Wednesday, March 6, 2019

The smoke-filled room


Sir, thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to settle a dispute. The year 2020 is upon us. We are to choose the servants that shall be the standard bearers for the top offices.


And what say you?


Sir, I want to go on record as saying that Elizabeth Warren is our best chance to defeat Trump.


No, no. Corey Booker. That's who we need to run.


You're both crazy. Kamala Harris is those two put together.


What about Bernie?


Beto O'Rourke! He's unstoppable!


You mean unless he runs against Ted Cruz?


I've had it up to here with you! I'll...


Still your tongues or I shall remove them!


If I might, sir. How did we ever find ourselves in this situation? Surely the ... um, shall I say Forces of Light ... did not intervene. The current officeholder is not one that would be chosen by ... Him. Is he?


Of course not. But, as you recall, our standard bearer in 2016 reached an agreement with me personally. Her soul for the presidency.


You've agreed to that type of bargain before. What happened?


She was unable to fulfill her end of the bargain. One cannot offer what one does not possess.


That, sir, is why I suggested Bernie Sanders last time. He didn't offer anything. He has been a willing puppet for years, and would have been a wonderful addition to our lineup of former officeholders.


And do not forget, we must also select the vice presidential candidate.


I suggest Kermit Gosnell. He has proven himself.


Isn't he still in jail? Killing babies wasn't as cool then as it is now.


I suggest Hat McCullough.


He's a South Park character. He's not even real.


Neither is Elizabeth Warren's resume. He'd be perfect for her.


I have considered and I have decided. We shall not intervene.


But sir! We must select candidates who represent what we stand for.


Those in leadership of the party have proven their methods of selecting the presidential candidate meet the standards upon which we insist. They have not let us down in the past. I trust them to select candidate that will do our bidding.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Wrapping it up with FreedomPop

A while back, I was researching cell phone service for a lady from the church. When I last mentioned it, she still hadn't made up her mind. I figured she'd go with Xfinity Mobile, but she instead upgraded her AT&T flip phone to an inexpensive Samsung smartphone.

During that research, I became much more aware of what options there were for Android devices. I even decided to get an Android device, which I mentioned some time back.

I still have my iPhone with stuff for my day job on it. But I have my Android phone for stuff like ... well, whatever it is I do when I'm not doing my day job. I have been using FreedomPop service with it. That was one of the services I checked into for the church lady. Commenter Slapout was also using FreedomPop, and I need to see how things are going with him. For me? Well, I'm ready to wrap it up with them.

Their free service has minimal data. If you don't use much data, that's not a problem. But, I'm one that uses data. So, I went with one of their special deals, and tried a 2 GB data plan. That was more than I would use, so some rolled over every month. I've got lots available. Well, relatively speaking. Several months. I don't often pull out the phone and use data when I'm away from a reliable WiFi source, so I don't really use all that much. Just more than the free plan.

Anyway, the price is going up. For the next six months, it works out to a little over $20/month. That's not bad, to be sure. But, the price is more in line with traditional cell phone services. And with traditional cell service you don't have to use a special phone or text app like you do with FreedomPop.

I could drop to a 1 GB plan for less than half that, so I might go that route. But if not, I'll be writing about Google Fi in a future post. But, I'm planning on dropping my paid FreedomPop service. Funny enough, I still have a free FreedomPop service. I ended up ordering two FreedomPop SIMs a while back, so I put one in my Moto e4 -- the one that's now a paid service -- and another -- the still free service -- in an old Samsung Galaxy S-something.

The downside of the free service is that if you don't use your phone every so often, they'll suspend service. No charge to restart it, but it is a pain. And you lose your number. So, there's that. I'm not faulting them for it. I mean, it's free, right? And if I kept the number and never used it, they'd be carrying it on the books and I'd just be tying up an otherwise useful number. So, that's not a complaint on my part, just a recognition of the facts.

So, after a year of FreedomPop, my thoughts? It's ... okay.

It runs on AT&T if you bring your own unlocked GSM phone (I did). If you use one of theirs, it's a Sprint CDMA phone. And Sprint doesn't have good service where I live. Neither does T-Mobile, for that matter. But I get good Verizon and AT&T service. So, the BYOP (Bring Your Own Phone) option works for me. Oh, and they are all refurbished CDMA Sprint phones. There are some Samsung Galaxy S7 phones, and some Motorola Moto X phones, so there are some good phones, just no new phones.

