BlathrWayne Lorentz

Friday, November 25th, 2022 Alive 18,840 days

It's called a “tech stack” because of how easily it falls over.

❖ ❖ ❖

Better late than never

Tuesday, November 15th, 2022 Alive 18,830 days

A late notification from the Constellation Apartments in Las Vegas, Nevada

I just received a notice from Constellation Apartments that my service request has been completed.

It's worth noting that I haven't lived at Constellation for 16 months.

I wonder what took them so long to fix.

❖ ❖ ❖

Whatʼs a DVD?

Tuesday, November 15th, 2022 Alive 18,830 days

An error message on the Netflix web site

Netflix is one of the largest media companies on the planet. If it canʼt keep its web site from eating itself, what chance do I have?

❖ ❖ ❖

Youʼll play pretend miniature golf tomorrow

Monday, November 7th, 2022 Alive 18,822 days

An unwelcome delivery update

“No Access to Delivery location” is Postal Service for “There was a big Astros World Series parade in the way, so the mailman went home.”

❖ ❖ ❖

Fluff and fold

Sunday, November 6th, 2022 Alive 18,821 days

The header from the Potter Country Storeʼs web site

While I appreciate the Potter Country Store being creative with its web site, I donʼt think a laundry basket is quite the right icon for a virtual shopping cart.

Unless they use laundry baskets to do their shopping in Schulenburg, Texas. You never know. People in Pennsylvania call shopping carts “buggies.”

❖ ❖ ❖

And wrikles, like you

Sunday, November 6th, 2022 Alive 18,821 days

Tina the lizard

Today I got a good look at Tina, the lizard who lives in my garden.

She has blue eyes, like my wife.

❖ ❖ ❖

Iʼm sure you have some cosmic rationale

Sunday, November 6th, 2022 Alive 18,821 days

The Billy Joel song Pressure is on the radio right now. It reminds me of when this song was in the top 40 on the radio. My friends and I used to love this song because it spoke to us, how we felt and thought, and the pressure we felt in everyday life. Screaming the chorus together was a means of venting our anger and anxiety.

We were eleven.

I canʼt remember what pressure we thought we were under at that age, but how awful is it that at age 11 we even had a concept of pressure and sought coping mechanisms.

❖ ❖ ❖

You canʼt even spell New Haven

Saturday, November 5th, 2022 Alive 18,820 days

Guy looking at vines at the nursery: *Grunt*

Me: That one is nice and clingy if you want something that will climb brick.

Guy: You know about ivy?

Me: Just from my days at Harvard.

Guy: You went to Harvard?

Me: Lots. I used to deliver pizzas all over New Haven.

Guy: Walks away

❖ ❖ ❖

Roped into it

Friday, November 4th, 2022 Alive 18,819 days

A window washer hanging off the edge of a building

This is one of those jobs I could never do.

These guys are only about ten stories off the ground, but in Chicago, I used to see guys 40, 50, even 60 floors up with nothing to support them but a couple of ropes and a plank of wood.

I hope theyʼre well-paid.

In Hong Kong, Iʼve seen children doing this 20 stories up with just a single rope, balancing against the glass with their bare feet.

I doubt theyʼre well-paid.

❖ ❖ ❖

Sparkly

Friday, November 4th, 2022 Alive 18,819 days

Christmas lights on Main Street in Houston

November 4th, and the Christmas lights are up on Main Street.

Iʼm O.K. with that.

❖ ❖ ❖

Umbilical cord accessory sold seperately

Friday, November 4th, 2022 Alive 18,819 days

“*WARLORDS a trademark of ATARI. INC”

I got a new Atari cartridge today. Itʼs the Sears version of Warlords.

Iʼve never played this game, and have no connection to it. But I bought it for three reasons.

  1. I think Iʼm going to try to collect as many of the Sears text versions of Atari carts as I can.
  2. Itʼs the only Sears cart that has a full Atari trademark notice on the end label. No one on the internet seems to know why.
  3. The top label has a misspelling. The third game is listed as “Lightening Ball.” My guess is that this is supposed to read “Lightning Ball.” According to my computer, lightening means

    A drop in the level of the uterus during the last weeks of pregnancy as the head of the fetus engages in the pelvis.

That doesnʼt sound like a very fun video game.

