Big day for saving money

We switched on our solar panels today. We anticipate this will save us an enormous amount of money. Our electrical bills were huge. If you are reading this and you do not live on San Diego, you have no idea. For some reason, electric bills are huge here. I think San Diego Gas & Electric has minks on treadmills generating power, and feeds the minks caviar.

Julie gets all the credit for the solar transition. She did the research and dealt with the contractors and bank. Go Julie.

Also, we cut the cord on cable.

Or, rather, I called Cox intending to just cut off our TV service from them entirely, and use Roku to consume all our programming. However, Cox said if we paid $3/mo more than our Internet service, we could keep our basic cable and DVR too.

I was tempted to offer to pay them $10/mo to take away their awful DVR and not torment us with it anymore. Holy cow that DVR is awful. But in the end I succumbed to reason.

I expect we’ll be watching most of our shows on the DVR anyway — most of our series are network shows. However this does mean we’ll be watching DOCTOR WHO and GAME OF THRONES on Roku.

This will save us a decent amount of money too. We subscribed to a ton of premium channels that frankly we only watched part of the year, or not at all.

These are the Voyages

I’ve been reading “These are the Voyages,” a massive multi-volume history of the making of the original STAR TREK series.

One of the things that impressed me most was the extent to which Hollywood 50+ years ago was an industry town for the production of Westerns, medical shows, and cop shows. They had warehouses full of guns, cowboy costumes, stethoscopes, hospital badges, police uniforms — anything you might need to quickly spin up a TV series in one of those three genres. Set designers, actors, writers, everybody who worked in Hollywood knew how to write in one of those three genres.

Then along comes Gene Roddenberry, and he says “We need phasers, starships — for sets we need a bridge, sickbay, engineering rooms.” And everybody in Hollywood said, “Huh?” What are those things?”

Adding to the complication: Being an adult science fiction fan back then was considered unhealthy by mainstream society. Back then, childhood entertainment and entertainment for adults were demarcated. For the mainstream, science fiction was childhood entertainment — “that Buck Rogers kid stuff” — and for an adult to take interest in that kind of thing was unhealthy.

At least that’s how mainstream society viewed science fiction. There was a thriving subculture of science fiction fandom. And I sometimes think the genre was better off in that ghetto — not mainstream like it is today.

How to get ready for the collapse of civilization

In these precarious times, it’s reasonable to worry about the collapse of civilization, and to try to prepare for it.

HOW NOT TO PREPARE: Stock up on guns and ammo.

HOW TO PREPARE: Get to know your neighbors better, and learn to administer first aid.

The Electoral College should confirm Trump. But I don’t have to like it, and I don’t

I’ve been disagreeing with John Robb about whether the Electoral College should reject Donald Trump, possibly in favor of Clinton, possibly a compromise Republican candidate, possibly just kicking things to the House.

John described that as a “coup,” and I responded, no, it’s not a coup because a coup is by definition illegal. By law, the Electoral College has the authority to pick the President. Maybe that’s nitpicking (I said), because it would likely be PERCEIVED as a coup. But it wouldn’t actually be one.

John pushed back on that point, finishing up with a comment, “North or South?”

One of the thing that I enjoy about reading John — which can also be frustrating — is that his writing is so lean that sometimes I have to think a long time to figure out what he means.

Here’s what I think he meant by “North or South.”

Up until the Civil War, it was an unsettled question whether states had a right to secede from the Union. It took the Civil War to settle that question. The answer is “nope.” But had the war gone the other way, or had Buchanan or a successor remained in office, well, then the answer would have been “yes.”

That’s how the law works. In many cases, laws aren’t settled until somebody makes a decision what it said. Almost always in America, that decision is made peacefully, through the courts. That one time in the Civil War the courts weren’t enough.

Fast-forward to 2016. The Constitution clearly states that the Electors, rather than the people, elect the President. So the Electors have a legal right to reject Trump.

Or do they? One thing we liberals understand — and many conservatives don’t — is that the Constitution is a living document. And living muscles atrophy when they are not used.

