Beat Saber.

This is not me. GIF courtesy of Giphy.

You would think a big dork like me would be all about the video games. The truth of the matter is, my age and affinity for retrocomputing lends its love to the likes of the Atari 2600 games Super Breakout, Astroblast, and Centipede. I’m not one to jump into games like Command and Conquer or whatever the latest shoot ’em dead game is these days. As far as gaming computers go, while we’ve had and Xbox and Wii in the relatively near past, I’m not huge into gaming.

We bought Oculus Quest 2s a month or two ago and I’ve become addicted to Beat Saber. I love the whole VR experience when it comes to gaming, but I still don’t want to shoot things. I’m happy just smashing blocks flying at me with lightsabers that I swing around. It’s the closest thing to Super Breakout that I’ll probably find in the 21st century.

If you’re not familiar with Beat Saber, it works like this. Blocks are coming at you in time to the music track that’s playing. You hit the blocks with the appropriate lightsaber in time with the music. The more accurate and definitive the hit, the more points you score. The tracks I’ve been playing have several different levels of difficulty. I’m up to “Hard” (three out of five) on most of them. I’ve tried “Expert” a couple of times (it’s the fourth level) and I usually fail about a third of the way into the track. I need to get more practice.

Unlike the days of the Atari 2600, playing Beat Saber with the Oculus Quest 2 is the best cardio workout I’ve had in the house in years. My arms are consistently sore from the excursion of anywhere between 30 to 90 minutes. I sweat like a crazy man, usually soaking the foam padding on the Oculus (once of the reason we bought two). The game is also fun for the whole family; we play across the miles courtesy of our broadband connection.

I’m sure the neighbors are watching through our balcony windows as we thrash around the living room (Earl) and bedroom (me), swinging at colorful blocks they can’t see. I don’t care. I love the immersive experience of Beat Saber and if I’m getting a decent amount of exercise thrashing my arms around in the air I’m happy with it.

1 Comment

WW84.

Photo courtesy of bookandfilmglobe.com

When it was announced that “WW84” or “Wonder Woman 1984” or “the second Wonder Woman” movie was going to be released in both theatres and on HBO Max on Christmas Day I was genuinely excited. Wonder Woman is my favorite superhero and while I haven’t kept up with her adventures in comic books at all in the 21st century, I’ve always been a fan of both the Lynda Carter and Cathy Lee Crosby adventures and I enjoyed the first Wonder Woman movie. I like Gal Gadot in the part. The costume is a bit more “Xena” than I’m used to, but I can deal.

I’m going to try very hard to not reveal any spoilers here, but consider yourself warned that I may refer to a couple of scenarios here and there that could be spoilerish. Plus, I’m going to give you my feelings on the film, and if you don’t want your upcoming viewing adventure impacted by my opinion, you’ve been warned.

Masks.

My husband and I took a brief trip into Indiana yesterday. Rest rooms are scarce in these pandemic times, and we usually stop at a Walmart, Target, or Menards1 to do our business before continuing on with our journey. We always wear our masks, because it’s the responsible thing to do for both our own health and the health of those around us. In Illinois, at least in Chicago, folks are pretty good about wearing masks when they’re suppose to, but there’s too many people that think having a mask covering only their mouth and not their nose is an acceptable way to do this. For the uninformed, it’s not. At our Target stop there was a much higher percentage of folks wearing their masks over their mouth but not covering their nose, and there were too many using their mask as a chinstrap.

I don’t know why I’m surprised that apparently the average American doesn’t understand the purpose or mechanics of wearing a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic. I mean, a couple of years ago, a hole blew in the side of a Southwest Airlines flight and interestingly, people did two things: take a selfie and put their oxygen masks on incorrectly.

Photo courtesy of USA Today.

Now, I’m not the smartest guy in the room. I’m not even the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but I do know that if something involves feeding oxygen to my body through an artificial means, or if I’m trying prevent something from being inhaled or exhaled, I’m going to need to cover both my mouth and my nose with whatever implement I am trying to use at this time.

It’s common sense.

Every flight has a demonstration of the correct use of an oxygen mask. Every flight attendant on every flight is going to show you how to use the oxygen mask before the airplane is even cleared for departure. That’s the way it works. Yet, look at these fools on the Southwest flight.

Back to the folks that don’t know how to wear a mask. I choose to believe they’re not that stupid. Perhaps they are, who knows in 2020. But I do choose to believe that they just don’t care about the people around them. They’re selfish, uncaring, unsympathetic, and devoid of compassion. They don’t care if grandma dies, they don’t care if their kids die, they just want to be able to stand in line at Starbucks or throw back a White Claw in their favorite pub without having to worry about this bothersome pandemic, but please give me a $2000 check.

