1. Who is your favorite celebrity? Elizabeth Hurley... I keep waiting for my obsession with her to die, but it just won't!
2. Who is your least favorite? David Caruso... I've not liked a single thing he has ever done. His current attempt at "acting" on CSI:Miami is an embarrassing imitation of the much cooler William Petersen on the real CSI show. Every time he tries to whip out one of those clever one-liners that Petersen manages so well, he ends up looking like an idiot... I suppose it was too much to expect that an "actor" of his caliber would bother to invent his own character.
3. Have you ever met or seen any celebrities in real life? I've seen my share... Daphne Zuniga, Tom Skerritt, Mariah Carey, Scott Plank, Douglas Adams, Anne Rice, William Gibson. Uh... you didn't mean famous celebrities did you?
4. Would you want to be famous? Okay! Why or why not? I'd have a better chance of meeting Elizabeth Hurley!
5. If you had to trade places with a celebrity for a day, who would you choose and why? Colin Farrell. He leads just the sort of depraved lifestyle I wish I could afford to have!
When Apple released Safari, the elegant interface and quick rendering speed quickly promoted it to my default web browser. And now that they've added tabbed browsing, I don't find myself missing Camino (the Netscape Navigator spin-off) so much, and internet Explorer is just a bad memory. Unfortunately, some sites have compatibility issues with non-Explorer browsers, which I find contrary to the entire concept of the World Wide Web (not to mention really, really stupid). One such site is Pyra's Blogger, which has been the technology powering my Hard Rock blog for the past two years. And so I've patiently waited for Pyra (now owned by Google) to get off their asses and allow Safari to use their service. Well, my patience has finally worn thin, and I've decided to scrap my Blogger site and start over with the highly recommended Moveable Type. Not only was it shockingly easy to set up, the wealth of features and cool options have me wondering why in the heck I was messing around with Blogger for so long! We'll see how it goes.
Since my blog is starting over, I thought I'd check into the latest blogging technology available for MacOS X. Much to my surprise, there's actually quite a lot to choose from at VersionTracker. But the app that really stood out was 5-star Kung-Log, which had a feature list that seemed too good to be true, and testimonials to match (apparently, people are switching to Moveable Type just to be using this app!). After playing around with it for a bit, I've discovered that, amazingly enough, it lives up to the hype. As a side-bonus, author Adriaan Tijsseling has a nifty blog at that's an interesting mix of life in Japan, MacOS X coding, and Cognitive Neural Science! In any event, Kung-Log makes blogging a breeze, so thanks Adriaan (and since this is "donationware" I'll definitely be making a contribution!).
When I was in a London club a while back, I heard this haunting tune called "Velvet" and was compelled to ask who was singing it. Turns out it was the Norweigian pop trio a-ha (yes, those "Take on Me" guys from the 80's pop scene). I was a bit stunned, because I had no idea that they were still around, let alone turning out new material. Apparently, they are still fairly popular throughout Europe, but have disappeared from the US because they don't have a record contract here. Anyway, I added the album Minor Earth, Major Sky to my Amazon wish list and promtly forgot about it. Fast forward a year later, and it shows up in my post box. Turns out when you create a wish list on Amazon, it's publically viewable so people can purchase stuff you want and have it sent to you as a gift (marketing geniuses, those Amazon guys!). And my friend Dave did just that... because I once created a few themes for his amazing Web Photo Album program. Turns out it's one of the best CDs I've heard in a while now, with a-ha managing to overcome their pop roots with these beautifully haunting pop ballads that you just can't get out of your head! I just ran up a $150 bill at Amazon purchasing more of their CDs, and a live performance DVD... thanks a lot Dave!
Okay, now that I've had a chance to mess around with the Kung-Log blogging client a bit more, I'm kind of freaking out over the nifty stuff that's built into it. One of the more intriguing features is the ability to look at what's playing on iTunes and insert it into your post with one click, just like this: To Let You Win from the album "Minor Earth Major Sky" by a-ha. And, yes, the Google search link for the artist is created automatically as well. Frighteningly good stuff! If only you could add your own HTML tags... oh crap... wait a second... yes, you can do that too (and create shortcut keys for them as well!). Sigh. I just set up hot keys for all of Meagan's little photo booth images that preceed my posts, and it took about 2 minutes. Heaven only knows what other features are hiding in here... I suppose I should read the documentation!
The rumors have been mounting for months that Apple would be creating it's own online music service, and now it seems the day has finally arrived (as announced in an invitation sent to the press). Apple claims the news will be "music to your ears," and I remain hopeful that it's true... nobody could be happier than me if Mac users finally have a way to purchase music online. The big question on everybody's mind is "what will the selection be like?" Are we getting entire back-catalogs, or just current hits? Because I don't really care about buying current, easy-to-find music online... convenient as that may be.
No, what I want is to be able to purchase obscure music that you just can't get without purchasing pricy imports or dropping a small fortune on eBay. As a for instance: not so long ago I was wanting to purchase the long-out-of-print album "Living In The Background" by Baltimora (which most people might recognize for the "Tarzan Boy" hit from the 80's). Problem is, I couldn't find it anywhere to purchase it. I eventually bid on a copy that was being sold on eBay, but dropped out when it got to $40, which was $35 more than I wanted to pay in the first place. Frustrated that I had done everything I could resonably do to purchase a copy legally, I eventually started up LimeWire and managed to get a few of the tracks illegally. What I don't understand is why the record companies make it so damn difficult in the first place to purchase music you want!! If you have to go to eBay, neither the record company nor the artist is making money. Selling digitally is the perfect solution... resonably priced music for the masses, without the expense of having to print out-of-date CDs that aren't going to get big sales anyway.
Here's hoping that Apple gets it right.
There's quite a lot of peer pressure to have your site be "W3C Validated." While cruising blogspace, I see the little W3C badges displayed everywhere, and the fact that my blog wasn't validated made me feel like a second-class internet citizen. I guess it's time I care. So, off I go to the W3C Validator to see how things look, and the result isn't pretty. Apparently, tags that have no closing tags have to be closed anyway (by slapping a forward slash at the end). Whatever. A few minutes later and BBEdit (my text editor of choice) has switched all of my line-breaks and image tags to the "new and improved" (and apparently "valid") versions. The next step takes a little longer... adding "ALT" statements to all of my images. The last step, however, is puzzling... I get a cool dozen errors on the same line because the W3C doesn't like the way an URL pointing to a search at VersionTracker is phrased. Sure, the W3C claims this is a limitation of the validating app, but the last thing I want is somebody to check my site and see a bunch of errors, so I delete the link. Oh well, at least people can click on my newly installed "W3C Validated" badges and see that I am a good little web conformist.
Just found out from a Windows user that my style sheets "break" under Microsoft internet Explorer on Windows XP (and probably all the other MSWin flavors as well). Oddly enough, things work just fine when I use the Mac browsers: Opera, Safari, Chimera/Camino, Mozilla, and even MS internet Explorer Mac... so apparently this must be a Windows thing (though I haven't heard from any Linux/Unix users yet). What to do? Well, the only thing I can think of right now is to spoil my beloved table-free layout with a table across the top to hold the header graphics and have them flush out to the left and right margins. Crap. Yet another example of Microsoft making my life "better."
Woohoo! According to Aint It Cool News, one of my favorite TV shows, Angel, has been renewed! Not that AICN is the most reliable source, but even the hope of having Angel stay on the air after Buffy ends this season is worth celebrating.
If you are using a Mac running OS X (lucky bastard!) there are a few utility programs you should know about. Things so essential that they should be built into your Mac in the first place! My list begins with DragThing, an amazing utility that allows you to create tabbed docks to organize apps, URLs, and anything else you need easy access to. Next is LaunchBar which miraculously (and instantly) finds files, bookmarks, apps, e-mail addresses, whatever... as if by magic... wherever they may be hiding on your Mac. I've always loved being able to grab a snapshot of the screen with Apple-Shift-3, but Ambrosia Software's Snapz Pro X is screen capture on steroids, adding dozens of options (including movie capture!). A more recent addition to my arsenal of must-haves is Konfabulator, which allows you to run "widgets" on your desktop to do whatever you want... you really have to see it to understand it. One utility you won't be able to live without once you've experienced it is Default Folder, which eliminated the failings of save/open dialogue boxes and makes them work the way they should have all along. Other handy add-ons you'll love... X-Tunes (adds fingertip control to iTunes from any app), and iAddressX (ditto, but for your Address Book), R-Name (batch file renamer), Quick Change (file attributes editor), BookIt (browser bookmark manager), and of course NetNewswire and Kung-Log (essential blogging tools I have recommended many, many times before).
As mentioned in a previous post, my buddy Dave has unknowingly given me an a-ha addiction that doesn't show any signs of letting up! One of my favorite new a-ha merchandise purchases has got to be their Live at Vallhall DVD filmed in the trio's home town of Oslo, Norway. The entire concert is a treat, focusing mainly on the excellent material from their Minor Earth, Major Sky album, but the nifty bonus was the video for one of my favorite tracks, Velvet, which features the band playing the entire video DEAD! Brilliant, brilliant stuff... and just reinforces what a shame it is that the band does not have a record label in the US. If you were a fan of a-ha in the 80's (or just appreciate beautiful music), you owe it to yourself to check out their work (even if you have to buy it as a pricey import!).
1. What was the last TV show you watched? C.S.I. Crime Scene Investigation last night.
2. What was the last thing you complained about? Just five minutes ago I was bitching about having to work this weekend.
3. Who was the last person you complimented and what did you say? My friend Meagan... she had sent me a snapshot of a new piece of art she had created, so I e-mailed her back and said that it looked fantastic, which it did. (Meagan is responsible for the little pictures of me sprinkled around this web site, thanks to her home-made Photo Embarassment Booth).
4. What was the last thing you threw away? A color laser print of a design that didn't seem to want to print out quite they way it was supposed to (thank you Adobe Illustrator 10!).
5. What was the last website (besides this one) that you visited? I was reading Watch With Kristin over at E! Online in hopes that there would be info on the Buffy season finale.
In organizing research for my new book, I've collected hundreds of snippets of research... text, photos, web site URLs, maps, drawings, just about anything you can think of... and it's all crammed into a folder on my hard drive in a big, disorganized mess. A couple of weeks ago, I bought an organizational tool called NoteTaker 2003 and eventually side-graded to a similar, but streamlined alternative called Circus Ponies Notebook. Either program is a revolutionary way to organize your thoughts, because they automatically index every word you put in them. Just turn to the index an instantly find whatever you are looking for. Collecting data from a variety of sources is simple thanks to a "service" that will insert text into your notebook (open or closed) from within any application. Find a snippet while surfing the internet? Pop it into your notebook without leaving your web browser. Both programs have a 30 day free trial, and any Mac user who collect information will wonder how they lived without it!
Okay then, the day Mac fanatics have been waiting for has arrived... Apple's music store has finally debuted! Is it all I had hoped for? Yes and no. I mean, I've already dropped $50 on music, so they must be doing something right!
PROS: Catalog is fairly deep and growing daily (according to Steve Jobs). Very, very easy to shop (too easy!) and beautiful to look at. Nice feature update to iTunes. ACC encoding supported on the iPod (finally!). Exclusive Apple tracks by top artists like U2, Eminem, and more. Price is fairly reasonable (99 cents per song, $9.99 per album).
CONS: Catalog limited to US releases from what I can tell... all of the domestic releases by a-ha are there, but none of their later releases are there. And there's no International section to purchase tunes from Germany, Japan, etc. Many albums are not complete, but seem to be missing tracks for some reason (Bananarama has ONE track from ONE album as the entirety of their listing??). Albums that ARE complete on the service, are not sold as complete albums (like John Mayer's Room for Squares). Several of the artists I was wanting to purchase are not there yet (Baltimora, Paul Oakenfold, and about 10 others).
Overall, a good effort on Apple's part. I enjoy the service immensely, and look forward to buying more music in the future (assuming the stuff I am looking for ever makes it to their service!). If you are a Mac user, you owe it to yourself to check this out... Windows users have to wait a while, because Apple won't release iTunes/Apple Music for those poor unfortunate souls until the end of the year.
1. Name one song you hate to admit you like. Right now that would be the ABBA cover of SuperTrouper by the A-Teens.
2. Name two songs that always make you cry. Well, I don't cry much, but two songs that have an emotional impact on me are Don't Answer Me by The Alan Parson's Project and Storm on the Sea by The Thompson Twins.
3. Name three songs that turn you on. You've Got a Way by Shania Twain, The Love Thieves by Depeche Mode, and If You Were Here by The Thompson Twins.
4. Name four songs that always make you feel good. Hmmm... maybe Barbie Girl by Aqua, So Young by The Corrs, Steal My Sunshine by Len, and Ask by The Smiths.
5. Name five songs you couldn't ever do without. Let's go with I Wish I Cared by a-ha, Take Me Away by Babble, Everything Counts (Live) by Depeche Mode, Get the Message by Electronic, and Miracle by Jon Bon Jovi.
1. Would you consider yourself an organized person? A little bit, sure. Why or why not? If I weren't somewhat organized, my work would be pretty difficult!
2. Do you keep some type of planner, organizer, calendar, etc. with you, and do you use it regularly? My PowerBook has all that on it, and it's with me most of the time, so I guess the answer would be yes.
3. Would you say that your desk is organized right now? Not really, but I am in the middle of a big project, so things are in disarray. After a project has been completed, I'll take some time to clean it up again.
4. Do you alphabetize CDs, books, and DVDs, or does it not matter? I absolutely do!
5. What's the hardest thing you've ever had to organize? Photographs from my travels over the years. It got out of hand, and now it's almost impossible to get them in order. Fortunately, I now have a digital camera and use the excellent iPhoto on my Macs to keep things straight.
1. What drinking water do you prefer -- tap, bottle, purifier, etc.? The tap water where I live is chlorinated, which I hate, so I always buy whatever jug drinking water is on sale at the grocery store. At work I usually purchase flats of "Kirkland" water from Costco to drink.
2. What are your favourite flavor of chips? I try to stay away from chips because I'm trying to limit the amount of hydrogenated fats I consume... but when I must have a chip, it's usually Sun Chips Regular. My favorite snack that's not a chip remains Pirate's Booty, which I will gladly eat over any other snack food.
3. Of all the things you can cook, what dish do you like the most? I like the enchiladas I make. They are based on a recipe my grandmother gave me, but I use rice instead of burger meat.
4. How do you have your eggs? Creamed into mayonnaise, which I will eat on most anything. On the rare occasion that I eat eggs, they are usually scrambled.
5. Who was the last person who cooked you a meal? How did it turn out? The cook at Denny's. I had the Boca Burger which is always excellent (unfortunately, the fries were not very crispy this time around, however).
Okay, having just seen The Matrix Reloaded for the second time, I can now say with authority that the movie was quite a let-down from the promise of the original. Sure it had great special effects and some killer action sequences, but the story itself was fairly boring and repetitive. To explain why I feel that way, it's necessary to discuss some details of the film, so stop reading if you haven't seen it yet.
And, before I get e-mails from people telling me that I didn't like Reloaded because I didn't understand it, please spare me your wrath, because I understand the film all too well... I've studied Nietzsche, and have a firmer grasp on the philosophical concepts of "free will" and "choice" than most people do, so everybody claiming to like Reloaded simply because you think it makes you look smart, can just skip the rest of this post but, for the rest of you, here it goes:
The reason I didn't like this movie is that it failed to engage me for the duration. There were always "stoppers" in the way of the story's flow that made it impossible to really get absorbed into the world that the Wachowski Brothers have created. Inane strips of boredom that repeat the same theme over and over again until you find yourself slipping into a coma until the next cool action sequence arrives. How many times do we need to hear about machines and humans needing each other to survive and the consequences of making choices? We get to hear both themes repeated so often that I find myself amazed that there are people that don't understand the film's concept... first that ridiculously dull walk that Neo takes with the head council guy, then again from the Oracle, once more from the Merovingian, and yet again from the Architect. Holy crap... we get it already! And let me add to my complete frustration with the incredibly stupid Zion rave dance sequence, which has been dissed to death on every review I've read. What was the point? I'm sure it was intended to show a celebration of humanity that is worth fighting and dying for, but all it did was grind the movie to a screeching halt. Too many moments like this made me long for a good editor to step in and tighten the story to a watchable pace (and fix the gawd-awful time shifting that destroys the final action sequences as the three teams attempt to break into "The Source").
Enough with the bad, anything good? Well, I was pretty entertained by the action... the freeway chase sequence is astounding to a degree that I would gladly pay another $7 just to see those 15 minutes again. The fights are a bit repetitive, but fun to watch. Monica Bellucci (as Persephone) is breathtaking. And Morpheus' line to Agent Smith: "Does that include a bullet from this gun?" is easily the best line from a movie since Trinity's "Dodge this" in the original. I also like the fact that the film has a decent puzzle in it... is the "real world" that people think is real actually just another level of the Matrix for further control? Did Neo and Agent Smith (in his Zion-acquired body) escape the "Matrix within a Matrix" altogether and make it to the real real world, which is why they ended up in comas at the end? I guess we'll find out in six months.
Alrighty then! I wish I could say that I have been on some kind of exotic expedition to the Himalayas, taking time only to blog the Friday Five and see The Matrix Reloaded, but that would be an oversimplification of the truth. I have, in fact, been working day and night to catch up with various projects that have been piling up over the last month. So, for those few friends that have my blog on an XML feed and thought I was dead... you were not far from the truth. About the only interesting thing that's changed in my life is a decision to put off my Australian Hard Rock run for a little while so that I can buy a bike for the summer. Lately I keep running into friends who have purchased new rides, and find myself growing increasingly jealous with each new day (it's nice to get my mid-life crisis over with). The problem is that I have not touched a motorcycle in nearly 13 years! So come July, I'm off to take the MRC so I can get my ME on my DL and then go into all kinds of debt and get a bike. Then I can spend the weeks I was going to be in Australia learning to ride all over again. I can't think of a better way to spend the summer.
1. What brand of toothpaste do you use? I change toothpaste every time I buy it, as I am always looking for the latest and greatest in tooth-care technology! Right now I have a tube of Colgate Extra Whitening that I'm finishing up, and the next tube up is AquaFresh Extreme Clean (it foams!).
2. What brand of toilet paper do you prefer? Whatever is on sale. I don't really put much thought into something that's going to be wiping my ass (but perhaps I should be?).
3. What brand(s) of shoes do you wear? Nike. This is the only brand I've found that have an arch my feet can be comfortable with. I wish they made inline skates.
4. What brand of soda do you drink? I don't touch the stuff. I limit the amount of crap I consume in a day, and there are far better ways to enjoy useless calories than soda pop.
5. What brand of gum do you chew? I am not a big "gum chewer" but, when I do indulge, it is usually Juicyfruit because it's always easy to find. I prefer natural gums, like Speakeasy, but it's hard to find them anywhere.
Ack! First I was disappointed by The Matrix Reloaded, and now another summer blockbuster has underwhelmed me... X2: X-Men United. Boring, boring stuff. The most powerful mutants on earth aren't battling other powerful mutants like "The Hellfire Club," cool aliens like "The Brood," giant robots like "The Sentinels," or even an intergalactic threat like "The Shi'ar." Oh no, this time they are battling boring humans in boring situations with boring action that that makes me wonder why in the heck people are liking this movie.
Even worse, the "big bad" at the end of the film isn't even a boring human, but water. Yes, water. The X-Men battle water in the boring climax to this damn boring film.
The only thing that even remotely salvaged any entertainment value for me was the addition of Nightcrawler, who actually uses his mutant powers in a cool and exciting way throughout the film. But the others? Cyclops gets out maybe two optic blasts. Storm has seemingly lost the ability to fly, Rogue consciously uses her power once in the entire film (and to lame effect)... it goes on and on. About the only action sequence outside of Nightcrawler's attack on the White House that was worth watching was the fight between Wolverine and Lady Deathstrike, but even that was pretty lame, because Wolverine wins by using his brains instead of the brute-force method that would have made it so much more satisfying. Magneto and Mystique are back from the first film, thankfully, because they are the only remotely interesting characters in X2 again.
When are we going to get an X-Men movie that has bad-ass battles that are even half as exciting as the comic book? Where are the all-powerful villains that will make the X-Men struggle? Sure, in X3 we're set up for having Phoenix arrive, but if things go as they have been, she won't be the all-powerful goddess that can destroy a planet, she'll be a bland imitation of Pyro that can burst into flame once or twice. Brian Singer, please prove me wrong and give us a third X-Men film worth watching.
1. What do you most want to be remembered for? Always taking responsibility for my actions.
2. What quotation best fits your outlook on life? "No matter where you go... there you are." from the movie Buckaroo Banzai.
3. What single achievement are you most proud of in the past year? Deciding to once again do those things I used to enjoy, but gave up to make other people happy.
4. What about the past ten years? The same... it's taken me ten years to get to this point!
5. If you were asked to give a child a single piece of advice to guide them through life, what would you say? Always remember that everything you do has consequences, so make sure you can live with the decisions you make before you act.
Every year for Mother's Day, I take my mom on a vacation (good boy that I am). This year was supposed to be a trip to Asia, but the last thing I wanted was to pick up a case of SARS, so it was decided to stay closer to home. Since neither of us had ever been to the Grand Canyon, it was off to Arizona for four days of fun in the sun. Now, as impressive as the Grand Canyon is (personally I prefer Waimea Canyon on Kauai) I'd have to say that the absolute highlight of the trip would have to be a stop-over in Sedona.
This amazing, amazing place was supposed to kill 2 hours on the way to the Big Event, but ended up sucking an entire day... and I would have dearly loved to stay longer. Probably one of the most beautiful places I have yet experienced, the best way to see it is with a great company called Pink Jeep Tours, which will take you on a 4-wheel excursion into the Sedona outback. It's a wild wide, a heck of a lot of fun, and an incredible experience that you will remember for the rest of your life. For anybody looking for a quick vacation (or even a long one), you could do a lot worse.
Holy crap! I bypassed Star Trek Nemesis in the theaters because it looked lame, and I still had visions of the awful Star Trek Insurrection trapped in my head. Well, somehow the idiots in charge of Star Trek have managed to sink to a new low... Nemesis sucks total ass. I don't even know what I can say about it except that it is a boring boring boring film with nothing interesting to say or nothing new to show us. I can only pray that the bad box office, horrid reviews by critics and fans alike, and diminished interest in Star Trek in general will kill off this "Next Generation" franchise for good.
1. How many times have you truly been in love? Once.
2. What was/is so great about the person you love(d) the most? She pushed boundaries I didn't know I had, was happy with me the way I was, and opened my mind to new ways of thinking about things. Too bad she ended up being a psychotic, sadistic asshole in the end.3. What qualities should a significant other have? They should love you for who you are rather than who they feel you should be.
4. Have you ever broken someone's heart? Probably.
5. If there was one thing you could teach people about love, what would it be? In order for love to work, you have to give it everything you have. Doing so, however, can be very dangerous, so make sure you love yourself enough to survive it if things don't work out.
1. What's one thing you've always wanted to do, but never have? Become fluent in Japanese. Just when I really get into it, I realize that I don't have anybody to actually talk to, so I abandon my studies until my next trip to Japan (and forget just about everything I have learned in the meanwhile).
2. When someone asks your opinion about a new haircut/outfit/etc, are you always honest? No.
3. Have you ever found out something about a friend and then wished you hadn't? Yes. What happened? I've kept it a secret, even from them. Some things really are better left unsaid.
4. If you could live in any fictional world (from a book/movie/game/etc.) which would it be and why? The movie Total Recall with Arnold Schwarzenegger had an interesting take on the near-future that has never left me since I first watched it. Maybe it's the girl-on-girl fight action (with Sharon Stone no less!) that made such an impression, but they sure made the future seem a nifty place to live.
5. What's one talent/skill you don't have but always wanted? I love languages, and wish I had more of a talent for learning them.
1. Is your hair naturally curly, wavy, or straight? Straight. Long or short? Very short (how can your hair be naturally short?).
2. How has your hair changed over your lifetime? There's not as much of it as there used to be.
3. How do your normally wear your hair? Chopped off and completely messed up. It's been that way pretty much since birth (if you excuse my hippie-length locks as a freshman in high school and a tragic hair experiment gone wrong earlier in life... see question #5).
