Turns out that bullet points are not as rare as a blue moon... because yet another Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Astronomy. Considering how amazing the news, the official NASA press release appeared relatively boring... there are millions of supermassive black holes hiding behind a veil of dust that's mucking up the universe. Other news sources decided to take the NASA news and make it pretty. Forbes ran the story's talking points alongside this photo...
Unsurprisingly, this stunning image is from NASA.
I could look at stuff like this all day. Fortunately, NASA has a site for that...
Again, this stunning image is also from NASA.
I swear... every time the latest Astronomy Picture of the Day hits my web feed reader, it makes me glad I'm not in charge of the US budget. Because, if I were, I'd give NASA more money than they could spend. I'd be rolling up dump trucks full of cash to Jet Propulsion Laboratory and every other division that NASA has. I'd shower them with such massive loads of funding that they'd have to reach into their wildest dreams to find ways to spend it all. I'd probably be branded a traitor and shot for spending public money in such an egregious and irresponsible fashion... but I wouldn't care. As the stunning success with the Curiosity rover has shown, nothing can inspire quite like the USA's forays into space. Alas, reality dictates we have to put the bulk of that money elsewhere, but I can dream. NASA makes it so damn easy.
• Holy Crap. If you're not watching Breaking Bad, you are seriously missing out on one of the most depressingly brilliant shows ever to air on television...
I was a latecomer to the show... I didn't start watching until half-way through season two. But now that the show is on its fifth and final season, I am trying to envision life without it. Especially when I turn the channel and see the utter shit that's splattered across my television. And speaking of amazing television...
• Toby. Even though I just finished making my way through all seven seasons of The West Wing six months ago, I started in again last night (IT'S TOTALLY BLAIR'S FAULT!). I enjoy the show. And, at a time when politics on both side of the spectrum are so dismally disappointing, it makes for better background noise while I work than the news. The only problem is that I HATE HATE HATE HATE the character of Toby Ziegler with the burning passion of a thousand suns...
I know how you feel. I know exactly how you feel. Starting with you.
He was an arrogant asshole from his very first appearance on the show. It seems like creator Aaron Sorkin intended Toby to be some kind of "moral center" he could use to inject his personal politics into a story where they otherwise wouldn't fit. And it was a good idea... except Toby was a total condescending dick most of the time. I don't think actor Richard Schiff is totally to blame, but he certainly didn't infuse much likability into his character that I could ever find. Even when he was being likable. And so now any time I watch an episode, I cannot help but think of how much it would be improved if Toby weren't in it. Or how much fun it would have been to be a writer on The West Wing and kill him off.
• Charlie. On the other hand, with each new viewing of The West Wing, I appreciate the subtle genius that Dulé Hill brings to his role of Charlie Young...
When people talk about how astoundingly well-cast The West Wing was, I think that "Charlie" is often-times overlooked, and this is a shame. The character had a very fine line to walk, and the more I re-watch the show the more I am convinced that Dulé Hill is one of only a handful of actors that could have pulled it off. This is made even more apparent when I see the complete 180 he did when he jumped into the role of Gus on Psych. And while I still like Psych, I admit that I'm very interested to see where he jumps next.
• Eat. I want nothing more right now at this moment to eat a really good pizza. Alas...
And... I should get to bed since I'll be working on Labor Day tomorrow. I guess for me it actually is Labor Day, whereas for most everybody else it's No-Labor Day. Or something like that.
Several years ago a chef at an upscale restaurant asked me what kind of cheese I wanted on my fancy sandwich. I said "Oh, I dunno... American is fine."
I got yelled at. "AMERICAN IS NOT A REAL CHEESE! IT CAN BARELY EVEN BE CONSIDERED A FOOD!"
Which was confusing, because the American cheese I always buy says "cheese food" right on the label.
But even so, I was embarrassed for having been so classless and ignorant as to have asked for "American cheese" on a sandwich, so I stopped eating the stuff. Instead I started buying cheddar cheese at home and always asked for cheddar, swiss, or whatever "real" cheese was available when eating out.
Because I'm classy and smart like that.
But then the recession happened and I started buying groceries not based on what I wanted, but what was on sale. If it isn't on sale (or I don't have a coupon), I don't buy it unless I absolutely have to.
And last week it was Kraft brand American cheese food that was on sale...
I had forgotten how much I absolutely love the stuff. I don't care if it's chunks of cheese that's been blended with fat, milk, and artificial chemicals and crap... it's creamy, delicious, and melts over a veggie burger like a dream. So now I'm undergoing a kind of "American Cheese Renaissance." I'm eating it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And snacks. I can't help myself.
And now I'm keeping an eye out for a sale on White American...
I'm not trying to sound racist here, but I'm thinking that White American is probably better to eat than "regular" American because it won't have any stuff in it to make my insides turn orange. Unless... you don't think that they add bleach to American to make it turn into White American? That wouldn't be a good thing at all.
And now a piece of sad news concerning a black American... Michael Clarke Duncan, a wonderful actor I came to love in his role as Leo Knox in The Finder, passed away this morning at the age of 54...
Such a horrible loss. Michael Clarke Duncan was a truly amazing talent who could steal any scene with one flash of his million-dollar smile... or one word from his wonderful voice... which means that he stole every scene he was ever in. And I can't overstate my love of his character on The Finder. Leo Knox was achingly real while still being endlessly entertaining. I always hoped that the cliffhangers left when The Finder was cancelled would be wrapped up in an episode of Bones, where the show originated. But that will probably never happen now. How could they possibly wrap up anything without Leo? I'm just crushed. Rest in peace, Mr. Duncan, your work made me very happy at times I needed a little happiness, and I will miss you.
Well Michelle Obama sure knocked it out of the park with her speech.
How do I vote for her?
Because, unlike her husband, I can actually envision Michelle Obama personally kicking the piece of shit lobbyists out of the fucking White House. Unlike her husband, I can actually picture Michelle Obama demanding that fucked up bullshit like ACTA be hauled out from behind closed doors and be made public and transparent. Unlike her husband, I'd like to think that Michelle Obama would tell people to go fuck themselves before she caves into opposition pressure and moves her address.
Michelle Obama is a woman who doesn't take shit and gets stuff done!
Or so I'd like to imagine...
Photo from the Associated Press
Maybe it's just wishful thinking because I'm not thrilled with the idea of re-electing President Obama... and I'm even less thrilled with the idea of having Mitt Romney in the White House for four years.
Or maybe I'm just tired.
Sick and tired of politics in this country.
But I watched all of the Republican National Convention... so I guess I'll watch the rest of the Democratic National Convention just to be fair.
If nothing else, it gives me an excuse to put off packing my suitcase for a while longer.
While looking through some old photos, I ran across one that scared the crap out of me. How is it that any parent could possibly think that these heinous "Raggedy Ann and Andy" dolls make a good toy for kids? I mean, seriously, JUST LOOK AT THESE THINGS...
If I had these minions of satan staring at me from a shelf in my bedroom, I'd probably end up permanently scarred from the nightmares.
And from pissing myself.
Because clearly Raggedy Andy is the inspiration for Pennywise the Clown in IT...
Put a sailor hat on Tim Curry, and there you have it...
I guess some parents just enjoy the idea of tormenting their kids.
Welcome to my nightmare...
It was a night of performance art tonight. Here are some of my favorites...
• Gabrielle Giffords "The Pledge of Allegiance" at the DNC. Tell me this isn't one of the most amazing things you've ever seen. The woman survives a frickin' assassination attempt... a gunshot to the head... says "fuck you" to the bullet, and is on-stage leading the DNC in the Pledge of Allegiance a year-and-a-half later. I don't care what your politics are, this kind of raw courage demands respect. There wasn't a dry eye in the house, making Gabrielle Giffords the performance to beat tonight.
