Alcohol.

I had a glass of red wine with dinner last night. While waiting for Earl to return from the wash room, I tweeted a musing as to whether Americans are drinking more since the election of Trump to the White House. I know I’ve been drinking more alcohol since Trump took office. It helps take the edge off reality.

Honestly, I’m very curious is to whether this is an actual ‘thing’ or just my own perception. We hear about increases in Opioid addiction, alcoholism, dependency on other substances. I know I smell a lot of pot on the street. Is this related to a societal shift that was bound to happen regardless of who occupied slot 45? Is life just getting more and more stressful as we realize that life isn’t as we depict it to be on social media?

I’ll have to find some studies on this. I find it quite interesting.

Cheers!

Fool.

April Fools’ Day is my least favorite holiday, and I use that term loosely, of the year. I’m happy Easter also fell on April 1 because that helped quell some of the idiocy that typically lets loose on the Internet for April Fools’ Day.

People use to engage in clever April Fools’ Day jokes and pranks. A few decades ago there was a radio station, WKGW, that called themselves KG-104. The morning show announced the United States had switched to “Metric Time” and while my clock said 8:45, they announced the time as something idiotic like “it’s 2:75” as they went into a commercial break. The commercials then revolved around this prank, for example, an electronics store announcing you could bring your VCR in for reprogramming to accommodate the new Metric Time standard. It was a clever gag and probably the only time I’ve ever enjoyed an April fools’ Day prank.

In April 1999 Earl and I were working on opening a fast food restaurant in a local mini-mall. I had left my radio career to pursue this venture. We had sunk all of our savings and our blood sweat and tears into this business. I can still vividly remember Earl’s voice as he called me up to tell me, “it’s all burned down. All of it. We lost everything. They think it was faulty wiring.” A few beats later he said, “April Fools’!”.

Hardy har har har.

I don’t know if my resistance to April Fools’ frivolity was amplified by Earl’s joke of 1999 or from the license some took with pranks back when I was in high school: lighting a classmate’s jeans on fire, flushing a nerdy kid’s head in the toilet or pouring water into an Apple IIe to “make it spark”. Maybe I’m just overly sensitive, but in a world where people take great glee in playing stupid pranks to get YouTube revenue I guess I just don’t see the fun in pranking folks and then screaming “April Fools!”.

That being said, I did tweet a geek prank of my own tonight:

I’m excited about Kmart buying Walmart.

No one bought it. I guess I’m not very good at this sort of thing.

Downsizing.

So the family got together tonight and watched “Downsizing” on iTunes. It became available for home rental last week.

I’d seen the trailers for this movie last autumn and I thought the premise looked quite interesting. It’s billed as a comedy. The world is in ecological turmoil and Norwegian scientists have come up with a solution: an irreversible cellular miniaturization process that shrinks folks down to about 5-inches tall. The small people have less of an impact on the environment, hence the world will last longer.

The movie starts out as the trailer depicts and is quite interesting. Seeing how the small people live, the miniaturization process, how much further money goes when you’re buying small versions of everything, stuff like that. It took me a few moments to figure out why everyone had big antennas stuck to their miniaturized iPhones and then I appreciated the, pardon the pun, little details that brought authenticity to this alternative universe. A quick aside, some of the special effects were not as good as I expected them to be in a 2017/2018 movie.

The problem was about a third of the way into the movie I started wondering what the point and/or the plot was. Where was this movie headed?

Apparently the director or producer realized the same thing and the entire movie takes a sharp left turn into whack-a-doo world where being tall or small doesn’t really matter anymore. In fact, near the end when we see the “smalls” flying in their special section of an airplane to return from where they had all this weird twist to the plot, I was like, “Oh yeah, they’re smaller than everyone else, totally forgot about that.”

The problem is, the plot was so weak, we took a break to make snacks and ask ourselves, what is the point of this movie? Characters just disappeared. Scenes that appeared in the trailer are nowhere to be found in the actual movie and the whole whimsy small people on a ferris-wheel vibe is mindlessly absent from the finished project.

I’m happy we chose to watch this movie via iTunes because we were only out $5.99. We probably should have checked Netflix and watched it as part of a monthly rental package.

Had we experienced “Downsizing” in the theatre we would have definitely been out too much money.

This was more than a small disappointment.

Visit Safely.

I making some changes to this ancient blog to deal with any potential privacy concerns when you visit to read my latest witty missive.

I have removed the “Share This” buttons from my blog posts. I don’t know what Twitter and Facebook were doing behind these buttons to track their usage (honestly I don’t have time to dig into that code right now), so I just removed the buttons altogether. I don’t know if folks were sharing my posts in this manner but now they will just have to copy and paste the link to a post in their own tweet.

None of my personal sites have advertising on them. I am not a fan of the ad supported model that runs rampant over the Internet. I don’t even like ads on my television shows. The ironic thing about that is I used to make a living writing ad copy for a group of radio stations. The more you know, I guess. Anyway, there’s nothing on this blog or any of my sites that generates revenue and I will continue to have it that way. To the best of my knowledge there’s nothing on my sites that tracks user data either. I need to look into the JetPack services from WordPress. If they’re tapping into user data, I will vanquish them from my site immediately.