4. If you could change your hair this minute, what would it look like? I don't really care enough to think about it.
5. Ever had a hair disaster? Once. What happened? When I was in Middle School, a girl I liked suggested I should get a perm (hey, they were cool at the time!). After looking like Shirley Temple for a month, I never gave a crap about my hair again, because it could never look that bad even if I did nothing to it (and so I don't).
1. How are you planning to spend the summer? Riding my new motorcycle.
2. What was your first summer job? Picking cherries (to this day I have not been able to eat cherries, after getting sick on them all those years ago!).
3. If you could go anywhere this summer, where would you go? Australia and New Zealand. I was planning to go this summer, but cancelled so that I could afford the down-payment on my new motorcycle. I still hope to go next year.
4. What was your worst vacation ever? I can't recall ever having a bad vacation!
5. What was your best vacation ever? I've been very fortunate to have gone so many wonderful places but, if forced to choose, I'd have to say the trip I took to Thailand with my brother was the best vacation I've ever had. It was a life-changing trip that still affects me even today.
Minutes after Apple announced its new iChat AV software and accompanying iSight camera, I was online placing my order. I had tried video conferencing before, but it never really lived up to its promise, with crummy video and sound quality, rediculous hoops to jump through with IP addresses, link negotiation, and other nonsense... it just wasn't worth it. Leave it to Apple to get it right! So far, only one of my friends has iSight, so I've only done limited testing with it, but I like what I see so far.
Set-up involves sticking the camera to the back of my Cinema Display and plugging it in. That's it. It took a total of two minutes, and iChat AV popped up the instant the camera was activated. I saw Meagan was online and had her iSight on (thanks to little icons next to your buddies that let you know if the person has audio or audio/video capability). One click and a window came up that allows you to see yourself, check camera position, comb your hair (well, not mine, but whatever!), and you're off.
Audio quality is excellent and video quality is likewise very impressive (especially considering you can blow the image up to ridiculous sizes and still have a pretty good picture, thanks to Apple's Quartz display rendering engine). The only problem seems to be with the camera white balance, which tends to run a little dark (or green under fluorescent light), but I'm sure Apple will fix this eventually (iChat AV is in beta and won't be finalized until later this year when MacOS X 1.3 Panther is released). p>
I've now ordered another couple of cameras for my home G4 Cube and my PowerBook, so I can be connected wherever I am with NO long distance charges! It's like something out of Star Trek! I highly recommend that anybody with a Mac and a broadband connection grab an iSight and see why e-mail is going to become obsolete for personal communications in the future. I just hope that spammers don't figure out a way to ruin iSight like they've done e-mail.
Well, Adriaan Tijsseling has done it again... His amazing Kung-Log blog posting app is now at version 1.5 and is ever so dreamy! We now get to preview entries using Apple's WebKit, which makes all the difference for me (as previews have never worked before for some reason). I can honestly say that this blog would not be possible if it weren't for this excellent app. Any MacOS X user who is even thinking about keeping a blog owes it to themself to take a look (and, for you poor Windows-using bastards, this is yet another good reason to make the switch to a Mac!). My donation is on the way... thanks Adriaan!
Hey now... people are actually reading this blog! Well, two of you at least. So, for Matt and Carol (and anybody else wanting to play around with iChat AV that doesn't mind looking at my face) my "buddy name" is email@example.com. The "mac.com" addresses for .Mac users can also work with AOL Instant Messenger, but you have to get the latest software, because earlier versions won't recognize iChat buddy names.
Helpful iChat AV Hint: Yes, it is a bit disorienting that you can't actually look each other in the eye when chatting (the camera would have to be in the middle of your display for that!), but you can make the shift slightly less annoying by putting the iChat window at the very top of your screen, as close to the camera as possible. I've kind of developed an "iChat-Head-Bob," whereas I look up directly into the camera on occasion so that the person I am iChatting with has more of an illusion that I am talking to them. After a while, I notice them doing it as well. It kind of becomes automatic when you have something particularly important or poignant to say, and makes the conversation all that more personable.
Boy do I love Apple for this new toy!
One of the more interesting ideas to come down the internet pipeline is that of micropayments, whereas you can easily make very small payments (down to a penny!) for goods or (more likely) services that are very low-ticket. My first micropayment was made to view Scott McCloud's new web comic The Right Number for just a quarter. Was it worth the money? Well, how much entertainment can you realistically expect to get out of a quarter now-a-days? The subject wasn't really my cup of tea, but the idea of it has me very entertained. Hopefully this is the beginning of a trend that can save the ever-declining market for comic book artists. To start making micropayments of your own, head over to BitPass and buy a pre-paid card. There's not much on the menu to buy now, but it's an idea too good to stay small for very long.
1. What were your favorite childhood stories? Anything to do with mystery and/or magic.
2. What books from your childhood would you like to share with [your] children? There were a number of worthy books I remember enjoying as a kid... The Secret Seven and The Fabulous Five series by Enid Blyton; The Encyclopedia Brown series by Donald J. Sobol; and the Half Magic series by Edward Eager to name a few.
3. Have you re-read any of those childhood stories and been surprised by anything? Just at how well they hold up for entertainment value over time. Especially the Curious George books, which are just as fun now as when I was a kid!
4. How old were you when you first learned to read? In kindergarten.
5. Do you remember the first 'grown-up' book you read? I had read a kid's book on Greek mythology while in grade school and was hungry for more, but the school library didn't have any other books on the subject. My mom took me to the public library where all I found was a more "adult" mythology books, so I checked them out instead. I remember it being a heck of a struggle to make it through those books, but the payoff was well worth the effort.How old were you? I have no idea... the 4th grade maybe?
I've now received my 5th e-mail asking if I've heard about the lawsuit filed a while back against Robert's American Gourmet Foods, who happens to make my absolute most favorite snack food ever, "Pirate's Booty." This comes as a bit of a surprise, because I thought that only two people were reading this blog, let alone caring about my Booty obsession. I can only guess that I'm a Google hit or something for Pirate's Booty searches (well, if there was anything I'd ever want to be noted for, that would be near the top of the list, so it's all good!).
Anyway, you can head over to the "Stupid Lawsuits" section of the Power of Attorneys site and read about it for yourself, but the gist is basically this: Good Housekeeping did some tests and found out that the claimed calorie count of 120 was actually 147, and the 2.5 grams of fat was more like 8.5 grams. A woman read this, and decided she was going to sue for FIFTY FREAKIN' MILLION DOLLARS because of "distress over weight gain, mental anguish, outrage, and indignation." Now, Robert's claims that this was a mistake, that they changed their formula and somehow forgot to re-label the packaging, which could very well be true.
But even if Robert's was intentionally skewing the Nutrition Facts (which makes no sense at all)... FIFTY FREAKIN' MILLION DOLLARS??? How much Booty was this woman eating that an additional 6 grams of fat per serving was causing enough weight gain and mental anguish that FIFTY FREAKIN' MILLION DOLLARS seemed like a fair settlement? Such a stupid-ass lawsuit has caused me at least $100 million dollars in "outrage," so where do I sign up to sue whatever lawyer thought that this was a worthwhile case to eat up taxpayer's dollars?
The lawsuit was filed to "represent consumers who ruined their diets and had to spend more time in the gym because they ate mislabeled Pirate's Booty." Well, you daft moron, don't do us any favors. Sane people understand that Pirate's Booty is a snack food (but a far more healthful alternative to most of the hydrogenated crap that's out there), not a weight loss tool. If an extra 6 grams of fat is enough to ruin your entire diet and spend extra time in the gym, then you obviously have far more problems that FIFTY FREAKIN' MILLION DOLLARS could ever solve, and should probably visit a few impoverished areas of the world where they don't have enough food to even keep children from going hungry, let alone worry about their weight.
I find it fascinating that there are people in the world who put so much time, effort, and energy into the destruction of the USA when all they really have to do is sit back, relax, and watch the show... we've got idiotic politicians, daft idiots, and piece-of-shit lawyers working overtime to make sure we destroy ourselves. What an ungrateful, petty, embarrassment of a nation we are that FIFTY FREAKIN' MILLION DOLLARS is considered acceptable restitution for 6 extra grams of fat on some idiots's lazy ass, when we should instead be thankful that we've got food to feed ourselves at all. So happy birthday to the United States, and long live the American Way of greed and frivolous lawsuits!
I hate, hate, HATE those stupid "television station identification marks" that are constantly displayed in the bottom-right corner of just about every channel. For the life of me, I don't understand what purpose they serve... I mean, isn't it enough that we have to suffer through station identification advertisements between commercials? But now it's gotten ten times worse. Some networks are adding idiotic sound and animation down there! For example, in anticipation of a new series called "Nip & Tuck" running on FX, they have been running a little animated graphic of a knife blade whirling in WITH SOUND to advertise it. Well, there's a tolerance point I have for annoyance, and that crosses the line. I've de-programmed FX from my Tivo, and don't plan on watching again unless they come up with a program so compelling that it outweighs their stupid and abusive behavior towards their viewers. Somehow I doubt that's going to happen and, if this type of crap continues on other networks, I'll just give up television completely and wait for the decent stuff to come out on DVD.
1. Do you remember your first best friend? Of course.
2. Are you still in touch with this person? Not really. We see each other on the street from time to time, but have long since outgrown the things we had in common that made us such good friends.
3. Do you have a current close friend? Sure.
4. How did you become friends with this person? They were a friend to other friends I had at the time.
5. Is there a friend from your past that you wish you were still in contact with? Absolutely. Why? He died far too young.
I had huge reservations about seeing Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, because it would not be helmed by original writer/creator/director James Cameron. A pleasant surprise, it actually turned out much better than expected. Where Matrix Reloaded disappointed, T3 delivers in spades. In two areas, it actually manages to surpass even T2 (but not the original... no sequel ever could!): 1) The new Terminatrix (played by Kristanna Loken) was even more ruthless (and far more beautiful!) than Robert Patrick's T-1000, and 2) Nick Stahl adds new depth to the John Connor character thanks to a haunting performance that makes me cringe when thinking of the whiny portrayal we had from Edward Furlong in T2. In fact, Stahl's Connor echos nicely the masterful performance by Michael Beihn as his father (Kyle Reece) in the original, which was the part that was so woefully lacking in the first sequel. Yes, it does have a few logical flaws (the Terminatrix should have been able to much more easily dispatch the leads given her vast superiority over Ah-nold's T-100 model) but hey — the action, special effects, performances... just about everything... were high entertainment value, and well worth the $6, which is rare for an action flick now-a-days.
In Washington State, you have two options for becoming "street legal" with a motorcycle. 1) You can drop by the DMV to take a written knowledge test and arrange a physical skills evaluation, or 2) You can take the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's "Basic Rider Course." Passing either option will enable you to get an endorsement for your license to legally operate your motorcycle on public roads and highways. Since I haven't touched a motorcycle in 14 years, the last thing I wanted to do was use my new bike to take the skills test at the DMV, so the MSF BRC was pretty much my only choice (they provide motorcycles for you). Unfortunately, the MSF courses are always full-up months in advance, so it is no easy chore to actually get into a class. The $50 state-subsidized classes were booked well into October, so I ended up paying for the "unsubsidized" course instead (no big deal, since my $368 was reimbursable with my new bike purchase), which only required a month's wait.
The 12-person course itself is a bizarre mixture of classroom learning and hands-on skills building set over a Thursday evening and an entire weekend. As I understand it, the MSF recently did a complete overhaul of the BRC which made for some interesting times as our "Rider Coaches" were struggling to teach a new version of the class for the first time. The classroom stuff is pretty basic, and could have easily been a sleeper except for the great lengths they've gone to in making it entertaining with games, competitions, videos, and such. A different type of learning to be sure, but it does promote retention of the information for today's MTV non-book-reading generation. The multiple-choice a-b-c test itself (given on Saturday evening after an exhausting first day on the riding range) was really simple if you take the time to read the questions carefully (some of them are worded in a tricky manor). I breezed through the test with a perfect score (as did most of the class).
The physical skills training is where the real challenge is. Even though I had ridden before (albeit briefly several years ago) I can honestly say that a good 90% of the skills taught to us were ones I had never even considered doing in "the real world." Being able to make a figure-eight in a single lane of travel is just one of the odd challenges awaiting you in a series of fairly difficult lessons. Now, ultimately, none of the exercises are impossible, but the way you move from one to the other is what makes them harder than they should be. For example, you don't practice making a few low-speed sharp turns before you start in on the figure-eight stuff... you just jump right on into it. Also, you go from an almost straight-line cone-weave to a harsh staggered cone-weave with nothing in-between to prepare you. It seems as though the skills aren't really built from one lesson to another, but are instead forced upon you in rapid succession. To make matters worse, I honestly feel that the class size is too big to promote good learning of the physical skills. Simply riding around the range perimeter to practice shifting gears is made difficult because, with twelve riders, you are almost bumper-to-bumper (so to speak) and if the person ahead of you is slow or having trouble, a domino effect ensues that makes it hard for anybody to get a good practice in. Even worse, for some lessons, I only got one or two attempts at the skill being taught. This makes it impossible to figure out what you might have done wrong your first go-round and practice a correction. There should be a bare-minimum of three (preferably at least five) run-throughs for each rider of each lesson.
Despite my feeling that the physical training left me a bit unprepared for the actual evaluation at the end, I did pass the test (along with seven others in the class). I lost points for 1) crossing a boundary in the figure-eight test, 2) starting my braking before the allowance-line in the "quick-stop" test (they let you try this one again, and I did it right the second time), and 3) not going fast enough into my 135-degree turn test (which, in my defense, I only got to practice once from the left and just twice from the right... a few more practices, and I could have nailed this one easy).
The upshot of taking the MSF BRC is that I learned a heck of a lot. I was not a very experienced rider to begin with (made worse by the 14-year gap since I last rode!), and I can honestly say that the MSF has given me life-saving riding knowledge that I hope I never use, but am awfully glad I now have. I took a lot of notes each night for the skills they taught on the range, and fully plan to practice them every chance I get, knowing that I will be a much better rider because of it. I may even take the course again in the Spring to be sure that I've not picked up any bad habits since passing. With very few reservations, I highly recommend the program to anybody considering riding motorcycles, current riders wanting to improve their skills, or just about anybody looking for a fun (albeit challenging) way to kill a weekend. If you are in the Seattle area, you can take the course from the fine folks at the Evergreen Safety Council.
It's not the added security, long lines, rude people, freaky security agents, lack of seating, take-off delays, or even the noise that pisses me off about airports today... it's eating at the airport that sucks ass! On top of your choice of dining establishments being limited, your choices within those establishments are even further limited. Even if you manage to find a McDonalds, Burger King, or Taco Bell, you're assured of a gravely reduced menu that is extremely vegetarian hostile. And heaven help you if you have to use a crappy independent eatery... they have even fewer choices and far worse food than the shite they serve on actual airplanes! This morning in Milwaukee I stopped at a place that was selling a limited menu for "breakfast." The problem was not that hot dogs were considered a breakfast item whereas pizza wasn't, the actual problem went more like this:
me: Do you have any apples or bananas?
them: I'm sorry, we don't.
me: Oh. Can I get a toasted bagel please?
them: We don't toast bagels.
me: Hmmm... that's unfortunate, can I get it heated?
them: I could throw it in the microwave.
me: (realizing full well that a microwave will destroy a bagel) Okay then, I'll take a nuked bagel with cream cheese please!
them: We're out of cream cheese.
me: (refusing to pay $2.49 for a microwaved bagel without cream cheese, even if I was going to have to pay 49 cents extra for it) Alrighty... can I get a sandwich with cheese and vegetables only then?
them: You can take the meat off, but the sandwiches are pre-made.
me: Well, I guess I'll take a bag of Sun Chips.
them: Is that all? (oh the irony!)
me: Given that I'm a vegetarian, and my only food choices are a rubberized bagel with no cream cheese, a hot dog, or a meat sandwich, I think that's gonna have to be it, thanks.
them: Okay then, you have a good day! (Wisconsin folk are among the nicest people I have ever met, even when telling you that all you're getting for breakfast is a bag of chips).
How sad that you can't even get a piece of fruit for breakfast anymore. With every passing year, the American diet is heading further into the crapper, with the only thing available to eat on the road being foods littered with dead animal flesh, packed with deadly hydrogenated fats, or void of any nutritional value what-so-ever. Is it any wonder that, as a Nation, we're getting fatter and less healthy?
1. When was the last time you cheated? After thinking for a bit, I can honestly say I don't know... so it must have been quite a while ago. I firmly believe that cheating only harms yourself, and that if you must cheat to get through life, it's probably worth your time to figure out why that is (and even more important, what you can do to change it).
2. When was the last time you stole? That I can recall, I have never stolen anything. I guess I was raised right? In any event, stealing brings harm to another person, which is something I will avoid at all costs.
3. When was the last time you lied? In general, I find that life is much simpler when you do not lie, but not so long ago, I did not tell the full truth in order to spare somebody's feelings (which I suppose it as good as lying).
4. When was the last time you broke or vandalized another's property? That I know of, I have never intentionally done either, but I'm sure there have been times I've accidentally broke something belonging to another.
5. When was the last time you hurt a loved one? This is yet another thing I strive to avoid, as my spiritual beliefs are such that bringing harm to another person is a grave offense. That being said, I have brought harm to somebody when I thought it would save them from even greater harm.
Finally got around to going out on a good three hour ride on my new bike, and found out something very interesting... riding a motorcycle gives you the power of invisibility! That's right, hop on a motorcycle, and people can't see you! In my first three hours of riding I was forced to make two emergency stops because somebody was illegally turning into my path.
Idiot #1 pulled out from a driveway with barely a check to see if there was any traffic... and it wasn't like he was backing out, he was moving forward and would have to have looked directly at me if, indeed, he bothered to look at all! After he noticed me all up-close and personal-like (when I stopped at his window!), he just shrugged his shoulders and slammed down the gas pedal. Didn't check to make sure I was alright. Didn't seem to care that he could have killed me if I hadn't been anticipating that he was going to do something stupid (as they teach you over and over again in the MSF classes).
Idiot #2 was a woman in a pick-up truck that pulled into my lane from an intersection that I was turning into. Never mind that I clearly had the right-of-way... she didn't bother to look, and somehow couldn't see a bike with a headlight AND left turn-signal on! She never saw me. Probably didn't care. Too wrapped up in the song on the radio, recovering from her hangover, and trying to come up with an excuse for her husband as to why she didn't come home last night. I don't think things would have been any different if I had been in a car, except I probably wouldn't have been as careful, and ended up crashing into her redneck ass.
So, as a plea to you blissfully unaware car-driving morons out there, OPEN YOUR F#@%ING EYES WHEN YOU'RE DRIVING! Seriously, if you can't see a motorcycle headlight coming right at you, it's because you just aren't paying close enough attention. God help any PEOPLE that might be crossing your path... they don't even have headlights or turn-signals. If you aren't 100% when you're behind the wheel, you don't belong there in the first place.
Oops. Sorry, I hadn't realized that some of you have no idea what my new bike looks like (thanks Kenji!)...
It's a BMW F 650 GS Dual Sport. Sweet, I know! And it's perfect for where I live, because it's equally at home on the road, or in the dirt!
At the insistence of some raving friends, I've finally started tuning in to Bravo television's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. In this latest twist to "reality television," a team of five gay guys render advice in fashion, grooming, style, design, food, and culture upon some poor straight slob. This show is funny. The only problem with it is that the advice they give costs major bank, and I don't see how the average guy could possibly afford to go to $500-a-day spas and shop at Ralph Lauren. Oh well... it's entertaining, which is more than I can say for most of the stuff on television.
1. If your life were a movie, what would the title be? Let's go with Being Dave Malkovich.
2. What songs would be on the soundtrack? I love the soundtrack for the film About a Boy (by Badly Drawn Boy), and think it would be a good swipe for the movie of my life. As for the musical score on my film, it would have to be by master film scorer Eric Serra (The Big Blue, The Fifth Element, Goldeneye) or Vangellis (Chariots of Fire, Bladerunner).
3. Would it be a live-action film or animated? Does it really make a difference now-a-days? Why? Computer special effects are so advanced now it might as well be live-action! Of course, if Hayao Miyazaki wanted to animate my life's story, I would absolutely not complain.
4. Casting: who would play you, members of your family, friends, etc? As long as I could play myself, and my girlfriend was played by Elizabeth Hurley, I wouldn't care who else was in the movie.
5.Describe the movie preview/trailer. I can't even guess... but there should be a lot of explosions.
Here I am in lovely Spokane, Washington! Actually, I am not a big fan of the city, because it's hard to get excited about something when you have to drive 3 hours in 106-degree heat to get to it. The thing I am excited about is the opportunity to eat the best damn pizza on the planet at David's Pizza. This is no joke. I have eaten pizza in every major American city (and oh-so-many not so major cities) along with a good chunk of other cities around the world... and none of them compare to the fine fare you can get at David's. Chicago thick-crust pizza? Fantastic, but this is better. New York stuffed pizza? Excellent, but this is better. Authentic Italian pizza in Rome? Amazing, but this is better. If you ever find yourself in the backwaters of Eastern Washington near Spokane, you owe it to yourself to have a slice (or three) of their "Da Vinci" pizza (with Feta cheese, basil pesto, fresh tomato, and mozzarella) at David's. They've been voted "Spokane's Best Pizza" for 6 years in a row, but I find it to be true no matter where I go.
1. What time do you wake up on weekday mornings? Between 6 and 6:30am.
2. Do you sleep in on the weekends? Rarely. How late? When I do "sleep in," it's never later than 9:30am.
3. Aside from waking up, what is the first thing you do in the morning? Put on my glasses, then grab my PowerBook so I can check e-mail and see what's new in the world.
4. How long does it take to get ready for your day? If I bypass my PowerBook routine in the morning, it takes me about 15 minutes to get cleaned up and dressed.
5. When possible, what is your favorite place to go for breakfast? Nothing beats a good bagel with cream cheese for breakfast, and the best bagels in the world are in New York City.
After two weeks on my new ride, I finally decided I was comfortable enough with it to brave the highway. As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about. My BMW F650 GS loves the highway, and rips through the miles effortlessly. I was a little concerned that the miniscule fairing would really let the wind tear into me, but was completely comfortable. Actually, given the heat-wave we've been experiencing lately, a little wind is not a bad thing, and makes me glad that I have the Joe Rocket Phoenix Mesh Jacket to take advantage of it! What I am not happy about is my Arai Signet Helmet. In only two weeks, the front vents have popped off, and now the lettering is starting to peel off as well. They didn't seem to glue anything together, but instead used tape! So, apparently, I bought the best, most expensive helmet I could find and it's turned out to be a pile of crap? I don't know if it's the heat that's causing the tape to melt, or what... all I do know is that I have not in any way mistreated the helmet, and it's falling apart. What sucks even further is that you cannot use their web site to contact customer service because they received an "enormous amount" of inquiries and response times have grown to "unacceptable levels." Well, since their stuff is pretty much crap, that seems perfectly understandable. The pity here is that the helmet is amazingly comfortable... easily the best I've tried on. I can only hope that my problem is unique, and that Arai solves the problem (assuming I can ever get ahold of them!).
1. What's the last place you traveled to, outside your own home state/country? State: Wisconsin. Country: England.
2. What's the most bizarre/unusual thing that's ever happened to you while traveling? I have literally hundreds of bizarre stories I could tell, because I travel quite a lot. If forced to pick one, I'd have to say the time I got interrogated on the train out of Germany by border guards because of a Steiff Teddy Bear I bought for my mother is near the top of my list!
3. If you could take off to anywhere, money and time being no object, where would you go? I am a real travel bargain hunter, so money isn't really the problem... it's always time. So, if I were given unlimited time and had to spend it in one place, I would probably choose to explore Italy. The art and architecture of this amazing country completely mesmerizes me, and it would be easy to spend a few years there taking it all in.
4. Do you prefer traveling by plane, train or car? Motorcycle. But since that's not a choice, I guess I'd have to say train.
5. What's the next place on your list to visit? This Sunday I take off to L.A. for work, but if you're talking about personal travel, I hope to visit Spain and Portugal this winter.
So here I am in sunny L.A. for a few days (sadly, it's all work, so it's not like I'll actually get to enjoy it!). Had the usual delays/gate changes/freakiness that comes with flying now-a-days, the upshot being that I got into the Ontario Airport an hour late (after midnight) which gave me precious little time to get my work set up for the next day, and a measly 3 hours left over for some bad sleep (thank you Alaska Airlines!).
