Posted on Thursday, January 7th, 2010
I do not do well with heights, and being too far above the earth bothers me more than it should. Much more. Usually, this isn't much of an issue for people like me, because you just avoid absurdly tall places. If, for example, your frisbee gets stuck on the roof, you don't grab the nearest ladder and charge on up to get it... you instead find the nearest child and pay him $2 to risk death and dismemberment by climbing up that ladder for you. Children are fearless, especially when it comes to money, so this isn't much of a challenge unless their annoying parents are hanging around.
There is one problem with this strategy, however, and that's if you are somebody who travels often.
Because travelers come to a realization very quickly: Most of the Cool Stuff is Tall.
When you arrive home from Paris, let's say, the first thing that people ask is "Ooh! Did you go up the Eiffel Tower??" From then on out, it doesn't matter what you say, because no excuse you offer is good enough...
Any attempt to disguise the fact that you're a big baby when it comes to tall places will ultimately be rejected with something like "How could you go to Paris and not go up the Eiffel Tower? Are you stupid?" Which is why I ultimately face my fears of plummeting to my death and go up the damn tower (or building or landmark or cathedral or cliff or helicopter or whatever the hell else places devise to terrorize people).
And so I've been up the Space Needle. The Gateway Arch. The Sears Tower. Hancock Tower. The World Trade Center. The Empire State Building. Splash Mountain. The Grand Canyon. The Waimea Canyon. Bryce Canyon. The Cologne Cathedral. Petronas Towers. Tokyo Tower. Yokohama Landmark Tower. The Buckets of Death. The Stratosphere. The Sagrada Familia. The London Eye. The Tower Bridge. Olympic Tower. CN Tower. The Tower of Terror. The Capilano Suspension Bridge. The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. Coit Tower. Shanghai Tower. The Peak. Mary's Bridge at Neuschwanstein. St. Peter's Basilica. St Paul's Cathedral. St. Mark's Campanile. The Monument to the Discoveries. The Holmenkollen Ski Jump. The Cliffs of Santorini. AND YES, THE FUCKING EIFFEL TOWER! Just to name a few off the top of my head.
And I could tell you that they were all just bloody fantastic experiences and gave my life new meaning... but thinking back to each experience, what I probably remember most is being scared out of my freakin' mind.
And now there's a new "Tallest Building in the World" that's opened up in Dubai. So when I eventually go there (I'm guessing), I have something to look forward to...
Wheeee. I can't wait.
*It helps here if you've seen Superman II... KNEEL BEFORE ZOD!!
Posted on Monday, January 11th, 2010
And so I had an unexpected day-trip to Chicago come up. But it's not really a day-trip when it takes a day to get there and a day to get back. And, when you have to start your day at 3:30am after staying up past midnight, it feels very much like a four-day trip.
So yes, it sucks... and yes, I feel like death... and yes, I know I promised myself I'd stay home the month of January... but we don't always get what we want, do we?
But there was something to look forward to. New stamps to add to my Gowalla Passport!
Or so I thought.
Between the weak GPS in my iPhone and the shitty state of wireless service from AT&T, using Gowalla is more a frustration than a fun scavenger hunt...
Yes, I can't get a 3G signal IN THE MIDDLE OF FUCKING CHICAGO!
And even though I get EDGE with full bars, there's NO data connection! AT&T FAIL!
And it seems like just yesterday that I was bragging that I had only had one bad experience with AT&T's wireless. It was when I was in Las Vegas calling Jenny. And now I'm in Chicago, and it's WORSE. Coverage SUCKS! My iPhone gears down from 3G to EDGE so often that you'd think Chicago didn't even have 3G. And even when you DO manage to get online, you've got a very real chance of not getting any data linkage AT ALL.
So this is what everybody has been bitching about!
Though, I am now thinking that it's not AT&T's fault. Because Jenny lives in Chicago. And the last time I had problems in Las Vegas, Jenny was in Las Vegas. And since I haven't had problems anywhere else on earth, I'm thinking that clearly the problem here... is Jenny!
Though that doesn't explain the myriad of problems I've had with my iPhone GPS lately. Like trying to check in at a Chicago Landmark, The Bean, only to find the GPS has me outside of check-in range...
When clearly I am there. What do I have to do, sit on top of it? I mean, I understand that sometimes tall buildings and trees can obstruct GPS signal... BUT I'M IN THE MIDDLE OF OPEN SPACE!! WTF?!? It leaves me standing in Milennium Park wanting to scream NO! I'M HERE YOU MORON!!
Oh well. Tomorrow after work Jenny and I are going to go see Avatar in 3D IMAX over at Navy Pier. It's apparently so good that people are becoming depressed when they wake up the next day and find out that the world is not a beautiful as the fictional world of "Pandora" in the movie...
Heaven only knows I need more depression in my life!
Posted on Tuesday, February 16th, 2010
After having been to Mardi Gras once in my life, there's a part of me that wants to experience Fat Tuesday again...
Either that, or I just want a piece of King Cake.
Posted on Saturday, February 20th, 2010
This afternoon I hit Hard Rock property number 125 when I visited the new cafe in Seattle.
The best Hard Rocks take a classic older building and transform it into something new. In this respect, Seattle's cafe is beautiful, with warm woods, original brick, and exposed pipes. Unfortunately, it followed in the footsteps of the new cafes in Yankee Stadium, Dallas, and the Las Vegas Strip, in that the memorabilia is pretty scarce. Unlike the older properties where the walls are packed with artifacts from all aspects of music history, the new-style restaurants have much fewer scattered pieces sprinkled amongst a bunch of photos and video screens. The good news is that they do relate to Seattle's unique music history pretty well, featuring items from Hendrix, Heart, Mother Love Bone, Nirvana, and more.
Something new that I haven't seen before at any Hard Rock is their "call-in" number, where you can dial a local phone number, punch in code that's been tagged on a piece of memorabilia, and get more information about it. It's pretty sweet, and something I hope gets rolled out to other properties in the chain.
Despite my misgivings about the new design direction for the Hard Rock chain, the Seattle cafe is actually pretty nice. The location is perfect (just a block from the Pike Place Market), the staff is fantastic (a lot of experienced transfers from other properties), and the building is spacious (two levels with a stage at the upper bar).
Overall I'd say it's worth the two-decade-wait to finally have a "local" cafe in the Emerald City.
Here's hoping it will stick around for a good long while.
Posted on Wednesday, February 24th, 2010
Despite feeling pretty sick most of the day, I somehow managed to get a lot of work done. The problem is that the effort completely wiped me out, which is why I came home and slept from 5:00 to midnight. Now my sleep schedule is going to be screwed up, which is a difficult thing to do when you only sleep four-and-a-half hours each night. But no worries, I'm sure it will all get straightened out... just in time for my upcoming trip to Europe when it can get all messed up again.
Assuming I get my travel plans straightened out.
This will be my eleventh year of taking a "birthday vacation" to somewhere I've never been before...
And here we are as I scramble to get something put together for this year's trip. Some of the details are in place (I know where I will be on my actual birthday, for example). But everything else... from transportation to hotels... is a big question mark at this point. Since I leave in three weeks, I suppose I'd better get it figured out.
Fortunately, I am now wide-awake at 2:30am, so I can get to work.
If only I could get motivated to actually do it.
Posted on Sunday, March 14th, 2010
Hooray! It's Pi Day! I love Pi! Of course I love all irrational and transcendental numbers, so that shouldn't surprise anybody. I will click the "publish" button on this entry at exactly 3.14.1:59 and see if a magic portal opens up to Flatland or something.
• Irritation Pi. As anybody who follows me on Twitter can attest, I am an irritable traveler. In my defense, it's hardly my fault. I honestly think that people are at their worst behavior when they're on a trip, so I have a valid excuse here. It's probably because travel has become so miserable now-a-days that people feel the need to do their part and become rude maniacs who are intent on making everybody else miserable too. It's a vicious circle. I travel a lot, so I've kind of broken the circle and just try to get through it all with as little drama as possible. With that in mind, I am freaking out over the idea that airplanes may soon be offering MOBILE PHONE SERVICE ON THEIR FLIGHTS. Holy crap. The idea of having to sit next to some loud asshole screaming away on their phone during a flight fills me with dread and homicidal rage...
I mean, seriously? Aren't airplanes horrible enough? Can you imagine how horrendously shitty flights will be if people can make phone calls? This is bullshit! I am willing to bet some serious cash that the murder rate on airplanes increases 2700% if some airline is actually fucking stupid enough to do this. What's next? Are the flight attendants just going to punch you in the face and smear you with horse shit as you board?
• Stupid Pi. I've written about how much I hate Daylight Saving Time so many times on my blog that I sometimes wonder if I should just write about it exclusively. But oh well... I HATE DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME!! Messing with the clocks is so damn antiquated and absurd that I just can't help myself. Just split the difference by a half hour then LEAVE OUR CLOCKS THE FUCK ALONE!
• Denial Pi. Last night I saw an article on yet another disaster in our military's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy, where a woman was discharged for being a lesbian... even though she adhered to the rules she was given. Now, I've never been in the military, so those who are in the military (or are a military veteran) can feel free to dismiss my opinion... but who in this day and age really cares if anybody is gay? What's the point? It's as if people who support DADT think that if nobody says they're gay, then the entire military is suddenly straight and homosexuality doesn't exist there. It's like DADT is some kind of magical "denial cloak" idea that somebody took from a Harry Potter novel.
The truth is that you're either a good soldier or a bad soldier, and where consenting adults like to stick their penis and what they choose to do with their vagina isn't going to change that. Fortunately, this is an attitude that's finally starting to stick, as I see when I run across inspirational people, positive stories, and videos like this bouncing around the blogosphere...
The thing that always amuses me is the idea that a gay guy would join the military not to serve his country or earn an education, but so he could look at naked guys in the shower and hook up. It's absurd, but apparently that's what geriatric politicians like John McCain seem to think will happen if gays are allowed to serve openly (despite opinions of military leaders like Colin Powell who thinks DADT should be repealed). If anything, you'd think that homophobes in the military would welcome repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell, because then they'd know to say "no thanks, please leave me to die" if they were shot on the battlefield and some "homo pervert" comes to their aid.
People can deny it all they want but the Gay Menace is out there. They're standing next to you at the urinal in the bathroom. They're showering with you at the gym. And they're serving with honor in our military. They're everywhere. Pretending that gays don't exist isn't going to magically make it come true. Why people are so insecure in their sexuality that they think being exposed to "teh ghey" will somehow turn them gay is beyond me. Why they think that gays are any less capable of leaving their sex life in the bedroom is even more of a mystery.
Personally, I'm more afraid of people who watch The Hills than I am of any homosexual. Where's an ineffectual and asinine government policy to protect me from that?
• Apple Pi. I'm ordering an Apple iPad because of a project I'm working on, even though I probably won't use it for much else since I've always got an iPhone and MacBook with me. Don't hate me because I am now 196% cooler and Steve Jobs loves me. At least he should love me now. Heaven only knows I love me more now...
• Humble Pi. I just thought I'd throw this out there for those people who think I'm being a narcissistic ass in my previous bullet...
And thus ends another amazing installment of Bullet Sunday.
Posted on Friday, March 19th, 2010
Rather than have to pay $10 to check my suitcase in Wenatchee, I decided to drive to Seattle for my flight. The cost of flying Horizon Air vs. driving & parking is pretty much a wash, so I'll save the $10. This may seem like a petty amount of money in the grand scheme of things... but it's not the money so much as the principle of it all. I think it is absolutely shitty of airlines to nickle-and-dime people for a service that 99% of their customers need. This "extra revenue" policy only serves to make boarding the plane an unholy mess, as people struggle to bring all their luggage onboard so that they can save their hard-earned cash. I choose not to reward such blatant douchebaggery if I can help it.
Fortunately, it was a beautiful day and a lovely drive, so it wasn't a big deal.
Anyway... the mad rush all this week to get caught up so I can go on vacation had me dreading today... but, now that it's all behind me, I couldn't be happier that I'm escaping for a little while.
Next stop: Amsterdam and Dutchyland.
Posted on Saturday, March 20th, 2010
After leaving Friday at 1:30pm out of Seattle, the days smooshed together and I landed at Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands this morning at 8:00am. The flight itself was uneventful. But before the flight I nearly had a panic attack when I thought that they were evicting me off the plane (when in fact they were upgrading me to World Business Class). It's easy to be paranoid when you hear stories of people being kicked off the plane for no reason. That's one of the few things that hasn't happened to me yet, so I figured it was my time.
But it wasn't and, typical to Schiphol efficiency, I was through customs and had my luggage waiting for me, all within 20 minutes. A few minutes after that, The DutchBitch arrived and we were off to catch-up on all the fabulous things that have happened in our lives since I was last here in October. From there, it was off to have delicious Patatjes Met (fries with mayonnaise) and an Old Cheese Sandwich (which means "aged cheese sandwich"... I hope)...
Deliciousness and two orgasms ensued.
After lunch, we were off to Den Haag (The Hague) on a rainy Saturday so we could go to the Escher Museum...
As I've mentioned before, my favorite flower is the crocus. And while I may be a week or two early for tulip season, the crocuses are in bloom everywhere...
The M.C. Escher Museum was, as expected, incredible...
Just down the street is the American Embassy which, as so often is the case, looks like a boxy pile of crap. Apparently, we're being asked to move because any time the embassy needs to be secured, they end up having to close down a busy street and public area...
As we were walking through the pouring rain back to the car, I asked The Dutch Bitch if all the golden metal I was seeing everywhere was real gold...
She replied "But of course. The Netherlands is so fantastically wealthy that we cover everything in real gold!" Apparently the sewer grates are due to be gilded in gold next week.
Since The Dutch Bitch wanted to make Greek Salad for dinner, we stopped at the grocery store. Visiting foreign grocery stores is always a fun experience because of the strange stuff you find there. This time, I was surprised to see that they sell Cat Milk here. I'd think that a cat would be a difficult animal to milk, but there it was...
The milking machine for a cat must be very tiny indeed.
I don't know that I'd want to abandon cow's milk for cat's milk... but it's nice to know I have options.
And thus ends my first two days of vacation smooshed into one.
Posted on Sunday, March 21st, 2010
It's the 175th edition of Bullet Sunday from Casa de DutchBitch! Reading about all the ugliness going on back home over health care reform, I can honestly say that there's no place I'd rather be right now.
Today we decided to grab a train and make the 2-1/2 hour journey down to Brussels in Belgium. Dutchy hadn't been there in 10 years, and the only time I had been to the city was for a 25 minute stop-over during a delivery.
• Cartooning. The first stop on our itinerary was the Belgian Comic Strip Center. I had heard nothing but good things about the place, and so I was a little let down to see that the building itself was kind of boring...
Just goes to show that you can't always judge a (comic) book by its cover, because the inside of the museum is stunning...
Highest possible recommendation if you have even a small interest in comic books and sequential art. There's precious little mention of any English books, but the pictures tell the story in any language.
• Atomium. After goofing around the museum, we took the subway out to the site of the World Expo 1958. Because this is where the giant Atomium structure can be found. It's pretty cool, well worth the trip outside the city, and will give you some great photos to remember you trip to Brussels...
The globes are reached either by a system of stairs and escalators...
Or an elevator up through the center column...
Once you reach a globe, there will either be some kind of exhibit or windows where you can look out...
Sweet! Hard to believe this place was built over 50 years ago.
• Food. The DutchBitch tells me that Belgium is also famout for Patatjes Met, which they call "Frites avec Mayo." Naturally, I could not pass them up. They are a bit thicker than Netherlands fries and not quite as crispy, but inevitably delicious, as you can imagine...
But the one thing that I simply had to eat was a Belgian Waffle, which they call a "Brussels Waffle" here. You can get them topped with a variety of stuff (including Belgian chocolate) but, being a purist, I just got mine with sugar and creme...
Yeah, orgasm-inducing delicious. Considering it cost $6.75, it had better be. Wish I could say the same for my $7.00 "Super" Coke, which was a watered-down horror story (lesson learned, ALWAYS order from the bottle, even if you have to buy two of them). While I am happy to eat the smaller and more sensible portions in Europe (vs. the massive portions they serve in the USA), I am consistently disappointed in the tiny size and HUGE cost of their Cokes. You always end up getting ripped off for what is essentially sugar-water.
• Square. The Market Square in Brussels is bordered by beautiful architecture on all sides. I could have spent half a day just looking at the buildings here...
• Peed. With some time to kill before our train back to the Netherlands, we decided to visit a famous Brussels attraction... "Manneken Pis" which means "Young Man Peeing." There was quite a crowd, but eventually I managed to get a shot of the little guy...
And thus our one-day invasion of Brussels had ended, and our mission to find something interesting to do for the day was a smashing success! Not bad for my last day in the Netherlands.
Posted on Monday, March 22nd, 2010
This morning The DutchBitch dropped me off at Schiphol so I could continue onward with the my vacation. That I ended up flying off to Bucharest so I could work is honestly not her fault, but that's basically what I did. This being a Monday, it was pretty much unavoidable. But I made up for it by having an early dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe Bucharest, so all was not lost.
The local Hard Rock is located north of downtown proper in Herastrau Park. As Spring has arrived, the park is just starting to green up, and a fair number of people were taking advantage of the sunshine to wander around the lakeside. After making my way past a small amusement park, I arrived in front of one of the most boring Hard Rock Cafes I've ever seen. I can't say for certain, but it looks as though it might have once been a US embassy. Strip away the wooden arches at the entrance, and it's pretty much just a giant cement brick. It really needs a giant guitar on top or something...
The car in the entryway is a nice touch.
The perimeter of the deck has a concrete wall around it like a penitentiary. All that's missing is electrified razor-wire at the top...
YOU CANNOT ESCAPE FROM HARD ROCK CAFE!
To say I was disappointed is an understatement.
Until I went inside...
Those are clear drum kits with lights in them in the ceiling above the bar, and are really cool-looking in person.
Turns out it's a beautiful property done up in classic "Hard Rock Style" with plenty of memorabilia plastered over every available surface... just as God intended a Hard Rock to be. The interior of the property is positively massive, and is able to hold 300 people (the deck outside can hold an additional 150)...
The hidden lighting in the ceiling is just beautiful.
Memorabilia everywhere... now THIS is a Hard Rock!
Facing the deck-side of the building.
So while it may be boring on the outside, it's 100% Hard Rock on the inside... which is where it counts, I guess. They even have a stage for live music...
Disco ball included.
My dinner, as expected, was very good. Getting a waiter was a little slow, but I arrived before the actual dinner shift when they were getting everything set up, so that was perfectly understandable. Service was fine after that, and the staff was really nice and friendly, which made my visit all the better.
So... if you happen to be in Bucharest, it's worth taking a quick trip north to Herastrau and a very impressive Hard Rock Cafe.
And, in non-Hard Rock news, Betty White continues her domination of all media by making a brilliant appearance on Ellen today...
Just when I think it's impossible for me to love Betty White even more that I do, she goes and proves me wrong. I can't wait for SNL in May!
And now I suppose I should get some work done so I can see a bit of the city tomorrow.
Posted on Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010
Today I attempted to make up for my lack of tourism yesterday by hiring a guide to show me a bit of Bucharest. Usually I don't like guided tours, but I wanted very much to have a historical context for the places I'd be seeing. It was also helpful to have somebody be able to negotiate entry to the various places, as many of the buildings are owned by the State and require special arrangements or considerations to visit them. Having a private tour guide and driver for one person is not overly-expensive considering the value you get in return.
The weather wasn't all that great today, but I didn't mind so much. Bucharest has sights that are remarkable rain or shine.
I was dropped off in front of the Romanian Savings Bank Palace, a beautiful building with French architectural elements that I would have dearly loved to see inside. You just know that the atrium under that natural-light cap is glorious...
From there it was a short walk to the Stavropoleos Monastery, home of a beautiful little church that had so many interesting details that I could have easily wasted half my day exploring them...
Wonderful little churches are scattered everywhere around Bucharest, some having been influenced by neighboring countries. Like this Russian church I saw as we headed back to our drop-off point...
Along the way we took brief shelter from the rain by walking through the Macca-Vilacrosse Passage, a very cool covered arcade walkway that spans two small streets. The yellow glass is a brilliant idea, because it gives off a warm glow that looks like the sun shining, even on overcast rainy days...
After a short car-ride, we arrived at the Metropolitan Church, which holds the relics of Demeter Basarabov, the patron saint of Bucharest. I didn't want the noise of my camera to disrupt the prayer service inside, so I can't show you the magnificient interior, but even the outside is pretty amazing. There's a cool fresco on the outside which depicts heaven on one side and hell on the other. In-between the two is the church entrance, which is an interesting symbology to present to parishioners...
Next up was a bastion of excessiveness that would put Lord Dimwit Flathead shame... Nicolae Ceauşescu's massive Palace of the Parliament. Second only to The Pentagon in size for administration buildings around the world, there's no way to adequately describe just how big this place is. Standing all the way back to the street from across the guest parking lot, I still needed to stitch together a panorama in order to fit it all in a photo, despite the fact that I'm using a wide-angle lens...
It's huge. Impossibly, massively, remarkably, huge. Thanks to some clever negotiations by my guide, I was able to get in on an English-speaking tour which would allow me to see 5% of the 1,100 rooms that make up the palace. I pretty much spent the entire time with my jaw on the floor as the tour wandered from one decadently appointed gigantic room to another...
And lest you think that the room designs are in any way superficial, they're not. Each element is impeccably rendered down to the smallest detail. Everywhere you look, there's astounding displays of craftsmanship that just boggles the mind. Here's a close-up of the ceiling for that last photo. I'm confident that if I were to get even closer, even more tiny details would emerge...
After collecting my wits, we proceeded to the Cotroceni Palace Museum, which happens to be the official residence of the President of Romania. Not surprisingly, absolutely no photography of any kind was permitted anywhere on the palace grounds. This is a real shame, because there are incredible sights to behold within.
Seven hours into the tour, we ended up at Revolution Square, which is home to one of the most interesting buildings I've ever seen, the Romanian Athenaeum. As a place built to celebrate the arts and sciences, it's truly a magnificent structure... not so much on the outside (though it is beautiful), but on the inside, which is just amazing. Of course, they don't allow photos in there either (that seems to be a reoccurring theme here in Bucharest) but it's definitely worth a visit...
Which brings us to Revolution Square itself, where the Romanian Uprising finally brought the Nicolae Ceauşescu communist regime to an end. To the more recent generations of Western World, this sounds like an event which happened long ago. But in reality, it was just twenty years past. And there I was, standing in the spot where it all ended... and began anew... and where many people lost their lives as tanks crushed them and gunfire tore through them as they fought for their freedom. I remember very well reading and watching the events in Bucharest unfold with the rest of the world, and it was a bit surreal to be looking across at the balcony of the Central Committee Building where Ceauşescu gave his final ill-fated public address...
At the center of it all, a monument was built in remembrance of those who lost their lives...
And thus ended my very small excursion into Bucharest. Of course I wish that I had a couple more days to explore the city, but I fit in as much as I could in the limited time available. As with any time you're lucky enough to travel, something is better than nothing at all!
And if you're looking to arrange your own tour of Bucharest or the surrounding area, I give my highest possible recommendation to RoCultours/CTI. As an academic touring company, you get an in-depth exploration of the things you see rather than just sitting on a bus as somebody points things out to you. This makes a world of difference when compared to the usual organized tour, and also allows for customization that would otherwise be impossible (I provided a list of things that were important to me, and they somehow found a way to make it all happen... like magic!). RoCultours/CTI came highly recommended to me, and I'm happy to pass along this "find" to anybody who ends up here looking for information on Bucharest.
Posted on Wednesday, March 24th, 2010
Happy birthday to me! As I said on Twitter... I may be all alone in a hotel room far away in Bucharest, but I've never felt so surrounded by friends as I did today thanks to all the kind birthday tweets, Facebook messages, and wonderful emails... it all means more to me than I could ever express. When even your arch-nemesis takes time to write out a birthday tribute, you know your life is worth living. Thanks to mah Hilly-Sue and everybody else who said such kind things. It's truly the best birthday present I could ever hope for.
As if all the birthday love wasn't enough... today my guide and driver took me into Transylvania to explore the Romanian countryside. It all started with the city of Braşov, which has an old-town city entrance that made me feel like I was at Dineyland...
The city crest is a crown from which "vigorous healthy roots" sprout. You see it throughout the city, and I grew kind of attached to it after a while...
From there we proceeded to the narrowest street in all of Romania (and possibly all of Europe), Strada Sforii... which means "Strand Street" or "The Rope Street" in English. It's so narrow that you can't really walk side-by-side, and passing somebody coming from the opposite direction can be tricky...
The primary attraction in Braşov would be Biserica Neagră, or "The Black Church" (so named because it was set on fire and blackened during The Great Turkish War)...
One of the most fascinating aspects of the church is a small statue of a child looking over the edge of the roof-line. It was explained to me that the statue is a tribute to the legend of a young German boy who was annoying the Bulgarian builders so badly that one of them ended up pushing him off the roof and then burying him within the church walls. Scary...
And now, from the Braşov EPIC WIN category... a poster advertising a Jägermeister ALL YOU CAN DRINK PARTY! If only I had more time in the city, I could have really, really gotten my money's worth out of that awesomeness (35 RON is about $11.50!)...
