Saturday, February 10, 2018

Saturdays, Now And Then

It's Saturday night and here I am at home, doing pretty much nothing. I did go out for about forty-five minutes this afternoon. That was to have dinner at the Salvation Army and to get a few things from the convenience store up the street. They sell what was my dad's favorite pizza and whenever I can, I pick up a slice or two. It's not the best pizza I've ever had, it's not even the best in this area. But it's what we ate when I was growing up so it's nice to still be able to get it now and then.

Weekends have meant different things to me at different times in my life, as you might expect. As a child, Saturday was the one night I was allowed to stay up late and I appreciate that, all these years later. As a teenager, some weekends I made good money by babysitting. Or I might sit in on a game of poker with my brother and his friends. We never played for money, just for fun. Or I might find something good to watch on television and if lucky, have something to snack on while doing so.

When my wife was alive, we often went out on Saturday nights, usually to see a movie. My brother did a nice thing by letting us use his car, as he could get a ride to work and back with someone else.

When Michelle's health really started to worsen, that ended for the most part. But we'd still watch a movie, just at home instead of in a theater. We had a forty inch flat screen television paired up with a really good and quite expensive sound system designed for watching films. That thing was a real pain to set up but once I found the sweet spot for its settings, it was well worth the expense and the effort.

When I lived in San Francisco, I never had very much money to spend after paying the bills but I was able to afford a Netflix subscription so again, Saturday was movie night. And now that I'm in Binghamton once again, I've gotten back to that. I do have the money to go out but most of what there is to do downtown revolves around nightclubs and bars, and I was never much into that to begin with and certainly am not now.

This was nice, to just reflect a little on the past.

Again, as always, I thank you for reading what I've written, and I wish you the best.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

I'm Still Here

I regret that I haven't posted anything new in so long but January wasn't a good month for me. Too much bad weather, too many things to deal with, too much...of pretty much everything.

And the last few days I've been dealing with a sinus infection, which is never fun.

But I'm still here, honest. I can tell you that I made some good food the last few weeks, The best was my homemade macaroni and cheese. I used just five ingredients, which were flour, cheese, salt, pepper and milk. The milk and flour I used to make a roux. Once that was done, I added the cheese, which was mild cheddar. Once that was done, I seasoned it very lightly and it came out just right.

I mean, for my tastes, it was perfectly seasoned. Also, I used very good macaroni, which is key to the whole thing, of course.

I also made some fried chicken strips, which also came out really well. Lightly battered and again, seasoned just so. I paired them with homemade stuffing and corn.

What else can I share with you?

Well, if you like soul music in all its various forms, you might want to look into a series of releases all using the title "Eccentric Soul". These are various artist compilations, most of which focus on a particular record label. These labels are mostly very obscure ones but some of the sides they cut are very good. The most recent one I purchased is sub-titled "Sitting In The Park" and was inspired by a man who had 35,000 45 R.P.M. singles in his personal collection at the time of his death in 2014.

His name was  Bob Abrahamian and from what I've read, he was fanatical (in a good way!) about preserving soul music produced in Chicago and surrounding areas. He would spin these rare records while on the air at WHPK.

Here's a link to it.

I've received no compensation whatsoever for posting the link or for recommending the release.
I just want to share the good stuff with anyone who might enjoy it. If you don't want to wait to have a disc delivered, you can do what I did and buy the whole thing as lossless FLAC files. Or, if you want them, you can also get MP3 files but there's no pricing difference so I went with the lossless files.

As always, I thank you for reading this and I wish you well.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Lunch With A Friend

I am sorry that I haven't posted recently. I've had a lot going on. Here's something I hope you'll enjoy reading.

To call someone a friend is not something to be taken lightly, I believe. I have many people I know, most of whom I regard either as acquaintances or colleagues. I don't have many friends, but honestly, that's a good thing as far as I'm concerned. Because anyone I do consider to be my friend has earned it. That person has been good to me and is trustworthy. That person must be a person of good character and possessing traits we consider to be good ones.

Over the past several months, I've had to take a second look at who is a friend and who isn't. People who repeatedly don't return phone calls or respond to a text, have been dropped from the list. People who do respond but can't make time for something as simple as a lunch date, are on probation. People who respond and do make time to actually spend time with me are good to go.

Yesterday, I had a very nice time catching up with my friend David. He asked if we could meet at a  restaurant that I had never heard of. It's a location in the "Core Life" chain. I always trust David when it comes to choosing a place to eat, and once again he did not fail me. After looking at their menu on their website and calling them to ask a few questions, I knew what I would order. Also, I knew how much money I'd be spending, which is always something I have to be aware of.