If you have a good quality phone, there's never any reason to call customer service. I've never had to deal with customer service, but I've read some stories. But, from my experience, I have no experience. I chalk that up to having a good phone. Which is why I chose the BYOP option. I knew the quality of the phone going in. It was a good phone and everything worked. So, no customer service calls were necessary.

Let's see. What else? Oh, yeah. The apps. Using their VOIP service, you go through their own phone and text apps. You can't use the default apps on your Android (or iPhone; I tried that, too). Which is a pain to get used to. But, the stuff works most of the time. Yeah, I had a couple of times where I couldn't place a call or get a text. But, I've run into that with Verizon on an iPhone X. So, this is no worse than that. Not a deal-breaker.

So, bottom line. Would I recommend one? Maybe. If you want a cheap service and can put up with ads (the free one is ad-supported), and don't use much data, this is actually not a bad way to go. If you want all the bells and whistles, this ain't for you.

Whether or not I'll keep the paid service, I don't really know. I'm keeping the free just to have a backup. I've set an alert on my phone to remind me to place a call every so often, so I don't lose the number (again) with the free service.

But, if I do go drop the paid service and go elsewhere, it'll be something around the same price, and that works more like a standard cell phone service, with the default phone and text apps and everything.

I know you can hardly wait to find out what I'm gonna do.

And we'll close on that cliffhanger.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Washington's Birthday 2019

George Washington

Every year, I do this. Or something like this. I'm doing it again this year, because it matter. You know what today is, right?

If you said "Presidents Day," you need to be beat with a stick. With knots in it so it hurts really bad. And, if the stick breaks, another stick needs to be used. Until we're all out of sticks. Because you should know by now that it's not "Presidents Day."

Today is Washington's Birthday.

Now, I know, you know, we all know that George Washington's birthday is actually February 22nd. That's this coming Friday. But, there is a federal holiday called Washington's Birthday, and it's to honor George Washington. And the name of that holiday is ... Washington's Birthday.

So, why does everybody call it Presidents Day? Well, not everybody does. I don't. And, I hope, you don't either. But there are a lot of folks running around loose that call it Presidents Day. But that doesn't make it Presidents Day. It's still Washington's Birthday. And they're idiots.

This day is set aside to honor the first President of the United States, George Washington. He was instrumental in the founding of this nation, and if anyone deserves a holiday, it's him.

Washington's Birthday was the fifth national holiday established, after New Year's Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. It was one of the holidays picked for a Monday observance in 1971 when they started screwing around with federal holidays, and making some fall on a Monday. Along with Washington's Birthday, the holidays Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Columbus Day were also moved to Mondays. The first four holidays and Veterans Day kept their regular days. And, the newest holiday, Birthday of Martin Luther King (that's the real name of that holiday by the way) is one of those Monday holidays.

If you want to be one of "those people" that are always correcting others for things ... you know, like I'm doing right now ... and you want a link to throw at people, use this link to United States Code 5 U.S.C. 6103.

Why am I like this about Washington's Birthday? That's the wrong question. The right question is: why aren't you?

George Washington has his own day. He shouldn't have to share it with Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, Ronald Reagan, Millard Fillmore, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, or any of the others. And Americans need to recognize that. It's not often the government gets stuff right. This is one of those rare times. Don't let regular folks screw that up.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Artificially inflating my movie library

I've added 34 movies to my movie library without spending a dime. Only, I'm not sure if I should count those movies or not.

You see, I've been slowly but steadily building my movie library over time. When iTunes puts movies on sale, I'll buy them. iTunes is my main movie library. But, since I also have iTunes linked to MoviesAnywhere, that means movies from participating studios that I buy from Amazon, Fandango Now, Google Play, iTunes, Microsoft Movies & TV, or VUDU will get added to all of those libraries. I have 566 movies (as of today) that are in my MoviesAnywhere library.

I have movies in the various services that are not shared via MoviesAnywhere, but I have purchases in multiple libraries. That's because I used to buy standard definition movies, but when HD versions of those movies are put on sale, I'll upgrade in iTunes, and have better versions at a cheap cost.

I have 18 Amazon movies that aren't in iTunes, along with four VUDU-only movies. But, when it comes to Google Play movies, it gets really complicated.

With Google Play, you can have family members share your library. Those shared movies are only available via Google Play or YouTube -- not via MoviesAnywhere -- for the other family members. Oh, and they can share back. And that's where it gets complicated.

