Category Archives: Entertainment

SNL Cold Open From 12/17/16

Saturday Night Live has been doing some wonderful dissing of Donald Trump and his entire litany of assholishness, and last night was no exception. This bit highlights the vapidity of Kellyanne Conway, as well as the intellectual and moral unscrupulousness of Trump and his entire entourage. I share it as a useful historical document.

Also joining in this cold open is John Goodman, who portrays Rex Tillerson, the Exxon CEO Trump has tapped as his new Secretary of State. Tillerson has a very close relationship with Vladimir Putin, having been awarded Russia’s highest honor for a non-citizen, the Medal of friendship, and his appointment as SoS portends a very disturbing future for U.S., Russian relationships, as well as our response to climate change.

In the video, Putin gifts Trump with an Elf on the Shelf, putting it on the mantel, where he pushes a button which then offers an electronic winding up sound, as if a piece of equipment was spinning up and ready to perform. He then tells Alec Baldwin’s Trump to keep it close to his wifi router <Hint, hint. Wink,  wink>.

As all of these cold opens have been, it’s funny, topical, and (hopefully) it really pisses off Teh Donald™ and his cadres of deplorables. Enjoy!


NOVA’s Opening Makes Me Feel Optimistic

I love the PBS documentary series, NOVA. The fact that it’s entertaining and informative, oddly enough, is not what makes it stand out for me, though. It’s the introduction. The music is beautiful and uplifting. It inspires, even if only momentarily . . . and it never fails to do so. Here’s the best video I could find of it. Don’t let the title fool you. It’s only the latest version we’re interested in, so here’s the very end of what is a somewhat longer video.

 

There’s another bit of the intro that speaks to me as well. It happens at 1:11 and, unfortunately, it passes way too fast. I don’t expect others will relate to it quite like I do. After all, I spent over two decades working on the Space Shuttle Main Engine and am a lifelong space cadet — in more ways than one. When I see that astronaut floating in space, it almost chokes me up. It’s kind of bittersweet, though, as living down here the majesty of what we’re capable of achieving is somewhat offset by the mayhem we’re creating all too frequently. Nevertheless, at least for a few seconds, this picture — combined with the music — is wonderfully moving. Here’s the pic. I watched the video full screen and grabbed this piece.

Screenshot 2016-07-05 17.22.56

Float like a butterfly, sting like the Borg.


Beautiful Downtown San Diego

San Diego is a beautiful city by my lights, but I don’t think I’ll ever stay downtown again. I’m not sure I can count the number of sirens we heard in the less than three days we’ve been here on both hands . . . and feet!

When I was in my mid-teens I remember staying in Mission Bay, at the Bahia Resort. Days were filled with water sports and evenings were spent cruising around the bay on the resort’s sternwheeler paddleboat, the Bahia Belle. 

 

The Bahia Belle

The Bahia Belle

 
We always went with another family who had a son my age and, if memory serves, we imagined ourselves riverboat gamblers. I think we mostly, much like my 14-year old daughter, were just thrilled to be away from the scrutiny of our parents for a couple of hours. 

Last summer we came here and stayed in US Navy quarters, thanks to our traveling with a friend who is retired military. I was surprised to see we were almost directly across the highway from the USS Recruit, a landlocked training vessel that is (I believe) the only remaining artifact of Camp Nimitz and Camp Decatur, the Recruit Training Center/United States Naval Training Center where I spent my entire month and twenty-three day naval career fifty years ago. 

There are times I bemoan my short career in the Navy, as I was not in long enough to qualify for veteran’s benefits. On the other hand, having been born with club feet, one of which required surgery when I was five, I failed my enlistment physical and, but for my arguments at the time, by all rights never should have been sworn in. Because I did argue, and was sent to boot camp, I was awarded the National Defense Service Medal, allowing me to somewhat facetiously present myself as a “decorated veteran,” something I actually never do. 🙂

  

National Defense Service Medal

National Defense Service Medal


Now I sit in the Santa Fe Railroad station, but a few blocks from the hotel we stayed at, waiting to return home. My family got to tour CVA-41, the USS Midway, and spend most of yesterday at the San Diego Zoo, where our 12-year old was plotzing to visit. She got to see the Pandas and she’s a happy camper, which makes me happy too. 