Anyway... Braşov is a charming and beautiful city, built around a lovely public square...
From there we continued onwards to Bran Castle... better known as "Dracula's Castle" thanks to the popular novel. In truth, "Vlad The Impaler" (the real-life person upon which the Dracula vampire character is based) never actually lived here. But the castle fits the location mentioned by Bram Stoker in the book, and apparently Vlad actually did use the castle at one point for his raids into Transylvania, so it gets the honor. The building itself is nothing spectacular, but it does have a great location, including a beautiful cobblestone path leading up to entrance...
Though the best way to see Bran Castle is actually from the grassy park below. Since winter is just on the way out, everything is still looking kind of dead and brown... but I'd imagine the scenery is amazing in the summer or winter...
At the bottom of the hill, there's a crap-market selling all kinds of cheesy souvenirs. There's even some kind of attraction that exploits the Dracula legend. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to have a look...
A far more stunning structure would be our next stop... Peles Castle. The interior is one of the most highly-decorated and massively excessive tributes to overkill you'll ever see, which made me wish I had some photos. But even without them, the exterior is pretty incredible...
The last stop before the two-hour drive back to Bucharest was the Sinaia Monastery. The property includes both a new church and an old church, both very interesting buildings to explore...
Not bad for a twelve-hour day! I will be very sad to leave Romania tomorrow, as I'm sure there are lots of other amazing things to see and do here.
Posted on Thursday, March 25th, 2010
My flight out of Bucharest wasn't until 3:00, so I decided to hire a driver into town and visit the National Museum of Art of Romania. They are famous for their medieval art, which is great, but I've seen so much medieval art that it's all kind of blending together for me. What I was really interested in was their modern art wing, because I'm not very familiar with many Romanian painters in the genre. I wasn't expecting much, but it would give me something to do until my flight.
The traffic in central Bucharest was brutal, largely because of a teacher's strike going on. At first I was worried that I had made a mistake...
Until I made it to the museum and was completely blown away by the amazing works housed within.
I have been to a lot of art museums all over the world, and I can honestly say that the National Museum of Art of Romania instantly became one of my favorites. Not just because it's a nice museum (which it is) but because I absolutely love the collection of artists they've assembled. It's just one breathtaking work of art after another...
I am not joking when I say that this museum is worth a trip to Bucharest all by itself. It's just that impressive. Highest possible recommendation...
My flight into Prague was delayed a bit, which meant I landed at the height of rush hour. The route my driver had to take into town to try and avoid the worst of the traffic was a mind-boggling array of twists and turns that looked like a pretzel on my iPhone GPS map. By the time I arrived and caught a tram into Old Town, the sun had just set.
Not that I'm complaining, because you get some great photos at that time of day...
I have been trying to arrange a stop in Prague for the better part of two decades, because people are constantly telling me what an beautiful city it is. Having seen photos, I knew they weren't lying, but it's taken to an entirely new level when you're here in person. The city is simply beyond beautiful. It's so beautiful that if I were a local, I'd wear a T-shirt that said "YES, WE KNOW OUR CITY IS FUCKING BEAUTIFUL... WE LIVE HERE!" because I'm sure they get tourists telling them how beautiful the place is all day long.
I can't wait to go to sleep so I can wake up and explore Prague in the daylight.
But of course I had to visit the Hard Rock Cafe Prague first...
Like just about everything else in this city, it was beautiful.
Posted on Friday, March 26th, 2010
Today was a glorious day in Prague, and so I took to the streets early so I could snap a few photos.
I ended up taking 537. Most all of them keepers.
The problem with Prague is that you start out all excited because everything is so pretty. It's like "ZOMFG! That building is so pretty! So you take a photo, walk 100 feet, and then "ZOMFG! That building is so pretty! Then another 100 feet, then another, then another... and just when you think that Prague will run out of pretty buildings, you suddenly realize that you've walked two miles and that Prague will never run out of pretty buildings, so you just give up in frustration.
I did go back and take a photo of the Hard Rock Cafe in daylight, because it is a very pretty building...
But they all are, really...
Even the clocks are pretty...
I'm sure that the Pooferflargen Museum is pretty, but I didn't really feel like looking at a bunch of "sex machines" before lunch...
Speaking of pooferflargen, Prague seems to have a disproportionate number of naked men statues. You'll be walking along minding your own business when WHAM! Some statue guy is hanging out all "How you doin'?"
But it's not like you have to worry about it killing your appetite, because Prague restaurants do that all on their own...
All I can say is that it had better be a LOT of beer, because I can't imagine there being any circumstances that I'd want to eat "jellied meat" unless I was very, very drunk.
After my non-jellied-meat lunch, I decided to walk across Charles Bridge so I could visit Prague Castle. It's a really cool bridge that's flanked with creepy-awesome statues...
But those statues pale in awesomeness compared to a statue that hovers above Prague Castle's main entrance gate...
It's like the city of Prague wants to be very clear that not only will they cut a bitch if somebody pisses them off, but that they are more than happy to stab people in the back when they do it. That is so shark-extreme I just can't stand it.
Prague Castle is dominated by the St. Vitus Cathedral. It's a very nice church, but pretty much like a lot of the other large gothic churches I've been in throughout Europe...
After walking fifty miles cataloguing the pretty buildings of Prague, I decided to go back to my room so I could take a Special Pill to keep my legs from falling off before I headed out again for sunset. I figured I'd take a tram to Petřínská Rozhledna (Petřín Lookout Tower) and snap a few photos of the city at sunset. It was a great plan, except the funicular tram that goes up the hill was out of order...
Which meant that I had to walk another fifty miles uphill and THEN climb 299 steps up the tower. I don't know if it was all worth it, but I did get some pretty pictures...
And then came the real challenge... climbing back down the hill.
With no lights.
I could barely see anything, and ended up having to use my iPhone to illuminate the trail a couple times. Not that you are ever confident which trail to take, because they're all unmarked (of course). I ended up removing the memory card from my camera and buried it in my pocket so if I were to survive being raped and stabbed on the unlit trail, I'd at least have my photos to show for it.
But I wasn't raped or stabbed, so I stopped by "Mystic Pizza" (!?!) for dinner. I remembered seeing it earlier in the day as I was climbing up to Prague Castle...
Now, up to this point, the weather had been fantastic. Clear skies and nice temperatures. But when I left the pizzeria, a thunder & lightning storm came out of nowhere and unleashed a torrent of rain. The jacket I had on wasn't exactly waterproof, which meant walking the fifty miles back to my hotel while getting soaked to the bone.
Checking out the weather forecast, it's supposed to pour buckets all week long. I know I should be upset about that, but after being so incredibly lucky with the weather today, I can't find it in me to be unhappy about it.
Besides, I'm sure Prague is equally pretty in the rain.
Posted on Saturday, March 27th, 2010
Last night I made plans to visit Karlštejn Castle, a popular tourist attraction about 20 miles south of Prague. And since I'd rather be punched in the face than pay $50 to join an organized tour bus group, I decided to go it alone via train.
After walking across the river and making my way down to Smichov Train Station, I bought my $4 round-trip ticket and then tried to find "Track 3" that I was supposed to be on. Except none of the tracks are numbered!! Not only that, but the reader boards only show the one train that's next to go... none of the trains afterwards! So I'm guessing the plan is that you run around from track to track until you find the train you're supposed to be on (hopefully you know the end-of-line city for your journey, or I guess you're fucked).
After finding my track by dumb luck, I thought the day's strangeness was over.
But this is me we're talking about.
And so there I am getting settled in my lower-compartment window seat when this guy comes walking down the aisle. When he gets to my row, he pauses for a second then continues on. The compartment is completely empty, which is nice, because I don't have to worry about a gum-smacking whore sitting near me. But then the guy comes back and sits down... right next to me... IN AN OTHERWISE EMPTY COMPARTMENT!
Not exactly sure how to react, I flash him my "seriously?" look. His response was to say "I am lonely." Not knowing exactly what he means by this, my only reply is "Uhhh... yeah... sorry, but I LIKE to be lonely," and then I headed to the upstairs compartment. On the up-side, he was a young good-looking guy, so it's nice to know what my options are if I should ever change teams.
Karlštejn Castle is quite a hike from the train station, but I didn't mind (hey, it was nothing compared to hiking up to Petřínská Rozhledna last night!). The castle itself is nothing extravagant, but still nice. The most interesting thing about my visit here was the weather. It started out pretty crappy...
But a half hour later it's an entirely different story...
No photos were allowed inside, of course.
The castle was founded by King Charles IV of Bohemia, and one of my favorite things about my visit was learning about his patron saint, Saint Catherine. The legends about her vary, but she pretty much kicked ass all around. After converting to Christianity in her teens, she went to the Roman Emperor Maximus to try and get him to stop persecuting Christians. The Emperor refused, but was taken by Catherine's beauty, and decided she should marry his son. After meeting Catherine for the first time, the son converted to Christianity. Upset at this news, Maximus sent his wife to talk Catherine out of her foolish religious ways. But instead, Catherine converted the wife to Christianity too. Outraged, Maximus had both his son and wife sentenced to death, and decided he would marry Catherine himself. In a final effort to have her give up her faith, Maximus sent fifty wise men to Catherine in order to make her see reason. That didn't go so well, as she converted all fifty of them to Christianity too. Maximus was beside himself with rage, and sentenced all fifty wise men to death, and decreed that Catherine would be tortured and killed on a breaking wheel. Except when she touched the wheel, lightning came down from heaven and demolished it. Left with no other option, Maximus eventually beheaded her, making her a martyr and eventual saint.
When I returned to Prague, I decided to hike up to Vyšehrad Castle, which is just south of Old Town. The locals I spoke with recommended the area because it doesn't get nearly the tourist traffic of Old Town. As an added benefit, it has a bitchin' cathedral and the views are pretty sweet...
But what I liked best was the cemetery and its statues. I took quite a few shots with a wide range of exposures in the hopes that I could make some nice HDR photos from them...
After walking most of today and yesterday, I had blisters on top of blisters and my legs were aching so bad I could barely move. I decided to take a Special Pill and lay down for a couple hours to recuperate a bit. By the time I had dragged myself out of bed and wandered back into Old Town, the rain we had been promised finally arrived. As expected, Prague is every bit as beautiful when wet...
The hotel manager suggested a vegetarian restaurant called Lehká Hlava (I think it's supposed to mean "Clear Head"), which is a kind of a Mediterranean/Spanish/Mexican fusion place that was unbelievably good. So good that I would gladly fly to Prague again just to eat here. I had hummus and tortilla chips followed by a quesadilla-type dish that was out of this world...
For dessert, I had to grab me yet another Trdelník. Usually I avoid foods with the word "turd" in the name, but these are so delicious that I just can't help myself. Bread dough is wrapped around a thick stick, baked over hot coals, then dipped in a mixture of sugar, cinnamon, nuts, and toffee bits. You then unroll it to eat, and it's just as delicious as it sounds...
Since it was my final sunset in the city, I decided to take my Trdelník and walk across Charles Bridge one last time. The rain had stopped, but the cobblestone streets were still wet, which always makes for nice photos...
And now I suppose it's time to pack my suitcase. Whee.
Posted on Monday, March 29th, 2010
And so my vacation is over.
The DutchBitch dropped me off at the train station for an uneventful ride to the airport. I then had a blissfully uneventful 10-hour flight home. I'd like to say I had a blissfully uneventful drive back over the mountains, but that would be a lie. In addition to "wintery mix" blasting the mountain passes (it's a mix of snow and rain)... I nearly got into an accident twice because people apparently don't know what a Yield Sign means...
Even though it's pretty much a universal symbol meaning "STOP YOUR STUPID ASS IF TRAFFIC IS APPROACHING, BECAUSE THEY HAVE THE RIGHT OF WAY"... but while I was out of the country, apparently here in Washington State they've become merely roadside decorations you can ignore.
The first incident wasn't too spectacular. I just had to slam on my brakes to let the dumbass into my lane, even though he should have been the one stopping since he was the one with the YIELD MUTHA FUCKA! sign. The second incident was far worse, and took place as I was making the Cle-Elum turn-off from I-90...
That red line is me. After making my stop at the end of the off-ramp, I continue onward after turning left. That blue line is an oblivious douchebag who didn't even LOOK to see me already in the lane he was merging into. He blew on by the YIELD MUTHA FUCKA! sign and came gunning right at me. Not only did I have to slam on the brakes, but I had to swerve outside of my lane and then swerve back before being hit by oncoming traffic! But you know what the BEST part was? The dumbass lays on his horn when he finally notices me swerving all over the place! And it gets better! Since I was turning right and he was turning left, I pulled up alongside him WHERE HE PROCEEDED TO GIVE ME BITCHY LOOKS AND POINT HIS FINGER AT ME! Like he was calling me out or something.
It took all the self control I could muster not to ram my car into him and bust his shit, but instead I pointed at him and screamed "YOU'RE THE ONE WITH THE YIELD SIGN, ASSHOLE!" He probably couldn't hear me, but I'm pretty sure he sure got the message that HE was the one who made the mistake.
It wouldn't be me traveling if there wasn't some drama involved.
While on the plane I watched a bunch of in-flight movies to pass the time. Usually I only watch movies that I don't care about and don't want to spend the money and time to rent...
First up was "Precious, Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire". I never wanted to watch this film based on the stupid-ass title alone, but the subject matter didn't appeal to me much either. I ultimately found this movie about an abused and neglected teen a crashing bore, and ended up fast-forwarding through chunks of it. So people are horrible and life is depressing... wah! Big news. There was no break-through plot element here that made the story worth my time. I thought Gabourey Sidibe's performance was good, but not really Oscar-worthy. Mo'Nique was very good at being thoroughly reprehensible though, and probably deserved her nomination. But the break-out performances to me were actually by Paula Patton as Ms. Rain and (heaven help us) Mariah Carey as Mrs. Weiss. I may have hated the movie, but there were no denying the great acting.
I also watched The Blind Side... a movie I avoided because all these "football inspirational" stories usually bore the crap out of me. Boy was I wrong. The story of a Southern white family who takes in a black homeless student who then goes on to become a football star was definitely entertaining. Sure the "based on a true story" plot was predictable and manipulative, but the performances were all-around amazing. Sandra Bullock earned that Oscar. And who the hell knew Tim McGraw could act? I also thought that Quinton Aaron added dimension to what could have been a pretty pedestrian and straight-forward character. These kind of bland stereotypical pablum films may not be my cup of tea, but I thought it was pretty good for bring in that genre.
Next up was Pandorum, a sci-fi thriller that I knew nothing about starring Ben Foster and Dennis Quaid. The film was basically a combination of a dozen sci-fi films I've already seen before (mostly Alien and Sunshine with a little Serenity thrown in) but somehow managed to pull off the "zombies in space" idea in an entertaining way. I was happy to have seen it, but didn't think there was anything new or groundbreaking here. Had they found something unique and surprising to catapult the story out of the copycat rut they found themselves in, this could have been a home-run. I was pleasantly surprised by Ben Foster though. He always seemed so one-note in other things I've seen him in, but does a great job here.
After that was Whiteout, based on the comic book mini-series of the same name that I had never read. It's a story about the first ever murder-mystery in Antarctica, and the special circumstances such an environment creates in trying to solve it. While I enjoyed the movie well enough (I can't help myself because I love Kate Beckinsale), the limited number of characters made guessing the mystery villain and the plot-twist villain absolute child's play. I literally had everything pegged in my head fifteen minutes into the film. Still, the arctic location made for some interesting plot elements and I liked the scenery.
And then was The Invention of Lying, with one of my favorite comedians Ricky Gervais, plus Jennifer Garner, Rob Lowe, and a lot of cameos from people like Tina Fey, John Hodgman, Edward Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Jason Bateman (PLUS Jonah Hill, in the ONLY role I haven't positively hated him in!). This thinly-veiled pro-atheism film was pretty much a let-down. Sure the premise of a world where people can't lie is funny at first... but the jokes grow stale far too quickly and the internal logic just didn't hold together for me. It was a half-hour of material that was drawn-out far too long (sometimes painfully so).
And lastly there was The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Wes Anderson's epic retelling of the classic Roald Dahl children's book about a fox who craves adventure and danger... sometimes at the expense of his family and friends. I had already seen the film once, and liked it enough to watch it again. The voice cast is stellar (George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Michael Gambon, and more), the stop-motion animation sublime, and the story just bizarre and quirky enough to keep things interesting. Oddly enough, I can't imagine kids enjoying the film that much, as most of the dialogue and story elements seemed very adult to me.
And now... it's time to try and get a few hours rest. It's hard to get jet-lag when you only sleep 4-5 hours each night, but hopefully this long, long day will make me tired enough to manage some sleep.
Posted on Wednesday, March 31st, 2010
My second full day home after vacation has been fairly uneventful.
Except the weather forecast, which was sunny and warm before I left but has now turned snowy and cold. This means the local orchards have giant fans running to keep their trees from freezing. And since there are three orchards within walking distance of my bedroom, it's been like trying to sleep in the middle of a cyclone tonight.
Which is to say that I'm not able to sleep at all, so I thought I'd blog about two new apps I got for my trip while they are still fresh in my mind.
My iPhone has quickly become an essential travel tool, eliminating the need for maps, dictionaries, guidebooks, and other necessities I usually take with me. Whether I am syncing my itineraries and reservations with Tripit or looking up exchange rates with eCurrency, there always seems to be an app for whatever I need to do. The two latest tools in my travel arsenel have made my iPhone even more essential.
First up is Trip Journal. This handy app allows you to document your travels using the iPhone's built-in GPS to plot your journey and add photos and notes to places you've been (and it can keep tracking, even when data roaming is off). As if that wasn't enough, it's absolutely beautiful...
But even better... you can export your GPS tracking data to a KMZ file that can then be imported into Google Earth so you can look at your trip on your computer...
The red lines are when the iPhone was actually able to get GPS coordinates. Whenever a GPS satellite can't be located, Trip Journal just draws a black line to connect the previous point to your current location. This is kind of nice, because the GPS receiver in the iPhone is pretty weak (as you can see by the crazy-ass routes it registers when you zoom in to street level). But putting the lack of pinpoint accuracy aside, you can still see how this would be a really nice and easy way to remember all the things you saw and the places you went while on a trip.
And next up is CityMaps2Go. While not quite as nice and comprehensive as the maps you get out of the Google Maps app that's built into the iPhone, CityMaps2Go has one huge advantage... all the maps are self-contained. This means you don't have to use expensive international roaming charges to load map data. Even better, once you buy the app, you can download maps for most major cities free of charge! Before I left for my recent trip, I just grabbed maps for Brussels, Prague, and Bucharest, knowing that I'd be able to find my way around those cities without having to be gouged for downloading them over 3G...
Of course, once you're outside the bounds of the map you've downloaded, you're out of luck and will have to switch back to Google Maps. Still, considering the money I saved overall, the app is still well worth getting.
And there you have it... two more awesome reasons to have an iPhone when you travel.
Posted on Monday, April 5th, 2010
This morning when I woke up it was snowing. When I got to work it was misty. When lunch came around, there was heavy rains and hail. When I got off work the sun was shining. I wish that the weather could make up its damn mind so I know what I'm supposed to wear each day. As it is, I just have to run the gauntlet and hope that I don't end up too cold or too hot or (worst of all) too wet.
What I wouldn't give to be back in Maui right now...
TequilaCon is in less than three weeks. That will do... no matter what the weather.
Posted on Friday, April 16th, 2010
For the most part, I stayed silent on the internets today out of solidarity for the National Day of Silence. After I posted my blog entry last night, that was the end until I got home from work.
For those not in the know, the National Day of Silence is where hundreds of thousands of students nationwide take a vow of silence to bring attention to bullying and harassment of gay, lesbian, bi and transexual students in their schools. After hearing first-hand about the horrors that students can face for simply being who they are, it's a cause I am compelled to support. It's tough enough to get through those awkward school years without facing such unbearable cruelty day-in and day-out...
In entirely different news, I found this photo I took while I was in Venice, and now I am a little obsessed with going back there...
Beautiful sunsets, great food, and a new Hard Rock Cafe. What more could you want?
Posted on Saturday, April 24th, 2010
TequilaCon Day is here...
Posters from previous years are in an extended entry...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Posted on Sunday, April 25th, 2010
It's a very special TEQUILACON edition of Bullet Sunday!
• ISERT10. It all started on Friday when the TequilaCon Planning Posse met in Seattle for the drive up to this year's host city... VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA! Dubbed the International Shark Extreme Road Trip 2010 (ISERT10), it was a journey filled with wonder, good times, danger, and disappointment. The disappointment came when we realized that the Kentucky Fried Chicken DOUBLE-DOWN is illegal in Canada, and we'd miss our opportunity to feed one to Dustin so we could observe the health-deteriorating effects...
A double-cheese and bacon sandwich with fried chicken as the "bread" could only have come from the USA, and apparently Canada wants to keep it that way. After the thorough interrogation we got when crossing the border, I can't imagine the penalty afforded you if you were to attempt to smuggle a Double-Down into the country. Probably death. Or at least long-term imprisonment. Kind of like Brokedown Palace or Midnight Express... but with chicken.
• Apples. Tired from the trip up, we decided to hold off work until Saturday so we could engage in a new TequilaCon Planning Posse tradition... a game of Apples to Apples. This is, after all, how the term SHARK EXTREME was born (because when your word to judge is "Extreme" and you choose "Sharks" over "Hitler" as the most correct answer, you've pretty much laid down the law on extremeness... Jenny has the full story here). This year, I was faced with another Hitler dilemma...
This year I wasn't going to make the same mistake after somebody played The Hitler Card, but Jenny had to go and remind me of Windows Vista, so now we've added BILL GATES UNSCRUPULOUS to SHARK EXTREME in the TequilaCon slang dictionary. And, in a stranger note, Adolf Hitler just can't seem to win at Apples to Apples.
• Preparation. Saturday morning was spent prepping for the big event, with button-making being given priority over sightseeing. Sure it's a tough choice, but sometimes sacrifices must be made for the greater good...
• TEQUILACON! I don't even know what to say about this year's event. It was epic as usual. A truly wonderful bunch of people having massive amounts of fun in a wonderful welcoming atmosphere at a fantastic venue (many thanks to Jet and everybody else at Steamworks Brewing Co. who took such good care of us!). Things could only have been more perfect if Ryan Reynolds showed up with a box of TimBits and Nickelback(!) performed! There's a photo set building up on Flickr where tons of pictures will end up in a day or so, but here's just a few I took...
• SWAG! This year the SWAG (Stuff We All Get) game was elevated to an entirely new level. In addition to the bitchin' name-badge lanyards and souvenir buttons we usually get, Beth (of Copasetic Beth fame) created these amazing hats for all attendees...
Featuring the TequilaCon SHARK EXTREME logo, the hats look just incredible and added all new epicness to an already epic event. Thanks, Beth!
• Victoria. It's not really that easy to get to Victoria from Vancouver, even though technically they're pretty close. First you have a half-hour drive to the Tsawwassen Ferry Dock, a half-hour to buy tickets and load up, an hour-and-a-half to cross the Georgia Straight, and an hour bus-ride from the Swartz Bay Ferry Dock to downtown Victoria. With return, that's a seven-hour journey... it's kind of tough for a day-trip, but we decided to give it a shot because Victoria is a beautiful city and worth the effort...
It was a short trip, but a nice one...
And thus ends another TequilaCon. Until next year!
Posted on Monday, April 26th, 2010
=sigh= Back to reality.
I'm so very sad that TequilaCon is over, but ultimately happy beyond words at how amazing it was again this year. It makes me want to run out an buy lottery tickets, because I feel so lucky to have been able to attend. Thanks so much to everybody who took time out of their busy lives to join us... I hope that you had as much fun as we did!
The trip back to Seattle from Vancouver was blissfully uneventful, as we managed to cross the border with no problems. Even though we had been living out our newly-found Metalocalypse addiction and couldn't stop quoting the terrifying rock-n-roll clown Dr. Rockzo the entire way down...
I'd blog more about the trip, but I just got back from an incredible dinner with Jenny (at the fantastic Seattle institution known as Ray's Boathouse) and have had entirely too much wine to concentrate long enough to form coherent thoughts...
Beautiful photo taken from moohaha on Flickr.
And now I suppose that it's time that I get some sleep so I can return to Real Life in the morning.
Posted on Thursday, April 29th, 2010
I spent most of this evening attempting to get my travel schedule straightened out. Things have been so messed up for so long that I didn't think it would ever come together... but it kind of did. Several trips are still up in the air (heh heh heh) but the most important ones have all been booked.
As always, I've tried my best to pencil in a day where I can get some dinner and hang out with my fellow bloggers. If there's one good thing to come out of being away from home so often, that would be it. So, if you're near a town I'll be in on any of these dates and feel like meeting up, shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll get in touch with you when I can figure out a good venue...
Sometime this summer I'm supposed to make trips to Los Angeles and possibly San Francisco... so I'll post those when I can fit them in. In the meanwhile, I'm tired of looking at airline ticket sites and need some sleep.
Posted on Thursday, May 6th, 2010
Is there such a thing as "ass etiquette?"
