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 will review the idea and possibly create the set! The latest one they created was the Back to the Future DeLorean Time Machine...
It's a little clunky-looking, but I still had to have it. The problem is that I've had the thing for a week but have been too busy to put it together. It's deceptively complicated...
And, as an added bonus to getting a great new LEGO set... the designer, Masashi Togami, will donate his royalties to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research! Very cool! If you'd like to buy your own set before they're all gone, here's where you can get one! And, in related news... how cool would a Back to the Future Trilogy video game be?
• Cuusoo Two! And speaking of Cuusoo, here are the sets I'm currently supporting...
Scooby-Doo! (GO HERE TO VOTE!)...
Ghostbusters! (GO HERE TO VOTE!)...
Adventure Time!(GO HERE TO VOTE!)...
• Zero G! As somebody who has dreamed of being an astronaut since I was old enough to know what an astronaut was, I've long accepted that my odds of going into space are pretty much nil. But there's a company who can give you the next best thing... the experience of ZERO GRAVITY! For a mere $5250, Zero Gravity Corporation will arrange a ride on their "vomit comet" aircraft which can simulate various stages of weightlessness with stomach-churning parabolas arcs across the sky...
I paid off my upcoming vacation back in April, and have been saving for my next vacation ever since. A part of me wants Zero G to be that trip. Except... I fear my car is going to die any day now... and, assuming it doesn't, there are plenty of places I'm still wanting to explore on earth. But... wow. Definitely on my bucket list for one day.
• Electronic Devices! At last, some serious answers to a question I have every time I fly...
Bwah ha haaaa!
Enjoy what's left of your Sunday!
Posted on Monday, August 19th, 2013
Forest fires are raging ten miles away so the air is choked with smoke. Which means I will be spending my days with stomach cramps and queasiness. I don't know why smoke affects me like that, but it does.
One of the curious side-effects of having a blog that spans a decade is being able to look back and see what you were up to ten years ago. In my case, life was all about my motorcycle. That's a story that doesn't end happily, but it was an interesting time in my life.
And a fun one.
Which is why I should probably make a point of revisiting my archives more often.
When I'm not having fun in the present, I can always re-live it in the past.
Posted on Tuesday, August 20th, 2013
The winds shifted, which means a respite from the smoke that's been plaguing the valley. I very much needed this, because I have been taking way too much Alka-Seltzer and Pepto-Bismol in a futile attempt to make myself feel better. Holy crap I wish I knew why some smells... including smoke, incense, and various perfumes... cause me to instantly end up with gut-splitting cramps.
It's like when I mix soda and ice cream... instant gastrointestinal agony. Just the idea of eating a root beer float is enough to make me feel sick.
I also run into problems if I fly on an empty stomach (queasiness).
Or scuba-dive after eating sweets (headache).
Or eat peanuts too close to bedtime (heartburn).
And, as I get older, I'm finding more and more crazy shit that causes my body to revolt. I suppose that's just a natural part of aging, but it still pisses me off. Mostly because I can never seem to remember what it is that causes problems, so I'm forever repeating the same mistakes.
I'd give up, but I'm just too old and stubborn.
Posted on Wednesday, August 21st, 2013
Thank heavens the fires didn't start in June.
This is so not fun.
You'd think after the years of non-stop summer fires there wouldn't be anything left to burn.
Posted on Thursday, August 22nd, 2013
I mean, I know he was the bomb in Phantoms, but BATMAN?!?
Look, it's not like I have anything against Ben Affleck. He's a decent actor who has played several parts I've enjoyed, and I think a lot of times the criticism he gets is just because people like to hate on Ben Affleck, not because he deserves it.
He's also really funny, and not above poking fun at himself... or others, which gives him high marks in my book...
But he's NOT Batman.
He doesn't have the gravitas to pull off the Dark Knight.
He doesn't have the suave sophistication to pull off Bruce Wayne.
And it's not that hard to understand.
When playing the part of a man that is supposed to be taken seriously when dressed up as a big bat, the actor doing the job has to be able to ground that character in some sense of reality. He has to have the weight to make you believe that Batman is on the screen. Ben Affleck is not that actor. He's just going to come across as a guy in a suit.
And it's not like there's no precedent to see how this will play out.
Daredevil, which I enjoyed more than most people, has Affleck struggling to make a guy in a relatively "normal" looking vigilante outfit feel real. He never quite pulled it off. You could never get past the fact that it was Ben Affleck gritting his teeth in a red leather suit.
And now he's going to attempt Batman?
Again, this is a guy dressed up as a frickin' BAT.
