Yes. Yes I know that it's Wednesday. 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 Wednesday) starts now...
• Resolute! My New Year's Resolutions are the same every year. 2013 was a yet another piece of cake...
And what am I looking forward to this year?
• Travel! I honestly thought that I would be better organized for 2014 than I was in 2013. But, alas, no. So many places I want to go this year... but I have no idea where I'm going to end up. Hopefully somewhere amazing.
• Movies! About the only think that's hit my "must-see" radar for 2014 are the two Marvel films we're getting... Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy... oh, make that three... becauseVeronica Mars. Other films that may entice me to the cinema... The LEGO Movie, Muppets Most Wanted, RoboCop, Tomorrowland, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Amazing Spider-Man 2, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Mr. Peabody & Sherman, and The Grand Budapest Hotel.
• Music! Macintosh Braun, Garbage, Blondie, Foo Fighters, Broken Bells, and Matt & Kim, perhaps?
• Fiction! As THRICE Fiction continues to defy odds for a magazine by forging ahead into Year No. Four, I'm hoping for more of the same great content.
• Apple! iPhone 6? Probably! Apple Smart Television? PLEASE! PLEASE! PLEASE! Hoping to be thrilled by my favorite fruit-themed computer company this year.
• Ink! I want to keep forging forward with the pieces of my forearm band... but this may be the year I finally get "that big tattoo" that I've been saving my right arm for.
But, mostly, I'm looking forward to a year filled with mostly good news for once.
Grass. Weed. Reefer. Pot. Skunk. Bud. Chronic. Mary Jane. Ganja. Herb. Wacky Tobacky.
No matter what your name for it, Marijuana is now legally for sale in Colorado... and will be legally for sale here in my home-state of Washington sometime this Spring.
And while I was a huge proponent of legalizing marijuana for personal use, I will undoubtedly not be partaking myself. That would be money wasted when Jägermeister already does such a great job of ejecting me from reality when I need that...
But I make no promises.
The reason being that I am so rarely able to keep my promises.
As an example, I once promised that I would no longer write editorial rebuttals on my blog because they so rarely do anything to elevate the conversation. Probably because the only reason I write editorial rebuttals in the first place is that I'm very, very angry about said editorial. And while angry rants may be a release... may be cathartic... and may even be fun... they're also overly-emotional, profanity-laden, and sometimes even incomprehensible.
Thus my promise.
A pathetic joke of an op-ed piece in The New York Times' by David Brooks was published today. It's rife with the kind of condescending rhetoric that a sane person would avoid at any cost but, like the fool I am, I dove in anyway. And, while I honestly don't give a shit about Brooks or his laughably transparent attempt at manipulating his readers, I do give a huge shit about what the fucking douche has to say about legalization supporters like me.
But, before we get there, it's important to put it into context.
The first half of his op-ed waxes poetic about how Brooks smoked pot when he was a teenager, but eventually gave it up.
And then we get to this...
"We now have a couple states — Colorado and Washington — that have gone into the business of effectively encouraging drug use. By making weed legal, they are creating a situation in which the price will drop substantially. One RAND study suggests that prices could plummet by up to 90 percent, before taxes and such. As prices drop and legal fears go away, usage is bound to increase. This is simple economics, and it is confirmed by much research. Colorado and Washington, in other words, are producing more users."
"But, of course, these are the core questions: Laws profoundly mold culture, so what sort of community do we want our laws to nurture? What sort of individuals and behaviors do our governments want to encourage? I’d say that in healthy societies government wants to subtly tip the scale to favor temperate, prudent, self-governing citizenship. In those societies, government subtly encourages the highest pleasures, like enjoying the arts or being in nature, and discourages lesser pleasures, like being stoned."
Well fuck you David Brooks.
Will legalizing marijuana bring about more drug users? I have no clue. It's not going to change my habits. Will there be people who abuse legalized marijuana? Of course there will. And they should be punished just like alcohol abusers are now. Driving while drunk or driving while stoned, it doesn't matter... you break the law you pay the price. The precedent has already been set, so move along, there's nothing to see here.
Seriously, there's nothing to see here.
Which is why, after reading this piece, I can't quite decide whether David Brooks is pretending to be so obtuse... or if he is, in fact, mentally deficient.
A few points...
If nothing else, smoking a join would sure beat lesser pleasures... like reading unintelligent op-ed trash by David Brooks.
Don't believe me? Just ask a teenage David Brooks.
I miss reading. I used to read a lot. Like... really a lot.
I'd easily tear through 25 books a year, and it wasn't unheard of to do double that. I'm a fairly quick reader, so a book a week is a piece of cake if the material isn't too challenging (Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco was insane and took over a month to get through).
But then stuff started getting in the way.
Video games got more complex and time consuming.
Work got more and more involved.
Social media became a time-suck of epic proportions.
Now-a-days the only time I get to read is when I travel, and even that's diminishing. I'm either catching up with movies on my iPad, using in-flight wi-fi, or playing with my Nintendo 3DS. For a while I thought audio-books were a way to keep "reading" in my life, but so few books are enjoyable to me that way (David Sedaris, for example, is better on audio-book, but good sci-fi is almost impossible for me to get through).
In 2013 I read three books.
And so I've set a goal for myself to read six books in 2014.
Wish me luck.
As winter storm warnings drop across the USA, better bundle up tight... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Return! Dan Harmon is back to running Community after having been canned from it last season. And even though only two new Harmon episodes have aired, it's clear that the show is going to be as good as it ever was. If you're not watching the show... or quit after Harmon left... it's time to jump back onboard.
Just don't remind me that Troy only has three episodes left before his character is written out...
• Good Bye. Was really sad to learn that James Avery died this past week. Immortalized as Will Smith's "Uncle Phil" on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Avery was an actor who somehow managed to hold his own in scenes that would seem impossible to do so...
So long, Uncle Phil.
• Snack! ZOMG! THESE NEW SARA LEE DEVIL'S FOOD CREME CAKES ARE LIKE CAKE AND CANDY IN ONE! LOVE THEM!
And are as bad for you as you'd imagine them to be. Oh well. At least they don't have DISGUSTING LARD like Hostess snack cakes do.
• REALLY? Speaking of things that are bad for you... When it comes to stupid fucking idiots, it's pretty tough to top Jenny McCarthy. She advocates not vaccinating your child (based on bad, inaccurate information) under the guise of "saving children from autism"... but then turns around and glamorizes smoking and nicotine addiction with her Blu e-cig commercials...
For the children, I'm sure.
It's bad enough that her anti-vax idiocy is spreading illness and death... now she's promoting an unhealthy habit too? I'm guessing that whoring herself out for huffing gasoline is next. All she has to do is find somebody to pay her to make an ad for it.
And... I think I'm done. I'll just let that last bullet sink in a bit...
As somebody who has been stuck because of weather many times, this so-called "Polar Vortex" that has descended on North America has me incredibly grateful that I'm not traveling right now.
And yet... when I try to recall horrible experiences I've had while being stuck traveling, it's not as easy as I thought it would be. Yeah, spending hours on end at an airport waiting for weather to clear is awful, but when it comes to serious travel delays... e.g. days... it's not so bad. I don't know if that's because I tend to make the best out of a bad situation or what, but I have only good memories of the times I've been stranded for extended periods.
I was once stuck in Germany for three days. It was a very expensive problem to have because hotels were pricy and difficult to come by... but I drank a lot of beer and spent time goofing around the local Christkindlmarkt (Christmas Outdoor Market) so I didn't mind at all.
I've also been stuck in Japan for three days because my work ran late and I couldn't find a flight home... but that was almost like a mini-vacation, because it was over a weekend and I had friends in the city to keep me occupied.
Domestically, I've been stuck overnight many, many times, and that's not so great. But the time I was stuck in New York for four days? Glorious! Two unplanned days in Orlando? Great! A half-week stuck in Chicago? So awesome.
Even my worst delay ever of nine days ended up being a lot of fun...
First I was stuck in Arkansas.
Then I was stuck in Minneapolis (fun times at Mall of America!).
Then I was stuck in Seattle (funner times spending an unplanned five-day Christmas vacation with my sister!).
By the time I finally got "un-stuck" I was a little depressed at the idea of having to go back home.
So maybe I shouldn't be quite so grateful that I'm not traveling after all. Maybe I'm missing out on an awesome adventure by being stuck at home instead of being stuck someplace interesting. Maybe serious weather delays are the best excuse ever for skipping out on life for just a little while.
Thou shalt not avenge , nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD. — Leviticus 19:18 (KJV)
Grudges are always more destructive to the person holding them than the person who's a target of them. Which is why it's not terribly smart to hold grudges, and you'll be a lot healthier and happier if you heed Holy Scripture and just let things go. Bygones, and all that.
But "letting go" of those you feel have wronged you is not always an easy thing to do. Thus a grudge by inaction becomes revenge in action.
Humans are hard-wired for revenge, and modern humans have elevated it to an art-form. When we're not seeking revenge, we're enjoying it as entertainment. This is not something we're proud of. Our aspirations are so much higher. But you can't fight human nature.
And by "you" I mean "me."
I expect so much better of you.
Snow ain't what it used to be.
When I was a kid it would snow as early as Halloween, last through March, and be so deep that you could tunnel under it. Now it's lucky to snow before Christmas, last through February, or be deep enough to matter. I don't know whether to be happy or sad about that. The good news is that I won't have to move to Arizona any time soon. The bad news is that lack of snow now means lack of water later.
This year, our first snow happened today. I know this because I had to scrape it off my car after work...
It won't last.
Which means it's only here long enough to be irritating.
What else is new.
"Dave 2 will be the first to admit that his blog is mostly crap. But there's some interesting stuff in there if you're willing to dig through all that crap." — StuckyTruth
"Too much work." — Sam R.
If that doesn't sum up Blogography, I don't know what does.
Thanks for putting up with my crap, fearless reader!
As expected, today was a lovely Spring day with gorgeous blue skies and warm temperatures. Which means the brief snow we got on Wednesday has evaporated.
For now. I'm guessing Winter... what little of it we're going to get... is still ahead. Hopefully the mountains are fairing better, or else we'll be in the middle of a drought come Summer.
In other news...
Literally in other news...
If you hadn't noticed, the whole Chris Christie Bridge Scandal exploded this week. The gist of the story is this...
The million dollar question remains... How much did Chris Christie actually know about the closure, and was he the person behind it all? He denies it, of course, but he's a fucking politician. They don't know how not to lie.
But whatever. For me, whether Christie was or wasn't behind everything is secondary to his disgusting behavior as the scandal unfolded. THIS was a top contender for the office of President of the United States?
And it got me to wondering. Are there ANY contenders for President out there that I would actually want in office come 2016? So I started looking into the top people rumored to be in contention for the job. And the answer was not at all surprising...
No. No there are not.
I think of politicians like Paul Ryan, Hilary Clinton, Joe Biden, Bobby Jindal, Andrew Cuomo, Ted Cruz, and (God help us) Marco Rubio as President of the United States and I feel like I'm going to vomit then crap my pants and die. These people are PRESIDENTIAL material?
No. No they are not.
Which means somebody has got to step up to the plate and captivate the country Real Soon Now. Preferably somebody who's not a polarizing, divisive figure. And somebody who can be tough but fair. And supports personal freedoms. And has a brain in their head.
Somebody like Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
But, you know, real.
Not that blood-sucking vampire hunting skills wouldn't be handy in Washington DC.
I have no opinion on ketchup brands. Heinz, Hunts, Del Monte... whatever.
I have a very serious opinion on things that matter. Like taco sauce (La Victoria), cola (Coke), toilet paper (Charmin), and handbags (Dooney & Bourke).
And while having opinions is all well and good, sharing opinions can sometimes get you into trouble. Well, not "trouble" per se... but opinions can certainly get you unwanted drama. Especially if you share those opinions with the entire world on the internet.
This morning I went to approve some comments on my blog. One of them gave me an error, so I clicked through to see what was wrong. My guess is that the comment was too long, as I was having to scroll through pages of it before I got to the end.
Apparently somebody took issue with my opinion that Lost was one of the shittiest television shows ever to air on television because, after a great start, the writers didn't know what they were doing or where the hell they were going with the story. The point of the comment, if I had to guess, is that I am "too stupid" to understand how great Lost is, so my "opinion is invalid."
And so I started dicing up the comment so I could get it to post it over several comments... all so I could type some snarky one-sentence response to their ten-page rant. But then I realized just how much I don't give a crap over this person's opinion of my opinion, and just deleted it. That'll teach you to call me stupid, you stupid-head!
Or probably not. Because internet, and all that.
Just five years ago, I would have not only figured out a way to post that comment, but would have written an equally-long point-by-point response justifying my opinion. I don't know what's changed in me since 2009, but I can't fathom doing that today. I just don't care enough to put in all that effort over a television show that ended ages ago.
Especially a show that ended so badly.
Oops. There I go again.
Grab onto those Golden Globes... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Seahawks! And so the Seahawks won their NFL Second Round Playoffs game against the Saints. Here in Washington State, it's kind of a big deal. And while I support the home team, of course, I'm not a rabid Seahawks fan, so it's more of a passive activity...
But for most everybody else, it's a bit more obsessive than that...
It's important to note that quite a few of these fans are only fans when the Seahawks are doing well. When they're doing shitty, these same "fans" will be back to bitching about how much the "SeaChickens" suck.
All I know is that I wouldn't be caught dead at a Seahawks home game any more. The whole "12th Man" phenomena is just too crazy. The entire object of which seems to be to maintain Seattle's reputation of having the loudest fans on earth. Which is something to be proud of, I guess? Personally, I don't get it. Who wants to stand in the middle of a bunch of people screaming non-stop at the top of their lungs? Oh... die-hard Seahawks fans, that's who. Oh well. Good luck, Seahawks!
• Miyazaki! The Simpsons unleashed a wonderful, beautiful, amazing tribute to anime and Hayao Miyazaki in a recent episode. So cool...
Time to go watch Spirited Away for the hundredth time.
• Veronica! Two months. Two short months...
Yeah. I'm excited.
• WD-40! Don't you hate it when you're focused on your work when all of a sudden you find yourself thinking "Hey, what's the deal behind WD-40?" And "Why is WD-40 called WD-40 in the first place?" Then, unlike in the past when you'd just shrug your shoulders and go back to work, you instead waste 15 minutes getting caught in a Wikipedia black hole?
In case you're wondering... WD-40 was a scientist's 40th attempt to create a Water Displacement formula to prevent corrosion in nuclear missiles. Personally, I would have lied and said it was my 43rd attempt, because WD-43 sounds a lot more fun. Which is important when you're talking about preventing nuclear missiles from corroding.
• Globes! Was very happy to see that Breaking Bad got some recognition. Great to see Jennifer Lawrence be her amazing self once again with her American Hustle win. Having Spike Jones win for Her just makes me want to see this film even more than I already did. And Amy Poehler and Tina Fey did a fantastic job hosting, as expected. The only two complaints I had were... A) Most of the award speeches were seriously bad, and B) The tribute to raging pervert Woody Allen had me wondering if everybody had forgotten how he HAD AN AFFAIR WITH HIS WIFE'S ADOPTED DAUGHTER, THEN MARRIED HER... and is STILL under suspicion for molesting one of his wife's other adopted daughters... WHEN SHE WAS SEVEN YEARS OLD! If everybody did forget, we have Woody Allen's son on Twitter to remind them...
Not to mention the fact that I think all of Allen's movies are shit anyway.
And, there you have it. No more bullets for you.
And so I received notice that I have to call in for jury duty... AGAIN.
I swear, I get called for jury duty more than anybody I know. Hell, just since starting this blog I've been summoned September 2003, February 2006, May 2008, and December 2009... and at least three times before then. That's seven times when most people I know are lucky to be called once. I guess I should feel lucky that it's been four years since my last one. I think that's the longest I've ever gone between notices, as I am usually summoned at least every two years.
I don't know how jury duty works for everybody else, but here you are given a time to call in to see if there's a trial needing your service. If there's not, you keep calling in over a two week period to see if you're needed. So, basically, I have to completely rearrange my life for TWO WEEKS when I'm lucky to be able to schedule that much vacation time after planning months in advance.
How in the hell is this considered acceptable?
Surely the court has a FUCKING CALENDAR where they can ACTUALLY SCHEDULE THE FUCKING TRIALS so they can FUCKING CALL A JURY IN without DICKING PEOPLE AROUND with this stupid "Call us!" bullshit. I mean, seriously, TWO FUCKING WEEKS?!?
My disgust for our legal system is so intense that I always worry that I'm going to be slapped with a contempt charge whenever I have to show up in court.
But how is that my fault when our courts are so contemptible?
It's all I can do to contain myself while being subjected to the outrageous crap you have to endure for "justice." I put "justice" in quotes because the last trial I served at had a prosecutor who expected the jury to find some guy guilty of drunk driving... WHEN THE OFFICER LET HIM DRIVE HOME AFTER HE WAS STOPPED! Yeah, that wasn't a waste of my fucking time and our tax dollars.
And yet... I'm not expected to be in contempt of the court system.
If there were ever any doubts that our American politicians and courts are in the pocket of lobbyists and corporations, you can pretty much shove them aside now that the FCC has struck a blow to net neutrality.
I don't think I'm understating things when I say that the internet... the one true outlet for freedom and equality left in this country... is now totally fucked.
Unless this gets overturned or revised, you are no longer in control of the internet content available to you. Your Internet Service Provider is in control. Which, odds are, is a mega-corporation like Comcast, Time-Warner, Charter, Verizon, Cox, Frontier... and their confederates and owners. This is horrendously bad for many, many reasons, but your government just doesn't give a flying fuck. They're bought and paid for just like everything else in this country...
And so on. And so on. And so on.
There are people, of course, who feel that the free market will sort all this out. And I feel sorry for those who cling to this delusion, because there is no free market any more. The people who own everything will be deciding how you access the internet, and there's nothing "free" about that. Especially if you're in a rural area where you don't have any options for which company you can use to even get access to the internet in the first place.
When I think of all the tax dollars... OUR tax dollars... that went into building the internet only to have it fall into the hands of corporations, I'm shocked and disgusted. I know I shouldn't be, because that's the way everything else has gone, but I am. I always thought that the outcry against unfettered access to the internet would be so huge that there was no way it could ever happen.
Yet here we are.
Or maybe it's just me. For all I know, your ISP could decide that Blogography is an undesirable risk to their revenue stream, and my blog will no longer be accessible.
In that case, it's been nice knowing you.
Jeez what a horribly mundane day.
The only thing that's keeping me going is that I have a bag of Budget $aver Banana Popsicles waiting for me at home.
I may even have a tub of Snack-Pack Chocolate Pudding left.
Wouldn't that just be the best thing ever?
Remember when taking pictures was a relatively complex ordeal where you had to load your camera with "film" and then send it off to be developed and printed? And THEN if you wanted to get those photos into your computer you had to have them scanned, touched-up, color-corrected, and burned to a CD? Hard times. Hard times.
Back in the early 1990's, Kodak came up with a system to cut down on the hassle called "Photo CD." This was a service where you could have your film developed, scanned, and a CD burned all at the same time. I loved it. The scan quality was pretty darn good if you went to a reputable lab, and the convenience was fantastic. It also saved a lot of money over paying somebody to scan them for you or buying the equipment to do it yourself.
Unfortunately, Photo CD never really went anywhere for a number of reasons. Eventually Kodak abandoned their proprietary format, and that was the end of that. Soon after, digital photography caught hold, and film died a long, agonizing death. With that in mind, it's not like PhotoCD had much of a chance had Kodak hung in there. Still, for somebody stuck in the film era, it was good while it lasted.
Flash forward to today, and there are a lot of Photo CDs still floating around out there.
Tonight I ran across a pile of them while tossing out some old computer junk.
Needless to say, you can't just pop a Photo CD in your iMac and look at all the pretty pictures. Modern computers have no frickin' clue how to read (let alone display) any of the images in that dead format. Lucky for me, people have reverse-engineered the proprietary Kodak file scheme and there are decoders out there (assuming you're tech-savvy enough to hunt them down and figure out how to use them). Or, if you have an antiquated computer laying around with old software installed, you might be able to read Photo CDs (Photoshop v5 anyone?)... which is probably the easiest way to do it. Eventually, I might get around to converting them to JPEGs (or whatever) but for now they're just sitting in a pile on my desk.
And it gets you thinking.
Photo CD died less than 20 years ago and it's quickly becoming impossible to read them.
And it's just a drop in the bucket. Think of all the dead formats out there... ZIP disks, JAZ drives, SyQuest cartridges, floppy disks, VHS, LaserDisc, digital video cassettes... the list goes on and on. And can CDs and DVDs far behind? Does Apple even sell computers that have CD/DVD drives any more? How long before they're just two more dead formats on the pile?
If you've got any media sitting around that has stuff which is important to you... I wouldn't wait too long to get it transferred.
In twenty years, you might not be able to. At least not easily.
My "not-my-day-job" job requires a lot of patience, perseverance, humility, dedication and, above all... flexibility. Most every appointment I make involves my being "squeezed in" to somebody's calnedar, and things often change with only a moment's notice. Most times I will fly into a city a day early and leave two days late because I just don't know when I can get in the door. Often times, the trip itself happens without warning because an opportunity arises. Once I got a call as I was driving home from the airport telling me I had to turn around, go back to the airport, and be on the next flight to Orlando (which left in 90 minutes). Good thing I had a clean pair of underwear left over.
Needless to say, making personal plans while on the job is not easy. Often times it's impossible. Not that this stops me from trying. Fortunately, most of my friends in far away places are very understanding and forgiving when it comes to my having to change or cancel plans. They know it's not my choice that I can't make it to dinner or show up for a movie... it's just part of the game.
But it's not something everybody can handle.
Next week I have to be in San Francisco. Last time I was in the city for work, it was very last-minute, but my appointments were pretty well nailed-down to the daytime. So I made plans to get a tattoo and attend a farewell party during my free evenings... knowing full well that either could be canceled without notice. Lucky for me they weren't, and everything worked out fine. Until I got an email from a friend who was upset that I didn't contact them for a meet-up while I was there. I explained that the trip was a last-minute thing and all my time was booked, but promised I'd let them know the next time I was in San Francisco.
Except when I went to message them on Facebook once my schedule had been tightened up, I found out that I had been unfriended.
Like I said, my wildly erratic work and travel schedule is not something everybody can handle.
Which makes me really appreciate those friends who can put up with me.
Because sometimes it's all I can do to put up with myself.
I packed a sack lunch for work today.
Mostly because I wanted a cheese-and-potato-chip sandwich, and you can't get that at the mini-mart. So long as you pack the potato chips separately so they don't go all soggy, it makes for a pretty good meal...
And THAT was the highlight of my day.
If it were any other day except Saturday, that would be enough.
Hold on to those Super Bowl XLVII predictions... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Seahawks! And speaking of the Super Bowl... looks like the Seahawks are getting their second trip to the big game. Ironically they'll be playing the Broncos, which means it's a battle between the two states that legalized marijuana. That's quite a bowl.
• Security! Show of hands... who thinks that President Obama would have held a press conference concerning infringements on civil liberties and new restrictions on NSA surveillance if the government hadn't been caught spying on all the wrong people? Another show of hands... who thinks anything is going to actually change? Meh. It's all bullshit anyway. Politicians can say whatever they want to mollify the public, but whether it's our own government... or a company like Google... personal privacy is gone.
"Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither" — Benjamin Franklin
• Freedom! To the surprise of absolutely nobody, Freedom Industries (the company whose badly maintained waste storage tanks are responsible for a chunk of West Virginia losing their water supply) have declared bankruptcy. Typical. Big corporations pay for politicians to advocate the elimination of environmental protections under the guise of "job creation," when everybody knows they're only angling to avoid paying for eco-friendly business practices. Then, when their reprehensible excuse for "public safety" fails, they declare bankruptcy so everybody responsible has their ass covered and everybody else gets screwed. Now that's freedom!
