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Travelogue

Posted on Monday, January 30th, 2012

Dave!My lunch today consists of a 5-Hour Energy Shot and some oatmeal-raisin cookies. I'm hoping that they will keep me awake while I make my way through the heap of emails that took a dump on my in-box this morning.

One of the emails I got was regarding my mention of traveling in the 1990's, and was asking if I had photos of what I looked like back then. I suppose I have lots of them. But that was from the pre-digital era, so I don't know where the photos are. I do have this one of me from 1994 stuck on my bulletin board though...

Dave in 1994

And here's one from 1992 that I had posted earlier...

Dave On Maui

Yes, yes I know... I was so damn hot back then! What happened? Your guess is as good as mine, but I'm willing to bet that Jägermeister is involved.

The strange thing about looking at these photos is realizing how different things are for me when I travel now vs. how I traveled twenty years ago. I've hinted about it before, but back then I was redefining the meaning of "budget travel." All my money went into just getting there. I remember times of having to decide between such luxuries as "eating" or "having a place to sleep at night." Heady days of having $25 to last three days, so I'd sleep in a train station and try to find a bakery selling day-old bread for cheap so I could eat... then rationing the loaf so it lasted for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Absolutely every move I'd make would have to be weighed against the cost, and many days were spent just scraping by as I went from place to place.

Looking back, I should have been miserable... but I truly wasn't. I wanted to travel to as many interesting places as I could, so I'd take a new trip the minute I had enough money for airfare. I didn't care that this left me with nothing to live on once I got there, I was compelled to go. And being hungry and trying to find a safe place to sleep because I blew all my money on a museum ticket was just the way things were.

Yet... I was having the time of my life.

And nothing anybody could say would convince me otherwise.

Of course today I look back on some of the more dicey days and am both horrified I put myself in those situations... and amazed I survived them... but that's youth for you. I can honestly say I wouldn't change a thing. Life is good.

Now I should probably get back to work. The rest of these emails aren't going to answer themselves.

But one more thing before I go... congratulations to one of my favorite people on earth, BETTY WHITE, for her SAG win last night! Big buckets of awesome...

Betty SAG Winner
Photo from Kevin Winter, Getty Images

I wish Betty had time to do a guest appearance on Raising Hope, Happy Endings, or The Finder... her cameos are always legendary, and it would be sweet to have her appearing on my favorite shows.

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Drive

Posted on Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Dave!Yesterday afternoon I had to make an emergency trip up to Chelan which, for the uninitiated, is pronounced "sha-lann" (but is spoken by locals more like "shell-ann")... and means Deep Water in the Salish Native American dialect (from the words "tsi-laan").

The city is named after Central Washington's premiere summertime attraction, Lake Chelan, which is indeed some deep, deep water. Like 1400 feet deep, making it the third-deepest lake in the USA, 24th deepest lake in the world. It's also very long... as in 55 miles long.

When I was a kid, I spent many summer days up at "The Lake," and have some great memories from my time there. In high school I spent many summer weekends up at "The Lake," but for entirely different reasons. All my memories from those times are fragmented and hazy.

Anyway... I haven't been here in a while and, despite making the trip for a very sad occasion, there is no denying that waking up to this view is anything but unpleasant...

Lake Chelan Morning

From Chelan this morning, I drove back to work. Then drove three hours to Spokane this evening...

Rear View Mirror Sunset

Where my first stop was Famous Ed's so I could enjoy some David's Pizza (now that David's Pizza has been destroyed)...

DaVinci Pizza

Still not authentic David's Da Vinci pizza, but it's a step above what I had last time. I just wish they could get the crust the way David's used to. This crust is kind of tough and chewy... not the wonderfully crusty crispy crust I loved on the original. Oh well. I remain hopeful that they'll eventually open a new David's and make the best pizza I've ever tasted once again.

=sigh=

And now I'm comfy in my hotel bed watching the latest episode of Happy Endings

I want cake.

   

Damages

Posted on Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Dave!As I started my three-hour drive home from Spokane, I noticed that my passenger-side rear-view mirror was shaking a bit. As I drove on, it got worse and worse.

"That's odd," I said. I don't remember my mirror being wobbly like that." So I stopped at the next gas station to take a look.

Turns out somebody side-swiped me last night in the hotel parking lot. And, like the asshole they are, they didn't bother leaving a note. Not to offer to pay for repairs. Not even to warn me that my mirror and might drop off my car at any minute. Nothing.

My only consolation is that they scraped a nice swatch of paint off their vehicle...

Dave's Scraped Sideview Mirror

All I could do was pop my mirror back in the housing the best I could and drive on. I don't even know how I would go about fixing the thing. Take apart the door, I guess. It's still a bit wobbly, but feels solid enough that it's not going to be a safety risk.

And here I thought I was joking when I said my car was invisible.

The first three times.

Now I'm pretty much convinced that the piece of shit does actually possess some kind of stealth capability. How else can I explain getting hit again and again and again and again and again?

Hmmm...

Speaking of "again and again"... my blog is down again. Guess I won't be posting this entry tonight after all.

Typical.

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Lapsed

Posted on Saturday, February 18th, 2012

Dave!Yesterday's drive over the mountains was about as uneventful as it gets. No snow. No insane people. No terrible motorists. No accidents. No drama. Nothing. Everybody even drove the speed limit! At first I thought that hell might have frozen over... but then I realized that I was just playing the odds. After hundreds of such drives in the past, the stars somehow aligned to give me the stress-free journey I've always dreamed about. Guess I was due...

Photo Mountain Pass

In order to take photos of my road-trips, I modified an old GPS mount to stick my iPhone to the windshield and use a time-lapse app to snap pictures as I drive. That way, I'm not one of these people who can't stay on the road because I'm dicking around with my phone and crashing into people.

There are a few problems with this...

  • You don't get to choose when the camera takes a photo. I usually set the time-lapse intermission for one minute, which gives me roughly 120 photos for a trip to Seattle, all pretty much random. I've been trying for over a year to get a nice shot of Mt. Index and its three peaks, but the window to get a good shot is very short, so I almost always miss it. When I do get it, the shot is usually bad. Well today I got my first decent shot! You can see it above. One of these days I really need to pull over and photograph it proper, because it's quite stunning for being such a short mountain.
  • The main purpose of taking time-lapse photos is to create a time-lapse video. The problem is that I always need to pull over and take a phone call or send a text message or play some Angry Birds or something... this screws up the movie because I can never get the phone in the exact same spot in the mount. One day I'll have to ignore my phone during the drive and just do this, because it'd probably be very cool.
  • My old GPS mount is starting to fall off the window from time to time. Especially in the cold. I've tried cleaning it, but that doesn't seem to work. I'm guessing either the rubber is old or the suction lever has weakened. I wanted to buy another one, but the iPhone-specific mounts all look cheap-ass. Surely I am not the only one wanting to take time-lapse driving videos? Where are the pro-mounts?!? Ah well. Maybe I'll have to find another high-quality GPS mount and see if I can modify it like I did with my current one.

And now... I should probably get back to my glass of Jägermeister. It looks very lonely up there on the table. Staring at me. Demanding I show it some love. Such a demanding drink, it is.

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Return

Posted on Monday, February 20th, 2012

Dave!Yesterday the television weather dude was forecasting doom and gloom on the mountain passes. He even went so far as to recommend that you drive home from your holiday weekend early (on Sunday) if you could. This scared the crap out of me because I simply had to get back home before Tuesday.

Unfortunately, I had been drinking, so driving home yesterday wasn't possible. Instead I decided I would drive home early today before the weather got too bad. So I woke up at 7am and left just before 8am.

Only to find that the passes were JUST FINE, and I worried for nothing. I also got up early for nothing, which sucks ass.

Oh well. Once I got past all the skiers driving to the summit, I had the road entirely to myself, which was nice...

Driving Over Stevens Pass

Driving Over Stevens Pass

Driving Over Stevens Pass

Driving Over Stevens Pass

Driving Over Stevens Pass

Driving Over Stevens Pass

Driving Over Stevens Pass

Driving Over Stevens Pass

Driving Over Stevens Pass

Driving Over Stevens Pass

The GPS mount that holds my iPhone kept sliding on my windshield, which was annoying, but I got some nice shots of my trip. One of these days I'm doing that time-lapse movie... it's quite a nice drive.

Anyway... home safe and sound.

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Early

Posted on Monday, February 27th, 2012

Dave!Tonight I had a loaf of garlic bread and a glass of Kool-Aid for dinner.

If you can't tell, I've given up on life.

Probably because I have to get up at 3:30am tomorrow so I can make my plane. Usually I wouldn't fly so frickin' early, but the price difference between the early flight and the not-so-early flight was $800, so there you have it. If only I were made of money, I wouldn't have to deal with crap like this.

But I'm not. So I do. Welcome to my world.

DAVETOON: Lil' Dave says

I guess I should take a shower and go to bed... or do whatever it is that people do when they have to get up in six hours for a flight. Ooh! What if people eat chocolate pudding and watch Batman cartoons?

Yes. I think that must be what people do.

And so shall I.

So shall I.

   

Travelogue

Posted on Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Dave!What a wacky day!

3:00am
I was hoping that staying up until 11:00 last night would mean I'd sleep until my alarm went off at 3:30 this morning. This was, of course, the wishful thinking of a chronic insomniac. Wide awake at 3:00am. Apparently anything more than four hours sleep will have to stay a dream... a short but wonderful dream.

DAVETOON: Three AM Awake

3:25am
Shower. Get dressed. Pack up my crap. Check my email for flight cancellations (for the third time this morning). Then stare at the clock until 3:50am when I head off to the airport.

4:20am
Arrive at the airport, which won't open for ten minutes. Wasn't stopped by the police for accidental speeding, which is always a plus. Now I'm bored. Bored. Bored. Bored. I surf the internet on my iPhone for twenty minutes to pass the time, then look up to see this:

Oil Light On!

Since I just added oil last weekend, I can only guess my car is burning oil like a muthertrucker. Yay! I totally have a pile of money back home just waiting to throw at an auto mechanic!

4:45am
The security screening agent asks me if I want to remove my sweatshirt or go for the pat-down. I explain that it's a bit too early for me to have been drinking, so I'll pass on the pat-down and strip off my hoodie. He seems a little too relieved. I'm offended because I am totally grope-worthy this morning! Since I buzzed my head, every day is a good hair day right here! Now I sit and wait to see if my flight will be cancelled because of "mechanical difficulties"... for the third time in a row (=cough= BULLSHIT! =cough=).

5:35am
Oh my dear and fluffy Lord, we're actually boarding the plane! The cabin attendant announces that the weather in Seattle is currently clear, but clouds with a light rain will be moving in later this morning and is "projected to last until July 5th." This gets him a courtesy laugh because it is funny for being (mostly) true... but anybody familiar with Seattle already knows this. I stifle the urge to give him a golf clap because I like to encourage smart-assery whenever I can.

5:40am
My name is "David Simmer II" instead of the more common "David Simmer Jr." because my dad didn't want for people to call me "Junior" (as so often happens). I'm guessing this was because he had hoped I'd become rich and famous so he could sponge off the glory that was  my  his name. But when you think about it, this was a huge risk because what if the opposite happened? What if I instead became an infamous drug addict? Or a serial killer? Or a politician? But luckily (unluckily?) the only meager fame I have is as "That Blography Guy," so my profanity-laden rants on this blog aren't too damaging. Even so, I still get a little excited when I notice somebody else with "II" instead or "Jr." after their name. We're rare, and our dads were notorious risk-takers, so there's a bond there...

Plaque dedicating the plane to Alaska Air founder Milton G. Kuolt II

Looks like Milton G. Kuolt II's father totally scored...

Milton's Plane

Sorry, dad... if the only way I can get a plane named after me is to start my own airline, I'm afraid you're out of luck... OR ARE YOU?!?

DAVETOON: Lil' Dave writes DAVEAIR on a cardboard box and hops inside

6:30am
Wheeeeeeee!

Sign says

Landed in Seattle after taking off as scheduled. Will wonders never cease.

6:35am
And now I start my four-hour layover. Yes, that sucks, but since the flight I was on is canceled ALL THE TIME, I have to allow enough time to drive over to Seattle in the event of "mechanical difficulties." I briefly contemplate hauling ass to SeaTac's South Satellite to catch an earlier flight for my connection in Salt Lake City. But I only have 15 minutes, and this is SeaTac we're talking about, so I sit down to a Qdoba Egg & Potato breakfast burrito instead...

Qdoba Breakfast Burrito, Baby!

It's like heaven in a foil wrapper, I tell you what.

8:05am
Argh. Screaming kids wherever I go. As if that weren't bad enough, SeaTac is BLASTING this fucking awful music at full volume. So I reach for my... my... HOLY CRAP I'VE FORGOTTEN MY HEADPHONES!!! It's always something. Since this is a common event with me, I go to a kiosk and buy the almost-cheapest ear buds I can find. They're Skullcandy "Smokin' Buds" (HA! a thinly-veiled marijuana reference! How clever is THAT?)... and... they are so bad. The bass is ridiculously harsh and there is precious little definition or clarity, so everything is a muffled mess. I set iTune's equalizer to try and compensate, but the sound is still pretty terrible...

ITunes Equalizer

UPDATE: While these ear buds do totally suck for my MacBook Pro, the sound coming from my iPhone with them is actually pretty decent. Still muddy, but at least it feels a little more balanced.

8:35am
Just as I receive an email telling me that my flight out of Seattle has been delayed, my iPhone rings to tell me the same thing. Naturally this screws up my connection in Salt Lake City since I am now arriving 10 minutes after my flight leaves. I wish I could even pretend to be surprised. I'm just lucky that there was room for me on a later flight. And that my First Class upgrade transferred. When I scan my ticket to get a revised boarding card, a "courtesy coupon" spits out... it's a $10 meal voucher. SCORE!! I wonder if Jägermeister would be considered a "meal?"

9:00am
Dear Seattle-Tacoma International Airport,
I'm not shy by any means, but would it fucking kill you to add some privacy screens between the urinals? The damn things are so frickin' close to each other that I worry I might get confused and pee into a neighboring john by mistake...

Sea-Tac Packed Urinals

Sounds unlikely, I know, but when you have people using their free meal vouchers to start buying Jäger shots at 9:00 in the morning... well, crazier shit has been known to happen.

9:05am
My flight has just been delayed again. I may die of un-shock. On the plus side, Delta Airlines has set out some drinks and snacks for delayed passengers (something I've never seen before). Circumstances aside, this is pretty darn nice of them.

10:10am
Flight delayed for a third time. I didn't think it was possible for me to be even more un-shocked than I was, but here we are.

11:15am
My flight is finally boarding! For everybody except me. When they scan my boarding pass, they get an error. The gate agent reprints my pass a couple times but to no avail. Finally they just rip it in half and tell me they'll figure it out later. I certainly hope so.

12:50pm
Wondering what's happening with my ticket back in Seattle, I buy 15 minutes of inflight internet for $1.95. When I login to Delta, everything looks okay and my new flight shows up, but who knows? With 10 minutes of internet left, I Tweet pictures and stuff...

Airplane Window View

Wheeee! I'm totally flying here!

2:40pm (Mountain Time now)
Arrive in Salt Lake City. My original connecting flight left nearly an hour ago... my new flight doesn't leave for 2 hours and 20 minutes. I need alcohol badly, but settle for some Sun Chips I took from Delta's snack table while I wait to board my now-delayed (SURPRISE!) flight to Kansas City.

7:30pm (Central Time now)
The turbulence is balls-nasty. Either that or we're crashing. As much as I dislike the idea of going down in a ball of flames, I do like the idea of not having to go to work tomorrow. In case we DO crash, here's my plane's last known location. Please send a search party. And beer...

Plane Tracking Map

8:30pm
Arrive safely(!) at Kansas City Airport 3-1/2 hours later than planned. Pick up my car. Drive the 40 minutes to downtown. Check into my hotel. Life is good again at last.

10:00pm
Sit in bed finishing up this entry as gusting winds are howling and a torrential flood of rain is pelting my window. It's like a monsoon out there! Looks like I won't be getting any sleep after all now that Armageddon is going on around me. Such a pity.

10:30pm
I finish. Then I click "publish"...

   

Kansas City

Posted on Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Dave!Work started early and ended early, so I was left with four-and-a-half hours of free time to explore Kansas City. And since there's probably only ten minutes worth of crap to see here, that would be plenty of time, wouldn't it?

Ummmm... no. Not by a long-shot.

I had been here a couple times before, but assumed there wasn't much going on, so I never really made an effort to see what KC had to offer. Now I know this was a huge, huge, mistake.

And I found this out pretty much by accident.

On a previous trip, I had been to the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. This time I wanted to go to the The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, which is kind of famous for the three giant shuttlecocks planted in front...

Nelson-Atkins Museum Shuttlecock

Inside, there is an impressive and varied collection from many different genres. I was particularly impressed with their European works, which has a terrific impressionist room. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!


   
As I was driving to an art supply store, I saw a sign for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. I like baseball, so I thought it might be worth a stop. I did keep my enthusiasm in check, however, because how great could it be? Probably just a bunch of glass cases filled with old stuff, right?

Ummmm... no. Not by a long-shot.

This has to be one of the most impressive shrines to the great sport of baseball that I have ever seen. And I have seen a lot of them. I was completely and utterly blown away by the amazing story they tell, and the incredible way they tell it. It's a beautiful, important, and wholly wonderful museum that manages to do a lot within a little space...

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

I expected to spend 20 minutes here. I ended up spending an hour. I could have stayed for another. The only down-sides are 1) They don't allow photos and, 2) THEY DON'T HAVE A MUSEUM BOOK YOU CAN TAKE HOME!! This was devastating, because if any museum is crying out for a book, it's this one. I'd have even settled for a book of the quotes that are posted all over the place. Like this utterly messed-up and mind-blowing one made in response to the idea of integrating the Negro Leagues players with the Major League...

"If colored clubs were admitted there would be in all probability some division of feeling, whereas, by excluding them no injury could result to anyone."
— Raymond J. Burr, Philadelphia Pythians Representative

That's right... no injury for anyone! EXCEPT THE BLACK PLAYERS YOU RACIST IDIOT! I swear, a good chunk of the museum is very, very difficult to explore. You get to learn all about the things that these sportsmen went through just to play. Like going without food on road games because there was no place to stop that would serve "coloreds." But lest you think that the experience of being a player in the Negro Leagues overshadows the game of baseball here... it doesn't. There's loads of amazing baseball artifacts, trivia, and stories. Like I said, one of the best baseball museums you'll find anywhere. Best $8 I've ever spent. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!


   
As if having The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum wasn't enough... the same building houses The American Jazz Museum! I enjoy some jazz, but am not the biggest fan of the genre. But... the ticket was only $2 extra when bought with an NLBM ticket, so I went for it. I expected to spend 5 or ten minutes here. I ended up spending a half-hour, and could have easily stayed longer. The place is amazing. Just amazing. It's beautifully constructed with vibrant, exciting interactive displays and plenty of awesome memorabilia. All the greats are here from Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong to Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker and everyone in-between. Wish I could have taken photos to share, because it's that well done. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!


   
Looking for something else to do, I spotted a pamphlet for the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank. They have a visitor center with a massive presidential coin collection plus you get to look inside the vault to see the people working with the money there! SOLD!

Except I took a wrong turn and ended up at something called "The National World War I Museum." Oops. But since I'm here, I might as well take a look. Probably just a bunch of old junk sitting on shelves or something, right?

Ummmm... no. Not by a long-shot.

I have been to a lot of museums around the world. Seriously, a LOT of them. I can tell you right now that this mind-bogglingly amazing museum can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the very best of them. It is frickin' incredible. AND I HAVE NEVER HEARD OF IT BEFORE IN MY LIFE! I am sick at the thought that the only reason I came here was because of a wrong turn...

WWI Museum KansasCity

I spent two hours here. I could have spent two days. This museum is the very definition of "destination-worthy experience." You will not only learn a lot about The First Great World War, but you will see a lot of amazing stuff from that era. I first went to "The Main Hall" which is actually underneath that tower you see there. The displays are nothing short of jaw-dropping, both for how beautiful they are and how informative they are...

WWI Museum Entry
You enter the museum by walking across a glass bridge over a field of poppies

WWI Museum Cannons

WWI Museum Shot

WWI Museum Gallery

From there I went up "Liberty Tower" to get a view of the city...

Kansas City View

And then I went to the "Memory Hall" exhibits (that's the building to the left of the tower in my first photo)...

Memory Hall

Memory Hall

Then I went to the "Exhibit Hall" exhibits (that's the building to the right of the tower in my first photo)...

Exhibit Hall

Exhibit Hall Gas Masks

The sheer depth and breadth of the story they tell here still has me reeling. It's truly a world-class museum right here in Kansas City... and you get to see all of it for a bargain-basement price of $6. YES, YOU READ THAT RIGHT, SIX DOLLARS! Just go. Book your plane ticket and go. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION.


   
After forcibly tearing myself away from the National World War I Museum, I made my way to my original destination... the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank Money Museum. It's a small museum, but impressive and fun. The only place you can't take pictures is in The Vault (which is a shame, because the money robots are cool!)...

Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City

After getting screened at security and going through a metal detector and such, you can walk through the exhibits and see the Presidential Coin Collection... featuring all the coins issued during the terms of all our presidents...

Federal Reserve Presidential Coin Collection

Federal Reserve Presidential Coin Collection
Coins from President Washington all the way to President Obama!

Very Old Money

Design Your Own Money!

How Much Does Gold Weigh?

As if all that wasn't enough, they've got a really nice hard-bound souvenir book for just $16 plus a bag of FREE MONEY! Yep! Everybody who visits the museum gets their own bag full of money...

...which has been shredded into the tiniest possible pieces.

But still, pretty cool. And well-worth a visit. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!


   
After getting caught up with work, I decided to hit one more museum... The Hallmark Cards Visitor Center!

Hallmark Cards Headquarters

It's not very comprehensive, but gives a decent overview of the company and the stuff they make... from cards and bows to Keepsake Ornaments and gifts...

Hallmark Visitor Center Old Cards

Hallmark Visitor Center Keepsake Ornaments

Hallmark Visitor Center Card-Making

Though my favorite part was the bow-making machine which creates a souvenir you get to keep!

Overall a fun diversion... but not a critical one. I almost wish I would have gone back to the National World War I Museum.


   
And I'm sure I'm just scratching the surface of what Kansas City has to offer the wayward tourist. For example, I know there's a Harley Davidson Museum north of here (though it looks similar to the ones I've already been to in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania).

If only I had more time to see it all.

Anyway... I've got to get back to work now. Hopefully I've done my part to encourage you to take a trip to KC now that you know of some of the really cool stuff that's here waiting for you.

   

Weathered

Posted on Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Dave!Yesterday I forgot to say a big "thank you" to everybody who emailed/tweeted/commented to see if I was alright after the storms and tornados which descended on the area my first night here.

Yes, I am perfectly okay. Though a bit sleep-deprived because the howling winds, torrential rains, and lightning flashes made sleep next to impossible. But, thankfully, there was nothing more severe than that. Unlike the poor people in Harveyville, which is a mere hour-and-a-half away from Kansas City...

Harveyville Map

Half the city was pretty much wiped off the map when a tornado dropped there Tuesday night. And, from the sounds of it, more tornados are on the way.

Today is all about work and flying home, so I'll leave you with a photo I took last night on the way back from dinner...

Power and Light District Sign

   

   

30 DAYS DRAWING CHALLENGE: Draw Yourself...

Drawing Challenge Day One

   

   

Passed

Posted on Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Dave!Yesterday was the very definition of chaos. Probably because I didn't get any sleep the night before, and was running on fumes all day long.

The day you leave for vacation is always like that, I guess, no matter how much you try to make it otherwise. There's always too much to be done and time is running out to do it. Oh well, it's over now. Even though I was pretty much dead by the time I got to my hotel at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport last night.

The one bright spot was the drive over Blewett and Snoqualmie passes, which nearly killed me in my exhausted state, but what a beautiful way to go...

Snoqualmie Pass

Snoqualmie Pass

Snoqualmie Pass

Snoqualmie Pass

Snoqualmie Pass

Snoqualmie Pass

Snoqualmie Pass

Always amazes me what you can pull off an iPhone that's been stuck to your windshield after you've cleaned, cropped, and sharpened up the mess of photos that were snapping away during your drive. Makes me wish I had time to pull off the road and take some photos with my real camera!

I'd say "there's always next time" but how can I be sure?

   

30 DAYS DRAWING CHALLENGE: Draw Your Favorite Word...

Bad Monkey Paints

Not so much that I would care to live for an eternity... but because I like the idea of something that is infinite and never-ending. Something that is bigger than the sum of everything. It's a terrific word that encompasses so much with so little.

   

Day One: Ft. Lauderdale

Posted on Thursday, March 8th, 2012

Dave!Greetings from onboard the mighty Island Princess.

Embarkation was a breeze... a pleasure even... which is not something I can say about most cruises I have taken. Not only did everything go quickly with a minimum time spent waiting in line, but the stateroom was ready before I even stepped foot on the ship.

After a nice buffet lunch, a safety drill, and smooth sailing out of Port Everglades, we were at sea, sailing away from grey skies towards a sunnier climate...

Passing Liberty Of The Seas

Passing Ft. Lauderdale Beach

Dinner, as usual for a cruise ship, was excellent. They have a decent Fettucini Alfredo as a standard menu item, which is pretty sweet. And then, before I even realized it, the sun went down and the night was here...