We left our vehicles at home and used rail, busses, and our tired, barking dogs to wend our way through the weekend, but I wouldn’t trade the time we’ve had for anything. The bonus is I’ve walked more both days than I have since I got my Fitbit ChargeHR, and so did the wife and kids. Can’t beat that!


Our Spring Break Denouement

All Aboard

All Aboard

We’re on our way to San Diego, aboard Train 768, from the Simi Valley Amtrak station a few minutes from our house. After a half hour layover at Union Station in Downtown LA, Fullerton is our next stop. I chose this method of travel thinking it would be a bit of a different experience for the girls. Also, the commute in a car is not one of my favorites. Frankly, driving is not one of my passions, even though I’ve done a lot of it. 

It’s the end of Spring break for the girls and I’ve been squirreling away money so we could do something before it’s too late. Our oldest will be 15 in less than three months and she already inhabits a different universe than Linda and I do, and this may be the last time we’ll be able to enjoy a couple of days together for many years.

After we get to San Diego we’re going to head to the hotel and see if we can check in early. If we can’t, we’ll check our bags in, head to lunch, and then to the USS Midway Maritime Museum. 

Tomorrow is reserved for the zoo. Our younger daughter really, really, really wanted to go to the zoo, so she’s very excited. I already purchased our tickets online, though I printed them out, as I wasn’t convinced they would accept the .pdf they sent and I saved to Evernote. The Midway has an app and our tickets are available in it. Amtrak scans everything (as does just about everyone, I suppose) and I just confirmed with the Conductor the .pdf they sent would be just fine off of my phone. I’ll do that on our return. 

The trip is a bit longer than if we had driven but, unless you’re Agoraphobic, it’s far less stressful. I am, after all, writing this as we now head toward Irvine. We’re headed almost due south and will soon be skirting the Pacific Ocean. So far, the urban scenery has been pretty grim. I’m looking forward to seeing some open, less sullied space. I need to give a shoutout to Google Maps, and GPS technology in general, as I no longer have to guess where we are. For someone with a slight bent toward orienteering, it’s a bonus. 

There’s a bunch of guys who, apparently, are on their way to a bachelor party, a fact I just learned after this rather loquacious woman got on and immediately started a boisterous conversation with them. I can barely hear them, but I’m sure most of the car can hear her, and her male companion who chimes in now and again. Unfortunately, Aimee (our oldest) has her ear buds nestled tightly in her music saturated skull and is missing the show. This was one of the reasons I thought the train would be interesting for the girls. Dang!

Just pulled into San Juan Capistrano; not a swallow in sight but, the Pacific is nigh. Surf’s only a couple feet and it’s a bit choppy, but there are some stalwarts out apaddlin’.

 

San Clemente Pier

San Clemente Pier


  
Cliffs

The edge of the continent, slowly eroding


  
San Onofre

San Onofre which, thankfully, has yet to melt down

We’ll be there soon and I have a family to attend to. So far, so good. There’s a bit of a party atmosphere aboard this train. Looking forward to exploring the Midway. Now I have to decide whether or not to punk the girls for April Fools. 😀 
 


Testing My Universal Mobile Keyboard

image

I took my 12-year-old to check out computers the other day and, after we looked at a few, I decided what to get her. Then I made a kind of an impulse buy and got myself a Samsung Galaxy Tab4 which, at the price they were charging, was almost free. Anyway, I got it yesterday (they didn’t have any in stock, so they had to ship me one) and spent a bit of time figuring it out and loading a few apps from the Play Store.

When I got to work today, I realized I had my universal mobile keyboard, which was designed to be used with phones and notepads. I had installed the WordPress app, so I thought I would give it a try and post this short note to see how it felt. I’m loving the Galaxy Tab4 and intend on using it to watch Netflix, which I also installed, post to my blog (tada), and probably read with the Kindle app, which I’ve yet to install. Think I’ll do that after I post this. I also need to get a sim card, as there’s only about 8Gb of addressable memory in this thing. Amazon Prime, here I come.