• Gilligan! Was sad to learn that Russell Johnson, the guy who played the professor on Gilligan's Island, has died. As the guy who could make a nuclear reactor out of a coconut and two bananas, he was always my favorite castaway...
Smooth sailing, sir.
• Betty! Very happy birthday wishes to Betty White who turned 92 this week!
Still one of my favorite actresses.
And... time to put away my bullets and pack a suitcase.
This morning I started out the same way I begin every Martin Luther King Jr. Day... by listening to his beautiful I Have a Dream speech in its entirety.
Man, did Dr. King know how to inspire with his words. And his actions.
This year I'm seeing more and more people posting great stuff beyond his most famous speech, which is very cool...
Worth your time, all.
And if all that's not enough MLK for you, here's a great time-lapse film of an artist creating a sketch honoring him on this day set aside to remember...
And if celebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. has put you in too good of a mood today, no worries. You can always count on Sarah Palin to come along a destroy everything.
I'd usually say something horribly offensive here in response the the utterly insane levels of stupidity that seems to flow endlessly from Sarah Palin's disgusting mouth... but today... today... I'm inspired to be better than that.
After a series of nonsensical delays, I landed in Seattle with less than ten minutes to make my connecting flight. Luckily I arrived at the same terminal as I was departing, and I made it on the plane just as they were closing the door. Looks like I would be getting to San Francisco on time after all... even if my bag wouldn't.
Except... my bag did make it to San Francisco, so many thanks to the Seattle Alaska Airlines ground crew for pulling that off. I wasn't particularly looking forward to having to wash my underwear and socks in the sink at my hotel.
Which is another story entirely.
The hotel I usually stay at in San Francisco didn't have availability for all three nights, so I told the person making the arrangements to please find me a decent hotel nearby, as I was familiar with the neighborhood. And so she did. It's an older hotel, but perfectly fine... clean, comfortable, and safe... which is all I care about.
As I was making my way through the lobby to the check-in desk, a woman barged through and screeched "I'VE GOTTA POOP! DO YOU HAVE A PUBLIC TOILET??!" So now that's my first impression of this hotel, and about the only thing I'll remember if anybody asks me about my stay here.
My day wasn't all horrible flight connections and poop though.
I managed to get the paperwork for my meetings tomorrow, which means I won't be desperately reviewing the material 10 minutes before I walk in the door like I usually do. Hopefully the fact that I'm actually prepared this time won't put me off my game.
When I got back to Poop Toilet Hotel, I got an email telling me that I'd be receiving a royalties check for $17.28 — which is not a lot of money, I know, but it's nice to see a small project I worked on in 1994 is still bringing in the cash!
I also got a notice informing me that I was over-billed by my email service for all of 2013, so I'll be getting 6 months free service posted to my account.
As if that wasn't enough, I also got invited to have Indian cuisine with a friend in town.
And now it's time to catch up on the latest episode of The Blacklist here in my ol' Poop Toilet Hotel room. What more could I ask for?
"I DON"T LIKE SANFRISCO ANY MORE!"
—Kid waiting in line for a cable-car ride this morning.
Much like the side dish made famous as a "San Francisco Treat," I find Sanfrisco delightful. I fall in love with the city all over again every time I'm lucky enough to come here and never pass up on an opportunity to visit... even if it's just for a job.
After breezing though mountains of paperwork and a presentation, I was able to escape for an afternoon of bigtime fun with long-time blogging friend, Jester (right after randomly running into another bloggity friend, Dickie Maxx!).
First it was lunch at Boudin Sourdough (where we both got a slight case of food poisoning?). Then, after neither one of us could think of anything to do, I remembered an ad for "The Walt Disney Family Museum" I had seen yesterday, and away we went.
The museum is a pretty big deal, encompassing three buildings in The Presidio. I never quite figured out what a museum dedicated to the life of Walt Disney is doing in San Francisco, but they couldn't ask for a more beautiful location. The view from the back of the museum's glass panorama wall is great...
Having nothing to do with the mega-corporation that is The Walt Disney Company, the museum is a non-profit organization dedicated to Disney's life, and was founded by his eldest daughter, Diane (who sadly died last November).
Everything about the museum screams "quality," and the numerous displays all look as thought they could have been designed by Disney Imagineers (and who knows, maybe they were!). The lobby features some of the many awards won by Disney, including his Emmy and numerous Oscars...
Walt's early days are explored via audio recordings of Disney himself, which are accompanied by fantastic Monty Python-esque animation screens. Throughout the displays are many photos, letters, and other personal effects which are (as with everything in the museum) beautifully exhibited...
Eventually... inevitably... you get to Mickey Mouse, whose creation is given an entire room. Here begins Disney's many, many innovations when it came to animation, including the way audio was recorded via visual cues. There were no multi-track recorders during those early days, so coming up with the sound for a cartoon was an elaborate affair involving several people working together at the same time. An interactive display shows how it was done...
And, of course there is a nice chunk of Mickey memorabilia...
The animation process is explored thoroughly, and displays include many props... including an original Disney animator's desk and the revolutionary multi-plane camera, which added depth and realistic camera panning...
Animation cels, color tests, production drawings... it's all here...
The section on Disney's war-time contributions is interesting. In addition to anti-Nazi propaganda, Disney artists did all kinds of things to support Allied war efforts... including illustrating pin-ups for the troops, which I did not know. Why children were included in the drawings I can't fathom, but there you have it...
It's not all fun, games, and gratuitous cartoon nudity though... the museum also takes a look at the not-so-nice stuff that Walt went through. Including a cartoonist strike (which Disney attributed to a Communist plot... but wasn't everything back then?)...
And then things get really interesting because... DISNEYLAND!!! Here the museum pulls out all the stops, and leads you through all the planning that went into making the park...
My favorite part of the museum is a relief map of Disneyland... not as it exists, but as Walt Disney had dreamed it would one day be. So much of it is the same as what we ended up with, but very different at the same time. Space Mountain, for example, had the roller coaster on the outside of the structure instead of being a dark ride inside of it. Thunder Mountain Railroad was not the high-speed thrill-ride it turned out to be, but a scenic ride through the American Southwest (and included a ride under a waterfall). It's all just so fascinating. If you're a Disney parks whore like me, you could stare at it for hours...
The museum is a cradle-to-grave experience, and includes a nice video montage retrospective of his life as you exit...
And, no, you don't get to see Walt Disney's cryogenically-preserved body at the end. You do get to see a very nice tribute to one of Walt Disney's favorite artists, the incomparable Mary Blair, if you go down to the restroom level though...
All in all... the museum is worth your valuable time to visit. I had a great time, could have spent the entire day here, and thought it was worth the $20 price of admission because there's just so much... stuff... to see.
Since taxis didn't seem to exist in The Presidio, we decided to try an Uber driver. For those not in the know, "Uber" is an iPhone app that allows you to call a car to your location and have them drive you to your destination. It's pretty cool, because you are given a map with a real-time GPS location of your driver, the driver's name, a car model, license plate number, and an estimated time of arrival. For the budget-conscious, there's an Uber-X service, where you can hire regular people driving their own vehicles to give you a ride. In San Francisco, the price is up to 35% cheaper than hiring a taxi. Needless to say, this is not without controversy. Taxis are regulated... have experienced, knowledgeable drivers... and operate under safety standards dictated by the city. With Uber, you're just getting some dude and their car.
The first diver I tapped was nearby and had an estimated arrival time of four minutes. But, even after calling me, he couldn't figure out how to enter The Presidio and ended up driving all around it trying to find a way to get to us. It was pretty comical watching his GPS location on the map, because he'd drive one way... get frustrated... turn around... drive the other way... get frustrated... turn around... AND EVENTUALLY CANCEL OUR PICK-UP BECAUSE HE COULDN'T FIGURE OUT HOW TO FIND AN ENTRANCE! I was relieved to get the cancelation, because the ETA went from 4 minutes... to 8 minutes... to 12 minutes... and I was going nuts (on the bright side, we got to watch the worst 20-minute parallel parking job EVER).
When I tapped a new driver, he was much more knowledgable on how to get to THIS MAJOR CITY LANDMARK, and picked us up in just five minutes. Nice guy too.
If you want to try Uber for yourself (and live in a city it services) you can get $20 applied to your first ride by using the promo code ba9az (just tap the little "person" icon in the upper-left corner of the FREE Uber App and go to the PROMOTIONS link).
Anyway... Jester and I goofed around the Mission District for a while, and eventually decided to find a tapas bar for dinner. Yelp suggested a tiny little place called Lolo, and off we went...
...to a fantastic meal. Seriously delicious food. The guacamole was flavorful and amazing... the chips super-crispy... the corn with crema was so tasty and sweet it was like candy... the quesadillas unique and mouthwatering... the flaming cauldron of melted cheese was creamy and dangerous*... the berries and mascarpone with honey crumbles was mind-blowing... everything was great, and the service excellent as well. Highest recommendation for Lolo!
*Dangerous because the cheese is kept melted under an open flame and, if you're not careful (like me), you can set your chips on fire!
Thus ends my first day of adventure in Sanfrisco, and how great was that? The kid complaining about the city this morning obviously didn't spend time with Jester, Mickey Mouse, and a flaming cauldron of cheese.
BETTY WHO! And tonight Jester and I got to see her perform LIVE!
Which was the perfect end to my day, even though it's now 1:00am and I'm ready to slip into a coma. Maybe it's because I'm old, but I thought 9:30 was a really late start-time on a work-night to be holding a concert. It was made all the worse when you consider Betty Who didn't even take the stage until 11:45...
She totally lives up to the hype. Her music translates beautifully to a live set. Her performance was energetic, infectious fun and Betty gives 200% to her audience. She has a commitment on stage that equals any "big-name" act I've ever seen...
And that's what made this show so fascinating for me.
I was in Seattle as the grunge scene started to ignite. I saw small bands before they were huge bands. It was a genuine thrill to see these musicians in their early days, watching them work through the kinks, find their footing, and then go on to become these massive success stories.
Betty Who has the same feeling about her.
The sound system at the venue was awful. Weird things were happening with the mix. Betty's earpiece looked to be malfunctioning. The lighting was off. Her backing tape was miscued half the time. But it just didn't matter. Betty Who has the talent and star power to rise above it all. And the audience loved her.
I am genuinely thrilled, again, to see an artist at the beginning of their career. This was the last date on Betty's first tour and her first show ever in San Francisco. You can't help but wonder where she'll be a year from now... five years from now. Opening for P!nk on an arena tour, I'd imagine. She's that good...
Anyway... I had a great time. Though I did have to climb up on a table when I thought I might inadvertently be having sex with the two guys grinding away in front of me. They apparently liked Betty Who's show even more than I did.
Betty promised another EP with new songs will drop this Spring.
Then she stepped into the TARDIS and faded off stage, becoming one with time and space.
If you haven't bought her EP yet, you're missing out. CLICK HERE TO BUY IT! BUY IT NOW!
IT'S TATTOO DAY!
Originally I planned to fly back home today. But the layover for the connecting flight was awful, so I decided to leave tomorrow instead. This meant having to add an extra day to my hotel stay at "The Handlery Hotel" (instead of the Parc 55 Wyndham where I usually stay). When I called, they wanted $160 which was surprisingly high for a Friday night... especially for a 3-star property. Usually downtown San Francisco hotel rates plummet over the weekend when there are no business travelers to gouge on pricing.
A quick check at the 4-star Wyndham (which had availability this time), and I could get a much nicer room for $120.
Which meant The Handlery was basically saying "WE WILL PAY YOU $40 TO WALK TWO BLOCKS!"
And so I took them up on that generous (but very stupid) offer.
Time to get more ink work on my forearm band...
Beautiful line-work courtesy of Michael DeMatty at Black & Blue Tattoo...
I started with the Roman numerals.
Then added a Dharmachakra, the spokes of which represent The Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism.
Now I've surrounded the Dharmachakra with symbology representing The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism. You start in the upper-right where there's the acknowledgement that suffering exists, move to the bottom-right which ties our suffering to our desires and craving, move to the bottom-left which is the need for cessation of suffering causation, then move to the upper-left which leads us back to The Noble Eightfold Path and a quest for enlightenment and freedom from suffering.
Which is just a long-winded way of saying that the tattoo is a reminder for me to stay on The Right Path.
And so... three parts down, three to go...
And now I suppose I should pack my suitcase so I don't have to do it at 4:00am tomorrow. Blargh.
I woke up at 3:30am this morning with a feeling of dread over having to leave San Francisco.
Last night Jester invited me to join him and a friend for dinner, and we ended up at a fantastic Turkish restaurant called Troya where I ate entirely too much hummus and falafel. An experience I can't even dream about having back home.
Good times. Hence my reluctance to leave.
About the only thing that kept me going was unwrapping my new tattoo, which turned out even better than I thought it would. I never realized how incomplete it looked before. Which only makes me want to run right back and have more added to it. Or start someplace new. I dunno. I've decided I want something inside my left upper-arm, so maybe that will be my next piece. And even though I wanted some asymmetry going on, now I'm thinking I might like something on my other inside forearm too. Still don't feel like I want to go past my arms... but who knows?
Meanwhile, back at 4:00am...
I don't remember the ride to the airport.
The only thing I recall about my flights was the yogurt parfait they served out of SFO.
I can't even remember how I got home.
I suppose the fact that the entire day's travel is one huge blur is a good thing? Funny it doesn't feel that way. Or maybe I'm just imagining it. Because all I'm feeling now is tired.
Now there's a full year of Bullet Sundays ... because a Very Special THREE HUNDRED AND SIXTY-FIFTH edition of Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Mac! Happy 30th Birthday to the Macintosh. It's easy to overlook the importance of something when you use it every single day, but I love my Mac more now than I ever have...
If you haven't seen Apple's look back at Mac innovations, it's well worth exploring If I were forced to pick that one year of Macintosh history that was the biggest for me, it would have to be the release of the Titanium PowerBook G4 in 2001. Not only was it sexy as hell, but it was also the first time I felt I could do everything on a portable that I could do on my desktop Mac.
Here's to 30 more years of kicking ass.
• Truth! The greatest concert I ever saw was Depeche Mode's Music for the Masses tour back in 1988. A close second would be P!nk's Truth About Love tour from last year. Absolutely spectacular. If you didn't get to see it... or just want to see it again... it's been released on video and is for sale at the iTunes Music Store for just $15 and it's worth every penny...
Just an FYI... the tour is actually still ongoing, with three more dates remaining for Anaheim, Fresno, and Las Vegas. If you've got loads of money sitting around, it's worth tracking down tickets for this sold-out show.
• Bernice! Looks like I need to start watching South Beach Tow! Because, BERNICE! How awesome is she?!?
Holy shit! I hope her ObamaCare has kicked in by now... she's got a rough job!
• Unintelligent! I have been recording the new show Intelligence on my DVR, stacking them up in the hopes of discovering another Black List. No joy. This is easily one of the stupidest shows ever to air on television. It's yet another one of those shitty series where the writers are constantly pulling some kind of random techno-bullshit out of their asses not because it makes sense for the story... but because they're too fucking lazy to come up with something... intelligent... for lack of a better word. "HOW ARE WE GOING TO STOP HER? SHE HAS A COMPUTER CHIP IN HER HEAD?" — "I KNOW! LET'S PRESS A BUNCH OF RANDOM BUTTONS AND EXPLOIT SOME HERE-UNTO NON-EXISTENT FLAW IN THE CHIP SO WE CAN HACK HER HEAD AND SAVE THE DAY!" — YEAH! WHO GIVES A SHIT IF WE ARE THE VERY DEFINITION OF DEUS EX MACHINA! IT BEATS HAVING TO USE LOGIC FOR A LIVING! Seriously, I don't understand how this crap-fest ever made it to air.
• LEGO! Just when I think that I couldn't possibly be more excited about the upcoming LEGO movie, this comes along...
"Epic" isn't an epic enough word to describe the epicness of just how epic this movie is gonna be.
And there it is... a year's worth of 365 Bullet Sundays in the can. And you said it wouldn't last. Shame on you!
The iTunes Music Store had the Duncan Jones film Moon on sale for $10 so I snapped it up. In many ways, I consider it to be the 2001 for a new generation... but without all the ambiguity and confusion. It's just really good straightforward "science sci-fi" at its best (a genre that seems to be rapidly disappearing). The entire film is a showpiece for Sam Rockwell, who should have been Oscar nominated for the role of Sam Bell (Sean Penn in Milk was good... but Rockwell's performance in Moon eclipsed it, in my humble opinion). Having Kevin Spacey as the voice of the HAL-inspired GERTY was just the icing on the cake...
I've probably seen the film three times already.
But this was the first time it occurred to me that the scenes outside the moon base make a half-hearted effort to simulate the moon's lesser gravity... but all the scenes inside the moon base take place with full earth gravity.
Now, from an artistic and budgetary standpoint, this makes perfect sense. If Sam were in 1/6th gravity as he was running his scenes, that would be a huge distraction from his performance. Not to mention a very expensive series of special effects shots. And I get that. But now it kind of bothers me when I'm watching the film. Obviously, there's got to be some kind of Star Trek type artificial gravity thing going on... but no mention is made of it. Duncan Jones probably doesn't want to mention it specifically because it would make his serious attempt at science-fiction feel too much like fiction.
But it's there.
And it's to the film's credit that I didn't pay much attention to it until my fourth viewing.
I can pretty much count on it being at the forefront of my mind on my fifth.
"What you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."
"Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." —Groucho Marx
"Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it." —Leo Tolstoy from A Confession
"It is very unnerving to be proven wrong, particularly when you are really right and the person who is really wrong is proving you wrong and proving himself, wrongly, right." —Lemony Snicket from The Blank Book
"It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong." —Thomas Sowell
If somebody could just take me off this planet, that would be great.
And so it did occur that snow hath fallen in the amount of six inches upon the glorious plains of Redneckistan.
As somebody who exists with uncovered parking I was not pleased.
As somebody who appreciates having oh... I dunno... WATER, come summertime, I was elated. Though this is most probably too little too late. Even if we were to suddenly get a windfall of snowfall in record-setting amounts, it's going to be a dry summer. Which means drought and wildfires. Again. This was made abundantly clear when I flew back from San Francisco last week. The surrounding mountains, which should have been completely covered in the white stuff... errr... weren't...
This morning I ended up getting stuck in my driveway.
But by noon the sun was shining and the roads were bare.
Then around 4:00 it started snowing again, but lightly.
The forecast for the rest of the week is sunny. For those keeping track... that's one "real" snow for our entire winter. I'm beginning to doubt there will be another one.
On the bright side, I don't have to scrape my car windows in the morning.
"I'm never leaving my house again."
—Everybody who has ever seen a bed bug in their hotel ever.
Back when I was traveling poor and sleeping in hostels (on good days) or train stations (on not-so-good days), I fully expected that I'd eventually wake up to find a spider on my face... or cockroaches in my shoes... or rats in my luggage... or some other infestation nightmare. I took every precaution I could but, when you're lodging on the cheap, there are inevitabilities that you learn to accept.
But I was ridiculously lucky.
With the exception of a minor ant problem once, I don't have any such horror stories to tell.
And once I was making a bit more money and started staying in nice hotels, I never thought I would. Even once a resurgence of bed bugs was being reported. "Surely that won't apply to me and my four-star hotel!" I'd say to myself.
Except I was living in a dream world and it was only a matter of time before everything came crashing down.
So when, at long last, I finally awoke to find two bed bugs crawling on my comforter, I was anything but shocked. My astounding run of luck had come to an end and nothing more. It was a horrifying wake-up call, and I tried to be grateful I wasn't bitten, but it's not like freaking out about it will do any good.
And that's when you start combing the internet to find out what to do.
Only to find out that any hotel can get infested with bed bugs regardless of how much money you pay. Even worse, no hotel is really immune from being infested because there's simply no way to avoid the problem when you've got a steady stream of people passing through your doors... any one of which could be bringing unwanted guests with them.
So this is my new reality...
The good news is that I found no evidence of bedbugs after baking all my stuff. But I regret nothing. Not the $350 I spent in bed bug defense. Not the extra time and effort it took to be cautious. Not the paranoia in going above and beyond in making sure I'm not unleashing an infestation in my home.
Because the alternative... having to get rid of bed bugs when they're so notoriously difficult to get rid of... is so much worse.
Better safe than sorry and all that.
And if you do any traveling? Better protect yourself. It's only a matter of time.
It's the Year of the Horse!
Or, to be more accurate, it's the year of the WOOD HORSE. Apparently, this is supposed to be a good year for me since I was born in the year of the FIRE HORSE and there's some kind of compatibility thing there. I'm not one to place a lot of faith in astrology, numerology, and all that stuff... but I admit that the Chinese zodiac has shown some eerie coincidences over the years...
While mostly associated with being outgoing and successful, Fire Horses are also considered to be harbingers of rebellion and destruction. This is apparently a good thing for a men but a horrific prospect for women and, historically, baby girls were at risk for infanticide because of the doom and gloom they would bring upon a family (including an early death for her father). Fortunately for everybody, Halle Berry and Janet Jackson were allowed to live anyway.
Luckily, girls born in the year of the Wood Horse fare much better... being known for their dedication, creativity, and patience.
Still... probably not a good year for Trojans though.
I spent most of today being angry.
Angry that I had to work all weekend even though I've been putting in crazy hours all week.
Angry that Adobe has made stupid little changes to their apps that have destroyed my productivity... and still hasn't fixed mind-bogglingly obvious bugs that have been around for years.
Angry that the quality of Mac OS X seems to be plummeting with each new release, and even simple details (like arranging icons on your desktop) is now a battle you have to fight.
Angry that so many money-grubbing hypocritical douchebag politicians continue to get support from people either too deluded or too stupid to care that their representatives are money-grubbing hypocritical douchebags.
Angry that the people most under-represented by society are being further marginalized with each passing day.
Angry that more people give a shit about a talentless hack like Justin Bieber getting arrested than they do about people whose water supply in West Virginia has been destroyed by people who were not arrested.
Angry that the mega-corps continue to get away with destroying the planet, destroying society, and destroying lives without consequence but with full government endorsement.
Angry that I live in a country built upon a government of the people, by the people, for the people, that is not controlled by all the people... but a select few rich and powerful people who care nothing for anybody's welfare except their own.
Angry that I live in a country built upon the concept of religious freedom whose laws are increasingly being dictated by religion.
Angry that more people aren't angry about stuff that matters.
Like the fact that I just found my cable company doesn't broadcast The Puppy Bowl in HD tomorrow.
Put down that foam finger, because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Bowl! Congratulations to the Seattle Seahawks for their massive Super Bowl win. I'm especially happy for long-time Seahawks fans who have kept the faith for so very long and have now had their devotion rewarded...
Pete Carroll, 9/11 Truther and Seahawks Coach, celebrates! Photo by Charlie Riedel at the Associated Press
I'm less excited for all the fair-weather Hawks fans who are all too happy to shit all over Seattle when they're losing... but will still be celebrating "their" victory tonight.
• Twelfth! Personally, I think the whole "Twelfth Man" thing is annoying as shit, but there's no denying that it's become bigger than the team they're dedicated to supporting. This was made abundantly clear when a Boeing jet was taken out to draw a big "12" across Washington State...
It's the ultimate Etch-A-Sketch!
Though, I have to say that this huge display of fandom pales in comparison to this guy...
He's probably the only person happier about the Seahawks' victory than the actual Seahawks.
• Kitteh! Everybody knows about The Puppy Bowl... but did you know there's a KITTEN BOWL?!? I just finished watching the big game, featuring Meowshawn Lynch...