❖ ❖ ❖

Bag it

Thursday, November 3rd, 2022 Alive 18,818 days

Thing nobody asks at a store anymore:

“Paper or plastic?”

…Until today. Today I noticed that the check-out people at H.E.B. ask shoppers if they want paper or plastic bags. Itʼs like Iʼm in the 1980ʼs!

Itʼs nice that H.E.B. gives you a choice. If you have a pet and need poop bags, you can choose plastic, and re-use a plastic bag instead of buying new bags. Or, if you donʼt want to kill sea turtles, you can choose paper, since theyʼre made from trees, which we can make more of.

Itʼs possible to make moisture-resistant paper bags. Perhaps that should be the default so we can both bag pet nuggets and save the planet.

❖ ❖ ❖

Itʼs the only way to be sure

Thursday, November 3rd, 2022 Alive 18,818 days

A screenshot of macOS offering an upgrade to macOS 13/Ventura

Upgrading macOS on a headless Mac is an iffy proposition. The last time I did this, I ended up nuking the whole machine and restoring from a backup.

If it works, Iʼll go across the street and buy a lottery ticket.

30 minutes later…

The macOS installer locked up before even starting.
❖ ❖ ❖

She just wants to help

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2022 Alive 18,817 days

Annie ignores the computerʼs “Rub out” button, and does it herself

Itʼs O.K., Annie. I have a button to do that.

❖ ❖ ❖

Toil and trouble

Sunday, October 30th, 2022 Alive 18,814 days

Burrito stuffins simmering on the stove

I decided to make my own frozen burritos. For the filling, I had two choices:

  1. Buy a can of ready-to-go burrito filling from the supermarket for $1.09
  2. Spend $15 following a recipe from the New York Times Cooking section

Naturally, I went the hard route.

❖ ❖ ❖

Letʼs be careful out there

Sunday, October 30th, 2022 Alive 18,814 days

A screenshot of the Peanuts gang on the prowl for tricks or treats

I watched Itʼs the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown tonight. I never noticed before that when they go trick-or-treating, all of the Peanuts kids are wearing rubber gloves.

❖ ❖ ❖

Low-resolution love

Saturday, October 29th, 2022 Alive 18,813 days

Searsʼ Chase cartridge

I got a new video game today. Well, itʼs an old video game, since most of the games I play are for the Atari 2600.

Itʼs Chase, which is the Sears Tele-Games rebranding of Atariʼs Surround.

A simple as it is, this is an engaging game, which explains why itʼs been recreated on dozens and dozens of machines. People today still have warm and fuzzy memories of 1997ʼs Snake on Nokia cell phones, but it originated in 1976 with the Blockade arcade game from Gremlin before it became Sega/Gremlin.

This version is solid, except that the bleeps are annoying, so itʼs best to turn off the sound and put on some period-appropriate music like Sirius 70ʼs on 7.

It also has a nice freeform drawing mode, which is useful to endearing oneself with oneʼs sweetheart.

“I ♥︎ Darcie” on an Atari
❖ ❖ ❖

Yes, I mean no

Saturday, October 29th, 2022 Alive 18,813 days

The new checkmark control in Appleʼs Stocks program

Hereʼs an odd design choice. In macOS 13/Ventura, the Stocks program allows you to add a stock youʼre viewing to your watch list. To do that, you press the + button. To remove a stock from your watch list you press the checkmark button.

In my lifetime, a checkmark has always meant something along the lines of “yes” or “confirm” or something else affirmative. Using a check to remove something — an inherently negative action — is counterintuitive to me.

❖ ❖ ❖

Ooh, a sticker!

Saturday, October 29th, 2022 Alive 18,813 days

An “I Voted” sticker from Harris County Elections

I voted today. That was unexpectedly hard.

I remember when the elections people used to beg people to please come out to vote because so few people did. Now there are huge lines, which is good. But there were partisans standing there shouting at us waiting in line, which is bad. But even though I had to wait an hour it was all very organized, which is good. Except that all of the spaces in the parking lot were taken up by the partisans camped out with all of their gear so I had to park a block away, which is bad.

❖ ❖ ❖

Extra pickles

Friday, October 28th, 2022 Alive 18,812 days

A holy, sacred McRib sammitch

I only rarely go to McDonaldʼs; maybe three or four times a year. So I was surprised and delighted to find itʼs McRib season!

