What happened the last time you thought yourself to be in danger? I've only been in a couple of truly dangerous situations, but the one that sticks in my mind is being held up at knife-point while walking through a not-so-nice part of San Francisco in 1999. Oddly enough, though it was obviously a dangerous situation, I didn't actually feel my life was at risk. I handed over my wallet, and that was the end of it.
How do you generally react when faced with a dangerous situation? Cautiously. My days of laughing in the face of danger are long since over.
What's something you enjoy doing that has an element of danger to it? I used to have a few things I enjoy like parachuting and scuba diving that could be considered dangerous, but that was a decade ago. Currently I am guessing the most dangerous thing I enjoy is riding my motorcycle... which can be pretty dangerous thanks to the many idiots out on the road.
FQ Gallery: Post a dangerous photo. One of the many helpful signs at Bryce Canyon National Park...
You too can live dangerously at the FridayQ.
Is blogging becoming passe? In order to have something to look at while on the phone this morning, I started cruising my "second tier" blog links... the blogs I don't read daily, but check in on every couple of months or so. I was a bit surprised to learn that a big chunk of them are gone and a majority of those remaining hadn't been updated in quite some time. This has me wondering if the blogging bubble has burst and weblogs are on the way "out." Since even some of my "first tier" blogs are being updated with decreasing frequency, it just might be time.
The number one excuse for stopping a blog (of those who bothered to post a final entry) is "this blog is occupying too much of my time, and I've got a life to live" - or something to that effect. I suppose this implies that those of use who blog regularly don't have a life? This is bizarre, because the 10 minutes a day I spend writing for Blogography hardly seems like a dent in my life (of course, if there are photos to crop or cartoons to draw, it takes a bit longer... but still).
Anyway, while people's willingness to write in a blog appear to be diminishing, their appetite for reading them seems to have no signs of letting up...
A year ago my Hard Rock Cafe site DaveCafe.com, occupied just over 80% of my traffic. Today, it's hovering at 10% and falling. The only other domain I track, DaveSpot.com, used to get 6% and is now under 2%. But the interesting thing to see here is that the traffic for both of these domains hasn't much changed. They just look like they are doing worse because the page hits for Blogography keep growing (obviously, DaveSpot is redundant now that I have a blog, so I've just now redirected all links to here).
Naturally, all of this has me thinking: "I wonder how much longer it will be before I decide to hang it up and shut down my blog?"
Blogography: I awoke this morning to find a baker's dozen of emails from kind people asking me not to shut down my blog (apparently in reaction to my entry yesterday). Sorry to mislead you, but I'm not planning on it anytime soon. I was just wondering how much longer I would continue given that quite a few bloggers seem to be giving it up. Besides, when I started this blog (after two previous failures) I made a commitment to myself that I would stick around for 1000 entries, and this is only #605.
Commentary: It's a mystery to me that I receive far more emails than visitor comments for my blog. From yesterday I got 2 comments but 13 emails? Thinking that perhaps people are afraid to leave comments because an email address is required, I've made some changes... 1) No personal information is required to comment anymore, and 2) If you do leave an email address for personal correspondence, it will never be displayed. I have no idea if it will make any difference, but you can now leave completely anonymous comments if you like (by leaving the name, email, and link fields blank).
Listen: Since I had to rebuild all 604 pages to remove the commenting requirements, I made a few other changes as well. First of all, I've added a link to my FAQ and other info about me to the menu there on the left. Second, the "Dave Gallery" now links to my Flickr album. Third, I've added a "Listening" item to the menu which shows what embarrassing 80's pop music I'm listening to at the moment (currently, that would be Until She Comes, a beautiful song by the Psychedelic Furs).
Angelina: I just saw a trailer for the new Angelina Jolie movie coming out called Mr. & Mrs. Smith (which also stars Brad Pitt, if you care). Sweet! They play a typical suburban married couple, but are unaware of each other's true professions... they are actually highly-paid assassins working for competing organizations. When the secret is revealed, they end up trying to assassinate each other! Looks wicked-funny and action-packed but, sadly, doesn't come out until June 10, 2005 Something about Angelina Jolie as an assassin appeals to me. Maybe it's the outfits?
Jessica: I also see that a trailer for Blade: Trinity is out, which I am looking forward to. In addition to more Wesley Snipes ass-kicking action, we also get Jessica Biel for eye candy and Ryan Renolds for comdey relief (cool, it's Berg!). They got Goyer to write again, but this time he is also directing, which worries me a bit because he's a rookie and Guillermo del Toro did such a brilliant job last time.
Season: I have a feeling that my motorcycle is going to be put into storage for the winter very soon now. I haven't had a lot of opportunity to ride it much for the past month, so I'm kind of sad about that. Oh well, just another reason to look forward to Spring, I guess.
... the other Washington. Most of the time when somebody mention's "Washington," people are trained to think "Washington, D.C." since it it the capital of the USA where everything is happening (this is especially true East of the Mississippi). But in recent days they might just be thinking of my home here in Washington State, where an awful lot of stuff has been going on.
We've got Mt. St. Helens erupting... again. The last time this happened, my home town got covered in ash, the skies were darkened (causing the sun to turn blood-red), and schools were closed. Scientists tell us that any eruption that might occur will in no way compare to the event in 1980, but what do they know? Every time you turn on the news, the chances of lava flowing down the slopes goes from 10% to 50% and now 70%. The current reports tell us that an eruption is imminent and could happen any minute now...
In sports news, we had the double whammy of the Seattle Mariner's Edgar Martinez retiring and Ichiro Suzuki breaking an 84-year old record for most hits in a season. It was a shame that the Texas Rangers decided to celebrate by pulverizing the Mariner's 10-4 in last night's game. I'm a little surprised that news agencies outside of the Pacific Northwest aren't making a bigger deal out of Ichiro's amazing accomplishment. At best, it's being treated as a footnote to other sports news, which doesn't seem right. Congratulations Ichiro-san!