Adorable. You can get more info at The Hallmark Channel.
• Cap! Holy cats does Captain America: Winter Soldier look frickin' amazing...
Thrilled to see The Falcon debut at last... would be even more thrilled if a black super-hero would get their own film. Hello? Black Panther? Luke Cage? Brother Voodoo!? And while I'm equally thrilled to see Black Widow making an appearance (which makes total sense because of The Winter Soldier)... where is her frickin' movie? Even if the film is a dud, at least we're finally getting to see S.H.I.E.L.D. at the high-tech kick-ass organization it is (as opposed to the embarrassment we've been getting from the lame-ass television show).
• Mine! I'm probably going to catch some crap for posting this... BUT IT'S JUST SO TRUE!
I've lost count of the number of times I've asked "Do you want something?" and am told "No!"... only to have my date/girlfriend EAT MY FOOD! Seriously, you said you didn't want any... SO KEEP YOUR DAMN HANDS OFF MY FRIES! Not that I can actually say that, but I want all the fries!
• LEGO! Okay... okay... I know I won't shut up over The LEGO Movie's impending release, but how can you blame me? The latest trailer is beyond awesome...
Could Chris Pratt BE any more perfect for the role?
This may very well be the greatest movie ever made. I cannot wait to see it.
Annnnd... chocolate pudding time!
Three or four mornings each week, I stop at the mini-mart so I can buy two bottles of Grape Powerade (2 for $5) and a bean & cheese burrito. It's the perfect breakfast, and a delicious excuse to eat lots of ketchup (no joke... I can use three packets with one small burrito).
Not exactly healthy though.
So this morning I thought I'd try a breakfast that's better for me... an Amy's Tofu Scramble...
I like Amy's stuff. Her Mexican and Indian entrees are darn good, and I'm a loyal customer to her brand. Once I Googled a few reviews on how awesome her Tofu Scramble was, I didn't think twice about putting it in my shopping cart. And today was the day!
It tasted like a bowl of barf.
The potatoes were okay... but the scramble was just awful. I didn't like the flavor and really didn't like the texture. While nowhere near as bad as the Special K Breakfast Flatbread Sandwich I tried last month (vomit-inducing gross), I just couldn't bring myself to eat it.
And so I stopped by the mini-mart for two bottles of Grape Powerade and a bean & cheese burrito.
Which was delicious, as usual.
And while not exactly healthy, it was probably no worse than a bag of Doritos and a Coke, which was my go-to breakfast before I found out Hometown Market had bean & cheese burritos and a good price on double-Powerade.
I really need to go back to Eggo Waffles one day.
But right now I'm still dealing with the crushing disappointment from last time.
Like the mysterious Scottish village of Brigadoon which appears for a single day every one hundred years, some events are destined to happen but once in a lifetime. Twice if you don't smoke, eat your Wheaties, and get very lucky.
I've had my share of "once-in-a-lifetime-opportunities." Some passed me by. Some changed my life for the better. Some ended up being huge mistakes. Some didn't turn out to be quite as important events as they had first seemed.
Today I had a choice to make on a "once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity."
The consequences... good or bad... of my decision won't be known for months. Maybe years.
In the meanwhile I'm trying not to think about it. Life goes by too quickly to waste time obsessing over the road not taken. It's hard enough to concentrate on the road you're walking.
Especially when your shoelaces are untied and raw sewage is gushing over the pavement.
I was a fan of the actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. Not necessarily for the bigger parts which won him accolades, but for the smaller "every-man" roles he excelled at. I also liked him when he played creepy. That was something he also did well. I was sad to learn that he died of a heroin overdose. I am sadder to hear all the horrible things being said about him over the way he died.
I don't read the gossip rags, so I don't know what they're saying compelled Philip Seymour Hoffman first try heroin.
I don't need to read the gossip rags to know why he kept doing it. Addiction is a horrific, life-destroying ordeal so overwhelming that even millions of dollars and a successful career can't save you. It's a fight that never ends, and sometimes people lose the battle... despite their best efforts. And the efforts of people around them.
Why that terrible battle is something to belittle or ridicule, I don't know.
Why somebody who couldn't overcome their problems is beneath compassion or sympathy, I don't understand.
Why people feel the need to mock and ridicule somebody's death, I don't want to understand.
My deepest sympathies to Hoffman's family, friends, and fans. I'm sorry he lost the fight. I'm even sorrier that people with no understanding of the power of addiction are so cruel in their ignorance. He will be missed.
Don't let those swill merchants rewrite you. —Lester Bangs from Almost Famous
To say I am excited for The LEGO Movie is a drastic understatement.
And tomorrow is the day we've all been waiting for!
Everything IS awesome!
This could have so easily been a five-star film.
Seriously. The casting was impeccable. Chris Pratt embodied the lead flawlessly. Will Arnett redefined LEGO Batman. The voice talent behind every character was perfectly executed. Even Jonah Hill, who I cannot stand as an actor, was unerringly lovable as a Green Lantern who nobody can stand ("I super-hate you!"). And don't even get me started on Will Ferrell, who played the "villain" as only Will Ferrell can.
As the story unfolded, I was near-giddy in my seat. It's so beautiful and... fun! Genuine laugh-out-loud fun! You don't have to be familiar with LEGO to enjoy the movie... but true fans expecting cameos and a little LEGO history will not be disappointed. This is a movie that will beg to be seen over and over again just to get a handle on all the little details packed into every scene...
And the animation.
Holy crap is it amazing. Every frame had a lot of thought put into it.
From a cursory glance, the animators behind The LEGO Movie made it all look so effortlessly "LEGO." But when you look a little closer, each scene was meticulously executed in a way that had to be anything but easy. Action has a stop-motion feel to make it look hand-animated where it helps the story... but they weren't chained to that, and smooth motion was used when jerky movement would have been distracting. I love the fluid dynamics. Water and smoke are all rendered with LEGO, yet flow with a bizarre kind of realism that makes "the world" seem fully-realized. Fire is likewise grounded in LEGO reality, but has a kind of eerie presence that transcends those little orange "flame pieces" that any LEGO builder will recognize instantly. And I love, love, love how everything has a solidity to it. Laser blasts are rendered like rods that are physical pieces instead of blobs of light. It's all so... awesome!
If The LEGO Movie doesn't get nominated for a ship-load of animation awards, it will surprise the hell out of me.
When it comes to the story, things start off brilliantly.
Emmet is a LEGO minifig who is average in every way. He follows instructions to the letter like every good LEGO minifig should. He just wants to fit in and have people like him. And that's all he aspires for. It's all he knows and needs. But then he meets Wyldstyle... a minifig who doesn't follow instructions. From her Emmet finds out that he is "The Special," a fulfillment of a prophecy (by Morgan Freeman, in yet another example of flawless casting) who is destined to stop the evil Lord Business and save the world.
Hilarity... genuine hilarity... ensues. And it's all adorably funny and a joy to watch.
WARNING! Spoilers (kinda) are below!
...the movie then takes this utterly bizarre meta "fourth-wall" turn in the last quarter. And, to be perfectly honest, it kind of ruins the film for me.
Had they just stuck to the animated LEGO story everybody has been dying to see, this would have been a flawless motion picture. Everybody wins.
But they didn't. For reasons completely unknown, the creators decided to spin off on this crazy tangent that undermines all the characters, grinds the movie to a halt, and is completely unnecessary! All of a sudden Emmet, Batman, Benny, and Wyldstyle are not living out their own lives and shaping the story of the world they live in... they're just pieces of cute plastic crap being manipulated by people "in the Real World." Which I guess could be argued to make sense to the story. But not really. There's no internal logic to it. If Will Ferrell is the real-life "bad guy" and his son is the real-life "hero" then why wasn't Emmet voiced by the real-life kid just like Lord Business was voiced by the real-life Will Ferrell? I guess it's the kid's imagination at work voicing the characters, so that could make sense. I guess. But if the entire movie is just a story made-up in the imagination of the kid (and, eventually, Will Ferrell), how can we care about the individual mini-fig personalities when they don't actually exist? Emmet's "journey" as a character who learns that breaking free from the mold allows them to live happier, more fulfilling and creative lives is all rendered moot... because it's not his experience at all... it's a lesson Will Ferrel learns from his kid.
And for what? I just don't get it. And I really don't get the half-hearted "effort" of dropping real-world items into the LEGO world like they're some kind of "clue" as to what's going on. Suddenly the things that internally make sense become senseless when you stop and think about it. Why does Will Ferrell decide to start gluing everything down... it's as if he's suddenly being inspired by the evil alter-ego his kid invented? Say what-?!? Why couldn't there just be real-world items introduced as weird artifacts to LEGO World... just as they would be in real life? THAT was all the "meta" the story really needed.
It's almost as if the people behind the film said "Whoa! Whoa whoa whoa! This is turning out to be entirely too cute and fun. Let's just toss a monkey-wrench into the whole damn thing so that our audience will be ripped out of the story we've worked so hard to build. Because we certainly don't want to deliver on the promise of a fun and engaging movie starring LEGO characters everybody will love... we need to go deeper. That way we can confuse everyone and bore the fuck out of any kids in the audience! But, hey, at least we can pretend to be something smarter than a stupid toy movie... right?
The answer, in case you're wondering, is a resounding "no."
This kind of twist has been done many times before. And done far better. And in a way that makes sense. And doesn't completely undermine all the characters that people want to fall in love with.
I hope somebody edits out all the "fourth wall" crap and LEGO fans get to experience the pure LEGO extravaganza they deserve.
So... taking away one star for a senseless finale in a five-star movie? Four stars. You will love the film... a lot... but, if you're like me, not all of it. Oh... and one last thing... don't bother with the idiotic 3-D version of The LEGO Movie. The bright and colorful world of LEGO is dimmed to the point of being depressing. And the 3-D effects actually ruin otherwise brilliantly realized action scenes.
In my earliest days of blogging (back before it was even called "blogging") there wasn't any software to help you out. My first blog, "DaveWorld," was entirely coded by hand. Any time I wanted to add something, I'd have to manually edit the HTML code. This was a cumbersome process that was way too much work, so the blog died a slow death and was eventually deleted. My second effort, "DaveBlog," was created on the Blogger platform. This made things easier... but writing was still a chore. And customizing the look of your blog in any meaningful way was nigh impossible.
Then the husband and wife team of Ben & Mena Trott came up with Movable Type and everything changed.
With Movable Type, all the technical crap required to run a blog vanished. Third-party blogging tools like "Kung-Log" made writing a breeze. And since everything ran on templates using a dead-simple coding language, customizing your blog was a piece of cake.
Blogography was born, and I have Movable Type to thank for it.
Eventually Movable Type was sold. An Open Source version was released (and powers my blog to this day), but the focus of the platform was steered towards "professional" and "enterprise" environments, so development of the "free personal" version stagnated. An effort to create an independent version (called "Melody") died. Third-party support dried up.
Movable Type as a viable platform for small bloggers like was coming to an end.
And now the Open Source version is being suspended.
In order for me to keep using a supported version of Movable Type, I would have to purchase a 5-user "Pro" license for $600.
Well fuck that.
So now I am forced into something I should have done a long time ago... changing blogging platforms. I toyed with the idea of switching to Ghost, which looks to be coming along brilliantly, but my only real choice is the 10-ton gorilla of personal blogging: WordPress.
Which is not easy.
My webhosting company, Media Temple, doesn't allow software processes to last long enough to export all my data. So I have to hire a third-party to convert my entries and comments.
And, of course all my templates will have to be converted. The cost to hire somebody for the work is outrageous, so I'm having to do it myself. It's not rocket-science, but it's slow-going. Very slow-going. Everything I learned when building DaveCafe on WordPress has long-since been forgotten. And so I'm starting from scratch.
And so there goes my weekend. But the blog must go on.
Grab a grey base plate, because an ALL-LEGO edition of Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Movie Game! I haven't had a chance to finish the LEGO Marvel Super-Heroes videogame yet, but decided to jump into The LEGO Movie Videogame to check it out. One thing I can say from the levels I've played... you need to see the movie first. Events in the game are ripped directly out of the movie, so it is a massive spoiler if you play before you watch...
Shocker... this LEGO videogame is pretty much like all the other LEGO videogames. You take control of a LEGO minifig to collect LEGO studs and solve mostly easy puzzles based on the film...
The voice talent is pretty good, as half the time I didn't know if the characters were being voiced by their movie actor counterparts... or if they just managed to get really good imitators. A new addition to the LEGO games is the need to hunt down "instruction books" to build some items, but most everything else you've probably seen before. Not that this is a bad thing... most times it's a relief that Traveler's Tales Games has had time to refine their play mechanics to such a fine point. But not always. Racing controls are still shitty, just as they are in every other game where you have to take command of a vehicle. And yet... still a lot of fun, as expected. I'm going to wrap up Marvel LEGO Super-Heroes first, but look forward into playing more of The LEGO Movie Videogame.
• Movie Essentials! All the things I loved most about The LEGO Movie are beautifully examined in DK's Essential Guide to the film. Like all DK LEGO books, a lot of love went into making sure that readers get their money's worth, and I'm very glad to add this edition to my growing collection. I'd write a review, but BrickQueen has already done a brilliant job of it...
Totally worth the $8.21 it costs... especially if you love LEGO.
• Movie Minifig! I gave up trying to buy the hundreds of minifigs that LEGO releases each year because it's just too darn expensive to collect them all. But Series 12 is based on The LEGO Movie and so I'm sorely tempted because they're all pretty cool...
The problem is... even if you manage to collect all the characters in Series 12, you're still not going to have them all. LEGO released two exclusive minifigs exclusive to AMC theaters. And since I don't have an AMC within a hundred miles, getting my hands on them is not an option for me...
If I wanted them, I'd have to pay absurd bank on eBay. That's pretty shitty. Especially considering that there's probably other exclusives out there I don't even know about.
But, dang is Pajamas Emmet adorable.
• Soundtrack! While I had a few problems with the movie itself, the soundtrack was absolutely not one of them...
Featuring beautiful synth tracks by Mark Mothersbough, there's some good stuff to be found here. Most tracks are short bits that end before you can get into them (what I wouldn't give to hear more of Emmet's Plan, which clocks in at under two minutes!)... but they all flow together nicely. The theme song Everything is Awesome by Tegan & Sara (featuring the Andy Samberg's The Lonely Island) has some alternate versions here... including a rendition by Jo Li and a not-so-great acoustic version by Shawn Patterson and Sammy Allen. Also included is a bizarre piece by Will Anett (who plays Batman in the film) called Untitled Self Portrait. Overall more hits than misses. If you liked the film and enjoy synth music, this is worth a listen.
• Heart! There's been a few spoofs of the infamous Vinnie Jones "Hands-Only CPR" commercial from the British Heart Foundation (this one with Mini-Vinnie is classic). And now they've released one with LEGO...
Genius. Everything is better with LEGO!
• Online! I am still very, very upset that LEGO canceled LEGO Universe Online after I had invested so much money and time playing it. For this reason, I took a pass at the Legend's of Chima MMORPG when it came out. But there's a new Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game coming this Summer called LEGO Minifigures...
Needless to say... after watching the trailer, I want to play it. Hopefully LEGO will find a "revenue model" this time around so they won't have to cancel it just as I'm getting into it.
Annnnnd... time to play a few more rounds of LEGO Marvel Super-Heroes!
Today sucked. Bad. And just when I thought it couldn't possibly suck any more, it did.
I knew it was going to be a bad day when I woke up to snow dropping from the sky like a plague of locusts. Locusts I then had to scrape off of my car.
Everything was uphill from there.
It just turned 10:00pm and I haven't reached the peak yet.
I'm beginning to think it doesn't exist.
Today was a much better day than yesterday.
Which, technically, isn't saying much. The only way it could have been worse would be if somebody shot me. In the spleen. And then poured salt in the wound. Salt that had been urinated on. By Justin Bieber.
But instead I pulled something in my leg.
Now I walk funnier than usual and I'm on pain-killers.
See, I told you it was better than yesterday!
For better or worse, this blog is now running on WordPress.
Migrating was both easier and harder than I thought it would be. I was dreading converting all my templates because Movable Type has a far easier template language to work with. Much to my delight, it took me just under two hours. Much to my horror, the comments display looks like complete shit. And the comment form is wonky. I've spent around SIX HOURS trying to fix everything, but WordPress uses a stupid fucking HTML List Element to output comments, and all attempts to figure out how to style it have failed. I've read dozens of tutorials and read loads of documentation, but nothing works, and I have no idea why. So... something left to do, I guess.
Anyway... for anybody wanting to dump Movable Type and switch to WordPress, I have notes.
Movable Type's "Export" function has always been incomplete and terrible. They tried to fix this with a "Backup" function, but I was never able to get it to work. Ever. Part of the problem is that my hosting company, Media Temple, has a pathetically small time-out value for their Grid Hosting. If you have more than a couple hundred entries, this means Media Temple will never get to finish the job. So there goes my hopes of spending $49 at TP2WP.com for a quick and dirty conversion of my entries and comments to WordPress. Fortunately, Mihai at Pro-IT-Service has near-miraculous knowledge of all things Movable Type, and I was able to hire him to do the job for me for a reasonable fee (considering I have over 4,000 entries and nearly 52,000 comments!). He did a flawless job. Permalinks were preserved. Extended entries were merged to WP format. Categories were not only preserved, but he provided an .htaccess file update so that referrers to my categories would be redirected to a WordPress-friendly URL. Just like his previous work for me, Mihai totally delivered, and I couldn't be happier.
My hosting company allows me to host multiple domains on my account. All I have to do is create a folder in my "domains" directory, point my NameServers to their servers, and I'm done. This made it dead-simple to install WordPress in an unused domain, then just rename its folder to "blogography.com" after Mihai migrated my data. All I had to do then was let WordPress know that its domain had changed and I was done. For some reason I thought it would be a lot more difficult.
One of the things that I really, really liked about Movable Type was the option to go with statically-generated honest-to-goodness html files. You can do this with WordPress by using a clever plugin, but that adds a lot of overhead when you're working on converting your templates and are making lots of changes. For now, I plan on leaving things dynamic. But the security of having static html files that will still work even if your database craps out is something I'm too paranoid to resist for long. Even so, I am using the W3 Total Cache plugin so WordPress serves up pages more efficiently in the meanwhile.
Something you're forced to learn when switching from Movable Type to WordPress is that securing your site is a big deal. I learned this the hard way when I converted DaveCafe as a WordPress blog... and got hacked in four days. Yes, four days. I installed a bunch of security plugins to help clean up all the malicious code and my database, but was hacked again the following month. Eventually I just locked down WordPress completely by editing my .htaccess file so the back-end is completely inaccessible. Which means in order to work on DaveCafe, I first have to edit my .htaccess file. Then edit it back. Every time. It's a pain, but I only update the site a few times a year, so I can live with it. Obviously, this is not an option for a blog I'm updating every day. Enter the Better WP Security plugin. It seems comprehensive, so I'm hopeful. Then again, I've only been running for one day...
Back when I first began with my web hosting company, Media Temple, they had a backup tool included. But then they switched to their "Grid" service and backup was dropped. I never understood why. This is a BASIC FUCKING FUNCTION that even the cheapest hosting companies offer. Years later Media Temple managed to finally get around to it, but you have to pay for their premium "CloudTech" service to get it. At least you did. I have no idea what the situation is now. In any event, I'm done with dealing with this crap, so I'm using the WordPress Backup to Dropbox plugin to keep my data safe.
Going from a fringe product like Movable Type that few personal bloggers are using anymore... to a 10-ton gorilla like WordPress that everybody is using... well, it's quite an adjustment to make. I'm simply not used to having such a huge community available with instant answers to even my most bizarre problems. But the best part of WordPress is ACTUALLY DOCUMENTATION! Movable Type always had shit for documentation, and it's wonderful to not have to worry about putting up with outdated, shitty docs any more.
Another reason I'm ecstatic to finally be rid of Movable Type? WordPress has an active development community. Plugins are plentiful and current. You can extend functionality in just about every conceivable way. Finding new themes for you site design is easy... whether you want something free... or to pay for something more. And the apps! WordPress is well-supported because so many people are using it. My third-party blogging software, MarsEdit, barely supports Movable Type. Subcategories never worked right. A lot of features weren't supported. But with WordPress? An entirely different story. Everything works flawlessly. I can use categories again!
WordPress has an irritating schema that omits the ".html" extension on Pages. I have no idea why since they have no problems appending it to Posts, but there it is. It isn't too big of a problem... slapping some 301 redirects in my .htaccess file fixed the problem nicely. Which is a good thing, since Google's Custom Search refuses to work without it.
And now we've come full-circle to WordPress template-building. As I said, Movable Type has the upper hand here in a big way because they use simple tags. WordPress uses PHP code snippets. Which makes getting anything out of WordPress a bit more difficult (and, in the case of formatting comments, a hell of a lot more difficult). Still, once you get the hang of it, it's not too bad. Just not as easy as it could be.
When you've been blogging for 11 years, you're bound to accumulate a few broken links. Thanks to a plugin called Broken Link Checker, I now know I have 1,214 of them. Most are from people who left comments linking to their blog... which no longer exists. Kind of sad to see so many sites having died. I remain amazed mine isn't one of them.
Ultimately, I'm happy with the move. If the plugins I'm using will keep spammers and hackers at bay, I'll be very happy. My only regret is that I didn't do this much sooner. If you have a solution for migrating your data from Movable Type to WordPress, this isn't a difficult decision to make. The resources, tools, and activity benefits are pretty much a no-brainer.
And now I should probably work on getting my Archives page running, my comments formatted, and my comment form working... but it's past midnight and I'm all WordPressed out for the night.
P.S. Originally, I had coded big purple X's before all my posts on the WordPress blog so I could easily tell which site I was working on. After a couple hours, I actually grew to like them there (especially when scrolling through a long list of posts) so I think I'll keep 'em!
This morning I got dragged into the ol' "Kill Hitler Debate" where people were discussing whether or not they'd kill Baby Hitler if they had the power to go back in time. It was the whole "Is evil predestined so Baby Hitler deserves to die... or is Baby Hitler innocent because he hasn't done anything evil yet?" situation.
At first I remained silent, believing that the influences and circumstances that made Baby Hitler become Hitler would have ultimately ended up encouraging somebody else to fill the void left by Hitler's absence.
But eventually I chimed in with "I'd go back in time and kill myself before I decided to purchase a 1999 Saturn SC-2." It was a joke, but there are days that I actually think that way. To call my Saturn a pile of shit implies that it can serve a useful purpose... like fertilizing the lawn. As it is, a pile of shit is probably more valuable.
Which is my way of saying that even more crap is breaking off the my car. This time it was the emergency brake release button... which, coincidentally enough, also keeps the brake applied. Which means I have no emergency brake right now. Hope I don't have to stop on a hill until I get a replacement piece.
You would think something in your car with the word "emergency" in the name would be made of anything except cheap plastic.
But I suppose something has to fill the void left by Hitler.
Hope your Valentine's Day is a good one!
You can see the past ten years of Valentoons right here.
I am running out of things to reveal in these "Ten Things You Don't Know About Me" memes, but that doesn't stop people from tagging me!
One of my previous stabs at it can be found here.
And, without further delay, here's the latest...
I was also tagged in a "Ten Things You Don't Know About Me" meme having to do with books, television, and movies, which I didn't quite understand... but here is my attempt anyway...
And... I'm all memed out. Have a great weekend!
