Posted on Tuesday, January 1st, 2013
Yes. Yes I know that it's Tuesday. But I always have to juggle the last Bullet Sunday of the year around so I don't mess up my year-end Best Lists. But don't despair... because a special New Year's Bullet Sunday (on Tuesday) starts now...
• Resolute! My New Year's Resolutions are the same every year. 2012 was a piece of cake...
And what am I looking forward to this year?
• Travel! Where am I going in 2013? No clue. I want so badly to return to Australia so I can visit the Southern half of the country and New Zealand. I have yet to visit India, someplace I have been longing to see. I have tentative plans to return to Singapore, but don't know if I'll make it this year. Antarctica has got to be checked off my list one of these days. Hopefully, no matter where I go, it will be someplace interesting.
• Movies! So many potentially awesome movies to look forward to in 2013. Star Trek: Heart of Darkness, Man of Steel, Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Oblivion, Despicable Me 2, Pacific Rim, The World’s End, and lots more. So many promises of amazing movie experiences.
• Music! Macintosh Braun's album never came, so I guess that's dropping this year now. Depeche Mode, Adam Ant, Johnny Marr, and OMD have new releases planned for 2013... and I think Foster the People might be planning something... just to name a few.
• Fiction! Despite the odds stacked against new publications, Thrice Fiction Magazine continues to forge ahead. Really looking forward to what RW is going to find for our three new issues this year (our third!). Hoping to get another B&W Annual out in the Spring.
• Comics! Thanks to Comixology, I'm discovering and buying more comics than ever. I'm very excited to see what Snyder & Capullo have planned for Batman. Am dying to know what's going to happen in Invincible #100. Hoping to see something new from George Pérez and Arthur Adams this year.
• Apple! And, of course, there's whatever my fruit-adorned computer company has planned this year. What's next? Will the Apple Television finally appear? Will they finally get off their asses and let people delete shit from their iTunes download queue without having to send in a support request? Who knows. All I know is that I'm waiting...
I know a lot of people who did not have a good 2012. Mine was okay, as I thought it probably would be. This year? Not a clue. 2013 is the Big Unknown for me. I suppose that's just as it should be.
Hope yours is a good one.
Posted on Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013
I would like to send a big "thank you" to Congress, The President, and all our elected officials for their hard work on coming to a deal to avoid the so-called "Fiscal Cliff." Totally excellent work, guys. You completely lived up to my lofty expectations. That extra money coming out of my paycheck each month? Totally fucking worth it. I'd recommend that everybody involved get a raise, but you've already given yourself one.
Who says that the American government is filled with useless pieces of shit who are more interested in salvaging their cushy careers and getting their hands on special interest money than serving the American people? Not me! My confidence is running high that we're on the right track now, and everything's going to be just awesome as we barrel forward into the future...
Thanks once again to the best government money can buy! You guys rock!
Posted on Thursday, January 3rd, 2013
Way back in the early days of this blog (as in, eighteen months into this blog) I did one of those "Fifty Things To Do Before You Die" that was published by the BBC. This morning I got an email from a friend who stumbled across it and wrote to tell me that a couple things on that list that I wanted to do I actually did.
I thought that was pretty cool, so I went back and pulled those items where the status had changed to see how many I had left that I wanted to do (here's a link to the rest of the original list, if you're interested)...
THINGS I DONE DID...
• Scuba dive on Great Barrier Reef, Australia (Wanna do it! Done it!)... I would want to re-up my certification first (it's been a while), but I would absolutely do this. Finally made it to Australia in September 2011, and diving the Great Barrier Reef was on my must-do list. Unfortunately, thanks to massive Cyclone Yasi that struck in February 2011, much of the beautiful corals were wiped out, and environmental factors mean they probably ain't coming back. Such a shame. But it was still a terrific experience.
• Walk the Great Wall of China (Wanna do it! Done it!)... Absolutely want to do this one. And I absolutely did do this one when I went to China the year after I completed this list!
• Catch sunset over Uluru (Ayers Rock) , Northern Territories, Australia (Wanna do it! Done it!)... And, again, when I finally get to Australia I probably will. Went to Australia, and absolutely fulfilled a promise to myself to do this. Truly an amazing experience.
• Hike up a glacier (Done it! Really done it!)... My home state of Washington has glaciers as well. Nothing like Glacier Bay in Alaska, but still. When I said "nothing like Alaska," I didn't realize how true that was until I actually went there, then took a helicopter to the top of a glacier and hiked around. Epic!
CHANGED MY MIND...
• Climb Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney, Australia (Wanna do it! Probably not!)... And when I finally end up making it to Australia, I probably will (despite my fear of heights!). Ummm... yeah... after seeing the climbers actually climbing the thing as I was walking over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, I don't think there's any way I would want to do this.
• Explore Antarctica (Probably not! Wanna do it!)... Uh, why? I might consider it if they built an authentic Hard Rock Cafe but otherwise no. I have no idea what I was thinking. This somehow went from something I didn't want to do... to something I obsess about. I spend a lot of my time trying to figure out how to make this happen.
• Explore the Galapagos Islands (Probably not! Wanna do it!)... This is a preserved area, and only scientists, researchers and such are given permission to visit. Boy do I feel stupid. It's absolutely possible for ordinary citizens to visit the Galapagos Islands, it's just really expensive. Of course I want to go there.
• Ride a camel to the Pyramids, Egypt (Wanna do it! Probably not!)... Absolutely something on my list to do. Uhhh... yeah... went to see the pyramids in 2007 and felt absolutely no need to ride a camel there (I've ridden one before). Instead went inside The Great Pyramid of Giza, which was awesome.
STILL WANT TO DO...
• Walk the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, Peru, South America (Wanna do it!)... My brother and I were going to do this, but he decided to get in an accident and nearly blow his face off instead. Oh well, maybe one day.
• See elephants in the wild (Wanna do it!)... Since I'm sure the elephants at Disney's Animal Kingdom don't count, I do think it would be cool to go to Africa or India and do this one.
• Fly over a volcano (Wanna do it!)... While on the Big Island of Hawaii, I walked over a volcano, which seems much more impressive, doesn't it?
• Gallop a horse along a beach (Wanna do it!)... My riding skills are crap though.
• Watch mountain gorillas (Wanna do it!)... Who wouldn't?
• See tigers in the wild (Wanna do it!)... But don't tigers EAT you in the wild?
• Do the Cresta Run, Switzerland (Wanna do it!)... Heck yeah I would do this! Probably die while trying, but what a way to go!
• See orang-utans in Borneo (Wanna do it!)... Why not? Boy, sure a lot of wild animal watching on this list!
• Go polar bear watching (Wanna do it!)... Why not? Boy, sure a lot of wild animal watching on this list!
So that's like... eleven things from the list I still want to do. Half of them, I probably have a shot at. That's not so bad.
If only I have the time and money to get started...
Posted on Friday, January 4th, 2013
Posted on Saturday, January 5th, 2013
Five days in, and I can't say that 2013 is shaping up to be much of an improvement over 2012. But, then again, 2012 ultimately turned out okay for me, so I suppose this isn't a bad thing.
Deciding to take matters into my own hands, I sat down and tried to figure out what I have to do to make this year something better. A lot of things were written down... people... places... goals... changes... but, in the end, everything kept coming back to one thing...
If I had more money, I could do this.
If I had more money, I could change that.
If I had more money, I could have those.
If I had more money...
...well, everything would be better, wouldn't it?
Some people say money is the root of all evil. And it's been said that money can't buy happiness. But if there is one thing I'm sure of, it's that money has no conscience and money can indeed buy happiness. And much, much more...
So, if you have a couple million dollars you're not using...
Posted on Sunday, January 6th, 2013
Pretty tough to write a Bullet Sunday when hardly anything has happened all week.
But there's a blog questionnaire that somebody tagged me for a couple months ago, so don't you fear... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
And... that's too many bullets. See you next week.
Posted on Monday, January 7th, 2013
One of my all-time favorite books from when I was a kid was Curious George Goes to the Hospital.
Recently I was needing to add a cheap item to my order to push my order total above the FREE SHIPPING threshold. For some reason I remembered this Curious George book, so I ordered a copy.
I am happy to say that it totally holds up, even after all this time. If, for no other reason, than to see Curious George get high on ether fumes (turns out this is from an earlier George book, sorry!).
My review on GoodReads...
After re-reading Curious George Goes to the Hospital I am convinced that it is the peak of literary perfection, unmatched by any other human accomplishment. The entire spectrum of drama is fully represented in a tale so filled with wonder and delight as to make all other books redundant. The fact that the story's wealth of knowledge and inspiration is so remarkably accessible to persons of most any age is surely a testament to the unarguable brilliance of Margret & H.A. Rey. I loathe to attribute something as mundane as a "Star Rating" to such a transcendentally significant work which redefines the boundaries of human/primate existence, and so eloquently conveys the folly and ultimate triumph of monkeykind... but if forced to do so under the GoodReads review standard, I offer TWENTY-SIX STARS (of which only five are be visible for some reason). You owe it to yourself... nay, you owe it to ALL HUMANITY... to read this literary masterwork and thrill to the sublime illustrated artistic triumphs which accompany it. Curious George Goes to the Hospital is, quite simply, the most profoundly perfect book ever created, and shall undoubtedly remain so until the end of time.
Obviously, I give the book my highest possible recommendation. If you haven't read it yet, I'd get on that.
Posted on Tuesday, January 8th, 2013
Look, I fully realize that food manufacturers have to exaggerate how great their stuff looks on their packaging. I realize this because I make a living creating perfect photos for food manufacturers to use for just that purpose. The idea is that the photo is representing the absolute best-case scenario for the product. Everybody knows to lower their expectations, so no harm no foul, right?
The problem is that sometimes the packaging photo so grossly over-exaggerates the look of the product as to be complete fiction. I wrote about this before when I posted my IN-DEPTH SPECIAL REPORT for Hello Kitty Pop Tarts...
Not only is the pink frosting on the box not even remotely the same color as the putrid magenta glop that's been smeared on the Pop Tart, but they grossly exaggerated the number of kitty sprinkles you'll get. In cases like this, it's not a "best case, idealized scenario"... it's an outright lie.
But it's a fucking Pop Tart, so what can you do?
When shopping at the grocery store, I saw that Kashi had added a new Four-Cheese variety to their pizza line-up. I kind of like their Mediterranean flavor, so I thought I'd give the new pizzas a shot and bought three of them. The picture on the box just looked so darn appealing!
Unfortunately, reality had to come along and fuck everything up...
So... you tell me... Four Cheese Pizza... or BARELY Cheese Pizza?
Other than the three badly-distributed slices of Provolone, the other cheeses are nowhere to be found. Just a tiny sprinkling of assorted shreds scattered around the crust. The pizza was mostly sauce, not cheese at all. So I'm chalking this one up as a BLATANT LIE. And, unlike a Pop Tart, it's not like you can so easily write off.
I don't know if this is a design-issue or an implementation-issue, but I'd appreciate it if Kashi would actually put a half-way decent amount of fucking cheese on their Four Cheese Pizza. I shouldn't have to have to deal with this kind of disappointment when it comes to pizza-related life choices.
Posted on Wednesday, January 9th, 2013
Happy Birthday iPhone!
Can you believe it's only been six years? I can barely remember my life before iPhone. Probably because I don't want to imagine a time when I didn't have my iPhone.
Thank you Steve Jobs.
Posted on Thursday, January 10th, 2013
Last Sunday I did a blog questionnaire meme somebody had given me that I have been putting off forever. After posting it, I was told that if I was really ambitious about killing a blog meme, I should answer this Hundred Questions Meme.
And since it was a different hundred questions than I had answered before, here it is...
The totally awesome Mobile Exploration Lab from Question #3.
Posted on Friday, January 11th, 2013
I love toys. Or, I suppose I should say "I still love toys," since adults aren't supposed to play with toys. And my toy of choice? LEGO!
When they came out with LEGO Star Wars sets and games, I was ecstatic. It was a match made in heaven. Then came LEGO Batman sets and games, and I was in Toy Nirvana. Two of my most favorite things in the world together at last!
And now LEGO has gone retro and combined a childhood favorite with their latest line of sets... LEGO Chima...
But it's not Lizard Men or ThunderCats that I'm talking about. It's what you can do with the LEGO Chima characters that has me all nostalgic...
The zip-cord pull that makes the LEGO Chima Racers go is the same technology used on a toy I loved as a kid called SSP Racers (which you can read about at Retroland)...
They were a lot of fun because everybody on the block had one, and we'd all get together to race. Mine was the purple "Laker Special"...
Photo taken by Mr. F.M. on Flickr
I don't have any plans of buy the LEGO Chima sets, but this walk down memory lane sure has me wanting my old SSP Racer back. I could probably play with it for a full 15 minutes before getting bored.
Posted on Saturday, January 12th, 2013
Good luck tomorrow, guys!
Posted on Sunday, January 13th, 2013
Stop staring at those Golden Globes... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Good. If you have a passing interest in astronomy... or even if you just like staring at beautiful stuff... then you have got to check out Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy blog over at Slate. I've been a fan of his for years when he was at Discovery, but he's really been be posting some amazing images lately...
You'll probably want to look at the Big Picture over at Bad Astronomy.
No shit, go check out the hi-res on this one. Mindblowing.
And in-between, Mr. Plait is still dishing up fascinating facts about the universe... and cool stuff worth knowing about our home back here on earth. Be sure to check it out.
• Cookies. Look, if a site requires me to enable cookies in order to use their shopping cart, that's fine. If I want to shop there bad enough I'll enable the stupid cookies, even though I don't want to. However... I am NOT going to be forced into enabling cookies just for looking at your website. And if you go to Target.com, that's exactly what they do ON PAGE ONE...
All I wanted to do was to find a local Target store at a given address. Why in the hell does that require cookies? Stupid. Stupid. STUPID!
• Backlog. Being a man and talking about rape and violence against women can be a tricky situation... even if you are condemning these reprehensible acts of brutality and cruelty. I've learned the hard way how just one misinterpreted word can get you verbally eviscerated, regardless of your good intentions. Even trying to be sympathetic can sometimes get you smacked down. Ultimately, it all comes down to one thing... "You're a man. You'll never know what it's like."
And women are, of course, correct. Men can't know what it's like for a woman to deal with rape... or even the fear that comes from the threat of rape.
So this is a subject I shy away from, even though I have strong feelings about it. Namely, that rape is an unforgivable criminal act which should result in the rapist being evicted from humanity. Permanently.
But, back to reality...
Certainly preventing rape should be goal #1. But if rape occurs, then making sure the rapist pays for his crime and ensuring he can't rape again is imperative. Thanks to a post over at SueBob's blog, I've learned that there exists a massive backlog of
And if you're looking for a place to donate some money, Mariska Hargitay's Joyful Heart Foundation "helps survivors of sexual assault heal their minds, bodies and spirits and reclaim their lives," and is deserving of your support.
• Accused. Of course, being a man, I would be remiss if I didn't point out that being falsely accused of rape can have consequences every bit as horrendous. You. Can. Lose. Everything. Your family. Your wife. Your children. Your friends. Your neighbors. Your job. Your livelihood. Your life. And, even if the truth eventually comes out, your life will never be the same because the original accusation never goes away. People may learn that you're innocent, but you'll always be that guy who somebody accused of rape. And don't get me started on how damaging false accusations are to actual rape victims trying to build cases against the bastard who violated them. Every lie that comes to light makes it that much harder to prove a truth.
So, yeah. If you are a rapist, you deserve everything you get. And more. But if you're innocent? That's the stuff of every man's worst nightmare. Case in point? Nancy Grace's relentless, ruthless public persecution of the Duke Lacrosse Team for gang rape. Day after day she poured on the outrage, pronouncing them GUILTY despite the three accused players' repeated denials (not to mention inconsistencies from the accuser). And when the guys were found innocent? Not even an apology from that fucking publicity whore, Nancy Grace (may she burn in hell for all eternity).
All I'm saying is that the consequences of falsely accusing somebody of rape should be so severe that it's not a viable option when a woman wants to deal damage to a man. Or when she wants to escape the consequences of a consensual act. Or for any reason, really. But it's a scary area to tread because you don't want to make it so that women who have been raped are afraid to come forward. I don't pretend to know what the answer is here, but when working to make sure rapists are punished, I'd hope that the accused innocent will be considered in the conversation.
• Guilt. "A New Hampshire lawyer who works with a virulently anti-gay Christian-right organization has been found guilty of child pornography charges after videotaping her own daughter having sex with two men on multiple occasions." —Salon
I am done being shocked by fucked-up news like this. These assholes ruthlessly vilify consenting adults over their sexuality... and it always seems like those who yell the loudest are the most guilty of doing horrendous shit...
"My favorite book is The Bible!"
This piece of crap worked overtime to persecute and deny equality to innocent people... but then spent her off-hours forcing her FOURTEEN-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER to repeatedly have sex with TWO MEN while she filmed it. Apparently she felt her professional life was somehow "compensating" for the fucking atrocious stuff she did behind closed doors. Which begs the question... what's going on with all these other anti-gay bigots who are screaming to the rafters with their less-than-righteous fury? I am sickened at the possibilities. But no longer surprised when it shows up in my newsfeed. How sad is that?
And... I really, really wish I had another day in this weekend.
Posted on Monday, January 14th, 2013
In the 1992 movie The Distinguished Gentleman, Eddie Murphy plays a con artist who figures out that the most profitable con jobs of all can be found in American politics, so he bluffs his way into Congress.
The movie was widely panned by critics. They just couldn't say enough bad things about the film, and most movie-goers seemed to feel the same way. Not me. Yes, it felt like Eddie Murphy was making the shit up as he went along, and the movie would have benefitted greatly from a tighter script... but, overall, it's a pretty funny film.
And a very disturbing film as well...
Early in the movie Eddie's character, Thomas Jefferson Johnson, has just arrived in Washington and is meeting with a lobbyist representative named Terry Corrigan who matches lobbyists to politicians who share their views. Terry asks Thomas how he feels about sugar subsidies. Thomas doesn't know how he feels about sugar subsidies, so he asks Terry whether he should be for them or against them. Terry says something like "Shit, it doesn't matter to me... I can get you money on both sides." This kind of shocks Thomas, who says "Terry, tell me something. With all this money coming in from both sides, how does anything ever get done?" Terry's reply? "It doesn't. That's the genius of the system!"
The rest of the film is how Eddie and his friends try to maximize the money they can get out of the system, all while being in a constant state of shock at just how fucking easy it is for a Congressman to rake in absurd amounts of cash. At the end of the movie, Eddie's character makes a statement about how all his con-jobs in the past are nothing compared to the massive cons going on every day in the US government, except with Congress it's all perfectly legal.
The movie is as relevant today as it was when it was made twenty years ago, and I still think it's worth checking out. And here's why... As crazy and as exaggerated and as outrageous as the situations are in The Distinguished Gentleman, I am absolutely certain that what goes on in real-life Congress is a thousand times worse. And the more I read about what's happening with the assholes we elect into office today, the more I'm convinced that has to be true.
At least in the movie version I can have a laugh while getting fucked by Congress. Reality is not quite so entertaining.
Posted on Tuesday, January 15th, 2013
And... something unexpected just came up.
Instead of blogging, I have to hop in my car and drive a lot.
Posted on Wednesday, January 16th, 2013
Picking up from yesterday's unexpected journey...
The 3-1/2 hour drive to Spokane is not one of those awe-filled journeys that you look forward to. It's pretty much 30 minutes of civilized nothing followed by three more hours of nothing nothing. The Columbia Basin is vast, flat, and uneventful, with only a few farms and a lot of road to distract you from the tedium. Not to say that there can't be some pretty moments in the summer when the crops are out... I've seen some amazing sunsets, for example... but mostly? Not a lot to look at.
And now it's the middle of winter, which means there's even less to look at than usual...
The truth is that I never minded the drive that much, because there was always the best pizza on earth waiting for me when I arrived in Spokane at David's Pizza. But then this happened...
Needless to say, my trips to Spokane are not quite what they used to be. The owner of what was once David's Pizza is co-owner of a bar/restaurant called Famous Ed's where they claim to serve the same pizza... but not so much. The crust at David's was crispy with a nice snap to it when you took a bite. The Famous Ed's crust is tough like shoe leather and has to be torn off the slice. There's also something different about the sauce, but I can't put my finger on it. David's just had a better flavor profile somehow (though I'm sure it's the same recipe). The biggest problem is that Famous Ed's is always changing the toppings for "The Da Vinci"... last time they added clove garlic and salt... this time they added green peppers (which totally overpowered the feta and pesto notes that make this pizza so amazing). Oh well. They were running a special where you could get a large for the price of a small, so at least I'll have something for breakfast tomorrow...
For those who have never been here, Spokane is an interesting place. It's more like a humongous town than a big city. It stretches for absolute miles, but it never seems densely populated because it's so spread out. Even the downtown area, which is fairly cosmopolitan, never really seems like you're in a modern metropolis. The end result is actually kinda nice... you have most of the stores and services of a big city, but without the massive crowds and craziness.
Meaning "Children of the Sun" in the Native American Salishan language, Spokane (the second-largest city in Washington State), has a few claims to fame that I know of. It was the site of the 1974 World's Fair Expo. It was the setting for the Johnny Depp movie Benny & Joon and the Madonna-soundtrack-fueled film Vision Quest. It's the city where future Ted Mosby (from How I Met Your Mother) designs his first skyscraper (though, honestly, the idea of a skyscraper in Spokane is ludicrous, as I had previously talked about). Spokane is also home to the Lilac Festival in mid-May, which is kind of a notable event. At least it is here in the Pacific Northwest. And then there's the Bloomsday Run, which claims to be the largest timed race in the USA. And, of course, Bing Crosby grew up here and this is the city where Father's Day was invented.
Most important of all, Spokane is home of Gonzaga University Basketball, which is all kinds of famous. Oddly enough, some out-of-staters have asked me where the "City of Gonzaga" is, not realizing that the college is named for a Jesuit saint and not a city (the university itself having been founded by the Roman Catholic "Society of Jesus").
The geography of Spokane is also worth mentioning, because that massive blob on a map of Eastern Washington is not really all Spokane. It's divided into two parts... Spokane and Spokane Valley...
The city of Spokane Valley picks up at the eastern edge of Spokane proper and extends almost to Idaho. If you ever question which city you're in, all you have to do is look at north-south streets. In Spokane, they're labeled as "streets" but in Spokane Valley they're labeled as "roads." The distinction between the two cities is kind of important, and some Spokane Valley locals will be offended if you say they're from "Spokane" (just as a Spokane resident might be offended if you were to say they live in the "Spokane Valley," which has a specific meaning in this part of the state). It's not quite so contentious now, but decades ago it was kind of a "West Side Story Jets and Sharks" situation where Spokane kids and Valley kids did not mix. Even today, both cities have separate ecosystems for living, shopping, and eating... they're just not so isolated as they once were.
And that, as they say, is that.
Probably more about Spokane than you wanted to know, but that's what you're paying me for.
Posted on Thursday, January 17th, 2013
HAPPY BIRTHDAY BETTY WHITE!
And so I didn't get to leave Spokane yesterday as planned.
In an attempt to make the best out of the situation, I decided to go to Pita Pit for a falafel sandwich last night. It was delicious. Back home, most people don't even know what the heck "falafel" is, so I don't pass up opportunities like this.
On the way back to my hotel, I passed two guys fighting over change on the sidewalk. One of them screams "MY DARK SIDE IS COMIN' OUT AND YOU DON'T WANNA FUCK WITH MY DARK SIDE!" The other guy pushes him away, grabs the quarter off the sidewalk, then runs off screaming "I'M THE JEDI MASTER, BITCH!!"
How cool was that? Witnessing this exchange made me feel better about not being able to go home.
Sadly, this moment of happiness was fleeting. Lately I've been having an even worse time sleeping than usual, and last night I got no sleep at all. Methinks it may be time to revisit my insomnia with a new doctor. Not that doctors have been much help in the past, but I suppose I owe it to myself to keep trying.
Breakfast this morning was the same as yesterday morning... leftover pizza from my dinner two nights ago. Since I don't have any plates, I had to get a little creative in finding something for my pizza slices to sit on while heating...
The drive home was pretty uneventful.
Normally, that's a good thing when traveling... but on such a long, boring drive, a little bit of "eventful" would have been nice. Especially since I was working on no sleep.
Oh well. I survived it. I'm home. Anything on top of that is gravy.
Posted on Friday, January 18th, 2013
I fly a lot.
And flying a lot means that I get benefits and privileges which help to make my constant flying suck less. I've laid it all out here before but, in summary, it involves things like First Class upgrades, early boarding, free luggage allowances, etc. etc.
For as long as I've been flying, these perks have been earned by flying a certain number of miles within a airline partner program. For example, to earn "Platinum" status with the Delta SkyMiles program, I have to fly 75,000 miles. That's pretty easy for me to do, because I can add up the miles from Delta, Alaska Air, Korean Air, Air France, or any other SkyMiles partner airline.
But all this changes in 2014.
In order to qualify for Platinum status with Delta I not only have to fly 7,500 miles, but I ALSO have to spend $7,500 on Delta flights that are in my name as shown on the following chart...
Which means none of the money spent on Alaska Air, Korean Air, Air France, or other partner airlines means shit (well, unless they are Delta-coded flights, and most of the ones I fly are not).
The upshot of all this is that I'm fucked.
I don't spend $7,500 on Delta flights because Seattle isn't a very big Delta direct-flight hub, which means I will be lucky to make Gold status in 2014.
UPDATE: After complaining about the "Million Miler" changes (which I talk about below) to a Delta rep, I was told that the $2,500 does not apply to Million Miler Silver status, and I would enjoy Silver benefits no matter how much (how little?) I would spend. I sincerely hope this is true, as it really is the right thing to do... but the below information was posted to a frequent flier forum after another SkyMiles flier had asked a Delta rep, so I dunno which is true. I guess we find out in 2014.
But the bigger problem for me is when I reach Million Miler status... probably in 2015. Once I fly a million SkyMiles, I get permanent Silver status, which I was looking forward to using in my later years when I'm not flying as much. But now that permanent Silver status ain't worth shit unless I spend $2,500 each year. And that probably won't be happening when I've retired and am living on a fixed income.
Which means the goal I've been working towards for decades is now practically useless.
Over the years I've flown with Delta even when other airlines were cheaper because I thought I would be rewarded for my loyalty down the line. My million mile payday. But companies just don't give a fuck about their customers any more. The only thing they give a shit about is how much money they can squeeze out of you right now. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Delta screwed me... that's all companies do any more.
Now we get to sit back and wait for all the other airlines to follow suit.
They are, after all, companies too.
Posted on Saturday, January 19th, 2013
I'm so happy I could just shit because I only had to work a half-day today. Of course, a "work day" for me is 16 hours long, which means my half-day is the same as most people's full-day, so I guess I should be as excited as I think I am...
I miss animated GIFs. They seem to be a dying art in the age of YouTube videos. If you're reading this in a feedreader, then odds are that it dropped support for displaying animated GIFs because nobody cares any more. I can only guess web browsers will eventually follow suite.
I was thinking of that this morning when I found a box of VHS tapes filled with awesome television shows that cannot be found on DVD. The VCR I had been saving to play them wouldn't even turn on, so I guess that's the end of that since the alternatives are pretty terrible. Kind of makes me nervous to try turning on my LaserDisc player.
I remember when records gave way to 8-track which, in turn, gave away to cassette tapes. Those, of course, gave way to CDs. Now all music is digital, so I guess it's only natural that video catch up.
The shame of it all being all those terrific television shows and movies that get left behind.
Like animated GIFs in the wind.
Posted on Sunday, January 20th, 2013
There's a grave disturbance in The Force, but never fear... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Rancor! My love of all things LEGO Star Wars is well documented. But LEGO has stepped it up a notch by releasing a new version of the cool Gamorrean Guards that I'm only just now seeing. As ugly as the old version was, this new version is cute as hell..
Photo from Warehouse 19, Sweden
Awwwww! You can get one in the "Rancor Pit" set, which conveniently interlocks with the Jabba's Palace set (how sweet is that?)...
Now that Disney owns Star Wars, I don't know how worried I should be about the license that LEGO had with LucasFilm to make awesome sets, video games, toys, and such. Since most of the cool stuff that's happening with Star Wars is coming from LEGO now-a-days, I hope that Disney is smart enough to keep a good thing going.
• Infinity! Speaking of Disney... they unveiled their mysterious "Project Toy Box" gaming universe at long last. And it's not anything quite like anybody expected. Called Disney Infinity, it copies the whole Skylanders concept from Activision where players collect real-life toys and play with them inside a video game. The result is somewhat... muddy. In order to have characters from all kinds of different animated styles plus live-action characters be able to interact with any semblance of sanity, a brand new common "Disney Aesthetic" has been created. In some cases it's very good (characters from The Incredibles look great)... in some cases it's a pleasant surprise (characters from the Pirates of the Caribbean films look pretty cool in their animated form)... and in some cases it's pretty bad (my beloved Sully from Monsters. Inc. looks like shit). Overall, I guess I'm just "meh" over the whole idea...
©Disney and ©Disney/Pixar
©Disney and ©Disney/Pixar
Where things may become interesting is when Disney starts leveraging more of their vast array of properties and licenses. They've got LucasFilm, which means you could theoretically have Indiana Jones and Luke Skywalker playing along with Captain Jack Sparrow and Perry the Platypus. They also have Marvel Comics, which means Spider-Man, Iron Man, Thor, and the entire Marvel Universe may eventually drop in. They've got all the various Disney Channel properties available... which means we could finally get that Hannah Montana vs. Darth Vader deathmatch battle we've all been dreaming about...
And don't forget all the Buena Vista movie characters and ABC Television characters that Disney has in their pocket. With that in mind, you can see where Disney's gaming universe might become something monstrous and huge.
I'm not sure that it's something I'm going to buy into... especially since Mickey Mouse isn't even available yet... but I will be following Disney Infinity with no small amount of interest.
• Ads! I hate television commercials. Partly because they interrupt the shows I'm watching... but mostly because they're all annoying, stupid, and just plain suck. Which is why when a GOOD television commercial comes along, I nearly die of shock. It's so rare that this happens... especially outside of the Super Bowl... that I feel compelled to congratulate the people responsible. The latest commercial I'm loving is this very clever ad from TD Ameritrade...
Clever. And smart. And effective, if theirs is a service you're looking for.
• LIES! I really hate Subway® because of their Subway® Sandwich SpokesWhore, Jared Fogle®. And now I find out that they LIE about the size of their shitty sandwiches! It's probably been happening for years, but somebody finally called them on it...
Footlong® Photo by Matt Corby
And Subway's® lame response? "With regards to the size of the bread and calling it a footlong®, 'SUBWAY FOOTLONG®' is a registered trademark as a descriptive name for the sub sold in Subway® Restaurants and not intended to be a measurement of length." This is despite the fact that in their annoying commercials there are people holding their hands up to indicate that a "Footlong®" is INDEED a unit of measure that's a foot long (as noted by BuzzFeed)...
I wish there was some way that Jared Fogle could be blamed for this scandal so he could be brought to trial and sentenced to death. Justice has been denied us long enough!
• Stream! I don't know how it is that I've never heard of "Can I Stream.it?" before, but what a frickin' amazing service! You type in a movie or TV show, and it will tell you if you can rent it, buy it, stream it, or otherwise get it over the internet from a variety of services (including the iTunes Store and Amazon)... or even purchase it on DVD or Blu-Ray. As if that weren't enough? If it's not available, Can I Stream.it? will even notify you when it's released in the format you choose...
How handy is that? If you're looking to fill in your digital library or find out if something you want to see is available for rental, "Can I Stream.it?" is worth checking out!
And that's all she wrote for Bullet Sunday. This week. Don't worry... Bullet Sunday will be back next week. I promise. So don't leave angry comments... or threatening comments... or weepy comments... Bullet Sunday is still going strong, never fear! See you at next week's Bullet Sunday for sure. Totally.
Posted on Monday, January 21st, 2013
I started today the same way I start every Martin Luther King Jr. Day... by listening to his brilliant and beautiful "I have a Dream" speech in its entirety. In my humble opinion, it's probably one of the best-known speeches that most people never bother to listen to. That's a real shame, because it's famous for a very good reason.
I get MLK Jr. Day off, so I really, really didn't want to go into work today. But it ended up being unavoidable. Now I'm back home where it's 4:00pm, all my energy has been sucked dry, and I don't feel like doing a damn thing. Except watch Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country which is playing on television.
And it's while watching it that I've suddenly realized something I never knew...
Scotty is one badass motherfucker and a stone-cold killer!
For reals. Let me walk you through it. SPOILERS AHEAD!..
At the end of the film, Captain Kirk discovers a massive conspiracy to destroy a peace conference which involves Starfleet, The Klingons, and The Romulans. To foil the conspiracy, he beams down to the peace conference with his crew. The first thing he does? Tell Scotty to check out the back...
Meanwhile, a Klingon assassin is going to kill the President of the Federation of Planets...
But Captain Kirk saves the President, no problem...
One of the conspirators is Lt. Valeris, who is caught by Spock...
Another conspirator is held by Chekov...
Dr. McCoy captures a Romulan conspirator...
Then Sulu captures Admiral Cartwright, yet another conspirator...
As for Scotty?
That's a different story.
Mr. Scott finds the assassin hiding in some kind of balcony... so he kicks the fucking door down...
The assassin turns his head to see what the ruckus is...
While his gun is still pointing in the opposite direction out a hole in the glass...
Does Scotty then say "Drop the weapon!" and take the assassin prisoner? No. No he does not. Even though he's not in any immediate danger, he pulls out his phaser and shoots the guy...
Which blows him through the fucking window...
Plunging him to his death...
What does Scotty do then? He marches to the front of the crowd like a boss, gun in hand...
Then stands in front of everybody to soak up the applause for a job well done...
Everybody else on the Enterprise takes prisoners. But Scotty don't play that. If you're up to some crooked shit, Scotty shoots your ass dead and pitches you out the fucking window. Making him one of the baddest motherfuckers in the galaxy and a stone-cold killer...
Who knew? Sure he could get a little excitable from time to time, but Scotty's the quiet one of the group! Just goes to show that you never know who the true badass motherfuckers are.
Even in outer space.
Live long and prosper, everybody.
Posted on Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013
Let's see how many 16-hour workdays I can manage before I die... shall we?
Posted on Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013
This afternoon I made a call for work and got confused when the other party suddenly said "IT'S BACON!" in the middle of our conversation. Not knowing what was going on, I paused and said... "uhhh... okayyy..." The guy then said "Sorry, it's an inside joke." I assumed it had something to do with those stupid "Beggin' Strips" commercials, but couldn't figure out what I said to get that response. All afternoon my mind was kind of distracted by the notion of "inside jokes"... mostly because I no longer have any.
All the inside jokes I had evaporated when one of my best friends died.
Howard and I had dozens, and they've been running through my head all evening. Here are a few of my favorites...
Howard and I used to go to Star Trek conventions because we were geeks who led boring lives. Once we had checked into our hotel rooms the night before the convention, we decided to find a restaurant for dinner. After washing up I went to Howard's room and knocked on the door. When he opened it he was laughing so hard he was crying. I kept asking him what was up, but he was laughing too hard to tell me. Eventually he picked up the phone book Yellow Pages and handed it to me. Under the "RESTAURANTS" category, one of the first places listed was "Black Angus," but somebody had scratched out the "g" so it read "Black Anus." Needless to say, this was a never-ending "in-joke" between us from that point on. Anytime we met up to eat, Black Anus was always on our list of possible restaurants. And heaven help you if we happened to actually drive by one. The longer it went on, the funnier it got. Years later we went to a technical conference and decided to actually eat at a Black Angus because we thought it would be the funniest thing ever. Turns out it wasn't as funny as we thought it would be, and the whole "Black Anus" joke died a quiet death.
Back in the good ol' days of computing, Apple had a voice recognition technology called "PlainTalk" which was about as bad as you would expect 1990's voice recognition technology to be. But it was new and exciting so I installed it on my old Mac Quadra and wrote a bunch of AppleScripts for the "Speakable Items" folder that could perform simple tasks. At the time, Beavis and Butt-Head had just become The Next Big Thing, and Howard was obsessed with the show...
So, naturally, when Howard dropped by my place to check out my PlainTalk installation, the first thing he said to my Mac was "Fire! Fire!" And what did my Mac do? It spoke back and said "Hot!" To this day, I have no idea how or why it did what it did. We could never repeat the response. But from then on, ANY time we heard the word "fire" we would shout out "hot!" Things went terribly wrong when a co-worker was telling us how her mother just lost her house in a fire. Both of us instinctively started to say "hot!" but managed to stop ourselves. But we didn't manage to stop ourselves from laughing. Awkward...
A mutual friend of ours was married to an absolute jerk that neither one of us could stand. For years we wondered why in the hell she was married to the dumbass. One day we were talking to another friend of hers and the subject came up. It was then that the bomb dropped... apparently this guy we hated had a huge penis. For some reason, we found this hysterically funny. Since his name was Fred Hershberger*, we would say "Fred Hershberger" instead of "penis" from then on. My last words to Howard on his wedding day were "Try not to wear out your Fred Hershberger on your honeymoon."
Needless to say, I miss those inside jokes. Though I suppose it's not really the jokes I miss, but the person I shared them with.
Heh. Black Anus.
*Obviously his name was not Fred Hershberger. I just made that up to protect the identity of the well-endowed.
Posted on Thursday, January 24th, 2013
The geek news of the day has been burning up the internets, so everything there is to be said about it has probable already been said.
Not that it's going to stop me from adding my two cents over J.J. Abrams directing the next Star Wars film. As somebody who has been obsessed with the films and the culture surrounding them for most of my life, it would be impossible for me not to say speak my piece because I've never been one to hold my peace.
In many respects, J.J. Abrams is a no-brainer to helm the next generation of Star Wars movies. He very successfully relaunched Star Trek, so he can obviously handle a special-effects laden sci-fi film... even if his annoying over-use of stupid fucking lens flare was such an amateurish style choice as to be laughable...
To be completely honest, flare aside, I loved the Star Trek reboot. It was respectful to the source material as much as it could be (for what it was). It had really good pacing. It had excellent structure with a definable beginning, middle, and ending. Characters were multifaceted and interesting (despite the fact that they were retreads of television icons). The threat was viable and felt dangerous. But, most important of all, it was just good Star Trek and a lot of fun.
But that's just one film. What about the rest of his work?
As a "Television Guy," Abrams has a pretty big body of work there with writing, directing, and producing. Of his shows, Alias is my clear favorite... for the first couple seasons. After that, it just spiraled out of control in a gradual slide towards an unsatisfying conclusion. Which is pretty much the story of most his stuff, including Felicity, Lost, and Fringe. His other major works... Undercovers, Alcatraz, and Revolution, never managed to grab me at all. A truly mixed bag.
But it's his film work that tells the tale. Since Abrams' projects always start strong, a movie would seem to be the ideal format for him. There's no room for that slow decline that plagues his television projects. Mission Impossible III is a good example. I thought it was a fresh and interesting take on the franchise that was really well thought out. It also ended with a satisfying bang that capped it off perfectly. Just like Star Trek. And while I thought that Super 8 was a whiny, corny, disastrous mess, there's no denying it was a well-made film. The true test, of course, will be when Star Trek Into Darkness comes out, because that will tell us if the first film was a fluke.
In the end, about all I can say for certain is that J.J. Abrams can't do any worse than the shitty Lucas prequels.
For one thing, he can write dialogue that's not cringe-worthy.
And he seems to put things like "story" and "characters" above special effects.
I also get the feeling that he won't dumb everything down to a 2-year-old level by accenting the film with burp and fart jokes.
And it feels like he might have the cojones and integrity to stand up to Disney and not turn his movie into a 2-hour toy advertisement filled with stupid shit like Ewoks and Jar Jar Binks.
As a huge Star Wars fan, I want so very badly for J.J. Abrams to get a fantastic script from Oscar-winner Michael Arndt and turn it into the most mind-bogglingly amazing Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back. This is an impossibly high expectation but, after what I've been through, I deserve it! We all do. And the wait is going to be torture.
Posted on Friday, January 25th, 2013
Flipping through my photos often results in my find two shots that would be better if they were spliced together. Sometimes it works out better than others.
Posted on Saturday, January 26th, 2013
Totally drawing a blank tonight.
Having a blog about nothing in particular means that sometimes nothing in particular shows up.
Posted on Sunday, January 27th, 2013
Don't pop that viagra just yet... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Credit! I pay for everything with my credit cards, because both my VISA and American Express earn me air miles and travel perks. So long as I pay my credit cards off at the end of each month, it's a winning scenario. At least is was until now. Because now stores are allowed to pass along the credit card fees they pay on to their customers. Which means any store not willing to absorb the fees are going to be adding 1.5% to 3% onto the total of your bill. Pile $25,000 onto your card for the miles each year and that could reach $750 annually. Suddenly those "free" air miles just got really expensive. So expensive that it's not longer worth it. If a "free" roundtrip domestic ticket is 25,000 miles (which cost $750 in fees), it's cheaper to just pay the $250-$400 it would cost to buy it outright. This really sucks, but I guess we need to wait and see how many companies start charging a fee before we know how bad it sucks.
• Sin of the City. The horrific nightclub fire in Brazil which killed at least 233 people is a sad reminder of how life can imitate art which is imitating life. Duran Duran's incredible "Wedding Album" features a song called Sin of the City which pretty much spells it out...
Kind of makes you wonder if you're taking your life in your own hands when you go out for a night on the town. Safety code violations are so commonplace and so rarely enforced in many places on this earth that it can be like playing Russian roulette. Eventually the tragedy will strike... it's just sheer chance that it will be on the day you are the one experiencing it.
• Asteroids! All this talk about companies wanting to send ships into space to mine asteroids makes my mind zero-in on one thing every time...
Of course, now that Atari is in bankruptcy and finally set to die once and for all, I suppose I should stop clinging to the past and look to the future...
I wonder if these companies remember that the odds of successfully navigating an asteroid field are 3,720 to 1?
• WTF?! I guess marriage equality opponents are finally starting to realize that more and more people want their gay friends, family, and neighbors to be able to have the same right to get hitched as everybody else. This has resulted in some of them abandoning their absurdly ridiculous arguments against same-sex marriage... for even more absurdly ridiculous arguments?!? You know, I honestly try and respect views and opinions that are different from mine... but this has to be the stupidest fucking thing I've heard in ages: Only straight couples should be allowed to marry because only they can have a child unexpectedly, where gay couples have to plan for it? Seriously? THIS is what passes for a logical argument now-a-days? It's witnessing this level of idiocy that is eventually going to be the death of me. My brain simply cannot process this fucked-up shit, and one day it's going to hemorrhage... just you wait. When the blog entries stop, that's when you'll know I've finally had too much.
• WTF?! Part Two You know that you've been blogging too long when you get an email criticizing you for using a split infinitive. What fascinates me most here is not that somebody decided to go all grammar nazi on me, but that they thought I was unaware of what I had done. As if it were impossible for somebody to intentionally ignore a grammar rule that they feel is stupid (see what I did there?). I suppose that I could invite them to kindly go fuck themselves, but I wouldn't want to mistakenly cause their brain to forcibly hemorrhage. I can so relate.
Annnnd... tomorrow is going to be a long day, so I am going to regretfully take my leave of you now.
Posted on Monday, January 28th, 2013
I once told a woman "You're only beautiful on the outside," because it was the meanest thing I could think of saying. She had hurt me, you see, and I really wanted to hurt her back. Unfortunately, she completely misinterpreted the comment and took it as a compliment. On the surface, it seemed like a total insult failure. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I had scored a crushing victory. Not only did I call her an ugly human being, I apparently did it in a way that this vain moron wasn't aware... thus sparing me from the regret and bad feelings that inevitably follow after I say something mean to somebody.
Except, in this case, any regret would have been short-lived.
This woman went on to do some pretty heinous things to a surprising number of people. She truly was an ugly witch, regardless of how nice she looked on the outside.
This had me facing regret of an entirely different kind. I regretted that I hadn't clarified my insult when I had the chance. Opportunities missed and such.
That was years ago.
This weekend I discovered that she had eventually become as ugly on the outside as she was on the inside.
As in, yikes.
So do yourself a favor, kids... have a good heart so you can stay beautiful at your core and not be eaten up with ugliness from the inside out.
Oh yeah... and stay away from drugs. Because, holy crap can they do a number on your looks.
Posted on Tuesday, January 29th, 2013
Tonight I finally got around to the massive amount of mail that's been piling up. Thanks to internet banking, I pay all my bills online, so any mail that comes in isn't critical (it's usually junk mail) and can be safely ignored.
Amongst the crap was a new credit card for an account I had closed over a year ago. At first I was mad that I was probably charged some kind of annual fee for something I had canceled and wasn't using, but there was none of that. Just a friendly reminder to activate the new card and destroy the old card. Well okay then... no harm, no foul... I'll just call and cancel the account again.
Which, of course, was easier said than done.
The Customer Service Representative was sorry to learn that I had received a card I didn't want, but she could find no record of the account being closed. "Ah." I said. "That explains it then. Can we just go ahead and close the account again?"
The answer? "No."