The McRib is the finest fast food sandwich there is. Better than a double Fisch Mac. Better than Starbuckʼs Thanksgiving panini. Yes, better than Chick-fil-a.

Itʼs never McRib season in Las Vegas, so for the seven years I lived there, I had to make my own — Driving three hours across the Mojave Desert to the nearest McDonaldʼs that had them, in Barstow, California. I never did find out why the McDonaldʼs franchises in Vegas donʼt carry McRibs.

Here, in Houston, McRib does exist, so I grabbed a loaf of that sweet, smokey, salty, crunchy, sesame seeded goodness.

Pro tip: Serve the sandwich on top of a pile of fries so that the sauce drips onto the fries, and you donʼt waste any of it on the plate.

❖ ❖ ❖

Hold my place

Friday, October 28th, 2022 Alive 18,812 days

iPadOS 16 canʼt find an icon

iPadOS 16 may not be quite ready for prime time. At least not the part of it that only shows an icon placeholder graphic when you try to do math with it.

❖ ❖ ❖

Warming her cockles

Friday, October 28th, 2022 Alive 18,812 days

Tima the lizard on a light bulb

Itʼs chilly today, so Tina is warming herself on a lightbulb in my garden.

Tina the lizard hugs a lightbulb for warmth
❖ ❖ ❖

Boys will be boys

Thursday, October 27th, 2022 Alive 18,811 days

A bottle of Elmerʼs glue

I guess rubber cement is called “craft glue” now. Perhaps, it doesnʼt have much rubber in it anymore. It doesnʼt seem to make very good fake boogers like it used to.

❖ ❖ ❖

Try a Clié

Thursday, October 27th, 2022 Alive 18,811 days

The University of Houston/Downtown web site

I know that Iʼm not perfect. I know that while I think my web sites work on every device, thereʼs probably a configuration out there on which they fall over. But the University of Houston/Downtown really has no excuse for this.

How is it possible for an organization to put out a public web site in 2022 that doesnʼt work on mobile phones? Itʼs bad enough that this page from UH/D is cut off on the right side, but there is no way to even scroll to the right to see whatʼs missing! And this is on a recent iPhone, not some obscure open source homebrew kit.

I preview every single web page I build for desktop, tablet, and two mobile phones. Every one. Sometimes dozens each week.

The University of Houston/Downtown brags that itʼs the second-largest university in Americaʼs fourth-largest city. Surely, someone on campus must have a smart phone to test with.

❖ ❖ ❖

Come get some dinner

Thursday, October 27th, 2022 Alive 18,811 days

Tina the lizard in the garden

There is a new visitor to the garden these days. Her name is Tina. Today I saw her leap from a pot onto a flower and eat a fly. Good lizard.

❖ ❖ ❖

Brown thumb

Thursday, October 27th, 2022 Alive 18,811 days

A statue of Mary of the Missing Hands in my garden

Autumn is here. Time to replace all the plants in my garden that were killed by the Texas summer.

❖ ❖ ❖

Hope makes you fat

Thursday, October 27th, 2022 Alive 18,811 days

Hope is that human condition that compels us to continue eating barren Cool Ranch Dorito after barren Cool Ranch Dorito, just in case the next chip out of the bag is one of the five lucky chips that are laden with the seasonings promised in the picture on the outside of the bag.

❖ ❖ ❖

Apple Maps FTW

Wednesday, October 26th, 2022 Alive 18,810 days

Store hours at CVS

The sign outside this CVS says the pharmacy opens at 7:00am. I showed up at 8:00am, because thatʼs when Apple Maps says the pharmacy opens. Guess which one is right?

Holy shit, itʼs Apple Maps!

I walked into the store at 7:57am, sat in a chair by the pharmacy, and the metal security shutters rolled up at exactly 8:00am. Score one for the massive tech company.

❖ ❖ ❖

Nice back focus

Wednesday, October 26th, 2022 Alive 18,810 days

A cup of coffee in Central Texas

Todayʼs coffee is “Coffee,” possibly from Celebration Catering.

I write “possibly” because I donʼt have any pictures of the folding table from which the coffee was vended, but “Celebration” seems familiar, and the “Catering” portion, Iʼm sure is right.

This is the coffee that was on offer at The Compound, a ranch-themed events center in Round Top, Texas. The other option was “Decaf.”