Other news that's getting National attention: Two completely worthless human beings were given a pathetically short 9-month jail sentence for tying a stray dog to a tree and shooting it ten times with a bow and arrow. Between the two of them, they have previous crimes of child molestation, burglary, and forgery. NINE MONTHS? With almost no punishment for such a heinous offense, how long will it be before they move on to torturing people? Why not shoot them with arrows? Animal rights groups across the country are understandably furious.
And yet another story that's making National news: The Washington State Bush Re-Election Campaign Headquarters in Bellevue was broken into and laptops with important information were stolen. The police say that it doesn't appear to be politically motivated. Republican officials, of course, say differently. I just find it surprising that laptops containing critical campaign plans for the entire State are just left out in the open rather than being locked up.
For anybody interested, KOMO 4's web site is following all of these stories (I actually prefer KING 5 for my news, but the idiots require registration at their web site). By all means check in from time to time to see if I'm covered in molten lava.
I've been playing around with Google's Gmail and have to say that it's pretty good for a web-based email service. And now that I've got an account, I've protected myself in anticipation of Google's bid for global domination. If anybody out there doesn't yet have an account and wants one, I've got a half-dozen invitations... just leave a comment and be sure to fill in an email address where I can send it (the address will not be publicly visible).
More than a couple of people have asked what I thought of the US Presidential Debates, so here we go. The honest truth? I think that both candidates pretty much sucked. On one hand you've got President Bush not being able to put together a coherent sentence without repeating inane sound-bites over and over (and the "I'm-a-dumbass-deer-in-the-headlights" stare didn't help either). On the other, you've got Kerry over-compensating for his liberal views by making absurd statements like "I will hunt down and kill the terrorists, wherever they are," (which makes him sound like quite the little terrorist himself... what ever happened to "bringing them to justice?"). Bush scares and embarrasses me. Kerry doesn't inspire me. These two guys are the best America has to offer?
Oddly enough, the Saturday Night Live parody of the the debates the other night was a better analysis than I've found anywhere else. I wish I could post it without having to worry about NBC legal pouncing on my ass.
I had already decided not to vote for President Bush because of his tasteless jokes at the expense of the military personnel he sent to Iraq (I wrote about it on this entry, question #20). Anybody who would so thoughtlessly joke about starting a war has absolutely no business running the country. None. But is Kerry the better choice? I don't know.
As usual, it's Neil who has stumbled across the solution (and he doesn't even live in the USA!). I will take an Internet loyalty quiz to determine my vote...
BUSH LOYALTY QUIZ RESULTS: "Your score is 2 on a scale of 1 to 10. You can't stand George W. Bush. The mere mention of his name makes you cringe, and every time you hear him speak, it makes you want to jump out the window. You will vote for Anyone But Bush."
KERRY LOYALTY QUIZ RESULTS: "Your score is 6 on a scale of 1 to 10. You're leaning toward John Kerry, although you have some reservations about him. You believe he's presidential material, but wonder if he truly has what it takes to defeat President Bush. He's a bit uninspiring and makes you wince on occasion, but you're willing to suck it up and vote for him anyway."
Wow. That's kind of spooky because the results have pretty much distilled my feelings exactly. Kerry rides a motorcycle and uses a Mac, so that's another couple of points in his favor. I have my doubts as to whether Bush would even know how to turn on a computer, so I guess his platform of choice is kind of irrelevant. Politics suck ass.
It would seem that the ongoing hotbed of controversy that's centered around the music industry is not going to disappear anytime soon. Music labels don't want people to be able to enjoy music unless it's in a way they make a lot of money. The RIAA wants to keep the music industry in the dark ages so that they are still relevant. Recording artists want to service their fans and make a living by getting paid for their work. Microsoft wants to completely control the digitial music industry and have no competition whatsoever for their WMA format (no more of that MP3 and Apple ACC nonsense!). Everybody is fighting each other and it's really sad because the actual music is becoming secondary to the battle.
Apparently there is no middle ground here and that sucks because all we music fans want is to be able to listen to the music we love in a way that's convenient for us.
Scrobbler: I finally got around to setting up an account on AudioScrobbler. Problem is that I listen to very different music on my iPod than at work (which is where my account is watching). Something tells me that blasting Nine Inch Nails from my office would not be appreciated by my co-workers, so I stick to mostly 80's Synth-Pop. If you want to see what embarrassing tunes are currently keeping me company, here's a link to my AudioScrobbler list.
Artist: A brilliant take on digital music downloads was just posted at ScottAndrew.com. Scott rightly points out that if musical artists concentrated on keeping their fans happy (rather than focusing all their energy on stopping theft of their music) that the fans will in-turn will support the artist. For me at least, this is a completely true statement. On my iPod there is exactly one song out of 4200 that I don't own... Tarzan Boy by Baltimora. I would gladly purchase the song if I could, but the CD is long out of print and all my efforts to buy a reasonably-priced copy have met with failure. I was left with no choice but to find a copy online and "steal" it. If music companies would get off their asses and put their entire catalogs on the iTunes Music Store, there would be no reason for me to steal. I support the artists I like because I want them to keep making music. It's inconceivable to me that a group I love would come out with new CD and I would steal from them. I would hope that I'm not unique that way, and I don't think I am considering that Britney Spears just bought a new seven million dollar honeymoon home.
Ballmer: Everybody's favorite dancing monkey-boy, Steve Ballmer, decided to take the typical approach of trashing competing products because Microsoft can't come up with something better. This lovely Ballmer quote was offered up to the London press yesterday: "We’ve had Digital Rights Management in Windows for years. The most common format of music on an (Apple) iPod is 'stolen'." Given the ludicrous nature of this statement (uhhh... Microsoft Media players don't have stolen music on them?) I have to ask the question: "are executives at Microsoft exempt from drug testing?" And, if "Apple is doing such a crappy job of advancing the legal purchase of digital music, then why is Microsoft trying their best to clone the iTunes Music Store with their shitty MSN Music Store?" For the sake of MS shareholders, Ballmer should just shut up entirely since he seems incapable of making anything but dumbass comments. Of course, he wouldn't have to talk trash if Microsoft would ever come out with something good enough to speak for itself, so maybe this kind of distraction is essential to the company's success?