• Pink "Blow Me (One Last Kiss)" at the MTV VMAs. I have yet to see Pink in concert so every time I see one of her beautifully orchestrated live performances, I'm a little pissed-off. Tonight's VMA blow-out has her singing yet another amazing track from a string of amazing tracks... "Blow Me (One Last Kiss)" and it was fantastic. Once I got past her dopey hair-do, Pink had me completely captivated as she did her whole "Cirque du Soleil" act better than Cirque du Soleil.
• President Obama "Acceptance Speech" at the DNC. My candidate for the upcoming election was Jon Huntsman. I thought he was smart in all the right ways, and the person most likely to bridge the icy divide between Republicans and Democrats to fix our fucked-up country. But Republicans seemed to truly hate the guy because he wasn't bat-shit-crazy-Right, and you can't get anywhere when your own party doesn't support you. So Huntsman was shoved off the stage and we got... Mitt Romney. Who has the personality of a wooden board wrapped in a wet blanket. He does not inspire me in the least, and I abhor most of his politics when it comes to personal liberties... an area TRUE Conservatives should be getting the fuck out of in the name of less-invasive government. Oh well. So Barack Obama it is then. His acceptance speech was good. Very good. And as the consummate politician, our president delivered it in a way Romney can only dream about. He makes me forget that he wasn't my first choice. He makes me forget that he did some things I am really upset about. He makes me remember that he is a good man, a true patriot, and a decent president who is doing his best to get us out of a horrible situation. And while Obama is not my dream candidate, his speech makes me feel better about voting for him in November, which is what it's really all about.
• Jennifer Granholm at the DNC. Talk about your rousing performances... Granholm descended on the DNC like a tsunami and belted out a speech that was so unabashedly pro-Obama that it made other speakers look like they lacked support for the president. And I'm including Barack Obama. She waxed so poetically about the president's auto-bailout that it almost made me forget that it was President Bush who got the ball rolling by approving monies that would keep our auto-makers in business until Obama got in office. Granted, this was probably at least partially inspired by the Obama transition team laying groundwork for the new president... but it's still a glaring omission in giving credit where credit is due. Whatever. Granholm was there to rally for the president, and she got the job done by delivering a wake-up to the convention that was a much-needed slap in the face.
• Taylor Swift "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" at the MTV VMAs. In stark contrast to some of her previous televised live performances which were, for lack of a better word, "bad"... Taylor had a terrific (and impossibly cute) performance of her latest hit that brought down the house.
• Zach Wahls at the DNC. Zach is a great kid with a great story and a speaking presence that is really going to take him places. When I first saw his speech in defense of marriage equality at the Iowa House of Representatives, I was blown away. The guy is 19, but connects with an audience like a seasoned pro. The only problem is that all his speeches and talk show appearances are starting to sound the exact same. He's got two moms. His family is as normal as any other. Yadda yadda yadda. I know that's why he was at the convention, but Zach needs to mix it up a bit. Still, he did a great job, and you really have to admire his tireless efforts to get people onboard the equality bandwagon.
• Eva Longoria at the DNC. Seriously... who knew?
Annnnnd... after traveling all day, it's time to unwind and prep for a busy day tomorrow.
The story burning up the internets today is about a letter written by Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe in support of Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo (who is vocal advocate of marriage equality).
Making a long story short, Maryland Democratic politician Emmett C. Burns asked the Baltimore Ravens football organization to make Ayanbadejo shut up about marriage. Kluwe (also a supporter of marriage equality) thought this was bullshit, and decided to write an open letter to Burns to tell him how he felt.
The letter is sheer genius. Go read it immediately.
I'm guessing this image of Kluwe is a team photo, courtesy of the Minnesota Vikings?
As you might have noticed, the letter is filled with colorful language which has raised some criticism of Kluwe's choice of words.
This really hit home with me, because I struggle with whether or not I should use swear words most every time I write in this blog. When I first started blogging I swore constantly and didn't think anything about dropping
It was a practice that was destined to be short-lived. I use swear-words in real life when I'm fired up. So it's unavoidable that I'm going to use swear-words on my blog when I'm fired up. For a while I tried to disguise it... typing out things like "F#@%!" and "B#LL$H!T!," but comedian Suzy Soro commented that this is kind of stupid. Since absolutely everybody knows what you're trying to say anyway... why not just come out and say it?
She was absolutely right, and I've been cursing in my blog ever since.
Though I admit that most times I do regret it.
Somebody once told me that swearing is a sign that the writer is unintelligent. They don't know how to express themselves properly, so they foolishly have to resort to curse words to make their point. In some respects, I agree with this assessment.
In other respects, I'd argue that there's no word that can adequately take the place of "fuck."
And so I use it. Probably more often than I should... but definitely not as often as I want to. "Fuck" (and dozens of words like it) are forms of expression that I find helpful in communicating exactly what I'm feeling in a way that "shucky darn" doesn't quite reach.
Today I managed to get in my essential visit to America's Dog so I could get my Veggie Chicago Dog...
It was, as always, delicious.
Oh... and speaking of delicious food... I never check a bag when flying into O'Hare so I can grab a veggie burger at Johnny Rocket's before I exit through security. But yesterday as I approached the restaurant, I was horrified to see that IT WASN'T THERE!
WHAT THE FUCK?! Shucky darn!
I hate it when that happens.
I make it a point to keep up with every Hard Rock Cafe that opens in the USA so I don't risk having a property close before I can get there (like Aspen). The latest cafe to open is located inside the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Michigan. Lucky for me, it's just a short hour-and-a-half drive from Chicago, which made it ridiculously easy to rent a car and drive on over.
The Hard Rock Cafe Four Winds is directly off the main casino floor on the west side of the building...
I was shocked at how big the place is. Larger properties always worry me because the capacity can be hard to fill, which means it's more likely to close down...
The style of the cafe is kind of hard to pin down. It has elements from the shitty "new-style" cafes that look like some kind of hipster lounge... but it's been mercifully toned down to a more classic look. Even better, there's quite a bit of rock memorabilia, which has been badly lacking in the "new-style" properties...
Overall, a pleasant surprise. Not as great as the older properties which helped to define the "Hard Rock look," but a drastic improvement over the later properties that have been popping up.
As for the Four Winds Casino itself... it's absolutely beautiful. Gorgeous wood construction and accents make for a warm, earthy feel. They then artfully blended in some very nice stone work and tribal decorations. I was very much impressed...
The rest of my day was spent doing something I absolutely hate... shopping.
But I don't have much choice, because my tennis shoes are falling apart and I need some clothes for my upcoming trips. My favorite place to shop for shoes is a Nike Factory Outlet, and my iPhone told me there just happened to be one in nearby Michigan City. A mere 20 minutes from the casino (but not actually in Michigan as the name would imply, instead it's in Indiana).
Pulling into town, I was greeted by a big surprise...
Holy crap! That's really close to civilization for a nuclear power plant! But then I recalled a trivia question asking which states don't have nuclear power, and remembered that Indiana was one of them. Turns out it's a cooling tower for a gas & coal plant.
The selection at the Nike store was pretty bad. Almost every style I'd be willing to wear was in crazy colors I wouldn't be caught dead in. This was really disappointing because I love the way that Nikes feel on my feet. Instead I ended up going to the Adidas Outlet Store, which was a blessing in disguise because they were having a store-wide 30% off sale. This was in addition to the already discounted close-out prices, which meant I got two really nice pairs of shoes for $60 instead of the $170 they originally retailed for. Heaven only knows I love a bargain, so this was a great start.