If not, there really should be. Especially in this day and age of escalating passenger counts and increasingly limited personal space on planes. I am getting sick and tired of having people's asses in my face when I fly. It's as if people forget that they even have a stanky old ass in back, and are perfectly happy to ram it into people without a thought. Today was the absolute worst yet, as I ended up with more asses in my face than when I attended Madi Gras, and that's saying something.
From what I can tell, there are five problem areas...
• SEAT SCOOTERS!
These are the people who don't forget they have an ass... they just think that their ass is so small that they can move it through areas that they actually can't. Picture This: there I am sitting in my aisle seat when the woman next to me by the window gets up and says "let me scoot past you here!" and then proceeds to wedge her ass into my face as she makes a futile effort to work her way past my knees. Yes, I realize that it's an exit row... but I'm 6-foot-2, and it's just not going to happen. This results in my yelling "WAIT! I'LL MOVE! I'LL MOVE!!!" like a crazy person, as I scramble to unbuckle myself and get her denim-stained butt off of me. Not cool.
SOLUTION: Just ask the person blocking you to move if you need to get out. If it's a choice between having to get up or having to get ass in the face, I'm happy to move.
• AISLE TALKERS!
These are the morons who discover somebody they know on the flight, and decide that they simply MUST have an annoyingly lengthy conversation with them or else they'll fucking DIE. Unfortunately, the person they want to talk to is nowhere near their seat, so they have to stand in the aisle to talk to them. Now, this is annoying, but I have music on my iPhone, so I can drown out their stupid shit. What I can't drown out is their ass in my face, because they turn 90-degrees in the aisle to talk. This time it was particularly egregious, because the idiot decided to do bending and flexing exercises, planting his ass square into the side of my head. SO not cool.
SOLUTION: If you simply must talk to somebody from the aisle, stand in front of them with your ass pointed at the cockpit, not in the poor bastard's face across the aisle.
• KIDDIE WRANGLERS!
It's bad enough when people have to take their hyperactive brats on a flight, but it's a hundred times worse when they decide to bend over and hold their hands as they walk them up and down the aisles to keep them occupied... thus bumping their asses into every person unfortunate enough to sit in an aisle seat. NO we don't think it's adorable... we just want you to sit the fuck down and stop rubbing your asses on us! Do not want.
SOLUTION: Drug your kid, give them a bottle of whiskey, or buy them a Nintendo to play with... don't use the cabin as a Romper Room because you don't have the imagination to keep your hellspawn occupied in their seat.
• LUGGAGE OVERLOADERS!
These are the fucking pieces of shit that ignore the 1+1 rule, and decide to drag everything they fucking own down the narrow aisle to get to their seat in the back of the plane. ONE ITEM plus ONE PERSONAL ITEM does NOT mean a one suitcase plus one laptop case plus one purse plus one makeup kit plus one shopping bag plus one luggage roller plus one Kindle carrier plus one neck pillow plus one bag of takeout from McDonalds. THAT'S NINE FUCKING THINGS YOU DUMBASS MORON!! And you know how that person manages to get all that shit down the aisle? By laboriously shuffling and dragging it down the walkway, swinging their crap and their lazy asses into every aisle seat on the way down. How can you possibly watch your ass when you're having to juggle NINE pieces of shit? Well, considering they can't even count to TWO, the odds are overwhelmingly against them. Not only uncool, but incredibly douchey.
SOLUTION: Learn to fucking count and only bring the ONE fucking carry-on-sized bag and ONE fucking personal item that you're told you can bring on! That way you can pay attention to where your shit and, more importantly, your ass is ending up.
• ASS STICKERS!
These are the worst of the worst... people who inexplicably STICK THEIR ASSES IN YOUR FACE ON PURPOSE! I know it seems unbelievable, but I assure you they exist. Because some people's asses end up on you when there is absolutely NO earthly reason for them to be there. They either get some kind of perverse sexual thrill from sticking their asses where they don't belong... or just feel like being assholes with their assholes. Whatever the reason, they simply can't seem to resist putting their ass in your face. Beyond not cool and entering the realm of the ninth circle of hell.
SOLUTION: Seek therapy and don't fly. Ever.
I'm sure there are others, but these are the ones that happened to me today.
Now I should probably try to get some sleep... if I can keep from having horrible nightmares of random strangers sticking their disease-ridden asses in my face. Blergh.
Posted on Friday, May 7th, 2010
I've had several perfect days in New York City. It's not terribly difficult, because the entire world is at your feet the moment you arrive. But, in all the years I've been coming here, this is going to be the day to top.
It started with an evacuation at Times Square.
It ended with an amazing dream concert I've waited half a lifetime to see.
That concert would be a-ha's Ending on a High Note farewell tour. For better or worse, a-ha will forever be known as the "Take on Me Guys" here because they're pretty much a one-hit-wonder in the USA. Probably because most of their follow-up albums were never released here, which is a damn shame because they had some amazing music in the years that followed.
The show was, as expected, flawless. Morton Harket's stunning vocals were as good as ever as they tore through a catalog of the band's hits. Sure there were some tracks I wanted to hear that were left out, but if they had put in everything I wanted the concert would have lasted five hours.
Still, it was a brilliant performance, and made me sadder than ever that the band is breaking up...
Good bye and thanks, guys.
That's the last of my favorite 80's bands that I needed to see in concert*, so I guess my life is complete now.
Going back to the beginning, my day started in Times Square... just as they decided to evacuate it. A cooler was left at West 46th Street, and the police (wisely) decided it's better to be safe than sorry...
Things ended up being a false alarm, but it's comforting to know that the NYPD is taking no chances. I must have gotten a dozen tweets, emails, and texts from people saying things like "ARE YOU CRAZY?" and "BET YOU WISH YOU WEREN'T IN NEW YORK NOW!" or whatever. I ended up ignoring all of them because (no offense) I just don't give a crap. Travel is ALWAYS dangerous... and, yes, New York is probably more dangerous than other places I could go just this moment. But that's not going to stop me from coming back. If my options are to stop traveling to amazing places like this... or to sit in my house for the rest of my life and fret about how dangerous the world is... I'll take my chances out in the world. Because I'd rather die doing what I want to do than doing nothing at all.
Anyway, the weather was absolutely fantastic, so I scuttled my plans to visit galleries all afternoon and decided to instead just
What a great tour! Starting in the upper-left, that would be Grand Central Terminal, Rockefeller Center, Empire State Building, Radio City Music Hall, Times Square, The New York Times, FAO Schwartz, Apple Store Fifth Avenue, Madison Square Garden, New Yorker Hotel, Shake Shack, Flatiron Building, Central Park Carousel, Bethesda Terrace Landscape, The Loeb Boathouse, Bow Bridge, The High Line, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Guggenheim Museum, and Yankee Stadium. Whew... that's a lot of New York City! And I actually walked most of that, only taking the subway four times when the walk would have killed me...
The final stop of my Gowalla Tour... the Shake Shack!
The last cool thing of my day was after I had dinner following the a-ha concert. Dozens of police cars and motorcycles lined up to zoom through Times Square. It was darn impressive, and a great way to end my evening...
And tomorrow is another day.
*Unless New Order decides to get back together and tour, in which case I have one more band to go.
Posted on Saturday, May 8th, 2010
What better way to spend my last night in New York City than to meet up with good friends for dinner? After a visit to Pinkberry... Dawg, Poppy, Robyn, and I took a look at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art then wandered around the Village for a while trying not to get blown off the sidewalks by gusting winds. I don't know if the wind was better or worse than the rain that was forecast, but it certainly made the little things... like walking... an adventure.
Eventually we all ended up at Cowgirl Hall of Fame where we met up with ETinNY for Dave York 3. It was also an opportunity to hand over ETinNY's winnings from his sponsorship of "Team Therapy In The Making" for Blogathon 2009. His prize was to name a topic for a custom DaveToon print, which was "Bad Monkey on the Empire State Building," and it turned out like this...
After dinner, we moved on to a bar for drinks before saying our goodnights. I may have flown to New York City for an a-ha concert, but getting to spend time with these fantastic people is what makes me want to stay.
Betty White on Saturday Night Live.
From the minute I heard that Betty would be hosting and it coincided with my trip, I've been trying everything I can to get tickets. I called in every favor. I wrote dozens of emails. I contacted everybody with even a hint of a possibility of helping me out with my Betty White fixation. All for not. Tickets were practically impossible for mere mortals with no connections to get. And people here in NYC had been lining up since Thursday for a chance at any extras that might be released. Betty was the ticket in town, and the huge popularity of musical guest Jay-Z assured that it would be nigh impossible...
So I made due watching it live in New York, where Betty White killed on the show. She was genius from start to finish. At first I thought the addition of Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch, Ana Gasteyer, Molly Shannon, and Tina Fey would be to lighten the load on Betty, and have her appear in less sketches. Not so! Betty appeared in every sketch plus the cold open, plus Weekend Update, plus an SNL Short. And at every turn, she stole the show... saving mediocre sketches from themselves, and elevating them to something that was actually funny! Genius. I sure hope she gets an Emmy for this, as she's certainly earned it.
For years I've been saying that every television show should feature a guest-appearance by Betty White because "everything's better with Betty" and she has totally proven it tonight. Congratulations to Betty White... and SNL for exploiting her genius to the max.
And now I will try to come down off the high of two fantastic days in New York City so I can get some sleep.
Like that's going to happen.
Posted on Sunday, May 9th, 2010
I'm making a futile effort to update my non-functional blog on Bullet Sunday! Nothing is more fun than coming back from a long trip and finding out that your blogging software refuses to publish entries!
• Bridge! After spending Friday visiting every "Featured Gowalla Spot" in Manhattan (and one in The Bronx). I noticed that there were only three spots left to claim in NYC... The Statue of Liberty, JFK International Airport, and The Brooklyn Bridge. Since the three times I've visited Lady Liberty are enough, and I had no intention of going all the way out to JFK, that left me looking at The Brooklyn Bridge badge. I hadn't walked the bridge in over a decade because I always just take the subway to get to Brooklyn. But it was a beautiful day and I had time to kill, so away I went...
It was a fantastic walk, and left me wondering why I don't make time cross the Brooklyn Bridge every time I'm in New York City.
• Brooklyn! One of the best reasons to cross the Brooklyn Bridge is to have pizza from Grimaldi's...
Alas, it's rough to visit the place when you're alone because they don't sell individual slices. I probably would have ordered an entire pizza just because it tastes so good, but I didn't have two hours to hang around waiting for them to open. Instead I just wandered around the pretty tree-lined streets for a while before heading back to Manhattan...
• Spot! One goal I had for myself was to create a Gowalla Spot while I was in New York, but most of the good ones have long-since been taken. I didn't want to just pick some random business I'd never go to, but instead was looking for something a little more interesting. I finally found it when I saw that a metal sculpture honoring the Brooklyn Bridge creators on the centennial of the bridge's opening...
You can see the spot I founded over at Gowalla.
• Bagel! I ate two bagels every morning I was in New York City. When I wasn't eating bagels, I was eating slices of pizza. As I sit here writing this, it has suddenly occurred to me that I won't have another decent bagel or pizza slice until the next time I end up in New York, which could be months (years?) away. Now I am filled with dread at the thought of eating my next "bagel," which will probably not be from NYC and taste like rubberized crap. It's sad, really.
• Wind! Just like yesterday, gusting winds were ripping through the city which made air travel a bit problematic. My flight was delayed four times before I had even made it to Newark, which was a very bad thing because I had a tight connection in Seattle to catch my flight home. Ultimately we "made time up in the air" and so I was able to get to my connecting gate with three minutes to spare. Sometimes you just get lucky. Well, I usually don't, but most people do.
I miss New York already.
I'd try and fix my blog so I can publish this, but it's past midnight and I have an early day.
Posted on Thursday, May 20th, 2010
You would think that I'd be indifferent to packing a suitcase by now. I pack suitcases all year long, and have been doing so for almost two decades. On top of that, I have packing down to a science, with dozens of items pre-packed and ready to go. I can get ready for a trip of most any length in minutes if I have to (it happens). But none of this matters, because whenever I have to pack a suitcase, I go into fits of dread and loathing. I hate packing.
And it doesn't matter if I'm getting ready for an awesome vacation either. Nothing can make me happy about packing.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go pack my f#@&ing suitcase...
Posted on Monday, May 24th, 2010
How did I spend this absolutely awesome day in Chicago? A day filled with sunshine, blue skies, and unicorns running through the streets spreading laughter and magic wherever they go?
Mostly inside working.
Sure it sucks, but I did get to go to Huey's for a veggie dog, so there's that...
After I had more fun at work than I could possibly stand, a couple friends and I went out to dinner where I ate too much food I don't remember and several shots of Jägermeister that I can't remember. Then everybody wanted to go see Robin Hood at the movies but I was too wiped out so I went back to my hotel to relax.
Until I got called out for beer and pretzels.
Now I've returned to my hotel again so I can pass out from excessive alcohol and food consumption. On the way back, I stopped for a jug of milk, thinking that I had once heard it will coat your stomach and reduce the amount of alcohol your body absorbs. But then I remembered you are supposed to have the milk before you drink, so I decided to consult ASK DAVE! to see what I should do. He thought it was a good idea ("OH YEAH!") so Milk Chug it was. I wanted to know if I'd end up puking my guts out by mixing milk, Jägermeister, and beer, but ASK DAVE! just said "ASK ME LATER!" which is probably not a good thing...
I'll be sure to update this entry if I hurl up an offering to the porcelain god tonight. Heaven only knows this kind of useful information needs to be Googleable for future generations.
Posted on Tuesday, May 25th, 2010
The highlight of my day was watching Jenny eat chocolate-covered bugs.
I would have totally eaten chocolate-covered bugs too, but I'm a vegetarian.*
*Honestly, if I wasn't a vegetarian, I would have been yumming those bugs right up! Crickets? Mealworms? Grasshoppers? Bring 'em on! This has absolutely nothing to do with me being afraid of insects or wimping out. Not even a little bit.** I could totally go Survivorman on some bugs!
**Okay, maybe a little bit.*** This is all about putting bugs in your mouth and chewing them up, after all.
***Or a lot. One of those two.
Posted on Wednesday, May 26th, 2010
It was a rather nice last-day in Chicago. Weather was good. Work was good. Dinner and beer with friends was good. It's all good! So good that I almost don't want to leave.
Yet it didn't really start off that way.
This morning I woke up to the smell of... poop.
My first reaction was "YOU HAVE GOT TO BE SHITTING ME!" Mostly because I only had one beer and two margaritas at dinner last night. And since I have never crapped myself after drinking, I am guessing it would take a heck of a lot more alcohol than one beer and two margaritas to do it. But a quick investigation showed that it wasn't me or anything in my room. It was a funky smell wafting in from somewhere else. Since there was nothing I could do about it, I plugged my nose and went back to sleep.
And now I'm packing my suitcase so I can head home tomorrow. The poopy odor seems to have dissipated, so hopefully I'll fly home odor-free.
But before I leave Chi-Town, I have to take a minute to wish the Blackhawks good luck this weekend.
I first got into hockey back when I was working in Milwaukee. A friend took me to an Admirals game, and I was hooked. The problem is that the Admirals are an American League team, so following the games is difficult. But NHL games were easy to find on television, so I started keeping up with various teams. Seattle didn't have one, so I drifted for a while until I got into the Chicago Blackhawks. Since I travel to Chicago quite a lot, and my Milwaukee Admirals were just an hour-and-a-half away, it just kind of "fit."
Being a Blackhawks fan is not always easy. They usually have some great players, but they never seem to get to the playoffs. The closest they've gotten since I started watching a decade ago was last season (when they lost in finals). There was no Stanley Cup, but a glimmer of hope emerged.
And this season? They swept the San Jose Sharks in playoffs on Sunday and will battle the Philadelphia Flyers for the Stanley Cup starting this weekend!
And goodbye Chicago. I should be seeing you again soon.
Posted on Tuesday, June 8th, 2010
I was having such a good day at work today. Until I made the mistake of driving back to my hotel at the end of the day.
Seattle is kind of a unique for a major city (so far as traffic goes) because it is surrounded by water on three sides. To alleviate traffic jams, most cities expand outward and build a ring road or something... but that's an option Seattle just doesn't have. For better or worse, the city is pretty much stuck with what they've got. Sure it presents some challenges and frustrations, but it is what it is, and locals pretty much deal with it the best they can...
Puget Sound (Elliott Bay) to the West. Lake Washington to the East. Lake Union to the North.
A key part of the Seattle transportation system is the Alaskan Way Viaduct. It runs along Elliott Bay (of Puget Sound) at the Western edge of the city. It's a double-decker affair with southbound traffic on the lower level, and northbound on the upper deck. You can see it on the map above... it's the yellow line to the left of where it says "Seattle."
Driving the viaduct can be tricky business because the lanes are quite narrow. This means drivers are always on high alert since you just never know when a truck is going to come barreling by and drift into your lane.
When you are heading north into the city you exit off a ramp that runs into Seneca Street...
At the end of the ramp you have the option of turning left onto 1st Avenue, which is exactly what I wanted to do because that's how I get to my hotel. Today when I exited there was a big Chevy Suburban SUV ahead of me. Because somebody was crossing the street, they had to wait in the intersection. Not wanting to block traffic if the light turned red, I hung back just a little bit so I could wait my turn...
So far so good.
But then some random asshole comes screaming up behind me and IMMEDIATELY starts laying on his horn...
WHAT THE FUCK?!?
It's not like he couldn't see the fucking huge-ass Suburban blocking me... he HAD to have seen it. With that in mind, what the hell was his reasoning to honk at us? Even if he didn't see the pedestrian in the sidewalk, he should have at least expected that we were waiting for SOMETHING! It's not like we were just sitting there for the fun of it. Besides, WHERE IN THE HELL AM I SUPPOSED TO GO? Am I just supposed to run over a Suburban AND a pedestrian to make this prick happy?
I can only guess that this particular asshole is one of those people who automatically lays on the horn the minute he runs across something blocking his path... whether it's deserved or not.
I fucking HATE these idiots.
In the interest in maintaining a civil society, it should be legal to pull out a gun and just unload on their rude, stupid asses. They have no place... NO PLACE... living amongst sane, rational, well-mannered people... let alone driving amongst us.
And now my day has been ruined.
To make myself feel better, I am going to go drink beer now.
Posted on Thursday, June 10th, 2010
And I'm off...
With company like The Bitch Who is Dutch and The Lady Who is Penelope, everybody pray I survive the weekend!
Posted on Friday, June 11th, 2010
And so here I am in DutchyLand.
There was a bit of an adventure leading up to this moment, because my airport hotel caught on fire at 11:45pm last night. Except not really... it ended up being a false alarm that caused the entire hotel to be evacuated for 30 minutes. The alarm was a continuous piercing shriek that gave me an instant headache of massive proportions. This made getting any sleep a total impossibility. Which is a lovely thing to have happen before hopping on an airplane for nine hours...
So I haven't slept in two days, and still have a full day ahead of me.
Yay! I'm a zombie! Again!
After landing, The DutchBitch and Lady Penelope picked me up for a trip to the city of Alkmaar, where they have a famous cheese market and cheese museum. As a lover of all things cheese, I had been dying to go for years, and the ladies were nice enough to indulge me.
As were were making our way through Alkmaar Centraal, I started noticing these badges embedded in the street...
This was very confusing to me, because it looked like an invitation for you to let your dog take a shit here. I asked DutchBitch about it, and she said that the red ring indicates that the action within is FORBIDDEN.
Back in the USA, the sign would look like this...
Alkmaar has a serious dog shit problem, so they should put more of these signs up. Perhaps if they switched to the American version, it would help make things more clear?
In any event, I'd think what Alkmaar really needs to worry about is this...
Because eating too much cheese can definitely have unpleasant effects on a person's digestive system.
The Cheese Market itself is fun. They have a kind of reenactment you can watch with cheese runners and the whole bit...
Behind the festivities is a beautiful Cheese Museum that shows a lot of cheese history and cheese-making stuff. You ever get a view down to the market...
But the most IMPORTANT thing about the Cheese Museum at Alkmaar is that you get a free sample of cheese! Because the cheese is free, it's undoubtedly the cheapest, crappiest cheese Dutch Euros can buy... but it still kicks the shit out of 95% of the cheese you can buy in the USA.
Lunch, of course, consisted of an Old Cheese Sandwich and Patatjes Met. Which is about my favorite lunch on earth when freshly made in the Netherlands...
Hooray for cheese!
Posted on Saturday, June 12th, 2010
And so the event I traveled 5000 miles (8000 kilometers) to attend, finally arrived... BITCHSTERDAM 2! As expected, it was well-worth the trip, and everybody had an awesome time. Just another reminder why I love blogger meet-ups so much!
As it was a beautiful day in the Netherlands, we decided to head into Amsterdam early and play tourist (even though The DutchBitch is a native and Lady Penelope and I have been here many times). It's such a beautiful city with so many things to do, that it would be a crime not to spend some time exploring. Eventually decided on a canal boat tour...
Since the Lady Penelope had never been to the Red Light District, we wandered through the neighborhood for a while. I've only ever seen it at night, and it was an entirely different experience in the daytime...
Along the canal in the Red Light District is actually quite beautiful in the daylight, as all the seedier elements are not so noticeable...
Throughout the Netherlands everybody has World Cup fever. It's a bit difficult to explain to Americans, except to equate it to the Super Bowl (if the Super Bowl took place once every four years and the entire world was competing for a spot to play in it)...
England was expected to wipe the floor with the USA in today's match, and the English were having a big laugh at the anticipated beating they were most certainly going to dish out to us. Unfortunately, things didn't go as planned, and the Americans managed to hold England to a tie game of 1-1. Many tears of agony were shed in Blighty, I'm sure. A really good recap to explain it all is over at the BBC.
After goofing about Amsterdam for a few hours, we headed to the Hard Rock Cafe early so we could have a few drinks while waiting for Bitchsterdam to ensue. The scenery at Max Euweplein was... interesting... to say the least...
I'll leave the Bitchsterdam recap and photos to DutchBitch but, suffice to say, we all had a lot of fun. Many Euros were spent to make sure of it...
A big shout-out to Blogography reader Erik who was kind enough to come over and say "hello." He was sitting at the next table with his friends, and somehow managed to recognize me in my drunken state!
After Bitchsterdam had ended, we were walking back to the car park when we saw a drunken barefoot man kicking his shoe across the street. A motorcycle police officer was keeping a careful eye out, and went to question the man, who replied "What the fuck do you want?!?" Much to his credit, the police officer let the man go on his way... even when he shoved his shoe down the storm drain...
But then the drunk man decided to do some property damage by trying to tear out a street sign. This was something the the police officer could not ignore, and the result was obvious to everybody except the drunk guy...
Backup forces arrived in the form of two beautiful lady cops in a squad car, who were apparently signing autographs while the drunk guy got hauled off in a van...
Bravo to the Amsterdam Police, who were incredibly calm, cool, collected, and reserved in trying to keep everybody safe! And bravo to drunk guy for giving us some post-Bitchsterdam entertainment!
And bravo to DutchBitch for an awesome day!
Posted on Sunday, June 13th, 2010
It's Bullet Sunday from Berlin! I have to get up early tomorrow for work, so I'll post today's adventures in Deutschland tomorrow. In the meanwhile... on with the bullets...
• Presidential! As always, I'm fascinated by foreign Americana I find when traveling abroad. Even though most of it is critical, it's almost always entertaining. Like this drawing of Presidents Reagan, Clinton, and Bush...
Each is captured perfectly, but it's the bulge in Clinton's pants that makes it art.
• Dieter! Damn. If only I could get back to Berlin at the end of August for what is sure to be THE concert event of the year! I bet Dieter gets all the chicks. Just look at this über-hot bastard...
I haven't seen a music personality this impressive since Gunther!
• Sweet! Finally... FINALLY... I found a Double Fahrt photo for my ongoing Fahrt Collection...
Here's hoping a Triple Fahrt is in my future sometime soon.
• Video! I'm beginning to wonder how long it will be before it's impossible to avoid being under video surveillance in public areas...
What's astounding to me is that even though signs like this are everywhere, so are signs of vandalism and crime. I wouldn't mind having people watching me all the time if it were doing something to make us all safer, but I never get the feeling it is.
• Service? AT&T likes to brag about their awesome world-wide coverage but, from what I've recently experienced, they're full of shit. Many times I could not use data services... even at important places like Berlin's main train station. Nothing quite like relying on your phone to get at your hotel reservation and a map of how to get there, only to find out you can't get to either. In the countryside of the Netherlands and Germany, I was lucky to get any kind of service at all (even when the Dutch and Germans were happily chatting away on their phones). This sucks even worse. FAIL!...
This probably has something to do with AT&T not having established roaming partnerships with companies providing service at these places, which means absolutely nothing to customers expecting to make phone calls there. Sure I am grateful for the amazing technology that makes personal global communication a reality, but this is bullshit.
• Spotted! Gowalla recently added "Event Spots" which allow you to create temporary check-in Spots for weddings, conferences, parties, birthdays... and even blogger meet-ups, like the one we created for Bitchsterdam 2...
The cool thing about this is that you can post photos and notes so you have an online record of your event that people can check out. Unfortunately, however, the photos must be shot and uploaded live. You can't post saved or transferred images. Given that my iPhone 3GS doesn't have a flash, this makes it almost impossible to post anything decent. Hopefully as mobile phone cameras continue to get better, this will be a much more useful feature.