I'm sure Ben will give it his best shot. I'm sure it won't be truly horrible.
But it's not going to be Batman.
Posted on Friday, August 23rd, 2013
And so the wildfire-fueled smoke continues.
My throat is raw from coughing and my eyes are in a perpetual state of being glazed over. People probably think I've been taking advantage of Washington State's legalization of marijuana when they see me, but it's nothing nearly as fun as that.
Oh well. One of the perils of living in the tinderbox known as Central Washington.
And, speaking of where I live, Kapgar posted these questions...
And now, back to my regularly-scheduled work-night.
Posted on Saturday, August 24th, 2013
I've written and re-written a blog post in a futile attempt to sanitize it enough for public consumption, but it just ain't happening.
Everything starts out okay, but ultimately degenerates into a profanity-fueled tirade where I go completely off the rails.
And so I'm giving up.
Throwing in the towel.
Taking the high road...
No guarantees for tomorrow.
Posted on Sunday, August 25th, 2013
Don't get me wrong... I love my mobile phone and don't know what I'd do with out it... but any time I'm driving, I curse the day that "texting" and "mobile apps" ever became a thing.
Today I was driving the five minutes it takes for me to get to work. As I turned off my street, a car coming the opposite direction WAS IN MY LANE! I got as far off the road as I could, then honked my horn and slammed on my brakes... only to see them swerve away at the last minute, missing me by less than six feet. She had been texting or Facebooking or otherwise occupied and not paying attention. Needless to say I was pissed...
I took a lunch break so I could walk to the mini-mart for popcorn and a Coke. As I was crossing the street, a car came to a screeching halt IN THE CROSSWALK just behind me.
They were probably texting or Facebooking or otherwise occupied and not paying attention. Then, oops, there's a pesky stop sign and crosswalk popping up out of nowhere! Except it didn't pop up out of nowhere. The driver was just being a stupid asshole.
And I just don't get it.
If you're driving a vehicle weighing thousands of pounds that's more than capable of killing or seriously injuring somebody... shouldn't you kinda... oh... I dunno... PAY FUCKING ATTENTION TO WHAT YOU'RE DOING BEHIND THE WHEEL?!?
For some people, I guess a "minor scare" is not enough of a deterrant. They're going to have to kill somebody to get the message.
I really hope it's not me.
Posted on Monday, August 26th, 2013
Stand back, it's a big one!
Laying out an issue of THRICE Fiction is like putting together a giant puzzle where all the edge pieces have been removed. Stories have to "flow" into each other in a way that keeps the reader engaged, yet still manage to make them feel like separate entities. You'd think that the more stories you have, the easier it would be to fit the pieces together because there's more options to choose from. You'd be wrong. It's actually quite the opposite. It's the choice that drags things out and makes things hard. If you only have a few stories, then the way they should fit together is more obvious. With a lot of stories? Well...
Yet, it is what it is.
RW Spryszak and I made the decision early on that the size of the magazine would directly relate to what we have to put in it. If we only received two stories that were "right for us" then that issue has two stories. But we never accounted for THRICE getting as popular as it has. RW is getting hundreds of submissions each issue. Hundreds. Our odds of getting great stories that are "the right fit" for us have exploded.
So I ended up with an issue that was 84 pages which I then had to pare down to 70. Because things start getting expensive after that.
And since THRICE shows no signs of slowing down, we've adjusted our publishing schedule to allow more time. The last thing we want to do is start slapping an issue together haphazardly to meet a date on a calendar, so it was our only option. The good news is that the quality of the magazine can be maintained. The bad news is that our submission window has dropped to one month intervals.
I'm choosing to look at this as a good thing.
Once again I am going to write a blog post about all the art that goes into the issue. But this time it will have to come in two parts. Here is the first half...
RW had an idea for a cover after reading one of the stories he accepted. He envisioned the Brooklyn Bridge all lit up at night in the fog. I thought it was a good idea, except I couldn't find a photo that would work. All my photos of Brooklyn were shot in the daytime, and any nighttime shots I found weren't working. I decided to just up and DRAW the idea, but I could never get it to come together. The Brooklyn Bridge is a very specific structure and people know when you get it wrong. I simply didn't have the time to get it right. Or I'm just not that talented an artist. Regardless, I had to try a new approach.
So night became day, fog became clouds, and away we go.
