy. It allows you to be respectful, civil, and expressive, yet does NOT force you to actively affirm and participate in a mentality or world-view that you don’t agree with. Because look, we can all be civil and respectful of each other, no matter how deeply we disagree on something, as long as you’re not forcing your viewpoint down my throat and I’m not doing the same.

But no. This perfectly reasonable work-around wasn’t good enough for the extreme liberal agenda at StackExchange. You MUST address anybody and everybody with their stated preferred pronouns, full-stop. In fact, remaining neutral, or disengaging, is now deemed hurtful and offensive. WHAT?!? Really? To quote the 2nd resignation post I linked, which I adore simply for his incredibly articulate and well-structured writing style:

The new “tolerance” is tolerant of everything except ideological disagreement. It is forced conformity.

Caleb

So. Stop the presses. Raise the pitchforks. Light the cigars. Grab the popcorn, and watch the flames. Because this is a shit-show. And it’s a sad reflection of our times.

But it’s more than that. There’s a certain elitism there, subtle, but cunning. See, it’s fairly likely that none of you, dear readers, knew about this. StackExchange was a tech-startup. Another silicon valley brainchild. And like many of its ilk, despite attempts to democratize it, the sites themselves are still relatively isolated to folks of a certain demographic — young, tech-savvy, privileged, and financially stable. So despite all of its postured attempts to say “we want to be more inclusive”, it never really succeeded to reach beyond the glass of the tech-elite walled-garden.

i'm sorry i can't hear your, your inferiority is too loud
Borrowed from this guy’s blog

Look at Twitter, for example. The weekly shenanigans of Trump and everything that happens as a result. If your only source of information about Trump was Twitter, there is absolutely no question that you’d want him impeached ASAP. If for no other reason than just being a royal douche. But you know what? Most voting Americans still don’t pay attention to Twitter. They go to work, do their jobs, come home to their families, maybe watch the news, do chores, play with the kids, get them to bed, struggle with bills, and on and on it goes. They don’t give two craps about what the idiots said online this week. As far as they’re concerned, they need more money in their bank accounts, more food on the table, less crushing debt, less smog in their sky, and more time with their kids/spouses/friends.

And that’s the same thing here. The vast majority of regular-Joe hard-working tax-paying folks couldn’t care less about what gender you think you are, much less about how that question is handled in some weird website where people ask and answer questions all day. So to even spend this much time and energy on the subject, to even have such a fallout and such vociferous outcry from all sides of the straw-man… seems downright ludicrous.

Look, I respect the original mod, Monica, for standing by her principles and expressing herself in a definitive, respectful, and humble way. I’m not saying “who cares”. I’m just saying that this is an example of the technical elite enjoying the privilege that they have to openly and freely raise these issues about which they care so deeply, in an environment that is, by comparison to the real world, SUPER soft and squishy and forgiving.

unicorn barfing a rainbow
Blech.

So here’s the point. Next time you get all bent out of shape because someone didn’t respect your fabricated right to self-identify as an androgynous unicorn, take a breath, drink a sip of your pH water, pop a Xanax, and try to put it into perspective. You are privileged. The fact that you can read this proves it. (So am I, by the way.) Channel that energy toward something good, something positive and helpful and humanitarian.

Love & light. ❤

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Disneyland is a Waste of Money

Fight me. Change my mind. Go ahead, make my day.

Listen, I get it. Your kids love all things Disney. And why wouldn’t they? Disney, as a megacorp, owns nearly every facet of modern entertainment that you can think of. All of their favorite kid shows, characters, superheroes, and toys are probably based on some form of Disney-ism.

K. loved going to Disneyland for two things: Halloween time, and Christmas time. Mostly the latter. The electric light parade was the highlight of her trip. In the late 2000’s / early 2010’s, we had our annual passes for a few years. We made good use of them. They were a couple hundred bucks back then. We had monthly payment plans and we had a handicap decal to use for parking.

disneyland haunted holiday mansion
I mean, it IS pretty neat, I’ll give you that.

