retail stores are doomed

I didn’t choose my doggies’ brand of kibble (aka kibs).  Their kibs was chosen by another human who I no longer talk to.  But, it’s what they’ve always eaten.  They love it.

When I wake up in the morning they bounce off the walls because they know after a few short minutes in the backyard they get to eat.  The countdown towards dinnertime is when they’re most active and excited throughout the day.

So you better believe when I heard the retail store (Pet Valu) would no longer carry the brand on site I went into a bit of a mini panic mode.  Said retail store gave no valid explanation for why they were no longer carrying the brand.  They claimed that the company no longer makes it, which was untrue.

Anyways, I ended up trying to find another retail store but eventually gave up and went online to buy it.  How does one buy 30 pound bags of kibble online?  The thought never really crossed my mind.  Bags of dog food are large and heavy.  It’d be like buying huge bags of mulch online.

And yet, I found the brand online and for a decent and cheaper price.  I bought two bags.  What was my cost to ship 60 pounds of kibble to my front door?  $0.  Nothing.  It took me three minutes to make my purchase.  I did it from my cubicle.  I didn’t have to drive to a store.

Retail stores are doomed.  Doomed.  If they can’t compete on price, on saving you time, the only card they have left to play is that shipping things online can cost money.  But if online retailers just front the shipping costs?  It’s over.  There’s nothing else retail can offer you.

I’ll always buy my food in person because I want to handle my own produce and inspect it.  Other than that, I don’t really know what I wouldn’t have shipped to my front door.  Eventually we’ll all find out.

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Niagara Falls – on a cloudy workday

You’re not supposed to visit wonders of the world ad hoc. You’re supposed to plan this stuff out, make a day of it, or whatever. As always though, when work sends you somewhere you need to remain flexible.

I was supposed to be in Buffalo with my boss for two days of stupid meetings. In his typical manner (I don’t like my job) this trip was booked on about two days notice. We get stuffed (for his loyalty points) at a hotel well to the east of Buffalo itself.

We get into Buffalo–Niagara International late Monday morning, and go straight to an office. But instead of taking the allotted four hours, it goes for like 90 minutes. Then the dude looks directly at me and he’s like, “Are we done?” Uh, yeah sure, why not. Don’t have to ask me twice.

So all of sudden it’s like 2pm and I have the rest of the day. I’m in Buffalo, so now what? Hell, Niagara Falls, that’s down the road right? Sure, why not. But he’s got the rental car. Fortunately, he’s probably more of a loser than I.  He just wants to sit in the hotel. So I get the rental car keys he kindly offers. So, apparently, now I’m unexpectedly driving to Niagara Falls. Okay.

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American Falls.

Once upon a time, before cheap discount air travel changed all of global travel, people vacationed or traveled to where a train or car could get them. If you lived in the American Northeast or Middle Atlantic, you didn’t jet set to Cancun or visit London or Iceland. Instead, you drove to places like Niagara Falls. For a good long while Niagara was the number one honeymoon destination on the planet. No more.

As I drove the back roads to Niagara from east of Buffalo I was struck by the starkness of the typical rust belt urban / suburban wasteland I’ve previously encountered. More than half the billboards were for things like opioid addiction, plastic surgery, and the like. It was like driving through other formerly paramount Northeastern tourist destinations that have been gutted by cheap air travel, such as New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

The swankiest looking building in downtown Niagara is (sigh) the freaking casino. Everything else looked burnt out, old, nostalgic from a different happier age. What’s been Cancun’s gain, is Niagara Falls’ loss. I’m not sure what to entirely make of all this, but it is what it is. That being said, Niagara Falls doesn’t disappoint.  It’s an awesome place to visit.

I was there on what turned into a cloudy summer afternoon. I kept fearing it would pour rain but I figured it was worth the risk. It misted a bit here and there, but otherwise the weather cooperated.

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Long distance shot of Horseshoe Falls from Prospect Point.  Note tourist boat getting a good soaking.

Niagara Falls is actually a series of falls. Combine them all together, and depending on how you count, it’s essentially one of the top three waterfalls on Earth.

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Handy map for reference.  Not my shot.

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Looking north down river into Niagara Gorge.  Note Rainbow Bridge, aka Department of Homeland Security parking lot #428.4b.