The food was very good, the restaurant was very clean with a nice decor, and the serving size was just right. I chose the make your own bowl option with the following for my salad:

- Romaine lettuce
- wild rice
- roasted corn
- cherry tomatoes
- cucumber
- diced celery
- raspberry vinaigrette dressing
- diced chicken
- tortilla strips

As I said. the food was very good, as was the fresh lemonade. Just as importantly, the company was very good. David and I met when we had a morning class together during what was the first semester for both of us in the Hotel and Restaurant Management Program at S.U.N.Y. - Broome. We've both had a lot of personal growth since then, but we still get along very well. Our personal backgrounds are very different, as our are ages (51, soon to be 52 for me, and mid-twenties for David).

But we respect and like each other. David is very intelligent, very honest and is one of the hardest working people I know. Both times he was part of my team in a professional kitchen, he did work that can only be called "outstanding".  The hour and a half spent together was a very pleasant hour and a half.

As always, dear reader, I wish you the best.


Monday, January 1, 2018

And So Begins The New Year

Well, folks, here we are. At midnight when it became 2018 in my time zone, I played "My Way" by Frank Sinatra and drank a Wild Cherry Pepsi. I hope your evening was safe and fun. Please accept my wishes for the best in this new year.

Friday, December 29, 2017

More Thoughts on "Star Trek: Discovery"

There are spoilers in this post, so if you haven't watched the show yet but intend to do so at some time, you might want to stop right here.

I've given up on this show. After nine episodes, I just don't find it worth the time it takes to watch, the hit it puts on my data usage, or the $5.99 a month that I pay for the CBS All Access service. If it's released on DVD at some point, I might give it a second chance.

Here are some of the things I really dislike about the series.

Michael Burnham is supposed to be the very first Starfleet officer to commit mutiny. Not totally unbelievable, but a bit of a stretch, to be sure. I can accept that losing her commission is part of her punishment when she pleads guilty, but being imprisoned for the rest of her life just feels wrong. Also, in the scene where the proceedings are taking place, the officers who are trying her case are seen to be hidden in darkness.  It's not stated, but the implication is clear; Burnham has no idea of who she's dealing with.

This simply does not fit in with anything remotely resembling the way things were shown to be in the original series. When Jim Kirk is being court-martialed, he is offered the chance to request that different officers be assigned to the proceedings if he feels that any of those present are biased against him.

As regards the character of Sarek, this version of him feels so wrong. This Sarek is dishonest. This Sarek has none of the gravitas that the late Mark Lenard brought to the character.  This Sarek is one I don't care for.

The war between the Federation and the Klingon Empire is something we're told has cost thousands of lives. Yet, we've seen nothing of the war but a few brief battles. We've not seen any of the pain, or the sacrifice, or the just plain horror of war. If you want to see Star Trek do this the right way, watch the episodes of Deep Space Nine that feature the Dominion War story arc. 

The captain has a large room in which he has among other things, the skeleton of a Gorn. Yet, if we accept that this is taking place when it's said to be, first encounter with that species is a good ten to twelve years in the future. It's possible that the captain, whose name I can barely remember, doesn't know what species the skeleton is from.

The only way that any of this makes sense at all is if events are set in the mirror universe. If one accepts the events of "In A Mirror, Darkly" to be canon, then the level of technology seen makes sense. The Terran Empire has had a lot of time in which to advance their technology.

Even then, though, it still doesn't all fit. The Empire is most definitely not the Federation. It might, I repeat, might, all work if we see that this is the Mirror universe with an altered time line. But that would, of course, contradict the oft-repeated statements that we are dealing with the Prime time line.

And don't get me started on the spore drive. Setting aside the questionable science involved, it takes all the tension out of things. A means of interstellar travel that can take you anywhere in the universe in just a few seconds? I'd love to have a talk with the person who came up with that idea.

And could they possibly make the Klingons any less interesting? Past depictions haven't always been the greatest, but this really is scraping the bottom of the barrel, as the saying goes. Of course, I've been spoiled when it comes to this, because the novel "The Final Reflection" by John M. Ford is still the gold standard when it comes to depicting the Klingons, thirty-three years after its release.

The sad part is, there are bits and pieces of the show that do work and work well.  But the bad far outweighs the good, so far.  For the most part, the whole thing is a rather generic action-adventure show with a bit of Star Trek thrown in.