Unfortunately, my plan to buy a bunch of shirts and pants was doomed to failure, as most everything I found that I might wear was either not in my size or more money than I was willing to pay. After four hours of looking at two different malls, I finally gave up after finding only two shirts. This sucks ass, because it means I'm going to have to go shopping again when I get home.
I eventually got back to O'Hare around 6:00, which would have been a perfect opportunity to head into town for some awesome Chicago food. But I was so exhausted that I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I'd blame my tiredness on all the driving, but I know darn well it was the stupid shopping that wore me out. I just cannot fathom how there are people who actually go shopping for fun when, to me at least, it's the ultimate torture.
Much like the KIA Soul I was stuck with from the rental car company. This is the third time I've ended up with one, and they make me insane. Not because they're bad to drive... on the contrary, they handle just fine. It's the BLIND SPOTS in the rear corners that are fucking insane...
Just like the KIA Soul I got when I was in Hawaii, I was constantly freaking out over not being able to see in one of the most important places that a driver needs to be looking when changing lanes. An entire car... hell, an entire semi-truck... could be hiding there and you'd never know. So instead you have to be overly-reliant on your rear-view mirrors and tiny back window, which is hardly the safest way to drive. It's as if KIA fucking wants you to crash into another car... it's the only thing that explains such idiotic design.
I can't believe that these things are legal. I have an even harder time believing that car rental agencies actually buy these things knowing how difficult and dangerous they are to drive.
And now I suppose I should try and get some sleep since I have to fly out early tomorrow morning. Oh how I wish I could have taken a later flight. But the price was quite a bit higher, so it is what it is.
Here's hoping the pilots are more awake than I'll be.
Save your pity over my being stuck at an airport for four hours... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Know. I so rarely just toss a link up on my blog... that's what Twitter and Facebook are for... but I read an article titled "25 Things I'd Like My Sons to Know" and was inspired to do just that. Much of it applies not just to sons, but to people everywhere...
Photo from Tom Matlack's wonderful article.
If you want to have a little more hope for the future, follow that link. And to prove that Tom Matlack's genius isn't a fluke, here's another: "Raising Boys (A Dad’s Advice for Moms)."
• Sleepless. Any attempt to get some sleep last night was futile seeing as how there was a party going on down the hall until 2:30am. As background noise, I probably could have ignored it is not for a screaming cackle by some drunken hag who could just not shut the fuck up. Absolutely everything was funny to her, and I had to listen to her continuous screeching laugh for hours. This alone would have made my final night in Chicago unbearable, but when I got up two hours later there was no hot water at the Hyatt. I don't know what it is about me, but I seem to attract hot water failures.
• Aero. But there was good news from my travels today... when I got to the airport, I was totally psyched to see that, ZOMG!, I would be flying on the Mickey Plane!!
And just when I thought things couldn't get much better? UPGRADED TO FIRST CLASS! As a Delta elite flyer, this rarely happens on Alaska Airlines, so it was a complete surprise. As always, the best part of flying First Class is the warm nuts...
Yes, I know, I TOTALLY WIN AT LIFE!!!
• Livery. This trip was lucky for planes, because my flight to Seattle on Thursday was on the Horizon/Alaska Air Huskies Plane...
Alaska Air has so many cool liveries on their fleet, but the one I'm most dying to fly is their "Salmon-Thirty-Salmon"...
Has to be one of the coolest planes ever made. One of these days I need to see how I can track it down for a ride.
• 'Cago. As Chicago is one of my favorite cities on earth, it sucks pretty hard to go there and not be able to spend any time exploring the place. And since I've been there dozens of times, seeking out the frivolous non-touristy stuff is where the fun is at for me. And the only frivolous thing I made time for was visiting the new LEGO store at Water Tower Place...
Kinda a disappointment. I mean, sure, they carry a large line of wonderful LEGO products, but it's kind of a boring layout compared to the old one. Oh well. It does have the benefit of being located next door to that obscenely popular American Girl store that makes those creepy little dolls I want to burn with fire.
• Coverage. Every time I get to Chicago, I can't help but marvel at the shitty data coverage AT&T has there. Seriously, it's so bad as to be unusable. If you manage to get anything from the internet at all it takes fucking forever, but most times the connection just times out...
How in the hell can the third largest city in the United States have such embarrassingly bad cellular service? At least I can make a phone call here. In Las Vegas (one of the largest tourist attractions in the country) not only is the data shit, but every call I make gets dropped. Every. Damn. Call. I have no idea why AT&T doesn't get off their stupid asses and fix this shit, because it's frickin' embarrassing. If I didn't have to travel outside the US, I'd switch to Verizon. I dunno. Maybe Verizon's international iPhone coverage is something I should look into.
• Limits. And lastly, from the "It's About Damn Time" file, Texas is raising the speed limit on a 41-mile stretch of highway between Austin and San Antonio to 85 MPH. Yes, I know that this is a real cause for concern when it comes to safety. Yes, I realize that there will still be idiots who drive 45 and hold up traffic. Yes, I understand that there are few roadways straight and flat enough to handle 85. And, yes, I get that there will still be people that will only use this as an excuse to go 95. But, dammit, I just don't care. Upping speed limits is something I approve of...
Photo by Ricardo B. Brazziell from AP Photo/Statesman.com
Mostly because I think it's fucking insane that you can get pulled over and ticketed for going 10 miles above the speed limit when there are murders running around free. Yes, dangerous drivers should be stopped and fined. No argument there. But is ticketing someone going 65 in a 55 really the best use of police resources if the driver is handling the speed safely? I'd argue the moron driving 40 in a 55 is the bigger danger. In any event, There are stretches of highway in Eastern Washington that could really benefit from an 85 MPH speed limit, I'm just sayin'.
And... my flight starts boarding in 15 minutes, so I guess I should wrap this up. Good thing too, I'm just about out of bullets...
They say that even a stopped clock is right twice a day, but in my case it's just not true.
The batteries in my Mickey Mouse wall-clock at work died at 7:28 while I was in Chicago. And since I arrive both after 7:28am and before 7:28pm I don't see the clock being correct even once. And since I don't even know if my office exists when I am not there, I'm not going to make assumptions about what happens when I'm gone. Logic would dictate that the clock does indeed read correct at 7:28am and 7:28pm, but I'm not going to drive to work to find out.
Because I have more important questions on my mind...
Which means nothing has changed, because that's what I'm going to be doing right now.
Well, that... and planning a trip to Bahrain.
Honestly, I tried to come up with something better than I wrote last year. I tried last night. I tried this morning. But I just couldn't do it. Everything I have to say I said 365 days ago, so I'm just going to reprint it and hope that the me from the past can speak where words are failing me in the present.
Originally Posted on September 11, 2011
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.
I started the day with a flat tire. That would be bad enough, but we're on fire again.
I thought my hometown would make it through the summer without a massive wildfire outbreak in the area but, alas, it was not to be. The flames they are a ragin' in the canyons throughout the valley. Fortunately, things aren't nearly as bad as they were back in 2004, but the skies are filled with a smokey haze and the smell permeates everything...
This is bad news for me, because strong smells like smoke and incense make me sick. I get bad cramping that makes me feel like I have to poop 24 hours a day, on top of having a sore throat and headache. Sleeping is almost impossible. Working is a struggle. Eating makes me sicker. If things get much worse, I'm going to have to flee to the coast just to be able to function.
It's always something. Some cities get earthquakes. Some cities get hurricanes. Some cities get flooding. We get wildfires.
C'est la vie.
And in Apple news, this happened...
As a Certified Apple Whore, of course I want a new iPhone 5. I love everything about it.
Even though its improvements are not quite as drastic from the 4S than I had expected.