The coffee is good. Smooth but weak, like that guy in high school who was always convinced that he was a ladies man, and tried too hard. I added some French vanilla creamer, which improved the texture a bit. The same would not have helped my high school friend.

❖ ❖ ❖

Mill that wind

Wednesday, October 26th, 2022 Alive 18,810 days

A windmill in Central Texas

Off-the-grid green sustainable energy? Sounds like what farmers, ranchers, and others have been doing for the last 500 years.

❖ ❖ ❖

The hawks are circling

Wednesday, October 26th, 2022 Alive 18,810 days

Chairs in a hay field with birds of prey circling

Tired of being outstanding in your field? Now you can be out sitting in your field.

❖ ❖ ❖

Itʼs Chik-fil-a

Wednesday, October 26th, 2022 Alive 18,810 days

An unemployed Chick-fil-a menu board

Today I learned that you can get Chick-fil-a to set up shop at your festival in the middle of nowhere.

By the time I got there, the chicken had run out, and all that was left was a folded-up tent, and signs advertising all of the chicken I couldnʼt eat.

❖ ❖ ❖

How about “An unknown error occurred?”

Wednesday, October 26th, 2022 Alive 18,810 days

iOS gives an inscrutable error message

Thanks, iOS 16. Can you be a little more vague?

❖ ❖ ❖

Just call

Tuesday, October 25th, 2022 Alive 18,809 days

Conflicting information from Apple Maps

The Marberger Farm Antique Show is permanently closed, according to Apple Maps. Itʼs also open for business, according to Apple Maps.

❖ ❖ ❖

Iʼll get a sweater

Tuesday, October 25th, 2022 Alive 18,809 days

A pretend weather forecast for the North Pole

This is not a real weather forecast for the North Pole. Itʼs what CARROT³ does when it canʼt connect to the intarwebs to find out what the weather is. Cheeky, as expected from CARROT³.

The cause of the network issue was a firewall called Little Snitch from Objective Development in Austria. I use it to marvel at the dozens and dozens of data hoarding companies that try to extract information from my computer without my knowledge or consent. Unfortunately, it doesnʼt play nice with the latest version of macOS, so when I upgraded to 13.0, I was inexplicably unable to move data through any network connection, wired or otherwise, even with Little Snitch turned off.

The solution is to reboot into Safe Mode, then drop the Little Snitch program in the trash, and reboot. To my delight, just moving the program into the trash is enough to uninstall system extension these days, which is nice.

I checked Objective Developmentʼs web site, and in true Austrian fashion, it blames Apple for the problem. If I have to choose between not using Little Snitch and not using my computer at all, itʼs an easy choice to make.

❖ ❖ ❖

The ants got it

Tuesday, October 25th, 2022 Alive 18,809 days

macOS Software Update showing the emergency backup operating system icon

When something goes wrong and macOS canʼt find the correct icon for an operating system update, it uses a paper plate with “mac OS” written on it.

Now you know.

❖ ❖ ❖

Sweet potato you got there

Thursday, October 20th, 2022 Alive 18,804 days

An out-of-control potato

A neighbor I’ve never met before knocked on my door tonight and gave me this. She’s moving out, and found it in her refrigerator. She’s admired the garden on my balcony, and thought I might take care of it, since she’s leaving.

Over my wife’s objections, I have put it in a pot with some dirt, and we’ll see what happens when it has sunlight to work with, and not just the dim bulb of a refrigerator.

I can’t imagine what the rest of her refrigerator looks like.

❖ ❖ ❖

You wrote “cut the cheese”

Tuesday, October 18th, 2022 Alive 18,802 days

A pizza vending machine

What kind of a person eats pizza from a vending machine? Well… me.

Thereʼs a pizza ATM across the street from my home now, so I tried it for lunch, and it wasn't bad. It wasn't excellent, but it's pizza from a vending machine, not a bistro in Ischia Porte. I don't think anyone who knowingly buys pizza from a vending machine is in a place to complain about quality. Not even on the internet.

There are seven pizzas to choose from. I went with pepperoni because it's a good basic benchmark.

After three minutes, the machine ejects a pizza, like a 1981 Sanyo VCR. The result is not perfect, but it's perfectly edible.

There wasn't much pepperoni flavor. Perhaps some of the other choices are a little more pronounced. But the crust was quite good. Overall, it reminds me of pizza from the California chain Pieology.