Talking To Myself . . . Almost

Lately, I’ve been trying to use my iPhone’s voice recognition capabilities while in my car on the way to work. With the latest upgrade to iOS – I’m at 9.1 – you can now talk to your phone if it’s plugged into power, and I always plug mine into my car charger. All you have to do is say “Hey, Siri” and (most times) you’ll get a tone letting you know she’s listening. You can request music, ask for directions, record notes, tweets, and even Facebook posts. I mostly use it for playing music and recording thoughts I would never be able to remember or write down without pulling over to the side of the road. Although I have been known to do that, I don’t have to anymore. It’s not perfect, but it’s far and away a safer and easy-to-use method of remembering some things.

So, today I recorded a note on my way in. The only drawback is you have to speak fairly continuously. As soon as you pause for more than a couple of seconds, at most, Siri ends the task and reads the note back to you. I managed to make it through the thought I had with relative ease – my memory really ain’t what it used to be – and the playback was accurate enough to know I would be able to understand what I was thinking when I recorded it. As many of us are painfully aware, being able to understand what you were thinking when you were thinking of it later on when you read what you wrote about what you were thinking back then, is important to the efficacy of the effort.

On a whim, I said “Hey, Siri” and, upon hearing the familiar tone, “Thank you.” After a moment’s pause, she responded (in her Aussie accent) “You’re welcome.” Her tone was so upbeat it caused me to wonder if they don’t actually have the phrase recorded, or programmed, in several different intonations. I know we’re a long ways away from anything approaching sentient AI, but it was still oddly comforting, as well as a little weird . . . both the exchange and the reality I bothered to do it in the first place.


In Surprise Move, Senate Joins NASCAR

Just came across this photo on Facebook and was moved to edit Marc Antony’s soliloquy for Caesar, which seemed appropriate to me. So, with the mildest of apologies to ol’ Bill, I offer them herein. To wit:

 

Senators in NASCAR-like jackets

 

 

Friends, citizens, countrymen, lend me your ears;

I come to bury our middle class, not to praise it.

The evil that we do lives after us;

The good is oft interred with our bones;

So let it be with our middle class. The noble McConnell

Hath told us we were too ambitious:

If it were so, it was a grievous fault,

And grievously hath we answer’d it.

Here, under leave of McConnell and the rest–

For McConnell is an honourable man;

So are they all, all honourable men–

Come I to speak at our funeral.

We were, almost without fail, just

And faithful to our nation.

But McConnell says we were ambitious;

And McConnell is an honourable man.

We worked hard all our lives and taxes

On our efforts did the general coffers fill:

Did this in us seem ambitious?

We freely gave of our abundance

The others might have what we did:

Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:

Yet McConnell says we’re too ambitious;

And McConnell is an honourable man.

You all did see that in general elections

We thrice voted in supply-siders and tricklers,

Who did thrice trick us: was this ambition?

Yet McConnell says we were ambitious;

And, sure, he is an honourable man.

I speak not to disprove what McConnell speaks,

But here I am to speak what I do know.

You all did love us once, not without cause:

What cause withholds you then, to mourn for us?

O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,

And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;

My heart is in the coffin there with the middle class,

And I must pause till it come back to me.


Santa Claus is Definitely No Republican

One of the, shall we say, more charming practices of my Rotary Club is that of having someone play the role of “Ratfink” at most meetings. The Ratfink usually resembles either a stand up comedy routine or a roast. Either way, members of the club are generally involved, though when the roast format is used it can get a little snarky . . . to say the least.

My club’s last meeting was treated to a bit of a roast and, for the first time in the slightly over two years I’ve been a member, I was the butt of the routine. The presenter was a gentleman who is a political operative for a local, Conservative Republican of some stature and I know him reasonably well. He and his wife recently celebrated the arrival of their second child and I believe he is a good, devoted husband and father. We are Facebook “friends”.

Let me say something about Rotary International, in general, and my club, The Rotary Club of Simi Sunrise, in particular. Without getting into too much detail, I have come to see Rotary as a challenging, useful organization with goals I have no trouble agreeing with. The motto “Service above self” has always been dear to me, though my experience with it was mostly exhibited in how I performed my job and in my willingness and ability to help others around me. The Four Way Test is also a statement of principle I am in complete agreement with, to wit:

Of the things we think, say, or do

  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  3. Will it build GOOD WILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

Now, I truly have a hard time arguing with these principles, yet have no trouble recognizing there are some for whom they are merely words and the reason they are involved in Rotary is either because they’re looking for business or social connections or because it’s a way to be “charitable” without too much effort. I do believe those people are a small minority, though. But, I digress.

