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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

You stream, we stream, we all stream...

I finally cut the cable and rely completely on streaming content for my television consumption. I got sick of paying for cable that kept increasing in cost without increasing the number of channels I had access to. I was down to basic cable that was basically useless. Other than allowing me to access a few local channels (which I rarely watched anyway) it offered me nothing.

So now my cable bill only includes high-speed Internet and phone land lines. I would get rid of the phone, but my wife insists we need it for emergencies and to receive countless robo calls offering me extended warranties on my car and alerting me that someone is buying expensive things with my Amazon account.

The only down side to streaming versus cable is the number of apps I end up paying for to get premium content. I have Amazon Prime, Netflix, Apple TV, Disney +, HBO Max, Peacock, Paramount, Showtime and PBS.  It still is cheaper than basic cable and I only have to watch commercials on Peacock.

Unlike cable, which was a cultural desert of crap channels, I find myself with almost unlimited choices of things to watch. I have binge watch tons of great original content. The downside in discovering some new series and watching all of the available episodes is waiting for a new season. And sometimes they never come because Netflix or Amazon decides not to continue with the series. But even when they do come, it is sometimes after so long that I forget the plot line of the previous seasons.

What I really like is that, unlike watching premium channels on cable, I can watch a movie or series from the beginning anytime I want. I'm not at the mercy of tuning in at a specific time. And who needs a DVR? DVD's have also become obsolete. Everything is in the cloud waiting to waft down to your on demand.

I remember writing posts in the past about the marvels of DVRs and being able to pause live television. And I remember bitching about having too many cable channels and not enough good content. Who would have dreamed we would eventually be able to stream just about anything we want and any time we want. 

I can't even imagine what and how we will be watching content five or ten years from now. Maybe all we will have to do is close our eyes and content is streamed into our brains.

If that happens I know what I'll be doing at staff meetings in the future.

Monday, August 08, 2022

Picture me, if you will...

 


I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time experimenting with filters on Snapchat. I don't ever actually send any messages on Snapchat. I don't have a clue how it works. But I do know how to capture photos of my face with odd filter effects. It takes less time than Photoshop.

If you don't know me (which applies to just about everyone), you'd think I like my face. On the contrary, I am appalled by it, especially as it ages. I struggle with selfies to try and hide the double chin and sagging flesh. Filters at least hide some of the flaws.

Ironically, I hate having photos taken of myself. Inevitably, I look huge. And photographs always seem to capture me in the most unflattering poses with my mouth have open. Selfies with filters remedy some of that.


They also help me indulge in role playing fantasies. For example I think I would have made a pretty good cowboy.


Though I don't think I could pull off being a clown.


I find it quite horrifying, actually.


But overall filters makes me smile (in a genuine way, of course).




Tuesday, August 02, 2022

Old man, look at my life

 


Old man, look at my life
I'm a lot like you were
Old man, look at my life
I'm a lot like you were

Lullabies, look in your eyes
Run around the same old town
Doesn't mean that much to me
To mean that much to you
I've been first and last
Look at how the time goes past
But I'm all alone at last

Rolling home to you 

--Neil Young 

 I have always liked the song, Old Man by Neil Young. I can't say the lyrics ever made sense to me other than a young man telling an old man that he was young like him at some point in his life.

Duh.

Actually Neil Young was writing the song to an old man who was the caretaker of a ranch he bought in Northern California when he was 25. Apparently the old man had lived on the ranch for a long time and couldn't believe a 25 year old could afford to buy it. So Neil Young wrote the song to rub his face in it.

Well he said he wrote it to tell the man that they weren't that different than each other. He just had got rich young by playing a guitar, smoking weed and singing in a weird falsetto voice. The old man on the other hand was taking care of the young man's cows and mending fences for what I imagine was minimum wage. 

I'm a lot like you were....NOT.

I can tell you that when I was 25, I wasn't imagining I was anything like old men. I didn't want to think about getting old. And at that age I was thinking 40 was old. Now 40 seems pretty young to me. I do remember being depressed when I turned 25 because I'd let a quarter of a century go by with out much to show for it. I'd like to go back in time and slap my 25 year old self a few times.