Time to put House of Cards on pause, because an all-new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Random! Sometimes when I'm stuck on a phone call, I'll fire up Wikipedia and click on the Random Article link for a while (WARNING: no telling where that link takes you). It never ceases to amaze me what pops up. Yes, there's a lot of random stubs that flash by... but there's always a few articles of substance that will teach you something. Today my articles were... HUMAN TOOTH SHARPENING!... CERATONYKUS!... FRISKNEY!... and the HOUSTON THUNDERBEARS! — But be careful. If you click too fast, you could skip by something interesting (like NEW KOREAN ORTHOGRAPHY!) and not be able to get back to it (your browser's back button won't work). And who knows what knowledge tomorrow will bring? (perhaps the BARCELONA INTERNATIONAL EROTIC FILM FESTIVAL!).
• Ellen! Even without her personal announcement, Ellen Page's speech for the Human Rights Campaign this week was powerful, inspiring, and well worth watching...
I hope Ellen Page knows just how much her words mean to a lot of kids struggling with acceptance... not only with their sexuality, but with all the challenges they face because they're different... or merely perceived to be different. The more people keep speaking out for treating people with decency and respect, the more attitudes will change. And the more kids will feel less alone as they struggle to figure out their path in life.
• Please! Oh please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please let this happen.
• Bloop! Because I just can't help it, I now present The LEGO Movie blooper reel...
Awww! Is there anything cuter than LEGO minifigs?
• Search! For years, I've been integrating Google Custom Search into Blogography. But it's grown increasingly unreliable, and I'm tired of having it fail when I go to use it. So when I switched to WordPress, I decided to dump it. Only to find that WordPress search sucks. It sucks so bad. And so I found my way to the Relevanssi plugin. It's an order of magnitude better than what comes with WP, for which I'm grateful. I just wish it had pictures like Google does. Everybody loves search that comes with pictures! Bummer. I do like how it highlights the search terms though.
• Archive! And while I'm on the never-ending subject of my migration to WordPress, I am compelled to bring up how crappy their archiving is compared to what I was using with Movable Type. Hopefully one day you'll be able to navigate between monthly archives without a plugin, but not today. Hopefully one day you'll be able to navigate subcategories within a category without hard-coding IDs in an array, but not today. Both of these are not revolutionary features by any means, and it mystifies me as to why they aren't included. Luckily WordPress is ever a work in progress. So maybe one day.
And now, if you'll excuse me, another episode of House of Cards awaits...
The mind-blowing thing about political dramas like House of Cards and Scandal is that you know... you just know... that the outrageous fiction the writers dream up for these shows undoubtedly pales in comparison to what really goes on behind closed doors in Washington, DC.
And no wonder. Politicians do all kinds of crazy shit because they can. Not that I blame them... I shudder to think about all the horrendous crap I'd get into if I had political power rendering me invincible from consequence and knew that a whole team of people are dedicated to cleaning up my messes. Seriously, what wouldn't I do under those circumstances? I just don't know. I'm not into drugs, but you don't think I'd be the first one in line to snort cocaine off a hooker's ass with John Boehner if given the chance? You're damn right I would! Drugs, hookers, theft... even murder... it's all on the table. Political power makes everything possible...
Which means it's probably good that a megalomaniac with an addictive personality like me has never run for office.
Don't be surprised if this page disappears one day in the future. I don't need it coming back to haunt me if I should ever decide to become a Congressman.
Because I'd like to think that I could resist an invitation from Paul Ryan to chase down homeless people in Foggy Bottom and taser them for sport, but you just never know what a taste of power is going to do to the mind of a politician.
If past precedent is any indication, they all end up fucked in the head sooner or later.
I had some work calls to make during my lunch hour, so I decided to catch up on Facebook while I was making small-talk. Despite current bullshit studies by managers with too much time on their hands who say multitasking is counterproductive, I can't fathom wasting my time by not doing multiple things at once.
And so there I was discussing ink limits for printing on plasticized board... when I lose my ability to speak. I somehow manage to end the call as my heart starts crushing my chest.
Long-time blogging friend, Tracy Lynn "Kap" Kaply, is gone.
It's impossible to reduce Kaply down to words. She was hysterically funny, yes. She was exceedingly kind, sure. She was delightfully raunchy, indeed. She was keenly observant, absolutely. She was craftily opinionated, no doubt. But to keep piling adjectives on her seems somehow a disservice when no amount of words will ever paint the whole picture of who she was. You had to know her to love her and, even though I didn't know her exceedingly well, I came to love her just the same. Your life was far more entertaining with Kaply in it than out of it, and I just don't know what higher praise I can offer than that...
You will note that she is wearing one of my "Try Evil" T-shirts. When looking for photos of her, it was almost impossible to find a recent image where she wasn't wearing one. She'd wear them until they were falling apart, then ask me to send her another one. And I always did. She told me that the T-shirt said everything about her that she wanted people passing her on the street to know. Adjective-free, of course.
I think the first time I met Kaply in person was back in 2007 at the first Daveattle blogger meet, but we had known each other online for years before that...
I'm pretty sure she introduced herself with "Yeah, I'm Kaply. Try not to fall down at my feet or anything embarrassing like that." Which is oddly typical of the Kap I would come to know.
It's more than a little sad to see that Kaply is the second person in this photo to leave us. Rick Leonard, another wonderful human being, passed on a while back.
People wonder why I act like a two-year-old most of the time. It's because growing up means your friends start to leave you.
And Kaply is somebody I just don't want to say goodbye to.
So I won't.
I'll just say that I will miss her.
Now if I could just figure out to do with all these fucking "Try Evil" T-shirts I had custom-printed in her size. It figures that Kap would go and die on me before she had worn them all. So typical. It's just like her to be sure that I had something hanging around to remember her by.
As if I could ever forget.
What a completely messed-up day.
I am *THIS* close to that psychotic break I've always dreamed of.
Here's hoping they have internet at the asylum for the criminally insane.
There are some days I don't know what the hell I'm doing on this planet.
Then I fire up a game of Portal and suddenly don't care any more...
...until I find out The Cake is a Lie.
Which pretty much sums up my day.
After getting slammed with snow for the past couple days, Stevens Pass was "chains required" this morning, which meant I had to go Blewett-Snoqualmie since it was merely "bare & wet." Unbeknownst to myself at the time of purchase, my piece-of-shit car is not able to wear chains, which means the fucker should have never been sold in the Pacific Northwest to begin with. Oh well. It's an additional 20 minutes to my travel time, but them's the breaks...
Great way to spend a snow day!
It seems so very simple. If you have a penis, you're male. If you have a vagina, you're female. Yes, there are people who are born with/without sexual organs that challenge this two-party system, but it's a rare event and shouldn't change established conventions, right?
Unless you happen to be one of those precious few people who aren't born 100% male or 100% female, in which case being forced to check a box on a form that doesn't address your sexual identity seems unfair. Society treats your existence like some kind of a mistake, when you're just living your life the way God or biology made you. And that IS unfair.
But it's just the tip of the iceberg.
Because a person's sex... even if defined 100%... doesn't necessarily match your intrinsic sexual being. Which is where gender enters the picture.
I was once working with a team on a massive project that consumed our lives. As the days flew by, all our waking moments were spent in each other's company and we became quite close. As we were eating dinner one evening, one of the guys was lamenting how tough the gay dating scene had become. He thought that "Straight World" had more opportunities for finding someone than "Planet Gay," and he had resigned himself to dying alone. I didn't know if it's true that straights have more opportunities, but I assured him that it was no easier for dorky straight guys like myself to find somebody. One of the ladies chimed in with horror stories of being a woman in dating hell, and the competition for who had it worse was on. Until...
"You all have it easy. Try being trans and finding somebody to date!"
Turns out Margot had started out in life as Mark.
This was a bit confusing to me. Trans? Meaning transexual? What does that even mean? The extent of my knowledge on the subject was hearing a crude joke about "chicks with dicks," which meant I knew absolutely nothing. And since I hate wallowing around in ignorance... especially when it comes to somebody as great as Margot... I did the only thing I knew how.
I asked her.
A part of me worried that asking about something so personal would be offensive, but Margot wasn't offended at all. I guess she would rather somebody care enough to ask than to speculate, which is true for all of us, I suppose. And so I found out how being born with a penis is not necessarily the defining attribute of a person's sexuality. Yes, young Mark liked boys, but his feelings went beyond identifying as "gay." He was never comfortable as a boy, never felt like a boy, didn't fit in as a boy, and felt trapped pretending to be a boy. It's not that he didn't want to BE a boy... penis notwithstanding, he simply WASN'T a boy. Not on the inside. So when it came time for the boy to become a man, Mark decided his sanity and survival depended on giving up on pretending and finally embracing who he was always meant to be... which turned out to be a woman.
Which is why I just don't get the continuing drama over Facebook adding a bunch of gender identity options for people's profile page. Apparently it makes some people "uncomfortable" to be exposed to the idea that humans exist who are not decisively male or female. And because they are "uncomfortable," these humans should be forced to conform to somebody else's personal standards as to what constitutes "gender."
And how fucked up is that?
Somebody telling you how to define who you are?
I mean, seriously, how does somebody wanting to identify as "trans" affect you? It makes you "uncomfortable?" Welcome to LIFE. If it makes them happy, makes their life bearable, makes them feel true to themselves, why would you give a fuck? It's their life. They are the one who has to live with it. Just be happy they're happy and live your own life for a change.
I don't understand how anybody thinks this world would be better off if everybody conformed to the exact specifications they have in their head as "normal." I have even a harder time understanding why people who feel this way decide to force their "normal" on others. Because, hey, everybody is abnormal to somebody.
Margot went through a fucking gauntlet to get to where she needed to be. Her entire childhood was a battle that most people wouldn't survive. She faces challenges in day-to-day life that would humble most people. And yet she made it through. She's figured out what makes her happy, and is content being who she is.
I think she's fucking earned the right to define her gender however the heck she wants to.
Anybody who disagrees doesn't have the strength to put themselves in her shoes for even ten minutes.
Which is a shame, because she always wears such nice ones.
My plans for yesterday were simple.
Work. Lunch. Shop. Memorial. Work. Fun.
Alas, everything came to a screeching halt after "Lunch" because my trip to Olive Garden resulted in gastrointestinal distress so bad that I would have been relieved if an alien were to burst out of my intestines...
Not an actual representation of my afternoon... but darn close.
Then things got a little depressing for me, because nobody wants their plans foiled by a plate of Fettuccine Alfredo.
Especially when the Fettuccine Alfredo isn't even real Fettuccine Alfredo, and is made with a cream base.
But then I saw a video of French goats playing on a "flexible steel ribbon," and everything was fine again...
I was drinking heavily at a Daytona 500 Race Day party yesterday, so prepare yourself for Bullet Sunday on Monday, because an all-new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Gravity! Just in case you're one of the few people on earth who hasn't seen Kate Upton's Zero G photo shoot from Sports Illustrated, it is truly something you need to be checking out. Even if just to see the =ahem= "technical challenges" of shooting a swimsuit model in space...
You can see more at Sports Illustrated Online.
• History! I don't normally link to stuff like this, but there's a Reddit thread that is epic, and I can't stop looking at it. If you have even a passing interest in history, here's a black hole for you to fall into... What are two events that took place in the same time in history but don't seem like they would have?
• Egon! I was saddened to learn that actor/writer/director Harold Ramis has died at 69 years old today. While he is probably best known as Dr. Egon Spengler from Ghostbusters, he was also an actor, writer, or director on other amazing films I love... like Stripes and Groundhog Day. Such a hilariously smart and witty individual will be missed.
• Ivory! Prince William is wanting to remove and destroy all ivory art and artifacts in possession of the Royal Family as an example to other world leaders that elephant poaching should not be tolerated. While I applaud his efforts in saving these wonderful creatures from senseless slaughter, is destroying beautiful works of art really the way to do that? Yes, by all means, do whatever is necessary to defeat the ivory trade moving forward... but for those pieces already in the royal collection, the deed has been done. Destroying works of art is not going to bring those elephants back. I'd even go so far as to argue that if people start destroying the world's ivory, it's just going to make the stuff more enticing as a rare collectible, putting more elephants in danger. And what's next? Do we start burning priceless ancient books that were printed on vellum? Or are calves less worthy of protection? We're evolving to a society which is more compassionate towards animals, and that's wonderful. But show some compassion towards the artists of the past whose only sin was using "the material of the day" in their work.
• Heroes! I've already wrote about how much I fucking loathed the television show Heroes...
Just like with Odo, the non-shape-changing-shape-changing character on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Heroes was the show about non-super-powered-super-powered-heroes. And it just sucked. It was SO bad, and this is coming from a super-hero comic book junkie who lives for shit like this. And now I learn that NBC is resurrecting the show for a 13-episode mini-series. Really. REALLY?!? Because, aren't there like... i dunno... a MILLION television shows more worthy of return than this pile of shit? Probably. What a waste of time and money. Somebody bring back a show that actually mattered... like Firefly.
• Arizona! From the blog of George Takei, regarding Arizona's new bill allowing businesses to refuse service to LGBT customers on religious grounds: "...The law is breathtaking in its scope. It gives bigotry against us gays and lesbians a powerful and unprecedented weapon. But your mean-spirited representatives and senators know this. They also know that it is going to be struck down eventually by the courts. But they passed it anyway, just to make their hateful opinion of us crystal clear. So let me make mine just as clear. If your Governor Jan Brewer signs this repugnant bill into law, make no mistake. We will not come. We will not spend. And we will urge everyone we know — from large corporations to small families on vacation — to boycott. Because you don’t deserve our dollars. Not one red cent..."
Just as I feel that businesspeople who believe selling flowers or cake is a "lifestyle endorsement" are businesspeople too stupid to survive economically... I also feel that they should have the right to be that stupid. But to pass a law which supports their stupidity? That IS an endorsement. An endorsement by politicians who are supposed to represent ALL of their constituents, including the LGBT community, equally and fairly. So, yes. I will absolutely take up George Takei's call to boycott if Governor Brewer is insanely stupid enough to sign SB-1062 into law. You don't have to be gay to oppose such blatantly anti-gay politics... you just have to be human. Ironically, the people who think this is truly about "religious freedom" instead of "an excuse to legalize persecution" seem to be the same people professing to want a smaller government that doesn't intrude on our lives. Do you smell it? The stench of hypocrisy has once again shit the bed.
And now I am still recovering from yesterday and too tired to keep blogging, so I guess this is goodnight.
Yesterday I went and saw The Monuments Men. Given the high-caliber cast (George Clooney, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Matt Damon, Hugh Bonneville, and Cate Blanchett), I expected this was going to be a killer film. But it turns out that the cast was about the only thing I enjoyed. There just wasn't much of a story... the characters broke up into pairs and wandered around Europe trying to save art during the final days of World War II. The End. I was told this was a "caper" film... kind of like
Which is a shame, because the movie is based on real events that sound anything but boring.
I did see this poster in the theater...
That's Angelina Jolie starring as Maleficent.
Which would be the evil witch from Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty.
Heaven help me I actually want to see this film.
I strapped my iPhone to my sun visor for the drive over Stevens Pass in Washington State (through the Cascade Mountain Range on US Route 2). The rough road and weight of the iPhone moving the visor made for a messy (but pretty!) video... but everybody who keeps asking me to post a movie of the trip finally get's their wish! Music is Dream of Me (Based on Love's Theme) by OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark) off their amazing album Liberator (and you can buy it here).
Pretty drive, is it not? I don't mind it so much when the roads are bare and the weather is nice, like today.
And... back to Real Life for a while.
This morning I woke up in a panic because I could no longer recall my CompuServe ID number. I don't know why it bothered me so much... I haven't used CompuServe in decades and there is no earthly reason I'd ever need to know it... but it did.
After thinking about it all day, I'm sure it's something like 74724.1609 — but that's not it. Darnit.
There was a time I was more familiar with my CompuServe ID than my own birthday. For those too young or not geeky enough to know what "CompuServe" was, Wikipedia to the rescue...
CompuServe (CompuServe Information Service, also known by its acronym CIS) was the first major commercial online service in the United States. It dominated the field during the 1980s and remained a major player through the mid-1990s, when it was sidelined by the rise of services such as AOL with monthly subscriptions rather than hourly rates.
While nowhere near as magical as the modern-day internet, CompuServe certainly felt more magical back in the day. Despite the fact it was glacially slow and massively expensive, it was 200% wonderful, and I would have spent all day using it if I had the time and money to do so. Finding new friends... joining common interest groups... exchanging information... downloading programs... doing research... even accessing a rudimentary internet gateway... CompuServe had it all. For a big fat price.
Luckily we all had Bulletin Board Systems to fill the gap. They were every bit as entertaining in their own way and, most importantly, free... assuming you could get past a busy signal.
Until AOL came along.
Cheaper, faster, prettier, more expansive, and a lot easier to use... AOL bested CompuServe in almost every way.
Just like the internet would eventually best AOL.
And everything else.
Still, nostalgia for the good ol' days dictates that I should still remember my CompuServe ID...
Nope. I got nuthin'.
Odds are, this post isn't going to be of any interest to you.
But the math geek in me feels that it should, so I am pushing onward.
Wolfram Research is a company that's been evolving the language of mathematics for over 25 years now. Initially, this was via a program called Mathematica, which I used back in the late 90's to map out data for a shareholder newsletter I was responsible for. It's an elegant and easy solution to creating visuals out of complex sets of information. Eventually Mathematica lead to Wolfram Alpha, a "computational knowledge engine." It's a really cool tool that anybody can use for free on the Wolfram Alpha website (click on the "examples" link to get some idea of the amazing things it can do). If you have an iPhone and ask Siri something which requires calculation, you're already familiar with Wolfram Alpha, because that's where Siri goes for answers.
Fast forward to today, and we get the Wolfram Language... a programming language leveraging the power of Mathematica. Mind-blowing stuff.
Galileo Galilei is noted for saying "Mathematics is the language with which God has written the universe." If this is true, here's your chance to play God...
I think of myself as a kid learning how to program code using crude computer languages like BASIC and PASCAL, and I can't help but wonder what I might have created if tools like the Wolfram Language were around.
Oh the interesting times we live in.
This morning I made the heinous error of starting work at 4:00am.
So I was pretty much done by noon. Except I couldn't be done by noon, and so I pushed through for another six hours.
I have nothing left for this blog. So I offer this...
Have a nice evening.
No more bitching about how your favorite movie/actor/director didn't win an Oscar, because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Oscar! First of all, I just have to say that Ellen DeGeneres did an amazing job as host. Funny, entertaining, yet still nice to everybody. And now my take on the big awards...
• Marshmallow! And speaking of Frozen... there's a lot of things I could say about this brilliant Disney animated feature. Maybe that will happen later in the week. In the meanwhile, how much does everybody love Marshmallow? Probably my favorite animated character since Sully from Monster's Inc....
If you love Marshmallow too, be sure to keep watching past the Frozen credits.
• Ark! As I mentioned a year-and-a-half ago when I visited The Creation Museum, the group behind it all (Answers in Genesis) is working on a second museum... ARK ENCOUNTER! Apparently it's going to be a life-size replica of Noah's Ark (or something like that). They were in a bit of financial trouble but, after their leader Ken Ham had a much-publicized debate with Bill Nye The Science Guy, it apparently garnered them enough attention that they got their money after all. Personally, I can't wait to go... even though I believe absolutely none of it...
There's some pretty harsh criticism of Bill Nye for giving Ken Ham a platform to "legitimatize" his beliefs... but that seems kinda lame. I may vehemently disagree with Ken Ham, but I find value in understanding what he (and countless others) believe to be true, so I was happy to have a chance to see him actively debating it. And I'm looking forward to ARK ENCOUNTER as well... if it's as nicely done as The Creation Museum, it'll be worth a stop.
• About! Nick Hornby's About a Boy is a remarkable book that I've read at least three times. Much to my shock, the movie adaptation starring Hugh Grant was quite good... though very different in parts (and with a crappy Hollywood ending slapped on). So when I heard NBC was creating a television series for About a Boy, I was intrigued...
And so I watched it only to find out it was TOTAL SHIT. As an adaptation of the book. As a television show though? Not terrible. Not good, but not terrible. It seems to be based more on the movie adaptation than the book, but it fails pretty badly there too. The concept is the same, however. Will Freeman's dad wrote a hit Christmas song that set him up for life. Since he doesn't have to worry about money, he's living a self-absorbed life that revolves around fun instead of responsibility. Enter Marcus Brewer. He's an odd kid (mostly due to his mother, Fiona, who has severe emotional problems), and he's ruthlessly bullied at school. Will and Marcus cross paths, and both their lives are forever changed. The movie, while not entirely faithful to the book, does get a number of things right. Most importantly, they very clearly show just how miserable a life that Marcus leads and how terrifying it is to not know from moment to moment whether his mom is going to survive her depression. The TV show? Pretty much none of that. They focus more on Will being an idiot than the boy in About a Boy. And that's the biggest problem. The kid playing Marcus is good, but you never feel for him or his situation. And that leads to the entire premise of the show falling apart. And who knows if we'll ever see Ellie, a critical character from the book who was glossed over in the film and seems to be absent from the TV show entirely (so far). I dunno. I guess I'll give it a shot for a while, but my love of the book and movie is kind of killing me here. Maybe if I play the absolutely amazing movie soundtrack while I watch the TV version it'll be more tolerable?
• OREO! So Marshmallow Crispy OREOs and Cookie Dough OREOs happened a while back, but I've only just now gotten around to trying them...
Love the Marshmallow Crispy version. They're very sweet, but the crap actually tastes like a Rice Krispies treat in the middle! The Cookie Dough? Not so much. The flavor is vaguely there, but it actually seems more like
Sorry to end on a down-note, but I do proclaim this Sunday's bullets ended!
There's some irony that my copy of the Kickstarter-backed book project I wonder what it's like to be dyslexic shows up the day after John Travolta transformed "Idina Menzel" into "Adele Dazeem" while introducing the singer at the Oscars.
I, for one, don't know whether or not John Travolta has dyslexia. It doesn't show up in his Wikipedia profile, and a cursory Google search doesn't reveal an interview where he discusses it. When people talk about John Travolta having dyslexia, I think they are confusing him with fellow Scientologist Tom Cruise, who has stated that Scientology helped him to overcome his dyslexia. Honest mistake, I guess.
However... as somebody who lives with a mild form of dyslexia, I can say that mangling "Idina Menzel" into "Adele Dazeem" certainly feels like something which can be attributed to dyslexia. But not everybody with dyslexia experiences it the same way, so the only person who can say for sure whether it was a factor is... John Travolta.
All I can do is speculate based on my experience, which would go something like this...
For the most part, seeing words as being made up of letters is not how I read. The Roman alphabet upon which English writing is based has letterforms that easily transform or flipped around when viewed individually. Thus my mind can play havoc with "p" and "q" and "d" and "b"... all of which can be mistaken for each other. And that's just the beginning. English has numerous complexities that make understanding words from letters no easy chore.
Nope. How I seem to read is to recognize words by their shape... as most people do, to a certain extent. But since I ignore the letters, which can be confusing, the shape alone is critical to comprehension. Which is why there are many factors that lead to how easily and how quickly I can absorb something. The contrast between letter color and the background color... the size of the text... how far apart the letters are... how wide the letters are... how tired I am... etc. etc. etc. But the biggest factor by far? The typeface (or font) used. If things get too fancy or deviate too far from the standard letterforms I read 96% of the time, my reading speed takes a dive and things get a bit difficult...
As illustrated above, cursive fonts are the worst. Unlike "standard" serif and sans-serif fonts which maintain a distinct shape... cursive writing just degenerate into a mess of lines to me. There's no "form" for me to pull out of the words, so I have to struggle through the actual letters to try and figure out what I'm reading. As you can imagine, things like wedding invitations, fancy poetry journals, and the like can be a real bitch.
Which brings us to Adele Dazeem.
Reading by shape pretty much requires that most of the words you're reading are words you're familiar with and can recognize.