The downside is that all you get is a pizza. If you don't already have a drink, that might be problematic. I happened to have a bottle of water with me, just like I knew what I was doing.

Enjoying a fresh pizza on a bench in an alley surrounded by old lady county employees sucking on Swisher Sweets.

I took my pizza to the Harris County Employee Smoking Lounge (a.k.a. the alley by the sally[port]), and it managed to stay hot and crispy the whole way there.

I suspect the vending machine isnʼt doing too bad. I saw someone leaving with a pizza as I was walking toward it. When I was waiting for the bake, someone asked me about it. And when I was coming back from eating, there was a young couple waiting for their Hawaiian pie to cook. Thatʼs three customers in about 40 minutes. Not bad for an out-of-the-way location with zero advertising.

Protip: There's a slot on the machine that has cello-wrapped plastic knives. Take one. The crust is pre-sliced before the pizza bakes, so the cheese runs across the seams, and you'll have to cut the cheese to get pie-shaped wedges out of it.

❖ ❖ ❖

Common name

Tuesday, October 18th, 2022 Alive 18,802 days

A common buckeye rests on a blue chair in the garden

A butterfly came to visit my garden tonight. Itʼs called a common buckeye, but to me itʼs most uncommon, because I donʼt get very many butterflies.

❖ ❖ ❖

Iʼm all sixes and sevens

Monday, October 17th, 2022 Alive 18,801 days

Hereʼs my million dollar idea.

Iʼll open an antiques store in the Cotswolds called ”Everything is five pounds.”

Which means that everything either costs £5.00, or weighs five pounds.

So if I have a knackered silver-plate vesta case, that would cost £5.00.

But if after a rummage in a skip, if I found one that I was really chuffed about, I would put it in a box with a brick, and charge £85.00 because the package as a whole weighs five pounds.

My slogan would be “I have no idea what I have.”

❖ ❖ ❖

Koop your money

Monday, October 17th, 2022 Alive 18,801 days

Amazon Music playing the wrong song

Another day, another technology that fails to live up to its billing. This is a familiar one: Amazon.com, and its Amazon Music service.

Today I tried to play the album Koop Islands by the band Koop. Except that I canʼt.

Whenever I press the play button on one of the album's songs, Amazon Music plays something other than the song I requested.

I clicked on Koopʼs song Come to Me and it played the song In the Morning by Natural Self.

I clicked on Koopʼs song Koop Island Blues and Amazon Music played the song Ode to Billie Joe by Nicola Conte.

If Amazon canʼt handle something as simple as playing music, maybe I shouldnʼt let it store my credit card information.

Amazon Music playing the wrong song again.
❖ ❖ ❖

Monday, October 17th, 2022 Alive 18,801 days

Sunset reflected in 609 Main
❖ ❖ ❖

Is it Svørjfunbsn already?

Monday, October 17th, 2022 Alive 18,801 days

A confused iPhone lock screen

Today is Monday, October 17. My iPhone wants to tell me that in several languages, all at once.

❖ ❖ ❖

Customer “service”

Sunday, October 16th, 2022 Alive 18,800 days

An e-mail from Starbucks

Today I had the misfortune of trying to use Starbucks customer service. I donʼt know which middle manager got a big bonus out of this scheme, but do hope that someday that person has to use the system he set up. Itʼs a masterpiece of outsourcing failure.

I placed an order on the Starbucks web site to send an e-gift card to someone. Immediately, I received an e-mail receipt. A few minutes later, I received an e-mail stating that “We were unable to process your eGift Card order from Starbucks.”

I placed the order again. Once again, the receipt came immediately. Then the same automated processing failure letter.

I tried once more, the next day, with a different payment card. Same story.

Finally, I decided to call the phone number. After all, customer service is available seven days a week. It turns out all that means is that the phone number is answered seven days a week. It doesnʼt mean anything can be done to fix the problem.

After being transferred three times, and reading the order number to three different people, I was finally informed that all the people who answer the phone are allowed to do is send an e-mail to another department letting them know that I'd like to place an order.

Eventually I received another e-mail from Starbucks “customer service:”

We were unable to reprocess your Gift Card order.
However, if you are still in need of a gift card we recommend replacing your order.

Good idea. As suggested, I “replaced” my order. I replaced my Starbucks gift card order with one for an Amazon.com gift card.

