HRC Cologne: A quick hop with the most excellent (and amazingly cheap) GermanWings airlines, and Perry and I were off to the beautiful city of Cologne. Our first stop on Hard Rock Run 2004 was (naturally) the Hard Rock Cafe there, which is a fairly nice dual-level property with an enthusiastic and helpful staff...
We had planned it so that we could attend the Pin Club Meeting that was going on today and finally meet the famous Hard Rock personality Jens Beckmann (shown here with Perry)...
The turnout at the meeting was better than at any other I had seen, and had guest-traders from all over (including Shanghai, China, believe it or not!).
Dom: Just down the street from the cafe is the breathtaking Cologne Cathedral. Its massive size and enclosed location makes it very difficult to take a photo that does it justice (they are repairing it as well, so the scaffolding didn't help either). The structure itself is just amazing...
Now it's off to Amsterdam.
Onward to our second Hard Rock of the day in Amsterdam. It's a nice 2-1/2 hour drive from Cologne (plus a little while spent in confusion while navigation through the city streets). This is a great cafe that has a premium location on the canal. It was a beautiful day with boats cruising up and down the waterway and flowers in bloom (which was quite a change from my previous visit in the dead of winter). If only I had remembered my polarizing filter...
As always, the staff was terrific. Here we are with Vellah from the merch shop, who was quite happy with the custom pin and laminate souvenir we gave her. I look either really smug or half asleep here (probably a little of both)...
Tomorrow we're off again with a five hour drive south to Munich.
I just spent 52 Euro (US $62.50) to fill up the 54-liter (14 gallon) gas tank of our small rental car. Would everybody in the US who keeps complaining about the high cost of gasoline please shut up.
Black: The five hour drive from Cologne to Munich was made a bit longer by a slight detour towards Baden-Baden so we could see the beginnings of the Black Forest. Like you might imagine, the trees are a very dark shade of green, making them appear black in the shadows. Sadly the trees we saw looks scraggly and dying, an effect of acid rain (which scientists estimate has damaged over half of the trees in the entirety of the forest). We should have taken time to see a bit more into the forest, because it sounds as though it might not be around much longer.
HRC Munich: The Hard Rock here is kind of boring on the outside, but is pretty sweet inside. Memorabilia isn't quite as packed in as I'd like, but there's still a pretty good assortment. Unlike many cafes, this one has a rather large dining room that's entirely open...
Concerto: On the way back from the cafe, we ran across a group of astoundingly talented musicians playing classical selections in a building underpass. The acoustics were as good as any concert hall, and a large crowd had gathered to listen. What a great way to end our first evening in Munich.
The drive down made for a short day today. Tomorrow it's more of Munich and off to the wonders of Neuschwanstein!
I've been to more than a few places in the world and seen a lot of cool stuff in my travels but, at the moment, it all kind of pales before the grandeur that is Neuschwanstein (New Castle of the Swan). This is the "fairy tale" castle which inspired Disney for the various castles in their theme parks. Of course, the Disney versions cannot begin to match the location in which the original sits, where every view takes your breath away...
The castle was the pet project of King Ludwig II, who never got to enjoy it much, as he was certified insane and unfit to rule, then died a few days later. It's my humble opinion that somebody who could orchestrate something so wondrous was probably just misunderstood, and not insane at all. In any event, once he died, all work on his various projects (including Neuschwanstein) were stopped. The rooms that were completed are magnificent, so one can only imagine one the completed palace would have ended up looking like.
As wonderful as the castle is, I was a bit saddened by the poor horses that are forced to haul heavy carts filled with tourists up and down the steep walkway all day long. We were tight on time, and calculated the horse carts were fastest to avoid missing the tour, but I regretted it after just moments of starting out. I didn't want to take the carts back down, and so we hiked the 15 minutes over to the bus stop (which had much better views anyway). If you ever visit, do yourself (and these poor beasts) a favor and take the bus.
After Neuschwanstein, we noticed that we were awfully close to the Austrian border, and decided to dip down into the country just to say we've been there.
Mission accomplished. No sign of the annoying Von Trapp family singers.
Olympic: Our first stop after spending the morning gawking at Neschwanstein was spent at the Olympic Stadium, home of the 1972 Olympic Games. For 1.50 Euros, they let you in to inspect the well-kept grounds. It's pretty darn special, and I like how the seats are painted to match the green of the grass so as not to pose a distraction...
Beamer: Also in the area is the BMW Museum, which is fairly small, but houses a nifty collection of various BMW cars and motorcycles from over the years...
Tower: They also have a tower you can ride up to see the city from on high. It's also a great location to view the BMW World Headquarters Building, which is one of the coolest modern structures I've seen (would you expect anything less from BMW?)...
Tomorrow it's a long five hour drive to Berlin.
Driven: As we made our way to Berlin, we passed mile after mile of traffic piled up behind a serious accident on the A-9 back to Munich which made us seriously happy we weren't heading in the opposite direction. Of course, karma has a way of balancing life, and so we ran into serious congestion due to poorly planned construction detours. Our five-hour journey quickly became seven hours, which took a huge chunk out of the time we had available in the city.
Rock: The Hard Rock Berlin has the distinction of being my only truly horrible HRC experience. in my previous visits, both the food and the service were abysmally bad. This time they seemed to have managed to get their act together a bit, because both the service and our dinner were fine. The cafe itself is pretty sweet, so I'm glad they're improving.
Charlie: About the only thing we had time for on our sightseeing list was a visit to the Checkpoint Charlie Museum for the Berlin Wall. It's a great museum (but unbearably hot) filled with fascinating memorabilia of a country divided. I particularly like the displays showing the ingenious methods East Germans used to escape to the West. The wall has long since gone, but you can purchase souvenir chunks and see a panel that's been preserved here...
Tomorrow it's an early flight back to London and the bulk of our Hard Rock visits throughout England and Wales.
Cor blimey guv, the shift box is on the wrong side of the bloody car!!
I chickened out... Perry get's to drive whilst we're in the U.K.!
I am fully aware that the good old US of A is not very popular in the global community right now. If you travel outside of North America, you can just "feel" it, and it's not very difficult to understand why. We've got a president invading countries in direct opposition to the United Nations and the advice of our allies, and doesn't seem to think much about how our actions affect the world outside our borders. On top of that, so many Americans I see while visiting other countries are horribly obnoxious, so even the first-hand contact foreigners experience does not leave a very good impression.
So, yeah, I get it.
But you know what? That is a pretty poor excuse for rudeness... especially when you are paying somebody for a bit of verbal bashing about your country of origin.
Today Perry and I were picked up from the airport (after coming back from Berlin) by the guy running the B&B we had stayed at near the airport. As we were flying (and I am talking literally flying, because the bloke drove so fast) back to pick up Perry's car, I was treated to a verbal lashing about how the "daft Yanks have gone mad after 9/11" and how stupidly we are handling airport security etc. etc. I am guessing he had forgotten I was an American, but maybe he didn't care. In any event, I'm such a smart ass, I immediately had three things pop into my head to say:
In the end, I didn't say anything... what's the point? But it's kind of a downer that I was a a guest at his B&B and ended up paying him 80 pounds ($150 US) so he could be a total prick.
Hmmm... maybe I am a daft Yank after all... I just noticed that this is my 500th post to Blogography! Who knew.
Our first stop whilst back in England was the Hard Rock Cafe London so we could visit with the "Lovely Rita," on "Rita Day" (which is the first Thursday of every month). Rita is the first waitress from the cafe back when it began, and now serves as an official ambassador for the organization. Unfortunately, this particular "Rita Day" was Rita-less, as she was away on holiday. Both Perry and I had met her previously, but it still would have been a hi-light of our run to have our photo taken with her.
The front of the cafe has been boarded up (again)... not for remodeling this time, but actual repairs. Apparently part of the front facade has fallen off of this grand old building. Given that this is the "original" Hard Rock Cafe, and the oldest in the chain, I guess it shouldn't be entirely unexpected. No big deal though, I had plenty of other photos from previous trips.