Lido Deck at Night

Tomorrow is a "day at sea" which is not my favorite thing, but I'm sure I'll manage doing nothing just fine.

   

30 DAYS DRAWING CHALLENGE: Draw Your Favorite Animated Character...

Bad Monkey and GIR

This was a complete no-brainer. There are a lot of animated characters I like (Batman, Sully Monster, Stitch, etc.)... but my hands-down favorite is GIR from Invader Zim. His crazy antics crack me up every time, and they managed to give him a personality that is something really special. Oh how I wish that they would make more Zim cartoons. I've seen the existing ones so many times I'm starting to memorize them.

   

Day Two: At Sea

Posted on Friday, March 9th, 2012

Dave!Sea day. Sea day. Just a boring sea day.

As I'm not much a fan of laying around and eating until you puke, sea days aren't my favorite thing on a cruise. Though the weather was pretty amazing (if a little windy)...

Sunset at Sea

Princess Passage

Shipboard Sundown

   

30 DAYS DRAWING CHALLENGE: Draw Your Favorite Television Show...

DAVETOON: Baby Dave Cupid

Easily my favorite show to have ever existed was Jeremy Piven's Cupid. I'd tell you to go buy it on DVD so you could see just how amazing and magical that television can be but, alas, it's not available. I keep hoping though.

   

Day Three: At Sea

Posted on Saturday, March 10th, 2012

Dave!I'M TRAPPED! TRAPPED LIKE A RAT ON A BIG BOAT!!

Sea days on a cruise are tough. Two of them in a row is really tough.

The highlight of my day was watching some chefs cut fruits and vegetables into a variety of interesting shapes, then assembling these shapes into various birds, fish, and animals...

Fish Carvings

Poodle Carving

Birds Carvings

Crane Carvings

Yep, that was my day.

   

30 DAYS DRAWING CHALLENGE: Draw Your Favorite Candy...

Lil' Dave Eats U-NO Candy Bars

I love U-NO bars. The texture is sublime. They're sweet... but have little salty almond bits. I could eat them morning, noon, and night, but only seem to find them around Halloween where I live.

Probably a good thing.

But a little boring to draw.

   

Day Five: Cartegena

Posted on Monday, March 12th, 2012

Dave!It was a roasting 90° F in Columbia today. I thought I'd melt under the flawless blue skies of beautiful Cartegena, but instead I just got a little red.

Some random shots of the day, because I'm too tired for much else...

Arriving in Cartegena

Arriving in Cartegena

Beautiful Cartegena

Beautiful Cartegena

Beautiful Cartegena Doorway

Beautiful Cartegena Park

Church in Cartegena

Church Statue in Cartegena

Random Crow in Cartegena

Cartegena Fort

Hard Rock Cafe Cartegena

Hard Rock Cafe Cartegena

Sunset While Leaving Cartegena, Columbia

   

30 DAYS DRAWING CHALLENGE: Draw Your Most Recent Accomplishment...

30 Day Drawing Challenge: Lil' Dave Sleeping

Getting six full hours of sleep last night was a major accomplishment.

Even if it was artificially-induced.

   

Day Seven: Costa Rica

Posted on Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

Dave!At long last the excursion I've been waiting for finally arrived: SLOTHS!

I've been a huge fan of these little mammals for a long time. And watching sloth television shows on Animal Planet and sloth videos on YouTube has only made me like them more. As if all that weren't enough, baby sloths are about the cutest things you'll ever see.

The Sloth Sanctuary is located about a half-hour's drive out of the ship's port of call in Limon. They take in baby sloths who have been abandoned and adult sloths who have been injured. They also have a nature walk and canoe float to see even more wildlife species of the rainforest.

Baby Sloth with Teddy Bear

Baby Sloth with Teddy Bear

Baby Sloth Pals

Caged Sloth

Sloth Escape!

Adult Sloth Hangs Out

Johnny Dep and Tazzy Pals

Rainforest Flowers

Green Lizard

White Bird

Buttercup Sloth

Buttercup Sloth

   

30 DAYS DRAWING CHALLENGE: Draw Your Favorite Fairytale...

Little Match Girl Under a Falling Star

Most fairytales in their original, non-Disneyfied versions are totally messed up. Far from being perky stories to brighten your day, these children's tales by the likes of The Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen are filled with death and depression. For a classic example, get your hands on the original The Little Mermaid sometime and see how twisted a story for kids can get. The Little Match Girl is no less fucked up than other fairytales, but it's got a base element that rings true, and so it's kind of stuck with me over the years...

A little girl is out in the cold trying to sell matches on New Years Eve. She's close to freezing, but she can't go home because her father will beat her if she doesn't sell the matches. With nowhere to go because she hasn't sold anything, she seeks refuge in a nook and lights a match to keep herself warm. A shooting star appears and she remembers how her kindly grandmother told her before she died that this was a person going to heaven. With the next match she lights, the girl has a vision of her grandmother... the only person to ever love her... in the flame. She continues to light the matches one-by-one so she can keep the vision of her grandmother alive. But, sadly, eventually she runs out of matches and freezes to death. Her grandmother then shows up as a spirit and takes the little match girl to heaven.

So, basically, life sucks and then you die. Such a great lesson for kids.

   

Day Eight: At Sea

Posted on Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Dave!Another sea day.

Which is kind of a relief, as it gives me a chance to recover from the hideous burns on my face after cruising through the Panama Canal. As in... HOLY CRAP! MY FACE HAS BEEN BURNT OFF! Thanks a lot, stupid sun-screen lotion that didn't work! Actually, the burns aren't quite so bad now. Only my forehead blistered, so it's pretty raw... the rest of my face has settled down to a rosy glow. In another couple of days I should be back to quasi-normal-looking, but with a slight tan.

Anyway...

With nothing better to do, I started placing the artwork for the latest issue of THRICE FICTION. I know I say this every time, but this is probably our best issue yet! RW has found some mind-bogglingly good stories for numero quatro, and I can't wait for everybody to get their hands on it. Which will probably be the end of next week, once I've had a chance to code the eBook editions.

And so now I take my leave of you with this gorgeous sunset that's happening out my balcony...

Sunset View

Thank you "VIVID SUNSET MODE" on my pocket Canon camera!"

   

30 DAYS DRAWING CHALLENGE: Draw a Family Portrait...

Lil' Dave draws a Family Portrait

   

Day Nine: Grand Cayman

Posted on Friday, March 16th, 2012

Dave!Hello from the land of rum and pirates.

As a Hard Rock fan, Grand Cayman has been on my list of places to visit for a long time. I almost visited years ago, but a hurricane in the area changed my travel plans.

But here I am at last.

I wasn't going to do the whole "excursion thing" so I could just bum around George Town and hit the beach, but my face is still burnt to a cinder, so I thought "What the hell?"

Which is ironic, because the first stop was... literally... Hell. Hell, Grand Cayman...

Welcome to Hell!

Hell Landscape

I wouldn't have expected it, but there are chickens in hell. Chickens who like eating coconuts...

Hell Chickens!

And here's a shot of Seven Mile Beach taken from the bus window. Sigh. If not for faulty sun-screen and a massive burn on my face...

Gorgeous Seven Mile Beach

Then it was time for a turtle farm. The idea is to preserve and protect the species, but the poor turtles looked incredibly bored swimming around in circles within their small, crowded tanks. I felt pretty sorry for them, as it didn't look like much of a life...

Turtles!

Baby Turtle

There were also other critters wandering around the place...

Iguana!

After the tour dumped everybody off in George Town, there was only one place I really wanted to go...

Hard Rock Grand Cayman

Hard Rock Grand Cayman

The cafe is a small, old-school property that's located at the end of the main shopping district downtown. It would probably do a lot better business if it were more centrally located near the cruise ship dock, but there you have it.

I would have eaten lunch at the Hard Rock, but I don't really care for their veggie burgers and fries. Since that's what I was craving, I decided to wander down to Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville.

What a huge fucking mistake that turned out to be.

First of all, they didn't have Boca Burgers like every other Margaritaville I had ever been to. Oh well, I decided to have nachos and a Coke instead. Not a big deal.

EXCEPT THEY WERE THE WORST NACHOS I HAVE EVER EATEN IN MY LIFE! And I am including the time I had Australian nachos where the crazy bastards mix the salsa into the chips for a soggy mess. Because, hey, at least their nachos use actual cheese and are... you know... WARM! Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville nachos are inedible shit. And COLD! They take roasted chips... pour in some FUCKING DISGUSTING COLD IMITATION CHEEZ-WHIZ-LIKE CONGEALED SUBSTANCE... put a small puddle of melted real cheese on top... then add some shriveled olives, jalapeños, and crap. What you end up with is a bunch of soggy tortilla chips coated in this grotesque oily mess. And did I mention that they were COLD? They weren't "not hot" or "merely warm"... but FUCKING COLD!

Yes. COLD! I couldn't even bring myself to eat them they were so bad...

Shitty Nachos from Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville Grand Cayman Georgetown

If that wasn't bad enough, the Coke was watered down and flat. I only drank it because it was something cool. I would have complained to my waiter... but I rarely saw him. The poor guy was given way too many tables that were too far apart. I did tell him when I hunted him down to pay, but his response was to give me a "souvenir glass" I apparently paid for but never wanted, and tell me he would tell his manager.

I'd chalk this up to a bad experience, but the table next to me didn't get hot food either, and the buns on one of their burgers was stale. So... lesson learned... when you're hungry in George Town, Grand Cayman... avoid Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville like the fucking plague. Which is such a shame, because all the other Margaritavilles I've eaten at have had excellent food and service.

Jimmy should be ashamed to have his name on this place.

And, thanks to my pricey souvenir glass I never wanted, I have something to remember one of the worst meals I've ever had for the rest of my life! Or until I throw the shit in the garbage.

Anyway...

Couldn't have asked for a nicer day. Lovely sunshine and a nice breeze to keep things pleasant. And then there's that amazing Caribbean Blue water here that looks like some kind of Photoshop hack, but really isn't...

Caribbean Sea Blue

Caribbean Sea Pirate Ship

Sweet! As I was writing this, I heard somebody telling bad jokes over a loudspeaker ("WHY DIDN'T THE SKELETON CROSS THE ROAD? HE DIDN'T HAVE THE GUTS!"). I thought it was coming from the ship, but it was instead a small touristy pirate ship thing floating by my balcony...

Fake Pirates!

Yo! Ho! A pirates life for me!

And, just like that, my last excursion was over. We set sail for Florida in a couple hours.

   

30 DAYS DRAWING CHALLENGE: Draw Your Inspiration...

Lil' Steve Jobs!

This should come as no shock to anybody who has read Blogography for any amount of time. Steve Jobs takes inspiration to an entirely new level. But he did that with most things. I know it probably rings hollow for somebody to gush over a person they've never met... but I miss Steve Jobs terribly and think of him often. What I wouldn't give for just one more keynote speech... just one more thing.

   

Day Ten: At Sea

Posted on Saturday, March 17th, 2012

Dave!Wah!

The last day of a cruise is usually a "Sea Day" so that everybody can pack their suitcases, settle their onboard account, arrange their disembarkation transportation, and have one last chance to stuff their faces with all the food they can get their hands on.

Aft View from Island Princess

For me, 10-14 days is about the right length for a cruise. Any shorter and you barely have time to unpack, get used to the ship, and start relaxing. Any longer and you start to go insane over the idea of being trapped on a boat one more day. And that's where I'm at right now. I see these cruise itineraries of 30 and 45 days (and up!) and just don't know how people do it. Maybe if I had a larger cabin with a shower that was bigger than a bread box I'd feel different, but I doubt it. And so I've started to mentally prepare myself for dealing with the reality of post-cruise life. And when you've been living in an "unreality" bubble for ten days, that's not an easy thing to do.

For anybody who is interested in all the gory details, I've put the particulars of my Panama Canal cruise onboard Island Princess in an extended entry.

   

30 DAYS DRAWING CHALLENGE: Draw Your Favorite Plant...

Tomato!

I love tomato plants because tomato plants give us tomatoes and tomatoes give us pizza sauce.

   

→ Click here to continue reading this entry...

   

Day Eleven: Key West

Posted on Sunday, March 18th, 2012

Dave!When I booked my cruise, I found that flying home today would have cost an arm and a leg. And since I would rather spend an arm and a leg seeing cool stuff than trapped in a metal tube, I decided to extend my vacation a few days so the airfare would be cheaper.

The problem is that Ft. Lauderdale is the #1 destination for Spring Break that's going on now, and I really didn't want to be caught up in that craziness as I attempt to take a vacation from my vacation. So I decided to get as far from Ft. Lauderdale as possible... Key West. I haven't been here in ages, so why not? sure it's a long drive, but it's a nice drive too...

Seven Mile Bridge to Key West

And boy was it a stunningly beautiful day to be in Key West...

Downtown Key West

Strand Theater Key West

Until I found out that Key West is the #2 destination for Spring Break that's going on now...

Slopy Joe's Bar in Key West

Oh well. Key West is absolute magic no matter what's going on, so I really don't have much choice but to enjoy it. And speaking of magic...

Disney Magic Docked in Key West

In a wild coincidence, the Disney Magic was in port... the same ship I cruised with in The Mediterranean back in 2010!

From there it was time to visit one of my most favorite Hard Rock Cafes on the planet. It's an amazing property that's built into a grand old house and crammed full of great memorabilia the way a Hard Rock should be...

Hard Rock Cafe Key West

Hard Rock Cafe Key West

Hard Rock Cafe Key West

Hard Rock Cafe Key West

And don't forget a slice of delicious Key Lime Pie...

Key Lime Pie in Key West

Then back down South to watch the sunset...

Southernmost Point Marker

Key West Sunset

Ships Sailing in a Key West Sunset

Key West Sunset

Not a bad way to spend an afternoon, that's for sure!

   

30 DAYS DRAWING CHALLENGE: Just a Doodle...

Drawing Challenge 18

After spending a week in the Caribbean, I guess I have pirates on the brain! Kind of tough to draw it on my MacBook's trackpad though.

   

Day Twelve: Key West

Posted on Monday, March 19th, 2012

Dave!The forecast was for overcast skies and eventual rain. Key West got blue skies and sunshine. I celebrated my good fortune by getting another sunburn and eating key lime pie.

I also did a number of touristy things because I felt kind of touristy. The last time I was here I didn't feel like doing anything, so I guess it all balances out in the end.

First stop? The Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory. I had such a good time when I visited the one in Australia that I couldn't pass it up. This one was smaller, but just as nice. And it had birds in it. Overall a very, very cool experience...

Butterfly!

Butterfly!

Butterfly!

Butterfly!

Butterfly!

Bird!

Bird!

Moth!

Then I was of to the Key West Lighthouse and Lighthouse Keeper Quarters Museum where I confronted my fear of heights to climb the 88 steps to the top...

Lighthouse

Lighthouse View

Then I decided to give Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville a chance to redeem themselves after the awful, awful experience I had in Grand Caymans. It was just as delicious and great an experience as I've had at other Margaritavilles I've been to, so I was happy again...

Margaritaville Key West

Then a stop at the Oldest House in Key West...

Oldest House in Key West

Then a visit to President Truman's Little White House...

Truman's Little White House

Then a world-famous Conch Train Tour...

Conch Train Tour

Then a stop at The Ernest Hemmingway House and Museum. I had been here before, but love all the cats (some of which are six-toed!), so I had to stop again...

Hemmingway House

Hemmingway Study

Hemmingway Cat!

Hemmingway Cat!

But most all the houses in Key West are special in some way... even if they never belonged to somebody famous...

Key West Homes

Then off to the Key West Aquarium...

Key West Aquarium

And the Highway 1 Mile 0 marker...

Mile 0 Key West

Then it was time for a refreshing Stewart's Key Lime soda!

Stewarts Key Lime

And the historic Southernmost House Inn... supposedly the second-most photographed house in the USA after the White House...

Southernmost House

And then I wandered around Southernmost Point... went back to see a few more butterflies... then dropped by my hotel to put my feet up and blog a bit. Not bad for seven hours in Key West!

   

30 DAYS DRAWING CHALLENGE: Draw Something Orange...

Drawing Challenge 19

The official fruit of Florida... ORANGES!!

   

Day Thirteen: Flight

Posted on Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Dave!My flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Detroit was blissfully uneventful.

My flight from Detroit to Seattle was easily in my Top Five Worst Flights of All Time list. There was two-and-a-half hours of nausea-inducing turbulence that had people puking their guts out from North Dakota to Idaho. I don't get motion-sickness, but my stomach was telling me that it wish I did. And now that I'm finally in Seattle, I just want to climb into my beautiful plush-top hotel bed and sleep.

Except I have to do my drawing for the day.

Not that it matters though... I won't be posting this until I get home because I'm not paying $17 for internet.

   

30 DAYS DRAWING CHALLENGE: Draw Something New...

Lil' Dave in New Tennis Shoes!

Before I went on vacation, I bought a new pair of Nikes. And filled them with new Dr. Scholl's Massaging Gel Insoles. So I was totally gellin' on my vacation.

And isn't that what vacation is all about?

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Categories: DaveToons 2012, Travel 2012Click To It: Permalink  3 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

Day Fourteen: Home

Posted on Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Dave!I had meant to drive over the mountains early this morning so I could get back to work first thing.

But it snowed last night and the passes were a mess every time I rolled over and checked WSDOT on my iPhone. Then around 8:00 things started improving. The overcast skies were breaking up and the snowplows were out. At 8:30 it was time to go.

By the time I got to the top, it was kind of a glorious day. That fresh snowfall sure looked pretty...

Snowy Drive Home

Snowy Drive Home

And now? Time to get back to life.

   

30 DAYS DRAWING CHALLENGE: Draw Something You Want...

Flying DeLorean

STILL WANT MY FLYING CAR! WHERE'S MY FUCKING FLYING CAR?!? I wouldn't have to worry about snowy, messed-up roads if I had a flying car.

   

Day Fifteen: Pitstop

Posted on Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

Dave!Juuuuuuust enough time to pack my suitcase. Again.

And draw a new 30 Day Challenge entry. Again.

Then I'm off to The Coast. Again.

It's a vacation from my vacation... just like I always dreamed about!

   

30 DAYS DRAWING CHALLENGE: Draw Something You Miss...

Bad Monkey in Maui

I miss lots of people that aren't in my life anymore. I miss a few television shows that are off the air. There's even some foods I miss that aren't around anymore. But this morning when I went out to my car so I could go to work... and found snow and ice covering it... I missed Maui most of all.

   

Day Sixteen: Thrice!

Posted on Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Dave!The drive over Stevens Pass was blissfully without incident. No snow on the roads. No accidents. No crazy-ass people. Just a few drivers who couldn't seem to go the speed limit to damage my calm... but road rage was kept to a minimum, which is always nice.

Just before I left, the final pieces for the latest issue of THRICE Fiction fell into place, so I managed to get it uploaded for your reading pleasure. As always, it's totally FREE to download at the THRICE Fiction website!...

Thrice Fiction No. 4

This issue is packed with great stuff, so be sure to check it out (did I mention that it's FREE?).

   

30 DAYS DRAWING CHALLENGE: Draw Something You Need...

Bad Monkey and Jagermeister

What I need... NEED... is to get drunk off my ass on Jägermeister for my birthday tomorrow. Fortunately, that will be happening a day early in 3... 2... 1...

   

Day Seventeen: Tulalip

Posted on Saturday, March 24th, 2012

Dave!It's my birthday!
It's my birthday!
It's my birthday!

I don't really celebrate my birthday, but here it is. My non-celebration is taking place at the Tulalip Resort Casino. It's a very nice casino run by the Tulalip Indian Reservation that's 45 minutes north of Seattle. And, unlike tribal casinos I've visited in some states, it's a real casino with real casino games and (more importantly) real slot machines... not just a bunch of slot-looking-machines that are just a fancy facade for a BINGO game (or however they circumnavigate gaming restrictions).

Anyway... at one point I was up $220... but eventually walked out just $40 ahead. That's not as great as winning a couple thousand dollars on my birthday, but it beats ending up with a loss.

As usual, I drank too much, but what's a non-celebration without too much alcohol?

   

30 DAYS DRAWING CHALLENGE: Draw a Couple...

A couple of beavers.

Don't ask my why. It's my birthday and I've had too much to drink.

   

GoGo

Posted on Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

Dave!What a bunch of fucking scumbags.

Back in February I purchased a GoGo Inflight Wireless monthly pass.

Last month in March when I saw the charge, I just thought "Wow, they're really late to bill for their service!" and, just to be sure somebody hasn't stolen my credit card number, I go to my GoGo account and verify that only one charge has been made...

Go Go Internet LIES

Yep! Page one of one. Just the one charge for February 28th! Guess they are really late in billing.

But then today I look at my credit card statement and see the charge again in April. Then I go back and confirm that the previous charge was, in fact, new service for March because they billed me in February too. So I call and find out what the heck is going on, only to be told that all monthly plans are auto-renewing, and they're sorry I missed that when I signed up.

I don't ever recall seeing that on the sign-up form. But, then again, it was probably easy to miss on my tiny iPhone screen.

Oh well, I explain the error and am told that they can't retroactively cancel my account, but they will put in a request for a refund on the latest (third) charge. Which means that I'm apparently out of luck on getting money back on the second charge.

What a bunch of fucking scumbags.

Look, if you're going to automatically bill people for some kind of renewable service deal, there are three things you need to make sure of...

  1. Make it painfully clear when the person signs up that they know the service will auto-renew. I am not disputing that the information was there, I'm just saying it was obviously not obvious enough that I could miss it so completely.
  2. When somebody logs into their fucking account to verify charges, you might want to... oh... I dunno... ACTUALLY SHOW THE FUCKING CHARGES ON THEIR ACCOUNT SO PEOPLE KNOW THEY ARE BEING CHARGED.
  3. For all my other auto-bill services, I get an email reminding me that the charge was posted. Anybody not sending out an email receipt to let people know that they are being billed for something is obviously trying to do their best to hide the charge.

Which brings me to my point... GoGo is OBVIOUSLY TRYING TO DO THEIR BEST TO HIDE THE CHARGE!

I check my credit card statements every month and still managed to fall into their scam to the tune of $70.

What a bunch of fucking scumbags.

And you just know that they don't give a fuck, because if you want to use internet while flying, they're the only game in town. They get to be scumbags because there are zero consequences from screwing people over.

Which begs the question...

Why in the hell can't I dream up a business philosophy like that?

I really need to make a concentrated effort in becoming more evil.

   

B3

Posted on Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

Dave!And I'm off...

Bitchsterdam 3 Poster

   

   

Day One: Bulb Fields

Posted on Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Dave!Despite having been to the Netherlands dozens of times, I've never gone out to the bulb fields when they're in bloom. Usually I've been here at the wrong time... but other times when they've been in season, I've had to work or didn't have transportation or something goes wrong.

Today The DutchBitch finally fixed all that. I have to say though, they're not quite as impressive as the postcards lead one to believe...

Empty Bulb Field NOT

I lie. They're everything you'd imagine and more.

And while a photograph can only partially communicate just how beautiful it is to be standing in front of flowers that stretch out to the horizon, the thing that really got to me was the smell. I don't know why I never thought of it before, but the bulb fields smell incredible. In particular the Dutch Hyacinth, which is almost other-worldly.

The bright colors don't record that well on a digital camera sensor, which makes photographing the field a bit of a trial (where is film when you need it?), but it's still a great subject to take pictures of.

Bulb Fields Yellow Tulips

Bulb Fields Yellow Tulips

Bulb Fields Yellow Tulips

Bulb Fields Pink Hyacinth

Bulb Fields Pink Hyacinth

Red Tulips Fields

Red Tulips Fields

Bulb Fields

Bulb Fields

Eventually all the flowers are cut down so the bulbs can be harvested then re-used or sold...

Bulb Cutter

And thus the Circle of Life begins again.

   

Day Two: Amsterdam

Posted on Thursday, April 12th, 2012

Dave!Half the time when I am traveling I'm working. The other half of the time I am playing tourist and have a schedule of things I want to see. The wonderful thing about being in Amsterdam today was that I didn't have work or an agenda... I could just wander along the canals and soak in the city.

And when it comes to aimless wandering, Amsterdam is pretty hard to top. I could do that for days and not get bored, because it's just so dang beautiful...

Amsterdam Canals

After a while, I came across the Anne Frank House Museum. I've tried visiting here at least three times, but the line is usually absurdly long...

Anne Frank House Museum Line

But when I checked, it wasn't even around the corner. So, 35 minutes later, I finally got to see it...

Anne Frank House

It was both fascinating and heartbreaking, and now I know why people are willing to stand in line for such a long time to see it. After that I started wandering the canals again and saw this...

No Dog Pooping Sign

It didn't say anything about humans not being allowed to poop there, so I took a dump in the planter. And then... then... I saw something really bizarre. A boat dredging up bicycles from the bottom of the canal. You'd think that they might find one or two from careless people accidentally dropping them in, but you'd be wrong...

Dredging Bikes

A HUGE pile of bikes. They brought up a half-dozen just as I was standing there watching...

Dredged Bikes Pile

The DutchBitch tells me that people get drunk and drive their bikes into the canals all the time, so they have to clear them out every couple of years. Scary.

I stumbled across Amsterdam's brand new Apple Store. It is absolutely glorious, featuring a glass spiral staircase that's mind-bogglingly terrifying for people like me who are afraid of heights (if only they would let me photograph it). Apple does a good job of finding beautiful buildings to build into, and this one is no exception...

Apple Store Amsterdam

After lunch with some friends in the city, I was given a coupon for Het Scheepvaart Museum (Maritime Museum) as the rain came in. It's a pretty fantastic place...