 Speaking of getting old, I've been watching Virgin River on Netflix (don't judge). In addition to young, attractive actors, the cast includes Tim Matheson and Annette O'Toole as an aging couple. If you don't remember who they are, Tim Matheson starred in the 1978 movie Animal Shack. If you really want some trivia, he was also the voice of Johnny Quest in the 1964 cartoon. Annette O'Toole was in lots of movies and series in the 1980s and 1990s. She was Lana Lane in Superman III. She was also in a 1982 remake of Cat People that I panned in a review in my college newspaper. My review headline was "Cat People belongs in the litter box." Anyway she was pretty hot back then.

But Virgin River shows what happens to all of us when we age. Matheson, once a heartthrob, plays a crotchity old country doctor. O'Toole plays his very unlikeable wife. Even when the doctor begins losing his eyesight and his wife suffers a brain injury, it is difficult to like either character. And the challenge for me is that I keep picturing them the way they looked in the early 1980s. 

Time is not kind to any of us. 

Now lest you think I am age shaming I must remind you that I am pretty much in the same boat (which could desperately use a new coat of paint). It is just a bit jarring to see these actors who I picture in their iconic young roles, growing old. It's like going to your 40th or 50th high school reunion and wondering who all the old people are.

Now that I am in this hole, I am going to stop digging.

Oh man, look at my life.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Going to town

 


My wife and I took our daughter to see a performance of Hades Town at the Paramount Theater in downtown Seattle last Saturday. It was the first major performance I've seen since the pandemic. And I have to say it was one hell of a show. 

The place was packed and while most people wore masks, it was kind of freaky being in a crowd. COVID has made me hyperaware of things like that. Not that I've ever liked crowds. But I never used to worry about crowds of people making me sick.

It is amazing how the pandemic changed our lives. And it is amazing how we've changed how we respond to it. In the beginning we were washing our hands several times a day and using hand sanitizer like it was holy water protecting us from the devil. Masks went from a novelty to a necessity. And god forbid we were ever within six feet of another person. Gone was shaking hands and hugging.

But now no one cares about hand sanitizer, social distancing and for the most part masks. Even so, reports are increasing of yet another surge in COVID cases and health officials telling us we should wear masks and avoid crowds. No one really listens.

I enjoyed Hadestown immensely. But that night we got a message that they cancelled the evening performance due to illness and COVID affecting the cast. I was a bit surprised though the understudy had been playing the role of Orpheus in the show we saw. So I wonder who else got sick between the matinee and the evening performance.

In case you've never heard of Hadestown, it is a musical based loosely on the Greek myth of Orpheus travelling to the underworld to bring back his wife Eurydice. Spoiler alert: he fails. The music from Hadestown is amazing. The audience gave the show a major standing ovation (not always a given in Seattle). And it was well deserved. I highly recommend you catch a show if you can. Or at least listen to the soundtrack. It is pretty haunting.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Don't Pandemic II

 

I thought I was yet again being too clever by half when I thought of turning Douglas Adam's "Don't Panic" from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy into "Don't Pandemic." But of course, Google showed me I wasn't the first clever person to use the phrase. And ironically I was looking over some of my past posts and discovered I'd titled post "Don't Pandemic" earlier in the pandemic. Once again I am repeating myself without being aware of it.

But this time I put my face on the "Don't Pandemic" character so at least that is something original. 

I don't know what to think about the pandemic now. After about two years of hourly headlines describing the onslaught of new variants sweeping through the world Covid has been pushed to page five of the virtual news pages behind classified ads for lost pets. Occasionally a click bait headline pops up promising that Covid isn't dead yet and the next one is going to be the mother of all strains that will wag it's behind at your boosters.

But the price of gas and groceries seems to be more frightening.

Now that my kids are out of school for the summer and I no longer have to shuttle them to and from school and play practice, I have returned to the office several days a week. I have to tell you, it actually feels pretty good to ride the train to work again and sit at a desk that isn't in a basement surrounded by boxes, dog beds and meowing cats. 

And being in downtown Seattle isn't as scary as I thought it would be. Now granted I am exposed to a narrow part of downtown each day. I have a two minute walk from the train station to my office building and I don't venture out much. Me and the pigeons are above it all on the fourth floor of my building. And next month I move to the 11th floor of another building. I will be in a much smaller interior office so I'll be even more insulated from the real world.

Although I wear a mask on the train, very few people seem to care anymore. The train isn't full, but it rarely was before the pandemic. I also don't wear a mask in the office. There are only a hand full of people here. It is kind of nice. 