Though everybody in L.A. will tell you that the traffic here is the worst anywhere, I can give a more objective opinion that it is not. Don't get me wrong, it is pretty bad... it's just not as horrible as, let's say, Atlanta or Seattle. At least the people here know how to drive in it. Motorcyclists appear to have it made, because traffic seems very accommodating to lane-splitting. I've seen cars pull to a side to let a motorcycle pass, which is quite different than what I've noticed from Seattle traffic (where they make whiplash lane changes and have no qualms about cutting off anything with two wheels... even if they make no headway doing so).
About the only gripe I continue to have about the "City of Angels" is the smog, which seems to get worse with each passing year. Even on a clear-blue sky day like today, the surrounding mountains are barely visible! The upside is that all that pollution makes for some amazingly beautiful sunsets.
When the upgrade to Apple's Final Cut 4.0 arrived, I was pretty impressed with some of the latest feature additions... then I stumbled upon the included Soundtrack application and was completely blown away! This amazing tool allows musically challenged videographers (like myself) to create complex, lush, brilliant musical scores with very little effort. It's just a matter of selecting various instrument loops from the included (and impressive) library and putting it all together. Start with a funky drum beat, add a synthesizer or two and some strings, and you're done! Even more impressive is that Soundtrack handles all the timing, so you can lengthen or compress the tracks to match cues in your video effortlessly. I was able to create a complete musical score for a 5 minute video that contains 27 tracks in just under an hour, and it sounds amazing. Yet another coupe for Apple that makes me so very glad I own a Mac. If you create video content, and don't have the luxury of hiring a composer to arrange a score for your project, then you need this incredible app!
1. How much time do you spend online each day? My home and work computers are connected to the internet 24/7, and always getting information that's fed to various apps and data sources... so I guess you could say that I am online constantly. If you mean general surfing/e-mail type stuff, that's probably about 2-4 hours off-and-on in a day (and that time is going down, because I'd rather be riding my motorcycle than surfing!).
2. What is your browser homepage set to? Google (though my windows open to a blank page, since Apple's Safari web browser has a Google bar built in.
3. Do you use any instant messaging programs? Yes. If so, which one(s)? Once you've used Apple's iChat A/V there's just no going back to any other IM software.
4. Where was your first webpage located? CompuServe (well, it was kind of a web page... more like an information page... but that's as close as you could get back in 1984!).
5. How long have you had your current website? DaveWeb has been around in one form or another since 1992 (but the domain "DaveWeb.com" wasn't registered until 1997, which is when I decided to use it as the name of my graphic design business and apply for a trademark).
Yet another trip to Spokane for work (and some incredible David's Pizza) had me getting home at around 8:30 last night completely exhausted. But after spending the past two days in a car, I decided to stop and trade for my motorcycle so I wouldn't have to spend another minute trapped in a "cage" (what motorcyclists call cars). It's amazing how just five minutes on a motorcycle can revive you from the brink of death! It was a beautiful evening, and there was still some light left, so I decided to hit the highway and ride around for a bit. After an hour or so it's getting dark out and is difficult to see, so I head home. Then, as I am removing my helmet, I notice that it's not as dark as I had thought it was, and that's when it hits me... the reason I couldn't see very well was because my face shield was plastered with dead bugs! They were caked on so thick that it's a wonder I could see at all (of course my ride is a complete mess as well, so I suppose it's time for her first bath). Just one of the pitfalls of riding a motorcycle at night that never occurred to me, even after years of cleaning dead bugs off my car windshield.
Most bikers will tell you that, in general, the biggest challenge you face when riding (aside from an occasional car-driving moron turning into you, I suspect) is the weather and, more specifically, the rain. Well, I haven't ridden in the rain yet so I can state that my biggest challenge so far has been the wind.
I decided that if the weather is good next week, I'll take the plunge and ride the 360 miles to Spokane and back on my beautiful new BMW F650 GS. This trek will be by far the longest ride I've ever had, but if I take Highway 2 it promises to be a fairly interesting trip (as opposed to the ultra-boring I-90 corridor I take by car). Since this will be an overnighter, I'll need some way of packing over a change of clothes and a toothbrush, so I decided to hunt down a Joe Rocket "Jet Pack" backpack, which also has the nifty feature of a collapsable helmet bag built in. So off I go for a quick trip into The Big City to see if one of the three motorcycle shops had it.
I should have known better, nobody here had the thing in stock... but hey, even a futile trip is all good on a motorcycle! At least in theory... in the dozens of trips I've taken outside of town since I got the F650, this was the first one where I had to deal with gusting wind. Now, in a car, I probably wouldn't have noticed it much (if at all), but it's completely different when you're hanging on for dear life on a motorcycle! Sometimes I would find myself being slid over a full foot(!) when a particularly nasty gust came roaring through... other times I'd go for a corner on the highway and find that it was pretty tough to push against the wind, and had to abandon counter-steering for something I like to call "twist steering" which is a frightening turn of events where I am both pushing and pulling the handlebars to initiate a turn. Coming to a nice stop is no picnic either, because the slowed momentum means the wind just rocks you all the harder and makes it a bit tricky to stay upright. Heavy cruisers probably don't have quite as much problem with the wind as I do (the F650 GS is only 434-lbs. wet!), but that's a bit more motorcycle than I'm wanting right now.
Anyway, all things considered, cruising down the highway at 70mph while fighting the wind all the way is an even bigger thrill than skydiving, which is not something I anticipated... just a side-benefit.
Well that was quick. Though I posted my last entry just 45 minutes ago, I've already got an e-mail from a new friend (and prospective motorcyclist) asking about my rather vague reference to "counter-steering" which is the method used to steer a motorcycle at speeds faster than 5-10mph. Essentially you push the handlebar on the side with the direction you want to travel. Need to turn right? Push right. It's weird, because you're essentially "turning left" but that's the way it works when you're leaning into a turn on a two-wheel vehicle.
Even though I've been riding my new BMW F650 GS for only a month, I am not a complete novice. Fourteen years ago, I had a Honda 250 that I played around with. I wasn't endorsed, had no formal training, but had a blast riding around the surrounding backroads from time to time (after learning how to ride from a book I got from the local library and a lot of trial-and-error!). But then one fateful day, I ran into some loose gravel while coming around a corner and took quite a spill. My girlfriend completely lost it, and that was the end of my short foray into riding (hey, at that moment in time, she was worth it!). I sold my ride, gave away my gear, and abandoned my dream of owning a BMW R100 GS (that was the dual model at the time). Well, as they say, eventually dreams can come true (even after over a decade of hibernation).
Counter-steering is not something I was consciously using until it was brought up in my MSF Basic Rider Course a month back. First of all... yes, it's really true. When making a turn you are actually turning the handlebars opposite of the intended path of travel. Yes, it's a little freaky when you are first practicing it. No, you don't have to pay attention to the physics of how it works in order to make it happen. Basically, what you need to know is that the only way to turn a motorcycle at speed is to make it lean. The best way to do this is to push the handlebars away from your turn, which puts the bike into a kind of "controlled fall" that slips the front tire's contact patch with the road out from under you and leans the bike. A kind of gyroscopic effect kicks in... to turn right, push right... to turn left, push left... and the harder you push, the more you lean and the tighter your turn. Obviously, you do have to maintain speed to keep from tipping over, but once you get the hang of it, it's not a big deal. In fact, it's one of the things I've come to love most about riding. Cornering is fun.
I've read where some people say they don't use counter-steering, and instead just lean their motorcycle by pushing down on a foot peg, slapping their knee against the side of the tank, shifting their weight, or whatever. Other things I've read tell me that these people are, in fact, counter-steering but not realizing it. All I know is that when I try leaning my body and restrain myself from steering, nothing happens, so I am inclined to agree with the latter assessment. The good news is that by actively counter-steering you get a sense for it, which could save you a lot of grief in a crisis (always a horror to read stories of novice riders who panic and attempt to steer away from an obstacle but, due to the counter-steering "effect," actually turn into it!). So don't let the bizarre physics of motorcycle steerage keep you away... that's just the way it works and, if you embrace it as part of the fun of riding, you'll end up being a better rider because of it.
I've started to get a bit of traffic from other newbie riders wanting to share their motorcycle experiences, ask questions, or just say "howdy." That's pretty amazing to me, and it's great getting e-mail from new friends... so thanks to those of you who have taken the time to write. One e-mail I got a couple of days ago has kind of stuck with me, and I thought I would post my reply here in the off-chance that it might be of interest to somebody else who is just starting out.
Basically, the guy wrote to say that he is also a new rider and, like me, had taken the MSF Basic Rider Course to get his endorsement (highly, recommended). After a few days, he found a used bike he liked at a price he could afford, bought it, and had jumped into the world of motorcycling with an enthusiasm he had never felt before. But all that quickly changed once he realized that riding in the real world is a big difference from what had been practiced in class (where you don't have morons cutting you off or turning into you, obstacles thrown in your path, or any of a hundred other hazards that motorcyclists experience every day). At the end of his e-mail, he summed it all up with a question... "Are you as scared as I am when you go out there?"
My answer? Sure. But it's getting better every day. Do I think it will ever go away entirely? No, but that's probably a good thing. When you ride a motorcycle, you are far more vulnerable, far less visible, and far more unstable than driving in a car. A little fear could be what keeps you alive in a crisis by making you err on the side of caution as you make each decision that comes up.
The biggest mistake I made in starting out again was buying a brand new motorcycle (and no cheap thing either, I went for my BMW dream machine). Had I been smart, I probably would have bought some inexpensive used motorcycle to practice on until I was comfortable riding on the street. So a great deal of my fear sits with not wanting to damage the $9000 thing of beauty that's between my legs (hey, I'm single... double entendres like that are all I've got right now!).
Setting aside the worry of damaging my Beemer... yeah, there's still plenty of room for fear. In my first three hours of on-street riding, I had two emergency situations pop up that scared the crap out of me. The first time I went on the highway, I was terrified. Last week my bike suddenly seized up as I was taking off into a corner, causing me to tip over (no damage, thankfully) and I was pretty shaken. Not knowing why my bike seized up... and knowing it might not be something I did, but a defect that could strike again... is scary stuff. My first time riding in gusting wind yesterday was a nail-biter to be sure. And I'm already working up a bit of nervous energy about the 360 mile trip I've got planned for next week.
But every time I try something new, or have something unexpected come my way that gets me rattled. I think back to the day before I took the first ride on my new motorcycle. Pure terror. No sleep at all that night. I woke up at 5am (wanting as little traffic as possible!) and went to my grandmother's house where my ride had been stored while I took the MSF Course. Not wanting to risk pulling out of a driveway, I walked the bike 2 blocks to the high school parking lot for practice, the dread growing with every step. But just 10 minutes later, I was in love with riding... even if it was just around a parking lot. It's a feeling that just doesn't leave you, and it's a feeling I still get every time I a hop on my motorcycle. It's a feeling that I've been missing in my life for 14 years, and the fear of losing it again is far greater than any worry I have about what's going to happen when I'm out there... and that's how I deal. If you are more afraid of riding than not riding, then maybe you shouldn't do it (hey, life is hard enough). But if you love it as much as I do, there's really no choice... be careful out there, practice your MSF training, remember why you love it, spread your wings... and fly.
They say that there are two kinds of motorcyclists... those that have dropped their bikes, and those that will. Well, as of yesterday, I've not only dropped my beautiful new ride, but also had one of the most terrifying experiences of my life... and I've been skydiving, scuba diving, bungee jumping, traveled around the world, and was once held up at knife-point.
But, before I get down to it... I'm okay. More importantly, my motorcycle is perfectly okay.
Anyway, it all started this past weekend when I decided to take one last ride before heading over to Seattle. I ran up the canyon and played around in the dirt a bit, and ended up tapping my left handlebar into a tree as I skidded around a corner. It roughed up the edge of my grip a bit, and my clutch level seemed a little loose up-and-down, but it in no way appeared bent or damaged.
Fast forward to yesterday, and I get back from Seattle completely bored from the drive... all I want to do is get my motorcycle and hit the road. So I take a quick trip to Wenatchee. On the way back, it happens. I am coming off the highway to a stop in the left-turn lane, downshifting and braking front and back. Just as I'm stopped and have put my left foot down, the clutch lever snaps off! Now, I still have both brakes on full, so the bike doesn't go anywhere but, with clutch released, it lurches forward so violently that I am thrown to the ground on my left side. Fortunately, I break the fall of my Beemer, so no damage occurs (my pride not included!).
In no time, I manage to get myself upright and on the road again with half a clutch lever (tricky to ride that way!) and limp to a local cycle shop that's (luckily) just down the road from my apartment so I can get a new clutch lever. And that's where it's pointed out to me that oil is leaking from under my faux "tank." On the verge of freaking out over what could have ruptured in my engine, I order the part, then run home and start a take-apart to find out what's gone wrong. Ends up, BMW forgot to put an O-ring on my oil cap! So much for BMW attention to quality and detail.
So today Cashmere Cycle gets me set up with a new clutch lever, and my ride is good as new... not even a scratch. But the experience of having an out-of-control motorcycle throw me flat on the highway is something that I won't soon forget. I guess I should feel lucky that I was still braking full when it happened so that my ride didn't get away and scatter across the road. But there is a part of me that's still pretty upset that BMW would use such a brittle metal for their levers. I mean, if it were to have snapped outright, I would probably be okay with it. But the fact that it could fracture (with no apparent damage) and then snap completely at such an un-opportune moment as stopping on the highway... well, that doesn't seem like a safe material to be using for such a critical part. I can't imagine the horror of something like that happening with my brakes on the highway!
1. When was the last time you laughed? Just now when I read how inane this week's questions were.
2. Who was the last person you had an argument with? An idiot telemarketer who would not take "no" for an answer.
3. Who was the last person you e-mailed? Me! Last night I came across a great deal and wanted to be sure I would remember it, so I e-mailed it to myself.
4. When was the last time you bathed? I take a shower every day...I can't remember the last bath I had.
5. What was the last thing you ate? Dinner... two Hawaiian sweet bread buns with Spanish rice and cheddar cheese in-between.
Since I'm at 470 miles on my motorcycle, and it's due for a check-up at 600, I decided that a 380 mile trip to Spokane would put me too far past the mark when you add on the fact that the 120 mile trip to Seattle (where my BMW dealer is at) would total 970 miles. Oh well, there's always another trip to Spokane. Or is there? I mean, summer is running out, and warm-weather days are getting fewer. And then I look out my back window and see this...
How in the heck am I expected to sit in a cage for 3-1/2 hours on a day like this? There is no way I am not riding my motorcycle to Spokane! So now I am unpacking from my carry-on bag into my new Joe Rocket Pack, which is about half the size. Since I am a very light packer anyway, it's not much of a change, but it does make me question whether I really want to carry a fresh pair of jeans over now that I'll be carrying them on my back (hey, they are heavier than you think!).
Well that was fun. My 180 miles into Spokane was uneventful except... after an hour, my ass went numb... and a half hour after that, my legs started cramping up, so I decided to stop for a break. It would seem there really is no comfortable way to spend 3-1/2 hours on my motorcycle\, which I suppose is to be expected, because a cruiser it is not! (half my kingdom for highway pegs!) Even so, there was still much fun to be had (Highway 2 has plenty of interesting curves that makes it really sweet for bikers, and you see a lot of them on the road here). I found out that the F650 GS has no problem at 110 mph, which makes passing much more fun than it has a right to be. I also found out that it is folly to wear my Joe Rocket Pack for more than 15 minutes unless it's empty, which is fine because it straps to the handles on my "passenger seat" easily enough. All things considered, it was a much better ride on a motorcycle than trapped in a car! That pleasant thought has me even more worried that snow could be just two months away. How am I supposed to survive the winter if I won't be able to ride?
Nobody stole or vandalized my motorcycle in the middle of the night (which was my biggest worry for this trip!).
Coming back home was a little easier than the trip over, and I only had to stop once in Wilber, Washington to take a break for my aching legs and numb ass. Overall, it was a great ride, and beats the heck out of being stuck in a car.
A few things I learned...
And since I am now drastically past the 600 miles for my service inspection, I suppose my next trip will be over the mountains to Seattle. I can't wait.
1. Are you going to school this year? Uhhhh... no.
2. If yes, where are you going (high school, college, etc.)? If no, when did you graduate? 1984.
3. What are/were your favorite school subjects? School was pretty boring because the classes all seemed so rudimentary. The only "classes" I enjoyed were my advanced independent studies, where I could study what interested me.
4. What are/were your least favorite school subjects? I enjoyed home economics least of all.
5. Have you ever had a favorite teacher? Why was he/she a favorite? I was blessed to have a series of incredible elementary teachers... Kindergarten: Mrs. Beck, 1st: Mrs. Jones, 2nd: Mrs. Green, 3rd: Mrs. Cummings, 4th: Mr. Rogers. Middle School was a complete boring waste of time that killed my desire to ever go to school again but, when I got to High School, Mr. Brooks renewed my love of mathematics and learning in general, so I guess he'd get the top spot.
I have long been horrified at the USA's constant belief that our way of life is the "correct" way and should be forced upon the rest of the world. Believe it or not there are other civilizations, cultures and societies out there that have been around far longer than our measly 220-some-odd years, and it is the height of ignorance and stupidity to suggest that they are somehow "unacceptable" because they don't live the way we do or believe the things we believe. I've lost count of the number of times I've been visiting a foreign country and been embarrassed by some stupid thing our government is doing in the global community or (more likely) some stupid thing being done by other American tourists right in front of me... all because they just can't get it through their fat heads that the "American Way" is not for everybody.
Keeping that in mind, it is a rare event for me to come out and condemn the actions of another nation because I feel what they are doing is "wrong" according to me belief structure. I understand that other people have different beliefs, and not everybody should be required to think about things exactly as I do. But there are times when actions transcend beliefs, becoming "basic human rights" issues, which makes it impossible stay silent when I read something like this:
In Nigeria a 30-year-old woman named Amina Lawal has been sentenced to be buried up to her neck and then have people throw rocks at her head until she is dead, all because she had a child out of wedlock.Now my first reaction, naturally, is one of shock and horror that such a brutal and senseless act could be sanctioned by any government (let alone the people living under it). But I accept the fact that other societies have different views on "moral behavior" and fully realize that Nigerians have the right to live according to beliefs that are not my own. If adulterous sex is a known crime that is punishable by torturous death and you get caught breaking that law, then you should expect to pay the price your society places on such actions. Do I think it is wrong? Certainly. But I look at the situation from an entirely different cultural viewpoint so what I think shouldn't enter into the picture.
Except it really does. First of all, I cannot condone torture in any form, and death by stoning is just that. Furthermore, it's not like this woman is a mass-murderer or child rapist or anything. Her crime is having a baby. A basic human instinct is propagation by sex and a consequence of this is pregnancy and birth. Such an instinct is what enables the human race to survive, and being punished for such a primal part of our nature is just wrong (well, unless you are the parents of Pauley Shore, Carrot Top or Martha Stewart)... I don't care what your "culture" or "society morals" dictate, bringing forth life is not an act that should result in death. Some might argue that birth outside of a family is a bad thing and justify it with all kinds of ridiculous reasons, but I just don't buy it. If this woman were married and had a child, but then the father died and she were no longer married, would she be put to death then? Of course not, but this is a logical extension of such backwards thinking in the first place.
And then we get into the whole area of women's rights. The problem here is that the (alleged) father of the child denied he had sex with the woman, and was released. Apparently no further action is being taken to confirm the man's innocence or find the real father if he is telling the truth. Never-mind that modern technology (like DNA testing) is available to verify facts, he just gets to walk. So even if I could get behind the death penalty as punishment for having a baby, I absolutely cannot get behind selectively applying death by gender (or race, or eye color, or any other intrinsic criteria that is based on who you are... not what you believe). Women and men are treated differently in all cultures and, since men and women are different, this is understandable (though not always within bounds of reason). But to be punished selectively because of something you cannot change is a gross violation of human rights that should not be tolerated on principle, it has nothing to do with religious or cultural beliefs.
You can read more about Amina Lawal's struggle at Amnesty International's Australian site. You can also make a donation to Amnesty International and help them make a difference.
Just a few things that have been plaguing me as of late...
Clueless Drivers: A flashing yellow light means slow down and proceed with caution... it does not mean stop.
Arby's: Would it kill you to put a cheese sandwich on your menu? I am tired of having to order a "Market Fresh Beef and Swiss" sandwich - without the roast beef - and still pay as if I had a piece of dead cow on my lunch (and you get it wrong half the time anyway).
Clueless Drivers 2: When making a left turn, stay in your own lane... here is a helpful illustration:
I am getting very tired of having you barely miss me when you whip through your turn in my lane. If I ever get hit from one of you morons, I'm shoving what's left of my motorcycle up your ass.
President Bush: Still waiting for those "weapons of mass destruction" to surface, lying dipshit.
Clueless Drivers 3: When you see a red light ahead, don't slow down to 1/2-mph hoping that it will turn green when you finally make it there. It's a stop light, so pull up to the line and f#@%ing stop already. I can only hope that one day you get a pissed-off trucker behind you who will shove your stupid ass into the intersection for being such an idiot. I'd bust up your shit myself, but my 430-lb. motorcycle isn't going to make much headway against your idiotic 6-ton 2-mile-per-gallon SUV. I'm going to have to start carrying incendiary bombs so I can just light your shit on fire... I bet that would get your lame ass moving.
Child Molesters: I don't care how many years you spend in prison, you can never "repay your debt to society," so society doesn't owe you a damn thing when you get out... stop deluding yourself you f#@%ing piece of shit.
Clueless Drivers 4: If you and/or your piece of crap vehicle is not capable of going the speed limit, you shouldn't be on the road in the first place.
Pier 1: People don't like annoying commercials, and your idiotic spots featuring a screeching Kirstie Alley doing stupid shit while dressed in those freaky-ass prom dresses are doing nothing but making me want to avoid your stores (or wish I was dead.. and sometimes both at the same time). Seriously, no commercial would be more effective than a washed-up actress nobody cares about annoying people.
Since the Friday Five has been pretty lame lately, I've noticed a few other Fivers have turned to the Bernard Pivot Questionnaire, made famous by James Lipton on his show Inside the Actor's Studio.
What is your favorite word? "Frotz." It was the magical spell of light from the old Infocom game "Enchanter" (and its equally excellent sequels, "Sorcerer" and "Spellbreaker"). To this day I still love the sound of it (yeah, I'm a geek... get over it). If you need a real word, it would have to be "malaria" I watched a movie once where a character had said that "malaria was the most beautiful word in the English language" and, after thinking about it for a minute, I had to agree (though I think the word is actually of Italian origin). If anybody remembers the name of that movie, let me know.
What is your least favorite word? "Empowerment." It sums up everything I hate about all those sappy motivational "empowerment" posters that are supposed to make you fall in love with the idea of idiotic corporate buzzwords like "Teamwork," "Perseverance" and "Commitment." Every time I see one these laughable prints, I want to gag and then crap on it (the parodies, however, are priceless!). If employees were truly empowered, they wouldn't need a poster to tell them about it.
What turns you on? Literally, Elizabeth Hurley... I cannot get past my obsession with her. Figuratively, kindness turns me on. It is so easy to be cruel, hurtful, or destructive... but stumbling across true acts of kindness reaffirms my faith in humanity and turns me on to our possibilities.
What sound do you love? Elizabeth Hurley saying anything in that kickin' English accent of hers. Sometimes while I am working, I'll put on her movie Bedazzled for background noise (which is stupid, because I'll just end up watching the film again and not get any work done at all, but hey... it's not like anyone ever gets tired of watching her, even in mediocre and predictable films like this).
What sound do you hate? Honking horns and train whistles... particularly in the middle of the night when I am trying to get some sleep.
What is your favorite curse word? Muthaf#@%er. I truly wish it wasn't but, whenever the shit hits the fan, that's the word that pops out of my mouth.
What profession other than yours would you like to attempt? Translator. I love words and languages, and it would be pretty cool to have a career that would allow me to travel the world, meet new people, experience new cultures, and learn new languages.
What profession would you not like to participate in? Politician. I'd rather die than be associated with the slimy crack-heads that seem to litter the American Political machine.
