Cat videos are always popular, right?

I’m not really counting this as a second vlog as it was originally just me testing out my new mic arm — yes I’ve already replaced the mic arm I’m using — as well as verifying that I’ve figured out how to get Windows 10’s camera app to ignore my webcam mic in favor of the Blue Yeti mic, but then cats happened. There’s really nothing else to this video. It’s just 4 minutes of Cuddles living up to his name.

I’m quite pleased that I’ve been able to get the Blue Yeti to work with the Windows camera app as this allows me to capture video at full 1080p at 30 frames per second directly to my PC instead of having to live stream through Google Hangouts. This also means that should I ever find video editing software that I can figure out and that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg that I could edit them before publishing.

It may take me a bit, but I’ll figure this shit out sooner or later.

My first vlog.

I’ve been talking about trying to get into vlogging for awhile now, but I’ve allowed my trepidation to get the better of me and have kept putting it off until I had a better webcam and then a better mic and then a better Internet connection and so on. Fact is, I don’t know what I’m doing. Then again I didn’t know what I was doing when I started blogging 16 years ago and I’ve done alright with that.

So here it is. It’s short, doesn’t have anything particularly interesting to say, but it’s something and works well as a test of my setup if nothing else. Oh, there is a surprise camo by Jasper the cat:

As you can tell, I’m nervous and not well spoken. I’m assuming that’ll get better in time. I also made this via Google Hangouts because Windows 10’s built-in camera up won’t allow you to choose what mic to record from and I can’t seem to find anything better to use. I’m open to suggestions on what you’d like to see from me.

 

Ding! Achievement Unlocked: Reached 50th birthday!

Today I am officially a half-century old. Which feels really weird to type out and read. I both do and don’t feel 50. Physically, yeah, I’m feeling it. No doubt in part because I’m not in great shape. Mentally I’m still wondering when all the wisdom is supposed to show up so I can fulfill my role as a mentor to the younger generation.

Heh, as if.

Frankly, I’ve been winging this adulthood thing all along. If I have any wisdom at all, it’s the realization that there’s an alarming amount of time in my life when I don’t really know what I’m doing. Most of the time I got this shit down pat. Then I do something I’ve never done before, like buy a house, and suddenly I don’t know what I’m doing again.

I have a lawn that I am responsible for. It was stunningly green and free of weeds in the real estate listing. Yeah, it’s not so much that anymore with me in charge. I’m looking forward to winter if only because my yard will look as nice as everyone else once it’s buried under an inch or two of snow. I own a lawn mower and a leaf blower and I’m looking at weed trimmers as a serious purchase. Hell, I own weed killer. Not that it seems to be killing weeds all that well. Followed the instructions and the weeds just laughed.

I have, for the first time in my life, replaced electrical switches in my home. That turns out not to be as hard as I thought it was going to be, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to sweating a bit more than usual on the first attempt. I can only assume all the incandescent light bulbs in this place were bought all at the same time because they all seem to be burning out within a short period of time since we moved in. I’ve replaced most of the ones in the basement with LEDs (hence the switch replacement), but now 2 of the three in the bathroom fixture have died, two of the five in the dining room fixture died, one of the two in the fixture over the back door died, and three of the five outdoor fixtures all died. The outside fixtures have new LEDs, but I need to pick up more for the others that have given up the ghost. In the dining room this will mean swapping out another light switch as it’s dimmable and old enough not to support LEDs properly.

So, yeah, lots of new stuff to learn at 50. That said, it’s been a pleasant birthday. I took the day off and have spent it alternately playing video games, getting the house tidied up for the party tomorrow, and napping. Got a few birthday gifts already too.

An early gift from my mother-in-law.

Speaking of new things outside of my comfort zone, my mother-in-law bought me a charcoal grill so I can have hamburgers and hotdogs at the party tomorrow. I’ve never grilled anything in my life. I have a basic understanding of how these things work, but I’m sure there are details I’m clueless about. Fortunately, I have friends who think about such things.

Thanks to Stan Pedzick I will have some help with the grill.

This book is amazing, though you have to go all the way to the end for the basic tips on using a grill. 309 recipes from around the world many of which I already know I won’t ever try because they are spicy and I can’t handle spicy. That said, there were several that sounded damn good. However, I doubt I’ll try the Ultimate Hamburger recipe considering it asks you to do things such as grind your own chuck and purchase sea salt from a very specific region of the world.

Speaking of books, someone bought me this and I still don’t know who.