She always had to have three things, and usually in this order: popcorn, a churro, and dole-whip. Sometimes a popcorn refill. These were unique to Disneyland, at the time. I mean the taste of them, not the food item itself. Lord knows they probably added some secret addictive chemicals that nobody could ever trace or prove.

Fast forward a few years to our last trip. Maybe we were growing out of it. Maybe people were getting less friendly. Maybe it was a warmer than usual day. Maybe the treats didn’t quite taste as breathtakingly delicious as we remembered. Maybe it was a combination of all those things. But as we tried to snag a bench seat for the parade — 3 hours before it starts, mind you — and we were assailed by a cranky middle aged woman who insisted that she’d reserved that bench for herself and her rabble… we just kinda looked at each other and realized: We were done.

And we never went back.

disneyland popcorn
Delicous MSG!

Now let’s look at the facts. I’ll use two resources for this break-down: TripSavvy and Costco. A one-day one-park ticket is over $150. So you say to yourself, okay, that’s not what most people are doing, right? Most people make a 2-day event out of it, at least. Fine. A 2-day park-hopper ticket is $280. Wow, not saving much are we? (Sure, you can navigate promo sales and off-days to save a few bucks, but it’s small-potatoes.)

And let’s not forget, if you don’t live locally (because let’s face it, the locals rarely go here anymore, because they realized long ago how much of a colossal rip-off it is), you’re getting a hotel. Good luck finding anything for less than $150/night close enough to make any sense. Or that doesn’t smell like cheap hookers and cheaper booze.

Oh, children are cheaper you say? Not really. For a kid — over 3, of course, because if you’re taking a baby or toddler to DLand, you’ve got bigger problems and god help you — you save maybe $6-7 on a ticket. Wow, and this is supposed to be a theme park built FOR kids and families. And they’re the ones driving the sales of all those crappy plastic souvenirs, at a 90% margin I might add, because they’re all produced by similarly aged child-slave-labor overseas.

disneyland churro
Authentically hand-rolled by Mexicans dressed uncomfortably in hot stuffy uniforms. Instead of your Mexican neighbors, who are actually really friendly and super cool, and you’d be much happier eating with them than the scum of the earth standing behind you in this line.

So let’s talk food again. If you actually plan on having a meal there, you’re already paying at least 25% above standard dining prices of comparable quality. It’s not as bad as freakin sporting events (I’m looking at you, $15 Bud Light at Dodger Stadium), but it’s not nothin. Oh, what about going outside the park to eat? Yeah no, forget about it. By the time you’ve trudged X miles back to your car, navigated the parking maze, and dealt with the always-crappy OC traffic, you’ve spent at least that much in gas and frustration. No, you’re better off just swallowing the in-park mark-up.

Alright, where does that leave us? Let’s say you’re a family of four, with two kids of appropriate age. 4 2-day hopper tickets puts you at about $1100. Hotel, $200. Food, let’s say about $20 per meal per person.. so about $350. Right, we’re up to $1650 before transportation.

Oh wait, PARKING. Duh. Oh this is rich — yet another thing that’s changed since I’ve been there. You now pay by the hour. (ish. I mean it’s a base-price and it’s limited to $65, so it’s not grotesque, but it’s still pretty horrible. You’re literally paying for the privilege of having your car close enough to the park to not die of heat exhaustion or dehydration — or criminal activity, for that matter — on your way to and from it.) So $65 for 2 days is another $130.

Let’s just round that sucker up to $1800 because we can (incidentals, snacks, whatever). Ah! Lest we forget, those crappy plastic souvenirs! How much do you love your kids? Well if you’re already doing this trip, it’s probably pretty significant. So what’s another $200 in treats and toys? Right?

For years they convinced you that this was THE ONLY PLACE IN THE WORLD you could get this crap. That and Hawaii. NOPE again!