"Idina" and "Menzel" are not such words. Beautiful as it is, John Smith it ain't. Enter the dyslexic swapity-do, where syllables get shuffled in your head as you strugle to make sense of the letters and what they're spelling to you...
Now, I'm not making excuses here. I don't even know for sure if Travolta is dyslexic. If he is though... the pressure of presenting an unfamiliar and difficult name live in front of a bazillion Oscar viewers is going to be rough-going no matter how much you've prepared. Even if he memorized the intro, it's not a guarantee of success when words are a struggle for you. All I can say for sure is this: If John Travolta is dyslexic, I very much admire the guts it takes to put yourself in a high-pressure situation (like live television) where words are involved.
And while I think it's a bit harsh to make fun of someone who is challenged with something as fundamental as reading... having a sense of humor over stuff like this is kinda essential.
Thus I, Dawid Shunter, give you... The Adele Dazeem Name Generator!
Here's hoping your Monday was better than John Travolta's.
Unless you ARE John Travolta, in which case... I LOVED YOU IN PULP FICTION!
IT'S FAT TUESDAY, PEOPLE!!!
I know I've posted this DaveToon before, but it's one of my all-time favorites. Just like New Orleans. Happy Mardi Gras, everybody...
And now I want a piece of King Cake.
The video was recorded on an old VHS tape which had been in service far past the point it should have been discarded. Carter's annoyance with the badly degraded image caused his right eye to twitch, but nobody in the room seemed to notice.
"Look! Look at this!" Carter said as his finger punched the rewind button yet again. Then, for what seemed like the fiftieth time, he pressed play.
The VCR lurched into action with a heavy "clunk" as the tiny television came to life.
A nondescript convenience store materialized out of a wash of video noise. The image was so bleached of color that it might as well have been black and white. The camera was focused on the service counter where a young man was ringing up purchases into a cash register. His customer, a middle-aged man in a full business suit, stood waiting with his wallet open.
There was no sound, but everybody's imagination was filling in the blanks. A 2-liter bottle of Coke. Beep Beep Beep. A bag of OREO cookies. Beep Beep Beep. A roll of mints. Beep Beep.
The image began to shudder as a blast of jagged white lines started rolling through the picture. Then, just as suddenly as it had been obscured, the image cleared again. The store clerk had finished ringing up the man's purchases and was dumping everything into a plastic bag. The customer tossed a wad of bills on the counter as a woman appeared behind him holding a six-pack of beer in her left hand.
"Here it comes!" Carter whispered.
The woman, who had very dark skin, closely-cropped hair, and was wearing a magenta mini-skirt that burst out of the muted display like a signal flare, was talking to the man now. It was impossible to know what she was saying, but the man appeared calm and relaxed.
At least he was until she pulled a gun out of the breast pocket of her heavy black leather jacket and shot him twice in the heart.
Carter laughed with a high-pitched squeal and started rewinding the tape again. "Just look at you there with your big gun and stiletto heels! What a mess you made!"
"I know, I was there."
The woman from the video sat bound to a high-back chair. Her jacket was now splattered with blood that had dried to a dark carmine color. One of her eyes was swollen and her lip had been split. This time the blood was fresh and glistened a bright crimson.
"Yes. Yes... you... were," Carter said with a grumble as he pressed play for what seemed like the fifty-first time. The woman's eyes rolled back in her head as the scene started yet again.
"Tell me, Monica, because I truly am curious... who got to you? Who convinced you that betraying me was in your best interest? Who was it that deluded you into believing this was survivable?"
On the display, a store clerk was ringing up a 2-liter bottle of Coke. Now, in the recorded past, he's reaching for a bag of OREOs.
The woman tried to shift her position to something more comfortable, but the tubing that tied her to the chair was too tight. She tried twisting her torso to loosen her bonds, but was defeated. With nothing better to do, she began to speak. Carter stopped the tape and tossed the VCR remote on a nearby table.
"Your interdimensional friends, of course," Monica said, her voice eerily flat and expressionless. "They told me everything. They spoke to me from a beam of sunlight and told me that you were going to destroy the world."
If Carter was surprised, he didn't show it.
"But you're wrong about one thing. They never told me this was survivable. I have no delusions."
Now something changed on Carter's face. Fear?
The woman began to speak again, but her voice was drowned out by a high-pitched squeal. Carter and his assortment of hired killers were all covering their ears. Monica would have covered hers if she could, but she was tied to a chair and couldn't move. It didn't matter. The sound was growing louder, and nothing was going to stop it.
Despite the deafening audio assault hammering into her skull and the brilliant white glow clawing its way out of her chest, the woman smiled. She had sacrificed herself so that the whole world might live. She had atoned for her many sins and, if there were a heaven, she was guaranteed entry. After a decade of despair, she finally had something to smile about. She finally understood.
And then Monica exploded in ball of light, taking six city blocks with her.
Carter died wondering how things had gone so terribly wrong.
Sixteen dimensions away, a sunbeam quivers in amusement. Tomorrow he will shift back through the time stream and find something new to play with. But today? This refraction is over, and he's hungry. He wonders what frequency of photons will be served for dinner. There are no shadows in his world.
Two weeks until I blow this popsicle stand for twelve whole days...
Guess I should really start making plans and stuff.
Every time there's a mishap, problem, disaster, or close-call with a flight, I'm inevitably asked something along the lines of "You fly a lot... don't you worry about this happening to you?"
To which I always answer "No. Not even a little bit."
And every time I say it, I realize that people must think I'm lying... or dismissing them... or saying whatever I have to say to convince myself that I'm invincible. But I'm really not. And this is why...
That's a FlightRadar24 map of all the commercial planes in the air right now. Thousands of them. And here's a close-up look at what's flying over the mainland US alone...
That's pretty much going on all day long, though things shift a bit as some parts of the world go to sleep and other parts wake up. With this kind of traffic in the air 24/7, it's easy to see how flying truly IS one of the safest activities you can do. My drive to the airport is a far, far more dangerous journey than my upcoming flight to Europe.
And so no, I don't worry about flying.
Not even a little bit.
If it happens, it happens. But the odds are so mind-bogglingly low that it's just not worth fretting over.
Getting trapped in a middle-seat between a smelly person and a crying baby however?
My deepest sympathies to everyone affected by the disappearance of Malaysian Flight MH370.
Today was a piece of crap smothered by a pile of shit kind of day.
As if that weren't bad enough, everybody in North America living where Stupid Fucking Daylight Saving Time is observed has to "Spring Forward" with their clocks tonight. Which means there's one less hour of sleep tomorrow morning. Which means that everybody's internal clock is going to be fucked up for a couple weeks. Which means everybody's cranky and unproductive. Which means everybody is angry and nothing gets done...
Stupid Fucking Daylight Saving Time. I MEAN, COME ON! PICK A TIME SCHEME AND STICK WITH IT! SERIOUSLY, EITHER SPLIT THE DIFFERENCE OR JUST FUCKING PICK ONE. I DON'T EVEN GIVE A SHIT WHICH ONE... STANDARD TIME... DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME... AMERICAN SAMOA TIME... WHATEVER TIME YOU WANT. JUST STOP DICKING AROUND WITH THE DAMN CLOCKS!
Okay then. I'm good for six months now.
Hope you're fully functional on one less hour of sleep today... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Persecution? My very first bullet of the day got a little out of control, so I'm saving it for an entry of its own tomorrow. Don't you love it when that happens? I'm a blog entry ahead for once!
• No Sale! Ke$ha has exited rehab... and celebrated the occasion by dropping the dollar-sign from her name! Say wha-?!? So now Ke$ha is Kesha and I'm not sure what that's going to mean for the future. Hopefully it still includes her working a metal plate on her crotch with a metal grinder, because isn't that what we all expect out of Ke$ha... errr... Kesha?
Whatever she calls herself, best of luck as she gets out of rehab and moves on with her life and her music.
• Enlisted! This show is so much better than it has a right to be...
Seriously. I had -zero- hope for this series. The ads all looked stupid-horrible. The concept of three brothers in the Army sounded lame. The only reason I bothered to tune in at all was because I liked Geoff Stults in The Finder. After the first episode, I was in shock that I liked it. The show was more smart than stupid... more funny than not. After the second episode, I was upset that I ended up liking it even more. Now I've just given up all pretenses of hating Enlisted and enjoy watching it. If you haven't given it a try, and you like comedy, it might be worth a look.
• Wenatchee! The valley in which I live is abuzz over this pretty new promo video that was released this week...
What's odd... or maybe it's not odd at all... is that the video barely touches on the City of Wenatchee itself. They fly above it. They explore around it. They look at it from afar. But I'm guessing only 5% of the footage actually takes place there. City streets, buildings, parks, public spaces, services, and all the other stuff that someone visiting Wenatchee proper would recognize and see... it's all condensed into a few seconds. Growing up in this area, I used to think that Wenatchee was a boring shithole in the middle of some nice scenery. And while the city has grown and changed since those days... along with my attitude towards it... it seems as though the filmmakers felt the best thing about Wenatchee was getting the hell out of it. So I guess I can relate. I've been there. And I've been to Wenatchee too.
• Quark! For a hefty amount of time in computing history, desktop publishing was owned by a single company, Quark, and their software solution, QuarkXpress. It was a majestic mess of a program that I always hated... so much so that I would often-times use Adobe Illustrator for page layout, even though it was ill-equipped to handle that task. I didn't care. I'd rather juggle 50 separate Adobe Illustrator files than a single 50-page document in Quark because it was ultimately far less hassle. Even their "competition," PageMaker, which was woefully underpowered for serious DTP was a better choice. Quark was a buggy, crash-prone mess that ate up so much time, money, and resources that anything was a better solution. Then Adobe came out with InDesign, which was sheer nirvana compared to shitty Quark, and I never looked back. Even when somebody sent me a Quark file to work with, I'd inevitably recreate the entire thing in InDesign from scratch because it would be less work than having to fire up Xpress to deal with it.
Whether that's your experience with Xpress mimics mine... or whether you loved it with a passion that InDesign could never match... anyone who has been touched by QuarkXpress should read this terrific article over at Ars about the rise and fall of a giant.
• HBO! And lastly? This fan-made mash-up trailer for Game of Thrones... as if it were airing in the 1990's... is pure genius, even if you know nothing about the show...
Seriously. This is a flawless victory so far as tributes go.
And now? Bullets be gone!
And here's that missing bullet from yesterday...
When it comes to the politics of religion, I generally remain silent because the fallout just isn't worth it. Even when I make a simple observation on the topic with no opinion whatsoever, it seems I end up with hate-mail or nasty comments. And it's not just here on Blogography. I once made the following comment on Facebook...
"Separation of church and state only seems to work one way, and that's to the sole benefit of the churches. They are given tax-exempt status so that their financial operations are kept separate from the government, as interpreted by the First Amendment, and that's fine. That's the law. But more and more we are seeing churches being actively involved in politics and government. They use their monies to sponsor candidates for public office, back legislation, contribute to lobbying efforts, and otherwise influence or control matters of the state. They are clearly not maintaining a separation from their side of the bargain. And yet there are no repercussions for them doing so. Get caught stepping over the line and you should be getting your tax exempt status revoked. But how often do we hear of that happening? Our government is tasked with upholding The Constitution and protecting the religious freedoms of the people they serve. Apparently this doesn't include protecting a person's freedom from religion. Which is why I want to vomit every time I see somebody claiming that they're being persecuted because they can't put Jesus on top of a post office... or same-sex couples can get married... or somebody says "happy holidays"... or whatever. Clearly, they have no fucking clue what "persecution" even means. Some churches have evolved into tax-free political action committees operating outside the law, and nobody does shit about it. The truth is that the only people being persecuted in this scenario are people wanting to live their lives free from religious rule and have a government free from church influence."
I ended up having to de-friend two Facebook "friends" and completely blocked a third over it.
And so I try to avoid the subject entirely, even though I think things are far worse now than they were when I wrote that five years ago. As churches and people of faith... namely, the Christian Right... feel more and more threatened by things they don't like (e.g. marriage equality), they've stepped up the persecution rhetoric to an all-time high. Many times I've wanted to write about this grotesque mockery of people who are enduring actual religious persecution... and the height of hypocrisy fueling it... yet I have resisted.
But now I don't have to write about it because somebody has written about it for me: News Flash to Christian Right: Religious Freedom Doesn't Give You the Right to Control Other People. So thank you, Robert Boston.
The only reservation I have over endorsing articles like this is the same one I always have... it does not apply to all Christians. I'm guessing it doesn't apple to most Christians. Not only that, but it could equally apply to any religious organization which feels their beliefs should dictate how other people live their lives in a society built on freedom of religion.
Or Freedom from Religion, as the case may be.
I am watching a new show called Believe off my DVR. It seems to be a "girl with special powers on the run" rip-off of Steven King's Firestarter, except it's total shit... which is surprising given the fact that it was created by Alfonso Cuarón and is being produced by J.J. Abrams. Right now a little girl just started screaming her head off which is exactly the kind of thing I go out of my way to avoid in real life. Why somebody would think I want to listen to this crap as entertainment is beyond me. What's next? A man stares at the camera while chewing with his mouth open and clipping his fingernails?
HELPFUL HINT: If You are creating a television series, try not to actively annoy the ever-loving-shit out of your viewers. And if you do, don't expect them to hang around.
Which is advice I should have given myself when it comes to writing in this blog.
But at least I don't make my viewers sit through a bunch of commercials. That's gotta count for something, right?
Ever since the time change, I've been sleeping worse than ever. I never thought I'd look back on insomnia with longing, but at least then I was getting 4-5 hours rest a night. Now? I don't sleep at all. Even sleeping pills fail completely. I nap for maybe 20-30 minutes, two or three times a night. That's it. To be honest, I don't know how I'm conscious... let alone how I'm managing to type coherent sentences.
At least I'm guessing they are coherent.
I'd check, but there's a chocolate alligator blocking my keyboard and I won't be able to get rid of him until this bag of potato chips lands in my toothbrush. Or the taco bar beams me up again. Which would be great, because I'm really craving carpet tape. The kind with extra 2400 baud modem... not the kind that swims with toilet paper.
The cornerstone of my life-philosophy is to "Live In The Now."
But that's proving extremely difficult given that the long-awaited Veronica Mars movie is finally being released tomorrow. As if that weren't enough distraction, in a mere seven days I'm off to Europe. So I don't want to live in the now. I want to live in the future...
...but after I finish my chocolate pudding.
Veronica Mars is my second favorite television show of all time. Coincidentally enough, Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas (not the singer) is also responsible for my first favorite television show of all time, Cupid (the Jeremy Piven original, not the shitty remake). Given my adoration of all things Rob Thomas, I had zero hesitation in joining 91,584 other fans in supporting his highly successful Kickstarter campaign to bring Veronica Mars to the big screen.
As part of my "reward" for being a backer, I get a digital copy of the film so I can watch it on the day of release. Which is today. Much to my horror, the code to access the film wasn't through iTunes, but instead via UltraViolet, which is one of the single biggest technological pieces of shit of all time. But I'll get into that in an extended entry. Meanwhile, back to the movie...
I'm just going to come out and say it. The central "whodunit mystery" around which the story revolves is pretty lame. A few red herrings, but none of the twists and turns or shocking revelations that made the television show so compelling. This is hardly surprising. The movie has the rather daunting disadvantage of having to educate viewers new to the franchise plus showcasing enough insider goodies to satisfy die-hard fans as well as having to catch up with an entire cast of characters people haven't seen for seven years.
To be honest, I'm surprised they managed to fit a mystery in there at all.
But squeeze it in they did, and the result is a love-letter to everybody who put up their hard-earned money to get the film made. Which is to say it's a total success story, and I don't think anybody who's a fan of the show is going to be disappointed.
The plot is fairly straight-forward. Veronica's bad-boy ex-boyfriend, Logan Echolls, has been framed for murder, which results in Veronica dropping her new life in New York City so she can return home to help him out after nine long years away. Once back in Neptune, which is even more deadly, ruthless, and corrupt than ever, we catch up with all her old friends and enemies. Well, not all of them... but most of them. The laundry list of cameo appearances is shockingly long.
Where the movie shines is in the way the Rob Thomas manages to get everybody on that list involved in the story. Yes, a few of the cameos are just quick distractions (hey, Corny!), but the bulk of them are carefully interwoven into events so they are appearing for a reason. Not many writers could pull that off without everything degenerating into a pile of crap, but Thomas seems to excel at it. And that's the fun. That's what makes the movie so darn good. Yes, your appreciation of the murder mystery is deeper if you know that Carrie Bishop put herself in the firing line to seek revenge for her best friend Susan Knight getting seduced and knocked up by their history professor. Yes, Piz's familiarity with Wallace and Mac makes more sense if you knew that Piz was Wallace's roommate in college. Yes, Veronica's relationship with her father is more meaningful if you know that she destroyed his chance at a career, but he still loves her unconditionally anyway. Yes, there are scads of moments in the film that only pay-off fully if you're intimately familiar with the Veronica Mars universe. But, much to my surprise, it's still perfectly watchable even if you've never seen a minute of the television show.
But totally watch all three seasons of the television show if you plan on seeing the movie. It's so much sweeter if you do, and the original show is required viewing anyway.
So two thumbs way up and no spoilers from me!
And my heartfelt thanks and gratitude to Rob Thomas, Kristen Bell, and everybody else who worked so hard to get the movie made. It was worth the wait. And if there's a Kickstarter campaign for a sequel... TAKE ALL MY MONEY, PLEASE! Heaven only knows the ending to the movie leaves that door wide open (perfect for the forthcoming line of books).
BONUS FEATURE! I was very happy to hear that one of my favorite bands, Mackintosh Braun, has a great new song on the Veronica Mars soundtrack. Here's their lyrics video for Don't Give In for your listening pleasure...
And now, for anybody who wants to read a rant about my efforts to plow though the pile of shit that is the "UltraViolet" digital video service, that's in an extended entry...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
You often hear "Youth is wasted on the young."
Less often you may hear "Wealth is wasted on the rich."
Something you don't hear very often is "Intelligence is wasted on the smart." And that's probably because smart people are smart enough to put their intelligence to good use.
But not always.
I've seen a lot of stupid people do a lot of stupid shit.
Most times it's relatively harmless... like when somebody gets drunk, decides they can fly, then jumps off the roof and breaks their leg. So they end up in a cast for a while and learn a valuable lesson. Which they will immediately forget the next time they get drunk. Because they're stupid.
Sometimes it's tragic... like when somebody gets drunk, decides they can fly, then hijacks a plane and crashes it into a football stadium during playoffs. So they end up dead for a while and learn a valuable lesson. Which, unfortunately, took their life and the lives of thousands of other people to learn. Because they're stupid.
But whatever. There's no sense getting too worked up over it because it's stupidity and that's what stupid does.
No, it's when I see smart people doing stupid shit that I fly into a rage. They should know better. They're smarter than that. They have the ability make better choices.
Today I had to deal with the consequences of somebody who is incredibly smart doing something mind-bogglingly stupid. They made a horrible decision which is not only going to destroy their own life, but is going to affect a lot of people in a bad way for a long time. And the more the situation sinks in the angrier I get and the more I want to know why. Why did you do it? What could you have possibly been thinking? How could you let this happen? Why? WHY? WHY? WHY?
And so, against my better judgement, I asked them.
"I don't know."
You don't know?!? Really? BZZZZZZT! WRONG ANSWER! That's the answer a stupid person gives. That's the answer that comes from somebody who never bothers to think about what they're doing or what the consequences might be. That's the answer from a person who just doesn't give a fuck and has resolved to live their life free of responsibility. That's the answer you get from idiots who "don't know" because they never know anything. They don't know and they don't care that they don't know, so they never make the effort to know, and THAT'S what makes them stupid.
You often hear "Even smart people make stupid decisions".
I know first-hand that this is true.
But if you're a smart person making a stupid decision that's going to ruin lives, you'd better damn well come up with a better answer than "I don't know."
The people who cared for you and trusted you deserve better than your playing the stupid card.
Stop digging out that old bomb shelter... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Cold? "Russia is the only country in the world that is realistically capable of turning the United States into radioactive ash." — Kremlin-backed television presenter Dmitry Kiselyov, host of a weekly current affairs show in Russia. Behind him was a backdrop of a mushroom cloud following a nuclear blast. (from Reuters)
You wanna know what bothers me more than the thought of being turned into radioactive ash? I really, really, want to visit Russia. I always have. Ever since I first saw a photo of Saint Basil's Cathedral in Red Square. For most of my life, the idea of it has been an impossibility. But then the Soviet Union collapses, the cold war thaws, relations normalize, tourism becomes more and more common, and suddenly... but not really suddenly... the impossible becomes possible...
And now I'm asking myself... Are current tensions going to blow over? Are current tensions going to escalate? What happens if they do escalate? Have I waited too long? Am I too late?
Last year I ultimately decided to visit Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. But also in the running? A river cruise through the Ukraine, including a couple stops in Crimea...
I guess that ship has sailed... for a while. Or forever. You just never know. How shitty is it that we can't all just get along?
• Flash! The first two comic books I ever bought were Green Lantern/Green Arrow #121 and The Flash #277. Not coincidentally, they became my favorite super-heroes for quite a while...
At least until I discovered The Legion of Super-Heroes. And Batman, of course. But even so, I've always had a soft spot in my heart for those first heroes. Green Lantern finally made it to the big screen with a fucking horrendously shitty movie that I hated. Then Green Arrow got a very good television show I'm currently enjoying called Arrow. Next up? The Flash!
It's a spin-off from Arrow, so my hopes are high. The costume is certainly a step in the right direction.
This isn't the first iteration of The Flash on TV. The first was a show starring John Wesley Shipp back in 1990. It was surprisingly good, but limited by the technology of the day. To say I'm anxious to see what we'll be getting in the year 2014 is an understatement. The pilot is filming now. I'm assuming we'll be seeing it this Fall. Assuming the show is picked up. That's a lot of assuming.
• Drop. Apple has a terrific bit of tech called "AirDrop" that allows you to share iPhone/iPad photos, contacts, files, and whatnot pretty much effortlessly. Open what you want to share, activate AirDrop, and you can beam stuff to other AirDrop users...
Apple has a terrific bit of tech called "AirDrop" that allows you to share Macintosh photos, contacts, files, and whatnot pretty much effortlessly. Locate the file you want to share in the Finder, activate AirDrop, and you can beam stuff to other AirDrop users...
BUT YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT'S NOT COOL?!? EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE BOTH CALLED "AIRDROP," THE iPHONE AND MAC TECHNOLOGIES ARE NOT FUCKING COMPATIBLE! This is outrageously stupid and, for the life of me, I just don't get it. I keep thinking "It's coming any day now, I'm sure!" But then it doesn't, and I get pissed off all over again. Why bother naming them both "AirDrop" if they are so different that they can't even talk to each other? How is it that Apple can be so smart in so many ways but so stupid in others?
• Stick! I promised myself that I wouldn't start in on the new video game, SOUTH PARK: THE STICK OF TRUTH, until I finished LEGO MARVEL SUPER-HEROES, but I just couldn't resist any longer. I'm a massively huge South Park fan, and the trailer looked amazing (warning, NOT safe for work)...
And you know what? It IS amazing! It looks exactly like you're "playing" an episode of the TV series. As if that weren't enough, it is frickin' hilarious. As in laugh-out-loud-funny. Not only because it's South Park, but because they've managed to create a fully-realized RPG game that's actually a parody of RPG games... with humor built into practically everything you see and do. I'll want to play it a bit more when I get back from vacation before I write a review... but, if you're a South Park and video game fan, it's pretty much a no-brainer. You simply must own this.
• Mars 2. The Veronica Mars movie (which I reviewed here) has only been out for three days, and already the sequel talk has started. Here's creator Rob Thomas Himself..