If heaven exists, what would you like to hear god say when you arrive at the pearly gates? Took you long enough, bitch! (I'd like to think that god has some street cred to him).
I just got an e-mail from some random guy I don't even know asking "Why in the heck do you like Elizabeth Hurley? She's a crap actress!" To which I respond... are you f#@%ing kidding me?
I stole this image of the brutally hot Ms. Hurley from the Sexy Sexy Elizabeth Hurley Pictures site.
Way back in mid-July, I got a notice saying that I had been selected for Jury duty on August 22. Since this is the busiest time of year for my work, I was thrilled to have to rearrange my schedule and cancel appointments just so I can show up and be excused (apparently my belief that all criminal offenses should be punishable by death doesn't make me a desirable jury candidate... go figure).
So, as instructed, I called the courthouse on the 22nd where a recorded message told me there was no trial and I should call back again on the 28th. Joy! I now get to rearrange all my shit again! But then the 28th rolls around and I call to find out there is still no trial. Okay then, I've done my part... I figure I'm safe from jury duty for at least another year, right? Heck no! I'm told to call a third time on September 3rd!
What the f#@%?? Excuse me, but apparently the Washington State Justice System has me confused with some loser that has nothing better to do than wait by the phone for them to find some criminal that needs hanging. I realize that Washington has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, but unless you want me to lose my job and become another unemployment statistic, you'd better re-think things. Do you really expect people to put their lives on hold for two weeks why you make up your mind as to whether I am going to be called in with one day's notice? How am I supposed to plan for that? This isn't Little House on the F#@%ing Prairie where people had nothing to do... this is the year 2003, where business moves at the speed of light, people have busy lives, and two weeks is way too long to have prospective jurors be on-call (I don't have the time to take that much vacation in a year).
What I learned from all this is that the people who made up this selection system obviously don't have enough to do, and perhaps they should be downsized. Including the calls I had to make, I've blown two-and-a-half weeks? If my tax dollars are going to pay for thinking up this kind of stupid shit, I'm going to have to stop paying taxes (which will happen anyway if I lose my job because I can't keep my schedule). Here's an idea... since all government records are computerized, why don't you cross-reference the unemployment database with the jury selection system and stop f#@%ing bothering those of us that have shit to do? Jury selection is supposed to be a "higher calling" that gets the public involved in the justice system (such as it is)... but the way you've got it set it up, jury duty is for losers with nothing to do.
Even if you hate motorcycles (poor sick bastard!) there is no way you cannot enjoy Discovery Channel's American Chopper! The constant drama generated by Paul Teutul and his son Paul Teutul Jr. is far more entertaining than most of the crap on television, and watching Paulie build these amazing bikes from the ground up will give you an appreciation for motorcycles you never knew you had. Thankfully, Discovery is going to release the first season on DVD so I can free up some room on my Tivo... but $144.95?? This set should be at least half that much.
1. What housekeeping chore(s) do you hate doing the most? Ironing. I am incapable of ironing a shirt, and it always ends up looking more wrinkled than when I started.
2. Are there any that you like or don't mind doing? Not really.
3. Do you have a routine throughout the week or just clean as it's needed? When needed.
4. Do you have any odd cleaning/housekeeping quirks or rules? DVDs must be kept in alphabetical order.
5. What was the last thing you cleaned? The glass on my television.
So I have to call a fourth time for potential jury duty yesterday and, guess what, they want me to come in on my last day for a one-day trial. Joy. Oh well, I had already rearranged my schedule, so it's not like I had anything major planned. But it sure would have been nice to have one day at work before the next three weeks of travel arrives. I get there and get selected for actual duty, so there goes that plan.
Law and Order it was not. It was a complete waste of time, and not the least bit entertaining. Even though we the jury felt that the defendant was probably guilty of some aspects of the charges, there was no way we could convict the guy when it came to the letter of the law we were instructed to follow. Not even.
What a joke. The arresting officer was unsure about things, the prosecutors didn't ask questions they should have... no overwhelming proof ever came. And I got the opinion that even the lead prosecutor had reasonable doubt as he was making his closing argument. You would think that "the people" would have went through the instructions we were given, saw that there was no damning evidence to prove their case, and thought twice before they brought this thing to trial and not waste our time and taxpayer money!
The worst part is that none of us on the jury really felt that justice was served, and I thought that was the entire point of all this.
Oooh! My Alias: The Complete First Season DVD set finally arrived yesterday, so I spent the entire evening watching Jennifer Gardner kick ass. But episodes of Alias are like M&Ms in that you can't eat just one... the hours clicked by and, before I knew it, the clock was reading 2:30am (damn them for ending each episode in a cliffhanger!). It's astounding that such a well-written, well-acted, and complex show can survive on television given the mentality of the American television audience (though I suppose the fact that Gardner is really pretty doesn't hurt). Even more surprising is just how deep the show is... layers and layers of twists and turns, with the show reinventing itself constantly to stay fresh and interesting. If you haven't seen Alias yet, then you are missing out on one of the best programs ever to hit television.
A while back I made note about the best bagels in the world coming from New York, and was just asked which shop there has my favorite. The easy answer is "all of them," because if you have bad bagels in New York City you aren't going to be around for very long! But, if pressed, I can say that the best I've found near to the Hilton Towers (where I usually stay) is Pick-A-Bagel on W. 57th. Of course, no discussion about New York bagels would be complete without mentioning H & H Bagels at 2239 Broadway, which is one of the most famous shops (deservedly so!), and I always eat there at least once when I'm in the city. Outside of New York City, my favorite bagel chain is Einstein Bros., but they don't have any locations in Washington, so I usually bump into them while traveling (I was pleasantly surprised to find an Einstein Bros. at the Detroit airport my last layover). My favorite bagel is sesame, lightly toasted and topped with a smear of cream cheese.
Looks like I finally managed to get in my motorcycle's 600 mile service at 1079 mile (oops). The ride over to Seattle was, uhhh... interesting... with driving rain, freezing wind, and wet roads. But though I was entirely miserable, I ended up having a total blast, so it's all good in the end.
But after all is said and done, there are lessons to be learned. First of all, it's probably a good idea to have some waterproof pants for riding in the rain. Second, mesh gloves are a really stupid idea in the cold. And third, there's no good way to keep road grime "mist" off your visor... wiping it with your gloves just smears it, and your can't just turn your head and have the wind blow it off like you can with rain. I'm going to have to look into a helmet with wipers or something(!).
My motorcycle goes in for service in the morning, and about all I am not looking forward to is braving the Seattle traffic. I don't care what anybody says, there is no worse traffic to be found anywhere.
Okay then. I can deal with the torrential rain and freezing wind... that's just part of riding a motorcycle. But the Seattle traffic I was dreading ended up being just as horrible as I imagined it would be. How bikers in Seattle can stand it, I will never know. The constant stop — go four feet — stop again cycle is sheer torture on a motorcycle, and 8 miles of it is complete agony. By the time I made it through, I felt like I had been beaten in the head with an exhaust pipe.
But there is good news to the day... all the little things that have been bugging me about my F650 GS were fixed right up by the capable service crew at RideWest BMW. And even more important, my heated grips finally arrived! Nothing is sweeter than having warm hands when the sun goes down. The apparel shop even had a solution for road grime obstructing my view... cool BMW Motoraad "Atlantis" gloves that have a nifty "windshield wiper" on the left index finger... just run it over your face shield and problem solved!
But the best part of the day was the ride home. Highway 2 out of Seattle has some truly beautiful scenery, and the road has just enough twisties to make for a fun ride without wearing you out. Makes me more than a little depressed that I have to be trapped in my car for the drive to Spokane tomorrow.
What I plan to be watching this Fall (well, not really -- with the exception of well-written, complex shows like Alias, Gilmore Girls, and West Wing -- I Tivo through a typical 30-minute show in about 10-15 minutes). Fortunately, I have a dual-tuner Tivo, so I can record two shows at once, but that doesn't save me for those times I really need three (which forces me to drop shows like "Tru Calling" and "Jake 2.0" which I might otherwise try out).
08:00-08:30 The Simpsons (FOX) I miss Futurama, FOX bastards!
09:00-10:00 Alias (ABC) One of the best on television!
10:00-11:00 The Lyon's Den (NBC) Amazing buzz, so I'll give it a try.
MAYBES: Arrested Development (Good reviews, interesting premise).
09:00-10:00 Las Vegas (NBC) Looks too good to be true, probably is.
09:00-10:00 Everwood (WB) Better than average angst-drama I Tivo through in 20 minutes.
10:00-11:00 CSI: Miami (CBS) Inferior CSI clone with the truly awful David Caruso.
MAYBES: Skin (surprisingly, a hit with the critics), Two and a Half Men (Sheen!).
08:00-09:00 Navy NCIS (CBS) JAG spin-off is worth a look.
08:00-09:00 Gilmore Girls (WB) 3-hrs. of television in a 1-hr. package!
GUESS NOT: I'm with Her (Fluff crap-fest romantic comedy I would have tried if it was in a better time slot).
08:00-09:00 Enterprise (UPN) Don't ask me why (okay, it's T'Pol!).
08:00-09:00 Smallville (WB) Not half bad, but getting there.
09:00-10:00 The West Wing (NBC) Hope it survives the lost of Sorkin!
09:00-10:00 Angel (WB) Vampirey goodness in every bite!
10:00-11:00 Karen Sisco (ABC) Excellent buzz.
WHAT THE-? Kind of wanted to see Jake 2.0, but not against TWW and Angel!
08:00-09:00 Survivor (CBS) Not-so-real reality television.
08:00-08:30 Friends (NBC) Let's run this one into the ground.
08:30-09:00 Scrubs (NBC) One of the few good comedies on television.
09:00-10:00 CSI (CBS) If they don't water it down for CSI: Miami, it's good.
09:00-10:00 The O.C. (FOX) The shame! I actually like this one!
10:00-11:00 Without a Trace (CBS) Mostly lame, but still watchable.
GUESS NOT: Coupling (wanted to see how they butcher the amazing BBC original, but not against The O.C. and CSI), Tru Calling (Eliza Dushku! but not until Survivor is over).
08:00-09:00 Miss Match (NBC) Usually hate this stuff, but it's Alicia, so I'll try.
08:00-09:00 Joan of Arcadia (CBS) Interesting idea, so I'll give it a shot.
09:00-10:00 JAG (CBS) Catherine Bell makes every show sweet.
10:00-11:00 The Handler (CBS) Joey Pants kicks ass!
GUESS NOT: Wanda at Large (love Wanda Sykes, but it's a crappy time slot).
Carnivale (HBO) David Lynchian type strangeness... I can't wait.
Six Feet Under (HBO) Kind of sliding, but a good watch.
Sex and the City (HBO) Approaching the finish line.
Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (BRAVO) A gay-ol' time.
Inside the Actor's Studio (BRAVO) James Lipton sucks up to the stars with both lips.
American Chopper (DISCOVERY) The drama! With motorcycles!
Monster Garage (DISCOVERY) Power tools gone horribly wrong on vehicles.
Monster House (DISCOVERY) Power tools gone horribly wrong on homes.
The Ellen DeGeneres Show (SYND) She was born for this crap.
Monk (USA) Tony Shaloub rocks.
I do not, of course, actually have time to watch all of this crap... but about half will drop out or be cancelled, so it all evens out in the end. A pretty good season, I think, which is actually a bad thing!
Well shucky darn! I noticed this morning that my exhaust pipes have discolored and are forming some freaky "bronze-looking" spots! My friend tells me that it's a reaction to the heat from the motorcycle being ridden hard, and that I should be proud of them looking like that. Well, I'm not "proud" I'm freaked out!! I want my Beamer to look beautifully perfect again!
I am told that some S100 Color Restorer and a lot of elbow grease will take care of it, so now I have to track down this miracle goop so I can have shiny pipes and be blissfully happy again.
I'm heading off to Iceland and Sweden in a couple of weeks, and decided to use a coupon I received to get a new GameBoy Advance SP to kill time on the plane. It's pretty sweet, but the games they have for it are simply amazing! Right now I am addicted to Final Fantasy Tactics which is more fun than Dungeon & Dragons ever was... incredible that such a deep and involving game could be fit into the palm of your hand!
If you've got a lot of time to waste, FFT-A is highly recommended! (screenshots were swiped from IGN).
1. Is the name you have now the same name that's on your birth certificate? If not, what's changed? Same name... "David Simmer II," though I usually leave off the "II" at the end for day-to-day use.
2. If you could change your name (first, middle and/or last), what would it be? I had changed my name for some comic book work I did to "Maach Allon Dyson," but wouldn't change it to that permanently.
3. Why were you named what you were? (Is there a story behind it? Who specifically was responsible for naming you?) I was named after my father, but my parents didn't want me to be "Junior" so that's how I got "II" after my name.
4. Are there any names you really hate or love? What are they and why? I like the name Emily quite a lot for a woman, but don't know why.
5. Is the analysis of your name at kabalarians.com/triggur.org/astroexpert accurate? How or how isn't it? The kabalarians.com analysis is laughably inaccurate for the most part...
Your first name of David has given you a very practical, hard-working, systematic nature (well that's true). Your interests are focused on technical, mechanical, and scientific things (also true), to the exclusion of interests of an artistic, musical, or social nature (load of crap... I am an artist for a living and love social interaction!). You have a rather skeptical outlook on life and rather materialistic standards (not really... I study Buddhist teachings which is the exact opposite of this). In reaching your goals, you are very independent and resourceful, patient and determined (as my friends will tell you, I am one of the most IMPATIENT people on earth!). You can be so very positive and definite in your own ideas and opinions that others sense a lack of tact and friendliness in your manner of expression (not really... I strive very hard to see other people's opinions, which comes from all the foreign travel I take). You are inclined to be rather demanding and self-centred in your personal wants, and your own desires can be so overriding that you fail to recognize or appreciate the feelings, opinions, or desires of others (not me at all... in fact, this goes against much of what I stand for). As a consequence, difficulties in relations within the family or with close associates can arise (whatever).
Given how bad that analysis is, I think I'll skip the other two.
I just read an article (link broken) about some moron in Quebec who took a bear cub from it's mother because he wanted a pet. The cub's constant cries did not deter the man from beating the baby bear, nor half drowning it in an attempt to "domesticate" the poor thing. Idiotic acts like this are truly heartbreaking, and any person that could so cruelly mistreat an animal just doesn't belong on this earth. It's one thing when people do this kind of crap to each other, but quite another when f#@%ing freaks torture innocent animals. I mean, what a worthless piece garbage this sorry excuse for a human being is... and the most he can get is a $2000 fine? What about just shooting the bastard as a service to society? I often wonder where humans are moving towards as a species, and it seems every day I read something that has me convinced it should be extinction... I just hope we don't take the rest of the planet with us.
Here is something I don't ever want to hear from anybody ever again: "Sorry, I didn't see you." I only started riding again two months ago, and have lost count of the number of times that inattentive drivers have nearly ran into me, turned into my path of travel, or performed some other illegal act that could get me killed. And, if they bother to acknowledge it at all, the excuse is always "I didn't see you." They justify their error as if it were my fault they weren't paying attention? What the f#@%?
Now, you will get no argument from me that motorcycles are not as easy to see as a car. None at all. But it isn't an excuse to plow into me, as "smaller" does not mean "invisible." Because, if you subscribe to that logic, anything smaller than a car is fair game... bicyclists, skateboarders, inline skaters, and even pedestrians! The simple fact is that it is a huge responsibility to sit behind the wheel of a vehicle that is, in actuality, a lethal killing machine if you aren't paying 100% attention to the job at hand.
Case in point: last night as I was riding home, I was nearly in an accident because some woman was paying more attention to her kids than the road. As she was taking off from her stop to turn into my lane, she barely even glanced my direction because she was turned around handling her kids in the back seat. Yes, that's right, she was facing the back of the car as she was starting out into a turn. Fortunately, I was paying attention, saw that the she wasn't looking, and was able to make a fast stop before I plowed into her dumb ass. Half-way through the turn, she finally looks up to see me screeching to a halt and then slams on her brakes as well. She then looks directly at me and mouths "Sorry, I didn't see you" while shaking her head apologetically and then speeding off.
Well, duh, dumbass, but don't act like it's such a big mystery. You didn't see me because you weren't looking! And it's supposed to be my fault because my motorcycle is smaller than a car? Well, I have news for you... I've gone through that intersection many, many other times and nobody else "didn't see me." And do you know why? THEY WERE PAYING ATTENTION!! They weren't screaming at their kids, talking on their cell phone, rummaging through their glove box, reading a book, eating a taco, or doing their nails. They were watching the road like they were supposed to be doing!
And lest you think I am just whining here, I just read an article which makes it clear this is a widespread problem. A woman in an SUV (of course) wasn't paying attention and slammed into the back of a motorcycle that was slowing for a turn, knocked the rider off, and then proceeded to run over him. So now a man is dead, because a woman didn't see something that was right in front of her. And the punishment for killing the guy? 30 months of performing "acts of kindness and generosity," whatever the heck that means. THE GUY DIDN'T DO ANYTHING WRONG AND IS DEAD! And this slap on the wrist is considered suitable punishment? Didn't see the motorcycle? I don't buy it. A motorcycle is bigger and more visible than a person and yet, if she ran over a pedestrian, she'd probably pay a hell of a fine, lose her license for a while, and maybe even end up serving jail time. Pretty sad that motorcyclists always seem to take the blame and pay the price... especially when they pay with their lives... because people in cars don't feel they have to pay attention.
I am Adobe's biggest fan... really I am. I cannot imagine how difficult my job would be if I didn't have Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesgin, GoLive, and the rest. But, all things considered, Adobe's response to technical issues sucks ass. Problems I have been begging to have fixed since Illustrator version 5 are still unresolved. And now I read that Illustrator version 11 is just about to be released, and find myself dreading what new problems will pop up (or still be unresolved from previous versions) that will make me want to open a can of whup-ass on the programming team (hey, they put their names on the start-up splash screen, so they're just begging for a beating!). Here's my top-six list of most irritating problems (a full list would fill this blog for days!)...
Allow me to turn off clipboard export. For years now I have been begging to be able to turn off clipboard export like you can in Photoshop.
Remember the print area and page size. Adobe will probably blame OS X for this, but I am really tired of opening a document, printing it, then finding out that it's been cut off because Illustrator "forgets" the page size.
Stop hanging from an app-switch. How much time have I wasted because every time I come into Illustrator from another app, Illustrator gives me the "spinning beach ball" cursor for up to two full minutes? I don't know, but considering every time you print a page, you have to temporarily switch from Illustrator, it adds up to a lot.
Fix the pen tool to remember path ends. This drives me insane... in Photoshop, if you place a point in the wrong spot and nudge it with the cursor, you can continue on as if nothing happened. In Illustrator, you place a new point after doing that and you start a new path. That's just dumb.
Fix the flattening engine. Now, I know that Illustrator has grown into a very complicated program with transparency modes, multi-node gradients, and such... but it's really a pisser to never know when you send to the printer exactly what's going to come out.
Give me the option of having Apple-H hide the program. This command-key shortcut should work like all the other Mac apps out there (Adobe programs excluded).
With so much crap on television, it's always a pleasant surprise when something worth watching comes along. Not so surprising is when these shows come from HBO, where quality seems to be more important than dumbing down to the lowest common denominator (namely, the American television audience). Well, after Sex and the City and Six Feet Under, they appear to have struck gold once again with Carnivale. It's an odd David-Lynchian-type mix of The Stand with little touches of Pulp Fiction and even The X-Files tossed in for good measure.
The story focuses on a traveling carnival who takes in what appears to be a prison escapee named Ben who has some pretty amazing supernatural talents, but the carnival itself is not quite what it seems. On the other end of the spectrum is a preacher who appears to be getting signs from God, but other happenings may be suggesting otherwise. And, of course, everybody has secrets and a past that's begging to be explored.
Bonuses include appearances by the talented Patrick Bauchau, Amy Madigan, and Nick Stahl in the lead. If you like unusually good television that is just left of mainstream, this is worth a look.
So what do you do when your competition (Apple) releases a cool new 64 bit RISC chip and you (Intel) are still addling along with yesterday's CISC technology at 32 bits? Why that's easy... have your Chief Technology Officer come out and say that people aren't ready for 64 bits yet! If you think that makes Intel sound like a frickin' idiot, I'd have to agree... and so does AMD, who already has their CISC stuff running at 64 bits. The really stupid thing is that Intel would have been better served by not saying anything... their Windows-using customers should be used to running crappy, outdated technology.
Well, I guess summer is over. Last night I had to add a blanket to my bed, and this morning I nearly froze for the quick 12-minute trip to Wenatchee (except the palms of my hands, which were toasty-warm thanks to my heated grips!). And even worse than either of those pre-winter tragedies, I ran across this typical scenario:
A small girl with a pink backpack, short-sleeved shirt, and no coat stands shivering at the crosswalk waiting to cross the street and go to school. Car after car just drives on by, leaving her standing there. Never mind that you're supposed to stop for pedestrians because it's the law... it's just the right thing to do. I mean, come on! If you're in a car, you're protected from the elements and even have a heater if it gets too bad. You probably even have a hot cup of coffee to keep you company for the morning commute. So what's your excuse for not stopping to let a little girl out in the cold cross cross the street? Well, I have news for you: unless somebody is dying in the back seat, YOU DON'T HAVE AN EXCUSE!
So when I get to the walk, I stop to let her cross, but cars coming from the other direction continue to drive past so she has to stand there. What the f#@% is wrong with you people? Eventually some person with a lick of sense in their head finally stops so the girl can go, but then the car behind me decides to honk their horn! As if it isn't bad enough that people don't bother to stop, now I have some COMPLETE f#@%ING MORON honking because I won't run down a little girl in the middle of the street? How in the heck am I supposed to react to stupid shit like that?
Since my Sony DCS-85 camera has been commandeered at work, I decided to let them have it and buy a new camera for my impending vacation. After countless hours on DP Review (the best resource for digital cameras I've found), I finally decided I wanted the smallest camera I could find that took the best pictures possible for the size. That led me to the Canon PowerShot S400, which is quite a bit smaller than my Sony was.
As with all modern day cameras, it's astoundingly complex to operate. There are dials, menus, buttons, wheels, and a hundred options for each one. The good news is that it seems fairly idiot-proof for basic shooting, so I think we'll get along just fine. Here is my first picture (which happens to be photo of my other favorite new toy) taken through an office window on an overcast day:
1. Who is your favorite singer/musician? After all these years, I still love Depeche Mode's music above all others. Why? At a time when I was going through a very difficult period, DM's music made my life a little better.
2. What one singer/musician can you not stand? There are so many... most of them country, but I think Garth Brooks is at the top of the list. Why? I hate that twangy crap, and Garth Brooks' popularity made life unbearable for several years a while back.
3. If your favorite singer wasn't in the music business, do you think you would still like him/her as a person? I have seen Depeche Mode in concert a few times, but don't know any of them personally, so I couldn't say.
4. Have you been to any concerts? Many. If yes, who put on the best show? Unquestionably the best concert I have ever seen was Depeche Mode's 101 tour. It was amazing in every way, and sounded better live than most bands sound in a studio. Fortunately, they released the concert on video AND released the soundtrack, so I can re-live the experience whenever I want.
5. What are your thoughts on downloading free music online vs. purchasing albums? Do you feel the RIAA is right in its pursuit to stop people from dowloading free music? I feel that artists deserve to be paid for their work. If they can't make a living at it, then how will they be able to make more music? But the RIAA is full of crap for going after music traders... it's the wrong approach, and they should solve the problem by offering a better solution than stealing. I try to own all the music I listen to, but sometimes it is just not possible, so I find a source to download it. For instance, if I want the album "Living in the Background" by Baltimora, but there is no way to buy it... it's long out of print, and I can't even order it. All I can do is pay $100 to somebody on eBay (of which -$0- goes to the artist) which is absurd (especially since they probably just ripped an MP3 from it before they sold it anyway!). If record companies made their entire libraries available for digital download at a reasonable price, I think that music theft would drop dramatically. But, being the greedy, controlling, bastards they are... they'd rather have the RIAA do their dirty work and go after people who don't really have much choice than to steal tunes they can't buy.