Family members have together shared 34 movies via Google Play. Actually more, but I own copies of some of what they've shared. But there are 34 total movies shared that I don't otherwise have. But, they are available to me via Google Play, and I'm going to count them in my movie library. For now.

I'll watch them. Some I've already seen, such as Big Business, Straight Talk, and The Apple Dumpling Gang (don't judge me), but most I haven't. If I like them, I'll buy them, and officially own them. But, for now, I'm counting them in my library, since I can turn on the TV, launch my Roku (for Google Play or YouTube) or Apple TV (for YouTube) and watch those movies.

On the other hand, if a movie is on Hulu or HBO, should I count them? No. So, why am I counting these movies I don't own? Because I can. So, that's now 1,291 movies in my library, counting those 34.

Maybe I shouldn't count them. I need to think about that. But not right now. I think I'll just watch a movie instead. If I can find anything to watch.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

What a stupid driver

I don't like stupid drivers. You don't either. You're there in traffic and somebody is doing something stupid -- or not doing anything when they should be doing something -- and you're thinking "What a stupid driver." Well, I ran into that the other day. And, it wasn't quite like anything I had ever encountered before.

I was in traffic. Not heavy traffic, but traffic nonetheless. There was a line of cars, and we were stopped at a red light. To my left was a lane of traffic going the same way.

I looked over to my left and noticed the driver was looking down towards her steering wheel. No, not to the steering wheel, but a little below the steering wheel. Not to her lap though. Bottom of the steering wheel. I couldn't see the phone in her hand, but you could tell. You could tell.

About that time, the brake lights on the car ahead of her went off, and the car ahead of her started to move. I watched her and she was still looking down. After a second or two, enough time for the car ahead of her to have moved a couple of car lengths, she glanced up and realized she was just sitting still in traffic with no one ahead of her. Only then did she move her car forward.

"What a stupid driver," I thought. I watched her for a second and just shook my head. I turned my head toward my passenger and was about to share my thoughts, when I saw I was receiving the most curious look. That's when I noticed traffic ahead out of the corner of my eye. I turned my head to look forward to confirm what I was seeing.

That's when I discovered that the car in front of my had moved several car lengths by now and I was now the one sitting still, holding up traffic.

That look from my passenger? It was quietly saying "What a stupid driver."

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Capote

I've never been a particular fan of Truman Capote. I've read some of his stuff, and yes, he was a very good writer. He could put words to paper in a way that few others, if any, could. But, I wouldn't say I was a fan. I certainly didn't dislike his writing. Of course, the fact that he didn't publish much in my lifetime contributed to this.

When I thought of Truman Capote, I thought of the character I saw on TV, on The Tonight Show and other talk shows. An odd little man with a funny voice but with interesting words.

I remember reading In Cold Blood years ago. It was a fascinating read. Not an easy read, but it was a book that you wanted to keep reading. Capote knew how to put words to paper.

The movie was very good, too. It's not a movie I like to put on and watch very often. In fact, I've seen it twice. Once, a long time ago, and more recently, within the last week or so. I had some downtime wanted to watch a movie. I launched my streaming device, and without looking, started scanning through with the remote. It stopped on In Cold Blood.

"Well, there's the feel-good movie of the year," I thought. But, I pressed Play and started watching. That got me to thinking about that horrific crime and wondering just how true the movie was. Which led me to wonder how true the book was.

Okay, right to it: the book was mostly true. I think Capote filled in some blanks from what he thought was the truth, as best he understood it. As for the movie, it was a fairly faithful adaptation of the book.

The movie was nominated for four Academy Awards -- Director, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Music -- but didn't win any. The American Film Institute ranked it was one of the top ten courtroom dramas. Which is how it ended up in my library.

While looking into the Clutter murders, I picked up bits and pieces about the case, including finding a copy of the Perry Smith case file. That was an interesting find. Anyway, I ended up later watching the movie Capote.

The movie was good. I enjoyed it. Philip Seymour Hoffman won an Oscar for his performance. But, the whole thing was the relationship between Capote and the killer Smith. And, as much as I liked the movie, I don't like it when "true" movies stretch the truth.

In the movie, Capote visited Smith a lot in prison. But in reality, he didn't. They wrote a lot, but Capote only visited Smith three times.




Capote was there for the execution, though. However, the movie had investigator Alvin Dewey there, and included a scene where Smith thanked Dewey for being there. However, Dewey's name isn't on the list of official witnesses. Capote's was.



