BlathrWayne Lorentz

Blathring in September, 2022.

Break a leg!

Friday, September 30th, 2022 Alive18,784days

An error message from Houston Methodist Hospital's Epic system

Houston Methodist Hospital has eighty-brazillion dollars and ninty-brazillion employees. If it canʼt keep its webview from breaking a leg, what am I supposed to do?

Also, someone should fix that grammar. It's probably Epicʼs default, but that doesnʼt make it right.

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Glub glub glub

Friday, September 30th, 2022 Alive18,784days

An fish tank devoid of life

One of the nice things about Houston Methodist Hospital is the fish.

Scattered around the campus are large aquaria, which are much nicer to look at than the television screens hanging from the ceiling blaring The Price is Right while youʼre trying to comfort a nervous loved one.

For some reason, this aquarium in this office has no fish.

What happened to the fish? Did they never arrive? Are they out for a walk? Did they die?

Sarcastically I think, “If the doctors in this section can't keep fish alive, how can I expect them to keep people alive?”

Also, I think maintaining fish tanks for a large, deep-pocketed healthcare company is a dream job. It seems like there's enough of them to have someone in-house.

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Marching on

Friday, September 30th, 2022 Alive18,784days

An x-ray backlight cabinet in a doctorʼs office

Since x-rays are all digital now, it looks like the old x-ray backlight cabinets are being repurposed as message boards.

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Waiting

Friday, September 30th, 2022 Alive18,784days

A man waiting on a corner in a wheelchair and hospital gown

I saw this guy from the train.

Iʼve had bad days in my life, but Iʼve never had “nobody to pick me up from the hospital” bad days.

I was feeling sorry for myself at the time, and this helped put things into perspective. Iʼm someone who earns his living doing nothing more interesting than pushing buttons for a living. My problems are minuscule compared with the rest of the world.

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Thanks for nothing

Thursday, September 29th, 2022 Alive18,783days

Apple Maps showing me that the local American Express office is permanently closed

Dear Apple Maps,

Please stop showing me places that are “permanently closed.” I know the pandemic ruined everything. Youʼre not helping me find whatʼs left.

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Warm fuzzy logic

Wednesday, September 28th, 2022 Alive18,782days

A high temperature warning from my iPhone

It's nice that iOS 16 lets people know the phone is too hot when it does things. It used to do things, but not tell you.

When I lived in the desert, just having an iPhone in your pocket or on a table could sometimes cause the phone to turn itself off. If you were lucky, you'd see something very quickly appear on the screen about “Entering thermal shutdown” or some such. A minute later, you were out in the desert without a working phone.

Apple, and most tech companies, build their products for the environment where Apple, and most tech companies, are located — San Francisco. When I talk to tech people who work at these companies, sometimes they simply cannot wrap their brains around weather conditions that are commonplace elsewhere.

Another example is iPhone wired headphones. Theyʼre made with plastic that gets brittle in the cold. Of course, when youʼre bundled up against the cold is when you need your headphones the most. That was how I learned about Bluetooth headphones, and got a set of Sony headphones for use with my SonyEricsson M600c when commuting on the CTA in the middle of the night during Chicago winters. Apple wouldnʼt make its own wireless headphones until over a decade later.

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Still better than “John Rambo”

Tuesday, September 27th, 2022 Alive18,781days

Max Ice mode engaged on a KitchenAid refrigerator

“Max Ice” is my 80ʼs action hero stage name.

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“Thanksmas?”

Tuesday, September 27th, 2022 Alive18,781days

A package of H.E.B. Holiday Stuffing potato chips

An object can be both well done, and not good at the same time. To wit: “Holiday Stuffing” favor potato chips from H.E.B.

The San Antonio supermarket chain has leapfrogged pumpkin spice season and landed firmly in the fuzzy, nostalgic quagmire of Thanksmas season.

Opening the bag, I took my usual deep breath of snackmosphere to preview what was ahead, and I nearly gagged. It really does smell very much like Stove-Top stuffing. It also tastes more like stuffing than a lot of brandsʼ actual boxed stuffing does these days.