From the cafe, we made our way across the street to the Hard Rock Vault London. Unlike the spectacle that is the Orlando version of The Vault, this is an actual vault which was used when the building was formerly a bank. Also unlike the property in Orlando, if you ask Jimmy the tour guide really nicely, he'll also let you take a closer look at the goods (including the original guitar that Eric Clapton hung on the wall, which started the entire Hard Rock Collection in the first place -- it's the red one in front)...
That's me with Jimi Hendrix's custom Gibson Flying-V guitar, insured for a cool two million pounds sterling (about $3,700,000 US!). Needless to say, actually being able to touch rock-n-roll history makes this a more personal experience than what you get when visiting Orlando.
Next up was the Hard Rock Casino over in Leicster Square. It's more like a personal gambling club than an actual Vegas casino... small and intimate (pretty much just a few slot machines, and some gaming tables, with the clear favorite being roulette). Even so, it's a pretty nice place...
Now we're off to the new Hard Rock Bar in Bristol.
Where did you live out your childhood years? I was born in San Diego, California, but only until I was four years old. My family then moved to Cashmere, Washington where I grew up.
As a child, what was your favorite toy, book, television show, and cartoon character? Toy would probably be my stuffed monkey Paula. Book is hands-down Curious George. Television show would be Captain Kangaroo. And cartoon character is probably Bugs Bunny.
Charm us with a favorite childhood memory... I'm getting old, so childhood memories are far and few between, but I do remember riding my tricycle while still living in San Diego. One time I got yelled at for one reason or another by a neighbor lady for riding down the sidewalk. The next time I rode by, I covered me and my trike with a blanket so she wouldn't see me. I don't recall if my invisibility ploy worked out or not.
FQ Photo-Op: Show us a photo of just how adorable you were as a child. I was an incredibly cute kid (no, I don't know what happened), so that's not difficult. My favorite shot has me wearing my tiger slippers while cooling out in my underwear...
Discover your inner-child at the FridayQ.
Bristol (at the Western-most edge of England) is home to the first Hard Rock Bar. We had actually stopped by last night, but it was jam-packed and a band was playing, so we didn't get much of a chance to look around. As this is a bar, food-stuffs are at a bare minimum, but we were told that they did open up for a limited breakfast menu at 8am, so here we are. They advertise wireless internet access from British Telephone, but it's pricey and isn't worth a crap... the speed is painstakingly slow, and drops out constantly (even though I am getting full signal strength).
All that aside, it is a pretty cool property. I think it's kind of nifty that the Hard Rock is coming up with new ways to promote their brand, even in cities like Bristol that may not be able to support a full cafe...
Onward to Cardiff in the neighboring country of Wales...
Many people don't really understand the difference between England, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom, and it's hard to blame them because it is a bit confusing (even for those living here). With that in mind, I offer this quick guide to the British Isles...
All that being said, the Hard Rock Cafe Cardiff is located in Wales of Great Britain of the United Kingdom (and has the distinction of being the first Welsh cafe). My heart sank as we approached the entrance, because it sure didn't look like it was going to be much of a Hard Rock at all. It looks more like a hole in a wall...
Looks can be decieving. Once inside, I was very pleasantly surprised at how nice this property turned out. The restaurant branched out into three separate levels, including a fantastic bar and even a terrace with outdoor seating in the back...
A wonderful, wonderful Hard Rock, and well worth the trip to lovely Wales.
Continuing north, we stopped at the nicely appointed Hard Rock Cafe Birmingham and then onward to our last stops for the day at Manchester. While we had both visited these cafes on previous occasions, the new Manchester Hard Rock Casino would be new. As it turns out, it's very much like London's casino (more like a private gaming room than anything Vegas has to offer), but a bit larger with some video games tossed in the mix...
The entrance doesn't look like much, but it is perfectly located in the trendy Printworks complex which was really hopping this Friday night. Tomorrow our run comes to an end, with final stops in Leeds and Nottingham.
The Hard Rock Cafe in Leeds is a bit hard to figure out. It's not a bad cafe, but it a bit of a departure from the Hard Rock formula with a cold look of glass and steel instead of the warm and inviting brass and dark woods we've come to expect. It's not quite the embarrassment that Belfast turned out to be, but could have been better had they worked on it a bit more...
Next up... the very last stop on our Hard Rock Run in Nottingham.
When I visited my first Hard Rock Cafe in Maui back in 1986, I had no idea that it would lead to an obsession that would carry-on for over a decade. For the past 18 years, I've included Hard Rock visits on my travels wherever I can, and have seen some wonderful parts of the world that I probably never would have travelled to if not for the Hard Rock Cafe. When Perry and I planned this run through Europe, I knew that my 100th visit would occur at the end, and worked the schedule so that it would be someplace special, namely the beautiful cafe in Nottingham, England (home of Robin Hood!)...
What I thought would be a private celebration of an event nearly two decades in the making, ended up being quite a bit different thanks to some sly planning on Perry's part. It turns out the cafe celebrated with me. They gave me a cake along with a T-Shirt signed by the entire staff! What an incredibly memorable way to mark my 100th Hard Rock visit (I turned the cake sideways so you could see the HRC logo that's behind the "100" candles)...
A huge thank you to my very good new friend (and fellow Hard Rocker) Perry and everybody at the Hard Rock Cafe Nottingham for such an amazing, amazing event. I can't imagine a better (or more surprising!) way to celebrate such a crazy pursuit. The Hard Rock has always been so much more than "just a restaurant" to me, and things like this remind me why I love it so much.
Today was supposed to be a great day. Perry had invited me to a Chelsea tribute match which would have been my first opportunity to attend an English football game. Not knowing how long it would take for me to get to the grounds, I decided to leave a full hour early just to be sure I wasn't late. I'm staying at a hotel way out in the docklands, and am completely unfamiliar with the area, so I ask the concierge what's the best way to get to the city.
That was my first mistake
The guy kindly told me that I should go to a station that was out to the main road and to the right, so off I went. After a quick hike to the main road and ten minutes walking "to the right," I don't see a station... underground, rail, or otherwise. So I stop a couple of guys walking along the bridge and am told them the station name I was given. They look at me like I was from outer space and tell me that they've never heard of it. The nearest station is the Royal Victoria back the way I just came.
Thinking I must have misunderstood the concierge, I walk back to the light rail station and spend the last bit of cash I have to purchase a day ticket. Once I've got the ticket, I walk over to the platform for the city and find it barricaded. The line is closed so you have to take a bus...
I waited for the bus for 20 minutes at the location specified and it never came. I've wasted almost 40 minutes now, and figure I'll just go back to the hotel and take a taxi. Problem is that I don't have any cash left, so I have to find a "cashpoint" (what they call ATMs here). I find one in the lobby and, despite the fact that it is displaying the "Plus" logo from my card, it refuses to accept it. So now I have no money, a useless rail pass, and am running out of time.
By now I am pretty desperate, and go back to the concierge for help. All I want to do is get to the city in time for the match... can he help me out? Is there a bus, a different train, a shuttle, ANYTHING to get me into the city for the game? Apparently, the answer is "no." If I don't have cash for a taxi, there is nothing he can do.
And so here I am. I could walk a couple of miles to the "Canning Town" station, but there's no way I could get to Chelsea in time. The only thing left I can do is call up Perry and tell him the bad news.
I suppose that I have no real reason to complain. The past two weeks have been amazing, and I should be content to have had such a great vacation. If something had to go wrong, better it should happen at the very end rather than in the middle somewhere. But still, it's kind of depressing that my last day in London has to be spent trapped at a hotel.