If you don’t care about your own health I’m not going to try to save you. It’s not my place. But I’m going to do everything I can to keep me and my family safe. I love my family. I love my friends.

And the mask that doesn’t cover your nose or is around your chin pisses me off. I hope karma gives you what you deserve.

1 Save Big Money at Menards!

24.

Earl and I took a shot of ourselves in Virginia Beach before heading home. March 2006.

This picture hangs on my wall in my office. It’s probably one of my most favorite photos of the two of us. We spontaneously decided to drive to Virginia Beach on a snowy Friday after work, spent the night in Newark, Del. on the way down, and then drove the rest of the way to Virginia Beach Saturday morning. We spent Saturday there and drove the 10+ hours home, not hitting snow again until we were north of York, Pa. In the middle of a Central New York winter it was a great respite. I wrote about it here.

One of the countless number of reason I am in love with my husband is because he’ll travel anywhere at anytime with me and enjoy the experience as much as I do. Due to Coronavirus and sensible precautions, we have not done much of this spontaneous travel in 2020. To celebrate our 24th wedding anniversary, today we hopped in our Jeep Cherokee and drove around the northwest corner of Indiana and the northeast corner of Illinois before heading home to Chicago. It wasn’t a long drive. The highlight of the trip was a pass through a Target to use the restroom and a Taco Bell drive thru for lunch. We drove through a couple of small towns we hadn’t seen before and had some great conversation, held hands, and laughed a lot.

24 years ago today we had a small commitment ceremony on a pier on the Delaware River at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia, Pa. Our commitment was witnessed by Earl’s youngest brother Rick and at the time his girlfriend (now wife) Helen. Rick was a senior in high school. Earl and I were quite young.

That night I married my best friend.

The big photos and celebrations and attendance of our marriage was at our legal wedding ceremony, when the law allowed us to get legally married in New York State back in 2011. It was a beautiful day and a moment I will always treasure.

But the original commitment ceremony will always be our wedding day, and will always sing a song in my heart. On that night I married my best friend. He is the only other human being on the planet that can occupy the same space as me when I want to be alone. He’s the only one that has ever fully understood me. He is my best friend. I see fireworks whenever I see him. We laugh. We cry. We love together. We have no secrets. I never thought I would find what we have.

I’ve said in the past that becoming a pilot was the second best thing that I’ve ever done. 24 years ago today was the very best thing I’ve ever done.

Memory.

I’ve mentioned this before, my interest in technology all started with electronic cash registers. As part of my deep fascination with “all things connected”, when our local retail outlets began converting from the electromechanical cash registers to their electronic equivalents in the mid to late 1970s, I was quite intrigued. These electronic wonders, which contained a tiny fraction of the computing power we have at our fingertips or on our wrists today, were amazing to me with their segmented LED displays, crisp, clanking printers, and quick computations of tax and change.

I recently obtained a few bits of memorabilia from the long gone Data Terminal Systems company of Maynard, Mass. I now have a brass keychain, a silicon chip commemorating the 75,000th electronic cash register produced by the company, and the display panel of one of their cash registers. The guidance display is for the French version, so it has markings like FERME and SOUS TOTAL instead of LOCKED and SUB TOTAL.

Seeing the display immediately reminded me of something I noticed back in the very early 1980s. On the display strip above, you’ll see the “Data Terminal Systems Series 300” is left justified to the piece of plastic. On the cash registers we had at the local grocery store, the display was identical to this (albeit in English) except it said “Data Terminal Systems Series 400” and it’s centered on the plastic. The cabinet is the same, the keyboard is the same, the cash drawer is the same, but the difference in model changed the position of the name badge. I instantly recalled noticing this back in 1981 or 1982.

Photo courtesy of globalnews.ca

Recalling this buried memory so vividly unlocked a bunch of memories and observations I had about these cash registers.

Having a memory like this is a wonderful thing. I can recall many things that make me smile. I remember wonderful things that have happened decades ago. I have no idea what I ate for lunch yesterday but I can tell you that on Fridays in elementary school we had “Fishburgers” with a side of green beans, peanuts, and a dish of apple crisp in March 1978.

Unfortunately my memory also retains the bad stuff. I recall every time I was hollered at by a teacher or authority figure. I remember taunts and teases and the like for being who I am. I recall punching my sister in the leg when I was getting too many “inputs” at once and subsequently overwhelmed by the radio, the traffic, and her yelling while driving through the small city of Watertown on the way to our semi-weekly dentist appointments. (Sorry for punching you, sis, I still feel bad about it to this day).

