Friday, July 30, 2021

Shopping at Amazon: The little things count too, right?

I’m not completely sure of Amazon Prime’s shipping guidelines (and don’t care to know), but for those of us who aren’t subscribers we need to spend a minimum of $25.00 to get free shipping.  So when I run across something I want that’s $10.00 or so, I’ll add it to my cart then go to my cart and move that item to “Save for Later”. 

Then once a month or so, when I’m buying something pricey like a Rolex watch or case of coffee, I’ll grab one of those $10.00 items and throw it in with my order.  Free shipping! 

(By the way, no more coffee shopping on Amazon for me; last month they raised the price on my favorite brand from $35 to $52.00, so I decided to purchase my coffee by subscription at  The shipping is free and I get a whopping 25% discount for auto-delivery every 6 weeks.)

Anyway, in accordance with my proclamation to blog all my online purchases, here’s the doo-dads that arrived here earlier this week:

Spring Chef Ice Cream Scoop with Comfortable Handle, Black

Price: $10.99

Bought at: Amazon (click here)

Also: The soft handle comes in a wide variety of colors

Remarks:  Recently my friend Margaret on her blog Stargazer posted a picture of a mangled spoon, and wrote “No I do not have Uri Geller’s psychic powers, I was trying to get some ice cream and my freezer is very cold.”

That Uri Geller reference made me laugh, but my God her poor spoon!

It motivated me to stop putting it off and get an ice cream scoop (my freezer is also very cold).  I looked at cheaper scoops at the Dollar Store & supermarket, but they were lightweights and I didn’t see how they’d make scooping easier.  This one is perfect.  It’s very top-heavy but feels good in your hand and is made to last a generation or two! 

It dipped into a rock-hard tub of ice cream so easily I wondered if it had softened some.  Nope, the ice cream was frozen solid.  THE SCOOP IS THAT GOOD.

Lamicall Cell Phone Stand, Phone Dock for Office Desk (or ApacheDug’s end-table) – Black

Price: $9.99

Bought at: Amazon (click here)

Also: Comes in black, red, silver, gray & rose gold

Remarks:  I love this simple thing.  It’s just a strip of matte metal folded a couple times over with little feet in front.

There’s a very polished hole in the back, so you can run your charge-cord thru it.

There’s also small pads under the base, behind the phone and in those feet so the phone (or the table beneath) never come in contact with the metal. 

Also, if your phone has an otter case like mine, it will fit (or sit) in this thing just fine.

Since giving up my landline a couple weeks ago, I missed having my phone “sitting beside me” on the table beside my couch.  Now when Inga or Yvette calls, I won’t have to go running around the apartment looking for my damn phone!

TOPDesign 2-Pack Cotton Canvas Grocery Shopping Tote-Bags

Price: $13.99

Bought at: Amazon (click here)

Remarks:  A couple months ago I heard Pennsylvania was considering joining states like California, Hawaii & Washington and banning single-use plastic shopping bags.

I know the ban will be a good thing, but I make good use of those bags from the supermarket.  I use them for protecting sweaters & winter socks from moths, storing various electrical cords, bagging summer sandals & shoes in my closet so they won’t get dusty over the winter.

But I especially like them for lining the small wastecan under my kitchen sink.  They’re free and a perfect fit.

Anyway—a couple days ago I learned state legislators were still twiddling their thumbs, but Pittsburgh & Philadelphia aren’t waiting; the ban is iminent.  My God!

I went on Amazon to look for those canvas shopping bags I sometimes see other customers using in my local supermarket, and was surprised by the 1) number of cotton canvas bags out there  2) awful reviews on most of them.

People wrote they were too small, the handles came off after one use or the material was so flimsy they could see thru them.  As the price per pair of bags was typically $8.99, I decided to look for higher-priced ones like the ones I just got in this nice ziplock bag.  $13.99 for two sounds fair.

I’m pretty pleased with them.  I thought they were small at first, but when you REALLY unfold one, see below.  These are larger than most paper bags, and contain sewn-in ‘liquid holsters’ for items like bottles or quarts of milk. 

But in the meantime, I’m hoarding my plastic bags.  My dishwasher is now packed with 530 of them! 

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Today's Sermon: The Sadness of January 6, and Trumpers

Several years ago, I came across this minister’s online sermon and was intrigued.  He didn’t preach the Bible as he did lessons on kindness & common sense.  I’d return to his website from time to time, always impressed.  On occasion I’d send his essays to my sister or a couple of friends.  Soon I became one of his followers.