"Uhhh... no?!??????" I replied, trying my best to make sure my disbelief was evident.
"No. I am unable to close this account. For that I need to transfer you to a Relationship Specialist."
Before I was able to say "Relationship wha-?!?", I was clicked-over to another line and listening to music-on-hold designed to make one think very hard about whether they wanted to live another day.
Not only was I in a relationship I never knew about, now I was being fed a mix-tape guilt-trip for wanting to end it.
And so there I sat as the minutes ticked by... listening to sad music and feeling guilty. Rehearsing what I was going to say over and over in my head so I could end the relationship gently and avoid all the usual screaming, biting, and punches to the face that tend to happen. "I'm sure you're a wonderful card with a lovely interest rate... and some guy will be really lucky to have you... but... I've found another card that gives me what I need in a way you never can. I'm so sorry, but I'm just in it for the air-miles." I thought that was the perfect approach, but then realized I would hate if somebody used me for air-miles, and decided that the classic It's not you, it's me! approach was probably safer.
She took it pretty well.
But then things turned nasty. It was kind of a "I was there for you when you needed me... and now I'm being discarded... ON THE PHONE!" kind of vibe. This was punctuated at the end of the call when I was asked to destroy all evidence of the relationship. Usually, this involves texts, photos, emails, and such... but this relationship was different. "Please destroy any cards, PINs, cash advance checks, or any other material associated with this account." And by "account" I'm sure she meant "relationship."
I was feeling pretty bad as I was read the riot act. Then, out of the blue, things turned sunny again...
"If your needs should change in the future, please think of us!"
How nice was that?
It would seem that I am finally getting the hang of this relationship stuff, and can actually get out of one amicably for once!
Unless another card randomly shows up because "there's no record of the cancelation." Then I guess I have a stalker. A stalker who has all my personal information, my Social Security number, and my financial records.
When did relationships get to be so hard?
Posted on Wednesday, January 30th, 2013
My love of animation knows no bounds.
And while a part of me will always believe that the hand-drawn stuff will never be eclipsed as the ultimate expression of the art-form... there is no denying that the miraculous work being done by Pixar and others in the realm of computer animation bodes well for the future.
And then today I see that John Kahrs and Disney has come up with a way of making CG look very much like traditional hand-drawn animation with a beautiful and touching short film called Paperman...
I've lost track of the number of times I've watched it.
No, it's not in the same league as a Hayao Miyazaki film. And I wouldn't say that it reaches the heights of Disney classics like Snow White and Jungle Book or even The Lion King and Lilo & Stitch. But the technology is young. And the results are mind-blowing. And there's no telling where this might lead...
My only worry being that this will be the final nail in the coffin for hand-drawn animation. And as great as this new technology might one day be, I think there will always be a place for putting a pencil to paper... then putting your heart into making something come to life, frame by frame...
Ones and zeroes has a hard time competing with that. But it's getting closer every day.
Posted on Thursday, January 31st, 2013
Uh. Yeah. About that blog post...
Usually I just bang out my Blogography entry at the end of the day once I've caught up on work and life. I have no idea what I'm going to write about, I just fire up MarsEdit and away we go. Most of the time this works out okay, but not always. Today was kind of different though, because I had an idea for a post that had been brewing all day long. It came to me in the morning, then kept building and building. By the time I was driving home from work, I pretty much had the entire thing composed in my head, and was quite pleased with myself for having such a great post idea during the usually-boring days of winter.
But then I decided to catch up with the world during dinner, which turned out to be a big mistake.
Because that's when I saw this...
And it's been all I can think about ever since.
On May 3rd we're getting another Robert Downey Jr. Iron Man movie.
Written and directed by Shane Black!
What else is there to blog about?
Posted on Friday, February 1st, 2013
When I woke up, there was a dull ache in my frontal lobe. I thought maybe I had smacked my head on the nightstand or something, and tried to ignore it.
By the time I got to work, the pain had escalated to something impossible to ignore, so medication was in order. Alas, it was over-the-counter medication which did absolutely nothing.
I lasted three hours before I couldn't take it any more. It was time to take my head home before I puked on my desk or something equally disturbing...
And so here I am... too drugged up to concentrate on work, but not drugged up enough to sleep.
About all I'm good for is a quick blog entry, which is serendipitous, I suppose.
Posted on Saturday, February 2nd, 2013
Having missed most of my work-day yesterday because of my aching head, I was determined that I would wake up early this morning and get caught up so I could spend some time working on the upcoming issue of THRICE Fiction. But the pills I had to take for the pain thought otherwise, and I ended up being mostly dead for most of the morning, so that plan went right out the window.
For lunch I ended up eating at the Olive Garden where I ordered the Fettuccine Alfredo. Which isn't really Fettuccine Alfredo because the sauce seems to be mostly cream, instead of the parmesan/butter mix that comprises the original. Oh well. It may not taste as good, but it's still a decent plate of pasta.
While eating my Not-Alfredo, I notice a kid at the table across from mine staring at me. Since he was sitting at a huge table filled with nothing but adults that were ignoring him, I figured he was bored enough to find me an interesting distraction. But that wasn't it at all.
He was studying how I ate my pasta.
Apparently the concept of twirling the noodles into a spoon with your fork was something new to him.
He gave it his best shot... until the person next to him told him to stop playing around, then cut his spaghetti into pieces, ruining it.
Hopefully when the kid gets old enough to strike out on his own and escape from these people who don't know how to eat pasta, he'll remember that he once saw a better way.
Amazing how much my hopes for the future depends on people forgetting what they were taught today.
Posted on Sunday, February 3rd, 2013
Cancel your post-Super-Bowl plans... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Poop! On March 1st, one of the greatest innovations in toilet technology ever conceived will finally be available... THE DIGITAL 2-IN-1 POTTY WITH ACTIVITY SEAT FOR iPAD! Or, as I like to call this stunning testament to genius... the iPotty...
Why this isn't available in adult sizes, I will never know. If you want to order one, Amazon is accepting pre-orders!
• Bowl! I really don't give a crap about football in general, and the Super Bowl in particular, but my love of a good television commercial definitely have me looking forward to the big game. Or, since I don't watch the thing, I guess I should say after the big game... where I rush to see all the ads that aired.
This year was a massive disappointment. Most of the ads sucked ass (that idiotic GoDaddy ad was just fucking gross), and there was only one... ONE commercial that I felt was Super Bowl worthy...
And even that was a bit manipulative and predictable.
What happened to the epic Super Bowl commercials of yesteryear?
• Closing! One of my favorite guilty pleasures is searching the internet for "The World's Most Dangerous Airport Landings." There are several really good lists, and a number of scary videos... all glorifying those airports that are insanely difficult to land at. Later this month, one of those airports... Ecuador’s Mariscal Sucre International Airport in Quito... is due to close. I am very familiar with it, because it's appeared on a number of those "Most Dangerous" lists I love, and for good reason. It's right in the middle of a big city, is surrounded by mountains, is plagued by nasty cross-winds, and is at a high altitude...
Having trouble finding it? Yeah... that's just one of the problems...
Photo was uncredited, but I got it from Flying Magazine.
I always thought it would be cool to have bragging rights to have landed at one of these crazy airports. Guess there's one less chance of that happening now. Though I'll bet the people whose homes are surrounding Mariscal Sucre aren't sorry about that.
• Trek! The Lone Ranger, Man of Steel, Oblivion, Monsters University, A Good Day to Die Hard, Gravity, World War Z, Elysium, Despicable Me 2, Thor: The Dark World , Oldboy, Pacific Rim, R.I.P.D.... the list of awesome-looking movies coming out this year is nearly endless. But there are two that I am looking forward to above all others. This is the first...
Talk about boldly going where no Star Trek has gone before... Into Darkness looks amazing.
• Metal! And, numero dos... the ramp-up to Iron Man 3 is going to be excruciating. The new Super Bowl ad seems to indicate that the film will hit all the right notes...
Of course, after this installment, I'm just going to be pining away for Iron Man 4, so I guess it's always something.
And... time to take my busted body to bed.
Posted on Monday, February 4th, 2013
I never got to see the latest James Bond film, Skyfall, in theaters. I had to watch it on a plane the first time I saw it. But that tiny seat-back screen made it impossible to see the beautiful cinematography that made the movie so compelling, so I watched it again tonight (iTunes has it available in HD a week before the DVD/Blu-Ray hits on the 12th... just $14.99!).
I really liked this film, even though I thought the story was kind of small for a James Bond flick. The villain isn't out to conquer the world or cause mass destruction or steal tons of money... he just wants to kill M. It makes for a more personal movie, I guess, but kind of one-note...
And now a few SPOILER-FILLED notes from this long-time James Bond fan...
And, on that note, I guess it's 007 out.
Posted on Tuesday, February 5th, 2013
And so the Monopoly people selected the winning and losing tokens for their latest game sets.
The loser? My favorite token, of course. The iron is no more.
The winner? It's the cat...
It's a pretty cool token, really, though I was hoping the robot would win. But why couldn't they have dumped the stupid wheelbarrow or the stupid shoe instead of the iron?
Oh well. Guess I'll be the top hat from here on out. Who has a favorite token?
Posted on Wednesday, February 6th, 2013
After reading my take on the latest James Bond feature, Skyfall (which I said was "one of the best"), I was asked "Well, if this wasn't THE best... which movie IS your favorite?"
The easy answer is to toss out Goldfinger or From Russia with Love... maybe Dr. No... but the truth is that I didn't know. And since your favorite James Bond films probably says a lot more about you than what toothpaste you use, I wanted to think on it.
And so I did. My ranking of all twenty-four films follows.
And that's a wrap. My hope is that Daniel Craig (who is contracted for two more films) will continue doing amazing things with James Bond before the inevitable passing of the torch. Time will tell, but looking at the latter half of this list has me dreading that day.
Posted on Thursday, February 7th, 2013
So this is where "society" is at now...
Posted on Friday, February 8th, 2013
I choose to believe that everything means something and there's a reason for everything that happens.
Because of this, the cornerstone of my entire belief structure is that nothing occurs by chance and everything turns out exactly how it was meant to be in the end. This is not always an easy things to put your faith in, however. When misfortune strikes... when something goes terribly wrong... when people are suffering... it's difficult to take it on faith that this is the way it's supposed to be. That everything will work itself out in the end. And yet, there's some comfort to be found when you believe that even tragedy will ultimately lead us to where we need to be.
Some people feel this is fate or destiny. Others attribute it to God's will. Still others feel it is a lesson designed to teach you something for your next life. And some just think The Universe has a way of sorting things out. Regardless, it's certainly a kinder way of dealing with adversity than believing tragedy happens for no reason at all. Because if all the world's suffering is for nothing, that would make life almost unbearable, wouldn't it?
Sure there are some lazy, self-involved assholes who use this as an excuse to stand idly by, ignore people in need, and let the world go to hell, but this does not deter me. Even politicians are here for a reason.
Sometimes I think that reason is so that I have somebody to despise, but that's okay too.
Posted on Saturday, February 9th, 2013
Ever feel like there's something missing, but you don't know what it is?
Posted on Sunday, February 10th, 2013
You Northeasterners can put down that snow-shovel... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• SNAKE! Happy Chinese New Year! This is the "Year of the Snake" or, to be more accurate, the "Year of the Water Snake." Water snakes are mostly poisonous and deadly, so I can tell already this is going to be a rough year...
• Nemo! Speaking of rough years... I've been watching the northeast winter storm coverage with more than a passing interest. All the snow they're getting on the other side of the country is snow we're not getting here in Washington State. Heck, I gave up wearing a coat two weeks ago because it's been so warm. And while I'm happy on the outside that the winter was mild and relatively short, it's worrisome that we could end up in a drought this summer. I guess the best we can hope for is that we at least get another couple snow dumps in the mountains over the next month before Spring is really here.
• Archer! One of my favorite television pastimes is Archer, which is a kind of an animated James Bond spoof gone terribly wrong. The result is almost always hilarious, and I find myself watching the episodes multiple times. If you're a fan like I am, there's a fascinating look at the real-life people who inspired the look of the characters on the show...
Totally worth checking out, which you can do by clicking here.
• Rejected! LEGO has finally released an awesome MiniFig of one of my favorite super-heroes after Batman, it's AQUAMAN...
And the minute I got my hands on him, I wanted a LEGO Aquaman keychain. And so I wrote to LEGO Customer Service to beg for one...
Thanks for getting in touch with us.
I’m sorry, but even though I think your Aquaman key chain would make a brilliant LEGO® set, we can't accept your suggestion. I know this might be disappointing to hear, but we have a team of experts in Denmark whose job it is to dream up new LEGO sets, themes and toys. They tell me it takes years to plan everything. They need to test all the new ideas, talk to the factory about how to make them, work out what sort of box is needed and then deliver the new sets to all the shops in 130 countries! This means that there's a good chance they could already be working on something similar to your idea.
Yeah, right. It takes years of planning to take a MiniFig they already have and shove a metal loop in his head that they already have to make a keychain. AND THE KEYCHAINS AREN'T SOLD IN BOXES... they don't have any packaging at all! Obviously a form letter reply, but whatever. Maybe I'll have to buy a few Aquamem and experiment with turning them into keychains myself.
• iCrap! Dear Apple. How long is it going to take before you fix all the busted shit in your iCloud syncing? I am so fucking sick and tired of not being able to sync my keychains... LIKE I COULD WITH MOBILE-ME BEFORE YOU REPLACED IT WITH THIS iCLOUD CRAP. And why do you make it so difficult for third party apps to sync their settings and shit? It's just sad that I have to keep a DropBox account to sync all the shit that your half-baked "solution" can't handle.
• iCrap! Dear Apple. Why in the hell do you force your iCloud customers to download videos before we can watch them? You stream to AppleTV, why won't you stream to my Mac or my iPhone or my iPad? Why? If you can't figure the shit out, why don't you talk to Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Redbox, Vudu, CinemaNow, or any of the other dozens of services that are streaming all the time. Because this is fucking bullshit.
• iCrap! Dear Apple. Seriously, how fucking embarrassing and pathetic is it that you've had almost TWO YEARS now to get this iCloud crap sorted out, and you're still sitting on your asses? You're sitting on BILLIONS of dollars... FIX THIS SHIT!
And... time to pack...
Posted on Monday, February 11th, 2013
Instead the The College of Cardinals elected Darth Benedict XVI, who went on to disgrace The Church and worked overtime to reverse much of the good will that Pope John Paul II worked so tirelessly to build with other faiths and the world.
Well, now that His Holiness has decided to resign, The College of Cardinals has a chance to rectify their poor judgement and make the choice they should have made all along...
I hereby announce that once again I am putting forth my name for consideration to be elected Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City, and Servant of the Servants of God.
Partly because I think the PopeMobile would be a great way to pick up women... but mostly because I look great in really tall hats and a dress.
And I'm already infallible, so there's that.
So inform your priest... write to the bishop of your local diocese... contact your favorite cardinal... pray to The Almighty... and tell them all that DAVE IS MY POPE!
Posted on Tuesday, February 12th, 2013
So now what?
Posted on Wednesday, February 13th, 2013
Back in June when I got my first tattoo, it was the culmination of 26 years of planning. I kept delaying, thinking that maybe I'd change my mind... or decide I want something different... or otherwise regret my decision. But the ink I wanted never changed, so I finally found the perfect tattoo artist and decided to just go for it.
Turns out my only regret was that I didn't do it sooner.
I loved my new ink, and was content that I'd finally gotten the tattoo bug out of my system.
I was wrong, of course, and knew almost immediately there was no way I was going to wait another 26 years to get another. I did decide I'd wait at least a year so I could come to fully appreciate my first tattoo though. It seemed only fair.
I managed to make it eight months...
My original plan was to do something fairly elaborate and interesting on my opposite upper-arm. But five months of working on ideas didn't produce anything that grabbed me.
So instead I decided to go with a tattoo band around my forearm that I could complete in stages.
A lot of ideas went through my head for the first piece, but ultimately I decided on my birthday. In Buddhism, your birth is a highly important day for a number of reasons. Mostly because it's a celebration of the day that you were given the ultimate gift... the gift of life... but it also symbolizes other high concepts like suffering (by your mother during your birth) and sacrifice (by your parents to care for you)... along with love, light, hope, and dozens of other aspects of the human condition. And since my birth-year looks very cool in Roman numerals, that was what I decided on.
And now every time I see my new tattoo, I'll be reminded of everything my birthday represents, and that the best way to honor all that is to live my life to its fullest.
I love it, of course.
One piece down, five more to go...
UPDATE AUGUST, 2013: Part two has been added.
Posted on Thursday, February 14th, 2013
I had a free couple of hours to head into San Francisco for cookies.
It was incredible out. Beautiful blue skies and sun. And I saw sea lions. And made a trip to the Museum of Modern Art. And ate at Johnny Rockets for lunch. And I got cookies.
Now it's back across the bay for me.
Oh... And Happy Valentine's Day, everybody!
Posted on Friday, February 15th, 2013
Just a typical day, really.
Went to the Jelly Belly factory.
Partied with rockstars until 2:00am.
Posted on Saturday, February 16th, 2013
Sat around with Kitty One.
Went to see West Grand Boulevard in concert.
Ate Cambodian food.
The secret to Aaron's sexy-smooth vocal stylings? Cherry Coke Slurpee!
Posted on Sunday, February 17th, 2013
Don't worry about five awesome days of crazy keeping me down... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Grohl! After seeing former Nirvana drummer and current Foo Fighter front-man Dave Grohl interviewed on The Colbert Report, I was compelled to check out his new documentary film, Sound City...
It's brilliant. A total love letter to old-school music production by some big names in the business... including Paul McCartney, Trent Reznor, Lindsey Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks, Tom Petty, Lars Ulrich, and more. If you love music, this is a documentary that's well worth checking out.
• Cruise! The media has been in a frenzy over the horrors that plagued Carnival's cruise ship Triumph. And the stories were pretty nasty. I mean, once you're pooping in a bag and standing in line for four hours to get a ketchup sandwich, you're pretty much having the worst vacation ever...
Photo by Scott L./Wikimedia
Now, I've never been on a cruise where I had to poop in a plastic bag and eat ketchup sandwiches... the cruises I've been on have been perfectly lovely. So when I hear the public outcry from people vowing to NEVER EVER GO ON A CRUISE because of this misfortunate incident... well, it sounds like a pretty big overreaction. For every cruise disaster blown up by the media, there are thousands upon thousands of cruises that go off without a hitch. Including all six I've been on. And while it's not my most favorite way to vacation, I will absolutely go on more cruises in the future. The advantages of travel via cruising are just too numerous to ignore. But, of course, the media won't be covering that.
• Jelly! I'd much rather post my own stuff than repost things from others, but I just can't help myself this time around. This cartoon from Cyanide and Happiness is one of the funniest things I've ever seen...
Seriously. I can't look at this without busting up.
• The Bay! I have no idea how many times I've been to San Francisco, but it's a lot. I love the city. But more than that, I love the fact that I've been to the city so many times that I don't have to play tourist. I can actually spend my time enjoying it without having to rush from attraction to attraction... I've pretty much done them all.
About the only thing I have to do is buy fortune cookies from The Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company. Five bags of those will keep me happy for a month or so.
• Water! As I had mentioned last Bullet Sunday, I have a real worry about the lack of snow this year bringing drought come Summer. After flying over the mountains the other day, I think my fears are justified...
It's the middle of February. Now take a look at a photo I took of the same area back in APRIL of 2011...
By April of this year, I fear we'll have nothing left in the mountains. Hope we get plenty of rain.
And, on that somber note, I guess it's time to catch up on some sleep.
Posted on Monday, February 18th, 2013
I've been back from Oakland for one day.
And while I already miss my friends (and civilization), what I am missing right now... and quite badly... is food. Here in my little corner of Redneckistan, my culinary options are severely limited.
Just days ago I was eating an amazing falafel wrap...
As for today? It's a box of shitty dehydrated julienne potatoes in "cheese" sauce...
So gross. And exactly the kind of thing that makes you lose your will to live.
Reeeeeaaaly looking forward to me next trip.
Posted on Tuesday, February 19th, 2013
After a random look at my blog stats, I saw traffic coming from a website I'd never heard of before. So I clicked through to see what was going on and found this...
I'm already I'm filled with dread, and I haven't even read the story yet.
And, sure enough, it was my photo they were talking about. The "National Organization for Marriage," which I can only describe as the preeminent anti-marriage-equality hate-group, is using a photo I took as a part of their anti-gay propaganda campaign...
Having something you created being used to peddle bigotry and discrimination is not an easy thing to accept. Especially when it contributes to creating an environment so hostile that LGBT youth are killing themselves rather than having to endure it.
Groups like NOM go against absolutely everything I believe in. But having them drag me into their persecution of the LGBT community is only half the problem. The other is my belief in a free and open internet. Which is why my Creative Commons License (appearing on every page of this site) allows non-commercial usage of the stuff I share here. Granted, NOM violated this license by failing to attribute the photo to it's source in a way that shows I don't endorse their bullshit... but otherwise? Their non-profit status (which is another topic entirely) means that their use of my photo is most likely permissible.
And it's this dilemma that has me frustrated to to tears. How do I reconcile my belief in sharing information on a free internet with my desire to keep my works from being used to hurt people by hateful bigots like NOM??
I thought I might find help in the "moral rights" clause of the license...
"In addition to the right of licensors to request removal of their name from the work when used in a derivative or collective they don't like, copyright laws in most jurisdictions around the world (with the notable exception of the US except in very limited circumstances) grant creators "moral rights" which may provide some redress if a derivative work represents a "derogatory treatment" of the licensor's work."
Except they make it clear that the USA is a "notable exception," which means this is practically worthless.
So what to do? Two things I feel very strongly about seem to cancel each other out. Have an open license, and your works can be repurposed to hurt people. Have a restrictive license, and you're inhibiting the creativity of others to build and share on your work.
I don't know what the solution is. Maybe you can't have it both ways.
All I do know is that I don't support NOM's ruthless persecution of a group of people under the pretense of "protecting marriage." And, make no mistake, it is persecution. They don't like gay people, so they fight to keep them from having the same freedoms as everybody else. And if spreading misinformation and outright lies is what it takes, they'll do that. If allying themselves with individuals or organizations which advocate violence against homosexuals will forward their cause, they'll do that too. Whatever it takes to keep homophobia and fear alive so they can maintain this absurd illusion that marriage is somehow "endangered" by a mythical "gay agenda" that's out to destroy society.
This situation shouldn't be upsetting me as much as it is. It's the internet, after all.
But gay kids are being bullied. Gay kids are killing themselves. And it's groups like NOM that are creating a society which encourages these horrible things to happen.
And being party to that... even unwillingly... is more than I can take.
Posted on Wednesday, February 20th, 2013
It's been a sucktastic week so far.
I really wish I could go into a com fora the rest of it, but I'll consider myself lucky if I can just get a couple of hours sleep tonight.
And now in a totally unrelated topic... remember when Wheel of Fortune had a "Shopping Showcase" where the winner of a round could take their money and shop for absurd prizes?
Whatever happened to that? Without the Showcase thing, Wheel of Fortune is kinda boring.
Posted on Thursday, February 21st, 2013
Back when I was in San Francisco, I went into a Walgreen's so I could pick up a new pair of reading glasses. Now that I'm in toric contact lenses, I apparently need them to see my iPhone easily.
As I walked in the door, I heard a woman say "CAN YOU HELP ME? CAN YOU PLEASE HELP ME?" I turned around to see an elderly woman clutching a store shelf, looking like she might fall over. "What can I do to help?" I ask. "I NEED TO GET A PRESCRIPTION FROM THE BACK AND I CAN'T WALK ON THAT SLICK FLOOR OR I'LL FALL!" she said, pointing to the tile that started three feet in front of her. "Okay then, take my hand and I'll get you there." I say.
And so I led the old woman back to the prescription department...
As we walked in slow-motion, she went on to tell me how she had been standing there for quite a while, asking everybody who walked by (including employees) for help. Nobody did. I was the first person to even look at her. "Maybe they were in a rush? I'm not in any hurry, so I don't mind," I offered, trying to sound optimistic.
Not that I believed it for a minute.
The truth is that nobody wanted to be bothered to help her.
As depressing as it is to see all the horrific crap going on in the news... as disheartening as it is to hear about all the violence and persecution and terror that permeates our lives... why is this the thing that gets stuck in my head? Seriously, It's been bothering me all week.
There are so many big problems in the world that we can do nothing about... that make us feel powerless.
You'd think we'd seize every opportunity we can to fix the problems we can do something about.
But we don't.
Except this time I did. Maybe it's the thought of all the times I didn't that haunts me.
Posted on Friday, February 22nd, 2013
The Oscars are on Sunday. Here are my picks.
BEST PICTURE: My pick is Django Unchained, which I enjoyed more than all the other films combined (excluding Beasts of the Southern Wild and Les Misérables, neither of which I wanted to see). It won't win, of course, but it completely deserves to (like Inglourious Basterds before it).
BEST ANIMATED PICTURE: Heaven only knows that I wanted Pixar's Brave to blow me away... but, while it was jaw-dropping beautiful to look at, the story just didn't measure up. ParaNorman, Wreck-It Ralph, and The Pirates! Band of Misfits were all good films, but it's Frankenweenie that was my favorite.
BEST SHORT FILM: John Kahrs' Paperman is haunting and beautiful and has Disney magic all over it. The other nominations are great, sure, but Paperman is genius.
BEST DIRECTOR: Ang Lee's absolutely masterful handling of Life of Pi makes him my clear favorite. But who doesn't think Spielberg will take it for Lincoln? But the bigger question... how in the heck did Quentin Tarantino get overlooked for Django Unchained?
BEST ACTOR: While I thought Bradley Coooper gave a winning performance, it's pretty hard not to pick Daniel Day-Lewis for his amazing turn as Lincoln.
BEST ACTRESS: This was a toughie, but I give the nod to Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook. She just seemed more necessary to the success of her film.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Yeah, Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln with Christoph Waltz a close second for Django Unchained.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Hated The Master so Amy Adams is out. Didn't think Sally Field disappeared into her role enough in Lincoln. Refused to watch Les Misérables for Anne Hathaway. Thought Helen Hunt was "okay" in The Sessions, but not remarkable. So I guess that leaves Jacki Weaver for Silver Linings Playbook... although Anne Hathaway is almost certain to take it.
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: The easy choice would be Life of Pi, but I think too much of what made it cinematically amazing was the special effects. Django Unchained would be a solid choice, but I'm going to have to go with Roger Deakins for Skyfall. A big part of what made it such a good film was the stunning cinematography, and the film is definitely Oscar-worthy.
BEST SPECIAL EFFECTS: For all the reasons I think Life of Pi should not get "Best Cinematography," I think it probably deserves the Oscar for "Best Special Effects." That being said, the incredible visuals of The Battle for New York in The Avengers (not to mention the hundreds of other effects plus Hulk and Iron Man) make me wish a tie could happen here.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG: I'm not a fan of Adele's music, but have always liked her as a person in interviews and stuff. And yet... Skyfall was about as good a theme as James Bond movies get, and Adele blew the doors off it.
BEST WRITING, ORIGINAL: I have gone round and round on this, trying to decide between Django Unchained and Moonrise Kingdom, and can't decide. I would be equally thrilled if either won, though Zero Dark Thirty probably has the edge.
BEST WRITING, ADAPTED: Just about everyone (including me) thought that Life of Pi was unfilmable... and yet, here it is. It would be hard not to reward that ingenuity.
Posted on Saturday, February 23rd, 2013
I got almost nothing done today. But it wasn't for lack of trying.
I actually started working when I woke up at 4:00. But since I didn't get to bed until 2:00, I was asleep again at 7:00. At least I was until I was awakened at 7:30. After that, I tried working off and on all day, but could never quite get into it. About the only accomplishment I can lay claim to is backing up my photo library and geotagging a couple hundred photos (I swear by all that's holy I will NEVER buy another camera without GPS).
Other than that? Nuthin'.
Which is tough considering all the stuff I've got on my to-do list.
In other news, I've taken up cigarettes again...
Judge me all you want, but nothing calms my nerves like a nice candy cigarette.
Posted on Sunday, February 24th, 2013
Another boring February Sunday got you down? Don't despair... because and even MORE boring Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Oscars! Meh.
• Over! By this time next week, Tiwlight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part Two will have been released on DVD and Blu-Ray. And then it's over, right? I mean, it's the final shitty movie of the shitty Twilight movies based on the shitty Twilight books, isn't it? I won't have to be subjected to any more of this crap... right?
• Overer! And speaking of over... the three internet trends I am so over with this month are...
• Hook! I have to admit that I haven't seen a single episode of Once Upon a Time. I'm not into fables and fairy tales, so the show is not my cup of tea. But I keep seeing these television promos which feature a surprising element...
That's Colin O'Donoghue, who apparently plays Captain Hook. But I don't care about that. I mean, yeah, I guess he's a good-looking guy and all... and I'm sure he's a decent actor and everything... but I'm talking about something more important than any of that...
EYELINER! Or, as I like to call it, "Captain Jack Sparrow Guyliner"...
Apparently it's impossible to be a pirate now-a-days unless you've got eyeliner on. I approve completely. Mostly because I can totally rock the guyliner look...
But also because I'm totally a pirate at heart. The day this goes mainstream, I am so there.
• Suck! I am one of those rare people who believes in paying for the stuff I want. If there's a game I want, I buy it. If there's a movie I want, I buy it. If there's a television series I want, I buy it. If there's a song I want, I buy it. Thanks to Apple's iTunes, most any media I want to own can be purchased quickly and easily, so I pay the price. Until now. I went to purchase the latest season of Archer only to find that FX Network has placed ads in each episode. That's right, I'M PAYING FOR ADS! Well fuck this shit. FX Network is out of the damn minds if they think that I am going to pay for advertising when there are alternatives for getting Archer ad-free.
And now... time to call it a night. Tomorrow promises to be a long, long day.
Posted on Monday, February 25th, 2013
I'm drinking chocolate milk and watching Castle reruns.
I swear it's true.
Lying or Wrong Speaking as it's known, is something to be roundly avoided according to Buddhist teachings. Outwardly, this is to promote harmony and good will, but that's not the only benefit. It all basically boils down to this: "If you can't speak truthfully and honestly, keep silent, because anything less only causes harm to others... and yourself."
Don't get me wrong, it's tough... really tough... to be honest all the time. But ultimately I find it makes my life easier, so I try my best to speak the truth whenever I can (I'm a terrible liar anyway). Sure I fail from time to time, but my effort is genuine, and this has paid off for me more often than not.
But Wrong Speaking encompasses more than just lying. It also refers to saying rude or hateful things. Or spreading gossip. Or speaking harshly. Or promoting violence. Or any of hundreds of other things that might hurt people... or reflect badly on you as a caring, open-minded, considerate individual.
Not lying is a piece of cake compared to all that.
And yet... I keep trying, because I think Right Speaking an admirable goal.
The problem is that keeping silent when you have nothing positive to add to a conversation can be easily misinterpreted. People might think you're not paying attention. Or disinterested. Or uncaring. Or mute. Or just plain rude. To compensate for this, I have been making an effort to find positive things to say in a negative conversation.
So now people just think I'm crazy.
I'm not sure if this is better or worse than people thinking me inattentive, disinterested, uncaring, mute, or rude.
But, hey, that Jay Leno sure is a breath of fresh air, amirite?
Posted on Tuesday, February 26th, 2013
When getting out of the shower each morning, I delay putting on my glasses for a while.
Partly because they start fogging up if I wear them right away... but mostly because I like living in a blurry world for a little while each day. There's something beautiful about an environment which lacks definition and detail... and where color and light battle it out for your attention without distraction...
But then you try to put your underpants on your feet because you can't see they're not your socks, and you think that maybe it's a good idea to put your glasses on again.
It was fun while it lasted.
Posted on Wednesday, February 27th, 2013
The sadistic idiot who designed the new sidewalks in town has randomly placed dips and curb-stops where they have no business being. This makes walking down the street a perilous ordeal and a real challenge, even if you're being careful. I know this because I tripped over a cement block jutting out into the sidewalk which sent me crashing to the ground on Monday.
So now I have a skinned knee, a scraped elbow, tore-up hands, and aches that run down my entire body. I think I must have pulled a muscle somewhere and that's thrown everything out of whack. Today it's gotten worse, and just getting up and walking is fairly painful.
Which has me thinking back to when I was a kid. I used to take falls much worse than this and bounce back in minutes. Now it's two days and counting. I have to wonder if twenty years from now such a fall will result in a broken hip.
Something to look forward to, I suppose.
In the meanwhile I guess I just have to be more careful and not risk my life by walking on a sidewalk or other similar dangerous activities.
And load up on pain relief medication.
I'd blog more about how getting old sucks, but it's almost midnight and apparently I need my rest.
Posted on Thursday, February 28th, 2013
CGP Grey, whose fantastic videos I have posted here a number of times, made a new video just for me last week:
HOW TO BECOME POPE!
And now that Il Papa has left the building, and the position is officially available, I thought it important that I take a look...
Okay, I'm pretty sure I can create a bishop vacancy... accidents happen all the time. Then I'm confident it's just a matter of a lot of money greasing the right palms to slide into a bishopship. No problem there, as Kickstarter was made for this kind of thing.
But becoming a cardinal?
The current Pope has to appoint me to cardinalship.
And he just retired, so that's a problem.
Maybe if I can just go all Mission: Impossible and eliminate a cardinal so I can impersonate him with a face-mask and get the rest of the cardinals to elect me Pope? I do look good in red...
After impersonating a cardinal with a good chance at Pope, then getting the other cardinals to vote me Pope, I can then take the name Pope Dave Two the First. THEN I can go pray in private at the Sistine Chapel, remove my disguise, and emerge with my own face. Then I'll just convince everybody that God came down and re-made me in his image. Which should be simple thanks to my God-like visage.
Easy. LET'S MAKE THIS HAPPEN, PEOPLE!
But first, it's time to watch more CPG Grey videos. What a time-suck his YouTube Channel is...
Okay, now let's get to work...
Posted on Friday, March 1st, 2013
I'd like to think I'm respectful of people's opinions, even when they differ from my own. Especially when they differ from my own. I'm not saying it can't be frustrating, or I'm above poking fun at opinions I don't agree with... but I think it keeps life interesting to listen to what others think. Sure it might be easier if everybody thought the same way as me about things... but it would also be boring.
Where I have a problem is when people make opinions while being unintentionally uninformed or after having been misinformed (either intentionally or unintentionally).
I try harder than most to make sure my facts are correct so I won't be guilty of these crimes of ignorance. But, hey, mistakes happen to the best of us, and so I try to be tolerant even then.
There are those who make opinions while being intentionally uninformed, and that's what drives me bat-shit insane.
It's only gotten worse on the internet, because people feel less accountable for their opinions when they're bashing them out at a computer. I see it most every day.
For the sake of not being dragged into a fight involving faith or politics, I'll leave those piles of shit out of this, but that's where the most grievous offenses lay. People become so completely absorbed by a religion or political party that they refuse to listen to anything that even hints at a contrary viewpoint. Even cold, hard facts.
Though I may be over-exaggerating here, because I've seen the same kind of ignorant behavior over comic book characters.
The thing that got me thinking about intentional ignorance tonight is product reviews.
Whether it's book reviews on Amazon... or game reviews on the iTunes App Store... or movie reviews on Rotten Tomatoes... or wherever you find people spewing their opinions, intentional ignorance abounds.
Which all basically boils down to this...
Which inevitably has me screaming at my computer display... SHUT UP! SHUT THE FUCK UP, YOU ASSHOLE! Not that that really helps anything, but at least I get the rage out of my system.
Sadly, there can be no end in sight. Intentional ignorance is here to stay, and there's nothing we can do about it. Except to accept that it's inevitable and too many people on this earth are too stupid to want to change it.
Feel free to disagree with my opinion, I don't mind. Really I don't.
Unless you didn't bother to actually read this, in which case... SHUT UP! SHUT THE FUCK UP, YOU ASSHOLE!
Posted on Saturday, March 2nd, 2013
Looking strictly at the numbers, this blog is either a raging success or a dismal failure.
83,214 visitor "sessions" were reported at Blogography for the month of February (which is 9,795 less than January... maybe because it was a short month?). According to the documentation, "A session is initiated when a visitor arrives at your site, and it ends when their browser window is closed or there is a period of inactivity." On daily average, 624 people are accessing my webfeed, so I'm guessing around 17,500 of those monthly "sessions" are from regular readers, though not everybody uses a feedreader, so that number is probably a bit higher.
And the bulk of my remaining traffic? Search results. The majority of which are visitors from Google hoping to find something here. That's what happens when you've been blogging daily about random crap for nearly a decade.
So, from a numbers standpoint, I don't know if "83,214 sessions" last month is good or bad. Probably good for a relatively unknown blogger like me. But a terrible failure if you're a popular blogger like The Pioneer Woman (who undoubtedly gets millions of visits each month).
But I don't sell ads or make any money off Blogography, so the numbers don't really matter. I write here so my friends & family can know what I'm up to... and to keep track of what's going on in my life (five years ago today I was flying back from a TequilaCon Planning meeting in Portland!). From that perspective, Blogography is incredibly successful.
All the great people I've met and the wonderful friends I've made from blogging is just the icing on the cake.
Which is a fact I clung to this morning as I discovered yet another one of the blogs I read has closed up shop. This comes right on the heels of another blog folding earlier in the week (didn't see that coming).
We're dropping like flies.
I'm coming up on my ten-year blogiversary this April. I have no plans on stopping.
Which makes me either a raging success or a dismal failure.
It's getting harder and harder to tell.
Posted on Sunday, March 3rd, 2013
This whole "Sequester" bullshit got you down? Well that's only the tip of the iceberg... because and even MORE boring Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Artisan! The craftsmanship that went into the album cover for John Mayer's Born and Raised is pretty spectacular. And the behind-the-scenes look at how it happened is absolutely worth your valuable time...
In a day and age when computers are rapidly redefining art, it's wonderful to see that there are people keeping old-school craftsmanship like this alive... even when using a computer. If only I had skills like that.
• RoboHepburn! And speaking of computers redefining things... the estate of Audrey Hepburn has authorized her computer-generated likeness for use in a chocolate commercial...
More than a little creepy... what with her being dead and all. It doesn't help that the video has a kind of "painterly" feel that seems to only add to the unreality of it. Still, it was kind of charming, and you can't really blame Galaxy Chocolate from wanting her in their advertisement...
I guess it's only a matter of time before actors just have to literally phone in their lines.
• Mashup! Usually I find music mash-ups to suck copious amounts of ass. They're lazy and/or stupid and rarely prove a point. Until now. Somebody named "pomDeter" has mashed up Nine Inch Nail's brilliant Head Like a Hole with Carly Rae Jepsen's vapid pop anthem Call Me Maybe to create Call Me a Hole...
Yeah. Genius. That's gonna be stuck in my head for a while. What makes it even better? The mashup was suggested by Ms. Jepsen herself!
• Supreme! Just when you think Ellen DeGeneres couldn't possibly be a more remarkable person...
...this happens. Ellen has a way of calling people fucking stupid and paranoid in the nicest possible way. Hopefully The Supreme Court will see that American citizens are rapidly moving past homophobic bigotry and will follow suit.
And... my website is down. Guess I won't be posting Bullet Sunday on Sunday then.
Posted on Monday, March 4th, 2013
Lately I've been having moments where I find myself not breathing and I have to remind myself to take a breath. It's very annoying. And has me wondering what in the heck is preoccupying the part of my brain that's supposed to handle the breathing. I suppose it's better than suddenly finding out your heart isn't beating, but still.
So far as Mondays go, this one was pretty heinous. Despite working my guts out from dusk 'til dawn I didn't get nearly as much done as I had hoped. I suppose that was to be expected, because, well, Monday. What was not expected was finding out that my automated backup utility was, in fact, not backing up anything at all. This was discovered right after I had congratulated myself because a missing file could just be downloaded from my backup. Except it couldn't, because I didn't have a backup, which made me very cross indeed.
Nothing like spending two hours re-doing work you had already finished.
As if that weren't enough, I am still having problems with my blog. For reasons I can't figure out, the back-end that manages everything has suddenly decided to randomly fail while I'm updating stuff. This has resulted in my map page having no map, and my archive page being a disorganized mess.
I'd fix all that, but I have bigger fish to fry.
Like making sure I keep breathing.
Posted on Tuesday, March 5th, 2013
Well this day didn't get off to a good start either!
Sometimes events happen in life that are too traumatic for words. They can only be expressed in song.
So now, in the tradition of Bitch Got Three Spaces, Blogography proudly presents yet another Grammy-worthy edition of Song Lyrics from Redneckistan...
Eggo Didn't Leggo My Waffle
Lyrics and Music by Blogography Gangsta.
Sung by Blogography Gangsta (featuring Killa Kyleon, Ice Burgandy, and Gucci Mane).
Got my butter!
Got my syrup!
Got my fork and knife!
Now all I need is a delicious Eggo waffle
To complete my life!
Open the freezer!
Open the box!
Open that plastic wrap!
What the hell? they gave me half a waffle
Now I think that I might snap!
Eggo ruined my breakfast,
The most important meal of the day!
This ain't no way to be livin',
Ain't nothin' goin' my way!
Yeah, yeah, yeah... yeah!
Eggo didn't leggo my waffle.
Eggo didn't leggo my waffle.
Pray for peace!
Pray for freedom!
Pray for world harmony!
Lord, they done gave me half a waffle
Why have you forsaken me?
Rage on Eggo!
Rage on Kelloggs!
Rage on breakfast too!
Don't need no haters messin' with my waffle
Or else I'm comin' for you!
Eggo ruined my breakfast,
The most important meal of the day!
This ain't no way to be livin',
Ain't nothin' goin' my way!
Yeah, yeah, yeah... yeah!
Eggo didn't leggo my waffle.
Eggo didn't leggo my waffle.
— All lyrics copyright ©2013 by Blogography.
Posted on Wednesday, March 6th, 2013
I am so tired of throwing money away on crap.
I buy a new pair of jeans, and the zipper-pull breaks off the first time I wear them. The landline phone I have at work broke within the first week. My car has been a piece of shit from day one. It goes on and on. As I was cleaning out some old storage boxes this past weekend, I ran across tons of crap that was either broken or not working as advertised. I saved it all in the hopes that one day it might be fixed and become useful so I didn't waste money, but I was only fooling myself.
And it never ends. For the past week when I change the channel to Comedy Central, this is what appears on my television...
It's Stephen T. Colbert! I guess... the sound is all choppy too.
Any time this has happened in the past, the cable company is all "Uhhh... I dunno... it's probably not our fault... maybe you should call Comedy Central."
Really? Why in the hell should I be the one to call? YOU'RE the one that takes my money each month, assholes!
And, of course, they don't provide a credit on your bill for service failures either. Which is irritating, but not nearly as irritating that they just don't give a shit.
Of course, I'm paying them to not give a shit, so I guess it's all my fault in the end. Too bad satellite isn't an option for me. But maybe buying the shows I want to watch from iTunes and dumping cable is.
Posted on Thursday, March 7th, 2013
And so it begins again.
For the past three months I've stuck pretty close to home. Sure, I flew to my sister's house for the holidays in December, made a quick trip to Spokane for work in January, and took a wonderful trip to Oakland to visit friends and get a tattoo in February... but the bulk of my Winter was spent taking a vacation from travel.
Now the vacation is over, and the next nine months are back to travel as usual.
A part of me is sad about that. It's just so nice to stay in one place for a while... but, on the other hand, holy crap am I happy to get back to big city living. I've only been in Chicago for three hours now, and I already feel a change coming over me. This is normal. This is the way life is supposed to be. This is where I belong. At least until I've been on the road for nine months, at which time I'm sure that I'll feel the same way about being home in Redneckistan. But until then, I'm quite happy to be metropolis-hopping.
One of the things I love about being in cities like Chicago is the food. But perhaps not in the way you think.
It's not because the city is filled with five-star fine-dining options... though I do enjoy treating myself to five-star cuisine from time to time... no, it's the variety of things I can get here that I can't get back home.
Case in point... can you guess where I was dying to eat in Chicago the minute I landed?
Not a five-star restaurant, but instead a local fast food chain of Mexican grill restaurants in the Chicago area. Heaven only knows I can get pretty good Mexican food back home... but I can't get Burrito Beach. And I love Burrito Beach. Their grilled rice & bean burrito tastes amazing, and I'm a huge fan. It costs under $5. And it was delicious.
Another thing I'm craving? A Chicago-style vegetarian hot dog. Can't get a veggie dog back home... and certainly not Chicago style for $4.18... or any price. Tomorrow is the day, and this is what I'll be dreaming of tonight...
Yet another food I'm dying for? A falafel sandwich. Just a simple, $4.99 falafel pita sandwich. Back home, most people don't even know what the fuck falafel is. It's one of my favorite foods on earth, and yet there's no place that serves it in all of Redneckistan.
I could go on and on (don't get me started about the amazing pizza here).
People make fun of me because I travel all the way to big cities and, for the most part, don't take advantage of the haute cuisine that's available. But it's not because I'm cheap... or can't appreciate it... or am opposed to it... it's because I'm too busy stuffing myself with all the simple foods I just can't get when I'm at home.