The key to a successful life is remembering and building upon on the good things and simply learning from the bad things and moving on. Letting go is not easy for me. Memories simply don’t fade. They may skew slightly and I imagine some day I’ll run out of storage space, but I wouldn’t trade my ability to remember things for anything, despite my tendency to dwell on the bad things from time to time.

I’m solidly in the latter half of my life and if I were to have one resolution for 2021, it would be to not sweat the small stuff and to learn from the challenges and move on. Just because we’re on the downhill slope doesn’t mean we can’t keep building and growing.

To grow with positivity is to be alive. I’ll have to remember that.

Covid Christmas.

Our Christmas plans are quiet this year. We have minimized our celebrating to the four of us and FaceTime journeys elsewhere. We are all healthy. That’s all I ask for.

Wildcat.

Picture courtesy of ebay

My Mom’s birthday is two days after Christmas. In 52 years I’ve never combined her birthday and Christmas presents together, because that’s just lazy. She didn’t pick her birthday so she should always get a separate memento on each holiday and I’ve stuck to that and I will stick to that until one of us moves onto the next thing.

Back when we lived in the Great Lakes mobile home (so pre-1977), Grandma City bought my Mom a GE Wildcat record player, identical to the one pictured above, for her combination Christmas and Birthday gift. It was quite the marvel with the ability to hold six albums at once and a convenient storage place for the 45 RPM adapter up in the upper left hand corner. The whole affair closed into a convenient carrying case. It was situated on the built in shelves in the mobile home “dining room”, which was actually the original living room until Dad built the addition onto the house and we had a new living room where the porch used to be.

The GE Wildcat record player made its way to the new house in September 1977 and was still going strong when I left home for college in late 1986. I don’t know what happened to it after that. I probably spun it out of favor with all my Stars on 45 records blasting in the family room. I don’t think it was ever transported to a party using the nifty carrying case feature. Maybe Mom and Dad did that under the cover of darkness after we were put to bed and guarded by a sitter.

Mom used to play Christmas music on that record player at this time of year. For some reason I remember “The White Family Christmas” but that can’t be right. I mean, would we really have “The White Family Christmas” in the mid 1970s? I’m pretty sure the album had the WT Grants logo on the back.

Outside of the Christmas season the GE Wildcat was playing Anne Murray, Kenny Rogers, or the Statler Brothers unless I was playing Stars on 45 or Elvis Presley’s “Rubberneckin”. In the mid 1980s it played many more records, all stacked up nicely and conveying the glorious synths in tiny stereophonic sound.

Before I wrap up, can I just say I find more consumer comfort in seeing the entire “GENERAL (GE) ELECTRIC” logo instead of just the modern (GE) ball we have today? It’s just part of my delightful eccentricities.

May your days be merry and bright, you wildcat.

Worst.

Many of the news media are known for calling Trump “the worst President in modern U.S. history”. Why do they say that? There’s only been 45 people to hold this office of the presidency; who in the 45 of them has been actual worse at the job than Trump?

Can any president claim that over 300K Americans have been killed by a pandemic that could have been mitigated to result in a much lower death count?

Andrew Jackson was pretty awful with his “Indian Relocation Act”. Herbert Hoover didn’t do us many favors with his prelude to the Depression. I guess it’s all relative, but I really don’t think any president has been as reckless, self-serving, or dangerous as Trump. Ever. In the history of the country.

The death count of 9/11 is being reached or frightfully exceeded on a DAILY basis right now during this raging pandemic. Trump is off to Mar-A-Lago with his whore in toe and he’s vowing to veto a stimulus package. Yes, the country should be giving us more money but he couldn’t be bothered to address the issue when Congress was debating how the next stimulus should be handled. Our technological infrastructure was attacked by Russia but he’s cutting federal funds for the military and he won’t even address the issue.

Worst president ever? Absolutely. No doubt. Stop dancing around the colossal failure this guy has been.

Park It.

Photo from Etsy.

I can vividly remember one of my very first Christmas gifts from Santa. Even though it was probably 50 years ago, one year Santa brought me this Fisher Price Parking Ramp and Service Center. It came with a little car and a couple of the Fisher Price Little People. And the Little People were made out of wood and plastic.

Photo from ClickAmericana.

A couple years later my sister had an A-Frame house and maybe the camper. My cousins might have had the camper. My mom’s cousin’s kids had the airport and I thought that was very nifty.

After a few years we had a few more Fisher Price toys and on a school snow day I built a little village, filling in the storefront gaps with a cardboard box or two and my little rocking chair turned on its side.

I wonder if kids even have snow days anymore. They can just do distance learning.

My, how times have changed in half a century.