Yeah, yeah, yeah.
But it was still a good game. You'll get 'em next time, Sox!
And, before I forget... SALTALAMACCHIA!!!
I woke up feeling nothing today.
Then this morning as I was driving to work, I saw a mother and a little girl waiting to cross the street. Nobody was bothering to stop for them of course.
I stopped because I always do. And because it's the law. The woman was strolling leisurely while the little girl was in more of a hurry, tugging on her mother's hand the entire way. Just before she got to the other side, the little girl waved at me. This made me smile, because it reminded me of a good day.
I waved back because you pretty much have to.
It was then I started thinking about much we lose as we leave childhood behind.
I can't tell you the last time I rushed across the street not because I was in a hurry but because I was excited to get to the other side.
I can't tell you the last time I waved at a stranger just because I was so happy that I had to share it.
I can't tell you the last time I had so few responsibilities that wondering if a car would ever stop so I could cross the street was the extent of my worries.
I can, however, tell you the last time some asshole cut in front of me in a line.
That would be at lunch today when I was waiting to get some potato salad and fries. There I was, next up to place my order, and this dickhead crowds right in front of me. I guess he felt entitled because he had called in a take-away order over the phone. I thought this merely made him entitled to have my foot broken off in his ass... and was just about to say so... when I stopped.
Instead I waved at him with all the enthusiasm I could muster.
Not because I was forgiving him for being a FUCKING PIECE OF SHIT LINE-CUTTING DOUCHEBAG, but because I didn't want to let this QUEUE-JUMPING DONKEY-RAPING SHIT-EATER spoil my good mood. So fuck him. FUCK THAT RUDE BASTARD! I chose to be happy instead.
Until I found out they put too much salt on my fries.
What a horrible day.
One of the projects I worked on this morning required that I access some old design files from 1996. And while 15 years may not seem like a lot of time in the grand scheme of things, in "computer years" it's positively ancient. This poses a number of problems.
The first problem is that the files were on an Iomega JAZ disk. This is a hard disk cartridge drive that was discontinued almost a decade ago. Fortunately, I have one of these drives... and it still works.
The second problem is that a JAZ drive uses a SCSI interface to connect to a computer. Apple hasn't had SCSI ports on any of their machines since 1999. Fortunately, I also have an old Power Mac which can handle a SCSI peripheral... and it still works.
The third problem is also the biggest. SCSI sucks ass. It never worked very well, and just getting a drive to mount can be a long and frustrating experience... back in the 1990's. Today it can be almost impossible. The drivers are incredibly old, and so the OS you run it on also has to be old. Needless to say, there's no technical support. Fortunately, after hours of goofing around... I got it to work.
What a wake-up call this has been.
Legacy format obsolescence happens all the time. 8-inch and 5-1/4-inch floppy disks were replaced by 3-1/2-inch floppy disks. Floppy disks were replaced by CDs and ZIP disks. ZIP disks were replaced by DVDs. CDs and DVDs are being replaced by large-volume hard drives.
Now hard drives themselves are being replaced by solid-state drives.
And it would seem that online "cloud" storage is eventually going to be replacing everything.
Guess it's time to get all my data off of CDs and DVDs. Apple has already eliminated these drives from their MacBook Air and Mac mini machines. I'm betting that MacBooks will lose them any day now. Will the desktop computers be next? Since Apple has distributed their latest OS upgrade online and seems intent on selling their software that way too... I'm guessing yes.
How long until we just plug this stuff directly into our brains? Most people don't seem to be using their heads for much anyway... might as well put them to good use.
This morning I woke up, decided life wasn't worth it, then went back to bed. But after I realized I didn't have any bread to make toast, I had to get up so I could go to the store. Without toast, life isn't worth living.
• Star Redux. I've been in a real renaissance with the original Star Wars films lately. I've been re-watching the real movies on LaserDisc... taking another look at the amazing "Making of" books... re-reading the novelizations... going through the comic book adaptations... that kind of thing. This is probably in anticipation of the movies coming out on Blu-Ray later this month. And even though there's a lot of controversy raging over George Lucas once again crapping all over the films, I still can't wait to see them in high-def. I especially can't wait to have all the deleted scenes with one of the more interesting characters in the entire franchise... Biggs Darklighter...
Now, if you've only ever seen the original movie, you might remember Biggs being mentioned in passing when Luke is whining to Uncle Owen... and again when the Rebels are off to attack the Death Star... and then again at the end where he gets blown up by Darth Vader. But, in the original Star Wars script, there is more to the character than that. Unfortunately, those scenes got cut (though some snuck through to the novelization). And while these cuts were probably a smart move story-wise, they're disappointing fan-wise... especially for fans who have read Biggs' back-story in the "Expanded Universe" books and comics. These rumored "never-before-seen scenes" will help add yet another dimension to an important character we only thought we knew (or didn't know).
• Dance Redux. On a list of things that I couldn't possibly give a crap about, Dancing with the Stars would be near the top of the list. As far as entertainment goes, it's right up there with Pauly Shore movies and diarrhea. But once I heard the controversy over the casting of this season's contestants, I decided to investigate who would be on the show. After taking a look, I admit that I am very upset. I simply cannot fathom how such a popular program would intentionally decide to attack this country's sense of decency and our respect for the Natural Order. I am disgusted at the thought of children tuning in and being exposed to a total freak show and abomination towards God. I am mortified that this "person" will be given even more media exposure so they can further destroy all that is good on this earth with their reprehensible behavior. I am, of course, talking about Nancy Grace...
This vile, disgusting, evil, pathetic excuse for a human being has absolutely no business being on television. And it only goes to show that the people behind Dancing with the Stars only care about one thing: stirring up controversy to get ratings. Just like Nancy Grace, they obviously don't give a fuck how many people they hurt in their effort to attract viewers. For once I agree with the lamestream conservative media... this is absolutely disgusting, and just one more reason I won't be tuning in for this stupid shit.