Maritime Museum

Maritime Museum

The displays they have there are incredible. I mean really incredible. I wish they had more of them...

Ship Decorations

Ship Paintings

You can also go out on an old ship, which is pretty nifty...

Maritime Museum Ship

By the time I had finished and headed back to the train station, the sun was out again...

Amsterdam Centraal Station

All in all, a perfect day of new experiences for me in Amsterdam. How sweet is that?

   

Day Three: Keukenhof!

Posted on Friday, April 13th, 2012

Dave!Today I visited the world-famous Keukenhof, "The Garden of Europe."

It is so famous that I had never heard of it before The DutchBitch suggested that we go there this morning and take photos of flowers.

Here is my assessment...

If somebody were to say "It is one of the most amazing fucking things I've ever seen in my life..." they would be underselling it.

It's that good. Huge grounds filled with meticulously maintained flowers and walkways...

Keukenhof Grounds

Keukenhof Grounds

Dave Floating at the Keukenhof!

Flowers!

Flowers!

Flowers!

Flowers!

Flowers!

Flowers!

Flowers!

Flowers!

Flowers!

Flowers!

Flowers!

Flowers!

Flowers!

Flowers!

Flowers!

Flowers!

Flowers!

Flowers!

Flowers!

Flowers!

Flowers!

Windmill at the Koekenof!

Annnnnd... I'm going to have to stop before I post the entirety of the hundreds of photos I took. All of them amazing. It is impossible to take a bad photograph at The Keukenhof.

After a couple hours, all of Europe turned up at the gardens, so we decided to leave while we still had room to walk out. With time to kill, The DutchBitch drove me to the city of Leiden. Where they have a citadel!

Leiden Canal

Leiden Citadel

Leiden Citadel

View from Leiden Citadel

Leiden Windmill

And then it was time for PATATJES MET and an OLD CHEESE SANDWICH! Two of my most favorite things to eat.

Which makes the day just about perfect.

   

Day Four: Bitchsterdam!

Posted on Saturday, April 14th, 2012

Dave!And so it was that we came unto the Hard Rock Cafe Amsterdam for the merriment of Bitchsterdam 3 and a grand time was had by all. The DutchBitch was there, of course, along with Breigh and her husband Xander. And I finally got to meet Invader Stu as well...

Bitchsterdam 3

Unfortunately, the battery on my pocket camera was dead, so I only have these few photos from my iPhone. If any of us had thought to take a group photo, it would have looked something like this...

DAVETOON: Xander, Breigh, The DutchBitch, Dave, Invader Stu

I can't wait until Bitchsterdam 4!

   

Day Five: Zaanse Schans

Posted on Sunday, April 15th, 2012

Dave!Today The DutchBitch says "It is a beautiful day to visit Zaanse Schans!" And, like the fool I am, I believed her. Though I suppose if you ignore the freezing winds and overcast skies, it was a beautiful day to go exploring.

Zaanse Schans is a tourist attraction north of Amsterdam with various shops and interesting things to see. But it's best known for its collection of preserved and functional windmills...

Zaanse Schans

Windmills

Among the attractions is a "Klompenmakerij" or "Wooden Clog Workshop" where you get to watch them make shoes...

Klompen Wooden Shoe Maker

They also have a "Kaasmakerij" or "Cheesemaker Shop" which has all kinds of delicious hand-made cheeses...

Cheese Maker

It's a nice shop... but you can't bring your chicken in with you...

No Chickens!!

And there's a gift shop with... Miffy!...

Miffy

Eventually the sun started to come out a bit, so we walked down the row of windmills...

Windmills at Zaanse Schans

Once we were tired of goofing off in Zaanse Schans, it was time for PATATJES MET and OUDE KAAS!!

Patatjes Met

Never mind that I have eaten fried potatoes with mayo and an aged cheese sandwich every day since I've been here... you just can't get enough of a good thing.

And, just like that, my adventure in DutchyLand has come to an end. I'm off to the airport in an hour.

   

Day Six: Hamburg

Posted on Monday, April 16th, 2012

Dave!And so I am in Hamburg now.

Though I have been to Germany many times, this is my first trip to the northern part of the country. I was actually supposed to go to Bremen, but there's not a shiny new Hard Rock Cafe in Bremen, so I decided on a detour. This ended up being quite a nice excursion, because Hamburg is a lovely city... if a bit hostile to the non-German-speaking traveler. Unlike Cologne, Berlin, Munich, there's not a lot of signage or help available in English. I'm guessing that this is due to Hamburg not being a big foreign tourist destination, but it's puzzling that the touristy advertisements and touristy spots don't have at least something in English.

As an example, here's a poster ad in one of the most touristed train station in the city (Landungsbrüken) for a very popular attraction: "The Hamburg Dungeon." ...

Hamburg Dungeon Poster... NO ENGLISH!

All that space, and they couldn't bother to put even a line of English to help a brother out? NEIN!

But I wasn't here to play tourist so, after my work was through at 11:00, I headed directly to the Hard Rock Cafe. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200...

Hard Rock Cafe Hamburg

For being one of the "new style" cafes, I was surprised to find that they actually did a decent job of packing in the memorabilia. Far from being the sparse rock museum wasteland we've been getting, there was a nice and varied assortment. This is not to say that there are not oddities, however. Marc warned me about the mirror-finish of the bathroom urinals, but it's not something you can truly appreciate until you have actually pissed in it...

Hard Rock Cafe Hamburg Urinal

Having an entire audience watching you pee from a photograph is borderline-traumatic. But, sure enough, my junk was clearly reflected for all of Hamburg to see. On a busy Saturday night, I can only guess that somebody walking into the urinal would be greeted by a giant wall of dicks. I'm not exactly shy, but THAT'S traumatic!

On my list of things to see was St. Michael's St. Nicholas' Cathedral... which has been destroyed and rebuilt multiple times, only to finally be destroyed for good during WWI and WWII. You can buy an elevator ticket to the top of the one remaining tower, but my fear of heights coupled with my FEAR OF BEING ON TOP OF A BOMBED OUT TOWER WHEN IT COLLAPSES meant that wasn't going to happen...

St. Nicholas' Bombed-Out Church

From there I walked to City Hall, which is a really beautiful building...

City Hall Building

I then went to a man-made lake area called "Aster." It has a really beautiful view but, as if that weren't enough, it also has an Apple Store...

Apple Store Hamburg

From there it was time to visit the ONE "must-see" attraction on my list... MINIATUR WUNDERLAND! It appeared on a Travel Chanel show a while back and really appealed to the model-train lover in me. Of course, the trains are only a small part of the experience. There a multiple dioramas created from famous places in the world that are painstakingly detailed...

Miniatur Wunderland Park

And the closer you get, the more details you see...

Miniatur Wunderland Camp Site

And the details are not just in the models. It seems that every scene is telling a story. You might see emergency vehicles lit up in one area... only to turn a corner and see that they're headed to a house fire or something...

Miniatur Wunderland Fire Trucks

Miniatur Wunderland House Fire!

They sneak in little jokes and pop culture references sometimes as well. As I was examining model cars involved in some kind of countryside race, I found Herbie the Love Bug in the lead, having to stop for some sheep...

Miniatur Wunderland's Herbie the Love Bug!

Another interesting bit is that all the dioramas cycle from daylight to dusk to night to dawn and back to daylight... with computer-controlled lights providing the appropriate sunlight simulation and the lighting in the buildings, cars, trucks, and such. Here's the airport, going from evening to dawn as I walked around it...

Miniatur Wunderland Night at the airport

Miniatur Wunderland Dawn at the Airport

As the airport is one of the newest additions to Miniatur Wunderland, it's fairly complex. The planes move around and everything. Even better, they give you an underground view to the U-Bahn (subway) station...

Miniatur Wunderland Subway Station

One of my favorite sections was the rock concert diorama, complete with performers, working video screens, and a massive audience...

Miniatur Wunderland Concert!

No detail is spared... right down to the portable toilets...

Miniatur Wunderland Porta-Potties!

The USA is represented, but it's been boiled down to Las Vegas and some kind of red rocks diorama that looks more like Disneyland than the American Southwest, but it's still pretty cool...

Miniatur Wunderland Las Vegas

Miniatur Wunderland American Southwest

Miniatur Wunderland is also kind of educational. In the diorama for Hamburg, the building where the new Hard Rock is now located was apparently home to a skating rink on the roof at one time...

Miniatur Wunderland Hard Rock Building Hamburg

From there I headed to the central part of the city so I could visit the famous Hamburger Kunsthalle Art Museum but, alas it was closed on Mondays. I can only guess that tourists in Hamburg don't go out on Mondays? Oh... no... when I was there I saw other tourists leaving in disappointment too. Not the smartest move on the museum's part, but it's their money to lose, I suppose.

And speaking of the Hard Rock...

When I mentioned a while back that I was sad I wouldn't be reaching my goal of 150 Hard Rock property visits this year, I got a comment from Katharina telling me I should come to her city of Hamburg where they have a new cafe.

Little did she know...

"I WILL BE THERE IN TWELVE DAYS!" I replied.

And she was kind enough to meet me for dinner tonight! Which is why I will have a hard time ever giving up Blogography no matter how passé blogging becomes. Because of blogging, I really have made friends all over the world. No matter where I end up, there's always somebody I can hang out with.

And now I'm back at my hotel packing my backpack for the journey back to the Netherlands tomorrow morning.

Good bye, Hamburg.

   

Day Seven: HAM->AMS

Posted on Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Dave!The problem with mid-day plane schedules is that they pretty much kill your day. My 12:30 flight was too early for me to run into Hamburg and do something... but too late for me to arrive into Amsterdam and do anything. Which means I was kinda stuck.

So I decided to sit in my airport hotel room and get caught up on work. Which was a great idea... until I fell asleep. Usually when I feel there's that possibility, I set my alarm clock. But today I didn't for some reason. Which was pretty stupid.

Nothing quite like the adrenaline rush of getting to the gate with a mere ten minutes to spare.

But it all worked out in the end.

I made it back to DutchyLand in time for one last order of PATATJES MET and an aged cheese sandwich with the Dutch Bitch.

Not the worst way I could have spent the last day of vacation.

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Day Eight: AMS->SEA

Posted on Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

Dave!For a long flight, my first concern is always comfort. With my 6'2" height, it can be a pretty big deal to be cooped up for 10-1/2 hours in a steel tube being hurled across the Atlantic Ocean when my legs are cramped up. But my frequent flier status allowed me a nice upgrade with plenty of legroom, so this wasn't an issue.

My second concern is time. 10-1/2 hours has to be spent doing something and, since I can't sleep on planes, it ain't going to be sleeping. Usually I just watch whatever movies they have available, but they were all films I'd already seen or wasn't interested in. Fortunately, I had purchased some iTunes programs to occupy my head during the trip.

And here's where I go bananas over television shows.

The Dutch Bitch and I were watching The Daily Show when Ricky Gervais was a guest. I'm a big fan of his, so I was really looking forward to his interview. Turns out he was there to pimp two shows... The Ricky Gervais Show and An Idiot Abroad. Much to my surprise, The Ricky Gervais Show ended up being animated. They took funny podcasts that Ricky made with his friends Steven Merchant and Karl Pilkington, and made them even funnier by turning them into cartoons...

Ricky Gervais Show Intro Card

Now, here's where things get interesting. The show does not really revolve around Ricky Gervais. It is totally centered around Karl Pilkington. And this frame from the intro tells you absolutely everything you need to know from the show...

Ricky Gervais and Steven Merchant listening to Karl Pilkington

Ricky and Steven get Karl to start talking about something, then wait to hear what hilarious things comes out of his mouth. And while Ricky and Steven waste no opportunity to tell Karl how stupid he is for how he thinks about stuff, I can honestly say that Karl Pilkington may be one of the most intriguing thinkers on the planet. His every word transcends logic to reach a level of genius that is absolutely mind-boggling...

Animated Karl Pilkington

I can't tell you how many times I had people staring at me because I kept busting out laughing at the show. It has to be one of the funniest things I've ever seen, and is easily one of the most entertaining shows ever made for television (well, not television, HBO).

I bought both seasons iTunes had available. The first season is gold. The second is even funnier. They are a steal in Standard Definition for $20 each (Hi-Def is a waste, as the cartoons are low-res). If you'd rather spend $0 to get a taste of the show, you can subscribe to The Ricky Gervais Show Podcast. New episodes from the third season start airing on HBO come this Friday.

But The Ricky Gervais Show was just the beginning.

Turns out that Ricky and Steven also created a travel show for Karl Pilkington where they send him around the world to see stuff so that he can "broaden his mind." The first season is all about having Karl visit the Seven Wonders of the World...

Karl in front of the Great Pyramids

And here's where I get confused, because Karl Pilkington is exactly the kind of traveler I usually hate. He complains about everything and isn't happy with anything that isn't the same as it is back home. Ricky and Steven take full advantage of this by getting him into situations they know will freak him out. That's where the funny bits happen, though sometimes I just end up feeling sorry for the guy. Because even with the camera crew following him around and taking care of him, there are times he is clearly out of his depth. The culture shock is overwhelming to him, and forcing him into more and more crazy situations seems almost cruel. Like force-feeding him something he just can't fathom eating...

Karl is Forced to Eat Something Awful in China

While he was in India, Karl got to experience something I long to see... the day of Holi. It's a remarkable Hindu festival of sheer joy and celebration that I have been dreaming of for decades. Brightly colored powders fill the air, and people of all ages, social status, and wealth join together in a giant two-day party. If I had a bucket list, Holi would easily be in my top five.

Karl, of course, didn't like it at all...

Karl Covered in Color on Holi

Instead of focusing on what a unique and amazing experience he's lucky enough to get to join in on, he focuses on his £70 trainers (sneakers) getting ruined. This immediately pisses me off, because people like this should just stay home. Stop traveling, because all you do is make it hard for the rest of us who love it.

All the complaining, disparaging comments, and idiocy would ordinarily turn me off in a big way. It's the reason I fucking hate the show The Amazing Race. But I find An Idiot Abroad to be absolutely fascinating. Karl Pilkington may be a crotchety Englishman who sums up his entire time in India by saying "I hated it"... but he's also decent, kind, and caring at heart. He so obviously doesn't mean to be offensive or irritating that it's hard to stay mad at him. There are several moments throughout the series where you catch glimpses of Karl trying his best to give it a go and embrace the culture, and it's what has me loving the show so much. In the afore-mentioned Holi celebration, people are pelting him with colors while he protests. But then you see a little girl who can't reach him, so he bends down and lets her dump color on his head...

Karl on Holi

I am guessing that there are a lot of moments like this but, since they aren't "funny," they get edited out of the show. Yet somehow they manage to keep just enough of Karl being a decent bloke to keep An Idiot Abroad from being a total disaster.

And then there's the sights...

Karl at the Taj Mahal

On the flight home, I devoured all of Season One plus half of Season Two, and the time (literally) just flew by.

I give both An Idiot Abroad and The Ricky Gervais Show my highest possible recommendation...

Dave Approved: Karl Pilkington!

And so ends my week of vacation and the wonderful thing that was Bitchsterdam 3.

   

Peckish

Posted on Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Dave!Airplane food is never going to raise any bars for stunning cuisine. Not to say that it can't be good... I've had some amazing meals in-flight... but that most of the time it's just there and something to eat when you're hungry, not something to be enjoyed.

My first meal yesterday was a nice rice dish with some kind of pea mash that I thought sounded great, so far as vegetarian options go. But the peas were inundated with so much mint that it was like chewing a stick of gum with all the wrong textures, so I didn't end up eating it. Instead I ate a small roll that was on the tray.

The second meal I got was a bag with a tiny sandwich and an apple in it. By this point I was pretty hungry, but the roll on my sandwich was sopping wet and disgusting, so all I got was a small apple.

After 8-1/2 hours with nothing but a piece of bread and a dwarf fruit in my stomach, I was hungry enough to eat just about anything. So when my third (and final) meal of a roasted vegetable sandwich was put in front of me, I tore into it. The bread was actually nice and crusty... but the vegetable mix in the middle tasted metallic and kind of funky. That should have been a red flag, but I ate it anyway because I was famished.

Then proceeded to be sick to my stomach almost immediately.

So instead of driving straight home over the mountains yesterday, I instead crashed at my sister's place so I could recover and drive directly to work this morning.

Where, despite having two (nearly) back-to-back vacations, it felt as if I never left.

If not for the photographs I took, it hardly seems as though I were gone at all.

Which means now I need a vacation.

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Bullet Sunday 275

Posted on Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

Dave!I'm droppin' bullets like Benjamins, yo, because Bullet Sunday starts... now.

   
• Bitchsterdam. An overdue thank you to The DutchBitch for an awesome Bitchsterdam 3 blogger event. I've been to the Netherlands many times, but she managed to find some fantastic touristy stuff that I've never seen before... including a visit to the amazing Keukenhof gardens. Easily worth a ten-hour flight. Here's hoping she can be convinced to have Bitchsterdam 4! If, for no other reason, than I can attempt to use words like "geesteswetenschappen" in a sentence again...

Geesteswetenschappen!
It apparently means "humanities"... OR DOES IT?!? You just don't know!

   
• Superiority. And speaking of DutchyLand... I fully accept that the United States of America is the greatest country in the world and all those other freedom-hating backwater countries don't matter and have nothing to contribute. I mean... I kind of have to don't I? The minute an American even implies that other countries are relevant to world affairs and have wonderful cultural contributions to be made, FOX "News" will brand them an American-hating traitor. And heaven forbid that you happen to be the president and have an appreciation for other countries' contribution to the planet. That's enough for FOX "News" to demand your impeachment!

However...

Call me a traitor if you must, but creamy and delicious Dutch mayonnaise is so fucking superior to the gelatinous glop we call "mayonnaise" here in the U.S. that it's not even funny. This trip I checked a suitcase, which meant I was able to bring home a bunch of the stuff. So now I can fry up some fries for PATATJES MET at home...

Patatjes Met at Home!

PATATJES MET!!! Amazing. Whoever decides to market a superior Dutch mayo here is going to make millions. Millions!!

   
• WHAT?!? And speaking of fries... have you heard that browning potatoes creates a cancer-causing chemical called "acrylamide" that makes them deadly to eat? Can you believe this shit? Why is it that everything that tastes good ends up killing you? This is so not fair. PATATJES MET OR DEATH?!? I can't answer that.

   
• Earth! Ooh! It's Earth Day! That one day out of the year where people pretend to give a shit about our planet! Including me. Despite it being 82° out today, I rolled down my window instead of turning on the air conditioner in my car. That totally counts, right?

   
• Television. Kind of gutted that two of my favorite new shows, Awake and The Finder are not getting the ratings they need for renewal. Instead they'll be cancelled and replaced by a reality show or some other stupid-ass crap that doesn't require thought from the American viewing public. And who knows what's going to happen to Fringe, which had a game-changing episode on Friday. It's almost to the point where I'm afraid to get invested in good television anymore...

Good Television Posters

   
And, on that sad note, I've gotta go tempt death by having another plate of PATATJES MET!

   

Guidebooks

Posted on Friday, April 27th, 2012

Dave!For years... decades, really... I've been collecting travel guides. Most of the time I would buy the old editions on sale when the new editions were released. The only thing that seemed to change were the hotel and restaurant listings, so it didn't make sense to pay full price for information I wasn't going to use. Because back then, actually getting to go to all these places was nothing more than a dream. I bought the books so I could pretend that I was planning a trip to exotic locations around the globe.

Then I stopped pretending and started actually going. Which is when my travel library came in handy.

But then the internet started taking over and I was referring to guidebooks less and less. And once the iPhone was unleashed, I had the entire internet in my pocket and stopped using physical travel guides altogether.

So why keep them?

Sentimental reasons, I guess. I look up at the bookshelf and it's a reminder of my travel dreams and all the places I want to go. But then this morning I actually started looking at them. Out of seventy-two books, only three of them were places I haven't yet been: Peru, India, and Cambodia...

World Map: Peru, India, Cambodia

There are plenty of other places I want to visit, but these are the three that are left staring down at me from the shelf. So I'm keeping them... for sentimental reasons, I guess... and throwing out the rest.

Hopefully one day I can visit Peru, India, and Cambodia so I can toss those books in the trash bin as well.

At which point I'll have to buy new books that I can aspire to throw out.

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Monster

Posted on Saturday, April 28th, 2012

Dave!Years ago I was wandering around a residential neighborhood in Osaka, Japan looking for a restaurant that was recommended to me. Far away from places that tourists might frequent, the natives were shocked and dismayed at this tall foreigner in their midst. I had been to Japan often enough that the double-takes, stares, and whispers didn't bother me anymore, but the feeling of "not belonging" was always there.

As I tried my best to navigate Japan's bizarre address system and find the building I was looking for, I ran across a young boy standing outside a small group of people. Not wanting to alarm anybody, I smiled at him and picked up my pace a bit so I could pass by. But escape wasn't so easy. Mouth agape, the boy asked if I was a "gai-jin" ("foreign person") as I approached.

All conversation by the group of people stopped immediately as they turned and looked at us. A couple of them had faces frozen in horror, as if I were going to eat the kid or something.

"Yes," I replied. "But I'm a friendly monster, so it's okay."

Hearing a foreigner speaking Japanese is usually cause for confusion. But once that wore off, a few smiles and guffaws escaped the crowd. Then a 20-something man piped up in his wonderful Japanese directness and asked "Why are you here?"

"I am looking for a restaurant," I said, as I held out a slip of paper with the address written on it.

After a quick look, the man replied "It's there!" and pointed across the street, one block down.

I thanked him for his help, retrieved the address with a slight bow, then started to walk down the street... only to have the man walk alongside. Apparently he decided to accompany me to my destination and make sure I arrived safely. But that wasn't all. When I glanced behind me, I noticed that the entire group was following us. Albeit slowly... and at a distance.

It was a surprisingly uncomfortable situation but, fortunately, it didn't last long. A few minutes later we arrived, so I thanked the man again and said goodbye. Across the street, the group of people were waving at me, so I waved back with a quick bow and escaped into the restaurant.

After dinner I poked my head out to see if they had waited for me, but they were gone.

I guess even friendly monsters end up alone eventually.

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89¢

Posted on Monday, April 30th, 2012

Dave!This is one of those times where every cent of my paycheck was already spoken for.

Which would usually be upsetting, but it's a direct result of spending a week goofing off in Europe after having just gotten back from two weeks vacation, so I'm perfectly okay with it.

Even so, you can imagine my excitement as I was rearranging books on my shelves only to have a 1000 Korean Won note fell to the floor. It had apparently been used as a bookmark. Or maybe I just stuck it between some books because it was pretty and I wanted to flatten it out for a souvenir...

Won 1000

However it got there, the only thing running through my mind now was... MONEY!

But how much? Maybe $20... probably more like $10... but wouldn't it be cool if it was $100? I had no idea, so I rushed to fire up a currency conversion app on my iPhone.

Only to discover that 1000 Won is 89¢ in US money. Which, coincidentally enough, is almost exactly the same as when I was last in Seoul back in September 2004. That's not as good as the $1.10 I would have gotten in November of 2007... but certainly not as bad as the 64¢ I would have got back in March of 2009.

In any event, whether it's $1.10 or 89¢ or 64¢, that doesn't do much for my cash on hand. Especially once exchange fees are paid.

Thank heavens for credit cards, because it's time to shop.

With the exception of grocery stores, it's getting to the point where I rarely shop at brick-n-mortar stores any more. Everything I need to buy is purchased off the internets. But I got a $10 coupon back when I paid for my eye exam at Shopko (where everything is always on sale!) and it's expiring today, so I decided to stop in and see if I could spend the $50 required to use my coupon. Sure I'm poor just now, but you gotta spend money to save money!

I ended up buying new bed sheets (on sale!) and a PUR water filtration pitcher (on sale!). This was just enough to get my $10 savings, so I was pretty happy.

Until...

Just for kicks, I checked pricing when I got home... only to find that even with the $10 coupon, I ended up paying $1.30 more than if I had bought online (and that includes shipping!). Add in money for gas and my time and I definitely lost-out on the deal.

Oh well. Live and learn.

But I'm pretty sure I learned that already.

   

BASSOON!

Posted on Thursday, June 7th, 2012

Dave!San Francisco!

It used to be that I came here two or three times a year. But then things changed and I haven't been to "The City by The Bay" in... oh... I don't know how many years.

No. Check that. I have a blog. So actually, I DO know when I was last here... that would be three-and-a-half years ago. Still, no matter how many years it's been, my many trips to San Francisco in the past means that I don't have to play tourist. Instead I can wander around doing mostly nothing... which is my favorite thing to do in a city. Especially when the weather is like this...

St. Peter and Paul Church with Coit Tower in the Background

St. Peter and Paul Church in San Francisco

I think the last time I walked by the St. Peter and Paul Church, it was undergoing renovations. Nice to see how well it cleaned up.

There's a lot of interesting places in San Francisco, but the only must-visit on my list is the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company where you can buy freshly-made cookies and get a taste hot off the griddle. I've been coming here for decades...

Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory!

Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory!

While I generally tried to avoid touristy areas, I did go down to Fisherman's Wharf to see what's new at the Hard Rock Cafe and to have a sourdough bread sandwich and mini donuts for dinner...

Trish's Mini Donuts

From there it was back to my hotel so I could get some work done.

Which proved difficult, because this was going on next door...