The photos I had taken from my last visit to Brooklyn were a good start. I wanted the cover image to be on the bridge instead of looking at it, and I had plenty of shots for that. But the clouds were never where I wanted them to be. This meant I had to painstakingly cut out the bridge so I could manipulate the sky as I wanted... namely, having a big ol' cloud at the top for the magazine title to sit on! After I composited the bridge and the revised sky, I was dismayed to find that the cables were falling away, so I then had to paint over each and every one to get them to stand out a bit. After a lot of work, I sent the photo through a couple of Photoshop filters to add a bit of watercolor feeling and, voilà, our cover was born.
Except not really.
Everybody thinks that Photoshop filters are a magic button you press to get cool stuff happening with no effort. And, for the most part, that's true. But I'm never satisfied with the "magic button" approach, so I always end up re-painting parts so that they filter better... or using different strengths of filter on different pieces of the photo... or whatever. In this case I ended up with a photo that had twenty-two separate layers in the final composite to get what I wanted.
As usual, I find myself thinking it would have been easier to actually take the time to paint the thing from scratch.
To read about the rest of the art in this issue, you'll have to take a look after the jump. And I'll see you tomorrow for part two!→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Posted on Tuesday, August 27th, 2013
On the bright side, you're half-way there!
Or don't... either way, I get paid the same.
When last I left you, we were half-way through the magazine. Kinda. Because while I now have the luxury of going through the issue page-by-page, it doesn't work that way when putting the book together. Absolutely nothing is done in-sequence. Especially this time around, when things were running so late that I didn't have time to reach out to as many artists as I would have liked. Lucky for me, THRICE-regular Kyra Wilson painted two beautiful last-minute pieces she was able to work into her schedule... then Ira Joel Haber came along with his wonderful body of work that really saved my bacon! If not for him, this issue would have slid into September for sure! So, to both of these gifted artists, my heart-felt thanks for your help.
And now, on with the show.
The art of THRICE Fiction No. 8 continues after the jump...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Posted on Wednesday, August 28th, 2013
On a trip to New York years ago, I decided to to buy a gift for some people back home as a "thank you" for giving me some hotel discount coupons. Back then I had no money for travel, and their generosity was the difference between staying in a nice hotel... or sleeping in a bus station or some grubby hostel.
Finding the perfect gift was difficult because I didn't know them very well. About all I knew was that they hosted fancy dinner parties, liked great wine, and took pity on their daughter's friend who was foolishly flying to New York with little planning and even less budget.
After a couple days of wandering through souvenir shops in-between visits to the Empire State Building, The Statue of Liberty, The World Trade Center, and all the other obvious tourist spots, I was ready to give up. Showing up at their door with an "I ♥ NY" T-shirt or a crappy picture frame would have been worse than showing up with nothing. I figured I would just buy a nice Hallmark thank-you card and that would be the end of it.
My fancy hotel had a concierge. I had never used one before... but of course I knew what they were for. I watch movies and stuff.
So I sauntered up to the concierge desk and said something like "Hello! I need to buy a hostess gift for a friend. Do you know where I might find something appropriate for a couple who enjoy dinner parties and wine?" The concierge looked at me like I was a grade-A moron and said "Do you have something in mind... like... oh, I don't know... a nice bottle of wine? Turns out that I actually was a grade-A moron, because getting them a bottle of wine had never occurred to me. "Well of course, wine!" I snapped, "I am asking you where I can get it!" Hey, I can be an asshole too, asshole.
And so I was directed to some ridiculously pretentious wine shop.
Where I was told that a cheese and crackers gift basket would be the better gift to travel home with. Which was a nice way of saying "yeah, you can't afford a 'great' bottle of wine in this joint, fella." They had a basket that had been opened because they took something out of it, and the nice lady assisting me offered to re-work it at a discount so nobody would ever know a part was missing. Fifty precious dollars later, I had a nice-looking gift of very expensive cheese with a box of watercress crackers. In a basket. With straw. I took care to keep it cool, and it survived my trip home the following day. I ran it to my friend's parents the next morning. Her mother was thrilled and thanked me profusely for the unexpected cheese windfall. Mission accomplished.
The following week I asked my friend if her parents had a chance to eat the cheese basket I gave them. Turns out they had. I sat waiting for her to beguile me with a magical tale of how the cheese was served with a $500 bottle of wine at an exclusive party attended by movie stars and dignitaries. Instead she told me that they had shredded the stuff and sprinkled it on a casserole or nachos or something.
I must say, I managed to keep my composure quite well.
But how ungrateful! That precious gift of $50 cheese was WASTED! I might as well have given them a box of Ritz crackers and a brick of cheddar! Didn't they know that it was a special cheese that was meant to be savored with a fine wine? I might as well have take a $50 bill and burned it! Of all the nerve!