I ended up at Prospect Point. You can park there for a small fee. Walk over and you’re at American Falls.

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Out of all the places I’ve visited in America, this was the most international I’ve ever seen a tourist crowd. I was one of the only home team members there. Almost everybody else was from elsewhere on the planet. This was on a summer weekday. So my only conclusion is that the international community is more into Niagara Falls than regular Americans. I guess USA folks take it for granted? Or maybe Americans prefer hanging out on the beaches of Cancun over seeing a big waterfall? Not sure.

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American Falls Rapids.

Prospect Point is very crowded. You get a good view of the American Falls though. In the distance you can see Horseshoe Falls. But the best way to go is to walk a bit. Head across the bridge to Luna Island and Goat Island. It’s less crowded and your view of the Falls are better.

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American Falls Rapids with American Rapids Bridge.

You could truly make a whole day at Niagara. Maybe not a whole week, unless it was actually your honeymoon and you were otherwise occupied, but a whole day yes. You could walk the Falls on both sides of the border. You could take the old fashioned boat to get soaked by the Falls. There is also a walkway near the Cave of the Winds where you can get soaked on foot at the base of the Falls. You could also hike all the trails and get a good view of all the preparatory rapids. It’s truly a full day awaiting you.

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American Falls from Luna Island, where your doom over the Falls is literally three feet away from your face.  So awesome.

I was there for a few hours. I’ll be back.

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PS I posted this groundhog a few weeks back. The answer to the riddle was Niagara Falls. This dude was just going about his day about four feet from the edge of Niagara Falls. You can see the mist in the background of the shot. The little guy (or gal) knows his (or her) stuff. I’m sure the groundhog fatality rate at the Falls annually is zero percent.

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Toke up little buddy!

we unveil our diabolical scheme to solve violent protests

The country is apparently in trouble. Or so the news reminds you about every four seconds. It’s all crisis, all the time. Mostly because it’s good for ratings. But if you ask me, the country will be alright. Only about 0.0004% of us are truly unhinged. The rest of us? We seem to get along pretty well.

On any given day I see members of different races amicably chatting on the train, folks say good morning to one another without any irony at all, people provide money to a local proprietor in exchange for goods and services, parents love their kids, dogs and cats can live together, and so on.

But there are these fringe nuts who are trying to ruin it for the rest of us. With their violent protests and otherwise baffling behavior. What gives?

On one side we have these creatures who are self-professed Nazis. Apparently these idiots didn’t bother to read the memo from their German and Japanese counterparts dated May 8th, 1945 and September 2nd, 1945 respectively. How big of a loser do you have to be in life to choose Nazi is your chosen appellation? Fuck these guys. Even scientologists are more reasonable than these freaks.

On the other side we have the anti-fa, or anti-fascists, or Antifa, who theoretically exist to battle the Nazis off America’s streets. Because nothing says you’re not a Nazi than by engaging in behavior that includes beating up unarmed protestors, breaking the glass of private business, setting fires, and putting reporters in the hospital for filming them doing it. These shits don’t know nothing about history or anything, they should be wearing brown shirts instead of black, they’d fit right in.

If you ask me, all these people can be explained in one simple phrase: They all hate America. They all hate the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They hate everything that makes us happy and great. It’s in their interests to turn us all against each other. And their political minders are just as accountable. It seems the President and about 2/3 of Congress and other local politicians have determined their selfish electoral futures depend on siding with evil.

But we can’t develop a plan to solve the deep seated corruption within America’s two major political parties. That’s impossible. We’re not the Aztec demon god Itzpapalotltotec. Hell, even Itzpapalotltotec wouldn’t want any part of that. You’d be like, “Itzpapalotltotec, we need to fix the Democrats and Republicans, for you see, …” and before you know it Itzpapalotltotec’s scrambling out the room saying he’s lost his keys and needs to go find them.

But we can develop a plan to solve the Nazis and the Antifa. Because it’s far easier to get idiots to do your work for you. And boy oh boy are these evildoers idiots.

Here’s our plan, bear with us, it’s rather involved:

1) We rent the CBS Studio for The Price is Right. By the way, if you’re young and haven’t seen this show, you should watch it at least once. It’s nice to remember an America where the worst thing that could happen to you in a given day was that a conglomerate would hock their poor quality vacuum to you.