We now have a grand total of about $2000. And that’s not including any travel from your home to the park itself! If you’re already here in SoCal, you probably make that kind of drive on a regular basis, no biggie. If you’re a tourist, flying in from somewhere.. well first off, add another hotel night or two, depending on how exhausted and degenerate you want to appear in front of your fellow passengers.. and then the airfare itself of course. So all told that could put you at $3k or more; if you’re coming in from overseas, $5k easily.

And all this for what. Really, what? What is so goddamn special about this place? You go stand in lines for hours to see people in costumes acting like these cartoon characters from a bygone era, or if you’re lucky, a semi-contemporary hero or heroine of modern lore, just so they can take a picture with your brat and send them on their way. And more lines, more hours, to ride all these beat-up broken-down rides that used to be a marvel of modern engineering.

Sure, yeah they’re building and rebuilding and opening lots of cool new attractions. Fine. They’re still nothing special. Hell, Vegas rebuilds entire casinos more often than Disney revamps a ride or pushes out a novel new attraction.

Look, I realize I’m a 35-year-old man. My opinions about these things have changed. I’m obviously no longer a kid, I no longer have that childlike wonder and fascination and excitement for these stories and characters that once defined my formative years. Not arguing that. I’m saying that your kids, the current generation, would simply be better served by something more tangible, more fascinating, and more goddamn reasonably priced.

Think about it. You’re really going to spend what amounts to most people’s monthly paycheck, on a 2 day amusement park trip? Really?!? I guaran-damn-tee you that your kids won’t appreciate it as much as you want them to. And you’ll be freakin miserable, nearly the entire time. Don’t believe me? Ask someone who’s done it. Ask someone who’s seen the dregs of humanity among those not-quite-shining-streets of colorful caricatures and playful pretend-lands. They’ll tell you the same.

sleeping toddler in a stroller at disneyland
Let’s be honest, we’d all prefer to be this guy, not the struggling parents who are running on 3 hours sleep and 3 too many cups of caffeine just to “get through this day”.

If you value your sanity, and your hard-earned money.. Take it elsewhere. Take it to the Discovery Cube in Santa Ana (or similar science museums that exist in most places), where your kids can actually LEARN stuff. Take it to the local fair, where real local people are trying to earn a little cash by selling unique, handmade jewelry or craft-wares or art. Take it and save it for college or trade-school. Take the kids camping, fishing, hiking, rafting, climbing, horseback riding, dirt-biking (when they’re old enough obviously), etc.

Yeah, all that stuff costs money too. But not nearly as much as Disneycrap. And it’ll make a helluva lot better memories.

Maybe I’m biased. Maybe I’m privileged. I mean, we went to Disneyland when I was kid, probably just once. It was probably pretty expensive, for the time. Could I tell you much about it? Nope. I have exponentially better memories from the many years we spent camping together in the woods and mountains of our great state’s national parks.

in every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks
Just Google “John Muir quotes”. ❤

Is that my point? Just get outside more? Kinda. I mean it’s certainly better for you. But no, my point is much more pragmatic than that. Economical, even.

My point is that Disney, with the billions and billions of dollars they make from all of their combined corporate conglomerations of capitalism at its worst–

(and don’t start with me on capitalism; I’m not against it fundamentally, but the abuse of it has led to some pretty epically horrific stuff in our time, but again, NOT in the scope of this post.)

–anyway, with what some people have taken to phrasing as that “they have more money than God” (hyperbole for the sake of emphasis) — Disney could literally afford to cut all those prices that we’ve talked about down by tenfold, and still not lose a cent. (Let’s face it, they could afford to make it all FREE, but that’s asking for a logistical nightmare.) Would such extreme price-cuts pose an organizational problem? Sure; obviously, the cheaper it is, the more people would line up to shove their grubby little minions in the gates. That’s perfectly solvable.