The Buddhist philosophies I had been studying started to surface.
I gave them the gift freely. They accepted it with gratitude after doing me a favor. They liked it. They were happy I had been so thoughtful. Who am I to tell them how to enjoy their cheese? So they shredded it on a casserole... good for them! I'll bet it was the best damn casserole they had ever eaten! How nice that I got to be a part of such an amazing dining experience!
Discovering that you don't have to be angry all the time... and realizing that what other people choose to do with their cheese is their business... it's a liberating thing.
Which brings me to yesterday when I was told that "tattoos are disrespectful to the bodies that God has given us" and I was so close to saying "Then don't get a fucking tattoo, bitch!" but actually ended up saying "Why do you care what I do with my cheese?" which was confusing to everybody involved, so I shrugged my shoulders and walked away.
But not before I noticed she had pierced ears and color highlights in her hair.
Posted on Thursday, August 29th, 2013
I left home at 3:30am. Flew out of my local airport at 6:00am. Was scheduled to fly out of Seattle at 9:55am, but ended up delayed, so I arrived into San Francisco three hours late. This blew both a meeting and an important errand I had lined up, so my day was not off to a great start.
But after meeting up with Jester & friends for drinks and a fantastic falafel dinner, things started looking up.
It was tattoo time!
I promised myself that with each new trip to the Bay Area, I'd visit my tattoo artist, the ridiculously talented Michael DeMatty of Black & Blue Tattoo, to add a piece to the forearm band that I started back in February.
Part Two (of Six) completed!
This is the all-important centerpiece that all the other pieces will revolve around...
The circle-design is my personal interpretation of the Buddhist symbol known as the "Dharmacakra."
Or "Dharma Wheel."
There's a great deal of meaning behind it, but the most relevant part to me is the eight spokes of the wheel that represent the "Noble Eightfold Path"... one of the primary concepts from the teachings of the Buddha. They are eight ideals that Buddhists follow so as to eliminate suffering. I don't consider myself to be an actual Buddhist, but applying the Noble Eightfold Path to my life where I can has led me to becoming a much happier, healthy person. If you're interested in finding out what the Noble Eightfold Path is all about, Wikipedia has a decent introduction.
And so now I have a constant reminder of the road I strive to walk in life.
And it's cool because it kinda looks like the cockpit window of a TIE Fighter from Star Wars...
Beautiful TIE Fighter model by JR Bassett!
Different schools of Buddhism have different thoughts on tattoos. Some Buddhists believe that tattoos are a form of attachment that should be avoided. I personally feel that the impermanence of our bodies makes tattoos no more an attachment than fingernails, eyeballs, or the arm my tattoo has been written upon. It's entirely possible that my arm could be lost in a tragic boating accident tomorrow, which means it's kind of silly to think that having a tattoo on it will somehow make it impervious to change or detatchment. But to each their own, I suppose.
I'm just thrilled to have yet another bit of ink on me.
Now I just need to figure out when I can squeeze another trip to San Francisco into my travel schedule.
Posted on Friday, August 30th, 2013
Bullet Sunday on Friday? YOU DRUNK, BLOGOGRAPHY! GO HOME! Except I was too traumatized from nearly getting ran over this past Sunday to blog, so prepare yourself... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Dog! I just gotta get this out of the way before I forget... Chicago Veggie Dog? Awesome. Chicago Veggie Dog in San Francisco? Not so much...
Not that is was bad... but, just like bagels outside of New York, it just wasn't the same. Of course, now I want nothing more than to fly to Chicago and get a real Chicago Veggie Dog, which is a tough craving to get out of your head.
• Closure! Usually, the drive from San Francisco to Oakland is a breezy 15 minutes over the Bay Bridge. But since the bridge is under construction over Labor Day weekend, getting from one side of the Bay to the other is a bit more of a challenge. Whether you go north over the Golden Gate then on to the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge... or you go south over the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge... you've got an hour drive ahead of you...
But the good news is that BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) is still running. So if you don't mind public transportation, you can park at a station and go by rail. The interesting thing about that is having a lot of people who don't normally ride public transportation riding public transportation. The entertainment value is pretty high, but so is the frustration level. The line to get tickets is long, and people not accustomed to the machines take forever. You have people walking on the wrong train, then then blocking you from entering because they're trying to get turned around and escape after somebody tells them it won't take them where they need to go. It goes on and on. Usually I love BART, but this trip it's been driving me crazy. People need to stay home... or maybe I should have.