“With the first movie, because it was crowd-funded, it was a love letter to the fans,” he explains. “I put every character they loved back into the movie. There are a lot of inside jokes. With a second movie, I would build it from the case out. In the first movie, I feel like I did just the opposite. I put all the dessert, all the frosting on there, and then put a detective case in the middle. On the next one, I would want the detective case to be the driving force of the movie.”
It's as if he read my blog post and is answering my prayers!
Needless to say, I would be positively thrilled to get a sequel. Especially if we get a fantastic Veronica-Mars-style mystery on-par with what we saw in the first and second seasons of the show. NOW SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!
Annnnnd... the end.
I had an incredibly difficult day today.
Which wouldn't have been so bad... it's a Monday, after all... except I worked all weekend to get caught up so I would have an easy Monday.
All for naught, it would seem.
And now? I just want it all to end. St. Patrick's Day or no...
One of these years I really need to draw a new DaveToon for the holiday.
Most of my day was spent thinking "One more day. Just one more day. One. More. Day."
One more day until Winter is over. One more day until Spring is here.
One more day until I leave. One more day until I'm on vacation.
I can't fathom what tomorrow is going to be like. I can only guess I'll be skipping down the street while singing "Tomorrow! Tomorrow! I love yA, tomorrow. You're only a day awaaaayyyyyy!"
Which would be pretty odd considering how much I hate that song.
Well, unless it's being sung by little Quvenzhane Wallis. How adorable is she?
And now... packing.
I had planned to catch up on work over the weekend so I'd have an easy three days leading up to vacation. Instead I worked 16 hours every day and will be up working until at least midnight tonight.
I had planned on having my suitcase packed and everything ready to go yesterday so that I could spend a night relaxing before driving over to Seattle to catch my flight. I think we all know that didn't happen. I'll be lucky if I manage to grab a handful of clean underwear as I'm running out the door tomorrow morning.
I honestly don't know who I manage to get myself into this same situation every single time I go on vacation...
Oh well. After tomorrow I suppose it won't matter.
Until I end up in Europe with no pants.
I woke up.
I finished packing.
I drove over to Seattle.
I made my way through SeaTac Airport (barely, as it was torn to shit as usual).
Then I caught a flight to the Netherlands.
Or... the beginning?
The flight over The Atlantic was a non-event. Which is the best kind of flight to have, really.
The plane was one of Delta's latest Airbus A330-300's which feels like the seats are even narrower than usual. It was uncomfortable for me... so I'm only guessing it must be downright miserable for at least half the passengers on the plane. I suppose it's only a matter of time before airlines do away with seats altogether. They'll just stack everybody in the plane like firewood.
On the bright side, the new entertainment system features Picture-In-Picture...
After landing, I took the train to Leiden so I could kill some time until The Dutch Bitch got off work. Back in 2012 I walked around the city to see the sights, but this time it was pouring rain...
To escape the weather, I went to Leiden's National Ethnology Museum, (Museum Volkenkunde)...
It features artifacts from peoples around the world (outside of Europe), with sections devoted to North America, South & Central America, Africa, Asia, and Oceania...
The museum is incredibly well-done and has a surprisingly deep collection. The only problem is that everything is suspended in glass cases with no background, so it can be tough to focus on the artifacts. A few times I experimented with angle-shifting to see if I could add some separation, but it wasn't terribly effective...
The display spaces are pretty amazing, and full-wall projections are used to put you into the place where the artifacts are from...
And then? It was time for PATATJES MET!!!
And now I could really use a nap...
I've been meaning to get to Rotterdam for years now, and today it finally happened.
The reason I most wanted to visit was so I could see the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. It's one of those places that comes up in conversation from time to time when discussing art. It totally lives up to the hype...
From the minute you enter and see how the coat-check room is a series of cages for your belongings and a rope-and-pulley system for your coat, you know you're in for something good...
The collection is varied and excellent...
After I managed to pul myself away from the exhibits, I saw that I had plenty of time to walk to the waterfront and see Erasmusbrug (the Erasmus Bridge... also known as the "Swan Bridge" or the "Harp Bridge), then take the metro back to the train station...
As most of Rotterdam was destroyed in World War II, the city has a modern aesthetic, with a lot of new architectural and artistic structures...
I had about 25 minutes to get back to Rotterdam Centraal, which was no problem since the metro only takes 10 minutes.
When I went to purchase a ticket, I found out I couldn't buy one. The machine only refilled chip-cards. No problem, I'll just buy a chip-card. Except they don't fucking sell chip-cards. No ticket window. No attendant. No Assistance. Nothing.
So I had to run as fast as I could to get back to the train station.
I hauled ass.
Which was not easy because I don't run very often. At least once along the way I thought I was going to have a heart attack.
But I made it to the station with two minutes to spare, so it's all good, right?
No. My train was running 14 minutes late and so I ran all that way for nothing...
Note how my transfer time is 0 minutes. But not really... if you do the math, it's actually -7 minutes. Yay.
After all that bullshit, I decided I deserved PATATJES MET...
Well, I always feel that way, but still...
Unleash the haggis... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Prayers. Truly horrible news from back home... a massive mudslide has devastated a residential area east of Arlington in my home state of Washington. All my hopes go out to friends who have family amongst the 18 people still missing... along with everybody else affected by this tragic event.
• Air Yet another excellent flight on KLM Royal Dutch Airlines... this time from Amsterdam to Glasgow. My only disappointment was that they didn't hand out landing cards for non-EU citizens during the quick 1-1/2 hour trip, which meant I had to fill one out at the airport. But that's hardly worth complaining about. Oh, a bit of advice... when offered a choice between "sweet snack and savory snack," go for the savory snack, it's a packet of incredible Gouda cheese biscuits.
• Immigration. When you arrive at passport control there's a big sign telling you that tougher border control laws in the UK will cause a longer wait. Since I was at the front of the plane I didn't have many people ahead of me... but the sign wasn't lying. I've been to the UK many times, but on this trip I really got the third degree. They wanted to know absolutely everything about me, my job, my past travels, and the purpose of my visit. Usually I just say "tourist" but, given the level of detail they were drilling for, I literally said "I am a Hard Rock Cafe collector and I am here to visit the new Hard Rock Cafe Glasgow." Then I had to explain what I collected and what else I would be doing while in the UK. And then... then... because I am such a shifty-looking character, I had to go through it all over again with a police inspector. Despite the hassle, everybody was friendly and welcoming, so I guess there's that.
• Cash. I never bother getting local currency for my destination ahead of time, because I usually get a better exchange rate by using a cash machine when I land. The only problem being that Glasgow's airport only has a pitiful four ATMs, all of which have insanely long lines. Since I had to have cash for bus fare into town, I was forced to wait. So lesson learned. I'll be going home with a few quid in my pocket for my next trip to the UK, as it would seem cash machines are a rare and elusive creature in these lands.
• No. 153. And, now, the reason for my visit... The Hard Rock Glasgow. Like many of the UK properties (both current and past), the cafe is located in a beautiful old building. This particular cafe is in a great location, directly across from the Queen's Street train station on Buchanan Street, a popular shopping district in the city. It's not at all flashy, and would be easy to miss if you weren't looking for it...
The interior is truly bizarre... in the best possible way. It's equal parts classical architecture and starship Enterprise...
The bathrooms are located off a spiral staircase that's filled with silver guitar sculptures...
The surprisingly-spacious Rock Shop is at the front of the building, and you pass right by it coming and going...
All in all, a terrific property. Alas, sadly, the rock memorabilia adheres to the new "hipster lounge" aesthetic so it's badly displayed and there's not much of it, but at least the building is interesting. Oh... and if you're not a vegetarian like myself, you'll be happy to know that the specialty burger for this Hard Rock is a hamburger smothered in haggis with cheese on top!
• In A World... I was saddened to learn that one of the most famous voices on the planet, Hal Douglas, passed away. If you've ever seen a US movie trailer, odds are you know who he is... even if you didn't know his name...
One of kind. You will be missed, sir.
And now I must say cheerio, as I am falling asleep as I type this.
When I learned that there was a new Hard Rock in Glasgow, my idea was to fly into Edinburgh (my favorite city on earth) and hop over and back for a quick visit. But when it came time to book my tickets, I realized that this was a risky prospect. Odds are I'd arrive in Edinburgh and never leave. So I decided to fly into Glasgow after all.
But there was no way I was going to pass on the opportunity to spend my birthday in the one place I love more than any other. No way at all. And so I took a 50-minute train ride across Scotland just because I can. But, before I go... an egg and fire-roasted tomato sandwich from Pret-A-Manger (my favorite breakfast on earth)...
Because the weather was so amazing,* I decided to do something I've always wanted to do when visiting Edinburgh: climb the extinct volcano there (named "Arthur's Seat") so I could look out over the city...
The panorama view is pretty incredible (click to embiggen)...
I had photographed the city to death on my last trip here back in 2009, but I just can't help myself when it comes to the majestic old buildings, so I ended up taking a boat-load of new photos...
Since I've been to Edinburgh many times, I'm always looking for something new to see and do. This trip, that ended up being a visit to Camera Obscura. It's a kind of museum filled with optical oddities and illusions...
Which is all well and good, but the main attraction for me was the rooftop view...
And, yes, as the name implies, there is indeed a camera obscura at Camera Obscura. It's an old-school attraction that was probably a lot more impressive back in the day... but it was still interesting since I had never seen one before (you can read all about the device at Wikipedia). Basically, a lens on the roof of the building captures light and beams it down onto a big white table in a darkened room. Everybody stands around this circular "screen" as the operator pans around the city while pointing out things of interest.
Not wanting to ride the train back to Glasgow during rush hour, I said goodbye to my beloved Edinburgh after all too short a visit...
Once back in Glasgow, I rushed out to the famous Kelvingrove Museum so I could take a look before it closed. Part art gallery and part natural history exhibit, it was well worth the effort...
Across the parking lot (and a creek) is the University of Glasgow. I wandered up to take a look before heading back downtown for dinner...
After a quick dinner (and a nap) I headed to George Square to try and get some photos without tons of people around. The beautiful Apple Store was on the way...
And that was that for my short visit to Scotland. I leave tomorrow morning on a very early flight, so off to bed I go.
*Dear Apple... while I love Siri, and use this miraculous feature often on my iPhone, there are times I have to wonder just how idiotic technology can be. I am in SCOTLAND. My iPhone is LOCATION AWARE. I am asking what the weather is like IN EDINBURGH. But I am given locations in the USA? Oh well... I'll just clarify that I mean the Edinburgh IN SCOTLAND then...
Nope. No matter how I pronounce it, Edinburgh is not in Scotland. Holy crap does this make Siri look like a fucking moron.
I've already been to the Hard Rock Cafe in Rome several times. The only Italian property I haven't been to is the new cafe in Florence. But if I flew directly to Florence, I wouldn't have the opportunity to eat at my favorite restaurant on earth.
So I got up at 3:30am. So I could get to Glasgow Airport by 4:30am. So I could fly to Rome at 6:40am.
This meant skipping breakfast, but that's okay. By the time I got to The Eternal City I was starving, which meant I had room for the city's signature dish for lunch: Cacio e Pepe ("Cheese and Pepper" on spaghetti pasta)...
It's a classic dish that's deceptively simple. The trick is getting the pasta cooked to a perfect al dente texture, which is tough in the USA because everybody overcooks their noodles. So you either have to go to RW's house or fly to Italy to get it done right.
Now, the prudent thing to do when you are in Rome is to run around and see all the sights. But I've already done that. And I've been up since 3:30am, so I took a nap instead.
But no worries, I was sure to wake up in time for a late dinner at my most favorite restaurant in all the world: Alfredo alla Scrofa, where Le Fettuccine Alfredo was invented...
A heart attack on a plate, gloriously mixed to order right at your table...
After dinner I decided to wander over to the Spanish Steps so I could climb to the top and visit the cafe where I first tasted Stracciatella Gelato, my all-time favorite...
And, because this is Rome, the walk back to your hotel is filled with incredible sights...
With the exception of one horrendous problem, today was a pretty great day.
My plan was to head up to Florence to see the new Hard Rock Cafe there, but I had a long-time friend (and fellow Hard Rock fan) who had wanted to trade a few pins, so I decided to visit him in Milan, a city I have never been. For some reason I had thought the city was quite close to Florence, but it's actually two hours by train farther... which meant I started my day with a three-hour train ride out of Rome.
It was all worth the trip though, as Milan is a beautiful city. I started with a visit to Duomo di Milano (Milan Cathedral)...
After the cathedral, I was going to visit a small church called Chiesa di Santa Maria presso San Satiro, but I walked right past it and ended up finding Tempio civico di San Sebastiano (The Temple of San Sebastiano), which is a rather unique and beautiful round church...
I did a quick back-track to Chiesa di Santa Maria presso San Satiro (no photos allowed) but couldn't spend a lot of time because I would be late for visiting Biblioteca Ambrosiana (Library of Ambrose), which is home to Leonardo da Vinci's Codex Atlanticus, a massive set of books containing anything and everything from the mind of one of my all-time inspirational heroes, Leonardo da Vinci. You enter through an art gallery that's connected to the library. Unfortunately, I didn't have a lot of time to browse the collection of art here, but it's a very nice collection...
The Codex itself consists of over 1,100 pages, but only a fraction of those are viewable at any one time. Usually the rotating collection on display centers around a theme which, in my case, ended up being music. Included in the display I saw were pages with Leonardo's sketches for an automated drum machine, various instrument ideas, acoustic architecture studies, and much, much more. It was absolutely fascinating, and I could have spent hours pouring over those few pages available. No photos were allowed (of course) but I found a sample page on the internet to give an idea of what they look like...
After a visit with my friend to exchange some pins, it was time to head to the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, for what is arguably Milan's most famous attraction.
But first... a cookie break while I waited for my ticket reservation time...
The Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie is a rather unassuming building that's almost boring, when compared to the many other religious buildings in the city...
It's what's inside of it that makes it worth the effort of visiting, Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper...
One of you bitches is going to betray me!
No photos were allowed, of course, this is just an image of an image I found on the internet. But it's not like any photo could do the work justice anyway. I had always thought that it was an interesting, but not terribly inspiring work, and didn't have much of a desire to see it. But that opinion was formed by looking at photos of it in a book.
And then I got to visit the painting in person, and now I know what all the fuss is about.
It is an awe-inspiring work of art. Both artistically and technically, it's mind-bogglingly beautiful. Definitely worth a visit. But, as with most exhibits of this importance in Italy (or most any other country), MAKE TICKET RESERVATIONS IN ADVANCE! Tickets are guaranteed to sell out, and if you just wander in hoping to see it, you're going to leave disappointed.
And here is where disaster occurred. I left myself one hour to get back to the train station to catch my ride to Florence. As always, I consulted Google Maps to get me there. The instructions were quite simple... take the Malpensa Airport Express Train two stops to Bovisa, then take the S2 train to Milano Porta Garibaldi railway station.
So I ran to the train and hopped on just before the doors closed. I grab a seat just as the train leaves. And then I notice that the train didn't stop at its first stop. Much to my horror, the train didn't stop at the Bovisa stop either. We just kept on going...
Turns out Google has the train information wrong. This particular run of the Malpensa Airport Express IS FUCKING NON-STOP! And so I ended up having to ride all the way out to the airport (35 minutes), wait for the next train back to Milan (15 minutes), then ride all the way back (35 minutes). Needless to say, I missed my train. Which means I would also miss my train to Rome. Which meant I had just wasted one hour and 25 minutes plus $120 in non-refundable train fare.
Oh well, I made it to the Hard Rock a bit late, but I did make it. And Florence has a great property that was made from an old movie theater building...
On my way back to the train station, I passed The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower) or, as it is better known... Il Duomo di Firenze (Cathedral of Florence)...
Even more beautiful at night, I think.
Back in Rome, I went for a late dinner at Alfredo's, of course, because I just couldn't help myself. And... my short visit to Italy is done.
I've been around Nice when visiting Monaco and Eze, but have never actually been to Nice proper. Now that there's a Hard Rock in town, that had to change.
Well, that and the movies shot in the city always make it look so amazing. Like that car chase in Ronin... or that car chase in The Transporter... or the car chase in Never Say Never Again (well, not a car chase per se, but that would have been an excellent addition to the film, wouldn't it?).
And so... on to Hard Rock No. 155...
Beautiful views. Lovely restaurant. Kind of boring for a Hard Rock.
After lunch I headed to the beach. The weather was not great beach weather, but it was still a beautiful day on the Côte d'Azur...
Lovely turquoise water, but something seems... off...
Wait... that's not sand... it's... ROCKS?!?
Yes. The famous beach at Nice is covered not with sand, but with rocks? All this time I had no idea. And yet there were people laying around with beach towels and the whole bit. Which can't be comfortable, can it? As I stumbled across the "beach," attempting to keep my footing while walking on cascading stones, I admit to being a bit disappointed.
Until I stopped for a second and listened to the rocks rolling in the surf. It was totally hypnotic...
Nice itself is quite a lovely city. Especially back at their main square, Place Masséna, which features the "Fontaine du Soleil" (Fountain of the Sun) in the southern half. From a distance, it looks quite impressive with a giant statue of Apollo standing in the middle...
It's when you get closer to the fountain that things start to get disturbing. Apollo has freaky bulging eyes staring at you. And the crown of horses on his head look more like those baby chest-bursters in Alien. Not to mention his dick... swinging...
And the statues in the fountain basin? Utterly bizarre...
Clockwise from the upper-left...
The northern half of Place Masséna is wide open... except for these poles that have nude men (covered in bird shit) kneeling on top of them...
No idea what that's all about.
Walking back to the train station, I passed Nice's version of the Notre Dame Cathedral...
Which looks better with a little HDR magic...
My original plan was to take a train to Cannes or Monaco for dinner, but I was just done traveling for the day. I was actually done with traveling for the week. Tomorrow's flight back to Amsterdam at 6:30am will be hard enough.
So an early night to bed it is.
"We have arrived!" announced the hotel shuttle driver to myself and another passenger as we pulled into the Nice Airport around 4:30am. And so I climb out and ask the driver to open the back of the van so I can get my bag. He says "This stop is not for you," and so I start to climb back on the van... only to have the driver slam the gas pedal to the floor as I am half-way in. The van lurches forward, causing the sliding door to smash into my side and send me flying 20 feet. My head crashes into the pavement and, as I lay there bleeding and trying to breathe, the driver stands over me and says "I said this stop was not for you!" — which is why I was climbing back on the van, of course, but let's not apply logic to the situation. You would think that A) The driver would make sure everybody is actually ON the van before hitting the gas, and B) He would start out slowly just in case the first passenger was still standing near... or the second passenger was in the process of boarding... or a pedestrian is crossing the street... or whatever. But, alas, no.
Blood pouring down my face and hunched over in pain, I somehow make my way inside the airport (at the next stop, natch) so I can try to clean myself up in a bathroom. Much to my horror, my glasses are destroyed, so I have to fish for contact lenses in my suitcase. But I can only put a lens in one eye because blood is pouring over the other one. A package of antibiotic wipes and 20 minutes of direct pressure later, my second lens is in and it's time to head to the gate for my flight.
The wonderful KLM cabin crew gave me ice for my head on the flight back to Amsterdam. This made the swelling die down a bit, and also caused the pain to subside. As for my chest where I was hit? The pain became searing, so when I got off the plane I started pressing around and... SNAP... I think I had a fractured rib, because now that it's been set back in place I feel totally fine... just a little sore now.
In other news... I have never felt so fucking macho in all my life as to snap my own fractured rib back in place! I'd go to the doctor, but all they would do is wrap me up and give me pain meds, so I'm just going to put on a tight T-shirt and self-medicate. Same difference! A-fucking-right... this is one macho bitch right up in here.*
My plans to visit some work colleagues in Amsterdam had to be abandoned so I could recuperate back at Casa de DutchBitch for five hours until she got off work. At which time we decided to visit "Europe's Garden"... the Keukenhof. I was there back in 2012 and loved it, so I was looking forward to another visit on this beautiful day, even if I was loaded with pain-killers...
After a wonderful afternoon looking at flowers, it was time for dinner at one of my favorite places on earth, Restaurant De Kas. It's a beautiful eatery outside of Amsterdam that resides in a greenhouse where they grow their own food. It's pretty special.
But it's at night that this place becomes really special...
The menu is a surprise, built around what came from the garden that day, and they accommodated my vegetarian diet beautifully...
An absolutely wonderful evening. After an absolutely wonderful day. After a terrible morning.
And now? Having experienced first hand what it's like to get run into by a car, I'm going to take some heavy drugs and go to bed. So good night to you! And (hopefully) a good night to myself.
*Unless, of course, it wasn't a fractured rib at all... in which case I have no idea what snapped inside there. Maybe I'm the moron who just cracked his own rib? I dunno. Playing doctor is a lot harder than it looks on television. Still, I'm feeling 1000% better than I was, so you can't argue with the results.
Fryslân (Friesland) is a region in the Northern Netherlands I have long wanted to visit. Partly because I want to visit all regions of the country... but mostly because it was home to some of my ancestors. My family name of "Simmer" is from the word "Summer" in the Fresian language, and my father has traced our genealogy back several generations to the area.
There are a number of routes you can use to get to Fryslân from South Holland, but The DutchBitch decided to take us the most direct (and interesting!) route... across The Afsluitdijk, a massive dike constructed from 1927 to 1933 which has a roadway over it. The dike completely enclosed a saltwater bay (known as Zuiderzee) which eventually became a giant freshwater lake called IJsselmeer. The 20-mile long dike also allowed for the reclamation of the land masses Wieringermeer, Noordoostpolder, and Flevoland, which added considerable area to the country. On a map, The Afsluitdijk (marked with a red arrow) looks like this...
Amsterdam is in the lower-left there. The areas I've shaded green are lands reclaimed from the sea.
When looking at a map, any time i saw The Afsluitdijk, I thought of it looking like the Øresund Bridge or something...
Which is absurd, of course, because a dike is nothing like a bridge. I guess in my mind it would just look cooler if it was. The reality isn't quite so glamorous, but still interesting...
Obligatory iPhone panorama shot (click to embiggen)...
Stopping at the half-way point.
After an hour-and-a-half drive, we arrived at our first stop... the city of Harlingen. It's a beautiful old fishing town that's the birthplace of my great-great-grandparents...
Stopping at the tourist office, we learned that the area where my great-great-grandparents were born was the poor part of town and a real shit-hole, which is why it was eventually torn down. Which is to say that it was undoubtedly a beautiful and incredibly desirable area of the city to live until my family left, at which time it became a detestable shit-hole, I'm sure. Today, it has once again become a premium, expensive neighborhood to live, so I guess things have come full circle.
Because this area had been completely torn down, the street where my great-great-grandfather was born no longer exists. It has become a private dead-end alley to the right of this cool little house here...
The place where my great-great-grandmother was born has been torn down and divided up into different lots, so I just walked around the block to see the area where she had lived...
After a nice lunch downtown, The DutchBitch and I walked back through the city where she spotted this...
PIRATE brand Virginia Cigarettes... made in the Netherlands?
From Harlingen, we headed to Leeuwarden for more family history. Our first stop was just a block up from our hotel, which is the former location of the Galileërkerk, a church where my great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather Johannes was interred. The original building was demolished in 1940, but it's location was just north of the former post office, which would be in the vicinity of the building to the left there...
The weather was incredible, and we weren't the only ones taking advantage of it...
Our next stop was the church where both my great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather Johannes and his son, my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather Frederik were married. It's now some kind of local performing arts center, but it still looks vaguely church-like. And it has some kick-ass door decorations...
From there it was onward to Oldehoofsterkerkhof, the church where my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather Frederik was interred. In what I can only describe as a "Leaning Tower of Pisa Moment," I finally realized that the reason the tower looks so strange is because it's falling over...