But again, why bother? I mean if people were reasonable, rational, mentally stable, level-headed, common-sensed, logically-minded, practical, pragmatic, responsible, financially intelligent, productive members of society… well good lord, we’d be living in a goddamn paradise wouldn’t we? But also, said people would take one look at the economics of a typical DLand vacation and scoff derisively, chortle and eye-roll to the Nth degree, at the sheer absurdity of it all.

Anyway. That’s all I have to say for now. Apologies this went long-winded. It just makes me angry, sometimes, how much stupidity we put up with in our society. And how much abuse of power, privilege, and money, that we just stand idly by and watch, even approve of and participate in.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a Marvel movie to watch.

Hey, at least I didn’t pay for it. =P

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Under Fire, Once Again

Have I written on this subject yet? I feel like I have, but it may have been via Facebook or something. Apologies in advance for the language. You’re an adult, you can deal with it. =)

So here we are, in the aftermath of yet another series of deadly, tragic, terrorist shootings. Oh, they were white you say? THEY’RE TERRORISTS. Full stop.

There is no excuse, no rationalization, no equivocating. Just like the radical Islamic terrorists that suicide-bomb the gathering places of those they hate, so too did these white racist extremists assault and slaughter those who they hate, just as vehemently and just as irrationally.

Oh, the 2nd Amendment you say? Well guess what, you ignorant asshole. Assault, automatic, and semiautomatic weapons WEREN’T FREAKING INVENTED when they wrote that. So shove it up your NRA-loving ass. To be clear, I fully support your right to own a handgun and a hunting rifle, after passing a thorough background check, psych eval, and safety training. Heck, I want good people to be able to protect themselves. Concealed carry? Sure! If you’ve proven you’re mentally capable and fully invested in the greater good of society, awesome.

But you look me straight in the eye-holes and tell me that we should sell AK-47s and their ilk on the shelves of Walmart in Texas, or at Bass Pro Shops, with a straight face. Go ahead. Be sure to explain why, too; I’d love to hear it.

Oh, the shooters obtained them illegally you say? NOT THE POINT. Not even CLOSE to the point. Obviously, that whole issue is complex, and we’re not going to solve it by arguing about it on the Internet. But you know how else we won’t solve it? You know how else we’ll make literally zero, even negative, progress toward the goal of reducing this kind of violence and carnage? By doing NOTHING. Absolutely nothing. Just as we’ve continued to do for decades. Because our government is too damn lazy, and too damn full of themselves, and too deep in the pockets of super-PAC lobbyists, to be bothered to get off their old fat asses and do something real about it.

Oh, mental illness you say? Nope. Sure, you’ve gotta be pretty fucked up in the head to do this kind of thing. But there are plenty of mental patients who wouldn’t dream of it. No, this kind of behavior comes from one thing and one thing only: HATE. Pure, unadulterated, fear-based media fueled, fiery political and social rhetoric induced, intolerant, ignorant, bigoted, uneducated, unchecked and unbridled hate.

fear is the path to the dark side. fear leads to anger. anger leads to hate. hate leads to suffering.
No comment necessary.

Now I’m not a psychologist. K had that degree. I’m just a tech geek. But even I can understand that this is a complex and multi-faceted problem that requires critical thinking and hard choices. Mental illness, as a societal ill, is certainly a large problem that we need to wrap our heads around. But again, it’s not the point, and it’s not what we’re talking about right now. We’re talking about reinforced mentalities and behaviors of intolerance, bigotry, and hatred of fellow humans. And I’m too damn tired of this crap being swept under the rug as if it’s “not news” or “not something we can do anything about.”

You know what the families of these victims are really tired of? INACTION. They’re sick to death (literally) of their government representatives’ plain and simple lack of motivation to DO something about this shit. They don’t want your “thoughts and prayers”. They don’t need your tweets and your Facebook sympathies and your hashtags. They need vindication. They need to know that their loved ones’ deaths will not become yet another sad statistic in an ever-growing black stain on the American dream.