So H.E.B. gets an A+ for execution, because when someone said “make stuffing-flavored potato chips,” someone else made it happen. But as food goes, itʼs just not good, because when you eat it, you expect one thing and get another.

Iʼll still finish the bag, though. And let the “Holiday” term slide because stuffing is traditional for both Christmas and Thanksgiving.

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Zzzz shell

Monday, September 26th, 2022 Alive18,780days

A turtle on a rock in the sun in the Japanese Garden at Hermann Park

One of the best features of the Sunday Morning program on CBS is the part at the end where we get to see some part of the natural world. No lasers. No music. No talking heads. Just birds, and plants, and bees, and animals doing what they're meant to do.

While CBS has slashed the time devoted to that segment each week from minutes down to mere seconds, other television stations like KHOU/Houston and Sky News, have started adding these segments.

As a former television producer, I know that in addition to be beautiful and memorable and giving people a reason to stop and stare, these segments with soft ending times are useful for padding out a short show, or sacrificing so that I can cram in some last-minute story.

With the infinite resources of the intarweb, there's no need to cut nautre for time. So here is my gift to you: A turtle being all turtle-y in Hermann Park. Watch as long as you like.

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We named the dog Pepita

Sunday, September 25th, 2022 Alive18,779days

Two packages of pumpkin seeds from H.E.B.

I havenʼt lived in Texas long enough to consistently remember that some items in the supermarket are cheaper if theyʼre labeled in Spanish.

For example, here are two packages of bulk pumpkin seeds from H.E.B. The ones I bought on the 17th were the Spanish-labeled ones and cost $6.98 per pound.

A week later, I bought more pumpkin seeds, but accidentally got them from the English-labeled bin, so I ended up paying $7.98 a pound.

I initially noticed this while in the store because the two bins are near one another, which is why I picked the Spanish ones last time.

I suppose there are plenty of ways to get all angry and political about this, but Iʼm not. I find it amusing, and yet another one of the quirks of living Lone Star.

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Sold by weight not number of crackers, blah, blah, blah…

Sunday, September 25th, 2022 Alive18,779days

Two sealed sleeves of Ritz crackers from the same box

The delightful thing about the Fresh Stacks version of Ritz crackers isn't that by putting the crackers in smaller sleeves, they stay fresher longer. It's that you never know how many crackers there are going to be in each sleeve.

In the photograph above, you can see that one sleeve has 14 crackers, while the other has 11. It's all the fun of a food lottery, but with a bonus side of vaguely feeling like you're being cheated.

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Isn't it too early for this sort of thing?

Sunday, September 25th, 2022 Alive18,779days

A jack-o-lantern and black cat-themed bubble nightlight

Halloween can be educational. In addition to teaching children about math (candy nutrition labels), geography (mapping out a trick-or-treat route), history (Halloween folklore), and extortion ("Trick or treat!"), it's also possible to learn about physics. The way to do that is with a Halloween bubble light.

I don't know why bubble lights went out of fashion, but showing a child that something that is boiling can still safe to touch is an opportunity to learn about the phases of matter, the elements, boiling points, and all kinds of happy physics and chemistry things.

Also, it's never too early to put up Halloween decorations — if they're educational.

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Nerd alert!

Sunday, September 25th, 2022 Alive18,779days

My newly relabeled Harmony cartridge, hard at fun in my Sears Tele-Games Video Arcade

Today I decided to make a Sears-accurate label for my Harmony cart.

If you're not a retro video game nerd, some of those words may not make sense. To elucidate:

  • A Harmony Cartridge is a device that can be plugged into an 1970's-era Atari 2600 video game machine. Data files can then be loaded onto an SD card, and the SD card inserted into the Harmony cartridge so that you can play many different video games without having to swap cartridges all the time.
  • In the 1970's, Sears licensed the Atari 2600 and put out its own version, calling it the Sears Tele-Games Video Arcade. This is the machine that I own.
  • Sears also licensed Atari's video games for the machine, and sold them under its own Sears Tele-Games brand
  • Sears was notorious for changing the names of Atari games. Sometimes because the name that Atari chose for its 2600 game was the same as one that Sears used for an earlier video game machine. Sometimes just because. Sears was this massive company that built America's tallest building and had its own ZIP Code, so renaming a bunch of video games was no big deal.