Bassoonist!
Serial Bassoonist by Pearson Scott Foresman/Wikimedia Commons

Some guy or gal was practicing their bassoon* for hours. It wasn't even music, but just musical scales up and down and up and down. Apparently there's a whole bunch of musicians staying at the hotel, so I guess I should be lucky it was only a bassoon and not the rest of the orchestra. Eventually I went to the bar because I couldn't stand it any longer. My hope was that A) alcohol would have me not caring that someone was practicing the bassoon next door, and B) the bassoon player wouldn't feel the need to practice at 5:00am or something.

When I got back, the noise had stopped. Thankfully.

And so now I am trying to blog and get some work done, which is still difficult. Not so much because I've been drinking, but because I am excited for tomorrow. It's a rather big day for me...

   
   
*To be honest, I don't know if it was a bassoon... could have been a French horn or whatever... but the point is that it was irritating as hell.

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2003

Posted on Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

Dave!Me in Iceland.

After 18 hours traveling.

Dave in 2003

   
"You've had insomnia for as long as I've been reading your blog. When was the last time you remember getting a good night's sleep?"

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Bullet Sunday 284

Posted on Sunday, June 24th, 2012

Dave!This morning I got my bajillionth email asking me how I manage to take all the trips that I do. My best answer is usually "Find a job that requires a lot of travel." But most people are asking about leisure travel, which is something entirely different. And though I can't speak for everybody, I can say what works for me. With that in mind, a special All Travel Edition of Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• SET MY PRIORITIES! I drive a crappy car. I will continue to drive the piece of shit until the wheels fall off because it's paid for. It's not that I wouldn't like to have a nice car, it's that I'd rather spend the money traveling. For some people, their priorities would be exactly opposite, and that's fine. I take two vacations every year because that's where I choose to spend my money. You don't have to be obscenely wealthy to travel the world, you just have to make it a priority in your life.

   
• SAVE MY MONEY! I save up the money needed for a trip before I take it. Sometimes this can take years, and I'll take smaller vacations while I'm saving for the bigger ones. When it comes time to buy plane tickets and hotel rooms, if I don't have enough money saved then I do not go on vacation! It's un-American I know, but the stress of having credit card interest build up on debt I have to pay back would completely negate any fun I might otherwise have. When it became apparent that I wasn't going to have enough money during my Australia holiday once the plane tickets had been purchased and the hotels had been reserved, I was in a near-panic. I couldn't cancel my non-refundable fees for a later date to save up more money. I certainly wasn't going to fly all the way there and do nothing because I couldn't afford it. My only option was to run up $1300 on my credit card. I chose not to worry about it while I was on vacation, but it bothered me badly when I got back. Some people don't have any problem paying for their trip after they take it... I've found it makes for a better vacation if I do the opposite.

   
• CREATE MY BUDGET! My first real trip "on my own" was to New Orleans when I was in high school. I had won a DECA competition at Washington State Finals and went on to compete in Louisiana for Nationals. My mom and dad paid for airfare and hotel, so the only budget I had to worry about was food. To pay for my meals I was given money by my parents, and also had some meager funds I had saved up... it was more than adequate, but hardly extravagant. My "system" for maintaining a budget was to split my money into the number of days I had. After paying for my meals of the day, I took whatever money was left over and saved it for souvenirs and crap. This gave me a big incentive to eat cheaply so I had pocket money to spend. And since the drinking age of 18 was rarely enforced on my 17 years of age, most of that pocket money went towards alcohol... the best souvenir money can buy! And even though I now have credit cards, ATMs, and whatnot, the money lessons I learned in New Orleans back in 1983 set the pattern for every trip I've taken since.

   
• INCREASE MY FLEXIBILITY Believe it or not, most of my vacations are based not on where I most want to go... but instead on what's on sale. I subscribe to dozens of email newsletters (Airfare Watchdog is my favorite) that have all kinds of travel deals (and most airlines, cruise lines, hotel chains, and travel sites have newsletters too). When I see something that's affordable and appealing, I grab it. I've taken ridiculously cheap vacations this way. By being flexible I can easily halve my travel costs (or more!). I once flew to Copenhagen for one day to attend a birthday party. It was finding an airfare deal for $298 roundtrip that made it possible. I once took a four-day vacation to New York because I got an airfare/hotel package deal for $400. I flew to San Francisco once because of a $89 roundtrip airfare introductory special. I once got a last-minute roundtrip Hawaii ticket for $199. My airfare for the trip to Venice I took last year was FREE (+ $120 in fees) when I signed up for a credit card (which I immediately turned around and canceled before I had to pay the annual fee). If you have an open mind and can be a little flexible on dates, you can get deals that are almost too good to be true.

   
• DO MY RESEARCH! Back in the 80's and early 90's travel was very different than it is now. The way you saved money was to find the cheapest alternatives for stuff you needed. For me this meant sleeping on trains or finding hostels instead of staying in hotels. It meant buying food at the market instead of going out to restaurants. It meant a lot of research and a lot of planning. It meant a lot of calls to a travel agent. All this changed when travel sites like Orbitz came along. Easily being able to find and compare cheap airfare and hotels meant my travel dollar went further. I could stay longer and do more than ever before. Everything change again when bidding sites like Priceline came along. Now I could stay at fantastic hotels cheaply. Kayak arrived and suddenly finding the best price on airfare was a snap. Today I am traveling in sheer luxury compared to how I used to travel... and yet paying budget prices. Thank you, internet!

   
• MAXIMIZE MY REWARDS! I purchase absolutely everything on my rewards credit card. Everything. $35 in gas? Credit card. Cable TV bill? Credit card. Phone bill? Credit card. $3.50 bagel? Credit card. Whenever humanly possible I buy everything on credit card because each dollar translates into reward points. Points that I can then spend to get free airline tickets. The only thing you have to do to make this work in your favor is to pay off your credit card balance every month (I pay mine every week). How can I afford to attend Bitchsterdam in the Netherlands each year? Free airline ticket. And it doesn't stop there. I have frequent flier cards for every airline I fly. I have hotel stay reward cards for every hotel I stay at (even though you don't get points for discounted Priceline stays, you still get perks for visits). I enroll in every loyalty program that's free even if I don't think I'll ever use it again... you just never know.

   
• PLAN MY VISIT! Once I decide where I'm going and what I'm doing, I plan for the trip. Not necessarily down to the last detail, because I don't like having to be on a schedule... but enough to know what I want to do and what I'll be spending to do it. I research how much meals cost. I research what activities there are and how much they cost. I ask questions of people who have already been there. I pour over travel websites. I do everything I can to anticipate every dollar I'll have to spend so I can save for it. Most of the time I'm very good at this because I'm well-informed before I even get there. On rare occasions, shit happens and you go into debt to pay for it, but imagine how much worse it would have been if you had gone in with no planning at all?

   
• FOLLOW MY BUDGET! I use the same strategy now that I did for my first trip when it comes to a budget. I divide the money I have available for expenses into the number of days I'm away. Anything I have left over at the end of the day is then used for souvenirs and crap (but mostly alcohol... some things never change!).

   
And that's pretty much it. Other people have their own way of traveling, and that's great, but this is what works for me. Happy travels!

   

Red-Eye

Posted on Thursday, July 5th, 2012

Dave!The good thing about taking those late, late-night, red-eye flights? Well... if you're connecting to another flight, sometimes you can save a chunk of money because you're connecting to a cheap, early-ass flight that nobody wants to bother with. You're also saving money because you don't have to get a hotel that night, and can just sleep on the plane. Also, if you have premium flyer status, your odds of getting upgraded to First Class are scary-good. On the surface, it's a good deal all the way around. The only penalty being that you are flying overnight at a late hour, which can be a bit rough on a person mentally and physically.

Well, that's not the only penalty...

  • Because it's at night, you're not flying with the "business crowd"... it's mostly families. Families dragging their small children on a flight that doesn't leave until waaayyyy past their bedtime. So they're crying. And screaming. A lot.
  • And because there's money to be saved, you're often flying with no-frills budget fliers who are bringing their own stinky food and crazy-ass noisy entertainment onboard (a SIMON game... seriously?!?).
  • You get a lot of inexperienced fliers who make life miserable for everybody else. Everything from idiots arriving too late and having to cut in line at security to make their flight (and then not having ID and ticket ready).... to morons who try to shove a huge-ass suitcase through the X-ray machine (and then don't know to toss their liquids out or remove their keys from their pocket).
  • Because all the airline problems and delays seem to snowball and compile by the end of the day, you're odds of having a delayed flight are worse than usual. This is an immediate concern to me, since it's going to make for a tight connection in the morning.
  • At night is when all the crazies come out. There are some seriously fucked up people at this airport tonight.

So, do the positives outweigh the negatives?

Well... right now I'm tempted to say no. Waiting here for my delayed flight with total insanity going on around me is the stuff of nightmares. And I have never been able to sleep on a plane no matter how tired I am.

Except... I am getting three days vacation at an insanely cheap cost before I have to fly to work, so I'm not sure.

Guess I'll know once it's all over.

   

Bahamas – Day One

Posted on Friday, July 6th, 2012

Dave!I'm not a sun-worshipper. I'm not one to lay around on a beach all day. I'm not a fan of high heat and humidity. So I'm the one who experiences a secret glee when I hear that there will be overcast skies and scattered thundershowers when I'm headed to a tropical destination. It'll still be hot, of course, but at least I'll be shielded from the sun and the rain will make it so there's a reason for the humidity.

Except the forecast was a lie, and so here I am in the Bahamas with blue skies and unrelenting sun in full 95° heat. If I was into this kind of weather, I'd describe it as "perfect."

Restort Room Window View
The view from my room pretty much sucks, doesn't it?

Oh well. At least the flight down was surreal... but nice...

Bahamas Flight

Bahamas Flight

The reason I am here is twofold...

  • There's a Hard Rock Cafe in Nassau I haven't been to yet.
  • I desperately needed a break, and it was unbelievably inexpensive to add this little diversion to my work itinerary. Gotta love those cheap-o internet specials!

I'm staying at a resort on Cable Beach, which is a pretty stretch of sand west of Nassau...

Cable Beach

I was able to contain myself all of an hour before I hopped a taxi to Nassau, and Hard Rock #146 for me...

Hard Rock Nassau Exterior

It's a nice, old-school cafe with plenty of memorabilia covering the walls. In other words, it's exactly what a Hard Rock should be...

Hard Rock Nassau Interior

Hard Rock Nassau Interior

The town of Nassau is kind of nice, if a bit touristy with all the cruise ships stopping by. I didn't feel like doing any of that kind of thing, but couldn't resist when I saw there was a PIRATE MUSEUM!!

Pirate Museum!

They recreate a pirate village you can walk through along with a pirate ship and various dioramas to show what pirate life was like. They also have a bunch of trivia you can play along the way, which was pretty cool...

Pirate Museum Village

Pirate Museum Marooned Diorama

I have no idea what's going on here. I hope it's some freaky-ass attempt at surgery to alleviate back pain...

Pirate Museum Scary Surgery?

From there I wandered down to Junkanoo Beach...

Junkanoo Beach

One thing I've noticed so far is that the kids who live here are really well behaved. This adorable tyke was content to play quietly by himself while his family was swimming, which was a big contrast to the tourist kids who were screaming and yelling and going bat-shit insane as they terrorized the beach...

Bahama Native

Bahama Native

If I knew that the weather was going to be this beautiful, I would have brought my "real" camera instead of relying on my iPhone and my pocket shooter. Oh well, something is better than nothing...

Nassau Wall Drawing

My plans for tomorrow? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! Though I'll probably venture away from the resort for a little while... especially if those overcast skies ever show up.

   

Bahamas – Day Two

Posted on Saturday, July 7th, 2012

Dave!My big plans to do nothing today were destroyed at 9:26am.

But in a very good way.

Because that's when I got an email from a Blogography reader who got a text from her brother who saw that I was in Nassau... "DAVE! You're in the Bahamas? Come visit us in Atlantis! We promise to make it worth the trip!"

"Atlantis" is a resort on Paradise Island (formerly Hog Island) that's just north of Nassau. I investigated it when I was looking for a hotel here, but photos of the popular water park on the resort grounds showed that the place was overrun with kids, so I put it on my list of places to avoid.

But the idea of getting away for lunch was oddly appealing, so I got cleaned up and hopped in a taxi. Destination: Atlantis...

Atlantis Royal Tower

Now, usually, non-guests can only enter the Atlantis grounds by paying for a $135 day pass. It's a lot of money, but you do get to use the water park, pools, beaches, and all the other facilities... IF they have any passes available, since the number they sell depends on occupancy of the hotel. Fortunately, I didn't have to pay the money because my new friends just handed me one of their room keys, which is like a Golden Ticket to the grounds.

You don't have to have a pass to enter the Atlantis casino, of course. They're happy to take your money for free. And it's totally worth the trip, because they have four pieces by one of my favorite artists, Dale Chihuly!

Here's the Temple of the Sun...

Atlantis Chihuly Temple of the Sun

And the Temple of the Moon...

Atlantis Chihuly Temple of the Moon

And the Crystal Gate...

Atlantis Chihuly Crystal Gate

I couldn't find a name for this very cool chandelier. Perhaps it's "Temple of the Alien Intestines" or "Chandelier of the Flying Spaghetti Monster" or something. In any event, this photo doesn't do it justice. The piece is absolutely magnificent, and a little terrifying...

Atlantis Chihuly Monster Chandalier

Using the magical powers of my friend's room key, I then got to see the water park, which features a giant water slide...

Atlantis Waterslide

But the coolest thing I saw was the Atlantis Lazy River tube ride, which ends with a float through a big tube... THROUGH A GIANT SHARK TANK!!! Now, this the very definition of SHARK EXTREME!!

Atlantis Shark Tank

Atlantis Shark Tank

But the SHARK EXTREMENESS doesn't end there. Much to my amazement, there are sharks swimming around in the fountain pools on the resort grounds! No fences. No barriers. No nuthin'. You can just walk right up and look inside...

Atlantis Sharks!!

I guess the sharks are well fed by drunken tourists who accidentally fall into the predator-infested waters. But not everything is deadly at Atlantis. They have giant balloons in the shape of donuts and cupcakes too...

Atlantis Balloon Sweets!

From there we wandered down to the Paradise Island marina. If you've got billions of dollars for a giant yacht, you can probably afford to berth here...

Atlantis Marina

And then we got to the reason my blog friends thought that a trip to Atlantis would be worth the trouble...

Johnny Rockets Paradise Island Atlantis!

ZOMG! There's a Johnny Rockets here! AND they had my vegetarian burgers in-stock! How amazing is that? Now I was really glad I decided to drag my lazy ass out of bed this morning!

After a great lunch, it was time to bid my friends goodbye and get back to my scheduled plans of doing nothing. The passenger ferry was just around the corner, so I decided to save money on a pricey taxi and just take a jitney bus from Nassau back "home" to Cable Beach. The ferry itself is an odd experience. The "ferries" are actually just rickety old boats that charge $4 to cross from Paradise Island to downtown...

Nassau Ferry Boat?

It's not exactly a pleasant trip because it's sweltering hot, you can't see out very well, and you've got a "tour guide" screaming the entire trip (who expects to be tipped for "entertaining" you). I managed to get a few pictures off, but the boat wasn't exactly conducive to photography...

Atlantis Paradise Island

Atlantis Paradise Island Ferry

With three cruise ships in town, Nassau was beyond packed, so I bolted for the jitney stop and my $1.25 ride back to my hotel.

And here I am, hurrying through this blog post so I can put the excitement of my day behind me and get back to the important business of doing nothing.

Well, not exactly nothing...

Bahamas Delicious Kalik Beer!

A few more of these and it will finally be a vacation...

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Bahamas – Day Three

Posted on Sunday, July 8th, 2012

Dave!Well... uhhh... that was an interesting night. Or so it would seem. Things are a little... fuzzy... right now in my brain.

After I started drinking, I apparently decided not to stop. I totally blame the group of enablers I hung out with at the bar. Well, that and the fact that this KALIK beer they have here is pretty darn tasty. I cannot, however, offer any explanation for the two shots of tequila that were on my bar tab. Except to say that it was probably because they didn't have Jägermeister...

Kalik Beerz

At some point I noticed the sun was setting, so I decided to run down to the beach and take a photo. I ended up tripping in the sand and crashing into a palm tree, but I still managed to get the shot...

Sunset in the Bahamas

As I was limping back to the bar, I saw people eating popsicles. Since I hadn't eaten dinner yet, I decided that was the perfect thing to have.

And since I was a good boy and totally finished all my popsicle dinner, I rewarded myself with another beer for dessert.

I don't know what I was rewarding myself for with the four beers that followed... but they were on my bill, so I'm sure I must have totally deserved them.

Eventually everybody decided to go to the casino. It sounded like a great idea at the time, but I was completely drunk so I probably wasn't in the best shape to be making decisions. Fortunately, I also wasn't in the best shape to remember how to get money out of a cash machine, so I only lost the $20 I had on me. At least I think it was $20. Let's see... I started the day with $50... minus $24 taxi to Paradise Island... $4 for the ferry... $1.25 for the jitney bus... so yeah, $20 pissed away (give or take). I can live with that, I guess.

When I finally dragged my drunken banged-up body back to my room, I took this picture of myself...

Dave is Red

I'm not sure why. Probably because I was surprised to have gotten so sunburned considering I was only wandering around Atlantis for a little over three hours. Guess the sun here is mighty powerful.

The time-stamp on the photo is 12:47am, so I'm guessing I was in bed by 1:00am.

I woke up around 7:30 this morning with quite a lot of pain in my knee and shoulder, but barely a hangover. I was going to chalk this up as a WIN! until I saw my shorts laying on the floor with the back pocket half-way ripped off. Which means my right ass cheek was exposed for heaven-only-knows how long last night. I hope I was wearing boxers underneath, but that's debatable considering I was buck-nekkid when I climbed out of bed. I'm pretty sure it didn't happen when I fell into the palm tree, so I have no clue when... or how... it happened.

Anyway...

The only thing I really wanted to do in the Bahamas (other than nothing) was to go diving. Unfortunately, I am still poor thanks to buying my new MacBook, so I knew early on that it wasn't going to happen. This trip may have been ridiculously cheap, but it was no excuse to rack up debt on my credit card with some dives. The plan was to use my "resort credit" to pay for most of my meals, and not spend more than the $150 I brought with me ($50 a day) for everything else.

Never mind that I blew past my entire resort credit by $62 because I ran up a massive bar tab last night... I'm sticking to the plan, dammit! I now have -$12 to spend on for my last day. I guess this means I'll be selling myself down on the beach tonight so I can afford dinner. Here's hoping some sugar-momma (or sugar-daddy, because you can't be picky about these things) likes men with their ass hanging out of their shorts.

In the meanwhile, I suppose I'll see what I can do with my -$12.

There's still no sign of the scattered thundershowers I've been promised three days in a row now... so maybe I'll lay by the pool and read a book. The sun is just now peering over the East Tower, so I'm sure the courtyard will be flooded with an ungodly amount of sunshine any minute now...

Sheraton Bahamas Cable Beach Panorama

Because, hey, I've already got the start of a really good sunburn, why not take it all the way?

But first I have to drag my lazy ass out of bed so I can make my way down to the lobby and post this to my blog*. It's 8:40 now, so I'm hoping to make it by 11:00.

   

*I'd post this from my room, but the internet here is wired. Since the new MacBook Retina doesn't have an ethernet port, I'm sans internet. Technology: it's not always all it's cracked up to be.

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Bullet Sunday 286

Posted on Monday, July 9th, 2012

Dave!And here we are with a Very Special Edition of "Bahamian Bullets on Monday" where I answer questions and write observations from my time in the Bahamas. So don't flip that calendar... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Money! Bahamian dollars are completely interchangeable with US dollars, since the currency of the Bahamas is tied to the US exchange rate... until you leave the Bahamas... at which time any Bahamian dollars you might be carrying are practically worthless. Not that you'll see many Bahamian dollars. Thanks to the massive tourist trade with the States, you'll see a lot more US money than anything else. A friend asked me to get her a Bahamian $3 bill as a souvenir, but I couldn't find one...

Bahamian Three Dollar Bill

Eventually I managed to trade for a $1 bill that a jitney driver collected, since it was the only currency of the Bahamas I ever saw. I don't understand why the Bahamian government doesn't just print a bunch of $3 bills that souvenir shops could put in a plastic sleeve and sell for $5 each. Everybody would win. The government would be printing money that would rarely be circulated (thus bringing money into the country for nothing), and shop owners are getting a big return on an investment that never loses value.

   
• Jitney! I have no idea about "the jitney that the Sex and the City characters rode to The Hamptons"... but the "jitney" here in the Bahamas is a nickname for the local shared bus service (the name "jitney" having migrated from the US). From what I can tell, anybody with a bus can get a permit to run designated routes around the islands. Since I was staying at Cable Beach, I rode the #10 each day which runs from there to Downtown Nassau and back. In my case, they were a cheap ($1.25) alternative to a pricey taxi ($15.00+tip). But you do get what you pay for. Jitneys are almost always older vehicles, and many are busted to shit...

Jitney Driver Seat

And I mean that literally... some of them are falling apart. The one I rode to dinner last night didn't have working air conditioning. But that's okay, because the door was broken and wouldn't close, so we had plenty of fresh air blowing in...

Jitney Driver

Despite being a bit dangerous, it was a beautiful old broken-down door with a lot of history...

Jitney Door

Jitney Door

And speaking of danger, you could literally be taking your life in your own hands when riding. When I stepped into my seat, my foot went through the floor. The plate snapped back up, but I spent most of the trip wondering if my seat was going to fall through...

Jitney Busted Floor

Jitneys are a cheap way to get around and are everywhere. They're also fairly convenient, stopping many places along their route. But since the bus doesn't leave until full (and I mean really full, since seats fold down into the aisles), you sometimes have a bit of a wait at a start-point, but it's a small price to pay for the money you save.

I heard a few stories about how jitneys are not very well regulated, and it's not unheard of for drivers to be drunk or on drugs while operating their vehicles. Even worse, there have been incidents of violence and rape reportedly involving jitney drivers. It's probably not a good idea to ride in them at odd hours or in remote areas, but I had no problems at all the half-dozen times I rode them. Scary, broken vehicles aside, the drivers I saw were always courteous... helpful even... and seemed competent in their jobs. But I was on a major tourist route, so I can't really speak to what things are like around the rest of the island.

   
• Mural! I was asked about the little pirate guy who closed out my post on day one. He's not mine... he's part of a mural downtown...

Hello Nassau!

It's called "Hello Nassau" by "Thundercut" and is part of a public murals project sponsored by Coke...

Thundercut Credit for Hello Nassau!

There are a few of them around that I saw...

Nassau Coke Mural

Pretty cool, huh?

   
• Resort! While I was in the lobby of the Sheraton using the wireless internet (since my new MacBook Pro Retina doesn't have an ethernet port for the wired internet in my room), I watched a guy have a complete meltdown because he went to pay his bill and found out there was a $40 per day "Resort Fee" that was due. I had gotten a discount rate, but even then I was notified about the fee. Sure, it's kind of a bait-and-switch deal to be reeled in at one price and then have to pay a huge add-on fee, but it was clearly stated, and so I knew to expect it.

Then I got to wondering if Sheraton doesn't tell you about the fee if you book from their site, because that would make me pretty mad. But, nope, they absolutely show you the final price (and if you click on the total, you see the $40 fee added)...

Sheraton Resort Fee

But what if the guy booked at a third party site? I usually book my hotels at Orbitz, so I gave them a try. Nope, they too show the "Local Charges Due at Hotel" right after the price, which works out to be that $40 per night...

Orbitz Sheraton Rate

Then I checked Expedia. And here's where things get strange. They don't show any fees or taxes attached to the rate at all when you are reviewing what they have available...

Expedia Sheraton Rate

But then you scroll down and see something remarkable... they claim the resort fee is already included in the rate! The same $159 rate that Sheraton and Orbitz are adding a fee to!

Expedia Sheraton Fee

Thinking that this is a trick because the "total price" isn't displayed until the next page, I clicked onward...

Expedia Sheraton Total

There we go! They add the $40 resort fee in with their "$68.62 a night Taxes and Fees." Which means that their "Best Price Guarantee" is bullshit at $682.86 when Orbitz would total $679.35 (even though $120 of that would be paid directly to Sheraton at check-out).

I can't check all the hotel booking sites, obviously, but it really doesn't matter. If the guy booked through Sheraton, Orbitz, or Expedia... he knew the total rate. If he booked at some other site that didn't warn him about the resort fee, he should be yelling at them... NOT THE POOR GIRL AT THE RECEPTION DESK!

In any event, it's word to the wise to always always always check the fine print whenever you book a hotel, car, cruise, or whatever. Shady stuff like this is getting more and more common as companies use hidden fees to avoid paying taxes... or to make their rates look better.

   
• Return! When you land at Nassau's airport (which isn't anywhere near Nassau, curiously enough... it's on the other side of the island), there are at least a half-dozen signs telling you that when you return to the airport, YOU NEED TO ARRIVE THREE HOURS EARLY IF YOU ARE TRAVELING TO THE UNITED STATES. There's even a sign posted on the baggage carousel where you wait for your luggage that's staring at you in big letters.

When it was time for me to fly back to the good ol' USA, I followed instructions and arrived THREE HOURS EARLY. I was kind of glad too, because the line at customs was quite short, but still took me 35 minutes to clear. Had the line been all the way to the door, it could have easily taken me two hours to get through it.

So there we are sitting on the plane when an announcement is made. There's 15 people still stuck in customs, so they're holding the plane.

EXCUSE ME?!?