But they will. They already are. Do you know how long it takes for us as a society to “move on” from this kind of shocking tragedy? A day or two. Sometimes less. Isn’t that horrifying? We will have already forgotten about it by the time the next viral trend hits our feeds.

UPDATE: it’s already happening. Everybody’s moved on to this ridiculous “30-50 feral hogs” meme. Shameful. Disgustingly shameful.

Society is broken. Morals are broken. Justice is broken. Do we sit idly by and let it disintegrate further? Or do we stand up and cry out, “Enough!” and take action?

Write, call, and email your representatives. Tell them enough is enough. Action is the only acceptable answer.

And may the victims rest in peace. May their families and friends and loved ones find comfort in each other’s arms, and in their faith, of whatever sect or religion or creed they hold, in this time of unconscionable tragedy. And if you do know any of them personally, reach out and offer your love and support, in a concrete, compassionate, caring manner.

compassion is the wish to see others free from suffering -Dalai Lama
Foreign concept to most people, sadly. Especially politicians.
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Rant: Google Photos

I don’t mean to go on a rant here.. Oh wait, yes I do.

But first, context!

Some of what I’ve been doing for the past several months is taking inventory and selling the somewhat sizable collections of collectible items that K had amassed over the past several years. I call it “spreading her sparkle out into the world.” To be clear, I don’t sell them because I feel the need to, nor because I don’t want things around that are hers / remind me of her. On the contrary, I LOVE being surrounded by her favorite things and the things that brought her joy and happiness. And we, as her family, always keep the treasures that we want the most, the things that speak to our souls and warm our hearts. But in some instances K had indeed went just a tad bit overboard with the collecting. To be sure, she did plan on re-selling most of them eventually, so it’s well within her expectations that I’d be doing the same, as long as I (and we) keep the most meaningful pieces at ‘home’.

Anyway, the point of all that was just to give you the background on why I’m about to moan & groan, whine & complain, and raise my angry fist and pitchfork at Google for their horrendously bad implementation of what should be — and IS, in another (or more unified) tech-ecosystem — a simple workflow (ordered set of related tasks).

The Workflow

Here’s what I want to do.

  1. Take pictures with my iPhone.
  2. Upload/copy them into {cloud account of choice}.
  3. Create a new {cloud account} photo album from my recently uploaded photos.
  4. Share that {cloud} photo album with family/friends/etc.

Sounds stupidly simple, no? WELL! This is a story all about how my life got flip-turned upside-down Google screwed this up, and how Microsoft actually did it much better.

Well OF COURSE you had trouble, you luddite! Everyone knows that you just need to stay within the Apple ecosystem and everything will be happiness sunshine kittens and rainbows!

Sheeple

Yeah.. no. That’s not the point. Apple exposes the same APIs to both of these other vendors, and as limited as they may be, Microsoft still did better in its cross-platform-usability-ness. Plus, this is 2019. No single vendor gets to mandate that tired old ‘walled garden’ approach anymore and hope to survive. So don’t gimme that nonsense.

First, the “good” implementation.

Now, when I go into the iOS Photos app, I can select many photos at once and hit a ‘Share’ button at the bottom-left of the screen. The list of apps to ‘Share’ with, or more accurately through, is dynamic based on how many photos you’ve selected. Microsoft OneDrive’s limit is 30. Wow, that’s cool! Some apps, like Mail and Notes, seem to have no limit (or at least a very high one). Sadly, Google Drive’s limit is 10.

But this is where I’d normally start Task 2. In iOS Photos, select pics, hit ‘Share’, and upload to {cloud service of your choice}. So as I said, with OneDrive, I pick 30 at a time and upload away. Great! And they get there FAST, too.