2) We rename the show to Your Side is Right.

3) We invite the top 100 leaders from the Nazis and the Antifa. We do not tell them who the other 100 are. We tell them that whoever wins the Showcase Showdown is allowed to appoint the next Governor of their State and their next Senator to Congress.

4) Once we’ve got all 200 of them inside the Studio, we lock the doors. The American Communist Party and the Tea Party will provide security outside the Studio. Any Nazi or Antifa who tries to escape will be shoved back inside by Commies and Tea Party folks armed with American flags. They’ll use the flag halberds to poke them back inside. We also provide an ample beer supply so the Commies and Tea Party have something to do while the show occurs. Hopefully they all drink it, talk to each other, and learn they all aren’t such bad people after all.

5) Our game show announcer is Clint Eastwood. Because he’s a American icon, bitter, and is still rolling strong at 87. This guy is going to die directing a film on set, which is the most epic Clint Eastwood death ever. We get Eastwood into the Your Side is Right announcer’s booth and he’ll call down the contestants. We place the most expensive bottle of bourbon money can buy in there and our producer will remark to Eastwood as he’s seated, “We don’t care if you drink this.” So we’ll get his guttural voice bringing down each contestant with ballads such as, “It’s Darren, yes Darren Winslow, you’re the next pathetic piece of [beep] Nazi [beep] on Your Side is Right! You [beep] filth [beep].”

6) Our host? Acclaimed actor, cage fighter, wine connoisseur, and amateur bridge player Edward Thomas Hardy. As a limey he’s a neutral third party, doesn’t take shit from anybody, and can beat up any one of the Nazi or Antifa losers while also drunk and bored. We also give him a bottle of bourbon on a small table center stage. Hardy gets the contestants up on stage and the Nazi or Antifa guy thinks he’s going to get a chance to win a car. This is a big deal for the dude as he’s always lived with his parents and bikes to his job at the Sizzler. Hardy does the usual host shtick ala Bob Barker where he chats with the contestant before the potential prize is revealed. In his brutal Cockney accent, with his palm uncomfortably firmly gripping the guy’s shoulder, he’s like, “Well, let me be the first to welcome you to Your Side is Right. [polite applause] Yes, yes very exciting. Tell me guy, [beep] [beep] [beep] [beep] you think [beep] [beep] [beep] [beep] when we [beep] [beep] [beep] [beeeeeeeeep]!”

7) As the game show progresses, instead of being able to bid on a car or hot tub or whatever ultimately worthless material possession we instead treat our Nazi and Antifa friends to a bath of irony. Each one is trolled into their own personal hell. When the Nazi guy is on stage he gets to bid on a handwritten Torah or a trumpet once used by Miles Davis. The Antifa dude gets to bid on Hitler memorabilia or a hand-carved wooden plaque detailing the First Amendment. When they try to storm off stage Hardy grabs each by the back of the neck and pulls them back to the set, reminding them of their goal to win the Showcase Showdown to appoint the Governor and Senator, “Look [beep] blighter, you’re here to WIN right, right?”

8) We make sure Eastwood rigs the cards so that an equal number of Nazis and Antifa reach the stage, the Big Wheel, and ultimately the Showcase Showdown.

9) We do everything possible to antagonize emotions on both sides. We make the room real hot and stuffy, we deliberately deny use of the bathrooms and forbid all water and snacks, cell phone signals are jammed so max focus is on stage. Hardy constantly reminds the audience and the contestants of just exactly where they are and what’s at stake. Such throw away comments emerge from his mouth after he sips from his bourbon:

“Well I know who’s going to get to [beep] determine the future of this country.”

“One of you all owns the streets. Not sure whom. But I’d sure love to [beep] find out.”

“I love a good show. Don’t all you [beep] love one too? But to me, the greatest show of all, is who gets to rewrite history. You [beep].”

10) By the time the Showcase Showdown occurs we’ll have the place seething with rage and hate. There will literally be condensation of darkness dripping down the walls. Everybody’s exhausted and shouting. As the Showcase Showdown product displays play out, and all of sudden Hardy’s gone. He’s not there on stage anymore. Eastwood’s gone too. These 200 freaks are all alone.