I have many of the Calvin and Hobbes collections already, but here is every strip in one spot with commentary from Bill Watterson. I’ve wanted this for a long time so hopefully I’ll find out tomorrow who it’s from so I can thank them.

Speaking of speaking, my wife got me a Blue Yeti microphone, shock mount, and pop filter!

This thing is so sensitive that even with the gain turned all the way down it picks up the hum from my computer sitting on the desk as well as my tortured breathing, but it makes my voice sound soo good. Only thing left that I need is an arm to mount it on so the shock mount can isolate it from things like the PC and any typing I do. I guess I’m going to have to get serious about vlogging and starting the podcast with Dave back up or something. Vlogging, now there’s something else that I don’t have any real clue about what I’m going to do.

Anne also got me a funny book about turning 50 and a BBQ apron that says MADE IN 1967 on it. The apron is a bit small, but it’ll always work well as a bib if nothing else.

Lastly, my sister-in-law Angela and her husband Rob bought me a wicked cool Hawaiian shirt plus the movies Live Die Repeat (formerly Edge of Tomorrow) and Pacific Rim. I don’t have a pic of me in the shirt yet, but that’ll probably happen tomorrow.

So a little time off from work, some new toys to play with, and a party still to go tomorrow. As birthdays go, this one has been pretty good so far.

 

Where the hell have I been?

Sorry for the lack of postings lately, but we’ve been settling into our new home. We’ve been here for two and a half months now and we’re mostly unpacked. The living room, master bedroom, guest bedroom, dining room, and kitchen are unboxed and more or less sorted. Just Anne’s den and the basement remains and we made a good start on the basement this evening.

If you recall back at the start of June the basement looked like this:

And tonight it’s looking like this:

A huge improvement. The stack of boxes on the right is all stuff that needs to go upstairs to Anne’s den because it’s mostly arts and crafts or photographs and it was mistakenly moved to the basement during the move. Over in the area in the far back right is where I’ll be setting up my computer lab (my actual desk is just out of frame at the bottom) and it’s full of empty boxes that need to be broken down. 10 of the 14 lights in the ceiling have been replaced with LED bulbs after I replaced their wall switches. Just the four in front of the fireplace remain incandescent  as we don’t use them as often, but I’ll be swapping those out before too long. I got my TARDIS lights my real estate agent gave me hung up in the bar area too, but I need a shorter extension cord for them.

I need to think of something to put on the wall behind me as right now it’s just wood paneling and one of the platforms for the kitty tower. I’m going to try my hand at vlogging and streaming and right now it’s stunningly bland.

I am the stereotype of the fat computer geek in his basement personified. One nice thing about the LED bulbs I put in. I don’t need studio lighting as these things do the job just fine. My webcam will do automatic background replacement, but the paneling is so light it ends up replacing part of my head and I look like a bad accident victim. I have some blue contact paper that might work, but the highlights on my chair are also blue so that could be a problem.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to. Working and settling in. Next Friday is my birthday and we’re having a party which is part of why we’re busy getting the last of the boxes unpacked or stored away someplace. I still have to put together my BBQ grill that I got as an early birthday present from my mother-in-law. I’ve never actually grilled anything before so that should be fun.

Beyond that I keep meaning to blog something about Trump, but the fucker is rushing from one misadventure to another so quickly that I can’t keep up. Now that things are finally getting settled around here I’m going to make more of an effort. Especially with the vlogging thing. Not sure what I’ll do it about. If you have ideas you’d like to see me try, let me know.

Google Assistant fucked up a perfectly mediocre joke.

When I get to work every morning I ask Google Assistant the same question: Will it rain today? I ask this so I know whether or not I can leave the windows on my car cracked open so it’s not a raging blast furnace when I climb in at the end of the day. This is such a regular occurrence that I’m surprised the artificial intelligence at Google doesn’t just tell me as soon as I shut off my car’s engine without being prompted. Google probably thinks this is the only thing I care about because it’s the one question I’ve most asked the Google Assistant since it was first introduced.

Yesterday when I asked this question the Google Assitant was adamant that it was going to rain. “Absolutely.” She said, “Thunderstorms up the wahzoo all damned day long.” I’m paraphrasing a bit, but that’s essentially what she said. So I rolled up the windows all the way and grabbed my umbrella. You can imagine my surprise when I stepped out in the afternoon and not only had it not rained a single drop, but it was so damned sunny I thought I had somehow been transported to Florida.