UPDATE: Since I pretty much had to have taxi fare in the morning to get to the airport, I made my way to Canning Town and, since there was staff available, asked about the no-bus at Royal Victoria. He assured me that the busses may be slow, but they are running, and so I shouldn't have a problem getting into the city. Sure enough, I did eventually make it so I could find a cashpoint, get some dinner, and see Perry off at King's Cross Station, but it was no picnic. Busses that run late, trains on wrong tracks, lack of staffing, and no re-direct signs to let you know where to go were typical. I've come to the conclusion that London Docklands Light Rail sucks ass.
Very cool news... Depeche Mode is releasing a double DVD set from their Devotional tour. Since I was out of the country when the tour was playing, and Depeche Mode is the best live performance band on the face of the planet, this is a must-have item for me. If you're a fan, you can read more about the release here.
The only downside is having to wait until September to get my hands on it.
I'm back home now and don't really know what to do with myself. All I do know is that I don't want to be traveling again for a while if I can help it. I also don't want to be around lots of people (dumbass tourists in particular) for a bit. I certainly don't want to unpack my suitcase and wash my laundry. Oh, and I really, really don't want to look at the mail that came while I was gone. Gee... maybe I should make a list of things I actually do want to do rather than focus on the negative side of things...
Yep, that'll about do it.
Why do US mobile phone companies suck so bad? I have been waiting FOREVER to get a bluetooth enabled phone so that I can easily transfer my datebook and address book from my computer to my mobile. Unfortunately, CDMA networks (like Verizon, which is the only provider I can use in my small town with any accuracy) don't have any phones that are worth a crap. I'd switch to a GSM network (like T-Mobile), but their coverage in the valley isn't that great.
Since my wait for Verizon to get decent phones or T-Mobile to get decent coverage was in vain, I ended up signing a new contract with Verizon anyway (better the devil you know...).Problem is that the Samsung phone I got is still a flaming pile of crap when compared to the beautiful stuff coming out of companies like SonyEricsson for GSM. No bluetooth, limited photo handling, crap text messaging... yet it was the best option available so I had to take it.
And if all that weren't bad enough, the Verizon services web site doesn't work properly, and they don't seem to reply to my e-mail concerns. Every time I try to access my online account, it continuously asks stupid questions, then won't proceed any further (no matter what I try). I guess once they have your money, they don't have to care anymore?
Blame: Naturally, Verizon blamed all the problems I'm having trying to use their online services on the fact that I am using a Macintosh. Why am I not surprised. The web was imagined as a way to share information regardless of how you may be accessing it. The web is beyond any one computer platform or device. That's why I think that people should be able to sue people under accessibility laws for crap like this.
Fire: Wildfires are burning out of control in the canyons surrounding the valley I live in. It's both horrifying and beautiful to watch as fire flows like lava down hills and over divides. Sadly, a helicopter crashed while battling the fires today, and even more firefighters have been called in across the State (and neighboring States as well) to help out. I wish that the weather would turn and give them a break, but forecasts for the next several days call for heat-waves up to 105 degrees.
Killer: Kill Bill Vol. 2 is just as remarkable as I remember it on the big screen. Uma deserves an Oscar nod for this one (as does Quentin... nobody can write dialogue like Tarantino).
Tired: Working day and night since I got back from Europe is killing me. I sure hope I manage to get more than my usual 4-5 hours of sleep tonight! Goodnight.
I'm the type of guy who just wants people to be happy and live in peace. The fact that some people find their bliss differently than I do just makes the world all that more interesting and exciting to me. If everybody were thinking, acting, and believing exactly the same, I think this world would be an incredibly boring and unhealthy place to live. This is not to say that everybody should get to do whatever they want... if somebody finds happiness in killing other people, well, that kind of infringes on the happiness of others now doesn't it?
Time for a little story. It's not a story I had ever really intended for this blog (if it were, I would have posted it when it happened) but, given the events of the day, I'm going to tell it anyway (to the best of my recollection):
While I was stuck in an airport a while back (don't ask me when or where... these things all blend together for me) I looked up to see that one of the two guys who had just sat down across from me was wearing a Hard Rock Cafe T-Shirt. Being the Hard Rock junkie that I am, these things catch my attention. Upon further examination, I saw that it was a shirt from the cafe in Kobe, Japan. Since I was wearing my Nagoya, Japan HRC shirt, I felt I should say something:
Dave: Did you go to the Hard Rock Kobe to get that shirt?
Guy: I sure did. Did you go to Nagoya to get yours?
Dave: Yep! Did you know that they closed the Kobe cafe down?
Guy: Really? I'm glad I went then. Have you been to any of the others in Japan?
Dave: All of them!
Guy: Even the one in Fukuoka?
Dave: Yep, it was a long ride on the Shinkansen to get that T-Shirt!
Guy: Cool. I lived in Japan for almost two years but never made it down that far.
Dave: Don't feel bad, none of my friends in Japan have been either and they've lived there for a lot longer than two years!
Guy: Are you a pin collector?
Dave: I am... not hard core, but I've got quite a few.
Guy: Cool. Pins are expensive so my collection isn't that big. Now that I'm married it'll probably be a while before I see any more Hard Rock Cafes.
Dave: Your wife doesn't like you to travel?
Guy: Nah, but I'm hoping if I take him with me he won't mind so much.
That's when he reached over and took the hand of the guy sitting next to him. After further conversation, I learned that they had just been married and were returning from their honeymoon. All I could seem to say was "That's great!" -- and I really meant it. Here were two people obviously in love, blissfully happy, and it was a beautiful thing to see.
And today I learned that if these two guys were married in California, their marriage was just annulled along with every other same-sex couple married in the state.
What the f#@%?
This is the land of the free? Why? How in the hell was these two guys' happiness destroying anybody else's shot at being happy? So what if they are married... it may have taken me a moment for my mind to switch gears when I met them but, after it sunk in, it still seemed more natural to me than the Liza Minelli and David Gest "marriage."
The entire controversy seems to be the religious angle. Well, that's great and all, but the government of the United States of America was founded on the separation of church and state. The fact that you can be married by a Justice of the Peace, without a religious ceremony of any kind, would tend to back this up. Some people say that marriage is intrinsically tied to religion and, if believing that makes you happy, then please go on doing so. And if you feel that same-sex marriage is wrong, sinful, disgusting, unacceptable, offensive to your god, or somehow diminishes the sanctity of marriage because of your beliefs, then so be it. Nobody is asking that you change, so believe whatever you want.
But you need to accept the fact that not everybody believes the same as you. So using your personal religious beliefs to dictate how others should live their lives is arrogant and unfair. I mean, two athiests are allowed to get married as long as they are man and woman, and there's apparently no political problem with that... who cares? Different people have different beliefs. Different things make different people happy. The pursuit of said happiness is supposed to be what the USA is all about. I would argue that crapping all over another person's happiness when they are doing no harm to you is, in fact, anti-American (heck, it's also anti-human, but I'll save that for another rant).
People marry for money, power, convenience, security, obligation, and hundreds of other reasons that I find totally offensive... yet two people who are actually in love can't be married because they've both got a penis? What kind of stupid shit is that? Today over 4000 couples... 8000 people... were just told that their lives are nothing more than a toy to be played with in the name of politics and religion. They've learned their happiness is of lesser value than other people's happiness. I can't help but wonder if two terrific people I met while alone and stranded in an airport far from home are among them. I'm more than a little sad about that.
We're in the middle of a heat-wave here, regularly topping 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Compounding our misery is the fact that the nearby canyons are on fire, filling the sky with smoke and blotting out the sun. When I woke this morning, all I could see was a bright red spot in a world of gray... you couldn't see any of the hills and mountains that surround us.
As of this afternoon, the fires are only 25% contained. One firefighter has been killed in a helicopter crash. The fires are spreading further into the canyons that are bone-dry. It's not a pretty picture.
Still, some things are getting better. Yesterday these hills were covered in flames now, thanks to the efforts of some very brave people, they're just smoldering...
Fortunately, no major structures have been lost yet. I can only hope that no more lives are lost as well.