I live in what I believe is a reasonably conservative city; the home of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. My Rotary Club consists of some very (did I say “very”?) politically conservative individuals. I make no secret of my political proclivities, which tend to lean far to the left and many of my fellow Rotarians, like last meeting’s Ratfink, are Facebook “friends” who, since I am pretty prolific in my postings, must see some of the stuff (sometimes rants) I post. I do fret a little about upsetting them too much, as I believe we all want the best for our City, though we may disagree on how to get there. I do not question the motives of most, while reserving judgment on some who I believe are either horribly misguided or total assholes.

Santa's a Socialist

That Fat Bastard is at it Again!

The man who served as Ratfink, however, is not one of the latter. He had me stand up, which is customary during a roast-like rendition of the role, and pointed out that one of the “drawbacks” of being as vocal and public as I am on Facebook is that others who might not agree with me can see who I really am (or something like that). I should point out, at this stage of my life I don’t much care. In the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave” I have had to spend the vast majority of my life being very careful what I said in order to avoid being ostracized. I don’t plan on going to my grave without showing my “true colors”, so to speak.

He then went on to point out to me that Santa is a Republican, evidenced by the fact he wears red. Now I’m quite certain there were many watching who relished this bit of roasting I was “receiving”, though I couldn’t see as I was at a table closest to the front and I was facing forward toward the speaker. I quietly took my medicine and, when he was finished with me and moved on to the next person, I sat down. However, when he was finished and was returning to his seat, which was only a table away from mine, I audibly pointed out my conclusion that Santa was actually a socialist, as he gives toys to children everywhere in the world. Never mind that red is in most of the world considered a color of revolution and that the old Soviet Union’s and the current People’s Republic of China’s flags are mostly red.

I haven’t had the opportunity to speak with him since, as we had a wonderful program of carolers provide us with entertainment and, afterward, everyone scurried off to their jobs or whatever it was their day was going to bring them. We also won’t have our next meeting for another two weeks as both Christmas and New Year’s Day fall on Thursdays, which is the day we meet. However, I know I will be speaking with him. In fact, he has offered to help introduce me to the right people within our City government so I can introduce my concepts regarding the future of work, the collaborative economy, and the use of social media to facilitate the governance and conduct the business of the City and its inhabitants. I’m looking forward to it.

I trust everyone has had a wonderful Christmas, Hanukkah, Festivus (for the rest of us) or whatever (if any) holiday you might observe. We also just experienced the Winter solstice; the shortest day of the year and many have celebrated the beginning of a new cycle in which the days will now begin getting longer until the end of June. Truly a festive time of the year. Now we have New Year’s revelry before us and I have a lot of work to do for the first time in quite a while. I wish everyone who comes to my little slice of the blogosphere much joy and happiness. With those two, prosperity is a relative thing and, of course, I wish for your health and well-being as well.


Getting High on Pie. Oh My!

Banana Cream Pie

Just Like This!

My mother used to make the most delicious banana cream pies. I think I could have eaten a whole one when I was a teenager. One Thanksgiving I was taking one of her pies out to our second refrigerator in the detached garage (we lived on the border of North Hollywood and Sun Valley and the garage abutted the Alley just behind Roscoe Blvd.) and I dropped it.

It was in a Pyrex pie dish and just shattered. I was crushed – heartbroken. There was no way to salvage even one morsel because there was no way to tell where there might be pieces of glass. That was over fifty years ago and I think I’m still suffering over it.


I Want to Adapt! Really, I do!

I know variation and change are inevitable aspects of life. I believe they’re good things and, as I wrote in my previous post, I have often sought out change — even radical transformation — in most aspects of my life over the years. I know that being able to accept either unforeseen or long-predicted developments, to roll with the punches as it were, is a good thing. I have also considered being able to quickly adapt to such developments an important trait of successful living. Furthermore, I’m well aware it takes a bit of wisdom to know when the time is right, and to be capable of graciously accepting the inevitability of different circumstances with grace and aplomb.

Still . . . I’m really going to miss The Colbert Report . . . bad.

 


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