My main gripe with iPhone is that it just isn't as smart as it should be for a smartPHONE. With iOS 6, we're getting a new feature called "Do Not Disturb" which will help with some of my complaints...
My phone will be on "Do Not Disturb" 24 hours a day. Because 99 times out of 100, the calls I get are ones I don't give a shit about. Today while I was on my way to get my tire fixed, I got a robocall from a fucking furniture company wanting to give me a free wine rack for attending some kind of stupid event. After screaming FUCK YOU! at the recording, I was so enraged that I very nearly threw my iPhone out the window. "Do Not Disturb" will make this kind of bullshit a thing of the past.
But there's four more things that need to happen after that...
These are basic features that have been around forever, and are things that anything claiming to be a "smartphone" should be able to handle. Except the iPhone can't. But, hey... the new model is 18% thinner! Or whatever.
Maybe one day, when Apple has given us an iPhone that has artificial intelligence, a 3-D holographic projector, and fits on your fingernail, they'll finally get around to the basics.
Until then, I'll be sitting here watching the world burn.
And so the smoke was even worse today.
I woke up with a raw throat, swollen eyes, and a stomachache so bad that I had to crawl... crawl... out of bed. After force-feeding myself a handful of antihistamines and a box of antacids, I crawled back into bed where I stayed for another four hours.
Needless to say, this is not the best place to be for somebody like me right now...
And so I peaced-out of the valley and fled to the coast where I can actually breathe.
Hopefully sometime soon the wildfires will get under control so I can go home again.
Funny... I don't feel super lucky...
No... wait a second... I totally do feel super-lucky!
Have a safe and fun weekend everybody!
Looking at photos of back home makes me even more glad that I've escaped to the coast. Can't believe how bad the smoke has gotten... apparently our air quality has been rated "hazardous" now. Hope everybody back in the valley is staying safely indoors.
Because we just can't get enough, we took a trip up to Newcastle again. I absolutely love it up there. The day started with beautiful clear skies, but eventually ended up being even more beautiful overcast skies...
The first time I went to Newcastle, a man standing at the urinal had his pants all the way down to his ankles. It makes me worry that one day I'm going to walk in and see a guy stripped down to take full advantage of the body moisturizer they inexplicably offer at the sink...
It may be mostly smoke-free over here, but the air pollution is making its way over the mountains up high, making pretty pink skies...
Here's hoping I get to go home tomorrow, though I admit it'll be tough to leave.
Tonight will be my last night of refuge on the coast.
Tomorrow morning I bite the bullet and head back to my smokey home. So put on your gas mask... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Five. I stayed up until midnight so I could pre-order my iPhone 5 on Wednesday...
It was precisely the cluster-fuck I knew it would be. Couldn't order at Apple because my AT&T billing address is a PO box and they won't deliver to a PO box. Have no clue as to why I can't enter a separate street address for delivery... but whatever. And so I had to pre-order at AT&T's site, which is an even bigger mess. Every single time you press a button, you have to re-press it dozens of times in order for the site to do anything. Every time you fill out a form, you have to re-fill it out and submit it dozens of times in order for the site to accept the data. This took TWO HOURS AND FIVE MINUTES. Insanity. And I have no idea when I'm even going to get it. I may have stayed up until 2:05am for nothing. I understand that these sites are getting completely slammed by thousands of people... but come on. There has got to be a better way of handling this.
• Carrier. Make no mistake. The only reason I renewed with shitty AT&T was because I could grandfather in my unlimited data plan. The very minute that AT&T tells me that I can no longer have unlimited data is the minute that I switch to Verizon. AT&T call quality just keeps getting worse and worse, and now data service is in the shitter as well. In cities like Chicago and Las Vegas, my iPhone is practically useless. Hopefully having 4G-LTE will help in cities where 3G fails, because... damn.
• Bacon. In what can only be considered a boon to all humanity, you can now check a star's Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon directly in a Google search...
It never ceases to amaze me how Bacon numbers just keep falling. Mr. Bacon's appearance in X-Men: First Class really chopped a lot of numbers down for younger and up-and-coming stars.
• Trek. Speaking of Google... they had a genius interactive doodle for the 46th anniversary of Star Trek last week...
• Alcoholic. The news broke that Disney will be offering beer and wine for sale at their new French restaurant in Walt Disney World's "Magic Kingdom." Unsurprisingly, people are losing their shit. They're saying everything from "Walt Disney is turning in his grave!" to "BOYCOTT DISNEY!!" Never mind that the three other Disney World parks (Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Epcot) have all been serving alcohol for years... somehow serving it in the Magic Kingdom is going to DESTROY DISNEY WORLD! And never mind that visitors can just get shit-faced in the parking lot before they even enter the park... oh no... WE'RE ALL DOOMED! And never mind that the alcohol Disney's going to be selling at heinous prices is only available in the evening and must be consumed before leaving the restaurant... WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!
Give me a break. I am so sick and tired of people going bat-shit crazy over things that will ultimately have -zero- effect on them. Like a glass or two of wine with dinner is suddenly going to turn Walt Disney World into a drunken brawl where kids will have to stumble over hookers and heroin addicts on their way to "It's a Small World." I never thought I'd be saying that there are people too fucking stupid for Disney World, but here we are. Oh well... more beer for me then.
Blargh... time to start thinking about my last smoke-free sleep.
So this is what hell is like.
The inversion that was trapping smoke in our valley lifted on Saturday, which means the air was clearing up yesterday. Unfortunately a new inversion descended last night, which means all the smoke was back by the time I got home this morning. The minute I rolled over the mountain pass, my heart sank as I saw a massive haze obliterating the countryside.
So here we go again.
Misery. I knows it. I sit at a desk staring at a computer screen with eyes swollen, watery, and itchy. My throat is raw because my nose won't top running no matter what I do. I spend every other moment trying to decide if I need to run to the bathroom. The moments in-between are spent trying to figure out what I do when I get there... puke or poop. I am doped up on everything from ibuprofen and Pepto Bismol to antihistamines and Imodium. When all I want to do is take a handful of sleeping pills and go into a coma until it's all over.
Why I react to smoke this way, I have no idea.
Hopefully I can last six days until I blow this popsicle stand.
And so on top of everything else, I have laryngitis now.
The icing on the cake of my day, really. Pretty much just want to climb under the bed and stay there. But the show must go on. And on. And on.
And on my way to work...
And on my way home...
You'd think that Washington would be running out of stuff to burn by now.
Though, even if it's not... for the sake of all those people whose homes are in danger here (not to mention all the animals that are being displaced by the flames)... it would be great if the state would stop burning for a while anyways.
Being able to speak again would be nice too.
And so Apple has (finally) unleashed the latest version of there iPhone-iPodTouch-iPad operating system. Unlike the Mac OS X updates which get cool names like "Mountain Lion," iOS updates get a boring number increment, which means we're at "iOS 6" now.
I had no problem updating my iPad 3, iPhone 4, & iPhone 4S and, so far as I know, everything is working perfectly. I'll get to my thoughts on the bulk of the iOS 6 new features tomorrow. But tonight I want to focus on Apple's controversial virtual assistant software named "Siri."
Siri is considered "controversial" because "she" is a feature that sparks a lot of strong feelings amongst iPhone users. Some people I know love her. Some people I know hate her. Most people I know ignore her and rarely (if ever) use Siri. Personally, I love love love Siri and use her constantly. For the most part, she understands me and interprets my instructions correctly. And there's just something magical about being able to say "I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow at 3pm" only to have Siri add it to your calendar without you having to type a thing. Welcome to the future!