11) Did we mention that upon entry we did not make use of the metal detectors? Whatever these 200 people were carrying when they walked in, they’re still carrying. Eastwood’s voice comes out through the speakers in a recorded announcement, “The winner of the Showcase Showdown and the chance to appoint the Governor and Senator is the last one out the door. Have fun. [beep]”

12) Several hours (or days, either way works for us) later only one man will leave the Studio. The Communists and Tea Party will be dismissed. The Studio will be burned to the ground. Eastwood and Hardy will escort our winner into a nondescript black van. He will never been seen again. America will thus be improved.

13) We need your support! We need money to make this idea happen. Tom Hardy doesn’t work for free. We have to pay CBS for the Studio. The Nazis and Antifa need paid travel expenses because most of them are unemployed. Etc.

Please kindly submit your donation to:

The Arcturus Project – Your Side is Right

C/O Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation

1794 Aguiyi Ironsi Street

Abuja 900001, Nigeria

Your cooperation, as always, is greatly appreciated. Only via your financial help can we improve America. Either that, or you can hold the door open for a total stranger sometime today, and smile at them. Either way.

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Let’s begin!  Spin the wheel!

lunatic (not boring) salad

Life is full of risks. If you take upon your shoulders the profession of Bear Baiter you should expect some high medical insurance premiums. But if you post an unfavorable recipe on your degenerate blog, oh well, you’ll live.

However many years I didn’t post any of my cooking here was due to many things, timid behavior, failure, laziness, whatever.  Only a handful of recipes have gone up, all I’m rather proud of. I’ve still got many more of those. But how about one (of many) I’m not too sure of? It’s all good. It is what it is. It’s food, it’s good, so who cares if it’s not necessarily indescribably great. But seriously it’s still good stuff.

I hate boring salads. There’s no point. You can get nutrition in so many awesome ways. Who wants to get their daily greens via apathy? Not me. On the other hand, places that charge their customers $11 for a lunch salad should be firebombed. It’s just salad.

So we built this exciting main dish salad you can make on a weeknight in less than a half hour. If nothing else, it’s not boring. Whether all the freaky flavors in here will excite you or drive you away is entirely dependent upon your palate and preference. For us, I dig this kind of stuff, so badly.

 

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Let’s go!

 

lunatic (not boring) salad

bags of fresh greens

1 head broccoli, chopped

1 apple, sliced

1 carrot, chopped

1/4 cup olive oil

1 shallot, diced

3 fresh cherry peppers, diced or 1/4 cup jarred

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup white wine

1/8 cup sun dried tomato, diced

1 anchovy tin

1 lemon, juiced

1/8 cup sherry vinegar

1 basil pack, chopped

pepper

2 Tbsp mustard

1 pack pine nuts

1 pack pancetta

1/2 cup parmesan / reggiano

in a large bowl add the greens, broccoli, apple, and carrot

in a medium sauté pan heat the olive oil, add the shallot and brown, add the cherry peppers and garlic and brown, deglaze with white wine

add the sun dried tomato and anchovy and cook for about 5 minutes, add the lemon juice, remove the pan from the heat and let cool for a few minutes

transfer the pan mixture to a blender or food processor, add the vinegar, basil, pepper and mustard, blend and let sit

without cleaning the sauté pan, add the pine nuts and pancetta and cook until both are crisp

toss the dressing with the greens, add the cooked pine nuts and pancetta, sprinkle with the parmesan

 

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Let’s begin!

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Just get a big bowl and toss the greens, broccoli, carrot, and apple in there.  Chop them as you please.  Feel free to substitute any fruit or vegetable you desire in your salads or to add more.  It’s all good.  But have at least three fruit or vegetable options in addition to the greens.

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The star of this dish is the vinaigrette and this sauté pan is your tool.  You’ve got your shallots and peppers to brown as you desire, then the sun dried tomato and anchovy to provide some added bite.  White wine deglazes, and the lemon juice to somewhat even it out.  Cherry peppers have some high heat, you can use jalapenos or even regular bell pepper and it’s fine, just cook them a bit longer until they’re soft.  You want almost all liquid gone but no overly dry.

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Process or blend it all up with the sherry vinegar, mustard, basil, and pepper.  Do not, please do not add any additional salt.  The anchovy already has your back on that.  If you left the anchovy out because you don’t like the fishy taste or whatever, you add some salt then.  If you don’t want to dance with sherry vinegar, use red wine vinegar.  You should have a nice dressing at this point.  If it’s too thick, add just a touch of water and blend again.  If it’s too loose, you can add a bit more mustard, or just leave it.  As long as it can coat your vegetables you’re good.