❖ ❖ ❖

Thereʼs a frog in your throat

Sunday, October 16th, 2022 Alive 18,800 days

A Fortnum & Mason chocolate toad

For Halloween this year, my wife bought me a chocolate toad.

This is no cheap injection-moulded Hershey-grade nosh. This is a hefty hopper, decorated to a level of realism that is startling, if youʼre not expecting it to be there when you open the refrigerator door.

Mr. Toad is from the Fortnum & Mason department store in London. The confection connection between chocolate, amphibians, and Britannia may put you in mind of the fictional chocolate frogs from Harry Potter. The difference is those are in movies, and this is in my kitchen.

It weighs almost half a pound, and Iʼm not sure how I'm going to eat it. I have no problem biting the heads off of Easter bunnies. They look like cartoons. But this knobby indulgence has sugary eyes that look straight into your soul.

❖ ❖ ❖

Not Sony; the other M2

Saturday, October 15th, 2022 Alive 18,799 days

Progress bar from Handbrake

If youʼre able to rip a DVD at over 800 frames per second on a laptop, you may have an M2 MacBook Pro.

❖ ❖ ❖

“I shouldnʼtʼa done that”

Friday, October 14th, 2022 Alive 18,798 days

A tribute to actor Robbie Coltrane in the CARROT³ app

One of the problems with getting my news from newspapers is that occasionally, I get the news from the weather app.

“No good sitting worrying about it. Whatʼs coming will come, and we’ll meet it when it does.” — Hagrid
❖ ❖ ❖

Duckduckfail

Thursday, October 13th, 2022 Alive 18,797 days

Duckduckgo showing results for India, even though I searched for America

I guess that by “America,” Duckduckgo thinks I mean “India.”

Some day I hope to live in a world where search engines search for what I ask, and not for what they feel like showing me.

❖ ❖ ❖

Not yours. Canʼt has.

Tuesday, October 11th, 2022 Alive 18,795 days

Amazon Music stating that music that it can no longer play some music that it used to play

Streaming media is one of the many areas of technology that has failed to live up to its hype.

Streaming services use vague marketing words promising “unlimited” this and “endless” that. But the seldom-acknowledged fact is that if you rely on streaming music services, the music you love could just disappear tomorrow with no notice, or recourse. Thanks for the money, donʼt let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.

Just like how newspapers publish lists of whatʼs going to disappear from Netflix at the end of the month, streaming music also gains and loses music and artists regularly.

The screenshot above is Amazon Music telling me that it no longer has any songs by Comsat Angels. It knows Comsat Angels. It used to have Comsat Angels music. But not today. If you love Comsat Angels and give money to Amazon Music, youʼre out of luck.

Streaming music is the same thing as renting music. You donʼt own it. It can be taken away from you at any time.

Itʼs similar to when Microsoft abandoned its e-book store and millions of people lost the millions of books they thought they owned. A digital librarian sneaked into their homes in the middle of the night, emptied their shelves, and left behind a note reading, “Didnʼt you read page 640 of the EULA? You only rented these books. Sucker.”

This is all fine if all you care about is whatever is trendy over the last 48 hours. But people connect to books, movies, and especially music emotionally. Thatʼs why people create music. And to have those emotions yanked away from you is going to be hard on people once they realize that the things they once loved have disappeared and they didnʼt know it was going to happen.

As for the Comsat Angels, Iʼll hit the local record stores to find what Iʼm looking for. Then Iʼll own it. For real and forever.

❖ ❖ ❖

I wonder if they had a cake

Monday, October 10th, 2022 Alive 18,794 days

The New York Times in full-disclosure mode

Congratulations to the New York Times for not having to print any corrections on Monday, October 10th.

That sounds bitchy, but itʼs not. Journalists donʼt take corrections lightly. Having issued a few, myself, I can tell you that it hurts a lot, and for a long time.

One difference between bloggers and journalists is that journalists let people know when they make mistakes, and print corrections. They donʼt just pop into WordPress and silently change things.

❖ ❖ ❖

Mass hysteria

Monday, October 10th, 2022 Alive 18,794 days

A series of e-mails from Walgreens that I ignored until someone was at my front door

I spend too much time pointing out the shortcomings of modern technology. Thereʼs a reason that Tech and Fail are among my most populated blathr tags.