When Donald Trump began his run for the Presidency, this minister began preaching dire warnings of the man, of the horror & lunacy that would ensue.  After Trump won, he devoted ALL of his sermons to the so-called President and the carnage he was inflicting on us daily.  As many in John’s traditional congregation fell by the wayside, he stood by his words, disgusted by the hypocrisy of these so-called people of faith. 

You can be a Christian or a Trumper, not both. 

With today’s hearings on the January 6 Capitol riots, I was reminded of a recent sermon from John.  I must’ve read it 4-5 times, I appreciated it that much.  I wanted to share it here today.

The sadness of sharing a country with Trump supporters by John Pavlovitz

A similar thing happens to me on many mornings lately.

My eyes open and I suddenly become aware that I’m awake. My mind quickly begins assembling the first few seconds of my day (making plans, organizing my checklist, contemplating dinner already), when a terrible interruption breaks in and reminds me:

People actually still support that unhinged madman. They admire him. They look up to him. They feel affinity with him. They are fighting for him.

The realizations turn my stomach and I consider going back to sleep but know that I can’t. I replay conversations in my head with people from the day before and I scan my timeline and I think about the family members I know longer speak to and I struggle once more to make any sense of it all.

I see people regurgitating fictional Fox News talking points and hear them parroting back conspiratorial nonsense and I watch them pass by with his name affixed to their heads and attached to their bumpers in cultic adoration—and it grieves me to know how far gone so many around me seem to be. I no longer recognize the place I’ve always called home.

And I know that I’m not alone. I know that right now, variations of these thoughts are being played out millions of times inside the heads of people all over this country; empathetic human beings like me who have found the reservoirs of hope dangerously low and who can’t seem to shake the profound sense of dread hovering always in the periphery of their daily life.

It’s simply demoralizing sharing a country with people who think Donald Trump is someone worth emulating: to be surrounded by that kind of moral inversion every single day, to be continually encountering such cruelty. It’s a source of profound and sustained grieving to believe that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and afforded opportunity—and to know how many simply do not share that belief. I don’t hate these people but I am deeply saddened by them.

It isn’t just the reality of the despicable human being who we’ve allowed to ascend to the Presidency that beings that sadness, though that would be reason enough for despair. It’s the ugliness we’ve seen in our neighbors as he’s made his way there, and perhaps even worse now following his departure: the doubling down despite all we know about his reckless and incompetence. It’s the sickness that the America we love has shown itself afflicted with: the weight of every horrible reality about our nation; all our bigotry and discord and hatred set upon our chests, hampering our breath.

But it’s much closer than that, too.

It’s the words we’ve heard from family members, the stuff we learned about our neighbors, the social media posts from church friends, the incendiary sermons from our pastors, the arguments we’ve had with co-workers. Every square inch of life seems polluted now. Nothing about this place feels untouched by the ugliness.

And the question becomes: How do we transform this near paralyzing sense of sadness into something redemptive?

As with all grief, eventually there must be movement. When there is profound loss of any kind, the only real path is forward; to craft something beautiful and meaningful and life-affirming in response to what has been taken away. You learn to walk again, even if it is with a limp. You begin the painful, laborious act of living in direct opposition to your grief.

It is the same in these days for those of us who feel cheated out of a kinder, more diverse, more decent America than the one we now have. Individually and collectively we will have to be the daily, bold, defiant pushback against all that feels wrong here.

This pushback will come in the small things; in the art we create and the conversations we have and the quiet gestures of compassion that are barely visible.

It will come in the way we fully celebrate daily life; having dinner with friends, driving through the countryside, playing in the yard with our children, laughing at a movie we love.

It will come as we loudly and unapologetically speak truth where truth is not welcome.

It will come as we connect with one another on social media and in faith communities and in our neighborhoods, and as we work together to demand accountability from our elected officials and our neighbors.

It will come as we use the shared resources of our experience and our talents and our numbers to ensure that our children inherit a world worth being here for.

It will come as we transform our grief into goodness.

Yes friend, there is a great deal to grieve over in these days and there will be more to ahead—but there is even more worth fighting for.

So yes grieve, but then move.