And that brings yet another Bullet Sunday to a close. Tomorrow it's back to Amsterdam. The day after that it's back home.
It seems like I just got here.
Posted on Monday, June 14th, 2010
Since I knew I'd be busy this morning, I did most of my exploring when I got into the city yesterday evening. I've been to Berlin three times before, but really only played tourist the first time. Unfortunately, most of my photos from that visit have disappeared, so I my main goal was to revisit the places I had been previously and snap some pictures to retroactively fill in the blanks. This included such spots as the Kaiser-Wilhelm Memorial Church, Brandenburg Gate, St. Hedwig Cathedral, Gendarmenmarkt, Checkpoint Charlie, etcetera etcetera...
I also added the Holocaust Memorial, which I hadn't seen before...
Another new sight in the city... iPad advertisements. I am not exaggerating when I say that it is impossible to walk anywhere in Berlin and not have iPad staring at you. The ad-buy must have been hugely expensive, but there's no denying the effectiveness of covering every available space on streets, train stations, bus stops, and even multiple buildings with iPad...
And, of course, I had to make time for the new Hard Rock Cafe, which has been moved to a much better location right on the Kurfürstendamm. Despite being one of the newer-style "lacking-in-memorabilia-hipster-lounge-type" properties, I have to admit it's very nice. Not to say it couldn't use a bunch more cool pieces of memorabilia to make it a real Hard Rock... it definitely could... but so far as restaurants go, it's pretty sweet...
Just as in the Netherlands, World Cup Fever is crazy-serious in Berlin. Most of the Germany supporters restrain themselves to face-paint, hats, flags, and the occasional horn-blowing. Those supporting teams outside of Germany are an entirely different animal. They drive through the streets screaming their heads off and honking their horns continuously. I understand team-spirit, but it's fucking annoying to be subjected to this crap. The biggest offender seemed to be Ghana (who ended up winning their game 1-0, so maybe being annoying works)...
Germany won their match 4-0 against Australia, so there were many happy celebrations in the streets of Berlin. Somehow, I still managed to get a good night's sleep.
After finishing work this morning, I wanted to go to the Gemäldegalerie Museum (housing many amazing works of art from the European Masters), but it's closed on Monday. Instead I wandered back to Brandenberger Tor to see if I could get a better photo of the Quadriga sculpture that sits on top...
Mission accomplished. All that was left was to head back to Berlin Hauptbahnhof (Main Train Station) for my trip back to Amsterdam. The beautiful glass and steel structure makes it hard to take a bad photo of the place...
One of the best parts of being in Germany is eating Spritzringe donuts (of which I am a big fan). It doesn't get much better than that!
Or does it? Because this time I happened across MINI-SPRITZRINGE!!!...
Cutest. Donut. Ever.
Four days in Europe hardly seems adequate, but that's all she wrote for me this time.
Posted on Wednesday, June 16th, 2010
Usually I take the direct Amsterdam to Seattle flight at 10:15am, arriving 11:25am. But since I didn't know my schedule in Berlin when I bought my plane tickets, I opted for a later flight via Minneapolis that leaves Amsterdam at 1:25pm and arrives in Seattle at a gut-wrenching 7:19pm... a full five hours of extra travel time.
At which point I have to drive 2-1/2 hours to get home.
Usually the drive is no big deal, but yesterday it became one by the time I left the airport at 8:00pm completely exhausted. Things were further drawn out when I stopped 45 minutes outside of Seattle in North Bend at the Mt. Si Shell Station (pronounced "Mount Sigh") to fuel up.
I only mention this because the gas station is across the street from the Mt. Si Chevron Station, which is the place that Sandra Bullock disappeared without a trace in the Jeff Bridges/Kiefer Sutherland thriller The Vanishing. This was a crappy remake of a pretty good Dutch movie called Spoorloos, but with the customary Hollywood "happy ending" slapped on to ruin the film. Well, it was actually ruined before the ending, but that's what I remember disappointing me most...
Speaking of movies, I rather liked the film The Young Victoria that was playing on-demand during my flight home...
This was surprising to me, because usually I can't stand weepy period romance films. But this was something entirely different, with politics and power playing a bigger role than romance. If that wasn't enough, the production values and performances were all top-notch. Emily Blunt has come a long way since The Devil Wears Prada... which is kind of incredible when you consider the movies were only two years apart!
And now I suppose I should get back to work. I seem to be buried again.
Posted on Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010
Today's word in the TWENTY/TWENTY meme is ANCIENT!
This is kind of cool, because I'm a bit obsessed with seeing the "Seven Wonders of the Ancient World"... which is mostly impossible, because many of them don't exist any more. In an attempt to rectify this, they came up with the "Seven Wonders of the Medieval World," which is kind of crazy because some sites (like Stonehenge) vastly predate structures in the "ancient" list (like The Great Wall of China). But oh well.
Of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, I've been to the Pyramids at Giza and the site of the Statue of Zeus at Olympia (now just ruins)...
Of the Seven Wonders of the Medieval World, I've been to Stonehenge, The Great Wall of China, The Colosseum, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and The Hagia Sophia...
I don't know exactly where The Taj Mahal and Machu Picchu fit into the scheme of things on these lists, but they would be my next choices to visit.
In other news, one of my favorite television shows, Tales of the Gold Monkey, was released on DVD two weeks ago and I finally got around to watching it. The good news is that it totally holds up nearly twenty years later. In fact, with the exception of rubber monkey suits in the two-hour pilot, I'd say it's just as fresh and entertaining as it was back in 1982...
Tales of the Gold Monkey is set in the South Pacific in the days prior to World War II circa 1938. The show stars Stephen Collins as "Jake Cutter," an ex-Flying Tiger who has become a cargo pilot based on the fictitious island of Bora Gora. Plenty of intrigue, espionage, and adventure ensues, and it's a lot of fun. Highly recommended.
Posted on Friday, June 25th, 2010
Today's word in the TWENTY/TWENTY meme is "Spy."
I had to really wrack my brain on this one, because it's not like I know a lot of spies to take their photographs. Eventually I decided to find something vaguely James Bond-ish in my photo library and make it work. Then, just as I was starting to look, I remembered that I had a photo that was totally James Bond... namely, my visit to "James Bond Island" in Phang Nga, Thailand...
The real name of the island is "Ko Khao Phing Kan" and the skinny rock there where the evil Bond villain, Scaramanga, mounted his Solex weapon is actually called "Ko Tapu" or "Nail Island." My brother and I took a boat there while visiting Phuket in South Thailand. It was a very cool trip, because the scenery was pretty incredible...
Wow. I really need to go back one of these days.
In other news, I had pancakes for dinner. They were crazy-delicious.
Posted on Thursday, July 1st, 2010
You know, the next time I participate in a meme that requires using my iTunes library, somebody please remind me to delete Duran Duran's Love Voodoo. I like the song, but it's always popping up and screwing me on these meme things.
Or maybe not, because I actually have a really good voodoo story to tell. And, though you will probably not believe a word of it, I swear on my iPhone that it's all true.
Back in 1983, I won a regional high school DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America) competition that sent me to the nationals competition in New Orleans. Unsupervised. This made for a very interesting trip. But, oddly enough, the most interesting thing to happen did not involve drinking, partying, or sex. It involved voodoo. Real voodoo.
It all happened while I was souvenir shopping on my last day with some friends I had made at the competition. One of the girls had found a shop advertising "love potions" and didn't want to visit alone, so I went with her. As we wandered the shop, I saw some cool writing on little scrolls that were tied to some tree bark. They looked like some kind of good luck charm or something, so I decided to buy one as a souvenir. When I asked the odd lady behind the shop counter about it, she asked me what I wanted it for. "Uhhh... what?" I queried. She rolled her eyes and said "for what you want... love, luck, protection, money... whatever you want!" I couldn't make up my mind, but then something occurred to me... "can you get rid of warts with one of those things?" The woman said "for ten dollars!" without batting an eye. That was pretty pricey for a souvenir back then, but it looked cool, authentic, and unique, so I said yes...
...mostly because I had spent the past dozen years struggling with a few warts between the fingers on my right hand. They had been frozen off, cut out, and medicated with everything the doctor could think of, but they always came back. I didn't believe in voodoo or witchcraft or whatever but, so long as I was buying a souvenir, the least I could do was curse my warts while doing so. After explaining the situation, the shop lady told me she needed some of my hair (which she cut a small bit off my head) and that I was to come back in one hour. I wasn't expecting a wait, but I agreed.
And when I returned sixty minutes later I was shown the "voodoo charm" (or whatever) she had made me, and it was wicked-cool. I was certainly going to get my $10 worth, and so I handed the money over with a smile. That's when the woman grabbed the piece she had made... AND LIT IT ON FIRE WITH A CANDLE! That's right... the souvenir I just bought was burning. Not knowing what to do, I just stood there for a minute as my ten bucks went up in smoke. Eventually the woman gave me a look that said "you're welcome!" so I left the shop dazed and confused.
The next afternoon I was shuttled to the airport so I could catch my flight home. As I was taking my seat, I happened to notice something strange about my hand. The never-ending warts were GONE! All of them. Overnight. No bullshit. No lie.
And I've been wart-free ever since. Believe it or not.
And now, since I need a photo I took for this meme, I present "Voodoo Man" from the delicious Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland, Oregon...
And now I want a donut.
In other news, HAPPY CANADA DAY to my friends in the Great White North...
Hope everybody had a good one!
Posted on Saturday, July 3rd, 2010
Today's word in the TWENTY/TWENTY meme is "mystery."
Mysteries don't interest me much. Sure I like an occasional film or book with mysterious elements... but when it comes to the grand scheme of things, there's no burning desire in me to seek out mysteries and solve them. This is unfortunate, because ancient mysteries seem to be a big tourist attraction no matter where I go. Over the years I've been to a lot of so-called "mysterious places," and appreciate them as interesting remnants of the past, but that's about it.
Places like Newgrange...
And, of course, the Egyptian Pyramids...
But the mysteries surrounding these places pale in comparison to a modern-day mystery that is going on right now... how in the hell can a film which has a romantic triangle involving a choice between necrophilia and bestiality be considered "romantic?" I've never understood the fervor surrounding all this Twilight bullshit, but the whole "Team Edward vs. Team Jacob" crap has me completely baffled...
Stupidest vampire and werewolf ever. Where's Professor Van Helsing when you need him?
In other news... I like the way that my iTunes "Genius Mixes" arranges Third Eye Blind's Blue on top of Eve6's Horrorscope in order to paint in the top of the manga babe's head... WITH FIRE!!
Bwah ha ha haaa! Sweet!
Posted on Monday, July 5th, 2010
Today's word in the TWENTY/TWENTY meme is "promises."
About the only promise I feel like making right now is that I will never, ever eat another Hot Pockets product again. Last night after eating their Three Cheese "Stuffed Crust Pizzeria" pockets for dinner, I ended up about as sick as I've ever been. It was if my insides decided to explode non-stop from both ends, with paralyzing cramping as a bonus. I felt like I was going to die which, given the agony I was enduring, would have been a blessing...
I was still not fully recovered this morning. So I guess what they say about Hot Pockets is true. So horrible.
Anyway... this is supposed to be a photo meme, so here you go...
This is a photo of Master Fortune Teller I visited in Hong Kong Central. I asked him how long it would be before I returned to Hong Kong, to which he promised "next year."
That was in 2005.
I haven't been back since.
So much for promises.
Which is a shame, because I really like Hong Kong, and would very much like to visit again. If, for no other reason, so I could eat buttery McCorn and FRIED McPies again...
Mmmmmm... FRIED McPies!
Posted on Wednesday, July 7th, 2010
Today's word in the TWENTY/TWENTY meme is "move."
I spent most of my day moving... down the highway... so this was an easy one.
Usually, I drive over the day before I have work in Spokane, spend the night, then start fresh in the morning. But time is so scarce now-a-days that I couldn't afford to do that. So I drove three hours over. Worked for 25 minutes. Ate at David's Pizza for 20 minutes. Then drove three hours back home. All in one day. It's not an ideal situation, but the work is critical and must be performed in person, so whatcha gonna do?
I constructed a rig out of an old GPS window mount to hold my iPhone. I then use a photo app that lets me take a photo with a simple tap to the screen. This allows me to easily snap photos of my journey safely, since I don't need to look at the display to shoot. Occasionally I stop and relocate the mount to my side window just to mix things up. Most of the photos end up looking like crap, because they're not composed in any way, but I do end up with enough shots to tell a story of my day...
In other news... I finally got around to watching The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo tonight...
Hands down one of the best films I've seen in quite a while.
And I'm including the awesome MacGruber, so you know I'm serious.
The Swedish film is actually called Män som hatar kvinnor ("Men who hate women" in English) but it's based on Stieg Larsson's 2005 book The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. In some ways, the movie title is more appropriate, because the story has some rather shocking violence in it. Fortunately, it's anything but gratuitous, and serves a very necessary purpose to the plot (a shamed journalist is hired to solve a 40-year-old murder where things aren't as they seem, and gets help from a remarkable and unexpected ally).
It also has one of the best revenge scenarios I've seen since Kill Bill.
What's amazing is that the two sequel novels in the "Millennium Trilogy"... The Girl Who Played with Fire (2006) and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest (2007) have already been filmed. In fact, remarkably, all three books were filmed as a six-part mini-series for Swedish television and aired in 2009. Apparently, both sequels are coming to the USA this year as a theatrical release in bigger cities first, then on video at the end of the year. Sweet!
Due to the massive success of the books here, Hollywood is planning American adaptations, with actors like Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, and George Clooney rumored as leads. It's an interesting idea (though central plot elements seem like they'd need changing if the story is relocated domestically), but the originals are so good that it seems a bit pointless. Unless you factor in American's hatred of reading subtitles, in which case it makes perfect sense. Oh well.
In any event, if you can handle a bit of violence and can read subtitles, the movie is worth a look. If you're a Netflix customer, you can even watch it instantly!
Posted on Friday, July 9th, 2010
Today's word in the TWENTY/TWENTY meme is "many."
After this weekend, it's all over. I'll either complete my many projects before Monday's deadline and emerge victorious... or I will crash and burn horribly and be buried beneath the wreckage.
Except I'm mostly done, so victory is pretty much assured. I've been killing myself for the past three weeks, so victory had better be assured.
When thinking about what photos to use for today's word, I didn't even have to dig. A series of photos I took while in Shanghai immediately came to mind, as I remembered the many red ribbons decorating the city.
Most of the time they're in a wishing tree. People write their desires on a ribbon, tie it to a coin, then toss it into the tree as an offering to the nature spirit living there to grant their wish. My favorite was this beautiful golden tree at the Yuyuan Market Street...
But you can also find them tied around temples on statues, doors, trees, and such...
So many wishes.
I wonder how many of them come true?
In other news, I've decided to re-read James Clavell's Noble House for the millionth time once I'm caught up on Monday. I've been thinking about it ever since I posted that photo from Hong Kong four days ago, and posting photos from China today has only confirmed it. I never tire of reading the thing...
Ooh... time for cookies in bed!
Posted on Tuesday, July 13th, 2010
Today I had an early start with a job in Seattle, so I drove over last night to avoid having to get up at 5:00am this morning. My thinking was that I could have a nice dinner, get a haircut, then check into a hotel and relax... getting to wake up at 7:30am instead.
It was a good plan.
Except this is me we're talking about. let's have a quick run-down of my previous five hotel visits...
And now last night?
I had just checked in and was exhausted from the drive. So I decided to take a quick nap before going out for a late dinner and retrieving my suitcase from the truck of my car. First thing I did was remove my pants so they wouldn't get wrinkled. Then I went to the bathroom.
Which is not something I would usually feel the need to share, except...
=BZZZZZZZ-CLICK= No power.
Fortunately I had dropped my iPhone on the bathroom counter, because my room was now pitch black. And peeing by the light of your iPhone beats peeing in the dark (there's an app for that). Once that was taken care of, I felt my way back to the bed and waited for the power to come back on. But it didn't. So I spent the next 20 minutes on my hands and knees using my iPhone as a flashlight to try and find my pants so I could leave.
Except I couldn't find my pants.
So for the next hour I occupied myself with my iPhone and a dying battery.
Finally, I heard people in the hallway and saw a light under the door. It was then that I did something I never thought I'd do... open the door in my underwear and ask a guy to shine his light in my room so I could find my pants.
Which were draped across the television for some reason.
Now that I had pants, I made my way out to my car so I could retrieve my suitcase. And the leftover Mrs. Fields' Cookies I bought to tide me over until dinner... which suddenly became my dinner, because it seemed way too late to go out to eat.
Then, just as I was falling asleep...
=BZZZZZZZ-CLICK= The power comes back on.
Along with every light in my room. Just try getting back to sleep after that.
After my morning appointment, I went back to the hotel so I could check out. As expected, there was no apology. No asking how my stay was. No sympathetic "sorry for the power outage last night." Nothing. Time was I'd have been offered some kind of compensation... like money off my bill... or a discount on my next stay... or a free meal coupon... or, at the very least, an apology. Because, for better or worse, even if it's not their fault, situations like this reflect poorly on the hotel and it's in their best interest to keep their customers happy.
Or at least it was.
Not so long ago.
Business travel is most decidedly not like it used to be.
But I did stop at IKEA for some fresh Cinnamon Buns and a new supply of Swedish Fish candies before driving home... so I guess my trip wasn't ALL bad.
Posted on Saturday, July 17th, 2010
Hooray! Today is Disneyland's 55th birthday!
When I was a kid growing up, Disneyland was the be-all, end-all of my existence. I wanted nothing more to visit the place since the first day I heard about it. When I finally got to go, it was everything I dreamed it would be. From the minute I walked through the gate, got my hands on that booklet of ride coupons, and gazed upon the majesty of the E-Ticket, I never wanted to leave. And, in my head at least, I never did.
Since then I've returned to the park many times. With each visit a little more of the magic wears off, but the memories of that first visit still bring the magic. Even though Disneyland seems so small compared to when I was a kid. Even though there's no more E-Tickets. Even though everything is over-commercialized to the point of nausea. Even though they got rid of The Country Bear Jamboree and Adventure to Inner Space. Even though the cost of entry now requires selling body parts to be able to afford going.
I was going through my old Disneyland photos this morning and saw so many changes. My first visit, there was a bucket "Skyway" ride that you could take from Fantasyland to Tomorrowland that ran right through The Matterhorn. In the 1990's the Skyway closed, but the cables remained. Today they're gone, and the holes have been camouflaged or closed...
Wikimedia Commons inset photo by Carterhawk.
Tomorrowland has changed the most over the years. It used to be the "hard science of the future" that governed the look and feel of the land... but was changes to more of a "fantasy science of the future" in 1998. Some changes, like converting the NASA-inspired Rocket Jets to the more retro-futuristic Astro Orbiter were perfectly understandable. Other changes, like the covering over of Mary Blair's beautiful tile mural, were harder to take...
Wikimedia Commons inset photo by Carterhawk.
Some things leave only to come back again. Like the Captain EO 3D Movie. I first saw it just months after it had opened in 1986. I last saw it just weeks before it closed in 1997. Now it's making a limited engagement return as Captain EO: TRIBUTE in honor of Michael Jackson's death. Something tells me it won't hold up very well, but I still hope to see it if I can squeeze a Disney trip into my schedule...
Inset photo from EndorExpress.
But change is what keeps Disneyland interesting, and lives up to Walt Disney's vision of the park never being finished. It also gives us great new adventures like Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye and Star Tours and Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage! I can't wait to see what comes next...
Happy birthday, Disneyland!
Posted on Tuesday, July 20th, 2010
At some point, I lost the ability to swallow pills.
Don't ask me when, how, or why it happened... all I know is that in the past week I've ended up with a pill stuck in my throat every time I've attempted to swallow one. I then spend the next several hours eating bread and drinking water in a feeble attempt at forcing it down as it slowly disolves... leaving a godawful taste in the back of my mouth. I suppose my next step is to smash them up and mix them with apple sauce... or, better yet, vodka... to hopefully fool my body into not rejecting them.
Which pretty much regresses me to a small child.
Or a dog.
Perhaps I should hide the pill in peanut butter and put it on the end of my nose so I can lick it off. Dogs seem to love that.
I can only imagine that an inability to control when I poop will be next. Which is fine. They make diapers in adult sizes now, and I'm tired of having to get up and go to the bathroom anyway. All I need to do is find somebody to change me from time to time, and I'm good to go.
In other news nobody cares about, I unpacked my new desk lamp today! The springs in my old one had rendered it a floppy, useless mess, so I finally remembered to pick up a new one when I was at IKEA buying Swedish Fish candy last week. I went with good ol' TERTIAL because HUSVIK was too expensive and ANTIFONI was too small. The one I really wanted was MÖRKER, just because it had the coolest IKEA name ever, but it wasn't a swing lamp. I think I'll call my lamp "MÖRKER" anyway, just because I like the name. Now I wants me a GRÖNÖ to go with it.
Most of my evening was spent dutifully packing four separate bags for my FIVE upcoming back-to-back trips. I tried to get one night at home in-between all that, but the closest I could get was Seattle. So now I'll be flying back to the airport for an overnighter just long enough to swap luggage. How I'm going to manage criss-crossing the country for the next two weeks and still keep my sanity is a mystery at this point. I'm just too tired to fight it.
There's probably a pill for that, but I couldn't swallow it since I'm out of apple sauce and vodka.
Posted on Wednesday, July 21st, 2010
The drive over to SeaTac was excruciating. It always is any more. I spend most of the trip screaming my head off because too many stupid people are doing too many stupid things and my rage goes into overload. Morons driving ten miles under the speed limit. Idiots wandering all over the road (probably texting). Dumbasses cutting in front of me. It goes on and on.
But the biggest offense, by far is fucktards driving in the passing lane, as I've mentioned a couple times before...
Exactly how difficult is it for dumbass motorists to comprehend signs like these...
I mean, it's pretty self-explanatory. If you are not passing anybody, DON'T FUCKING DRIVE IN THE LEFT-HAND PASSING LANE!! And yet every damn time I have to drive to Seattle, I inevitable run into idiots who either can't comprehend this, or just don't care. I am of the serious opinion that if you have to pass one of these fuckers on the right-hand side, you should be allowed to follow them home, firebomb their car, and then impale them... by shoving the sign pole up their stupid ass...
Seriously. If you won't obey the law and learn how to drive properly, then get the hell off the road.
And my travels have only just begun...
If this is only Day One and I'm this uptight, I can't imagine what I'm going to be like when I finally return home.
Probably homicidal. Certainly insane. And there's a 50-50 chance of an armageddon-level event along the way, I'm sure.
Posted on Thursday, July 22nd, 2010
I got to the airport two hours early this morning because I wanted to have breakfast. Thanks to two screw-ups at the check-in counter* and outrageous waits at airport security**, I made it to the gate just as they started boarding. I didn't get to even so much as sniff breakfast, and ended up raiding the snack basket on the plane. If you can call Sun-Chips, Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, and a Twix bar breakfast, then I guess I had breakfast after all.
The flight from Seattle to Salt Lake City was fine. Pleasant even. But the flight from SLC to San Diego had such a dense concentration of self-important assholes in First Class that it never seemed to end. I will never, ever, get over the self-entitlement so many First Class passengers have... especially since 90% of them are getting their First Class seat as a FREE UPGRADE. They are not the least bit grateful for the nicer food, personal service, and extra legroom they got AT NO EXTRA CHARGE, all they do is make demands, be rude to the flight attendants, and bitch about everything. It is horrible and embarrassing, and I don't know how people working the flight can stand it... except it's their job and they have to.
A couple days ago I heard that the new Hard Rock Cafe Hollywood*** had finally opened up. This was important news, because it meant a quick drive up from San Diego would allow me to check another property off my list, putting my Hard Rock Total at 129. Never mind that I only had two hours of sleep and was near exhaustion... nothing brightens up your day and fills you with energy more than battling L.A. traffic for hours on end!
Other than a truck accident that halted traffic entirely on I-5 near Norwalk, and the usual gridlock on the 101 into Hollywood, the drive up wasn't bad at all. 2-1/2 hours, as expected. The Hard Rock Hollywood is one of the "new-style" (i.e. "boring") cafes with entirely too little rock memorabilia and waaayyy too much blank wall space, which sucks. But the staff was great... AND I got to have dinner with Amanda, which was awesome!
The drive BACK, however, was horrendous. I waited to leave until 6:30, hoping most of the southbound traffic would be over by then. For reasons I can't fathom, it still took me 3-1/2 hours to get back to San Diego. That's better than the 3 hours 52 minutes Google Maps was predicting, but still. Argh. Driving in SoCal is an exercise in patience and futility. When I was working here over a decade ago, I adapted to the rhythm and flow of SoCal traffic fairly easily. Mostly because you have to. If you don't, you go insane. Today I just can't adapt anymore. Even when you see funny-crazy-cool stuff on the road that only seems to happen in L.A. — IT'S DOMO-KUN!!!
One thing that never seems to change in SoCal driving is the speed. I love how I'll be cruising down the highway in a pack of cars, then run across some people driving too slow, forcing everybody to deaccellerate. That's when I start screaming "OH, COME ON!!!" and get all pissed off because traffic is slow, only to look down at the speedometer and see that the "slow" I'm now going is 80 miles per hour. It's bizarre how I seem to lose all sense of speed in SoCal... except when I'm forced to slow down.