Because, unlike the computer on Star Trek, Siri can be one fickle bitch. One minute she will understand something odd that you never thought she would get... the next minute she'll completely blow a simple instruction for reasons you can't fathom. Fortunately, Apple is improving Siri all the time, so she's getting smarter and more capable with each new release, but life with Siri is far from perfect.
One of the new thing Siri understands with iOS 6 is movies. I had thought this would be limited to displaying showtimes at local theaters, but she's much smarter than that. Want to know what the last movie Gene Hackman appeared in? No need for IMDB, Siri has got you covered...
Interesting that Siri knows to capitalize "Hackman" but not "Gene"... even though she spelled "Gene" correctly. But she still knows how to answer, which is pretty darn cool. Unfortunately, she's less smart for other queries. For example, Siri will still ask you "Which one?" when asking about a movie title that's been used for multiple movies, even if you specify the one you want...
With the new iOS 6 update, Siri also knows sports. As I type this, the Mariners are playing a game. When I ask how they are doing, Siri responds with a score and some stats...
Nice! One of the things Siri also knows about is players. At the Apple Event where iOS 6 was introduced, they showed how you could find out "Who is taller, Kobe or LeBron?" just by asking. This seemed very cool... until I found out that the number of players Siri knows is severely limited. If I want to check up on how Jarrod Saltalamacchia is doing, Siri goes brain dead. She doesn't know who Salty is no matter how I pronounce his name... or even if I ask for him by number. And she doesn't seem to know what "stats" are, even if you say a player she recognizes. This seems crazy given that she will bring up a player stats card when you ask somebody's height, but oh well...
Siri does have Saltalamacchia listed as a player, so I guess there's that...
Siri is supposed to have a handle on international sports, so I thought I'd try a name that wasn't as complicated as "Saltalamacchia." Like Chelsea footballer Frank Lampard...
Lampard is a hugely famous player. He's been with Chelsea for ten years now. How can Siri not know who he is? I dunno... maybe if I were in the UK this would be different, but overall I find player stats to be a hugely underwhelming feature (unless you're wanting to know about Kobe Bryant or LeBron James!). Maybe I'm asking wrong or something. But I tried dozens of questions about Frank Lampard covering everything from his height to goals and still nothing.
One area I was hoping Siri would get smarter about is travel, because she doesn't seem to know a damn thing. Train schedules, bus routes, flight times, or whatever... Siri is clueless. And nothing has changed in iOS 6. This would seem to be a no-brainer. I would love to get to the train station and ask "When does the next train arrive?", but I guess that's too complex for Siri to figure out. And she knows it...
When it comes to alarms, Siri can still be inexplicably stupid. She can't even recognize alarms she just made for you...
You can't set, change, or find an alarm for a specific day? Why the fuck not? These are the very basic things a virtual assistant should know how to do. And you set the alarm just fine, so why is deleting the alarm with the same language I used to set it a problem? It's things like this that make me understand why some people are not Siri fans.
One of my favorite things I use Siri for on my iPhone is setting reminders. They are frickin' genius because they are location-based. Tell Siri to remind you to make a call when you get to work, and she will do exactly that. So now that Siri is available on third-generation iPads, I was excited that I could add reminders from there too. Except... turns out you can't...
Can't create location-based reminders on this device? WHY THE FUCK NOT?!? You DO realize that any reminders I make on my iPad will be synced to my iPhone, right? I mean, I know that my WiFi iPad doesn't have a GPS, but I'm not expecting it to remind me of a damn thing... that's what my iPHONE is for! Siri should just create the damn reminder and warn you that it will only work for iPhone or something... not flat-out refuse to do something that makes total sense.
With iOS 6, Siri now knows about dining. You can ask her about restaurants in your area or types of foods or whatever, and she'll link with Yelp! to help you out. This is a very nice feature for travelers like me who end up in cities they're unfamiliar with. It can also be a very depressing feature when you're hungry for falafel and the nearest place to get it is over 70 miles away...
Added coolness points to Siri for being able to link up with OpenTable so you can make reservations in the restaurant you find.
Another new feature is being able to post to Twitter and Facebook as easily as you can send texts and emails. Siri will even warn you if you need to set this up before she can take action...
As always, Siri dumps anything she doesn't understand into a catch-all "Wanna look that up in a web search?"...
Not that I was expecting Siri to get into a deep discussion over how Mitt Romney has been so terminally fucking stupid every time he opens his mouth lately... or how utterly fucking tragic it is that politicians are screwing the men and women who risk their lives to defend this country... I just wanted to show how Siri does a bang-up job of figuring out what I'm saying, even if she doesn't know what to do with it.
And so there she is... the new and improved Siri virtual assistant.
Slowly getting smarter, but still in desperate need of an intelligence upgrade.
Which pretty much describes every person on this planet, so it's hard for me to fault Siri. Most of the time I still love her more than buttered toast.
To be continued...
And now... continued from yesterday... my observations on Apple's iOS 6 update. For everybody who hates Apple stuff, sorry... but you have one more day to go.
• Messages. If there's one feature I was most excited about when it comes to iOS 6... it would be Unified Messaging. This means that whether I am on my iPhone, my iPad, iMac, or my MacBook... any time somebody texts me via Apple Messages it will appear on all of them. And I can reply from all of them using my mobile number as the return address so it's seamless to the person I'm communicating with. As if that weren't awesome enough, all my devices archive the complete conversation so it's seamless for me to move between them too. This feature alone makes the upgrade to iOS 6 worthwhile.
The only problem is setting it up. I thought it would all happen automatically but, when it didn't, I finally figured out that you need to log out and log back into your iCloud account on your iPhone, THEN do the same on all your other devices and computers. Works like a charm. All you have to do is choose which email addresses you want people to message you at... and whether you want your mobile phone number to receive messages on that device. Easy.
• Mail. Apple always seems to be hesitant to adopt things they didn't invent. Even when those things are superior to what they've developed. Which is why you could have knocked me over with a feather when I found out that Mail has adopted "pull to refresh"... a feature I've loved ever since I first saw it in Tweetie. Not only that, but they added a really cool widget that stretches and snaps when you pull. It's awesome. And I've been begging for it to happen in Mail for a long time. Another new feature is a VIP Mailbox which collects important email from Very Important People you designate. This can be tied to VIP alerts which will let you know when VIP email arrives. It's quite cool...
AND DID I MENTION THEY FRICKIN' ADDED PULL TO REFRESH?!? HOLY CRAP DOES THAT MAKE ME HAPPY!
• Do Not Disturb. It's a bit tough for me to dig up praise for a feature THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN INCLUDED ON iPHONE FROM DAY ONE. but I'm going to try. Because being able to have your iPhone or iPad shut the hell up during the middle of the night is something worth praising. Even if it's years overdue. Suffice to say that being able to selectively (or automatically) make your iPhone ignore everything but calls from critical people you designate is part of what makes a smartphone a SMART ... PHONE! Long overdue and much appreciated.
• Passbook. One of the buzzword technologies hitting mobile phones is "NFC" which is "Near Field Communication." This allows you to buy stuff or unlock stuff or transfer stuff very simply over very short distances. It sounds kinda cool. No more fumbling for your credit card or airline ticket or room key when you've got your mobile phone! Except... not many people are using it. Yet. And, like all new tech, we don't know if it will really catch on. So Apple is conveniently ignoring it. For now. As a stop-gap, they've come up with Passbook. It's kind of like a wallet for your cards and tickets and stuff. Except instead of using NFC, it relies on good old-fashioned bar codes...
The above image comes from Apple, because Passbook itself hasn't really caught on yet. I think it will. It's just too good of an idea to be ignored. Especially since the cards/tickets/whatever are "location aware" and will pop up automatically when you are near the place they can be used. I look forward to using it. Eventually.