Why in the fuck did I bother showing up three hours early then? If I would have know that I could have just ignored the signs and showed up whenever the hell I wanted to, I would have slept in an extra hour!

Then, after a half hour, they announced there were still eight people in line for customs, and it was moving slow because there was only one counter open... so we were just going to continue to wait for them.

ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!?

Everybody who arrived at the airport THREE HOURS EARLY... AS INSTRUCTED... was already on the plane. Why in the hell are we still waiting on people who couldn't be bothered to get to the airport on time? How is this our fault? I don't give a shit if customs decided to close ALL the fucking counters... people who showed up on time made it through... BECAUSE THEY SHOWED UP ON TIME!!! Stop blaming customs for the problem... they weren't the ones who made the people show up late to the airport. AND STOP PUNISHING THE PEOPLE WHO FOLLOWED INSTRUCTIONS AND MADE IT TO CHECK-IN THREE HOURS EARLY LIKE THEY WERE TOLD TO!

I am sick and fucking tired of companies pandering to the lowest common denominator. All it does is remove consequences for idiots who can't be bothered to follow the rules like everybody else. Well, guess what? If you keep removing consequences for being stupid... people are going to continue to do stupid shit. Do you think any of the people that showed up late to the airport will bother to be on time next time? Of course not! And why should they? You're just going to hold the plane for them!

Is it any wonder that this country is going down the crapper and American companies are going bankrupt? Keep rewarding stupid often enough, that's all you're going to have left.

   
And, on that tragic note, I've got a couple hours work that needs doing before I can turn in for the night, so I must bid you adieu...

   

Hartsfield-Jackson

Posted on Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

Dave!And so Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson has gone and messed up their airport.

Back in May, they opened up their new "Maynard H. Jackson Jr. International Terminal" which handles all foreign flights. In theory, it's great, because it means you no longer have to claim your bag, then re-check your bag, then re-claim your bag again if Atlanta is your final destination on an inbound flight. Instead you just grab your bag and waltz directly out of the building to your car and... voilà!... you're on your way.

Assuming you drove your own car to the International Terminal and paid their hideously expensive parking rates.

If you didn't, Atlanta International Airport has just screwed you and you don't even know it.

But you will.

Since I (obviously) didn't drive to the International Terminal (my car is back in Seattle), I had to get back to the main terminal so I could catch a hotel shuttle. But there is no train to take you back. Instead you have to wait 5 minutes for a bus... wait another 20 minutes for the bus to fill up... wait another 15 minutes to drive all the way back to the Main Terminal... then wait for your luggage to be unloaded... then wait for traffic... then walk to the hotel shuttle area where you needed to be all along SO YOU CAN WAIT EVEN MORE for your shuttle.

Which, needless to say, IS A HUGE FUCKING WASTE OF TIME!

So now I absolutely HATE flying into Atlanta on an International flight, and will avoid it at all costs. Or at least UNTIL THEY BUILD A TRAIN LOOP TO TAKE YOU BACK TO THE MAIN TERMINAL LIKE THEY SHOULD HAVE DONE IN THE FIRST PLACE! I mean, they can build a damn train FOR MILES out to the car rental center, but extending the EXISTING terminal train A MEASLY 500 FEET and adding a secure car to take exiting passengers back to the Main Terminal was too difficult? Apparently so. Or maybe they were too damn stupid to think of it.

But Seattle... frickin' SEATTLE... has figured out how to do this. It's EMBARRASSING that Atlanta... ONE OF THE BUSIEST AIRPORTS IN THE WORLD... has their head up their asses by thinking this absurd "bussing" idiocy is anything other than COMPLETE AND TOTAL BULLSHIT.

It's like the stupid-ass city I live in. The one thing we need where I work? More parking spaces. The one thing they made sure to eliminate when they re-designed the street? THAT'S RIGHT... THEY GOT RID OF PARKING SPACES!

Everywhere you look... from city planners to airport designers... the people in charge don't seem to know what in the hell they're doing. Nor do they give a crap. And why should they? They can just start screaming some bullshit about "saving money" or "having to make hard choices" (or whatever) to justify their short-sightedness. No more taking the time and money to do things right... it's all about making sure there's enough money in the project to pay their huge salaries, and everything else is negotiable. And the consequences? Well, for Atlanta-bound international travelers who just want to take the damn train into the city? FUCK 'EM! JUST FUCK'EM!! They can waste their time riding a stupid-ass BUS for a half hour to get to the MARTA train station! Who gives a shit about THEM?!?

And welcome to Atlanta!

   

Ever since getting my new MacBook, I've been increasingly fascinated with the pixel density of its beautiful "Retina Display." Everything looks so frickin' amazing on it that I have a really hard time looking at non-Retina-enhanced visuals now... especially when browsing the web. Most websites are built to deliver 72dpi graphics, which end up look pretty bad. And so I've been experimenting with photos here on my blog, trying to figure out how to delivery hi-res images without breaking things for readers who don't have Retina-type displays.

The easiest way is to just double-size all your images. I tried this in my last entry with the picture of the jitney door. It's actual size is 800x1200 pixels, but I define it as 400x600 in the HTML. So now Retina displays get a sharp image to look at, and non-Retina displays just toss out every-other pixel...

Retina Blogography Image
Detail of Non-Retina low-res on the Left... Retina double-res on the Right

The problem is this... visitors who don't have Retina displays are downloading much larger images with no benefit at all. Since their browser is just tossing 3/4 of the data, this seems wasteful of their time and bandwidth. And, unlike Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, I give a crap about the people who spend their time visiting me.

This has led me to experiment with Javascript and CSS to deliver regular graphics for everybody except those visiting with a Retina-type display... they'll get the super-res versions. Sure they'll take longer to download, but at least all the pixels sent will be looked at.

And so now I just have to figure out the best way to approach this. All the easy solutions have serious drawbacks in one way or another, so it'll probably take some time and research to get it sorted. But hopefully, if you're visiting with an iPhone 4, New iPad, MacBook Retina, HTC One X, HTC Rezound, etc. - it will be worth the effort.

   

Cicadas

Posted on Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Dave!The weather started out hot with blue skies today. I know this because I saw it with my own two eyes when I went out to lunch.

Around 5:00 it started raining. Hard.

This killed what little ambition I had to go out for dinner, so I decided to just keep working in my room. Since I had a packet of Chips Ahoy! cookies, I knew I wouldn't starve. "On the positive side, maybe the rain will make the cicadas shut up and I can fall asleep easier tonight," I thought to myself.

But then the rain stopped around 8:30 and the cicadas came out louder than ever. Boy am I glad that these noisemakers haven't made it up to Washington State yet.

So now I'm going to try and fall asleep knowing that Walking Dead zombies AND thousands of creepy bugs are screeching to get inside and eat my face off.

Because I'm just that delicious.

Bleh. Now I'm hungry. I guess a packet of cookies can only do so much.

What I need right now is an off switch.

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UnDesign

Posted on Thursday, July 12th, 2012

Dave!Whenever anybody outside of Washington State asks where I'm from, I just say "Seattle" because that's pretty much the only place in Washington that anybody has ever heard of. Seattle, of course has a reputation for rain (which is true... but not quite to the extreme as people might believe).

Anyway, it's been pouring down rain here in Georgia, which has people who know I'm from "Seattle" saying "thanks for bringing the rain with you!" But not sarcastically, as usual! Apparently, there's been quite a dry spell, and farmers are glad to be getting some moisture this summer.

Though, if the forecast is any indication, they'll be happy I'm leaving this weekend...

Georgia Stormin' All Week!

In the meanwhile, it is crazy wet outside, so I'm doing my best to stay indoors.

Which is good because I need to be working, except... Adobe has a big problem with their software running on the new MacBooks and MacBook Airs. For example, Adobe InDesign (the program I use to do page layout for things like THRICE Fiction Magazine) crashes a horrible death almost constantly. I've scoured for tips on how to make it happen less often, but it's still an impossible situation. So now I am in the horrible position of having to wait until I get home before I can finish a number of projects that are due... including the latest issue of THRICE Fiction Magazine.

This sucks so hard.

Almost as hard as the length of my work day. Right now I am so exhausted that the only thing that keeps me going is 5-Hour Energy shots and cookies. But the cumulative effect of downing three 5-Hour Energy shots to stay awake the past 15 hours is starting to make my brain haze over. The fact that I've got another four hours left to go doesn't bode well for my sanity.

Now, if you'll excuse me, a sea urchin just waddled up to my desk and asked me if I want to go see a movie with him and his friend the kangaroo (who, oddly enough, is named "Mr. Camel"). Since I could use a break, I think I'm going to accompany them... though I hope it's not another art-house cinema festival, because last time I never did manage to get the smell of popcorn out of my ferret.

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TED!

Posted on Friday, July 13th, 2012

Dave!Problems arise when I travel all the time. But I'm not accustomed to having problems when dealing with those problems. I have a stack of loyalty cards... frequent guest cards... preferred guest cards... etc... which make dealing with problems not so problematic. When something comes up, the airline/hotel/rental-car/whatever takes a look at my credentials and makes it go away. It's one of the perks of being a frequent traveler, because your repeat business is something these companies value. They do whatever they can to keep you coming back.

But every once in a while...

This morning after a 45-minute nap, the only sleep I'd had in 23 hours, I had to get back to the airport to turn in my rental car by 10am. My plan was to then go directly to the hotel and get an early check-in so I could catch up on some sleep.

But the hotel was having none of it. No matter how great a customer I was.

They were overbooked with a convention and, unlike previous times I wanted a room early, there was nothing they could rush to clean so I could get some sleep. In fact, they had no idea when I might get a room... even at their usual 3:00 check-in time.

Well this was something new.

After wandering around the lobby in a daze for ten minutes, I eventually decided to drop off my suitcase, drink my fifth 5-Hour Energy, take a MARTA train into Atlanta, see a movie, then have some lunch. What else was there to do?

The movie I decided to see? TED! The story of a teddy bear that comes to life and the life-long friendship he has with the kid he grows up with.

Ted!

It wasn't as funny as I expected.

It wasn't as raunchy as I had been led to believe.

But it hits far more often than it misses, and I really enjoyed the film. Yes, it's reminiscent of director/star Seth McFarlane's other work (namely, Family Guy) but it has a surprising amount of heart, some genuine laughs, the creepiest dance scene ever recorded, some great 80's-related homages, and (most importantly) a lead character that's about as real and believable as he could possibly be (despite being a teddy bear). Definitely some R-rated stuff, but worth your valuable time to check out.

Lunch was at Johnny Rockets, because I just can't help myself.

Then I took a train back to the airport at 2:30... finally got my room at 3:15... then got dressed and took another train back into the city so I could have a last-minute dinner with some - bloggers - of - great - importance, which is my favorite thing to do in Atlanta.

Despite having 45-minutes sleep in 38 hours, I was never really tired. I guess that's the power of keeping active with fun stuff to do... and loading-up on energy drinks.

I'm going to keep this in mind as I try to busy myself before my 7:30pm flight home tomorrow...

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Spy

Posted on Saturday, July 14th, 2012

Dave!Out of the corner of my eye I caught a woman at the airport trying to "secretly" take my picture with her mobile phone. "Well that's odd, I thought to myself," as I started waving at her frantically. Then I raised up my iPhone to take her picture, which caused her to disappear like a fart in the wind.

I tried to think back to what I was doing that was so fascinating that it merited a photo. Was I scratching my balls or something? I couldn't recall. Possibly? Probably. Hell, there really is no privacy now-a-days.

You can even spy on me in mid-air if you want.

Or I can spy on myself.

According to FlightView, I'm flying over Nebraska at 34,000 feet right now...

Flight Over Nebraska

And while I am not currently scratching my balls, I've been thinking about it ever since I wrote about wondering about scratching my balls two minutes ago.

Guess now I'll have something to do at baggage claim while I'm waiting for my suitcase to arrive.

Get your cameras ready...

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Rafalca

Posted on Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

Dave!For the past two hours I've been trying to schedule the things I want to do in-between the things I have to do... and failing miserably. There aren't enough hours in the day. There aren't enough days in the month. This is a problem that only massive sums of money could ever fix (nothing opens doors and makes things possible like a wad of cash)... but, alas, I only have $23.00 to my name just now.

Ah to be obscenely wealthy! I'd love to have unlimited piles of money to throw at problems so they go away.

On an entirely unrelated subject... I was watching the Olympics on television when Mitt & Ann Romney came up because their horse, Rafalca, will be competing in "dressage" later this week. I don't know much about the sport except it looks like a hideous amount of training is involved to get the horsey to trot around in exactly a certain way like that.

But putting my lack of "dressage" knowledge aside, watching the news had me dead-curious to know how the Romneys managed to get Rafalca to London. I mean, seriously, it's not like they just walked the horse onto the plane and plopped him down in a First Class seat between them... something seriously crazy has to be involved in flying horses across the Atlantic. And what about jet lag? Do horses get jet lag?

This burning curiosity resulted in my Googling all kinds of crap about horse transport.

Apparently, horseys are put into special "stall containers," then loaded on a cargo plane which has a horse-care specialist onboard. Owners can choose from "economy" (three horses to a stall) or "business class" (two horses to a stall)... but I suppose since cost is no object to Mitt, he could insist on a private stall if Rafalca doesn't play well with others. In any event, the horses are well cared for on their journey, getting plenty of hay and water as needed. No mention was made on what they do with all the horse doo-doo and pee-pee to keep the plane from stinking, but I'd imagine it involved giant pairs of Depends made especially for horses...

MEGA-SIZE Depend Undergarments for HORSES!

Oh... and in case you're curious, horses can get jet lag... but it's often not nearly as serious a condition as humans can get.

Since I don't get jet lag much either, I guess that makes two parts of me that are horse-like now.

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Portlandia 1

Posted on Friday, August 10th, 2012

Dave!Portland is a real toss-up when it comes to travel. Driving there from my home is about 5 hours. Flying there is also about 5 hours... once driving to the airport, getting through security, waiting for boarding, flight time, and layovers are factored in. So what to do? Usually it comes down to money. If it's cheaper to drive, I drive. If it turns out it's cheaper to fly, I fly.

This time it was not only cheaper to fly (thanks to a rocking' airfare I found with Alaska Airlines) but I honestly didn't feel like driving for five hours.

Unfortunately my flight was at 6:00am, which means I had to get up at 3:30am. This makes for a very long day.

But a good one.

Eventually.

Because it started off terrible. After checking in with my airport hotel, I took a shuttle to the MAX light rail station. After buying my ticket I went to look at the schedule and saw a poor little moth trapped behind the glass and unable to move...

Trapped Moth

I tried tapping the glass to try and knock him loose but, even if I got him un-stuck, he'd probably just climb right back up again while trying to find a way out. I then contemplated smashing him to put the poor little guy out of his misery, but couldn't bring myself to do it. Calling the TriMet emergency line was my last option, but something told me they wouldn't rush right out to release a trapped moth. So I left the poor bugger to his fate.

From there I was off to meet Vahid and Sarah for lunch. Which was at E-San, one of the best Thai restaurants I've eaten at outside of Thailand. I had fried pineapple rice (which they serve in a hollowed-out pineapple half...

ESan Thai

It. Was. Awesome.

Then my Portland hosts decided to show off by taking me to "Salt and Straw" which is an ice cream parlor SO GOOD that Oprah has it on her "Favorite Things" list. The line ran all the way out the door, which only confirmed that Oprah knows her ice cream...

Salt And Straw

I had Almond Brittle with Salted Chocolate Ganache mixed with Sea Salt Ice Cream with a Caramel Ribbon. And, yes, you read that right... it's not "salted caramel in ice cream" it's actually SALT-FLAVORED ICE CREAM which happens to have caramel in it. Needless to say... it's pretty damn salty. But also pretty amazing. What's even more amazing than the flavors are the staff... you'd think serving all these rather pretentious and upscale flavors from a hugely popular parlor would give them attitude. But it absolutely doesn't. They are all as nice and fun as can be... happy to let you try flavors and make recommendations so that you're thrilled with your dessert. And I was.

And here's where our day takes an unbelievable turn...

Portland, Oregon is a city so filled with freedom and American spirit... THAT THEY HAVE CUTE GIRLS HANDING OUT FREE HUMMUS ON THE STREET CORNERS! Yes. You read that right. This is NOT a dream. This is NOT an imaginary story. Free. Hummus. FREE HUMMUS ON THE STREET!!

Sabra Hummus Free!

"Is this heaven?"

"No. It's Portland."

Sabra Hummus in my Hand!

Unbelievable!

And then, because only Batman can top free hummus, Vahid and I went to see The Dark Knight Rises...

The Dark Knight Rises Poster

Loved it.

Not quite as much as The Dark Knight, but it was a very good end to the Nolan-directed Batman series of films. The only negative was that I had completely figured it all out well before the ending. Anybody who religiously follows the comic books would. But... it didn't diminish my enjoyment one bit. Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle (an unnamed Catwoman) totally steals the show. Bane was a much better villain choice than I gave him credit for (thanks to an amazing performance by Tom Hardy)... and Christian Bale once again ruled the cowl in a way no other Batman has ever done. Genius. Here's hoping that whomever takes over the Batman movies will do even half as good a job as Christopher Nolan.

And now... I'm pretty much dead, and tomorrow is going to be a long day.

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Portlandia 2

Posted on Saturday, August 11th, 2012

Dave!My day started exactly the way every day should start... with perfect toast.

Vahid and Sarah took me to Milo's City Cafe where, I kid you not, they have a guy whose only job is making perfect toast. He has a pair of wooden tongs that he uses to check your toast, flip your toast, and make sure your toast is toasting evenly to just the right toastiness. It's amazing, and his dedication to awesome toast is epic. He's the Toast Master! And perfect toast is what he does. Given my love of toast, I couldn't have been more impressed. I wanted quite badly to go shake his hand after breakfast was over, but I was too star struck. If only every restaurant took toast this seriously.

And then I was off to the Portland Zine Symposium...

THRICE Fiction Table

THRICE Fiction Table

Overall, it was a very nice event... though I'm still not sure that THRICE Fiction was a good fit. The majority of the stuff there was DIY hand-crafted works, and that just isn't us. But, even so, we did pretty good for the day. I originally ordered 40 copies of our new 2011 Black and White Annual, 20 for each day... even though I never expected to actually sell that many. Since I was handing out flyers to let people know that we give our magazine away for free on our website, who would spend money to buy it? But, even after telling people how to get THRICE for free, I still ended up selling 14 copies and trading 7 more. So... worth it, I think.

The only real problem with the event was the heat. It was insanely warm at the venue. At the 2:00 half-way point, I had sold 12 copies. The two remaining copies were sold by 3:30. Which means I did nothing from 3:30 to 6:00. It was just too hot in the afternoon. You could see people coming inside... wandering for a bit... then leaving while fanning themselves before ever getting to my table. Only the most dedicated zine fans stuck it out, but they were the ones least likely to buy a book, as they were after the home-grown DIY stuff.

Stuff like tiny little hand-folded, hand-draw books that a guy was selling for 50¢ each. He made me one with monkeys that he traded for a copy of Bad Monkey Comix, and I love it...

Tiny Monkey Book

And there was a lot of cool stuff at the show. One of my favorite zine tables was near me and called Everything Waffles, a monthly magazine dedicate to a guy who takes photos of himself with his cat, Waffles. Sounds boring, I know... but these aren't ordinary photos... they're costume photos that are really well done...

American Pride with Waffle
"American Pride" (with Waffles) by Justin Schwab

Genius. The guy has videos and a podcast too. How can you not be compelled to check out his website?

I ended up only booking a table for just the one day instead of two... for which I am now grateful. I don't know that I could survive a second day of non-stop sitting in 100° heat. But I am really glad I came, and seeing all the incredible creativity that people have in creating zines has me really, really interested in creating some of my own.

UPDATE: For everyone who has been asking, YES! I am happy to sell my extra copies of THRICE Fiction 2011 B&W Annual and Bad Monkey Comix. When I get home I'll find out the cheapest way to mail them, then let you know how much it costs. And, of course, I will honor the show prices for the THRICE annual ($7, which is just 5¢ more than I paid for them, so it's a pretty good deal!).

   

Rusty

Posted on Saturday, August 25th, 2012

Dave!A lazy weekend on the other side of the mountains.

Golf at Newcastle is a beautiful course overlooking Lake Washington... with Seattle, Mercer Island, and Bellevue off in the distance. And, while I'm not much of a golfer, they have an 18-hole natural grass putting course that's perfect for a group of friends to hang out and have some fun while enjoying the stunning views...

The Golf Course at Newcastle

Calcutta Grill at Newcastle

Golf Course at Newcastle

The Rusty Putter Course

The Rusty Putter Course

The Golf Course at Newcastle

Sunset at The Golf Course at Newcastle

A perfect day, really.

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Language

Posted on Friday, September 7th, 2012

Dave!The story burning up the internets today is about a letter written by Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe in support of Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo (who is vocal advocate of marriage equality).

Making a long story short, Maryland Democratic politician Emmett C. Burns asked the Baltimore Ravens football organization to make Ayanbadejo shut up about marriage. Kluwe (also a supporter of marriage equality) thought this was bullshit, and decided to write an open letter to Burns to tell him how he felt.

The letter is sheer genius. Go read it immediately.

Chris Kluwe
I'm guessing this image of Kluwe is a team photo, courtesy of the Minnesota Vikings?

   
As you might have noticed, the letter is filled with colorful language which has raised some criticism of Kluwe's choice of words.

This really hit home with me, because I struggle with whether or not I should use swear words most every time I write in this blog. When I first started blogging I swore constantly and didn't think anything about dropping f-bombs. But then people started actually reading Blogography, which caused me to not only curtail my swearing... but also go back through old entries and eliminate the curse words I had previously used.

It was a practice that was destined to be short-lived. I use swear-words in real life when I'm fired up. So it's unavoidable that I'm going to use swear-words on my blog when I'm fired up. For a while I tried to disguise it... typing out things like "F#@%!" and "B#LL$H!T!," but comedian Suzy Soro commented that this is kind of stupid. Since absolutely everybody knows what you're trying to say anyway... why not just come out and say it?

She was absolutely right, and I've been cursing in my blog ever since.

Though I admit that most times I do regret it.

Somebody once told me that swearing is a sign that the writer is unintelligent. They don't know how to express themselves properly, so they foolishly have to resort to curse words to make their point. In some respects, I agree with this assessment.

In other respects, I'd argue that there's no word that can adequately take the place of "fuck."

And so I use it. Probably more often than I should... but definitely not as often as I want to. "Fuck" (and dozens of words like it) are forms of expression that I find helpful in communicating exactly what I'm feeling in a way that "shucky darn" doesn't quite reach.

Anyway...

Today I managed to get in my essential visit to America's Dog so I could get my Veggie Chicago Dog...

Chicago Veggie Dog

It was, as always, delicious.

Oh... and speaking of delicious food... I never check a bag when flying into O'Hare so I can grab a veggie burger at Johnny Rocket's before I exit through security. But yesterday as I approached the restaurant, I was horrified to see that IT WASN'T THERE!

WHAT THE FUCK?! Shucky darn!

I hate it when that happens.

   

Four Winds

Posted on Saturday, September 8th, 2012

Dave!I make it a point to keep up with every Hard Rock Cafe that opens in the USA so I don't risk having a property close before I can get there (like Aspen). The latest cafe to open is located inside the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Michigan. Lucky for me, it's just a short hour-and-a-half drive from Chicago, which made it ridiculously easy to rent a car and drive on over.

The Hard Rock Cafe Four Winds is directly off the main casino floor on the west side of the building...

Hard Rock Cafe Four Winds Entrance

I was shocked at how big the place is. Larger properties always worry me because the capacity can be hard to fill, which means it's more likely to close down...

Hard Rock Cafe Four Winds Main Hall

The style of the cafe is kind of hard to pin down. It has elements from the shitty "new-style" cafes that look like some kind of hipster lounge... but it's been mercifully toned down to a more classic look. Even better, there's quite a bit of rock memorabilia, which has been badly lacking in the "new-style" properties...

Hard Rock Cafe Four Winds

Hard Rock Cafe Four Winds

Hard Rock Cafe Four Winds

Overall, a pleasant surprise. Not as great as the older properties which helped to define the "Hard Rock look," but a drastic improvement over the later properties that have been popping up.

As for the Four Winds Casino itself... it's absolutely beautiful. Gorgeous wood construction and accents make for a warm, earthy feel. They then artfully blended in some very nice stone work and tribal decorations. I was very much impressed...

Four Winds Casino

Four Winds Casino

Four Winds Casino

The rest of my day was spent doing something I absolutely hate... shopping.

But I don't have much choice, because my tennis shoes are falling apart and I need some clothes for my upcoming trips. My favorite place to shop for shoes is a Nike Factory Outlet, and my iPhone told me there just happened to be one in nearby Michigan City. A mere 20 minutes from the casino (but not actually in Michigan as the name would imply, instead it's in Indiana).

Pulling into town, I was greeted by a big surprise...

Looks like a nuclear reactor!

Holy crap! That's really close to civilization for a nuclear power plant! But then I recalled a trivia question asking which states don't have nuclear power, and remembered that Indiana was one of them. Turns out it's a cooling tower for a gas & coal plant.

Anyway...

The selection at the Nike store was pretty bad. Almost every style I'd be willing to wear was in crazy colors I wouldn't be caught dead in. This was really disappointing because I love the way that Nikes feel on my feet. Instead I ended up going to the Adidas Outlet Store, which was a blessing in disguise because they were having a store-wide 30% off sale. This was in addition to the already discounted close-out prices, which meant I got two really nice pairs of shoes for $60 instead of the $170 they originally retailed for. Heaven only knows I love a bargain, so this was a great start.