UPDATE: Oh. Some readers have pointed out that all the controversy isn't about Nancy Grace after all (as one would expect)... it's instead over Chaz Bono?!? I don't get this at all. So he used to be a woman. Big deal. I'd argue Chaz Bono is more of a man and less sexually confused than Marcus Bachmann or "Doctor" Keith Ablow, yet you don't see anybody complaining about them being on television...
What a crock of bullshit. I have to wonder if all the people in an uproar over this are just confused about their sexual identity, and are taking it out on Chaz Bono because he has the balls to get it all sorted out. Or they are sexually attracted to Chaz Bono and don't know what to do with their self-loathing. Or they really, really hated being subjected to Cher's auto-tune travesty, Believe, being constantly blasted on the radio in the late 1990's (if that's the case, I guess I see their point... Cher's not on television much anymore, so I suppose torturing her offspring is the next best thing?). Whatever the case, I find it fascinating that people are still freaking out over this kind of stuff in the year 2011.
• TV Redux. I have more than a couple friends who are "periphery Apple fans." Meaning that they're not Mac users, but they do like their iPods, iPhones, iPads, and whatnot. This morning I got a call from one of these friends with an Apple TV. He knew I had one, and was wondering why I haven't blogged about it...
I explained that my older television didn't seem to support it because the picture was all fuzzy and jumpy. And since I'm unable to use it, the thing has been collecting dust in my closet for over a year. That's when he drops the bomb and tells me that the Apple TV firmware had been updated a while back which fixed the video display problems for a lot of people. So I dig it out, plug it in, and apply the latest software. Now it works perfectly. And it is awesome.
I love being able to use "AirPlay" to stream stuff from my MacBook, iPhone, and iPad. I really love how much easier it is to use Netflix Streaming (compared to using my Xbox like I do now). And iCloud makes it dead-simple to stream all the television shows I've purchased right to my TV without having to download them to my Mac first. It's an amazing little device and, now that I can use it, worth every penny of the $99 price tag. If you've got an HD television with HDMI, it's worth a look.
• Mercury Redux. In anticipation of his new novel Mercury Rises being released next month, Thrice Fiction contributor Rob Kroese has unleashed a FREE Kindle eBook short story... Mercury Swings...
You can get your copy at Amazon and have it sent to your Kindle or any device with Kindle Reader installed (like Macs, PCs, iPhones, and the like). It's funny and it's free, so what are you waiting for? Go and get Mercury Swings today!
And that's all she wrote for this edition of Bullet Sunday. Tune in next week when all my bullets will be double-jacketed.
I labored six hours on Labor Day, which is pretty much the opposite of how I should have been spending my time.
Like the weather.
Last night it was so chilly that I had to close my window and add a blanket to my bed for the first time in months. Tonight I'm combatting the heat by wrapping an ice pack around my neck. The week is only supposed to get worse from here, with temperatures escalating to 97° by Thursday. I don't know why, but this year I am really ready for summer to be over. I just don't want to spend any more days sweating it out in temperatures like this.
Until the snow comes, of course. I'm sure then I'll have a different attitude entirely.
Now let's see if I can manage to get a couple hours sleep while it's still a holiday, shall we?
Not the best day.
And yet, I should probably be grateful because it wasn't the worst day either.
It was just long and busy and difficult and ended too soon for me to get caught up on the mountains of work that never seems to go away. This puts me in the odd position of wishing that a long, never-ending day was even longer. Which is wholly depressing and surprisingly encouraging at the same time.
I leave on vacation in a couple weeks, so at least there's that to keep me going...
Though, given the absolutely heinous exchange rate for the near-worthless US Dollar, I may have to declare bankruptcy by the time I get back. So even vacation is not exactly the drama-free escape I was hoping for.
Is anything ever?
My favorite foodie treat is a glass of Tropical Punch Kool-Aid and a plate of saltine soda crackers with butter. There are very few things that can top that. Maybe chocolate pudding, but I always think of that as more of a meal than a treat.
Whenever I mention my love of Kool-Aid and crackers, most people immediately label me as uncultured and uncivilized. Once I was even told that it sounded "white trash," which is what I get for mentioning it at a fancy wine and cheese party.
For a while there, I stopped drinking Kool-Aid and eating soda crackers in an attempt to "grow up."
But when I was at the store the other day, I decided that enough was enough and I should eat what I enjoy instead of worrying about what other people think. So now I'm back to being "white trash" again which is fine by me. They're a better class of people anyway. Probably because they don't try to embarrass someone over the food they like. Or the car they drive. Or the job they work. Or the clothes they wear.
And this got me to thinking.
What is it with people who feel the need to crap all over others for something which has no bearing on their lives whatsoever? I can take good-natured ribbing as well as anyone, and that's fine. But when people are just being mean and dismissive I don't understand it. What do they get from humiliating and belittling other people? Does it really make them feel so much better about themselves?
It reminds me of the time I was on a cruise and overheard somebody making fun of a couple who were assigned a cabin on a low deck. Never mind that the cabin might have been all the couple could afford after saving their money for years to take their dream vacation... somebody felt the need to shit all over their happiness for no reason at all. I guess it was too difficult to find common ground and be happy that everyone was on vacation and having a good time. Or at least trying to have a good time.
There are people out there who are just plain mean and hurtful. I don't know why I find it so difficult to accept that.
A part of my doesn't want to know.
Which is fine, because right now I've got a plate of crackers and a glass of Kool-Aid that deserve my complete attention.
After all these years, I still can't decide if I am a Star Wars guy or a Star Trek guy.