I thought to myself, “Hey! Wouldn’t it be funny if I asked Google Assistant if it would rain today and it still insisted that it was going to?” My thinking being that perhaps it had meant it would rain in the evening hours. Then I got the bright idea to record myself asking if it would rain with the brightly shining sun directly behind my head thus illustrating how wrong Google’s supposed artificial intelligence could be. Ha ha!

In hindsight it should’ve been obvious to me that you can’t use voice commands while recording a video because, duh, the mic is busy with the video recording. to have pulled this off I would’ve needed two phones. So not only do I look like an idiot standing in the parking lot with an umbrella when it’s clearly nowhere close to raining, but now I also look like an idiot because I’m barking orders at my phone in a lame attempt at a joke that probably wouldn’t have worked anyway because Google Assistant would probably have told me: “No, of course not, you moron. Don’t you see that sun up there behind your friggin’ head?”

I especially like the bit where I thought that perhaps I just wasn’t speaking loudly enough so I moved the phone closer to my mouth thus revealing just how craggy my left eye socket really is. That’s some high quality eyebrow hair I got going on there.

So fuck you for ruining what would’ve been an entirely middling joke, Google.

 

Anil Seth’s TED Talk on what is consciousness.

What is consciousness? This is one of those questions that seems to be unanswerable, but according to Anil Seth consciousness is a form of controlled hallucination that we’re all having all the time. When we agree on our hallucinations we call that “reality.” He explains the idea behind this in a short TED Talk filmed this past April:

I find the concepts being explored in this fascinating and I wish it went into more depth. I’ll have to see if I can track down more on Anil’s work in this area.

One topic he touches on lightly that I found very interesting was his conclusion that sentient Artificial Intelligence is probably not going to be a problem because consciousness requires more than high intelligence to arise. I feel like there’s a good basis for a science fiction story in that idea, but I’ll be damned if I can nail it down.

Anyway, I thought this was both interesting and informative so I figured I’d share it.

Many Conservative Christians consider porn to be “always immoral” and yet they watch it anyway.

Conservative Christians like to make a lot of noise about morality despite the fact that they’re often not capable of adhering to the morals they insist the rest of us follow. Whether it’s the deeply religious fundamentalist who protests at the local abortion clinic that ends up getting an abortion the moment they have an inconvenient pregnancy only to go back to protesting abortion the next day or the Christian who rails against the evils of homosexuality only to be caught engaging in the very thing they decry.

So too it seems is this true about pornography. According to a study by Samuel L. Perry of the University of Oklahoma recently published in the Journal of Sex Researchthere is no shortage of Christians who consider porn to bad yet still watch it just the same:

Conservative Christians are more likely to think porn is immoral but view it anyway, study finds – PsyPost

“Having studied what conservative Christians think about pornography as well as their consumption habits, I started to notice a bit of a discrepancy. In every study of which I’m aware, conservative Christians are far more likely than other Americans to reject pornography on moral grounds. There is basically no justification for it whatsoever in their minds. However, I also started to notice that, despite their unequivocal rejection of pornography, conservative Christians aren’t considerably less likely than other Americans to report viewing it.

“Sure, a number of studies show that, say, conservative Protestants and frequent churchgoers view porn somewhat less often than other Americans,” Perry told PsyPost. “But that’s not the case in every study. In some studies, for example, being a conservative Protestant or frequent churchgoer didn’t make much of a difference at all in terms of porn use.

He sat down and went through data from a 2006 Portraits of American Life Study (PALS) which tracks religion, morality, politics and other social issues and found that 10% of Americans who viewed porn as morally wrong still reported having watched it within the previous year.

“In fact, evangelical Protestants and other sectarian Protestant groups were the most likely of all religious groups to report the experience of ‘incongruence,’ saying porn is always immoral, but viewing it anyway. To put that in perspective, less than 6% of religiously unaffiliated persons reported believing porn is immoral but watch it anyway, compared to over 13% of evangelical Protestants or other sectarian Christian groups.”

Interestingly, this incongruence was only amongst the men as he found little evidence that religious women who held porn as morally wrong still viewed it anyway. Ironically for men, the more they attended church the more likely they were to view porn in spite of their belief it was bad:

“When I looked at measures of religiosity, I found there was an important gender dynamic at play. The connection between church attendance and prayer frequency and experiencing an incongruence between one’s porn beliefs and usage only applied to men. But as men’s church attendance or prayer frequency increased, their likelihood of experiencing that incongruence (believing porn is wrong, but watching it anyway) increased in a linear fashion,” the researcher explained.