Unfortunately, my plan to buy a bunch of shirts and pants was doomed to failure, as most everything I found that I might wear was either not in my size or more money than I was willing to pay. After four hours of looking at two different malls, I finally gave up after finding only two shirts. This sucks ass, because it means I'm going to have to go shopping again when I get home.

I eventually got back to O'Hare around 6:00, which would have been a perfect opportunity to head into town for some awesome Chicago food. But I was so exhausted that I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I'd blame my tiredness on all the driving, but I know darn well it was the stupid shopping that wore me out. I just cannot fathom how there are people who actually go shopping for fun when, to me at least, it's the ultimate torture.

Much like the KIA Soul I was stuck with from the rental car company. This is the third time I've ended up with one, and they make me insane. Not because they're bad to drive... on the contrary, they handle just fine. It's the BLIND SPOTS in the rear corners that are fucking insane...

Good luck looking for traffic behind you!

Just like the KIA Soul I got when I was in Hawaii, I was constantly freaking out over not being able to see in one of the most important places that a driver needs to be looking when changing lanes. An entire car... hell, an entire semi-truck... could be hiding there and you'd never know. So instead you have to be overly-reliant on your rear-view mirrors and tiny back window, which is hardly the safest way to drive. It's as if KIA fucking wants you to crash into another car... it's the only thing that explains such idiotic design.

I can't believe that these things are legal. I have an even harder time believing that car rental agencies actually buy these things knowing how difficult and dangerous they are to drive.

And now I suppose I should try and get some sleep since I have to fly out early tomorrow morning. Oh how I wish I could have taken a later flight. But the price was quite a bit higher, so it is what it is.

Here's hoping the pilots are more awake than I'll be.

   

Bullet Sunday 295

Posted on Sunday, September 9th, 2012

Dave!Save your pity over my being stuck at an airport for four hours... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Know. I so rarely just toss a link up on my blog... that's what Twitter and Facebook are for... but I read an article titled "25 Things I'd Like My Sons to Know" and was inspired to do just that. Much of it applies not just to sons, but to people everywhere...

Tom Matlack
Photo from Tom Matlack's wonderful article.

If you want to have a little more hope for the future, follow that link. And to prove that Tom Matlack's genius isn't a fluke, here's another: "Raising Boys (A Dad’s Advice for Moms)."

   
• Sleepless. Any attempt to get some sleep last night was futile seeing as how there was a party going on down the hall until 2:30am. As background noise, I probably could have ignored it is not for a screaming cackle by some drunken hag who could just not shut the fuck up. Absolutely everything was funny to her, and I had to listen to her continuous screeching laugh for hours. This alone would have made my final night in Chicago unbearable, but when I got up two hours later there was no hot water at the Hyatt. I don't know what it is about me, but I seem to attract hot water failures.

   
• Aero. But there was good news from my travels today... when I got to the airport, I was totally psyched to see that, ZOMG!, I would be flying on the Mickey Plane!!

Alaska Airlines' Mickey Plane!

And just when I thought things couldn't get much better? UPGRADED TO FIRST CLASS! As a Delta elite flyer, this rarely happens on Alaska Airlines, so it was a complete surprise. As always, the best part of flying First Class is the warm nuts...

Free Warm Nuts!

Yes, I know, I TOTALLY WIN AT LIFE!!!

   
• Livery. This trip was lucky for planes, because my flight to Seattle on Thursday was on the Horizon/Alaska Air Huskies Plane...

Huskies Plane

Alaska Air has so many cool liveries on their fleet, but the one I'm most dying to fly is their "Salmon-Thirty-Salmon"...

Alaska Air Salmon Thirty Salmon

Has to be one of the coolest planes ever made. One of these days I need to see how I can track it down for a ride.

   
• 'Cago. As Chicago is one of my favorite cities on earth, it sucks pretty hard to go there and not be able to spend any time exploring the place. And since I've been there dozens of times, seeking out the frivolous non-touristy stuff is where the fun is at for me. And the only frivolous thing I made time for was visiting the new LEGO store at Water Tower Place...

LEGO Store Chicago

Kinda a disappointment. I mean, sure, they carry a large line of wonderful LEGO products, but it's kind of a boring layout compared to the old one. Oh well. It does have the benefit of being located next door to that obscenely popular American Girl store that makes those creepy little dolls I want to burn with fire.

   
• Coverage. Every time I get to Chicago, I can't help but marvel at the shitty data coverage AT&T has there. Seriously, it's so bad as to be unusable. If you manage to get anything from the internet at all it takes fucking forever, but most times the connection just times out...

AT&T Chicago Sucks Ass

How in the hell can the third largest city in the United States have such embarrassingly bad cellular service? At least I can make a phone call here. In Las Vegas (one of the largest tourist attractions in the country) not only is the data shit, but every call I make gets dropped. Every. Damn. Call. I have no idea why AT&T doesn't get off their stupid asses and fix this shit, because it's frickin' embarrassing. If I didn't have to travel outside the US, I'd switch to Verizon. I dunno. Maybe Verizon's international iPhone coverage is something I should look into.

   
• Limits. And lastly, from the "It's About Damn Time" file, Texas is raising the speed limit on a 41-mile stretch of highway between Austin and San Antonio to 85 MPH. Yes, I know that this is a real cause for concern when it comes to safety. Yes, I realize that there will still be idiots who drive 45 and hold up traffic. Yes, I understand that there are few roadways straight and flat enough to handle 85. And, yes, I get that there will still be people that will only use this as an excuse to go 95. But, dammit, I just don't care. Upping speed limits is something I approve of...

Speed Limit Sign 85 MPH
Photo by Ricardo B. Brazziell from AP Photo/Statesman.com

Mostly because I think it's fucking insane that you can get pulled over and ticketed for going 10 miles above the speed limit when there are murders running around free. Yes, dangerous drivers should be stopped and fined. No argument there. But is ticketing someone going 65 in a 55 really the best use of police resources if the driver is handling the speed safely? I'd argue the moron driving 40 in a 55 is the bigger danger. In any event, There are stretches of highway in Eastern Washington that could really benefit from an 85 MPH speed limit, I'm just sayin'.

   
And... my flight starts boarding in 15 minutes, so I guess I should wrap this up. Good thing too, I'm just about out of bullets...

   

Questioning

Posted on Monday, September 10th, 2012

Dave!They say that even a stopped clock is right twice a day, but in my case it's just not true.

The batteries in my Mickey Mouse wall-clock at work died at 7:28 while I was in Chicago. And since I arrive both after 7:28am and before 7:28pm I don't see the clock being correct even once. And since I don't even know if my office exists when I am not there, I'm not going to make assumptions about what happens when I'm gone. Logic would dictate that the clock does indeed read correct at 7:28am and 7:28pm, but I'm not going to drive to work to find out.

Because I have more important questions on my mind...

  • What time is it in Bahrain since there's a Hard Rock Cafe I'd like to visit there one day? Google says it's 8:08am tomorrow in Manama, Bahrain.
  • Manama? Mahnahmahna!
  • I miss the Muppets. I wish Pixar would do something with Muppets, like a Pigs in Space movie. I love Pixar. I wonder when the Monsters Inc. prequel is coming? Ugh. Not until June 21st of next year. I think Monsters Inc. is my favorite Pixar film. But I loved The Incredibles too. Why don't they make a sequel to that film?
  • Ooh! What was the name of the woman who played the sexy voice of Mirage in Pixar's The Incredibles? IMDB says it was Elizabeth Peña of I Married Dora fame. A show that ended with the lead character flying off to Bahrain.
  • Why in the heck am I so obsessed with Bahrain now? Probably because I haven't been there.
  • But isn't it odd how I'm thinking of Bahrain and a totally unrelated question leads me back to Bahrain? Everything is connected, I guess. Or all roads lead to Bahrain.
  • And wasn't it Bahrain where Chandler was moving so he could get away from Janice on Friends? No... that was Yemen. Another place I haven't been. I haven't been to a lot of places because I keep going back to the same places.
  • Well, not all places. How many years has it been since the fortune teller I visited in Hong Kong told me that I'd be back to Hong Kong in a year? It was 2005. And since I haven't been back yet, he's off by seven years. so far.
  • I guess predicting the future is a crapshoot. They never get it right in the movies. Have any movies got it right? Not really. Not even Strange Days from 1995... and they were only predicting four years into the future for 1999.
  • Argh. Who was the actress in Strange Days that I don't like? Not Angela Bassett, she's awesome, but the other one? Ah. It was Juliette Lewis that played the toxic waste bitch that Ralph Fiennes was obsessed with.
  • How in the heck did Juliette Lewis become a thing? Holy crap! She was in I Married Dora, which means all roads really do lead to Bahrain!
  • Ah Dora. It seems like only yesterday that show was on. What was I doing yesterday? I was flying back home from Chicago with a First Class upgrade in the Mickey Mouse plane.
  • What was I doing one week ago? I was mourning the loss of Michael Clarke Duncan and waxing poetic about American Cheese.
  • What was I doing one fortnight ago? I was worrying about a cat that's been wandering around my parking lot. I've named her Spanky.
  • What was I doing one month ago? I was flying to Portland for friends, free hummus, really good ice cream, Batman, and a zine show for Thrice Fiction.
  • What was I doing one year ago? I was preparing for my trip to Australia and admiring Kate Winslet.
  • What was I doing one decade ago? Blogography didn't exist. My previous blog that I was writing back then is gone. So I don't know what I was doing. It was a Tuesday. It was also the day before the one-year anniversary of 9/11. At some point I'm certain that I was deciding which of the five photos I've taken of the World Trade Center I was going to post to my old blog in the morning.

Which means nothing has changed, because that's what I'm going to be doing right now.

Well, that... and planning a trip to Bahrain.

   

Nooner

Posted on Monday, September 24th, 2012

Dave!After a series of horribly early flights that forced me to get up at absurd hours not fit for man nor beast, I decided to make a change this trip. No flights before noon.

This would allow me to stay in bed until late, have time for a leisurely breakfast, and even goof off a bit before having to head to the airport. And it's a good plan, really. Except I have to fly out a day early to make my appointments... and add a day at the end because my flight gets back too late for the three-hour drive home. I didn't think this was a big deal... until I started calculating how much extra money that adds to a trip. Two extra nights in a hotel plus a slew of extra meals... not to mention the extra parking fees... turns out to be about $300-$350.

Well, crap.

That's a lot of money just so I can climb out of bed at a decent hour.

And so now I'm wondering if perhaps that 3:30am wake-up is worth it after all. Sure I'm a zombie for the day, but at least I'm saving over $300.

But try telling that to me this morning as I sat down to a plate of scrambled eggs and toast with a side of fresh strawberries... after having stayed in bed until 9:00. I probably would have paid $600.

Sometimes you just can't put a price on a great piece of toast.

Well, you can, but I just don't care.

At least until the credit card statement arrives.

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Fireworks

Posted on Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

Dave!The nice thing about having to be in Orlando for work is that at the end of your day you can wander over to Walt Disney World for fireworks...

Disney Fireworks

   

The show was called Halloween Wishes.

Or maybe Halloween Dreams.

Or it could have been Halloween Magic.

Or Magical Halloween Dreams.

Or Dreamy Magical Halloween Wishes maybe?

How about Magical Halloween Dreams and Wishes?

Or perhaps Halloween Wishes for Magical Dreams?

Hell, I don't know. It was Halloween... something. And there was probably Magic, Wishes and Dreams in there, because there's always Magic, Wishes and Dreams stuffed into everything when you're at a Disney park.

And now it's time for me to start wishing for magical dreams... hopefully with some sleep attached.

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Wild

Posted on Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

Dave!Because of my many, many trips to Orlando, I've been to Walt Disney World eleventy bajillion times. Which means I'm pretty bored with the place. Sure "Pirates of the Caribbean" is great the first five times you ride it... but the twenty-fifth? Not even adding Johnny Depp can fix that. But it's the place everybody wants to go, so it's the place I usually end up.

Which means I'm always looking for something new and interesting to do at the Disney Parks. Usually it's by staying in a Disney hotel I've never stayed at before... but every once in a while there's something truly new and interesting to do.

Enter the Wild Africa Trek in Animal Kingdom, which lets you explore the "African savanna" there in an entirely different way from the "Kilimanjaro Safaris" you'd normally take...

Wild Animal Trek

You know it's going to be different once they suit you up in a safety harness. This allows them to clip you to a track so you don't fall to your death when leaning over a cliff to see hungry hungry hippos up close and personal...

Hungry Hippo!

But the main reason for the safety harnesses (and the highlight of the trek) is a "rope bridge walk" which takes you high over the forest...

Rope Bridge

Being a Disney experience, it's all incredibly safe... but, being a Disney experience, they try to give the appearance that your trek is fraught with danger. Some of the wood boards on the bridge are broken or just plain missing...

Trek Bridge Missing Boards

And, as if that weren't enough "danger" for you, they walk you over a bunch of crocodiles... just like in an Indiana Jones movie...

Bridge Gators

Bridge Gators

Bridge Gators

Bridge Gators

The biggest problem with the "Kilimanjaro Safaris" ride that you would normally go on is that you don't get to stop. If animals are hiding, you don't get to stop and wait for them to show up. If you spot a really cool animal on the savannah, you don't get to stop and observe it for a while. Disney has quota of people they need to shove through the ride, so they have to keep moving.

But with the "Wild Africa Trek," it's completely different because they stop the truck and pull over whenever they want. This gives you a much better opportunity to look at the animals roaming around...

Trek Animals

Trek Animals

Trek Animals

Along the way you get to stop at a camp on the savannah to have a snack. A snack that's actually more of a meal...

Trek Savannah Camp

Wild Africa Trek Food

You get a terrific assortment of Africa-inspired foods (I got the vegetarian meal) and absolutely every bit of it was delicious. If there was a restaurant that was serving this meal, I would totally eat there. Frequently.

Overall, I enjoyed the Wild Africa Trek experience quite a lot. It's fun. It's exciting. It's educational. It's different. It's Disney.

The cost varies depending on whether you are at Disney World during the high season or the low season... and whether there's a special running or not... which means somewhere between $160 and $250 per person. I don't know that I would pay $250... but it's a bargain at $160.

Each trek is limited to 12 people and they have a limited number of treks per day. So... if you are planning to give it a try, you'll definitely want to book ahead to make sure you get in. Here's a link to Disney's website for Wild Africa Trek with the number you can call to book it. You can also visit the "hidden" trek kiosk next to Tuskers Restaurant in Animal Kingdom and take a chance that there's a spot available (get there early!).

As of this writing, the site above is actually kind of crappy in that they don't give you much information. They don't tell you that you need closed-toe shoes (I took boots and was glad to have them)... they don't tell you where to go (Animal Kingdom entrance 1/2 hour before your trek next to the ATM on the right). This is essential info to have, because Disney employees look at you like you're from outer space when you try to ask questions about it.

And now I'm off to have a magical day... working.

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Jambo!

Posted on Saturday, September 29th, 2012

Dave!This trip to Orlando I ended up staying at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge... a pricey but very nice hotel that's located directly on the Walt Disney World Resort property.

Meant to compliment Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park, the lodge is an African-inspired masterpiece that has something you won't find in most any other hotel... animals wandering around outside your balcony. Depending on which savanna your room overlooks, you can see giraffes, zebras, okapi, antelope, gazelles, eland, ostrich, and more!

My room in the main lodge (Jambo House) overlooked the "Sunset Savanna" (the other two being "Arusha Savanna" and "Uzima Savanna"). Throughout the day I managed to see all kinds of animals...

Giraffe!

Zebra!

Animals!

Animals!

Giraffes!

Ostriches!

Feeding Time!

Feeding Time!

The hotel itself is pretty amazing... which is no surprise since it was designed by Peter Dominick, who also designed the Wilderness Lodge. The showpiece of the hotel being the lobby, which is a towering four+ stories...

Jambo House Lobby: Animal Kingdom Lodge

Jambo House Lobby: Animal Kingdom Lodge

Jambo House Lobby: Animal Kingdom Lodge

Jambo House Lobby: Animal Kingdom Lodge

The standard rooms are not overly-spacious, but they are nicely appointed and comfortable...

Jambo House Room: Animal Kingdom Lodge

ANIMAL KINGDOM LODGE PROS:

  • It's Disney. You simply cannot go wrong staying at any of the Disney hotels. From the cheapest "budget" resorts... all the way up to the most expensive "deluxe" resorts... you are assured of clean, comfortable, safe rooms. Not only that, but you get really great perks for staying at the Walt Disney World Resort (extra hours in the parks, free transportation, charging purchases to your room, free room delivery of purchases, and more!).
  • It's Beautiful. I still like the design of Disney's Wilderness Lodge best... but the Animal Kingdom Lodge is magnificent. The lobby is a sight to behold with its vaulted ceiling and African theming, and everywhere you look there are fantastic little details that make staying here something special.
  • Free WiFi. The Animal Kingdom Lodge offered up FREE(!) WiFi. Sure it wasn't that great... and I was constantly having to connect/disconnect/connect because it stopped working... but it's FREE (just the way God intended) so I can't much complain.
  • Savanna Views. Just like you see in the ads, you really do get to look out and see giraffes, zebras, and other animals wandering outside your balcony. It's much cooler than I thought it would be, and you never get tired of watching the wildlife. It's the one thing that puts this hotel in a league of its own amongst the Disney properties.
  • Nuts. The "Roasted Nuts with African Spices" they serve at the Victoria Falls Lounge are frickin' amazing. And a total bargain at only $5 a bowl! Could not stop eating them.
  • Restaurants. There are two really nice restaurants with excellent Africa-inspired menus... plus a quick-serve restaurant WITH A FALAFEL PITA SANDWICH!! Great choices for vegetarians, or anybody, really.
  • Staff. As with all Disney properties, the Animal Kingdom Lodge has been filled with staff that are trained to deliver exceptional service. You really are made to feel welcome and special anytime you interact with them.

ANIMAL KINGDOM LODGE CONS:

  • Heinously Expensive. Especially if you want a "Savannah View" to look at animals outside your window. And since that's the entire frickin' point of staying here, it would be silly to purchase a "pool view" or "parking lot view" which you can get at any other hotel for a lot less money.
  • Bathroom. I know they are trying to accommodate families by having the double-sink and double mirror OUTSIDE the bathroom... but it's such a pain in the ass. Would it kill them to put ONE of those sinks/mirrors in the bathroom? That's the way a lot of hotels (including the Hard Rock Hotel Orlando) are designed, and it's much better.
  • Drums. I am so sick of listening to fucking drums that just the sound of one makes me want to start killing people. You walk up to the hotel and there's somebody teaching kids how to bang on a fucking drum before you even enter the hotel. Once inside, there's a professional fucking drum performance in the lobby... which would be fantastic, except they invite kids to bang on the fucking drums in-between songs. Trying to have a drink at the bar? A fucking drum parade marches through. Want to go to dinner at one of the amazing restaurants? You guessed it... they give fucking drums to the kids to keep them occupied while they wait for a table... which means you get to listen to fucking drums being played badly as you eat. There are fucking drums being banged in all public spaces at all hours of the day and night. Which means that even if you love drum music (as I used to) you will be so fucking sick and tired of fucking drums that you never want to hear them again.
  • Location. The Animal Kingdom Lodge is about as far away from everything Disney as you can possibly get. With the exception of the Animal Kingdom park, which is kinda next door, everything is miles away. You can easily spend 40 minutes (or more) just in travel time to get anywhere... that's NOT including the time you spend waiting for the damn bus.
  • The Damn Bus. For whatever reason (but probably the remote location) bus service to/from the Animal Kingdom Lodge is much more erratic and unreliable than other Disney hotels. You'll be standing in 95° heat watching bus after bus go by that's not the bus you need. Want to go to Disney Hollywood Studios? Sorry... there goes the fourth bus to Epcot, but no Hollywood Studios for you. Want to go back to your hotel? Sorry... there's the third bus for Disney's Pop Century Resort, but none for Animal Kingdom Lodge. This happened all the fucking time. And if you're at the "main" lodge, Jambo House, you may get bypassed altogether because the bus was filled up at the "vacation club annex" lodge, Kudani Village, which is the first stop. This is a serious problem that I haven't experienced to this horrible extreme at any of the other Disney hotels.

SUMMARY:

While it isn't going to dethrone Disney's Wilderness Lodge as my favorite Walt Disney World resort property, it comes very, very close. The Animal Kingdom Lodge with its cool Savannah views offers a unique experience that I really enjoyed, and would be happy to experience again (despite some of the cons that go along with staying here). Highly recommended if you don't mind spending huge sums of money.

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Bullet Sunday 298

Posted on Sunday, September 30th, 2012

Dave!Be sure all loose items are securely stored under your seat and remember there's no flash photography, because Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Halloween! 'Tis the season for "Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party" once again. Taking place after the normal park hours, the party has a special parade "Boo to You!" and a really nice fireworks show in addition to trick-or-treating throughout the Magic Kingdom park...

Boo To You Parade

Boo Fireworks

It seemed a lot more crowded than the last time I did Mickey's Halloween, with the trick-or-treat lines being absurdly long. So totally not worth waiting 15-20 minutes for a handful of the cheap candy they're handing out.

   
• Star Tours! The last time I was in Orlando I didn't have time to do the whole Disney thang, so I missed seeing the "new and improved" Star Tours ride. Much to my surprise, it actually is "new and improved!"...

Star Tours Continues!

You get a completely randomized experience every time you ride. Two different openings (Darth Vader and Millennium Falcon), three different adventures (Kashyyyk, Hoth, and Tatooine), and three different endings (Coruscant, Naboo, and Death Star 2)... which makes 54 different possible combinations. I kept riding until I saw all the pieces I wanted to see. The only two I didn't experience were the pod race on Tatooine and the Trade Federation battle on Naboo (since I don't give a flying fuck about the shitty Star Wars prequels. Overall, very well done and a lot of fun!

   
• Safari! Even though I went on the much more extensive and interesting "Wild Africa Trek" through the Animal Kingdom savanna, I still managed to get in a ride on the canned "Kilimanjaro Safari" they offer. Much to my surprise, the "ride" has changed. No longer is there a story element about chasing poachers and rescuing a baby elephant... that's all gone! Instead, it's "just a safari" where you may (or may not) see many interesting animals. The poaching story was kind of lame, so this is probably a smart move... but it was still kind of shocking that the ride wasn't the way I remembered it.

   
• Beignets! No trip to Walt Disney World would be complete without a trip to Disney's Port Orleans' Resort for breakfast beignets!

Beignets!

   
• Dining! This trip I was sure to eat at two of my favorite Disney restaurants... both located in their Hollywood Studios park, both of which I highly recommend (assuming you can get reservations or manage to get in without them... they're really popular). First up is the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater restaurant, which simulates an old-time drive-in theater playing crappy old sci-fi movies and tables shaped like cars...

Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater

Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater

Next up is the 50's Prime Time Cafe, which is set up to look like a house from the 1950's, complete with sassy waitresses bringing out "mom's food" and reminding you to "KEEP YOUR ELBOWS OFF THE TABLE!"

50's Prime Time Cafe

50's Prime Time Cafe

A new restaurant to me this time was "Via Napoli" with authentic Naples pizza. Their White Pizza was amazing, and I will definitely be back...

Pizza at Via Napoli

And, of course, there's always Earl of Sandwich in Downtown Disney, which makes the best sandwich you will ever eat...

Earl of Sandwich

It's surprising that I don't gain 50 pounds every time I come here. I spend most of my time eating.

   
• Hunter. One of the best shows nobody ever saw was called Oh Grow Up! which was a short-lived comedy by Alan Ball (of American Beauty, True Blood, and Six Feet Under fame). I was a huge, huge fan, which is why I was very sad to just now learn that Oh Grow Up! lead actor Stephen Dunham died back on September 18th. His character of Hunter Franklin was not an easy role to pull off... but Dunham managed it flawlessly...

Dunham

Oh how I wish they would honor Dunham by releasing Oh Grow Up! on DVD or even iTunes download!

   
Annnnd... I could probably shoot off another dozen bullets here, but I've got to be able to get caught up on sleep sometime!

   

Blue

Posted on Monday, October 1st, 2012

Dave!Last night I went to a show by the Blue Man Group at Universal Studios CityWalk here in Orlando. I had seen them previously in Las Vegas and new this show would be smaller... but it was still pretty darn entertaining. Don't know if it's truly worth the high ticket price, but I was happy I got to go...

DAVETOON: Lil' Dave and Bad Monkey Blue Men!

What I am NOT happy about is paying for internet here are the Universal Studios Hard Rock Hotel and having it be so damn slow that I can't update my blog. Guess I have to wait until I get back home before I get to post my entries for the next couple days.

Nothing quite like paying for shitty internet. Sure Disney's internet wasn't anything to write home about, but at least it was free.

And speaking of color... Blogography will be going PINK for October again this year. Be safe, ladies!

   

Universally

Posted on Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

Dave!I have never, ever felt that I got my money's worth any time I've visited the Universal Studios Orlando & Islands of Adventure theme parks. This is the opposite of visiting Walt Disney World where I always leave satisfied that my money was well-spent.

The problem begins from the minute your plane touches down in Orlando. If you're staying at Disney hotel property, they have a "Magical Express" bus that will whisk you to your hotel for free AND take care of your luggage for you. If you're staying at a Universal hotel property, it's a $50-$60 taxi ride and you have to go to baggage claim to handle your own luggage. Ditto for when it's time to fly home. Disney is free with luggage transfer included. Universal is another $50-$60 and you're checking in your own luggage.