The United States government is guilty of many travesties, but the thing that never seems to be addressed anymore is our MIA/POW's. Why in the heck would anybody want to serve this country knowing that they could be abandoned and forgotten is an mystery to me. Those that fought so hard to preserve our freedoms deserve far better than that, regardless of the political situations contributing to them having gone missing. Do I approve of war? Absolutely not. But right or wrong, America should take care of those that take care of us, and anything less is unacceptable. For far too long families and friends of loved ones Missing In Action or taken Prisoner Of War have been left waiting, with our government doing little to nothing to help. On this MIA/POW recognition day, get informed and find out what you can do to give voice to those our own government refuses to hear.
I should have learned my lesson. The last time I bought a Panasonic product, it was an S-VHS VCR that never worked right, even after sending it out for service twice. 10 years later I wanted a DVD recorder, and read a number of reviews which said that the Panasonic DMR-E80H was the best model to get. Turns out it is yet another Panasonic pile of shit. I could not get a DVD-R to burn without getting a fatal error, so I call tech support and am told to try a different brand of media... well, I've tried four different brands now, including the DVD that came with the unit, wasting $50, and have nothing to show for it but a stack of ruined DVDs. PANASONIC IS CRAP. I WILL NEVER BUY ANOTHER PANASONIC PRODUCT EVER. About the only thing worse than their products is their tech support, which is laughably bad considering you are on hold for 20 minutes waiting to talk to anybody. So now I am completely stuck, and have no choice but to send a brand new unit in for service. I can only hope that I have a working DVD recorder waiting for me when I return from Sweden, not that it will change my mind about Panasonic products being absolute and total crap.
There are so many things that piss me off, but I work real hard to maintain a sense of calm through it all. Then along comes that one little straw that breaks the camel's back and pushes me into thermonuclear meltdown. Today it happens to be people stealing images from my web site. Actually, if they were to just steal the images, I probably wouldn't be that upset... but they don't. Instead, they just link to the graphic on my site so it displays on their site, but I'm still paying to host it! I tell you, it takes a real ass-wipe to not only steal from you, but then continue to charge you for the theft! No permission, no credit given, just idiots who are working overtime to make the internet suck for the rest of us.
Case in point is a site called "Bluemira" that appears to be from some 10 year-old girl in Germany or something. Somebody who slaps together a lame-ass web site, and then steals all the content, including numerous images from my Hard Rock Cafe pages. What a piece of shit! And, after checking my web logs, I see that this is fairly common... I have HUNDREDS of illegal requests for the various images I've got on my site, some of them really unlikely (stealing from my MIA/POW pages... what the heck?).
If you're going to take an image without permission, well fine. That's kinda the internet for you. But at least attribute it to where it came from... AND HOST IT ON YOUR OWN SITE SO I DON'T HAVE TO PAY FOR YOUR TRAFFIC!
What a dilemma! I'm using the restroom at the Detroit airport during a layover. As I finish washing my hands, a guy comes from using the urinal and doesn't wash his hands, nearly running over me on his way out. A few seconds later, I emerge to see the same guy approaching some other guy he apparently knows, reaching out to shake his hand. Now, it occurs to me that I'd probably like to be told if I was about to shake some guy's hand after he's been touching his piece, so it's in my mind to scream out a warning, but what in the heck do you say in a situation like this? I mean, the guy probably has urine and heaven only knows what else splashed on that hand! Even sicker is the fact that it was lunch-time, and this guy probably went on to grab a bite to eat.
Earlier today I was heading to a business dinner in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and noticed that right next door to the restaurant was an Indian Motorcycle dealership. One of the guys at dinner rides, so he said we should go take a look. As we head over, he drops the bomb and tells me that he just heard on the radio that Indian had closed up shop (again) and was looking into bankruptcy.
So here I am looking at these beautiful machines just sick at the thought that these are probably the last motorcycles the dealership is likely to get (an excellent opportunity to jack up the price!). Indian has been around longer than Harley-Davidson, and it seems tragic that as Harley celebrates their 100 year anniversary that a pretty nifty piece of the competition is going to disappear. A quick internet search reveals that Indian is still looking to work their way out of bankruptcy, and may yet weather this storm. I sure hope that somebody with deep pockets and an appreciation for this American classic comes calling.
The above image of the amazing Indian Scout was grabbed from the official Indian Motorcycles web site.
Here I am in sunny Baltimore, killing time before my flight to Iceland. For lunch I decided to pop into the Hard Rock and see what's new. Much to my surprise, the Veggie Sandwich is BACK! Much to my horror, it is not the same! First of all, it's not on their famous icebox bread... it's on a crusty roll. So every time you take a bite, the avacado and other goodies go squishing out of it. Second of all, it's much smaller and doesn't come with fries or a baked potato (which, I'm told, they don't even offer anymore). And to top it all off, my chocolate shake was not thick and frosty, it was runny and sloppy (and only 3/4 the way full... there was nearly more whipped cream than actual shake!). So what in the heck is going on at the Hard Rock? It seems they are more about the souvenirs and gift shop than the food anymore, and that sucks!
I arrived at Keflavek Airport at 6am via Iceland Air out of Baltimore, almost a half-hour earlier than scheduled (must be nice to come and go as you please, since you don't really have to worry about disrupting schedules of other airlines in Iceland... heck, are there any others?). The airport is pretty nice, actually, with my luggage arriving at baggage claim just minutes after I got off the plane. It was -3 degrees Celcius with a nice frost covering the area, which is a big difference from the 80 degrees I left in Maryland. The capitol city of Reykjavik is about 40 minutes away via "FlyBus," which runs continuously from the airport at tight intervals. Iceland must have an abundance of electrical energy, because the entirety of the highway leading to the city is well-lit... one might even say "overly-lit"... with a glittering path of streetlights strung out over a barren wasteland in-between.
I decided to stay at the Hotel Loftledir because it is the end-line location for the bus (which means I might get an extra hour of sleep, since I won't have to shuttle in tomorrow morning). The hotel is nice enough... neat and clean, with non-smoking rooms available that are smaller than what we would get in the States, yet fairly standard for Europe. The odd thing is the smell that permeates the place, which is kind of like a lingering fart that won't dissipate. Ends up that this is a sulfur odor from the heating, which is geo-thermal steam from nearby geysers. The smell is also in the hot water, which is piped directly from under the country. After half a day, I stopped noticing the smell so much, but it's still a bizarre kind of reminder that you're not at home.
Probably my favorite part of exploring the city was when I ran across this cat who was smarter than most people I meet. After saying hello, he ran up the side of a building into a window to observe life in the city from a new perspective.
And I also ran across the best use for a top-level domain I've ever seen (Iceland is ".is" for the native spelling of "Island").
The Hard Rock Reykjavik is located in the Kringlan Mall complex, east of the city center, but just a 15 minute walk from my hotel. The cafe itself is quite nice in a classical sense... plenty of wood, with memorabilia crammed in every nook and cranny (sometimes in interesting and inventive ways). The chocolate shake here was excellent, but different than I was used to (there were flakes of chocolate inside!). I wasn't hungry enough to eat anything except a side of fries so I have no idea about the food. Service was nothing special, as the staff seemed far more interested in dusting and cleaning than tending to patrons, but at least they were friendly when they did pop 'round.
The merchandise shop is fairly large for an older property, but all that space is wasted because there were NO LARGE T-SHIRTS!! As if that weren't bad enough there were also NO CITY T-SHIRTS in any size!! And when I asked about it, I was told they have been waiting for stock for nearly two months! The money from T-Shirt sales is gravy for a Hard Rock, so it's almost as if the management decided to ceremoniously burn a couple of hundred dollars every day in lost sales. Every time I run into something stupid like this, I'm left wondering if the cafe in question cannot afford to purchase new shirts and will soon be going out of business (this logic comes from actual experience at Planet Hollywood locations that were eventually closed).
Oh well, I'm still quite happy to have visited the city of Reykjavik and the Hard Rock here... after all, how many people can say they've been to Iceland?
The early flight from Reykjavik was uneventful except for the second security screening you get upon arrival to Arlanda Airport Stockholm (which seemed no more thorough than what I got at Keflavek Airport, but oh well). I opted to take the Arlanda Express Train into the city, which is a quick 20 minutes and 180 kroner (about $25 US)... it arrives at Central Station, just a block from my hotel, which is sweet because I didn't have to shell out for a taxi.
It's now 2am and I've just come back from a night out with some new Hard Rock friends I met through my web site. I guess this is one of those times that I'm glad I'm still on US Pacific time, because I'm still good to go! The club scene here is not so different from most anywhere else in Europe... American music and American fashion mixed with a little local flavor for an experience that's much like home, but with enough oddities to remind you that you're a long ways from Kansas.
Since Stockholm is outrageously expensive it was decided we would take a break in the evening to eat at McDonalds, which is far less money than ordering a bite to eat at a club. I tried their "Blueberry & Vanilla Pie" and was surprised to see that they are still frying their pies here... unlike in the States where they've switched to those baked crusts that taste like dried paste. From a health standpoint, I'm sure the frying is worse off, but they sure taste a hell of a lot better!
Before meeting my friends, I took a quick walk through the surrounding area and made a dash through the northern section of Gamla Stan ("Old Town"), which is quite remarkable. Assuming I can drag myself out of bed in the morning, I think I'll head back down and see the Royal Palace... check out a few museums (the Museum of Modern Art here is supposed to be a good one)... then head over to "Vasa Museet" which is supposed to be a cool restoration of the sunken ship "Vasa."
I felt fine last night, but somehow ended up with a hangover anyway. I don't know if it's some kind of jet lag or what, because I didn't think I had that much to drink. In any event, my plans to get up early and explore the city were dashed, as I didn't haul my carcass out of bed until 10:00.
It rained for much of the morning, which was fine by me since I was planning on spending my time in museums. I started by taking a taxi to "Vasa Museet" which is just as incredible as the guidebooks lead you to believe... they managed to restore this old ship after it sat underwater for quite a long time, and it's pretty humbling to stand beside such a masterpiece of workmanship. From there I headed over to the "Nordiska Museet" which is filled with all kinds of crap from everyday living in Sweden over the years... clothes, toys, dishes, tableware, furniture, and just about everything else you can imagine... and found it to be much cooler than I thought it would be. Then it was off to The National Museum so I could take a look at their lone Monet (not really one of his better paintings) and the rest of their collection (which was interesting, but lacking in the areas I like the most).
It was then that I received quite a shock: The Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Architecture are both closed for renovations! That sucks ass! Those were definitely in my top-ten-to-do-list while I was here, and they don't open until 2004! Harsh. I decided to console myself with lunch at Pizza Hut, which may seem like a total cop-out but, since I am vegetarian (and Swedish dishes all seem to be filled with fish), it was better than nothing (though the service was so bad I was wishing I had chose nothing). Lastly, I took a stroll through Gamla Stan (Old Town) and saw the Royal Palace and Treasury.
I've spotted a few motorcycles around, and many times they are BMW, which has me a bit homesick for my own ride back home. I kind of envy local bikers, because the surrounding area must be amazing for countryside riding. And Stockholm knows how to treat motorcyclists right, because I see "motorcycle parking" areas from time to time... that rocks!
Tonight my friends are once again taking me for a night out on the town. One of the girls has to travel in the morning, so we're going to cut the evening short around 11:00. This garnered a few apologies, as I am told that this is when things just start to get going in Stockholm on a Saturday night! Maybe I am just getting old, but I am not too sad about that. Any later, and I am wrecked the next day. At least I got to see the Hard Rock Cafe, at last...
BIZARRE! As I sit here in my hotel room typing this, I hear somebody whistling the tune from "The Andy Griffith Show." I was thinking perhaps that it might be some bored American tourist, but instead see that it is a one of the maintenance staff. How nice that American "historical culture" is thriving with the locals.
Since it was an early night last night I was up a little earlier than usual, and decided to explore a little more of Old Town. True to form, the minute my feet touched Gamla Stan, it started to rain (just as it has the past two days). Perhaps the Norse gods just don't want me in that part of the city because, within an hour of leaving it, the rain stopped.
It was then that I decided to find a T-Bana (subway) and Bus route that would take me to the Royal Palace at Drottningholm (about ten miles outside of Stockholm). While buying a few postcards, I wanted to extend my conversation with the stunningly beautiful sales clerk, so I asked her about my plan. She suggested that it might be nice to take the steamship, which ended up being across the street from my hotel. So, 45 minutes (and 110 kroner) later, I am at Drottningholm Palace. It's nice and everything but, once you've been to Versaille, there isn't much else that can compete (especially when you paint fake "marble" over wood instead of using the real stuff!).
Back in chilly Stockholm I took a walk through the city until I got a bit hungry, then decided to have dinner at a cafe (pretty much bread rolls with cheese and some tea). That was when the moment I always dread happens... I run into other American tourists. Here is about what happened:
Loud American: (screaming to her husband) UGH! THIS HOT CHOCOLATE IS HORRIBLE... BITTER!!
Me: (using a thick, generic, pan-European accent) Excuse me, but zhat ees why ze waiter brought ze bottel of shugar... like your coffee, you may sveeten it as you like [Translation: Hey you loud, obnoxious stereotype, if you would take two seconds to look at your table, you would notice that the waiter has brought you some sugar for your hot chocolate. They do this so that you can sweeten it to your liking, instead of forcing a hot cup of sugar water on your lazy ass like they do in the USA].
Loud American: THAT'S CRAZY!!! I THOUGHT THAT THIS CHOCOLATE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE THE BEST IN THE WORLD!!!
Me: Perhaps you are theenking of Sweetzerland, no? [Translation: Don't you even know what country you are in, moron? Or is anything outside of the US just "Not America" and that's all you care about? No wonder the rest of the world hates us].
Loud American: YES, SWISS CHOCOLATE!!!
Me: But thees ees Sweden, it ees entirely a deeferent country. [Translation: Just how big of an idiot are you really? Please do America a favorite and take your next vacation to Disneyland so the rest of us who actually give a crap about life outside the United States don't have to pay for your ignorance].
Bloated American Bitch: OH HA HA HAAAA! THAT'S RIGHT!! Your English is very good! Are you from Stockholm?
Me: No. I am from Mazbekistan. Goodbye. [Translation: Since you obviously haven't a clue, I will just make up a name of a country so that you can spend the rest of your vacation wondering if you just spoke with a terrorist].
Oh how I loathe ignorant, arrogant, American tourist idiots.
Argh. Just one more day in Sweden would have been sweet but, all good things must come to an end, so now I'm back home. As sad as I am that the vacation is over, I am really, really happy to be able to ride my motorcycle again. It was like a punch in the gut every time I saw a Beamer cruising past the streets of Stockholm and, now that I've been riding, I dread the next trip where I have to spend time apart from my ride. Heaven only knows how freaked out I'm going to be when the snow hits.
The worst part about leaving for vacation when I did was the start of the Fall television season, so now my Tivo is completely stacked to the max. The good news is that most of the crap could be immediately deleted... case in point: Coupling. The original version out of the U.K. is one of my most favorite programs, so I was a little worried about how badly it would translate for American television. Well, all fears were justified, as the program is complete and total crap. They've destroyed it. The acting is abysmally bad... even from Rena Soffer, who was amazing in "Oh Grow Up." No spark. No timing. No ANYTHING. And I don't think I would feel any different if I hadn't seen the BBC original either... this show is just plain bad.
Fortunately, Alias was as excellent as always. Why in the hell doesn't this show get better ratings? It's got everything... hot women beating the crap out of people, mystery, intrigue, action, drama... amazing acting and writing talent. If only they would ditch the stupid "Marshall" character (why in the hell does every show have to put an idiot in it?). Tired of the same old boring television? Watch Alias... it completely changes every 4 episodes!
I just took the "Political Compass Test" and found out that my political leanings are in line with Ghandi, the Dalai Lama, and Nelson Mandela. I couldn't ask for nicer company.
Why is it that so many people feel the need to stick their nose in other people's business? While waiting in Detroit for my flight back from Stockholm the other day, I purchased a few magazines to have something to + ahem + read... namely, Maxim and Maxim Stuff. I sat down and just started reading an interview with the babealicious lawyer from JAG, Catherine Bell, when some hippie woman across from me has to interrupt:
Uptight Moron: That's not a magazine, it's pornography!
Me: Nobody asked you.
Uptight Moron: I think you should take your smut someplace where children aren't present.
Me: NEWSFLASH: ABSOLUTELY NOBODY CARES WHAT YOU THINK... so shut up and stop bothering me.
She then got up and left in disgust, while some people around me started laughing. I thought for sure she'd end up in the seat next to me on my flight, but sometimes you just get lucky and I never saw her again.
Now look, I am not one to pass my morals (or lack thereof) on other people, and all I ask in return is that you give me the same courtesy. If you feel women in bikinis are pornography, then go protest at a beach somewhere... that's freedom of expression and I'm fine with it. But don't go shoving your "thinking" in my face because, unless you are somebody I know or respect, I just don't give a shit.
Images above were stolen from the Maxim Magazine and Stuff Magazine web sites. Both magazines are packed with high entertainment value, so I recommend picking up several copies.
1. What vehicle do you drive? A 2003 BMW F650-GS motorcycle (though I will be driving my 1999 Saturn SC-2 once the weather turns to snow).
2. How long have you had it? The motorcycle since June of this year (about 3-1/2 months), the car for just over 4 years now.
3. What is the coolest feature on your vehicle? Well, everything is cool about my motorcycle... but if forced to choose right now, I'd have to say the heated hand grips (as it's getting pretty cold, especially in the mornings). As for my car, I'd have to say it's best feature is reliability (I have not had a single problem with it since I bought it).
4. What is the most annoying thing about your vehicle? For my motorcycle, I'd have to say the fact that I won't be able to ride it in the winter is annoying (well, I could ride it, but I wouldn't feel at all safe doing so). The Saturn SC-2 has a few annoyances: 1) The sun visors don't extend into the gap above the rear-view mirror (stupid). 2) It has a turning radius of a semi-truck with two trailers (you make a LOT of 3-point turns with this car). 3) There is no way to turn off the freakin' car alarm if you don't have the key fob... even if you have an actual key (really stupid). 4) The side mirror for the passenger is electronically controlled, but the driver's mirror is manual (and a tough reach... even with long arms like mine). 5) The seats should be more adjustable for taller people like me (hey, I understand Japanese cars not really "fitting" us giant gai-jin, but Saturns are made in America!).
5. If money were no object, what vehicle would you be driving right now? Well, for my motorcycle, I am driving my dream machine right now (though, it's still new, so if you ask me again next year that may change! Heaven only knows I've been dreaming of Ducati and Harleys most of my life!). As for my car... that's tough. Probably a BMW Z4 Roadster 3.0i. Or maybe a Porsche Carrera GT (though I wouldn't refuse a 911 Turbo!). Then there's the Jaguar X-Type that I've liked for a very long time. And if we're talking vintage, there's always the 1967 Corvette 427 (and I wouldn't care if it was the Coupe or the Big Block Roadster!). Ack! I haven't even got to the Alfa Romeo 156 GTA or the Audi TT! The list goes on and on... I love the artistic lines of a great sports car, but if I ever were insane enough to sell everything I own (and go into debt for the rest of my life) to own one... I'd probably be too paranoid to ever drive it anywhere. That's why I stick with cars like my Saturn. Sure I would be upset if somebody plowed into it, but I wouldn't be devastated the way I would if I had my dream car. Motorcycles are a little different, because the risk of driving one is so much higher than a car in the first place that I figured I might as well go for that BMW I've wanted for the past 14 years!!
Let's see... Vampires vs. Werewolves? Cool. An ancient blood feud that comes to a head in modern times? Very cool. Kate Beckinsale in skin-tight latex beating the crap out of people and shooting everything in sight with automatic weapons? Off-the-hook cool. The movie Underworld, which features all three? Laughably bad.
What in the hell happened that such an amazing concept could be ruined so resoundingly? Well, with the exception of Kate, who looks amazing and plays the brooding bad girl perfectly... the acting is just over-the-top bad. Every character tries to be kind of an intense psycho-goth, but ends up funny instead. On top of that, it appears that budgetary constraints must have not allowed for decent special effects, because everything kind of has a retro-1970's look that is also funny. And now I read they are working on a sequel... so I hope they get the money to do it right, because a great vampire vs. werewolf film is something that has been missing in my life (I get women in skin-tight latex beating the crap out of me all the time).
I just finished revising my Hard Rock Cafe pages at DaveCafe.com so that I could add my latest visits to Reykjavik and Stockholm and alter the layout a bit so that it looks a little better on larger displays. There's still some work to do in adding the pins, maps, and stuff, but at least things are current! It's always a mixed bag when doing updates like this...
THE GOOD: It's kind of cool sorting through the seventy-eight cafe's I've visited around the world, remember all the great cities, countries, and cafes I've been to over the years thanks to my HRC obsession!
THE BAD: I hate having to spend hours trying to figure out how to make pages render properly in Microsoft internet Explorer! I always start with Apple's Safari, then move on to Opera, OmniWeb, Netscape Navigator, Camino, and every other browser I can think of, testing to make sure things look right. For the most part, I never run into any problems UNTIL I fire up Explorer. There's always some stupid quirk with the browser that makes no sense. This time, I had a graphic set to a width of "100%" in the top-most row of a cell set to "Automatic" width, and Explorer becomes the piece of shit it really is, rendering the page completely wrong. After over two hours, I figure out what's happening, then changed the width of the graphic to a set pixel-width, and now Explorer is just fine. WHAT THE F#@%?? That doesn't make a lick of sense! It's a bug, it's probably been a bug for a very long time, and Microsoft has absolutely no incentive to fix it because they just don't care. They own the market, they have the monopoly, and so you have to play by their rules... wasting your time to figure out all the problems they're too damn lazy and arrogant to fix. When in the hell are people going to wake up and figure out that Microsoft's bug-ridden shit software and complete lack of security in their OS just isn't worth it?
Okay then... I just experienced the most terrifying moment to date while riding my motorcycle, and this time it had nothing to do with oblivious car-drivers!
I was on my way home and had just gotten to an intersection when two kids on bikes came speeding across the street right in front of me... they didn't stop, didn't look, didn't even slow down! They came from behind a building, so I just barely saw them in time to perform an emergency stop and keep from plowing into that first stupid kid. If I were driving my car, I honestly think I would have probably killed or seriously injured one (or maybe even both) of the idiots, because you're just not as alert as you have to be when riding a motorcycle.
So, on one hand, it's nice to know that I have the instincts to do a hard brake without dumping my ride (there certainly wasn't time to think about it!). And I am more glad than ever that I took the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic Rider Course so I had actually practiced the skills needed to stop like that. But there is something completely terrifying in the realization that I could have killed somebody if I were even a little bit off my game today... even if it wouldn't have been my fault that these kids didn't have the sense to stop before crossing a busy street during 5:00 traffic.
As some of you might already know, my friend Meagan created her own "photo booth" using an iMac, a video camera, and a custom AppleScript, which we've dubbed Meagan's Video Embarrassment Booth. It is from this nifty invention that I have the little photos of me that litter this blog.
Well, Meagan is at it again, but this time she's being even more crafty in obtaining photos of her subjects (victims?). This morning I fired up an iChat to ask her about an odd problem I was having with Adobe Illustrator, and about 20 minutes later, THIS arrived in my e-mail...
Since the only way I would willingly have my photo taken in her booth was to be too drunk to care, I always thought I had a good excuse as to why my photos looked so goofy. But I was perfectly sober when the above iChat was going on, so I suppose now I have no excuse at all. Thanks a lot Meagan!
I've never really been interested in how other people set up their desktop but, since I had somebody ask, I thought I'd put up a snapshot of mine just in case there's anybody reading this that is curious for some reason (I've got a 23" display, so I had to shrink it quite a lot... sorry!).
Everything is pretty basic, but I do have quite a lot of Konfabulator Widgets stuck here and there... I've got "Calendar," "What To Do?" list, "Where is It?" search bar, "easyKal" appointment lister, "Picture Frame," and seven copies of "The Weather" set for various cities around the globe (currently: Cashmere, Seattle, San Francisco, New York, Edinburgh, Paris, and Tokyo). I've also got DragThing running along the left-hand side (it's a "must-have"), and LaunchBar going in the upper-right corner.
I used to have my desktop cycle through my photo album, but eventually gave that up as too distracting (preferring the less annoying Konfabulator widget instead). My current screensaver of choice is SereneScreen Marine Aquarium which is pretty darn special.