When you compare this to some of the better fan films, it just isn't very good at all. Of course, fan films are now severely restricted in what they can and can't do. I've covered that before and won't go over it again here.

As always, I thank you for taking the time to read this

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas To You

To you, dear reader, I offer my wishes for a very merry Christmas. May you receive at least one good gift, and may the gifts you give be just right for the recipients.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Things That Have Been On My Mind

Settle in, dear reader. This is going to be a long post. I'm going to cover a lot of ground, as the expression goes.

The tax reform bill is now the law of the land. As is repeal of net neutrality regulations. These won't actually go into effect for a little while, but the deals are done, the votes have been cast. The CHIP program that provides health insurance for 9 million children is out of money, more or less. There are no more funds to be dispersed to the individual states at this time. Each state has its own date at which its current funds will run out. The program has been in existence for twenty years and funding it has never been an issue in the halls of Congress.

But, as I and so many others predicted would happen, the Trump presidency is taking almost everything we've long taken for granted and putting it all back on the table. Even as they happily blow a trillion and a half dollar hole in the budget, the Republicans are already talking about what they call "entitlement reform". Because, they say, we need to be fiscally responsible.

I believe that no later than late January or early February, they'll be attacking Social Security, Medicare, SNAP (the program formerly known as food stamps), H.E.A.P.,  and anything else they can set their sights on. They might, just might, leave regular Social Security untouched, but they will, I believe, brutally attack Social Security Disability.

Which, though it's par for the course, is still morally sickening. I have a lot to lose if this goes badly because S.S.D. is my only source of income. My monthly check of $834 (don't spend it all at once!) puts me at 80% of the poverty level. My SNAP benefits bring me all the way to a dead even 100%.

Think that over, for a minute. That monthly payment, which I can spend on food and nothing else, lifts me out of poverty. 

Changing the subject, have you read, or at least, heard about the report issued by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights? He recently completed a two week tour of the United States and finds our conditions to be "appalling". He details conditions in parts of Alabama, where raw sewage backs up in people's yards because the systems to handle it are in such bad shape. He talks about children who are suffering from hookworm and ringworm, diseases not seen in this country since the mid-to-late 1960s. Those diseases result from lack of clean drinking water, the right to which should be formally codified as a fundamental right. He talks about seeing police officers in San Francisco harassing the homeless, telling them to move along. 

Think all that over, if you can force yourself to do it.

Back to politics, for a bit. If you need a quick break, take it, please. Get up and stretch for a few minutes. Get yourself something to drink.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. The extreme right wingers in this country are morally disgusting people. They're sick, twisted individuals whose beliefs, words and actions have long bordered on and now fully qualify as pathological. They really do believe every word they say, which is kind of scary.

Their rise to power began in the late 1960s, with the election of Richard Nixon. They've spent close to half a century piecing together their agenda. Every time that the rest of us could have and should have risen up to stop them, to say "No" to them, we failed for one reason or another.

When Ronald Reagan illegally fired thousands of air traffic controllers who were striking, did we stop it? We did not. Yes, the strike itself was not legal, but Reagan's actions was the first shot across the bow against organized labor. That was, many believe, the defining moment, the moment when the right wing said to itself, "What else can we get away with?".

They can get away with a whole hell of a lot, as we've seen. They can ship millions of jobs to third world nations. They can eliminate millions more by making us check ourselves out at the supermarket, and by turning ATM machines into automated bank tellers, and by using robotics to manufacture automobiles and by...well, you get the idea, I'm sure.

They can close hundreds of post offices. They can reduce the number of hours that Social Security offices are open. They can impose draconian restrictions on voting. They can turn our society into a hellish nightmare where privacy is no longer protected as it should be. Indeed, they can even make privacy damn near obsolete. You are being watched, in just about every public place you can think of.

All in the name of security. Safety. Order. You may know these words as the words that the Nazis used in Germany in the 1930s.

Because we don't want another 9-11 on our hands. Of course, we're losing people, our people, to an opioid crisis that's killing as many people as we lost on 9-11, every three weeks.

Every three weeks! And what price has been demanded of those who deal in death?

Okay. I'm almost done, honest. This post hasn't come out quite the way I first intended it to. It's quite a bit shorter. It's a bit more restrained. Yeah, I held back, a little. But I'm satisfied with it.

Of course, I just might be back at it again in an hour or two. Or not. I have other things to discuss, but I want, as always, to treat each and every subject with the care and respect it deserves.

Thank you for reading this.