Hell, it used to be that my favorite restaurant in all of New York City was McDonalds Times Square because they had a McVeggie Burger.
When it comes to the food you love, the price doesn't really matter.
Even when it means the price is five dollars.
Posted on Friday, March 8th, 2013
Just one day in Chicago.
A really pretty day in Chicago.
Posted on Saturday, March 9th, 2013
I don't like theater.
I hate musicals.
I have a general distaste for ridiculing somebody's faith.
Which makes the idea of seeing the smash musical The Book of Mormon a strange prospect...
I enjoyed it.
Not really my thing, but South Park's Trey Parker and Matt Stone kept it funny enough that I didn't mind all the singing and dancing that usually causes my eyes to roll back into my head. The icing on the cake was the set design, which was really well done.
As for ridiculing the Mormons...
This was a tough one for me. I have Mormon friends who are some of the nicest, most generous people I've ever met. And even though I disagree strongly with the church's monetary political maneuverings against things like marriage equality (which should result in them losing their tax-exempt status)... I don't find their religion to be any more strange or as unusual as any other religion.
And that's where I had a problem.
I'm sure the Christians in the audience were laughing their heads off at some of the more outlandish things that come from The Book of Mormon. "Ha ha ha ha! Those Mormons believe some crazy shit... that's so funny!" Which only leads me to believe that they've never actually read their Bible, because it's filled with all kinds of stuff that's equally hard to believe. Unless you have faith in it. Like the Mormons do in their sacred texts.
Whenever a satire like this is made spoofing Christianity or Islam or Judaism or whatever... people go ape-shit. But the Mormons? They have a sense of humor about it all. They take out ads in the Playbill...
This made me feel a little less guilty for laughing along with the crowd, but I couldn't get it out of my head how a chunk of the audience would have a very different reaction if it was their faith that was being poked fun of.
Anyway, back to the show...
The Book of Mormon is a play in two acts. It tells the story of two young Mormons who get sent on a mission to a poor and war-torn area of Uganda. One of them is Elder Price, who is the perfect example of the Mormon faithful, and confident he will succeed in his task to convert Africans to Mormonism. The other is Elder Cunningham, who is basically playing Jonah Hill acting more annoying and stupid than usual, and is the polar opposite of Elder Price.
As the story proceeds, Price starts losing his faith as the task at hand ends up being much more difficult than he ever imagined... and Cunningham becomes an accidental hero thanks to his talent for telling lies. Hilarity (and I mean genuinely funny hilarity) ensues.
Overall, the play is as good as everybody you've ever known who has seen it has said it is. I think it gets a bit sloppy and disjointed in the second act, but it's not a deal-breaker. Parker and Stone (along with Robert Lopez) reveal true genius here, and there's some unexpected sweetness woven into the story that makes it pretty irresistible.
But not for everyone.
The two people sitting next to me arrived very late, taking their seats just as the Hasa Diga Eebowai number was in full swing. It's basically a song where the natives are saying "fuck you, God" as a way of dealing with the abject misery that fills their every waking hour.
They left at intermission and never came back. They let their displeasure be known, however... their Playbills were ripped to pieces and laying on the floor.
I guess everybody is entitled to their opinion, but how in the fuck can you show up to The Book of Mormon at this stage of the game and not know what you're in for? I guess they are just really uninformed. Or totally stupid. Or both.
Oh well. It certainly made me more comfortable to have the extra room.
So... for anybody in Chicago who has a tolerance for naughty words and a bit of blasphemy... I recommend seeing The Book of Mormon if you get a chance. The cast was incredibly talented, the story inspired and, even if you hate musical theater like me, there's enough to make it worth your time and hard-earned money.
Posted on Sunday, March 10th, 2013
Extended winter weather got you down? Well don't despair because a toasty warm flurry of bullets is headed your way! An all-new Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Neighbors! I got back from seeing The Book of Mormon around 10:45pm. Taking account that stupid-ass Daylight Saving Time was going to be screwing with the clocks again, it's actually more like 11:45pm, since I'd be losing an hour's sleep. But a mere 15 minutes after my head hit the pillow, some kind of impromptu midnight party started up in the hallway. Unable to get any sleep with all the racket, I wrote my blog entry in the hopes things would settle down after I was done. No such luck. The noise went on until 3:30am, despite signs like this being posted...
Not even a kind reminder does any good, because these assholes don't give a shit if there are people trying to sleep. They only care about themselves. It bugs the crap out of me but, unfortunately, there's no ramifications for for their behavior so nothing is likely to change. A call to the front desk quieted them down for about 15-20 minutes, but then it started right back up again.
Well, things need to change. There needs to be ramifications for this kind of behavior. I don't know if it's a punch to the face or somebody getting their dick kicked in, but I am sick and tired of paying big money to get a good night's rest when I travel only to have to put up with this bullshit.
• Sanity! And speaking of stupid fucking Daylight Saving Time... there's an official petition being presented to The White House that needs your signature. As a reminder of just how utterly stupid DST has become, I once again present the genius of CGP Grey...
• Cake! When I landed at Chicago O'Hare International Airport last Thursday, I bemoaned the fact that nobody was waiting to greet me with cake and balloons...
But then today when I went to RW's house to discuss the upcoming issue of THRICE Fiction and other related business, not only did I get a delicious plate of cacio e pepe for lunch... but also, at long last, my cake!
Bob's wife, Lynne, didn't stop there... oh no. Inside? CHOCOLATE PUDDING!
AND WHAT DID YOU HAVE FOR LUNCH THAT WAS SO GREAT?
• DOL! What's one of the things I hate most in life? Renewing my driver's license at the dreaded Department of Licensing. I fucking loathe that time-sucking vortex of joyless horror. Which is why I was happy... positively thrilled, actually... to find out I could renew my license online this year. Seriously one of the best days of 2013 so far... if not one of the best days of my entire life.
• No Go! The official airport shuttle for Chicago O'Hare is called "Go Express." For a fairly reasonable rate, they offer door-to-door service to and from the airport. But there's a problem. Here's what they tell you the van will look like on their website...
But here is what it really looks like...
The only place it says "Go Express" is on a tiny panel on the very front of the sign-board that's on top, everything else is advertising. So if you don't see them as they pull into your hotel, and all you have to look for is the side of the van... how in the fuck are you supposed to know that this van is from Go Express? Well, you don't. Which causes all kinds of unnecessary confusion for people who just want to go to the airport. Apparently a few advertising dollars is more important to this company than consideration for their customers. I mean, seriously, can't they even slap a "Go Express" magnetic sign on the door or something? Does anybody care about their customers any more?
• Paint! I've fallen in love with encaustic painting, which is a technique where pigment-infused wax is melted and painted onto a surface, then fused in place. It's very beautiful, and receptive to all kinds of interesting artistic manipulations. Unfortunately, the tools and supplies to create encaustic works are really expensive. Too expensive to be buying a bunch of stuff just so I could goof around and try it out.
Well imagine my surprise this morning when I found out that there is an encaustic studio in Seattle which offers classes! Unfortunately, the 2-Day course I would want to take is THIS WEEKEND, but I am definitely going to sign up for a future introductory class when I get a chance. If anybody is interested in signing up with me, please let me know, and I'll email you when I get the dates!
• w00t! And, lastly, now is the time on Blogography where we dance!
Wow. Looks like we had a seven-shooter this Bullet Sunday. Time to pack up my suitcase for a return home in the morning.
Posted on Monday, March 11th, 2013
Today would have been the 61st birthday of one of my all-time favorite authors, Douglas Adams.
Sadly, he died twelve years ago, leaving a void in the universe where his wit, humor, and astounding talent once resided. Best known as the author of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, he was also a big supporter of the environment and tireless advocate for wildlife conservation... in particular those animals which are most threatened. One of his lesser-known works, Last Chance to See, is among my most favorite books, and documented Adams' attempts to see some of the world's most endangered animals... perhaps for the very last time.
Today Google came up with a Google Doodle in his honor...
It features his most famous phrase "Don't Panic" from his most famous work and it has been words I've tried to live by for decades.
I've met the man at book readings three times. Each time I was allowed to get an item autographed, and these pieces are among my most treasured possessions...
The credit card form was chosen very carefully, as I wanted something unique that he probably hadn't autographed very many times. As I handed it to him, he said "Well this is a first!" as he signed it, and then told me that if I got the credit card approved with his name on it, to please restrain myself when using it.
My favorite memory of Mr. Adams was at a reading for one of his books... I'm thinking perhaps Mostly Harmless, but it could have been The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul. Anyway, at this particular reading he had a sign language interpreter that he decided to torture for his audience's amusement. All of a sudden he'd read a paragraph impossibly fast, then put the book down and stare at the interpreter while looking at his watch and tapping his foot as he waited for her to catch up. Later in the reading he got to a passage where the character had an impossibly long and complex name (akin to Hitchhiker's "Slartibartfast"). After saying it, he immediately glanced wryly at the poor girl so he could watch her struggle to spell out the name. It was all in good fun, and the interpreter got a hug at the end, which was just the sort of wonderful thing you expect from Douglas Adams.
I cherish everything he wrote, and have read his books many times over. But oh how I wish he had lived to tell more stories. Just as it always goes, you can never get enough of the good things in life.
Happiest of birthdays to you, Mr. Adams.
Posted on Tuesday, March 12th, 2013
Today is National Alfred Hitchcock Day. I enjoy his films, but am not a huge fan. What I am a huge fan of is the recent movie about Hitchcock starring Sir Anthony Hopkins and Dame Helen Mirren. It details the making of Psycho, the most famous and successful of his films. The story behind the film was far more interesting than I thought it would be. And it was perfectly cast. I don't know that Anthony Hopkins looked much like Hitch, but he felt like Hitch. And Helen Mirren... well... it's Helen Mirren...
Well worth your valuable time. You can rent it at iTunes, or own it for $15.
And speaking of really good films... Disney has decided to release a series of shorts starring Mickey Mouse in June. As a teaser, they released the first installment, Croissant de Triomphe, at Disney.com...
It's wonderful. And it has a number of things going for it...
Heaven only knows I'd like to see Disney produce more 2-D animation to offset the escalation of 3-D stuff. This is a good start. Go watch it immediately at Disney.com
Posted on Wednesday, March 13th, 2013
My favorite television show of all time is the "original" Cupid starring Jeremy Piven and created by Rob Thomas. A very close second is Veronica Mars starring Kristen Bell and created by Rob Thomas. But even though Cupid is the show I love best, it's Veronica Mars that I miss most. When the show was canceled, it felt like there was a lot more of the story to tell. Story that needed to be told.
There was talk of a Veronica Mars movie off and on, but nothing ever came of it.
With the blessing of Warner Brothers, creator Rob Thomas has opened up a Kickstarter project to raise the two million dollars needed to finance the film.
I donated more money than I could afford, but this is one of those things in life that I just couldn't pass up. I love television, and Veronica Mars is the best of the best that the medium has to offer. The possibility of finally get some kind of resolution for the characters is something you can't put a price on.
Well, apparently you can, it's two million dollars, but still...
If you are a fan (and why wouldn't you be?) you can donate to the cause (and get some nice rewards) by heading over to the Kickstarter page.
UPDATE: As of this moment (2:45pm PDT), the movie is nearly 3/4 funded at
If you have not seen Veronica Mars, this astounding record-breaking Kickstarter campaign should convince you that it's imperative to take a look. The DVD sets are pretty cheap at Amazon. And the show is also available for sale on iTunes (and other digital services, I'm sure). And you don't have to spend a dime to watch episodes for FREE at the official WB website. Nobody I has ever convinced to give it a try has been disappointed. Highest possible recommendation!
UPDATE: Funded IN ONE DAY. Fuck you, television network studio system!
I have to say... the ramifications of this are just massive. The possibilities are very exciting. Now shows which have a dedicated audience may be able to survive outside the studio system. Or... be made and distributed directly to fans outside of the whole television network bullshit system from the start.
We can only hope. I am so tired of watching shows I love getting screwed by television networks who want big money or nothing, and don't give a shit about their viewers.
Posted on Thursday, March 14th, 2013
This afternoon I was in a rush to finish a project before deadline.
So of course I stabbed my knuckle with an X-ACTO knife. The gushing blood was disturbing. But it was the searing pain that made me lose my will to live. By the end of the day my knuckle was swollen to double-size and I couldn't move my finger. "WELL THIS IS JUST GREAT!" I screamed to nobody in particular. "IT'LL PROBABLY GET INFECTED AND I'LL HAVE TO GET IT CUT OFF!"
But eventually the bleeding subsided so I decided to take an aspirin, put my finger on ice, and go on living.
Posted on Friday, March 15th, 2013
The swelling on my poor stabbed finger had mostly gone away by the time I woke up this morning. It still hurts like hell, but that's what happens when you poke yourself with a scalpel. I probably bruised the bone, so it's going to be tender for a while. Darnit. Oh well, I suppose it's a nice match for my knee injury... which is still scabby after sixteen days.
Starting tomorrow I'm on vacation for a week and three days. Well, kind of a vacation. I'll still end up working a bit... I just won't be working here. Instead I'll be working (and getting drunk) in multiple vacation-like locations. Including a place I love but haven't seen in nearly a decade. It's long overdue.
Which brings me to a realization I've been working through lately.
More and more when I visit a place... especially a place I've been to several times... I find myself thinking "Is this it? Will I ever come here again?" I believe it all started when I was on my last trip to Cologne wondering if it would be my last trip to Cologne. I used to go every year. Then every other year. And now? Every three years? Five years? Never again? It messes with your head.
Which is fine, because it takes my mind of my aching finger.
Posted on Saturday, March 16th, 2013
Tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day.
Like every St. Patrick's Day, I'll find myself wanting to return to Ireland. I haven't been there since 2004 (to see the new Hard Rock Cafe), so I'm due. But I don't want to go until I have at least a week to explore the west coast, which is why that trip probably isn't going to happen any time soon. That makes me have the sads
Anyway... this is my favorite of all the St. Patrick's Day DaveToons. I'm repeating it because I doubt I could come up with anything better given that I've got about six shots of Jägermeister in me...
Hope yours is a happy one!
Posted on Sunday, March 17th, 2013
Put down that St. Patrick's Day bottle of Guinness... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Metroland! One of my all-time favorite bands, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD), will be releasing yet another glorious album come APRIL 9th! Titled English Electric, they just released a video for the first single, Metroland...
Beautiful, as I knew it would be. I cannot wait to see them in concert come April. The last time I saw them live was fantastic, so it's sure to be a good show.
• Kicked! Earlier in the week I mentioned the Veronica Mars movie project over at Kickstarter. I had pledged a chunk of money which came with a reward to attend the Los Angeles premiere. I received a "congratulations" notice from the Kickstarter website. Then I received a receipt from Amazon Payments confirming my donation. But a couple days later when I went to view my account, I saw that my pledge was missing. So I contacted Customer Service to ask why... only to learn that it was rejected because that reward level had "sold out." This is a load of crap. Apparently I was just supposed to ignore the two confirmations I got, since I received NOTHING telling me there was a problem. And, obviously, I had no idea there WAS a problem. Otherwise I would have pledged to attend one of the other premieres. Which, of course, have sold out. So now I am left with nothing because Kickstarter has a stupid-ass website that is incapable of reserving a reward properly. Oh well, guess this is the universe telling me I couldn't afford it anyway. Stupid universe.
• Enraged! I saw a video from an airport in China a while back which showed a man going apeshit because he wandered off for breakfast and missed his boarding time. Apparently he wanted them to call back the plane or something and, when they wouldn't, he started tearing the place apart...
As somebody who has spent their share of time in airports, I can say that I've never seen it get this bad in person... but I have seen travelers rip into airline employees for something that was actually their fault. My favorite being a girl who was late for her flight to Hawaii because she was sick, and was somehow convinced that this was not her fault. This resulted in a phone call to daddy telling him to make this mean person let her on the plane. Never mind that it had left 20 minutes ago... logic need not apply. Just like when a person arrives at the airport 10 minutes before a flight and gets pissed off because the security line is moving so slow. THEN they expect you to let them cut ahead in line so they don't miss their flight. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. I could go on for hours. I wonder what it is about going to airports which makes people leave their brains (and courtesy) at home? This has me really excited to be flying out tomorrow.
• This is CNN? Two students RAPE a girl, and what does CNN do? Heap pity on THE RAPISTS for the difficult life ahead of THEM?!? Oh how terrible that THEIR "promising future" has been destroyed just because they RAPED somebody...
Are you fucking kidding me? But of course FOX "News" has to prove that nobody is a bigger piece of shit than them when it comes to ruining people's lives... they decided that the 16-YEAR-OLD RAPE VICTIM isn't deserving of any kind of privacy, AND AIRED HER FULL NAME. Fuck integrity! We just want to make the news exciting for our viewers so we can keep that advertising money coming in! This is such a sick, fucked-up, sad society we live in. I don't even know what to say any more.
I really don't.
Posted on Monday, March 18th, 2013
Left for Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on-time for once.
Finally had my first problem with Apple Maps giving me crap directions.*
Discovered that the WiFi didn't work on my flight to Atlanta.
Grabbed my phone after landing to get the gate for my connecting flight, only to find out that my connecting flight had been canceled. Apparently there was a hail-storm in Atlanta, which caused cancelations and delays across the board.
Delta re-booked me on a new connecting flight... which just happened to be on the exact same plane with broken WiFi that I just climbed out of.
Finally made it to my destination.
Now trying to write a blog entry at my airport hotel with a melted brain.
It's been one of those days.
*I've been using Apple Maps exclusively since the last iOS update. I have had -zero- problems, and vastly prefer the Apple Maps over Google Maps for a half-dozen reasons I won't bore you with here. And every time I read a story about errors with Apple Maps, I ignore it because it's never happened to me no matter where I've traveled.
Here is where Apple Maps thinks my off-site Airport Parking is located...
I didn't even look at where the pin dropped, because I assumed it would be correct. I just started up turn-by-turn directions and was on my way. But, as I got closer, I started to feel that something was wrong. I had never been through this area any of the dozens of other times I've used the off-site parking. That's because the location is actually here...
Yes... all the way across a river and the highway. Which is not a simple course correction. It is, in fact, 15-20 minutes away (depending on traffic)...
Lucky for me, I had plenty of time to get to the airport. But had I been running late? I would have been totally screwed by Apple Maps because the data they're using in this case is completely wrong.
Apple makes it easy to report an error, and asked me to drag the pin to the correct location, which I did...
Apparently Apple purchased their map data from TomTom. This was probably a mistake, because an error like this is pretty obvious.
Oh well. I guess they had to start somewhere. Given time, I'm sure Apple will get it all sorted out. But, in the meanwhile, I guess I'm going to have to double-check the routes I am given every damn time I use the product.
Otherwise there's no telling where I might end up.
Posted on Tuesday, March 19th, 2013
One of these days I am going to visit New Orleans and never leave.
It was here in The Crescent City that my life of travel began. Back in 1983 at 17 years old I took my first "real" trip on my own with no parents and no rules. Many important things were found... and lost... in New Orleans 30 years ago, and the city has had a hold on me ever since.
This is my first visit to New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina devastated the region in 2005. My previous trip coincided with the 200th anniversary of The Louisiana Purchase in 2003, and I am still trying to wrap my head around the fact that it has been an entire decade since I was here last. It doesn't feel like it's been that long.
But a visit to the National World War II Museum makes me feel the time passing. When I last visited there in 2000 after it opened, it was called "The D-Day Museum" and half the size it is now...
The new "Victory Theater" expansion houses a special "4-D" movie titled Beyond All Boundaries which features narration by Tom Hanks and other stars. It was pretty good. What was not good was the boring-as-hell Final Mission submarine "simulation" which felt pointless and stupid. Not at all worth the extra money to see. But even if you skip Final Mission, walking to the massive Freedom Pavilion is still worthwhile because of the planes they've got on display...
There are walkways which literally allow you to walk around the full-size aircraft suspended there...
NOT for the faint of heart, however. Those upper walkways really took a toll on my sanity given my crippling fear of heights. Not that they don't warn you...
The exhibits in the main museum are still nice, and has some terrific artifacts to look at...
After an early dinner, it was time for a trip to the French Quarter and Bourbon Street, which always looks so tame during daylight hours...
Dessert was (obviously) freshly-cooked beignets at Cafe Du Monde...
Dusk falls over Jackson Square as I walk the riverfront...
Apparently Bad Monkey now has his own Mardi Gras beads...
Things start to heat up on Bourbon Street as the sun goes down. Never mind that it's a TUESDAY, it's time to get your party on...
And, lest I forget the reason I came here... Hard Rock visit No. 150!
It's a nice enough cafe... but it's decorated in the shitty "new-style" hipster lounge motif that I hate. The original New Orleans Hard Rock may have had a less-desirable location on Jackson Square, but at least it had a beautiful selection of memorabilia and the classic Hard Rock stylings that define the chain.
And so ends my first packed day in The Big Easy.
Posted on Wednesday, March 20th, 2013
I awoke to rain and overcast skies on a cold New Orleans morning.
My motivation to get out of bed and wander out into that dreary morning was effectively zero. But to waste a day in one of my favorite cities on earth would be a terrible sin, so I sucked it up and decided to visit some places I hadn't been before.
I started out with The Pharmacy Museum, which is a little place on Chartres Street I had never even heard of. As far as museums go, it's pretty tame... but it only costs $5 and there's loads of beautiful old bottle labels to explore...
They also have a collection of very old eyeglasses and other cool stuff, but a French tour group had their shit spread out all over the cases and would not fucking leave the exhibit, even though there were people trying to take a look. The worst part? THEY WEREN'T EVEN DISCUSSING THE STUFF IN THE ROOM! They were talking about historical figures or something (I'm guessing they didn't want to take it outside because it was raining). What a bunch of rude assholes thinking only of themselves and ruining the experience for everybody else.
Tired of walking in the cold, I decided to take in a couple of book shops, then grab lunch before heading back to my hotel room. But I kept seeing advertisements for Mardi Gras World that looked interesting. I had never visited there before because it used to be across the river. But now it's moved down by the convention center, so I decided to take the piece of shit Riverfront Streetcar* and take a look.
Mardi Gras World is a working facility where they build most of the floats for the 12 days of Mardi Gras parades that happen here every year. They're rather ornate affairs, and the work that goes into building them is pretty intense. So intense that as soon as one Mardi Gras ends (as 2013's just did in February) they immediately start work on next year's 500 floats...
There are dozens of huge warehouses packed with floats and the equipment needed to pull them through the streets of New Orleans. The factory tour only runs through half of one warehouse, but it's still a lot to see...
Every year, each of the "krewes" responsible for the various parades come up with a new theme. Since the theme is always changing, they have to start from scratch every year. This means building or remodeling all the various big props that are stuck on the floats...
The tour lasts about an hour and, much to my surprise, the clouds and rain had completely disappeared by the time I was finished, and it was all sunshine and blue skies...
Now that I wouldn't be slogging around in the cold and rain, I decided to use the free ticket I got from my hotel to visit the Ogden Museum of Southern Art...
From their roof terrace, you get a great view of the massive expansion efforts going on at the World War II Museum I visited yesterday...
On the top floor of the museum there's an exhibit dedicated to the elaborate Indian costumes used during Mardi Gras...
And, of course, paintings and photos and sculpture featuring Southern life... including this painting of the levies...
Next door to the Ogden Museum is the Civil War Museum at Confederate Memorial Hall. It's a very nice place, and has quite a few very old artifacts from the war...
Unfortunately, there's no photography allowed... but the guy manning the ticket desk said it was okay if I took a long shot of the beautiful building interior...
After going back to the hotel and working for a few hours, I decided to go hunt down a falafel wrap for dinner...
Dessert was at Cafe Du Monde again, of course...
And thus ends my second (and last) day in The Crescent City. Hopefully it won't be another ten long years before I can visit again... and hopefully that visit will be longer than two days!
*Streetcars in New Orleans are always late, never seem to run on schedule, and will skip a stop at random with absolutely no warning. I started at the Ursulines Street stop where the streetcar was 12 minutes late. The stop for Mardi Gras World was the end of the line (John Churchill Chase stop), but the operator decided that he'd randomly eliminate it, forcing me to get off at the Julia Street stop. No warning. No Explanation. No notice of any kind at any station or on the website. Nothing. Just get the fuck out and walk 20 minutes around the convention center because he felt like it, I guess. So, yeah, the streetcars may be a charming New Orleans throwback, but they are complete bullshit for actual transportation needs
Posted on Thursday, March 21st, 2013
If I had any sense in my head, I would have stayed in New Orleans. Instead I took a couple of flights across the US to come back to Seattle. Where it's raining and cold. As if that weren't bad enough, the forecast is for snow. Which is not such a bad thing, because we really need some more snow in the mountains to avoid a drought come summer.
I miss beignets at Cafe Du Monde already.
Remember the good ol' days when killing a taxi driver was only a misdemeanor offense?
Posted on Friday, March 22nd, 2013
Time to get ready for the weekend!
If you don't hear from me by Tuesday, alert the authorities.
Posted on Saturday, March 23rd, 2013
I am not much of a gambler so I avoid it. This means that going to a casino is kind of a treat for me since it happens so rarely. That being said, I am kind of lucky at gambling... even though I don't believe in luck. Maybe it's the magical combination of alcohol and all that cigarette smoke?
In any event, going to a casino with a bunch of friends is pretty much the perfect birthday, so here I am.
I used to play blackjack quite a lot and have tried other table games, but it's not very enjoyable because I spend most of my time being paranoid that I'm going to make a mistake. So most of my time is spent playing the slots because the machines do all the work for you.
Many years ago when I first went gambling, it was in Las Vegas because that's about all there was in my neck of the woods. Slot machines were pretty simple and looked something like this...
If stuff lined up, you won. If it didn't, you probably lost. Simple.
But eventually slot machines started looking like this...
Now there were three lines you could win on (sometimes five lines if your machines played the diagonals). This allowed you to place multiple bets at the same time, and the more you bet the more "lines" you were playing. This both increased your odds of winning... but also sucked your money away faster. Still, it was all pretty simple. If stuff lined up on one of the lines you were playing, you won something. If not, you probably lost.
Then, like everything else, slot machines eventually went digital. The "wheels" were simulated and, since it was all a computer program, things could get a bit more complex. Things didn't necessarily have to line up on straight lines any more...
This was a bit confusing, because you didn't always know how you won or why you lost. "Lines" weren't always "straight lines" any more, and so it was getting harder to tell what was going on. In the past, you got a momentary thrill when you saw you had won, and the machine paused long enough before telling you so you got to enjoy that moment. But now? There's so much to look at that a small pause in the action isn't enough time for you to figure out what just happened. Instead you just get annoyed waiting for the machine to let you know what the verdict is.
And today? Well...
I have no fucking clue what's going on any more. I just press the "play" button and watch stuff fly by. The images on the screen mean absolutely nothing to me...
Tonight I played $20 and ended up with $77. Don't ask me how. I saved that ticket and then played $40 which went all the way up to $480... then dwindled down to $0 three hours later. Again, don't ask me how.
So it looks like I'm ahead $17, since I spent a total of $60 and have $77 to show for it.
Tomorrow I'll either lose all of it and be down $60... or I'll have won a million dollars and be ahead $999,940.
Whatever the case, don't bother asking me how I did it, because the machines are so damn complicated anymore that I just won't know. I'll just be happy to be alive.
At least until I have that one drink too many.
Posted on Sunday, March 24th, 2013
It may be my birthday, but that's no excuse to skip blogging... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Thanks! To the many, many people who sent such kind birthday wishes via Facebook, Twitter, email, and blog comments... thank you from the bottom of my heart. It really does mean a lot to me that people take the time to say such nice things, and I was smiling all day long as I checked my iPhone for new messages. Here's to surviving another year.
• Winning! For anybody just dying to know how my gambling bout ended today, I came out $324.35 ahead. The $77 from yesterday (which I spent $60 winning) was gone within the first hour. I was going to stop, but then remembered that I got "Player Points" (or whatever) for my birthday which netted me $20. I rolled the $20 into penny slots for about an hour and built myself up to $105. From there I went to dollar slots and amassed $385.35 in winnings pretty quickly (20 minutes tops). I wasn't having much fun anymore, so I stopped. Subtract the $60 I spent gambling yesterday, and it's $324.35 of cream. Which paid for my very nice hotel room (on special) and most of my dining expenses. Which means I basically had a free weekend at the casino with friends for my birthday. Can't really complain about that.
• Cleansed! Well, okay, I can complain about one thing... the "Fiesta Breakfast Burrito" (hold the sausage) that I had this morning. Within a half-hour of eating it, my insides felt as though they had been run through a food processor, and it took a steady diet of Imodium all damn day to keep my ass from exploding. Not the best way to spend a birthday, to be sure... but it was awfully tasty going down, so there's that.
And in other news...
• Response! I remain completely dumbfounded that it took a 16-year-old girl being raped in Steubenville for some people to understand that having sex with a woman who is passed out is considered rape, and that rape is wrong. I am even more dumbfounded that a video like this is necessary to explain how guys should act when they come across the situation...
Yes... the answer is NOT TO RAPE THEM. Holy crap. THIS is the society we live in now?
Until next week...
Posted on Monday, March 25th, 2013
And so my week of vacation is over. I know I should be saying something like "Wow! That week flew by awfully fast!" but it really didn't. I guess it's because I crammed so much into it? With all the New Orleans and the casino and the celebrating? I dunno. But it definitely feels like I got a full week's worth, that's for sure.
And now it's back to reality for two weeks. Yay.
And speaking of reality...
It will come as no surprise that I loathe politicians. Mostly because I am bitching about them all the time on this blog. Democrat, Republican, whatever... there are so very few that I actually like or respect that they might as well not exist at all. Especially scum-sucking Senators and piece of shit Congressmen who always seem more interested in getting reelected or getting their hands on special interest money than actually serving their constituents. Who gives a shit if something fucks over American citizens if you can make a buck off it, right?
Well, I give a shit. And I think voters have a right to know which dicks that candidates are sucking in order to get elected. They deserve to know where all the money is coming from, and which companies or individuals own the asses of our worthless politicians. So you can imagine just how positively thrilled I was when I saw a new petition for the White House...
WE PETITION THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION TO:
Require Congressmen & Senators to wear logos of their financial backers on their clothing, much like NASCAR drivers do.
Since most politicians' campaigns are largely funded by wealthy companies and individuals, it would give voters a better sense of who the candidate they are voting for is actually representing if the company's logo, or individual's name, was prominently displayed upon the candidate's clothing at all public appearances and campaign events. Once elected, the candidate would be required to continue to wear those "sponsor's" names during all official duties and visits to constituents. The size of a logo or name would vary with the size of a donation. For example, a $1 million dollar contribution would warrant a patch of about 4" by 8" on the chest, while a free meal from a lobbyist would be represented by a quarter-sized button. Individual donations under $1000 are exempt.
And I am not joking around here. I could not possibly be more serious. If a politician is being paid off by a lobbyist to vote a certain way... then they should have to own up to it. Maybe if we saw a massive "BIG OIL" patch on their jacket, we'd know that their ass has been bought and paid for, and they will probably fuck over Americans by voting for huge tax breaks for oil companies... even when those companies are making record profits. And what about tobacco companies? And drug companies? And food industries? The list of lobbyist corruption goes on and on.
In all honesty, I don't think this petition is out of line. What's out of line is our politicians selling us out for a buck behind closed doors.
Posted on Tuesday, March 26th, 2013
I find it absurd that a country founded on personal freedoms is set up so that nine people are going to tell gays and lesbians whether or not they can marry the person they love, but here it is. They'll either decide that taxpaying gay Americans are equal citizens deserving of marriage... or they'll decide that a citizen's freedom to marry should be regulated by the government and it is the law, not love, which dictates who can or cannot be married.
What a load of crap. Because, honestly, why should anybody give a shit what two consenting adults do with their relationship? Marriage equality has been legal here in Washington State for months and you know what's changed? Gay people can get married... THAT'S IT! No straight couple has suddenly been told they can't get married any more. Nobody is being forced to get "gay married." The sky hasn't fallen. Life goes on.
Unless you're gay, marriage equality DOES NOT AFFECT YOU.
But equality for every American affects everybody. Here's hoping the Supreme Court is smart enough to see that.
Posted on Wednesday, March 27th, 2013
Today was the second day of deliberation by the Supreme Court regarding marriage equality. This time focusing on DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) and whether or not one state refusing to recognize a same-sex marriage from another state is constitutional. For example... if a same-sex couple legally married in Washington State moves to Idaho... all of a sudden they're not married any more. Idaho doesn't have to recognize the marriage thanks to DOMA. As if that weren't pathetic enough, DOMA also allows same-sex marriages to go unrecognized at a federal level. So much for federally granted spousal benefits (among other rights and protections) for gay and lesbian spouses.
There are many reasons why DOMA is, in fact, unconstitutional. But the biggest reason is that it creates a second class of citizens when it comes to rights and benefits. States have the right to allow marriage equality but, thanks to DOMA, those marriages are not really equal because they aren't really recognized state-to-state and federally. So much for state's rights and equality under the eyes of the law for gay and lesbian couples.
Unless the Supreme Court is completely ignoring The Constitution, they have no choice but to strike down DOMA...
Constitutional Amendment 10 - Powers of the States and People
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
But is the Supreme Court enforcing The Constitution REALLY going to be good news?
I guess not! THANKS A LOT, THE GAYS!
Posted on Thursday, March 28th, 2013
"With the president's signature, agriculture giants that deal with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and genetically engineered (GE) seeds are given the go-ahead to continue to plant and sell man-made crops, even as questions remain largely unanswered about the health risks these types of products pose to consumers." — RT.com
So much for transparency in government decision-making... and transpareceny with the food you buy. I can only guess that Barack Obama will be taking a job at Monsanto at the end of his term. This is hard to see as anything less than a government conspiring against its citizens so that they are uninformed about the foods they eat.
I once again have to wonder what it's going to take for Americans to finally get fed up with a government that is BOUGHT AND PAID FOR by increasingly powerful corporations. No longer are we a government of the people, for the people, by the people... we're just up for the highest bidder. Republican... Democrat... whatever... political parties are just a tool to keep Americans at each other's throats while the real people in charge continue to shape the country to serve their interests.
And that does not include us.
This is exactly the kind of thing I was talking about just three days ago... politicians being bought-off in plain sight without consequence. Pieces of shit like Senator Roy Blunt who worked overtime to fuck the American people get to keep smiling and keep getting paid with taxpayer money with no mark of shame for the massive betrayal he's party to.
If it were up to me? I'd tattoo that shit on his fucking forehead...
I DON'T GIVE A FUCK BECAUSE I'M RICH, BITCH!!!
Seriously... go read that article on Blunt... it is far worse than you're thinking. He's sucked so much special-interest dick that I have to wonder how much Photoshop it took to erase the scabs from his lips. This shit-stain is neck-deep in special interest money that fucking BOUGHT AND PAID FOR HIS SORRY ASS. He doesn't work for the people of Missouri or American citizens... he works for the bio-tech industry and just happens to be a Senator on the side so he can be more effective at his real job.
What does it take to be hung for treason in this country any more? This worthless piece of garbage CONSPIRED AGAINST AMERICAN CITIZENS AND THE US GOVERNMENT! All with -zero- consequences, because that's how we roll in this pathetic joke of a "democracy."
I wish this bullshit could surprise me anymore.
But I digress...
Many happy congratulations to President Obama and Congress for once again fucking over the country and selling out its citizens! I wish there was some kind of award we could give all of you to recognize this unprecedented level of caving to the special interest lobby... but, apparently, you're just doing your job. I wouldn't want to embarrass you.
Posted on Friday, March 29th, 2013
This morning something popped into my head that I wish I could forget. It was the memory of a bad situation which I handled poorly and have always wished that I could go back and change. But, of course, I can't change it, so now I get to be haunted by it from time to time.
Some people have pointed out that bad memories and the mistakes we make all go into the makeup of who we are. If we could go back and fix our mistakes, then we wouldn't be the same person any more. We are defined and re-defined by our experiences, good or bad, so we shouldn't seek to eliminate unpleasant things from our past... but instead try our best to learn from them so we can become a better, wiser people in the process.
It's probably true.
But don't think for a second that if there was a memory-erasing machine like they have in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind that I wouldn't have them blast out a chunk of stuff that I'd just as soon forget.
Because being haunted is nothing like they showed on Scooby-Doo.
Posted on Saturday, March 30th, 2013
I love bread.
Especially when it's freshly-baked. A freshly-baked loaf of bread can heal a bevy of ills and compensate for a multitude of sins. Or maybe it's just an excuse to eat my weight in butter. Regardless, it's nice to spend time in the kitchen kneading a loaf to life so you can smell it roasting in the oven until that sublime moment you can slice it up and eat it...
This isn't a very pretty loaf. It was going to be a French bread, but my circle-pan wasn't long enough so I had to smoosh it down to fit. I guess it's kind of a lumpy boule now.
Oh well. It sure tastes delicious, and that's all that really matters.
Like most things in life.
Posted on Sunday, March 31st, 2013
Don't think the Easter Bunny can stop the power of the blog... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• The Bible! Whether you believe in The Bible or not, you have to admit there are some really good stories in there. And, while the good book has been plundered for entertainment fodder many, many times over the years... somebody is always thinking they can do a better job. This time it's Survivor creator Mark Burnett and his wife, Touched by an Angel actress Roma Downey (who cast herself as the Virgin Mary, natch). This ten-part mini-series airing on The History Channel is called The Bible, and I have to say that it's pretty darn good. The stories are relatively true to the source material, are easy to follow, are shot beautifully with good special effects, and features a capable cast. Including Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado as Jesus...
And President Barack Obama as Satan...
No... wait a second... that's a guy named Mohamen Mehdi Ouazanni, who "just happens" to bear a resemblance to President Obama. Everybody involved is saying it's just a crazy coincidence but, considering Ouazanni has fairly pale skin and looks quite different in real life (based on Google Image Search results I've found), that may be a bit of a stretch.
Oh well. As I said, overall I enjoyed the series, and the finale which aired tonight was darn fine television. If I had a bone to pick, it's that I think some very interesting points from these Bible stories were glossed over or changed so they could focus on amping up the stuff they considered to be "more dramatic." That's kind of a shame, because they didn't really need to do that... The Bible has plenty of good drama without going over the top. For example, Matthew (one of my favorite characters in The Bible) was severely short-changed. The guy was a tax collector that had all kinds of wealth and power, yet he gave it all up without so much as a blink for a life of poverty just because Jesus asked him to! That's pretty ballsy, and they really should have given the guy more screen time... or at least made you feel the sacrifice he made while taking a literal leap of faith.
I dunno... I've studied The Bible extensively but, since I'm not a Christian, perhaps my viewpoint on things wouldn't have been the best approach. I just think the show would have been better served if they spent a little more time on important details instead of dozens of shots of Roma Downey's face either in shock or crying. Anyway... I highly recommend The Bible for both it's excellent production and entertainment values... even if you're a non-believer like me.
• Do It! Today is World Backup Day!
Have you made sure your data is backed up and your restores are working? No? Well, you should probably do that soon. Data is a terrible thing to waste.
• Delta! I'm about as big a fan of Depeche Mode as it gets... but, anymore, I don't even know what I'm listening to. I can appreciate that a band needs to grow and change, but I don't like their latest album, Delta Machine, because it's simply not the band I know...
Everything they released up through Songs of Faith and Devotion was genius. Ultra was a bit of a misstep, but still excellent. Then things went terribly wrong. Exciter was truly awful. Then the band kinda redeemed themselves with Playing the Angel and Sounds of the Universe because I could actually enjoy the music on them (for the most part). Now they've gone completely off the rails again. I have a feeling that what comes next will be the breaking point for me. Kind of scary for a band I've loved for over 30 years now.
• iCloud! For the most part, I am a total Apple Whore who loves everything the company puts out with a fiery passion. Unfortunately, there are lapses in my faith from time to time. One of the biggest? It's the massive failure that is Apple's "iCloud" service. It is truly a pile of shit that does not work very well. As if that weren't bad enough, it is LESS CAPABLE than the service it replaced, "MobileMe," because it can't even sync your frickin' keychain data. With each passing day I despise it more, and pray to Steve Jobs that they will finally fix the steamer. So far nothing. And it's getting so bad that even Apple developers are staying away. This article has an excellent summary of just how bad the situation it.
And now? I need a chocolate bunny. Happy Easter to all who celebrate the holiday.
Posted on Monday, April 1st, 2013
Sometimes you get the bear. Sometimes the bear gets you.
Though I would never actually want to kill a bear, so that saying doesn't make much sense for me. Unless I'm "getting" the bear so I can give him a hug. A bear hug!
In any event, the March issue of THRICE Fiction actually slipped a day into April, and there are a lot of excuses I could give as to why that happened. But, the honest truth is that the issue just ended up being a much bigger project than usual (54 pages!), and I didn't budget enough time to get things done.
Oh well. It turned out great, so hopefully our readers will think it's worth the wait...
The cover this time around was a fun one. Fearless THRICE Fiction editor RW Spryszak told me that he kept on seeing "a man standing at a bus stop in the rain" for the cover as he was reviewing submissions. I thought this was a great idea for a Spring issue, so it didn't take any amount of convincing for me to take the idea and run with it. Especially since I could do a kinda tribute to one of my favorite films of all time... Hayao Miyazaki's wonderful My Neighbor Totoro...
But since Totoro is trademarked, I decided to use geese instead. I also thought geese would be funnier.
The original cover image is composited from 23 separate photos from locations like Costa Rica, Maui, Barcelona, Vancouver, Seattle, and Fiji (among others)... plus one very important piece of stock photo art...
The process of stitching all the photos together into a single cohesive image is long and tedious (as I explained in a step-by-step for a past cover here). Once that's been completed, parts were painted over in Photoshop, then run through various filters to add rain and make the image look kinda-sorta like a painting. As usual, it would probably have been faster had I ACTUALLY painted the thing, but at least this way I didn't get any paint on my clothes. Anyway... here's the end result...
And that's that.
For a look at the rest of the artwork in this issue, click onward to an extended entry...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Posted on Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013
I am not much of a shopper. Most of the shopping I do is under protest because there are few activities I loathe more than having to drag myself through a mall. I don't like the crowds. I usually don't like the salespeople. I don't like the prices. And, most of the time, I don't even like the products. It's for this reason that most all of the things I buy are purchased online. No crowds. No salespeople. Good prices. And every product you can imagine.
But, for things like clothes, online is not always the best option when all things are considered.
So most times when I need new threads, I brave a trip to the mall.
Where, if I find something I like, I buy several copies so I can put off my next trip as long as possible. If I find a great shirt? I'll buy a half-dozen. Find a good deal on jeans? I'll buy ten. Find a pair of shoes I like? I'll buy out their entire stock on-hand. Etc. Etc.
And it's all good.
Until my supply runs out.
Last year I finally had to retire the last pair (of four pairs) of Nike trainers that I had purchased five years earlier. It was a solemn occasion filled with all kinds of grief. Not only because I was having to trash a pair of shoes that I really liked... but because it meant I would have to go shoe shopping again. It was such a tragic event that it made me wish I had a time machine. Not so I could go back and kill Hitler or anything worthwhile like that... but so that I could go back and buy all four pairs from "Athletic Attic" PLUS have them order another ten pair. That way I wouldn't have to go shoe shopping until at least the year 2022.
Fast forward to today, and I had to toss out the last of the six Eddie Bauer Henleys I purchased nearly thirteen years ago. This really sucked, because I don't like the newer Eddie Bauer Henleys. Which means I'm going to have to eventually go out to a (=shudder=) mall so I can find a suitable replacement.
When I'd rather go have some teeth pulled.
Oh well, at least I'll have something to blog about.
Posted on Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013
When I was looking for geese to use on the cover for THRICE Fiction No. 7, there was one goose that wasn't going to work... but I liked the way he looked, so I shoved him aside. Today as I was working on another project, he popped up...
This is one of the geese that hang around the courtyard at Barcelona Cathedral (also known as "La Seu"). As I started snapping photos, he became curious about the noise from my camera, and just kind of stared at me until I stopped.
Posted on Thursday, April 4th, 2013
The big news today is the passing of famed movie critic Roger Ebert, which I'll get to in a minute. But also passing today is Carmine Infantino, a prolific comic book artist whose work when a long way towards shaping the comic books as we know them today. The man redefined The Flash, for heaven's sake, and paved the way for The Silver Age of comics.
Despite all his influence and success, I was never a fan of Carmine Infantino. I thought his art style was sketchy and sloppy. I felt his anatomy and proportions were off-putting. I didn't care for the way he used (or didn't use) perspective. And I never like his background art for those rare times he bothered to actually put any detail into his backgrounds. Don't get me wrong, the guy knew how to illustrate a story... I just didn't care for the way he did it...
And yet, it would be impossible for me not to admire the guy who did so much for the comics medium that I love. For that I thank you, Mr. Infantino... rest in peace.
As for Roger Ebert...
Photo by Buena Vista Television/AP Photo
For me, he was THE film critic. Along with Gene Siskel, he created At the Movies, which was a program I obsessed over in the 1980's. I love movies, and back then there wasn't an internet to hang out with fellow buffs to discuss them. Instead there was Siskel and Ebert every week. Of the two, Ebert was the one who was closest to my tastes, and his "thumbs up" sent me to the local movie theater more times than I can count. He expanded my love of cinema, helped me to find films that I still love to this day, and was a tireless voice in the movie geek community that I valued right up until his death. Even when I didn't agree with him.