I guess I love them equally. Though they are very different at their core, the two franchises have followed similar arcs... both starting out with sheer brilliance, then descending into utter crap. Though Star Trek did make a stunning recovery with its 2009 film reboot, which had me leaning to Trek for a while. I don't suppose it's too much to hope that Star Wars will get a similar break? I dunno. There's talk of a television show and wacky rumors of a third trilogy, so one can only hope.
In any event, we've reached the 45th anniversary of Star Trek "The Original Series" which is pretty much the only Trek series that matters to me (as any long-time reader of this blog already knows)...
Though even the Next Generation was in the mix from time to time...
So happy 45th anniversary to Star Trek and thanks for everything!
Now if only JJ Abrams would get off his ass and give us another amazing movie real soon now.
After I made my way back home from a late dinner, I was getting out of my car and noticed that I was bathed in a golden pink glow. The sunset was a magnificent display of muted colors and everything in sight was flooded with it. My first instinct was to grab for the pocket camera I've always got stashed in my backpack. But ultimately I fought the urge to attempt to capture an experience that you can't really capture at all. Far better to just live in the moment and enjoy it.
So I did.
And it was glorious.
And I've been regretting it ever since.
Those photos would have been great source material for some future art project but I pissed away the opportunity. Now it's dark out and all I have left is a memory that will also fade away. Eventually.
But not just yet...
Bet you never expected Bullet Sunday on Saturday! NOBODY expects Bullet Sunday on Saturday!
And didn't I just do a Bullet Sunday a couple minutes ago? Time, she is a flying. Probably because I am leaving for vacation in ten days. It's going to be a real struggle to get caught up with work and get myself organized by the time I leave.
• Adapt. And speaking of getting organized for my trip... for years there's been this one plug sitting unwrapped and unused in my Apple World Travel Adapter Kit...
I know this sounds kind of silly, but unwrapping the cellophane from that plug was a pretty emotional experience. This shit is about to get real, yo.
• Heroine. A couple weeks ago, the "Great House" on Sir Richard Branson's private island caught fire. Apparently a storm created by Hurricane Irene caused a lightning strike that burned the place to the ground. Nobody was hurt, but it was a beautiful structure and it's sad that it was destroyed. Sad, but not very interesting. I'll get to the interesting bit in a minute, but first a few photos from Necker Island...
Yes. Yes I know. What a shithole.
If you've got tens of thousands of dollars, you can rent a room for a night. That would put you in good company, because it's a coveted hangout for celebrities, royalty (Princess Diana was a guest), and the über-wealthy. One famous visitor who was there when the fire struck: Kate Winslet. Who, after making sure her kids were okay, ran back into the flames so she could carry out Branson's 90-year-old grandmother...
Beautiful, talented, and heroic.
But that's not the interesting bit. Winslet's ex-husband, director Sam Mendes, was supposed to be on American Airlines Flight 77, which was hijacked on 9/11 and crashed into The Pentagon. For some reason, he wasn't on the flight. One month later, Winslet was on a plane where somebody claiming to be a terrorist stood up and said that everybody was going to die. It apparently turned out to be a hoax of something. After that moment, Mendes and Winslet made a decision never to both be on the same flight together so if something happened, their kids wouldn't be left parentless.
I swear, just when I think there's nothing about the 9/11 tragedy that can surprise me, something utterly surprising comes along to prove me wrong. Until I read about the fire on Necker Island, I had no idea that Kate Winslet's life was touched by the terrorist attacks to this degree. But, then again, I suppose all our lives were in one way or another. Has it really been ten years?
• New? As a huge fan of Zooey Deschanel, I have been eagerly anticipating her new buzz-heavy TV show, New Girl, set to debut later this month. So imagine my surprise when I downloaded the first episode from an iTunes "sneak preview"... only to find that it is complete and total shit...
Holy crap did I hate this unbelievable turd of a show. Hate it.
How in the fuck they managed to take an infinitely adorable and likable person like Zooey Deschanel and turn her into a pathetic, annoying, unwatchable character is simply beyond my ability to fathom. She plays Jess, who is advertised as "Simply Adorkable" but I sure wasn't seeing any of that. When she gets dumped by her boyfriend in the first two minutes I was barely surprised. I was already annoyed with her after the first ONE minute. The story then takes the laughable (but not funny) "surprise turn" by having her move in with three single guys. Hilarity most definitely does not ensue.
Zooey's supporting players aren't much better. Deputy Leo (from Veronica Mars) plays a douchebag. And I'm not being judgmental here... he's literally a douche. His character is such a big douche that they have to make a "Douche Jar" for him to donate a dollar every time he does douchey things. Which is all the time. One of the douchey things he does is take his shirt off when he meets a girl because he thinks he's God's gift or something. His character's name is "Schmidt" which is used in place of "shit" in conversation to be funny. Ha ha ha. Not. Next up is Damon Wayans Jr. who plays "Coach," a fitness trainer with rage issues. The character has zero depth and is given nothing interesting to do. I can only guess that Wayans gets down on his knees every day and thanks the television gods that the brilliant Happy Endings got picked up for a second season so he doesn't have to come back to New Girl and play such a pathetic one-note character. I pity whomever they get to replace him. The last of Zooey's new roommates is "Nick" (played by Jake M. Johnson) who is somewhat likable and interesting (mostly because he's the only character with any depth to him) but ultimately not enough to compensate for everything else going wrong with this horrible show.
I cannot imagine that New Girl will last a full season. Even with Justin Long coming on-board as Zooey's romantic interest. It is so awkward, annoying, and blatantly not-funny that I have no idea who is going to want to watch it. Personally, I am hoping for a quick cancellation so the amazing Zooey Deschanel can go on to something better. Something much, much, better.
• Indebted. Is it possible to hate a movie to the point of despair, yet still love it at the same time? That pretty much sums up my take on The Debt, Helen Mirren's new film as directed by John Madden...
