Saturday, November 25th, 2023 Alive 19,205 days
iPad, coffee, hot fresh baguettes. I shall work here today.
iPad, coffee, hot fresh baguettes. I shall work here today.
Today a guy walked up to me at the train station and asked if I knew how much the fine was for not paying to ride the train. I told him I thought it was $75.00.
“Two hundred dollars!” he proudly corrected me. He then explained how thrilled he was to hear that if you donʼt pay to ride the train, there are fare inspectors on patrol to hand out $200 tickets.
I tried to explain to him that if someone canʼt afford $1.50 to ride the train, they probably canʼt afford to pay a $200 fine, but he couldnʼt hear me over the sound of his own vindictive superiority.
When I lived in Washington, I once asked an Orca bus driver on a smoke break why he let vagrants board the bus without paying. He very briefly explained to me that the purpose of a transit system is to move people around, not to make money.
Thinking about it later, I started to understand that while a transit systemʼs recovery rate is an interesting measure of something, itʼs perhaps not a useful measurement of anything. Moving people around is good for a cityʼs economy. The economic impact of free movement to a society is of the reasons why various levels of government subsidize car and truck travel to the tune of trillions of dollars each year in the United States.
It would be interesting to see the same fervor that is used to prop up the auto and road construction industries applied to railroads and public transit.
In spite of what Amazon.com suggests, Iʼm not sure that these optical disc sleeves are compatible with my iPhone.
Takayesu may be big, but Annie is quick. Sheʼll run between your legs, and next thing you know — okuridashi.
I took this picture while in the Gulf of Mexico last month. I find it special because of its beauty. In my world, it was a unique moment in time.
To anyone else, itʼs just another sunset. One theyʼve seen thousands of times in hundreds of magazines, TV shows, paintings, web sites, and more.
Our ability to capture and reproduce the magnificence of nature has also desensitized us to nature. I am fortunate that I can look at this photograph and not think “Great, itʼs a sunset.” But instead, I can remember a moment in time when the sun and the clouds and the sea and the breeze orchestrated a feeling of giddy awe inside of me. A web page has never been able to do that.
Astrologers say that when the sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars align, itʼs a sign of good things ahead.
I say the same is true when water, coffee, bagel, and tangy sauce align.
Houstonʼs Main Street Christmas lights look great at night. The problem is that during the day, they look like the city just survived a bomb blast.
I got a new video game today. Itʼs the Sears Tele-Games version of Atariʼs Codebreaker. Like most Atari and Tele-Games cartridges, its box featured fantastically imaginative art that had virtually nothing to do with the game.
Released in 1978, this was one of the early Atari 2600 games. It was also very unpopular. Codebreaker can be hard. It is visually unappealing. And it requires a weird controller. Half a century later, these factors combine to make it one of the more difficult games to find for sale at a price under $10, my maximum budget for buying Atari games.
While video games today — and todayʼs entertainment in general — are all about thrills and special effects, games of the 1970ʼs were more about thinking. Dopamine release came from exercising oneʼs brain and figuring out a problem, rather than killing things.
Think about the sorts of things that people did for entertainment in the past: Solitaire, cribbage, crossword puzzles, home chemistry sets, playing music, even needlepoint were all mental stimulation involving math and science. You donʼt think playing music is mathematical? Think fractions, baby.
When computers started to be used for recreation, they were perfectly suited for adapting the entertainment of the day into an electronic form. Codebreaker even includes the game Nim, a traditional two-player mathematical game that has been around for over a century. With an Atari in front of the Magnavox you no longer needed the extra player, as you could pit your gray matter against a computer.
The first games for computers involved numeric deduction, and Atariʼs Codebreaker brought that from multi-ton mainframes right into peopleʼs family rooms. It felt like The Jetsons was ready to happen any minute now.
Today, I suspect the number of people in the world playing Codebreaker for entertainment is close to zero. But in spite of all the so-called advances in video games, which mostly seem to involve explosions and killing things, people still love thinking games.