The Harmony cart comes with a label that doesn't look like an Atari label, or a Sears label, so it kind of ruins the look of the machine. In fact, there's no label on the end at all. That's because that's where you jam the microSD card into the cart so you can play your games.

I found some fonts on the intarwebs and decided to teach myself a bit of Affinity Photo. The result is pretty good. It's far from perfect, mostly because I couldn't find a font that really matches the Sears font. Which makes sense, since Sears was a big enough company to have its own font artists.

On the left is a Sears Speedway II cartridge that my wife bought for me at the Charleston Antiques Market. In the middle is my invented label printed on plain paper. On the right is the new glossy label in situ.

Bauhaus appears to be the closest font, and there are hundreds of Bauhaus-inspired fonts available for free download on the internet. Sadly, most of them are corrupt, incomplete, or worse. It seems that the people who run free font web sites just copy files from one another, and don't bother to verify that the font actually works.

For the green text, I found a generic seven-segment-display-inspired font that's almost correct, except for the middle pointy bit of the capital M.

I printed out the label on glossy photo paper, which looks nice, but isn't truly accurate. To be accurate, it would be on matte label stock, sun faded, smeared with peanut butter, and have the corner peeled up a bit.

On the left is a Sears Speedway II cartridge. On the right is the new glossy end label on my Harmony cart.

Since Sears was in the habit of renaming so many games, I decided to change the name of my Harmony cart to "Super Multi-Cart." The name just popped into my head.

Because the microSD card sticks out of the end of the Harmony cart a bit, the label doesn't lay flat. I haven't decided how to address this. My options are:

  1. Use an X-Acto knife to cut a tiny square from the label for the SD card to poke through.
  2. Shave the plastic off of the end of the microSD card so it doesn't stick out so far. I'll have to look into if this can be done without ruining the electronics inside.

If you're into this sort of thing, here are the Affinity Photo label files I made, so you can print your own, or improve upon what I've done:

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For your pleasure

Saturday, September 24th, 2022 Alive18,778days

Both ridged and wavy potato chips

Today I learned that there are both “ridged” and “wavy” potato chips, and theyʼre not the same thing.

Clearly, there are people who prefer one over the other, or both wouldnʼt be on offer.

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Kern this

Saturday, September 24th, 2022 Alive18,778days

Ordinary human being: “What's the longest day of the year?”

Webdev: “In which font?”

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Lou Grant approves

Saturday, September 24th, 2022 Alive18,778days

Vanilla Bourbon coffee from Piñon Coffee

How does one get both drunk and sober at the same time? Booze coffee!

This isnʼt that, but itʼs what I imagine such a drink would be, if such a drink existed. Other than Irish coffee, which is more like coffee-flavored booze than booze-flavored coffee.

It will surprise no one that this gustatory confusion spews from the ever-reliable roastmasters at Piñon Coffee in Albuquerque. Iʼve tried hundreds of coffees from all over the world, and I keep going back to Piñonʼs larder. It must be something in the water. Free shipping doesn't hurt, either.

As promised by the fonts on the label, the vanilla flavor is smaller than the Bourbon flavor. It sneaks up on you like the guy pretending to be drunk at the end of the bar who picks your pocket while youʼre engrossed in your iPhone. The Bourbon flavor, on the other hand, smacks you on the side of the head like the stench of high-octane pee from the subway-tile-and-fly-poser-lined bathroom at CBGB.

On a scale from Never Again (1) to Sell a Kidney For More (10), this is about a 2. Four if it's on sale.

Itʼs fine for what it is, but even though Iʼm a quick riser, I like my coffee to be friendly in the morning, not to bite me on the leg and knock stuff off the coffee table with its tail.

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Ask what you mean

Thursday, September 22nd, 2022 Alive18,776days

Microsoft Teams asking how the call quality was

The call quality was awful. The organizer wasn't prepared, peopleʼs dogs kept barking, and I ran out of coffee. One star.

