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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?