Oh but we’re not done yet.  Because who doesn’t love bacon and pine nuts?  I mean, I guess there might be somebody, somewhere who doesn’t.  If so, they’re probably aliens, report them to the authorities.

Toss the vinaigrette in the large bowl, add in the pine nuts and pancetta, sprinkle over the parmesan and go.

No matter what happens, one way or the other, you’ll not be bored.

we ask the most charismatic quarterback of all time for his opinion on the issues of the day

TAP: “Smokin’ Jay, what’s your take on Trump, whether player x, y, or z has sat, knelt, or bent during the national anthem, whether vegemite is fit for human consumption, the current internal body temperature of Colin Kaepernick, elves, the latest on how NFL players are the only humans to ever get concussions, Kardashians, or Roger Goodell’s love of fine wine and cheese?”

Smokin’ Jay: “DOOONNN’T CAAARE!”

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Leviathan – the movie that makes you realize your life ain’t so bad

Movies can do many things to improve your quality of life. They can make you smile, entertain the hell out of you, make you laugh, scare you of the dark in a good way, and so on. They can also make you realize your life just ain’t that bad. Thus when you wake up in the morning after viewing such a movie you’re like, oh, well, at least I’m not those people.

This is Leviathan. It’s essentially an ancient tale. The weak have their land stolen by the powerful. And things go from there. It just happens to fascinate me because the tale is Russian, and is one of the better Russian movies of the post-Soviet realm. Please be sure to enjoy this kind of thing while you can. For one of two things will likely occur in the near future:

– Filmmaker Andrey Zvyagintsev will eventually give up his independent streak and be coopted (he’ll sell out) by the totalitarian state (for whatever reason) and become a tool of the system like other noted formerly awesome filmmakers such as Nikita Mikhalkov or Zhang Yimou.

or

– Vlad and his buddies will simply ban such films from being made.

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know what you are getting yourself into when the film’s money shot is a distraught child sitting next to a whale skeleton

Leviathan is set in modern Russia’s north. Not Siberia, but rather the Kola Peninsula. Specifically Murmansk Oblast, home to reindeer, discarded nuclear submarine hulks, fish processing infrastructure, and lots of other cold things. It’s a place that all things being equal, human beings probably have no business living there.

The first few minutes of the movie are nothing but nature shots as Zvyagintsev makes damn sure you realize this place is the end of the planet. Not a word of dialogue occurs until about five or ten minutes in as you the viewer are acclimated to a wasteland of concrete, rock, and snow. This tone remains throughout the entire film.

The protagonist is Kolya, a middle aged car mechanic, drunk, husband, hothead, father, and part time firearms enthusiast who is having his fairly decent sized home unjustly expropriated by the state for a fraction of its total value. He enlists the help of his friend and/or brother who’s a lawyer from Moscow. Also within the mix are Kolya’s second wife and son. Crucially, his son is by his first wife.

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As you can imagine in this kind of movie, everything goes swell. The local mayor is a paragon of decency, the courts do their job well, the cops can be counted upon to keep law and order justly, folks drink only in moderation, the local economy is humming along with glorious abandon, kids get along well with their parents and are otherwise well adjusted, and so on.

Bizarrely this wire brush beating of a flick was actually 1/3 funded by the Russian State, who apparently didn’t bother to read or approve the script. I’m rather shocked they let the film stand as is. I think the reasons are thus:

– Vlad is only pictured in the movie once, as a nondescript portrait in the local mayor’s office. He is otherwise not mentioned or discussed.

– Since all of the film’s arch-villains are all local politicians and authorities, it fits perfectly with the authoritarian propaganda narrative. As in, if folks view the Russian state as predatory and corrupt, it’s because the local authorities are to blame, not national level leadership. After all, it’s your local traffic cop bribing you on a Wednesday afternoon, not the Minister of Forestry. If only Vlad knew the truth, he’d clean up that local filth.