Oh, you mean how was the connection quality? Why didnʼt you ask that, Microsoft Teams?

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I have plenty of credentials

Thursday, September 22nd, 2022 Alive18,776days

A FortiClient error message with bad grammar

“Insufficient” means “not enough,” it doesnʼt mean wrong. “Incorrect” is closer to what FortiClient is trying to say. This is why tech companies should hire a proofreader for anything that leaves the building, even if only on a contract basis. It makes you look amateur, and in the case of this security app — insecure.

Also, if you use “credential(s),” rather than just counting the number of credentials and using the correct word, thatʼs just lazy.

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Well, shiver me timbers!

Wednesday, September 21st, 2022 Alive18,775days

A page from the Scully & Scully catalog

My wife received a catalog in the mail from Scully & Scully. And just in time, too!

Iʼve been building a 300-foot-long 17th-century Spanish galleon in the back yard for the last five years, and need a massive desk for the captainʼs quarters. You know — to put my gold doubloon scale on and to shout “Arrrrrrr!” across at scallywags and landlubbers.

And at just $12,275, itʼs a bargain! Might as well get a full set of matching $3,000 chairs from the next page.

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Still better than “Remington Steele”

Tuesday, September 20th, 2022 Alive18,774days

“Cache Update” is my 80ʼs action hero stage name.

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There's no porch light. Is she doing trick-or-treat?

Tuesday, September 20th, 2022 Alive18,774days

She's in there. Snoring.

Annie spends so much time sleeping in the closet that I decorated her front door for Halloween.

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A stitch in tine

Tuesday, September 20th, 2022 Alive18,774days

This is no longer a fork. It is now a three-k.

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Still better than %NaN%

Saturday, September 17th, 2022 Alive18,771days

Bad data during iOS 16 setup

I guess someone on the iOS 16 team at Apple didnʼt check for NULL before shoving the date data into the string formatter. The lesson is, of course, that while you never trust external data, sometimes you can't trust internal data, either.

Still, Apple is the single largest company on the planet right now. If it canʼt do software, what chance do I have?

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God save the King

Friday, September 16th, 2022 Alive18,770days

A screenshot from Sky News of King Charles Ⅲ greeting well-wishers in Cardiff, Wales

40 brazillion people turned out to cheer King Charles Ⅲ during his brief visit to Wales today.

So much for the chattering anti-royalists who scream into their internet echo chamber that the monarchy is both widely and deeply despised in the land of the red dragon.

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I would try, too

Friday, September 16th, 2022 Alive18,770days

Queue status screenshot from Sky News

80 brazillion people stood in line for a day, or more, just to see The Queen's coffin for 15 seconds.

Things like this put the “great” into Great Britain.

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Program it again, SAM

Thursday, September 15th, 2022 Alive18,769days

Creative Computing, May-June, 1978, page 28

SAM76 was one of many computer languages that came out in the 1970ʼs that promised to be the “next big thing,” but failed to gain traction.

It looks a bit like AP/L, with its tight syntax, but was meant for text manipulation like Lisp.

I haven't found a SAM76 interpreter to play with in 2022, so here's an example of what a SAM76 program would look like, from the May-June, 1978 issue of Creative Computing that would take a number from the terminal input, and uses recursion to print out the factorial of that number.

%dt,F,
!%ii,*,1,1,!%mu,*,%F,%su,*,1//////////=
%pt,F,*/=
%F,5,/=120

I'm no SAM76 expert, but I think there's a typo in this listing. I think the !%ii… is actually supposed to be !%is… to retrieve an “input string” from the terminal. But I'm happy to be proven wrong.

As you may have guessed from the ten slashes, this language is all about nesting commands. Amusingly, it doesn't matter how many slashes you close your expressions with, as long as it's enough. So just keep banging that slash key!

SAM76 is a great example of smart people dealing with the scarcity of their time. This is a language that has been optimized for teletypes, punch cards, and paper tape. The % isn't a command prompt, it's a command. (More specifically, a “warning character.”) The “mu” and “pt” and such are shortened, almost tokenized, keywords.