Now I suppose I really should get some sleep. But first it's time to update my travel map (for people who asked, the greyed-out States are States I haven't been to yet)...
Tomorrow... Comic Con...
* NOTE TO AIRLINES... The whole point of a digital boarding pass is that there's no paper involved. Making your customers print out a paper boarding pass defeats the entire purpose, and is beyond stupid. If you're not going to deal with digital boarding passes... STOP OFFERING THEM!! Especially if you are going to make your customers stand in line twice to get something they shouldn't need in the first place.
** I am super serial here... any wait longer than 30 minutes to clear airport security is complete and total FAIL! Any wait over an hour is categorically absurd, and somebody needs to get fired.
*** The Hard Rock Cafe Hollywood is actually the new Hard Rock Cafe Los Angeles on Hollywood Boulevard... not to be confused with the long-since-closed Hard Rock Cafe Los Angeles in Beverly Hills or the still-open Hard Rock Cafe Hollywood in Universal City or the hotel and cafe in Hollywood, Florida. Yes. being a Hard Rock fan is not always easy.
Posted on Friday, July 23rd, 2010
And so here I am at Comic-Con International 2010 or, as I refer to it, "The Bastion of Cruelty."
Make no mistake, Comic Con is not fun. At least, not the kind of fun you're used to. It's fun in an entirely different way, where the suffering is what makes it fun. Because once you've endured the crowds, the endless lines, the expensive food, and the many opportunities for bitter disappointment... what you have left is fun that you've earned. Which makes it just that much sweeter, of course.
I wrote in-depth about my Comic-Con experience when I was here last time, and this year is more of the same, so I won't bore you with another extensive recap... just a few things I took away from my half-day at the event...
• As expected, AT&T's service was complete and total shit. A lot of the time I couldn't get even remotely useable bandwidth speeds, which was still better than the many times I couldn't get service at all. Never mind that 3G service was absent more often than not and I was kicked back to EDGE, a huge chunk of my battery was spent just trying to get something... anything I could work with so that I could TXT or make a call...
Now, granted, 150,000 people all in one spot is bound to overload a cellular network, but I wasn't expecting things to be this bad. I wonder if Verizon and T-Mobile were in the same boat? Probably.
• Just like last year, Comic-Con was drastically oversold. There's just entirely too many people, which means that even if you stand in a line for hours, you're still not guaranteed that there will be room for you in the venue. I sure wish that the people running this thing would find a way to make this more fair so you don't wait in line for nothing... though I suppose if they eliminated lines and went with tickets or something, then all the people in line would be clogging up the show floor, so maybe that's why they don't.
• While I am excited about a number of movies being promoted at the Con, including Scott Pilgrim, which is based on a comic I really like, it's TRON: Legacy that has me freaking out. I loved the original film, and the sequel looks like it will absolutely amazing. If nothing else, the new LightBikes are cool...
• Just like two years ago, I had three comics people I wanted to see on the dealer floor. Eric Shanower, Sergio Aragonés, and Brandon Peterson. Shanower was easy to find, still promoting Age of Bronze, his epic retelling of the Trojan War in comic book form. Aragonés, whose work in MAD Magazine I've loved since I was a kid, was signing his latest Groo The Wanderer collection...
Peterson I COULD NOT FIND! Not from the booth number he gave at his website (which, so far as I could tell), didn't exist. Nor from his description of the area he'd be at. He had a new artbook I wanted to get too. Bummer.
• Speaking of comic books... it truly shocks me when I walk by the booth of some titan of the industry and see that nobody is there to see them. They've long since been replaced by some hot new talent, and now they've been forgotten as if their work doesn't matter. I guess it's just a facet of the industry, like all industries, but it just doesn't seem right.
• The costumes this year were better than ever, though I'm ashamed to admit that my favorite costume I saw wasn't super-hero related. It was Dr. Rockzo from Metalocalypse! "MY NAME IS DR. ROCKZO! I DO COCAINE!!
It's more fun to see people dressed up outside the convention. Like your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, walking down the street...
• After four hours, I had as much as I could take, and decided to get as far away from the crowds as possible. I hadn't been to the San Diego Zoo in decades, so that seemed like a good place. It's a remarkable zoo... probably the best I have ever seen... and it just keeps improving. The sheer volume of animals you can see it pretty impressive...
And lest we forget... they have THE BUCKETS OF DEATH available...
And that's pretty much it. I met up with quite a few friends and bloggers along the way, which was truly the highlight of my Comic-Con experience. I'd take that over meeting movie stars and comic book heroes any day.
All that's left is a redeye flight across the country, and my day is done...
Posted on Saturday, July 24th, 2010
When I arrived in Atlanta this morning after my redeye flight I was pretty dead. By the time I made it to my hotel I was mostly dead. The only part of me that wasn't dead was the part that was allergic to something in my room. Finally, after tossing in bed for a half-hour being all miserable with a sore throat and runny nose, I decided to take a bunch of antihistamines and see if I could catch up on some sleep.
I woke up five hours later at 2:00.
And by "wake up" I actually mean "sleepwalked," because it took at least an hour before I was able to function again.
It's a delicious "Watermelon Wheat" beer that was a special at The 5 Seasons. A fantastic way to take the edge off a hot Atlanta day!
And now, since I have to be up early for work tomorrow morning, I must bid you adieu.
My travel map for this trip now looks like this...
Posted on Monday, July 26th, 2010
When captured by the enemy, soldiers are advised to sleep and eat whenever they can because they never know when either (or both) might be denied them.
While I would never compare my job to being a prisoner of war, the above advice has come in handy from time to time with my work (See? Graphic designers have it rough, people!). Well, not the food part, but definitely the sleep deprivation. I don't sleep that much to begin with, but when you're on-call for 31 hours straight and are guaranteed to be called to the job site several times... well, even a little sleep is hard to come by. So I grab an hour here and 20 minutes there, and try to be sane and somewhat comprehensible when reporting for duty.
But the real trick is getting rested enough that you feel comfortable driving. It's one thing to be sleep-walking on the job... it's quite another to be sleep-driving in a car.
Especially when you're in rural Georgia where wild deer love prancing around the roadways.
Last night on the way to Waffle House for a midnight dinner, a deer was standing in the middle of a dark country road with a 55 MPH speed limit. Even though I was driving just under 50 MPH because it was so dark, this still necessitated my slamming on the brakes to avoid getting a venison hood ornament. The deer, however, wasn't impressed and wandered off at a leisurely pace (Darwinism takes a vacation!).
On the way back, I had slowed to 45 MPH "just in case" and nearly hit TWO deer crossing that same road. Quick braking and a hard swerve avoided tragedy, but left me with an adrenaline rush which made getting any kind of sleep impossible for the next several hours.
But don't worry. When my job finally ended this afternoon, I managed to get three whole hours sleep before hacking together this blog entry, so I guess I'm back to normal again. Or as normal as a person can be who is an insomniac that craves human blood.
I should totally be a vampire.
Or, more appropriately, a zombie vampire!
A zombie vampire that eats deer who stand in the road!
Guess I should pack my suitcase now, seeing as how I'm leaving early tomorrow morning and all...
Posted on Tuesday, July 27th, 2010
Whee! I'm in Oklahoma!
In my effort to keep up with any new US & Canada Hard Rock properties as they open, I'm here to visit the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa on my way back to Seattle. It's pretty much a raging disappointment, but that's probably my own fault for hanging on to Hard Rock memories of yesteryear instead of the reality of Hard Rock today.
All in all, a pretty crappy day to be me...
Time to update my travel map for this trip...
Ooh! Look at that! I've filled in a State I've never been to before! Just four more to go!
For anybody interested in my thoughts on the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa and the state of the Hard Rock chain in general, I've put that in an extended entry. For everybody else, good night!→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Posted on Wednesday, July 28th, 2010
This morning my plan was to get up early, have a nice breakfast, gamble a little at the Hard Rock Casino Tulsa, head downtown to check out a museum or two, then walk around for a bit and have a late lunch/early dinner.
Instead I ended up in Kansas.
When looking at my map of "States I've Failed to Visit," it seemed crazy not to make a run for the Kansas border when it's just an hour away. So I made a decision to zip up I-75 to the little town of Caney, then head back. Wondering if there was anything worth seeing along the way, I consulted Roadside America and saw... THE FIRST SPACE MONKEY!?!
As anybody who has followed this blog for even a small amount of time knows, I have no small obsession with monkeys (in general) and monkeys in the space program (specifically), so this was a no-brainer. Besides, it was just 40 minutes farther than Caney in the city of Independence, Kansas!
But first I had to get out of Oklahoma alive.
I've been to a lot of places on this earth, and always considered Detroit, Michigan to be the world's most dangerous place to drive. Many people in Detroit drive very aggressively and very fast, which makes motoring anywhere near the city like a scene from Deathrace.
Tulsa has all that beat, because people here are just plain crazy drivers...
Keep in mind that all of the above happened within 30 minutes of leaving my hotel.
Anyway, I made it to the Kansas border without incident and was zipping past the town of Caney when I saw signs for... Little House on the Prairie? How could I not check out the actual place that Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about for that crappy TV show? (No, seriously, don't skip that link... read this crap!) Turns out it's for real, with a reconstructed "little house" and everything...
To be honest, it was kind of a shithole (and filled with bees!). It wasn't really "Little House on the Prairie"... it's more like "Teeny-Tiny House on the Prairie." I have no idea how five people lived there. But, then again, it's not like I could build a house, so kudos to Pa Ingalls for his ingenuity.
Then, at long last, it was time for the Ralph Mitchell Zoo at Riverside Park in Independence, Kansas!
Right at the entrance of the park is "Monkey Island" which is where "Miss Able"... America's first Space Monkey to return to earth alive... was born. It kind of makes "Little House on the Prairie" look like a dream-house, but I'm guessing the monkeys don't mind it, since they were crawling all over the place...
And that was pretty much it. I wandered around for a while, then headed back to Oklahoma to catch my flight. The zoo itself is nice, though all the small cramped cages makes the place look downright barbaric compared to the San Diego Zoo I was at just five days ago. But it did have peacocks...
But the best news? My map now has another state filled in! Heaven only knows when those final three will be checked-off, but I'm making progress...
Annnnnnd Tulsa's airport makes you PAY for internet, so I guess this will have to post tomorrow when I get to Seattle. You know... SEATTLE... where airport internet is FREE just like God intended...
Posted on Thursday, July 29th, 2010
I'm not supposed to be in Chicago now. I'm supposed to be at home, having driven there after landing in Seattle last night. But plans change, so here I am for a couple days of work and one day of goofing off in the city (which sounds like a fair trade-off to me!).
Of course, I almost didn't make it into Seattle last night thanks to multiple lapses in stupidity by airlines, airports, and people, so there's always that.
It started off with the inbound flight to Tulsa being late. Which meant we boarded late. Which meant we took off very late because A) There was some confusion over a gate agent letting a baby onboard with their own seat assignment, and B) We sat on the tarmac forever for no good reason anybody could figure out.
So, there we were, arriving into Minneapolis a half-hour late. You would think that the airline would have a team of people ready to handle the incoming flight so that they could get people offloaded and onwards to their connecting flights as soon as possible.
But that's not what happened, of course. Not only did they not expedite a damn thing for our flight... they didn't send somebody down to operate the jetway! This meant we had to sit on the fucking place for an additional 15-20 minutes while somebody pulled their head out of their ass and made it possible for us to leave. Maybe.
Because we arrived allllll the waaaaayyy down at GATE A-14...
And, now that I'm running 45 minutes late to make my 1-hour connection, can you guess where my connecting gate was? Can you? Come on... take a guess!
Here it is!
GATE F-14. The furthest possible gate away in terms of both time and distance. And since the tram that runs the length of the airport is practically useless for getting to the F-gates in a hurry (unless you get there just as a train arrives), you're only shot is to RUN ACROSS THE ENTIRE FUCKING AIRPORT... WHICH I DID!!
And nearly died doing.
Such a joke. It was like a comedy errors at amateur hour in the airport.
But I made it (barely) just in time for them to close the doors...
...so we could then sit on the tarmac for 30 minutes.
Anyway... after landing, I dropped by my car at the parking lot just long enough to trade a suitcase full of dirty clothes for a suitcase full of clean clothes, then headed to my hotel for a blissful six whole hours before returning to the airport this morning.
Where my flight loaded on time. Left on time. And landed on time.
Don't ask me how. My tavel map now looks like this...
Posted on Friday, July 30th, 2010
Last night I went to bed at midnight.
This morning I woke up at 4:30am so I could drive four hours to Southern Illinois for an appointment.
This has made for quite a long day. But the good news is that I saw something interesting. While driving through the town of Teutopolis, I noticed that the high school's team mascot is... "The Wooden Shoes." No, seriously, it totally is. This has to be the best school mascot I've seen since Astoria Oregon's "The Fighting Fisherman." Though I have to say if it were the "Fighting Wooden Shoes," it would be an order of magnitude higher in awesomeness.
Since I know nobody would believe me without proof, I took a picture...
My theory is that the town was founded by a bunch of crazy drunken Dutch persons.
Or perhaps one drunken DutchBitch...
Posted on Saturday, July 31st, 2010
Since I couldn't get a flight home today without paying a fortune, I'm flying home tomorrow on the cheap. I thought the whole "Saturday Night Stay" price-reduction scenario had died off in the airline industry, but apparently it's alive and well. Though it's not like I'm going to complain about having a free day in Chicago, which is one of my favorite places. Especially since the city is full of friends that I can hang with when last-minute travel plans drop in my lap.
My day pretty much went like this... work, take a shower, work, put on clothes, work, lunch and LEGO hunting in the city, work... movies.
The strange part here is the movies, because I so rarely have time to see them.
And I hate going to the theater.
Because going to the movies pretty much sucks ass anymore. People talking. People texting. People taking calls. People sneaking in noisy bags of Doritos and other distracting crap. People in general, really. Because people are stupid, rude, and suck ass.
But my hotel was near Muvico, which is supposedly a much better class of theater, and so I thought my problems were solved.
First I saw Angelina Jolie in the post-cold-war spy-thriller Salt, which I enjoyed quite a lot. It's kind of a cross between No Way Out and James Bond in a nicely stylized film that keeps the action moving. Sure there are entire sections that were downright silly in their implausibility, but overall I thought it held up pretty well. At the very least, it was entertaining, which is about all you can ask for in a movie.
I saw Salt in Muvico's "regular" theater. It's the same as most theaters, but the seats and views are a bit nicer. That didn't change the fact that I ended up staring at glowing mobile phone screens throughout the whole damn movie...
Next I saw Inception, which is a clever Christopher Nolan film that proves his previous successes with Memento and The Dark Knight were no fluke. And though I usually don't care for Leonardo DiCaprio, I thought Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ellen Page more than compensated with their excellent performances. The story involves corporate espionage via "shared dreaming" which is an interesting concept to begin with, but Nolan (who both wrote and directed) took it to the next level by tossing in a nice dose of reality-bending twists. The result is both interesting and entertaining, which is a rare surprise. This is not to say that the film is flawless... there were more than a few problems with the internal logic of How Things Work, and Ellen Page's character was a laughable catch-all for any story exposition or filler that Nolan needed to keep things moving. But still... a solid effort, and well-worth your valuable time.
I saw Inception in Muvico's PREMIUM theater. Here you get a huge comfy seat and free popcorn for the bargain price of $20. Or at least it would be a bargain if it lived up to the hype. The problem is that the theater has other people in it...
And why do I go to movies in the theater again? Even the so-called "premium" experiences such ass.
Guess I'll just start waiting for Blu-Ray.
Posted on Sunday, August 1st, 2010
Proving that I am just not lucky enough for one damn thing to ever go right when I travel, my flight out of Minneapolis was delayed three hours. So I got to spend five hours at MSP playing Dungeon Hunter on my iPhone. And while there are certainly worse ways to spend five hours, I'd rather just go home.
Because once I land, I have a two-and-a-half-hour drive over the mountains.
Which finishes off my travel map like this...
And now I just want to catch up on about thirty hours of missing sleep from the past twelve days.
Thanks to the miracle of modern-day pharmaceuticals, I'll give it my best shot.
Posted on Saturday, August 7th, 2010
In-between work, I've somehow managed to sandwich-in a short trip to Sacramento so I can say a quick hello to
I haven't seen her in months but, now that she's moved from Orlando to Sacramento, she's just a one hour and fifteen minute flight away... and still fabulous no matter which coast she's calling home...
I, on the other hand, am not so much fabulous as I am dead-tired.
It would be nice if I could sandwich-in some sleep.
Posted on Sunday, August 8th, 2010
It's Bullet Sunday from sunny Sacramento!
• Lake Tahoe. Since Sacramento doesn't have a Hard Rock Cafe anymore, Foodiddy and Phister were kind enough to take Hilly-Sue and I to Lake Tahoe for a quick lunch. And while it may seem insane to drive
Sadly, the companion "wood cabin" cafe at Whistler was closed, so I'm hoping that the Tahoe property stays open for a good long time.
On the way back, actual hail was falling, which was surprising to say the least (is this not summer?). But we survived and made it back for Pinkberry for dessert, so I guess it's all good.
• Summertime Treat. Speaking of Pinkberry, they have a special frozen yogurt flavor running for summer... watermelon! It's worth grabbing a taste, even if you can't be wooed away from your regular favorite (like me!)...
• No Parking. Yesterday as Hilly and I arrived at the mall so I could be terrorized by Sephora, we were cruising the parking lot looking for a spot when something so mind-bogglingly stupid happened that I still don't think it was real. Some stupid bitch had COMPLETELY PASSED a parking spot that was being vacated, and decided she wanted it... even though SHE HAD COMPLETELY PASSED IT! So she sits there. Blocking the person trying to leave, and us, and the person behind us. Then she inches backwards as if to tell us that she wants us to back up, except there's somebody behind us. We CAN'T back up, even if we wanted to. So she sits there. And sits there. And sits there. Eventually the person behind us backs up so we can move. I was fucking fuming. Hilly moved because she was running low on gas. And she's apparently a lot more diplomatic than I am. Because I would NOT have moved. I don't give a shit if I ran out of gas. I don't care if a meteor was going to strike. I don't care if I was having a heart attack and needed immediate medical attention. There is no fucking way... NO WAY AT ALL I would have moved out of the way for that rude dumbass piece of shit. If you PASS a parking spot, GAME OVER! Go find another on. Don't block people and force them to move for your stupid ass.
It's times like this that I remember why I used to have extreme anger management issues. People are stupid, rude, selfish, and wholly intolerable. And all I wanted to do was beat the ever-loving shit out of this moron with a crowbar for being such a huge asshole. She totally deserved it and, after having to deal with her bullshit, I deserved to give it to her.
• Wave Goodbye. This past week Google announced that they were shutting down Google Wave... assumably due to the huge level of non-interest by just about everybody. Google's concept of real-time communication was pretty nifty, but any SUCCESSFUL new technologies tend to be dead-simple to use (ala Twitter), and Wave was too far-reaching and complex to get there. So now we all sit and wait for the Next Big Thing... and hoping it won't be limited to 140 characters or less.
And now... I really should get some sleep. For once my flight isn't at 7:00am, so here's hoping...
Posted on Monday, August 9th, 2010
Since Muskrat's time in The Emerald City is short, Whit and I attempted to do a whirlwind tour of the most popular Seattle tourist spots, including wandering the Pike Place Market, going to Ivars for dinner (with some very angry seagulls), getting a coffee at the first Starbucks, riding the monorail to the Pacfic Science Center, and (of course) going up the Space Needle...
The evening ended at Von's... a Seattle classic bar since 1904. We started with beer, but when a $4 Manhattan hit the Big Wheel of Magical Drink Specials, we couldn't resist...
Not a bad way to kill an evening!
Posted on Tuesday, August 10th, 2010
After a long morning of work... lunch with my sister... then more work... it was time to meet up with Muskrat again for dinner in Seattle.
Being a little selfish, I do what I always do when guests are in town, take them to MY favorite restaurant, Ray's Boathouse (as I've detailed on my Secret Seattle Restaurants Page... shhhhh!). The views and food really can't be beat, and I highly recommend the place to anybody looking for an amazing meal experience in Seattle. Especially at sunset...
After that, we went to West Seattle's Alki Point so Muskrat could take a look at that picture-postcard-perfect Seattle Skyline view. Having photographed it dozens of times, I decided to play around with the "Hipstamatic" app on my iPhone to see what it would pick up. Generally I avoid Hipstamatic because it's so overused anymore, but there's no arguing with the freaky and wonderful results...
Of course, no photo can capture the experience of being there, which is why Alki is one of Seattle's "must-see" travel experiences.
And speaking of travel experiences... can I just say that Steven Slater is totally my hero now?
I am absolutely not kidding. While I am sorry he had to go through a melt-down while on the job, I am so sick and tired of the numerous abusive douchebags on planes anymore that ANYTHING which draws attention to these assholes is a good thing. If you're going to fly, be respectful and considerate and FOLLOW THE FUCKING RULES... OR DON'T FUCKING FLY!
I would never have the patience to deal with plane passenger dickwads for five minutes... let alone 28 years... so congratulations Mr. Slater for lasting this long. And especially for going out in such style when you'd finally had enough.
It's only a matter of time before a flight attendant has taken more than enough of people's shit and the killings begin. I, for one, can't wait. Maybe if being a fucking asshole could get you killed, people wouldn't be fucking assholes anymore.
Sure it's wishful thinking, but dreams can come true!
Posted on Wednesday, August 11th, 2010
Apparently, we have more tax dollars than we know what to do with here in Washington State.
Yesterday Seattle pressed the "on button" for their new "Smart Highway" project. In theory, it sounds fantastic. Highways which adapt to traffic conditions and help to regulate congestion by controlling the speed and position of vehicles on the road.
These new "Smart Highways" interact with reconfigurable signs like this...
In the above example, there's been a car collision, and the right two lanes have been closed. In preparation for this, there were instructions to merge earlier up the road...
And even earlier up the road, the traffic was slowed in order to make the merge happen more smoothly... and also to compensate for the loss of two lanes.
See? Fantastic. In theory.
In practice? Not so much.
Because the big glaring flaw in all this is that drivers aren't going to give a shit about any of it. People are going to wait until the last second before they merge (as always). People are going to ignore the reduced speed limits and go as fast as they can (as always). People are going to slow to a crawl as they approach the accident so they can gawk (as always). And it doesn't matter if you tell everybody that police will be enforcing compliance with the signage, because they don't really comply with the signage we have now.
And controlling traffic around an accident is the BEST CASE SCENARIO for making use of the "Smart Highway" signs. It's completely ineffectual for anything else. Case in point? It's ineffectual for managing heavy Seattle traffic, because no sign can change the fact that I-5 Northbound goes from five lanes to two lanes once you hit downtown. What can a sign... even a changeable sign... do with that bottleneck? And every time I saw that the speed had been reduced to "help with the lane flow" it was still posted as faster than what anybody was driving. And, even if somebody could exceed the ever-changing speed-limit, how the hell are the police going to enforce anything? The speed is 50 MPH one second and 40 MPH the next. How do you enforce that?
And, everything else aside, is it even SAFE to take people's eyes off the road for constant changes, updates, warnings, instructions, or what-not?
Millions spent. Nothing's changed. Maybe things are even worse.
So sadly typical.
Posted on Saturday, August 28th, 2010
It was five years ago.
But it seems like only yesterday I was on my way to Asia as Hurricane Katrina was bearing down on the Gulf States. At the time I remember being sick with worry as I boarded the plane, not knowing whether I would ever see New Orleans again. Since it's one of my favorite cities on earth, this was a horrible thought. The flight time to my first stop in Seoul, Korea was nearly 13 hours, which meant that Katrina would hit The Big Easy while I was in the air. There was no way for me to keep up with what was happening while in-flight, so all I could do was cling to the hope that some miracle would occur, and the hurricane would fade away before it ever made landfall.
But of course there was no miracle. At least not a miracle like that.
The struggle in The Gulf to recover from Katrina is ongoing.
Despite a number of people who believe that we should give it up. "Most of New Orleans is under sea level and can't be saved!" they say. "The city is in the bottom of a bowl and will be flooded again!" they cry. "Stop spending tax dollars on a losing battle!" they scream.
And yet... modern-day engineering can change the face of the planet. Technology exists which can accomplish those miracles. The battle over natural disasters cannot be won, but it's getting easier not to lose. Except it costs money, and cities like New Orleans are poor.
You'd think the same school of thought that calls for the abandonment of New Orleans would also apply to a city like San Francisco which is plagued by earthquakes, but it doesn't. Probably because San Francisco is one of this nation's wealthiest cities. Sadly, it's all about the money, as usual.
Though how people can put a dollar value on people is beyond me.
Laissez les bons temps rouler, New Orleans.
Posted on Saturday, September 4th, 2010
VACATION AT LAST!!
Technically, my vacation isn't scheduled to start until tomorrow when I skip the country, but I was able to get a day pass to PAX, the "video gaming festival" going on in Seattle over the weekend. I don't have a lot of time to play video games anymore, but I still love them, and this was a great opportunity to see what's coming up from all the big gaming companies.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
My vacation did not get off to the best start. This was made clear to me just as I was heading into Seattle...