Be fueled by your sadness, strengthened by your anger, fortified by your discontent, and do something in this day that moves the needle toward beauty and justice.

And find a way to keep moving forward, even if it is with a limp.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Free at last, free at last—Thank God Almighty, free… at Flex?!

I wish it was raining right now.  If it was, I’d go outside and stand under the downpour, arms outstretched like Tim Robbins in The Shawshank Redemption.  It was raining this past Saturday when I went online and canceled my Comcast Xfinity “Triple Play” bundle.

(But I did sign back up for Xfinity’s internet only service.)

I was honestly taken aback when they called me minutes later, feigning hurt & surprise.  I reminded them I called 5 nights ago to do this but agreed to think about it for a few days. 

What more was there to think about?  I was tired of paying $30.00 a month for a phone I didn’t use and $140 a month for 125+ tv channels I didn’t watch! 

A sullen Andrea informed me I had 10 days to return all remotes, wires & equipment.  “Just drop it all off at the nearest Xfinity or UPS Store.”  I asked if Comcast could come and pick it up, and she said “Mr. Morris if we sent our technicians out to every customer who wanted to return their equipment, it would be ALL we did.”  They must be getting a lot of cord-cutters then!

I said “Well, I don’t have an Xfinity or UPS store near me.  They’re miles away and I no longer have a car.”   She asked why not, I said I was too visually impaired to drive safely.  She said “’’We’ll send you a prepaid box, pack it all up and contact UPS to come pick it up.”

I said I was sorry for putting them out, she said “Oh you’re not—9 out of 10 people return their equipment this way.”   Then why—nevermind!

I got the shipping box Tuesday night, and it was ENORMOUSLY SATISFYING dismantling the Xfinity equipment underneath and behind my tv, sorting out the wires & cables and cord splitters and surge protector, what a real mess it was!  It looks so clean back there now, with TWO wires total—one to plug in my tv, and the other to plug in my antenna.

Wednesday morning I got up, called UPS to schedule a pick-up and was told it’d be $8.80 to come to my residence.  When I said I had a prepaid label, I was told this was a “residential pickup” fee.  I asked if I could drop it off somewhere instead, they said yes at a UPS Access Point.  The nearest dropoff was 1.1 miles from me.  Fine, I’d walk!

Now this is the God’s honest truth.  I went downstairs hefting that box and muttering to myself “Doug you cheap son of a—“   when a Port Authority bus pulled up RIGHT ALONGSIDE ME.  The driver opened his door and said “Sir can I give you a lift?”   Wow!

Then it occurred to me that ridership has taken a nosedive because of the pandemic.  I looked at the bus number above the windshield and said “Thanks anyway but you’re a 13 Bellevue, you turn up Balph in 2 blocks and I’m heading a mile straight to CVS.”  He said “Yes sir, I am now headed in that direction.  The 13 route was changed in December sir.”

This young man was so polite—what makes this even more strange, it’s been weeks since I’ve worn or carried a mask with me.  Yet that morning I felt the need to put one in my pocket.  So when he gestured I needed one to ride the bus, it wasn’t a problem.

Five minutes later I was there and dropped my box off.  I was so relieved to be free of that stuff, I almost skipped home.  When I walked in the door, my neighbor Opal was in the lobby and said “Just in time!”  and handed me a box—from Xfinity!   WHAT THE—!!

I called them and asked “What did you just send me?  I have no interest in even opening this.”   The woman on the other end said “Mr. Morris it’s ABSOLUTELY FREE I promise!  It’s an Xfinity Flex, we send them to all our internet-only customers!” 

She went on to explain it was like a Roku, it was a bookshelf device that contained apps to access Amazon Video, Netflix, HBO MAX, Pluto TV, Youtube, etc on my tv.  I said I didn’t need one, I have a smart tv with those apps already.  She said “But you WILL need it to access Peacock Plus—that’s a premium service you can only access for free thru the X1 or Flex!”

She told me that to set it up, I only had to plug it into everything like I’d signed up for cable again.  I said no thanks, but I WOULD like another one of those prepaid labels!

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Feeling like an artifact today—it happens to the best of us

Earlier today I received this email from an old friend & classmate (who I haven’t seen in 45 years), Ron A.

Hey Doug,

Hope you've been doing well. John and I were watching this YouTube video last night......At the 55 second mark, does anyone look familiar?........LOL

Ron Adamson

I clicked on his Youtube link, and sure enough at the 0:55 mark… that’s my family, from 1977.  That’s me on the top left in the white sweater.  My brother Steve in the center, our brother Duke on the right.