And in other news... Google Maps is aware of the Bay Bridge closure, and routes you accordingly. Microsoft Bing Maps, however, is not so smart...
But (and here's the kicker) Apple Maps DOES re-route you...
Which begs the question... how bad does your mapping service have to be in order to be considered a worse option than Apple Maps? And, can I just say, both Google and Bing could learn something from Apple here... map labels are so much more useful WHEN THEY ARE LARGE ENOUGH THAT PEOPLE CAN ACTUALLY READ THEM!
• Phoneless! This morning I did the unthinkable... I forgot my iPhone in my room because I was late for work and rushing around without my head attached. After my meeting, a co-worker was kind enough to drop by my hotel so I could grab my phone on the way to running some errands. I was incredibly grateful, because not having my iPhone feels like a part of me is missing. As we were speeding away, I noticed that my battery was at 5%, despite the fact that it had been plugged in all night and I just took it off the charger. So before heading back to work I had to drop by my hotel room AGAIN so I could plug it in AGAIN. Which is when I found out the power outlet on the desk was dead. I don't know why the world was conspiring against me having an iPhone today, but I do not like it. You never realize just how dependent you are on something until it's taken away, and today I found out I don't even know how to EXIST without my iPhone. As I told my co-worker, I had forgotten that before mobile tech happened everybody just kind of stumbled around in the dark banging rocks together to communicate. And it sucks.
• Cookies! Saying "I had to stop for fortune cookies" is a totes legit reason for being late to a meeting... amiright?
Sorry... but even more important than visiting my tattoo artist when I'm in San Francisco is stopping by Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company when I'm in town. I've been doing it on every trip to the Bay Area for nearly two decades, and it simply cannot be missed.
• Sports! Jester and I wandered to The Castro after dinner so we could drop in on a goodbye party for Justin. Like most bars in The Castro, it's a gay bar. Unlike most gay bars in the world, it's a sports bar called Hi Tops (home of cold pitchers and hot catchers!). This is not a big deal for me. I ended up in many a gay-bar when the brother of a girl I dated in Portland would invite us out to go bar-hopping with him and his partner. Except... one visit to the Hi Tops Facebook page told me that I had been fairly sheltered in gay bar world, because I ain't seen nothing like this...
Call me old-fashioned, but I just don't think shots should be served with a side of hairy ass.
Fortunately (unfortunately?), guys in jock straps serving free shots only happens on Thursdays, which meant I got to spend a great evening out sans hairy asses. Seeing homo-erectus-erectus (the Common American Gay) in their native habitat is always fun, and Hi Tops ended up being a really nice place with a terrific crowd of friendly people. That being said, this sports bar was a bit... different... from other sports bars. For one thing, the sports being played on the televisions include golf and women's tennis. For another, the music is awesome. One thing is for sure though, any sports bar I end up at from here on out is going to be pretty boring by comparison.
• Quotable! And now, for your reading pleasure, the TOP FIVE QUOTES from my night at a gay sports bar...
And... that's a wrap for a completely misnamed Bullet Sunday.
Posted on Saturday, August 31st, 2013
Since the electrical outlet on my hotel desk doesn't work, I used the outlet on the far side of my bed. So of course I forgot my phone hanging there this morning again. Again.
Which was especially unfortunate considering I loaded in a Japanese dictionary last night for my 7:00am Saturday breakfast meeting. It's been nearly 20 years since I've spoken the language, so I really needed all the help I could get. But, lucky for me, one of the people I was meeting with spoke excellent English until our translator showed up.
After a much-deserved nap, I had four hours until I had to check in at work again.
A part of me just wanted to hang out in my hotel room since I have been to San Francisco many, many times. But I love me a veggie burger at Johnny Rockets and love me some donuts from Trish's Mini Donuts, so off I went to Fisherman's Wharf, where the sea lions were out making a racket as usual...
Turns out that Fisherman's Wharf on a Labor Day holiday weekend was not the smartest of ideas because the crowds everywhere were massive.
After lunch I was just going to go back to the hotel. But then I thought of Lombard Street for some reason. When I was a kid, I remember our family driving down it once. But everything after that is a blur. I have a photo scanned of it shot on Advantix film, which means I must have been there in the late 90's, but I remember none of it.
And so off I went to Russian Hill to see "The Crookedest Street in the World"...
To my knowledge, I've never actually walked up the hill, so I decided to give it a try. I was glad I did, because the view from the top is pretty great...
And that was that.
Drinks for work followed by a nap followed by dinner followed by blogging.
Next up... sweet surrender to sleep.