1. Do you watch sports? Not really. If so, which ones? Does "The Amazing Race" count?
2. What/who are your favorite sports teams and/or favorite athletes? If forced to choose, I'd have to say the Seattle Mariners are about as close as I can get to having a favorite sports team (when they're playing well, that is). As for athletes... gee, there are so many good role models out there right now... where do I start?
3. Are there any sports you hate? Most all of them... but "professional" wrestling would have to be the bottom of the barrel as far as I'm concerned.
4. Have you ever been to a sports event? In high school, I went to a lot of events. After that, not so much. I've been to a dozen or so Seattle games in baseball, football and basketball.
5. Do/did you play any sports (in school or other)? How long did you play? In middle school I was in basketball for one season, in high school I was in track & field for two seasons. I enjoyed it well enough, but have weak ankles that made it difficult to continue on.
Just when I think it can't get any worse, Panasonic manages to prove that it can. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I bought a brand new Panasonic DVD recorder model #DMR-E80H that was dead on arrival... I could record to the internal hard disk, but any attempt to burn an actual DVD met in failure (which is the entire point of owning the stupid thing in the first place).
Well, it was sent in on the 19th, it's now 3 weeks later, and I still don't have my DVD recorder back. Apparently, they are still waiting for parts. Since nobody ever answers the phone at the service center, and none of my messages are ever returned, I finally started screaming my way to the top of the Panasonic food chain to see if I could get some action out of them (kind of sad that only way you can get results anymore is to scream at people, but I'm more than happy to oblige is that's what it takes). Sadly, the only thing new I've learned is that the part is due next week (note that no promise as to when I'll actually get anything back was made).
So, if there is a lesson to be learned, it's probably this: Don't ever... and I mean EVER... buy anything from Panasonic. They're product quality sucks ass (I had a VCR from them that was crap too), their service policy is abysmal, and the fact that they won't replace a brand new product, but instead choose to sit on it for weeks while they hunt down parts... well, that just about says it all. Why aren't there lemon laws for consumer products like there are for cars?
I just got back from watching Uma Thurman kick major ass and have to say that Quentin's Tarantino's done it again! While Kill Bill is not a film geared towards deep thinking, and isn't quite up to par with Pulp Fiction or Jackie Brown, it is one hell of an entertaining flick!
Sure the violence is over-the-top and dripping with more blood than all of his previous films combined, but Tarantino knows exactly what makes a great action movie: hot woman-on-woman cat-fight action! You would think that Uma having a knife fight with hottie Vivica A. Fox would be enough to sell a movie, but oh no... we also get Uma mixing it up with cutie Chiaki Kuriyama and her flying mace ball... and Uma battling it out with bad-ass Lucy Liu with samurai swords! But even that's not enough... Uma kicks plenty of other asses along the way, and also manages to meet up with Japanese acting legend Sony Chiba!
For the movie-going public who doesn't understand that film can be a medium for pure entertainment that doesn't really have to say anything... well, Kill Bill Volume 1 probably isn't for you. But for any film geek that ever wanted to see Quentin's particular brand of beautiful, stylized violence applied to a classic revenge flick, this is your movie. I can't wait to see "Volume 2" in February (it doesn't hurt that we'll get Uma hacking it out with Michael Madsen and Darryl Hannah!).
Usually, I do not respond to how others review a film because I just don't care what random people think. Granted, I do like taking a peek at the "Tomatometer" (over at Rotten Tomatoes), because it pulls from dozens of film critics to give a general consensus as to how good a film might be... but even then, I don't really let it dictate whether or not I'm going to see a film.
Anyway, I happened across a review from James Berardinelli at his "ReelViews" site where he makes so many ridiculous jibes at Kill Bill that I was pissed off enough to be compelled to respond to his major criticisms (not to him personally, I doubt he would care, but to anybody who may be thinking of taking his "reviews" seriously)...
"...Kill Bill, which was constructed as a single motion picture before being sundered at the eleventh hour. The result is messy and frustrating - a movie that feels incomplete in every aspect." This is such a stupid comment as to be laughable. The entire story of Kill Bill is told in chapters... and not just "implied" chapters... but actual frickin' chapters that are displayed in the movie! It's not as if the film was butchered mid-scene, it actually occurs at a natural breaking point in the film between chapters. I mean, seriously, is Kill Bill really any different than Lord of The Rings or Matrix Reloaded in that respect? I actually feel that both of those films were worse, because story elements truly were incomplete in every aspect... Matrix Reloaded is particularly bad: Neo's in a coma and Zion is under attack? NOTHING is resolved, and you have more questions than answers... and are more confused than entertained! If I never saw Kill Bill: Volume 2, I would at least be able to picture an ending to the story. While I agree the editing could have been tighter, the massive amount of cuts required to make this a single film would not be worth it.
"One aspect of Kill Bill that doesn't disappoint are the action sequences. Although no better than those in The Matrix Reloaded , they are fun to watch, as The Bride slices and dices her way through dozens of enemies..." Bitch, please. No better than Reloaded?? Get off the pipe! While undoubtedly enhanced with some nifty wire work (wholly appropriate to the genre this film is in), the action in Kill Bill is REAL. These fights are not some computer-created crapfest... they are real people bashing it out with real emotion. And the carnage! Heck... compared to Kill Bill, Reloaded is just a video game with good special effects! Compare The Bride's fight against the "Crazy 88" to Neo's fight against 200 Agent Smiths and tell me that they are in any way comparable. Not even close.
"One could argue that the best thing about Pulp Fiction was the delicious dialogue, and that's something almost completely absent here. The number of quotable lines and memorable non-action sequences is small." Uhhh... dude... Pulp Fiction was a character piece. This is an action-revenge flick. They are entirely different films, with entirely different focus points... would you be happier if an action movie was more notable for the dialogue than the action? I saw Kill Bill because I wanted to see Uma kick ass. I was not disappointed. If you want to see Uma spouting cool Tarantino dialogue, then go watch Pulp Fiction again.
"Why show revenge #2 before revenge #1? There doesn't seem to be a reason. Maybe it will all become clear in Volume 2 , although I somehow doubt it."Well, as a professional movie critic, you should understand about a concept called STRUCTURE... and perhaps a rudimentary understanding of "pacing" and "balance" would also be in order. It was necessary to show "Revenge #2" before "Revenge #1" because it started the movie out with a bang and instantly draws the viewer into the story. The first revenge on O-Ren Ishii required way too much foreshadowing and back-story to make for a good opening into this type of film (and would have meant cramming two heavy fight scenes right on top of each other at the end). The way Tarantino has structured it now, there is perfect timing between the action and a balance to how the story of The Bride is revealed. The non-linear structure that Quentin uses is not so much a "signature device," but a method he uses very effectively to keep pacing and mystery through his films. When I saw Uma cross off "Revenge #2" from her list and noticed that "Revenge #1" was already marked... it really got me curious as to what happened there, thus providing a perfect window to dive into that story. The only reason Tarantino needs to mix up the chronology is because it makes for good storytelling.
"This is a problem with a revenge flick, where we're supposed to root for the hero and despise the enemy. Neither is the case here, especially since we never see Bill." Uh... gee... isn't the fact that Bill massacred The Bride's husband-to-be (along with every other person at the wedding) and shot her in the head reason enough to root for her revenge? Bill's actions alone make him an enemy worth despising.
"Everyone else would do better to stay away and avoid the bitter disappointment of seeing how the greed of a distributor can degrade the movie-going experience... Miramax claims that money plays no part in the decision to release Kill Bill in two parts. This is, in their words, a determination based solely upon a desire to respect Tarantino's "artistic vision." If that's the case, then Miramax should offer a free coupon to see Volume 2 with every ticket sold to Volume 1. I bet they won't be doing that." Excuse me, but isn't the alternative to force Tarantino to butcher the story down to a 90 minute film that's nothing but fight scenes? I can't imagine how bitchy your review of that film would be! The fact that Berardinelli cannot seem to fathom the idea that Miramax is taking one hell of a risk in dicing up the film in two parts speaks volumes as to his ignorance of the movie industry. Holy crap... what if Volume 1 tanks? They would still be obligated to release Volume 2 at a huge loss! Do you think that distributing a film and advertising it is free? Do you think that movie theaters can keep their doors open by showing free films? While I don't doubt that Miramax is hopeful that they will make huge bank from having two films... it doesn't make any sense at all to think that this was an easy decision to make. Miramax owes a huge debt to Tarantino for getting their studio on the map with Pulp Fiction. To think that this is anything other than a gift to Quentin so that he can keep his vision for Kill Bill in tact is just stupid. It would be far, far safer for Miramax to take the low road and force a more easily-sellable, butchered version of the movie.
Throughout Kill Bill , I got the sense that Tarantino thinks he is being more clever than he actually is. But, in reality, he's just more clever than James Berardinelli (who, interestingly enough, gives the film 2-1/2 out of 4 stars). I find it astounding that, as a so-called professional film critic, your review consists entirely of petty bitching on how this film is a marketing gimmick by Miramax that's not as good as Pulp Fiction. If you were not so obsessed with the things this film is not and actually concentrated you review on what it actually is, you would see that this is hands-down the most stylish action-revenge flick ever put to film. Berardinelli claims that this is "half-a-movie that runs too long." When a critic's reason for disliking a film isn't about the actual material in the half he saw, but instead is whining because he has to pay to see the ending... it's pretty difficult to take his "review" seriously when other films that are told in parts don't get the same treatment.
UPDATE: After getting a deliciously scathing comment on May 2nd, 2010 berating me for daring to voice my opinion on Berardinelli's opinion (DELETE!), I Googled around and found a genius deconstruction of the guy's reviewing "style" at Your Stupid Minds. Far be it for me to crap all over somebody's passion for film, but now I feel fully justified questioning exactly how this Berardinelli guy got to be a "Top Critic" at Rotten Tomatoes when his reviews are so pedestrian and lacking any kind of real insight or imagination.
Using my heated handgrips over short distances seems to have sucked my battery dry... I guess I need to find a longer route to work when riding in cold weather so the battery has a chance to recharge!
Anyway, yesterday I ended up needing a jump because my motorcycle would not start when I went to leave work. It was then that I discovered something truly sadistic about my F650-GS... to access the battery, you have to completely disassemble the housing! That sucks ass! I can only imagine that the engineers from BMW must be recruited from hell or something, because I can't imagine any sane person thinking this is a good idea. Couldn't they have built in an access door in that housing or something?
Oh well, I bummed a ride to Wal-Mart so I could get a little 1.5amp charger to juice up my battery. Fortunately, it came with a small plug lead that I could put in-line with the battery connectors so that if this happens again, I can just plug in the bike directly without having to strip it down first. Wonder why BMW never thought of that one?
Today deluded Windows users got a taste of Apple goodness when iTunes was released for the Wintel monopoly. It actually works really well and, in a surprise move, has complete functional parity with the Macintosh version. You can shop the Music Store, use AAC encoding, share your music over a network with "Rendezvous" technology, and even mix Macs and PCs in your shared computer list for purchased music on either platform... pretty cool. And if that wasn't enough, Apple has struck up a deal with Audible.com to sell audio books and will be giving away 100 million free songs in a cross-promotional deal with Pepsi come February (sounds like a great way to sell more iPods!).
Wouldn't it be nice if Bill Gates would just shut up? It seems every time I read an interview with him, he is either lying or revising history. In an article I just read at The Register, he's at it again:
"Gates is optimistic about meeting the challenge of the new security threats, he told reporters. 'We have to. We invented personal computing. It is the best tool of empowerment there has ever been. If there is anything that clouds that picture, we need to fix it.'"
Excuse me? Microsoft invented personal computing? There can be a lot of answers to this question, depending on your definition of "personal computing," but it's pretty crazy that Microsoft would appear on anybody's list as the "inventor." I have always felt that everything that came before the Apple ][ (including the Microsoft-driven MITS Altair, which didn't even have a keyboard) wasn't really what we would call a "personal computer" today (perhaps "micro computing device" is a better term?), but I'm an Apple whore, so take that as you like it... most historians go all the way back to the Heathkit/Minivac/Simon era from the 50's & 60's when Microsoft didn't even exist (and neither did Bill Gates until 1955!). If Microsoft wants to take credit for inventing something in the industry... how about vaporware?
1. Name five things in your refrigerator. King's Hawaiian Sweet Bread hamburger buns, bottled water, Hunts ketchup, Best Foods mayonnaise (known as "Hellmann's" to you on the East Coast), and Diane's extra thin corn tortillas.
2. Name five things in your freezer. Schwan's Quick Fries, Morningstar Farms meatless sausage patties, American Classic Boca Burgers, Quincy frozen corn, and a box of orange, cherry, and grape Popsicle brand popsicles.
3. Name five things under your kitchen sink. Rubbermaid plastic garbage can, aluminum can recycling bag, Windex cleaner, Fantastic all-purpose cleaner, and a dish sponge.
4. Name five things around your computer. Eric Meyer on CSS book, my iPod, a Hard Rock Las Vegas Hotel & Casino plastic gambling cup (filled with spare change), a spindle of Sony CD-R media, and the keys to my BMW F650-GS motorcycle.
5. Name five things in your medicine cabinet. AquaFresh Extreme Clean toothpaste, AcuVue disposable contact lenses, Johnson & Johnson cinnamon-flavored waxed dental floss, American Crew pomade, and Philosophy "Hope in a Jar" moisturizer (amazing, amazing stuff... my friend Mary recommended it when I noticed my face drying out after rides on my motorcycle this summer).
Every time I hear Chris Martin's longing vocals for the Coldplay song The Scientist on the radio, I don't know quite how I'm supposed to feel. It's an achingly beautiful song that conjures all kinds of emotional imagery, even though the lyrics alone don't seem to make much sense to me. I probably most closely identify the tune with feelings of heartbreak... not from something in my past, but for a heartbreak yet to come (which seems oddly appropriate, if you've seen the video). It would bum me out completely if it weren't such a great song.
"Nobody said it was easy. Oh it's such a shame for us to part. Nobody said it was easy. No one ever said it would be so hard. I'm going back to the start."
One of the major benefits of loving to travel the world is the cool things you get to see and do along the way. While on a long layover in Kuala Lumpur, I went into town to have lunch at the Hard Rock and also to visit the world's tallest building(s)... Petronas Towers. This amazingly structure is a work of art in glass and steel, and far more beautiful than it has a right to be. They limit the number of people that can visit the observation deck each day, so I had a long wait to get my visitor pass, but the bragging rights to having been up the world's tallest building was worth it.
This morning I was devastated to discover that I no longer have my bragging rights. As of yesterday, the world's tallest building is the Taipei-101 tower in Taiwan.
I wrote a while back about a very disturbing trend that's eating up quite a lot of bandwidth for my Hard Rock Cafe web site at DaveCafe.com. As more and more people become aware of it, more and more people are deciding to steal my photographs for their web pages. If that were the only problem, I would probably just ignore it. But rather than copy the image to their site, they link to the image instead, which means they aren't just stealing the photos but my bandwidth as well!
But not anymore! Thanks to a helpful hint from Jurgen, I've now enable "hotlink protection" in my site's "htaccess" file which makes it impossible for people to make me host the images they've been taking. I tested it out by looking at one of the 32 sites I've tracked down that have been stealing from me, and it works! I guess I can start adding back all the cafe, pin, and T-shirt photos I had to take down last month.
So, if you host images on your site that are at potential risk for this type of thing, you might want to investigate whether your web host offers "hotlink protection" as an option. That way you won't be surprised with a $120 bill for excessive bandwidth usage because somebody linked to a photo on your site in a popular public forum.
When I got off work today, it was raining pretty good (as it has been all day) so I wiped off the seat on my motorcycle and headed home. But. along the way, I decided that the rain would not deter me from being happy that it hasn't started snowing yet. So off I went on a nice run up the canyons until it started getting dark, just because I could. The fact that I am happier riding than I am being warm and dry suddenly makes me realize that any regrets I had over going into massive debt for my pricey ride have completely vanished.
I can't imagine life without my motorcycle now that I have it, even though I am soaking wet.
For a couple of years now, I've relied on SpamCop to keep my mailbox relatively free from unwanted e-mails. Unfortunately, spammers must be getting smarter, because SpamCop is having a difficult time flagging spam anymore, and I get at least twenty in my inbox every day (to say nothing of the HUNDREDS I get each day that SpamCop manages to stop!). If this keeps up, I'm going to be forced to shut down my e-mail accounts and start from scratch. When is somebody going to start hunting down these asswipe spammers and killing them? Laws and threats don't seem to work, but perhaps knowing you might be murdered for sending spam would be a good enough deterrent to keep my inbox clean?
Just me and Sarah-Jessica Parker hanging out.
I've been using the "gold master" build of MacOS X 10.3 "Panther" for the last couple of weeks, but became "official" today when my three copies arrived for my home, laptop, and work computers. "Sweet" doesn't even begin to cover how much I am loving this latest version of the MacOS!
Now for some people, the changes in Panther may seem mostly cosmetic and not worth the $129 upgrade cost... but that is hardly the case for me, I'd gladly pay that money just for being able to color-code my files again (a feature missing since I abandoned OS 9). Mark Pilgrim has a nifty overview of all things Panther from his blog that shows all you non-Panther-using Mac addicts what you are missing, and all you poor Windows users what you'll be getting in 2006 when Microsoft once again rips off Macintosh features for their next Windows release (which has the dippy code-name of "Longhorn").
Watching Apple's MacOS X progress in usability and elegance year after year just has me dumbfounded at why people are still clinging to the tragedy that is Microsoft Windows (which seems to get worse with each new bug-filled, virus-ridden version).
Well crap. As if it weren't bad enough that I am having to park my motorcycle so I can drive to Seattle for the weekend, I go to get my car this morning and find a flat tire! Even worse, closer inspection shows that all of the tires are in pretty bad shape (which sucks considering I paid big bucks and they are just two years old). So now I am waiting for Les Schwab to open so I can go drop $400 on a new set that will hopefully last longer than the last ones.
Meagan suggested that I add "Theme Thursday" to my blog, so I thought I'd give it a shot. Basically, every Monday you are provided a new subject that you then have to interpret with a photograph and paste it to your site on Thursday. Last week was pretty simple, you just had to take a photo of yourself. This week is a little more difficult, as the theme is "scary." I have a few days yet to find my photo, but deep down I know there is no way I am going to be able to top this:
Image from AFP/Getty Images
Dude, seriously, what the hell happened here? Michael used to be a handsome guy, but now he's something barely recognizable as human. Ordinarily, I wouldn't dream of making fun of how somebody looks, but he made himself look like that! Why? What motivates somebody to self-mutilation? I guess when you've got millions of dollars, and can't figure out what to do with it all, hiring some quack plastic surgeon to hack up your face must seem like a good idea (well, at least until you need a band-aid to keep your nose from falling off).
Tonight while eating dinner here in downtown Seattle, I look out the window to see some guy pull up with his beautiful Yamaha sport bike, wedge it between two cars (isn't it sweet being able to park a bike anywhere?), and then proceed with that long process all motorcyclists are all familiar with: securing your gear.
It's kind of a fancy restaurant, so he's shedding the riding gloves, jacket and helmet... then trying to make himself presentable by straightening out his dress shirt and fixing up his helmet hair... all the while trying to cram his gear into an already-full soft-pack he's got mounted on the back rack. It doesn't fit, so then he's got to take all his stuff out, rearrange it so it will fit, and then fid a way to strap his helmet in there somewhere as well.
As I sit there watching the poor guy struggle to get all this handled in the chilly night air, I find myself totally empathizing with the situation, having been there myself quite a few times. Let's face it, you just don't have a lot of storage on a motorcycle, and it takes some creative thinking to be able make the most out of what little space you've got.
And that's when it hits me.
I realize that when I am in the same situation, I don't get upset about it. I love riding. I love it so much that even the annoying bits are great because it's all a part of being a motorcyclist. Having to cram your gear into impossibly small spaces is just part of the experience. So it turns out that I'm not actually feeling sorry for that guy after all... I'm feeling sorry for myself... I didn't get to bring my motorcycle to Seattle, but he's out there riding. He's the one who should be empathizing with me!
Well, I didn't run into Michael Jackson or George Bush, so finding something to photograph that is truly scary to me for my Theme Thursday entry wasn't looking very promising!
When I got back from Seattle this evening, I decided to carve out my Halloween pumpkin using a great pattern I found at Zombie Pumpkins... but since it was a design based on Tim Burton's amazing Nightmare Before Christmas, it ended up looking more "cute" than "scary."
Until I turned out the lights...
Now that's pretty darn scary!
And here it comes. I guess it looks as though my motorcycle may be put away for the year a little earlier than I had hoped. Of course, I could get lucky and it will melt immediately upon impact.
1. What was your first Halloween costume? I have no clue... undoubtedly it was embarassing, like a bunny or something when I was a baby.
2. What was your best costume and why? A vampire. It was around the time that the "Interview with a Vampire" film was released, and I went for broke and got some really impressive teeth and contact lenses to add to the makeup and clothing... it was my best costume because it was by far my most expensive ever.
3. Did you ever play a trick on someone who didn't give you a treat? Kind of... a teacher in High School stuck us with a surprise test on Halloween, so we toilet-papered their house that night.
4. Do you have any Halloween traditions? (ie: Family pumpkin carving, special dinner before trick or treating, etc.) When I was younger, it was a big deal each year for my mom to dress me and my brother up and take us out for a trick-or-treating spree.
5. Share your favorite scary story...real or legend! This is a true story: we still have another year left of the George Bush presidency! The end.
What a blessing that our governing fathers in their infinite wisdom do so proclaim "Daylite Safing Tyme" so that we have that extra hour of sunlight to do our chores... like feeding the chickens and milking the goats... more daylight to pull water and tend to the fields... time to... uhhh, wait a minute...
Farmers have to get up at sunrise. It doesn't matter what time a clock says. And don't we have electricity now? How stupid are we to still subscribe to this ancient ritual of messing with time? Pretty damn stupid, I'd imagine... well, unless you are lucky enough to live in an enlightened state like Arizona or Hawaii where they ignore Daylight Saving Time altogether.
I guess it all comes down to the fact that I'm pissed off that sunset is around 4pm, which is just stupid. It would be nice to get off work and have even a few minutes of sunshine rather than riding home in pitch blackness. Surely I am not to only one who feels this way... what do sensible people have to do to get moronic ancient laws like DST repealed? Does anybody have a good reason why we should still be setting clocks backwards and forwards in the year 2003?
Adobe tells you that "CS" stands for "Creative Suite," and is the coming together of Photoshop, Illustrator, GoLive, InDesign, and Acrobat 6 in a single bundle. After receiving my copy and playing with it for a while, I prefer to think of "CS" as standing for "Crappy Swindle."
First of all, I had already upgraded Acrobat 6 months ago for $149 so, when added to the $749 for CS, I've sunk a total of $898 into upgrades. The four non-Acrobat products can be upgraded for $169 each, plus the $149 for Acrobat, totaling $825... which means that Adobe owes me $73. Don't ask me where the money went, but I want either a refund or some kind of credit (odds are that somebody will be firing up a class action lawsuit, so that day may yet come).
And what do you get for the outrageous cash outlay? Well, the apps seem a bit more responsive under OS X, which is nice... and there's a few more features to be found (the 3-D stuff in Illustrator is especially welcome since Adobe has discontinued Dimensions). But overall, I am not impressed. The expanded Cascading Style Sheet functionality in GoLive is woefully inadequate, making it impossible to layout web page structure with CSS. What the hell? Macromedia Dreamweaver has done this for quite a while, so I just can't figure out why Adobe is so stupid not to add it. CSS is the future of the web, and Adobe is oblivious? This was the one big thing I was waiting for, and ends up being the biggest disappointment. I mean, sure you can style text, but that's all we get for $169? Photoshop doesn't offer many new features at all, but can now open RAW file formats which is kind of sweet (and, to me at least, is worth the upgrade cost).
There are numerous small problems I've run into already, which I've come to expect from Adobe upgrades, but nothing so major as to cause me to want to kill somebody (like the Illustrator 9 fiasco). Illustrator STILL doesn't have a way of disabling clipboard export (dumbasses, that's FIVE versions now!) or reconfiguring the "Apple-H" key to hide the app like EVERY OTHER APPLE OS X PROGRAM (okay, maybe I want to kill somebody for that one), but oh well.