The movie is based on a 2007 Israeli film called HaHov ("The Debt"), which I can find nothing about, because any attempt to search for it on IMDB redirects to this version of The Debt. The story revolves around a former Mossad Nazi-Hunter named Rachel Singer (Mirren) who's past comes back to haunt her 30 years after a mission in East Germany went terribly wrong. The movie jumps back and forth between 1966 and 1997 as Singer recalls past events that changed her life, and their consequences on her future.
The problem with the film... the only problem, really... is that it is boring. Mind-numbingly boring. Stick your head in the microwave boring. Gouge out your spleen so you have something to do boring. I was dumbfounded at how incredibly slow, unnecessarily plodding, and just plain BORING this movie was. Far, far too much time was spent rehashing the past for no particular reason at all. Yes, there's a nice twist in there, but the set-up was so hideously drawn-out that I just didn't give a shit when we got there. They could have easily cut 75% of the hot boring mess from 1966 and used the time to make an interesting film about Rachel cleaning up that mess in 1997. That would have been an amazing, thrilling, exciting film. Instead you get mere glimpses of Mirren being kick-ass cool, which is simply not enough to save The Debt from the bland, banal, repetitive disaster it is.
Holy crap was the acting good. Helen Mirren didn't get nearly enough screen time, but her every second in the film is amazing. And it doesn't stop there. Jessica Chastain, who played the 1966 Rachel, had a role that demanded her to be tough and capable, but with a dark vulnerable side that defined her. She was absolutely mesmerizing. The biggest surprise had to be Sam Worthington, whom I had dismissed for his not-so-engaging performances in films like Avatar and Clash of the Titans, but he really got his shit together for this film. His accent kept lapsing into Aussie casual from time to time, yet his performance was rock-solid. Jesper Christensen's turn as a Hannibal Lecter-ish Nazi war criminal was also worth watching.
So there you have it The Debt is a boring-ass film you hate to love because the performances were too damn good.
• Fini. And now, after two bullets filled with disappointment, I'm going back to organizing my crap so I can be ready to pack my suitcase next weekend.
I deleted my blog from ten years ago so I can't tell you with any certainty what I was doing back then. I might have a vague idea over a span of some weeks or months but, if you were to pick an individual day, I'd be hard-pressed to tell you what was happening.
For every day save one, of course.
I was working as a consultant and running late for a meeting on the morning of September 11, 2001. I didn't have time to turn on the television, nor did I have time to turn on my computer. I went directly from my bed to the shower to my car for the 20 minute drive to work. When I arrived, I vaguely remember some talk about an airplane crash as I walked through the lobby. But, for all intents and purposes, I was completely unaware of what had happened three hours earlier at the World Trade Center.
It wasn't until I walked into the conference room and saw the television replaying footage of The Twin Towers collapsing over and over again that I knew of the horrific events unfolding in New York.
And, like most everybody else on the planet, that news coverage became my life for the next several days.
As the tragedy would become our lives for the next ten years.
Because those iconic structures may no longer be with us... but they're not gone either. I watch a rerun episode of Friends, and there's the Towers in an establishing shot. I pop in my DVD of Eddie Murphy's Trading Places and the Towers are there. I read an old Spider-Man comic book and there they are again. I look through old photos and...
But that's me.
For those directly affected. For those orphaned or widowed. For friends and family of those who lost their lives. For those who now suffer from the debilitating effects. For those whose lives were forever changed. For so many people, I'd imagine it's quite different. They don't need a TV show or a movie or a comic book or a photograph. Their reminder is everlasting.
As is their pain.
I'm sure at some future date when all the people who were alive to remember the world before 9/11 are gone, perhaps the nightmare will start to fade.
In the meanwhile, we remember.
Because we need to remember.
Because it's impossible to forget.
Because our hope for peace must prevail.
Photo by Reddit user fybpm
Time for a trip to Taco Bell. Three Doritos tacos, substitute rice for beef please!
I do not have much luck with automobiles. And none of it's my fault.
My previous car was rear-ended once. It also had a quarter-panel destroyed in a hit-and-run while I was stopped at a red light. It was ultimately totaled when an industrial work truck slipped into gear, ran across the street, and turned my car into scrap while I was at work.
My "new" car (purchased in 2000) hasn't fared much better.
I've been rear-ended twice. A bicyclist ran full-on into my hood while I was at a McDonald's drive-thru. Then today, something new.
A huge mobile home trailer was backed into my parked car. The driver "didn't see it at all."
It's not heinous, but it did scrape up my front panel, my car logo, and the edge of my hood a bit.
Apparently I have a super-power which renders cars I drive invisible. It's incredibly frustrating. I mean, it's not like I'm a major gear-head or anything, but I do want the car I drive to look nice. I don't want to drive around in a vehicle with a big scrape on it... especially one that wasn't my fault. Especially after I just sunk big money into having the brakes fixed.
My schedule is completely full with crap I have to do before I leave the country next week. And now I have to deal with this. And I'm sure other stuff will come up too, because I'm lucky like that.
Some days I just want off the merry-go-round.
One week and counting.
After a boring two-hour drive to the coast...
Dinner... just pump it!
Dessert... just fry it!
Well that was a great evening.
I have to say... Ann Wilson, Nancy Wilson, and the rest of Heart still got it. As does Def Leppard... which made last night's double-bill especially amazing...
As for today? BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS, BABY!
It only got better from there.
The other day I was descending a stairwell at the mall which, I admit, doesn't sound like a very exciting event. At least not at first. I got almost to the bottom, realized that I must have missed the store entrance, and started heading back up.
While I was climbing, I saw a guy with a baby coming down the stairs carrying a bunch of crap. As I moved aside so he'd have room to pass, I saw him stumble as he rounded the corner. Once I realized he was losing his balance I jumped up the steps to grab one of his shopping bags that was going to fall.