Sadly, there is no SAM76 entry on Wikipedia, and almost no information on the internet about it, so it will soon be erased from the public memory by search engines (*cough*Google*cough*) that choose to only show things currently trending in popular culture. Shakespeare, youʼre next.

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Brain freeze

Thursday, September 15th, 2022 Alive18,769days

A package of H.E.B. frozen cheese ravioli

This H.E.B. frozen cheese ravioli is “ready to cook.” Is there another option? Does H.E.B. sell “some assembly required” cheese ravioli?

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Agree, and be ignored

Thursday, September 15th, 2022 Alive18,769days

Screenshot of the ITV News app

The ITV News app does not allow you to reject cookies. Not even optional ones. The only choice you have is to agree to its folksy question “You ok [sic] with our use of cookies?”

Another screenshot from the FAILed ITV News app

But, wait — it gets worse. Even if you accept the cookies, all that happens is the over-friendly “Agreed!” button gets greyed out. You never actually get to proceed to the ITV News app.

As the Brits say, it's “not fit for purpose.”

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You did this to yourself

Wednesday, September 14th, 2022 Alive18,768days

Screenshot of Microsoft Word

…Now select “Hyperlink” … No, the other “Hyperlink” … No, the one with the control decoration indicating … No, the other one … No, just mouse over “Hyperlink” … No, the other one …

This is why Iʼm reluctant to help people through their Microsoft woes.

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I was saving it… for later

Wednesday, September 14th, 2022 Alive18,768days

Harrodʼs #08: Knightsbridge Roast.

Since Iʼm going to spend most of the morning watching Queen Elizabethʼs cortège on Sky News, I guess itʼs time to tuck into my Harrodʼs Knightsbridge Roast #08.

Unlike The Queen, who was a very strong woman, this coffee is rather weak. Itʼs very much diner coffee, similar to that which is served by the Omelete House in Las Vegas. Which was the last restaurant in which Jerry Lewis ate.

Perhaps it's only appropriate. The coffee is as weak as tea. And tea would have been a more appropriate choice this morning.

A still frame of the Queen's cortège from Sky News.
Iʼm watching on Sky because it is the only British broadcaster with an AppleTV app that's available in the United States.
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Delivery headache

Tuesday, September 13th, 2022 Alive18,767days

I tried to track my PillPack delivery. I got this error message.

I guess this is what happens when I rely on the same company that sells me plastic adhesive googlie eyes 👀 👀 👀 to deliver my prescriptions.

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Word to your motherboard

Tuesday, September 13th, 2022 Alive18,767days

Microsoft Outlook is telling me that there is a problem with Microsoft Word. I guess itʼs well-intentioned, but snitches get stitches.

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Weʼre number what?

Monday, September 12th, 2022 Alive18,766days

Those Methodists make a fine cup of coffee

Iʼm always trying to explain to my coworkers the importance of future-proofing what you publish.

Here we see a happy coffee sleeve touting Houston Methodist Hospitalʼs rank as the number 16 hospital in the nation. Except that it isnʼt.

Methodist is actually number 15. Sixteen was last year. But some middle manager thought it was a good idea to order fifty brazillion coffee sleeves flogging the #16 position, and now itʼs stuck under-bragging until they run out.

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Do what?

Monday, September 12th, 2022 Alive18,766days

This menu is beyond inscrutable.

There's a big push in large healthcare companies to make things easier for patients. It sounds dumb to have to state that, but there has not always been the institutional will to care for patients on their level. But a lot of studies and computer models have shown that something as simple as repeating instructions to a patient can improve the outcomes of treatment in a percentage of people. With so many people in the world now, even a small change can mean enormous savings in money for hospitals, insurance companies, and the patients, themselves.

Unfortunately, we're still at the beginning of the process of bringing the healthcare institutions down to the level of the people they are supposed to serve. The use of regular language and easy methods is spreading, but remains uneven.

To wit: The image above, which is the first question asked when trying to book an imaging appointment with Houston Methodist Hospital.

This is an online form for patients, not doctors. When a regular person phones Methodist to make an imaging appointment, it suggests you use this form to make the appointment online.