Today, however, Iʼd like to point out what, on the surface, looks like a tech success story. But at a deeper level is the success of a traditional brick-and-mortar retailer to adapt to changes in society in order to — literally — deliver better than a tech company did.

It started a couple of days ago, when I ordered something medical from Amazon.com. In general, I donʼt buy anything that goes on or in a living being from Amazon. Between counterfeits, people selling used items as new, and a constantly-growing list of other reasons, relying on Amazon just isnʼt safe anymore. When your company canʼt even prevent selling bogus copies of books, you have a problem.

In this case, however, I ordered from Amazon because the medical thing I needed was not available from any of the CVS or Walgreens stores that I can reach, and purchasing from Walmart meant waiting two to three weeks for delivery. Walmart used to be safer than Amazon, but has recently decided to trod the same road to unreliability by embracing unknown, unverified, and dubious independent sellers.

What Amazon delivered was clearly not suitable. Instead of being in branded packaging, the item was in a Zip-Loc bag. Legitimate medical items arenʼt packaged in consumer baggies. Legitimate medical items are also not labeled by hand in ball-point pen. And they also donʼt spill their contents during shipping, unless they are seriously mishandled. The box that the item arrived in was in fine shape, and the medical item sufficiently padded.

Exasperated, I went to the CVS web site to see if perhaps the item was back in stock my local store. The CVS web site would not function. So I tried Walgreens. Except, this time instead of specifying a store that I can get to easily by train, I let the Walgreens web site pick one. And it did a splendid job.

The item I needed was in stock at a Walgreens in an area I would never think to travel to. So I put two in my cart, selected “Same day delivery” and went back to reading my New York Times.

Before I could finish the International section, there was a guy dropping a paper bag on my doorstep.

I checked my e-mail and found that the time from when I placed my order online until Walgreens notified me that my order was ready to be delivered was four minutes. Four minutes. It was picked up minutes after that, and delivered to me straight away.

The total time from when I placed the order to when I received my Walgreens order was 22 minutes. For an item that I couldn't get at a drug store near me, and that Amazon sent a counterfeit of.

Yes, I had to pay $3.99 for the delivery. But the item was a dollar cheaper at Walgreens than at Amazon, and I ordered two of them. So the cost difference was $1.99. More importantly — I got what I paid for.

Walgreens is better than Amazon. Man bites dog. The sky is green. Everything the tech bubble has been preaching about the death of brick-and-mortar is wrong.

❖ ❖ ❖

376006

Monday, October 10th, 2022 Alive 18,794 days

A screenshot of the Microsoft Azure price calculator

The header graphic for Microsoft's Azure pricing calculator reads “HELLO.”

❖ ❖ ❖

Curiouser and curiouser

Monday, October 10th, 2022 Alive 18,794 days

An error message triggered by asking Microsoft to stop selling my personal information

Funny how Microsoft has no problem at all automatically opting me in to sharing my personal information with its “partners” within four seconds of me creating an account. But if I try to opt-out, it suddenly canʼt cope.

If a simple toggle of a button can bring Microsoft to its knees, why would I trust it with anything at all? Is this the power, resiliency, and scaleability of the masterful Azure “cloud” its always talking about?

❖ ❖ ❖

Robble robble

Sunday, October 9th, 2022 Alive 18,793 days

Remember back when McDonaldʼs mascot was a convicted felon? Everyone knew it, and nobody cared.

Societyʼs tolerance and forgiveness has since been replaced by internet outrage.

❖ ❖ ❖

Not even Dallas

Saturday, October 8th, 2022 Alive 18,792 days

All of the washer fluid is only for places where it never gets below 32°.

If Walmart only sells washer fluid that freezes, you might live in Houston.

Also, donʼt drive anywhere else.

❖ ❖ ❖

See if they have any common sense

Friday, October 7th, 2022 Alive 18,791 days

The Walmart app's availability filter

The Walmart app has a filter labeled ”Show available items only.” Seriously? Why would I want a store to show me things that it doesnʼt have?

Who goes to a store, or looks at a storeʼs app and thinks to themselves, “I wonder if they donʼt have this?” “Hey, Walmart, show me all the things that you canʼt sell."

What kind of things are on Walmartʼs list of things it doesnʼt have. Fabergé eggs? The Loch Ness Monster? Maybe the Popeʼs mitre?