But somehow ended up with his baby instead.
I don't know exactly how it happened. As I reached for the bag, I must have saw the baby was slipping and changed my target. The guy still had a half-hold on his kid, but who knows if he would have been able to keep from dropping it down the stairs if I hadn't been there.
After I made sure that the guy had a grip on his kid again, I remarked how surprising it was that the baby didn't make a sound. Not a peep. Didn't cry. Didn't yell. It just had that kind of dazed look that babies get.
And then the young father burst into tears.
Not being a very emotional person myself, these kind of situations are incredibly awkward for me.
I picked up the shopping bag that had fallen, got it back into his fingers, then put my hand on his shoulder and told him that his baby was fine and that everything was okay. I then joked about how much easier it would be if they had more elevators in these crazy places (hoping that next time he might go looking for one before bouncing down the stairs carrying a baby with his hands full like that). He nodded, which was more than thanks enough for me, so I started climbing again.
But slowly, so I could see if he was able to carry on down the stairs after such a nasty scare.
He was, and so I went on about my business and didn't give it much thought...
...until I was driving the two-and-a-half hours back home this afternoon, at which point I found it difficult to think of much else.
What if I hadn't gone back up the stairs? What if I hadn't been paying attention? What if I wasn't fast enough? What if I had opted for a parking spot somewhere else and never ended up in that stairwell in the first place? What if? What if? What if?
I have little doubt that the baby could have been seriously hurt. Perhaps even permanently hurt. Perhaps worse.
If I hadn't been there, the kid's life could have been changed completely. And once I started thinking about that, my mind went racing with all kinds of strange crap. What if the kid grows up to be somebody famous? What if it grows up to cure cancer? What if it grows up to be a homicidal maniac? What if? What if? What if?
Fate is just such a crazy damn thing.
Which is why I'm going to try and not think about it.
And I really hope that poor guy is able to not think about it too. I can't fathom the kind of mental torture going on in his head the rest of that day.
It's my last Bullet Sunday before vacation! I'd be happy about that, but there's just such an obscene amount of stuff that has to be done before I leave. Guess this is going to be a short one.
• Impostor. The number of people getting their Facebook and Twitter accounts hacked is reaching epic proportions. Today there was a run on Twitter, where SEVEN people I follow got hacked and are now sending me spam.
Sooooo... if you are sent link FROM ANYONE... EVEN PEOPLE YOU KNOW... where you get a login page, DON'T TRUST IT! Always question these pages. Because while they may look authentic...
All too often they are not. See that extra "j" in there?
• Doom. The bees are attacking, tons of space junk are falling from the sky, and beavers are going to inherit the earth... but the good news is that Pop Tarts keeps coming up with new flavors, which has allowed me to finally fulfill my annual New Years resolutions!
Here's hoping next year is as adventurous and delicious as 2011!
• Emmy. I'm pretty sick of crappy awards shows... especially award shows like The Emmys which get it all wrong more often than not. This year, of the major nominations given, here's my take...
Of course, the real problem is that they can't even get the nominations right (best comedy should have been Raising Hope, for example). But it is what it is, and everybody's entitled to their opinion. Even if it's wrong.
And now... back to packing my suitcase. That'll be big fun.
I spent my entire day wishing it was tomorrow so it would be my last day at work before vacation. All the while secretly wishing I had just one more day to get caught up with life before I leave.
But the simple truth is that there's never enough time no matter how many days you have. Wishing for one more day would only result in me wishing for yet another day when my one more day is up. And so on. And so on. And then I'd never get a vacation. Unless somebody drugged me and shipped me off to parts unknown...
And so I've decided to ignore life and be happy that tomorrow is my last day before vacation.
I can totally ignore stuff good if I put my mind to it.
I spent most of my evening last night looking for my swim trunks and spare laptop battery... and waiting for the United States to be destroyed by floods, earthquakes, fires, and hurricanes because Don't Ask, Don't Tell had finally been repealed at midnight.
But the disasters never came, which must be a big disappointment to assholes like Pat Robertson who just love to attribute everything bad that happens to "God's wrath" against homosexuals... or whomever the target of their hate is that day. It's an odd stance to take when they don't seem to believe that absence of disaster is God's approval, but that's bat-shit-crazy for you.
Though we all know perfectly well that the next hurricane or earthquake or tornado that hits... whether it be one hour from now or ten years from now... will be blamed on the DADT repeal by somebody. These claims of delayed-reaction-vengeance by an all-knowing, all-powerful deity never make much sense but, again, that's bat-shit-crazy for you.
In any event, congratulations to those honoring us with their military service who no longer have to worry about losing their job because they're a dude who likes dudes or a girl who likes girls. It's nice to know that the freedoms you so bravely protect can now actually apply to you.
And heartfelt thanks to everybody who honors us with their military service... no matter who they are or who they like...
Here's hoping that there's not too much bat-shit crazy in the last day before my vacation.
And so it begins...
Nothing like having the crap scared out of you at 2:30am.
Since it seems impossible for me to sleep more than three hours anymore, I decided I might as well check in for my flight to Sydney. I go to the airline website check-in page, as usual. I log in and pull up my flight, as usual. I verify my passport info and enter my emergency contact, as usual. Then I get an error saying that I can't be checked in because travel to Australia requires a visa.
Well, no shit. I paid my $20 AUD to get an Electronic Travel Authority, which is a nifty kind of "electronic visa" that doesn't require a visit to an Australian diplomatic office to submit an application. An ETA is able to be pulled up by airlines directly, so there's no need for a visa stamp in your passport.
Except apparently Delta's online check-in system can't access ETAs.
At least I hope that's the problem. I'm going to try and stay optimistic that I can go to the airport ticket counter and they can pull it up there. If they can't, then hopefully they can use my ETA receipt to get me processed, or else my vacation is over before it begins.