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fuck all four of these parasites

So Zvyagintsev got away with it, somehow. The result is a darkly haunting movie that deals with living under a predatory state that sees its citizens as nothing more than cash machines. But Zvyagintsev takes the story to another level by incorporating the deep flaws of average human beings that struggle because they’ve had all the powers of man and nature pinning their necks against bare rock for almost all their lives.

It this weird, twisted, screwed up world where lunatics are being voted into office by those who rightly feel the modern world has left them behind, it’s worth exploring a character study on how human beings who would otherwise be normal, can be turned into puddles of despair by their surroundings and the events that shape their lives. That is, no matter how squared away your life currently is, if you lived there too, maybe you’d be just like them. It’s a very cynical thought, but worth exploring.

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not the place to live

eclipse! eh, or not

This eclipse thing was apparently a big deal. Folks cashed in their retirement savings to fly to a city within the path of the total obscuration. Only to pray to their deity of choice that there weren’t thunderstorms.

I on the other hand had a plane to catch back home for work. So I assumed I’d be airborne when the eclipse actually occurred. We get aboard the aircraft and the stewardess goes through the typical excruciatingly long six minute United introduction which includes instructions on air travel, United ads, and directions on how to construct your own log cabin. After she’s done, the captain actually leaves the cockpit and stands in front of first class to address the whole plane.

He basically says all will be well, both he and the copilot have eclipse glasses (which he shows us), and that the aircraft is rated as “100% capable of solar eclipse flight”. This got many chuckles from the passengers who weren’t mind melded with their smartphones. I didn’t laugh though, because I know what solar flares can do (in theory) to a fly-by-wire aircraft. Can a solar eclipse enhance a solar flare? I have no idea. But I had a lot of beer and coffee in the 12 hours prior to this flight, so in that psyche anything is possible. Even elves. So many elves in the forest. Run!

So based on my understanding of how the eclipse was supposed to play out, and the pilot’s comments, you would think the eclipse would have happened while we were aloft, right? Nope. First off, I was right side center seat. The guy on the window was a 300 pound former NFL headhunter with a Kansas City barbeque shirt. He played freecell for a half hour then fell asleep. All without ever opening his window shade. So I kind of had to peer around other windows. Did the sun darken? Eh, maybe, I wasn’t sure. But by the time I’d landed on the east coast I’d concluded that the eclipse was over. I was ready to get on with my day.

Then they’ve got CNN [sigh] on at the baggage claim and it shows the eclipse just beginning in Oregon. So I’m wondering if I traveled back in time or what. Nope, no eclipse while in flight. It seems the United pilot executed the verbal equivalent of a placebo. I wonder if the United corporate hacks told him to do it? Either way, it was entirely unnecessary because nothing actually happened while we were in the air.

So I get my car back from the haunted, overpriced airport parking garage and go pick up the dogs. Every once and a while I glance up at the sky to see if the sun has changed. Yes, I broke the dreaded rules. I looked at the bare sun with mine own eyes. Because nobody ever does this at the beach or on a regular basis. But the nannies of modern society would have you believe up to yesterday, that if you looked at the eclipse with bare eyes for three seconds your eyes would burst into flames and three kittens you did not know would die horribly.

Anyways, eventually I got home with the dogs and began to unpack, occasionally looking outside. Nothing ever happened. Did it get a little darker out? Maybe, or was that because of the scattered clouds? Who knows? I’m out there to get the mail and my neighbor Jimmy (who’s a little slow, but is a real nice guy) is like, “Hey [insert degenerate blog author name here], where is the eclipse?”

I told him I had no idea, that it was a bust, and that I’d given up. And so it was. I had 80-85% obscuration of the sun where I live, or so the Internets told me. But without eclipse glasses the sun is too bright to be able to see much of it at all. Go get eclipse glasses? Eh, maybe. But what’s the fun of looking at this through special darkened glasses. I might as well observe astronomy through a telescope with a lens made of aluminum foil.

Oh well, what a waste, whatever. I’ve developed one very specific conclusion from my only eclipse experience. It’s either total eclipse or bust. Anything less than 100% is like drinking non-alcoholic beer or driving below the speed limit. I have no idea when the next American solar eclipse is. Maybe I’ll be a bleached skeleton before it occurs? But if it does, and I care enough, I’d rather fly somewhere to see 100%. And pray to my deity of choice that there weren’t thunderstorms.

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Yep, didn’t see that.