Time for me to wrap things up... it's New Music Tuesdays at the iTunes Music Store, and it looks like there's new R.E.M. and Fatboy Slim to go buy!
I guess there are a few benefits to the change in weather. The trees sure do look purty...
Argh. I am not ready for winter just yet.
Every night this week, I've taken a look at my web site error logs and fixed a problem that was causing trouble for my visitors. I've added error pages, fixed references and redirects, changed URLs to be more compatible with Google Image Search, and cleaned up a bunch of dead links. My thinking was that if I solved a new problem every night, eventually all the various errors would be eliminated.
This was, of course, delusional... because the problems never end.
For every issue I fix, another is happy to come along and take its place (sometimes what I fix is the cause of the new problem!). Anyway, I've finally reached a place where the most heinous errors affecting the most people have been eliminated. So now I am switching from technical problems to design problems.
Since the very beginning I've wanted my menu bar to be on the right instead of the left. This would give the bulk of the text a nice clean left-edge to read against. Problem is, I could never get the menu bar to work properly on the right-hand side. Then this evening, after nearly two hours of trial and error, I finally got the menu bar on the right where it was meant to be! This was cause for a small celebration on my part...
... after which I promptly moved it back to the left side. Things have been the "wrong" way for so long that it looks strange to make such a radical change. Instead, I went for a more subtle approach and added a light purple background to the menu sections so they separate more from the body text. I'm not sure if it's better or worse, so I guess I'll wait a month or two and see if it grows on me.
I'm fickle that way.
I've been pleasantly surprised with the terrific new television programs showing up this season. So much so, that they're starting to back up on my TiVo. The latest David E. Kelley lawyer drama Boston Legal is deliciously good, with James Spader and William Shatner turning in jaw-droppingly good performances. Desperate Housewives shows promise. Lost is as brilliant as I had hoped it would be. Veronica Mars is far better than we deserve. And C.S.I. New York has redeemed the crappy Miami imitation with a darkly different take on the original.
Compare these five (six if Life as We Know It lives up to the buzz) to how many series from last season I am still watching: just two. Arrested Development and Joan of Arcadia... and if Joan gets any more whiney, I'll be down to one.
Now if I only had time to watch all of them.
What's the coldest you've ever been and where was that? As an adult, one of the coldest moments I can recall was waiting for my train in Berlin, Germany in the winter of 2001. I wasn't planning to spend much time outdoors for the trip, and was grossly unprepared for how cold it was. After an hour I was shivering uncontrollably and couldn't feel my hands or legs. Once I had thawed out, I had leg cramps for days.
What's the warmest you've ever been and where was that? On a trip to Phoenix, I arrived after the sun went down but it was still over 90-degrees! The next day was a record-setting 116-degrees, which was unbearably hot. Just walking across the parking lot from my hotel to the restaurant was a physical effort that had me feeling as if I was on fire.
If you had to choose, would you rather be too warm or too cold? Definitely too warm. I can't stand being cold.
FQ Ego: What's a moment you were at your coolest? Any time I'm on my motorcycle (obviously it's not me that's cool in this scenario, but I think some of my bike's coolness rubs off on me!). Your hottest? Hah! I don't feel I am even remotely "hot," but I once dated a girl who was so hot that she made me feel hot to be standing next to her. The fact that she ended up being a total nightmare that ruined my life is besides the point.
Be cool at the FridayQ.
This morning I went to burn a CD of the work I completed last night only to find that I didn't have enough disk space. Since I had just flushed all of my completed projects before my trip to Korea, I couldn't figure it out. What could be taking up all that space? Ultimately, I found out it was a couple of episodes of Cupid (the best television show ever made) which I had digitized for the trip (when are they going to release this show on DVD?).
Anyway, it wasn't the missing hard disk space that turned out to be the biggest surprise... along the way I discovered several musical scores I had written in Garage Band quite a long time ago. For anybody not familiar with this miraculous program by Apple, it's part of their $49 "iLife Suite" which allows you to create amazing music with absolutely no musical talent. Just use the music loops provided, arrange them as you wish, edit and adjust volumes, then mix and enjoy listening to the results. If you actually have musical talent, you can compose music with guitars, keyboards, drums, or any other MIDI compliant instrument. It's all very, very cool.
In fact, I suggest going to your local Apple Store right now and asking for a Garage Band demo. Just play around with it for a few minutes and don't be surprised if you end up buying a new Macintosh (if you don't already have one) just to be able to goof around with this one program.
But I digress.
As I listened to the tracks I created... everything from synth-pop tunes to beautiful mandolin-infused melodies... I realized something was missing. Sure they were all terrific songs that are fun to listen to, but there's an element absent from my compositions that kept them from greatness. Something profound and haunting that was needed to elevate my works from the mundane to immortality. But what was it? After a second listen, it suddenly occurred to me:
Where's the cowbell? I NEED MORE COWBELL!
YEAH BABY! Now we are rockin' the house! Nothing like a little cowbell cranked up to 11 to make even the worst songs worth listening to. So now I am adding cowbell to all my tracks and loving it! I hope that Apple comes out with a Jam Pack extension that contains nothing but funky cowbell riffs. Because, in a world of confusion and uncertain times, a little cowbell is all we need to feel good again.
A while back I posted about the upcoming DVD release of Devotional, a Depeche Mode concert film by Anton Corbijn. Well, it's just arrived and was totally worth the wait. If you are even a marginal DM fan, this is a must-have item if there ever was one (and there isn't even any cowbell in it!). Depeche Mode is the best band I've ever seen in concert, and this performance piece showcases exactly why I'm utterly shattered that I missed the Devotional Tour when it came to Seattle on July 11, 1993.
Understandably, most of their earlier works are left behind in favor of the more mature sound that began with Music for the Masses and was refined in Songs of Faith and Devotion. This may disappoint some, but we have their 101 tour for People Are People and many others, so I'm okay with it. Probably the biggest selling point of Devotional for true fans is that it was the last time Alan Wilder would tour with the group. It's such a shame, because we get Alan playing drums(!) as well as keyboards this time around.