Wheeee! The travel drama has already started, and I'm not even at the airport yet.
Catch you on the other side.
UPDATE: Well, it took some computer trickery, but they finally managed to find my ETA visa. Guess that means I get to go to Australia now.
Hello from the future.
I am posting this entry a day early because most of my September 22 will be spent in a metal tube being hurled across the Pacific Ocean.
And not in a good way.
To understand why the flight to Australia sucks so bad for me, it's helpful to remember that, despite what you might have heard, the earth is round. Airplanes use this little-known fact to their advantage when plotting a course so that they fly the least amount of miles in the shortest amount of time. This kind of thing is known as "The Great Circle" routing. As an example, if I were flying to Amsterdam over in DutchyLand, the pilot would fly over Northern Canada and Greenland like so...
Awesome map courtesy of the The Great Circle Mapper!
The above journey is about 4900 miles (7890 km) compared to the over 6000 miles (9650 km) it would take to fly along the latitude lines straight across a map...
Map courtesy of Google Maps!
The problem with Australia is that there's no "Great Circle" route to take. This can be confirmed on The Great Circle Mapper by typing in my SEA-LAX-SYD route like so...
Since the curvature of the earth can't help us here, it's about 7500 miles (12050 km) from LAX to Sydney direct.
Which is a 15 hour flight.
And considerably longer than my previous longest flight of 5030 miles (8095 km) from Istanbul to Newark.
I suppose it wouldn't be too bad if you were flying in "World Business Class" with lay-flat seats you can sleep on... but to buy an upgradable ticket would have cost me three times as much money plus a big bundle of airline miles. So I booked a coach ticket and used my frequent flier status to get a free upgrade to Delta's new "Economy Comfort Class" seating. It apparently offers 4-inches more legroom and 50% more recline over the "Economy Discomfort Class" seats you get from a regular coach ticket.
Still not a fun way to spend 13-1/2 hours, but it's better than nothing.
But the important thing to focus on is that I'm off to Australia, which is someplace I've never been.
That plus a handful of sleeping pills might just keep me sane for the flight Down Under.
Better living through chemistry, I always say.
In theory, adjusting to the 17-hour time change in Sydney is a piece of cake. That's such a huge amount of time that you can quite nicely compress a full day into it, which means your internal clock doesn't need much of an adjustment. Just force yourself to stay awake a bit longer than you normally would, get a full night's sleep in the middle of your flight, then arrive in Sydney the next morning as if nothing happened.
I took a fist-full of sleeping pills just to be sure.
And ended up getting five hours of quality sleep, which is two more than I normally get. So not only did I land in Australia fully acclimated to the time change... I also felt better than I have in months.
For the past week I have been checking the weather forecast in Sydney. As the day of my trip got closer and closer, the weather outlook got worse and worse, ending with overcast skies and rain for the entirety of my stay. So imagine my surprise when I land to beautiful blue skies and an abundance of sunshine. So instead of spending my first day relaxing, I met up with my long-time blogger-friend Kazza and headed out into the city.
First stop was Sydney Tower for panorama views of the city...
Then it was off to the Opera House (of course)...
From all the photos I had ever seen, I had thought that the Opera House was smooth concrete painted white. It's not! It's tiled. Beautifully tiled...
Next it was off to walk across the world-famous Sydney Harbour Bridge...
You can climb up one of the pylons for terrific views of the harbor...
Amazingly, you can pay big money to climb up and over the bridge like these guys...
Across the harbor and under the bridge is Luna Park, made famous by its scary clown-face entrance...
We wanted to kill time until dark for some night photography, so we ate dinner at a really good tapas restaurant...
And then back to the harbor at night...
By the end of the day, the clouds and rolled in and the weather turned cold and incredibly windy, so I was grateful that I had at least one perfect day in Sydney.
I'm sure tomorrow will be perfect too... but with less nice weather.
Well, the crappy weather I was expecting yesterday finally decided to make an appearance today. Not that I am in any way complaining... I am so very grateful for yesterday's unexpectedly beautiful weather that I'll gladly suffer through a little rain.
After meeting up with Kazza we headed east to visit St. Mary's Cathedral. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed in the beautiful interior, but the exterior is quite nice as well...
Impressive. Most impressive.
The nun looks pretty bitchy, but...
...she gives all the kids an iPad, so she can't be all bad.
From there we were off to Mrs. Macquarie's Point. There's an interesting story behind the name, and it's a great place for spectacular Sydney Harbour views, even in the rain...
Yes. Mrs. Macquarie's Chair is just as comfortable as it looks.
A Rainbow Lorikeet... they're everywhere.
Still a pretty sight, even in the rain.
Heading back towards the city you run right through the Royal Botanic Gardens...
Leaving the Asian Gardens section of the Royal Botanic Gardens.
Inside the Royal Botanic Gardens Greenhouse at the Tropical Center.
The Fern House atrium at the Royal Botanic Gardens.
It's Springtime in Sydney, so all the flowers are blooming.
Bats are hanging around everywhere... mostly sleeping, fighting, or drying their wings.
This is called a "Cockatoo," but I call it "Fucking Bastard Bird"... vicious, nasty, and total destruction with wings.
From there it was time to take a ferry across the harbor to Manly...
It's the world-famous Manly Ferry!
Cruising by that Sydney Opera House. Again.
Walking down The Corso towards Manly Beach.
Manly beach. Where only manly men dare swim in the rain.
Everything in Manly is pretty manly...
...especially the Manly menus, where they make cute little kangaroos into fajitas.
After returning to Sydney, it was time to visit the Queen Victoria Building, which is a real jaw dropper. Certainly the best-looking mall I've ever seen...