But movies were not the only thing Roger Ebert helped to open my mind to.
His astounding positive outlook in the face of devastating health problems were inspirational in a way that I can't even begin to enunciate. The guy was in hospitals all the time, he lost his jaw, he lost his ability to speak and eat, he was dealing with crap that would crush the spirit of most anyone. And yet... he refused to let it get him down. He kept working. He kept inspiring. He kept living...
Photo by Associated Press
"I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute to joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn't always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out."
We should all do so well to leave such a legacy. Rest in peace, Mr. Ebert.
Posted on Friday, April 5th, 2013
I guess it really is all downhill from here.
Not much I can do but try and enjoy the ride.
Posted on Saturday, April 6th, 2013
When looking back through old photos, I was shocked to find out just how fashionable I was when I was a tyke.
What I wouldn't give to have some of these outfits today.
In my size, of course.
Especially that last one. Because... damn.
Posted on Sunday, April 7th, 2013
Don't go going off all half-cocked... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Cheese! April is National Grilled Cheese Month, and grilled cheese sandiwches just happens to be one of my favorite foods on earth. Sadly, most people seem to think that a grilled cheese consists of a slice of cheese melted between two slices of bread in a skillet. Not even close. Great grilled cheese sandwiches are creative culinary delights that are a little more interesting...
I've already blogged about my "Death By Cheese Sandwich," which is one of my favorite recipes... but lately I've been experimenting with shredded cheese recipes (which melt so very, very beautifully) and adding things like sliced green apples or tomatoes to my sandwiches. The last batch I made had Feta Cheese mixed in, which was mind-blowing. Next up I'm going to try a recipe which is made with potato chips. The varieties of grilled cheese deliciousness are endless. Which is why I want to encourage everybody to take National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Month by the balls and seek out a few of the more inventive ways of cooking one of the world's most classic foods.
• Hannibal! Let's just get this out of the way... I feel that Sir Anthony Hopkins' portrayal of Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs is one of the most inspired performances in all of cinematic history. It is one of the few times I can use the adjective "flawless" when describing what actors do. With that in mind, I put my expectations into low-gear when tuning into NBC's efforts to turn the character into a Dexter-style television series...
So imagine my surprise when I start watching the premiere episode of Hannibal only to find that creator genius Bryan Fuller wisely decided to sidestep a failed attempt at mimicking the Anthony Hopkins movies. I was riveted as I watched a much more flawed and interesting version of investigator Will Graham (played by Hugh Dancy) rope me into one of the best homicide dramas in recent memory. As the show continued to play out, I found myself excited at the prospect that this might actually work out.
But then Hannibal Lecter showed up and everything went sideways.
No offense to Mads Mikkelsen, who is a fine actor (he was really good in Casino Royale)... but the guy is horribly miscast as Hannibal Lecter. For reasons that escape me, he's playing the part as about as flat and uninteresting as it gets. I certainly wasn't expecting Sir Anthony Hopkins, but I was expecting to see some of the sparkle and charm that makes Hannibal such a compelling character. Well, there's none of that here. It's the idea is that Lecter is so charming and fascinating that you don't want him to be evil. The fact that he IS a psychotic serial killer is what makes him so terrifying. With Mads Mikkelsen being so eerily lacking in charm, he comes off as exactly what he shouldn't... a psychotic serial killer! I dunno. I'm going to keep watching in the hopes that Hannibal grows on me because Will Graham is so beautifully realized here... but, unfortunately, I can see a day when Lecter's half of the coin pushes me over the edge.
• Bridegroom! "It's not a gay thing. It's not a straight thing. It's a human thing." — I was really happy this Kickstarter project got funded, and I can't wait to see what Linda Bloodworth-Thompson has done with a story that everybody needs to see...
• NIK! When Google bought out NIK Software, I was gutted. They obviously bought the company to get their hands on Snapseed, and I worried that the rest of their brilliant apps would be tossed aside. That may yet come true but, in the meanwhile, Google has dropped the price of NIK's plugin suite to a astounding $149! If you're a photographer who uses Photoshop, scrape together the $149 and RUN, don't walk, to their website and snap it up before Google changes their mind. Color Efex and Silver Efex are sheer magic for punching up your images, and all the rest of the tools are just gravy. If 70% off and my praise doesn't compel you to jump onboard, they have a 15-day free trial available.
• WTF? Seriously. I wants to die now.
• Mini! More and more I have been uploading double-sized photos to my blog, then manually down-sizing the dimensions in the HTML. This makes it so that readers with a Retina Display get a much better quality photo to look at...
Detail of Non-Retina low-res on the Left... Retina double-res on the Right
The problem is that readers without a Retina Display (or equivalent) are downloading a bigger image file, only to have their browser throw out every other pixel. Kinda a waste of time and bandwidth but, sorry, one day all displays will be "Retina" in quality, and I'm trying to future-proof my images here. To make this as painless as possible, I am using a tool called JPEGmini to reduce the size of my large images (small images don't net much of a savings). So far, it's worked surprisingly well, and my largest images are being reduced as much as half. Yes. Half. But the best part? The image quality is maintained! Looking as hard as I can, I can't spot any difference between the original and the JPEGmini version! It's been working so well that I've taken to compress my camera libraries as well. If you're looking to save some space with your JPEGs, I highly recommend giving JPEGmini a try (there's a free version to check it out, so what are you waiting for?).
• Veronica! If you loved me, you'd donate one measly dollar to the Veronica Mars movie project so it can become the most backer backed project in Kickstarter history. If you don't love me, then you can still donate a dollar and pretend to love me... I'm perfectly fine with that. Just five days left...
And now... TIME TO MAKE FRESH BREAD FOR MORE GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICHES!
Posted on Monday, April 8th, 2013
What a hunk of crap.
A little less than a year ago I was on a Kickstarter high, backing a lot of projects that looked interesting and useful. One of those projects was for the "Pebble Smart Watch," where my $115 pledge would get me an actual watch once the unit went into production.
My thinking was that something like this would be really useful when I travel. Often times I'm in strange places or potentially dangerous situations where I don't want to be flashing my iPhone around. Why invite somebody to steal it? Enter Pebble. This "smart watch" communicates with iPhone and can display notifications for calls, emails, texts, and such. It will also allow you to do simple tasks like control your music. So, cool, I can monitor my notifications without having to whip out my iPhone every time. Sounds good.
Eleven months later, guess what shows up in my mailbox? That's right, Pebble!
And it's pretty shitty.
First of all, it's huge. Massively huge. If you have boney little toddler arms like mine, it might as well be a brick...
As if that weren't bad enough, look how THICK this fucker is...
Oh... and did you notice all the little specs of dust in the case seams? IT CAME THAT WAY! I just took it out of the box, and it comes pre-dirty. And given the number of ugly seams scattered all over Pebble, I can only guess that it's going to look even worse once I actually walk around with it and it gets exposed to the elements.
What's so shocking is that this makes the bulky old Casio Calculator Watch I had in high school look positively svelte. Seriously, until you strap one of these massive things to your wrist, you have no idea how obtrusive and uncomfortable an accessory can be. There is no fucking way I am going to be wearing this around day to day.
If I were to actually consider wearing this pile of crap, I'd probably take time to do a complete review of the thing. Since I'm not, I can say this from the five minutes I played with Pebble...
And that's about it, really.
Rumor has it that Apple is working on a "smart watch" of their own. Why I didn't wait for that, I will never know.
If you've got big wrists and like the retro-future possibilities that Pebble is promising, this may be a watch for you (hey, I'll sell you mine for $50 plus shipping! SOLD!)... otherwise, I'd give Pebble a pass.
Posted on Tuesday, April 9th, 2013
Sleeping is not something I'm good at. At least not any more. I think I used to be, but that was a long time ago and I just don't remember. Last night was worse than usual because I had a lot of stuff to get done before catching my flight this morning. I also had a lot of stuff on my mind, which is always a sleepy-time deal breaker for me.
Arriving in Salt Lake City International Airport was made interesting because a couple Mormon missionaries were onboard. After having been away for two years with precious little communication with friends and family, there was quite a crowd waiting for them (as you might imagine). Posters and banners were on display, and a wave of cheers erupted as the missionaries descended on the escalator into the airport lobby.
It was a beautiful sight.
For the life of me I can't wrap my head around the commitment it takes for these kids... as young as 18... to give up everything and everybody they know so they can be sent to God-knows-where for two years of their lives. It's a leap of faith that boggles the mind. Many times, they're being sent to a foreign country where they won't even know the language. They're partnered up with somebody they barely know. They're given a near impossible task of converting the natives to a new religion. To this day I honestly can't decide if it's an adventure of a lifetime... or the height of insanity.
Luckily, I never had to find out personally.
But I have talked to Mormon friends and acquaintances who went on missions, and they all say it was the best time of their lives. A part of me is skeptical but, I'm here to tell you, the stories they have to tell are about as fascinating as you'll ever hear. The trials and tribulations of being a missionary for the Latter Day Saints may be rewarding, but it's also no picnic.
Which is why I'm always as nice as I can be when I encounter them in the wild (especially in foreign countries) or when they show up at my door. They've got it tough enough, and giving them a break is the least I can do.
I didn't hang around the airport and party with the missionaries since Marty was nice enough to pick me up so I could have dinner with him and his family. No offense to the Mormons, but Marty makes sure there's beer available when we party.
Posted on Wednesday, April 10th, 2013
Today was kinda a play day where I had no real agenda. That's the good news.
Today was filled with disappointments. That's the bad news.
But, all in all... any day away from the office is a good one, am I right? I mean, sure, I worked a bit... but most of my time was spent looking for things to do in Salt Lake City that I haven't done before. I've been here many, many times, so that is a bit of a challenge.
My first stop was decided last night when I saw "BRUGES WAFFLES" flash across my hotel television's concierge screen. "Wow. I could go for some authentic Belgian waffles!" I said to myself. And so I got up and walked the three lonnnnnng blocks to the waffle shop in time for...
DISAPPOINTMENT NO. 1
On their website, Bruges Waffles says that they have "authentic caramelized waffles," which is exactly what I wanted. The reality? Not so much...
Don't get me wrong... it was a delicious waffle, and the cream was out of this world. Overall, a wonderful breakfast. But where is the pearl sugar that makes that delightful speckle of caramelized bits that I love? I sure couldn't find them. If they were there, my waffle would have looked like this...
Photo from A Feast for the Eyes... which has a recipe for the waffles you're looking for!
And let me tell you... those pearls of caramelized sugar are what makes a Belgian waffle go from "good" to "FOOD OF THE GODS!"
Next up? I wanted to visit the Natural History Museum of Utah. I had been there before years ago, but they relocated to a new building in 2011, and it's supposed to be pretty spectacular. The problem is that there's no real "elegant" way of getting there via public transportation. By car, it's a 16 minute drive from downtown to their location on edge of the University of Utah campus. But I had to spend an hour and fifteen minutes taking the Blue Trax Line to the Red Trax Line all the way out to the University Medical Center... then catch a campus shuttle over some gawdaful roads to get to the museum where I was faced with...
DISAPPOINTMENT NO. 2
The Natural History Museum of Utah is, indeed, in a spectacular new location and has some exhibits that are incredibly well done. The dinosaur exhibits alone are worth the price of admission. Honestly, if you're in Salt Lake City, you owe it to yourself to check it out... it's totally worth it, even if you have to go through public transportation hell to get there.
HOWEVER... when I was there it was absolute bedlam because (I'm guessing) there was a school field trip going on. This wouldn't have been a big deal, except the kids were running around going ape-shit insane. Museum staff didn't even attempt to reign them in, which was just senseless. And the "chaperone adults" that were accompanying the kids didn't bother to "chaperone" at all. They just lounged around while kids were yelling, screaming, running, kicking, and beating on the displays. It was beyond crazy. Even if they didn't make the kids behave, you'd think they would AT LEAST attempt to keep walkways clear so people could get around the museum... but... no. After 45 minutes, I couldn't take it any more and left. But I still got to see some cool stuff...
The dinosaur exhibits are truly first class.
RAWRRRRR! Says the ancient giant crocodile!
The dioramas were nicely done too... if you like looking at dead stuffed animals.
The "Sky Deck" offers amazing views of downtown Salt Lake City and beyond.
There was a really nice weaving exhibit that was much more interesting than I would have thought.
I complained about the ordeal of using public transportation to get to the museum, but there's one cool bit I should mention. When I was ready to leave, I checked my phone to see how often the campus shuttles ran. Much to my shock and delight, they have a web app that shows you where the shuttles are AND you can tap on a station to get an estimate as to when the next shuttle will arrive there...
Now THAT'S cool... and so useful! I wish the TRAX light rail system here had the same feature.
The one thing I wanted to do above anything else while I am here is to visit The Leonardo so I could see the awesome-sounding MUMMIES OF THE WORLD exhibit. Unfortunately, that brings us to...
DISAPPOINTMENT NO. 3
The show was sold out for the day. And the next day. And the next day. Talk about a soul-crushing sense of defeat... I missed getting to see mummies, dammit!
Last night Marty had mentioned that The Apple Store had relocated from The Gateway to a new shopping mall built by the Mormon church called "City Creek Center," so I decided to stop because I really want a different case for my iPhone 5. When I first got it, there were like -zero- cases available, so I thought I would have a better selection now that seven months have passed. You can probably imagine that this brings us to...
DISAPPOINTMENT NO. 4
The iPhone 5 case selection at the Apple Store is only barely better than it was back in September. They don't even have a simple bumper I can buy... they come attached to a hunk of ugly plastic. And the rest of the cases they have are pretty lame. WAH! Oh well... City Creek Center is really a beautiful mall (if you're into that kind of thing) so I was happy I got to see it...
After bumming around beautiful Temple Square for a while (which is never a disappointment), my waffle started wearing off so I decided to head back to the Bruges Waffles shop again for a late lunch. They advertise having "wonderfully crispy 'frites' or fries, with 10 delicious homemade mayos." Now, as anybody who has read this blog for even a little while knows, I am absolutely crave "patatjes met" (Dutch Fries with Dutch Mayo) and also love "frites avec mayo" (Belgian Fries with European Mayo). So this was kinda a no-brainer idea, right? Not really...
DISAPPOINTMENT NO. 5
Patatjes Met? More like Patatjes Meh. First of all, the mayo is NOT creamy, delicious, Dutch/European-style mayonnaise with that delicious taste I love. Nope... it's no different than the clumpy, egg-flavored American mayo you get out of a jar. In fact, I would't be surprised if that's exactly what it is. The "homemade" stuff they're talking about must be American jar mayo mixed with spices or whatever. "Disappointed" doesn't even begin to cover it. But that's just the beginning, because then I got the "frites"...
They weren't "bad"... but they also weren't the big, crispy, golden frites you get in Belgium. Not by a long shot. Too many of the fries were limp, waggy, and overly-greasy. But making matters worse was that a full half of my frites were crusty little nubs that aren't fit for dipping... they're barely fit for eating...
BULLSHIT! Even the worst frites shop in Belgium would never serve this. I make better fries at home. Hell, McDONALDS makes better fries than this. The entire time I was eating this mess, all I kept thinking about was flying to Belgium and getting me some real frites. Or, better still, flying to the Netherlands and getting me some delicious patatjes met...
Oh damn. Just look at those beautiful fried potatoes! AND LOOK AT THAT LUSH, CREAMY, FLAVORFUL MAYO FOR GOD'S SAKE!!! This is the stuff you want!
Not wanting to risk any further disappointment, I headed back to my hotel so I could rest up and get some work done.
And now it's time to leave all my disappointment behind me so I can put some pants on and head out for an evening that promises to be anything but disappointing...
Posted on Thursday, April 11th, 2013
As expected, it was mind-blowing amazing show. They played a nice mix of both new material and beloved classics. And, just like the four previous times I've seen them live, played them extremely well. Along with Depeche Mode and Matt & Kim, OMD is easily one of my favorite live bands, and any opportunity to see them in concert is a no-brainer...
The tour is in support of their new album (released just two days ago here in the US!) called English Electric. Overall, I like the album very much, and there's some pop music treasures on there that I'll be listening to for a very long time. However... OMD being OMD, they decided to add a bunch of "experimental" stuff that I didn't care for at all. Luckily, it wasn't enough to torpedo the whole album (see: Dazzle Ships), but oh how I wish the band would stick to cranking out the beautiful pop music that I love them for and just stop with the self-indulgent artsy crap (or whatever)...
Still, well-worth a listen if you've liked their stuff in the past.
I've put a setlist review in an extended entry, if you're so inclined...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Posted on Friday, April 12th, 2013
Back to reality. For a few days anyway.
While hanging out at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on layover yesterday, I ran across a couple who were on their way to Australia so they could hike around the Outback for two weeks. I thought this sounded like a great vacation... assuming I could ever get used to all the bugs...
It's certainly beautiful enough to lure me back.
And now I suppose I should unpack my suitcase so I can get it packed up again on Sunday.
Posted on Saturday, April 13th, 2013
This is a blog post I've been holding for nearly a week. It concerns my home state of Washington suing a florist who refused to service the same-sex wedding of a long-time customer (now that we have marriage equality here). The story itself is a sad one... and most certainly controversial... but that's not the reason I've been sitting on it. The reason is that I just can't form a solid conclusion on the subject, and it's been driving me crazy.
But before we go there, an interlude...
My personal beliefs don't allow me to give money to strangers when I can't verify how the money will be used. So, for example, when a homeless person approaches and asks me for my spare change so they can eat, I always say "I'm sorry, I don't have anything I can give you." This way, even if I do have some change, I'm not lying because (philosophically) I really can't give it to them. They might use the money to purchase something harmful to themselves or others, and then I would be a party to it. Instead, if they're hungry, I'll offer to buy them some food to eat. This is a win-win solution because they get the food they need and I get to help out without violating my beliefs.
But, like everything in life, it's not really so cut-and-dry. Can you ever truly verify what happens to the money you give? Let's say I help a stranded motorist buy gas so he can get home. But once he gets home, he siphons the gas from the car and uses it to burn his house down with his wife inside because she was cheating on him. And what if the owner of the gas station uses their profits to bet on dog-fights which torture and kill innocent animals? By trying to help, I just enabled two people to commit terrible acts, even though I never intended it to happen that way.
The reality is that the only way i can truly control what happens with the money I earn is to never spend it. Since that's not really an option, I just do the best I can to be as responsible as I can... then hope for the best. Money may indeed be the root of all evil, but I'm trying to stem the tide where I can.
With all this in mind, I feel like condemning the florist shop owner is kinda hypocritical. Her beliefs don't include same-sex marriage, so isn't she just doing the best she can to stem the tide? And, since this is America, shouldn't she have the freedom to follow her religious convictions so she won't be responsible for contributing to something she feels is wrong? In her own way, she may even be trying to keep her long-time customer from doing something she considers harmful. And for this she's going to get sued?
That doesn't seem fair. For better or worse, American citizens have the freedom to be raging bigots if they want to be. So why shouldn't this freedom extend to shop owners? If they want to hide behind religion so they can avoid doing the right thing, shouldn't that be their right? It's certainly the right of the customer to let the entire community know that the florist is a homophobic piece of shit. And since more and more people are standing on the right side of history to support love and equality, won't the florist eventually go out of business because she'll keep losing customers? Why do we need to bring in the lawyers and start a lawsuit when the problem will solve itself?
Perhaps we should have faith in the free market to work these things out. If businesses want to live in the dark ages, let them die out as society leaves them behind. New businesses will take their place, and life goes on.
I may not always agree with Democrats (or Republicans, for that matter), but there is one thing President Obama said as he was campaigning that really resonated with me when it comes to a person building a business... they didn't build it alone. This was explained beautifully by Elizabeth Warren...
"I hear all this, you know, 'Well, this is class warfare, this is whatever.' No. There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own — nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police-forces and fire-forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn't have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory — and hire someone to protect against this — because of the work the rest of us did. Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea. God bless — keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along."
It's this overriding truth which has me not giving a fuck if the florist's freedom to be a bigot is infringed upon. That gay couple she refuses to service? Their tax dollars contributed to the system that allows her business to exist in the first place. But, more importantly to me, my tax dollars contribute to the system that allows her business to exist. The idea that some homophobic asshole can benefit from my tax dollars, then turn around and discriminate against customers holding a perfectly legal event? It pisses me off. Washington has legalized marriage equality. If you don't like it, then pack up your flowers and move to a state where you can benefit from tax dollars that support your bigotry. Otherwise, you deserve to get sued.
Well...The bigger truth here is that my tax dollars are going to crap I loathe all the time. I'm a vegetarian. I believe the meat industry is environmentally hostile and killing this planet. And yet beef, pork, and poultry mega-corporations are getting billions in tax subsidies. This is how Burger King can sell a steroid-ridden "Whopper Jr." for $1.29, when that's a tiny fraction of how much it actually costs to make. For oh so many reasons, it should cost much, much, much more, but the US government uses my tax dollars to keep it cheap, and that pisses me off. Much like the way poultry subsidies allow Chick-fil-A to make record profits... which they then use to support hate groups. It's a hard pill to swallow, but I'm sure there are things I do like supporting with my tax dollars that other people don't believe in, so I guess it all balances out.
And if my tax dollars are already supporting a bunch of things I don't believe in, then what difference does it make that a florist I don't believe in is getting tax money?
What if this bigoted florist was refusing to sell flowers for a wedding because the bride and groom were black? Or short? Or left-handed? Gay friends have told me that their sexuality is not some "lifestyle choice" they make, but instead a part of who they are. They were born that way, and nothing can change it. Just as straight people don't "choose" to be straight, they don't "choose" to be gay. I choose to believe them... partly because they are my friends and I trust them... but mostly because it would be fucking insane to think that homosexuality is some kind of massive deception by gays around the world and throughout all of history. And, since it would be discriminatory and illegal to deny floral service to a bride and groom with red hair wanting to get legally married... it should be discriminatory and illegal to deny floral service to a groom and a groom with gay hair wanting to get legally married.
We have chosen to make laws against discrimination. Here in Washington, we have chosen to extend that to include discrimination against same-sex marriage. If you break the law, there should be consequences. Like getting your ass sued.
And it goes on and on.
Marriage equality is something I support 100%. Love is love, and gay couples have every right to celebrate their love in marriage the same way that straight couples do. Anything less is not fair... it's not right... and it's not human. I believe this so strongly that I want to cheer on our Attorney General as he fights discrimination in Washington State. That's his job, after all.
But a part of me will always wonder if this is the best approach. She's withholding flowers... not urgent medical care... not life-sustaining goods... not some other critical need... it's flowers. Might it be better to just boycott her homophobic ass and let nature take its course? Let her business inevitably die out on its own instead of turn this florist into some kind of misplaced martyr for "religious freedom" that slows down our march to equality acceptance? That seems like it might be a better route to take.
This is not about fucking flowers... this is about dignity, respect, and human rights! It's about...
Oh hell. At some point I really just have to stop this.
Posted on Sunday, April 14th, 2013
Am I doing the smart thing and packing my suitcase right now? No. Instead I'm here blogging... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Awarded! I pretty much think that all award shows are crap, but the MTV Movie Awards at least show stuff you want to see. Not just with the nominees, but also in the commercials, which featured looks at upcoming hot movies... including two I'm dying to see: Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness. I think I've rewound and rewatched both spots on my DVR at least a half-dozen times now. Here's hoping they live up to the hype.
• Beebus! I know Justin Bieber is young and all... but holy shit...
I've been to the Anne Frank House. It is a very somber and emotional ordeal to experience how her family was forced to live and what they went through to survive. Once you've seen Anne's hopes and dreams on display throughout the museum, you're reminded that she ultimately didn't survive, and it's like a punch in the gut. You feel it.
But all Bieber seemed to take away from the experience was how cool it would be if she were alive today so she could be his fan. I honestly don't know if I should chime in on what a fucking moron he is... or just feel sorry for the little wanker being so blissfully clueless about anything except his own ego.
• Graze! In the UK they have a service which delivers healthy snacks directly to your mailbox once a week called "Graze." They're kind of famous for their olives, but they've got a pretty big assortment of nifty treats. Not so long ago, they launched here in the US, and I've been a member for the past twelve weeks. To make a long story short, it's probably not the greatest value for your money, as the four portions you get for $5 (delivered) are pretty small. That being said, I do like the variety and convenience...
Recently Graze sent out paper doll bunnies to their members(?!?). I have no idea why, as it seemed like a huge fucking waste of money. I would have been happier to get a dollar off my next box or something useful like that, but oh well.
About the only thing I don't like so far are their "flapjacks," which are a slimy granola bar of some kind. Other than that, everything is pretty decent. For some reason we Americans are denied the olives, but hopefully they'll be added at a later time. I think the service is still in beta, so signing up is limited to invite codes... but they should be launching for reals any time now. Might be worth checking out when they do.
• Coachella! Tonight OMD played Coachella and YouTube was streaming it live. While not quite the same experience as being there, I was really happy to see the show from the comfort of my living room...
Oh how I love this band. If you wanna take a look, YouTube may still have it up.
• Opener! Speaking of OMD, their opening act was a guy calling himself Diamond Rings. Surprisingly, his band exceeded my expectations in just about every way. Most of his music is inspired directly from 80's acts, and Marty and I spent his entire set tossing out which bands were the template for the song he was playing. I ended up buying his latest album off iTunes, as it has some good tracks...
If you're into 80's pop and looking for something new, Diamond Rings is worth a listen.
And... now I suppose I should pack that suitcase.
Posted on Monday, April 15th, 2013
Boston is a city I love.
I've visited many times.
I have friends there. My favorite baseball team is from there.
Not surprisingly, the explosions that targeted The Boston Marathon shook me quite badly. I've stayed at the Lenox Hotel which got evacuated today. I've been to the Boston Public Library, which is just across the corner. I've walked down Boylston Street (where the explosions occurred) more times than I can count.And I was there today... if only in a memory.
My heart goes out to everyone affected by this senseless tragedy.
Posted on Tuesday, April 16th, 2013
The nice thing about working in Anaheim? DISNEYLAND!
It's the perfect place to take extended lunch hours for a ride and a meal. And, for this week at least, visiting an exhibit on Iron Man Armor to promote Iron Man 3... arriving in a theater near you on May 3rd!
They relocated Tony Stark's "Hall of Armor" to the Innoventions pavilion in Tomorrowland...
But the best part? You can SUIT UP to BE Virtual Iron Man!
It kind of works like an Xbox Kinnect game, where you stand in front of a screen with a camera to control the action...
When you start up, the armor comes flying onto you so you can dance, shoot stuff with your repulsors, and fly around...
Really, really cool.
I opted for a pricey (but delicious!) lunch at Wine Country Trattoria, because you can get a dining package which inclides priority viewing for Disney California Adventure's "World of Color" show. The dessert plate was awesome...
Off to Paradise Pier for the show...
I didn't want to get soaked, so I decided to watch from the second level reserved area, which was perfect. It reminds me of a show I saw as a kid called "Dancing Waters" which was at Sea World in San Diego...
It's all water, colored lights, lasers, and projected animation.
Pretty cool. And totally worth buying that expensive lunch pacakge to get such great "seats!"
The drive over the mountain passes was pretty harsh. It was snowing like gangbusters, and there was water a half-inch thick on the roadway...
But, when I got to Seattle, the sky was on fire, so it all turned out okay in the end...
Annnnd... I'm spent.
Posted on Wednesday, April 17th, 2013
Today I actually got to spend a little time in the parks, which was fun. The weather consisted of flawless blue skies with a nice breeze to take the edge off the heat.
And now some quick comments on the rides I got to see as I rushed around The House of the Mouse...
If you're thinking "Holy crap that's a lot of closed rides! you'd be right. And the horrible thing is that they're mostly the big "E-Ticket" rides that people most want to see... Splash Mountain, Space Mountan, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Soarin', Dinseyland Railroad... so it's a major bummer. Especially Space Mountain and Soarin', which are only closed because (apparently) Disney stupidly ignored OSHA warnings that were given last year. Oh well. I've riden them all before... many times... but it makes me sad for all the people who came all the way to Disneyland to experience them, only to be told "no."
After dinner I stopped by to see Abigail for a few minutes and get a new wallet, so that was a nice end to my day.
Now it's off to sleep before another busy day tomorrow...
Posted on Thursday, April 18th, 2013
No work today and a late flight home.
It was a golden opportunity to goof around Disneyland and California Adventure so I could do all the little things I never got around to for the past two days. Which, given the massive number of attraction closures, wasn't a lot. California Screamin'? CLOSED. Soarin' Over California? CLOSED. Radiator Springs Racers? CLOSED. Space Mountain? CLOSED. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad? CLOSED. I mean, come on... even the frickin' "Golden Zephyr" was CLOSED...
And The Jungle Cruise is scheduled to close for refurbishment next week too.
Though it's not like Disney has to give a fuck. People don't pay to ride the rides... they pay to enter the park. So long as they open their doors, they're making money, regardless of how many attractions they're actually bothering to open. The problem is that with so many of the most popular rides being closed on a busy day like today, all the rides that are open are overwhelmed with massively long line. It makes for a pretty shitty day at Disneyland.
Well, not so much for me. I've ridden all the rides here dozens of times. But can you imagine the family who saved for three years to take that magical trip to Disneyland only to arrive and find tons of shit closed? Pretty harsh.
Oh well. Even with half the good shit not being open, Disneyland is still a fun place to be, I suppose. And I did get to ride Mickey's Fun Wheel, which I've never done before...
There's quite a view from the top...
I also stood in line for an hour-and-a-half to ride "Toy Story Midway Mania" because it's Just. That. Fun.
Time to fly...
Posted on Friday, April 19th, 2013
The best piece of advice I give when people ask about visiting Disney World in Orlando is to stay on-site in a Disney hotel. It's part of the experience, it has all kinds of benefits, and even the cheapest Disney property assures you of a clean, comfortable, convenient place to stay. If I had the option of going to Disney World today and staying off-site... or saving my money for an additional six months so I could stay on-site... I'd wait the six months.
Disneyland is a little different, because the off-site hotels are often just as close and convenient as The Disneyland Hotel and Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel... even though you don't get the "Magic Mornings" early-entry and other benefits. The exception would be Disney's Grand Californian Hotel and Spa, which sits inside California Adventure...
The hotel has its own private entrance to both California Adventure and Downtown Disney, which is pretty special.
But the biggest draw for me is that it's yet another architectural triumph from Peter Dominick, who designed Disney World's awesome Animal Kingdom Lodge and Wilderness Lodge. Sadly, he died back in 2009, so I guess this is the last Disney hotel we'll be seeing from him. Staying at his hotels is an experience every bit as awesome as visiting Disney World or Disneyland...
The "Downtown Disney" private entrance to The Grand Californian.
Even the frickin' front doors are magnificent...
No joke... just walking up to those big main doors with the sun shining through is an amazing experience.
The rooms are quite nice, and everything reminds me very much of staying at Disney's Wilderness Lodge...
And now... a word about the view.
Since I was already paying the huge expense of staying at The Grand Californian, I felt I might as well go all the way and get a "Premium View" room... which either faces Downtown Disney, the parks, or the pool courtyard. Downtown Disney is noisy, and I've seen many noisy pools, so I picked the "Premium Parks View."
Only to find that my third floor room had no view of the parks. All I could see was trees. And the snout of Grizzly Mountain... if I went to the extreme edge of my balcony and leaned out.
So I went back down to the lobby and complained. There it was explained to me that the trees have grown over the 13 years the hotel has been open, so the lower floors don't have the view they used to. This was kind of upsetting, because they still sell them as Premium Park View Rooms! If they KNOW that there's no view, why do they still sell them as such? Well, money. And "technically" it still is a "parks view" since the parks are in that direction... you just can't see them.
In any event, I got moved up to the fifth floor, which was better... but still not the sweeping view of the parks I had imagined. Mostly just trees...
You can see a little Space Mountain and Soarin' Over California easy enough to the left. And if you squint you can see Tower of Terror and Cars Land. And there's Grizzly Peak hiding behind a tree there. So, yeah... it's a parks view. Just not much of one.
So, if you stay at The Grand Californian, skip paying extra for a "Premium View" that's not very premium. If you must have a "Premium View" room, I'd probably go with the "pool courtyard" view. Sure you've got kids screaming at the pool all day long... but at least there's something interesting to look at.
I didn't have any camera except the one in my iPhone, so I don't have any photos of this amazing hotel.
Well, okay, I have two I took one night...
Overall, I give Disney's Grand Californian Hotel and Spa my highest recommendation if you're visiting Disneyland. Yes, it's expensive. Very expensive. But it will enhance your Disney experience, and is likely worth the money (though I'd probably skip the "premium view" expense). I had a terrific stay, and would absolutely stay here again.
Posted on Saturday, April 20th, 2013
I'm trying not to work all weekend.
Posted on Sunday, April 21st, 2013
Trying not to let a truly crappy week of bad news keep me down... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Czech! I know I shouldn't have been shocked when Twitter exploded with morons wanting to bomb "Czechoslovakia" as retaliation for the Boston bombings... but I admit that I honestly was. Partly because "Czechoslovakia" ceased to exist in 1992 after splitting into two countries (Czech Republic and Slovakia). But mostly because the Czech ambassador had to make a public statement explaining that the Czech Republic and Chechnya (where the bombers originated) ARE TWO SEPARATE COUNTRIES. The level of idiocy at work here just boggles my mind. I mean, if you're going to stupidly advocate bombing an entire country, shouldn't you at least make sure you have the right one? I'd hate to lose Prague, one of my favorite cities on earth, because "Czech" sounds suspiciously like "Chechnya" (as if blaming all Chechens for the act of two men with only remote ties to the country wasn't idiotic enough to begin with). If only ignorance was fatal, this country might actually stand a chance.
• OMNI! In what I can only describe as "wonderful," The Internet Archive has now put every episode of OMNI Magazine online, and they're free to access for everyone!
This groundbreaking magazine was something I treasured, and the copious number of talented writers who contributed to it are like a laundry list of genius. Absolutely worth your time to check out.
• CISPA! Why politicians keep dragging the CISPA "cyber security bill" back from the dead is a complete mystery to me. No American citizen in their right mind would want corporations and the government to have this kind of invasive power over their privacy, and yet here we go again. And what's even more horrific than the bill itself, is how many dumbfuck politicians voted for it to pass The House. TWO HUNDRED EIGHTY-EIGHT to ONE HUNDRED TWENTY-SEVEN? SERIOUSLY?!? President Obama has promised to veto this shit if it somehow passes The Senate, but I'm disgusted beyond reason that it's gotten this far. How. Much. Longer? How much longer are American citizens going to put up with this?
• Sequestration! And so it begins. I would once again like to take this opportunity to offer a big FUCK YOU to our government for being so astoundingly incompetent. Again. I'm sure that crippling the airline industry will get our economy right back on track. Seriously, how much longer are American citizens going to put up with this?
• Gaudi! Having been to Antoni Gaudi's masterpiece, The Sagrada Familia Basílica three times now, I can say without hesitation that it is one of the most remarkable architectural achievements I have ever seen. Even if it still isn't completed. I could wander around for hours and never get bored just looking at it...
An absolutely magnificent photo of the ceiling taken by SBA73
Which is why I was happy to see an article at The Verge concerning completion of the structure pop up in my feed reader. Apparently 2026 is the date... I hope I'm around to visit one last time so I can see it completed.
Annnnnd... midnight is approaching. I suppose I should at least pretend to get some sleep.
Posted on Monday, April 22nd, 2013
This morning when I woke up I had an awesome idea for a blog post, but have since forgotten what it was. I can only guess I was going to talk about the perils of not writing things down after you turn 40, but who can say for sure?
Fortunately it's Earth Day today, so there's that to talk about.
Uhhhh... yeah... be kind to the earth... or whatever.
Well that didn't go very far now did it?
Except... Earth Day is also the anniversary of my becoming a vegetarian. I gave up meat on this date back in 1988. Which means it's been 25 years since I've had a hamburger.
A quarter-century since I've had a chicken nugget.
And 9131 days since I've eaten bacon.
No. I don't know how I've survived this long either.
Posted on Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013
And so I broke my tooth.
I don't know how I did it, but I ended up with this sharp crag that kept jabbing my tongue and catching food. My dentist was out last week, so a stand-in dentist ground it down. This kept me from going insane while I was at Disneyland, but didn't solve the problem.
Today was the day for that.
When it comes to dental work, I can't even stand to get my teeth cleaned. So you can imagine how I react to tooth reconstruction. The stabbing. The numbness. The grinding. The scraping. It's all I can do to keep from screaming the whole time. Fortunately, I have a really good dentist, so it was over before I knew it.
The good news? My repaired tooth is beautiful. It fits my bite like a glove.
The bad news? Something is bruised inside my jaw. Once the anesthesia wore off, I was in really bad shape...
Luckily, I still have some Oxycodone left over from my last kidney stone, and it's doing a wonderful job of keeping me from jumping into oncoming traffic to get rid of the pain. I can only hope that whatever is killing me will get better overnight, because I do not have time for this...
Awwww! Who doesn't love Sweet Brown? Especially now that she's doing ads for a dentist!
And now I suppose I should take more prescription drugs and call it a day.
But first? Chocolate pudding.
Posted on Wednesday, April 24th, 2013
I don't take sick days.
Well, I rarely take sick days. It's such a rare event that I can't even remember the last time I've taken one. I go to work even when I'm sick, because that's just the kind of dedicated trooper I am.
But today was different because my aching jaw resulted in a migraine that was exponentially worse. Even looking at a computer screen for longer than 5 minutes made me want to vomit, so it was kind of pointless to go into work. Instead my activity was limited to taking painkillers and anti-nausea medication. It doesn't get much more fun than that.
With nothing to do but lay in bed all day, I tried to get a handle on my short-term goals for the remainder of the year (I gave up on long-term goals ages ago). I didn't come up with much...
That's actually a pretty ambitious list, considering I don't have time to get any of it done.
And... I think my five minutes are up.
Posted on Thursday, April 25th, 2013
Still in pain. But instead of doping up and laying in bed, I doped up and went to work today. I figure if I'm going to be miserable, I might as well try and be productive.
It didn't go very well. I got some stuff done, but never felt like myself. Sometimes in the middle of a project I'd forget who I was and what I was doing. Then I'd have to start all over again, which is the opposite of productive. Oh well. At least my mind was taken of my brain exploding. Kinda.
In happier news, I bought a new heavy-duty KitchenAid mixer for making bread...
Previous loaves were mixed by hand... but I could never get the recipe-stated 7 cups of flour into the mix. My arms would start to die at 6 cups. But this mixer easily manages to take the 7 cups, which makes for a much nicer, more elastic dough.
And now for my review of the KitchenAid KV25MCX Mixer (which is a model made for Costco).
I have mixed feelings on this product, and really wish I had researched more before making my purchase. The only thing I did know was to make sure I got a "fixed-head" mixer instead of a "tilt-head" mixer. "Fixed-head" mixers are supposed to be more powerful, which is what you want when you are kneading bread. I also heard that KitchenAid was a high-quality, made in the USA brand.
The problem is that this model has a "wide" bowl, which is what you don't want when kneading bread. Apparently, wider bowls allow for too much slop, which makes the bread want to climb up the hook more easily instead of staying in the bowl. The problem is nowhere near as bad as I've read, but it does happen every once in a while during the mix. The good news is that wide bowls are better for just about everything else. Except I'm going to be using it for bread 95% of the time, so I guess I should have looked for a more appropriate model.
In non-bread-making news, the mixer is awesome. The wire whisk aerates like a champ. The flat beater is nicely designed to mix thoroughly, quickly, and with minimal mess. I like the controls. I thought I'd be unhappy not having a tilt-head, but the bowl-raise alternative isn't bad at all, even though it's a bit less convenient.
When it comes to build quality, my initial impression is favorable. It's looks tough and feels solid. KitchenAid claims the gears are metal, which should make for good longevity. The problem is that customer reviews claim that not all the gears are metal, and some people are reporting that their gears are stripping after 4-8 months of use. Needless to say, this would suck ass when I paid $330 for a professional, high-quality mixer. But KitchenAid has a one-year warranty, so hopefully I'm covered.
If I was starting all over again, I would have probably invested the extra $110 and got the Pro Series 600, which apparently excels at bread-making. Oh well. Live and learn, I guess.
Posted on Friday, April 26th, 2013
After three days, I'm finally starting to feel better. Not that I'll be doing cartwheels in my living room or anything...
Posted on Saturday, April 27th, 2013
After missing one day at work... and running at half-speed for two more... I've gotten incredibly behind. There are piles of projects on my desk, and I have no idea when I'm going to be able to get caught up.
So, naturally, I put in 16 hours today.
That really put the "turd" in my "Saturday." Especially considering I barely made a dent.
Right now, all I can think about is escape...
Well, escape and a Choco Taco...
Though that probably goes without saying.
Posted on Monday, April 29th, 2013
You'd think I'd be tired of blogging after ten years, but obviously I'm a glutton for punishment... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Blogiversary! And it really has been ten years since this iteration of Blogography began. I bought the domain in March of 2002 and farted around with a hand-coded blog for a year. But then I ended up deleting it and starting over on April 28th, 2003. I managed to salvage a few old entries so, technically, Blogography began on April 18th, but I prefer thinking of the 28th as my blogiversary because that's when Apple's iTunes Music Store debuted as well. In any event, I should probably be celebrating that I made it this long...
Or committing myself to an insane asylum for keeping with it for this long. One or the other. Maybe both.
• Pot! Google's auto-complete is sure revealing. Guess it's a good thing it's legal here now...
It's frickin' adorable.
It's also one of the most frustrating pieces of shit excuses for a video game I've ever played.
Billed as a prequel to the police-themed LEGO City Undercover for the Wii U system, this is a scaled-down version of the massive "sandbox" world of the original, but squeezed to fit in a 3DS. Even so, it's still a huge world filled with puzzles to solve and nifty stuff to collect. Along the way you have missions to accomplish which move you through the story and introduce you to the various areas of LEGO City. All of which are beautifully rendered, and yours to explore as your alter-ego, undercover cop Chase McCain. In an effort to mix things up a bit, McCain can adopt different undercover "disguises," each of which grants him new and unique abilities. It's all very clever and can be a lot of fun... when you're not screaming curse words at the game for being so horrendously frustrating.
I've been playing LEGO video games for years. And there's one thing they can never get right... vehicle control. Any time you have to drive ANYTHING in ANY LEGO game, you're assured of shitty, frustrating, worthless controls. Forget trying to actually accomplish something, you're lucky just to keep the damn car on the road. And there's a lot of driving in LEGO City Undercover. As if that weren't bad enough, certain scenarios require precision acrobatics that are beyond frustrating and pretty much destroy the game. It's astounding how the game can be so forgiving in some areas, but ruthlessly unforgiving in others, and it's enough to drive you insane.
Ultimately, there's enough humor, fun, and surprises to make me glad I bought LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins, but I sure wish that somebody would tell developer Traveler's Tales that frustrating does not equal fun. FIX THE FUCKING DRIVING CONTROLS NEXT TIME, ASSHOLES!
• Repugnant! Some people are such huge pieces of hypocritical garbage that they're pretty much irredeemable. Despite my defending her in the past, Sarah Palin has totally crossed that line. She probably crossed it a long time ago, but this latest round of bullcrap is what got me to take serious notice. What a fucking useless shit-stain on the fabric of society.
• Fugly! Wondering for the hundredth time why in the hell the United States has some of the ugliest fucking money on the planet. Seriously, Yes, I've harped on this before, but the latest release for the $100 bill is the worst yet and near vomit-inducing...
I know that rampant counterfeiting has made it so that certain design compromises have to be made to implement security measures... but this is fucking ridiculous. As if it weren't bad enough that our currency isn't worth a shit, we have to be embarrassed with this ugly, amateurish excuse for "design" that looks like shit too. Why can't they hire an actual graphic designer for important stuff like this instead of letting somebody's kid at the US Mint slap it together in Microsoft Word. Your (hideous) tax dollars at work, people!
And now I'm going to go contemplate whether I can survive ten more years of blogging.
Posted on Monday, April 29th, 2013
Odds are, you've heard of "Google Glass"... the computer you wear like a busted pair of sunglasses that can take photos, shoot videos, and do much of the stuff you can do with regular Google (such as search, get directions, send an email, check the weather, etc.). All in all, it's an impressive use of tech that could be a hint at how computers will even further integrate into our lives in the future.
If you haven't seen it, here's a first-person promo piece...
The problem most people have with GooGlass (as I call it) is twofold. First of all are the privacy concerns. Somebody wearing a unit could be filming you as you're having lunch or something. Second of all are the rudeness concerns. Somebody wearing a unit could be ignoring you as you're talking to them and instead concentrating on a video of kittens playing on the Glass screen.
I admit these are valid concerns.
But my problem with GooGlass is much bigger...
Photo courtesy of Google... because, well... you know...
Is there any way of wearing this crap on your face that doesn't make you look like a complete douchebag? (doucheborg?)
I only ask because I honestly don't think there is.