And the closer you get, the more fucked-up things become. There doesn't seem to be a single perpendicular line on this entire building except the windows and doors. I was getting a headache trying to photograph it because my brain kept trying to straighten things out and line stuff up...
Like Harlingen, Leeuwarden is a rather nice city with a pretty downtown area...
Which you walk through in order to get to the part of town where my great-great-great-great-grandparents Hendrik and Catharina lived... and where my great-great-great-grandfather Willem Frederik was born in 1817 (he moved to Harlingen with his wife Geertje in 1845). Though, I'm sure back then it wasn't quite the boarded-up, graffiti-strewn mess it is now...
Our last stop was Blokhuispoort, a former prison where The DutchBitch thought I would feel right at home because my great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather Johannes was convicted of being drunk and insulting a widow named Dieuke Berents. Wrongly convicted, obviously, since the woman must have totally deserved it. I can only hope that grandpa Johannes gave her a nice bitch-slap for having the nerve to piss him off...
And thus ended my tour of the lands of my ancestors. Now it's time to dope up on pain-killers and see if I can get some sleep before tomorrow's adventure.
Boy, getting hit by a car is not all it's cracked up to be.
Our final day in Fryslân was spent taking the ferry over to Schiermonnikoog, a kinda resort island that's home to a massively huge beach.
Cars are only allowed for registered residents, which means that visitors have to either ride the bus, arrange for a resident taxi driver, or rent a bicycle. The DutchBitch opted for the bicycles, which was an interesting prospect considering I haven't ridden one in over 30 years. With this in mind, she rented bicycles which feature "Electric Assist"... a small motor that helps you along as you peddle. Turns out that this was a very good move, because my crushed ribcage left me needing all the help I can get...
Turns out that riding a bike is... errr... just like riding a bike, and I managed just fine. The only problem I had was getting off and on it, but that was thanks to getting run into by a car more than anything else.
Our first stop was a World War II bunker that oversees much of the island...
In the same area is Vredenhof Cemetery, which is a peaceful little place where we spotted soldiers buried from France, Great Britain, New Zealand, and Germany...
Then it was time to cycle to the massive beach that covers the north-side of the island...
It's an impossibly huge beach, as this pano shows (click to embiggen). This is but a small section of the waterfront, and those dots in the distance are people...
From there we rode around town a bit, then went to a cafe for drinks while we waited for the ferry back to the mainland...
Pretty much the perfect end to my brief adventure in Fryslân!
Now to spend some time resting up for my trip home. Which I am most certainly not looking forward to.
Don't go checking your calendar just yet... because Bullet Sunday on Monday starts... now...
• Skuttle. The plan was to head into Amsterdam today... the reality is that I'm laying around on a big red couch trying to rest up my aching rib cage for a ten-hour flight home tomorrow morning. I tried feeling sad about it, but this has been such a great vacation that I just can't muster the pity.
• Heart. Did you know that the seven red shapes on the flag of Fryslân are not hearts?
They're pompeblêden... the leaves of yellow water-lily! But in blood red for some reason. Probably because that's more scary to their enemies than if they were yellow-green...
No. Yeah... red is definitely more bad-ass.
• Smurftastic. And so the Netherlands has Smurf-flavored gelato...
There was no ingredients statement, so I don't know if it's made with real Smurfs or not...
In any event, I'm guessing Gargamel won.
• Tagged. While I don't necessarily condone defacing public or private property, I have to say the graffiti in Leeuwarden was some pretty impressive stuff...
But what would you expect from Wom the Hipster-Killing Zombie?
• Chickens. And, just when you think that beautiful hand-painted signage is a lost art, also in Leeuwarden...
You almost don't notice that the building is crooked and all the windows are jacked up. Perhaps Wom the Hipster-Killing Zombie has a day-job?
• Cheese. My biggest regret in leaving the Netherlands is that I can't bring a big wheel of cheese with me. They had it for sale at The Keukenhof, but it weighs 20-30 pounds and costs around $120-$200 (depending on how aged it is and how much your wheel weighs). You do get to buy it from a wooden cow, however...
I'm guessing 30 pounds of cheese would last me about a week.
No more bullets. No more vacation.
I really hate having to leave the Netherlands.
Almost as much as I hate stupid "April Fools Day" pranks that get unleashed everywhere. And since there's always somebody who believes people's outrageous shit, the fools-pranking will never end.
At least Google puts some effort into their pranks each year...
The really cool thing about this year's gag is that this is something that will probably actually happen one day. It's only a matter of time before augmented reality games are this good.
The Virgin America & Nest prank was pretty funny too...
And since YouTube is where most of the pranks live, they decided to get in on the act themselves...
But my favorite? SelfieBot!
And now I guess it's time to climb in a metal tube for ten hours. Then drive in a car for two-and-a-half hours. Then go to the clinic for my smashed ribs for an hour.
Ha! April Fools! You can never get out of the walk-in clinic in under five hours!
See you across the pond.
"Tetanus is not a fun way to die."
My smashed ribs were really tender when I boarded the plane yesterday, so I bit the bullet and popped the Oxycodone I keep on-hand in case I have a kidney stone attack. This kept me (relatively) comfortable throughout the flight, for which I was grateful. By the time we landed in Seattle I was considering not going to the doctor at all, as I was feeling considerably better than when I left DutchyLand.
Until I reached up into the overhead bin to grab my bag.
Searing pain shot through my entire side, and I suddenly couldn't breathe. I'm guessing the drugs must have worn off after my ten hour adventure in the sky.
Not wanting to drive under the influence of Oxycodone, I retrieved my car for the (painful) two-and-a-half hour drive home. Where I did not pass Go. Did not collect $200. Did not even drop off my suitcase. Instead I drove directly to the walk-in clinic to see a doctor.
An hour-and-a-half plus three X-rays plus many hundreds of dollars in deductable later, I found out that nothing is broken. It would seem I merely have a hairline fracture in one of my ribs or something. It hurts like hell, but my lungs aren't punctured and I'm going to live.
At which point the doctor looks at the scrape on my head and asks when was the last time I had a tetanus shot. From what I could recall, it was in 1998 when my brother and I went to Bangkok. This caused the doctor to suck wind through his teeth and inform me that somebody who travels as much as I do should really stay current with my tetanus shots, which expire after ten years. Oops.
I was going to pass because I don't like injecting crap in my body that's not the sweet, sweet release of freshly-cooked black tar heroin, but then the doctor tells me that "tetanus is not a fun way to die." He looks really serious about it, so I get the damn shot.
Turns out the doctor is right. Wikipedia explains it thusly...
Tetanus often begins with mild spasms in the jaw muscles—also known as lockjaw or trismus (aka "lockjaw"). The spasms can also affect the chest, neck, back, abdominal muscles, and buttocks. Back muscle spasms often cause arching, called opisthotonos. Sometimes the spasms affect muscles that help with breathing, which can lead to breathing problems.
Prolonged muscular action causes sudden, powerful, and painful contractions of muscle groups, which is called "tetany." These episodes can cause fractures and muscle tears. Other symptoms include drooling, excessive sweating, fever, hand or foot spasms, irritability, swallowing difficulty, and uncontrolled urination or defecation. The episodes can also cause destruction of elements of the nervous system through viral cell exchange.
Mortality rates reported vary from 48% to 73%. In recent years, and approximately 11% of reported tetanus cases have been fatal. The highest mortality rates are in unvaccinated people, people over 60 years of age or newborns.
They even provide a nice painting of tetanus in action...
Doesn't that look like buckets of fun?
So... if you want to die a drooling, urinating, defecating, mess... as your muscles rip apart and cause bone fractures (i.e. in excruciating pain), by all means skip out on getting a Tdap shot.
As for myself? I'm hoping to keep the drooling and defecation to a minimum when I die.
Though I think we all know the odds of that are slim.
Pain is quite a motivator. Which is good, because that's the way it's supposed to work. Your body produces pain to let you know that there's something wrong and you need to do something about it.
But there should be a way to turn the pain off once you've addressed the problem. I've been to the doctor... I've learned my lesson not to get run over by a van... I've been incredibly careful not to cause further injury to my ribs. Everything I can do, I've taken care of.
So why am I still in pain? Now it just seems cruel.
And yet here we are.
Getting in and out of bed is absolute torture. Sitting down and getting up are almost as bad. Coughing is outright agony. Reaching for anything higher than 5-feet or lower than 2-feet with my right arm feels like I am being stabbed repeatedly in my chest with a machete. And, as it's been for nearly a week now, any pressure applied to my rib-cage results in a flash of searing pain. Even the act of opening my laptop and typing this blog entry results in an ouchie.
I know. I know. I know. I know!... but since I have a life, remaining 100% motionless in bed all day is not really an option.
I'd dope up on pain-killers, but work is hard enough already.
And so I suffer.
Sucks to be me.
It's hard to come up with something to blog about when the only thing going on in your life is excruciating pain.
And I have at least another week to go... probably two.
The bigger problem is that I am getting incredibly behind despite the fact that I am working all the time. I attribute this to not being able to multi-task. Usually I am working on a couple projects in my head while I'm physically working on a couple others. But now? If I try to focus on more than one thing at a time, the pain proves to be such a big distraction that I get nothing done at all. And so I put all my concentration into the task at hand so I can make some progress. No matter how small.
Still haven't heard back from the hotel whose airport shuttle nailed me. I filled out a survey they sent explaining everything, but apparently they don't bother to read the surveys. Typical. It's all "We value your opinion!" — Until you actually give it to them.
And speaking of pain... today I found out that the US Dollar was far weaker against the Euro than I had previously thought, meaning I blew right past my vacation budget. Badly. 20 Euros does not equate to $22 US dollars, it's $27.50 US dollars. Which means every time I was spending 20 Euros I was bleeding $5 more than I thought I was. That adds ups really quickly when everything in Europe is expensive to begin with.
Oh well. Credit card debt won't kill you... it just feels that way.
Much like a fractured rib.
This week I decided that I wanted to start eating healthier. Less fat. Less sugar. Definitely less salt. Not radical changes... just a step or two in a better direction.
So today I when I went to the grocery store, I looked for foods that would put me on track.
One of the more promising options was a vegetarian bean, rice, and cheese burrito that I hadn't seen before. Nowhere on the wrapper did it say "healthy" (something which guarantees shitty taste)... it just said "70% Organic Ingredients" and the Nutrition Facts looked halfway decent. Dinner is served!
Needless to say, it was crap.
Bland. Boring. Tasteless.
Turns out that once you start taking the fat, sugar, and salt out of everything... "everything" loses what makes it oh so delicious to eat. Which is a statement that will insure everybody you know will want to give you That One Recipe which is the exception to the rule. But believing that is only setting yourself up for disappointment.
So I guess my new plan is to eat the same crap I've always been eating. I'll just eat less of it.
And squeeze in an apple or two.
Maybe some baby carrots and an occasional salad.
Because if I have to eat nothing but bland, boring, tasteless shit in order to be healthy, I'd just as soon skip it.
Now to make up for my crap dinner, I'm going to have two OREO Cookies. Which is ten less than I would usually eat, so congratulations to me for healthier eating!
Ooh! Game of Thrones is on!
Don't blink... because an express edition of Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Lucy. It would seem that Luc Besson has something new...
Now this I am looking forward to. And a sequel to The Fifth Element, of course.
• Super. Well okay then...
I liked Gravity well enough, but thought it dragged in spots. This would have made for a bit more exciting film... assuming General Zod would show up. Then Sandra Bullock could KNEEL BEFORE ZOD!
• Popular. It would seem that CBS News recommends meth addiction thanks to unfortunate placement of the story below this one...
Unfortunate placement happens all the time in magazines and newspapers, but for some reason I thought that websites were immune. Oh goodie... something new to worry about. In other news... how about that meth? It's a heck of a drug.
• Anti-Vax. Oh look! The mumps outbreak in Central Ohio has now reached 150 cases!
A job well done! Smoke 'em if ya got 'em, you crazy bitch!
• Micro. But to end things on a positive note, how amazing is this?
Absolute genius. I just love innovative stuff like this.
And now? Winter is coming...
If you're lucky, the wound will vanish without a trace. As will your memories of it.
The alternative being that you're stuck with a scar that will haunt you for the rest of your days, coupled with phantom pains that force you to re-live the nightmare over and over again.
That's a worst-case scenario, obviously, but does heartbreak ever end any other way?
This morning I needed to dig out a software manual from storage (remember when software came with printed manuals?) and had a small blue pressboard binder fall on my head. It looked familiar, but I didn't know why.
Remember when I was lamenting that I couldn't remember my CompuServe ID Number? Well, yeah, the small blue pressboard binder had all my CompuServe stuff in it... including my ID...
Now that I see it... 70717,3107... I can't imagine how I ever forgot it. Those digits flow through my mind like my own name, because it was my name for a number of years. When I typed it just then, I didn't even need to take a second look, my fingers automatically keyed it in. Just like old times.
Somehow, I feel more complete than I did yesterday.
ALSO in the small blue pressboard binder... COMPUSERVE INFORMATION SERVICE RATES: 1984!"
A few things...
All told, I'm currently on the internet for one thing or another at least 5 hours a day. That's minimum 35 hours a week... probably much more. Putting two hours of that in the daytime and three hours of that in the evening, in 2014 dollars I'd be spending $58.76 per day... $411.32 per week... just to get online.
And "being online" then sure ain't what it is now.
How in the hell did we ever make it out of the dark ages of technology?
I'm going to just come right out and say it... I love McDonalds.
And that's no hyperbole, it's the truth. Sure I wish that they would take the McVeggie Deluxe national so I had a burger I could eat there but, even without a veggie option, I still like the chain. I love their fries. I like their egg & cheese breakfast biscuits. I like their side salads. I like their shakes. I like their McFlurries. I like their hot caramel sundaes. I like their fruit-n-yogurt parfaits. I even like their apple pies (just not as much as when they were fried). They've got food I like that's served fast at decent prices. What's not to love?*
But heaven forbid I ever mention liking McDonalds. Even hinting at having eaten there brings out all the people who think it's their mission in life to tell people what they can and cannot like...
"McDONALD'S IS TOXIC GARBAGE! I WOULDN'T FEED THEIR 'FOOD' TO MY DOG!"
"McDONALD'S IS DESTROYING THE PLANET! WHEN YOU EAT THERE, YOU'RE HELPING THEM!"
"ARE YOU STUPID? WHY NOT JUST EAT RAT POISON IF YOU'RE INTENT ON BEING SO UNHEALTHY?"
"WHAT KIND OF IDIOT RUINS THEIR BODY WITH FAT, SUGAR, AND CHEMICALS BY EATING AT McDONALDS?"
"McDONALD'S TARGETS CHILDREN FOR UNHEALTHY EATING HABITS WITH TOYS!"
"SO GROSS! THEIR CRAP ISN'T EVEN REAL FOOD!"
Etc. Etc. Etc.
Well, whatever. I honestly don't give a fuck. You don't like it? DON'T EAT THERE! You think it's unhealthy? DON'T EAT THERE! You have a problem with the food? DON'T EAT THERE! As for me? There's nothing wrong with an occasional bag of fries and a chocolate shake at McDonalds... AND I enjoy it, so just leave me the hell alone. I mean, thanks, but I am fully aware of the nutritional content (or lack thereof) of what I'm eating.
And then today a McDonalds post pops up in my Facebook feed.
The number of hateful comments shouldn't have surprised me, but it did.
For reasons completely unknown, there are people who hate McDonald's so much that they spend their valuable time ripping McDonald's to shit IN FACEBOOK COMMENTS! Which probably ranks right up there with "screaming into a pillow" when it comes to effectiveness, but whatever. At least when people feel the need to rip into me personally for my food choices, they think they're helping me out (or something) so they can feel good about doing me a solid. What possible benefit is there to leaving nasty comments for McDonalds on Facebook? Could there be a bigger waste of time?
Like blogging about it, I suppose.
* Well, okay, I DON'T love McDonald's clown figurehead, Ronald McDonald, who is terrifying...
Last night I decided to stop taking the pain-killers I've been on since getting run down in France. I don't like the way drugs mess with my head, and this time it was more debilitating than usual for some reason. I wasn't just having trouble concentrating at work... I was having trouble concentrating while watching television, and that just isn't done.
The pain in my ribs is breathtaking, as expected.
But it's the pain in the arm where I got my tetanus shot that really took me by surprise. My arm aches. Every movement feels like somebody just punched me. Hard. I Googled my pain only to discover that, yeah, this is totally normal. Tetanus shots are brutal. So now I am questioning this foolish decision to live life drug-free, as I am a real weenie when it comes to pain.
I'm also questioning getting a tetanus shot, but that ship has sailed.
And then there's this...
Have a good night!
Over the past couple days, I've gone through every website I can think of so I can change my passwords. Not something I planned on doing, but the fucking "Heartbleed Bug" necessitated it.
This has been the single most frustrating and anger-inducing experience I've had in years. I have spent more time screaming at my computer in two days than I have in all previous days since the dawn of computing. It would be nice if I could lay the blame for my rage on a single doorstep, but the reason this has been such a horrible ordeal is that just about everybody is responsible...
Too many websites make it too fucking difficult to change your password. Not only because they've hidden the option to make the change, but because they have absurdly stupid requirements as to what is acceptable for a password...
SORRY! Password must not be similar to your old password!
SORRY! Password must have at least one capital letter!
SORRY! Password must contain at least one number!
SORRY! Password must contain at least one non-alphanumeric character!
SORRY! Password must not contain two of the same characters in a row!
SORRY! Password must be a minimum of fifty-six characters in length!
The list goes on and on, and it drives me insane. It's MY password. If somebody guesses it because I don't have a number in it, that's MY fucking problem. All your efforts to force me into some absurdly random string of characters only ensures that I will never be able to remember it for those times I am forced to enter it by hand.
But here's the even worse part. Some websites force you to create some abstract password you'll never remember... THEN NOT ALLOW APPLE'S SAFARI BROWSER TO REMEMBER IT FOR YOU! Every time Safari pops up with a note that says "Safari cannot remember this password because the website has requested it not be stored" I want to put my fist through the screen and burn down the company who would make such a stupid fucking decision.
And don't get me started on websites which don't allow you to paste a password from your clipboard, but instead require that it be typed in manually. That should be punishable by death.
APPLETo their credit, Apple at least attempted to make password management easy by allowing you to have Safari suggest new passwords and then remember the password you enter. Safari then syncs that password across all your Apple devices (including iPhones, iPads, other Macs, etc.), which is astoundingly useful and cool. When it works, it's great. But, as mentioned above, it doesn't always work. Some sites disallow it. Sometimes Safari just doesn't save the hideously complex password it just suggested. Sometimes the login is not associated with the right website. There's all kinds of problems that can happen, and I'm guessing Safari's "remember password" feature only manages to work 50% of the time.
But it gets better.
Apple doesn't allow the stored password in Safari to be applied to other Apple apps! It goes something like this: 1) Go to change my AppleID password. 2) Safari suggests a randomly generated password that you'll never remember. 3) Safari saves your new AppleID password, then kindly asks if you want to apply the password for other Apple Services like iMessage, iCloud, and Facetime... which is so nice! 4) You go to buy a new song in the iTunes Store and APPLE FUCKING ASKS YOU FOR YOUR APPLEID PASSWORD! AND, YOU GUESSED IT, THE ONLY WAY TO ENTER THE PASSWORD INTO ITUNES IS TO TYPE IT IN MANUALLY! And since you can't fucking remember something like "RJ%P-TK3sO-#cD9yp*o-Ibn" you have to switch to Safari, go to the password manageer, locate your AppleID, enter your login password, copy the AppleID password, go back to iTunes, paste the password... then hope that you don't have to copy something else to the clipboard before iTunes asks for the password again since it asks for your password every five minutes (especially if you use iTunes Match, it would seem).
This is MIND-BOGGLINGLY FUCKING STUPID, APPLE! You have to allow iTunes to have access to your AppleID password when a user is logged in. Otherwise, people aren't going to use complex passwords. Which means that when it comes to people choosing shitty, easily-cracked passwords... YOU ARE THE PROBLEM!
UPDATE: BWAH HA HA HAAAA! How fucking embarrassing. I get to work expecting my work computer will have synced my keychain with all the changed passwords... NOPE! I had to enter everything all over again! In order to get the NEW passwords to sync, I have to disable iCloud Keychain Syncing... THEN REACTIVATE iCLOUD KEYCHAIN SYNCING. Apple: It Just Works!
UPDATE UPDATE: And, my iPhone required me to log back into all my Apple apps... like "Find My Friends" because it is ALSO too fucking stupid to use the damn keychain with my AppleID and password THAT IT IS ALREADY SYNCING TO! What a fucking joke. I thought that with iCloud, Apple would FINALLY get syncing done right since they botched it so badly in .Mac and MobileMe... NOPE! Still a horrendous pile of shit. And don't get me started how every time I do fucking ANYTHING with my password on my iPhone, it broadcasts an announcement to all my other Apple devices that it's using FaceTime now... AS IT HAS BEEN SINCE FACETIME WAS AVAILABLE!! Heaven only knows how many years it will be until Apple finally gets this crap all figured out. At this rate, probably never.
Long before Apple built a password manager into Safari, I was already using a nifty password managing app called 1Password by AgileBits. I've had a few minor problems with it over the years but, for the most part, it's a terrific piece of software. It does a greatjob of creating, storing, managing, and filling-in all kinds of passwords, credit cards, bank accounts, identities, encrypted notes, and such.
When I started changing all my passwords, I discovered that the version of 1Password I'm using was outdated, and I needed to upgrade to version 4. Well, they don't offer an upgrade, so you have to purchase an all-new copy... but it was on sale for half-price ($24.99) thanks to the Heartbleed bug, so I just went ahead and paid for the shit.
Only to have one of the most frustrating upgrade experiences ever. Seriously... upgrading from 1Password v3 to v4 was worse than getting punched in the fucking face.
First of all, they warn you to sync your Safari Plugin data with your main data store. This is done by creating a new fake login, which they don't really explain how to do. Eventually I just went to a shopping site and created a real login so I could force 1Password to add it to my main data store and be sure everything was synced. But it never worked. Each time I'd create a login, I'd go to the main 1Password app, but the login never showed up. After 20 minutes of this stupid crap, I finally didn't give a fuck, and just uninstalled the 1Password Safari Plugin. Who knows what data I lost.
Then it came time to install the v4 Safari Plugin. I couldn't find a separate link on their download page, so I Googled their site to find it. But after installing the plugin found at the link, Safari reported it was v3. So I uninstalled again and Googled for instructions, only to find that I could choose "Install Browser Extensions" from the 1Password app. Well that's easy, right?
Not so much. I then spent a half hour trying to get it to install. First of all, it kept installing version 3.9.20 even though I was double-clicking on the version 4 plugin. Don't ask me why. I had to reboot my MacBook before it would finally install the new version. But then the real battle began.
The problem being that 1Password must be running for the Safari install to work, but it keeps quitting before the install happens. It was a game of Catch-22 over and over and over again...
Start 1Password, press "Try again," 1Password quits. Repeat. TIMES INFINITY!
Even a complete re-install didn't work. Eventually I had to uninstall the entire app plus its support files... then start all over again with a backup data store synced on DropBox. What a fucking joke. I just paid $25 to waste nearly and hour of my precious time... for an upgrade. Thanks, AgileBits!
P.S. Why in the hell does AgileBits feel the need to install 1Password 4 inside of a FOLDER? Especially when the app is the ONLY item in the fucking folder. I'm guessing it has to do with problems writing to the Apps folder if the old 1Password is in place... but wouldn't a better solution be to rename the app with the new version number added?
And now, after TWO DAYS wasted, I finally have most all my passwords changed. Whether or not I'll actually be able to retrieve them to log in anywhere remains to be seen.