In addition to the live performance DVD, there's also a supplemental disc in the box. This second DVD has the freaky-ass video projections used by director Corbijn in the tour, even freakier Corbijn music videos, an MTV Rockumentary, and other assorted tidbits. Truthfully, I'd rather have skipped the supplement and paid less money for the concert footage, but I guess you can't have everything. In the end, it doesn't really matter, because the live stuff is worth the cost of admission alone.
Times like this have me longing for the band to get back together for another album. Putting aside their solo projects, it's been three long years since their somewhat disappointing Exciter release and we fans are needing a fix. I suppose I could attempt to make due with the upcoming Remixes 81-04 CD... but don't get me started on the awful Marilyn Manson cover of Personal Jesus. Because when it comes to Depeche Mode, accept no substitutes.
Shock: Will somebody please tell Pizza Hut that having Miss Piggy sell pizza topped with Canadian Bacon is just wrong?
Disbelief: Why in the heck does CSI Miami (with dumb-ass David Caruso) get a new guy that's incredibly competent while over at the real CSI (with cool-ass William Petersen) they've turned the once-competent Greg into a bumbling moron? I know that Greg has always been a bit awkward socially but, when it came to the job, he was always brilliant... now they move him out to the field and he's suddenly stupid? Why?
Anticipation: It's the Boston Red Sox vs. the New York Yankees. Again! Boston hasn't won a series since 1918... is it too much to hope that this will be their year even though they went insane and traded away Nomar?
Disgust: Political ads have always been pretty nauseating, but the recent crop of television ads are just horrendous. In my home state of Washington, incumbent Senator Patty Murray is in a fierce ad-battle with candidate George Nethercutt, and they both end up looking like complete asses. Nethercutt is a total bastard that's using 9/11 as a battering ram to scare people into not voting for her... Murray is a total bitch that's using public health as a wedge to manipulate people into not voting for him. Stop attacking each other and attack the issues you dumbasses.
Hilarity: Yet another amazing presidential debate parody on Saturday Night Live. How do they do it?
Horror: I'm out of bread. How am I supposed to make toast now??
For a long time now I've wanted to convert my Hard Rock site, DaveCafe, over to a database so that it would be easier to maintain and update. I had played around with using PHP and MySQL to do this, but I'm just not talented enough to figure it out. Then it occurred to me that I might be able to use my blogging system, Movable Type, to run the site. It ended up working out amazingly well. The development curve went something like this:
10 MINUTES: Approximate time it took to figure out how to store variables in my blog by using a terrific Movable Type plugin called KeywordVariable.
20 MINUTES: Approximate time it took to convert the seven templates required for the site over to Movable Type and test all of them.
30 MINUTES: Approximate time it took to automate and convert the 100 Hard Rock Cafe reviews from an Excel spreadsheet to MT blog entries, thanks to the delicious scriptability of ecto (the blogging software I use). That's astoundingly fast... AppleScript rules!
And that was it! Thanks to Movable Type, ecto, AppleScript, and my Mac, I was able to completely create a database-driven web site in one hour with no database ability! Amazing. Simply amazing. At least it was, until the final step...
THREE HOURS AND COUNTING: Amount of time it's taking me to figure out why the pages will display perfectly in every browser I can find EXCEPT Internet Explorer in Microsoft Windows.WHAT THE f#@%?!?
Seriously. This is stupid, STUPID, STUPID!!! I just don't get it. Why doesn't Microsoft feel any obligation whatsoever to fix rendering bugs that ONLY appear in their browser? I'll tell you why... they don't give a shit. And why should they? 90% of the people on earth are using their shitty software, so web designers have no choice but to grab their ankles and waste hours and hours of time trying to make sites compatible with a bug-ridden pile of crap browser. Microsoft is law unto itself and is apparently not accountable to their customers, web standards, the US government, or anybody else.
What this boils down to is that if you are using Internet Explorer, odds are that many of the web sites you visit are not looking as they were intended to be displayed. That defeats the entire purpose of the web, and is just wrong. Not only that, but the security holes in Explorer are opening your computer up to all kinds of spyware, nasty viruses and other problems. Microsoft sucks total ass, and I can only hope that one day in the near-future people will wake up and start refusing to put up with their crap.
So do yourself (and the entire web-using universe) a favor... dump Internet Explorer if you are still using it and get a real browser. Go grab yourself a copy of Firefox right now and be amazed at how a browser is supposed to work. You might just be surprised, and web designers will thank you.
Girls know him as that whiny bitch from Somewhere in Time. Guys know him as the world's greatest hero: Superman (my favorite comic book movie adaptation of all time). I can only hope that Christoper Reeve's passing (as Marlon Brando's before it) will lighten some hearts and finally halt the legal battles that are preventing Richard Donner's original cut of Superman II from being released. What a wonderful tribute it would be if Reeve's intended performance could finally be seen as it was meant to be.
Christopher Reeve made us all believe a man could fly. Now it's his turn.
Rest in peace.
It's harvest time here in the valley and trucks packed with bins of apples are lining up at the warehouses. The nice bit is that the smell of apples is in the air, and eating a fresh-from-the-tree piece of fruit just can't be beat. I suppose I should enjoy it while it lasts though. We used to be "Apple Capital of the World," but with more and more cheap apples being imported from China and elsewhere... well, it seems that every year another bunch of local farmers are having to tear out their orchards and sell the land to avoid bankruptcy. Quite sad really.
Mars: I know I should stop being amazed at how wonderful the new television show Veronica Mars is, but I just can't help myself. Every episode is better than the last (much like Boston Legal and Lost). The October 12 episode had a twist near the end that completely caught me off guard, and that almost never happens! I am thankful that the show is on UPN, because ABC would have probably cancelled it by now.
Repeat: The only down-side of watching Veronica Mars is that the theme song is the infectious We Used to Be Friends by Dandy Warhols. Now I can't get it out of my head and, by the time I finally do manage to forget about it, a new episode of Veronica Mars is on again.