Yes. Not so much a good time so far.
But then I made it to PAX, and everything got better again.*
What I was most interested in was seeing the sequel to one of the best games ever. The line was really long to play, but I did get to see... PORTAL 2!!
Uniquely awesome in every way. I cannot WAIT for it to be released! My beloved Weighted Companion Cube lives on!
Surprisingly, many of the other "hot" games at the show all looked like Worlds of Warcraft clones. They all had guys running around with a shield and sword killing monsters... Guild Wars 2, Rift, Alion, Tera, Lord of the Rings, etc. etc. And if it wasn't a "swords and sorcery" Massive Multiplayer Online Game, it was a military shoot 'em up in either a modern, future, space, or post-apocalyptic theme.
FORTUNATELY, there were some properties that takes this kind of gameplay and makes it interesting just because of the property attached. The Disney-themed Epic Mickey was pretty darn cool (even if the controls weren't that tight) but it was Star Wars: The Old Republic that took it to the next level. You haven't lived until you're hacking everything in sight with dual-lightsabers and blowing the crap out of stuff with Force lightning!
The biggest disappointment to me was the Xbox "Kinect" where the games were somewhat boring (the dance game was just plain stupid)... and I didn't really get the sense that the "virtual controller" was being used in any way more revolutionary than just holding onto the Nintendo Wii controllers. Of course I didn't get a chance to play for very long or see all the games, so maybe there's more to it than what I got to see. Otherwise, it was definitely "meh."
The second biggest disappointment was the number of "closed" booths, where you could ONLY see the game if you stood in line to play it behind closed doors. This SUCKS because some of the lines are so long I had -zero- chance of that. I wanted quite badly to see Dragon Age 2, but wasn't able to. BOOOOOO!
Since I only had four hours on the Exhibit Floor, I didn't get a very good PAX experience, but I still had a lot of fun...
Maybe next year!
Posted on Sunday, September 5th, 2010
So I could save money, I took a wacky flight through Atlanta which had one of those dreaded layovers that's too long to just hang around the airport, but too short to do much of anything. Pretty much a day-waster... which sucks when you're on vacation, but good for traveling on a budget.
Even though I'd only have an hour once I got to downtown Atlanta, I decided to go anyway. I wanted to pick up something at World of Coke without Lime, and sitting around a boring airport drives me nuts. This ended up being a good move because Dragon Con is in town, which provided endless people-watching opportunities. The costumes people come up with for these things are pretty impressive and, since I was downtown at lunchtime, they were all out wandering the streets of Atlanta.
Playing around with my new wide-wide-angle lens was fun too. I can get a lot of picture in a photo now...
I'll need to figure out how to take care of the freaky lens distortion when I have time to experiment a bit, but I am pretty happy with everything so far.
But the best part of my day was when I found out I had been upgraded for my flight. The extra legroom and ability to lay your seat flat for sleeping is a big plus over being shoved into a cramped coach seat for 9 hours...
A far cry from my early days of travel.
I remember 20 years ago where traveling like this wasn't even a remote possibility for me. Of course, back then I had no money left after buying my plane ticket, and ended up staying in cheap hotels and hostels with nothing more than a backpack and a bike lock to keep me company. I'd need a bike lock, because if I couldn't afford a cheap hotel or hostel, I'd take an overnight train to my next destination so I'd have a safe place to sleep. And falling asleep on a train meant the possibility of waking up to find your stuff stolen unless you bolted it to the luggage rack. Ah yes, there's no better friend for the cheap traveler than a bike lock!
And now I have to put my laptop away before the flight attendant yells at me.
Except they don't really "yell" at you in the front of the plane... but they do have a way of shaming you into doing what they want in the nicest possible way.
Posted on Monday, September 6th, 2010
Um. What the heck is happening back home?
Reading the news, it looks as though stupidity has escalated at an alarming rate after I left. Just when I think blatant dumbfuckery has reached its peak, I see that a Christian minister is planning on burning the Qur'an. Forget about the fact that this kind of thing is categorically wrong on every possible level, the people behind this travesty are obviously clueless morons who have no understanding of the consequences of their actions.
The vast, vast majority of Muslims are kind, thoughtful, caring, and wholly wonderful people who want nothing more than to live their lives and practice their faith in peace. Just like most everybody else. But when idiots attack their faith... by ohhh... I dunno... burning their most sacred texts... shit is going to happen. Just like it would for most religions.
Stupidity like this puts American lives in danger. Not just our troops who are serving in Islamic lands, but pretty much ALL of us everywhere. If there is no respect for peoples of all faiths (particularly from those who are leaders of those faiths) then there's no respect for the people who follow them. Without respect, there can be no understanding. Without understanding, there can be no acceptance. Without acceptance, there can be no peace.
And yet I'm sure everybody will still be all shocked when the retaliations hit.
In the meanwhile, I'm going to try and enjoy my vacation the best I can in this sick, sad world.
The symbol of Barcelona would have to be Gaudi's masterpiece... the still unfinished Sagrada Família church. To be honest, it looks much the same as it did when I was last here five years ago, but I'm sure much progress has been made...
The interior is just as breathtakingly beautiful as I remember it...
And, despite my fear of heights, of course I had to go up one of the towers...
After my pilgrimage to Sagrada Família, I wandered around a bit until I found myself at Parc Güell, another site of Gaudi genius...
Hmmm... that looks kind of like Castle Greyskull!
Dinner was at the Hard Rock Cafe, because I just couldn't help myself.
Tomorrow? More of the same, I'm afraid...
Posted on Tuesday, September 7th, 2010
Since I've been to Barcelona a couple times before, I've seen all the "top sights" in the city. Rather than hunting for new things to see, I thought that I'd buy a ticket for one of those "Hop-On Hop-Off" tour busses and see some of the place they recommend. This was a huge mistake and a big waste of money. It took forever for the busses to show up, half the places they went were not at all interesting, and I would have been far better off planning things myself with a Metro Pass and an occasional taxi... probably for less money too.
Oh well. Live and learn.
I did spend some time at one of my favorite museums on earth... Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya. They have got some incredible, incredible stuff. And you don't even have to go to Barcelona to explore their collection... they've got most everything available online! Here are a few of the coolest things I saw...
Apparently, this guy really needs to pee. I feel bad for him, because he's looking a little desperate. Oh well, we've all been there...
I'm guessing that the poor state of dentistry was responsible for a lot of people being all miserable with toothaches...
ZOMG! IT'S THE ARC OF THE COVENANT!!
This is one of my favorite paintings. In the middle is Baby Jesus. Around the outside are Saints and the awesome ways they were martyred for Him...
I wonder if you get to choose which way you're going to die? There's sawed in half...
Boiled in oil...
Sliced repeatedly with a sword...
Or, my personal favorite... nails in the face... IN THE FACE!!!
But no worries... Christians definitely got their revenge during the Crusades, the Inquisition, and numerous interfaith and denominational wars. Here's part of a mural showing two Christian soldiers chillaxin on the battlefield...
Right before they go out and kill some black people...
This is much like I'd imagine a Glenn Beck rally would be like if it took place 900 years ago. Or possibly two years from now. And since we've got dumbfuck Christian ministers burning the Qur'an in "The Land of Religious Freedom and Tolerance" back in the USA, I'd say that a new round of Crusades is just around the corner.
It's so convenient how an increasing number of Christians seem to forget their own bloody past when accusing Islam of being a violent religion. Historically, Christians are among the most savagely violent and destructive people ever to have existed. And when I see all the raw hatred coming out of the so-called "Religious Right," I have to wonder if things are coming full-circle. Obviously this isn't the path chosen by ALL Christians... for now... but if the past is forgotten, I have to wonder what the future will bring...
I rode the bus around to various sites taking pictures... blah blah blah... but ended up going to another favorite location in Barcelona. Casa Milá, better known as Le Pedera. This is Gaudi's freaky apartment complex and one of his most famous works...
But it's the roof that everybody comes here to see. It's got all kinds of interesting structures stuck to it...
After goofing around Station Diagonal for a bit, I decided to hike up Tibidabo Hill to get a shot of the sun setting...
Then it was time for delicious Patatas Bravas at a tapas bar...
Mmmmm... yummy greasy potatoes. Probably the best way you can end a day in Barcelona!
Posted on Wednesday, September 8th, 2010
Wheeeee! I'm cruising with Mickey Mouse!
I am not much of a "cruise person" as the idea of being trapped on a big boat full of idiots is not something I find relaxing or entertaining. Taking a Disney cruise is doubly heinous because being trapped on a big boat full of idiots AND THEIR KIDS sounds like a form of torture I have no intention of enduring. At least not while sober. Or conscious.
The reviews I've read rave about Disney, and they had an itinerary that looked interesting, so here I am.
All I can say so far is that chocolate pudding is excellent.
Posted on Thursday, September 9th, 2010
As I am not so much the cruising type, I always try to pick itineraries with the fewest days at sea. If a cruise has more than two days in a row with no port call, it's eliminated. If a cruise doesn't spend at least 3/4 of it's time in ports of call, it's eliminated. Not that there's not a bunch of stuff to do onboard... far from it... there's all kinds of activities and non-stop eating to keep you busy. But, for me at least, time on the boat is wasted time. No matter how nice the ship is it still feels like I'm trapped with nowhere to go and nothing to do.
And it's not like you have the internet to keep you occupied.
Because the internet is outrageously slow (when it works at all) and even more outrageously expensive ($150 for 500 minutes... which is actually more like 150 minutes because of the slow speed, or around $1 a minute). Not really an option unless you're made of money. Which I'm not. Especially after paying for this cruise.
Anyway... internet aside, the Disney Magic is a pretty amazing ship.
A lot of the more impressive elements (such as a grand atrium) that you find on other cruise ships have been sacrificed to make room for more kid-based activity areas, but the more adult-oriented activities and area are still here as well. This is a win-win, because the kids are pretty much segregated so adults traveling without kids aren't having to deal with screaming children all the time. On the contrary, I rarely see any kids unless I'm passing through an area they frequent. Even at dinner, they seat people without kids with other people without kids. So, despite being a "ship built for families," I find the Disney Magic no more annoying than any other cruise I've been on child-wise...
This was a very pleasant (and very welcome) surprise.
So far, all the food has been amazing in both quality and variety. The service is impeccable. Everything is clean to the point of being spotless. The ship itself is beautifully-designed. This is pretty much par for the course with all cruise lines, but Disney takes it all to new levels by adding their unique theming to everything. Restaurants are all Disney-inspired. Amenities are all Disney-branded. Disney characters are always making appearances around the ship. It's Disney through and through so, if you're a Disney-whore like me, you couldn't ask for anything more.
If I have to be trapped on a giant boat at sea, I'm glad it's this one. With Mickey Mouse as the ship's captain, how could I not be?
Posted on Friday, September 10th, 2010
Visiting Malta was a big plus on this trip, because there are not one... but two Hard Rock properties on the island (three if you count the cafe extension at the airport). I've been meaning to visit here for years, but the airfare and hotel cost was always high compared to other "Hard Rock Cities" in Europe. Now, however, neither airfare nor hotel were required. Cruises do have their benefits.
My day started with a tour through the current capitol city of Valletta and the previous capitol city of Mdina. Both places were filled with wondrous things to experience, so having only a single day ashore made seeing it all impossible. Cruises do have their drawbacks as well.
First stop... the current capitol of Malta, Valletta...
Then to the former capitol of Malta, Mdina...
Then a pricey taxi ride to the other side of the harbor for a Hard Rock Cafe visit...
Then back to Valletta for the Hard Rock Bar...
Alas, this ends my first shore excursion.
Posted on Saturday, September 11th, 2010
And here I am back in Africa... this time in beautiful Tunisia.
The first stop was in ancient Carthage, which was a major city back in its heyday. There are a number of ruins around, but the tour I had focused on the colosseum and Roman baths... both in pretty bad shape, but still very interesting...
From there it was a quick stop at The Bardo Museum, which was something I was very much looking forward to (and the only criteria I had for picking a shore excursion package). Their collection of mosaics is fantastic, and to be able to see them in person is like a dream come true. In many ways, mosaic is somewhat like the early days of computer pixel art, and I've always been fascinated with the stuff...
I could have easily spent a full day here, but with a mere 40 minutes I just pushed my way through as many rooms as possible before heading off to the Tunis Medina. Much of the Medina market was closed, which ended up being a total blessing. With many of the side-streets vacated, I was left with photographic opportunities literally too good to be true, but still had some excitement to experience down the main passages...
Time for a lunch break...
Since the tour group consisted mostly of Americans, the guide was kind enough to then drive us through the North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial, where soldiers from World War II are buried. As it was 9-11, the flag was flying at half-mast...
The final stop on the tour was the beautiful blue-and-white city of Sidi Bou Said (sid-dee boo sigh-eed). Much like Santorini, all the buildings are colored to compliment the sea and sky. I could have stayed here for days just photographing the amazing doors that permeate the city...
Many of the doors have beautiful decorative nails pounded into them. The guide explained that Muslim houses are typically very plain on the outside so you can't tell what's inside. To illustrate how wealthy a person was, they used to decorate their door with ornate silver and gemstone patterns. Now-a-days, of course, any such valuables would be stolen immediately, so the painted nails are used as a symbolic expression of how the decorations used to be.
After an exhaustive day running around Northern Tunisia, it was back to the ship for dinner and one amazing sunset at sea off the African coast...
And that's the joy and hurt of a cruise... they allow you to see so many wonderful places in a single journey, but only for a very short time. As I boarded the ship I wanted nothing more to run back to the dock and lose myself in Tunis again but, alas, I'm off to new places and new adventures...
Posted on Sunday, September 12th, 2010
Though I've been to Italy three times, I've never made it to the Southern part of the country. After seeing the beauty of the Amalfi Coast in a number of movies and travel shows, it's someplace I've always been dying to go.
Today was the day.
Not finding a shore excursion tour that I liked, I booked a personal car and driver. It was expensive as hell, but I wasn't going to quibble over cost when it came to the destination highlight of my entire cruise. Being able to go wherever I wanted whenever I wanted was invaluable. And, hey, sometimes you just have to say "forget food and rent, this is something I have to do."
The problem is that the Amalfi area has been besieged by torrential rains and flooding over the past couple of days. Yesterday, there were landslides which tore through a small village just south of Amalfi itself. When I woke up this morning, I was wondering if it would even be possible to go.
Turns out I had nothing to worry about.
My driver told me that today's weather is about as good as it gets... blue skies and sun with minimal haze. Needless to say, I was absolutely thrilled at my good fortune. The day started in the city of Sorrento...
From Sorrento I was dropped down the coast in Positano. Easily one of the most beautiful places on earth...
After Positano, the driver dropped me in Amalfi for a while...
And the final stop was the beautiful city of Ravello...
All in all, it was an amazing day. The best day. And the night views of Naples back onboard the ship were pretty spectacular too...
And who knows what adventures tomorrow will bring...
For anybody Googling information about the Amalfi Coast and looking for a car and driver to see the sights, I give my highest possible recommendation to Sorrento Limo. They specialize in handling cruise ship excursions, and are able to go places that the big tour busses cannot. But even more important, my driver Genarro asked questions to find out my goals for the trip. Once he found out I was interested in photography, he went out of his way to create the perfect itinerary and find spectacular photo spots for me. I could not have been happier with the service I received, and give them my highest possible recommendation.
Posted on Monday, September 13th, 2010
Blah blah blah... Vatican City... Blah blah blah... St. Peter's Basilica... Blah blah blah... The Colosseum... Blah blah blah... The Pantheon... Blah blah blah... Trevi Fountain... Blah blah blah...
As I've mentioned more than a few times before, my favorite restaurant on earth is Ristorante Alfredo alla Scrofa in Rome. So when the ship docked at Civitavecchia, I jumped at the chance to take a bus into the city so I could have my favorite meal...
It was, as expected, beyond delicious.
Other than that, I just wandered around The Eternal City... killing time until my bus returned to port...
Rome is very beautiful and exciting... but it's the Fettucini Alfredo that makes me want to come back.
Posted on Tuesday, September 14th, 2010
Most people on the ship seem to be taking a long bus ride into Pisa or Florence from our place of landing here in the port city of La Spezia. Since I've already been both places, I decided to try something different and visit the coastal cities of Santa Margherita and Portofino.
It turned out to be a good decision.
Both cities are absolutely beautiful... rivaling even the Amalfi Coast in Southern Italy. Santa Margherita is the larger of the two, and has a beautiful cathedral that's a little plain on the outside, but magnificent on the inside. In a disturbing turn, they seemed to be selling tribbles at the fruit markets here...
And, as if Santa Margherita wasn't beautiful enough, along comes Portofino. The city is just fantastic for tourists, and has terrific gelato...
I never get this lucky when it comes to vacation weather. I'm guessing a thunderstorm will be coming along any minute now...
Posted on Wednesday, September 15th, 2010
Pulling into the Corsican port of Ajaccio under flawless blue skies, I'm once again thankful for my unprecedented luck with the weather. On every other cruise I've taken, there's been at least one port that's overcast and rainy.
When it came to shore excursions for Corsica I decided on the long drive to Corte, the former capitol. The tour description promised a look at Corsica's rich and interesting history, which was all I needed to know.
Surprisingly, the road to Corte in the interior of the island is pretty rugged and mountainous...
Corte itself is a nice city with some interesting places to eplore...
Another day gone. My vacation is passing all too quickly.
Posted on Thursday, September 16th, 2010
The internet connection onboard has been sucking even worse than usual. It's been so bad that I couldn't upload yesterday's entry despite numerous attempts. So glad I paid $150 for this.
Today is the cruise's final port of call in Villefranche. Sandwiched nicely between Monaco and Nice, it's a great place to start exploring France's Cote d' Azur...
After a great drive along the coast, the first stop was Monaco...
It's a beautiful place, with plenty of photo opportunities...
And since you can't visit Monaco without a visit to the Casino at Monte Carlo...
The interior is pretty spectacular... even if you have to pay 10 Euros to see it. I was going to go all James Bond and play some Roulette, but the lone table they had running was packed so I played slots instead. After winning 30 Euros almost immediately, I was going to cash in... but felt more than a little silly cashing in such a meager amount, and instead played it all until it was gone.
Lunch was at the famous Cafe de Paris...
After which you are given time to wander around the pricey shops and see the sights... like the infamous hairpin turn of the Monaco Road Race...
After goofing around in Monaco and Monte Carlo, the final stop was the medieval village of Eze, which was pretty cool...
And that was that. The last port excursion of the trip, and time to go back to the ship...
Just in time... the clouds are really starting to move in.
Posted on Friday, September 17th, 2010
Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later... RAIN!
I'm just lucky it decided to wait until all the port excursions were over.
After the incredibly beautiful weather I've had since day one, it's impossible to complain about things now. In a way, it's perfect, because I can just kick back and relax without feeling any pressure to do anything. Except pack. And pay my bill. Blech...
If there's one benefit of having crappy weather, much of the ship is abandoned...
But the best part of my day? I got to have breakfast with Mickey Mouse...
Fortunately, I was dressed for the occassion.
Onward to Barcelona...
Posted on Saturday, September 18th, 2010
And then, as quickly as it began, the cruise was over.
Truthfully, it doesn't feel like I had a vacation. With a port excursion most every day, I was waking up at 7:00am, getting back to the ship for dinner at 6:00pm, then working before going to sleep at 11:00pm so I could start it all over again the next day. But, then again, the idea of doing nothing and just lounging around the ship for ten days would drive me insane, so I guess this as good as it gets. I did get to see a lot of interesting and beautiful places, that's for sure.
In the end, I was very impressed by Disney Cruise Line...
A few observations...
Overall, I thought this is one of the best cruises I've taken. And, while I prefer the "freestyle" aspect of NCL or the flexible options at Princess, I'd take another Disney Cruise in a second. The problem is that they only have two (soon to be three) ships, so their itineraries are really lacking. Unless you want to take the same Mediterranean Cruise over and over... or hop on a short trip through the Caribbean... your options are severely limited. Earlier this year, they had an amazing "Balkan Capitals" cruise that I'd love to take, but it's not available in 2011. Instead, they're going to Alaska, which I've already done. I'd say the odds of me cruising with Disney any time soon are pretty low... not because I don't like the company, but because they're not going anyplace I want to go.
So... if Disney is cruising a place you'd like to see, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them. Everything from the ship to the service to the port experiences were gold.
Posted on Sunday, September 19th, 2010
Even though I'm not quite home yet (only made it as far as Amsterdam today) I'd have to say my vacation is definitely over. So after a two-week break from Bullet Sunday, here we are again...
• Newsworthy. I made a very concentrated effort to avoid any hint of "news" while I was on vacation. I never visited news sites. I turned off any news feeds I subscribe to. I even avoided anything news on the television. Just about everything on the news is horribly depressing now-a-days, and I just wanted to leave it behind for a while. Then yesterday while waiting for a room at my hotel in Barcelona, I finally broke down. I really wish I hadn't. The state of politics back home are so embarrassingly sad that I almost dread going back home where I'll have to live with it every day.
• Fried. I arrived in Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport just after 10:00pm. Naturally, the Patatjes met stand was closed...
Life doesn't get much more depressing than that.
• Tunisia. As I pack up all the various postcards and souvenir crap that I accumulated on my vacation, there's a notable lack of anything from Tunis. This really sucks, but there's not much I can do about it. Not only did the tour bus get a flat tire, we were delayed getting back to port, so there was no time to shop for stuff. No time for anything but running through the customs checkpoint and climbing on the ship. So now all I have are memories and photographs, which should be enough... but, strangely, are not. Wouldn't it be nice if there was a website where you could purchase postcards from around the world? That would be helpful to people who want a souvenir from places they've been, but don't have one for whatever reason.
• Feet. It always blows my mind how people just lose all sense of manners and decorum when traveling. This nasty shit was on my plane...
Do you think this bitch puts her feet on her own walls? What about when she's invited to people's houses? I'd hate to know what goes on inside a bathroom stall with her, that's for sure.
• Televised. The new television season is starting up back home. When it comes to new shows, I record everything and then weed out the losers, so I dread to think how much crap is stacked up on my DVR. If previous television seasons are any indication, at least 50% of the stuff will be unwatchable right off the bat and dropped immediately. The other half will be interesting enough to continue recording for a while but, in the end, only one or two of the new shows will end up being something I want to keep watching. For the most part, I'm grateful, because I don't have a lot of time for television any more.
And now I wait for my flight home tomorrow morning. Good night, Amsterdam.
Posted on Tuesday, September 21st, 2010
I currently have 67 emails remaining in my inbox. Hopefully none of them are from you.
One of my favorite iPhone apps is Trip Journal (which I reviewed here). For the traveler, it's an awesome way to track your movements with the built-in GPS and document the things you see and do. Since Apple made the iPhone OS multi-tasking, it's even more awesome because you can leave it running in the background all the time. This way, it keeps track of where you go even when you're doing something else. Like making a $70 phone call back home. Or trying to calculate how totally worthless the US dollar is vs. the Euro. Or looking up the Italian translation for "There's a burning sensation when I urinate."
This afternoon while I was put on hold for entirely too long, I remembered that I had Trip Journal running during my vacation and decided to take a look...
The black lines are where iPhone ran out of battery or lost signal or aliens abducted me. The lines in red are where I've been. The app tracks you down to street level, and so everything is there. Including when you go to the bathroom. Or visit a urologist. This is really cool, because you can re-live your entire trip...
After a while, you'd be surprised what you can remember...
Of course, it can also make you entirely confused too...
Hmmm... maybe the lines DON'T turn black when you've been abducted by aliens?
Posted on Wednesday, October 6th, 2010
Here we go again...
Posted on Thursday, October 7th, 2010
It was an epic Double Rainbow kind of day in Chicago...
But isn't most every day in Chicago?
Posted on Friday, October 8th, 2010
I could pretend to know where I am and how I got here and what I'm doing, but I really can't say for sure. It's been a long day and I've had a lot to drink. I'm almost positive that I'm in the wilds of rural Wisconsin.
Not because I'm looking at my iPhone GPS (since I don't even know how to get that working properly right now) but because there's a lot of subtle clues around. You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to know where you are when the signs all around you are pointing the way...
I'm pretty sure that when it comes to Wisconsin, beer is what's for lunch as well... beer and cheese with bacon wrapped around it. Other than that, it's certainly pretty enough to be Wisconsin in the Fall...
And the Jägermeister Pumpkins are in bloom...
That's definitely Wisconsin right there.
Doing the math... Dave2 + Wisconsin + Jägermeister + Ke$ha...
"Throw your hands up! Throw your hands up!"
Jenny + Wisconsin + Beer + Ke$ha...
"Before I leave, brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack..."
Ha! I totally lie. Jenny wouldn't be caught dead singing Ke$ha no matter how much beer she's had! I'm pretty sure that's the Pussycat Dolls right there.
Technically, I shouldn't be drunk though.
Looking back, I totally took precautions. I ate plenty of bread with butter. Salad with butter. Bruschetta with butter. And, of course, this is Wisconsin so I had fries with butter...
And a little carb-on-carb action with a Cheese-And-Butter-Risotto-Sandwich-On-Buttered-Rye-Bread-With-Butter...
Which was followed by Buttered Butternut Squash Ravioli in Brown-Sugar-Butter Sauce with Walnuts and Butter.