Walmart is far from the only store guilty of this. Amazon is among the worst offenders. Target and Walgreens, too.

How does showing things you donʼt have benefit a customer?

❖ ❖ ❖

Thanks, politicians

Wednesday, October 5th, 2022 Alive 18,789 days

Obituary from the October 5, 2022 Houston Chronicle

This is a clipping of an obituary that was in the newspaper this morning.

Amazingly, I still see people on the internet who claim that COVID-19 is only dangerous to the elderly, and theyʼve lived long enough and should vacate their homes to make way for new generations.

Selfishness and stupidity seem to go hand-in-hand.

❖ ❖ ❖

Your call is very important to us…

Monday, October 3rd, 2022 Alive 18,787 days

“This call is being recorded for quality assurance.”

Really? Me, too. Same reason.

❖ ❖ ❖

Talking talkies

Sunday, October 2nd, 2022 Alive 18,786 days

Audrey Totter in the 1947 film Lady in the Lake. One of the few films that I will watch repeatedly.

The louder Hollywood features get, the more explosions movie makers cram into two hours, the more over-saturated and contrast-y they become, the more I find myself watching old black-and-white movies.

I have little affinity for the current line of major motion pictures. I think itʼs because everything is handed to the viewer on a platter. Did this character have a bad childhood? Yes, hereʼs a flashback tinted blue and out of focus. Did this character get hurt? Yes, hereʼs pictures of the sucking chest wound. Did these characters have sex? Yes, here they are getting it on.

It seems like all of the budget in big budget films is spent on big budget special effects. I know that as a movie-goer, Iʼm supposed to invoke my “willful suspension of disbelief.” But even the James Bond films have gotten so over-the-top unrealistic that Iʼve stopped watching.

I think part of the draw of the lo-fi cinema is similar to the draw of books.

Books, almost universally, are better than the films that they give birth to. The focus in books, naturally, is the writing. Your mind is engaged to fill in the vividness of the scenes, the sounds of the voices, and the smells of the environment.

Likewise, though to a lesser degree, black-and-white films call upon your mind to fill in the missing color. And because of the era in which they were created, the special effects are minimal to none, the locations are largely interiors rather than exotic, and the sex is implied rather than broadcast.

Bette Davis in the 1938 film Jezebel. That was the wrong film to watch at the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown.

Engaging a personʼs brain to bridge gaps in content is something that brains seem to enjoy. Itʼs the basis of such elemental human experiences as faith, hope, and the lottery. There would be no doomscrolling of social media if it wasnʼt for the human brain yearning for a little something more. A little more engagement with the content flickering by underthumb. A little hope that the next finger flick might bring joy.

Like books, old films focus on the writing, because they live and die by the dialogue, and not the explosions. It wasnʼt until giant grasshoppers eating Chicago became a regular occurrence that film-makers figured out that they could replace expensive writing with cheap special effects. The normalization of money-over-quality is how we got to the hyper-optimized theater-going experiences we have today. Just like de-valuing writing is how we ended up with reality television.

I didnʼt used to like black-and-white movies. And I used to refuse to watch anything with subtitles. But as Iʼve found that the Hollywood of today isnʼt interested in customers like me, Iʼm learning that the Hollywood of yesterday was. Fortunately, I can explore what the old Hollywood created without pouring any of my money into today's trough of gluttony. Itʼs all available for free at the public library, or on free over-the-air television.

❖ ❖ ❖

Recact-o-matic

Saturday, October 1st, 2022 Alive 18,785 days

H.E.B. notifying me that my groceries will arrive in 17 minutes

When H.E.B. says the grocery delivery person is 17 minutes away, thatʼs how I know he's standing outside my door unloading his cart. It's always exactly 17 minutes. I get the text message, look for the cat acting up, and can see the shadow of the delivery person outside my door.

Consistency is a good thing. And “consistently wrong” is a type of consistency, right?

❖ ❖ ❖

Break a leg!

Friday, September 30th, 2022 Alive 18,784 days

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.

❖ ❖ ❖

Glub glub glub

Friday, September 30th, 2022 Alive 18,784 days

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.

❖ ❖ ❖

Marching on

Friday, September 30th, 2022 Alive 18,784 days

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.

❖ ❖ ❖

Waiting

Friday, September 30th, 2022 Alive 18,784 days

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.

❖ ❖ ❖