Maybe GooGlass will prove so compelling that people won't care.
It's like parachute pants are happening all over again.
Posted on Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
A fellow cinephile and I were chatting about the large number of awesome movies being released this year, and decided we should make lists of our most anticipated films so we could compare them. We started with 10 films each, then added another 10 to create a "Top 20" list. After some discussion, I added 5 more films, which means I now have a "Top 25 List of Dave's Most Anticipated Films" for the remainder of 2013.
I should probably come back and grade them all after I've seen them.
That's a lot of movies.
Posted on Wednesday, May 1st, 2013
I am not entirely surprised by the news, but I am a bit saddened. For the longest time during my childhood, Sears was the place to shop in our valley. There wasn't much competition, and the internet wasn't a Thing yet, so you went to Sears. My first computer, an Atari 800, was bought at that Sears. All the software I saved my allowance to buy came from Sears (mostly INFOCOM games like Zork). Appliances and tools all came from Sears. Clothing came from Sears too. And if there was something Sears didn't have that you needed, you could order it from their catalog.
So yeah, I have fond memories of Sears and it seems strange to think about it closing.
I haven't shopped there in years, of course.
The last thing I bought at Sears was a Kenmore washer and dryer... or maybe it was some Craftsman tools... but that was at least a decade ago. I feel bad about that, but they just don't have anything I want to buy. Not any more...
I drew this Atari 800 for the cover of Kevin Savetz's terrific book, Terrible Nerd!
And now I think I'll have a beer and reminisce about the good ol' days when I was a kid and the Sears Christmas Catalog was my world.
Much like Apple.com is now.
Posted on Thursday, May 2nd, 2013
Today was hot. Next week the forecast looks to be very hot.
It seems like Spring has already gone, and Summer has magically appeared. Meanwhile, one of the mountain passes was closed because of heavy snow. I don't even have an opinion on that.
The good news is that all the flowers are popping up, which makes for a nice distraction as you're walking down the street...
The bad news is that my allergies have started up and are trying to kill me.
Here's to two weeks of watering eyes and a runny nose.
Posted on Friday, May 3rd, 2013
One of the nice things about having a blog that's been around a while is that you have a record of what you were doing in years past. In my case, it's a record that spans ten years, which is pretty good.
Except not always. I was a sporadic blogger in the beginning and sometimes weeks passed between entries. So, in the beginning at least, there are stretches which are entirely unknown. Later years are better, however...
Of course, that's just the stuff I decided I could write about. Who knows what was going on between the lines.
Probably stuff I'm better off forgetting anyway.
Posted on Saturday, May 4th, 2013
Happy Star Wars Day!
Which would be a lot more fun if I had internet. Oh well.
Darth Monkey would say "May the Fourth be with you"... but they don't do that on the Dark Side.
Posted on Sunday, May 5th, 2013
Happy Cinco de Mayo! Hopefully you're somewhere drinking way too much while having the time of your life. Meanwhile I'm sitting on my couch working while the internet keeps fading in and out.
It's a real party.
Or could be, if I had some tequila...
In any event, NO BULLET SUNDAY FOR YOU! It'll have to wait until tomorrow when (hopefully) I'll have my internet fixed.
Posted on Monday, May 6th, 2013
Don't get confused that bullets are flying on a Monday... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Downey Jr.! Marvel's box office streak continues. Iron Man 3 had the second biggest domestic opening of all time ($175.3 million), second only to Marvel's The Avengers (which bowed last summer with $207.4 million). This is a continuing, shining example of how staying faithful to the source material with popular characters will result in popular movies...
I can't wait to see it! I just have no idea when I'll have time to.
• Gates! Look, I understand that Bill Gates has to continue to support Microsoft even though he's not running the place any more. I get it. The company made him billions upon billions of dollars, and he's obligated to say fantastic things about it no matter what happens. Anything less would be ungrateful.
Look, if I am going to be doing a lot of data entry or typing a lot of text, I'm going to use a computer. But for surfing the web, taking notes, checking and writing email, reading books and comics, and dozens upon dozens of other everyday tasks? I grab for my iPad. It's not the best tool for typing, of course, but it's really comfortable and useful for a lot of the stuff I do on a regular basis. So, no, Bill... I am not a frustrated iPad user. What I WAS was a frustrated Windows 8 user. So frustrated that I took your new piece-of-shit operating system and tossed it in the garbage after downgrading to Windows 7, which was at least tolerable. So... Bill... before dumping all over iPad with your pathetic whining, you might want to take a look at the turd that you're claiming is such a superior experience. Because it's not. It so totally and absolutely is not.
• Rollins! I just tuned into Hawaii Five-0 tonight only to see that it's guest-starring Henry Rollins and Mare Winningham as child kidnappers! Yes... THE Henry Rollins!
As a big fan for a very long time, it was cool to see Henry Rollins playing a bad guy on TV. His performance was pretty darn good given that he didn't have a lot to do... however... there was a problem.
<< SPOILER ALERT >>
At one point, Henry's character has been caught. But he refuses to talk, so the cops decide not to be cops and beat the shit out of him to get the info they need. The first thing to enter my head was "Well this is going to be hilarious!," because the idea of two Hollywood actors beating up Henry frickin' Rollins is absurd. Even if he was handcuffed. But then the camera turns away, which means that the people making the episode also thought the idea of two Hollywood actors beating up Henry frickin' Rollins was absurd. And that made it even more hilarious.
• Restless! So... turns out that "Restless Legs Syndrome" is not the load of bullshit I always thought it was. I've had leg pains for as long as I can remember, but it's always been fairly mild and ignorable. Over the past year, I've been having increasingly odd and un-ignorable "rolling pains" that move up and down my legs. It kind of feels like electricity on the inside that will give me mild shocks in random places, then tingle and go dead. But it only seems to be a problem late in the day when I've been sitting at work... or sitting on the couch... or sitting on a plane... or laying down in bed. But when I move my legs, the weird feeling subsides. This means I am constantly shifting my legs, often-times without even realizing it. So it looks like I now have a neurological disorder. Which makes me wonder yet again "What's going to go to shit on my body next?"
• Riker! HOW DID I NEVER NOTICE THIS?!?
So... bad back... or lifestyle choice?
And... no internet. Again. This is getting silly.
Posted on Tuesday, May 7th, 2013
When I was a kid, I wanted a model train. I loved trains.
For one reason of another, I never got one. And this actually ends up being a good thing, because I've gotten to the point now where I absolutely fucking hate... HATE... trains. And I really don't want any fond childhood memories of them.
BECAUSE TRAINS ARE STUPID NOISY AND THEY'RE ALWAYS GETTING IN THE WAY!
I've lost count of the number of times I've been just on the verge of falling asleep... only to have a train blow through town with its whistle blowing every ten seconds. GAH!
Then yesterday I had an errand to run. I took the first left to cross the railroad tracks only to have a train blocking me. It kept going slower and slower until it just stopped on the tracks. Not waiting to wait, I unleash a slew of curse-words, back-tracked, then headed back down the street... where I took the second left onto 9th Street. Only to have another train (or maybe it was the same one) blocking my path. For the second time, it kept going slower and slower until it just stopped on the tracks... WITH ONLY THREE FUCKING CARS LEFT TO GO! Which meant I had to BACKTRACK AGAIN after unleashing an even bigger slew of curse-words. Fortunately, 5th Street has an underpass, so I didn't get screwed again, but still... this is pretty stupid...
And I thought just waiting on a train was a pain in the ass. Nothing like taking a 20 minute trip and turning it into 40 minutes. GAH!
Posted on Wednesday, May 8th, 2013
Most every single thing I do for my job is with Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and Adobe InDesign. These are the apps I need to do whatever it is I do, and my work would be very difficult indeed without them.
Not to say that there aren't alternatives... there are plenty... but when it comes to the feature-rich tools I know best, and the ability to work together in the way I need them to, Adobe is the only game in town.
It used to be that Adobe apps were purchased like most any software... you buy them. Well, not "buy" per-se, it's more like a "one-time permanent lease payment"... and once you pay your money you can use them for as long as they work for you. This "Creative Suite" can then be upgraded every year or two when Adobe finishes up a new version.
Last year Adobe introduced a new way of using their products... renting. They call it "Creative Cloud" and for fifty bucks a month, they're all yours to use as much as you want...
The good news is that, so long as you keep paying, your apps are always up-to-date. You always have the latest features, and Adobe rolls them out when they're ready rather than making you wait for the next release. That much is really sweet.
I had already moved to Creative Cloud last year, so this doesn't really affect me. But what if it does?!?
This could be bad.
Because what if Adobe discontinues an app?
As unlikely as it may be, let's say that Adobe kills off Illustrator in a couple years. You can't rent it any more. It's gone. And since you aren't able to buy it, you can't access any of your files created with it. You can't open them. You can't print them. You can't export them for use with another program. All your years of hard work essentially vanishes overnight. Everything you've created in Adobe Illustrator has to be recreated from scratch in a different program. Unless some other app comes along that reads the format.
But that's not all though. There's all kinds of doomsday scenarios that come to mind. What if Adobe doesn't kill an app... but instead raises the price of using it to $1000 a month? Pretty much the same thing, isn't it? You're trapped. You pay what Adobe wants or else you lose everything. Or maybe they don't raise the price... but all of a sudden your financial situation changes and you can't afford the rent? Again, pretty much the same thing. You're locked out and all your stuff is inaccessible.
So I guess this is bad.
And right now I'm more than a little worried.
Adobe needs to do two things to make me feel a bit better about this New World Order...
Release free "reader" programs for all their apps that at least let you look at your work. And print it. And possibly convert it to an open format so you could take it elsewhere if something happened that you couldn't use Creative Cloud any more. Knowing that I could at least see my work... and ideally export it somehow... would go a long way towards easing my mind and helping me to accept our Adobe Overlords.
Create smaller bundles of apps. As I said, I use three apps from Creative Cloud. THREE OUT OF WHAT... THIRTY?!? Give or take (some of these are services, not apps, that I won't use)...
It feels like a complete rip-off that I have to pay for development of huge bunches of crap I will never (or rarely) use. Even if it were to only save me $10 a month... perhaps by renting a "designer bundle" with only the "Big Three" that I need or something... well... I would feel much better about my rent. As it is, I think it's absurd that I am forced to pay for shit like "Flash Builder Premium" that I would sooner light on fire than ever load onto my computer. This is like the cable company all over again, and it's not a good thing.
Realistically, Number Two will probably never happen. But Number One pretty much has to. If it doesn't... if there's a risk that all my work could become inaccessible tomorrow (for whatever reason)... well... is that a risk I can really afford to take?
Perhaps it's time to start exploring some of those other options?
Posted on Thursday, May 9th, 2013
Tomorrow I'm heading to the East Coast for one day.
Well, technically, it's three days... one to get there... one to work... then one to get back.
Or I suppose I am actually flying to the East Coast for two hours, which is about how long my work will take me. After that, I'm just goofing off to kill time.
In any event, there are some things that emails, video chats, and overnight delivery can't fix, so off I go...
And there goes my weekend.
Posted on Friday, May 10th, 2013
I always love watching lightning crash outside an airplane window.
But not as much as I love thunderstorms causing a landing delay.
Okay... I'm totally lying. I don't love either of those things. But that's just part of the travel game, and it does happen from time to time. All you can do is hope that you've drank enough alcohol that you don't mind so much. Otherwise? Not fun. Well, it is fun to track your flight path after you've landed and see what crazy loop-de-do holding pattern your flight took...
Flight tracking map courtesy of FlightAware!
And so now it's 12:40am after one long-ass day of travel and all I want to do is go to bed.
But my internal clock is still on West Coast time and there are people screaming outside my hotel room, so I guess you really don't always get what you want.
And speaking of that...
Guess it's a good thing I brought a raincoat.
Posted on Saturday, May 11th, 2013
And so tragedy strikes... my MagSafe ver. 1 to MagSafe ver. 2 adapter has gone missing somewhere between Seattle and here.
Which means I don't have a way of charging my Mac Book.
Which means a recap of my way-too-short adventures in Washington, D.C. will have to wait until tomorrow given that my battery is at 4% and falling.
Not to mention that I have to get up in five hours so I can fly back home.
Assuming the assholes making noise outside my hotel room shut the hell up real soon now, I may actually get a couple hours sleep.
Posted on Sunday, May 12th, 2013
Pledge allegiance to the flag of The United States of America... because a Very Special Washington, D.C. Edition of Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Pret! I headed into the city early for work because I knew that Union Station DC had a Pret shop inside. As I have said many times, my all-time favorite breakfast is a Pret Egg and Fire-Roasted Tomato Sandwich, so missing out was not an option...
As expected, it was frickin' amazing... and a fantastic start to my day.
• United States Holocaust Memorial Museum! One of the best museums I've ever had the pleasure of visiting is the World War I Museum in Kansas City. The design of the exhibit space is just exceptional, and a commenter told me the same guy (Ralph Applebaum) also designed The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. So, naturally I was curious. Add to that the fact that my very good blog friend, Mr. Shiny, is married to one of the curators, and I was compelled to pay a visit...
Not surprisingly, the museum is stunning. As expected, the exhibit spaces are wonderfully orchestrated to tell the story of one of this planets' greatest atrocities... and it's done so well that you feel it. I had planned on spending a half-hour wandering around, but was here nearly two hours. Deeply moving and extremely popular (get there early!), the museum gets my highest possible recommendation.
• National Air and Space Museum! This trip to DC, I decided to put aside my usual stops and visit some of the places I haven't been to in a while. Like the Smithsonian's Air and Spaaaaaaace Museum...
I swear... everything looks the exact same as when I was first there in 1996! They aren't too big on updating the main exhibits, I guess... which is a shame. But, still, some cool stuff...
And I could never get tired of looking at the original USS Enterprise model...
• Crapital! Why oh why do they have to put up garbage in front of beautiful buildings like the US Capital? There's a tent, some kind of screens, and other crap junking up the place, which is just wrong. When visitors walk by, they shouldn't have all the obstructions and distractions...
Because, seriously, if you came all the way to the US Capital, would you want THIS to be the photo you show all your friends when you get back?
• National Gallery of Art! I've been here most every single time I've come to DC... which is why I was going to avoid it this time. But I just couldn't do it. The place is packed with treasures and FREE! So I took a half-hour to wander a bit, which is when I found this beautiful table that I don't remember seeing before...
It's just like the chess table on the Millenium Falcon!
• National Archives The line was really short as I walked by, so I decided to drop in to the National Archives and see if we still had a Constitution. Between the Tea Party Right wanting to strip everybody of all individual rights except guns... and the Extreme Left wanting to eliminate individuality entirely, sometimes I have a hard time remembering. Turns out we DO! Though it's badly faded and hard to see. Just like real life... and just like this scan of the Declaration of Independence...
• Vietnam Memorial! By the time I got to The Wall, it was pouring down rain. This made the sculptures for the Vietnam Soldier's Memorial and the Vietnam Women's Memorial look even more beautiful than they usually do...
Ever since my first visit to The Wall, I've returned every time I'm in Washington, D.C. to pay my respects to Roderick L. Mayer, a MIA/POW whose memorial bracelet I've been wearing for the past 17 years...
And since every time I post about my dedication to MIA/POW issues I get hate-comments from people telling me that this is all a big myth, I'm just going to post a clickable copy of a letter to Roderick Mayer's parents, then tell any detractors they can go fuck themselves (John McCain and John Kerry included)...
• Korean War Memorial! A hauntingly beautiful memorial, and one of my world favorites. I found this documentary video which explains the thought that went into it...
It really has to be seen in person to get the full experience... and, if you're ever in DC, I highly recommend it.
• Lincoln! Another memorial monument that I absolutely love is Abraham Lincoln's. Visiting is akin to a spiritual experience...
And, of course, the view from the top of the steps is pretty special...
Even if the 2011 earthquake has busted the Washington Monument to shit and it's all covered in scaffolding now...
At some point, you have to ask yourself if it isn't worth knocking the thing down and building a new one from scratch. Yeah... yeah... yell at me all you want, but I'm sick of having busted shit in my photos. Historical conservation aside, it's kind of bullshit to visit a place and have nothing but photos of scaffolding or construction crews (like last time) to show for it. Apparently they're going to finish with the restoration sometime next year. Hopefully the wait will be worth it, and the monument won't fall to pieces again two years later.
• National World War II Memorial! I'm just going to come right out and say it... I have never liked this installation, and wish that they had come up with something more meaningful and thoughtful than this lame excuse for a memorial...
It's just so boring, repetitive and tacky. And I don't "get" how it honors World War II vets... if anything, it looks more like it's some kind of monument to US states and territories...
Compare it to the Korean and Vietnam memorials, and it's just so forgettable and unimpressive... even though it's so big. Probably because it's so big? I dunno. All I do know is that those who fought and died in World War II deserve something better than this.
• Shiny! Tired and soaking wet, I was pretty much done with Washington, D.C. when 5:00 rolled around. Fortunately, Mr. Shiny (who you should know from his most excellent co-hosting duties on the Hey! That's My Hummus! podcast) rescued me from my day and whisked me off to dinner with his family. But before we got there, he took me to see the Peeps & Co. Store in National Harbor and a really cool statue called "The Awakening" that's across the street...
Poor guy looks to me like he's drowning in sand.
Dinner with the Shinies was a lot of fun... until they brought the hummus...
Just because he has a podcast called "Hey! That's My Hummus!" doesn't mean he gets to eat it all. I love hummus! I guess I should be thankful that Faiqa wasn't there, or else I would have had to fight off two people! Fortunately, my delicious black bean burger had hummus on it, so I was totally taken care of in the chickpea department.
And, just like that, my one funtabulous day in Washington, D.C. was over. Hopefully next time I'll get to stay a while.
• WTF?! And jut because I can't end Bullet Sunday on such a happy note... Holy. Fucking. Shit. Not only is Newt Gingrich confounded as to what to call a "smartphone"... he seems genuinely perplexed by multi-functional modern technology. And this is a guy who could have been elected President of the United States of America!
"This pencil also erases. It has an eraser right on the top of it. So it's not a pencil. It's not an eraser. It's something new. A new technology that's only beginning. And we here at Gingrich Productions have spent weeks trying to figure out what to call it..."
I'm horrified that this kind of absurd cluelessness completely defines our country's government. Legislators are making laws about things they don't understand and are too lazy to actually take the time to educate themselves about. This is exactly how idiotic shit like ACTA happens, and we all pay the price for our political leaders being intentionally uninformed morons.
And... it's late. Happy Mother's Day, everybody!
Posted on Monday, May 13th, 2013
My 6:00am flight out of Baltimore meant that I had to get up at 3:45am. This gave me 30 minutes to pack, shower, put on pants, brush my teeth, check out of my hotel, and catch the shuttle to arrive at BWI at 4:30am. Getting up at 3:45am is no fun at all. Especially when your internal clock is three hours earlier than that.
What was fun was using iPhone's Passbook...
This very cool bit of tech puts stuff like tickets, boarding passes, loyalty cards, membership accounts, and other things all at one place. Buy an Amtrak ticket? It goes to Passbook. Check in for your flight? Your boarding pass goes to Passbook. Check in at your hotel? Open up Passbook for your loyalty card.
And it's always handy.
When I arrived at the train station, my ticket was on my lock screen.
When I got to the airport, my boarding pass was on my lock screen too. One swipe, and it magically appears...
So cool. As somebody who travels a lot, this is exactly the kind of thing that makes my life easier.
The problem is that not enough companies are using it. Many airlines I fly, like Alaska Air, aren't using it. Most of the hotels I stay at, like Hilton, aren't using it. And it would be nice one day if credit cards could be added, because that would lighten my wallet considerably.
I think that Apple made the right move with Passbook because it doesn't require companies to install new equipment for NFC (or whatever)... everybody can use the scanners they already have.
It's just a question as to when (if?) these companies will return the favor and give their customers the convenience of implementing it.
Posted on Tuesday, May 14th, 2013
I have never been a fan of war movies.
Probably because the war movies I was most familiar with growing up were the John Wayne war glorification films that put a heroic gloss on war that made it seem like some kind of desirable activity... instead of the horrific failure of the human condition that it really is. There were exceptions, of course (Grave of the Fireflies comes immediately to mind), but the vast majority of films I saw were whitewashed pro-war propaganda.
But then war films started changing.
And the turning point for me was Saving Private Ryan.
Here was a film that was showing us heroism amongst the brutality of war, and it was achieved by being honest about just how horrible and terrifying it is for everybody involved. No glossing over the death and destruction with lame-ass "ACK! You got me, you dirty Nazi!" style casualties... Saving Private Ryan blew people apart with bloody abandon, illustrating that just surviving a war with your sanity in tact was a heroic effort.
Then came A Very Long Engagement and The Hurt Locker and Band of Brothers and Letters from Iwo Jima and Defiance and Zero Dark Thirty and even Inglourious Basterds... and numerous other movies which, while not entirely propaganda-free, at least tried to be more honest in their depiction of war. But, most important of all, they were simply very good films.
Which all leading to (what is now) one of my most anticipated films of 2013, and it finally has an international trailer...
I fully admit that when I first read about the film being made, I was intrigued. Stalingrad is one of the most brutal battles in world history, and getting a modern film on the subject made by actual Russians could make for a very interesting flick. But then I heard it was going the Titanic-love-story-against-disaster route and I lost interest. And then I heard it was being filmed in 3-D and really lost interest.
But now this cinematic and stylish trailer has arrived, and I can't wait to see this film.
I can only hope that the story and acting lives up to the promise of the visuals.
Posted on Wednesday, May 15th, 2013
Despite what you may have read, this is not the best Iron Man movie ever made.
The best Iron Man movie ever made is The Avengers. And that's because, so far as comic book super-hero films go, that movie was insane. Finally... finally we got to see all-out super-hero action taken to the degree it's at in the comics, and Iron Man was a huge part of that.
So I guess that Iron Man 3 would be the second-best Iron Man film ever made.
More or less...
Co-written and directed by Shane Black, the writer genius behind Lethal Weapon and The Long Kiss Goodnight, Iron Man 3 is a very good film in a surprising number of ways. Even if you were take Iron Man out of the equation. Which the movie does... a lot... because Tony Stark is the star of this show. Iron Man is relegated to a supporting player (albeit an important one).
I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, Robert Downey Jr. plays Tony Stark so flawlessly that you're always left wanting more... on the other... well, you're going to an Iron Man movie to see Iron Man.
Putting all that aside, the film feels very Shane Black. Which is mostly a good thing.
There be spoilers from here on out, so don't click through to the extended entry unless you've already seen Iron Man 3...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Posted on Thursday, May 16th, 2013
Spanky the Cat finally went to the vet and got a clean bill of health. And a sex change. Turns out that it's a "he" instead of a "she." Oh well. He's in good shape, which is all that matters.
Much to the relief of everybody in the neighborhood, who's glad he's still hanging around...
The trip must have been exhausting, as Spanky fell asleep shortly after he got back.
Posted on Friday, May 17th, 2013
The cost of a trip to the supermarket has reached such epic heights that I've developed a genuine fear of grocery shopping. The panic sets in the minute I enter the parking lot, and all I can think of is how I am not escaping for less than $50 no matter how little I have on my list. This is especially scary when you consider that I'm vegetarian, don't eat a lot, actively look for sale items, and buy the cheapest option whenever I can.
I have no clue how large families can afford to feed themselves now-a-days.
Guess I'm going to have to start buying in bulk, look into buying a FoodSaver, and start freezing everything.
Or start a garden.
Or beg for food in the streets.
For the past seven months I've been saving for a new camera and I finally ordered it today. It arrives tomorrow. But after my latest trip to the grocery store, I'm starting to wonder if I should have kept the money in savings so I can eat.
Priorities and all that.
Posted on Saturday, May 18th, 2013
Fred Armisen and Bill Hader will be sorely missed now that they are departing from Saturday Night Live. And, given their incredible body of work and the dozens of characters they inhabited, it's hard to see anybody stepping into their shoes any time soon.
But the real damage in Armisen and Hader leaving comes from the astounding number of imperessions they contributed. According to the SNL Archives, Armisen had 98 celebrities in his arsenal, and Hader added another 82. That kind of versatility is tough to come by and a part of me wonders how the current cast is going to fill the massive hole left now that they're off the show.
On the plus-side, appearances by Hader's "Stefon" will hopefully be rare from here on out...
I fucking hate Stefon.
Every time he appears, it's the SAME DAMN SKIT OVER AND OVER AGAIN! Maybe I found it mildly amusing when he appeared the first time, but each subsequent appearance was awful.
And yet, for reasons I cannot fathom, I know people who just love Stefon. To each their own, I guess... but I just don't get it.
Of course, Armisen and Hader aren't the only members of the cast moving on.
Odds are running high that Jason Sudekis won't be returning. That's going to really hurt.
And come next January, Seth Meyers will leave to replace Jimmy Fallon on Late Night when Jimmy replaces Jay Leno on The Tonight Show. It's going to be really interesting to see who takes over the SNL News desk when that happens. There's a peculiar kind of talent needed to pull it off, and I'm not seeing that in anybody left.
In other words, it's not looking very good for Saturday Night Live. Kenan Thompson is the only long-time player left and, while I like some of the newer people, you kinda have to wonder how much longer the show will go on if something big doesn't break soon.
Like Eddie Murphy coming back.
Anyway, farewell to Mr. Armisen and Mr. Hader.
And thanks for the laughs.
Posted on Sunday, May 19th, 2013
Don't put down that remote... because a Very Special Television Preview Edition of Bullet Sunday (filled with the top five shows I'm looking forward to in the coming season) starts now...
• Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Wait... Agent Coulson is alive? Yeah, like I could possibly pass this one up. Joss Whedon is executive producing this spin-off from The Avengers (AND directing the pilot episode!) which makes it must-see TV...
• The Blacklist. And here we have a Silence of the Lambs homage. Sounds like a complete waste of time, right? Except... James Spader is the one playing the psycho criminal who's partnering up with a young female FBI agent. How can I say no to that?
• Almost Human. Okay, I'm a total sucker for Holmes & Yoyo for the 21st century. The fact that it stars Karl Urban is just icing on the cake...
• Dracula. It's Carnivale meets Downton Abbey... LITERALLY... as two of the people responsible for those shows team up for this ten-part series based on everybody's favorite blood-sucker. If nothing else, it looks to have really nice production values, so I'll be tuning in...
• Intelligence. Former Lost heartthrob Josh Holloway stars as some kind of secret agent with a microchip in his head that lets him access the internet and know anything. I'm guessing this is supposed to be a retread of Chuck with a less whiny character? I dunno, but the whole "Six Million Dollar Man for the Information Age" angle has me intrigued, so I'll give it a shot...
That's five. There will be more to follow, I'm sure. But if the rest of the up-fronts being touted are any indication, it's probably not going to be very much more.
I mean, Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar starring as a father/daughter team in a new show by David E. Kelley? Seriously? And here I thought that Michael J. Fox poking fun at his Parkinson's disease in his new series was over the top. And then there's John frickin' Malkovich playing a modern-day pirate, which looks utterly bizarre. But, hey, at least these are original shows. Most everything else is either a remake of a foreign series, or a copy of what's come before...
Heroes is reborn as The Tomorrow People?
Twin Peaks is ripped off for Wayward Pines?
Roswell is transformed into Star-Crossed?
About a Boy reincarnated as a television series?
Blair Underwood takes on Raymond Burr's Ironside?
It just goes on and on. But hopefully the majority of it won't be as gut-wrenchingly horrible as this shit...
Ye gads. Kind of makes me want to swear off television forever.
Posted on Monday, May 20th, 2013
So saddened to hear of the horrendous losses torn out of Oklahoma today.
The devastation is soul-crushing, and my heart goes out to those still searching for friends and loved ones amongst the ruins.
This includes pets and animals, whose suffering is all too often overlooked...
Photo by Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press
Oklahoma City's Pet Food Pantry is donating food and supplies to anybody with pets in need. If you'd like to support their efforts, I'm sure they would appreciate your donation.
UPDATE: Well this is frightening...
Posted on Tuesday, May 21st, 2013
Ever since I returned from my "Wild Africa Trek" back in September, I've been saving up for a new camera. I love my Nikon D90, but it's like a boat anchor hanging around my neck when I'm leaning over cliffs, hiking on rope bridges, and otherwise actively goofing off. It's bulky and heavy and has lenses that are equally bulky and heavy, so I find myself leaving it at home more often than not. My iPhone may not take "great" photos, but it's certainly good enough (and at least it doesn't get in my way).
But what camera to buy? I already have a pocket camera, which is okay, but hardly the quality I'm looking for. A next-generation "mirrorless" camera seemed like the way to go. They're much smaller than a DSLR, but produce similar quality photos. At first I was looking at Nikon and Canon, since those were the brands I was familiar with. But the reviews of Nikon's N-1 were less than stellar... and when I played with Canon's EOS-M it was a piece of crap.
Enter the Sony NEX-7. A serious photographer friend of mine has one and won't shut up about how much he loves the thing. I borrowed it for a couple hours and was suitably impressed. Right then and there I knew that Sony was the camera for me. Though I did bypass the NEX-7 for the newer (and slightly less expensive) NEX-6. It just seemed like a better fit for me...
My "review" and random thoughts on the NEX-6 can be found in an extended entry...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Posted on Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013
One of the few things that will make me set aside my laptop and actually concentrate on a singular event? The Daily Show.
John Stewart is at his best when he's ripping somebody apart for their blatant hypocrisy, and his take-down of Peggy Noonan tonight is among his best efforts...
I wonder if she feels even a modicum of shame for being such a shining example of the very definition of hypocritical asshole
I'm guessing not.
Posted on Thursday, May 23rd, 2013
I am not a big fan of bugs. It's not like I faint when I see them or anything... it's just that I prefer not to be around them. Unless I am at a zoo. And there is glass between me and the bugs.
So you can imagine my horror at having to research bugs when I need to draw them. And it happens more often than you'd think... most recently for issues of THRICE Fiction magazine. At first I'm always my usual squeamish self but, after looking at a few hundred photos of the little devils close-up, I start to appreciate their beauty. Often times they have features unlike anything else you can find on earth and it's not hard to appreciate this kind of artistry on such a small scale.
But I digress.
We've reached the time that a bizarre insect known as the cicada starts making one of their rare appearances. After seventeen years underground, they dig their way to the surface where they molt, eat, mate, then die... by the bazillions. We don't have cicadas here in my little corner of Washington State, but I've seen a cicada bloom before. It's pretty much "bugageddon," and the things are crawling everywhere... all while making crazy levels of noise. It's pretty creepy even if you aren't afraid of bugs. Fortunately it only lasts a couple weeks.
When my writer-friend (and frequent THRICE Fiction contributor) Susan Tepper mentioned that she was sweeping them off her home, a "Cicada Challenge" was born, and I had to draw her a picture of one.
I always thought that a poor cicada who spends seventeen years underground waiting for sex would be a little mental when it's finally time to dig his way out, so I gave him crazy eyes...
Along with the drawing, I also wrote this poem for Susan...
Fifteen years and two I'm sleeping
Dreaming of the day I'm leaping
Now it's time to start the humping
But before I get to jumping
I dig, I molt, I eat, I'm singing
Looking for a date I'm springing
Now I'm dead my shell is crushing
Susan's broom and deadly brushing
All those years of patient waiting
Biding time 'til I start mating
No chance now for happy screwing
A lust for love was my undoing
I should have stayed in bed
And now I can put cicadas behind me. Well, for seventeen years anyway.
Posted on Friday, May 24th, 2013
Summer is really here!
And tonight I decided to cut off all my hair again so I look feel cool. It's not so much an act of liberation, but one of convenience. And comfort. I just can't take having a sweaty mess on my head when the weather goes from hot to unbearably hot. Especially when I'm traveling.
Giving myself a haircut was the highlight of my day. All I did outside of that was work.
And wish I was anywhere but here. Perhaps here...
There are certainly worse places to be than Mt. Haleakala at sunrise.
Posted on Saturday, May 25th, 2013
The big news of the day? I'm out of paper towels.
Ordinarily, paper towels are not something I tend to think about. But when you don't have any... and then you run into a situation where having a paper towel would be really handy... well, all of a sudden you become a huge paper towel fan and all you can think about is how horrible your life has just become without them...
Granted, if you're going to have a problem in life... running out of paper towels is probably the best you could hope for. But isn't whining about inconsequential crap what the internet was made for? I hope so, because that's a lot more fun than going to the store and buying more paper towels.
Posted on Sunday, May 26th, 2013
Better switch to decaffeinated... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Gamer. I am most definitely not what you would call a "hard core gamer." I just like to play an occasional video game when I can find time, and am just as likely to be playing LEGO Batman as I am Call of Duty: Black Ops. That being said, I do own The Big Three consoles (Wii, PS3, Xbox 360) along with a Nintendo 3DS-XL, so maybe "casual gamer" isn't the best description for me either. In any event, both Sony and Microsoft have now unveiled their next generation console plans with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, respectively...
Right now, I'm probably a bit more excited for the new PS4. Probably because it doesn't try to add on all the computing and multimedia bullshit, and has Sony solely focusing on the gaming experience. Microsoft, on the other hand, feels distracted by trying to sell you television shows and making you dick around with Windows 8 (which I loathe). And then there's Nintendo's Wii-U, which I just can't seem to get excited about. So I guess time will tell which direction I end up going. Though a part of me wonders if I'm just done with console gaming, so maybe I won't invest in any of them.
• Arrested! Netflix has unleashed the much-anticipated Season 4 of Arrested Development, seven years after it was canceled by FOX. I enjoyed the original episodes, even though they often-times seemed quirky for quirky's sake, but had mixed feelings about the show being resurrected...
The first two episodes were pretty unremarkable. But the third was better... and I just started the fourth, which is better still. So who knows? By the time I get to episode fifteen, maybe it will surpass everything that came before. All I do know is that watching the revival has me now wanting to re-watch the original, which I haven't done in years.
• Square! Square brought affordable, convenient credit card transactions to the masses. Now they're taking on PayPal with Square Cash, which allows you to send funds via email. It's currently in beta and "invitation only," but you can bet your ass I'll be signing up the minute it's available. I fucking hate PayPal after they STOLE MY MONEY with absolutely no explanation, and if there's any company that has a hope of breaking PayPal's monopoly on online payments, it's Square. It's about time.
• Assemble? I was pretty excited that Marvel had new cartoon coming out called Avengers Assemble! After the absolute genius that was Joss Whedon's The Avengers movie, it was bound to be awesome, right?
Meh. Not so much. They released a "sneak preview" of the show before its July 7th debut and I was not impressed. The writing feels flat, the look of the show is kind of sketchy and, with the exception of Chi McBride as Nick Fury, the character voices don't seem right. I'm probably just spoiled by DC's amazing cartoons (such as Batman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, Superman: The Animated Series, Justice League, and Justice League Unlimited), but boy was I hoping for something more. Guess I'll just have to wait for Whedon to finish The Avengers 2.
• Scouts. And so the Boy Scouts have finally taken a step in the right direction and are no longer kicking out their members just because they're gay. I always thought it was shitty how a kid can join Scouting when he's too young to even know what "sexuality" is... only to be kicked out on his ass once he grows up and discovers he's gay. Yeah, private organizations can have whatever bigoted policies they want, but this kind of discrimination towards kids is pretty douchey. Especially when the BSA gets support from public funds, which they shouldn't be if they're being exclusionary anyway.
Annnnnd... I'm spent.
Posted on Monday, May 27th, 2013
Hope everybody is enjoying their Memorial Day weekend.
When I was in Tunisia my tour group consisted mostly of Americans, so the guide was kind enough to drive us through the North Africa American Cemetery where soldiers from World War II are buried. As it was 9-11, the flag was flying at half-mast...
It's very difficult not to think of these fallen heroes far from home when Memorial Day comes to pass.
To all those who paid the ultimate price for our country, I thank you. Your sacrifice and courage will not be forgotten.
Posted on Tuesday, May 28th, 2013
Do you remember in You're a Good Sport, Charlie Brown where Charlie Brown won Pro Bowl tickets in a bike race but it ended up they couldn't afford to give him the Pro Bowl tickets, so they instead gave him a certificate for five free haircuts? And then Charlie Brown laments that even when he wins he loses because his dad's a barber and he hardly has any hair to cut anyway? Remember that?
That pretty much sums up my entire day.
It got so bad that, on my way back from running errands in town, I swerved off the road to the movie theater just so I could be distracted for a couple hours. I didn't even care what I watched.
Much to my delight, the next film playing was Star Trek Into Darkness. I was planning on waiting to see it in IMAX but, at this point, I just didn't care...
Overall, I thought the movie was excellent. It was action-packed and oh-so-beautiful to look at. This is the first time I can remember watching an effects-laden film where half my brain wasn't analyzing the special effects shots. They were all executed so flawlessly that there was nothing to really analyze. That went a long ways to taking the edge off of some story points that bothered me, and pushed my love of the film to an A rating.
It's impossible to discuss the finer points of Star Trek Into Darkness without spoilers, so I've put my thoughts in an extended entry...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Posted on Wednesday, May 29th, 2013
Today I had to run some errands to the "Barbarian Village" of Leavenworth, Washington.
Well, actually it's billed as the "Bavarian Village" because it's a themed town meant to look like something out of the German Alps, but when the crowds of tourists arrive, it rapidly degenerates into something much more savage.
Anyway, I couldn't very well leave without some German food, so off I went for a bratwurst. Well, a veggie brat, but still... the best part is figuring out which mustard you want, because there's always at least a dozen on-hand...
I went with a more traditional "sweet & sour" because half the stuff is difficult to decipher (what the hell is "Backyard Brat" about?)...
Of course no faux-German sausage garden would be complete without freaky murals to keep you company while you eat...
And since one good thing leads to another, I could not resist stopping by the Danish Bakery for one of their glorious almond custard pastries...
After than I stopped at a chocolate shop because, ya know, it was there. Then I decided to head home while I still had insulin levels that were somewhat respectable.
All I'm missing now to make my day complete is some lederhosen.
Posted on Friday, May 31st, 2013
And so here I sit at SeaTac International Airport waiting for my redeye flight eastward.
Half the people here are coughing their heads off... and many of those are kids who, not surprisingly, don't cover their mouths when they cough because parents don't seem to teach them to. Apparently they don't give a flying fuck if their kids infect the world because that's somebody else's problem. Typical.
The half that's not hacking away is either loudly slurping on coffee cups and looking like idiots... or falling asleep. Or dead to the world and snoring.
On the plus side, I spotted a lonely hat in one of SeaTac's privacy-free bathrooms...
And away I go...
Posted on Friday, May 31st, 2013
Thanks to some personal turmoil that keeps dropping on me like a ton of bricks lately, I came very close to canceling my trip to Pittsburgh. I have fond memories of the city, and it just didn't seem right to return with a shit-ton of baggage weighing on my brain.
But within five minutes of Becky picking me up at the airport, all my troubles melted away and I was glad I was here. By the end of the day I was ecstatic that I was here.
She kinda has that effect on people.
As witnessed by this photograph of the last time I saw Becky live and in-person four years ago at ConFab...
Photo by Ginger and, yes, I'm dressed as a pirate. Because I just can't help myself.
First stop was lunch at Nicky's Thai Kitchen, and it was glorious. Especially the Crispy Egg Rolls...
Don't you just love some good food porn on a Friday afternoon?
From there we wasted no time in tracking down delicious beer... at a brewery transplant from Munich called Hofbräuhaus. Becky asked for a beer the size of her head and got this...
THE HUMAN HEAD WEIGHS 8 POUNDS! Becky' beer weighs ten pounds.
Not wanting to be left out, I asked for a beer the size of MY head and got this...
HEY! THAT'S THE WRONG HEAD!!
Whoops... that's better...
Here's to good times. Tonight is kind of special...
Eventually we realized we needed Jägermeister backs for our beers...
Delicious! Is there no problem Jägermeister cannot solve?!?
Eventually Jared showed up to be our designated biker...
Switching to baby beers so as not to drop into beer comas.
After that, I was given a tour of areas of Pittsburgh I didn't even know existed, which is always fun. There's just no substitute for seeing a city through the eyes of locals.
By this time, beer and not sleeping for two days was finally taking its toll, so I reluctantly headed back to my hotel for some much-needed rest.
Though it's gonna be tough to sleep when I'm anticipating the awesomeness which awaits tomorrow.
Posted on Saturday, June 1st, 2013
Annnnnd... I've just returned from a Pittsburgh Pirates game with Becky. It was a fantastic night out, even though the Pirates lost.
Fortunately, they weren't playing my beloved Boston Red Sox (who slaughtered the Yankees 11-1), so I was able to put on a Pirates jersey and cheer on the team against the dreaded Cincinnati Reds...
Say "Grilled Stickies!"
But I'm getting ahead of myself, because there was tailgating in the parking lot before the game...
Becky's friend hand-made veggie burgers (that were some of the best I've ever tasted) for us civilized folk... but there was mmmmmeeeeeat for the savages too...
Fortunately, I was just sober enough to keep myself from licking the grill.
A good time was had by all...
When I've been drinking, I look the exact same in every photo... like I'm happily pooping my pants.
Then it was off to PNC Park...
Take me out to the ballgame... where no crackerjack was to be found.
Becky met up with her pimp along the way...
Pimpin' ain't easy... but with Becky as your ho it is!
My iPhone has said that Pittsburgh's weather was going to be thunderstorms since the minute I arrived. I'm not exaggerating when I say that every single time I look, we're supposed to be in the middle of a raging storm...
And yet... it's been nothing but sun and blue skies. Which is nice, because PNC Park has to be one of the most beautiful ballparks ever...
Between innings you can watch the boats go by, which is pretty sweet...
Can't believe how nice the kit lens is for my new Sony NEX-6 camera.
After the game, they wheeled a stage and some giant speakers onto the field for a concert by =gasp!= Kool & The Gang! This helped make the Pirates' loss a little easier to take...
Celebrate good times! The sound system was surprisingly good for a ballpark!
And... the end. After waiting 35 minutes for my 20 minute train, I was back at the South End and ready for bed.
But I'm getting ahead of myself, because there was a Hard Rock Cafe pin-trading event before the tailgating and the game...
I've been collecting Hard Rock Cafe pins since I visited my first property 23 years ago. And even though I've amassed thousands of pins over those years, I've never once gone to a pin-trading event. Mostly because Seattle didn't have a cafe for most of those years and I could never manage to fit a pine event road trip into my schedule.
I was also a bit intimidated, because I'm more of a "casual collector" who just buys stuff I like and doesn't really know anything about the hobby. As I've found out from comic book collecting, most of the "pros" simply don't want to waste time with newbies, and past attempts to fit into that crowd were met with failure.
Enter the "Northeast Region Art of Rock Event 2013" which was being attended by seven Hard Rock cities (Baltimore, Boston, Foxwoods, Niagara Falls NY, Toronto, Washington D.C., and the host... Pittsburgh), so I put it on my calendar and was determined to attend.
And today was the day...
The event was well-attended... this was only a part of it.
I ended up having a great time!
The vast majority of the collectors who attended were kindhearted, encouraging, helpful people. I was shocked... shocked... to find that most all of them would trade for something you really wanted, even if they didn't find anything they were looking for in your pin bags. They seemed perfectly happy to just add a trade back into their trading pile if it meant helping you fill a hole in your collection.
That was wonderful and entirely unexpected. I picked up dozens of pins I needed to fill in my glassware collection of hurricanes, martinis, and shooters.
Needless to say, I'd very much like to get my pin collection better organized and attend more events.
So thank you to the terrific staff at Hard Rock Pittsburgh for inviting everybody to your cafe for a great meet-up!
Five minutes before they let the animals lined up outside come in for lunch.
It's now 2:00am. I have to be up in five hours. I should probably at least attempt to get some sleep.
Posted on Sunday, June 2nd, 2013
Another morning where thunderstorms were forecast for the entire day.
Which, of course, never came to pass. I swear, whomever is in charge of predicting the weather in Pittsburgh needs to be smacked around a little bit, because this is getting ridiculous.
But the weather miscast was definitely something to be grateful for, because Becky managed to score tickets to today's Pirates game...
They close down the Roberto Clemente Bridge when there's a game, which makes for a nice walk.
This time our seats were on the "Club Level" which has restaurants, billiards, lounges, and ice cream!
But, most important of all, I found Cracker Jack this time!
The game was off to a very bad start, as the Reds scored four runs in the first inning. But the Pirates managed to battle their way back into the game... including a monster home-run hit by Garrett Jones in the bottom of the 8th that cleared the park and ended up in the Allegheny River!
The above video is worth checking out... it's a pretty impressive hit!
Mr. Jones! The little kit lens on my NEX-6 continues to blow my mind. This is from the 200 level... WITH A KIT LENS!
The Pirates eventually won, 4-5 after extra innings...
Unfortunately, we didn't get to see the win... we had to leave early so we could make a concert...
Hold on to your crotch... it's
Now, I should preface this with two pieces of information...
This meant that I really didn't know what to expect. My plan was just to hang out with Becky and drink beer, which would have been a great time even if there wasn't a concert.
But there was a concert, and I totally admit that it ended up being ten times more than awesome.
As her set went on, things got a little weird...
Which was taken to an entirely new level when
Sparks went flying out of her vagina, which was apparently impossible to capture on iPhone. Sorry.