There are still cities like Chicago and New Orleans where you can jump into a game of chess with a stranger on the sidewalk. Or Tampa and Seattle, where itʼs not unusual to see an energetic round of dominos in a coffee shop. Or even recently when I was at sea, I was pestered to be the fourth in a rubber of bridge.
Mental stimulation games donʼt get a lot of attention, but they are alive and well. If they werenʼt, the New York Times wouldnʼt have paid millions to buy Wordle. Itʼs not a very long trip from Codebreaker to Wordle.
According to the Cornell University bird app, the bird Iʼve been following through this stand of piney woods is a wild turkey.
Itʼs smart of the turkey to hang out in a nature preserve a few days before Thanksgiving.
But itʼs also a bit surprising, as Iʼm just on the very southern edge of wild turkey range, and according to the newspaper, wild turkey populations in this part of the world have been plummeting for the last decade or so.
Each year in America, a couple of dozen people are killed by cows. I didnʼt have a reason to look up that fact until today, shortly after a cow tried to kill me.
It sounds silly, but replace “cow” with “bull” and it makes more sense.
I was at the Turtle Bayou Nature Preserve, where a herd of cattle are occasionally allowed to roam in order to stir up the soil, fertilize the ground, and make meals of the invasive plants. Bird watchers, such as myself, are welcome to wander around the preserve, and there are viewing stands and informational signs and other amenities to make a birding visit more pleasurable.
There are, however, no signs warning you that the cows might try to kill you.
I was walking along one of the birding tracks outlined on the big signs at the entrance when I heard a low rumbling behind me. I didnʼt think too much of it because I was engrossed in listening for birds. But then the low rumbling came again, and it sounded angry.
Turning around, I saw a big black bull and his harem staring at me through the brush.
Iʼve seen enough Discovery Channel to know that running from an animal is an invitation for it to chase you. And Iʼve read enough 1930ʼs cowboy books to know that cattle will stampede at the drop of a hat. So, what to do?
While trying to figure that out, Angus McAngryface put his ears back, lowered his head and let out a bellow so loud and long and low I could feel it vibrating in my lungs. Not a good sign. I started to panic.
Shaking, I took out my phone and took a quick video. If I was going to die, I wanted my wife to know which critter killed me so she could avenge me at the dinner plate. Then another blast: "Moooooooooooo!" accompanied by the pawing of a hoof at the ground, and a snot-flinging snort to drive the point home.
Time to think logically. In cowboy books, the cowboy always has a horse. What do I have to work with? A sack lunch and a pair of binoculars, neither of which are enough to fell an animal that weighs more than my car. I know I canʼt outrun him through the woods because Iʼve seen cattle paths through the trees. They know their way better than I do.
There is a single tree on its own amid the brambles to my right. It seems stout enough to withstand the impact of a bullʼs cranium. If I can keep it between me and the creature, maybe I can stay safe along enough for it to get bored and move on.
Slowly I side-step to my right. The brambles tear into my pants which start to leak blood, but Iʼm grateful for it because I usually wear shorts when Iʼm out looking for birds. Another report: "Moooooooooo!" And another angry snort.
I eventually manage to position myself in a defensive line: me, then pine, then bovine. Heʼs still staring at me. He still looks pissed at me for whatever transgression I have committed against cowkind.
Then — he starts. It begins with a trot and he heads down the track toward where I was standing, repeating his angry warning: "Mooooo! Mooooo! Mooooo!" In seconds that felt like minutes, he has passed me and is threading his way through the trees. The ladies follow in his wake, and spread out through the pine as do the tentacles of a great river in flood.
My panic starts to subside, but is rekindled every quarter minute by his continued taunts through the blackness of the stand: "Moooooo! Moooooo! Mooooo!" The volume fades, but I can still hear the anger as I once again pull out my telephone to film the remnants of my brush with trampling death.