Now I go open up the OneDrive app. My photos are present, exactly where I put them. At the bottom right of the app, there’s the ‘Photos’ section (tab, screen, whatever you wanna call it). I go there, I select the photos, I hit the three-vertical-dots (‘Options’ is probably what they’d call it) at the top-right, I say “Create Photo Album” and give it a name. BOOM! I hit the Albums button, I select my new album, & I hit the ‘Share’ button (top-right again, just not quite as far to the right as the 3-dots). BAM! I can send it via text message, email, share it to Facebook, whatever. Life is good!

Now the terrible one.

Right, so as I said, the limit on how may pics from iOS Photos can be Shared to Google Drive is 10. Oh and guess what else? Google Photos isn’t even an option here. They literally didn’t integrate it. LAME.

But fine, I can do 10 at a time; I only have about 40 for the current project. So I select, hit Share, hit Google Drive, pick my folder to deposit them in, and go. And… sad trombone. Some of them failed! “Please try again.”

Not trusting that uploading the same pics again won’t result in duplicates, I pull out the trusty laptop, fire up the web browser, and head to Google Drive to check what succeeded and what didn’t. And I re-do just the ones that were missed. And then I wait. Because for whatever unholy reason, Google’s tubes are slower than Microsoft’s; the OneDrive wait was about 2 seconds; the Google wait is about 10, for all of the pics to show up online.

Cool, now for the album. So I have a folder in Drive with all these pics that I want to put into an album, but, uh… where’s the option to do that? Yeah, IT’S NOT THERE. Sad trombone #2. Oh go ahead, you can try to find it yourself. I’ll wait. While you’re there, check out this absolute garbage help-article that includes a pointer to the now-obsolete option that this article tells us is going away.

(Said pointer being, from drive.google.com, go to the gear (upper right), hit Settings, and enable “Create a Google Photos folder”. Don’t do it now; it’s obsolete, like I said!)

Confused yet? Great, we’re on the same page! To the Interwebs for answers! Oh god. OH GOD. They’re even more confused than we are! Somebody call Google. Wait… you can’t. You literally can’t.

Let’s back up and take a deep breath. There’s gotta be a better way, right? So instead, I go now to photos.google.com, hit the ‘hamburger menu’ (top left; yep, gotta love that lack of consistency!), hit Settings (the gear). AHA! There it is, the option to “Sync photos & videos from Google Drive”. Do we have liftoff? Eehh…

Okay yes, the photos are starting to show up at the top of my main screen (photos.google.com) — again, now I’m in laptop-land, not fiddling with the phone at this point. So I select the pics, starting with the little semi-transparent checkbox in the upper left of the first photo — then and ONLY THEN am I allowed to use my Shift key to select many at once. Then I hit the ‘Plus’ button in the upper right and say “Add to Album”. Give it a name, presto.

Ooh, I can actually “Add to new Shared Album” and immediately be prompted for who to share it with… but OH WAIT, this is on the laptop, I can’t send it in a text message. (At least, not without getting the link first and then somehow sending it to my phone, which is another process that’s way more complicated than it should be at this point in our tech revolution, but I digress.)

Let’s check things out from the iPhone again. So I open up the Google Photos app, and… WTF? Why do I see duplicates? Aaaahh.. Some have the ‘crossed-out cloud’ symbol, aka the ‘not in cloud’ or ‘offline’ symbol. Those are the ones on my device (my iPhone) ONLY, whereas the others (with no symbol on them) are in Google Photos cloud already.

Riiiiight.. cuz THAT’S not confusing for someone who wouldn’t know any better. So now if I wanted to create my new album to share, straight from here (the app), I’d have to be very careful about selecting the correct pics — the ones without the ‘offline’ symbol.

Fortunately, I’d already created the album using my web-browser on the laptop, so all I had to do was go to Albums, select it, hit the 3-dots menu in the upper right (horizontal, not vertical like Microsoft.. surprise!), hit Share, and do the usual (text message, email, Facebook, copy link, etc).

