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!