• Facebook/Twitter. And so now you can Tweet and Facebook directly from the Notification Center. You can also Tweet and Facebook stuff from other various apps like Photos and Safari courtesy of the "Share" button. It's kinda nifty...
• Maps. There's no subtle way to say this... Apple's replacement for Google Maps (titled simply "Maps")... sucks. And sucks hard. First of all, there's NO Public Transit Directions. This is just awful for somebody like me who travels to new places a lot and uses public transportation. Second of all, the map data is often good, but sometimes pretty terrible. Things are missing or on the wrong place. Satellite views for some locations are so bad as to be indecipherable. It's just a mess, and even if Apple starts throwing millions of dollars at the problem, it's going to be a while before they are even close to Google Maps.
The good news is that when Maps works, it's pretty frickin' incredible... and so very very pretty. PLUS YOU CAN MAKE THE LABELS BIG SO YOU CAN ACTUALLY READ THEM! Sweet! But the feature that sets Apple Maps apart is their amazing "Flyover" feature that allows you to swoop around some cities in beautiful 3-D. I could play with it for hours...
Turning off the satellite gives you the geometry for Flyover...
There is some freaky imagery with Flyover in places... but when it works, it's pretty great. Like the Hard Rock Hotel in Chicago...
Some famous places like The Coliseum and The Vatican are well-rendered...
Others, like the Eiffel Tower? Not so much...
I have no doubt that Apple is going to invest the time and money to keep improving Maps to the point that it eventually eclipses Google. The question then becomes... how long is that going to take? Could be years. Which means I really need my Google Maps back for serious use. Hopefully Google will give us an app for that... but, until then, I guess there's always their mobile maps site. Sure I'll lose the "turn-by-turn directions" that Apple has... but I'd take time-tested, reliable maps over flashy add-ons any day.
• Photo Stream. One of the things that drives me insane is how difficult it is to transfer photos. Transfer to my iPad. Transfer to my Mac. Transfer to friends. Transfer anywhere, really. At first I just emailed them to myself. Then I bought an app that had a klutzy way of setting up a link between my iPhone and my Mac. Apple's "Photostream" technology came along, but YOU don't choose what gets put there. Enter "Shared Photo Streams" with iOS 6. Now you can create your own custom streams, invite whomever you want to view them, then post photos until your heart's content. Bonus? You and others can COMMENT on the photos. Pretty sweet. It's not direct, instant transfer to somebody you're talking to, but it's good enough.
• Facetime. And so FaceTime over cellular is now possible with iOS 6. Unless you're unwilling to give up your grandfathered unlimited data plan. Then AT&T decides they're going to FUCK YOU JUST BECAUSE THEY CAN... THEY ARE GOING TO DENY YOU THE ABILITY TO FACETIME OVER CELLULAR LIKE THE GREEDY BASTARDS THEY ARE. Data is data. How they can differentiate how you use that data is pretty fucked up and should be illegal. And what about their customers that are deaf?!? A deaf person could really make use of this technology... but only if they want to sign up for a data plan that AT&T decides they can make money off of. Holy crap do I loathe cell companies.
That's not all the new features in iOS 6, but it's the ones that matter to me. Sure there are loads of other niceties... like being able to dismiss calls with a text... and the nifty panorama camera feature that's head and shoulders above the third-party apps for shooting panos... and shared iCloud tabs across devices from Apple's Safari browser is sure handy... etc. etc.
Well, as I said, Maps is a problem. It can be pretty, but it's not nearly as usable as the Google Maps it replaces. At least not yet. I wish Apple would have waited a while longer until their Maps were more functional. Other than that? Not a lot. My older iPhones don't seem to run any slower, which is always a concern. All the features that are available on each of my iPhones seem to be working as advertised. I suppose I could nitpick on little things, but the truth is that I am very happy with iOS 6... despite the fact that it's not much of a leap over previous iOS versions when it comes to the experience. Probably because Apple got it right the first time, but I fully admit I'd like to see a few more bells and whistles in the way things work. The iPhone 5 that's coming out tomorrow is leagues faster and more powerful than the original iPhone... why doesn't it have more whiz-bang visuals to take advantage of that? Not enough to distract or slow-down the gadgets running iOS, but something to make it feel a bit fresher than the original iPhone.
Because other mobile OS's like Windows 8 and Android may be behind the curve... but they're closing in a lot faster than Apple is willing to admit. Publicly. Hopefully behind the closed doors of Cupertino it's a different story.
Happy iPhone Day everybody!
May the blessings of Steve Jobs and the Almighty Apple be upon you this day!
And may Maps lead us not into temptation but deliver us from Android, amen.
Of course I'll be back with my comments on the iPhone 5. I just can't help myself...
ROBERT: "Bottom line it for me, dude."
DAVE2: "Well, if you have an
Having owned or used every model Apple's made, I can say that the
And with that out of the way, here we go...
• Design. iPhone 5 is crafted out of aluminum and glass. I picked the black version, but a part of me now regrets that decision. The dark anodized aluminum looks like it's going to scratch quite easily. I don't think this will be a problem with the white iPhone 5, because the aluminum was left uncolored. Hopefully I'll find a cool case for it that will help me keep it looking pretty. The iPhone itself feels really solid despite being thinner than earlier models. It's also noticeably taller than other models, but still very comfortable in my grip. But the biggest change I notice is this... it is so frickin' LIGHT! It feels almost weightless and ethereal. Even when compared to my previous iPhone, which was already pretty light-weight. I'd give he design an A+ if it weren't for my fear of scratches.
• Cellular. Much to my shock and delight, my small rural city has 4G coverage. Note that I did not say
• Speed. Everything on iPhone 5 is fast. Very fast. The ultimate test of speed comes from goofing around with Maps Flyover, and it screams...
Everything feels snappier and more responsive. It's the most awesome iOS experience I've had.
• Display. Gorgeous. It's a Retina Display, so it's tack-sharp. It's got one less layer of material, so it's lush, saturated, and has less glare. And now it also has a larger 16x9 HD ratio, which makes modern television programs and movies bigger since there's no letterboxing. This extra space also allows for an extra row of app icons on the home screen, which is nice. I admit that at first I was worried I wouldn't like the taller screen (the old one felt perfect), but it's grown on me and I love it. Thankfully they didn't go wider so I can still operate the thing one-handed.
• Camera. I've pretty much ditched my pocket cameras. The iPhone cameras just keep getting better and better so there's really no point carrying two pieces of hardware. The new camera on the iPhone 5 is remarkable for a number of reasons. The light sensitivity is much improved. The video quality (1080p at 30fps!) is amazing. And the built-in panorama mode, which previously required a third-party app, is incredible. Not just because it works so amazingly well and is dead-simple to use, but because the resulting image is fantastic...
Given how smokey it is here, that's pretty darn good. But what if I told you that pano photo shown there is only part of the full picture I captured?
The full width of the image is 5400 pixels, all with terrific detail. I can't wait to try this somewhere with great scenery... and no smoke.
• Sound. The built-in speakers are urprisingly good for a frickin' phone. Louder and clearer than you'd think. Enough to fill a small room, really. And now Apple has new "EarPods" headphones that they're bundling with all their new gadgets...
The big selling point on these is that they've been designed to fit the widest possible variety of ears while still sounding great. Well, they got half of that right. They do sound pretty good... better than the previous Apple earbuds. But they don't fit my ear very well at all. The weight of the cord is enough to eventually dislodge them if you start moving even a little bit. If I were to dance around with them, they'd fall out immediately. This either means that I have mutant ears... or Apple is full of shit. Oh well. I didn't plan on giving up my in-ear headphones anyway. I guess my EarPods will make a good backup or something.