Then it was time to bring on the simulated inter-species beastiality where sports mascots started bumping, grinding, and swapping heads...
After all this freaky shit went down, even
Eventually we got a tiny car, blow-up legs, and a blow-up hippo as
During her set, Ke$ha was all about dishing out life advice ("Be Yourself! Always! Unapologetically!"), sharing her private thoughts and feelings ("I don't want a guy to talk to me, I want a guy to fuck me!"), and giving her fans ideas for after the show ("I want everybody to go home and fuck tonight!")... which just made her even more special to me. I was sad to see her go.
But the party didn't stop there... after a half-hour of DJ music by somebody called "Ump Smoker" it was time for Pitbull. I had no idea who he was, but once the music started I did realize that I knew of his music. Who knew? In any event, his show was pretty impressive.
Apparently, Pitbull was responsible for the Men in Black 3 theme song.
Even if you hated his music (which I didn't), the stage show is still entertaining.
Looks like Ke$ha isn't the only one who can unleash a glitter bomb.
All-in-all? A very good concert, and I had a great time. If you have the opportunity to see the tour, I highly recommend checking it out. Just be prepared to walk through a shit-ton of glitter in the parking lot after it's over...
And that was a wrap.
After an action-packed day of excitement like this, my "real life" is going to seem really, really boring.
Thanks a lot, Becky!!!
Posted on Monday, June 3rd, 2013
I didn't know what could possibly top the Ke$ha concert last night, but darn if we didn't try!
After packing up all my crap and stowing my luggage, Becky picked me up for a day of fun and excitement that only Pittsburgh can offer.
Breakfast was at a cool, old-fashioned diner and consisted of crepe-pancakes, scrambled eggs, and Lyonnaise potatoes. If you're hungry in the morning, then Pamela's Diner is the place to go...
You just know that if there's a pink door it's gotta be good, right?
I could have spent an hour wandering around looking at all the knick-knacks and photos that cover the walls...
There may be two packs of smokes on the counter, but you still can't smoke in the restaurant!
After stuffing our faces, we wandered around the corner to The Strip District, which is an eclectic neighborhood packed with lots of cool shops, restaurants, and other wonders...
Who can resist taking a photo of a building with a giant chicken on it? Not me!
Just about everything in The Strip is interesting in one way or another.
A remnant of a time when helping the poor was considered a good thing.
At Wholey's Market, which is much like Disneyland with it's animatronic cows and pigs and such.
Becky takes her life in her hands when she gets friendly with the ferocious Wholey's Market Bear!
Happy piñatas at the Mexican market want you to beat them with a stick until their guts fall out. Sick!
Becky searches for The Sisterhood of the Traveling Hat at the Mexican market.
As we were walking back to Becky's car, I was compelled to stop at a mini-donut shop. Like most people, I don't possess the will-power to resist a freshly-made, warm, mini-donut that's straight from the hot oil...
If forced to choose between peace, love, or mini-donuts, I'd take the fucking donut.
If I had this job, I would weigh 700 pounds and have oil for blood.
As punishment for giving in to mini-donut temptation, Becky thought I needed to go to Church...
Surprise! It's The Church Brew Works, built in an actual old church building!
Yes, they are totally brewing beer where the church's altar once stood.
Mmmmm... beer! Becky came up with this great shot idea, I just copied her.
Becky spotted this sleepy moth hanging on for dear life in a flower bed outside The Church. He's scary-cute.
From there Becky decided to run out to Randyland, which is so interesting on its own that I'm saving the details from THAT visit for tomorrow's entry...
It's pretty remarkable in a photo, but really needs to be seen in person to be truly appreciated.
From here it was off to see Star Trek Into Darkness in IMAX OMNIMAX at the Carnegie Science Center.
Then it was time to get me out to the airport. But we simply couldn't say goodbye until we had one last beer. This time at Sharp Edge Creekhouse...
Yeah, that goose tap handle is pretty much the ultimate tap handle.
Earlier it was pointed out to me that I was hanging out with Princess Merida (from the Pixar movie Brave) all weekend. I had always thought of Becky as a QUEEN, but darn if it wasn't true...
And thus ends my perfect four days in Pittsburgh with the coolest of Disney's princesses.
Going back to Real Life ain't gonna be easy after this.
Posted on Tuesday, June 4th, 2013
Back home, safe and sound.
Yesterday Becky took me to Randyland, which is a photographer's dream come true in Pittsburgh. From the minute I saw all the bright colors and craziness that is so beautifully splashed across everything, I knew I wanted to play around with some HDR photos to see what I could capture.
Welcome to Randy's head...
If you're ever in the Pittsburgh area, Randyland is well worth checking out!
Posted on Wednesday, June 5th, 2013
Thanks to the non-stop excitement of four days in Pittsburgh, it was going to be a Bullet-Sunday-On-Monday kind of situation. But there was so much Pittsburgh that it's ended up being a Bullet-Sunday-On-Wednesday situation. So hold on to your hats... because a special ALL RANT EDITION of Bullet Sunday starts now...
• AT&T Assholes. I'm not the kind of guy who jumps on the lawsuit bandwagon because, often-times, I think the lawyers are the only ones who really benefit. But if AT&T gets sued because they PROMISE high-speeds, but then LIMIT the speed on your device, then SCREW THAT. I'd join that lawsuit in a hot minute. What assholes.
• Apple Bullshit. Remember when buying Apple was a guarantee of quality that was a step above what you'd get from other tech companies? For the most part, it's still true. But for an increasing number of things... particularly with Mac OS X... it's not true. And their "Messages" app is a perfect example. The app has been a pile of shit since day one. It's supposed to sync messaging between your iPhone, iPad, iPod and Mac... but it doesn't. At least not very well. Messages go missing. Messages get lost. Messages display out of sequence. It's complete bullshit, but that's where Apple is at now.
But then, miracle of miracles, AFTER NEARLY A YEAR OF WAITING, Apple has released a bug fix for the out-of-sequence messages problem. Yes, I was pissed that it took them so damn long but, hey, at least we finally had a fix, right? Well, so far so good. Or not. Because they've introduced a new bug. The badge counter doesn't zero out, even if you've read all the messages in Messages...
Look, Apple is sitting on =literally= billions of dollars. With all that money, can't they fucking afford to beta test their shit? This is amateur hour. This is Microsoft. This is everything Apple is not. And if it keeps up, Apple's going to eventually lose to a company that's more like Apple was than what Apple is now. And they would totally deserve it. STOP DICKING AROUND AND FIX YOUR SHIT, APPLE!
• Trader Joe's Disgust. I am a huge, huge fan of Trader Joe's. I would go so far as to say that I adore their vegetarian food selections. Most everything I've ever tried has been high-quality and delicious. Which is why it sucks so hard when you buy something with high expectations and get burned. Namely, their "Fettuccine Alfredo"
When I saw the "IMPORTED FROM ITALY" line on the bag, I assumed I would be buying the flavorful pasta that I get when I'm actually visiting Italy instead of the boring cream-based shit we call "Alfredo Sauce" here in the states. So imagine my disgust when it ended up being that same bland, tasteless, watery, slop I can get out of a frickin' box. So very sad. Even sadder that I bought three bags of the crap.
• getEQUAL Rudeness. One of the current news items making me much angrier than usual comes from a Michele Obama fundraiser. The First Lady was speaking when all of a sudden some asshole decides to heckle her over government contractors discriminating against gays and lesbians. And whenever something like this happens, the first thing that flashes through my mind is what an incredibly huge douche the heckler is for disrupting EVERYBODY ELSE'S PEACE. I don't give a shit how important your message is... or even how much I might agree with it... it's just fucking rude. Well, Mary Elizabeth Williams has written a brilliant short article on the subject that I consider critical reading and the final word on the matter. Well worth your time. And, as a side-note, congratulations to Mrs. Obama for being one heck of a class act.
• Peter LaBarbera Hilarity. No gay man I know obsesses about gay sex as much as anti-gay crusader "Porno Pete" LaBarbera. The guy regularly goes to gay events so he can "document" the "disgusting and immoral behavior" he finds there. But, odds are, he just likes to look at half-naked men and add them to his private video collection.
Today he decided to speak out against homosexuality in front of The Human Rights Campaign's headquarters. It was yet another embarrassing "press conference" that nobody gives a shit about, because this kind of bigotry and hatred just isn't playing well in 2013. I used to find LaBarbera's antics funny and a little pathetic. But it's getting old, and is obviously a sham to cover his obsession with penises. How I wish all these bigoted assholes would just shut the fuck up already so we doesn't have to deal with their obvious overcompensation.
Posted on Thursday, June 6th, 2013
I used to like my water room temperature. Drinking cold water was uncomfortable and made my mouth numb, which I did not like at all. Now-a-days, I prefer to drink water that's as close to freezing as possible and loaded with ice to keep it that way.
I used to dislike mustard. Or, to be more accurate, I positively hated the stuff. Wouldn't eat it on anything, and even the smell of it made me sick. Now-a-days I refuse to eat a hotdog without it. Honey mustard is even better, and I smear it on anything edible. I've even buy "Dijonnaise," which is mayonnaise with mustard blended in. That would have been unthinkable just ten years ago.
I used to hate my hair short. In high school it was a constant battle with my parents as to how long I was allowed to keep it. Anything less than shoulder-length was paramount to child abuse. Now-a-days, anytime my hair gets long enough to touch my ears, I want to scream. It's just a hot, angry mess on my head, and the sooner I can grab the clippers and shave it all off, the happier I am.
Sometimes in small ways like how you want your water, what you put on your hotdog, and which hairstyle you wear... but other times in life-changing ways that wake up the world.
Since same-sex marriage was legalized here in Washington State back on December 6th, more than 2,400 gay and lesbian couples have gotten married. And despite all the stupid-ass doom and gloom that equality opponents tried to dump all over same-sex couples who just wanted the same rights as everybody else... the earth didn't fall into the sun. A meteor didn't destroy Seattle. A plague of locusts didn't eat up the Columbia Basin. The Columbia River didn't dry up. Spokane wasn't consumed in a lake of fire. And so on.
Which is to say that, for most everybody living here, nothing has changed.
But for 2,400+ Washingtonian couples, everything has changed.
Congrats and best of luck to all of you!
And here's to hotdogs with mustard.
Posted on Friday, June 7th, 2013
There was a time in the distant past when I looked forward to Fridays.
But that was back when the weekends were fun and mostly work-free. Something which hasn't been the case for years. There's always more work to do, and so I live my life in a state of perpetual Mondays.
Tomorrow is just another work day.
Fortunately, I get to escape from time to time, and so there are Saturdays on the horizon...
The road to the top of Mt. Haleakala on Maui, one glorious early morning.
Such as next Saturday, which means that next Friday will actually be something to look forward to.
And I am.
Posted on Saturday, June 8th, 2013
The nice thing about blowing all your hard-earned money on world travel is that you know places.
This can come in handy. Like when you're clicking through news stories and some random headline pops up about the Ajaccio Football Club getting a new coach. "I've been to Ajaccio!" you say to yourself. And then memories of your trip to Corsica come rushing back to you. So you search your blog to find out when that was, only to discover that it was just two-and-a-half years ago. Then you wonder why a photo of your strongest memory... pulling into port at sunrise under pink skies... isn't on your blog entry. "Oh crap, didn't I get a photo of that?!?" you wonder as you frantically double-click on your digital photo album. And... yes. Yes you did get a photo of that beautiful morning, so why didn't you post it?
According to Lighthouse Explorer, that would be "Ajaccio Citadelle Light."
"Oh well!" you say to yourself as you sigh in relief that you found something to blog about after a boring Saturday of nothing but work...
Posted on Sunday, June 9th, 2013
Time to find your happy place... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Blackhawks!!! And so it's the Blackhawks vs. the Bruins for the Stanley Cup...
GO HAWKS!!! GO HAWKS!!! GO HAWKS!!! GO HAWKS!!! GO HAWKS!!!
• Hart. Hart to Hart was a staple of my television viewing habits when I was a kid. Not only was it entertaining, but Stefanie Powers and her massive pile of feathered hair was almost too good to be true. Now Adam Scott and Amy Poehler have done a shot-for-shot remake of the opening credits.
And it's absolute genius...
If they were to ever do a retro made-for-television movie I would watch the shit out of it. The idea of a remake is just too brilliant to pass up.
• Crapper First Cracker Jack had die-cast metal toy prizes. Eventually those were replaced with plastic toy prizes. Then they ditched the toys altogether and switched to stupid stickers. And now? They don't even bother with the damn sticker. You get an "online prize" of some kind that you redeem with your phone. Well, unless you have an iPhone...
This blows. Why do they even bother?
• Photoshop! Every once in a while something goes viral on the internet that I actually like. "Photoshop Live"is one of those rare events...
I hope they do more of these... it's such a great idea.
• Miley! Since I hadn't heard anything music-related from Miley Cyrus in quite a while, I naturally assumed she now runs a gas station and mini-mart in Pittsburgh after I saw this...
But then lo and behold, this track is waiting for me when I get home...
I'm diggin' it! I can't stop! And I just don't care!
Early to bed... Early to have the alarm wake your ass up at the crack of dawn so you can drive three hours to work.
Posted on Monday, June 10th, 2013
Alrighty then. As a Certified Apple Whore, it's required by law that I post my thoughts on all the stuff Apple talked about in the keynote speech of the 2013 World Wide Developer's Conference (watch it for yourself right here!).
So for all you Apple-haters, I apologize. Come back tomorrow and I promise to draw a monkey or something.
At Apple, our new visual design direction is lickable like it's 1998!
Apple's new iCEO, Tim Cook, is no Steve Jobs... but I really like the guy. He gives a good presentation, represents Apple well, and inspires confidence in his company, which is all that matters. Seeing Phil Schiller is always fun. The guy has a genuine enthusiasm about Apple that's hard to beat. It's good to see more from Eddy Cue, Apple's internet services guru too. But the real standout this time around? Craig Federighi, vice president of software engineering. The guy is funny as hell, and has a conversational tone when he's presenting that sucks you in and compels you love Apple and the things they do. Seriously, the keynote is totally worth watching just to see this guy at the top of his game.
MAC OS X!
It looks like most of the stuff going on here is under-the-hood improvements, which is fine. But there are a chunk of notable usability enhancements as well, so I'm hopeful that I won't have as many problems with Mavericks as I had with Mountain Lion. Unfortunately, the one thing... THE ONE THING I WANTED TO SEE... was not shown. And that's the option to keep the menu bar showing at all times with full-screen apps. I am so sick and fucking tired of dealing with the bouncing menu bar intruding when I don't want it... and having to go hunt for it when I do want it... WHICH IS ALL THE TIME!!! The clock is there. My battery status is there. My sound volume indicator is there. Just give me a check-box option to keep the menu bar showing always and I'll be fine. Anyway... on with the show...
I love my MacBook Pro with Retina Display. It is unquestionably the best bit of tech I have ever owned, and the size, weight, features, and speed are amazing. That being said, there are times when I'm traveling where I would really appreciate having a much smaller machine to lug around. Basically, an iPad that's a fully-functional computer when I need it. The tiny 11-inch MacBook Air has always been so close to what I wanted. Now I think it's there. All I need is a thousand dollars and I'm golden.
"Can't innovate any more, my ass! — Phil Schiller, Vice President of World-Wide Marketing.
I honestly don't know where to go with this. I finally gave up on Apple ever releasing a new Mac Pro a year ago, and am now using an iMac that I'm quite happy with. That being said, I would much rather have a "pro" machine that can tear through the bigger projects I have to work on... especially when it comes to 3-D modeling and rendering... and video editing. And here it is. Except... it's not really a "pro" machine, is it? Sure it's got all kinds of killer pro features and looks fucking amazing... BUT EXTERNAL EXPANSION ONLY?!???? WHAT THE BLOODY FUCK?!?? One of the major differences between consumer machines and pro machines is that you can open the guts and configure the thing the way you need it for the kind of work you're going to be doing. But Apple has lived up to every criticism by choosing design over functionality, and it's a load of bullshit. Because it's BADLY DESIGNED! So you can rotate it to plug things in. That sounds cool, right? But what happens when you've got a ton of crap plugged into it? How does it rotate around when you've got a dozen cables anchoring it in place? I'm not debating whether innovations like the new "tri-core cooling technology" is cool... it's frickin' awesome... but this is not the machine pros are after, and it's a really shitty thing for Apple to do to those who have been waiting so damn long for a new Pro machine to come out. When I bought my iMac, I worried I was making a mistake, and a new Mac Pro would be released that would work so much better for my needs. Well all those worries are gone. If I had the choice even today between an iMac and a Mac "Pro"... I'd go with the iMac. This is the fucking Mac Cube all over again! Did NOBODY at Apple learn a damn thing from that fiasco?
Nobody is more convinced that the future of computing lies in The Cloud than I am. Having access to all your stuff wherever you are with whatever device you have is the future. The problem is that nobody is doing it very well... including Apple. But, to their credit, they do seem to be the most interested in figuring it all out. More and more cloud functionality is coming into place. Apple's cloud services are getting more reliable and robust every day. And things like iTunes Match are demonstrating the promise of what "cloud computing" is all about... have access to my entire music and movie/television library anywhere there's internet from my Mac, iPad, or iPhone? Yes please. It's all magic, right? Well... not really. Because Apple is constantly sabotaging themselves. Want to stream your purchased movies to your Mac or iDevice? Tough shit! Apple only allows streaming to AppleTV... anything else requires that you download the whole fucking file first. Never mind that Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, and the rest of the known fucking universe allows video streaming, Apple doesn't. Will this be fixed with iOS 7 and OS X Mavericks? Who the fuck knows? Will Apple fix the myriad of problems that prevent developers from integrating iCloud into their apps? Who the fuck knows? It goes on and on. The fact that Apple is working so hard on getting The Cloud done right is meaningless if they can't see the forest for the trees. YOU HAVE TO FUCKING COMPETE! Except Apple doesn't seem to care when the competition is trouncing all over them... they're Apple, so they don't have to! Except they really do. We finally get keychain syncing back, but it almost feels like too little too late when services like Dropbox and solutions like 1Password stepped up to the plate when Apple wouldn't for so damn long. And there's the crux of everything that's wrong at Apple... THEY decide what's important to their users rather than responding to what users find important and are actually doing. I love Apple and all, but I'm just so fucking sick of this.
Well, it looks a little more polished than Spotify or Pandora... and it looks a lot smarter, even if the details are sketchy (how many skips do you get an hour?). I will probably use it. I will probably discover new music. I will probably end up buying a shitload more music than I am now. So, mission accomplished, I guess. The fact that iTunes Match subscribers don't have to deal with ads is kind of a nice bonus.
Oh... so Apple hasn't killed iWork on the Mac after all! It's just so hard to tell, what with them NOT UPDATING IT FOREVER. Just like with Aperture, buying iWork almost immediately makes you feel like you've purchased abandonware. Sure they'll fix a big or add a little fluff every once in a while (NEW! Documents in The Cloud!)... but it's hard to have faith with Apple as a serious app developer when they don't maintain a consistent release schedule. Years can go by with no major release or update, so you just never know. And here we are at long last... iWork is getting updated. Or is it? Because the focus seems to be on competing with Google Docs with a browser-based solution. Well, I have to tell you, this has me worried. Very worried. And it all comes down to this... will future releases of iWork (the app) be limited by iWork (the web app)? Is an Apple software engineer going to say "Here's a great idea for iWork Numbers... won't it be cool to give our users this functionality?" Only to be greeted with "Oh shit, we can't add that feature... we'd never be able to implement that in a web browser!" Well, I just don't know. But that would suck. And it wouldn't be surprising from Apple. All that being said? How frickin' amazing was that demo of iWork in the Cloud?
Well, here it is... the moment the world has been waiting for... the next generation of Apple's iOS. The operating system which powers gazillions of iPhones, iPods, iPads, and whatever new iDevices Apple comes up with (iWatch?). I'll reserve comment on the new design visuals until I've actually seen them up-close-and-personal, but my initial reaction is mixed. I like the flatness of it all, which feels modern and forward-thinking. The typography and the stark, clean layouts are stellar. But the bright candy colors that I thought were banished with the old iMac aesthetic feel more "dated and tired" than "retro cool." Yet... Apple is nothing if not a trend-setter, so maybe it's a look that's making a comeback. I guess we'll find out this Fall. If I were to summarize, I'd say that I like most of what I'm seeing... but not everything. If nothing else, I think it's a consistent visual language that competitors lack will help keep Apple at the top of the heap.
Okay. There's one thing I saw in the keynote that has completely haunted me about the new design, and I love it more than sliced bread. The new iOS is multi-plane display capable...
This basically means that everything is set on three-dimensional layers, so as you move your phone around, the different planes move to communicate depth. Allowing you to "see around" stuff on upper layers as the camera is rotated. In video games and animation, this is called "parallax scrolling" (or something like that), and it's some visual trickery that really pays off. The idea of having such lush visuals on my frickin' PHONE is pretty spectacular. It's the little touches like this that makes Apple be Apple, and keeps Apple Whores such as myself in a constant state of geek heaven.
Annnnnnd... the end.
For now. As I get a better look at all this stuff, I'm sure I'll have more to say.
Posted on Tuesday, June 11th, 2013
Seattle could certainly have a worse symbol representing the city.
Even though it was built in 1962, the Space Needle has aged very well. Still looks contemporary and modern, really.
Here's the monkey I promised.
The view from my hotel room, in glorious HDR...
The Pacific Science Center to the left and Experience Music Project on the right.
And... I'm here to work, not blog, so off I go...
Posted on Wednesday, June 12th, 2013
I know I've bitched about them before... but, after driving through Seattle's horrendous traffic again today, I'm more enraged than ever at the money being spent for these ridiculous "Smart Signs" that are popping up everywhere. They're have got to be one of the stupidest fucking things I've ever seen.
The idea is that "Smart Signs" will slow traffic so that everything flows more smoothly during peak traffic times. But, in reality, the signs are always 10-20 miles per hour faster than the speed anybody can actually reach. This makes them effectively useless...
Here I am going 10 miles per hour in a 30 miles per hour zone.
So what fucking difference does it make if, instead of paying for these very expensive digital signs, there were much cheaper traditional 60 MPH painted signs on the side of the road? I'll tell you what... NO FUCKING DIFFERENCE AT ALL! These "Smart Signs" aren't doing shit. Except costing taxpayers absurd amounts of money. Slow traffic is slow traffic and you'll go however fast the traffic allows. No magical signage is going to change that. End of story.
But the "Smart Signs" keep going up.
Not that smart, Seattle.
Posted on Thursday, June 13th, 2013
And so a Seattle-based band I like, The Local Strangers, played a Very Special sold-out show at The Triple Door tonight. It was Very Special because they were accompanied on some of their songs by the Passenger String Quartet.
Which is like taking Amazing, sprinkling it with Awesome, then deep-fat-frying it in Magic.
Such an amazing show, and I find myself filled with pity for those unfortunate souls who didn't get to experience it...
If you ever have a chance to catch them live, this is a band worth checking out. You can keep track of them on their Facebook page or sign up for The Local Strangers newsletter and get free music on their website.
Posted on Friday, June 14th, 2013
When it comes to our inevitable arrival at a paperless, all-digital world, I'm a big supporter. I really hate having to cart around a stack of cards and bits of paper when traveling, because it's entirely too easy to forget something or, even worse, lose something important.
The problem is that I'm constantly being met with failure in my attempts to "go digital."
Like today, for instance, as I attempt to fly to Boston.
First I go to reserve parking. The place I like best, SeaTac Park, has long had online reservations that can be verified with your email address instead of having to print out a confirmation. It's a great system. When it works...
This really sucks, because you can't get the best rate unless you pre-book online. I've brought it up the last three times I've parked there, but it never gets fixed. I always have to remind them again when I leave so I can get the discount and, if I forget, then I'm shit-out-of-luck.
But the problems don't stop there.
When I go to use Alaska Airlines' new "Passbook" feature on their iPhone app because Passbook is a really great iPhone feature, it won't let me...
This pisses me off because not only do I already have a Mileage Plan number on my account... but I also think it's fucking stupid that you're required to have one in the first place. What the hell does a mileage plan have to do with checking in for a flight? People fly without mileage plans every damn day.
So off I go to Alaska Airlines' website so I can add my mileage number back on my account. Except, when I get there, it won't let me. Apparently my account is invalid...
And so I'm forced to call customer service.
Only to find out that my mileage plan expired due to inactivity. "Well, can you reactivate it? I ask. "Only if you want to pay $75!" the customer service agent replies. "My miles are on Delta... why in the heck would I want to pay $75 to reactivate an account I don't use?" I ask, ready to explode. "If you don't, then you'll have to sign up for a new account." she says. Apparently miles don't expire... only the account which holds them, which makes perfect fucking sense!
So much for convenience in this wonderful digital age.
Because more often than not, the shit doesn't work. And the steps towards making it work are more complicated and time consuming than carrying cards and bits of paper.
I thought it would be easier than this.
Posted on Saturday, June 15th, 2013
And I'm in Boston for one day so I could attend a party for a very good friend who had some extraordinary news that was worth celebrating. Yes, a day trip across the country probably seems odd to most people, but I make trips like this all the time for work, so it's old hat to me.
But before the party tonight, I had an entire day to goof off in Boston.
I started out in Boston Common because there's an Earl of Sandwich shop there. They discontinued The Greatest Sandwich on Earth... The Earl Veggie... but I was hoping to add/subtract ingredients on a boring Caprese sandwich to recreate it. Unfortunately, they didn't have half the stuff to do it, so my day began in failure. Fortunately, it was a beautiful day to walk around and see the monuments...
The Soldiers and Sailors Monument.
Memorial for the Boston Massacre.
Then it was off to the Granary Burying Ground, which is my favorite of Boston's beautiful old cemeteries that's filled with beautiful tombstones (and home to many famous dead people like Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Paul Revere)...
Death being more common back then, some of the tombstones are kinda comical.
A lot of tattoo ideas to be found here!
I've been to Boston several times, so I wanted to find a museum I'd never been to before. That ended up being the Boston Athenæum, which is a beautiful private library that allows the public to look around. They also have a small exhibit of wonderful works that explain their part in the creation of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Pictures weren't allowed on the inside, but I did snap a photo of the entrance, which is equally cool...
From there I was off to a wonderful little shop called The Printing Office of Edes & Gill. They've got a terrific old letterpress that's still in operation. Every time I visit I buy a new souvenir piece, because there's nothing quite so beautiful as a letterpress print...
Seriously worth a stop if you're ever walking The Freedom Trail in Boston.
The print shop is located on the Paul Revere Mall, where his statue has been defaced with a dreaded Bruins jersey...
Rebel that he was, I like to think he would be a Blackhawks fan!
Since I didn't get my Earl of Sandwich, I headed to Mike's Famous Pastries for the next best thing... cannoli! Not only does it taste amazing, but I love the way they box it up with hand-tied string. You see a lot of these boxes carried by tourists as you wander around the city. Fortunately, the line was only out the door instead of down the block, so it was only a 20 minute wait...
That's a Crushed Caramel Pecan on the left and an Oreo Cookie on the right.
A lot of jealous looks from people when they see the box you'll be carrying!
And then it was time to head out to Somerville so I could meet up with Justin, an online buddy I was very glad to finally meet in person. He suggested an ice cream at J.P. Licks, which didn't take much convincing...
Pretty frickin' amazing ice cream, if we're being honest here.
Since my ride to the party missed their flight into Boston and was going to be late, I was left with a couple of hours to kill. Lucky me, my friend Dave just happened to be in from London! I haven't seen him since Davedon in 2009, so this was a happy (if not totally bizarre) coincidence. We decided to eat at Boston's premiere brick oven pizzeria since 1926, Regina's...
There was a line to get in, of course. But totally worth the wait.
Dave had The Giambotta, which has everything but the kitchen sink. I had mozzarella and feta cheese.
Still needing to kill some time, Dave and I decided to take a walk through the Quincy Market at Faneuil Hall. I love the place not only for the sheer variety of food, but for the decor. Each stall has it's own signage, and most of it is very well done...
So much nicer than the boring signs you usually see now-a-days.
Outside there was a juggler risking his life with some kind of show. He was capable (and funny!) if this is your thing, but I was hoping for chainsaws...
Probably not sharp knives, but you could still poke an eye out.
My friends finally landed, so it was time to say goodbye to Dave and head back to my hotel so I could get cleaned up. Along the way, I saw Boston's beautiful old State House building with a spot of sunset light on it...
Now that's a beautiful building! Though I've never been inside.
Boston is a city that's kinda a strange place for me to be right now. Yes, it's home to my beloved Red Sox baseball... but it's also home to Bruins hockey, which is currently battling it out with my beloved Chicago Blackhawks for the Stanley Cup (wearing my Blackhawks jersey is probably out of the question). The good news is that I managed to find a Jarod Saltalamacchia T-Shirt and a not-LEGO Lil' Salty action figure this trip...
Other than that, it was all good. The party was fantastic, I loved running into my friends, and my trip was a total success.
Until I realize that it's now close to midnight and I have a flight at 7:00am tomorrow morning. Blargh.
Good bye Boston.
Posted on Sunday, June 16th, 2013
Get over your post-Bean-Town-blues... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Happy Father's Day! To all the dads out there... but especially mine, hope your day was a happy one.
• America! And here's how you deal with dumbass racist bigots...
And then? You get right back up again.
This kid says more about the American spirit and the ideals of this country than any number of morons who proclaim to be patriots, but don't have the first clue about what the USA is all about.
• Ferb! Okay then. Today in mind-blowing news...
Thomas Brodie-Sangster is Sam from "Love Actually" who is also Jojen on "Game of Thrones" WHO IS ALSO THE VOICE OF FERB ON PHINNEAS AND FERB! HOW DID I NOT KNOW THIS?
• DOMA! I don't care what your religious or philosophical beliefs are. Anybody who would want to keep a law in place which causes such needless sadness and suffering is a sadistic asshole. There is simply no justification for this. None.
And yet there are piece of shit politicians who can look at this and still disagree. Like Senator Marco Rubio who continues to double down on inequality and misery by being a homophobic bigot that refuses to support immigration reform which includes gay couples... but then has the balls to turn around and say "Our faith has always been about compassion and it compels you to do something. If you took compassion or the principle of compassion out of the Bible, it would be in tatters because it's all over the place." Hypocritical bullshit like this makes me want to vomit. What a complete and total douche.
And... I've been up since 1:30am, so I'm spent. No more bullets for you!
Posted on Monday, June 17th, 2013
This may very well be the greatest movie ever.
And now I can't wait for 2014...
Because... Morgan Freeman, for real?
I hope there's a video game released to go along with it.
Posted on Tuesday, June 18th, 2013
It's not the chase that I love.It's me following you.
Posted on Wednesday, June 19th, 2013
I've been working non-stop for the past couple weeks which makes for boring blog fodder.
Luckily, I went out for groceries today.
Suffice to say that a good time was had by all... from the second I arrived only to have a woman put her shopping cart in front of the parking space I wanted... to the minute I was leaving only to have a kid run me over with his skateboard... I couldn't have asked for a better end to my work day.
Then I got home and turned on the television. It was on the E! channel. I don't recall what was playing, but I do recall that they interrupted the show so they could announce that James Gandolfini was dead. I had read about the news earlier but, before I had a chance to be sad about it all over again, the announcer proceeded to say "For late breaking news on this story, be sure to visit E! Online!"
I am still trying to figure out what that means.
Gandolfini might end up more dead?
Gandolfini could come back from the dead?
Exactly what are they expecting to happen? Or is it such a habit to add ""For late breaking news on this story, be sure to visit E! Online!" to everything that they don't even realize they're doing it. Or how inappropriate it is.
Or maybe it's all about the web traffic and they just don't care.
But I have to leave open the possibility that aliens could steal James Gandolfini's body, in which case I will absolutely be tuning in to E! Online because they totally called that.
This image is floating all over the internet, but nobody credits the photographer. Sad.
I don't have to wax poetic about what a brilliant actor Mr. Gandolfini was. Any single episode of The Sopranos would testify to that. He had a presence on screen that was undeniable, and he made even a minor role feel larger than life. He was one of the most memorable parts of Get Shorty, but barely ranked a supporting character. His end scene in True Romance lingers still even though his screen time was small.
It's incredibly sad that he has left us at a time when he was finally breaking free of the mobster role in The Sopranos that made him a household name. There were so many great performances to come.
Posted on Thursday, June 20th, 2013
So there I was driving home from work when a shot rang out.
Not knowing if I was the one being shot at, I pulled over so I could scope out the situation.
But nothing seemed awry.
And then the smell of root beer filled the air. Was I dead? Was I dreaming?
No. A can of A&W just exploded in the back seat of my car...
So now I am driving the root-beer-mobile. There's root beer everywhere... soaking into the floor... splattered on the ceiling... covering the back of the seats... such a disaster.
And I just don't get it. The weather was overcast. It was not hot. There was no reason for the can to have exploded. I can only guess that they must be using really thin aluminum now-a-days to save on cost, and this is what happens when a can gets a little shook up in the back seat of your car.
Guess it's time to fulfill my dream of lighting my piece-of-shit car on fire and rolling it off a cliff... because that root beer smell ain't ever going away.
Though I suppose it could have been worse. It could have been a can of lutefisk that blew up my car.
Or Strawberry Fanta.
Posted on Friday, June 21st, 2013
Adobe Creative Cloud has arrived.
Adobe software upgrades are usually a reason to celebrate, but their controversial decision to make a monthly Creative Cloud membership the only way to use such popular apps as Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign has made a lot of people upset and angry. Sure you can still buy the old CS6 software, but any new stuff is members only. This kind of sucks, because if you aren't able to pay your monthly fee, any files saved in the newer CC format become useless. And, of course, to use the latest features you have to save in CC format. Catch-22.
Regardless, I thought I'd give a quick overview of the thing for anybody out there who's curious. And if you don't even know what Creative Cloud is? Hark! A promo video...
And now for this Creative Cloud business...
The bad news is that Adobe still doesn't beta test anything before release. Or, if they do, they do a really crappy job of it. Just as it's always been with their apps, I've found bugs and problems on my very first day. How the fuck Adobe can miss or overlook stuff that I run across after mere minutes of use is just beyond me. The only thing I can guess is that they know their users don't have any realistic alternative to their tools so they just don't give a shit.
Everything I cover will be on a Mac, because I honestly don't give a flying fuck about Windows anymore after Microsoft released the horrendous pile of shit known as "Windows 8." If you're using that hot mess of an OS, I apologize, but, damn.
The boat-load of apps that come with a Creative Cloud membership are now managed by a menu bar extension. I thought this was a lot nicer than the previous method of hunting down Adobe's Application Manager app, but the thing is (of course) buggy and defective, so it's a mixed bag. Never mind that it doesn't update itself after an app is installed (you have to restart your Mac for that), there is a much bigger problem. In that most times when you switch between Apple's virtual desktops (called "Spaces") the damn thing activates. That's right, it just opens up for no reason at all. And this is exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about when I question whether Adobe bothers to test their shit. I ran across this problem immediately after installation. How in the hell did Adobe's beta testers not notice it? Do they ignore basic Mac OS X features? This is fucking insane. And the fact that Adobe isn't embarrassed by things like this speaks volumes for what you're getting into when you sign up for their products.
But I digress. The menu extension looks like this...
It's nice that you're told if your app is up-to-date, even though it makes the menu window huge. Oddly enough, if an app is not up to date, Creative Cloud doesn't have the ability to update it. Instead it launches Adobe Updater, which is kind of crazy. Why have one tool that can handle multiple tasks when you can clutter up a hard drive with two? Or, more likely for Adobe, twenty?
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
If you are a professional, you'll want to install the new CC apps next to your old CS6 apps in case you run into some heinous bug that prevents you from getting work done. Thankfully, this is fully supported. But what if you're a rebel like me who only wants the new apps? Do you have the option of overwriting Photoshop CS6 with Photoshop CC? Of course you don't! That would be too fucking convenient, and Adobe has a reputation for shitty, inconvenient installers, so that's not going to happen.
Welcome to Adobe manual uninstallation! It's stupidly inconsistent, but that's the Adobe way!
Some apps like Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and Acrobat have uninstaller apps in their folders. That's not so bad, right? Well, sure... if they worked. The uninstaller for InDesign hanged and had to be force-quit. The unistaller for Acrobat said that Acrobat was an invalid application to uninstall. You get the picture. Though at least they have uninstallers. Apps like Bridge don't. Regardless of how much work you put into uninstalling (Mac App Cleaner helped a lot), you still end up with traces of crap scattered over your hard drive. I did a search to root out all things "Adobe" so I could trash them, but I'm sure pieces are still around somewhere. Guess reformatting my hard drive is the only way to truly clean out old Adobe apps?
After installation... which was surprisingly smooth and easy... I thought I'd just quit Creative Cloud since I wouldn't be needing it the rest of the day. But, surprise!, Creative Cloud doesn't like that because Creative Cloud doesn't fucking know if it's working on an installation or not!
I suppose it's possible that Creative Cloud hands off installation to yet another app but, if that were the case, why would quitting cancel the install app? Insanity.
In what I can only describe as some kind of bizarre tease, two of Creative Cloud's non-app functions... Cloud File Storage and Cloud Typekit Fonts... are "coming soon"...
The third non-app function is Adobe's acquisition of "Behance" which is an online portfolio you can share with people. I'm already using Deviant Art for my portfolio, but it's free so I went ahead and signed up. Eventually I might even put something there.
And that's pretty much it for Creative Cloud.
But what about the new CC apps? Are the new features in Photoshop any good? Does Illustrator have any cool new toys? Does InDesign finally have decent performance at long last? Tune in tomorrow and see!
UPDATE! And the hits just keep coming. Turns out that Creative Cloud saying an app is "up-to-date" is not always true...
Posted on Saturday, June 22nd, 2013
Yesterday I took a look at Adobe's "Creative Cloud" app. Today I'm going to look at the "Big Three" apps within Creative Cloud... Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign.
But before I go there, I have to come clean and admit that most of Adobe's updates have pretty much been "fluff" to me. Yeah, it's cool to get time-savers like the "Spot Healing Brush" and cool extras like "Perspective Drawing Tools"... but, overall, the basic stuff you need to do the job have been around for a long time and everything else they keep adding is nothing more than fluff.
My problem is that I like the fluff.
I get giddy every time Adobe drops some new nifty feature that makes my job easier... or more fun.
Unfortunately, I think we're getting to the point where the fluff is starting to affect app performance, and that's a problem. Kinda. So let me get the worst out of the way first...
In a nutshell? Fucking horrendous. The program is practically unusable now.
Should you upgrade? Only if you enjoy excrutiating pain and endless frustration.
By the time Adobe bought out Aldus PageMaker in 1994, I had already moved on to QuarkXpress for page layout. The problem being that I hated Quark. So when Adobe came out with InDesign, I jumped... nay, I bolted to InDesign... and never looked back. Partly because I loathed Quark so badly... but mostly because I loved what Adobe had done with InDesign.
Fast forward to yesterday and I have to ask... what the fuck is Adobe doing with InDesign?
The previous CS6 update felt slower than CS5 and crashed quite a bit. But it's an absolute joy to use compared to InDesign CC, which is ungodly slow and clunky. The lag when typing text is agonizing. Moving objects is sheer torture because they... just... won't... move. Even hiding all the images and turning off every automated feature doesn't help speed things up much. I could go on, but it's pointless to do so because InDesign CC is pretty much unusable and worthless.
But before I go, a question... why the fuck hasn't Adobe gotten off their asses and hidden the temp files that have been shitting all over my hard drive since InDesign 1.0?
In a nutshell? Not a lot to see here, move along.
Should you upgrade? Sure. You get a few nice pieces of fluff and I haven't found a down-side.
Adobe Illustrator is my most favorite program ever. I love Illustrator. It's powerful. It's comfortable. It's friendly. And the pen tool I use constantly to draw stuff is sublime. It also doesn't hurt that I'm really, really good at it. Just so long as Adobe doesn't break something, I'm excited by any new feature they want to throw my way. This time I'm especially excited by the free-transform tool (which allows you to distort objects oh so easily, especially with a touch screen)... the "touch text" tool (which allows you to perform really slick adjustments to live text)... the smarter Smart Guides (which is much needed)... and the nifty stuff they've done with brushes (like automatically generating corners and allowing you to use images and brushes). Granted, that's not a lot. But Illustrator is so amazing it really doesn't have to be. Overall a minor, unobtrusive, and welcome upgrade.
In a nutshell? Pretty great fluff this time. No noticeable slowdown from the additional features.
Should you upgrade? Only if you have confirmed that any third-party plugins you need are compatible.
Photoshop is a stunning example of what people mean when they use words like "invaluable" and "essential." It is the irreplaceable tool I need to do my job. I use it most every single day and love it more than chocolate pudding. So how does Adobe make a great thing greater? Welllll... the show-stopper this time is "Shake Reduction" which is a really smart, mostly-automatic, all-new version of "Smart Sharpen." And the results are pretty impressive...
Oops. In my defense, my camera didn't have image stabilization. And I was drunk.
Yes. This. With just a press of a button. Is it magic? It's Photoshop.
And, speaking of Smart Sharpen, that's been improved too.
Next up? Camera Raw now only works as a filter now for quickly working on non-RAW images, but they've added some new toys too... like auto spot removal. And a cool little feature called "Automated Upright" which will allow you to more quickly and easily straighten buildings and stuff...
When enlarging photos... especially ones with well-defined edges... I usually use a third-party enlargement plugin that has edge detection or fractals or some method to preserve details in the image. Now Photoshop has a new enlargement method called "Preserve Details." And it works pretty well...
It's tough to tell at this small size, but the "Preserve Details" enlargement on the right is much better.
There are other new features, improvements, and a few tweaks... but the above three are the biggies. And I think they're worth the price of admission when taken in a lump sum. But there is a down-side. Some of my third-party plugins are not working. Most notably, Imagenomic Noiseware. Until you're sure that your essential plugins can work with Photoshop CC you might want to hold off upgrading.
And there you have it. A mixed bag. Mostly thanks to a jaw-droppingly shitty InDesign update.
But also because Adobe can't be bothered to make their apps work well with my Mac. Full-Screen support is broken. Still. And my Magic Mouse acts like a total spaz with accidental scrolls and crappy tracking even though it's been out for nearly four years... so I have to downgrade to my Mighty Mouse, which is much older, but does work for some reason. Yet Adobe did expand Mac Retina Display support, so what do I know?
Now that we're stuck in the Creative Cloud I'm already looking for sunnier weather. Because even though I love Adobe and their critical tools which allow me to to what I do... they simply cannot continue to unleash horrendous piles of shit like InDesign CC any more.
When you're responsible for something "invaluable" and "essential," you have to do better than that.
Posted on Sunday, June 23rd, 2013
Don't go getting yourself blinded by the Super Moon... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Animal! I've been too busy to spend much time playing it, but Animal Crossing: New Leaf was released for the Nintendo 3DS. It's pretty much the exact same game as Animal Crossing, Animal Crossing: Wild World, and Animal Crossing: City Folk. Basically you run around catching fish, hunting bugs, harvesting fruit, collecting seashells, and other tasks... all so you can earn money to buy cool stuff for you and your house. Except this time the little character you take control of is mistaken for the mayor, so you have other responsibilities as well. It's fun and all... but if you've played any of the other games in the series, you've pretty much played this one...
That being said, it's still an entertaining way to kill some time each day. And the 3-D effects are done very well, which makes it visually interesting as well. If you've never played Animal Crossing before, this would be a good place to start. If you have? Well, if you didn't tire of it before, you probably won't mind playing it again.
• Twikies! And so Hostess has a new owner and is going to start distributing their snack-cakes once again come mid-July. This will mean nothing to me... unless they decide to at least try to have the appearance of healthy ingredients by eliminating the LARD from their products...
A switch to vegetable oil would mean that I can start eating Ding Dongs again after 23 years of avoiding them like the plague. And it might give them a fighting chance of surviving in a slightly more health conscience world where parents are not wanting to feed their kids LARD.
• Devious! I could never get into Desperate Housewives because it didn't really go anywhere and wasn't a very entertaining ride. Now creator Marc Cherry has come up with his next television distraction... Devious Maids. The cast is really good, so I had high hopes that this time it would be worth watching...
Sadly, after watching the first episode, it seems as though it's just going to be more of the same. Somebody's been murdered and everybody has secrets. I'm guessing they're just going to dance around everything for years until the show is so senseless and boring that they get canceled and have to slop together some answers. Again. No thanks.
• Equality! Here's hoping that the highest court in the land remembers what America is all about in the weeks ahead...
If nothing else, we could finally tell the equality opponents to take their ridiculous "arguments" against freedom and just shut up already. Though the parodies of their faux pain over something that doesn't even affect them are almost too good to give up...
Yeah, definitely going to miss that.
• Shiiiiiiiiit! I don't even know what to say about this...
People be crazy. People be crazy.
Annnnd... it's going to be a long week.
Posted on Monday, June 24th, 2013
CONGRATULATIONS BLACKHAWKS ON YOUR STANLEY CUP WIN!!
I wish I was in Chicago right now.
Oh... wait a second... deja vu.