So, yeah, in THEORY the Electors pick the President. But in reality, being an Elector is a ceremonial position, with as much authority to make independent decisions as the Prom Queen has in running the high school, i.e.: Zero. Trump supporters perceive an Electoral College upset as a coup — and they might be right on this one.

The Electors should do their job and elect Donald Trump President.

And the people should give Trump a chance — which is not the same as giving him the benefit of the doubt.

In Johnrobbian fashion, I will leave the preceding paragraph as-is and unelaborated-on.

I’m not jealous

Minnie spends all day in my office most days. I walk her for about 90 minutes. I feed her twice a day and change her water once a day. I put her to bed in her crate at night and let her out first thing in the morning.

And who does Minnie forget about as soon as Julie comes in the room? Me. Who does she run to? Julie.

I’m not jealous. She’s just a dog. It would be stupid and childish for me to be jealous about a dog.

Proper testing of third-party phone keyboards should involve using them while a cat is on your lap trying to get your attention.

There’s a segment of one episode of BLACK MIRROR set in 1987, and immersed in the pop culture of that period. I surprised myself with a visceral DO NOT WANT.

I love 70s pop culture and early 80s, but apparently I’m allergic to the late 80s.

Later than that I start to have no strong reaction at all. I turned 30 in 1991, and entered a phase of life where the pop culture of the moment becomes less interesting.

Old guys in jaunty hats FTW

I was standing on the sidewalk outside the pet store tapping on my phone. An old guy walked by very slowly, pushing a walker, with oxygen cannulae in his nostrils, wearing a jaunty Tyrolean hat.

“What did you do before you had those things?” he said.

I didn’t miss a beat. “Stared at the wall.”

He continued walking slowly on, laughing out loud.

Sanity clause

A friend said she planned to tell her daughter Santa wasn’t real as soon as the daughter was old enough. But (said my friend), she would tell her daughter that it was a fun game to PRETEND Santa was real. And part of the game was that the girl should never, ever tell other children that Santa was not real. The girl should always act like Santa was real.

And now I’m imagining the little girl gets to be like 42 years old still thinking she can never tell anyone Santa isn’t real. And the little girl’s sanity is slowly being destroyed by the burden of bearing this terrible knowledge alone.

Question for married folks about TV-watching habits

Do you watch TV with your spouse, and therefore NOT watch shows that your spouse doesn’t watch?

I only watch shows that Julie also likes, because I watch TV with her. I don’t like to watch TV alone. I prefer to do other things when I’m alone.

The exception is when Julie out of town. I do watch TV alone then. That’s rare — usually I’m the one that travels.

When Julie is out of town, I generally end up binge-watching something that I want to see but that I haven’t been able to convince Julie to see.

I even keep a list of those shows on my phone. They include: “Westworld,” “House of Cards,” “Mr. Robot,” “Walking Dead,” “Breaking Bad,” and “Silicon Valley.”

Julie is currently out of town and I’m watching “Black Mirror.” Loving it, but have four more episodes to get through, including a 90-minute season finale, and only two days left to do it until Julie comes home.

I watch TV almost exclusively with Julie, which means I only watch shows we both like.

Also, sometimes I’m in the room reading when Julie is watching something only she likes. Therefore I have a 1% familiarity with the entire NCIS ouevre.

Julie is out of town this week. When that happens, I watch something Julie doesn’t want to watch. This time, I’ve selected BLACK MIRROR.

It’s as brilliant as everybody says it is, and dark enough to live up to its name. Much of it revolves around themes of how technology and social media put up walls that separate us, deny us intimacy, and rob us of our basic dignity. Which is maybe not the best show to watch when you’re a social media addict at home alone with your iPhone. But now I’m hooked.

If I get through BLACK MIRROR, I may try to watch WESTWORLD. However, I don’t know if I’ll be able to get through the whole season before Julie returns. And I don’t want to commit to a continuing series, given that Julie rarely leaves me home alone.