• Lightning. There's quite an uproar over Apple's decision to ditch the bulky and antiquated iPhone "dock connector" for their new, smaller "Lightning connector" which comes with digital goodness baked in. Needless to say, everybody who is sitting on a load of iPhone peripherals that require the dock connector are now sitting on obsolete technology. Apple has a "dock converter" which can help (in most cases) but that adds big bulk and big bucks ($29). Personally, this isn't a problem for me. The only dock connector peripheral I have (my car charger) also has a USB port. No big whoop. All that being said, I love the new Lighting port. It's tiny, but fits securely. What I don't understand is why Apple didn't design this to be a "MagSafe" type connector which attaches by magnet like a MacBook. Seems like a no-brainer if you ask me. Well, it is what it is. Since the only reason to plug in my iPhone is to charge it, I guess it's not a big deal. Wireless charging would have been nice, but I'm sure this would have added size and weight to the phone, so I'm okay that Apple didn't go that route. And I really don't give a crap that they didn't go with stupid "micro USB" either, because I don't have anything else that uses it.
• Battery. I've been using iPhone heavily all day... whether it be goofing around with it non-stop... or waiting for it to download all my apps and photos and crap. Still have 17% battery left. Given how much thinner the thing is, this is kind of surprising. If I can get away with using it all day and only plugging it in each night, I'll be very happy. With my previous iPhones, I've had to buy an external battery.
• Una Problema. As I've written about more than once, using your Apple ID for all your iCloud-based services is a handy feature that's implemented badly. If Apple is going to force you down this road, they really need to be on the fucking ball, but they aren't. Not by a longshot. Just as I get one problem with Apple ID fixed, another takes its place. And, sure enough, upgrading my iPhone caused my Apple ID to get all fucked up. Again. Now my iMac isn't registering for Messages again. AGAIN! I have no idea why Apple can't get this shit so it works reliably, but it's pissing me the hell off. So now my Macs aren't registering all my Messages conversations like they should. Random Messages are missing on my MacBook. They're gone completely on my iMac. No idea why this is happening when they were working flawlessly before I upgraded my phone. Guess I'll be calling AppleCare again. AGAIN!
• The End. No bones about it. I love the iPhone 5. Everything about it screams quality. Apple sweated the small stuff and it shows. I have my pick of any mobile on the market, and this is the one I'd pick every day of the week and twice on Sunday. None of the current competitors I've seen or worked with come close. Yes, there are a few features on other phones I wouldn't mind having... but I would be sacrificing too much on the features I use every day that Apple gets so perfectly. And that pretty much sums thing up... for me at least, iPhone 5 is perfect.
I've once again escaped from the smokey side of the state! To celebrate, Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Move! I have tried for decades to understand how the car ahead of you will drive 10 miles under the speed limit... until a passing lane appears... at which time they'll start driving 10 miles over the speed limit so you can't pass... until the passing lane evaporates, at which time they'll drop back to their previous 10 miles under the speed limit again. What is wrong with them? How did they get a license? Don't they deserve to die for that? I know I'd certainly like to kill them for that. Where is Judge Dredd when you really need him?
• Case. Once Seattle-side, I stopped by the University Village Apple Store so I could get a case for my new iPhone. I worry a bit about the anodized black aluminum getting scratched, so it seemed like a good idea. Except... The Apple Store didn't have any cases. Which has to be one of the stupidest marketing decisions I've ever seen. Not even a frickin' bumper? By bypassing the add-on sales, it's as if Apple is saying "we don't need the extra revenue." Which, they probably don't... but this still seems outlandishly stupid. It's just as insane as if Apple had stacked up a huge pile of money in the parking lot and then set it on fire.
• Johnny? After surviving the shock of the Apple Store not having any iPhone 5 cases, I stumbled outside so I could visit the University Village Johnny Rockets. Except... The Johnny Rockets didn't exist! Which makes me wonder how long it will be until all the Johnny Rockets are gone. They seem to be disappearing at an alarming rate. Losing Pike Place Market was tough. Then Chicago. Then O'Hare. Now University Village. I don't know what my go-to restaurant will be if this continues. I would like it to be Earl of Sandwich but, alas, they're still pretty rare. Guess it'll be Pizza Hut or whatever.
• Soft. Across the parking lot from the heinously busy and totally packed University Village Apple Store is the mostly empty University Village Microsoft Store. From the looks of things, Microsoft copied quite a lot from Apple when they made their "retail experience" (except the crowds, of course)... right down to the name tag lanyard hanging around the necks of the T-shirt-wearing employees. As I drove by I saw one poor bastard whose job it is to stand at the door and ask (beg?) people to come in and look around. I felt like making a pity visit just because the whole situation was so sad... but I was just too hungry. Helpful hint to Microsoft: Start serving chocolate pudding and cookies at your stores so you might get some visitors.
• LTE. Having never experienced 4G LTE on a mobile phone before, I was pretty shocked to find that it seems faster than my WiFi back home. At least in Seattle it does. Web pages are loading almost instantaneously on my iPhone 5. Entire albums download in two minutes. Internet-powered apps are shockingly fast. Welcome to the future. Of course, it'll take ten years before I get it over in Redneckistan, so I suppose it will have to remain a treat for those times I'm in the big scary city.
And... I'm falling asleep. I'd post this, but I'm afraid it's not worth the $15 it would cost me. Holy crap do hotels get away with murder on internet pricing. Maybe they should be the ones policing our highways for slow drivers.
After a series of horribly early flights that forced me to get up at absurd hours not fit for man nor beast, I decided to make a change this trip. No flights before noon.
This would allow me to stay in bed until late, have time for a leisurely breakfast, and even goof off a bit before having to head to the airport. And it's a good plan, really. Except I have to fly out a day early to make my appointments... and add a day at the end because my flight gets back too late for the three-hour drive home. I didn't think this was a big deal... until I started calculating how much extra money that adds to a trip. Two extra nights in a hotel plus a slew of extra meals... not to mention the extra parking fees... turns out to be about $300-$350.
That's a lot of money just so I can climb out of bed at a decent hour.
And so now I'm wondering if perhaps that 3:30am wake-up is worth it after all. Sure I'm a zombie for the day, but at least I'm saving over $300.
But try telling that to me this morning as I sat down to a plate of scrambled eggs and toast with a side of fresh strawberries... after having stayed in bed until 9:00. I probably would have paid $600.
Sometimes you just can't put a price on a great piece of toast.
Well, you can, but I just don't care.
At least until the credit card statement arrives.
The nice thing about having to be in Orlando for work is that at the end of your day you can wander over to Walt Disney World for fireworks...
The show was called Halloween Wishes.
Or maybe Halloween Dreams.
Or it could have been Halloween Magic.
Or Magical Halloween Dreams.
Or Dreamy Magical Halloween Wishes maybe?
How about Magical Halloween Dreams and Wishes?
Or perhaps Halloween Wishes for Magical Dreams?
Hell, I don't know. It was Halloween... something. And there was probably Magic, Wishes and Dreams in there, because there's always Magic, Wishes and Dreams stuffed into everything when you're at a Disney park.
And now it's time for me to start wishing for magical dreams... hopefully with some sleep attached.
Because of my many, many trips to Orlando, I've been to Walt Disney World eleventy bajillion times. Which means I'm pretty bored with the place. Sure "Pirates of the Caribbean" is great the first five times you ride it... but the twenty-fifth? Not even adding Johnny Depp can fix that. But it's the place everybody wants to go, so it's the place I usually end up.
Which means I'm always looking for something new and interesting to do at the Disney Parks. Usually it's by staying in a Disney hotel I've never stayed at before... but every once in a while there's something truly new and interesting to do.