“For example, among those Americans who ‘never’ attend church, only about 7% of men report experiencing an incongruence between porn beliefs and usage. But at the highest frequencies of church attendance, over 25% of men report experiencing an incongruence. That means that for those men who attend church services several times a week, roughly 1/4 of them say porn is always immoral, but they watch it anyway. The results were similar for prayer frequency as well. ”

All of that said, the data was limited enough that questions about frequency of viewing porn or why these men watched something they considered morally wrong couldn’t be answered. In the end it would seem “the power of your dick compels you” is the best explanation we’re likely to get.

Having a lawn teaches you how fucking tenacious life is.

I’ve never given two fucks about weeds before in my life. I pretty much took a live-and-let-live approach to weeds up until I bought our house and acquired a lawn that was meticulously taken care of. Now I feel compelled to at least make an attempt to kill every weed that dares attempt to establish a foothold within my property line.

So far this has been relatively easy because the lawn was pretty much absent of any and all weeds making the ones that do show up stand out like a sore thumb. Hey, that thing looks like something other than grass! Yoink! Hey! That thing is growing in the rock bed and it’s definitely not one of the bushes! Yoink!

The flower beds in the back aren’t quite so easy to distinguish what is a weed and what isn’t. Hey, that thing is big and doesn’t have flowers…. yet… but it also doesn’t have little prickly spines so… maybe yoink? The weeds are having much more success in the flower beds where they can blend in with other things that are tall and leafy.

It’s the ones that try to set up shop in the rock beds and in the cracks of the sidewalk that impress me the most. Two of the shittiest places to set up shop and these fuckers are popping up as though they had settled down in the richest of topsoil. Inevitably I seem to pull the same fucking weed from the same spot every week or two. It really is amazing how determined life — in the form of an unwanted plant — is to set up shop wherever it can.

Dr. Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park said “life, uh, finds a way” and, boy howdy, is that ever the truth. We’ve yet to find a location so hot or cold or acidic that there isn’t some form of life present. It may be simple bacteria, but they’re there and living the good life. So I suppose it’s the height of hubris for me to assume I’ll win my war against the weeds. Especially given my general lack of motivation and avoidance of the outdoors. Still, I am making an attempt even though I know it’s probably a losing battle. It helps that my next door neighbor, Sam, appears to have nothing to do all day but tend to his lawn so it looks like something out of Better Homes and Gardens thus shaming me into action. At this point, I’ll be happy if I manage not to kill off all the non-weed plants in my yard.

 

 

News Flash: Americans are lazy which makes us fat.

A new study from Stanford University’s Department of No Shit, Sherlock shows that Americans are among the laziest when it comes to walking anywhere other than to the fridge for more chocolate pie. Researchers used the step counters in the smartphones of 700,000 people in 46 different countries to figure this out:

The U.S. is one of the world’s laziest countries — and it’s making us fat — USA Today

Scott Delp, a professor of bioengineering who co-led the research, told the BBC the “study is 1,000 times larger than any previous study on human movement.”

The least lazy, according to the study published in the journal Nature, are the Chinese, particularly those in Hong Kong, where people averaged 6,880 a steps a day.

The worst nation was nearby Indonesia, where people walked nearly half as much, averaging 3,513 steps a day. The worldwide average is 4,961 steps, with Americans averaging 4,774.

Now this study might seem pointless, but it turns out it does reveal an interesting fact. Indonesia has the lowest average steps per day for its population so you’d think they’d be much more likely to be obese similar to people in the United States, but it turns out that’s not the case because there is much less variation in the population between who walks a lot and who doesn’t. The researchers refer to this as “activity inequality” and it turns out the bigger that inequality is the more likely a nation is to be obese:

In countries with less obesity, the Stanford researchers say, people typically walked a similar amount every day. In nations with higher rates of obesity, there were larger gaps between those who walked a lot and those who walked very little.

Among those latter countries is the United States, where “activity inequality” ranks Americans fourth from the bottom overall.

“If you think about some people in a country as ‘activity rich’ and others as ‘activity poor,’ the size of the gap between them is a strong indicator of obesity levels in that society,” Delp told the Stanford news site.

Tim Althoff, who worked on the study, pointed to Sweden, with an average of 5,863 steps, as having one of the smallest activity inequality gaps. “It also had one of the lowest rates of obesity,” he said.