Most of my meetings are still virtual. That is also nice. The only difference from remote is that I am wearing slacks and a dress shirt instead of pajama bottoms and a t-shirt. I also don't have a dog scratching at my leg for attention.

It's almost like the world is back to normal for me.

Almost.

Monday, April 04, 2022

Old dog

 



I try to avoid commenting about work in my blog. But I've spent the last three Fridays and finally my birthday in an all day leading with purpose workshop. This is not a training I've sought out. It is not a training I would have sought out. There is nothing that involves four full days of psycho babble that I would purposedly seek out.

It's not that I don't want to learn new things, but these consultant led trainings, on Zoom not in person complete with virtual break out rooms aren't learning opportunities. They are mindnumbing wastes of time. I am not a stupid person, but the language of consultants and management training is incomprehensible. 

Things like "generous listening." It translates to paying attention to what someone is saying to you even though it is stupid. There are 360 surveys that give you feedback from peers, direct reports and your manager. They are all over the map --say more, say less, listen more, act more, stop rolling your eyes.

I don't like feedback. I can dissect myself with a blunt tool without someone else's opinion. But providing feedback that I don't like feedback is not socially acceptable. I must drink the Koolaid and adopt the lingo, at least until I actually retire or expire.

At my age I am set in my ways and I don't think making lists and personal goals is going to change that. I can't even remember half of the crap I've "learned" in trainings anyway. 

This dog don't want to hunt no more.


Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Gray and white

 


I live in a gray and white world, literally and figurative. At times it seems like there is never sunshine in the Pacific Northwest. The sky always seems gray and blotched with drizzle. It seems worse than it was when I first moved here more than 40 years ago. Maybe it is climate change. Maybe it is just me aging, graying and whiting.

My hair is gray and white. I am like a printer running out of ink. I am fading.

Maybe it's the pandemic or social unrest or the economy or the war in the Ukraine that making me gray. Or should that be blue? 

Was it a coincidence that Oscar Wilde's character was Dorian Gray? But I suppose his portrait grayed while he stayed black and white. Though I wish I had a portrait that grayed and aged while I stayed the way my mind sees me -- young and strong. The mirror, however, betrays me.

Which is why I try to avoid mirrors. But there are times, like when I am getting my hair cut, that I can't avoid the mirror. Even on the endless video meetings I am forced to stare at my gray face and double chins. More than two years of this has taken its toll.

And speaking of being invisible (there's one of those old digressions) there is nothing like being in a video meeting with about a hundred people that makes you actually invisible. No one really sees you. If they did see me, I wonder if they would think they are tuning in an old black and white television show.

Friday, February 11, 2022

Free as a bird


So I think I've set a new record for not blogging. Something about a pandemic that just keeps my muse from musing. It's difficult to be motivated to write when nothing seems too amusing.

I did go into the office a couple of weeks ago for the first time in almost two years. I was greeted by a stack of mail a foot high on my desk.


The monkey playing cymbals was watching over it for me. He hasn't changed. He did seem a bit more skitterish than I remember.


I also noted my desk calendar was open to March 2020, the month when it all seemed to go to hell. It was like something right out of the Twilight Zone. This whole scenario is like a bad dystopian novel.

Speaking of dystopian plots, I began watching this series on HBO Max called Station Eleven. It is about a future world where many of the people were killed off by a deadly flu. 

Sound familiar?

It's odd, but the pandemic seems to be losing steam, not because COVID had gone away but because people are just sick of it (pun intended). The intensity of the first year was replaced by hope that vaccines would end it last year. But the endless variants threw a wet blanket on hope towards the second part of 2021. And now people just seem to say WTF. Lots of mask mandates are being lifted.  

I've never liked wearing masks, but I've done it. The biggest pain is remembering to put them on. And I have never found a good solution for keeping my glasses from fogging up. Plus they make my ears pull down and look even bigger than they are. And they really draw attention to my double chin.

Not that my looks matter. I've become even more invisible during the pandemic. I still walk every day. And my wife gave us a family gym membership for Christmas. But working out in a mask sucks. And I'm really sick of walking the same routes for almost two years.

Anyway, why, you ask, is this post called "Free as a bird?" Because it strikes me how ironic that phrase is, especially now that we are all more or less captives in our homes and communities.