UFO: I don't know if I believe in alien abductions or not, but it would sure explain a great many things. Nobody can have as bizarre a life as mine without alien abduction in there somewhere.
Clarification: And when I say that, I mean aliens abducting me... not me abducting the aliens. Though that too would explain a great deal.
Cellular: When I renewed my contract with Verizon wireless, they completely screwed up my billing. Every month I get an outrageous bill with insane charges. Every month I call Verizon to get it straightened out. Every month Verizon throws meaningless numbers at me in an attempt to "explain" their unexplainable mess. Every month I beg them to just give me a pay-off amount so that I can bring my account current and be done with it. Every month I disagree with the charges, but relent and pay anyway so they will just leave me alone. Every month I send in the money they ask for, and it makes no difference. Every month my bill arrives with a mystery "past due amount" that makes no sense. Every month I waste time and energy with Verizon that could be spent doing something else.
Work: I have four days in which to complete two weeks worth of work. I guess that means I have four 20-hour work days ahead of me. It's not the first time but, honestly now, I'm getting entirely too old for this crap.
Doggy: Neil has a calculator so you can find out how old you are in dog years. Apparently I'm 270 years old. See, I told you I'm too old for this crap.
In one word, describe a luxury item you would want if stranded on a desert island for a year. Surfboard. Why? I would need something to keep me entertained, and learning to surf seems like it might be a good way to pass the time.
In one word, describe a food you wouldn't mind eating every day for a month. Pizza. Why? It's my favorite food and never get tired of eating it. I know I should probably choose something more nutritional, but oh well.
In one word, describe an occupation that you wouldn't necessarily want as a career, but wouldn't mind trying out for a week. Cartographer. Why? I've always loved maps and enjoy drawing them from time to time. It might be interesting to see what is involved in map-making for an actual job.
FQ Search: Enter your first name PLUS the above three words into a Google search and see if anything interesting comes up! Just two results: A site reviewing the 15 Greatest War Movies and a very cool journal about a bicycle trip around New Zealand! That's kind of nifty... I thought for sure I'd end up with junk or no entries at all!
Your search is over at the FridayQ.
The blogosphere (if not the entire Internet) is abuzz with The Daily Show's Jon Stewart's brilliant appearance on Crossfire, and with good reason: he spanks host Tucker Carlson on air... hard! For those who have never heard of it, Crossfire is a political show whereas a guest is invited to sit between a Left-Wing guy (in this case, Paul Begala) and a Right-Wing guy (the afore-mentioned Tucker Carlson) while the two of them battle it out over political and social issues. The guest is trapped in the crossfire of the two hosts, hence the name of the show.
Basically, Stewart sat down and was instantly on the attack, bitch-slapping the show for "hurting America" and calling Tucker Carlson a dick. And he's right. On both counts. And that's the reason his appearance is so noteworthy, Jon Stewart actually had the balls to say what so many haven't: shows like Crossfire and Hardball are not debate shows at all, they're two-dimensional puppet shows by partisan hacks that services their respective party agendas and nothing more. Debate actually explores the issues at hand with intelligent conversation. Crossfire doesn't really explore anything at all... it's Left vs. Right tearing into each other in black and white terms for nothing more than entertainment value. Since issues can so rarely be boiled down to black and white, it's a war that nobody (including viewers) can win.
It must be pretty good to be Jon Stewart just now. As if it isn't enough that he is championing true political discourse in the media, his show recently won two Emmys for the second year in a row, and his book America: A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction just hit #1 on the best-seller list...
The book is a parody of the past, present, and future of politics in America and well worth a look, so be sure to check it out at your local library or go ahead buy a copy so you can treasure it for the decades to come (Barnes & Nobel had the best picture for me to steal, so here's their link). I've also noticed that the Crossfire appearance is hitting the web in video, and it's worth tracking down.
I feel I must preface this entry by declaring my love of all things Kevin Smith. Clerks and Chasing Amy are utter brilliance in film-making, and I even like his cartoons, comic books, and many other endeavors. Very few people can write dialogue as good as Smith (Quentin Tarantino and a handful of others perhaps), and his sense of comic timing is flawless. So when I say that his latest film, Jersey Girl is kind of lame, well, it's nothing personal.
Ben Affleck plays a publicist named Ollie Trinke who loses his wife (J-Lo, go figure) during childbirth, and ends up having to raise his new baby girl, Gertie, all alone. After a PR incident gone terribly wrong at the Hard Rock Cafe, Ollie is fired from his job and has to move back to New Jersey so he can live with his father (Geroge Carlin) while he tries to find new work. From the moment he meets a new potential love interest (Liv Tyler), the movie forges ahead in a completely predictable manner right up to the cheesy ending you can see a mile away.
Affleck is passable as Trinke (but falls short of his work in Chasing Amy and Bounce) and newcomer Raquel Castro stands out with a terrific performance as young Gertie. The rest of the cast seems to do the best they can in background roles that are pretty one-dimensional... but the problem is never with the acting, it's the writing.
You can definitely see Kevin Smith touches from time to time, but it seems watered down from what I've come to expect. What's really bad though is his tendency to go for stupid jokes to fill in space that greatly distract from the overall story. The aforementioned incident at the Hard Rock Cafe starts out when Ollie's father refuses to watch baby Gertie and so Ollie has to take her to the event (apparently, he's never heard of a babysitter). Then it's time for the same jokes we've seen a million times: Baby poop smells bad. New dad doesn't know how to change a diaper. Baby powder goes flying (after dumping half a bottle on the kid... har dee har har). It's not funny, it's stupid and tired and Kevin Smith is so much better than this.
So, if you want to see a light comedy flick, you could certainly do worse than Jersey Girl (which is to say that you could do much, much better as well). About the only thing highly recommended on the DVD is a selection of Kevin Smith's Roadside Attractions from The Tonight Show so, even if you hate the film, a rental won't be a total loss.
