Echo Wall Clock:
I have become obsessed with smart devices as you may remember from my insane post about smart lights from IKEA. I’m madly and absolutely in love with them and I have spent gleeful hours telling the lights to turn on and off and switch colors. It’s a diversion that I never knew I needed so badly. I have decided to do everything in my power to make my home as automated as possible, so you might imagine how devastated I was when I had to take out my digital door lock that stopped functioning. But that has nothing to do with this post. I’m here to talk about Alexa. I have a long and largely unhappy relationship with Amazon’s Echo devices. I’ll tell that story in my autobiography someday or maybe I’ll tell it in joke format on my original Netflix comedy standup special, A Tiny Sack of Human Teeth. Long story. Several long stories, actually. ANYWAY. Now I can use Alexa without being so triggered, and I am having a delightful time with those little Echo dots. I have three upstairs and two downstairs and the downstairs ones are being little shits but I’ll figure it out. I can have them all play music at the same time so it’s like living in the future where I have built in speakers. It’s wild. Speaking of wild, Amazon is making some kooky things to connect to their smart products. They have Alexa glasses now and even an Alexa ring which is, perhaps, the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of. Of course I’ve read all the reviews. They also have an Alexa clock, which was something that sounded immensely dumb to me, so of course I looked into it. It was only $25 and I needed a new clock, so I shrugged and clicked buy. Y’all…I like it so much. It’s not the most gorgeous clock but it’s not offensive in any way. And it literally doesn’t do that much. It syncs to the Alexa device to set the time, which is kind of cool because I’ll never have to take it down when we have one of those absurd Daylight Savings Time things I can’t stand or understand. The other thing it does is light up, which has been unexpectedly helpful. I’ll tell Alexa, set a ten minute timer, and then ten lights come on! When it gets down to a minute, all sixty lights flash on and go off one by one. It’s kind of like magic. My favorite use right now is telling Alexa to set a timer for when I need to leave in the morning for work and I can see how much time I have in a chunk of light. It’s wild and I love it and I can’t believe it’s a thing. Go shopping.
I’m well aware that I’m about to sound like the most hypocritical person in the world, and that might be true, but I have taken inordinate pleasure in cleaning lately. Mind you, it hasn’t happened quickly or efficiently or always sanely, but I’m going through a process that is proving transformative. I have lived on the family farm with my father because his declining health was a major concern for me. His mental deterioration from alcoholism left me with a number of messes — both physical and personal — that I have had to deal with for years. This has not been fun, but I have felt this weird filial duty to watch over him even when he made me feel insane. I’m not going to go on and on about me, even though that has essentially been the point of this blog and specifically this series since the beginning, so don’t harass me with nasty comments. Nobody ever has. Nobody comments on this thing. I don’t even know why I write it half the time. (Did that pull on your heartstrings enough for a lowly comment?) Anyway, he died on September 20th, and I have been dealing with that ever since. Over the years, the house has accumulated insane amounts of actual garbage. He was basically a hoarder, and I am essentially a minimalist, so you can imagine the effect these piles of crap had on my psyche. I feel them as a physical burden. Now that he’s gone and cremated and the ceremonies are over I’m finally dealing with all of this. I’m doing well actually, better than anticipated, but to work through the grieving experience, I’m throwing out bags and bags and bags and more bags of honest to goodness junk. That old aphorism about how one person’s trash is another person’s treasure…maybe that’s true…but this is actual shit. Old mail and coffee mugs and random nonsense. I’m going systematically through each room and, I’m not Marie Kando-ing or anything, (I still need to watch that!) but I’m realizing how many of the things in my home don’t spark joy. If they don’t, they’re out. I’ve finished cleaning out the living room, and it feels so light and cheery. I’ve hung up some art and mirrors I’ve had in storage, and it’s a new room. It’s not filled with the darkness and sadness it was before. It’s liberated. I’ve released it. Get cleaning, y’all.