So now we wait and thirst for rain.
What is an activity that you can do better than anybody else you know? Draw a map. It seems whenever somebody gives me directions and they draw a map to follow, it sucks ass. When I draw a map to show you how to get somewhere, you ain't getting lost. Helpful hint: unless you possess rudimentary drawing skills and have a sense of direction, use MapQuest (or MultiMap, if you're outside the US) instead of attempting to draw one.
What is a subject where you are smarter than anybody else you know? Movie trivia. Whenever somebody wants to know the name of a film or who was in it, I'm the guy they ask. People e-mail me. They call me at work. They stop me on the street. They apparently don't know about IMDB.com. "What's the name of that guy who was a spy with his wife in that movie where he did that thing to that guy in that place with the alligator?" That would be Dennis Quaid and Kathleen Turner, who treed Stanley Tucci's character in the New Orleans Zoo at the Alligator Pit in the underrated movie Undercover Blues. Yep, I'm a genius.
What is a trait you possess that makes you superior to lesser humans? Intelligence. I see so many stupid people doing so many stupid things on a daily basis that sometimes I think we'd be better off if alien overlords would arrive and enslave us all. That way, when stupid people did something stupid, they'd be vaporized or have their brains sucked out.
FQ Fiction: Which of your many stellar accomplishments should be recorded in the history books? (Can't think of one? Make it up!). I'd have to say it would be the time I saved humanity from enslavement by the alien overlords and was elected Supreme Ruler of the planet Earth. Since all the stupid people were vaporized or brainless, all the remaining smart people realized it was the intelligent thing to do.
Stroke your ego at the FridayQ.
This morning as daylight was breaking, I got up and went out to the balcony so I could see how much more of my world is on fire. Luckily, the nearby hills seem to be unscathed, but smoke is still pretty thick in the air. I guess if I were to try and find a bright side to all of this, we do get really pretty sunrises and sunsets out of the deal. No photo can capture the deep red orb that has become our sun here, but it's fun to go ahead and try...
Hey look! While I was gone, Oscar started to get some new branches! I really need to set up a webcam so I don't miss any more critical developments as he grows up...
And, from the "yet another meme bites the dust" file: Theme Thursday has sent out an e-mail telling participants that they "haven't been having much fun with Theme Thursday lately" and have decided to "take a break." That doesn't sound bad until you read "If you'd like updates on the status of things and whether or not Theme Thursday will begin again in the future, feel free to leave your e-mail address on the list." Oog. That's not very encouraging is it? Theme Thursday is one of those memes I really enjoy, and I'm kind of bummed about this.
Today I'm off to Seattle so I can attend one of my best friend's wedding. Fortunately, the happy couple are of the opposite sex so they don't have to worry about the state annulling their marriage six months from now.
Or do they? The way things are headed, I have to wonder.
I was saddened to learn that Julia Child had died yesterday. It's not that I was a huge fan of her cooking shows or books (as a vegetarian, it's not like I could eat very much of it anyway)... but I am a big fan of her fascinating life and remarkable personality. There's something cool about a woman who starting as an advertising executive, became a spy(!) during World War II, and eventually (against all odds) became one of the world's foremost cooking authorities.
I'd imagine that being a woman chef was not easy ground to break back then. Her mother was the first woman in the US to get a driver's license, so perhaps she was destined to be a revolutionary? And who could ever forget that classic Dan Aykroyd SNL parody? Julia is a personality that will definitely be missed.
This week's FridayQ will be food-related in her honor... save the livers!
After having way, way too much fun at the wedding I attended last night, I packed my bags and headed back over the mountains toward home. I knew I was getting close when I started smelling smoke. I had almost forgotten about the fires raging in the canyons around us, and was shocked to see that the fires had gotten even worse. The smoke is everywhere, and so thick that all of the surrounding hills and mountains have vanished...
Apparently the flames jumped a fire line on Friday and the blaze is now enveloping over 300 acres. More evacuations are underway, and there doesn't seem to be an end in sight any time soon. We need rain. Bad.
Tune: Being the 80's music junkie that I am, it drives me nuts when I hear a snippet of music that I know, and cannot immediately figure out what it is. Just now while watching the Olympics, I notice that in-between plays during volleyball, they play bits of music. Kind of a "Name That Tune" type of game if you pay attention enough to play along. The one that wrapped my brain in a knot, which I only just now figured out, was Big In Japan by Alphaville. That's kind of an esoteric tune, but does make the "game" more fun!
Hotness: Is it considered treason to root for the Japanese Women's Volleyball team? Not only are they cute, but they've got a kind of underdog sweetness going for them. Watching these ladies valiantly struggle against the 6-foot-plus Amazons on the American team is kind of inspiring. And hot.
Commentary: The main reason I loathe popular broadcast sports on television is the inane commentary. Are people really so stupid that they can't figure out what's going on without every single thing that happens being explained and elaborated on by commentators that just won't shut up for more than 5 seconds at a time? I find the Olympics much more enjoyable with the sound off, but then I can't play "Name That Tune!"
Presidential: Oh crap. Is it just me, or do the political commercials start earlier and earlier each year? I can't believe I've got to put up with four more months of Bush and Kerry ads... knowing they'll just get more frequent as the election approaches doesn't help much.
Veggie: I had high hopes for Boca Burger's new "Zesty Tomato Lasagna" because I'm always looking for frozen vegetarian foods that taste half-way decent. Alas, hope springs eternal. The "burger bits" in the lasagna are chewy like rubber and make an otherwise enjoyable meal suck ass.
Delightless: I just ate my very last "Mars Delight" bar that I brought back from London. Is it too much to hope that we'll eventually get them here in the States? I found a few places that import them, but they end up costing $1.40 each not including shipping and tax!! Oh well, I still have some of my mother's Teddy Bear Biscuits from Harrods to keep me company.
Spamed: Argh! When is Jay going to release the new version of MT-Blacklist? I'm getting slammed with comment spam, and am sick of having to manually delete this crap. How could he win the MT plug-in competition with a plug-in that you can't actually get your hands on?Read: I always hate trying to figure out what book to read next, and usually end up reading one I've already read and enjoyed to avoid disappointment. Now I see that "List of Bests" has put up Phobos Entertainment's "100 Science Fiction Books You Just Have to Read." I'm a bit reluctant to trust a list that puts Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Princess of Mars all the way at the bottom, and has Douglas Adam's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy way down at #85... but it is a nice resource for when I feel like trying something new.
Every once in a while (usually when I am put on hold while talking on the phone) I take a glance at my web site stats just to see what people are interested in and where they are going. Several months back, I shared some of the most popular keywords and links, and thought I would do that again just to see what has changed. Boy what a difference five months make!
Here are the top ten keyword searches people use to find me in August so far (anybody see a pattern here?)...
Going back a month, so I can get the big picture, I notice that most everything changes in the top five...
My most popular direct-linked entries for the past three months...
In other news: August appears to be yet another record-breaking month for unique visitor counts. In June it was averaging 307 per day, July 428 per day, and August so far is 446 per day. The vast majority of those counts are visitors to the Blogography entry page, so I am guessing most visitors are regular readers?
The FridayQ is a distant second entry point, but still receives a respectable number of visitors. Oddly enough, when I actually follow-up on people who are doing the FridayQ, it's shocking just how many people participate only to bitch about how they don't like the questions! Jeez, if you don't like FridayQ, DON'T DO IT!! Some of the comments are so nasty that I finally understand why other memes are dying off... I mean, why put any work into something that people are going to crap all over? It's not like I'm asking for money or anything, and anybody who thinks it's easy to dream up something unique every week should try their own meme for a few months before passing judgment. I've even had some people tell me that they refuse to participate in FridayQ because they don't get to leave comments and links to boost their web ranking! Well, I'm putting FridayQ out there NOT to make money or increase your ranking... I'm doing it just to help out because I know that coming up with an idea on Friday can be tough! If that's not enough for you, I'm sorry, but that's all I have to offer just now. That being said, it's pretty nice to get that occasional e-mail from people who like FridayQ, so maybe I'll hang in there a bit longer?Lastly, I continue to find it amazing that nearly 450 people each day find this blog (and my life!) interesting enough that they feel like stopping by and checking in. Who knew that my love of motorcycles, Elizabeth Hurley, and travel (along with my all-too-frequent rants) would be something people want to read?