One of the pitfalls of being a television junkie is the risk of getting attached to a show that gets mindlessly cancelled. It happens far more often than it should because networks are just too trigger-happy when it comes to showing their viewers a little gratitude and respect. One such casualty of the television landscape was Farscape on the Sci-Fi Channel. This time it was especially gutting because the show's writers were told that the series had been renewed for another season, but then the order was rescinded at the last moment which left us with a heinous cliffhanger.
In an effort to appease the thousands of outraged fans (like myself) who cried out for blood when Farscape was cancelled, Sci-Fi graciously ordered up a four-hour mini-series to tie up all the loose ends. The result is Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars.
Overall, I have to say I enjoyed the show very much. The pace was recklessly fast... bringing about death, destruction, and a fairly satisfying conclusion to the story. For that much, I have to thank Brian Henson, David Kemper, and the entire cast and crew of Farscape. It's been a great ride, and I can only hope that we get to visit their little corner of the universe again one day.
On the road again, this time to Seattle for a few days work. I've made the 2-hour drive so many times that it's easy to zone out along the way, but every one in a while you see something out of the ordinary. This time it was a bizarre lighting effect coming from behind the mountains... shafts of heavenly radiance reaching upwards. Sadly, it didn't capture very well on my little pocket camera, but it's still an impressive event...
I'm sure there's some kind of fancy scientific term for this stuff, but I just call it "cool."
Ooooh look! It's time for a kiwi and pineapple break! The odd thing about kiwi is that they are fairly normal-looking on the outisde. It's not until you look inside that you find out where their true beauty can be found...
I'm pretty sure there's a life lesson in here somewhere, but I just can't put my finger on it right now.
For the second day running, we have a story on the front page of the newspaper with the "shocking" news that members of Congress are getting their flu shots despite the scarcity of the vaccine for everybody else.
All I can say is "I would certainly hope so."
I mean, come on... these lawmakers make decisions that affect billions of people! The last thing I want to read in next week's headlines is that Congress approved a Presidential order for a preemptive nuclear strike into Canada by one vote because somebody was out with the flu and couldn't make it!
That being said, I think flu shots are a crock of shit. It only protects you from a small percentage of the various flu strains out there and, assuming you don't die from an allergic reaction to the shot itself, could make you sicker than if you actually got the flu in the first place. I've never had one myself, and secretly wonder if it's a government conspiracy to inject mind control drugs into the populace (insert X-Files theme music here).
If you were able to visit any time period in the past, when would it be? I know it would be cool to say "Ancient Rome" or something like that, but I honestly think that I would choose the early 80's. What is it about this particular point in history that appeals to you? I had good times back then! Personal computers were starting to explode onto the scene, and everything was fresh and new in the computing world. Computers where fun back then. The music was cool as well. The haircuts... not so cool.
If you could meet any person from throughout history, who would that be? Hands-down, it would be Michelangelo. What makes them so special to you? He was one of the most brilliant minds and gifted artists who ever lived.
If you could reach through time and grab a piece of historical memorabilia, what artifact would you take and what would you do with it? I'd snag something cool, like an animation cell from Akira or one of Michelangelo's paint brushes, and hang it on the wall of my office for inspiration.
FQ Quantum Leap: You have been given a one-time-only opportunity to travel back in time and interfere with history! Would you do it? Sure! Where would you go and what would you try to change? I'd go back to when Microsoft was first starting out and sabotage the company... that way, I wouldn't have to freak out about trying to make web sites render properly on Window's crappy "Internet Explorer" program because Windows wouldn't exist.
Explore your history at the FridayQ.
Flying from one corner of the United States (Washington) to the opposite corner (Florida) is an all-day affair that becomes more annoying every time I take the trip. The initial flight out of Wenatchee leaves at 9:00am and, after connections through Seattle and Detroit, deposits you in Ft. Lauderdale International Airport at midnight. Accounting for the 3-hour time difference, that's still a 12-hour day. I could have flown to Tokyo in less time.
More jolting than the time change is the temperature change... but not in the way you think. It's far, far colder here in Florida than back home. But how can this be? I'll tell you: air conditioning. Floridians air condition all public spaces to sub-zero temperatures. So when it was time to head out to Sawgrass Mills (a huge outlet mall here), I was sure to wear a long-sleeve denim shirt and full-leg denim jeans. As it turns out, I should have worn a snow parka and thermal underwear because I still ended up being so cold that my legs are cramping up.
Only in Florida.
So now I sit here doped up on Advil in front of my hotel room television, sick with hope that the Boston Red Sox will kick some ass tonight against the Cardinals. Please. Please. Please.
I've never had any real desire to go on a cruise before... being trapped on a big metal boat with a couple thousand morons just never seemed like my idea of a good time. But hey, it's something new to do, so here I am cruising the Caribbean. As I have already found out, there are some things about cruising that you don't learn on the Love Boat. But life is never like television is it?
The ship I am on... the Dawn Princess is pretty sweet. Since I had no plans to sit around in my cabin all day, I booked the cheapest stateroom I could find. As long as it had a bed, I'm happy. Well, not only does it have beds, but there is also a bathroom with shower, a refrigerator, a good-sized closet, a desk, an in-room safe, and a television. Not bad at all. I've certainly stayed in much worse on dry-land. On top of all that, there's a pool on board!
Nice ship, nice accomodations, nice food, exceedingly nice crew. But all is not perfect in paradise...
1) Embarkation was a disaster. Not at all organized and incredibly stressful to all involved. Being screamed at is not the best way to start a vacation. One guy tells you to go. So you go. Then get yelled at by another guy for going. They should really do something about this, because pissing off customers before they step foot on the ship is pretty stupid.
2) Thanks to the hurricanes that ravaged the Caribbean a few weeks ago, a few ports of call have been cancelled. This sucks ass because I don't really give a crap about hanging around the ship, it's the land excursions that interest me. One of the stops, Grand Cayman, I was really looking forward to but it was trashed in the storms, so what can you do?