From this point forward I will no longer embed YouTube videos into my posts. Google was tracking the who, what, and where when people watched these videos and I don’t like that, so when I post a video in the future it will be grabbed, stripped of its metadata and hosted on my own server. You should be able to watch a video without fear of being tracked.

I know this blog is goldfish swimming in this huge digital ocean, but I believe in practicing what you preach and I am not going to contribute to the degradation of user privacy on the Internet. It’s something that I strongly believe in and I will continue to advocate for user’s digital rights in any way that I can.

Kiss.

While touring the Magic Kingdom today, I spotted two young people kissing in the crowd. The crowd was at a standstill and the two people in question were holding hands and giggly. It looked like young love.

I was reminded of a video I stumbled across years ago. It was a video of strangers kissing for the first time. I remember finding such a beauty in the black and white video. I watched it again this evening.

It’s still an incredibly beautiful video to me. And even though I’ve been married for over 21 years, I can still vividly remember the first time I kissed my husband and how I still see fireworks every time I kiss him.

Every kiss is a first kiss.

Spoiled.

“Alexa, turn on the counter lights!”

Nothing happens. I look up at the lights, just a moment away from wiggling my nose in an attempt to try to turn on the lights. “Alexa, turn on the kitchen counter lights!”

Not even a glimmer, nor a blink, nor a bit of smoke.

I then remember that these lights require the manual use of a light switch. How barbaric.

We have a lot of automation throughout the house. The majority of lights are controlled through if…then statements, Internet voodoo, and screaming repetitive commands at our Amazon Echos strategically placed throughout the condo. Fans turn on and off on their own. Lights blink when the Cubs win. Lamps change color when rain or lightning is detected within a certain radius of our neighborhood. Our fire alarm talks to us, our thermostat responds to our whims.

But flipping a switch to turn on the lamps hanging over the breakfast bar? Barbaric.

Ecobee is getting ready to release a wall switch that has Alexa (Amazon Echo) built into it. It has a motion sensor, a speaker and it also functions at a regular light switch. I think it would look über cool in the entryway to our kitchen.

It’s also a bit pricey at the moment.

Honestly, I’m debating as to whether to beg the budgeting department (my husband) for the money to buy the switch. The existing wall switch works just fine. It just requires manual effort.

When did I get so spoiled?

Movie Night.

Earl and I met up with Jamie and Chris for family movie night. We are striving to make this a weekly occurrence; we are aiming for Wednesday night to be the chosen night as this helps breaking up the routine of the work week. I love having our family together whenever we can.

Last week we got together, went out for a quick bite to eat and then sat down and watched “Call Me By Your Name”.

I knew nothing of the movie when we started watching it. By the end of the movie I was crying a bit. As a gay man in his very late 40s, I appreciated the movie’s backdrop of the 1980s and I especially enjoyed the coming of age story. While I’ve never had the opportunity to run through the fields of Italy at age 17, madly in love with an older man, there were elements of the love story that reminded me of my more innocent years. The movie’s music score was amazing; the cinematography was beautiful. I can see why the content of the movie would make some uncomfortable but the story felt very much at home for me. I identified with the spirit of the characters. I would watch the movie again without hesitation. As far as Oscar noms go, I enjoyed it more than “The Shape of Water”. That’s just me.

Tonight we watched “Lady Bird”. I was vaguely aware of this movie before the Oscars but after watching the awards this past weekend I told Earl that we needed to start watching more Oscar-worthy movies, and “Lady Bird” was close to the top of the list for me.

Another “coming of age” story of sorts, the character development of “Lady Bird” was quite good. Admittedly, I did have a little bit of an issue separating Laurie Metcalf’s character from her portrayal of Sheldon’s mother on “The Big Bang Theory” (I expected more god-fearing Christian talk coming out of her mouth) but following the senior year of Lady Bird was a little bit of an enlightening experience. The character was woven through her coming of age story with a heavy intricacy. The movie ended where I didn’t expect it to, and at first I felt like I was left hanging but then after a few moments of reflection I realized that it ended at the proper place in the narrative.

I’m purposely writing all of these things in a vague manner because I don’t want to go into spoiler territory.

“Lady Bird” had a different vibe from “Call Me By Your Name”, but both viewing experiences were enjoyable for me. I’m feeling the need to step away from the theatrical blockbusters, well, maybe except for the upcoming Infinity War and some of the things that Disney has coming out this year, but the indie and insightful movies are piquing my interest these days.

Everyone should have a family movie night.

Social.

So Earl and I had brunch at a local Mexican restaurant. It was a good Sunday afternoon experience and we had a nice time. See my Yelp feed for my review of the space. If you’re not following my Yelp feed you should. I actually contribute.

I kept getting distracted by the ladies at the next table; one of them had their phone set to flash the camera flash with a quick burst of strobe every time she received a notification of some sort. Honestly, I didn’t know an iPhone could do this. Apparently a vibration isn’t enough, we need to beam a bright flash from telstar.