On the bottom is my sisters Shawn, Courtney (who was only 2 years old here) and Donda-Lin.  Our parents names were Don & Linda, if you stick them together… Donda-Lin.

This portrait was a surprise anniversary gift for Mom from our Dad.  I think he got the idea from the Brady Bunch!

Anyway, I don’t know the owner of this video or how he got this old portrait.  But it just goes to show you, none of us are safe in today’s world.  Don’t be surprised if you turn up in some online museum!


Wednesday, July 14, 2021

I want my MTV—but if this isn’t a sign to give it up, what is

Doggone it, I watch too much MSNBC.  I don’t watch too much tv in general, but there have been times when several days had passed without me ever changing the channel.  

For years, I only watched one show on MSNBC, Hardball with Chris Matthews.  It came on at 7pm Mon-Fri, after you’d gotten home from work, maybe taken a shower, ate your dinner & watched the local & national news.  And before “real tv” began. 

Chris resigned in 2020, right on the air after admitting he made female guests uneasy with his flirting.  He said he didn’t belong on tv anymore and walked right off the set.  Damn!  I miss him.

Anyway, I DID give up his cable-news show for a year back in 2015, after I saw a news story on the rise of indoor antennas and people cutting the (cable) cord.  One man demonstrated how to test your own tv’s potential for over the air reception using a paperclip.  If you could pick up one or two channels with the end of a paperclip in your coaxial cable port…

I was able to pick up my local CBS station, so I got an indoor antenna and picked up 15 more channels.  I wasted no time cutting that cord.

This was also the same time my early retirement began, so it felt great having an extra $116.00 towards my monthly budget.

My free tv didn’t last long though, I moved out of the city in 2016 and was forced to sign up for cable again.  And with MSNBC back in the picture (and no work-day ahead of me), I was able to start watching Morning Joe with Mika & Joe Scarborough on a regular basis, which aired 6-9am. 

I didn’t sit there and give it my full attention for 3 hours, but I very much liked their voices in the background while I shaved, cooked breakfast, etc.  

It wasn’t too long after that, with Trump running for President (oh the humanity) that I found several more voices on MSNBC I liked greatly.

Morning Joe, 6 to 9am; Nicole Wallace at 4pm, Rachel Maddow at 9pm & Brian Williams at 11pm

I still managed to enjoy other shows on other channels, I just set my DVR to record those and watched them on the weekend.

Masterchef could wait until Saturday, Rachel Maddow couldn’t!

And then in the spring of 2017, I moved back to Pittsburgh. 

Back in the city for keeps, I thought about giving up cable again; but my new apartment was unable to pick up any channels using an indoor antenna like before.  It didn’t matter, I didn’t want to be left in the dark when it came to Trump or his nefarious cohorts.  (He’s still the main topic on MSNBC, you know.)

I’ve learned however, it’s not healthy to have someone make your blood boil on a daily basis.  A couple weeks ago while in the hospital for kidney stones, I was told my blood pressure was in the danger zone even with my nightly BP medication. 

They asked me if I worry or get angry a lot, do I hold a lot of feelings in.  I admitted I probably watch too many shows around politics.  My doctor said I should try cutting back on them.  All I could think was Trump.  His cult.  I f*cking hate them.

And then this happened…

Recently, I saw a tech-talk on Youtube on how advanced smart-tv tuners have gotten in just the last couple years (prompting another surge in indoor antennas).

I didn’t see how it could make a difference, but I did just buy a 2021 model television.  I got out my trusty ‘test paperclip’, plugged it into the back of the set and did an antenna scan.

Unlike my 2011 Panasonic LED TV (which tuned in zero channels here), this time that paperclip picked up 18 over-the-air channels on my LG Smart tv, in pure high definition format.  Not one, not two… eighteen!

I jumped on Best to buy a Mohu Bookshelf antenna (I had one before but lost it in my moves back in 2016) and it arrived this morning.  Plugged it in the back of my tv—am now receiving 39 over-the-air channels. 