After far too long, my motorcycle is out of storage. Needless to say, I am very happy just now.
Tell me Clarice... have the spams stopped screaming?
In addition to the blogging wonder than is ecto (not to mention Movable Type itself), there is one other piece of essential software that any blogger using MT simply must have... the sublime sweetness known as MT-Blacklist, created by minor deity Jay Allen to stop spammers from assaulting your blog comments and trackbacks.
In changing to the latest Movable Type installation 3.0, then going back to 2.6, then upgrading and going back yet again before finally installing 3.0 once and for all, one thing has not changed. Comment Spammers are relentless bastards. Waiting for the release of a version of MT-B that works with 3.0 has been excruciating because I receive up to 30 spam comments every day, and each one has to be dealt with individually and immediately so visitors aren't subjected to ads for headache relief, debt consolidation, penis enlargement, and other stupid crap that nobody wants to look at in the first place.
Enter MT-Blacklist, which stops most of the spam from ever reaching you, and also gives you an easy way to manage those that do. As I first learned from Neil, and then later had confirmed from Jay himself, an emergency release that works with MT3 is now available. Since this is a "pre-release" of sorts, there are still a few bugs and no tech support is available, but I've had zero problems so far and not a single spam comment has arrived since I installed it.
Now, at long last, blog nirvana has returned. The spams have stopped screaming.Thanks Jay! My donation is on the way.
The fires here have just broken over the ridge of Ollola Canyon. The smoke filling our sky that used to be a light gray is now black. Dozens of people I know are on Level 2 Alert and are prepared to evacuate (and some already have). Ash is falling from the sky. The light that's able to get through our darkened skies is now a lovely pinkish hue, casting painted shadows (strangely reminiscent of a Maui sunset) over all it touches. I can find only one tiny patch of blue sky, and it's closing fast. I guess you could say that the situation here is officially very serious...
This photo was taken at 2:00 in the afternoon, but it looks closer to 7:00 in the evening. The fire is moving so fast that I can't even guess what things will look like in another hour or two.
Sadly, Mother Nature is not in the mood to help out, as there is no rain in the forecast, and total containment is not projected any time soon (but is currently rated to be around 30%).
UPDATE: Well that was quick. A half-hour later and the light suddenly changed from pink to a ghastly shade of yellow. Playing around with the white balance on my camera, I can kind of capture it, but not really. Looking at it in person, there's an eerie glow to everything that just doesn't come through in photos...
Freaky. It feels very alien, like I'm looking though the world through vanilla-colored glasses or something. The sun is still there, but is a fluorescent orange color, which adds yet another surreal element to life here in Cashmere just now.
At first it was just a glow from behind the hills. A half-hour later, an orange dot appears on the top. Twenty minutes after that, the hillside is in flames. Within minutes, the canyon is gone, and the fire shows no signs of stopping... I can only guess it's to the river by now, but I can't see past the tree-line to know for sure. Smoke fills the air. The horses in the field behind my apartment are understandably in a panic. Fire sirens can be heard in the distance. The canyons are at Level 3 and being evacuated. The streets are filled with people gaping at the blaze that's arrived on our doorstep. And now the wind is picking up, gusting straight towards us.
Here is the view from the front of my apartment just moments ago at 8:30 and again at 8:45pm...
If the fire crosses the river, we're boned.
The fire has jumped again, and now Hay, Nahahum, and Spring canyons have been escalated to Level 3 and must be evacuated all the way to Highway 2 on the river. From my window, I can see the flames now traveling down yet another hill, and can't help but wonder if I will wake to find everything across the river gone. The smoke is getting worse, and the smell permeates everything, including the walls of my apartment. I've been through a fire once before, and have no desire to do it again. Hopefully it won't come to that.
When I woke up this morning, I had no idea what I would see, because things were looking pretty grim the night before. So you can imagine my surprise when I went to the balcony and saw blue skies! Looking back towards the fire, there was a lot of smoke in the air (and you could still smell it, of course), but the flames had vanished. Early reports say that only one residence was lost and another damaged last night. That's pretty amazing considering how fast the flames were spreading. Apparently, the priority was saving homes, and fire that was not in proximity to structures (like the hillside) was let go, which is why things looked much worse than they actually were. We owe a heck of a lot to the firefighters who have done such an incredible job in protecting lives and property. Thanks!
UPDATE: It's just all smokey now. Any time a small fire breaks out, helicopters come along and dump water on it. I'm told now the struggle is to keep the fire from breaking into Nahahum Canyon, where there are quite a few homes. Good luck to everybody there.
I have mixed feelings about video messaging. On one hand, it's kind of cool to be able to convey the emotion and nuances of speech that only video (or face-to-face conversation) can provide. On the other hand, people can see you. Some people take advantage of that fact in ways that only demented minds can conceive. And by "people," I mean "Meagan." When you get an invitation to video chat from Meagan, you know full-well that she's going to be recording your every move to add you to her collection of embarrassing photos, but somehow forget once you start talking to her...
Meagan: Whatcha doin'?
Dave: Uhhh... workin', what are you doing?
Dave: Well that must be sweet. Did you AIM me just so you could rub it in?
Meagan: No. I'm bored.
Dave: You could always come up here and fight fires.
Meagan: I'm not that brave.
Dave: Gee, I'm fresh out of suggestions then.
Meagan: You're looking particularly clueless today.
Meagan: You know. Clueless...
Dave: Oh, that's normal for me.
Meagan: Well I find it charming. It's not good for a man to think too much.
Dave: Then surely there are more qualified guys you could be talking to?
Meagan: None come immediately to mind, no.
Dave: You're so sweet to me. Say goodbye Meagan.
Meagan: Goodbye Meagan!
As our previous presidential election so aptly demonstrated, some people are too stupid to vote. They punch the wrong hole, fill in the wrong square, or just plain don't pay attention to what they're doing while marking up their ballot. Of course, part of the blame should go to the designer of the ballot for not making the forms idiot-proof (if such a thing is truly possible), but whatever. Here in Washington State, our legislators recognize that people are stupid, and have come up with a solution to make sure voters don't screw up their ballot.
Unfortunately, the solution is pretty damn stupid.
In this year's primary, you are only allowed to vote for candidates from a single party...
"Put simply, this campaign is designed to protect votes. People must pick one political party September 14 and stick to that party’s candidates. If they don't, some of their votes will not count."
- Sam Reed, Washington Secretary of State
Uhhh... some of my votes may not count? I vote for the best person for the job regardless of which party they're affiliated with. Since the primary election determines who ends up on the final ballot, I think it's pretty important that the candidate I want for the job actually ends up there, which is why we vote in the primary in the first place.
Now, I realize the reason that some people think this type of system is a good idea is because it prevents people who support an unopposed party candidate from messing with the competition in a different party... but what about people like me who don't give a crap about political parties? I am not a Republican, Democrat, or a Libertarian so why am I forced to vote that way? Isn't this kind of bullshit unconstitutional or something? And if it isn't, shouldn't it be? I agree that something needs to be done, but this?
Apparently we have Governor Gary Locke to thank for our new f#@%ed up primary ballot. This makes me really glad that the dumbass is retiring this year, so I don't have to worry about him making any further restrictions on my right to vote for the candidate of my choice.