Another variance from the truth, more disturbing in my mind, was the method in which the writer's decided to get around this fact: Capote bribing the warden to get access.

It is true that Capote did ask for access, but he didn't do it in person, but rather by letter.


Capote was turned down, by letter.


The idea that what Capote did to get the information from Smith to complete his research into the book was not, in the mind of the writers, good enough, but they had to stretch one bit of truth, then another to make the first stretching happen.

Little things like that bother me when a movie is supposed to be a true story. Of course, I understand little things may be necessary, but these aren't little things. Despite this, I did enjoy the movie. I just with they enjoyed the facts more.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

More movies than I realized

I've posted from time to time about the number of movies I have, particularly when I hit some milestone of some kind. But, I didn't realize just how many movies I had. And, to explain that, I'll be covering some stuff I've covered before. You've been warned.

A lot of background


Over the years, I've purchased movies in many different ways and from many different sources. I used to have a bunch of VHS tapes. I only have a few of those left, and most of those are part of my Mystery Science Theater 3000 collection. In fact, I think that's all I have left now. I gave the other VHS tapes away years ago.

I bought a lot of DVDs over the years, too. Most of what I buy anymore is still part of the MST3K collection. Occasionally, I'll buy a DVD if something is only available that way and has been only available that way for some time.

Then, one day, I bought a digital movie. From Apple's iTunes store. It was the movie "Unbreakable" and I bought it because it was on sale, and I wanted to see what the deal was with watching movies on my iPod. The answer: it was easy to do, but hard to see. I had one of those old wheel iPods.

My old iPod, from 2007

The experience wasn't great, because of the small screen, but the image was actually as big, relatively, as looking at the TV across the room, as the picture above shows. It just seemed smaller.

Amazon


Once I realized that I could watch digital movies, and I got comfortable with the idea, I began to purchase digital content. Most of the purchases coming from Amazon, since I could tie by Amazon account to my TiVo.

In late 2010, I bought an Apple TV. Not for me, actually, but so The Wife could play her music from her computer through the fancy speaker system we had tied to the TV. She loved it, and to this day, that's how she usually listens to music when she's at home. I bought a Roku for me, since it played Amazon content (Apple TV didn't at the time), and I was looking to cut the cord from cable. I did, and bought the occasional movie as my digital library slowly increased.

Enter Apple


As I mentioned, The Wife loved Apple TV, so I started buying some movies from the iTunes store. That made it easier for her to watch digital content, as the always had the TV on Apple TV. Yes, she used TiVo some, but after we cut the cord, she hardly picked up the TiVo remote, preferring to watch stuff from Apple TV.

I'd still buy most stuff from Amazon, since I was planning on Roku being the primary streaming device. But, she never really got into Roku. After a bit, I bought from whichever was cheaper for any particular movie, Apple or Amazon. If she wanted to watch it, and it was from Amazon, I'd do the switching of inputs to Roku and play the movie. She still preferred Apple TV.

VUDU


Later, Walmart decided they wanted a piece of the action. They launched their streaming service, called VUDU. It was just another way to buy streaming content, and there was an app for Roku. But, I didn't buy anything. Until I found out about Disc To Digital.

When it was launched, you could take your DVDs to Walmart, hand them to a clerk in the electronics section, and they'd take them and so some Walmart voodoo and you'd have the movies in your VUDU account. I took my Star Trek collection to Walmart and, sure enough, I was able to watch Star Trek movies from the VUDU app on the Roku.

They added an app for your PC or Mac that allowed you to insert the DVD yourself -- no more hauling DVDs up to the Walmart store -- and do the conversion yourself. They've since added the capability to do that from your phone using the bar code on the DVD case, but they've since removed it from iOS device -- still on Android though -- and requiring GPS enabled so people don't go up to the store and scan them there without buying the discs.

M-GO


Roku partnered with a company called M-Go, which was partly owned by Dreamworks, to enter the digital sales market. I bought a movie they had on sale -- Ender's Game -- and tried it out. It worked, but it brought nothing new to the table. Well, it was kinda integrated into Roku, but apart from that, no biggie. I don't think I bought anything else from M-Go.

It's no longer called M-Go, by the way. Fandango bought it in 2016, and it's now the service FandangoNOW. Works pretty much the same, though. Well, it works better, because the infrastructure was improved, but I don't know if Dreamworks did that, or if Fandango did that. Anyway, more reliable than it was.