Finally, the last few cows in his harem amble into view, and before they dive into the obscurity, one turns around and looks over her shoulder as if to say to me, “Dumbass.”
I am never going to Turtle Bayou again.
If you see a train honk at a horse on Main Street, you might be in Houston.
And then there are days when you unlock your phone, and your phone locks up.
Except for the screenshot function, which for some reason still works.
Shopping with the Western National Parks Association involves making careful decisions. For example, should I go with the standard shipping which is free, or the free shipping, which is standard?
Many Americans of a certain age range remember Halloween Eve, 1978 when we all watched a WKRP staffer huck turkeys out of a helicopter over the Cincinnati skyline — a radio stunt that proved fatal for the flock of flightless fowl.
Except that it didnʼt happen.
In the decades since, Iʼve spoken with dozens of people who swear they saw video of the turkeys falling to the ground. Some remember seeing video of the flailing birds being thrown from the helicopter, feathers scattering in the wind. Some remember seeing them cratering parked cars “like sacks of wet cement” from the sky. But again, none of those things happened. Even if they had happened, it wouldnʼt have been possible to film them. Youʼd have to have a camera hovering in the air just below the helicopter, and another on the ground in exactly the right place to capture the Sakrete impacts.
What we all saw was the power of radio.
The episode of WKRP in Cincinnati that depicted the turkey toss only showed Les Nessman standing in front of a store, excitedly craning his neck toward the sky, one hand clenching a microphone, the other trying to keep his headphones on; and the WKRP air studio, with Dr. Johnny Fever, Bailey Quarters, Venus Flytrap, and Andy Travis listening in anticipation and eventual dismay as the episode unfolds.
In spite of what seemingly millions of otherwise rational people think they saw, at no time was a single turkey shown. Not in the original airing on CBS, nor on the countless annual reruns since. Spoken word sowed the seeds, and each of our imaginations did the rest. The result is a common social memory of an event that never actually happened.
Thatʼs the power of radio. Even on television, it was the power of radio.
On the left: 16 ounces of Wonderful® pistachios, purchased at Whole Foods for $10.79.
On the right: 16 ounces of Wonderful® pistachios, purchased at H.E.B. for $8.49.
Same amount of nuts. The only differences are the price and the size of the bag.
According to the 2023 Christmas gift guide from the New York Times, I should buy either the buttery robe or the buttery wallet. Or both.
It turns out, neither of them contain any butter, so Iʼll stick to my go-to gift: butter cookies.
Hereʼs something you donʼt see every day. Among the big technology overlords, Amazon isnʼt perfect, but EC2 outages aside, its flaws are rarely technical. This is one of those blue moon cases of a styling error on amazon.com.
This must be my lucky day. Maybe I should buy a lottery ticket, or something.
Appleʼs support web site could use a little support.
If your computer is not able to run the latest version of macOS, and a program you bought through the App Store has a new version, the App Store program will helpfully allow you to download the latest version of that program in question that will run on your version of macOS.
Except that it doesnʼt work.
In the video above, you can see that I would like to update Microsoft Outlook on my Early 2015 MacBook. When I click Update, the App Store offers the sentence fragment “Download an older version of Microsoft Outlook?” But clicking Download does nothing.
I know I pick on Apple a bit because of all of the technical flaws in its products. But thatʼs partly because Apple products are the ones I use most often, so Iʼm apt to run across problems with them most often. Itʼs also because Apple has enough money to make sure the sorts of things I run across donʼt happen.
But I also give credit where credit is due, and Apple should be given a laurel and hardy handshake for putting out a new version of iOS for one of my work phones: An iPhone 5🅂.
This is a phone that came out in September of 2013. Thatʼs more than ten years ago. When this phone was purchased, Pope Francis was still figuring out where the bathrooms were in the Vatican. I wonder if he brought one with him to pass the time.