Posted on Tuesday, June 25th, 2013
In my annual music wrap-up for last year, a musical duo called "Father Tiger" came out of nowhere to nab the number two spot for best album of 2012. My only disappointment was that some of my favorite singles from the band weren't on it.
This has been partially rectified with their EP release titled Vernal Equinox which had First Love as one of the tracks. It's a terrific song, and today they release a video for it...
And timely, given that we're nearing the SCOTUS decision on marriage equality in America...
Posted on Wednesday, June 26th, 2013
So DOMA is gone and Prop 8 has been struck down.
Both Supreme Court rulings are very good news for equality and freedom in this country.
But, of course, the hand-wringing and whining from the anti-equality brigade has already begun in full force. Never mind that not a single person lost any rights today... some people just enjoy being able to deny rights to people they don't like, and now they're all upset because some of that power has been taken away.
Though the bigger picture may not be so bleak for the bigots among us.
Because yesterday SCOTUS gutted the Voting Rights act.
So now States are completely free to disenfranchise voters as they see fit. Have a class of people you want to eliminate from the voting pool? No problem! Just find the way that they tend to vote and get rid of it! Do they tend to vote early? Get rid of early voting! Do they tend to have difficulty getting certain types of identification? Then require that kind of identification! Do they tend to vote at late hours? Close the polls early! Do they all tend to vote at the same time? Then limit the number of polling stations so they can't all get in to vote! Do they tend to have dark skin? Then require their complexion be lighter than a paper bag to qualify to vote! The possibilities are endless! With enough planning, you can get rid of All The Wrong People and make sure the only people able to vote are the people you feel are worthy of the privilege (i.e. they'll vote the way you want them to).
Okay, I exaggerate.
But not really.
Because it's already happening. Except now, thanks to our Supreme Court, the people doing the disenfranchising don't even have to be subtle about it. Texas waited less than two hours after the SCOTUS ruling to start implementing a redistricting measure for heaven's sake.
And a part of me now has to wonder if the DOMA/Prop 8 stuff even matters.
Because if The Right People can determine who gets to vote, then they can shape election results. And I'm pretty sure this will include making sure only The Right People get into office. Which in turn guarantees that only The Right People end up serving on the Supreme Court. Which means that The Right People win the ball game.
In which case The Wrong People lose.
And that probably includes you.
If not today, then probably tomorrow.
Posted on Thursday, June 27th, 2013
Nope. Not yet.
Posted on Friday, June 28th, 2013
Kapgar was talking about the Stanley Cup's triumphant return to Chicago in his blog post today, and it got me to thinking back to how I became a Blackhawks fan. That, in turn, got me thinking about how I became a fan of all the league sports teams that I follow.
A blog post was born. Thanks, Kevin!
Boston Red Sox Baseball
Baseball is hands-down my favorite sport. It was the only game I liked playing as a kid (even though I really could't play) and I love watching it. Baseball just seems more intimate and personal for some reason, and it's easier to feel a relationship with the players than with any other sport. When your team loses, it hurts because you're invested with those nine players. The first pro team I rooted for was my "hometown" Seattle Mariners, which were enfranchised when I was 11 years old. That lasted until I was in my mid-teens and was given an brand new Orioles jersey as a gift (probably because somebody didn't want it). I didn't know a darn thing about the Orioles, but I liked the shirt a lot. That was apparently enough for me to become a fan, and it didn't hurt that the Orioles were an amazing team back in the early 80's. But, truth to be told, I was never really into professional baseball growing up. I'd rather watch a high school game than a League team, and I was a "fan" of the Mariners and Orioles only in the vaguest possible terms.
And then it happened.
While I was in college, I had to read the book Shoeless Joe for some class or another. It provided an insight into baseball and the love of the game that completely captivated me. A key story-point to the book was the "Black Sox" scandal that rocked the world of baseball in 1919. It was such a fascinating story that I became a little obsessed with it, and ended up reading a lot about the sport. Fortunately, there were no shortage of books about America's favorite pastime, and one book lead to another... then another... then another... until I landed on a Ted Williams biography. This lead to a run on Boston greats, starting with Cy Young, which lead to Smoky Joe Wood, which lead inevitably to Babe Ruth... and his infamous trade from the Red Sox to the Yankees, which caused a curse that plagued the team for over eight decades. This eventually led me to become interested in pro baseball, in general, and the Red Sox, in particular. Then the movie Field of Dreams (based on the novel Shoeless Joe) was unleashed, became my favorite movie of all time, and instilled a love of Major League baseball in me that I never had before... but felt as if it had been with me my entire life. I've been a die-hard Red Sox fan ever since. I love the team. I love the history. I love the fans. I love Boston. And I love Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (probably a little too much). SALTALAMACCHIA!!!
Chicago Blackhawks Hockey
Hockey is not a big sport where I live, so I never really "discovered" it until I started traveling to Milwaukee for work in the mid 90's. I went to a couple Admirals games and was instantly hooked. The problem being that the Admirals are not a NHL team, so they were kind of hard to follow when I was not in Wisconsin. Eventually my fandom traveled down the shore of Lake Michigan to the Blackhawks when I started traveling to Chicago for work in 1998. I've been a fan ever since. I don't really keep up the League standings, but I have news alerts set for the Hawks so I can watch games and keep up with the team. Hockey remains one of my favorite sports to watch, so a Stanley Cup win for Chicago is a big deal to me after following the team from afar for 15 years. GO HAWKS!
Seattle Sonics Basketball
Sonics mascot SQUATCH!! Photo credit unknown.
Basketball is another spectator sport I enjoy because, like hockey, it's fast-paced and action-packed. The only team I've ever rooted for is my "hometown" Seattle SuperSonics, and I have more than a couple fond memories of traveling to Seattle Center Coliseum (later named Key Arena) to cheer on the team. Of course we all know how that turned out. Our team was sold to Tulsa and basketball died in Seattle. I haven't bothered to find a new team to follow since. INTERESTING FACT: Seattle Center Coliseum has the dubious honor of being the only venue where a basketball game was rained out. Back in 1986 a rainstorm was so severe that water started pouring through the roof and the game was forfeited. It's also the venue where The Beatles played in their two tours of Seattle in 1964 and 1966.
New York Liberty Women's Basketball
I'm not going to candy-coat this... for the longest time, I had -zero- interest in women's sports, thinking that they would be a pale imitation of the real thing. That all changed when I was taken to a New York Liberty game in Newark. These ladies played their guts out, and I got to see a fantastic game that opened my eyes to the fact that women can bring it to the court every bit as dedicated as men. I am not an avid Liberty fan, but check in from time to time to see how they're doing and what's new with the roster. Since the Sonics are gone, I keep hoping I'll find time to take in some Seattle Storm WNBA games and maybe get interested in pro basketball again, but no luck so far.
Seattle Seahawks Gridiron Football
I find football kinda boring, so I'm not invested enough to have a team. If I were, it would be my "hometown" Seattle Seahawks. Probably because I was there in the beginning. Back in 1976 the NFL expansion granted Seattle a team, and it was an exciting time to be a Washingtonian. Seahawks were everywhere, and I remember collecting player posters from the backs of Lay's potato chips boxes (yes, potato chips used to come 2-small bags to a box back in the day). Players like quarterback Jim Zorn and wide receiver Steve Largent that were elevated to local heroes, and their charisma and enthusiasm for the team made it impossible not to root for the Seahawks. But, as I said, I'm not a big football fan, so any love I have for the team comes out of nostalgia more than anything else.
With apologies to my friends who are either Manchester United or Chelsea fans... Nick Hornby's novel, Fever Pitch, got me rooting for Arsenal first. The ultimate irony being that when the American movie version of Fever Pitch was made, the sports-obsessed character was a Boston Red Sox fan. Whenever I can find sports highlights for Arsenal, I'm sure to tune it, and I follow their stats every season.
Cronulla Sharks Australian Water Polo
When I was traveling around Australia, I saw a T-shirt for the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks Football Club. The logo was awesome (SHARK EXTREME!!!), but the shirt didn't come in my size, so I was bummed. When I got back to my hotel I Googled the team to see if there was a way to order a shit through the mail. Somehow, I ended up NOT on a Cronulla Sharks football page, but a Cronulla Sharks water polo page. Other than a vague recollection of water polo being an important Olympic sport, I didn't know much about the game and was curious. After some digging, I ran across internet video and was amazed. Water polo has to be one of the most difficult and grueling sports in existence. It's also a lot of fun to watch. And so I tune into water polo from time to time whenever I run across it on my television. I also keep up with both the Women's and Men's Cronulla Sharks teams because they were what started it all for me.
Sadly I haven't decided on a professional curling team to watch, so I guess that's the end?
Posted on Saturday, June 29th, 2013
I'm now mostly dead.
Which is understandable considering I just got finished with a seventeen-hour work day.
What I need now Is a vacation.
But that's a few weeks away yet. Darnit.
Posted on Sunday, June 30th, 2013
Time to pick up that mint julep... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Gone! For my first bullet, I'd like to thank Google for the big "fuck you" they drop tomorrow when they kill off Google Reader. It's great how you blow into town with some essential tool and dominate the entire market after killing off the competition... then abandon that market when you can't exploit it for millions of dollars. Way to be "not evil." Next up... Feed Burner?
• Gone Too! Just to show that Google doesn't have a monopoly in killing off services... Yahoo! is killing off a dozen products, including Alta Vista on July 8th, which was my go-to search engine back in the 1990's. Yahoo! says that you should now "Please visit Yahoo Search for all of your searching needs"... but my guess is that this will actually mean more search traffic for Google. Oh well. Another piece of internet history to be gone and forgotten.
• Schadenfreude! I try to be respectful of other people's beliefs and opinions... honestly I do. But the outpouring of hand-wringing over the repeal of DOMA and striking down of Prop 8 is just too delicious to ignore. Because, seriously, if you don't accept same-sex marriage, THEN DON'T MARRY SOMEBODY OF THE SAME SEX! There's really nothing more to be said on the matter, BECAUSE WHETHER OR NOT OTHER PEOPLE GET MARRIED DOESN'T AFFECT YOU! Apparently Justice Kennedy agrees, having denied an application to halt marriages in California.
The people yelling the loudest seem to be the people who make money from fighting against equality, which isn't really surprising. When you fail utterly in your job... bigoted as it may be... I suppose you have cause to be upset.
• Haunted! As a huge fan of visionary musician Trent Reznor (aka Nine Inch Nails) and visionary director David Lynch, the idea of them teaming up for a music video seems too good to be true. And now, after having seen their effort for Come Back Haunted, I know it was too good to be true. What a boring, predictable, and sadly expected video. Rather than looking like something cutting-edge and new, it reeks of all the "nihilistic" videos that were unleashed after the amazing opening credits for the movie SE7EN happened. This is made all the more sad when you consider that the song used in those opening credits was Closer... by Trent Reznor. So I just don't know. Was this meant to be some kind of homage? A parody perhaps? Some kind of commentary on all those who think intermixing shaky camera moves with disturbing images is still edgy? Lynch had a real opportunity here to take us in a new direction, and we get something that would have looked dated ten years ago. Maybe in another ten years he'll go techno-speed-nihilistic and give us a parody of the US credits from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?
• Here! And now we're to the part of Bullet Sunday where I offer up this bit of 80's Thompson Twins genius, courtesy of Sixteen Candles, just because it's there...
They don't make teen angst movies like that anymore.
• Rest in Peace. As somebody who lives in a fire zone and has been threatened by wildfires more than once, my heart goes out to the friends and family of the "Granite Mountain Hotshots," 19 of whom perished in a horrific fire northwest of Phoenix...
UPDATE: The Free Republic has an article remembering this elite team of firefighters.
And... back to work. I think I can still get in another two or three hours before I pass out.
Posted on Monday, July 1st, 2013
Ooh! Today was Canada Day!
Apparently "Canada Day" is declared as such because July 1st is the anniversary date of the day when three North American colonies were super-glued together to form "Canada" in 1867. It seems a little unfair that there's no USA Day today. Instead we get Independence Day in three days and a newspaper called USA Today. I guess that's a fair trade.
In honor of The Great White North's special day, I've decided to re-print my "Canada Travel Journal" from 2009. Which, in turn, is a re-print of a guest-post I made for my Canadian compadre, LeSombre (whose blog is apparently down right now?).
And so, without further ado, here's my trips to Canada...
So congrats to our neighbor to the north, and here's to many happy Canada Days to come.
Posted on Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013
And so Google Reader is dead.
Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead.
As in I opened up my feed reader this morning and it returned no new articles.
Now, before I jump into things, I should probably talk a little bit about why I even give a crap seeing as how blogs are dying and most everything ends up on Facebook anyway. The short answer is "clutter." Yes, many blogs and news sources post their articles (or, more likely, a link to their articles) on Facebook. The problem is that my Facebook newsfeed is also jammed up with tons of other stuff. And that's fine... I actually enjoy keeping up with my friends by all the crazy crap they post... but I don't want to have to go digging through all that to find the blog and news posts I'm looking for. I want them in a separate place so I can quickly get to the material I'm seeking. And that material generally breaks down like this...
And so... where am I at now that Google Reader has gone the way of the dodo?
Well, I can't very well give up having a central service to keep track of my feeds so I can make sure things are synced between all my computers and iDevices, so I went looking for another service. At first I hopped on the Feedly bandwagon as most my friend have because, hey, it's free. But what happens when they too realize there's no money to be made in free webfeeds? And so I bailed from Feedly and signed up with Feed Wrangler. Unlike other "free" services with no business model for actually staying in business, Feed Wrangler is charging $19.95 a year to manage your feeds. A relatively small amount that I am happy to pay so I won't have to go through the Google Reader crap again.
And how am I accessing Feed Wrangler?
Well... their web interface is really good. Very clean. They have smart feeds there which is a spiffy feature. But I prefer to use an offline app so I can have a more feature-rich experience and a cache of my feeds so I can read where I don't have internet.
My first "real" feed reader was NetNewsWire. Brent Simmons clearly new what he was doing when he created it, as the thing Just Made Perfect Sense. It worked like a dream. Everything was so smart in implementation. But then Simmons sold it to NewsGator who in turn sold it to an app house called Black Pixel back in 2011. Black Pixel was more like a Black Hole from which information never escapes, so I finally ditched NetNewsWire for a new app called Reeder.
Reeder was slick looking, but pretty much brain-dead. When you "mark all as read" in NetNewsWire, it assumed you didn't want to read any more from that feed and popped you to the next one. Reeder just sat there like a turd after choosing "mark all as read," which made me hate the fucking app every time I had to manually step through shit I wasn't interested in.... WHICH IS WHY I MARKED IT ALL AS READ!!! Even worse, you could only navigate backwards to the previous post IF IT WAS IN THE SAME FEED! If the previous post was in a different feed, too fucking bad, you can't see it. Dumb stuff like that permitted Reeder, but I used it most of the time anyway because the alternatives were worse. Reeder for Mac doesn't work with Feed Wrangler (yet) even though the iPhone version does, so I was forced to dump it at long last.
The app recommended for connecting to Feed Wrangler that works right now is ReadKit. Unfortunately, ReadKit is even more mind-bogglingly brain-dead than Reeder. Not only does it have BOTH the "mark all as read" stupidity AND the navigation failure... it also has stupid keyboard shortcuts that ARE NOT USER DEFINABLE! With NetNewsWire, Brent Simmons picked the biggest fucking key on the keyboard to go to the next article... THE SPACE BAR! With ReadKit, it's the "J" key or something like that. A key you have to hunt for rather than lazily smashing the bottom of your keyboard. Not that it makes any difference... ReadKit doesn't even have a "Next Unread" button. It has a "show only unread" option, but it doesn't work until after you leave the current feed. Insanity.
Meanwhile, Black Pixel finally released NetNewsWire4 Beta. Desperate for a feed reader that actually made it easy to read my fucking webfeeds, I downloaded it. Even though it doesn't sync with any feed service. The good news is that after you "mark all as read," you actually jump past all the stuff you don't want to read to get to the next unread article (would be nice if it popped you to the next feed automatically but hey, it's beta). So far so good. Does it manage to navigate to the previous feed when you hit the back button to navigate back through the stuff you've read? Oh... this is new... there's no back button. NO FUCKING BACK BUTTON!! I know this is beta software, but how in the hell do you justify releasing a feed reader without a fucking back button? There may be a key for that, but I couldn't find it. And there's no documentation to speak of, so whatever.
I give up.
The only person I trust to write a feed reader that makes fucking sense is Brent Simons, but he's out of that game. I suppose I could cross my fingers and hope that on of the many alternative reader developers take a minute to truly understand what makes a good user experience, but I'm beginning to doubt that will ever happen. Everybody seems to be releasing the same reader with the same failings... they just look a little different and have a different name.
And so I'm back to reading my feed bank by using Feed Wrangler's website.
Maybe one day I'll spend the time to develop my own feed reader. One that will remember what articles you've read regard of which feed they're in and let you backtrack through them. One that will actually MARK SHIT AS READ AND THEN MOVE PAST IT SO YOU DON'T HAVE TO DEAL WITH IT ANY MORE. One that has keyboard shortcuts that make fucking sense. One that syncs with Feed Wrangler. One that doesn't make me start dropping F-bombs every time I go to talk about it.
But probably not.
Perhaps I should just follow Google's lead after all and give it all up.
Posted on Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013
The past several days have been extremely difficult for me on many levels.
Which is why waking up to a very nice email first thing in the morning was enough to have me walking on air all day.
The letter was from "somebody you don't know" who wrote to thank me for keeping Blogography going, then tell me that today he removed a DaveToon from his cubical at work that had been hanging there ever since I first posted it to my blog over four years ago.
I was a little confused as to why he would write to me about REMOVING a cartoon I made... until I followed the link in his email and saw this...
All I could say in return was "Thanks so much. I'm sorry you had to wait this long... even sorrier I had to draw it in the first place."
Which is hardly adequate, but I meant every word.
Posted on Thursday, July 4th, 2013
Happy birthday you big, beautiful, crazy bastard.
Thanks for the apple pie.
Posted on Friday, July 5th, 2013
Sometimes I have to wonder why I'm still blogging.
Especially when I have to deal with this shit all the time...
I spent an hour yesterday trying to post a picture of a monkey with a flag before giving up.
There's got to be a better use of my time than that.
Posted on Saturday, July 6th, 2013
I love games and always have. They are a great way to socialize, have fun, and maybe even learn something. In my case, they are also a way to escape from my life, even if for just a couple hours.
One of the games I've played a couple times that seems to be on everybody's radar lately is Cards Against Humanity. It's kind of an Apples-to-Apples peer judging game, but totally demented, sick, disgusting, and inappropriate. But... when played with the right people, it can also be a hilarious way to spend an evening.
Basically, somebody draws a Black Card to read to the group, then the other players have to put in the best response to "fill in the blanks" from the White Cards in their hand. The questions can be disturbing enough. But it's the answers that take things to an entirely new level.
Now, given the general audience of this blog, numerous hands of the game simply cannot be displayed here. But... the cards are completely free to download and craft yourself, so you can go to the Cards Against Humanity website, download a PDF, then read or make them (though it's probably easier to just go buy them).
In case you don't want to go to the trouble, here's some of the tamer things that came from the games we played...
Well, okay, maybe one slightly inappropriate one...
See, I said that sometimes you learn something, and there it is.
Not a game for everyone. But funny if you're a bit despicable and have similar-minded friends and/or family. If you should decide to try playing it, you might want to examine every card carefully before proceeding in mixed company.
This stuff is supposed to be fun, people!
Posted on Sunday, July 7th, 2013
I'm in an 80's state of mind... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Sadness. My thoughts are with those affected by the Bodh Gaya Temple bombing in India... including Buddhists around the world. This most holy site is said to be the place that Buddha obtained enlightenment, and is a hugely important pilgrimage spot I have long wanted to visit. Why somebody would wish to destroy a place of importance to a people whose entire belief system revolves around non-violence and inner-peace is beyond me, but here we are.
• Heat! Was very pleasantly surprised by The Heat. From the trailers I couldn't tell if it was going to be funny-funny or funny-stupid. Sure, it dips into funny-stupid a few times... usually when Melissa McCarthy is allowed to improvise for too long a stretch... or Sandra Bullock tries too hard to be awkward and uptight... but it always gets back on track. Basically, Bullock plays an FBI Agent that ends up in Boston to track down a very, very bad man. While there she runs afoul of local cop McCarthy but, as so often happens, ends up teaming up with her. The supporting cast is pure gold, with appearances by Jane Curtin, Michael Rapaport, Taran Killam, Thomas F. Wilson (Biff!), Nate Corddry, Joey McIntyre, Zach Woods, Marlon Wayans... and probably a lot more I don't remember.
It's worth a matinee price to see in theaters, and definitely worth a rental.
• Concert! The Chateau Ste. Michelle is a winery over in Woodinville that has an amphitheater which gets some pretty decent musical talent to play. It's a beautiful venue, but the lawn seating is mostly obstructed and not laid out very well. This means it's not the best place for a concert, but it's okay. Except when you have to watch a drunken train wreck pee her pants.
Anyway, tonight it was Pat Benatar headlining with Terri Nunn and Berlin opening up. Benatar was a little rough vocally, but entertaining. Berlin was amazing. They have a new album coming out, and the taste they gave us at the concert will definitely have me checking it out.
• Faced! I've often wondered about what kind of mentality it takes for somebody to think that people would like to see their giant face plastered all over a bus. Whatever it is, I'm seeing more and more of it, so it must be pretty common. This one I saw on my way to The Coast on Friday was particularly clever, because they had to position afore-mentioned giant head between obstacles...
• Woman! There's a video of Dustin Hoffman discussing his role of Dorothy Michaels in Tootsie which has been burning up the internets. It's a pretty powerful piece, and the epiphany he had about "interesting women" being dismissed because of their looks comes from a perspective most men will never have...
Not surprisingly, not everybody can appreciate what Mr.. Hoffman is trying to say. Some of the comments I've read are positively awful. But that's the internet for you.
No more bullets... but tomorrow is another day...
Posted on Monday, July 8th, 2013
One year ago today I was waking up from an alcohol-induced coma in The Bahamas with nothing but a huge bar tab and the pocket ripped off my shorts to show for it.
Today I ate breakfast at McDonalds then went to work.
Funny the difference a year can make.
Nothing against McDonalds, but I'd give up a hundred of their "Breakfast Biscuit Sandwiches with Egg and Cheese Only" for just one Bahamian beer right now.
Beer nuts optional.
Posted on Tuesday, July 9th, 2013
Yesterday morning I had to head back over the mountains early so I could make it to work on time. The drive is usually 2-hours, 15-minutes... but I always budget 2-1/2 hours just in case something weird happens.
Like some asshole in front of me deciding to drive 15 miles an hour under the speed limit while in a no-passing zone for 20-minutes.
Or, more likely, because I have to stop at McDonalds for breakfast. Which went something like this...
"Welcome to McDonald's! Would you like to try our new Egg White Delight McMuffin Sandwich?"
"What? — No. — Oh gross. No."
"Sorry, we have to ask. What can I get for ya?"
Now, I'm not doubting her word... I'm sure they really are required to ask people to try the Egg White Delight. My question is why? Do they expect that you'll order that hideous-sounding sandwich in addition to what you're already buying? That's not very realistic. Best case scenario is that you'll eat that egg white shit-sandwich instead of what you were already going to buy. Are they cheaper to make, thus more profitable or something? I doubt it. So I just don't get it.
Especially since the Egg White Delight McMuffin looks like this...
Oh hell no.
Because that photo comes directly from McDonalds where it was undoubtedly styled perfectly and still looks like shit. I can only guess how utterly awful it looks "in real life." The best part of an egg is the yolk, and I sure as hell ain't going to go for a sandwich without it. Go sell that disgusting, slimy, mass of vomit-inducing hell to somebody else, McDonalds.
And speaking of food styling... this is what I'm talking about...
From experience, I can tell you that a really good food stylist is worth their weight in gold. The better they are at making stuff look amazing, the less time you have to spend in Photoshop!
But even the best food stylist in the universe would have trouble making the Egg White Delight McMuffin look edible.
= shudder =
Posted on Wednesday, July 10th, 2013
The problem is that it's SO expensive to do it right.
Even if I start saving immediately after I get back from this year's vacation in October, I still won't have enough money to afford the trip by the time Winter 2014 rolls around. Which means I'll have to go into credit card debt. Unless I wait until winter 2015, which I'd really rather not do.
And, yes... I know exactly what this sounds like.
"Oh boo hoo! People in Africa are starving and you can't afford to vacation in Antarctica! Poor little you!"
And I totally agree. This is the cream of First World Problems right here.
And so I've got to buckle down and get serious over the next couple months so I can make this happen.
Why can't I have millions of dollars so stuff like "budgeting for a vacation" doesn't have to occupy my time?
Okay, okay... that's the cream of First World Problems.
Posted on Thursday, July 11th, 2013
Probably not a good idea to watch a documentary on germs, viruses, and diseases before traveling.
And... back to packing.
Posted on Friday, July 12th, 2013
The drive over the mountains to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is just 2-1/2 hours. Which is just about as long as it takes to fly over when you add together the driving, waiting, and flight time. Money-wise, it's a wash too, as gas and parking come very close to the cost of airfare.
All things considered, I prefer to fly. But, more often than not, I end up driving because my tiny local airport keeps reducing the number of flights into Seatac and has shitty connections to other flights. And by "shitty" I actually mean "horrendously shitty" because the layovers can be 4 or 5 hours long. Which is entirely too much time to be spending at an airport.
It's getting to the point where the 2-1/2 hour drive is getting to be far, far worse than a long layover. Case in point, what I went through to get here today...
And that's only the stuff that made me so angry I remembered it.
So... adding an extra 4 or 5 hours to my trip? Not quite the horrendously shitty endeavor it used to be.
At least not when compared to the horrendously shitty driving alternative.
Posted on Saturday, July 13th, 2013
In order to save money on airfare, I flew into Atlanta a day early. Sure it meant getting up at 4:00am this morning, but the cost of flying is getting to be so outrageous that you do what you gotta do. The up-side was that I ended up getting into town at 2:00, which left me time to meet up with some Atlanta peeps for dinner.
And what a dinner it was...
Dante's Down the Hatch "Jazz and Fondue Restaurant and Club" has been an Atlanta institution for 43 years that I've never heard of. Which is odd, because it's fairly famous. It's a themed restaurant built around a "sailing ship" that's surrounded by live crocodiles. Kind of like dining in the middle of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland, but without the animatronic pirates and stuff...
All this plus CHEESES OF THE WORLD!!!
The menu is a bit confusing. I thought I was ordering vegetable fondue, but it ended up being vegetables and a pot of boiling oil. But that didn't stop me from unintentionally stealing some of somebody else's cheese, which was delicious (Houston, I owe you dinner next time I'm in town!)...
The jazz was good. Really good. And since our table was inside the ship, we had a front-row seat!
All in all an awesome way to spend an evening. I'm sad that the place is closing at the end of the month, as I would have absolutely come here again.
Posted on Sunday, July 14th, 2013
Don't let invading Kaiju keep you down... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Rim! Okay, I am having trouble deciding if Pacific Rim is so bad it's good... or so bad it's bad. The concept of giant robots fighting giant alien monsters is fantastic. But the story they came up with around that concept was shockingly bad and hugely inconsistent (IT TAKES TWO PILOTS TO OPERATE A JAEGER ROBOT... UNLESS IT DOESN"T!). The acting was, with one exception, awful. And it didn't help that they were being given groan-inducing, cheesy dialogue to work with. That being said, I am still glad I saw the movie in a really good theater because the special effects and battle sequences were mind-blowing...
All in all, a bit of a misstep for brilliant director Guillermo del Toro... but an entertaining one. If you have time to kill, it's worth watching on the big screen. Just keep your expectations in check.
• Acting! The one exception to the really bad acting in Pacific Rim I was talking about? Mana Ashida's performance as young Mako. Absolutely riveting. You could feel her terror in every frame, and it was almost enough to believe that she was actually being chased by a Godzilla-sized monster. She should get some kind of award for that...
I'm guessing this photo came from Warner Bros. and/or Legendary Pictures.
It will be very interesting to see where Mana's considerable talent takes her as an actor.
• Idris! Yeah, okay... if I'm being honest here, Idris Elba was pretty brilliant playing Stacker Pentecost considering the genuinely awful lines he had to deliver.
• Stereotypical! One last comment about Pacific Rim... thanks to everybody involved for once again giving us genius scientists that act so damn stupid and geeky that it's impossible to believe that they are, in fact, genus scientists. Burn Gorman and Charlie Day, both of whom I like as actors, were completely wasted in their roles, being used as some idiotic attempt at comic relief that only served to disrupt the film. Badly. Can we please give up on this overused, stereotypical crutch that never ends up as hysterical as was intended? (see: Brent Spiner in Independence Day or any number of other flicks in genre entertainment where genius scientists appear for "humor value" in a script).
And in another direction entirely...
• Verdict. Well, I wish I could say I'm surprised, but the not-guilty verdict for George Zimmerman was hardly shocking. I'm not going to pretend I have all the answers here, but there's a few things I feel I have to get off my chest...
Zimmerman's story is, at the very least, exaggerated and not entirely supported by facts in evidence. And because of Zimmerman's actions and poor judgement, a 17-year-old kid is dead. Hopefully some lessons will be learned from this tragic situation. But the verdict has me worried that people will take away the wrong lesson.
Heaven help us.
As always, Faiqa has written up a response that's far better than anything I could come up with, so I leave you with a link to her blog.
Take care of each other out there.
Posted on Monday, July 15th, 2013
"GET BACK HERE, TACO BOY!"
I'm pretty sure I was already kinda awake, but it was those words reverberating through the hallway of my hotel after hearing a door slam that finally managed to really wake me up.
Or, in this case, more like parents not minding their kids at 5:30am.
Not the best way to start my day, but it did start my imagination running as to how some kid would end up with "Taco Boy" as a nickname. At least I hope it's a nickname.
After that minor incident, I really have no complaints about my day. None. Checkout at the hotel was painless. The shuttle to the airport was on time. The people at the Sixt desk were awesome. My rental car ended up being a Prius that I really enjoy driving. The trip down to my job site was completely uneventful. The day's work started early and went well. I had Dr. Pepper, Pretzels, and GIANT Kit-Kat for lunch. A nice breeze took the edge off the afternoon heat. I caught up on my emails. I had a terrific dinner with a friend from work. Now I'm laying in bed listening to cicadas (or some other noisy bugs) screech into the night.
Well, okay, I really could do without the screeching bugs, but it sure beats screeching kids at 5:30 in the morning, so there's that.
And now I just don't know what to do with myself since I have nothing to complain about.
A few more days like this and I may have to give up blogging.
Oh... speaking of kids... this video was shared on Facebook by Certifiable Princess and is must-watch material...
Just one more good thing to come out of my day.
Dayamn! These videos are like popcorn. You just can't stop reaching for another handful.
Except I have an early call to work, so no more for me.
Posted on Tuesday, July 16th, 2013
Maybe because I'm just so exhausted, but I'm just not getting it.
Why is it that all these homophobic bigots seem to think that gay people are all about gay sex and ONLY gay sex? That there couldn't possibly be something more to their lives than their sex life? That it is impossible for a hetero-challenged man or woman to possibly be interested in something other than where they like to put their bits and pieces?
Because, I gotta tell you... any time I've been hanging out with friends who are gay, their sexuality rarely enters the conversation. We talk about travel... or movies... or books... or restaurants... or music... or work... or pretty much all the same things I talk about with my straight friends. And yet here is how I picture Barber & Crampton must think the conversation goes...
ME: Hey lesbian friend, what's up?
LESBIAN FRIEND: Pussy. Vagina, pussy. Labia, labia, breasts, pussy. PUSSY!!!
ME: I hear that! How about you, gay friend?
GAY FRIEND: Cock. COCK COCK COCK COCK COCK!
I'm not saying that relationships and sex never come up, but it's never the single all-consuming topic of conversation that these idiots seem to think it is.
No. The only people who are interested in talking about gay sex and ONLY gay sex 24/7 seem to be homophobic bigots like Barber & Crampton.
Which kind of makes me wish they'd just fuck each other and get it out of their system already. Maybe if all of them did that, I wouldn't have to keep hearing about gay sex every time I'm on the internet or turning on the television.
Heck, even the gays and lesbians must be tired of it by now.
Posted on Wednesday, July 17th, 2013
Apparently my punishment for having a day with no complaints is to have everything go wrong for two days. I just can't seem to catch a break.
So... lesson learned: Find something to complain about, even when you have nothing to complain about, or get something to complain about. I guess that's just the way the universe works. From now on when I ask somebody how it's going... and they answer "I have no complaints!"... I'm going to respond with "THEN YOU ARE A FOOL!!!"
Because I'm all about constructive feedback.
Work has been an all-consuming day-and-night affair. I'm not just burning the candle at both ends, but instead taking a flamethrower to the candle then falling asleep on it. Except I don't have time to sleep, so I pop back up with melted candle on my face and go back to work.
Fortunately, I'm working in Zombie Country again, so I fit right in...
And now for the complaints...
THERE! Hopefully all that complaining will put me back on track for mildly crappy days instead of horrendously shitty days.
Thanks a lot, Universe.
Posted on Thursday, July 18th, 2013
The plan was to wake up early, have a quick breakfast, get my work done, go shoe-shopping, have a nice leisurely lunch, then head to the airport a full two hours early.
The reality was that I woke up early, had a quick breakfast, started in on work... WHEN ALL OF A SUDDEN EVERYTHING WENT TERRIBLY, TERRIBLY WRONG! AAAAAAHHHHHHH!
And so I managed to get to the aiport just 45 minutes before my international flight, boarding the plane just 30 minutes before take-off (thank you TSA Pre-Check!).
Without new shoes. Without lunch. Without my santiy.
The flight to the Netherlands itself wasn't too bad. I just watched movies to pass the time.
Add in some episodes of The Newsroom and the 10-hour flight was over just like that.
Posted on Friday, July 19th, 2013
Pretty much the only thing on the agenda today...
I swear, if I lived here in DutchyLand, I'd undoubtedly weigh 600 pounds.
Posted on Saturday, July 20th, 2013
I pretty much have one day in the Netherlands before heading out again.
The DutchBitch decided that this would be best spent visiting "Maastrecht." I thought this might be the name of a windmill... or perhaps a cheese farm... but she tells me that it is a city. "Wow! There are other cities in the Netherlands than Amsterdam?!? I asked before getting slapped in the face.
And so there are. Maastricht is about as far as you can get from Amsterdam whilst still being inside the Netherlands...
It's a very pretty city. The first photo I took was this statue of St. Hubertus reading a book to his deer skull hat...
One of the more famous landmarks of Maastricht is the red tower of St. Jan's. Which looks fantastic when photographed in HDR...
Sadly, there was bad news to be found in the shadow of the Red Tower... somebody lost their Miffy doll and binky. She now waits patiently for her owner to come back and get her...
Walking through the city I found this really cool "Bidweg" monument... "Bidweg" meaning "Way of Prayer"...
The waterway nearby is filled with brilliant green plants which I thought looked like something out of a Van Gogh painting...
There's a wall surrounding old Maastricht that you can walk on top of. It's quite pretty and looks more like a garden than a wall...
The wall itself is home to a lot of flowers and plants that have managed to grow between the cracks...
I got excited when I saw a Free Ladies party... until I saw it was a month ago...
A sign asking people to be quiet so the neighbors can live in peace was interesting. I wonder if it works. I sincerely doubt it would any effect in the USA...
Awesome kid drawings at a Maastricht school...
The DutchBitch then took us to hell...
Helpoort... or "Hell Gate"... is the oldest surviving city gate in the Netherlands (from the year 1229!). It's in amazingly good shape for being so old, and well worth a visit.
After wandering around for a few hours, it was time to head back to Casa de DutchBitch. But not before... WAFFLES!!!
The perfect end to a perfect afternoon.
Posted on Sunday, July 21st, 2013
Take off your wooden shoes and relax... because a special DUTCHYLAND TRAVEL edition of Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Schiphol! Amsterdam's International Airport is named Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, and it's easily one of my favorite airports in the world. It's incredibly well organized, navigation signs are everywhere, and I've never seen extremely long lines for anything. Today I was flying Business Class, and it was literally ten minutes between when the DutchBitch dropped me off and I had gone through bag drop-off and security to be sitting in the KLM Lounge drinking a Coke and one of Dutchy's delicious cheese sandwiches. As if that weren't enough, every employee I have ever encountered at Schiphol has been exceedingly friendly and helpful. One of the cool things they do that seems to be increasingly common outside the USA is to have a monitor to tell you when luggage from your flight has hit the baggage carousel. Schiphol goes one step further and provides an estimate as to when the bag will be unloaded...
Never mind that it's almost always wrong (my suitcase was "expected" at 8:48, but it's 8:54 in this photo and it still hasn't shown up), at least they're trying to keep passengers informed!
• KLM! The major airline for the Netherlands is KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. When flying KLM, Business Class travelers are treated exceptionally well. But it's my memories of flying the airline when I was a coach passenger with little travel status that makes me love the company. As an example, way back in 2002 my Northwest Airlines flight arrived late at Schiphol and I missed my connecting KLM flight to London. When I explained that I was now going to miss my train to Edinburgh, the transfer agent asked if they could change my ticket from London to Edinburgh at no charge so I wouldn't delay my vacation. I very nearly went into shock. This just isn't done in the airline industry... especially when something is another airline's fault. But Northwest was a partner company and there was room on the next flight to Edinburgh, so KLM didn't give it a second thought. I probably had "Silver" status back then, but I don't think they even bothered to check before they made the offer. This not only saved me the cost of a train ticket, but actually ended up putting me ahead of schedule for my trip. And that's just one example. KLM has bent over backwards to help me out like that more than once, and is one of the few airlines I honestly have -zero- complaints about.
• Food! Another perk of flying KLM? The food. Yes. The food... on an airline! First of all, I can't recall a time that there wasn't a vegetarian option. Whether it be a simple sandwich or full meal service, they always seem to have a meat-free selection. Second of all, I can't recall ever having a bad meal. Tonight I wasn't hungry, but I couldn't say no when they offered dinner service... on my two-hour flight to Helsinki. Now-a-days, you'd be lucky to get a free snack on a flight that short, but here's KLM's idea of service...
That's cheese gnocchi pasta pillows over spinach, a mozzarella and tomato salad with lemon olive oil dressing, a dinner roll with butter, and a chocolate-praline mousse pudding with cookie topping for dessert. ON A TWO-HOUR FLIGHT! Even on an hour hop, I've been served everything from delicious cheese sandwiches to pizza. It's unreal. I don't just like flying KLM, I thrill to flying KLM, and the wonderful food is a big part of that.
• Trains! In the Western USA, we don't have a very good train network at all. As an example... if I want to take the train to Seattle, I first have to drive 20 minutes to Wenatchee, then catch the one train that goes to Seattle every day... at 5:35am. This is pretty much useless, so I never take the train. Contrast that with the train network in the Netherlands...
Image grabbed from the internet... source unknown.
For a rather small country, the rail coverage is astounding. You can go just about anywhere on clean, comfortable, fast trains with schedules that are actually useful. I long for this kind of service where I live.
• S.T.E.P. The US Department of State has a program called "STEP" which is the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. US citizens traveling or living abroad can register their trip so that if they run into a problem it's easier for them to get help from local embassies since they'll already have your information. It also lets the embassy know that you are in the area in case something seriously bad happens... like a violent uprising, government takeover, invasion, or Justin Bieber concert. I'm guessing if something like that were to happen, they could track down everybody registered in STEP and make sure they're safe. Or, I suppose they could also be hacked by terrorists so that it's easier to find potential hostages and/or victims. Regardless, given the world we now live in, I've decided to risk it and have gotten in the habit of entering my trips abroad into STEP. Whether you decide to do that or not, it's still worth your time to see what the program offers, so here's a link to the Bureau of Consular Affairs and STEP.
And on that note, I must say... Tot ziens! Vaarwel! Dag!
Posted on Monday, July 22nd, 2013
"Why in the hell are you going to Helsinki?"
I must have heard that (or a variation of that) at least a dozen times. Which is fine, I suppose, because it doesn't seem to be a big travel destination for Americans.
The honest answer is "Because I haven't been there before."
Or, more accurately, "Because I haven't been there before and they have a Hard Rock Cafe."
The interesting thing about my day was how shocking the weather was. In no way could it have been identified as "summer"... or even in the same ballpark as "summer." It was cold, windy, rainy, overcast, dark, and very much "Fall-like." Some people would find this horrible. I look at the weather back home where it's 100°F and I am totally loving it.
Since it was raining, I decided to wander around the more non-touristy areas and save the "big attractions" for tomorrow when the weather is supposed to improve. This allowed me to soak in the Finnish architecture, which is mind-bogglingly great. Especially the human column support designs, which are awesome...
Trying to stay dry in the rain, I suppose...
Then it was off to St. Johns, which is a very nice church with an especially nice painting above the altar...
From there I headed down to the southern waterfront and then up to Observatory Hill, where there's a really cool statue called "Haaksirikkoiset" (Shipwrecked) by Robert Stigell...
I CAN SEE RUSSIA FROM MY BOAT! (St. Petersburg is 185 miles away)
Restaurants are insanely expensive here. To save money, I decided to pick up a few groceries to make my own meals a few times. As I headed out, I noticed some cool old buildings across the street...
And, of course, there's the Hard Rock Cafe. It's in a mall of some kind, and is small but nice. Since it's a newer cafe, they've used the shitty "Hipster Lounge" design aesthetic, but they (wisely) took a step back and made sure to include a good selection of memorabilia, which is great.
One of those pieces of memorabilia is some hand-penned lyrics to an unfinished (and unused) Nirvana song. Much to my dismay, Kurt Cobain doesn't know the difference between "your" and "you're" which made me want to grab a red pen and scrawl a correction on it...
I ended up having a "Caribbean Black Bean Burger" because the Helsinki Hard Rock didn't have the usual "Veggie-Leggie" burger. The flavor was pretty good. The problem was that it had a marinated black bean patty and some kind of sauce on top, which made the burger a wet-hot mess. It was so slippery that it was impossible to keep in the bun. Which was a soggy bun, because the marinade had soaked into it. Making this the singular most stupid fucking "burger" I've ever attempted to eat. Which begs the question... when this was dreamed up, did they ever bother to fucking try one before putting it on the menu? Because there is no way this should be sold like this. The thing costs $23 (with fries!) and I was only to eat half of it because even attempting to eat it with a knife and fork proved futile. I don't expect amazing food at a Hard Rock, but I at least expect it to be edible. The "Caribbean Black Bean Burger" was a disgusting inedible mess.
Sometimes when traveling to foreign lands, people will ask me "Is it weird over there?" To which I always have the same response... "Not weird, just different. The USA is by far the weirdest place I've ever been. And I'm being completely honest. When it comes to seeing absolutely bizarre shit, nobody tops America (WE'RE NUMBER ONE! WE'RE NUMBER ONE!).
Which is not to say there aren't weird moments. But most of those come from finding American crap in the country you're visiting. And Helsinki has a lot of that. A prime example is some pillows advertising Lexington, Kentucky that I saw in a shop window. Which is not too weird until you see that they're advertising Lexington seafood at a restaurant that I don't think even exists. In particular, they're advertising Lexington crab... when Lexington isn't anywhere near the ocean... or any crabs. So, yeah... kinda weird...
But the weirdest thing in Helsinki so far? Tex-Mex restaurants. I've seen quite a few, so I'm guessing that it must be a popular cuisine here...
Well that's not too weird, I suppose.
Until you look at a menu and see that they have a kind of "Tex-Mex Cajun Barbecue" fusion thing going on...
It's like somebody wanted to serve American cuisine at their restaurant and just said "Fuck it! I'm putting all their regional shit in there!" Which has me totally inspired to create a "Spanish Italian Greek" restaurant when I get back home.
And take a gander at the menu prices there... Cheese Fajitas are 18,90€ which comes out to $25 USD... FOR FRICKIN' CHEESE FAJITAS!! Salsa and Chips? That'll run you $7.70... which is made even more horrible when you consider that most US restaurants serve them to you for free so you have something to snack on while you wait for your food.
I'm almost afraid to try the salsa here. Odds are it's made with herring.
Anyway, it's just turned 2:00am, so I suppose I should try and get some sleep. Sightseeing is so much more interesting when you're eyes are actually open.
Posted on Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013
When I looked out my window this morning I was excited to see that it was still overcast, yet not raining. Perfect weather for exploring!
One of the many nice things about the city is that Helsinki has an excellent tram system for getting around. Even so, I usually like to walk so I don't miss anything between stops. Having cooler weather makes the walking so much nicer.
Hammers aren't the only thing swinging here... LOOK OUT!
My first stop was someplace I wasn't interested in going. But I went anyway because I really didn't want people screaming "ZOMG! I CAN'T BELIEVE THAT YOU WENT ALL THE WAY TO HELSINKI AND DIDN'T VISIT THE ROCK CHURCH!" at me. And so I give you... Temppeliaukion Church...
Thrilling, I know. But it does get more interesting on the inside...
It's nice enough, I guess, but I like churches for their artwork, so this one really doesn't do it for me. I did like the way that accents, like this prayer candle rack, are bolted onto the rock though...