I am not a doctor. How am I supposed to know if I need an “MRI 1.5T Wide Bore with Contrast,” or an “MRI 3T without Contrast,”, or a “Fluoroscopy,” or something else? It turns out the type of appointment I need isn't even listed in the options.

As someone who builds healthcare web sites for a living, I understand the technical reasons why this is the way it is. But I also understand that it doesn't have to be this way.

There are people in healthcare who care quite a lot about making things easier, and therefore better, for patients. That caring and understanding rarely pervades and entire organization. But it has to.

What we see here is, in my semi-expert opinion, a breakdown in the chain of caring. Something got outsourced to an external company that doesn't have to care. Someone didn't get trained in the importance of making things easier for the patients, and let this awful thing see the light of day. Some web developer somewhere doesn't have the authority, confidence, or will to question what's been handed to him to produce. He's just there to push buttons and cash a check.

Every person at every level of a healthcare organization not only had to be told to care, but trained to care. Even, and especially, the directors and C-levels. The upper levels are told about how much money can be saved by making healthcare more accessible to ordinary people. But they aren't trained in what that actually looks like, so they are not able to spot mistakes as they're happening, so they can have the people under them correct the problems before they persist and spread. Allowing people to say “That's the way we've always done it” is evidence of a sclerotic organization.

Similarly, and as alluded to above, with the continual outsourcing of functions, you also end up outsourcing caring. Someone pasting together AJAX snippets from StackOverflow in an SalesForce application on the other side of the planet doesn't care that the web site is useless to 90% of users. They've done their job, and that's all their staffing company cares about. It's important to understand that lack of detail and care makes your healthcare company look bad, and it hurts your bottom line by making your treatments less effective, and making your doctors work more.

Everyone in a healthcare organization has to not only care about the patients, but be trained in this. Not just the hands-on people like doctors and nurses and patient liaisons. Everyone. The people who process forms. The people in accounting. And, yes, the I.T. people. Every single person in a healthcare organization affects patients in some way.

To its credit, of the dozens healthcare organizations I've interacted with in dozens of states, Methodist is among the better and more advanced with regard to how it treats its patients. But the process is incomplete.

Healthcare companies talk a lot about caring. But unless there is an ethos of responsibility to the patient that includes every single person in that organization, it's all just marketing.

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She doesn't even have thumbs

Saturday, September 10th, 2022 Alive18,764days

Annie trying to use a TRS-80 Model 100

“Whadda ya mean there's no Facebook Messenger on this thing? I have to call my bookie to beat the spread!”

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Seattle, we have a problem

Friday, September 9th, 2022 Alive18,763days

An Amazon.com error message

With half a trillion dollars to work with, this still happens to Amazon.com. So, what chance do I have?

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Stick that in your [redacted] and smoke it

Friday, September 9th, 2022 Alive18,763days

A “25 pack!” of fuzzy sticks

At Wal-Mart, pipe cleaners are now called “fuzzy sticks.” Iʼm not sure what to blame for this change in terminology. Perhaps:

  • Kids don't do arts and crafts anymore, so they have no use for pipe cleaners?
  • Pipes are associated with tobacco, so we can't let children know they exist?
  • There are enough people in the world who have never seen a pipe that they wouldn't know how to clean one?

I guess all of the new people don't know about Sherlock Holmes.

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I understand that you understand

Friday, September 9th, 2022 Alive18,763days

Amazon.com chatbot in action

I'm not sure where the Amazon.com chatbot picked up the phrase “Thank you for understanding here.” But, inspired by its gratefulness, I think Iʼll understand “over there” next.

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Smells like Autumn

Thursday, September 8th, 2022 Alive18,762days

Iʼm old enough to have lived in a world before “pumpkin spice” everything.

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Peesp!

Sunday, September 4th, 2022 Alive18,758days

Picture of a PlayStation Portable booting up.

I was digging the Halloween decorations out of the basement today, when I came across my old PSP gear. Joy!