“Bag Man” by Rachel Maddow:
I have been a political junkie for awhile. It was a dormant thing during the Obama administration, but during the 2016 campaign and in the current era, it is something akin to an obsession for me. I follow all the news I can about the federal government. If you want to debate the current Ukraine scandal that will likely lead to the president’s impeachment in the House, you have nobody better to talk to than little old moi. I know all about the Russia scandal, the Mueller investigation, the cruelties of the oil industry, the vagaries of politicians, and the whims of all the major and minor Democratic candidates. This keen interest of mine has blossomed thanks to the nightly episodes of The Rachel Maddow Show. No other host takes the news and breaks it down into comprehensible chunks so well. It’s like going to a university class with an excellent professor, the kind of class you don’t want to miss because they make the information so engaging and fascinating that you find yourself wrapped up in the content even if it will never apply to your personal life. Rachel does that. And because I’m a historian at heart, I was thrilled when she decided to release a podcast called Bag Man, which was about the huge and horrible crimes of President Nixon’s vice president, Spiro Agnew. This is a man that I knew nothing of, I didn’t even know his name if I’m honest with you. And because I knew so little, I was delighted with how much I learned. The man was awful, fascinating, and perplexing. And the podcast showcases a side of America’s deeply corrupt history that so many of us like to gloss over and pretend isn’t real. Bag Man is particularly prescient right now because the current president is undergoing (rightfully in my mind) the process of impeachment by the House of Representatives. I listened to all seven episodes on a binge yesterday while cleaning, and it was so engrossing that I don’t want to tell you anything about it aside from my directive to LISTEN ASAP. It was so good.
Magic Eraser for Bathrooms:
At this point, I think that we have all used those wondrous melamine sponges from Mr. Clean that seem to wipe absolutely anything away. If you haven’t, what the hell are you waiting for? These little devices are game changers. I don’t play games, but this changed it. It shifted it. It made everything different. Humanity will never be the same. As I was mentioning above, I have been left with a house filled with almost unreasonable levels of crap and mess. (Those of you in the know are going to get a cackle at all of these puns I’m dropping.) I was away in New York City the other weekend, and I still don’t fully understand what happened at my house. How could there be such vile and revolting masses of garbage and waste on the floors, the walls, just in random piles around the house. Why are my white towels no longer white? The person who managed this is dead now so I’ll never know the truth, and I’ll be honest, that might be for the absolute best. I’ve been having the best time looking for the best cleaning products around, and I’ve been enormously satisfied with the results of my purchases so far. My favorite thing at the moment though is the Magic Eraser that is specifically formulated for cleaning bathrooms. It’s a bit larger, there’s more grip, and there is a cleaning agent built into the sponge. After it’s been saturated, the thing gets to work. I have been stunned at some of the horrifying stains these sponges have been able to eradicate from my surfaces. My sink and my toilet are GLEAMING. I’m cleaning out the tub tonight, and I cannot wait. It’s always had this weird tinge that doesn’t look right. I’m going to make it go away. I might even change out the faucet, which is covered in rust! It’s been like that since time immemorial at home, but I don’t understand why people choose to live this way. Yes, there are benefits to frugality. I get it. It’s nice to have backup money and minimal debt. But it’s also nice to not have to live like a pauper when there’s no need! I’ll be scrubbing and scrubbing and scrubbing for the next few nights. This cleaning process is taking forever, but it is making me feel more and more and more peaceful. Cleaning is better than therapy.
I am heartbroken and annoyed, reader. As you surely know, there are two chores that I cannot stand and absolutely refuse to engage in. I will never mow another yard in my life, I did too much of that growing up. More importantly, I don’t ever want to wash a dish. I’ll rinse the occasional gold-rimmed champagne glass, of course, but I don’t want to scrub pots and pans. A few years ago, I bought a dishwasher and it changed my life. I felt years younger. Stress visibly fled from me. And then it broke. I called in a repairman, but it was irreparable…or he was just an idiot, (like for real, he also said my washing machine was irreparable. I fixed it that night with a youtube video…so I don’t know why I called him back again…my mistake). Anyway, that is the reason I skew toward. I replaced the dishwasher with a similar model and my life took off again. Once again the dishes were coming out absolutely sparkling. Life had meaning and most things were good and my wine glasses were veritably gleaming. Then, it too, stopped working for no apparent reason. I hoped that it was just a fluke, so I unplugged it, let it sit for a day, and then tried it again. Nothing. It feebly pumped out water from the basin before setting off an alarm. It stopped working. Thankfully this one is under warranty, so I just have to start dealing with talking to the company and getting it repaired. I honestly don’t understand why this has happened. I don’t load the machine up with crap, I take good care of it. You all know how much I love my dishwasher. If you follow me on Snapchat, you’ve probably seen me reading it love poems and taking glamour shots with it. I treat that dishwasher like a beloved pet, so I don’t know why I have to go through this. I have been washing dishes by hand, reader, and every time I do a dish, I feel my soul flee my body. Days are cut off of my existence. Truly, there are few things more tragic that have ever personally afflicted me. I hope the repair can be soon. I worry that I’ll lose the little left of my mind if I have to wait too much longer.