I find it shocking that we can't seem to put the technology together to create an accurate voting system. A system that remembers your vote from the primary and rolls it over into the actual election if the candidate you voted for makes it on the ballot (and, if they don't, obviously you would get to choose somebody else). But since we're still using the antiquated, outrageously stupid electoral system, I suppose I shouldn't really be that surprised. It would seem that the noble idea of "one person, one vote" and truly fair elections will remain a pipe dream for the foreseeable future.
In addition to the dearly departed Julia Child, who is your favorite food personality? I'm a big fan of Iron Chef French: Hiroyuki Sakai. He seems a very capable and hard working chef in the kitchen, and both a respectful winner and gracious loser in Iron Chef food battles.
What meal would you have this culinary genius prepare for you if they asked? Well, since he's an expert in French cooking, probably something French? Problem is, French dishes don't tend to be the most vegetarian-friendly cuisine around (though their pastry is the best in the world, so it's probably a fair trade-off?). How about a vegetable bisque soup with French bread and a nice wine, followed by a large assortment of pastries for dessert.
If they refused, and you could eat at any restaurant you wanted as a consolation, which one would you choose? A plate of Fettucini Alfredo at Alfredo alla Scrofa in Rome would do nicely. It's a restaurant that doesn't rank high in atmosphere, but their pasta is the best I have ever tasted.
FQ Kitchen: Share with us a favorite recipe or cooking tip. I'm not much of a cook, so any recipe I might offer would involve combining two frozen foods in a microwave. I do, however, have a few tips which somebody might enjoy...
Eat your heart out at the FridayQ.
From here in Cashmere, you could almost forget that there is a fire raging up in the canyons across the river... blue skies and only the slightest odor of smoke in the air (or maybe I'm just used to it?). Unfortunately, the fire is far from gone, and there are still hundreds of people evacuated from their homes as the 1,780 firefighters continue to battle it out. As of this morning, they are projecting the fire grew slightly (now engulfing an estimated 16,379 acres(!) but is still 30% contained. I ran across a nifty map on the official Fisher Canyon Fire Site that shows how the fire has spread day after day, and it's pretty frightening just how voracious a monster fire can be under the right (wrong?) conditions...
Smokey says "don't play with matches." I tend to concur.
Line: As of 7:30 this evening, they are reporting that the fire here is 65% contained and that they have a "line" around the perimeter. Good news to be sure, but strong winds running through the canyons means that the story isn't over just yet. Again, a huge thank-you to the crews working so hard to save our homes.
Bounce: This morning while eating breakfast, I watched the Olympics from yesterday that were recorded on my Tivo. I was a bit surprised to find out that jumping on a trampoline is now an official Olympic sport (and apparently has been since Sydney in 2000). At first I admit to thinking that this is the most ridiculous event since synchronized swimming, but you kind of get into it after a while, simply because it's a lot more difficult than it sounds. In fact, it's so difficult that most of the athletes mess up and don't even get to finish their routine. The hardest to watch was the Olympiad from Greece, who was forced to perform in front of the largest crowd yet to appear at Athens 2004. He tried his best, but it was obvious that the crowd really unnerved the poor guy. I think it's a real shame that they don't give you two chances to perform for things like this where it's so easy to screw up. It hardly seems fair that years of training can be flushed down the toilet because of one mistake. That's not competition, it's torture.
Keen: While watching an episode of Keen Eddie that I had never seen before ("Achtung Baby"), I was very happy to learn that they are releasing the entire series on DVD in September! It doesn't make it hurt any less that FOX was so stupid as to cancel the show in the first place, but it does help to ease the sting of it all. Now if they would only get Jeremy Piven's Cupid (the best show to ever be aired on television) out on DVD, I'd really have reason to celebrate. Oh heck, Keen Eddie's got Sienna Miller, how can you not celebrate? Jude Law is one lucky bloke...
Oscar: My little tree has been worrying me for a while now because he developed yellow tips on his needles. I thought things were getting better because new branches started popping out, but today I noticed that the formerly yellow needles started turning brown on the tips. Not knowing what else to do, I removed him from behind the sliding glass door and set him out on the balcony (thinking perhaps the sunlight through the window was baking him). He's never spent the night outside before, so I'm a little worried that he'll not react well to the elements. Hopefully this is just what he needs to get well again, because I'm running out of ideas.
Protest: I've made a decision to protest the inane new "vote for one party only" ballot that's been forced upon Washington State residents for our election primary this year. As I previously mentioned this has me really pissed off, because I vote for the person, not the party. How am I going to protest? By voting exactly how I want to vote and not declaring a political party affiliation that I don't even have. As I understand it, this means my vote won't count, and my ballot will be tossed out. So be it. If I am forced to vote in a way that's contrary to my convictions, then what good is a "free" election in the first place? Why doesn't Governor Gary Locke (who championed this idea into law) just put the people he wants us to vote for on the final election ballot and eliminate these silly primaries entirely? Dumbass. Why should only party members be able to vote for who ends up on the ballot when we all have to live with the ramifications?
Adventure: Tomorrow the excellent blog "Adventure Journalist" is hitting the road on an 11,000 mile road trip. I cannot wait to see what new tales such a journey will generate for her notebook! Best wishes to Tonya, Shane, Ryan, Sarah and the dogs for a safe trip and, of course, a world of adventures!
By far the most inspiring Olympic event I've witnessed so far was the Women's Marathon Run. Averaging a 5 minutes 35 second mile in up to 100-degree heat, Mizuki Noguchi of Japan brought home the gold after a grueling 26 miles. In addition to the difficult conditions, she also had the added pressure of following up the previous Japanese win from Sydney 2000. You kind of get a sense that near the end there, the poor gal was running on empty... but the minute she entered the stadium for that final lap and realized she was going to get the gold and started waving to the crowd... well, moments like that are what makes the Olympics worth watching (photo taken from Athens2004.com, which will probably merit me all kinds of nasty threats from the IOC because they just don't appreciate free promotion for their site!)...
The drama escalated earlier in the race as British world champion Paula Radcliffe dropped out in tears. Whether it was the heat or emotional pressure did her in, it's hard to tell. In any event, it was a heart-wrenching moment that all of Great Britain must have felt.
Another inspiring moment was American Deena Kastor as she worked her way from 18th place, picking off the competition one by one to win the bronze. Where she found it within herself to keep progressing like that I have no idea. When they talk about triumph of the human spirit, stuff like this must be exactly what they mean.
All I know is that I could barely run a mile, let alone 26, in 100-degree heat (well, okay, I would have a hard time running a mile in sublime temperatures with a light breeze... I'm kind of a weenie that way).
I'm tired. I've had a splitting headache all afternoon. The project I've been working on has not gone well at all. And, to top it all off, I have no desire whatsoever to get up and go to work in the morning. This Sunday sucked! If only there was something I could do to make everything all better.
Hah! Of course there is! A motorcycle ride at dusk can fix just about anything! Tonight was particularly lovely out, which made for a fantastic "magic hour" ride that makes you glad to be alive.
Well, unless you are a bug. The one downside of riding at dawn is the number of poor bugs that end up slaughtered on your visor. I feel a little bad about that, but at least they gave their lives for a good cause.
I've already blogged about how astoundingly cool I think Exploding Dog is. Sam Brown somehow manages to effortlessly create powerful pieces of artwork that brilliantly express emotions and ideas in a way that few other artists can match. And he does all this with cartoons. Cartoons I love to print out and hang on my walls. Cartoons that I collect and share. Cartoons that make me think.
Today I was looking through the past month of Exploding Dog and ran across my favorite one yet which is titled "sometimes there aren't enough rocks..."
Awwww... the little rock that's taking a leap off the table is about the cutest thing ever...
And the look on the left-rock's face here is priceless...
Did the rock jump? Did he fall off by accident? Or was he pushed off? Are the two rocks on the table asking for help to save their little rock buddy, or are they responsible for him falling off the table and are telling the blockhead guy a lie about what really happened? Is the rock on the left really a rock since he's perfectly square? Did the blockhead guy collect the rocks, or is he just passing by? Every time I see an Exploding Dog cartoon, my mind is racing with dozens of questions.