I shopped around, but these are pretty much priced the same—$34.99.  Unlike those leaf antennas requiring a window, this can sit on a nearby shelf and be pointed in multiple directions 

Besides the 3 major networks & Fox, there’s retro channels like Decades, MeTV, GetTV & RetroTV.  There’s Stadium (a sports channel), Comet (sci-fi) Newsnet, QVC & HSN (shopping), Defy & True/Real (cable tv samplers), 4 “CSI’ channels centering on crime shows and a ton of themed movie channels. 

There’s even a CNN Highlights channel for antenna watchers!  Heh heh…

I finally got some straight answers from Xfinity on what it’s going to cost/save me to go from their ‘Triple Blast’ (cable, internet & phone) to just internet.  Including taxes & modem/router rental, my new total will be $74.55.

With my current bill at $205.66, that will be a savings of $131.11 a month.  Woo-hoo!  (I don’t mean to sound like a skinflint or on some bare bones budget.  I just hate to waste money.)   

Anyway, I told the Xfinity rep I’d get back to them in a week.  I unplugged my cable, I want to see how big a deal living without that X1 box is going to be.  I’m sure things will be fine, besides all the local channels I also subscribe to Netflix & Paramount Plus.  And my LG tv also displays a ton of free streaming options like Pluto, Vudu, Crackle, etc.   

And if I get to missing MSNBC too much, I can always sign up for Sling Blue.  It carries all the cable news channels including MSNBC for $35.00.  Yes I’d probably be spiking my blood pressure again, but I’d still be saving close to $100 a month!

Friday, July 2, 2021

No good deed goes unpunished, eh Xfinity? Now look at my new smartphone

Look what I just got, a brand new smartphone, a Motorola G7.  The price was $200, but I got 50.00 off for signing up for a year’s service with Mint Mobile, at $15.00 a month (prepaid, no other fees). 

That’s for 4GB of data, unlimited talk & text. 

This is also my very first smartphone, so I did a bit of research before deciding on this make & model.  Motorolas are budget smartphones, but highest rated when compared to flagship models like iphones & Samsung.  I’ve been playing with it a lot, it looks and works great.

When it arrived this past Friday, I didn’t have a clue how to make a call or even turn it on.  (All my past cell phones have been flip phones.)  But thanks to Google & my friend Danielle, I’m getting the hang of it. 

Here’s the thing:  I didn’t need or really want this.  I’ve written on here before that I planned to go to my grave without ever owning a smartphone, I spend plenty of time already on my laptop & e-reader.  But then something happened a couple weeks ago that changed that.

I like the fingertip reader below the camera, and got this $30 Otterbox case on Ebay for just $8.00, brand new

On June 17th I got an email from Xfinity, that said because of the pandemic and lack of sports on tv, they were giving me a one-time rebate of $23.00 on my next cable bill. 

Aren’t we wonderful, Doug?  We love taking care of our customers.

I called Xfinity and asked why I was paying for sports in the first place, as I don’t watch any.  Shayna (the Xfinity Lady) said everyone paid it.  I said it wasn’t fair, it was like going to the store with my neighbor, she buys a pound of liver, I buy none because I don’t like liver but I’m forced to pay for a pound of it anyway since I shop there.  How does that make sense.

Shayna said “Well, when you put it THAT way!” and laughed.  I asked if she could help me break down my $205.66 monthly bill, it seemed like an awful lot for expanded basic cable, phone & internet.  She was unable to break my ‘Triple Play’ bundle down, aside from my X1 cable box costing $10.00 to rent and $10.00 to use (to record tv).

Shayna then asked if I’d noticed my X1 was recently reduced to 20 hours recording time and would I like an upgrade.  You mean to what I thought I already had?   No thanks.

I felt myself starting to get ticked off.  I asked Shayna how much I would save if I gave up my landline phone service, then I’d be forced to get a cellphone.  She said it would raise my bill $20.00 higher.  (I would lose the discount of the Triple Play.)

While I sat here dumbfounded, she asked if I was familar with Xfinity Mobile, their smartphone plan for $30.00 a month.

I suddenly remembered why I was on the phone with this woman in the first place, thanked her for her time then got on my computer and looked for that Ryan Reynolds commercial where he promises you a Mint smartphone plan for $15 a month with no hidden fees.  

After finding it, I got a nice smartphone—now I need to start looking into these streaming packages like Philo & Sling, as I don’t want to pay for the convenience of cable tv anymore. 

Xfinity, thanks again for that rebate—it was just the motivation I needed!  Winking smile