Then there's the internet. Disney hotels offer it for free (at least in the resorts I've stayed at)... Universal hotels charges you $10 a day.

And don't get me started on how messed up Universal is on their bundling. Because I had Blue Man Group tickets in my bundle, I wasn't allowed to get my theme park tickets at my hotel... I had to go to the Blue Man Theater box office, which is crazy. And then I had to go to a machine for my Express Passes, which is even crazier. With Disney, everything you bundle is waiting for you at your hotel when you arrive. So much easier and less stressful.

Then there's the parks themselves.

The reason I even bothered with Universal Studios was because of their new "Wizarding World of Harry Potter" area they dropped into Islands of Adventure. They have a ride there called Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey which uses an insanely great new robotic arm technology that I simply had to experience...

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

And, sure enough, it's pretty spectacular. Even if you can't stand Harry Potter like me.

What makes it so revolutionary is that the robotic arm attached to your seat isn't bolted to the floor like other rides which use robotic arms. The robots on this ride move!

So, not only are you being flown all over the place, you're moving at the same time. It's kind of like they merged Star Tours with Soarin' and then made the whole thing mobile. The result is one of the more fascinating theme park ride experiences available today... even if I thought the Harry Potter material was kind of weak.

But that's about it for Islands of Adventure. The only other ride I give a crap about there is The Incredible Hulk Coaster which is one of my favorite roller coasters on earth. So... $88 for two rides then? Yeah, that's about it. Jurrassic Park River Adventure is boring and lame. A poor imitation of Disney's Splash Mountain with shitty rubber dinosaurs that gets you completely soaked for no reason. Amazing Spider-Man is actually a good ride (especially now that they've upgraded the visuals to HD), but it just doesn't hold up to repeat visits. Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls is okay, I guess, but it too pales in comparison to Splash Mountain at Disney.

Then there's Universal Studios itself, which is also $88. It fares only slightly better with five rides I like... Despicable Me Minion Mayhem (a new Star Tours-like ride that's really great... mostly because I LOVE Despicable Me)... The Simpsons Ride (which was far better when it was Back to the Future: The Ride, but still entertaining)... Revenge of the Mummy (a slightly more intense Space Mountain that's far more comfortable to ride)... Hollywood Rip Ride Rocket (a decent roller coaster with a 90° high-rise that allows you to pick your own soundtrack)... and Terminator 2 3-D (which is badly dated and gutted — NO MORE TERMINATOR ARRIVING ON A MOTORCYCLE! — but, hey, it's the Terminator, so of course I have to like it).

You can get a two-day ticket that allows one park per day... but it's kind of a waste, because I can never find enough stuff to do for an entire day. Better instead to do this...

  1. Reserve a room at a Universal Studios hotel property... like the Hard Rock Hotel Orlando.
  2. Bundle a 1-Day Park-to-Park pass ($123) with your hotel room.
  3. Check into your Universal Studios hotel one afternoon.
  4. Wake up early the next morning. Claim your free Hotel Theme Park Express Pass, which allows you to skip the long lines at the two parks.
  5. Check out of the hotel and let the bell desk store your luggage.
  6. Your hotel stay allows you to visit Wizarding World of Harry Potter ONE HOUR EARLY. Since your Express Pass won't work for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, you need to get to Islands of Adventure an hour-and-a-half early so you can get in line to race to Harry Potter.
  7. Ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey then stand in line at Ollivanders Wand Shop if you want to see a quick "show" of how magic wands choose their owners (WARNING: even if you are selected for the demonstration, wands cost $34 each!). The line for Ollivanders gets very, very long later in the day, so don't delay if you want to see it!
  8. Visit the other rides you want to see at Islands of Adventure (Incredible Hulk Coaster and Adventures of Spider-Man are the only two I really recommend... but ride whatever you want. With your Express Pass, it ain't going to take long.
  9. Once you're worn out Islands of Adventure, head next door to Universal Studios and ride what you want there. Your Express Pass works for everything except Rip Ride Rocket Coaster, but it's kind of scary, so the line doesn't seem to get very long.
  10. Once you've worn out Universal Studios (and, again, it ain't going to take long with your Express Pass), go back to your hotel, claim your luggage, then get your ass to Walt Disney World!

Two last things...

You actually don't have to stay at a pricey Univeral Studios Orlando hotel property to get an Express Pass. You can buy the Express Pass outright at the parks. HOWEVER... the only way to get the hour-early admission into Wizarding World of Harry Potter IS to stay at an on-site hotel, so I recommend it to save yourself hours standing in line for Forbidden Journey.

And, if you want to ride absolutely everything in each park no matter how lame it is... getting the two-day single-park pass is probably the way to go. You won't be quite so rushed as you go from ride to ride. But, just as an FYI... using the steps I outlined above, I could easily ride just the stuff I want in one day... but it's up to you.

   
And that's about all I have to say about Universal Studios. I probably won't be back unless they come up with something so spectacular that my life won't be complete unless I experience it... like Elizabeth Hurley Land (where you get to ride Elizabeth Hurley!) or something equally awesome. Otherwise theree just doesn't seem to be enough bang for the amount of bucks you have to spend.

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Goodnight

Posted on Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

Dave!Goodnight and goodbye Orlando. See you next year.

Probably.

Hard Rock Cafe Orlando at Night

   

Photo taken with my iPhone 5, which has some wonderful new capabilities in capturing low-light situations. Other than being reduced in size, this picture of the Hard Rock Cafe Orlando is completely un-retouched.

I swear, sometimes my frickin' PHONE shoots better images than my actual camera.

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Poochie

Posted on Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Dave!And so here I am in Atlanta. Again. Just a week ago I was passing through the airport, but this time I'm going to stick around... for one whole day!

It's the start of a little four-day "mini vacation," which means I have nobody but myself to blame that I'm stuck traveling all weekend. And, as happy as I am to be flying to two really cool events, a small part of me is just tired of traveling. Tired and wanting to stay home.

In other news, Representative Paul Ryan did a photo shoot for Time Magazine which included workout photos. And who could blame him? He's in fantastic shape. If I was in that good of shape, I'd have gone to tonight's debate shirtless. Hell, I'd go everywhere shirtless. So it's kind of lame to see all the nasty comments being sent Ryan's direction when he's probably just being himself. Give the guy a break. He obviously works out, so who cares?

Which is not to say that the whole backwards cap thing isn't douchey. It's 100% douchey. All he needs is a soul patch and some sunglasses... and he's Poochie...

Poochie and Paul Ryan
My contribution to the Photoshop mashups exploding on the internet. You are welcome!

   
And now I can't look at Paul Ryan without thinking back to a joke that Demetri Martin drew up...

Baseball Cap Forward = Sports Fan. Baseball Cap Backwards = Date Rape Fan

Oh well. That wouldn't be the worst thing we've had take office in American politics.

And now... sweet surrender to some sleep at last...

   

Matt and Kim!

Posted on Friday, October 12th, 2012

Dave!Matt & Kim remain the best live show I've ever seen.

And though it would be hard to top seeing the band in London on my birthday last year... I had an absolute blast here in Atlanta tonight!

Matt & Kim at the Variety Playhouse

Matt and Kim LIVE!

Matt and Kim LIVE!

Matt and Kim LIVE!

Matt and Kim LIVE!

Kim backstage aftet the show!

Totally worth flying across the country! If you ever have the opportunity to see Matt & Kim play live, it is something you absolutely cannot miss. It's like an amazing concert and a big party all rolled into one!

If not, you can still listen to their brand new album Lightning, which dropped just last week!

And... it's 1:40am. Guess I'd better at least attempt to get some sleep before flying out tomorrow morning.

   

Hollywood!

Posted on Saturday, October 13th, 2012

Dave!This morning I boarded a plane for Cincinnati, Ohio so that I might rent a car and drive to Lexington, Kentucky. I would have flown to Lexington directly, but the cost of the ticket was hundreds of dollars more expensive, so I took a pass. The two-day car rental was a fraction of the price and a much better bargain.

The reason I was off to Lexington was to attend a party being thrown by The Couple Formerly Known as Mr. Fabulous and Turnbaby. I hadn't been to the previous two parties (despite having a fantastic time at their ConFab event back in 2009) so I knew I had to get to this one. Because, hey, how many parties can you go to where snorting heroin off of Secondhand Karl's ass is a topic of conversation?

Well, okay, lots of them. But not in Kentucky.

The theme of the party was "Hollywood Nights" and every attendee had to show up dressed as a recognizable movie character. As I was trying to decide what in the heck I was going to be one night, The Princess Bride was playing on television. So... The Dread Pirate Roberts I was to be...

As You Wish!
As you wish! Photo by Adam Heath Avitable

I bought the head-scarf, mask, gloves, collapsible sword, and boot toppers... but sewed the shirt myself, and it turned out great. Luckily I had taken a sewing e-course from Whipstitch, so I already knew how to do the tricky bits required for constructing a poofy shirt. Good thing too, because you never know when that kind of knowledge will come in handy.

Anyway... it was all worth it, because the party was great and a good time was had by all.

And I got to dress up like a pirate.

   

Christianity & Creation

Posted on Monday, October 15th, 2012

Dave!This will be an entry in two parts.

This is Part One.

On my way back to the Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport yesterday, I stopped off at The Creation Museum. For those not in the know, this museum was built to explain the origins of life on earth as interpreted by a literal reading of the Book of Genesis in The Bible, which contains this pertinent bit...

And God said, "Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind." And it was so.
   
God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
   
Then God said, "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."
   
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
   
God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.
   
Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.
   
And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food." And it was so.
   
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning... the sixth day.

So... all living creatures were created by God on the sixth day. Including man.

And dinosaurs, of course...

Creation Museum Dino!

This may sound crazy given that science clearly shows that dinosaurs actually existed millions of years ago and became extinct long before man even entered the picture... but... if you believe in a literal reading of The Bible, well... science is clearly wrong. God's own Word tells us that all living creatures were created by Him on the sixth day mere thousands (not millions) of years ago, and there's nothing more to be said...

Now, before I go any further, let me be perfectly clear... this is not the belief of all Christians. There are many, many Christians who have different belief structures based on different interpretations of The Bible. One belief, for example, says that what God considers a "day" could be very different from what man considers a "day" to be. Perhaps a "day" for God consists of millions of years. This would mean that our flawed perception of time and our "science" doesn't necessarily negate God's Word.

And it goes on and on. There are as many ways to look at Creation from a Christian perspective as there are Christians on earth.

When I was in the middle of my initial Christian studies, I came up with a kind of sliding scale that had a "Sample Christian" loosely defined at each of five points. It was not meant to define people directly, but an attempt to understand how a single group called "Christians" could be composed of such vastly diverse perspectives... even amongst the different branches...
   

5. I Believe That The Bible is the ONLY Word of God. It is without flaw or error, and its every passage is to be followed exactly without any deviation from what is literally written. All events in The Bible transpired precisely as recorded and are historical fact. Its authors were directly controlled by God to transcribe His exact thoughts, and no part of it can be contradicted or ignored. Every word is of God, so everything within must be given equal weight and no part or parcel of it is to be given precedence over any other. The Bible is perfect and complete, thus there is nothing more for God to say on matters... all answers can be found within. Any translations to different languages were likewise directly controlled by God, so they are also without flaw or error. Any variant of The Bible which is different from the version/translation that I have accepted as God's truth is a false document. Any interpretation of The Bible which is different from mine is not of God and must be dismissed utterly as non-Christian. Anyone not accepting Jesus as their Lord and Savior is damned in the eyes of God and doomed for all eternity.

4. I Believe That The Bible is the LITERAL Word of God. As above, everything written in The Bible is correct and true and must be taken exactly as presented. It is historically accurate and there can be no deviation from the texts since they are recorded facts. However, as God is a Living God who still speaks to our hearts even today, He directs us to those parts of The Bible which are most applicable to our lives. God continues to inspire people to explain and teach The Bible in new ways so that it can more easily apply to the modern world. While The Bible is the ultimate authority on all things, God's grace and gift of free will means that His truth will reach people in different ways... thus there will be a variety of versions/translations/interpretations of The Bible. But, despite our different approaches to God's Word, we are all one under Him. I embrace anyone who has accepted Jesus to be their Lord and Savior as a fellow Christian, even though the way they believe in The Bible may differ from mine. We are all following different roads to the same destination and that's God's plan. Those who have not yet given their lives over to Christ are potential Christians who must open their hearts to Him to be saved.

3. I Believe That The Bible is the INTERPRETED Word of God. While everything in The Bible is correct and true, the contents have been interpreted by man and are thus imperfect. Yes, events recorded in The Bible actually happened... but they've been colored by the writers of the day to fit into the world as they understood it. Because of this, people living in the modern world can't take things presented in The Bible literally. It is more a tool to know God and learn about the life and teachings of our Savior Jesus Christ rather than an exacting historical account with rules to be followed implicitly. Non-Christians who accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior... even if it's after their death... are saved in the eyes of God.

2. I Believe That The Bible is the INSPIRED Will of God. While the overall message of The Bible is correct and true, it was written by man, thus cannot be considered the literal "Word of God." It is more "parable and allegory" to learn from rather than exacting truth, and it is up to individuals to decide how to best use The Bible to define their faith. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God and his teachings are the way to salvation, but those teachings are not first-hand accounts and open to re-interpretation. It's my belief in Jesus that defines me as a Christian... not a blind acceptance of everything recorded in The Bible. God judges people based on their good deeds, which is following the example of Christ... not an adherence to somebody's interpretation of words inspired by, but not directly of, God.

1. I Believe That The Bible is a Book About God. I don't actually believe everything in it to be true, but The Bible contains some things that resonate with me spirituality. In this respect, The Bible is merely one of many tools that a person can use to help them better know whomever or whatever God may be. I call myself a "Christian" because that's what people who believe in God are called, and Jesus as the Son of God sounds like he is a wonderful person I'd like to emulate.

   
Now, one would assume that The Creation Museum is gunning for "Sample Christians" from groups 5 and 4 whose world view coincides with their literal read of The Bible. But then you see their motto... Prepare to Believe... and you get the feeling that they're reaching deeper.

Then you step foot into their beautiful museum, and you're certain of it.
   

To Be Comcluded!

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Creation & Christianity

Posted on Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

Dave!Yesterday I took a look at a sampling of various Christian archetypes. This was a preface to talking about how The Creation Museum is making a concentrated effort to reach all Christians with a literal interpretation of God's six days of Creation. It's an ambitious goal to be sure. Our modern understanding of the universe and "how things work" are more often than not in direct opposition to Scripture, so it's a hard sell. But, I'm here to tell you, the people behind this museum give it their best shot.

Before I go any further, I am compelled to admit that I am not a Christian and believe absolutely none of it. When it comes to life on earth, I put my faith in science and evolution. I fully believe in scientific methods like "carbon dating" to reveal the true age of the earth and when it was that various creatures lived upon it. I do not buy into The Flintstones world-view where dinosaurs and man existed at the same time. I do however, believe in God... though what constitutes "God" to me is radically different than what can be found in The Bible.

That being said, my studies of various world religions over the decades have me concluding that it's not my place to judge others for their beliefs, just as I would hope that they don't judge me for mine. For all I know, we're all plugged into The Matrix and none of this is real anyway. So who am I to say what is the absolute truth?

And so...

I have wanted to visit The Creation Museum ever since I saw this photo...

Dino Kid by Marva Chang
Photo by Mavra Chang on Flickr

I love dinosaurs. And my favorite thing about dinosaurs is that there were so many of them that were brutal killing machines. I've watched Jurassic Park dozens of times because seeing those nasty velociraptors hunt down people is pretty darn cool. So when I saw this image, I was freaking out. Why in the hell isn't that dinosaur ripping that little girl to shreds and eating her for brunch? "RUN LITTLE GIRL! RUN AWAY... EVEN THOUGH IT WON'T DO ANY GOOD! YOU'RE DEAD! D-E-A-D, DEAD!!! BWA HA HA HAAAA!" I'd say out loud to nobody in particular.

Curious to know how this insane photo could exist, I tracked down The Creation Museum and was mesmerized. Here was everything I didn't believe in... all in one building! I made a vow to visit. And this past Sunday, I finally did...

Creation Museum Building

Now, don't let this boring exterior fool you. This is hands-down one of the most beautiful museums I've ever seen. It is a thorough exploration and explanation of a literal interpretation of The Book of Genesis unlike anything you could imagine. And, even though I think it's all fiction, I fully admit it is really well done. Exceptionally well done, even. And you feel that the minute you walk inside...

Creation Museum Entrance Hall

The continuing theme of the museum is "Same Facts, Different Conclusions" and they often times meld science with Scripture to support their arguments. To that end, they create scenes like this to establish that they are not disputing facts in evidence...

Creation Museum Science Dig
Dinosaur says "Oh this crick in my neck!"

Creation Museum Dino!
"Anybody seen a little girl feeding carrots to a squirrel around here?"

And then ease you into a "debate" of Scripture vs. Science with nice displays that pits Man's word vs. God's Word...

Why are there different ideas about how old dinosaurs are?

Because there are two different starting points!

After that they explain how silly an idea it is that we have a common ancestor with monkeys, complete with holographic evidence over a model of Lucy, the famous Australopithecus...

Creation Museum Ape Evolution?

The single most important piece of Biblical Scripture used to explain how dinosaur bones got to be where they are and why scientists are mistaken as to how old they are is The Great Flood. The museum posits that the flood was practically instantaneous and provided such massive pressure that things like coal formation happened in weeks instead of millions of years...

Man's Word vs. God's Word!

This is not an easy pill to swallow given the geological evidence. But over and over again the museum claims that their Biblical truth is no less valid than other scientific theories. They just have a radically different starting point for the beginning of life on earth. Science = ~14 Billion Years... Scripture = ~6,000 Years...

Different Starting Points

You're hit with a lot of information before you even enter the exhibit space. God's plan for Creation has been fully laid out and supported as truth by their interpretation of scientific evidence. I may not agree with that interpretation, but I can respect their viewpoint. At least I did... until I got to this...

I never heard about THIS before in school!

Really? Really? Playing the victim never really sells me on your position no matter what it is. If you're going to whine about separation of church and state, save it for your newsletter. It doesn't have a place here. This one section completely undermines the entire museum, in my humble opinion. Let your arguments stand on their own without this kind of bullshit.

Anyway... off we go to the exhibits, which is preceded by a series of videos showing just how awful human beings are today...

Horrors of Man Ignoring God!

I guess the films are supposed to set the stage for what we lost when you turn the corner and get dropped into a really nice recreation of the Garden of Eden...

Garden of Eden!

It starts out with the creation of Adam who is naming all the animals while a dinosaur eats a pineapple nearby. There was no death in The Beginning, so animals didn't eat each other...

Dinosaurs Love Pineapples!

Then Eve comes along, which results in some steamy scenarios worthy of high-budget porn...

Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden

All is not perfect in Paradise, however, as that nasty serpent is hanging around, ready to doom us all...

Serpent in the Garden of Eden

And here it is... Eve convincing Adam to eat from the Forbidden Tree. What a bitch!

Eve Tempts Adam!

Adam gives in to temptation, and then what happens? You turn a corner and... ZOMFG! IT'S HITLER!!!

Nazi Film Footage!
Now THAT'S Shark Extreme!

God is most displeased, so now Adam has to work for everything instead of having it handed to him. What was once Paradise, is now a horrible place filled poisons, diseases, and weeds... DAMN WEEDS! But just look at how ripped Adam gets from working in his garden...

Adam, Eve, and Family

And, of course, dinosaurs are prancing around Adam's house. Though, it's after The Fall now, so I'm guessing they're no longer going to be satisfied with eating pineapples. LOOK OUT, LITTLE CAIN AND ABLE!!!

Adam's Dinosaur

It's right about here that the museum explains how all of humanity is descendant from Adam and Eve. Their children married each other and had kids who married each other, which was not considered a bad thing back then. Apparently their DNA was so pure that inbreeding didn't cause The Hills Have Eyes-type genetic defects like you get when brothers and sisters reproduce today (even though science dictates the "purity" isn't the problem... it's the lack of genetic diversity).

But even God-approved inbreeding didn't work out that well for humans, who ended up becoming people so horrible that God decided to wipe the earth clean and start over again. Time for Noah's Ark!

Noah's Ark

Now, of all the stories in The Bible, Noah's is probably the hardest to believe. The guy really gathered up two of every animal, insect, bird, and creature from the entire earth? Seriously? And, now there's dinosaurs in the mix as well. How in the heck did he manage that? Well, the museum would argue that God was involved, so all things are possible... and the dinosaurs Noah found were probably just babies, so they could actually fit in the boat. A construction project which took poor Noah and his sons around 100 years to complete. Still, he ended up looking pretty good for someone of his advanced years...

It's Noah!

In addition to being beautiful and well-crafted, the museum also has a good sense of humor about things, which I got a kick out of...

Thou Shalt Not Touch! Please!

And... scene! End of the exhibits.

We now move on to theaters featuring films that further explain the museum's position on Creation. They play on continuous loop, which makes it easy to catch them all in your visit.

By far the most fascinating was a movie about dragons. The Creation Museum fully endorses the idea that dragons were actual creatures, and support this by saying how dragons are found in literature and stories around the globe by numerous disconnected civilizations. Coincidence? I think not! But why? Why would the museum drag magical creatures into their story? Well, it's because they claim dragons were actually dinosaurs (Pterodactyls, perhaps) which were embellished over the ages to breath fire and stuff. And if dragons were, in fact, dinosaurs then this means dinosaurs existed at the time of man. Ergo, everything in Genesis must be true, and God created everything at the same time on the sixth day...

Dragon are Dinos!

Yes, it's a stretch, but... hey, I wasn't there.

At the end of your tour, there's restaurants and a really nice gift shop. Sadly, as it was a Sunday in the off-season, I didn't get to eat at Palm Pizza, which was located in a really cool little plaza...

Creation Museum Palm Court

   
So...

It would be easy for me to write-off The Creation Museum as a wacky pseudo-science museum which shoe-horns Scripture into facts. And logic dictates that their wholly unbelievable and unscientific exploration into life on earth should be dismissed as outright fraud and a futile attempt to support a faith-based worldview. Many other people have said just that.

But...

That's taking the easy way out. The truth is that I greatly enjoyed the museum, and was grateful to be given such an amazing look into how some of my fellow humans see the world. The reason I have spent such a great amount of time studying the earth's religions is to better understand humanity. And, much like the beautiful Holy Land Experience in Florida, this Creation Museum is just another piece of the puzzle for me.

And it's a piece that's really well-done.

The cost of a 2-Day admission ticket is $29.95 for adults and $15.95 for children with free parking. Even with the jaw-dropping quality of the museum, I think this is a bit high. $19.95 feels like it would be much closer to the mark. Admission to the museum's planetarium is an addition $7.95 per person (I skipped it, because I didn't have an extra $8 to spend, and I've been to planetariums before). Moms get free admission on Mother's Day, just as dads do on Father's Day (all the more reason to be fruitful and multiply!). US Veterans are admitted free on Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Veterans Day. Everybody gets free admission on Christmas Eve.

In Summary...

Despite my being a non-Christian, I had a really good time at the museum... even if I can't get behind the content. The staff were very nice and helpful. The exhibits are top-notch and near-Disney-quality. The organization and "flow" of the layout is well-planned. There's plenty to see and do and a lot to think about. A lot of love went into crafting The Creation Museum, and it shows in even the smallest detail.

For fundamentalist Christians who believe that Creation took place over six 24-hour days, it's a no-brainer to come here.

As for other Christians who struggle with "the Creation myth," well... it's hard to say. You might very well be convinced after visiting. As somebody who believes in science, it's tough for me to recommend you come here and possibly lose your grip on what I consider to be reality, but... eh, I still do.

For everybody else, it's a toss-up. Maybe, like me, you want to understand the fundamentalist Christian world-view better... it's definitely worth visiting for that. Maybe you are a non-believer who just wants to mock people's faith... well, I could think of cheaper ways than spending $29.95 to do it, but there's a lot of material here for you to mock (but, honestly, making yourself feel better by belittling other people's beliefs is pretty pathetic). Maybe you just like really good museums... in which case this one certainly qualifies and is worth a trip. Or maybe you just want something to do on your way to Cincinnati Airport for a couple hours... then this might do the trick if you can get past what they're presenting.

And Lastly...

To the creators of The Creation Museum, this property isn't the end of the story. The museum has been wildly popular, so they are looking to build something even bigger. Enter... ARK ENCOUNTER! A new exhibit which will recreate a full-sized Noah's Ark...

Ark Encounter Drawing

Not ambitious enough for you? How about the ark being merely a small part of an entire theme park?

Ark Encounter Park

Pretty amazing. If it's anywhere near the quality of The Creation Museum, I'd visit that! They've purchased the land and hope to have "Phase One" (the ark itself and a petting zoo) completed in 2014.

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Hurl

Posted on Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Dave!Yesterday I hopped into a metal tube and hurled myself across the state.

And now I'm about to climb into a metal tube and hurl myself across the country... and then the Atlantic Ocean.

I seem to spend a lot of time getting into metal tubes and hurling myself places.

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48 Hours Part 1

Posted on Friday, October 26th, 2012

Dave!Yes. I just flew 9 hours for an old cheese sandwich and PATATJES MET!

OUDE KAAS

PATATJES MET

   

And now it is time for a nap.