3) When I called ahead, I was told that wireless internet was available for laptops. Unfortunately, what they fail to mention is that it only works with their laptops. This means there's no internet at all unless you rent a $30 an hour laptop or use a $30 an hour PC in the business center... and, even then, the connection is glacialy slow and incredibly flakey. This is a huge problem for somebody like me who needs reliable internet access to function! Don't count on a FridayQ this week. :-(
Tonight there was a welcome show which was definately skewed to the older demographic. Who else could be entertained by butchered Ricky Martin tunes? WE CRUISE! WE CRUISE! (sung to the tune of She Bangs! She Bangs!) was made bearable only by the addition of the Dawn Princess Dancers (finally... babes on board!). It's good, cheesy, American fun (which happens to be registered in Great Britain to avoid those pesky American ship regulations).
There's an unfathomable nine days left in my vacation. NINE DAYS! I hope the weather holds out, because today was about as perfect as it gets. For anybody wanting to cruise along, you can take a look at the Dawn Princess Bridge Cam.
After an excellent dinner at the onboard pizzeria last night, I decided I wanted to go to the buffet for dessert and ended up eating a plate full of miniature cream puffs glued together with whipped cream and covered in chocolate (I don't think that I've ever been so happy eating before, so I suspect that there was crack cocaine in there as well). All of your meals are included in the ticket cost, so you can eat until you pass out if you want. Sadly, some people actually attempt this and it is not a pretty site. I guess this would be called "getting your money's worth," but when it involves gaining 20 pounds in 10 days, I think I'll pass.
I continue you be dumbfounded at how super-terrifically nice the crew is onboard the Dawn Princess. You may be saying to yourself "hey, it's their job to be nice," and you would be right... BUT, you have to understand the conditions under which these people do their jobs: a big chunk of the customers are crotchity old farts who enjoy nothing more than abusing the staff. I am certain that if I was working here, I would go insane and start beating their old asses. But the workers here carry on with a smile, stalking the halls like Stepford Wives, wanting nothing more than making your vacation completely perfect in every way.
Most of my morning and afternoon was spent on-deck, lounging around the pool and reading a book. Later in the day they held an art auction that was pretty impressive. Major name artists at incredibly reasonable prices (a signed Picasso etching for just $8000!). Unfortunately, even "reasonably priced" is a bit out of my reach, but it was still fun to watch.
During the auction, there was a "code red" announcement in which a passenger required emergency medical attention. Given the average age of the people onboard, this must happen a lot.
Tonight is a "formal dining night," so people are wandering around in evening dressed and tuxes. But not me. That's too much work for vacation. I'll instead carouse the buffet and retire so I can be up bright and early for our first port of call in Cozumel.
A big part of cruising is accepting the fact that your schedule can and will change. Yes, it sucks ass, but that's the way it is and the sooner you accept it, the better your vacation will be. Such is the case with an excursion to the Tulum ruins in Mexico today. It was supposed to leave the ship at 7:00am, but didn't leave until 7:35am. The tour was supposed to last until 2:00pm, but ended up lasting until 3:20pm. We were supposed to have 3 hours in Cozumel after the tour, but then it was changed to just 1 hour, then it was extended to 2-1/2 hours, and finally ended up being a little over 1 hour total. Bleh.
Anyway, after a 45-minute ferry ride to the mainland from Cozumel, we reached Tulum, which is an ancient Mayan city whose ruins still exist today. There's no funky step-pyramid as I had hoped (crap!) but there is a cool sacrificial altar, a bunch of nifty old buildings, and a few really pretty beaches. The weather leaving Cozumel was sublime but, by the time we reached Tulum, a flood of torrential rain was unleashed (apparently we disturned the rain gods or something). Eventually, the skies started to clear and it was pretty sweet (unbeknownst to the rest of my group, I tossed a particularly annoying woman off the cliff as an offering to the sun gods)...
The ferry ride back to the island was balls-nasty (apparently, now we have somehow offended the sea gods). Breaking waves battered our boat something fierce, and a few people ended up blowing chunks (none near me, fortunately!). Surprisingly, the choppy waters had no relation to the weather on dry-land, where the skies were sunny and calm (thank you sun gods!).
The poor fellow who required emergency medical attention yesterday was air-lifted back to the States, and is apparently doing okay (according to a message from our Captain). Kind of nice that nobody has died yet.
Tomorrow we were supposed to be stopping in Grand Cayman. But, since the island is apparently closed, it will be yet another day at sea. Perhaps I'll take up ceramic painting or something?
HOLY CRAP! CONGRATULATIONS BOSTON RED SOX!!! WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS AT LAST!
Gaaah! I just now looked at my blog from this crappy loaner laptop and was "thrilled" to discover that it is rendering all wrong? I hope that this is the fault of the proprietary browser software that they are using here. Anyway, today was by far the most relaxing day of my vacation so far... with no land excursion, I found nothing to do except lay on the Lido Deck all day and read a book. To make up for such inactivity, tonight's dinner was had in the uber-fancy "Florentine Restaurant" onboard. They serve a pretty mean Fettucini Alfredo, which is not surprising considering all the food on the cruise so far has been excellent.
The interesting thing about a cruise is the facts and figures you are left to ponder. For example, I estimate that 75% of the passengers onboard are senior citizens. Going further, I am estimating that 40% of the passengers are obese, 50% of the remaining overweight, and a paltry 10% being somewhere in the vicinity of their target weight. The upshot of it all: most of the people you encounter are old and fat. That, in itself, is not disturbing. It's when said persons are lounging around the pool in Speedos that you begin to see where the problem lays.
That's for the passengers... the staff, on the other hand, are all relatively young, fit, very hard-working, and foreign (I dare say that if the Romanian contingent onboard were to fancy an idea of mutiny, they could easily overtake the ship). I'm sure that most of the customers onboard don't give a second thought to those that service their every need, but I can't help it...
All my curious musings aside, I am slowing becoming accustomed to life onboard ship. Things that seemed odd to me just two days ago are suddenly perfectly normal. This leaves me with the biggest question of all: Will I be able to adjust back to "real life" once the vacation has ended?