But, in the end, the Jägermeister cannot be denied...
Especially when you have five of them preceded by three Super Big Gulp glasses of wine...
Jägermeister cuts through a stomach butter-shield like a hot knife through...uhhh... butter.
WITH BUTTER ON TOP!
Tomorrow morning should be fun.
Assuming I don't have a butter-induced heart attack in the middle of the night.
Posted on Saturday, October 23rd, 2010
This morning as I awoke from my drug-induced coma in a drug-induced haze, the first thing I noticed was that my wrist hurt. This was unusual since I don't remember it being injured yesterday WHEN I WAS RAN DOWN IN THE FUCKING CROSSWALK. Luckily, I'm right-handed and it's my left wrist that aches, so it won't interfere with any important business that needs to be done today.
And by "important business" I do not mean "masturbation" (pervert!)... I mean "shifting gears while driving solo".*
Since I was well enough to drive, I rolled out of bed.
Then promptly fell on the floor because I forgot my ankle was messed up.
As fun as it was to roll around on the carpet moaning "WAAAAAH! IT HURTS SO BAD!!" I had a plane to catch, so I reluctantly crawled to the shower and flopped around in the tub like a beached salmon for a few minutes while water sprayed down on me. Since that's not nearly as much fun as it sounds, I gave up on getting clean and decided to eat breakfast instead. Usually my breakfast would consist of four shots of Jägermeister after BEING HIT BY A FUCKING CAR the previous day... but I was driving. So I had a banana instead.
Drunk on a banana-fueled high, I threw a suitcase in the trunk of my car and then drove the 2-1/2 hours to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
Which was boat-loads of fun, I'm sure, but I honestly don't remember any of it (what in the hell was in that banana?). All I know is that it was raining, so it probably wasn't as pretty a trip as I had earlier this week...
From there it was a hellaciously rough two hour flight to Salt Lake City. Seriously, I haven't had a flight this nasty in a long time. It was so bad that I very nearly chucked my banana.** Once at SLC, I had a generous 35 minute layover. Or would have had 35 minutes but, since we were late getting out of Seattle, it was more like 20 minutes. And, of course, my connecting flight was clear across the frickin' airport. So I had to run to my gate with my twisted ankle screaming all the way (I've had worse). But, lucky me, I made it with time to spare. Which is good, because the flights are packed and I probably couldn't get another one until tomorrow. This would be bad, because I was meeting friends who were driving five hours down from Pueblo (that's in Colorado, y'all).
And so here I am in Albuquerque again, after a year-and-a-half absence.
My friends made sure that I (finally) got my four shots of Jägermeister, bless them.
*Also not a reference to masturbation.
**Still not a reference to masturbation.
Posted on Sunday, October 24th, 2010
HOW YOU DOIN' ALBUQUERQUE?!
It's a special HARD ROCK Edition of Bullet Sunday, LIVE from the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Albuquerque! For those of you who don't care about my Hard Rock obsession, you might want to skip this entry.
About the only Hard Rock logo you'll see outside of their gift shop.
• HARD? Kinda. Like the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tulsa, the Albuquerque property wasn't built as a Hard Rock. It's a tribal casino which has been retrofitted with Hard Rock theming in the public areas. They sprinkled cabinets of rock memorabilia around the place, added a trademark Hard Rock center bar to the casino floor, painted some classic rock lyrics on the walls, hung up some guitars, and changed the door-handles. As with Tulsa, the result is kinda half-baked. It looks like a Hard Rock property in places, but doesn't give you that overall "feel" you get from an "authentic" Hard Rock.
HARD ROCK GRADE: C
Apparently, this was the best they could do for a sign. How embarrassing.
You could slap this crap signage on a Motel 6, it doesn't make it a Hard Rock.
Sammy Hagar suit display case. THIS is Hard Rock.
Jonas Brothers guitar display. I have no idea what the fuck this is.
Nice. Guitar-shaped door handles. We need MORE of this kind of stuff here.
• ROCK? Not so much. The property is what it is, but... if you are a Hard Rock fanatic like me, that's not the problem. Once again, my Pin Collector's Card is worthless. No discount. No visitation credit. When I showed my card to the cashier, she literally said "We don't take that. We're not affiliated with the Hard Rock Cafe"... I shit you not. I responded "No... you just brand your hotel with their logo, sell tons of their logo merchandise, and create pins and shot glasses specifically for Hard Rock collectors. You're not affiliated at all!" Then I laughed it off as a joke, but I wasn't joking. Again, if you are licensing the Hard Rock brand and passing yourself off as a Hard Rock property, then BE A FUCKING HARD ROCK PROPERTY! When HRC Corporate licenses out their brand, one of the conditions should be that licensees are required to honor their club cards. Otherwise, you're just going to piss off your most diehard fans and customers. At least they had a good selection of merchandise and people who understood it (unlike the dismal merch shop in Tulsa).
HARD ROCK COLLECTOR GRADE: D+
Never mind the tons of Hard Rock logo merch... they're not affiliated with the Hard Rock!
• CASINO? Nice. While not seeming very "Hard Rock" to me, I must admit that my friends and I had a blast at the casino. Biggest plus is the gorgeous lady dealers at the table games dressed in corsets and stockings! Brutally hot (if only they allowed photos in casinos). You could lose every penny you had and just not care! They also have lots of modern slots (including a small non-smoking area), free coffee & Coke refreshment centers, and a snack bar (with the worst $4.95 nachos I've ever eaten... the "cheese" tasted like motor oil). All in all, it's a classy casino with a great staff which has a nice layout and offers a "full" casino experience (including a Bingo room, table games, and poker parlor). There's a "Rockstar" rewards club for the frequent gambler.
HARD ROCK CASINO GRADE: C • CASINO GRADE: A-
• HOTEL? Boring. The hotel rooms are pretty basic as there is no Hard Rock theming of any kind. With the exception of the hotel services book and the soaps which say "Hard Rock Hotel," you'd never know that this is a Hard Rock at all. The Native American prints on the walls are nice, but not Hard Rock. Even putting all that aside, there are still problems. The clock was not set to the correct time. The room smells funky (like burnt hair?). The wall television didn't work and had a giant annoying glowing light on the bottom that I had to cover so I could sleep. And I had to keep the bathroom door closed because the toilet would start running at random. Ultimately, my $170 "DELUXE" room doesn't seem very "deluxe" and my promised "view" isn't that great. About the only positive I can offer is that it was clean.
HARD ROCK HOTEL GRADE: F • HOTEL GRADE: C
Not bad... but not very Hard Rock either.
See that tiny leather binder and notepad on the desk? The only thing Hard Rock in this entire photo.
• NOISE? FAIL! This hotel is noisy as hell. Rude people are screaming down the hallways at all hours of the day and night. Doors are slamming constantly. Hotel staff are walking around 24-7 screaming into their radios which are blaring at full volume. And you hear everything. Absolutely no effort was made to soundproof anything. Thus I can sum up the relaxation level of my room as "miserable." If you have any aspirations of getting even a little sleep... best bring earplugs. You'll need them.
ROOM NOISE GRADE: D
• FOOD? Okay to Great. In addition to the truly awful "food" being sold at the casino snack bar, there's other dining options available... EAGLE'S NEST BUFFET: While modest by Vegas standards, the buffet still looked decent. I took a pass, because vegetarians will never get their $13.95 worth. LUCHA: A nice Mexican restaurant by day which transforms into a Tequila bar at night. I had dinner here and really enjoyed it. Everything was fresh and flavorful, and the guacamole was fantastic. 505 FUSION: A very nice, upscale nightclub, we had drinks here last night. Pizza and appetizers were okay, but nothing special. The menu looked decent, but none of us were hungry enough to order late supper. CHILL: Great-tasting quality ice cream parlor. TIWA: An upscale cafe, but the menu was definitely meat-oriented, so I took a pass. THE DELI: I had a cheap, bland grilled-cheese sandwich with undercooked, waggy fries that had me chained to the toilet an hour after eating here (thank heavens for Imodium!).
DINING GRADE: C- (LUCHA DINING GRADE: B+) (505 FUSION DINING GRADE: B-)
• SERVICES & SHOPS? Good! Much to my total shock and surprise, there's a free round-the-clock shuttle to the airport for registered hotel guests! They will also take you to the Isleta Pueblo station so you can catch the $2 RailRunner train into town (which is nice, because a taxi would be $35+).
There's a nice pool and an interesting spa...
The pool continues under the glass to the inside, which is cool.
Inside the spa's hot tub pavilion at night. Nifty.
As I mentioned above, there's a Hard Rock Shop filled to the rafters with Hard Rock merchandise (though your Hard Rock All-Access Pass and Pin Club Card are useless here). There's also a very cool tattoo and body modification shop called "The Vault"...
Green tattooed woman mannequin sold separately.
There's also golfing nearby at the Isleta Eagle Golf Club, and camping nearby at the Isleta Lakes Recreation Area. Lastly, there's the "Fun Connection" spot with bowling, laser tag, and an arcade (or so I'm told... I never saw it).
SERVICES GRADE: B
• PROBLEMS? Yes. In order to use the hotel elevator, you have to swipe your room key before the buttons will work. Unfortunately, the card reader in the elevator is shitty. More than once I was riding the damn thing up and down while trying to get my card to work so it would stop on my floor. Several times I'd enter the elevator only to find somebody else has been riding up and down trying to get their card to work as well. This is an obvious and highly frustrating problem, and it's just plain stupid that the hotel doesn't do something about it.
• CONCLUSION: Ultimately, I'd have to give the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Albuquerque a pass. The hotel doesn't impress me much, and there's nothing "Hard Rock" enough about the resort to make it destination-worthy for fans. If you're in the area, it might be fun to gamble in their nice casino, but I wouldn't stay or eat here again (except perhaps dinner at Lucha).
Anyway... it was nice to meet up with my friends, I had a lot of fun, and I can't complain about the cheap-ass ticket price I paid to get here ($168 round-trip!), so overall this weekender goes in the WIN column. I just wish that these new additions to the Hard Rock family would be worth the effort on their own. They have to be, because otherwise they're just diluting the Hard Rock brand and giving people a mediocre impression of what a Hard Rock property can be when some effort goes into creating them.
Posted on Monday, October 25th, 2010
I really should have flown back last night. My friends had gone home in the afternoon, I'd seen the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Albuquerque, and I had to be to work today. But when I made my reservations, I thought it would be nice to have a full day in-between flights so, instead of traveling last night, I took the first flight I could get this morning. Which meant waking up at 3:30am. And as I sit here bleary-eyed at the airport wanting to sleep, I'm feeling pretty stupid about the whole ordeal. NOTE TO SELF: Never book an early flight unless you absolutely have to.
Despite the short length of this trip, I got to see some wacky wonderful things. I was reflecting on them as I rode the shuttle to the airport, and this is what I came up with...
• Rock You Queen Video Slot Machine. Arguably the most amazing slots game I've ever seen, Rock You Queen Slots is so entertaining that you don't even care that it's taking all your money. I hit the Bonus Round on my fourth or fifth spin, then spent all my winnings PLUS $20 trying to hit it again because it was so awesome. I never saw it again, but fortunately, somebody put it on YouTube...
What you are not seeing here is that ABOVE the play screen there's a video screen with the "Radio Ga Ga" video playing and lights going off. Truly impressive!
• A woman playing slots while wearing oxygen... and smoking. I can only hope that the oxygen was turned off at the time. I would have told her that oxygen is extremely flammable, and her face could explode, but instead got my ass as far away from her as possible.
• A man crying after (apparently) losing his last dollar at video poker. Ordinarily, I'd find this sad, as he obviously has a problem. But Culture Club's rediculously happy song "I'll Tumble 4 Ya" was blasting through the casino, which just made the situation funny as hell. I had to stifle a guffaw and run away so I didn't end up laughing in the poor guy's face.
• A woman punching a Kitty Glitter slot machine. In yet another senseless slots-related tragedy, one of my friends was playing "Maltese Puppy Slots" next to a woman who was playing "Kitty Glitter Slots" who all of a sudden screamed "I HAD THAT! I HAD THAT!" and started punching the video kitties. The three of us just kind of scooted away and waited for security to show up, but the crazy woman ran off still screaming "I HAD THAT!" before anybody could get there. Something tells me she really didn't have that.
• Cougarlicious Slots. Need I say more?
• The Ladies of Hard Rock. There's a section of table games called "Baby Dolls" where brutally hot women dressed in pink corsets and fishnet stockings deal cards to hopelessly distracted guys wanting more for their entertainment dollar than you can get from Blackjack alone. I mentioned this yesterday, but didn't mention the uniforms for the waitresses at Lucha's where I had dinner last night... a black bustier, black short skirt, black fishnet stalkings, and... wait for it... fur-topped Ugg boots! Also brutally hot, but in a much weirder way. Say what you like about the place, but you never get tired of the scenery.
• HDR Pro App for iPhone. Apple may have introduced "High Dynamic Range imaging" as a standard feature for their built-in camera, but the stuff I get out of the HDR Pro App is in a league all its own. And sometimes not because of the reason you'd expect. I keep getting happy accidents and funky surprises that make me never want to shoot with any other camera app...
• Airport Crazy. What's the first thing I see as I exit the Hard Rock Shuttle at Albuquerque International this morning? A crazy woman in the no-parking zone picking a fight with airport security! At least I'm assuming she's wacked out of her gourd... who in there right mind would mix it up with airport security now-a-days? My problem is that I can't be content with such simple amusements. My first instinct is always to "improve" the situation. Do you know how badly I wanted to scream "SHE'S GOT A GUN!" or even offer helpful advice like "I think you should cuff her, officer!"?? Fortunately, I was the model of restraint. I didn't even make goofy faces at the crazy lady as I passed. I wish I knew why I feel the need to be an unbelievable bastard all the time. Either I truly am evil to the core, or I just can't resist a good laugh. Problem is, I'm usually the only one who finds it funny.
• Unhappy Kitteh. A woman in a wheelchair pushing a cart was just pushed by me. On top of the cart is a kitty carrier with a very unhappy cat inside. Very. It's screeching "MEOW" every three seconds. This is surprising, because I always assumed that animals are drugged before flying. I rarely see people with pets going nuts like this, and have always wondered why kids can't be tranquilized too. Well, kids and old people who like to complain a lot. And loud talkers. And people who pull on your seat-back every ten minutes. And people with Windows laptops who have the volume on full so you get blasted with that hideous fucking Windows startup sound. And idiots who annoy me. Which is pretty much everybody. Heck, let's just tranquilize the entire plane. Including me. The cats can meow all they like.
And my laptop battery is dying. I guess my time to reflect is over, and I should publish this thing already.
Who knows what new amazing things will happen on the way home?
Posted on Tuesday, October 26th, 2010
Yesterday I was supposed to fly out of Albuquerque early in the morning. But mechanical difficulties with the plane kept pushing my flight back further and further until I was ultimately rebooked on an entirely different one. This meant getting into Seattle much later than I originally intended, where I was greeted by torrential rain and rush hour traffic. As if that weren't enough, it was snowing on the passes.
Not wanting to drive home through rain, traffic, and snow on three hours sleep, I decided to crash at my sister's house and come back home this morning.
Which was a smart move, because the drive was pretty spectacular.
At the top of the pass, it looks like all the color has been sucked from the scenery. It's drab, overcast, and depressing... yet still beautiful at the same time...
But once you get to the other side, it's another story entirely...
In the twenty+ years I've been driving over the mountains, I've never stopped along the way to take a look. I've always just enjoyed the view at 60mph. Today I did stop for some reason, and was glad that I did. And a little mad at myself that I never had before.
Sometimes its good to stop and smell the roses. Even if there aren't any roses to smell.
Posted on Monday, November 1st, 2010
I've been making twice-weekly trips over to Seattle for entirely too long and it's starting to wear on me. Especially now that the weather is getting all nasty and the deer are running. Today's trip found me with such poor visibility that I wasn't able to see the road much of the time. This was made worse when I very nearly plowed into some deer that ran onto the highway in front of me. The drive would have made for some cool photos, but the window-mount I constructed so I can shoot hands-free iPhone photos didn't seem to want to stick to the window, so I didn't get many shots at all. This one was taken at 1:30 in the afternoon before things got really bad...
Seattle was equally miserable, with rain pouring down on me as I attempted to run errands downtown. At one point I was forced to navigate a lake which had formed in the crosswalk, and ended up with soaking wet feet on top of everything else. Fortunately, I had a warm and comfy hotel room waiting for me...
Complete with my new Black Bear Sleepytime Pal...
And a nice view as well. Look at those awesome trees...
I have everything except a glass. Or a cup. Or a mug. Or anything that lets me get a drink of water without sticking my head under the faucet. At least without having to buy a bottle of water for $5.50. Kind of douchey for a hotel that I enjoy quite a lot otherwise.
Now my challenge will be trying to get a few hours of work done before that big comfy bed makes me fall asleep. I fully expect to fail.
But I think I can live with that.
Washington State votes by mail, so I've already taken care of business. But since most everybody else votes tomorrow, I thought I would post this amusing cartoon that's been working its way through the interwebs over the past week. Much of it is rather obtuse in the way it presents Tea Party positions on the issues... but I do like the way it hammers home how most Tea Partiers seem to have no fucking clue what they're talking about. Every single interview I've ever seen with a Tea Partier has been chocked full of such blinding ignorance that I'm left speechless. All these people know how to do is parrot the crap they've been conditioned to believe, and not bother actually thinking or researching anything for themselves. It's all at once mind-bogglingly sad and so fucking typical...
Interestingly enough, some of the Tea Party's core beliefs for accountability in government spending and limitations of government intrusion into our lives actually sound like a good thing to me. The problem is that Tea-Partiers seem to pick-and-choose how these concepts are applied. On one hand they don't want the government telling us how to live our lives, but then turn around and say that the government should pass laws preventing two people of the same sex from getting married. On one hand they don't want the government to be in the health-care business, but then turn around and say that the government should be forbidden from making any changes to Medicare. These seemingly endless contradictions make little or no sense. And when you add in the many lies and distortions that Tea-Partiers seem so fond of propagating, I am left scared as hell as to what might happen if these people actually start getting into office.
Sadly, it looks as though we might be finding out very soon.
Posted on Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010
Last night I worked until 12:30am only to be rudely awakened at 4:30am by my hotel neighbors. Today I had to switch hotels, because when you book separate dates using a "blind bid" site like Priceline.com you never know where you'll end up. This time I ended up at The Westin, which is my second-favorite hotel in Seattle (after
Except if you end up staying here on the night of midterm political elections.
Especially if the incumbent candidate for State Senator has her election night HQ here.
Particularly if you have her supporters staying on your floor.
And very likely if they are staying in the room next door.
And most definitely if she ends up winning the election.
She did. Apparently. I guess. Or is going to. Or something good. I don't know, because I don't give a crap. But there's music blasting outside and yelling in the hallway. Maybe she punched somebody in the face then took a shit on their head, and that's why people are going nuts. Given the nasty, reprehensible, disgusting campaign that both she and her opponent ran, I wouldn't be surprised at all.
But whatever. I honestly don't know what's going on.
All I do know is that I won't be getting much sleep tonight. Again.
THANKS A LOT, PRICELINE NEGOTIATOR!
Posted on Monday, November 8th, 2010
Daylight Saving Time is such a crock of shit.
I left work at 5:30pm. It was pitch black. WHERE'S MY FUCKING DAYLIGHT NOW? Gone, thanks to it being Not-Daylight-Savings-Time.
I have to say... even though I have given up all hope of President Obama being able to get any shit done now that he's going to have to spend every waking hour of every fucking day battling the Republican-dominated House of Representatives to solve this country's problems... I would forgive everything if he would just abolish this fucked up shit of having to dick with our clocks twice a year. Surely this is a bipartisan issue if there ever was one? Everywhere I go, people are bitching about how stupid Daylight Saving Time is. You'd think every fucking House Representative and every fucking Senator and every fucking douchebag politician in the entire fucking country would be onboard. It's about the only thing they can do now which would be embraced by the majority of the fucking population who's out there in the dark AT FIVE-O-CLOCK...
I'm in a really bad mood, so I probably should stop this entry before things really get out of hand.
I've just read a very disturbing article over at Ars where they're talking about the new mandatory procedures for airport security. People still have the option of skipping the "backscatter" and "millimeter wave" scanners at airports if they're too modest for that kind of exposure. If you don't know what one of those scans looks like, I transferred my last scan to a USB Memory Stick and smuggled it out of airport security...
Of course I was wearing my MC Hammer Pants at the time (they're so comfortable for traveling!), so I had a certain amount of embarrassment built-in, but still... I don't want to go through THAT again.
So I think that I'll opt for the new-and-improved "Crotch-Invasive-Super-Pat-Down" instead...
Nothing like a free hand-job to relax you before a long flight. Thank you Transportation Security Administration!
Posted on Wednesday, November 10th, 2010
I both love and hate shopping for groceries at late hours during weeknights. On one hand, there's very few people and you're pretty much left alone to shop in peace. On the other hand, the people that you DO run into are... errr... "colorful" to say the least.
Tonight I drove into Wenatchee for a late-supper blogger meet with Brandon, Eclectic, and Matt. Since "eating" is a highly-specialized activity for me now that I'm trying to recover from side-effects of Getting Healthy, I had to eat my salad and beer bread at super-human speeds so that I could finish before my food deadline. I don't think I injured anybody, but it sure made trying to hold a conversation interesting.
After dinner (and an obligatory stop for drinks) I decided to make my afore-mentioned trip to the grocery store. Albertsons was, as expected, mostly empty at 10:45pm.
Except for the hipster rejects, gangsta posers, redneck zombies, drugged-out hippies, whack-job crazies, Jersey Shore wannabes (WTF? How is this a fashion trend?)... and me. Oddly enough, I fit right in. Society's outcasts have nothing on me.
And now I'm home and reading about the whole "We Won't Fly" movement, where people are protesting the new airport "scanners" (which I wrote about two days ago) by refusing to fly. There's even a website about it where they are advocating a "No Fly Day" boycott on November 24th. "Hit the airlines in the pocketbook until the scanners and gropers are gone. Make the airlines work for us."
What a crock of horse shit.
If I wasn't already flying on November 24th, I would actually change my travel plans to fly on that day.
What the fuck do the airlines have to do with airport security? Nothing. That's what. Airlines operate at the pleasure and direction of the Transportation Security Administration. They aren't in a position to dictate shit. Sure they can protest that the new security measures are harming their business and hope that the TSA comes up with a better plan than these pricey scanners (which many claim won't make us any safer and may actually be dangerous to human health), but that's about it. They don't make the decisions as to what the TSA implements for airport security. Punishing them as if they do is just stupid.
It's like boycotting McDonalds because they don't have cocaine on the menu. Boycotts against persons, businesses, or organizations for things which are outside of their control doesn't make any sense to me. Sure, go ahead and boycott McDonalds because they won't put fried pies back on the menu, or boycott the airlines because they force you to sit in seats with no leg-room and pay extra to check a bag... those are decisions they made. But boycotting them for decisions and rules they have to follow which other people made? WTF?.
Now that we have "No Fly Day" I'm going to reiterate the same request I made for "Shutdown Day" back in 2007...
Look, I fully admit that I'm opposed to the new scanners and support a person's right to opt-out of having to use them. I know that the TSA claims that these devices are no more dangerous than mobile phones (mobile phones are safe, right? RIGHT?). I understand the images are not saved. I appreciate that the person viewing the scanner images can't make out who is in the machine, nor can they look out and see the person being scanned. I concede that the TSA has rules in place which would prevent scanner operators from recording what they see. Blah... blah... blah... I just don't care. Experts have said that these scanners can be fooled, and so the invasion of my privacy and possible health risk just aren't worth it. Nor is the enormous cost, which we will all have to pay for. Because if there is a way to fool the scanners, terrorists will find out about it, and then where will we be?
Showing our junk at the airport for no good reason.
And for people who feel the same as I do, they can opt out of the scanner and get groped by a TSA agent instead. Yes, that's not much of an alternative. And, no, I don't like it. That's why I will be writing my senator (which is apparently Patty Murray again), calling my Representative, and blogging about it. Hopefully continuing action AGAINST THOSE ACTUALLY RESPONSIBLE will be enough to eventually let sanity prevail. But, in the meanwhile, I have to fly and this is the price I pay for it. And I'm not going to punish the airlines because they want to keep operating and have to play by the rules and conditions they're given by the TSA to do so.
And in happier news...
Photo by Morigi/WireImage, from NY Daily News.
She has done so much to support and advocate for animals and their habitats that this is a well-deserved honor.
It's nice to end the day with some good news for a change.
Posted on Wednesday, November 17th, 2010
Today was a whirlwind of pain and suffering.
Okay, not really... but it was a very difficult day. After a night of absolutely no sleep, I had to be ready for a trip to Seattle at 6:00am. Fortunately, I wasn't driving, so at least the danger of me passing out and causing a twenty-car pileup on the highway was lessened by 74%. The drive over the mountain passes was mostly uneventful. A lot of rain, but clear sailing from start to finish.
After nine hours of work, it was time to turn around and go back home.
To say road conditions had changed would be a massive understatement.
The snow was dropping so heavily that you could barely see the road. Let alone the cars in front of you...