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48 Hours Part 2

Posted on Saturday, October 27th, 2012

Dave!Today The DutchBitch's DutchBoyfriend was kind enough to drive us to the new Hard Rock Cafe in Brussels, where we met up with Beautiful Disaster's Pinky. I hadn't been to Brussels since The DutchBitch and I last visited in 2010, and I hadn't seen Pinky since Bitchsterdam 2, so it was a triple threat event for me.

The Hard Rock Cafe Bruxelles is a wonderful return to everything I love about visiting these properties around the world... a beautiful restoration property lovingly brought to life in classic Hard Rock style that has been packed to the rafters with terrific memorabilia...

Hard Rock Brussels Exterior

Hard Rock Brussels Exterior

Hard Rock Brussels Interior

Hard Rock Brussels Instrument Collage

Hard Rock Brussels Interior

Hard Rock Brussels Interior

Truly a fantastic property, the Brussels cafe is a well-crafted, eclectic, multi-level Hard Rock that doesn't disappoint. Located right off the Grand Place "Great Market" square, it is worth a visit... even if Brussels wasn't already destination worthy in its own right...

Brussels Grand Place

Brussels Grand Place

Brussels Grand Place

Brussels Grand Place

Belgian Waffles!

Belgian Chocolate!

Sorciere Halloween in Belgian Chocolate!

Leffe Beer!

It was a very quick trip, but we squeezed in a lot. Just like it said in the elevator of the parking garage... we're hardcore like that...

Hardcore Graffiti in a Hardcore Elevator!

From there it was back to the Netherlands and the end of my 48-hour trip to DutchyLand.

Tomorrow it's back in the metal tube to hurl myself back home.

   

Bullet Sunday 302

Posted on Sunday, October 28th, 2012

Dave!Please make sure your seat is in the upright position and your tray table is stowed ... because Bullet Sunday starts now...

   
• In-Flight. I am typing this as I leave the Netherlands on Delta flight 233... a ten hour flight to Seattle WITH NO INTERNET! So how in the heck am I supposed to come up with bullets for Bullet Sunday when all I have here is a bunch of movies to watch on my Delta-On-Demand Entertainment System?

Oh...

In-Flight Movies

   
Game Change. This film is about John McCain's horrendous mistake in choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate based on some very, very bad advice. Is it completely factual? Probably not 100% so. But boy does it feel like could it be. The initial high that came when Sarah Palin completely killed it with her smashing debut on the national political stage had the McCain campaign ecstatic. Palin would be the savior of the ticket, and they couldn't believe their good fortune in having found her. Victory was within their grasp. But then things start to go terribly wrong. One-by-one the campaign staffers have to come to grips with the fact that Sarah Palin doesn't know much about anything. She is completely clueless on critical concepts like foreign policy. And it's the resulting downward spiral that makes the film so darn entertaining. Julianne Moore plays Palin almost too sympathetically as she gets remade from politician to actress, blindly repeating lines which have been prepared for her because she doesn't understand the issues enough to think for herself. And all the while her escalating popularity makes Palin increasingly dangerous, eventually dominating McCain and dooming the campaign to a Saturday Night Live punchline. If there's one thing I took away from Game Change, it's how terrifyingly close we came to having a vapid joke like Sarah Palin just a heartbeat away from the presidency. It's a scare that no horror movie can match. RATING: B

   
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. I was actually looking forward to the idea of a revisionist history where our 16th president was a ruthless vampire killer. It sounded fun. Alas, the movie was most definitely not fun, because everybody involved took the film way too seriously. This was a big mistake, because there's nothing to take the edge off the intense violence that permeates one blood-soaked scene after another. One would hope that the result would be a bitchin' action-horror film, but there's not a lot of horror to go with the action (which is actually pretty good). And so what we're left with is a crazy-ass concept for a film with very little substance. I was not impressed. RATING: C-

   
The Iron Lady. I was told by more than a couple people that this film about the life of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was boring. But I decided to watch it anyway because the thought of Meryl Streep as Thatcher was literally too good to be true. And, indeed, it was her performance that held me riveted to my tiny seat-back screen. But that's about all that held me captive. The story was a big ol' mess. It vacillated between present to past with little regard for timing or coherence. One timeline had zero relation to the other, and it was this sloppy writing which sabotaged what could have been a fascinating straightforward biography. Still, Thatcher led a fascinating life which was kind of represented here, and Streep certainly made the film anything but boring to me... so I didn't hate it. Actually kind of enjoyed it, despite the missed opportunity it represented. RATING: B-

   
Brave. The story of a princess who isn't content to settle down and get married sounds like a modern-day Disney Princess cliché that's the complete opposite of the original Disney Princess cliché. Fortunately, this is a Disney-PIXAR film, where clichés have a tendency to at least be interesting and beautiful to look at. Brave is both. I just wish it was paced a little better. There's a few too many moments that drag on a little long and are a bit morose to fit in with the overall tone of the film. That being said, it IS beautiful. Astoundingly so. There's not a single frame of this film that doesn't look amazing. And there are a lot of clever and funny moments that saved the movie for me. RATING: B+

   
Battleship. Holy shit. It would be easy to say that making an alien-invasion movie out of a board game doomed this film to failure... but, if anything, it's this one thing that made it barely tolerable. The only moment... the only one... that I found even remotely entertaining was when the heroes were picking their targets on a big "Battleship grid." Everything else was so inanely stupid and ridiculous that not even the decent special effects reel could keep me from fast-forwarding through this utter turd of a movie. RATING: F

   
Moonrise Kingdom. I am such a huge Wes Anderson fan that I didn't want to experience his latest work on a tiny airplane seat-back screen. But when Battleship turned out to be such a stupid piece of crap, I needed something to watch. I ended up regretting it of course. Moonrise Kingdom is beautiful, wonderful, witty, smart, and filled with a warmth that few filmmakers can manage. I really should have waited to see it on the big screen (or at least my home theater). Which is not to say it's a film for everybody. Those who can't appreciate Wes Anderson's quirky vision may have tough time embracing the odd world he's created. Even so, there's an all-star cast that's performing at the top of their game in a coming-of-age love story that's charming enough to please everybody. RATING: A

   
• After-Flight. Arriving at Seattle I was once again embarrassed and humiliated that Seatac International Airport is the way that so many people will first experience my home state. The airport just keeps getting worse and worse, and there doesn't seem to be an end in sight as to how low things will go. I arrive at Customs only to find that the escalator is broken. This is no surprise. Most of the escalators are busted to shit most of the time. Stuff is always leaking, falling apart, torn up, or broken at Seatac. And, indeed, when I make my way to the C/D concourse and find yet another fucking busted escalator, I press the elevator call button and find that the button light is also not working (which made me think that the elevator was broke too). By the time I get to my gate at the C concourse, where there's no place to sit because Seatac has ripped out most of the seats to make way for shops, I've just fucking had it. Whomever is in charge of this shithole needs to realize that this is no way to run an airport. Flying now-a-days is already miserable enough without having to put up with this kind of shit at an airport.

   
And... my flight (which is overbooked and on weather watch warning) is maybe leaving in ten minutes. Here's hoping...

   

Decatur

Posted on Saturday, November 10th, 2012

Dave!This morning was kind of messed up.

But then I took the train into Decatur for a falafel lunch, and now everything is okay again.

I haven't been to Decatur for years, and not much has changed. It's a beautiful city just outside Atlanta, and there's a lot of cool little eateries and shops to explore.

One of the more interesting places I went was The Yogurt Tap... it's a "serve yourself" fro-yo shop that has a lot of interesting flavors. I ended up getting "Marshmallow and Graham Cracker" swirled with "Dark Chocolate" to get kind of a S'mores thing going on.

Then I poured caramel, cashews, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal over the top... which made it not taste much like S'mores any more. But it was totally awesome and incredibly delicious just the same.

But, then again, what isn't delicious with caramel and cashews poured on top?

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Bustin’ 2

Posted on Sunday, November 11th, 2012

Dave!Old South Pittsburgh Haunted Hospital in Tennessee...

DaveBusters 2

   

'Tis spooky!

   

Bullet Sunday 304

Posted on Monday, November 12th, 2012

Dave!Don't let that calendar fool you ... because a delayed Bullet Sunday on Monday starts now...

   
• Help. Long-time blogging friend and celebrated author NYC Watchdawg has written a post over at his Social Medic site about supporting medics who lost everything in Hurricane Sandy. If you want to help The Big Picture by contributing to a very worthy small piece of it, here's your chance. You'll be helping those who help others (and continue to help others despite their devastating losses) to help themselves during this very difficult time of their lives. Even if you can't donate, any efforts to spread awareness would be much appreciated!

   
• Investigation. My expedition with Paranormal Georgia Investigations was a great time last night, as expected. And while I didn't capture any evidence with my camera like last time, I did take some photos of the creepy interior of Old South Pittsburgh Hospital. Of course, they don't look half as creepy when illuminated by a camera flash, but still... pretty creepy...

Old South Pittsburgh Hospital
Not too bad on the outside... in the daylight, anyway..

Old South Pittsburgh Hospital
I liked documenting all the toys left out for the ghost children to play with. This is one lonely rocking horse.

Old South Pittsburgh Hospital
I'm pretty sure this bunny was dead. Totally non-responsive.

Old South Pittsburgh Hospital
I took this bear away from a naughty ghost child and let him go for a tricycle ride.

Old South Pittsburgh Hospital
One sad bear. You'd be sad too if you spent your time in a cold, dark hospital with ghosts.

Old South Pittsburgh Hospital
I volunteered to use my medical skills to remove an appendix or something... there were no takers.

BAD MONKEY WAS HERE! Old South Pittsburgh Hospital
Leaving my mark in Graffiti Hallway with all the professional paranormal teams.

Abandon Hope to All Ye Who Enter! Old South Pittsburgh Hospital
I also tagged the scary dorm room that Muskrat and I got to stay in. We bad! We bad!

Keep in mind that in the dark, while looking for ghosts and stuff, it's quite a different scene than shown here all lit up in a photo. But that's part of what makes the experience so interesting! I'm excited to see what data the PGI team captured of doors opening by themselves and other nifty stuff. Hopefully they'll make their way through the evidence pile soon so I can post a link.

   
• Medicinal. I've mentioned a couple of times that I carry a "Travel Medicine Cabinet" with me when I'm away from home... whether it's a month... or even just a day. Since I never know where I'll be or what I'll have access to, I choose to be as prepared as possible for any scenario. From allergies, colds, and diarrhea... to lost fillings, cuts, and motion sickness. Heck, I don't even get motion sickness... I just keep it with me in case somebody else I'm with gets it...

Travel Medicine Cabinet

Tonight I was very, very glad that my kit contained "Hearos" ear plugs. Let's just say that my hotel neighbors are crazy-loud with their nocturnal activities... and I was in no mood to listen to it. If there's one thing to learn from the Boy Scouts (other than "thou shalt not be gay"), it's to always be prepared. I can't tell you how many times that's paid off for me.

   
• Petraeyal. Like most people, I am a bit sickened by the massive CIA Overlord / Retired Army Gen. David Petraeus scandal that's rocking the headlines right now. Yes, he's a fucking scumbag that cheated on his wife with another fucking scumbag that cheated on her husband... but we don't know all the facts there, and it's none of my damn business what he does in his fucked-up private life. No, the sickening part to me is the FOX "News"-led conspiracy crap that this was some kind of scheme by President Obama to keep Petraeus from testifying in the hearing concerning the Benghazi attacks. Which, naturally, I learned from watching The Daily Show...

Yeah, no agenda there. Pathetic. I mean, seriously? America's best line of defense against a network that rips this country apart by spreading more lies and disinformation in a single day than North Korea does in a decade is a COMEDY SHOW? At some point, you really have to wonder how we've survived this long.

   
• Foxy. This will come as a shock to nobody, but I don't watch the FOX "News" channel outside excerpts that get torn apart and mocked on The Daily Show. Their "Fair and Balanced" credo is a crock of shit, and they are the epitome of the partisan hackery that's ripping this country apart. Just like nut job Keith Olbermann on the Left, I long for the day FOX "News" fades into irrelevance on the Right.

And because I don't watch FOX, I was completely unaware of the bat-shit crazy un-reality bubble they created around themselves with the delusion that Mitt Romney was not only going to win the presidency, but was going to dominate the election in a landslide. Until I saw their coverage on Election Night. Since I was convinced that President Obama would get his second term, there was no place I wanted to be watching except FOX. And seeing it all unfold there was a revelation. Everybody there was certain Obama would lose? Really? This made everything even more entertaining than I had imagined... until Karl Rove went into denial, at which time it just became sad. The entire network was dedicated to getting Romney elected, and they completely failed.

And while I get no pleasure seeing people genuinely upset that their candidate of choice was not elected... I fully admit to experiencing an entirely new level of Schadenfreude watching FOX News implode. And now, thanks to the wonderful people over at Pundit Shaming, I can relive the heady days of denial over and over again.

Which is almost as fun as watching Ben Afflek (YES, THAT BEN AFFLECK!) masterfully tear apart the afore-mentioned Keith Olbermann on Saturday Night Live back when people actually gave a shit about Keith Olbermann...

Schadenfreude is so not pretty. But I just don't care!

   

And, on that shameful note, I suppose I'm off to bed. Goodnight everybody!

   

SQUIRREL!

Posted on Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Dave!Thanks to a... well, let's say "adventurous"... couple in the hotel room next door, I got a late start getting to sleep. And even then it was only because of my HEAROS brand ear plugs. Now that's true love.

Fortunately, factors then decided to converge in my favor. First I found out I didn't need to be into work as early as expected. Then the hotel took pity on me and let me have a late check-out time (which was the least they could do, given the shitty bed they stuck me with). And then a colleague was late getting me some materials I needed to work on. So... I actually ended up getting some sleep last night.

That almost never happens!

Good thing too. If I was drowsy from lack of sleep, I would have ran over a very confused squirrel that wandered onto the street during my backroads drive through Georgia this afternoon...

Dug says SQUIRREL!!

As it were, I was able to stop in time... after leaving half the tread from my rental cars tires on the pavement.

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Salty

Posted on Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

Dave!Nothing quite like racing through the pouring rain in total darkness in an attempt to get to Chili's before they close at 10:00. I mean, it's not like I didn't have other choices... McDonalds and Taco Bell are open 24/7. But I had my heart set on a Chili's Black Bean Burger, and apparently it was worth risking my life for.

Well, I don't know about that, but it sure was tasty. Though the fries were over-salted as usual. I wish I knew why Chili's has such enthusiasm for over-salting their potatoes. It's not healthy, it tastes like shit, and it burns your lips. Yet, without fail, at every Chili's I've ever been to, the fries are caked with salt. Maybe the company is secretly owned by Morton's?

Anyway, I made it there at 9:45, and was given my to-go burger & salty fries just as the restaurant was starting to close. Success. Originally I was going to take my dinner back to work, but it would be cold by the time I got there. So I decided to eat in the Chili's parking lot instead.

Had there been anyone there to see me, it would have been a pathetic sight... sitting there in my rental car eating Chili's alone in a parking lot while the rain poured down. The only thing that could have made it any more pathetic would be if I were crying. I probably could have cried if I took a minute to think about how alone I was, but my fries were salty enough without the tears.

On the plus side, the waitress called me "baby," which I always love. It's just one of the many charming things about Southern girls that makes me feel at home here.

Another charming thing? SOUTHERN GIRLS WHO USE CHEWING TOBACCO! This morning I saw a young lady with a big ol' wad of dip in her lip spitting into a cup while she was hanging out in the Rite Aid parking lot. Adorable! I wonder what brand of drool-repellant lipstick she uses? And something else I wonder? Was it a moisturizing lipstick that can help heal these salt burns I have on my lips? Because this is some serious pain, yo.

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Dips

Posted on Thursday, November 15th, 2012

Dave!I got called for work yesterday at 6:30am. Things didn't go quite as smoothly as planned, so I didn't finish until this afternoon at 3:00, which meant I was awake just over 32 hours straight. This is not something I recommend, because your brain starts going all mooshy around 28 hours in. I was hallucinating that I was a magic dolphin at 30 hours. Once I hit 32 hours, my brain started shutting down, which made it difficult to drive a car. Or even walk to my car, for that matter.

Naturally, the lawn care service was blowing leaves and mowing grass when I got back to the guest house where I was staying, which made getting some sleep a bit difficult. Or at least I thought it would... at some point I passed out.

Five hours later when I woke up I decided I wanted sugar for dinner, so I went into town for dessert.

And that was pretty much my day.

EXCEPT... I did have a conversation with a woman this morning where I remembered to ask about the girl I saw who was using chewing tobacco yesterday. "When did the ladies start packin' dips?" I asked. "Haven't you heard about women's lib? Women are doing a lot of things men like to do." she replied. "But chewing tobacco? Ewwww!" I said. "Hey, don't knock it until you've tried it" she replied.

And so I went and bought me some long-cut, Wintergreen-flavored Copenhagen dips and found me a pretty red Solo cup to spit into. Then, after an hour of scouring YouTube for "how-to" videos, I was on my way...

Lil' Dave does Dips

Now I'm buzzing' like a fuckin' bitch! As promised...

Here's hoping I don't get lip cancer and have to get my face cut off.

   

PSYCH!

Posted on Friday, November 16th, 2012

Dave!This is, like, not a happy day.

The flight from Atlanta was uneventful. And I don't mean that in a good way... it was uneventful because THERE WAS NO WiFi ON THE PLANE... AGAIN!

Then I had a three-hour wait for my 11:49pm flight home, which was put on "Weather Advisory." Which means that they are ADVISING you that the WEATHER may be so bad that they can't land the PLANE.

Which, of course, is exactly what happened...

Landing... NOT!

They knew this might happen, so they had extra fuel onboard. This meant they could circle around the airport for twenty minutes and try again...

Landing... NOT!

Third time's a charm, right? Uhhh... no...

Landing... NOT!

Once back in Seattle I ran off the plane to rebook my flight for tomorrow morning. Then I ran down to baggage claim, because I really, really wanted my suitcase. Yes, I had the option to let them keep the bag and put it on my flight in the morning... but the last time I did that, I didn't get it for FOUR DAYS.

Always get your suitcase.

Because I was delayed by getting my luggage, the line for the "$49 Weather Displaced Passenger Selected Hotel" was a long one. It was 2:00am and I was mostly dead, so I called another hotel and told my sob story (which netted me a room for $89). Totally worth it, because I was the only one on the shuttle and had no line to check in.

And so here I am.

At 2:30am

Not at home.

At an airport hotel.

With my alarm clock set for 7:00am

Wheeeee.

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Diversion

Posted on Saturday, November 17th, 2012

Dave!Second verse, same as the first.

My replacement flight for my unsuccessful attempt to get home yesterday was also under Weather Advisory this morning. Oh goody...

Flight has a Possible Diversion

And, sure enough, our first attempt at landing failed.

Fortunately, the pilot was a talented guy, and took another long, low run at it... and I was home.

And now it's time for a nap.

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Itinerary

Posted on Friday, November 30th, 2012

Dave!I've started saving up for my next vacation, but can't decide where I want to go.

Antarctica is always at the top of my list (I want to see it before it's gone), but I need to find two or three people who would want to share a cabin on the ship. There is no way I can afford to do it on my own. Heck, I'll barely be able to scrape together the $8,000 to $10,000 for my share of a 3 or 4 person occupancy cabin. The high price tag is because I don't just want to board a cruise ship and sail past the 7th continent... I want to take an expedition ship which will actually send landfall excursions to Antarctica and let me wander around. Take a photo of a penguin or something. Anything less is kind of pointless, I think. The problem is that people spending $10,000 for ship passage expect it to be a luxury affair. The trip I want to take most definitely is not. So even people I know who might be able to afford it might have a problem spending two weeks on a no-frills ice-breaker ship for that kind of money.

Next up is India. I've longed to visit the country, and it bothers me greatly that I haven't been there yet. Yes, it's expensive (though half the price of visiting Antarctica!)... but the bigger problem is time. I would want a minimum of 3 weeks to explore a few highlights, but there's just no way I can be gone that long. And so I'd have to either rush through a trip and not get to see much... or settle for a much smaller itinerary and not get to see much. And I just can't make up my mind which is the lesser of two evils. Perhaps I should divide the country in half and make two trips out of it like I plan on doing for Australia. I don't know. All I do know is that I really have to visit India before I die.

And speaking of Australia... as I said, I ended up splitting the country in half for two visits. Last year I took the North half (plus Fiji), but the Southern half (with New Zealand) remains...

Dave Aussie Travel Map
Not that I don't want to see Perth and The West, but that's another ballgame entirely.

I loved my Australian vacation. I am dying to go back. And I have long wanted to visit New Zealand (though it could easily be a trip all its own). The problem? Money again. I blew past my budget in no time because it's massively expensive Down Under. It's also so far away that you spend a big chunk of time on an airplane. But, again, I want to visit Tasmania before all the Tasmanian Devils are gone from the wild, so I've got to set there fairly soon.

More destinations I've long wanted to visit...

  • Peru/Machu Picchu.
  • Cambodia/Viet Nam.
  • Russia.
  • Israel/Jordan
  • Tibet.
  • Kenya/Uganda.
  • And dozens more places I haven't been.
  • Plus dozens of places I've already been.

And so... I have no idea.

I guess I'll see how much money I can save, find out how much time I can take off, then plan accordingly.

Boy does not having millions of dollars suck.

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Remember

Posted on Friday, December 7th, 2012

Dave!On Pearl Harbor Day, I can't help but think back to the times I've visited this National Historic Landmark. The Visitor Center was re-opened in 2010 after having been beautifully remodeled, and should be on everybody's travel to-do list. The changes and upgrades made by the National Parks Service are world-class and absolutely destination-worthy.

One thing that hasn't changed at the center is the USS Arizona Memorial, which is one of the most stunning monuments I've ever seen. Meant to resemble a bridge over the wreckage of the ship, it was designed by Alfred Preis and had an opening dedication on May 30th, 1962. In some ways, the structure is very much rooted in a 1960's design sensibility... but in others, it feels modern and timeless in a way that few architectural achievements have managed...

Arizona Memorial

Arizona Memorial

Arizona Memorial

Arizona Memorial

Like I said, well worth a visit. Get there early (or reserve a spot online) so you can claim a water shuttle ticket, because there's a limited number of people allowed on the monument each day.

If Hawaii isn't in your travel plans, I understand that the National Parks Service is planning on touring the US with some kind of mobile exhibit in 2016 for their 100th anniversary. So maybe Pearl Harbor will be coming your way in a few years? Keep an eye out.

   
Today and every day, thanks to those who gave their lives in service of their country. Whether aboard the USS Arizona... elsewhere at Pearl Harbor... or in foreign lands far from home... you are remembered by a grateful nation.

   

Paris

Posted on Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Dave!Today I heard somebody use the phrase "je ne sais quoi" and was overwhelmed with a sudden longing to be in Paris.

This is rather odd for me. Sure I like Paris. Love Paris in the Spring. I've been there four times and have nothing but good memories. And, contrary what everybody seems to say, I find the French people to be very kind and helpful. At least they have been to me. The food there is wonderful. I love their cheese. I love their bread. And French pastry is something to be savored at least once before you die. As if that weren't all enough, Paris is just simply a lovely, magical city...

Dave Paris

But, in the grand scheme of things, Paris is not one of those cities that I pine over. Not like, saaaayyyy... Edinburgh.

But I would love to go back. Absolutely.

Especially if the rumors of the Hard Rock Paris relocating to Avenue des Champs-Élysées are true!

Who knows when that will be though. In the meanwhile, a viewing of Amélie and A Very Long Engagement will have to suffice.

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Spin

Posted on Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Dave!I've been writing drafts of emails all night. Since I am leaving work early tomorrow, I want to make sure that I get as much done as possible this evening. It was a good plan, except I just looked over at the clock and it's 1:30am. Oops.

The mountain passes are sure to be horrible (100% chance of snow!) which means it will probably take me three or four hours to make the two hour drive. I hope I don't fall asleep on the way over.

Or get in a wreck.

But, then again, it's not like I put much faith in weather forecasts. They're mostly wrong anyways. It could very well end up being 80° and sunny on the mountain pass tomorrow. You just don't know. Seriously, you don't.

For the longest time, I always assumed that the reason weather forecasts were so inaccurate was because the meteorologists are all idiots. They must be looking at the satellite data wrong or something. So I decided I'd be all smart and look at the data myself...

Weather Blorch

And now I'm like "What in the hell is THAT supposed to mean?

No wonder meteorologists don't know what the fuck they are doing. It looks like somebody put a map of Washington in a Spin-Art machine or something.

Remember Spin-Art? Where there's a kind-of record player that you stick a sheet of paper on... then dribble paint on it while it spins so the centrifugal force splatters the paint around? The result is supposed to be "art" but always ended up looking like somebody puked on a paper or something...

Spin Art

REAL working motor? FUN and easy FUN? Sign me up!

But sign me up tomorrow. I really should try and get some sleep tonight.

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Flight

Posted on Thursday, December 20th, 2012

Dave!Since the End of The World is a religious holiday for me, I planned on fleeing work today and driving to Seattle where, as is my people's custom, I will spend the entire time drinking Jägermeister.

Unfortunately, the weather updates kept getting worse last night.

By the time I checked the forecast early this morning, I decided that driving over the mountains was not a smart thing to do. I have chains in my trunk because drivers are required to carry them on the passes, but my car manual says not to put chains on for some reason. I ended up booking a flight instead. The local weather was great, so I knew I'd get out...

Flight!

Flight!

Flight!

Flight!

It was nice knowing y'all.

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