Enter the Wild Africa Trek in Animal Kingdom, which lets you explore the "African savanna" there in an entirely different way from the "Kilimanjaro Safaris" you'd normally take...
You know it's going to be different once they suit you up in a safety harness. This allows them to clip you to a track so you don't fall to your death when leaning over a cliff to see hungry hungry hippos up close and personal...
But the main reason for the safety harnesses (and the highlight of the trek) is a "rope bridge walk" which takes you high over the forest...
Being a Disney experience, it's all incredibly safe... but, being a Disney experience, they try to give the appearance that your trek is fraught with danger. Some of the wood boards on the bridge are broken or just plain missing...
And, as if that weren't enough "danger" for you, they walk you over a bunch of crocodiles... just like in an Indiana Jones movie...
The biggest problem with the "Kilimanjaro Safaris" ride that you would normally go on is that you don't get to stop. If animals are hiding, you don't get to stop and wait for them to show up. If you spot a really cool animal on the savannah, you don't get to stop and observe it for a while. Disney has quota of people they need to shove through the ride, so they have to keep moving.
But with the "Wild Africa Trek," it's completely different because they stop the truck and pull over whenever they want. This gives you a much better opportunity to look at the animals roaming around...
Along the way you get to stop at a camp on the savannah to have a snack. A snack that's actually more of a meal...
You get a terrific assortment of Africa-inspired foods (I got the vegetarian meal) and absolutely every bit of it was delicious. If there was a restaurant that was serving this meal, I would totally eat there. Frequently.
Overall, I enjoyed the Wild Africa Trek experience quite a lot. It's fun. It's exciting. It's educational. It's different. It's Disney.
The cost varies depending on whether you are at Disney World during the high season or the low season... and whether there's a special running or not... which means somewhere between $160 and $250 per person. I don't know that I would pay $250... but it's a bargain at $160.
Each trek is limited to 12 people and they have a limited number of treks per day. So... if you are planning to give it a try, you'll definitely want to book ahead to make sure you get in. Here's a link to Disney's website for Wild Africa Trek with the number you can call to book it. You can also visit the "hidden" trek kiosk next to Tuskers Restaurant in Animal Kingdom and take a chance that there's a spot available (get there early!).
As of this writing, the site above is actually kind of crappy in that they don't give you much information. They don't tell you that you need closed-toe shoes (I took boots and was glad to have them)... they don't tell you where to go (Animal Kingdom entrance 1/2 hour before your trek next to the ATM on the right). This is essential info to have, because Disney employees look at you like you're from outer space when you try to ask questions about it.
And now I'm off to have a magical day... working.
You know how once things start to go downhill they continue to go downhill... but faster and with less control?
I found myself saying "Are you kidding me?" quite a lot today. I am amazed how people seem to have -zero- sense of responsibility anymore. They just don't seem to care how their actions affect other people. They break promises at the drop of a hat and never seem to give it a second thought... no matter how many people were counting on them.
And now I'm thinking of joining the irresponsibility party. Why should I continue to honor my promises and obligations if nobody else is going to?
Oh yeah... I'm not a piece of shit. That's why.
Second verse, same as the first.
Monday really can't come fast enough.
This trip to Orlando I ended up staying at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge... a pricey but very nice hotel that's located directly on the Walt Disney World Resort property.
Meant to compliment Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park, the lodge is an African-inspired masterpiece that has something you won't find in most any other hotel... animals wandering around outside your balcony. Depending on which savanna your room overlooks, you can see giraffes, zebras, okapi, antelope, gazelles, eland, ostrich, and more!
My room in the main lodge (Jambo House) overlooked the "Sunset Savanna" (the other two being "Arusha Savanna" and "Uzima Savanna"). Throughout the day I managed to see all kinds of animals...
The hotel itself is pretty amazing... which is no surprise since it was designed by Peter Dominick, who also designed the Wilderness Lodge. The showpiece of the hotel being the lobby, which is a towering four+ stories...
The standard rooms are not overly-spacious, but they are nicely appointed and comfortable...
ANIMAL KINGDOM LODGE PROS:
ANIMAL KINGDOM LODGE CONS:
While it isn't going to dethrone Disney's Wilderness Lodge as my favorite Walt Disney World resort property, it comes very, very close. The Animal Kingdom Lodge with its cool Savanna views offers a unique experience that I really enjoyed, and would be happy to experience again (despite some of the cons that go along with staying here). Highly recommended if you don't mind spending huge sums of money.
Be sure all loose items are securely stored under your seat and remember there's no flash photography, because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Halloween! 'Tis the season for "Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party" once again. Taking place after the normal park hours, the party has a special parade "Boo to You!" and a really nice fireworks show in addition to trick-or-treating throughout the Magic Kingdom park...
It seemed a lot more crowded than the last time I did Mickey's Halloween, with the trick-or-treat lines being absurdly long. So totally not worth waiting 15-20 minutes for a handful of the cheap candy they're handing out.
• Star Tours! The last time I was in Orlando I didn't have time to do the whole Disney thang, so I missed seeing the "new and improved" Star Tours ride. Much to my surprise, it actually is "new and improved!"...
You get a completely randomized experience every time you ride. Two different openings (Darth Vader and Millennium Falcon), three different adventures (Kashyyyk, Hoth, and Tatooine), and three different endings (Coruscant, Naboo, and Death Star 2)... which makes 54 different possible combinations. I kept riding until I saw all the pieces I wanted to see. The only two I didn't experience were the pod race on Tatooine and the Trade Federation battle on Naboo (since I don't give a flying fuck about the shitty Star Wars prequels. Overall, very well done and a lot of fun!
• Safari! Even though I went on the much more extensive and interesting "Wild Africa Trek" through the Animal Kingdom savanna, I still managed to get in a ride on the canned "Kilimanjaro Safari" they offer. Much to my surprise, the "ride" has changed. No longer is there a story element about chasing poachers and rescuing a baby elephant... that's all gone! Instead, it's "just a safari" where you may (or may not) see many interesting animals. The poaching story was kind of lame, so this is probably a smart move... but it was still kind of shocking that the ride wasn't the way I remembered it.
• Beignets! No trip to Walt Disney World would be complete without a trip to Disney's Port Orleans' Resort for breakfast beignets!
• Dining! This trip I was sure to eat at two of my favorite Disney restaurants... both located in their Hollywood Studios park, both of which I highly recommend (assuming you can get reservations or manage to get in without them... they're really popular). First up is the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater restaurant, which simulates an old-time drive-in theater playing crappy old sci-fi movies and tables shaped like cars...
Next up is the 50's Prime Time Cafe, which is set up to look like a house from the 1950's, complete with sassy waitresses bringing out "mom's food" and reminding you to "KEEP YOUR ELBOWS OFF THE TABLE!"
A new restaurant to me this time was "Via Napoli" with authentic Naples pizza. Their White Pizza was amazing, and I will definitely be back...
And, of course, there's always Earl of Sandwich in Downtown Disney, which makes the best sandwich you will ever eat...
It's surprising that I don't gain 50 pounds every time I come here. I spend most of my time eating.
• Hunter. One of the best shows nobody ever saw was called Oh Grow Up! which was a short-lived comedy by Alan Ball (of American Beauty, True Blood, and Six Feet Under fame). I was a huge, huge fan, which is why I was very sad to just now learn that Oh Grow Up! lead actor Stephen Dunham died back on September 18th. His character of Hunter Franklin was not an easy role to pull off... but Dunham managed it flawlessly...
Oh how I wish they would honor Dunham by releasing Oh Grow Up! on DVD or even iTunes download!
Annnnd... I could probably shoot off another dozen bullets here, but I've got to be able to get caught up on sleep sometime!