Additionally, whether you lived in dense urban or less dense suburban areas also plays a factor:

Jennifer Hicks, another researcher in the study, told the Stanford news site that they examined three California cities located close to one another – San Francisco, San Jose and Fremont. They found San Francisco held both the highest walkability score and the lowest level of activity inequality.

“In cities that are more walkable, everyone tends to take more daily steps, whether male or female, young or old, healthy weight or obese,” Hicks said.

I can’t speak for any other Americans, but I am a fundamentally lazy person who hates to exercise even though I know I really should.  My previous attempts at establishing a walking routine have been documented on this very blog, all of which I gave up on. I just can’t seem to get into the walking habit.

That said, the move to our new home does put me within a reasonable walking distance to a few stores, though it’s still longer than I’d like to attempt in my current shape. We’ve managed to land in a decent neighborhood where it’s not uncommon to see folks out walking for exercise during the day.

I doubt I’ll try getting into walking again simply because I already know I won’t stick with it. However, part of the my motivation for buying a house was so I’d have someplace to store a bicycle and now that I have one I’ve started looking for a decent bike that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg that I could start peddling around the block a few times. The reason I want one that isn’t expensive is just in case I fail at establishing that as a routine too. No point in spending $700 on a bike I don’t use. Did that once with the elliptical exercise machine I bought back when we lived in Ann Arbor. Not making that mistake again.

There’s a local bike shop not too far from my house that I would like to stop by this weekend and take a look around. I don’t need anything with a million gears on it, just something that will stand up to my weight. I used to love riding my bike as a kid well up through my teenaged years and I’m hoping I’ll still enjoy it today. Granted, it won’t do me much good during the winter months, but some exercise would be better than none.

As for the rest of the country, I’ve no solutions to offer up to get us all to exercise a bit more. If I have a hard time motivating myself to do it there’s no way I can think of some way to get everyone else to do it.

God isn’t powerful enough to transubstantiate gluten free crackers.

This just in from the one-more-way-religions-look-stupid department, a Catholic Cardinal has forbidden the use of gluten free Jesus crackers during Holy Communion:

Vatican 0outlaws use of gluten free bread for Holy Communion. — The Telegraph

The ruling was announced in a letter to bishops by Cardinal Robert Sarah,  prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.

He has said the bread can be low-gluten, but the wheat must contain enough protein for it to be made without additives.

For those of you who aren’t Catholics, one of the core beliefs is that the wafers and wine they consume during mass literally turn into the flesh and blood of Christ once they’ve been consecrated. This belief was obligatory in 1215 with the Fourth Council of the Lateran.

I Can't Believe It's Not Jesus

Don’t even THINK of using these in the Catholic church.

The Vatican appears to be declaring that, despite being an all-powerful entity responsible for the existence of all creation who can literally do anything he can imagine, God is incapable or unwilling to perform transubstantiation on gluten free bread.

He added: “The bread used in the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharistic Sacrifice must be unleavened, purely of wheat, and recently made so that there is no danger of decomposition.

“It follows therefore that bread made from another substance, even if it is grain, or if it is mixed with another substance different from wheat to such an extent that it would not commonly be considered wheat bread, does not constitute valid matter for confecting the Sacrifice and the Eucharistic Sacrament.”

And don’t you even begin to think any old wine will do as Jesus blood:

“The wine that is used in the most sacred celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice must be natural, from the fruit of the grape, pure and incorrupt, not mixed with other substances.”

Leaving aside the cannibalistic aspects of this ritual for a moment, you would think God would have had the foresight of the sort of problems that a Jesus cracker with gluten in it would cause Catholics with Celiac disease, what with being all-knowing and all. Which calls into question that whole transubstantiation thing to begin with. I mean, if the cracker literally becomes the flesh of Christ then wouldn’t that remove any gluten in it? Or did Jesus have naturally occurring gluten in his flesh?

Probably best not to think about that too much.

Lutherans, who also practice this odd ritual, don’t seem to be as hung up on what the cracker is made out of and generally leave it up to the local churches to decide if they’re willing to substitute gluten free bread. Methodists can also use gluten free bread or rice cakes. I’ve not checked into the other denominations that engage in a similar ritual, but I’d bet they are also more accommodating.

One can only assume that the Catholic church doesn’t think God is capable of turning anything other than unleavened wheat bread into Jesus flesh. Or he’s just that much of a petty bread snob that he refuses to do so.