Despite chains or all-wheel drive being required, I counted two semi-trucks skidded into the ditch, a half-dozen accidents, and police cars everywhere. As we got across the pass, we saw that the East-bound lanes had all been closed...
Since it's kind of hard to tell what's going on in that photo... it's a police car closing the road with miles and miles of traffic stacked behind him. Since there's no way to turn around and go back, all the people in that line would just have to sit there until the pass re-opens, which was probably hours.
Made it home safely, where I promptly took some sleeping pills and climbed into bed.
Then remembered I hadn't blogged, so I climbed back out of bed and wrote this. You are welcome!
Posted on Friday, November 19th, 2010
I hate... HATE... Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
And this is coming from somebody who lives according to a belief system that advocates not "hating" anything. But SeaTac brings it out of me almost every single time I pass through. Which is a lot, as you might imagine, given the amount of travel I have to endure.
Before I get into today's edition of Yet Another Reason I Hate Seattle Tacoma International Airport, a warning...
Given that this is SeaTac we're talking about, I fully plan on cursing like a drunken sailor. Heck, the situation practically demands near continuous use of the word "fuck" in new and creative ways. If something like that offends you, then you should probably not read the rest of the entry.
Instead, look at the picture of this cute kitten and I'll see you tomorrow...
For the rest of you brave souls, this nonsense continue in an extended entry...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Posted on Saturday, November 20th, 2010
"The venom of a black mamba can kill a human in four hours if, say, bitten on the ankle or the thumb. However, a bite to the face or torso can bring death from paralysis within 20 minutes. Now, you should listen to this, 'cause this concerns you. The amount of venom that can be delivered from a single bite can be gargantuan (you know, I've always liked that word... "gargantuan"... so rarely have an opportunity to use it in a sentence). If not treated quickly with anti-venom, 10 to 15 milligrams can be fatal to human beings. However, the black mamba can deliver as much as 100 to 400 milligrams of venom from a single bite."
— Elle Driver, Kill Bill Volume 2
When I travel, it's often for a job that occurs at a specific time whether I am there or not. Because of this, I often fly in a day early, just in case my flight is delayed or some other problem rears its ugly head (like yesterday!). This is especially necessary in winter, when travel problems pop up all the time. The bad news is that I lose a day back home where there's tons of crap waiting to be done. The good news is that if I do make it to my destination on-time, I have a day to goof off.
I awoke early so I could get my work done and head into the city for some much needed time off. Unfortunately, things didn't get done as quickly as I had hoped, and I couldn't leave until noon. But half-a-day in Atlanta is better than none. Except I had to go all the way up to the Lenox Mall to buy a new power adaptor for my MacBook when I discovered the one I brought had mysteriously died overnight. With delay piled on top of delay (not to mention waiting 35 minutes for a train!), I missed my opportunity to visit ICE-Atlanta, and instead decided to wander around downtown Atlanta to see if I could find something new to do.
So I decided to do something I haven't done in a while... go to the top of the tallest hotel in the Western Hemisphere: The Westin Peachtree Plaza. Given my fear of heights it wasn't exactly the funnest thing for me to do, but it was a nice day and I hadn't been up it since my first trip to Atlanta ten years ago. I probably would have gone up earlier, but was scared away by all the scaffolding as they replaced windows that were damaged by the tornado that hit Atlanta in 2008.
After ascending the 73 stories, this is what I saw...
That turquoise-looking dome is the top of the Hard Rock Cafe
Which is really the best reason to come to Atlanta.
And now it's off to work...
Posted on Sunday, November 21st, 2010
Welcome to a very special The Walking Dead edition of Bullet Sunday!
As I mentioned yesterday, when I travel for work I have to go a day early to be sure I arrive on-time. What I didn't mention is that I also stay an extra day later just in case my work time has to be moved. Like it did today. Instead of starting on the job this morning, I'm instead starting tomorrow morning... leaving me with a free day to do whatever. So after getting caught up on some other work, I decided to explore the beautiful rural Georgia countryside... which just so happens to be filled with locations from The Walking Dead comic book! I've been meaning to do this for a while, but work always comes first and I've never had the time.
• Map! Luckily for me (and every other fan of The Walking Dead comic), somebody has created a very cool Google Map overlay with updated information of location from the series (WARNING: MAP CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS!). This makes it easy to plan a trip to see some of the sights. I decided to focus on those around the Thomaston area where I'm staying...
I could have gone a bit further north, but many of those locations are private residences and the like, so I restrained myself to the more public locations.
• Woodbury! Introduced in issue 27 of The Walking Dead, Woodbury is a critical location where a lot of stuff goes down (for those watching the television series, this is a ways off). While the town in the comic book is quite a bit different than real-life Woodbury, it's still worth a visit. Seeing the actual place makes the comic come to life. Like many places I've seen in the area, the Woodbury Police Dept. was decked out for the holidays, which is kind of nice...
But the most interesting thing about Woodbury to me was to be found in front of the Woodbury Pharmacy...
Soda pop machines! (in the Pacific Northwest we say "pop" but I'm originally from California where it's "soda" so I usually merge the two... here in Georgia, everybody says "Coke" for most every soda pop type beverage). And it wasn't just any kind of soda pop they were selling... there was a lot of really cool flavors, some of which I have never heard of before, including "Grapico" and "Sunkist Peach"...
But the best part? The sodas were cheap! Fanta cans were 40¢! Pepsi product cans were 50¢! Bottles were just $1! I haven't seen it this inexpensive in a very long time. Interestingly enough, there was a steady stream of cars stopping at the pharmacy to use the soda pop vending machines... even though the pharmacy itself is closed on weekends. As I sat there drinking my peach and grape fizzy drinks, I saw some pretty interesting people show up for their non-Coke Coke fix.
Woodbury has a rather sad number of empty (abandoned?) buildings, some of which were very cool to photograph...
• Gay! As I headed to my next location, I stopped off in Gay, Georgia, home of the Cotton Pickin' Fair twice each year...
The city of Gay has a very small population, but they still have a Town Hall building...
• Concord. I had no intent of stopping along the way to my next destination, but as I passed through the small city of Concord, I saw something that changed my mind...
It's the Concord United Methodist Church facing off with the Concord Baptist Church at high noon! It was a bit strange how they were built not facing the main road... but instead facing each other. I'm sure there's a story there, but I can't guess what it might be...
• Zebulon! I remarked on Twitter that "Zebulon" sounds like a town that has been taken over by space aliens. Because, seriously, doesn't "Zebulon" sound like an alien overlord right out of Planetfall or something? Despite the rather odd name, the town itself is quite nice, with the beautiful Pike Co. Courthouse Square and charming shops. But I was not here for Zebulon, I was here for "The Prison"... AKA "West Central Prison"... AKA "West Central Pre-Release Center of the Georgia Department of Corrections"...
Introduced at the end of issue 12, "The Prison" is arguably one of the most important locations in the entire run of The Walking Dead so far (and is probably going to be introduced in the second season of the television show). The sheer volume of story that happens here dominates the first 50 issues of the comic, and to see it in person... even just from the outside... is kind of chill-inducing...
I drove next door to a sports park so I could see the location from the vantage point of "Hershel's Garden." Again, it's quite different from the prison in the comic, but seeing the location still adds atmosphere to the story...
That's it for The Walking Dead Bullets... but I've got more in an extended entry!
Posted on Monday, November 22nd, 2010
I am staying all alone. In a huge house. On a dark street. In rural Georgia.
Now, I am not one to scare easily. I could sit through a marathon of horror flicks before bedtime and not give it another thought. But tonight every creak in the floorboards... every leaf scuttering down the roof... every branch tapping on the window... every noise in the night... it all added up to make me, well, not scared really... but uneasy.
Needless to say, last night was rough going in the sleep department.
There may not be any real undead wandering around Georgia, but I certainly feel like a zombie today...
In other news, LEGO Harry Potter (Years 1-4) for iPhone is pretty sweet. And I don't even like Harry Potter! But I do like the LEGO games (LEGO Star Wars, LEGO Batman, and LEGO Indiana Jones are awesome!). In the game you can play Harry and dozens of other characters you unlock, then run around solving puzzles and collecting LEGO studs to buy stuff. Just like all the other LEGO titles, you can play through each level multiple times as different characters to unlock even more secrets with their special abilities.
The game looks
Get used to this load-screen, you'll be seeing it a lot.
A lot of work went into this London cut-scene!
LEGO humor in full force: note the Harry Potter mini-fig on his keychain!
The game screens are no less detailed, but you're viewing them from rather far away, so you're not seeing game elements at their fullest. Still, an impressive picture...
Zooming in, you can see the clarity of the hi-res Retina Screen graphics (I'll bet the game looks incredible on the iPad!)...
Despite the fun I'm having with it, there are some problems, however. First of all, the load screen comes up A LOT, and scenes take a while to transfer. This results in a lot of staring at the load screen over and over again. It gets old in a hurry. But the biggest (and only major) offense is the control system. You control characters and interact with objects by dragging your finger across the screen... effectively covering up what you're supposed to be looking at! It's tough to solve puzzles when your finger is obliterating them. It's hard to control Harry when your finger covers him up. It's a heinous oversight that I don't understand. I can only hope that they eventually update and give you the option of controlling things with an
All-in-all, you can't beat the mind-boggling price of just $4.99. It's a fraction of what you'd pay on the Nintendo DS, Wii, XBox, or Playstation versions! If you have a supported device to play it, LEGO Harry Potter (Years 1-4) is well-worth the download.
I just wish I had the time to actually play it. :-(
These "It Gets Better" videos just keep flooring me. The crushing despair, fear, and pain that people go through every day just for being "different" is almost impossible to believe. If we weren't seeing the tragic consequences of the bullying in the news, it would be impossible to believe. I just can't fathom how somebody could intentionally make another human being feel as though their life was worth so little that death is the only option left. It's sickening on a level that makes my heart ache just to listen to it. But we must listen to it, because things have to get better. For all of us.
This video from people at Disney/Pixar is pretty amazing and hopeful...
I wish I wouldn't have to keep wishing that all the bigoted assholes who make this world such a horrible place would hurry up and die so we can have a world I'm not ashamed to live in.
Because, in truth, it makes me no better.
But I'm somehow okay with that.
Posted on Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010
Work was supposed to end at 10:30 last night. I finally finished at 4:40am this morning. It's not a big deal... just the way the job goes sometimes... but it left me in a seriously debilitated state when my alarm went off at 7:00am. That's two nights in a row with no sleep.
This did not bode well for my drive back to work to turn in my badge and car. Especially since a nasty fog had descended on the Georgia countryside...
But I survived the trip so no harm, no foul.
When I arrived back at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, I checked into my hotel, did not pass GO, did not collect $200, and collapsed onto the bed. Nothing would have made me happier than to sleep the next ten hours, but the last thing I wanted was for my sleep schedule to get screwed up, so I forced myself to stop at just two.
Then it was time to head downtown and see what kind of trouble I could get into.
And eat dinner.
And get really, really wet.
When I exited the MARTA train stop at Peachtree Center, I was immediately assaulted by pouring rain. This caught me by surprise, because there was no hint of it when I left my hotel. After just five minutes I was soaked to the bone. This made for a miserable dinner, but I didn't want to waste the 35-minute trip so I wandered through Centennial Olympic Park. World of Coke Without Lime looked kind of cool in the dreary Atlanta rain...
It's John Pemberton, the inventor of Coca-Cola!
Since I was already wet, I walked around town for a while and ended up back at The Westin. With nothing better to do I decided to take another trip to the top and see the city at night, which I had never done before. Unfortunately, the windows were covered in rain, but the photos I took looked kind of cool anyway...
Then across the street to see if the Hard Rock Cafe had any cool pins I couldn't live without...
And that was all I could manage. Mostly because my feet were getting all wrinkly.
Back to the MARTA train...
...and my warm, dry, comfy hotel bed.
Tomorrow I'll be flying on the busiest travel day of the year. I wonder if I'll end up with anything to blog about?
Posted on Wednesday, November 24th, 2010
Today was declared "No Fly Day" by some ass-hats who think that punishing the airlines for something they have no control over is a good way to send a message to the TSA. Evidently, somebody finally told them that this was pretty fucking stupid, so they changed tactics and "No Fly Day" became "Opt-Out Day" where everybody is supposed to decline being scanned by the new intrusive airport scanners which display your junk on TV. Instead, we're supposed to opt-in for the new heavy-petting pat-down where the TSA makes sweet, sweet love to your fun zones. Personally, I don't see this as an upgrade, but hey... whatever floats your boat.
When I was flying out of Atlanta this morning, the TSA was indeed using the new intrusive
It's not that I am opposed to security measures which make us safer when flying. On the contrary... if I thought a shot of radiation to my balls and a sensual massage would make us safer, then by all means sign me up for both!
The problem is that neither does shit to make us safer.
Since my previous attempt at explaining why was confusing because I was vague, this time I'll spell it out with pictures. For the sake of argument, let's say that the TSA decided that both a porn show and a crotch-rub were now required to fly...
Now, clearly this is an exaggeration (they'd never let a monkey fly unaccompanied), but my points here are these...
In other words... THESE NEW PROCEDURES ARE FUCKING BULLSHIT DUMBASSERY, AND WHOEVER IS MAKING THESE INSANELY EXPENSIVE AND INEFFECTIVE DECISIONS SHOULD BE PUNCHED IN THE FACE THEN KICKED THE FUCK OUT OF THEIR JOB!! I'm so not kidding. I can only guess that the idiots who set these polices own stock in intrusive scanner companies, or are getting some kind of massive kick-back from them. Nothing else makes any sense.
People are quick to say "If there was ever another terrorist attack, then you'd be screaming that the TSA didn't do enough... at least they're trying to keep us safe! To which I say "bullshit."
In my humble (ha!) opinion, the question should be "What happens when another terrorist attack occurs because some morons smuggled a couple pounds of plastique explosives up their asses and it wasn't detected by intrusive scanners (which don't penetrate skin, apparently) or getting felt-up? You've blown your totally-ineffective safety wad, so what then?"
Look, metal detectors and private screenings (when warranted) are basic security measures that I don't have any argument with. Even though they can be thwarted rather easily by somebody who is intent on thwarting them, they probably discourage general dumbassery, so fine. Go ahead and take our bottles of water and look at my shoes in an X-ray machine. Really, knock yourselves out. But until somebody can prove to me that these ridiculously stupid "enhanced security measures" are worth the cost, inconvenience, violation, embarrassment, and time... then what the fuck?
Until then, I understand people's frustration with the stupidity we're being forced to endure, and support thoughtful, respectful objections when directed to the place they're deserved.
Which does not include the TSA agent employees who are just doing their fucking jobs.
After clearing Atlanta security in a mere 20 minutes (way to go ATL!), I gathered up my stuff and wandered off looking for Auntie Anne's Pretzels (she's in Terminal A, if you're curious). As I was walking back to my gate hoping that the crack-cocaine they put in the pretzels to make them so darn addictive wasn't at a dangerous level, I overheard a woman going off about how the TSA agents are all just a bunch of disgusting perverts and "gate rapists." This had me curious, so I followed her for a bit (I had two hours to kill) so I could listen to her ranting. After I had finally had enough, I resisted the urge to explain a few things to her...
In the end, I don't know what the answer is. As should be obvious, I am fully against these stupid new "enhanced security measures" which do nothing to better keep us safe. Since I travel a lot, I don't want to expose myself to radiation whenever I travel... no matter how small the amount because that shit adds up. And I really don't want some guy feeling around my junk whenever I have to catch a flight. Otherwise I might not care.
But I do. I have to.
There's probably an answer out there somewhere. Maybe it's a new technology we haven't discovered yet. Maybe it's an old technology we can use differently. So let's get to work on that, because this is some seriously important shit. What we shouldn't do is waste our time, privacy, and money on the crap that doesn't work.
Like porn shows and erotic massage.
Which is not nearly as much fun as it sounds (in this case, anyway) and should be stopped.
Posted on Sunday, December 5th, 2010
Welcome to a very special TRAVEL edition of Bullet Sunday!
Yesterday I received my billionth email asking me where I'd recommend as a travel destination "for an American who (FILL IN THE BLANK HERE)." I kind of hesitate to comment on questions like this because, while I have traveled to quite a lot of places, there's tons of places I haven't been. Like India, most of South America, most of Africa, and a bajillion other awesome places are unknown to me. But I'm always happy to encourage my fellow countrymen to travel, so here's a list which is confined to only those places I've been (click on the name to visit a Blogography link)...
• For an American without a passport: Maui, Hawaii. Hawaii is one of the most exotic and wonderful places to vacation on the face of the earth, and I never hesitate to recommend it as a travel destination. I've been dozens of times, and usually find the weather to be terrific (only rarely has it rained my entire vacation). Of all the islands, Maui is my hands-down favorite but, if you've got time I definitely recommend island-hopping, as there's something wonderful on all of them.
Runner-Up: New Orleans. Easily in my top-ten favorite world cities, The Big Easy is an experience for the senses.
• For an American without a passport who hates the beach: South Utah. I have seen a multitude of amazing places around the world, but when it comes to breathtaking scenery that's not to be missed, some of the best you'll find is right here in the USA. Arches National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park, Canyonlands National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, Goblin Valley, Lake Powell... the list of astounding attractions in South Utah is never-ending, and every one of them is worth a visit.
Runner-Up: Washington State. Maybe I'm biased, but my back-yard has some of the most beautiful scenery on earth any time of the year. Anybody with an appreciation for the Great Outdoors should have Washington State on their short-list.
• For an American who has never traveled outside the USA: Italy. This answer is kind of vague, but I'd be hard-pressed to pick a single part of Italy as being better than any other. If you like culture and history, try Rome. If you like romance and a touch of the exotic, try Venice. If you're a foodie or a wine persons, try Tuscany. If you are obsessed with art, try Florence. If you just want to be overwhelmed with beautiful scenery, try the Amalfi Coast. Regardless of where you go, you're assured of amazing food and culture... and you're probably not going to have and language troubles or culture shock.
Runner-Up: The United Kingdom & Ireland. Again, I'd be hard-pressed to pick one area over another, but if you're looking for low culture-shock and an amazing vacation, the UK & Ireland are worth a visit. If you want shopping, theater, and art, try London. If you want history and beauty, try York or Bath. If you want to visit my favorite city on earth, try Edinburgh. If you want to see lush green countryside, try Wicklow and Ireland.
• For an American who wants to get away from it all: Bali. Of all the places I've ever been, the one place I would want to go to get away from it all would be Bali. The Balinese people are some of the most wonderful, kind, and sharing people, which is attraction enough... but they also happen to live in one of the most beautiful places on earth. There are numerous resorts (including a Hard Rock property, natch!) if you wish, but there are also a lot of smaller villas and inland locations if you really want to escape. Every time I'm reminded of anything Bali, I yearn to return. I can't give it any better endorsement than that!
Runner-Up: Santorini, Greece. Now, a lot of people will tell you that Santorini is overflowing with obnoxious tourists and should be avoided. That's a shame, because it's only partially true. Yes, a lot of tourists come here... the place is beautiful in a way that will make your head explode, so who can blame them? BUT it's only part-true. In the late morning, tourists landing from cruise ships flood the island in staggering numbers. But then they leave and things settle down so you can wander through amazing cities like Fira and Oia or explore the countryside in peace, away from it all.
• For an American who wants to experience a foreign culture: Thailand. Where to begin with the country that changed my life? It was Thailand where I was first exposed to Buddhism and a culture so wonderful that I've spent my entire life trying to apply it to my life. And, as if the wonderful Thai people aren't reason enough to visit, you'll find a multitude of experiences unlike any other. Stunning temples and architecture. Beautiful beaches and sights. Fantastic shopping and attractions. From the bustling cities of Bangkok and Chiang Mai, to the amazing resorts at Pattaya and Phuket, to the wonderful small villages of Pai and Chiang Rai... there's something for everyone in Thailand, and it's a destination I can't recommend highly enough.
Runner-Up: China. Even in larger cities like Beijing and Shanghai, China is unlike anywhere on earth. Head out into the countryside, and the culture-shock grows exponentially.
Runner-Up: Japan. If ever there was a shining example of ancient traditions embracing a modern world, Japan would be it. Tokyo is probably my favorite mega-city on the planet, and much of what makes Japan such a mind-boggling place can be found here. But for the adventurous, heading out into the smaller cities and village in the countryside can be a cultural revelation you'll never forget.
• For an American who wants something completely different: Warsaw. I fully admit that the reason I travel to a great many places is because there's a Hard Rock Cafe there I haven't been to. The benefit of this is that I am often exposed to amazing places I would have never seen otherwise. Warsaw was such an unexpected and mind-boggling city that I am haunted by it still. Despite having a truly tragic history that will make your heart break over and over again, Poland has to be one of the most inspirational and wonderful places I've ever been. For weeks after returning I could not shut up about my trip. You will have to work for it, however, as it's not overly tourist-friendly. I usually avoid going on organized tours because I like to explore on my own, but Warsaw is a place that cries out for more than just seeing the sights. You have to get a good guide who will walk you through not just the things to see and do, but the history behind it. An unforgettable experience, but not for the usual reasons.
Runner-Up: Romania. As hard as it is to believe, the Romanian Uprising was just twenty short years ago. As the only Eastern Bloc country to overthrow its government by force and execute its leaders, a trip to Bucharest will definitely be different than your average vacation. For a taste of even more "different" you can head out into the countryside for touristy destinations like Transylvania or charming cities like Braşov
• For an American who wants monumental bragging rights: Giza. Um, yeah... of all the places I've been, the one that most gets people's attention is having been to see the pyramids in Egypt. And while the pyramids may be a bit less impressive in person in an age of skyscrapers and mega-malls, I assure you it's an experience you'll hang on to for the rest of your life.
Runner-Up: The Great Wall of China. Another ancient wonder, walking along The Great Wall is not only one of those life-defining moments, it makes for great bragging rights.
Runner-Up: The Eiffel Tower. There are many, many reasons to visit Paris, but any time I even mention Europe, people seem to be obsessed with wondering whether I've been up the Eiffel Tower. To me, it's a wonderful experience in a wonderful city, but not something that captures my imagination as much as it does for everybody else. Oh well, it seems to be something worth bragging about, so here it is.
And there you have it. A mini "sampler" of places to go from the places I've been that I highly recommend. But it's important to know that there are literally hundreds of other places I've been that I'd also give my heart-felt endorsement to. Ultimately I can only speak for myself here but, if that carries any weight with you, I have archives full of my other travel adventures...
Travel 2003 • Travel 2004 • Travel 2005 • Travel 2006 • Travel 2007 • Travel 2008 • Travel 2009 • Travel 2010
Posted on Monday, December 6th, 2010
Windows of Santa Margherita Ligure, Italy...
Posted on Friday, December 31st, 2010
2010 -> AUDIO -> VIDEO -> DAVEAnd now, at long last, comes that one entry for people who are curious as to what I've been up to, but only like to read one blog post a year. All-in-all, it was not a terrible end to the decade. Picking and choosing all the good stuff that happened in 2010 (out of a blog that is already picking and choosing all the good stuff) kind of makes me think it was a great year. Alas, I know better, as there were boatloads of crap I had to deal with that never end up at Blogography. Oh well. It's okay to pretend, isn't it?
• Realized the right tool for the job won't actually get me a free date with Elizabeth Hurley.
• Opened my big mouth and got the entire wine-connoisseur world pissed at me.
• Found out that somebody stole my monkey.
• Discovered that Canadians are responsible for the pussification of America, and showed them how REAL AMERICANS GET SHIT DONE!!
• Seattle FINALLY got a Hard Rock Cafe, and I got my 125th visit.
• Released my medical findings on a cure for the common cold to Twitter (and so much more).
• That Crasher Squirrel has been showing up everywhere...
• Just like Lindsay Lohan's cootchie...
• Explained why Roger Ebert is WRONG about video games not being art.
• Attended THE blogging event of the year... TEQUILACON 2010 VANCOUVER!
• Took a dump on Lost and then went out for pizza with RW, which ended up having far-reaching consequences you'll find out about later this year.
• Summed up my position on the BP oil spill.
• Saw the Worst. Movie. Ever.
• WAY TO GO BLACKHAWKS!!
• Had more fun than should legally be allowed at Bitchsterdam 2!
• Saw one of the best episodes of television ever (thank you Steven Moffat, The BBC, and Dr. Who!). I can honestly say that I think this is the only time I cried in all of 2010.
• Explained to haters who don't like being referred to as a hater that they kind are.
• Was inspired beyond my ability to express by the final words of a legend.
• Took a Mediterranean vacation and saw such remarkable places as Barcelona, and Malta, and Tunisia, and The Amalfi Coast, and Rome, and Portofino, and Corsica, and Monaco. As if all that wasn't enough, I got to have breakfast with Mickey Mouse!
• Remembered The Golden Rule and became the biggest evil dumbass inhuman monster of them all.
• Partied down in rural Wisconsin... a good place to be!
• Went to Albuquerque to gamble away my money at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino there.
• Found out my iPhone can take some pretty decent photos if I bother to stop and look around because there's an app for that...
• Took a look at porn and handjobs in the interest of airport security.
• Want to know where to go on vacation? Here are some of my suggestions!.
And that was pretty much what happened with me in 2010. How about you?
Hope your 2011 is a good one, and thanks for reading!