When you register online, you get a free gift... I was hoping that it would be the MISSING f#@%ING MANUALS... but alas, it was not to be. Adobe has taken the Microsoft route, and stopped including them. Amazing that upgrades cost $40 more than last year, but you don't even get a printed manual anymore. Guess I'll be dashing off to Amazon in the hopes that Deke McClelland has written a book about the new CS apps.
I had a lot of work to catch up on tonight because I didn't put in as many hours as I should have over the weekend. As always, I have the television on as background noise, which helps me ignore the distractions that come from apartment living. Anyway, I was working along when all of a sudden I hear Pictures of You by The Cure playing... I look up and see that it's a commercial for HP's new ink-jet printers... one of the rare times that the music being played actually fits the product being sold.
Flash forward. It's now after midnight, and I can't get that song out of my head. The Cure was never one of my favorite 80's bands but there were a few songs by them that I really liked... Pictures of You being my favorite. Knowing that I'm never going to be able to sleep until I hear the complete song, I grab my Apple PowerBook, go to the iTunes Music Store, then buy the song and listen to it three times so I can get it out of my system and get some sleep.
It suddenly occurs to me that this kind of instant gratification is exactly what the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) doesn't seem to understand. If the iTunes Music Store did not have the song I wanted, I would have started up LimeWire and downloaded it for free... NOT because I wanted to steal music (I absolutely do not), but because I've been given no choice in the matter. I live in a rural community where we don't have a Tower Records open 24 hours to go by a CD (not that I would have at 12:30am). Far better to offer entire music catalogs online for purchase than holding out in the hopes that online music will disappear.
Not totally sure who this photo should be attributed to? The band, probably.
Oh well. Luckily I could buy what I wanted and get a nice reminder of the 80's music I love without breaking the law and invoking bad karma! If you have iTunes (it's free!), and want a great song that typifies the sound of the 80's, go grab a copy of Pictures of You, which is well worth the 99¢ price tag.
James Earl Jones guest starred on tonight's episode of Everwood, and again proves that he's one of the most captivating actors on the planet. Nobody else has such graceful subtlety on screen, and I have yet to see him in anything I haven't liked. Makes me want to watch Field of Dreams for the 100th time.
Okay then, I guess it's time to put my motorcycle away for the season! I look outside first thing this morning and see clear blue skies with some snow clinging to the rooftops, but bare roads... maybe a little cold, but perfect for riding to work... or so I thought. As it turns out, ice is able to survive the early morning hours despite the sunshine. I nearly dumped my ride twice in the short 5-minutes it takes to get to work.
The first time was coming to a stop where I managed to navigate some dry pavement for my motorcycle, but forgot about my feet! I put my left foot down and instantly start slipping, feeling my bike getting heavier and heavier as I slowly start to slide. In a panic ("ack! what do I do... what do I do!") I let out on the clutch a bit to get some forward motion, hoping against hope that my foot will reach some dry pavement. When it does, I breath a sigh of relief... until I go to put my right foot down and hit still more ice! Oh crap! I adjust my steering to tilt back to the left, and finally manage to get a balanced stop... terrified of making even a small movement. Eventually a gap opens in the traffic and away I go.
A few incident-free moments later I am on the home stretch to work, making one of my final turns, when I see that it's nothing but a sheet of crystalized ice! Uh oh. I start around the corner (just a little wide!) and start to notice a bit of a slip on my rear-end. Crap! Oh crap! Thankfully, I found some grip on the road and managed to make it through, but that is something I absolutely don't want to go through again!
So that is that. I was hoping to ride until the snow started falling but, with the early-morning ice, it's more "terrifying" than "fun" which means it's time to stop. What really pisses me off about this is that, an hour later, the ice is gone, and it's beautiful outside! Thank you Daylight Saving Time, for f#@%ing up my shit once again... if we were still on "regular" time, I could still be riding to work.
The photo theme this week is waiting, which was incredibly easy for me because there is only one thing that I am really waiting on... and that's for Winter to end so that I can start riding my motorcycle again. But to capture that in a snapshot didn't seem very likely until I pulled open my closet this morning and saw this:
Heartbreaking isn't it?
Today I received the DVD I ordered of Coupling: The Complete Second Season and was mildly amused by the sticker on it saying "The original UK version of the smash NBC hit!" In case you haven't heard, the lame-ass Americanized NBC version of the awesome BBC show was just cancelled a few days ago. I wish I could say I was surprised, but it was in no way comparable to the original, and should have never been made in the first place.
It's not that I really care that the show was cancelled, but I do worry that American audiences might skip over the original show on the DVD shelf because they think it sucks as bad as the American version. That's really too bad, because this is one of the funniest shows ever to hit television.
1. What food do you like that most people hate? Tofu.
2. What food do you hate that most people love? Coffee and anything coffee flavored.
3. What famous person, whom many people may find attractive, is most unappealing to you? Laura Flynn Boyle (Holy crap! Eat a cookie, woman!).
4. What famous person, whom many people may find unappealing, do you find attractive? Marge Simpson (don't ask me why).
5. What popular trend baffles you? Country music.
Just got back from The Matrix: Revolutions and can't imagine that there's any way I could have been more disappointed. What began as a miraculous story with vision and originality in The Matrix disintegrated into a horrid mess of cliches and mundane dialogue interspersed with just enough eye candy to keep me from falling asleep.
Sure the final battle between Zion and the machines has the best special effects ever put to film and are any sci-fi geek's wet dream. Yes the last fight between Smith and Neo above The City was exactly what every super-hero comic fan's been dying to see. But that's just something to look at. What in the hell happened to the story? I didn't mind the fact that Revolutions completely negated or disregarded most everything from Reloaded because, let's face it, there wasn't much worth salvaging (hell, now I'm trying to figure out what the point of Reloaded even was). But what did we get instead? Something even worse.
Neo, who became all-powerful while in The Matrix has somehow inexplicably become super-powered outside the computer world as well, able to shut down sentinels and blow up machine bombs at will. And what explanation do we get? "The power of The One extends beyond The Matrix." Yeah, whatever. In the beginning of the Matrix trilogy, there was a plan... a prophecy to guide the logic of the story and provide a reality where super-powered kung-fu fighting could happen. By the time we get to Revolutions there is no logic, just a pathetic Christ analogy story with nifty visuals, a conversation with the "Big Giant Head," and more of the Oracle's rambling nonsense at the very end. That's a revolution in film-making I don't want. Oh well, we've always got Lord of the Rings: Return of the King coming up (at least that one's got an actual story to it).
I got a couple of e-mails asking me where I got the art for my Veteran's Day post yesterday. "Did you paint that?" Well, yes and no... I created it by altering a photo I took. It's really easy if you have a copy of Adobe Photoshop. All you have to do is find an image with good contrast (I like to zoom in close) and apply the "Dry Brush" and "Paint Daubs" artistic filters...
It takes seconds, and the results are pretty cool depending on how much (or how little) you intensify the filters. To see how it works, just click on the images below to have them open up in a new window as "Instant Art."
From left to right, top row: Me in Reykjavik, Cherub in the Vatican, Detroit Airport Corridor, Rome Tourist, Royal Guard. Bottom row: La Pieta, Dave's Foosball Table, Mini-Me, Rain in Gamla Stan, Venus.
The railroad is doing all kinds of construction on the main crossing here in town. I don't know how long it's going to take but, since I rarely see anybody working there, I'd imagine it's going to be a while. Halfway to work this morning, I remembered about the construction and turned around to use the first crossing (which I usually avoid, because it exits onto a very narrow street). Just as I round the corner, the crossing arms come down... there's no entry into the crossing... and I have my photo for today's theme...
I guess when it comes to trains today, I just can't win.
1. Using one adjective, describe your current living space. Oridinary.
2. Using two adjectives, describe your current employer. Demanding. Unrealistic.
3. Using three adjectives, describe your favorite hobby/pastime. Liberating. Exciting. Consuming.
4. Using four adjectives, describe your typical day. Routine. Exhausting. Long. Stressful.
5. Using five adjectives, describe your ideal life. Fulfilling. Helpful. Comfortable. Worthy. Healthy.
From the name of this film, you might think that Master and Commander is some kind of dominatrix-fetish, S&M fantasy flick. You would be wrong. Instead, this is a film loosely adapted from Patrick O'Brian's series of novels chronicling the fictional adventures of Captain Jack "Lucky Jack" Aubrey and his doctor-friend Stephen Maturin during the Napoleonic Wars.
Having never read the books, I didn't know what to expect, and ended up being pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed very much the give-and-take friendship of Aubrey and Maturin, and was glad that fully-realized characters were on-screen as opposed to one-dimensional cut-outs standing in front of the action. Even the lesser players in the film are given a nice level of characterization... including an officer the crew believes is a "Jonah," cursed to bring the ship misfortune, and a young boy who loses an arm but not his spirit in battle.
The action in Master and Commnder is all at once breathtaking and horribly confusing. The broadside battles are really cool to watch, and the brutality of such warfare is captured in detail. But, when it comes to the massive hand-to-hand conflict at the end, it's nearly impossible to tell who is fighting who, and everything degrades into a bunch of anonymous fight scenes that really detach the viewer from the story. If directory Peter Weir had bended historical accuracy a bit, and tried to find a way to better differentiate the opposing forces, I think it would have made for a stronger ending.
Overall, a good historical action film that doesn't suffer from lack of characterization, and is worth a look despite some confusion near the end (and the fact that "Pippin" from the Lord of the Rings films is the ship's helmsman didn't help matters... "Where's Frodo, Sam and Merry?" I kept wondering). I will probably give the Patrick O'Brian's source material a read to see if it holds up as well.
WTF?!? One of the better shows on television, Alias, has been preempted for The American Music Awards tonight. It's bad enough when good shows get interrupted or postponed for dumb-ass news briefs that nobody gives a crap about, but to purposely bump Alias for this self-congratulating wank-fest is just annoying. Why not preempt a moronic show like Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire, Extreme Makeover, or any of a hundred other stupid-ass reality shows built for people too stupid to follow a plot?
So now, instead of getting to top off my weekend with the sweet hotness that is Jennifer Garner...
... I instead get to watch a show that opens with Britney Spears bumping and grinding like a crack whore impersonating Madonna, and a no-talent ass-clown like Kid Rock scream "I WANT TO MAKE LOVE" over and over again (I see that dating Pamela Anderson has somehow extended his 15 minutes). I can only imagine the show goes downhill from here (even with Jimmy Kimmel hosting and a performance by 3 Doors Down), so I suppose I'll call it an early night. I've said it many times before, but f#@% ABC television... f#@% them up their stupid asses.
On the wall staring at me every morning when I wake up is my framed movie poster for Pulp Fiction... you know the one where Uma is laying on a bed smoking a cigarette, having just put down her trashy pulp novel next to her pistol... which means the first thing I think about every single day is "How much longer do I have to wait before Kill Bill Volume 2 is released?" The answer, as it turns out, is 95 days until the February 20th premier.
According to Time And Date, that's 8,208,000 seconds... or 136,800 minutes... or 2280 hours left to go until Uma once again kicks ass with a righteous fury. That's too damn long. If I can't ride my motorcycle and can't watch Uma kill dozens of people, that makes for a pretty boring three months for me. Winter sucks ass.
I'm going to quit my job and become a ninja because ninjas kick ass. I just have to remember to pick up some black pajamas and a ninja sword when I'm in Japan, 'cause I don't imagine that they sell that kind of stuff in K-Mart. Think about how much it would rule to be a ninja... you get to assassinate people that bug you (or write you hate-mail or cut you off in traffic) and look really cool doing it. Nobody would mess with a ninja, because you carry that wicked sword around and could just dice up their sorry asses for being stupid.
See? Those are just tiny Lego ninjas and the totally rock! Real ninjas are at least ten times cooler than that.
For the past year, I've kind of made a ritual of visiting Exploding Dog a couple of times a month to catch up on what Sam has been drawing lately. If you have never been there, you owe it to yourself to check it out. Every week or so, this guy draws a fews pictures using titles and concepts that people e-mail to him. The amazing thing about his work is that, despite the fact they are all illustrated with stick figures, Sam manages to capture some pretty powerful emotions.
The above piece is titled i'm listening to sad songs, and is about as touching a work as I've ever seen in any museum.
Hmmm... how to photograph ego? Well, I suppose that yet another picture of my motorcycle would be a good choice. It's so damn cool that it's pretty hard not to get an ego boost from riding it. But the poor thing is in storage for the winter, which doesn't boost my ego at all (hey! it would work that way too!).
So what's left? Well, I suppose that the fact I've been to every Hard Rock Cafe in the US and Canada is kind of an ego boost (well, at least the ones that still exist)...
Most people probably wouldn't care about that, but I think it makes me pretty darn special!
Well, snow is finally here after numerous false predictions by local weather forecasters. This should make all of my upcoming travel plans interesting.
Just so long as I don't get stuck in Minneapolis for ten hours like last year. Snow sucks ass.
1. List five things you'd like to accomplish by the end of the year. The year is almost over, and I am traveling for most of it, so there isn't much time left for accomplishing much at all. So I suppose that just surviving the year would be enough for me.
2. List five people you've lost contact with that you'd like to hear from again. I could easily come up with five people I'd like to hear from again but, out of respect for their privacy, I won't list their names here.
3. List five things you'd like to learn how to do. Motorcycle repair. Speak Japanese. Write a novel. Program in ActionScript. Illustrate on scratchboard.
4. List five things you'd do if you won the lottery (no limit). No limit AT ALL?!? Hmmm... starting small here: Ensure a comfortable future for my family and friends. Give an Apple Macintosh computer to every person I meet. See to it that no child ever goes hungry and has a safe place to sleep. Never work for money again. See the world.
5. List five things you do that help you relax. Watch my Tivo DVR recording of the day's Ellen Degeneres show. Listen to my music collection on my iPod. Read an Edgar Rice Burroughs novel. Leave the country. Draw.
In the past, I've blogged about what a cool and amazing thing that the iTunes Music Store is. But now that the magic is wearing off, shopping for music there is just pissing me off. After buying a few iTunes by The Cure off their "Greatest Hits" collection, and really getting hooked, I decided to dig through all my old CDs (in storage) and rip their hallmark album, Disintegration, to my iPod for my upcoming month of travel. Well, after finally finding it, I notice that there is a huge gouge on the back of the CD that not even toothpaste will fix, rendering the thing unplayable.
Oh well, I can just buy it again from the iTunes Music Store, right?
Uhhh... wrong. I get the dreaded "partial album" listing yet again. WTF? What could possibly be the logic of not offering the entire album? I can't imagine that this is the doing of The Cure frontman Robert Smith, who constructs his albums like poetry. Hacking Disintegration to pieces like this is tantamount to destroying the mood of the work as a whole, and what artist wants that? So it's got to be the record company. For some insane reason they don't want to sell you the entire album online. But why? Did they whore out the publication rights to line their pockets or something? Is this supposed to encourage me to run out and buy the CD instead?
Well congratulations to whatever dumbass record exec made this decision... I'm just going to download one of the billion copies floating around the internet for FREE!! What a load of crap. The sooner this antiquated music industry we have in place falls apart, and record companies die a horrible death, the better. What's the best way to encourage music theft? Don't give people a way to buy it online.
Alrighty then! Here's something I didn't think would happen again in my lifetime... England has won the Rugby World Cup!
As one of those "what happened the year you were born" moments, England winning the World Cup in 1966 is one of those feats that didn't seem likely to happen again (despite several high-profile footballers showing some promise in the late 90's). But thanks to the brilliance and grace of Jonny Wilkinson in the final minutes of the match, they somehow managed to pull it off, snatching the cup from Australia's grasp with a 20 to 17 win.
Image from Sky Sports UK
Sadly, Wilko's history-making moment overshadows his teammate's contribution (and in particular, team captain Martin Johnson, who should get a lot of the credit for 2003's amazing run), but his "Player of the Year" status is much deserved. I don't understand how anybody could be even remotely interested in American football when soccer action is far more exciting (probably has something to do with the fact that we suck so bad at "real" football).
Is it just me, or does Betty White totally kick ass? I was just watching the mostly forgettable I'm with Her tonight and here comes Betty (playing herself this time!). All of a sudden, a mediocre show that's barely holding my attention takes a quantum leap and has me riveted to the television...
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I guess it's too much to expect that, at her age, Betty could make an appearance on ALL television shows. How much would it rule to have Betty White on Alias? Or maybe on Las Vegas or even C.S.I.? And what about movies? If anybody could have saved Matrix Revolutions from sucking as bad as it did, it's Betty White!
1. Do you like to shop? No. Why or why not? Because all of the stuff I need to buy I can get without all the hassle by purchasing online (and even that is more effort than I want to make). On top of that, anything I would really want to shop for is too expensive for me to actually buy, which is no fun at all (though, looking can be fun when it's electronics, motorcycles, or car).
2. What was the last thing you purchased? A news suitcase. My old one, which I love, is starting to fall apart a bit (in its defense, the poor thing has been around the world several times).
3. Do you prefer shopping online or at an actual store? Online. Why? It saves time and money.
4. Did you get an allowance as a child? Sure. How much was it? I haven't a clue... I suppose it depended on how many chores I completed that week/month.
5. What was the last thing you regret purchasing? My piece of crap Panasonic DVD Recorder... it was a lemon right out of the box, took Panasonic a month to fix, and should really be much better than it is for the money I spent. Every day I regret not buying one from Sony or Pioneer. I will never, ever buy anything from the crap factory of Panasonic again.
Holy shit! While we wait for Horizon to fix the airplane, some old guy has pulled out his BANJO and started to SING! As if the delay wasn't torture enough? I mean, sure the guy is probably just trying to do something nice... BUT A FRICKIN' BANJO?!? Ack, just kill me now.
As it turns out, the stupidity of this morning's Horizon flight delay was just the beginning. I was promised that somebody would re-book my flight, but after 30 minutes of waiting, I decided to use my mobile phone and do it myself. Thanks to the friendly and efficient phone staff at Northwest Airlines, I had completed my re-book in just ten minutes (my first-class upgrade intact). I was told my confirmation code was the same and I was seated in 3-A for both of my connecting flights.
Or so I thought.
Horizon finally boards the flight when I get a rude shock... sometime in the 15 minutes after I hung up with NWA, I had been re-booked again on a different flight with a later connection in Memphis...landing 3-1/2 hours later than my already-delayed arrival. No problem, I board the aircraft and call up Northwest again to find out what happened...
... and this time get the rudest, most horrifyingly incompetent person I have ever had the displeasure of speaking to in my 20 years of travel. It went something like this:
Me: Hello, I'm having a problem because of a mechanical delay in my Horizon flight #2155 out of Wenatchee. I had re-book a flight through Minneapolis, landing in Milwaukee at 4:38, but somehow I'm now booked on a connection through Memphis arriving at 7:05.
Rude NWA Agent: You are going to have to calm down while I pull up your record.
Me: Sorry, I am— (I was GOING to say "I am in a hurry because I am on board a plane and they are going to close the cabin door in a minute," but she cut me off in mid-sentence!!)
Rude NWA Agent: You need to take a deep breath and be calm before I can help you. Now tell me your confirmation number.
Me: Sorry, but I couldn't get to a pen, be— (I was GOING to say "Because I was in-line at the ticket counter when I re-booked and could reach my bag," but she cut me off AGAIN).
Rude NWA Agent (REALLY rudely): You really should be more prepared when you travel. You should always have a pen with you to write down important things like this!!
Me: Uhhh... sorry, but I—
AND THIS IS WHERE THE f#@%ING PIECE OF $#!T HANGS UP ON ME!! Yes, you read that correctly, SHE HUNG UP ON ME!!!
Let me state up-front that at NO TIME was I rude, did I raise my voice, or act hostile IN ANY WAY. I was in a bit of a hurry because I had only a few minutes to use my mobile phone, but that's it!! I don't have any idea what her problem was, but it couldn't have been me.
So I get to Seattle, have to go through the entire story yet again with a new (and much nicer) phone agent as the battery in my mobile starts to drain away. She finally tells me that she can't seem to get me re-booked, and that she'll have to transfer me to another agent. So, for the fourth time in two hours, I explain the problem and get re-booked (again). But this time I get actual tickets from the gate agent, and everything works out... well, at least until I get to Minneapolis and find out that I've dropped out of the computer and my boarding pass doesn't work (yet another blow after having lost my First Class upgrade). The gate agent there takes pity on me and gets me on the flight anyway, which is good, because I was abut ready to kill somebody.
I realize that we are in the middle of the busiest travel weekend of the entire year, but WTF mate?!? Even if I were a rude asshole (which I absolutely was not), I did not deserve to be treated this badly. After I fire off a nasty complaint letter to Northwest, I hope (for their sake) they make this up to me somehow.
As a seasoned traveller, I tend to be much more understanding of such airline-related mishaps as delays, cancelations, or other unpleasantness. But, after 20 years and hundreds of thousands of miles, I think I am finally close to reaching my breaking point.
For the third time in a row, Horizon has screwed up my Wenatchee departure due to "mechanical difficulties." Last time, a bird flew through the engine on the inbound flight the previous evening and nobody noticed it until it was time for us to depart (the flight was cancelled). This morning, an oxygen tank needed a new valve and, yet again, nobody noticed until it was time for us to start boarding (the flight was delayed 1-1/2 hours). WTF?!?
HELPFUL HINT TO HORIZON AIRLINES: WHY NOT TAKE A FEW MINUTES AND CHECK THE AIRCRAFT THE NIGHT BEFORE DEPARTURE SO STUPID SHIT LIKE THIS DOESN'T KEEP HAPPENING!!
Seriously, if problems like this are so prevalent that I've had three consecutive Horizon flights cancelled or delayed because of mechanical problems... don't you think they would get a f#@%ing clue and figure out that it is to their benefit (not to mention that of their outraged customers) to check out the aircraft after the final flight of the evening?
Of course this means that all my connecting flights are now screwed up (thanks again Horizon!). I had padded my trip by an extra day just in case of weather problems... but come on! This type of stupidity is avoidable! Even if it's not feasible to check the plane the night before, couldn't somebody come to the airport an hour early and check out the aircraft? Hell, you make ME come to the airport an hour-and-a-half early... if your ground crew or pilot (or whoever checks the plane over) would do the same, the stupid oxygen valve could have been replaced and my flight would have been on time. Dumbasses!
Today was a busy day of work here in chilly Wisconsin, and I still have the entire night left to go (the job doesn't end until 7am tomorrow morning). Being too tired to eat after traveling all day, I decided to stop at the Piggly Wiggly for some junk food. On the way to my lodging, this beautiful sunset was out my window:
Which just goes to show that even on rough days there's always something cool going on if you stop and look for it.
My work takes me to Milwaukee twice annually, and over the years I've tried to tour the Harley-Davidson Plant here, but end up missing out for some reason or another... either they're closed, there's some special event, all the tours are full-up for the day, or whatever. Today, my luck had finally changed, and I ended up getting a tour (my fifth attempt!).
Overall, the tour is an hour well spent, and is really interesting if you are into motorcycles (and probably even if you aren't!). But if you are expecting to completed Hogs rolling off the line, you are bound to be disappointed, because the Milwaukee plant just builds/re-manufactures engines (to see final assembly, you need to visit a finishing plant in either Kansas City, MO or York, PA... which also houses the Harley Davidson Museum).
If you are wanting to visit, there are a few things you need to keep in mind: 1) There are only three tours each day, with the last being at 1:00, so get there early. 2) They are not open weekends and, during the winter months, are closed Tuesdaysand Thursdays. 3) You must have a government-issued ID on you (such as a driver's license or passport). 4)You must be wearing closed footwear that are not open-toed, open-heeled, or open-sided... they will not permit you to tour if you show up in sandals or something like that. 5) If you ride up on a Harley or a Buell, you get preferred parking right up in front of the factory(!).
What is it with f#@%ing idiots that feel the need to drench themselves in after-shave, cologne, perfume, or other such annoying stench? Especially in an enclosed airplane cabin where they stink up the entire plane and make the journey miserable for everybody. Instead of trying to mask the fact that you smell by covering yourself with an even more horrifying aroma, why not take a shower next time?