Not wanting to get drenched, it was time to visit the Queen Victoria Building!
Seriously beautiful everywhere you look. This is an entryway.
Center atrium at the Queen Victoria Building.
Awesome diorama clock at the QVB.
The sexiest damn mall you'll ever see.
It was as we headed toward Darling Harbour that the rain decided to get serious...
Rain pours down on the bridge across Darling Harbour to the Harbourside Mall.
But that's okay, because I was more interested in visiting my 138th Hard Rock than the weather. Unfortunately, Sydney's new Hard Rock is yet another "Hipster Lounge" travesty, but it's massive size means you get to see a lot of memorabilia even though it's pretty spread out...
Hard Rock Cafe entrance.
Welcome to the cheesiest hipster lounge you ever will see!
The Hard Rock Cafe Sydney's so-called "shrine" to INXS.
Not the most intimate and cozy Hard Rock property I've been to. The place is massively huge.
Leaving Darling Harbour at night.
Something I didn't know: Sydney has a monorail. It was a convenient way to escape the rain and head back into the city...
Hey, it may cost $5, but that's still cheaper than a ticket to Disneyland.
Another perfect day Down Under... albeit with police horses waiting in my hotel lobby...
No. They weren't there to arrest me. I think.
And.... I guess it's time to log-off and go charge every piece of electronics I own. It's shocking how much gadget crap it takes to be civilized now-a-days.
Today was finally my chance to take it easy, which meant visiting a few museums instead of walking all over Sydney again. Luckily Kazza was kind enough to head back into the city to map out my morning, so all I had to worry about was keeping dry until the rain finally let up this afternoon.
The Australian Museum is a massive repository of the critters which inhabit the continent. There's also a special exhibit for Aboriginal art that's pretty great...
The way Native Australians "see" the world is endlessly fascinating to me.
Seal vs. Penguin... FIGHT!
Not a happy kitty. Probably a little upset about being shot and killed.
Most all the exhibits are dead, mounted, and stuffed... but there are some exceptions.
What would a museum be without dinosaurs?
A pity dinosaurs are extinct... some look like they'd make a fun pet.
Yeah, seeing one of these monsters would have me totally losing my shit.
Not all the insects shown are some scary shit... just most of them.
Fun with dead people in the "Skeletons" exhibit.
Ride 'em cowboy. The most disturbing thing about this? No ears on the horse.
The Art Gallery New South Wales is a fairly traditional art museum with a smattering of impressive works by popular painters... but it also has a beautiful selection of Aboriginal art which makes it uniquely worth visiting (alas, none of it photographical)...
It's amazing how museums never seem to run out of paintings.
Ape Girl with scary hand monster. How charming.
Demon angel with bat wings, snake, and lizard. Rock on, little dude.
Rabid Dog Pack vs. Wild Boar... FIGHT!
The National Opal Museum is a small exhibit which is mainly a front for an opal jewelry store, but it does still manage to give some insight into how opals are created and crafted...
Apparently dinosaurs made the opals. Or became opals. Or something.
Now dinosaurs help you purchase beautiful opals from the many jewelry showcases!
Pretty! As in "pretty fucking expensive."
And thus an early end to my last day in Sydney. I was just too drenched and tired to do anything else. Maybe when I swing back this way I'll have some better weather.
Alas, there's no wi-fi at Uluru (aka Ayers Rock) to upload any photos. Guess that gives me something to do when I get back.
P.S. If you never hear from me again, it's because I was carried off by an army of bugs in the middle of the night. One thing they don't tell you in the travel brochures is that The Outback is overrun by bugs. Lots of bugs. A massively huge number of bugs. A vast array of bugs in astounding numbers. Bugs!
Alrighty then. Now that I'm back to civilization, bugs didn't carry me off, and I have internet once again... I suppose it's time to start getting caught up on my trip to Uluru (aka Ayers Rock).
After a 3-hour flight from Sydney I landed at Ayers Rock Airport, then hopped the bus to the Ayers Rock Resort where my tour group was waiting. After purchasing my $25 park ticket, we headed out.
Surprisingly, the first stop we made was not Uluru, but Kata Tjuta... another giant rock formation in the neighborhood...
A photo can't do it justice, but that's all I got for you.
Yes, it's really that red. My camera is set to "vivid color" and has a polarizer, but this isn't Photoshop trickery.
The trail for the "Valley of the Winds" walk.
Saying goodbye to Kata Tjuta as we leave the area.
Next it was at last time to head to Uluru for the sunset...
A dingo ate my baby! Then boarded this bus...
Uluru as the sun is low. Note the haze in the background.
That haze is actually smoke from bush-fires in Central Australia. Scary, but makes a pretty sunset!
Uluru turns purple after the sun goes down... which doesn't show too well in this photo.
From there it was back to camp for dinner and an early bedtime. Tomorrow, it's time to get up-close-and-personal with Uluru.
At this point, I'm into day two of being covered with flies all the time. No mosquitoes, thank heavens (I was told that's the biggest problem when visiting Uluru), but more bugs than you'd ever care to encounter. After a while, you kind of get used to them swarming you constantly, but you never get used to the flies crawling on your face. Particularly up your nose and on your eyes (where I guess they're searching for moisture or something).
On more than one occasion I found myself regretting that I didn't get an Aussie Cork Hat or a Bug Net Hat... no matter how stupid they make you look. They exist for a reason.
As the tour had us viewing Uluru (Ayers Rock) at sunset last night, they had us viewing Uluru at sunrise this morning. For which I had to get up at 4:30am. It was nice, but not 4:30am-worthy spectacular...
And to prove I was there at that godawful time of morning, a photo of me ready to go back to bed after sunrise...
And then it was time to hike all the way around Uluru, which was a fascinating 2-1/2 hour journey. The rock looks completely different depending on where you view it. Some areas are sacred and not allowed to be photographed, but I picked out a few of the hundreds I was allowed to shoot...