This got me to trying to observe how these two ladies were using their phones during their brunch. One ate with one hand, her phone never leaving her other hand. She wasn’t engrossed with the phone but rather the two of them seemed to be talking about whatever was happening on their phone. A quick glance at a screen made it seem like they were talking about Snapchat. The other, the one with the strobe notifications, was using Instagram a lot. She left the phone face down on the table when she wasn’t looking at it. This made the strobe more prevalent.

It was interesting to me that it seemed like their technology wasn’t a distraction from their conversation but rather an integral part of their discussion. Maybe the younger generation has been rewired for multitasking. They looked like they were having a great time. And that’s what’s important.

Strobe flashes aside.

Reading.

So yesterday I started my 30 day challenge for the month of March. This month I am focusing on reading things that are really free or that I have paid for. I am trying to avoid sources that are supported by ad revenue, with a particular focus on any source that includes clickbait ads. Somewhat surprisingly, this includes news sources like CNN, which likes to supplement their clickbait ads with clickbait headlines. I mean, let’s be real, how many times can you use the term “Bomb Cyclone” when referring to a Nor’easter before it becomes just another storm in New York City.

A month or two ago I subscribed to Medium, a social blogging service that has both amateur and professional content creators and more importantly, contains absolutely no advertising. While the majority of content on Medium is quite good, there’s a relatively small amount of crap and that’s because people aren’t writing stupid things just to generate ad revenue. The Medium app has replaced the prime real estate on my iPhone and iPad home screens, supplanting Tweetbot to a back page. This has helped me find some sanity in the past 24 hours.

With the world the way it is today, we need all the sanity we can muster.

Crush.

Random photo from an Internet search

I think it was 1984, just shortly before my 16th birthday. My family was camping at a popular campground and marina; we were situated near relatives and friends in our Steury pop up camper. The camper could sleep eight, but it was just the four of us for this trip. Nearby were campers with a permanent site; they were friends of my parents. Their youngest daughter was staying with them and we had fun being teenagers. Her older brother visited for the evening; he would have to head back into town in the morning.

It was late Friday night and we were enjoying a campfire on the shore of the “north pond”. Lake Ontario was a mile or so away, separated from this inlet of water by a thin sandbar. It was easy to get to the beach by boat; from there Lake Ontario looked like an ocean. In the still of the summer night you could hear the waves crashing on the sand in the distance. The small ripples on the pond barely lapped the shore. Once in a while you’d hear a boat rock a bit as it bumped up against its tie down.

The fire burned brightly; it’s familiar warmth was comforting. Slowly everyone retired for the evening; as time closed in on midnight, it was me and the older brother sitting around the fire. We just chatted. I didn’t know him very well; our paths had not crossed a lot, but he seemed down to earth. He had a stocky build, traces of a mustache and typical 80s hair that wasn’t too feathered but still had some wind blown look to it. He liked fishing and the water and doing things along the lakeshore.

I don’t remember what we talked about. I do remember that I felt that I didn’t have to be so guarded around him. The guys in the neighborhood back home were good friends but I didn’t have any ‘feelings’ toward them other than hanging out with the guys. This guy, we’ll call him Charlie, well, he was cute and my biology was telling me that I found him attractive and I was being flooded with feelings that were confusing. I’d known for a long time that I was “different” but what that meant. My parents and sister were asleep in the camper. Outside of the canvas walls I was sitting with a guy I didn’t know that well. I felt like I was burning up. The fire was hot. He might have been drinking a beer. I was not. My not quite 16 year old hormones were raging and he wasn’t any the wiser. He was just sitting there, we were just talking, and no moves were made. I knew that he wasn’t different like me and I was confused as to why I was feeling the way I was feeling. When it was time to call it a night, we shook hands and I felt a tingling just with the handshake. What did this mean for me? I went to bed, opting to sleep on the couch.

My dad was up fairly early the next morning for work; after he left I heard splashing around in the pond and saw Charlie swimming. He was wearing only swimming trunks and was taking a bath in the pond. I thought that was good idea and I did the same. We horsed around as we washed our hair in the cold water and then he got out of the pond, dried off, got dressed, and went back to town, just as he had planned.

Still confused by what I was feeling I was, at the time, inexplicably sad. Other friends would visit throughout the day and my Mom was concerned about how mopey I was. It was confusion, it was horniness, it was a crush on someone that had absolutely no idea as to how I was feeling, and now he was gone. After lunch I went for a walk and found an isolated spot in the woods overlooking the other side of the pond. I sat for a while, under a tree and instantly found myself crying. It was a few minutes before I started to realize what “being different” really meant. My hormones were confirming what I had known deep down all along: I was attracted to other guys. Not just hanging out with the guys, I really liked guys and I wanted to be close to them. I wanted our skin to touch, I wanted to be close to another guy. I wanted to do things that I was afraid to even fantasize about.

It would be several years before I saw Charlie again. We shook hands, we chatted a bit. He’s probably married with a litter of grown kids and probably even a few grandkids by now.

And he never knew how he had inadvertently impacted my life that night we spent just shooting the breeze around a campfire.