Maybe that's what I find so remarkable about them?
Is it too much to hope that Sam releases this brilliant piece as an autographed print?
From the "I guess I don't know everything" department: today I learned something entirely surprising. There are two different spellings for the different meanings to the word "compliment/complement." Seriously, how in the heck can I be finding out something this basic so late in the game? It's not like English is a second language or anything... it's pretty much all I got! I shudder to think how often I've misused/misspelled the word over the years. It would have been to my compliment to complement my English skills with this knowledge a long time ago. Did they even teach this in school? Was I sick that day?
As a public service to anybody who also was sick that day in school...
Compliment (with an "i"): An expression of esteem, respect, affection, or admiration.
Complement (with an "e"): Something that enhances, fills up, completes, or makes perfect.
Oh, and by the way... one thing I DO know is that "they are" is "they're" NOT "their."
Despite a really rough day at work, plus the horrifying news that I've got another international trip coming up, plus getting soaked riding to work on my motorcycle in the rain, plus getting a nasty email concerning a blog entry that's months old, and getting poked in the eye... there were a few cool things that happened today.
Quentin: The first good news event of the day: Quentin Tarantino has started a blog! This demi-god of filmmaking wonderment is my single favorite writer and director — and his acting is pretty badass as well (his guest-spot on Alias is easily one of my favorite moments that doesn't involve Jennifer Garner looking brutally hot! Please, please, please come back once or twice for season 4!). Here's a few old posts defining why Quentin rules the earth:
Lego: As if Star Wars Lego wasn't cool enough, now they're making a video game out of it! Is it too much to hope that you can build your own Lego starships to fly around in? The concept is gold, so they had better not screw it up! I mean just look at this...
Medal: I really don't care for "interpretive" sports, like gymnastics, because there's never a clear winner... it's all subjective as to who was the best. Never has that been more clear than the embarrassing screw-up by the judges in their handling of the Men's Horizontal Bar. After a stunning routine by Russian gymnast Alexsei Nemov (with only a small hop on the dismount) the judges handed down an unbelievable 9.725. What's cool is that the crowd would have none of it, and after a lengthy round of booing, the judges upped the score to 9.762 (which still seemed low). I agree that Italy's Igor Cassina deserved Gold, but Nemov should have had Silver (instead of 5th), followed by Hamm with the Bronze. Still, you have to feel bad for Hamm who had to follow Nemov and started his routine while the boos were still going strong (despite a noble effort by Aleksei to get the crowd to stop).
Ride: The rain stopped long enough for me to have yet another great motorcycle ride at dusk. There are times when I hop on that bike that I toy with the idea of not coming back. But then it gets dark and starts getting cold and I reluctantly turn toward home.
I woke up to find that I have no Internet. What am I supposed to do now? What's going on in the world? I suppose that I shouldn't complain... in the four years I've had DSL this is only the second time it's gone down. But it does mess up my daily routine in a way that I'm not quite ready for. I wonder what's on television this morning?
Gah! I should have never looked! Morning television is crap! You know this is true when the most interesting thing on in the 100 channels I receive is Little House on the Prairie.
And speaking of Little House, what in the heck happened to that show? I was never a big fan... boring people in a boring place doing boring things in a boring time just doesn't appeal to me (Oh no! Laura lied to Ma and Pa! The humanity!). This morning I find out that things on the Prairie certainly have changed since I last bothered to watch all those years ago. Laura got married, her sister Mary is blind and married and running a school for blind children, somehow they have a brother named Albert (I thought they had a younger sister named Carrie?), and Nellie is married and no longer a bitch.
There were two episodes back-to-back, but there were from different seasons of the show which was confusing. I flicked back-and forth through the first episode, but watched the second. How could I not? Pa is living in the city(!) and his son(?) Albert is in a gang and addicted to morphine? Cool! It's like a really, really clean version of Trainspotting or something!
I've never been so relieved to go to work in my entire life. I hope my DSL is fixed tomorrow morning.
A while back I posted a rant about lame Internet quizzes in response to an entry at Geekable where Jeff had mentioned "Your blog is a quiz-free zone. You do not care if you are a princess of light, or a flute, or a Toyota Prius. If you wanted to take a test, you'd go back to school."
In response to all of that, Will James left a comment saying "I am in school, and these tests are way more fun." Since I had just had a friend lose their job to outsourcing, this led me to theorize (with sadness) that, "with all our tech jobs being shipped to foreign countries, maybe you really do get more mileage out of an Internet quiz after all?"
Then today I get a message from another friend who just lost their tech job to outsourcing. I used to think that so long as Windows was the dominate OS, there would always be jobs in tech support to deal with all the bugs, crashes, and confusion that goes along with it. Well, my friend's job was in tech support. Those Internet quizzes are looking better all the time, so here's my contribution (I'll make up for lost time by doing the Top 5 Most Popular at Quizilla)...
What movie Do you Belong in?(many different outcomes!)
What is Your Color? (girls only... great anime pics)
How Old is Your Inner Child?
What Sign of Affection Are You?
Which of the Greek Gods Are You?
Having my "Sign of Affection" being "Holding Hands" nearly caused me to throw myself off a building... but I kind of redeemed myself by having my "Greek God" be "Death." So there, is that lame enough for everybody?
Oh, just an FYI... the actual Greek god of death is Thanatos. The Romans changed Thanatos to Mors when they adopted the gods as their own. As an aside, Thanatos should not be confused with Hades, who is not Death... he's lord of the underworld. Thanatos should also not be confused with Thanos, which is the Marvel Comics villain who is obsessed with Death. Furthermore, the Roman god of death Mors should not be confused with the Roman god of war, who is Mars (stolen from the greek god of war Ares). I'm a big mythology buff, and errors like this bug the crap out of me!
Which Olympic events are your most and least favorite? I'm not a huge sports fan, but I do enjoy watching a good game of Beach Volleyball. As for my least favorite, that's easily Synchronized Swimming. I mean no disrespect as to the difficulty of such an endeavor, but it just looks stupid to me.
In what Olympic competition would you have the best shot at a gold medal? Uhhh... I think I'm equally tragic in just about all sports, so anything I choose is going to be pretty demeaning to those events. But, if forced to pick, perhaps Archery for Summer and Curling for Winter? Not that I've ever actually attempted Curling before, but I think I could probably scrub the ice with those little brushes better than any of my other choices (if I could manage to keep from falling on my ass, that is!).
If you could add or invent a new Olympic sport, what would it be? Motocross! And not just for Summer as you might think... motorcycle racing could be cool in Winter as well! Remember that chase scene in the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only where the motorcycles with spiked tires were racing down the bobsled course? That would kick ass as an Olympic competition!
FQ Pitchman: Propose why your home town should host the next Olympic Games (your choice Summer or Winter). When I really think about it... Cashmere might actually be a cool venue for the Winter Olympics. We're near some terrific mountains for skiing, and there's already plenty of winter activity areas to build on. And, since the fruit orchard market is dying off thanks to ever-increasing imports, there are plenty of orchards nearby that we can rip out in order to make room for a stadium and such. The only big problem is that we're a very small city with only one motel... so I have no idea how we'd be able to house all the spectators that would show up for the Games.
Go for the gold at the FridayQ.
When I decided to go ahead and try Yet Another Blog after having had two failures, I decided to trash all my previous layouts in favor of something simple. This time around I was planning on using photos, cartoons and other distractions in my entries, so I wanted everything in the layout to be uncluttered. Initially this meant Blogography had a white background with gray text menus and not much else. But eventually common sense set in and I ended up with the design you're looking at today (which is based entirely on the default Movable Type template that comes with the installation).
Overall, I like the layout of my blog and have no plans to change it anytime soon (indeed, I'm guessing the day I change it is the day I'll delete it and start all over again... or not). That being said, there are still a number of little details that I'm unhappy with and would like to change. Tonight I thought it would be fun to make some of those changes.