Don’t be confused by the list of Contacts that show up here either — those are your Google account contacts, not your phone’s. (Well, at least, not your iPhone’s, aka your iCloud contacts — people with real phone numbers that you can text. Your Google contacts are, most likely, just emails, unless you’re a super-nerd and keep everything in-sync between the two, which is just plain bananas!) (Apologies for the ear-worm.)

Hmm, now wait a minute, I have these photos both in Google Drive and in Google Photos. I’m pretty sure, if I read the help articles right (which is a big ‘IF’ because they’re, again, surprisingly baffling), they ALL (both) count against my storage quota. (Well, if I don’t go off and enable the ‘high quality’ storage option where Google claims to offer free unlimited photo storage if you let their robots compress your pics a little bit.) But anyway, storage. O noes! I better go to delete them from Drive. So I do that, just before half-heartedly checking Google Photos again to make sure they didn’t disappear as a result. Thankfully they did not. Phew.

Wow, is it beer time yet?

Seriously, does it need to be this complicated? Google, you got some smart-ass people working for you. I mean, some of the best and brightest. Can you maybe make some of this experience less terrible? Plz? K thx.

Haters Gonna Hate

Because I couldn’t resist just one more ear-worm. And because someone will inevitably say “Well you know Nate, you could have just done it all with iOS Photos and iCloud Photo Sharing and iCloud Shared Albums” and lah-tee-dah and tea & crumpets and matching space-grey turtlenecks and BLECCHHH. Not the point. Also, wake me up when Apple starts offering more than 5GB of cloud storage for free like EVERYBODY ELSE IN THE ENTIRE FREAKING INDUSTRY.

OK I’m done. Have a pleasant week everyone! ❤

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Movie Monday: The Hustle

Hey kids, it’s that time again!

What time is it?

Time for a movie review! Try to contain your excitement.

the hustle movie poster
Promises, promises…

High Expectations

Both of these actresses are fabulous. I mean, neither one is everybody’s cup o’ tea, but they have terrific screen presence and charisma. Just look at Ocean’s 8 or Pitch Perfect. There’s a lot of potential here, given the vast difference in their appearance and demeanor (as characters, specifically, but also in general). Although, let’s face it, Wilson is very much a character-actor and doesn’t have nearly the range that Hathaway does.

The trailers gave us some really good lines about women being underestimated and using that to their advantage, with some hilarious “Rebel blunders” to guffaw at. And while the premise of the master grifter teaching the amateur the art of the con is not new, it does generally make for compelling cinema, when done right. However, when you take that formula too far off the rails, you can end up in cheese-land.

Sub-par Results

The problem here is that we get too deep too fast.

That’s what SHE said!

Right, anyway. What I mean is, there doesn’t seem to be a truly compelling reason for Jo (Hathaway) to take Penny (Wilson) under her wing. We’re just kind of shoehorned into it, like “Yep, that’s the way it is now, keep that train a’rollin’!”. Similarly, the main motivator (turf war, really?) for their ultimate “gentleman’s wager” really doesn’t seem that crucial to the story. Nor does the target, the silicon valley whiz-kid. Again, taking a page from the Ocean’s trilogy, why not just compete for the sake of competition?

And then there’s the whole she-Gollum shtick, which just didn’t work for me. It’s nothing against the actors or the writing… They’re leaning too far into the whole “Rebel Wilson isn’t really attractive” angle. Right? But I get it, that’s the characterization — Jo is sophisticated high-class elegance and Penny is the opposite. I’m completely on-board with that; I merely wanted to see more variety in the cons, not the same few tropes replayed.

Happy Endings

Spoiler alert! No, just kidding. I won’t actually tell you what happened. I will say that it wasn’t that bad. It was a little unnecessary, a little forced, sure. But overall, fairly satisfactory.

The Verdict

Meh. The ~48% audience-score on Rotten Tomatoes feels about right. It’s not a terrible movie! It’s just not that fantastic either. Worth a theater visit or a $4.99 rental? No, definitely not. Worth a spot on your watch-list when it comes to streaming-ville? Sure.