Sonyʼs PlayStation Portable wasn't the first portable video game system I ever owned. I had the original Atari Lynx back in the 80ʼs. But the PSP brings back warm memories of a time in my life when I was more full of hope, and the world seemed to be filled with endless possibilities

I was in Japan in February of 2005, a couple of months after the PSPʼs launch, but two months before it became available in the rest of the world. My wife and I were riding on a subway in Tokyo when an OL (“office lady” — the female version of “salaryman”) sat down next to where I was standing. She pulled out a PSP and started playing ルミネス (“Lumines” in English). I was absolutely enthralled. I immediately said to Darcie, “Thatʼs what I'm bringing home from Japan.”

A game of ルミネス starting.

We were staying at the Keio Plaza Hotel, so as soon as it opened the next morning, I ran down the street to Yodobashi Camera searching for a PSP.

Yodobashi Camera is like the old Crazy Eddie electronics department store, except taking up a dozen floors of a skyscraper. If it runs on electricity, it's probably at Yodobashi. Anything from a Hello Kitty waffle maker to a household earthquake detector. From a refrigerator to a radiation monitor that you hang around your neck. From a transistor radio to the latest computer gear. If there was a PSP in Tokyo, I was sure I'd find it here.

Except that I didnʼt. Yodobashi was too much for me. Too many levels. Too much stuff. Precisely zero signs printed in English. I was over my head. Finally, I had to ask for help. A young man in an ill-fitting suit and an eager grin decided to take a chance with me.

A picture I took of Yodobashi Camera in 2016.

My Japanese is bad. Real bad. When weʼre in Japan, my wife is in her element. She handles the shopgirls, and drags me around like a wide-eyed toddler. But I was on my own this time.

I tried to communicate very clearly and plainly, “Video games?” Blank stare. I broke out my best non-regional radio voice and enunciated as clearly as I could: “Play-stay-shun Port-a-bull.” Nervous smile.

Finally, I resorted to pantomime. I held my hands out in front of me in loose vertical fists, and pumped my thumbs up and down like I was pressing buttons.

“Aaaaah! Peesp-o!”

With an expression of exuberant relief and a flourish of forearms and pointing palms, he guided me to a half-height white cabinet, bent over, slid back the glass door and popped up with a glossy white box.

“Peesp-o!”

With a hasty bow, he took off like jackrabbit down the warren of Panasonic boom boxes, Sony Cliés, and Sanyo voice recorders. His job was done, and he was happy to be done with me, and out of there.

That's why to this day, my wife and I call our video game machines “Peesps.”

Part of the opening video from the video game 首都高バトル.
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An idea percolates...

Saturday, September 3rd, 2022 Alive18,757days

Today I learned the local nursery sells Arabica plants. The sign says they grow to be eight feet tall, but have to be protected from the cold. Of course, the ceiling in my library is ten feet tall, so maybe...

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Monarchs rule

Saturday, September 3rd, 2022 Alive18,757days

Flapper girls gotta flap.
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Remember the flavor of the Alamo

Friday, September 2nd, 2022 Alive18,756days

“Taste of San Antonio” coffee

If youʼve ever wondered what San Antonio tastes like, H.E.B. has you covered.

Taste of San Antonio sounds like a Summer food festival, but it's actually a flavor of coffee, available in regular, decaf, K-cups, and decaf K-cups, for those of you care more about the look of your coffee maker than the quality of the coffee it spits out.

Apparently, San Antonio is “Medium-bodied with cinnamon, chocolate and vanilla flavors.” I only know one person in San Antonio, and Iʼd say that describes her correctly.

It's both naturally, and artificially flavored. For your safety.

To me, it tastes a bit like Biscochito coffee from Piñon Coffee in Albuquerque. But weaker. But that last part might just be because itʼs from a supermarket, and not a place that draws milk foam cowboys on top of your drink.

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A meaningless milestone

Friday, September 2nd, 2022 Alive18,756days

Netflix says today marks one year since I've had Netflix. Which is not true. I've had Netflix for 24 years. But Netflix doesn't have a way to put an account on hold when you go on vacation, or move. Instead, you have to cancel your account, then sign up again when you come back home or arrive in your new place.

Amazingly, and much to its credit, when you sign up again, your Netflix queue is restored, and you're right where you left off. So I guess it's only ½ a fail.

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