I was wrong.
Apparently, I am more inept at handling Movable Type's templates than I thought. In fact, I am a complete moron on the subject. It's now nearly 1am and I've been working on it for the past six hours and am failing miserably. Fortunately, I backed up all my templates, so now I'm going to revert to the originals and go to bed a defeated, wreck of a man.
I need that book Neil is working on! But since it isn't scheduled to be released until January 10th of next year, I guess I'll wait a while before trying my hand at customizing MT again.
Blogography does not currently accept advertising but, on occasion, I do like to whore myself out as an unofficial spokesman for products, people, and services I really like... thus the Dave Approved category is born, and my first entry is a good one. If you've read this blog for a while, you already know that I have a "thing" about toothpaste. So when I say I've found a brand I really like, you should totally trust me: Crest Whitening Expressions is the bestest toothpaste ever! This stuff is so good that I'd pour it over my breakfast cereal if the fluoride weren't poisonous to ingest...
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go brush my teeth again.
UPDATE: I just learned that they've released a new flavor: French Vanilla Mint! Sounds delicious. I wonder how it will compare to Herbal Mint, Cinnamon Rush, and Citrus Breeze? Ends up the answer is "not very well." It's not bad, but tastes kind of like a mint antacid or drinking milk after you had a breath mint.
If you ride a motorcycle, you simply must read this. Evil attack squirrel of death? As if there weren't enough to worry about while riding!
I just read that Kevin Smith, fresh off his Jersey Girl flop, has decided to return to where he began and make a sequel to Clerks which he is calling The Passion of the Clerks. I'm not sure how I feel about this. On one hand, I am thrilled that Smith will be again delving into the familiar territory we know and love. On the other, I am terrified that he will pull a George Lucas and needlessly trash some of my favorite movie characters...
I suppose that I should give the guy the benefit of the doubt, because I loved the Clerks animated series. And if there's even a small chance that he will approach the greatness that is Chasing Amy, then perhaps it's worth the risk? But can we at least get rid of the cheesy "Passion" title? South Park already beat you to it, so it's just lame now.
It's just a little over a week until my Clerks: 10th Anniversary Edition DVD set gets here. That's something I have no mixed feelings about... I can't wait!
Mondays usually suck... that's what they are designed for. This allows you to have a better "rest-of-the-week" and enjoy the weekend. Sure there's that pang of horror that hits your stomach late Sunday when you realize tomorrow is dreaded Monday, but that's just the way it goes (unless you live in the U.K. today, where they are having a bank holiday). Now, since I had to work all weekend, my Monday shouldn't suck at all. Monday should have been just another day.
But it wasn't.
My Monday sucked just as bad as it usually does, and that's not fair. It all started when I found out that Indian Larry had died while performing a motorcycle stunt. This guy was a true artist, and watching him in bike design competitions on The Discovery Channel was always a highlight. He will be missed...
Another sad bit of news is that James Doohan who plays "Scotty" on Star Trek had a farewell convention this past weekend, which will be his final public appearance. He has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and it won't be possible for him to attend anymore conventions. I've met him in person twice (he lives in Seattle, and regularly attended cons there), and he is about as nice a person as you're ever going to meet. The thought of losing another original cast member is pretty harsh.
When I finally got to work, things weren't much better: I found out that the email server will be down all day. Since email is used for about 90% of my communications, you can imagine just how fun that makes an already difficult job. Now I actually have to get on the phone and call people which sucks ass because I loathe doing business over the phone. I thought that servers were supposed to have redundant hard drives and stuff so outages don't happen, but it is a Windows server, so whatever.
Normally, I would rejoice in the fact that at least my personal email is working, but today I received an email so vile that I almost wished that it was inaccessible as well. A while back I wrote an entry on how dumbfounded I was that 4000 same-sex marriages were annulled in California. It doesn't matter whether I believe in it or not, it just seems really wrong to me that people can't love the person they want and be with the person they want (this is America after all). I had received two "wrath of god" type emails after I posted it, but then everything went back to normal... until today. I am tempted to post a copy here so that people can see just how hateful their fellow-humans can be, but it's so bad that I can't bring myself to do anything but delete it. In response, I can only say "peace unto you brother" because it sure sounds like you could use it.
The one bright spot in my day was reading people's reactions to Microsoft gutting some of the features in the next Windows release code-named "Longhorn." It's all just too funny. First Windows users were going to have to wait an additional year to get the features Mac users will be getting in 2005... now they won't be getting some of them at all! Of course, you know what this means: to compensate for Longhorn being short on features, it's time for another round of Mac bashing to come out of Redmond! As I mentioned before, any time Microsoft experiences a setback, it seems they trot somebody out to verbally talk about how great Windows is and how superior it is over Mac and Linux because they don't physically have a product whose superiority can speak for itself. "Put up or shut up" is something Gates & Co. just doesn't seem to understand. It's crazy that people continue to bend over and be shafted by Microsoft like this when better alternatives are out there.
If I just go to bed and try to forget that today ever happened, does that mean I'll get another Monday tomorrow?
iMac: Apple announced their new G5 iMac at the AppleExpo Paris today. It's pretty sweet, though I wish that the bus was faster and it came with more than 256MB of memory. As always when Apple has something new, I want one even though I don't need one. My G4 Cube I use at home is still the most beautiful computer ever made, even though I admit the idea of an elegant, all-in-one computer that's only 2-inches thick (along with that speedy G5 processor) is tempting. Oh well, I think I'll keep saving my pennies for a G5 PowerBook when they (hopefully) debut next year.
Skype: Also announced at MacExpo Paris is that a beta of Skype has just been released for MacOS X. In case you've been living in a box for the past year or so, this program allows you to make free phone calls over the Internet to any other Skype user, and even allows you to call any phone in 22 countries at just 2¢ a minute. I have at least a dozen friends around the world that keep after me to "just buy a cheap Windows PC so we can Skype" (as if!) and it's a bit of a relief to know I won't have to worry about that anymore. UPDATE: Skype ain't no Apple iChat A/V... but the quality is very good, and seems to work great so far.
News: A note to the New York Times and any other news service which requires registration to view your crap: Unless you have photos of a UFOs invading the earth or Elizabeth Hurley naked, I'm not going to bother. When are you people going to get a clue?
Sharona: A television show I really like is Monk on USA Network. It's a series about an obsessive-compulsive detective (played by the always excellent Tony Shaloub) who solves crimes from a rather unique perspective. The problem is that sometimes the show goes too far, and the obsessive-compulsive bit gets annoying. The only thing that saves Monk at those moments is his nurse/assistant Sharona (played by Bitty Schram). But now Bitty is leaving the show. Something tells me Monk has just jumped the shark.
Rock: Finally got around to watching the Never Scared HBO Special from Chris Rock (from his Black Ambition tour). It never ceases to amaze me what that guy can get away with on stage. He truly is fearless, which makes him that much more of a genius in his work. Some of his observations are so brilliant that I wish he would film a G-rated version of the show so that more people could hear what he has to say. Sure such a show would be only 10 minutes long once the R-rated material was cut, but it would be a very important 10 minutes to watch.
James Doohan got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame! Finally, after all these years, the genius that is "Scotty" is recognized. Now that I really stop and think about it, he is probably my favorite Star Trek character. Nothing is quite so cool as when Scotty starts to lose it in the engine room! He is also responsible for my favorite post-original series moments... particularly the guest appearance he had on Next Generation and his work in Star Trek IV ("Computer? Hello computer!").
I wish him nothing but the best...
Photos by Jason DeFillippo from the induction ceremony can be found on Blogging.LA. It looks like some other Star Trek faces showed up including Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Walter Koenig, and Grace Lee Whitney? That's pretty swell of them. Is there a transcript of the speeches floating around the Internet? I'd love to read what everybody said.