I think it's a general trend in society where nobody gives a crap about others, and nothing brings out the worst in people than holiday travel. I take one small carry-on knapsack on the plane with me, and yet I'm expected to move it so that somebody who packs their entire f#@%ing wardrobe in huge suitcases has room for their shit. I get to the airport early so that I can be to the gate on time, but have to let idiots who wait until the last minute pass me in the security line. I keep to myself and try hard not to bother or inconvenience others, but that doesn't keep some stupid bitch from cackling and screeching about her miserable life (that nobody but her cares about) in the seat behind me. The list goes on and on.
Sadly, it seems to bet a "me-me-me" society, and people just don't give a crap about annoying others so long as they get their way. Wouldn't it be great if people would bathe, be even a little courteous, and shut the f#@% up already? Travel sucks bad enough
I am so not looking forward to this 11-hour flight.
Since I've spent most of the week working and traveling, coming up with a photo for Theme Thursday has been a bit troublesome, especially given that the theme this week is "wild." I mean, just how wild can it get in the airport during holiday travel? Uhhh... wait a second... perhaps I should have looked around a bit more instead of reading James Clavell's Noble House for the tenth time and playing "Final Fantasy Tactics! Anyway, since this is my first trip to Seoul, something that struck me as a little wild is the huge number of Christian churches here, like this massive property outside my hotel window that is dwarfing the 16-story apartment building next to it:
As I was taking my hugely expensive cab ride into the city last night, I noticed little red crosses floating above the city in surprising numbers... at times I could see up to nine within my sphere of vision. Today I found out that every single one of those is a Christian church, and over a quarter of the population in Korea is of the Christian faith. Given the prevalence of Buddhism in Asia, it's wild that Korea should be so different.
So now I finally know how tough life can be outside the USA:
The above is what I get when I attempt to load up the iTunes Music Store from Korea. Fortunately, I do have a US billing address, so it's all good for me... but what a bummer this must be for a good chunk of foreign Mac users around the globe!
The front of the Hard Rock Seoul has the Hard Rock Cafe motto "Love All, Serve All" emblazoned in big letters above the door... but it turns out this is a crock of shit. First of all, they do not open weekdays for lunch... you can only eat there from 5pm until 10:30pm... a pitiful 5-1/2 hour window. Second of all, the cafe seems to regularly close down for "special functions," meaning that even if you happen to get there at 5:00, there is absolutely no guarantee you can get in.
So I show up at 5:00 and of course, there is a "special function" from 7 to closing... luckily I got their early enough to have dinner, right? Wrong! They don't want to open the kitchen for a measly two hours, so all I could do was snap a few photos and then have dinner at TGI-Fridays down the street.
I suppose this means that the Hard Rock Seoul's actual motto is "Love All, Serve You Only if We Can't Whore Out the Restaurant for a Special Event." Given that Hard Rock Cafes are destinations sought out by tourists, collectors, and the like, I find it incredibly stupid that they should be allowed to close down the entire restaurant like this. When you are granted a license for a HRC franchise, you should be required to maintain consistent operating hours... if you want to host private functions, then build a separate room that can be closed off for that purpose (like most other cafes do).
So, while Seoul appears to have a nice cafe and would seem to have a friendly staff, I still think that it sucks ass because of the lame hours of operation that are not actually guaranteed to be hours of operation. When I come back to Seoul, I wonder if I'll even bother to try again?
The traffic in Seoul is bad. I mean, really bad. It's so heinously bad that it can take hours to get from one side of the city to the other. Because of this sad fact, you can't just hop in your car to run something across town... it would take the entire day.
Enter motorcycle couriers! The city is packed with motorcycles (most of them a brand called "Daelim" that I've never heard of before), each with a large rack on the back for hauling cargo...
That alone would not be shocking, but the fact that they will pile the thing 10-feet and higher is pretty scary...
I tried to get a photo of this ridiculous load a guy was hauling through my taxi window (sorry it's a bit blurry). These couriers drive like high-speed maniacs anywhere they can (including sidewalks), but you can see that the guy (and his bike) is dwarfed by stacks and stacks of foam. I hope a gust of wind doesn't catch that and blow the motorcycle over!
The good news is that I found a cool Harley-Davidson shop here in Seoul. It's a pretty class act, and well worth a stop if you find yourself headed toward the North side of the city...
A friend was kind enough to take me to a traditional Buddhist/Vegetarian restaurant in Insa-Dong today (which is kind of a touristy area, thanks to the huge number of souvenirs and traditional Korean antique shops and restaurants). As a vegetarian, my eating options are fairly limited at home, so I was pleasantly surprised at the 16 courses that were served in no less than 25 bowls! As the goodies started to pile up, I was beginning to wonder if I would have a place for my soup bowl and plate...
Garlic, which is a staple of Korean cooking was present (nobody uses garlic like the Koreans!), but my favorite dishes were those with a kind of spicy chile paste, which kind of reminded me of enchilada sauce, but not exactly. I definitely have to see if I can find some of this stuff... perhaps in Seattle... when I get back, as I think it would be an amazing addition to any kind of fried or steamed vegetables (and sticky rice, of course).
On the Korean Airlines Limousine Bus to Incheon International, I was thumbing through their magazine when I ran across an ad featuring George Clooney whoring himself out for whiskey. This is quite common in Japan (as the excellent film "Lost in Translation" fictionalizes), but I was a bit surprised to find that same practice here in Korea. I can only guess that George was offered some serious bank to do the spot, and figured "What the hell, nobody I care about is going to see it."
The funny thing about it is the catch-phrase, conveniently written in English: "Good whiskey needs no bush." I have no clue what this means. I doubt it would be some kind of pun against President Bush, but you never know. Perhaps Clooney is just letting us in on his preference in ladies' grooming habits?
Maybe its because I've been here a number of times before, or perhaps I was Japanese in a past life or something... because every time I come back to Tokyo, I feel very much at home. Within minutes of arriving at my regular hotel in Akasaka, I was running off to see what's new in the area.
The first thing I noticed while on the limousine bus ride in from Narita, was that there is a BMW Motorcycle dealership just around the corner from Tameike-Sanno station (exit 9), so that was my first stop. It's a nicely appointed shop with a good selection of models (including a blue version of my beautiful F650-GS!), and about a dozen bikes in stock. Due to the insane Tokyo traffic, motorcycles are everywhere, and it's nice to know that pricey BMW motorcycles can make a home here given the massive number of Japanese bikes on the street.
Next I'm off to the very, very cool Apple Store Tokyo. Surprisingly, this store is not located in Akihabara, which is the electronics and computer district. It is instead located in Ginza, which is the high-fashion district. This makes it very clear that Apple is positioning Macs and iPods here not as electronic gizmos, but as fashion accessories that compliment your lifestyle. Given the high cost of real estate in the Ginza, I shudder to think how expensive this store must have been.
When I arrived, the store was jam-packed... apparently Japan doesn't have the fire codes we have in the States! The first floor is computers, the second is digital lifestyle apps and the Genius Bar, the third is a cool presentation theater, the fourth is software and accessories with an internet Bar, and the fifth is a training center (which you can only see if you pay for one of Apple's hands-on classes). All the floors are connected via two nifty glass elevators at the back of the store, for which there was quite a line-up to access.
In the above shot, you can see how the huge rotating Apple sign at the top makes the building stand out, even when you're down the street. Compared to some of the key stores in the US (like L.A.'s Galleria and New York's Soho stores), this is not a very big property. But for Japan, it's monster-sized, and easily one of the most impressive shopping experiences in the entire city. The wide-open spaces and minimalist decor is almost unheard of in space-impaired Tokyo, but since every available square foot is packed with people, I suppose it's probably a good thing. I really, really hope that the store's instant popularity translates into brisk sales, because this is a flagship Apple Store that deserves every success.
And then I was off to explore Ginza, a part of the city I can only afford to look at...
But probably not even that.
The Japanese have this astounding ability to orchestrate nature into spaces that are beautiful in their simplicity and elegance. After a fine Japanese dinner with a friend at the Four Seasons at Chinzan-so, we walked the gardens to see the leaves turning on the Japanese maples there.
The park here is famous for weddings (there are eight scheduled for today!), and the Four Seasons has a number of "wedding consultants" running at full capacity with young brides-to-be planning extravagant ceremonies for cringing grooms-to-be (who wisely say nothing except "Yes," "Yes," and "Yes")... the dollar total escalating with every minute. I certainly hope that the money spent is truly for a "once in a lifetime event!"
The Hard Rock Uyeno-Eki is located in the JR Eki (Japan Rail train station) building of Ueno. It is easily one of the smallest HRC properties I have ever seen, with very limited seating... I just ate at the bar so I could avoid the line for a table. Like all cafes in Japan, the service is impeccable, which cannot be easy given the cramped quarters that the staff has to operate in. The merch shop, while also quite small, seems huge when compared to the size of the actual restaurant. The atmosphere is a bit subdued, which is the norm for Japanese properties, but you can tell the staff is having a good time and working hard to keep the energy level up.
While not quite on the same level as the first Tokyo property in Roppongi, Uyeno-Eki is well worth a visit... especially given how easy the rail and subway lines make it to navigate through Tokyo. I suggest having dinner in Roppongi, then heading over to Uyeno-Eki for dessert (since they don't have veggie burgers there).
After 2-1/2 hours on the speedy Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo to Osaka I met up with a fellow Hard Rock Cafe fan, Kimono-san, at the new Hard Rock Cafe Osaka Universal Studios (quite a mouthful!). It's a rather impressive dual-level property directly opposite the main entrance to the park. Though smaller in size, I do like it better than the HRC Universal in California, as it seems to have a bit more personality.
After a great lunch, we headed to the new cafe in downtown Osaka. It has been a very long time since I had been to the first cafe here, so I can't really say if this new one is any better than the original. I can say that it's a great addition to the chain. Kimono-san tells me that the building used to be a bank. And, sure enough, you can see in the back of the cafe where the bank vault used to be. As an homage to its origins, they've put some bars at the "vault bar" entrance, which is a clever touch.
As usual for Japanese cafes, the service is perfect and the staff works very hard to make sure you have the best possible visit. When I got back to Tokyo, I decided to make it a "Hard Rock Day" by going to the Roppongi cafe for dinner (which was also excellent).
Just a couple Japan-oriented questions I received:
Is it possible to visit Japan if you don't speak Japanese? Absolutely. It's a little more difficult than visiting non-English-speaking European countries (because they don't use the Roman alphabet in "real" Japan writing), but certainly possible. In major cities any important signage is written in both English and Japanese, so all you really need is a good guidebook and you are good to go. Many locals (especially younger people) in larger cities can speak some English... particularly those working in hotels, restaurants and the like. Just prepare yourself to be patient and very observant (subway and train stations can be very confusing!), and you should be fine. Even so, I always recommend learning some basic conversation phrases, which will make your trip a bit easier (and more fun!).
I like your funny stories about annoying American tourists. Anything happen to you this time? I usually find such stories to be more sad than humorous, but yes. On my very first day I was waiting for the subway when two gai-jin (foreign, and most probably American) guys in their mid-40's came up to me to ask directions... for some reason, I am an absolute magnet for lost and confused anglo-tourists. After helping them out, a Japanese man walked by with a surgical mask on. Almost immediately, while the Japanese man was still within earshot, one of the idiots has to say "WHO WAS THAT MASKED MAN?" to which idiot #2 responds "HEY-HO SILVER AWAY!" Usually, I find it easier to just ignore stupid shit like this but, since I had just helped them out, I felt I could respond. I explained that the gentleman was sick with a flu or a cold, and he is wearing the mask as a courtesy to others so he doesn't infect them with his germs. Unlike in America, where people can barely be bothered to cover their mouths when they cough, the Japanese are much more courteous. As expected, my explanation had no effect, because idiot #1 was compelled to say "ARE YOU SURE? I THINK TONTO MUST BE AROUND HERE SOMEWHERE! HA HA HA!!" Sigh. Why do I even bother. Since Japan is not a very big tourist destination, I'd have to guess that these morons were here on business. With a redneck attitude like that, you aren't going to get very far, assholes.
If you think Americans are so stupid why don't you get the f#@% out! Don't tempt me. It's not that I think all Americans are stupid, I just feel that far too many have extremely narrow world-views that reflect poorly on us in the global community. Particularly when I see how badly we can behave when visiting foreign countries. How hard can it be to take a few hours or so to read up on the customs and culture of the place you are visiting so that you don't offend anyone? It's just common courtesy, but you would be absolutely shocked at how few of us actually make the effort when traveling abroad.
And lastly: Is Japan as expensive as everybody says? Uh... yes. Very. The US dollar is pathetically week right now and Tokyo is one of the most expensive cities on earth (probably tied with Stockholm for the most expensive city?). I always end up spending quite a lot more than I planned when visiting Japan.
1. Do you enjoy the cold weather and snow for the holidays? Hell no. You can't ride a motorcycle in the snow and I couldn't give a crap about the holidays.
2. What is your ideal holiday celebration? Getting drunk at a strip club. How, where, with whom would you celebrate to make things perfect? A strip club in Maui with Elizabeth Hurley and a bottle of Jägermeister would be good.
3. Do you do have any holiday traditions? No. Well, dinner at grandma's house.
4. Do you do anything to help the needy? Sometimes.
5. What one gift would you like for yourself? World peace. And I'm not kidding about that.
Nothing quite like showing up in Minneapolis for some bone-chilling weather. I want to stay in my hotel bed, but it's off to work I go...
After a l-o-n-g four hour drive out of New Orleans, I finally reached Philadelphia, Mississippi which is listed as the home of the Hard Rock Beach Club in Choctaw"] on the official Hard Rock web site. As it turns out, this is not quite true. The property is not in Philadelphia, but part of the ever-growing Pearl River Casino Resort on the nearby Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians Reservation. If you don't know where you are going, there are no signs to really help you out, and not much to lead you to it. Since it was dark and there were no signs, I got a bit lost, but eventually found the Beach Club Cafe on Highway 16 (though I took the photo below the next morning)...
While not even close to the magical extravagance of the Bali Hotel & Beach Club, this is still a pretty cool property. There's a heated pool for year-round enjoyment, a sandy volleyball court, and a really great tiki-themed cafe with a staff that was psyched to have visitors during the slow off-season. Is it worth a four-hour drive? I'm not so sure... certainly it could be if you wanted to gamble at the reservation casino or play at the water park. On its own, however, it could use a Hard Rock Hotel, Hard Rock Casino, or some other Hard Rock-type venue to make it truly worth the trip.
UPDATE: Unfortunately, the Hard Rock Beach Club Choctaw was closed in January 2005.
One of my favorite cities on earth, New Orleans is one of those places that never leaves your blood once you've experienced it. The sights, the smells, the sounds, the atmosphere... it's all intoxicating. And if you want something really intoxicating, there's always Bourbon Street. Of course the first place I have to visit is Cafe Du Monde for some hot chocolate and beignets, but then it's off to the market to see all the clever crap that we tourists can't live without...
I rarely get the time to take a vacation, but you could do a lot worse than spending it in The Big Easy!
Thanks to Gone with the Wind and numerous other glamorizations of plantation living in print and film, most people have this lovely mint-julep tainted vision of the Old South in their heads... filled with stately mansions like this one called "Oak Alley:"
Truth be told, it's a lovely home, and they have it fully decked out for the holidays.
But then you run across a shocking document recreation like this posted out back...
... and you are instantly able to put everything into perspective. Something about seeing a monetary value put on a human life that kind of destroys any beauty you might otherwise find in the surroundings. Good for Oak Alley in telling the truth instead of (literally) white-washing the horrors that took place there. We will never learn from history if we don't know our history.
New Orleans has many amazing things to offer, but the tree-lined streets and beautiful houses in the Garden District are pretty hard to beat. It's here that you'll find a great example of something uniquely New Orleans... the crypts in Lafayette Cemetery. Since the water table is so low (just 12-inches in the older days), there was no way to bury a coffin without it popping right back up the next time a heavy rain hits. So, to accommodate the problem, they have above-ground burials in really cool family crypts:
But the garden district is famous for its classic houses, and you can see a lot of them here... one of the best is owned by novelist Anne Rice (of Interview with a Vampire fame):
Also in the Garden District is one of my favorite zoos in the world... the Audubon Zoo. It's not only really huge, it's one of the more "animal friendly" in that they painstakingly re-create a natural environment to make the animals feel more at home. This silver fox has a great set-up with a den and space to run around and everything:
And, given Audubon's bird infatuation, there's some pretty cool bird exhibits as well. One of the critters that caught my eye this time around was this fuzzy little thing whose name I cannot remember:
1. List your five favorite beverages. Water. Suntory Fruits Party and Suntory Orange (from Japan). A&W Root Beer. Jägermeister. Yoohoo.
2. List your five favorite websites. Maddox. The Onion. Exploding Dog. Gizmodo. Ze Frank.
3. List your five favorite snack foods. Meiji Karl (Curl) chips (Original Corn Flavor). Pirate's Booty. Pocky (Almond Crush Flavor). U-No Chocolate Bars. Botan Ame Rice Candy.
4. List your five favorite board and/or card games. Canasta. Sequence. Cosmic Encounter. Auction. Mille Bornes.
5. List your five favorite computer and/or game system games. Final Fantasy Tactics. Warlords III. Mario Diablo II. WarCraft III. StarCraft.
Today I happen to be in New Orleans on the occasion of the two-hundred year anniversary of one of the most lucrative land deals of all time... the Louisiana Purchase. It was from this event that Napoleon got the money he needed to finance his wars, while the United States got enough land to double its size (at a fire-sale price of just 15 million dollars!).
To celebrate to occasion, a historical reenactment of the event was held in Jackson Square in front of the St. Louis Cathedral... just 4 blocks from my hotel room. It was a fairly boring ordeal, so I didn't bother to stick around, but it was a pretty landmark day to be in the Big Easy. The Hard Rock here even came out with a limited edition pin for the event:
Times like this make me think about how changed the world might be from what we know if history had been just a little different. What if Napoleon was able to come up with some other way to raise the money he needed and didn't have to sell Louisiana Territory? Or what if it had been sold to some other country? That's history for you.
One of my long-time favorite comic books, Mike Mignola's Hellboy, is finally getting a movie treatment by none-other than Guillermo del Toro (who crafted the amazing film The Devil's Backbone). Hellboy is the story of a demon who gets drawn to earth at the height of World War II and grows up to be the world's foremost paranormal investigator. The Hellboy comics are filled with all the things that makes comics worth reading, and are a real treat to look at thanks to Mignola's gothic art stylings.
It's going to be interesting to see how del Toro manages to translate such a visually distinctive work to the big screen, but then I see promotional images from the Hellboy movie site, and it looks encouraging:
There's Abe Sapien, Hellboy, and Liz Sherman... right out of the comics and come to life! How cool is that? For even more Hellboy coolness, you can also track down the movie trailer. I can hardly wait until April 2nd!
It would seem my home state is under siege due to a possible occurrence of mad cow disease in the outskirts of Yakima (a city under two hours away from me). The scary thing about the disease is that if you eat infected nerves or other tissues, you can end up getting the disease yourself, which rots holes in your brain. Not a very nice way to go.
Which brings me yet again to a question I've pondered over the last decade... why in the hell to people continue to eat meat?
Commercial beef is a horrid substance that is filled with steroids and other crap that nobody should be consuming. It is risky food because, in addition to mad cow disease, it can also infect you with salmonella and E. coli... cause heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer... and make you fat. The cattle industry is astoundingly harsh on the environment, raping topsoil to produce feed, polluting waters with toxic cow waste, and consuming energy and resources at an alarming rate. So not only is beef one of the worst, most unhealthy substances you can eat, the industry is also destroying the planet to create it.
The funny thing is that meat is probably one of the most expensive foods in existence. It is only government subsidizing of the beef industry that keeps a Big Mac from costing you $35. Ironically, this means our government is spending huge sums of money to put its citizens at risk by making healthier alternatives to meat products (like soy burgers) be more expensive to purchase when they are far less expensive to produce. What kind of stupid shit is this? Shouldn't it be the other way around? Maybe when more and more people finally wise up and stop eating meat, the money wasted on the meat industry can be put into organic fruit and vegetable production so our country can afford to eat healthy foods again.
PeTA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is an organization I have a love-hate relationship with. On one hand they are tirelessly educating people about the rampant animal abuse that happens behind the scenes of the meat they eat... but, on the other hand, they sometimes do outrageously stupid crap that just makes people tune them out. Their latest endeavor is kinda in-between. It parodies The Matrix by having a cow (Moopheus?) explaining the horrible practice of factory farming.
Good information, but a really silly approach. Are you ready to enter The Meatrix?
I don't celebrate Christmas so, for me at least, it's just a day I don't have to go to work. It would be too easy to just lay around watching television, so instead I'm working on a complete overhaul of my Hard Rock Cafe web site... DaveCafe... while watching TV. And that's when I discover the "new" meaning of Christmas: exploitation.
ABC is currently running a "Christmas Parade at DisneyWorld" special. Masquerading as entertainment, this program is actually a two-hour advertisement for all things Disney (which happens to be the parent company of ABC television). There sits Regis and Kelly whoring out Disney "Magic Gathering" vacations and the many wondrous things that await you at DisneyWorld... having "guests" fill you in on how much better their lives are because of a Disney vacation at a Disney resort with Disney entertainment.
It's all a complete load of crap, of course. As anybody who has been to Disneyland or Disney World recently can tell you, the parks look like shit. Paint is peeling off the walls, buildings are busted and falling apart. All the new rides are cheap-ass snore-fests like boring old roller coasters and off-the-shelf entertainment no better than what you can find at a local carnival. For example: what's the last "E-Ticket" ride to hit Disneyland? The Indiana Jones Adventure in 1995!! And it's only gone downhill from there. Under the moronic "leadership" of Michael Eisner, Disney is no longer interested in creating unique and engaging entertainment. they only care about the quick buck... exactly the type of thing that Walt Disney was fighting when he created Disneyland in the first place.
So, to Disney and so many others, Christmas is just a weak-ass excuse to promote their lame shit. The very definition of exploitation. I saw more Christmas spirit in Japan where they don't even celebrate the holiday. Hey, wait a minute... Bewitched is on! I wonder what that crazy Larry Tate is up to now?
1. What was your biggest accomplishment this year? Surviving it.
2. What was your biggest disappointment? Having to cancel plans for a trip to Australia yet again.
3. What do you hope the new year brings? Peace.
4. Will you be making any New Year's resolutions? No. If yes, what will they be? If I were into making resolutions, it would probably have something to do with finishing my book.
5. What are your plans for New Year's Eve? To party with some friends.
When I travel, I take along my faithful iBook because it's small, rugged, and has great wireless range. When I get back home, I immediately switch back to my PowerBook G4 because it's easier to work on the bigger screen and the faster processor comes in handy for graphics work. Anyway, I was transferring some files off my iBook this morning and ran across an entry I made about The Last Samurai that didn't get posted...
I wasn't planning on seeing The Last Samurai because I am just not a big Tom Cruise fan. He never seems to stop being Tom Cruise and get lost in the part he's playing, which kind of destroys the immersive experience of watching a movie for me. But when I was in Japan last week I kept seeing these beautiful posters for the film that didn't feature Tom Cruise at all. Then I started seeing these stunning commercials on beautiful high-definition Japanese television that got me thinking that this film might transcend Tom Cruise and actually be worth watching. So when I got back to the States, I managed to catch it in Minneapolis and was really glad I did.
The Last Samurai is one of my favorite films of 2003.
I am rarely emotionally affected by a film... I can count on one hand the films that have moved me to the verge of tears (sappy love stories and hokey dramas just don't do it for me). Given that, you can imagine my complete shock that this would become one of them. And I am still trying to figure out just how that happened. Yes, the film is beautiful... the cinematography is breathtaking and I would gladly sit through 3 hours of it with not a single actor in the frame. Yes, the score is a wonder... the music in the film is a presence that will haunt you long after you leave the theater. Yes, the story is captivating... the samurai's efforts to preserve a way of life that had existed for centuries is good material. Yes, the acting is top-notch... if Ken Watanabe isn't nominated for an Oscar for his brilliant performance, then the award is as irrelevant as I had thought. And yes... Tom Cruise gives one of the best performances of his career (unlike many, I thought his work in Born on the 4th of July was self-indulgent and overly-acted). I can only guess that it is all these factors in concert that makes the movie so compelling.
So do yourself a favor and see Tha Last Samurai in a really good theater. It will not be the same experience if you wait for the DVD.