Disney in the middle of it


During all this time, Disney introduced a service called Disney Movies Anywhere. The idea was that if you bought, say, a Disney movie from Google (which we'll talk more about in a bit) because you had an Android phone, but then got an iPhone, you'd lose your Disney movie, since you can't play Google movies on an iOS device. Or, if you bought a Disney movie from Apple for your iPhone, but then switched to Android, you couldn't play your iTunes content on Android.

To remedy that, Disney introduced Disney Movies Anywhere, that allowed you to sync across platforms. That meant you didn't have to buy a Disney movie more than once, if you switched platforms.

It also meant, if you bought from other services, such as Amazon, you'd be able to play your Disney movies on other participating platforms. And that was where it benefitted me. I had bought some Disney stuff from Amazon, and some Disney stuff from Apple. And, to watch any of it, I had to switch to whichever device supported that platform. With Disney Movies Anywhere, I didn't need to switch devices. A purchase from any of the participating platforms meant I had the movie on all the platforms.

Movies Anywhere


Disney Movies Anywhere no longer exists. It didn't exactly die so much as it expanded. It's now called Movies Anywhere. When they converted, all the Disney movies moved over, and other studios signed on. Not all studios, though. It's not a perfect service, but it's another step in the right direction. About half the movies I have are from a participating studio. That means that about half of my movies -- actually, 44% -- are tied in with Movies Anywhere. That means I can watch them from any of the participating services.

It also means that if I buy a movie that's in the Movies Anywhere library, no matter which service I purchase from, I can watch it via any of the services. Which means I can shop around and get the best price.

That's handy, because not all movies are the same price from all services. Occasionally, iTunes will run a movie for $5 which is $10-$20 from the other services. And, sometimes, VUDU will have a $5 sale that the others aren't running. Or Fandango Now will sell a movie for $5 while the other have it higher. Or Amazon. Or Google. Speaking of which...

Google


While I once had an Android phone before moving to an iPhone, I had never purchased any content from Google. That's now changed. Sure, I have an Android phone now -- I also have an iPhone for work, but we won't go into all that now -- but I've not done a lot of shopping from the Google Play store. Until recently.

I still don't buy a lot from Google, but I do shop around, and when I find something on sale that's also in Movies Anywhere, I'll buy it. I don't generally buy something from Google that's not Movies Anywhere, but every now and then I'll slip up.

Google has also given away movies for, I don't know, reasons I suppose. And the net effect is I have 4 movies from Google that I don't also have on iTunes.

More movies that I realized


This past week, I've been off work several days, and I've been under the weather. So, while sitting indoors, bored, and not able to see anyone lest I contaminate them, I grabbed my remote and fired up a spreadsheet. It was crunch time. As in crunching numbers. here's what I found.

Because of the occasional mistake -- buying something without ensuring it's part of Movies Anywhere -- or occasional promotion -- Google or other services giving away movies for reasons -- I have more movies than I realized I had.

In total, I have 175 movies ripped from DVD or download purchases from other sources -- Rifftrax, MST3K direct purchase, etc. I reduce that number from time to time by purchasing a digital copy that is then downloaded into iTunes on a computer that functions as my streaming server. I increase that number when I get a DVD of a movie I haven't purchased digitally. Those were part of my count the last time I posted a total video number.

The rest of the movies in my local library, 1,000 as I recently posted, were downloaded purchases from the iTunes store. That means I had 1,175 movies, closing in on 1,200. Or so I thought.

I noticed that I had a movie or two in Google that wasn't in my local library. There were some VUDU movies, too. And some Amazon content. So, I decided to catalog them all. That's when I discovered I didn't have 1,175 movies, but 1,194. So, there were 19 movies that were only available from a streaming service. Six were Amazon, nine were VUDU, and four were Google. There were actually more Amazon, VUDU, or Google, but some I also had on DVD and had ripped those. So, 19 streaming only movies.

I'll eventually get those into my local library. I'll purchase them from iTunes if they go on sale for $5. I may attempt to download them and rip them, as I have purchased them and have archival rights. But, I'm not a huge fan of that. Sure, I have the capability, and I do rip some DVDs, but I'd prefer to have them as part of a library that I can take with me. Since I have an iPad, then iTunes would be the preferred service.

Anyway, I'm a lot closer to 1,200 than I realized: 6 instead of 25. I'll hit that number one day. And bore you with all the details then.