Once my blisters had blisters and I had made my way around the site, it was time for a visit to the Uluru Visitor Centre which was a look into some aspects of Aboriginal culture. Most of their way of life is highly complex and secretive, but even the basics are fascinating. What I found particularly interesting is how their stories and teachings are place-sensitive. Meaning that you can only speak of some events at the place where they happened. If a story takes place at Uluru, but then moves to a different location, you will only hear about the part that's at Uluru. In order to hear the rest, you have to travel to the place where the story continues. Also, men and women live completely separate lives, so all aspects of a story can change depending on the sex of the person telling it. Remarkable.
The tour ended after lunch, at which time I decided I hadn't spent enough money (ha!) so I signed up for a helicopter flight over Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) and Uluru (Ayers Rock). It was kind of a bummer, because most of your time is spent getting there and back, but what precious little time you do spend at the sites is pretty impressive...
Some cloud cover had rolled in, which made the already deep red color even deeper. Those are some very sexy rocks.
This area of Central Australia is known as "Red Centre" which is not quite an accurate description as of late. Over the past two years, unprecedented rainfall has caused the ground to really green up. This makes the rocks look even more foreign and strange, but in a good way.
My original plan was to take in some kind of sunset dinner at Uluru tonight, but I am pretty much Uluru-ed out now. I'm also thoroughly exhausted with blisters in places on my feet I didn't even know I had.
And so... my vastly overpriced bed in my massively overpriced hotel room is calling...
My flight didn't leave until late afternoon so I took the opportunity to sleep in late, explore the resort, and have a nice lunch.
I didn't really need a third day at Uluru, but seeing this area was so important to me that I booked it anyway... just in case the weather was bad, my flight was delayed, or some other unforeseen circumstance interfered with my plans. I've been traveling way too long to expect everything to go perfectly (even though it really did). Even so, I actually wish that I had more time so I could visit Kings Canyon and see Alice Springs, but there's more to Australia I have yet to explore.
Before leaving for the airport, I went to the hotel lookout for a last glimpse of Uluru...
...and said my goodbye to that magnificent giant red rock.
After an early-morning flight sitting next to a little French kid so adorable that I wanted to take him home with me, I arrived in sunny Cairns (which is a pleasant change from the crap weather in Sydney).
After checking into my hotel, it was time to meet up with my friends Wes and Karen, whom I haven't seen in over a decade. They drove down from Port Douglas to have lunch and wander around a bit. This made for a nice afternoon since I had done -zero- research on the area, and had no idea what Cairns was about. First surprise was that the city proper doesn't have a beach. It sits on a mud flat...
As you head north, a beach does appear...
But it's not like you'll be doing any swimming there...
Luckily, the people of Cairns have an awesome water park right off the mud flats to compensate...
In what little I've seen of Australia so far, I've fallen in love with the "no worries" laid back atmosphere. But Cairns takes it to an entirely new level. The city is so laid back that it's almost as if even the locals are on perpetual holiday. And it's completely contagious. Right now I'm finding it very hard to give a crap about anything. Far easier to just be happy and see where the day takes you.
This attitude could be a real problem if I don't find a way to turn it off once my vacation is over.
Not quite the awe-inspiring experience I was hoping for.
Even before I became a certified diver, I've longed to dive The Great Barrier Reef. It just seems like one of those things that everybody should have on their bucket list. And while my actual dives were nice, it was a fairly underwhelming day. At first I thought it was just me, but my German table-mates felt the same way. I guess we can chalk it up to overly-high expectations?
Or maybe not. Because when I spoke to the dive master, he had mentioned that our first dive site "Coral Gardens" used to be amazingly beautiful. But it was wiped out by a cyclone eight months ago. This begged the question "Why in the heck don't you dive someplace else then?" but I don't know enough about the region to even know how widespread the damage was*.
But oh well. Not every dream is going to turn out as we had hoped, and I've been luckier than most.
I still had a good time. I haven't been diving in well over a decade, but it all came back to me really quickly. I don't know how, but I had forgotten what a wonderful experience diving is. It's about as close to flying as mere humans can get, as you are neither sinking or floating... you just are.
I bought a new underwater camera for the trip, but didn't end up taking many photos. After I almost missed seeing a turtle because I was concentrating on my camera, I thought I'd put my attention to better use. There's just so much to see.
Here's a few snapshots I took before retiring my camera...
Sadly, no sharks made an appearance.
I know people think I'm joking but, having swam with sharks before, I was really hoping to see one. They are absolutely fascinating to watch. And, no, I'm not saying I wanted a man-eating Great White to drop in... just a regular shark would have been fine.
Though the nachos I had for dinner tonight were so bad that I found myself kind of wishing I had been eaten by a shark so I could have avoided the suffering.
For some inexplicable reason, Aussies mix the salsa into the chips & cheese when they make nachos (instead of serving it on the side). This makes absolutely no fucking sense, because the chips on the bottom end up a soggy, inedible mess...
Seriously, what the fuck? I've been testing out a lot of unusual dishes since I got here, like this delicious pumpkin-feta pizza from last night...
But the terrible "nachos" have been my first disappointment. Blargh.
No worries. I'm sure tomorrow's dinner will be awesome.
*Speaking of damages... I was shocked... shocked... at how many people were sick on the boat-ride out. No less than six people were puking their guts out non-stop. Thankfully, I don't get sea-sick, but the sight of so many people hurling was not an easy thing to take in. Fortunately, there are barf-bag stations all over the ship...
And while I really do feel sorry for those people whose day was ruined because of sea-sickness, I find it odd that people don't find out if they are prone to getting motion-sick before paying big money to head out on the open ocean like this.
No worries. I'm sure the rest of their vacation will be great.