The light from the full moon glistens over the water like a dance as I walk along the abandoned boards of the Lido Deck (after yet another fabulous meal onboard the increasingly wonderful Dawn Princess). I can't help but think to myself what an excellent opportunity this would be to dispose of a dead body... just drop it overboard and who would be the wiser? Despite the moonlight, it's pitch black out, and I have this wide-eyed innocence going on that is only accentuated by my sun-kissed face! Bwahh ha hah! I am diabolical, even on vacation.
As for the rest of the day? Jamaica, mon! The ship pulled in for a very brief call at Ocho Rios, Jamaica this morning at 9:00am. The weather was amazing, and I was looking forward to the "Island Highlights and Dunn's Falls Excursion" I had signed up for. As it turns out, the "Island Highlights" part was pretty lame... first there was an uneventful drive up "Fern Gully," followed by a boring garden walk, followed by a bullshit "shopping expedition" at a duty-free marketplace. Whoopee. I could have done all of this stuff back home.
Fortunately, the excursion was completely redeemed by the Dunn's Falls finale. You form a human chain with your fellow shipmates and climb through the rushing waters, step by step up to the top of the falls. Big fun and a little bit challenging, which was a nice change of pace from riding around in a bus all day.
And that was it. Come 2:30pm, it was back to the ship. I was a bit sad that we didn't get to see very much of Jamaica... no white sand beaches... no Jamaican rum at a local bar... and no reggae music at a local club. Oh well. It's hard to complain when everything else is ever so lovely.
In other news: I have become addicted to cinammon-flavored Mentos. I've spent a small fortune on the buggers ever since embarking (I'm up to two packs a day now, and heaven only knows what will happen when I have to go cold turkey come next Wednesday).
Tomorrow is another day at sea before continuing onward to St. Thomas.
First, an apology to everybody that I am unable to post a FridayQ today. I write the questions weeks in advance so that I am never in danger of missing a Q, but the Internet onboard is highly restrictive, and there's simply no way for me to do it. I am only just barely able to post to my blog because of time-outs and proxy errors (last night I attempted to post my entry for nearly a half-hour before giving up, $15 poorer for the attempt). The only thing more difficult than posting to my blog is reading other blogs. Since the custom browser they're using seems to be loading all graphics first, I can rarely get pages to load completely enough to read anything at all. Hopefully all is well in the world.
Today was another "day at sea" but with a twist... it's incredibly windy out. Trying to read a book on deck is a dangerous endeavor because the book is either being whipped out of your hands or smacking you in the face. There's only so much of that kind of punishment I am willing to endure, so I spent the next couple of hours painting a ceramic bowl. Unfortunately, I decided to go all artistic and paint a beach scene using tiny dots of paint. Unfortunately, tiny dots take a long, long time to paint. So now I have a bowl that is in no danger of being completed anytime soon. I'll be lucky if it's finished by the time the cruise is over.
Tomorrow it's an afternoon in St. Thomas. Since St. Thomas is part of the Virgin Islands which, in turn, is a U.S. territory, there is a mandatory inspection of all passengers whether you are going ashore or not. They do not go into any details as to what this "inspection" will entail. I am hopeful that a look at my passport will be enough but, for all I know, everybody could be getting a rectal cavity search. The things we do for Homeland Security.
Today started off as "disappointing," then escalated to "good," then descended to "utter crap," before turning back to "pretty good" again.
Immediately after disembarking in St. Thomas (of the U.S. Virgin Islands), the rain came down like a flood with drops the size of golf balls pelting anybody brave enough to walk the streets unsheltered. But, by the time I reached the Hard Rock Cafe St. Thomas, the sun came out and burned away the clouds leaving blue skies in its wake. Elated due to my good fortune with the change in weather, I took the "Paradise Point" sky-tram ride up to an overlook of the island's only city: Chalotte Amalie...
After a leisurely descent down to the waterfront, I ran back to the ship so I could change into my swimsuit and prepare for the highlight of the cruise: HELMET DIVING!! And that's when everything turned to crap. Due to "unsafe conditions," the dive had been canceled. This sucked major ass, because I had been looking forward to it for the past six days.
Trying to make the best of a bad situation, I instead ended up going on an "Island Highlights Tour" that wasn't too bad. After that was over, I still had time to kill, and decided to take a taxi over to Megan Bay Beach where I had a kick-ass milkshake at "Udder Delite" (which the Chicago Tribune claims is a must-experience event). I gotta hand it to the Tribune, they know their stuff. The chocolate shake I had was perfect in every way, and would probably be illegal back home...
After returning to the ship, the day ended on a high-note as everybody onboard the Dawn Princess got to see our sister-ship (the Sun Princess) depart St. Thomas. It was an amazing site, as the white ship looked beautiful against the setting sun...
And now we're off to the final port-of-call before returning home: St. Maartin.
Happy Halloween! Our port-of-call today is an interesting island that is claimed by two countries and two governments. The north is "Saint Martin" and part of the French West Indies (France), while the south is "Sint Maarten" and part of the Netherland Antilles (The Netherlands). Both countries happily coexist in peace and proudly proclaim themselves of "one island, two countries, one people." Even so, making a telephone call from the French side to the Dutch side is an international call, despite the fact that the island is only 37 quare miles.
Today was yet another "Island Highlights Tour," but at least there was an "almost-submarine-ride" in the middle (albeit a kind of lame one). The countryside is nice (this is a tropical island after all), but it's not quite in the same league as St. Thomas.
Near the end of the tour we stopped at the border between the two countries laying claim to the island. There was a protest of some kind going on that I didn't quite understand. I took a photo of the sign so I could try to figure it out once I got back to the ship, but no such luck...
Also in port today was the Royal Caribbean ship Empress of the Seas. As we were leaving the dock, I was wishing that I had a bullhorn so I could talk a little trash to them... something like "EMPRESS OF THE SLEAZE SUCKS ASS!" or perhaps "DAWN PRINCESS RULES THE EARTH! ROYAL CARIBBEAN CAN KISS OUR AFT!!" And, since this is pirate territory, I'd then pull out a cannon, blow a hole in the side of their ship, light it on fire, and then pillage the smoldering remains for treasure.
Pirates kick ass. I think that I want to be a pirate when I grow up.