As I was walking to Senate Square, I saw a statue of a little girl riding a tiny dinosaur. You're welcome...
The top of Senate Square features The Cathedral of Helsinki. It's absolutely beautiful on the outside... but kind of boring on the inside...
Below Senate Square is Market Square, where vendors are selling all kinds of delicious goods. Including berries, which are incredibly popular here...
From there it's a short walk to beautiful Uspenski Cathedral...
As you can tell from my later photos, the overcast skies did not last long. By 2:00 it was so hot that I had to retreat to my hotel room for a couple hours until I could brave the heat again. This time so I could travel to the very awesome Jean Sibelius Monument north of the city center. The guy was a famous composer, and this work is supposed to symbolize his music...
And then it was time for the Museum of Finland, which is an amazing, amazing insight into the history and culture of the country...
They had a map room, which was heaven for a map fan like me...
The exhibits are really well done, but some of them were kind of creepy...
The last stop on my itinerary today was Kamppi Chapel of Silence. It's a stunning architectural achievement that's incredibly beautiful inside and out...
The interior is indeed a pleasant retreat from the noises of the city, and really is silent if all the people inside are quiet.
And that's a wrap. Tomorrow is an early start for me, so it's off to bed I go...
Posted on Wednesday, July 24th, 2013
Estonia is a country I've wanted to visit for about a decade now. The reason is a rather odd one, so I'll leave that until a bit later in the entry.
If I was going to ever visit Estonia, now would be the time to do it considering that Tallinn is just a 2-hour ferry ride across the Gulf of Finland. Of course, St. Petersburg, one of my bucket-list dream destinations is just 4-1/2 hours away by train, but the visa requirements are a bit crazy on that one...
Map taken from Google Maps!
There are a few options for the crossing, but I went with Tallink Silja Line because it seemed to be the most reliable. It also looked to be the most comfortable, being more like a cruise ship than any ferry I've ever been on (seriously, there's a supermarket on board!).
The weather in Tallinn, which I checked multiple times, was forecast to be 78° so I didn't bother taking a jacket. I just jumped on an early tram (which was driven by somebody looking suspiciously like Thor, God of Thunder!), jumped off at the West Terminal stop, and away we go...
Tallinn's Old Town was a quick (though somewhat confusing) 15-minute walk from the harbor. After walking up a cobblestone path you reach the city gates, which are right out of medieval times...
As far as medieval cities go, the illusion here is shattered almost instantly because this is what you see the minute you enter...
Oh well. It's not like you're getting an authentic experience anyway. McDonald's aside, Old Town Tallinn is very much like Disneyland. It's mostly crowds, restaurants, and souvenir shops... with a few attractions sprinkled in. Mostly churches. Some museums.
Now, as you can see, the weather was hardly the warm paradise I was told. I kept thinking that it would warm up as the day went on, but it never did. Apparently weather forecasts are just as useless here as they are back home. I was fairly comfortable as it wasn't freezing or anything... but I sure wish I would have brought a jacket. Lesson learned.
My first stop was Holy Spirit Church so I could see their beautiful clock...
It is indeed beautiful, but... crooked. As is just about everything in Tallinn. Nothing is quite straight here, which is enough to drive a photographer crazy. Add that to the very narrow streets which necessitates using a wide-angle lens that just exaggerated how crooked everything is, and I was pretty much a basket case by the time I left. Still, it's a pretty kind of crooked, and I love the stone streets that run through it all...
My second stop was the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Since I wasn't going to make it to St. Petersburg, this was about as close as I was going to get to seeing a Russian Orthodox church this trip. Unfortunately, the cathedral is undergoing restoration so it has green webbing all over it, but it's still quite beautiful...
Not really knowing what else to do after seeing the clock and St. Nevsky, I ended up just wandering around for the five hours I had left. Tallinn has a lot of randomly cool things to see, so it was easy to kill the time.
The defensive wall that surrounds the city has numerous towers, but I only saw one which looked like the castle towers I expected (you know, the kind that look like rooks in a chess set)...
There's a trio of old houses called "The Three Sisters" that I passed as I walked to the Maritime Museum. I'm not quite sure what makes them any more special than the hundred other houses in the city, but tourist groups were going nuts over them, so here you go...
The Maritime Museum is housed within the city's biggest tower, called "Fat Margaret." The building itself is kind of boring, though the museum inside is very nice. But the biggest attraction for me was the terrace at the top. From here you can look out on the entire city, and the view is pretty cool...
Of the half-dozen churches I visited, my favorite was a tiny little hole-in-the-wall place called "Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church of the Mother of God with Three Hands." It's very... shall we say... rustic in appearance, but a lot of fun to visit...
As I was walking along the walls of the city, I saw a sign for the Tallinn Flower Festival. Thinking this might be a cool thing to see, I stepped outside the gate and saw... this...
I'm guessing it must continue on somewhere else? Back inside the wall, I started photographing a bunch of crumbling buildings because the textures were just so amazing. Who knows when I might be able to use such beautiful decay as reference material for a project?
Not everything beautiful is falling apart though. Tallinn is filled with little secret alleys and courtyards that are fun to wander around...
Street art break!
And a couple of nifty signs I added to my photo collection...
There were quite a few "American-style" restaurants in the city, but the Texas Honky Tonk Cantina was my favorite concept of them all...
And now, at long last, is the reason I wanted to visit Estonia's capital for all these years. Tallinn is home to the Depeche Mode Bar! That's right, it's a bar devoted to my favorite band! The decor and music is all Depeche Mode all the time...
I don't think that this is the original location, because the photos I saw years ago looked different, but it's still pretty cool (they have a Pin-Bot pinball machine!). If you're a DM fan, then it's a must-visit place.
And, just like that, my seven hours in Estonia were over. Time to head back to Helsinki...
All in all, a great way to spend the day. If you're in Helsinki for a while, it's a day-trip worth doing.
Posted on Thursday, July 25th, 2013
I didn't think that Helsinki was that much closer to the North Pole than home, but I was wrong. Sunset here is around 10:30pm, which means it's light out until 11:00pm. Usually I like the idea of wandering around a city at dusk because the light is so fantastic for photos, but can't seem to get motivated to go for a walk an hour before midnight.
Yesterday I made such grandiose plans for today.
Finland has hundreds of islands floating off its coast, so I was keen to take some kind of cruise that would let me see some of them. The cruise I found is a three-hour excursion up the coast to the town of Porvoo, and seemed to be exactly what I was wanting. Just look at all the cool islands and stuff along the way...
Map taken from Google Maps!
But then I woke up this morning and the last thing I wanted to do was climb on a boat for three hours, then slog around a tourist-trap city for two hours, then spend another three hours on a boat back to Helsinki. There just isn't enough islands in all of Finland to make that sound appealing. Especially after the trip to Estonia yesterday.
So I down-sized my plans and thought that a 90-minute harbor cruise would be a better option for me.
But as I was getting ready to walk to the South Harbor, I admitted to myself that even 90 minutes on a boat crawling with tourists was too much.
So I down-sized my plans once again and decided to eat lots of Finnish pastries today.
The pastries here are pretty amazing. I especially like the Karelian pies, which have a thin crust filled with some kind of sticky rice and an egg glaze on top... not overly sweet, but tasty. Today I went for something different, and ended up with the Finnish version of a cinnamon roll, and some kind of twisty sparkly donut that had anise (licorice) flavoring...
After wandering around the neighborhood shops for a while, I decided to go back to the hotel for a nap before lunch. Since I'll be headed home this weekend, I might as well start prepping myself for the time change.
But mostly I just felt like being lazy for once.
Lunch was pizza at a really good Italian joint just down the street from my hotel. As I was waiting for my order to cook, I looked up and saw the Chick-Fil-A cows drawn on a chalkboard next to a sketch of Sophia Loren for no reason at all...
Random stuff like this really makes my day.
But not quite as much as stopping in the corner market for a Coke and some chips only to find Cheese Balls with a penis-shaped mascot and MINIPUSSI...
Delicious! And just right. I'm so glad I didn't splurge and get the MAXIPUSSI.
After my late lunch, I wandered around the city some more, snapping a few pictures for duck soup. It was all good until I got back to my hotel and found out that my camera somehow got set to 32-BAZILLION ISO, so everything was all grainy...
Lesson learned. Check your ISO every time you take out your camera. I'm just thankful that this happened on shots that I already had... if it had happened for my entire Estonia trip I would be freaking out.
When it came time for dinner, I just wasn't hungry enough to justify paying $40 for something to eat. Instead I decided that I wanted an OREO McFlurry for dinner. Unfortunately, the local McDonalds didn't have OREO. I was given choices of "licorice" or "powder" or "Smarties candies." Licorice didn't sound appetizing as a McFlurry flavor. Powder had me concerned that it was a cocaine-based flavor, and I needed to get my sleep tonight. So I went with Smarties, which are kinda like M&M's back home... but not really, as the flavor is different (and the chocolate firmer, but smoother and less sugary). It was totally delicious, and my day had been made.
Until I was walking back to my hotel and got attacked by this thing...
As I was making my way past it, the tube deflated and smacked me on the head. I took a step back and was getting ready to beat the crap out of it, but decided I didn't want to spend my last night in Helsinki in jail.
Turns out advertising here is just as annoying as it is back home.
Except when it isn't, because most times I find Finnish and Estonian ads to be oddly subdued. They definitely want to keep your expectations in check...
American Ad: WE'VE GOT THE BEST FUCKING FOOD IN TOWN!
Finnish Ad: Probably best in town.
American Ad: THE BEST FUCKING ELK SOUP YOU'LL EVER EAT!
Estonian Ad: Decent bowl of elk soup.
I'll bet the ads for escort services here are a real hoot.
And now I suppose I should start packing my suitcase and getting ready for my flight back to DutchyLand tomorrow. Given how utterly lazy I've been all day today, that's going to take a major effort.
Maybe I should just do that in the morning?
Yeah. This can totally wait until morning.
The morning where I'll be all "ZOMG! WHY DIDN'T I PACK THIS SHIT UP LAST NIGHT? NOW I'M GOING TO MISS MY BUS TO THE AIRPORT! AAAAAAHHH!
I never learn.
Posted on Friday, July 26th, 2013
I woke up early and felt like I should be running around buying last-minute souvenirs on my last day, but then remembered that I stopped collecting souvenirs years ago. I don't have room for that crap, so photographs have become my souvenirs. Thanks to the digital age, they don't take up much room at all.
And so now I've visited Helsinki (and Tallinn, at last), which is nice... but, just like when I visited Oslo and Stockholm, I'm disappointed that I didn't have time to head north into the wilds of Fennoscandia, or spend any time exploring the coastline. This is a fascinating geological part of the world, and visiting a few cities is not like I've really seen any of it.
More to add to my bucket list, I suppose.
One thing I did do was head back to the Hard Rock Cafe Helsinki so I could take some pictures. When I was there for lunch a few days ago it was crowded and crazy, so this time I went just before they opened. As I had mentioned before, the cafe is a bit on the small side, so it only took two shots to capture the entire dining floor...
After the Hard Rock, it was time to check out of my hotel so I could catch the FinAir bus to Helsinki-Vantaa Airport. Which, oddly enough, had NO line at security despite being fairly busy. Security itself is kind of spacey and futuristic with glass gates that light up so you know when to enter... then hold you there until you've been cleared.
Other than some noisy assholes in the business lounge and some rode assholes crowding in line at the gate, my trip back to DutchyLand was uneventful.
Time for PATATJES MET with DutchBitch. Again...
I'm so going to miss this...
Posted on Saturday, July 27th, 2013
Back in the Netherlands for one last day of vacation time.
The "Pixar 25 Years of Animation Expo" has been traveling around the world since it first began in New York back in 2005. With each new stop, it gets updated with material from their latest works, so now it's actually more like the "Pixar 34 Years of Animation Expo." And it's currently showing in Amsterdam, so off we went...
The expo is pretty great, mostly focusing on the artwork that goes into a Pixar production before it ever gets to a computer... but they've got a few exhibits dedicated to showing how the computer art is created as well. But the highlight of the show has to be a giant beautifully crafted zoetrope featuring the Toy Story characters. It's Pixar animation of an entirely different kind, and well worth checking out.
From there it was time to cash in some of my Reward Certificates at the Hard Rock Cafe Amsterdam. I had been dying for a Coke to wake me up all day, but the Coke machine was broken, so I started going into withdrawals right there in the restaurant while waiting for my lunch.
After a Coke-free meal we stopped at Ben & Jerry's for ice cream, which is always a treat because they've got an awesome mural painted on the walls...
We were going to see the Greatest Illusion Show on Earth because, honestly, how could you not... but being lazy at Casa de DutchBitch sounded more appealing, so Hans Klok will have to wait for another time...
And there it is... the end of my week's vacation. Tomorrow it's back to Schiphol Airport and my flight home.
Posted on Sunday, July 28th, 2013
Better renew that passport... because another special TRAVEL edition of Bullet Sunday starts now...
• George! For anybody outside the UK wondering if theirs was the only country obsessing over a new royal baby in Britain, the answer is no. I saw it everywhere I went, and I think every single newspaper in Helsinki announced the birth while I was there...
Not quite sure why it's Great Britain's monarchy that gets people so obsessed when there are plenty of other royals in other countries of the world, but there you have it.
• McBathroom! Much like all forms of DRM, this ridiculous protection racket that the McDonald's near my hotel used to keep their bathroom "for customers only" was grossly ineffective...
As I sat eating my fries and McFlurry, I saw person after person hold the door while exiting so that people could go in without having to use the code. Which makes me wonder why McDonald's bothered at all.
• Frommers! My go-to travel guides have always been Frommers. And when I started transitioning from printed books to online guides, it was always Frommers.com that I went to first. Their information was so professional, informative, and trustworthy, that I didn't feel the need to go anywhere else. But not any more. Just about everything there is badly out of date. As an example, I almost skipped going to Estonia because Frommers had this to say...
Arranging a visa for a visit to Estonia, across the water, is time-consuming and requires planning prior to your arrival in Helsinki. But once you're there, the rich, once-forbidden majesty of this capital of the Baltic republic opens before you, at prices, at least for souvenir goods, that you'll find surprisingly low.
And, in another section, this...
Don't think you can jump on a ferryboat for a spontaneous excursion to Estonia. At press time, despite the fact that Estonia is a semiautonomous nation, visas were mandatory and required applications submitted days or even weeks in advance, preferably from the Estonian embassy or consulate in your home nation.
Well, their "press time" must have been before December 2007... six years ago... because that's when Estonia became a Schengen Country, which means no visa is required for countries mentioned in the agreement (like the USA). Not only did I not need a visa for a visit of up to 90 days, nobody on either side of my excursion to Tallinn bothered to even look at my passport.
Even more embarrassing for Frommers? They don't even have the currency right...
Currency -- The national currency is called the kroon, abbreviated as EEK, and is made up of 100 sents. The kroon is pegged to the German mark, 1DEM = 8EEK. The rate of exchange at press time was $1 = 17.03 kroons.
It's been two-and-a-half years since Estonia adopted the Euro. Do they not even have a single person employed at Frommers to keep track of major events like this so at least the travel basics are correct in their online guides? Apparently not, which means that Frommers is essentially useless for travel planning. Kind of sad that this once-great bastion of travel advice has fallen so low.
• Beer! The Tallink ferry I used to get from Helsinki to Estonia has a duty-free supermarket onboard. Yes, supermarket. I was a little surprised to see such a huge alcohol section there... especially for beer, which was stacked in cases on pallets. Well, it turns out that the reason they have so much beer is that they sell so much beer. Everywhere I went onboard people had cases and cases of the stuff with them. Even the elderly lady sitting next to me in the lounge was not immune...
Give that I saw people with shopping carts hauling dozens of cases of beer off the ship, I'd say her two cases of Beck's was rather restrained.
• Chair! Just because I can't help myself... here are the chairs in the waiting lounge at Helsinki's West Terminal...
• Finnish! I've seen a lot of foreign languages in my travels, but Finnish is the most perplexing yet. Just look at this dialogue box that popped up at my hotel when connecting to the internet...
Those are some really, really long and complicated words!
• Machine! And speaking of dialogue boxes, this idiotic crap kept popping up on my Mac while I was away...
Well, dumbass, the reason you haven't backed up is because my Time Capsule is 4700 miles away! Can't you look at what IP address you're using and figure that out so I don't have to be interrupted by your stupid shit? I swear, for everything Apple does that's amazingly smart and convenient, there's at least one other thing that's hugely stupid and inconvenient. The thing I (usually) love about Apple is the tiny details they handle that takes crap out of your way. Why they can't apply a little of that logic here is a mystery.
Annnnd... that's a wrap. Please put your tray tables up and make sure your seat back is in an upright position for landing...
Posted on Monday, July 29th, 2013
Somebody wrote a rant about how "karma" is a load of shit and it's being passed around Facebook like a virus. It's amusing, I guess, but the author doesn't understand karma, thus misses the point entirely.
Karma is based on a simple Buddhist principle, but can be pretty complex in concept (which is the opposite of how things usually work). So when somebody inaccurately boils karma down to "Do good and you'll receive good in return. Do bad and you'll receive bad in return"... then gets all pissed off because they think they're doing nothing but good but receiving nothing but bad... while people they perceive as "evil" are doing mostly bad stuff and yet only good things seem to happen for them. Well, yeah... it's frustrating, I know. But that's not the way actual "karma" works, and ranting otherwise is kind of silly. It's like being upset that your dishwasher can't play CDs or something*.
In any event, karma can mean different things to different people, so I suppose there's no "right answer"... but any answer people arrive at should at least be an informed one, and I'm not seeing much of that.
To me, karma is not some kind of cosmic competition where your good deeds and bad deeds are weighed against each other for points, then measured against other people's points to determine who gets to have good things happen to them. Buddhism doesn't have a deity to do the math required, so the idea of karma being some kind of "cosmic judgement" doesn't really fit.
So what is it then?
Karma is cause and effect.
• Greet somebody with a smile, and they will probably be react with kindness.
• Greet somebody with a punch in the face, and they will probably react very differently.
Now, those are obviously simplistic examples. Some people are assholes and all the smiles in the world aren't going to make them treat you kindly... but the principle of cause and effect being illustrated is what karma is all about. And when you look at it in those terms, that's where Buddhists find truth in the guiding philosophy behind their faith...
• Positive actions result in happiness.
• Negative actions result in suffering.
Note that I did not say "Positive actions result in your happiness" or "Negative actions result in your suffering"... and this is where most people who are tossing "karma" around get it wrong. They expect that their actions, positive or negative, have consequences, good or bad, that will reflect back on them... usually in some physically measurable way...
• I don't spread gossip and I found a penny on the sidewalk! It's karma!
• I have a positive attitude and I won a new car! It's karma!
• I drunkenly peed on my best friend's dog and I got stung by a bee! It's karma!
I'm not saying that there's no physically measurable payoff for what you put out there... obviously there can be... but most times that's not the case at all. Perhaps your positive action pays off for you, but only mentally or spiritually. Perhaps your positive action pays off for somebody else. Perhaps your positive action won't have any immediate effect at all, and it will be years before there's any kind of payoff. Whatever. It's the fact that there is a payoff... some time, some how, some way... that defines the cause and effect of karma.
Whether that payoff is something negative or positive is up to you. Or, to be more precise, up to the intent of your actions (that's a very Buddhist thing to say).
So go out there and make good karma by doing something positive!
That way I can wallow in negativity and bitterness over the crappy day I just had and know that some kind of payoff in goodness is happening somewhere.
Which will make my day a little less bitter and crappy.
See? That's karma in action.
*But wouldn't it be cool if your dishwasher could play CDs? Music while you wash your soup bowls!
Posted on Tuesday, July 30th, 2013
Yesterday was not a great day.
Today wasn't much better.
Partly because once things start to go wrong, they always seem to continue to go wrong... but mostly because I had an exhausting 3-1/2 hour drive awaiting me at the end of my work day. As I have written many times before, the journey to Spokane is long, boring, and filled with mostly nothing. Which is not to say that I have anything against Spokane itself... it's actually a pleasant and interesting city... it's just not so frickin' mind-blowing that I want to spend 3-1/2 hours driving here.
But... work... and all that.
About 2/3 of the way to Spokane is an exit for the city of Washtucna, Washington. I have never been there. But every time I drive by the exit sign, I find myself saying "Washtucna" out loud over and over again in an attempt to find the proper pronunciation, all the while wondering what the city might be like. Today was no different...
When all of a sudden...
RATTLE! RATTLE! RATTLE! RATTLE!
Apparently my muffler and/or exhaust pipe has now come loose from the frame of my car.
As I said, once things start to go wrong, they always seem to continue to go wrong, because I had already been having problems with my piece-of-shit automobile. And now I have new ones.
So... as you can see by this map, I was not exaggerating about the vast expanse of nothing going on in the Central Washington Columbia Basin...
There was nowhere I could pull off I-90 and travel to where I could be assured of there being an auto repair shop... certainly not one that would be open at 6:00pm. All I could really do was keep going and hope my car didn't fall apart before I got to Spokane. And all the while I was having to listen to...
RATTLE! RATTLE! RATTLE! RATTLE!
Luckily for me, my car held together.
Like the Millenium Falcon, but not really.
And so I did what any normal person would do after driving 3-1/2 hours with a car that's falling apart. PIZZA!!!
Car repairs can wait until tomorrow.
Posted on Wednesday, July 31st, 2013
When last we left our intrepid hero, his car was making heinous rattling noises.
The only mechanic shop I know in Spokane is Dee's Auto. So in-between work and checking out of my hotel, I gave them a call. They said that muffler & exhaust were out of their expertise, and I should give Muffler Mart a try.
How refreshing to have a mechanic send business away rather than charge you to take a look at something they know they can't fix, then make you pay for a referral.
Muffler Mart ("Three Old Guys and One Kid Work Here!") very kindly squeezed my piece-of-crap car in for a look after only a short wait. They found that my exhaust system was in great shape, and the racket was just a screw that had gone missing (I can so relate to that). They replaced the screw and refused to let me pay them for their time.
How refreshing to have a mechanic not try and sell you something you don't need, but instead apply a band-aid to your car's ouchie at no charge.
Am I in the Twilight Zone? Not one, but two honest mechanics?
So... when my muffler actually does need to be replaced, I guess I'm driving 3-1/2 to Spokane. Muffler Mart is exactly the kind of business I want to support with my hard-earned dollars.
In other news, this happened...
Yes. iPhone will not work because it is too hot to use.
UNLESS YOU NEED TO MAKE AN EMERGENCY CALL! THEN IT WILL WORK PERFECTLY FINE!
I guess 9-1-1 calls have magical heat-defying properties.
Lesson learned. Don't leave your iPhone in a hot car even for just a little while.
Posted on Thursday, August 1st, 2013
Instead of returning across the Columbia Basin yesterday afternoon as planned, I checked back into my hotel for another day (and night) of work in Spokane.
Not a big deal... I packed extra clothes just in case... but I really, really need to get home. The amount of crap piling up that has to get done is reaching epic proportions, and I only have until next Thursday to get it all done. With every minute I stay in the Lilac City, it feels like I'm drowning in a lake that's 180 miles away from me.
My old room was occupied, so they gave me the room next door... where this was waiting for me...
I'm assuming it's for the United States of America... not the United States of Indonesia or something.
And that's lodging in Redneckistan for you! A Bible in every nightstand, The Constitution on every desk! All that was missing was an application form to join the Tea Party and a complimentary IMPEACH OBAMA! bumper sticker. I dunno... maybe they give you those at the front desk check-out. I went with Express Check-Out so I guess I missed it.
After a long, long night followed by an even longer day at work, I finally got to head home at 6:00pm this evening.
Do not have dinner. Do not collect $200. Go directly to home.
Other than an asshole in a gasoline truck pulling in front of me so I had to slam on the brakes and run off the road, it was an uneventful trip.
But oh so tiring.
I can't feel my brain.
So I'm going to stop blogging and start trying to get some sleep.
Assuming I can stop thinking about all the stuff piled on my desk at the office.
= sigh =
Posted on Friday, August 2nd, 2013
Washington State is not a bastion of pro sports-obsession like you'll find in other regions of the country. Sure the Seahawks and Mariners have their rabid fan base here like any other teams do, but it's not the same level as say... Wisconsin and their Green Bay Packers. Even so, being a Boston fan when the Red Sox are playing the Mariners is not always easy... especially when you're west of the Cascades or, heaven help you, in Seattle proper.
Fortunately I was wearing my Red Sox cap and Saltalamacchia jersey in Eastern Washington while driving my car through no-man's-land during last night's game.
I had been following the events at Fenway with increasing disappointment right up until I left Spokane at the bottom of the 4th inning. As I headed out into the Columbia Basin, this is what Siri had to say...
Well, yikes. Somehow Seattle managed to score five runs. Which was all my fault because I stopped watching to go home. I knew I should have stayed and kept cheering Boston on.
Oh well. Two wins outta three ain't bad, I suppose.
I didn't give the game another thought during the 3-1/2 hour drive, and had forgotten about it by the time I got home.
UNTIL 1am WHEN I WAS LIKE ZOMG! I WONDER IF BOSTON WAS ABLE TO RALLY?
And... boom goes the dynamite.
Six runs in the bottom of the ninth to win it.
Cannot wait to read the always high-larious commentary over at Lookout Landing on this one.
In other awesome Red Sox news, Saltalamacchia is finally recognized by Siri as an actual player now...
Used to be when you tried to ask Siri about Saltalamacchia she would bitch about not knowing who "Sulka LaMacchia" was or ask if you wanted to Google "Salt La Macchiato" or something like that.
Good to know that even an iPhone can learn something new.
Especially something as important as this.
Posted on Saturday, August 3rd, 2013
Michael Ansara has died!
The guy has acted in a lot of movies and TV shows, but is probably best known to geeks like me as "Kang" in the original Star Trek and "Kane" in Buck Rogers in the 21st Century (opposite Pamela Hensley as Princess Ardalla!). These were two really good and highly memorable roles...
But the role that will ever define Mr. Ansara to me is his voice work as the tragic villain Mr. Freeze on Batman: The Animated Series...
Batman & Mr. Freeze © Warner Bros. Animation
Mr. Freeze is a complex character, and it's no easy performance. He has to be warm and caring one minute, then ruthless and cold the next. But Mr. Ansara was able to make it seem effortless, and was utterly brilliant every time he appeared...
Rest in peace, sir. Your legendary work made this world a better place to be a geek!
Posted on Sunday, August 4th, 2013
Smoke 'em if you got 'em... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Hoarders! I was recently asked if I had any tips for getting the most out of frequent flier programs, loyalty programs, and reward programs. My answer was... make sure your points don't expire, then don't spend them! Rather than blowing your rewards on low-value items (which is what they expect), save them for something special. That's what I do, and every three or four years I have enough for a trip to Europe!
As an example, my trip to the Netherlands, Finland, and Estonia last month? Pretty much FREE. I cashed in Air Miles for all my flights. My lodging was paid for with reward points (or I stayed with friends). Souvenirs, food, and extras were paid from a cash-back rebate on one of my credit cards. The only expense for the entire trip was $167.30 in "tax and carrier fees" for my Helsinki flight and a few meals where I couldn't use my credit card rebate. As thrilling as going on vacation is, it's doubly so when your flight confirmation arrives with this...
Now, granted, I travel a lot more than most people so my points build faster... but the principle still holds. Accumulate your points for something special. Don't waste them on a free toaster or other crap consolation prize they throw at you. And it doesn't have to be Europe... save up miles for seven years and go to Hawaii if that's what works better for you. The point is to make your rewards mean something when you cash them in. All the work you put in will have a much sweeter pay-off.
• Doctor! And so we have a new "Dr. Who"... Peter Capaldi. He's an actor I'm only marginally familiar with (thanks to his appearances on the Dr. Who spinoff, Torchwood), but his credentials seem impressive enough. Most important of all, he managed to impress show-runner Steven Moffat, which is all that really matters...
This photo is everywhere, but I can never find a credit for it?
Of all his incarnations, David Tennant is my favorite Doctor hands-down. When he was replaced by goofy Matt Smith, I was mortified. But the guy eventually grew on me, and ended up creating some of my favorite episodes of all time. Something tells me I'll have a far less difficult time adapting to Capaldi if, for no other reason, he feels like he'll be a step back towards the David Tennant "feel." Time (ha ha ha) will tell.
• Electric! One of my all-time favorite bands is The Pet Shop Boys. They may not always be consistent in creating music I like... but, when they do, it's the most amazing experience I could hope for. Their triumphant comeback in 2009 with the album Yes blew me away thanks to the stunning track The Way It Used To Be, which is the Pet Shop Boys at their absolute best. Then came Elysium, which didn't quite reach the heights of Yes, but was a very good album (enough to be my favorite of 2012). And now they've come out with Electric...
Not really my thing. It's as if they tried to create an apology for all the critics who wanted something more "danceable" out of Elysium, but went entirely too far to do so. Yes, there are hints of Pet Shop to be found if you listen... Love is a Bourgeois Construct and The Last to Die are perfectly nice songs. Other tracks like Bolshy, Vocal, and Thursday are definitely "Pet Shoppy" on first blush, but seem a bit lacking after repeated listening. And then there's dance electronica disasters like Shouting in the Evening which sound like something any DJ with mediocre talent could whip out in ten minutes... not something crafted by brilliant pop gods Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe. So... I'm not sure where I stand. I am happy to have a new Pet Shop Boys album and tour, but wish they hadn't strayed so far from what makes their music so amazing to me. But, who can say? It may grow on me after a while.
In other thoughts... nine tracks? Really? That's all we're going to get? Nine tracks?
• S.H.I.E.L.D! Am I the only one who is getting more and more nervous the more they hear about ABC television's show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D? Because right now it sounds entirely too good to be true... from the cast right up to the Joss Whedon approved scripts...
I dunno. The better this thing sounds, the more I feel it's probably going to be canceled in three episodes. ABC is very quick to pull the trigger on under-performing shows, and this seems about as geek-centric and outside the mainstream as it gets. Yes, The Avengers took in record-making profits at the box office, but when has that ever been a guaranteed success when translated to the small screen? I hope I'm wrong. I really do. But this has Firefly written all over it.
And... back to work.
Posted on Monday, August 5th, 2013
Discovery Channel's SHARK WEEK 2013 started today!
And so I plop myself in front of the television to watch their all new shark-tacular Shark Week special... Megalodon: The Monster Shark That Lives... only to find something that wasn't SHARK EXTREME as expected... but a load of horse shit. Instead of being some kind of scientific exploration of one of the most brutal killing machines that ever lived, it's some kind of fictional Blair-Witch "found footage" garbage which tries to convince people that a mega-shark that went extinct millions of years ago is actually alive and terrorizing people even today. Which explains the odd title of the program.
Wondering what the bloody fuck was going on, I do what I usually do when I want to find out about something happening right now... I turn to Twitter. And there it is, courtesy of Wil Wheaton...
Discovery Channel Owes Its Viewers An Apology http://t.co/8kCqSSpcyD— Wil Wheaton (@wilw) August 5, 2013
Well crap. The write-up at Discover along with Wil Wheaton's comments pretty much sum up how horrible this situation is. What was once a brilliant television channel dedicated to science and education has ended up dredging the gutters of "trash entertainment" in a pathetic ratings grab.
Kind of puts a damper on something I look forward to all year...
On Saturday I spent 20 minutes on my DVR going through Discovery Channel's entire week of programming to record all the great new shark stuff (along with old favorites) so I wouldn't miss anything. I'm not going to dump all that work in some kind of boycott (as a lot of people are doing), but I am going to be watching with a lot less enthusiasm knowing what Discovery Channel has become.
We live in an age of scientific discovery that's both wonderful and fascinating.
But that's not enough to entertain the huddled masses.
Is this what we've come to? Really? Our "science facts" have to be sensationalized with bullshit or else nobody cares?
And I really shouldn't be surprised. We've got "news" channels with very little actual news, "music" channels that don't play any actual music, and now "science" channels that don't feel the need to air actual science.
I suppose the next step is to have science channels denying science.
I weep for the future, I really do.
UPDATE: And... point made. So many people have been passing this crap off as a real story that Snopes had to make an article about it. The huddled masses are so gullible to believe anything on their television... especially something on a "reputable" educational "science" channel... that it doesn't matter how outrageous or crazy the tale. Of course, it's not like anybody ever bothers to verify what they see on TV, even though the internet makes it easy and nearly instantaneous to do so. Unless people start forwarding the Snopes page at the rate they forwarded the Megalodon story, it doesn't make any difference. A giant extinct shark is actually terrorizing the seas.
Posted on Tuesday, August 6th, 2013
Today I got sidetracked by somebody asking me a travel question. I didn't know the answer off the top of my head, and ended up having to look through old photos to find the answer. This was a serious mistake, because you can't ever just look at one photo... so I ended up wasting an hour of precious time going back through my dozens of travel albums.
It then occurred to me that if you were to erase all the travel I've done from my life, I would be one of the most boring people on earth.
Because, let's face it, outside of travel I don't really do much of anything. Except work.
I don't have any hobbies. I'm not involved in any sports. I don't belong to any clubs or groups. I don't get involved in community activities. I don't have kids.
I can't Limbo.
Hell, even this blog would have never happened if it weren't for my travels. Blogography was started solely as a way to keep my friends and family informed as to where I was traveling!
Oddly enough, I'm perfectly okay with this.
Because there's nothing I'd rather do with my life than fill in as many holes on my travel map as I can before I die...
Map courtesy of TripAdvisor and Bing
As you can see, I've got a lot of living yet to do.
Posted on Wednesday, August 7th, 2013
Everything has gone terribly wrong!
We're all doomed!
So let's sing the Doom Song!
Yep. This is pretty much the only thing that kept me going today.
Posted on Thursday, August 8th, 2013
What could be better than a wedding in Vegas?
I'm not the one getting married!
Posted on Friday, August 9th, 2013
I am not much of a gambler.
Not because I am particularly unlucky, because I'm not (even though I don't much believe in luck)... but because the paranoia of losing my hard-earned money just kind of sucks all the fun out of it.
But it wouldn't be a trip to Vegas without a little gambling, so I slid $20 in a slot machine... lost everything but $4, then somehow ended up $136.43 ahead...
And there's my gambling money for the trip.
Yes, I'm a total player that way.
But at least I won't be whoring myself on The Strip to earn cash because I lost all my money playing roulette.
No... if I'm going to whore myself on The Strip, it's going to be because I enjoy it, dammit!
Posted on Saturday, August 10th, 2013
I've finally attended a Vegas wedding officiated by Elvis.
I have to admit, I was really surprised at how well done it was. Just the right amounts of tacky and sweet... and about as memorable of a wedding as you could hope for. It didn't hurt that there was a very memorable couple getting hitched...
Congratulations Cher & Nis... thanks so much for letting me be a part of your special day!
Posted on Sunday, August 11th, 2013
Everybody place your bets... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Welcome! What always fascinates me about Las Vegas, Nevada is this: What people think of when they think of Las Vegas is not actually Las Vegas at all. Unless you are thinking of "Old Las Vegas" and Fairmont Street... or perhaps The Stratosphere Hotel and Casino... both of which actually are in Las Vegas. But most everything else... including all the big popular casino hotels on "The Strip" south of Sahara Avenue, are actually in Paradise, Nevada (unincorporated). Indeed, even McCarran International Airport is not in Las Vegas, despite what the sign says when you arrive there...
But I suppose it's easier to just lump everything together under the name "Las Vegas" that everybody knows... which, apparently, is what the US Postal Service does anyway.
• Service! One of the worst things about visiting "Las Vegas" if you are an AT&T mobile customer is that your cellular service is for shit. Even if you turn off LTE...
Actually, it's worse than shit, because a lot of the time there's no service at all. And I'm not talking about when you're buried in a casino somewhere... I'm talking about when you're walking around outside...
It has been like this for as long as I've been with AT&T and visiting Las Vegas. Even when you can start a call, odds are it will drop off before you can complete it. And I just don't get it. Yes, I'm sure putting up cellular towers is no easy process with the regulations and permits and all that... but this has been going on for years. Is AT&T EVER going to get their shit together in this city?
• Goo! If ever there was a reminder of why I won't be visiting porn theaters in this lifetime, this would be it...
A Goo Gone bottle, almost empty, with "Theater" written across it? Sign me up.
• Venice! Las Vegas is much like Walt Disney World's EPCOT in that they try to recreate exotic locations from around the world so Americans not wanting to leave the country can leave the country.
But not really.
The truth is that you can't visit Venice without actually visiting Venice. Try as they might, these fabrications can't even give you a taste of what the real thing is like. And yet, not everybody is lucky enough to be able to fly off to Venice, so this is as close as they're going to get. And, in that respect, I suppose something is better than nothing...
Could be better than the real St. Mark's Square... which is always covered in scaffolding and pigeons.
Gondola rides in Vegas are much, much, much cheaper than in Venice.
What's a visit to Italy without some stracciatella gelato?
My hope is that anybody intrigued by fake Venice or fake Paris or fake Oslo or fake anywhere would want to save their pennies to visit the real thing. But there's usually no slot machines filling every available bit of floor space, so maybe that's asking too much.
• &! Something I have always wanted to do on my many trips to Las Vegas was to see Penn & Teller's show at the Rio. Thanks to a kind act of generosity, I finally managed it this trip...
It was absolutely great. I wish there was a little more magic and a little less politics... but I guess that wouldn't be Penn & Teller, would it? Still... worth seeing if you're in the neighborhood.
Back to reality...
Posted on Monday, August 12th, 2013
I am so sick and tired of Apple's complete inability to keep iMessage and Apple ID operating that I want to shit myself until I vomit.
As I reported A FUCKING YEAR AGO, Apple has some serious problems when it comes to using your Apple ID for iMessaging with Mountain Lion. Seemingly at random everything will go to shit for no discernible reason, and the you can't ever get things working again without a call to Apple. And, odds are, you'll be on the phone forever because even though they are aware of the problem, they're not really doing anything about it...
And that's just the tip of the iceberg, of course. Mac OS X has a printing system that has been garbage since day one... AND IT NEVER GETS ANY BETTER. I still have printers randomly drop off the face of the network, just as I've had for a decade. I still have to delete printers, reset the printing system, and restart my Mac over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again because I can't print... even though I was printing just fine an hour ago.
And don't get me started on not being able to have a persisten menu bar in full-screen apps. That idiocy drives me bat-shit insane on a daily basis.
And what about Mail not being able to send Windows-friendly attachments that are actually Windows-friendly attachments?
And what about...
I know that most of Apple's focus is on the while iPhone/iPad universe because it's just so damn profitable... but holy shit... there are problems which have been hanging around OS X FOR FUCKING YEARS! When will Apple just bite the fucking bullet, commit the resources, AND GET THEM FIXED?!?
My guess? Never.
They are so far past giving a shit now that I'm shocked they even bother at all.
And I anticipate Mac OS X "Mavericks" won't be much better.
I guess somebody had to take Microsoft's place in the shit service and crap development department.
I just never thought it would be Apple.
UPDATE: After many, many attempts at solving my iMessage problem, I logged out and back in to iCloud for the millionth time and ended up getting a new message: "The registering device does not have appropriate credentials." Googling this actually gave me a solution... blocking all local storage for the Flash plugin (in the System Preferences under the Apple Menu)...
And... lo and behold... it works. I can log in to iMessage again. Still no clue why it randomly stopped working on both of my Macs at the same time (was it a Flash update?)... but here it is.
Posted on Tuesday, August 13th, 2013
Today I overheard a woman on her mobile phone asking where she could get an abortion... for her dog.
Apparently her little bitch couldn't keep her tail down, so now she's preggers and her owner is freaking out because she "don't want puppy piss and shit everywhere."
Naturally, the owner takes no responsibility what-so-ever for what's happened. Because, heck, the only thing more inconvenient than cleaning up puppy piss and shit is making an appointment to get your dog spayed.
As I was listening to the conversation get more and more insane, I came up with the idea of a spay and neuter clinic where owners too stupid to breed can get spayed or neutered along with their pets.
The problem is that those people are also too stupid to realize that they need to remove themselves from the gene pool.
Looks like we'll have to get their pets to stage an intervention or something.
Posted on Wednesday, August 14th, 2013
Today started out great.
Then it got really terrible really fast.
Then it got even worse just when I thought things would finally start improving.
Then I sliced my finger open with an X-ACTO knife and bled all over my desk. This should have been the low-point of my day, but it turns out it was just a warm-up of things to come. And realizing that slicing your finger open was actually one of the better things to happen in your day kinda forces you to reevaluate your life choices.
Like "Why did I use that X-ACTO knife when I've sliced my finger open with an X-ACTO knife at least a dozen times before?
And "Why did I become a vegetarian when pepperoni pizza is so darn tasty?"
And "Why did I switch from briefs to boxers?"
And "Whatever possessed me to watch the movie "White Chicks?"
And "Why did I have that Super Bean Burrito for lunch?
And "If I had become an astronaut like I wanted when I was a kid, I probably wouldn't be slicing my fingers open with X-ACTO blades."
My finger hurts and apparently I've made all the wrong decisions.
Not a good day to be me.
Posted on Thursday, August 15th, 2013
Very, very few people could have took over for Jon Stewart on The Daily Show for a single episode... let alone an entire summer.
And yet... John Oliver did an amazing job of it.
He did so well that, while I'm happy Jon Stewart will be returning after the break, I will really miss seeing John Oliver cover the faux news on Comedy Central...
I hope that Comedy Central sees this too, because how amazing would it be to have another show developed for John Oliver which covers international news or something like that? I would absolutely tune in for it... and I'm betting a lot of other people would too.
And speaking of international news...
Absolutely horrified by the news coming out of Egypt.
My visit to the country back in 2007 was brief, but wonderful. The people were incredibly welcoming and kind, and I ache to think of them embroiled in such violence. Adding to the hurt is how those Egyptians who make a living from tourism are going to suffer. I fear that this is an industry that will not soon be returning to Egypt... much as it needs to.
Peace be upon you, Egypt.
Posted on Friday, August 16th, 2013
A friend of mine called last night because it was the one-year anniversary of his divorce. As expected, he was feeling a bit down, and wanted somebody to commiserate with him over his life not turning out as he had planned. No wife. No kids. No house with the white picket fence in the suburbs. Nothing. Some random guy in a chat room half a world away had promised his wife a life of adventure in foreign lands, so she told my friend he was boring, packed a suitcase, and left.
I have no idea why I am the go-to guy people call when they realize their life has gone to shit, but there it is.
Somewhere in the conversation, we got on the subject eating utensils. A couple weeks ago my friend had been cleaning out a closet and came across "the good silverware" that he and his ex-wife had gotten as a wedding present. Realizing that he would never be hosting any dinner parties, he tossed out the "everyday silverware" and started using the fancy stuff that had been reserved for special occasions. He then told me that it hadn't been used once in nearly four years of marriage. Apparently there was nothing worth celebrating all that time. I pointed out that now every day was a special occasion... but I think the irony was lost on him.
After an appropriate mourning period, I started telling him all the things he already knew, but needed to hear, which is undoubtedly why he called me in the first place.
It basically boiled down to "You can't cling to the life that didn't work out, because that's keeping you from building the life you deserve!" — or something like that.
Sure it's a cliché, but it is also A) true and B) good advice, so I stand by it.
Then I suggested he sell the "good silverware" on eBay along with all the other crap they accumulated together and start fresh. Life truly is too short to be holding on to things that are holding you back. He said he'd think about it.
As I hung up the phone, I thought that I should be taking my own advice.
And maybe I will.
But, ooh... first I want this custom-built, unofficial Breaking Bad Meth Lab Playset from Citizen Brick!
Though it doesn't make me feel any better about Breaking Bad ending in just seven episodes.
Posted on Saturday, August 17th, 2013
I woke up underwater this morning.
Well, not really... but for a second as I awoke I thought I was underwater.
Specifically, I thought I was underwater in Fiji. And when my eyes opened I fully expected that I'd be surrounded by dolphins, which is my strongest memory from visiting there.
Alas, I wasn't in the South Pacific after all, which started my day on a depressing note. And then I noticed that the finger I stabbed a couple days ago was throbbing and the area around the wound was swollen. Oh yay, an infection. Nothing quite like going from thinking you're in Fiji... to slicing your finger back open so you can clean it out and pack it with antibiotics.
Unless it's going from thinking you're in Fiji... to slicing open your infected finger... to eating the wrong combination of foods and ending up battling diarrhea all morning...
Good times. Good times.
Needless to say, my work day was severely hampered. Instead of going into work I ended up attempting to work from home all day, barely making a dent on the pile of crap I have to get done.
Now I'm exhausted and needing to get some sleep. Not willing to risk a night of insomnia-as-usual, I decided to take sleeping pills.
Posted on Sunday, August 18th, 2013
Get on the dance floor... Get on the dance floor and DANCE! DANCE! DANCE!... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Cuusoo! My love of all things LEGO is well documented. I especially love the licensed properties like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings and Batman and Indiana Jones, to name a few. The cool thing about LEGO is that they are always curious to know what ideas their fans have for new sets, so they developed a site called Cuusoo to collect them. If an idea gets 10,000 votes, LEGO w