Teletubbies say "Eh oh!"
Go Go Gadget Web Browser... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Penny. NEW CHRIS WARE AT THE NEW YORK TIMES!
You. Are. Welcome!
Nobody does what Chris Ware does. And why would they? Everything he creates is perfect.
• Shift? Bwah ha! This has to be one of Apple's biggest embarrassments. I frickin' HATE that I can never tell if my shift/shift-lock is on or not in iOS...
So now there's a new website in case you need a reminder! Sweet!
• Mail. Okay. Okay. I've used a lot of email programs. A lot. And while the features are tweaked from app to app, they all pretty much work the same way once you get down to brass tacks... no matter how different they look. Enter Unibox. Now THIS isn't just a different approach to email... it's different different. The biggest change? No inbox. There's a filter for your contacts, any attachments you've received, and that's it...
For my personal email, where I receive a cornucopia of crap every day, I prefer the "inbox approach." But for my work email? Where everything revolves around people? This has proven nothing short of revolutionary. Once I got used to it, I was amazed at how much of a timesaver this unique approach to email has been. If you're in a similar email situation and have a Mac... Unibox gets my highest recommendation.
• Flight. Every minute of this video is gold...
I don't know a better way to wrap up my Sunday than that.
• Good. Well, okay... maybe with this commercial from a Thai life insurance company...
Pretty much sums up why I love Thailand.
And... hope your weekend was a good one!
"Diane, I'm holding in my hand a small box of chocolate bunnies..."
— Agent DaleCooper
I started re-watching Twin Peaks last Tuesday on the 24th anniversary of its 1990 debut (Netflix has it available for streaming, which is easier than pulling my DVDs off the shelf). After finishing the final episode of the first season while working tonight, I was surprised to see how well the show holds up. Yeah, it has some outrageous and over-the-top moments... but they were outrageous and over-the-top when they first aired in 1990.
Back when the whole world was asking "Who killed Laura Palmer?"
It remains one of my all-time favorite series.
Shows so rarely get this... interesting... any more. Or beautiful to look at.
Yes, it completely tanked in Season Two, but that hasn't made me want a follow-up series any less. Twin Peaks ended with the mother of all cliffhangers.
I think the world is ready.
I had been doing so well.
Then today I twisted wrong, and searing pain ripped through my ribcage so intensely that I thought I was going to pass out. It died out after a couple hours, but now I'm more than a little worried that I've done something to set back the healing process.
Guess there's just no easy recovery from getting hit by a car.
And on that note...
Ever since getting a tetanus shot, I've been a little on edge.
Sometimes when I'm chewing it will feel like my jaw is tightening up, and I start to wonder if the vaccine didn't work and I've contracted lockjaw. Then that's about all I can think about for hours.
But the bigger issue is the vaccine itself. From Wikipedia...
Tetanus vaccine is a vaccine composed of deactivated tetanus toxins. This vaccine is immunogenic but not pathogenic and is used to prevent an individual from contracting tetanus.
And that's not all...
The type of vaccination for this disease is called artificial active immunity. This type of immunity is generated when a dead or weakened version of the disease enters the body causing an immune response which includes the production of antibodies. This is beneficial to the body because this means that if the disease is ever introduced into the body, the immune system will recognize the antigen and produce antibodies more rapidly.
What if they accidentally shot me up with LIVE tetanus toxins instead of deactivated ones? That wouldn't be a good thing, now would it? This would certainly explain why my jaw keeps feeling like it's tightening up!
If you don't hear from me again, I'm probably dead.
After writhing in agony for hours.
For the first time... ever(?)... I had to take down a blog post.
Yesterday I said "If you don't hear from me again, I'm probably dead. After writhing in agony for hours." Right after posting that, I noticed there was a software update for my blog, so I installed it. After a few minutes I was all updated and good to go.
Until I sat down to write today's entry and noticed that the entry editor is... errr... "missing" for lack of a better word...
Uhhh... where do I type?
Well that's darn inconvenient! And since I am flying out early, early tomorrow morning it's not like I can fix it now.
So it's probably best that I take down yesterday's post telling people that if they don't hear from me I'm probably dead.
Now wouldn't it be ironic if I died right after removing it?
Almost as ironic as if my blog stays permanently dead and I never get to post this entry about my blog being temporarily dead.
San Francisco is one of the easiest gigs I have because it's only a two-hour flight out of Seattle. Adding in a drive to the airport, wait time, flight time to Seattle, and layover time... and I can get to The City by The Bay in under 6 hours. This is nice, because if I have an afternoon meeting I can fly down that morning instead of the day before. Heck, I could even fly back same-day if I wanted to!
In theory, it all sounds great when I'm booking my flights, as I'd really rather spend a night in my own bed than a hotel room.
Until the alarm goes off at 3:30am and I am forced to climb out of my own bed so I can get ready for my drive to the airport.
At which point it completely sucks, and I curse myself for being so stupid as to schedule such an early flight.
Which is why I just spent the last hour and a chunk of change-fee money to reschedule my next four flights. But it's all worth it, because I am definitely getting too old for this shit. 3:30am wake-ups are a game for the young, dammit.
So if science wants to go ahead and figure out the whole Star Trek teleportation thing, I'd really appreciate it.
In the meanwhile, here I am in San Francisco again. Guess I'd better get to work.
My lunch routine on a full work-day in San Francisco has been the same for years...
• Taxi to the Fisherman's Wharf.
• Johnny Rockets (Streamliner Burger, no grilled onions, no mustard, add ketchup and mayo).
• Crazy Shirts (T-shirt shop).
• The Pier 39 Sea Lions.
• Trish's Mini Donuts.
• Hard Rock Cafe (to check out any new pins).
• Street Car back to work downtown.
It's always the exact same thing.
Which is why I appreciate it when something happens to break up the routine. This time it was when I was walking past a guy buying a hotdog at a small food shack called the Doggie Diner...
After he picked up his food, he asked where their bathroom was.
I'm sure the order-taker told him there were public restrooms at Pier 39. I would have told him to use the garbage can out front.
And that's a wrap on my lunch hour.
One of the things R.W. and I set out to do when we created THRICE Fiction was to make sure it was available in a variety of formats so people could read it however they wanted. Want to read a printed magazine? You can order a copy. Want to view it as a PDF? It's there. Want to read it on an eBook reader? We got that. Have a Kindle? We got that too. We've had all of it since Day One, and all the digital editions can be downloaded for FREE.
Like our brand new issue released today (featuring a stunning cover by Chris Walton)...
And we're not stopping there.
Our next outlet for THRICE will be an online edition. We want for people to be able to read every issue right on the THRICE Fiction website. There are many, many solutions for doing this, and I've looked at dozens of them. You can see a sample of one solution (from JooMag) here...
If you expand it to full-screen and have a decent-resolution display, it's pretty nice. I don't know if this is the route we'll take, but we'll get it figured out eventually.
Back to THRICE Fiction No. 10! For a look at the first half of the art included in this issue, click onward to an extended entry...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Put on your Easter bonnet... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Overtime And... instead of being able to kick-back and relax tomorrow before flying home, I now have to work in the morning. So... this is going to be a really quick list.
• Yoga. The best thing you've seen all week...
There's more on Nic and Pancho's YouTube Channel.
• Ten. Did I mention that the latest issue of THRICE Fiction has been released and you can download a copy for FREE?!? Well, it's all true! Click here to grab a copy...
And, if you like that, there's nine other issues to explore...
• Wabbit. While stopping at the Jelly Belly Factory yesterday, I noticed that they add ears to Mr. Jelly Belly for Springtime...
Happy Easter, everybody!
And now... sleep.
Time for a YouTube time-suck!
Good luck getting out alive.
I. Am. So. Old...
"I feel bad for people in the 90's, I really do."
Reason No. 765,236 why I love Betty White...
Nice to know that Larry King is still alive... and as creepy as ever.
And now for something completely different...
Lastly, one of many lists telling you what to see before you die (even if they put Santorini in Italy and don't know how to pronounce "buttes"...
I've barely been to a third of them...
Guess I'd better pack a suitcase...
When it comes to cashing in airline miles and hotel points for vacation, I've gotten pretty good at figuring out how to get the best value for my... err... dollar? Or whatever.
My routine consists of going down a list of destinations I'd like to visit, seeing how many miles it takes to get me there... how many points it takes to stay there... followed by crying because it's more than I can afford. Then down to the next location on the list. Eventually I work my way down to something I can afford and, voilà!, vacation is served.
But what do you do when you've already scratched off all the affordable destinations?
Turns out points and miles ain't what they used to be.
And so... money.
It doesn't matter how much you have banked, it takes money now.
Which kind of defeats the purpose of accumulating all those miles and points over the years, but nothing good seems to last forever. In this case it didn't even last a decade. The upshot being that I'll be burning my miles and points as fast as I can before their value drops even further. Because if things keep going like they are now, they'll be worthless within five years.
So much for my planned retirement travel.
Oh well. The world could blow up before I make it to retirement anyway.
Well, today didn't go as planned.
Not that this is in any way surprising.
In other news?
Another trip over the mountains.
A really pretty trip this time.
I dare say Summer might very well be on the way...
And here we are again... this time with a look at the art appearing in the second half of THRICE Fiction Issue No. 10, you might want to go read Part One from last Saturday first (if you haven't already).
Oh, and if you haven't downloaded your FREE copy of our latest issue, that should be your first stop!
Alright? All right!
Last week when discussing the art from the first half of the book, I talked a little bit about the formats we offer for FREE downloads... and how we're wanting to expand into others. Here's the breakdown average from December's issue...
Anybody looking at this breakdown would say "Wow... why do you even bother with anything but PDF?"
The answer is because our "circulation" was around 2850 last issue and, as always when we release a new issue, it has climbed a bit. As of yesterday, we topped 3200. Which means 4% translates into 130 people who prefer to read THRICE via eBook. That's worth the 90 minutes it takes for me to create it. The Kindle version is automatically created from the eBook, so now we're up to around 150 people.
The print edition is just a higher resolution version of the PDF that takes 2 minutes to generate and 5 to upload to MagCloud. For the 30-50 people who want to have THRICE in print (including yours truly), I'll spend the seven minutes to make it happen.
And if we can expand our readership by adding an online version... an iPad version... or whatever else we can think of? We're going to do that too. Because as our downloads continue to blast past our every expectation, even small percentages are going to account for more people than R.W. and I ever dreamed would be reading in the first place. We're happy... nay, thrilled... to provide THRICE in whatever format people want to have it.
So look for our "Cerebral Implant" edition, coming 2025.
And now... back to the artwork for THRICE Fiction No. 10, which you can read about in an extended edition...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Finish up all those boiled eggs leftover from last weekend... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Bricked. If you are an iPhone user upgrading your iOS to version 7.1.1, PLEASE MAKE SURE YOUR PHONE IS BACKED UP FIRST! I attempted to update my iPhone and ended up getting it completely bricked. The only way I could make it useable again was to plug it into my MacBook and use iTunes to manually update it. Luckily, my phone had backed up to iCloud that morning, or I would have lost a lot of photos. Usually, I don't even think about backups because I've never had any update problems, but I guess there's a first time for everything.
• Quick. The recent run of absolutely brilliant Marvel Comics movie adaptations has been nothing short of miraculous. Everything Marvel Studios touches... from Iron-Man to Captain America to Thor to Avengers has been amazing. But we haven't been so lucky with Marvel movies from other studios. In particular, Bryan Singer's horrendously shitty X-Men films over at 20th Century Fox. The first three were gut-wrenchingly bad. The first Wolverine spin-off was tragic. But then the pendulum swung in the other direction. Matthew Vaughn gave us the excellent X-Men: First Class, then James Mangold unleashed a terrific sequel with The Wolverine. My hopes for the X-Universe were restored. UNTIL 20th CENTURY FOX GAVE IT BACK TO BRYAN SINGER! I mean, seriously, WHAT THE FUCK?!? And, naturally, once we started seeing photos, it looked like Singer had once again spread his butt-cheeks and plopped a load of crap on the franchise. One of my biggest disappointments was his shitty interpretation of the character Quicksilver...
The ugly hair, freaky glasses, and idiotic belt of clunky gadgets just had to be a joke, right? And what's with that stupid jacket? But, no, it wasn't a joke. Subsequent photos confirmed the hideous outfit... but I was relieved to see the belt gone and the hair looking marginally better...
At least until a fucking hamburger commercial, of all things, showed the character in full lighting...
Holy shit. I MEAN, HOLY SHIT! Somebody dressing up for ComicCon does a better job than this embarrassment! But it's Bryan Singer. After the colossal dump he took on Superman Returns, nothing surprises me. This is what we expect.
But the good news is that Marvel Studios owns the right to The Avengers, of which Quicksilver is a part. Sure, they can't have him be a mutant, because 20th Century Fox gets all that with their X-Men license... but, hey, JOSS WHEDON WILL AT LEAST DO THE CHARACTER RIGHT IN AVENGERS 2!
And then I see this...
Okay. I admit it's a vast, vast improvement over the shitty X-Men version... but this is the best they could do? A nonsensical shirt with an ugly design and pants from some kind of Members Only 80's collection. Really? WHY? LORD, WHY?!?
• Smack. Advice as true then as it is now... DON'T BE A GUM-SMACKING WHORE, PEOPLE!
For more timeless dating advice, here's a link for you.
• Ten. And so Ronald McDonald got a makeover to make him less creepy. Here's the old Ronald....
And here's the new...
FAIL! If anything, the attempt to fashion-forward a fucking clown only makes the scary asshole even creepier. If this thing were to come walking towards me I would lose my shit.
• Shhhh! I've watched this at least a half-dozen times. You couldn't hope for a better end to Bullet Sunday...
And... have a good week, everybody!
"It's more than that. It's perfect."
Today is the 25th anniversary of my most favorite movie ever made, Field of Dreams. I've seen it dozens of times and love it more with each new viewing. In the past I've describe the film as "flawless" and, after having watched it again tonight, still feel that to be true...
The filmmakers somehow managed to pull together the perfect cast (including James Earl Jones, a long-time favorite) for a story that really shouldn't translate to the screen very well. So much of the plot revolves around things so fantastical, unbelievable, or just plain nuts that reenacting them in real life seemed like a ticket to disaster. But Kevin Costner was able to ground his character so fully into his world that it just didn't matter. His every reaction to the bizarre things going on around him made you believe there was nothing bizarre about it. He believes it, so you do too.
One of my favorite things about the film is that nothing is explained. Absolutely no effort is put into explaining how any of the crazy events are transpiring because the only thing that matters is why they are happening... which results in one of the best movie endings ever.
And compelled me to visit the Field of Dreams movie site in Iowa.
Perhaps a movie will come along in the next 25 years that will knock Field of Dreams off the top spot in my list of favorite films. But somehow I doubt it. It's pretty hard to do better than perfect.
And now? A bit of trivia...
The little girl who played Karen Kinsella was named Gaby Hoffmann...
Who grew up to play Ruby Jetson in the Veronica Mars movie...
Tuesday is the toughest day of the week for me. If anything is going to go wrong, today is the day.
In this case, it was having a pile of work left over from Monday while I'm having to reschedule three flights. Which wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the heinous change-fees that airlines like to charge now. I had to pay anywhere from $125 to $200... plus the change in airfare. Which always seems to increase, by the way. Kind of crazy how having your plans change can be so absurdly costly.
Just one more reason I frickin' loathe to fly any more. Even if you manage to get a decent fare, you still end up screwed if something comes up. And when you fly dozens of times a year, stuff is gonna come up.
It's not like I need to pay rent. Or eat. Or buy toilet paper.
Good thing I gave up taking a shit for Lent.
I once dated a girl who introduced me to the word "serendipity."
By using it repeatedly.
Absolutely everything was "serendipity" to her. Come across an empty parking space in a crowded lot? Serendipity. Find something you were needing to buy on sale? Serendipity. The rain stops just before you walk out the door? Serendipity. Nab the last bottle of your favorite fabric softener off the shelf? Serendipity. Your mother calls just before your boyfriend is making his move? Serendipity.
We didn't date for very long, but I really ended up hating that word. Her constant over-use ruined it for me.
the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.
"a fortunate stroke of serendipity"
But a while back I saw a really good commercial for Subaru that had me revisiting the word again...
Find your soulmate when you pick up a woman who ran out of gas?
Now that's serendipity.
I love a really good commercial.
Almost as much as a loathe a really bad one.
Today it reached 84° F
Tomorrow it's supposed to hit 86° F
And so I'm guessing this means Spring is over. Which is upsetting since it never really started until three weeks ago. So much for my favorite season.
As if that weren't horrible enough, THIS pretty much sums up my day...
The good news is that not all the links I needed were broken.
Most of them were just linking to the wrong page.
I'm not sure whether this is the case of us spending too many tax dollars... or too little. But it would be nice if Secretary of State John Kerry could get his shit fixed.
Why does that lady in the subway give Thor the wrong directions to Greenwich in his The Dark World movie?
The bullshit "three stops from Charing Cross Station" line bothered me when I first saw the film... and it really bothers me whenever I re-watch it on video. Like tonight. I can only imagine how badly it pisses off a Londoner. I mean, sure, it would have sucked to say "YOU CAN'T GET THERE FROM HERE, GOD OF THUNDER! YOU NEED TO TAKE THE DOCKLANDS LIGHT RAIL BY SWITCHING TO THE JUBILEE LINE!" or whatever (I think that's how I got there when I went). But wouldn't that be better than forever having the distinction of being known as a writer who didn't bother to take two minutes to look at a frickin' London tube map?
Don't make Thor angry. You won't like him when he's angry.
And angry is what he would be if he were to find out that he was lied to about how to get to Greenwich.
Next up? Where was Captain Britain when London was being torn to shit by the Dark Elves?
"Master, are you a god?" "No," he replied. "Are you a reincarnation of god?" "No," he replied."Are you a wizard, then?" "No." "Well, are you a man?" "No." "So what are you?" The priest asked. Buddha simply replied: "I am awake." — A very loose translation from the Dona Sutta.For the most part, Saturdays are nothing for me to get excited about. They haven't been for a very long time. Which is okay. Really it is. I don't mind having to work hard every day of the week, because that's how I afford to go on vacation twice a year. And, despite getting cracked ribs on my Springtime vacation, I am totally looking forward to my Fall vacation. Whatever that's going to be.
And yet, regardless of how much work I have to get through, Saturdays at least feel like they should somehow be special. This is probably a remnant of my childhood where I didn't have to go to school and didn't have to worry about going to school the next morning (as with Sunday).
With that in mind, anything that puts a wrench in my Saturday deals double damage. Or rather, I get doubly upset about crap when it happens on a Saturday.
And today it's because of this ignorant piece of shit, Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court...
And the story of his reprehensible behavior here: Alabama’s Chief Justice: Buddha didn’t create us so First Amendment only protects Christians.
I don't give a flying fuck if somebody wants to be a repugnant religious bigot and say stupid shit... zero fucks do I give... that's freedom of speech, even for dumbass Roy Moore. But if you're going to be an intolerant piece of shit, is it really too much to ask that you at least not be so grossly uninformed? You're a Chief Justice, for Christ's sake.
Buddha never claimed to "make" anybody. Nobody who practices Buddhism believes that Buddha "made" anybody. The Buddha was a teacher. A highly respected and revered teacher, but a teacher.
So when some redneck fringe Christian dumbfuck like Chief Justice Moore elevates Buddha to God, it's painfully obvious he has no fucking clue what he's talking about. Which obviously extends to his knowledge of The Bible, Christianity, The Constitution of the United States of America, US Law, State Law, the Treaty of Tripoli, and US History as a whole.
Yet at one point he was considering a run for the US Presidency.
And why not? People were stupid enough to elect this ignorant asshole into a State Supreme Court judge.
As with most positions of power in this country, smarts ain't required, yo.
I am so ready for Saturday to be over now.
Use the fourth, you... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Forced. It's Star Wars Day! "May the Fourth" be with you!
• Neutral. I have written about the importance of net neutrality many, many times (the latest is here), and it still completely boggles my mind how people just don't seem to care. The FCC, whose job it should be to ensure a free and open internet took a huge crap all over the American people when FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler came out in support of abandoning true net neutrality. This is a horrendous fucking blow to the internet, and I am disgusted to my very core that President Obama, WHO CONSISTENTLY PROMISED TO DEFEND NET NEUTRALITY DURING HIS CAMPAIGN, remains silent on the matter. When are these politician assholes going to remember that THEY FUCKING WORK FOR THE AMERICAN PEOPLE? Oh... that would be never. Because companies with deep pockets are throwing a fuck-ton of money at them to get what they want. Democrats, Republicans, or whatever... our politicians work for lobbyists and corporate greed, not US citizens, and anybody who thinks otherwise is fooling themselves. So, yeah... go ahead and buy into the artificial wall of hate created to divide and distract everybody... that's exactly what the people who really control this country want. In the meanwhile, say goodbye to the internet as we know it.
• Magic. I don't know if this can be considered cruel or not... but dogs being fooled by close-up magic is sure funny...
The reactions are priceless. I'm kinda amazed at how many of the dogs grasp the effects of gravity enough to think the treat must have fallen to the floor. Here's part two.
• Burrito. BECAUSE I JUST CAN'T HELP MYSELF!"
Videos like this are what the internet was made for.
• Stacked. So... apparently competitive cup-stacking is a thing...
Kind of a really cool thing. A search on YouTube turns up all kinds of fascinating cup-foolery.
Now, if you'll excuse me, if I don't have those units in the south range repaired be midday, there'll be hell to pay!
The work assignment was not very glamorous, but it did include an opportunity to visit a new Hard Rock property, so I jumped at the chance to travel to Palm Springs.
I haven't been to the so-called "Golf Capital of the World" in years, but it's all seems pretty much the same. The only things to do here are eat, shop, golf, and hang out by the pool. Which would bore the crap out of me if I didn't have work going on... and explains why I get here so rarely. One day I need to come here with a group of friends, because something tells me that is the best way to experience the city.
Yesterday I flew into PSP on a quick 2-hour hop from Seattle. The airport here is one of my favorites because it features a terrific open courtyard in the middle...
PSP Map Courtesy of... GOOGLE MAPS!
It's also small, which makes it easy to get in and out of. Always a plus.
Yesterday I didn't have any work, so I spent my afternoon eating. I started at Hamburger Mary's which has a decent Veggie Burger. And Godzilla vs. Mothra playing on the television...
The restaurant is billed as "gay-themed and LGBT-friendly"... but, to me, it's just a funky place to eat with good food...
For dessert? GREAT SHAKES! The only milkshake joint I know that hangs a mini-cupcake on the super-straw...
I turned in around 8:00 last night because I had a very early wake-up this morning. And I wanted to catch up on television.
Which brings us to today...
Because of work, I ended up having a very late lunch. So when it came time for dinner, I wasn't very hungry. The plan was to go out and have a margarita and chips to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, then turn in early.
I ended up having four.
Then a burrito...
Then fried ice cream...
Cinco margaritas on Cinco de Mayo plus Way Too Much Food. What could possibly go wrong?
My hotel uses touch-cards for room entry. Since I my key was in my back pocket, I had the brilliant idea of touching my butt to the door to unlock. Since the lock-pad is higher up than my ass I had to jump up into it. Couldn't get it to work after three tries, so I decided to give up. Only to realize my room key was in my FRONT pocket all along. I seriously debated whether or not I should try grinding into the door to try to open it. Ultimately I figured that the people monitoring the security cameras already had enough fun for the night and decided against it.
Who says that alcohol dulls your thinking! Not me!
I did not set my expectations very high for The Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs. Even though it was a HR Corporate project, the website gave it the feel of a crappy quick-and-dirty "conversion property" like Tulsa and Albuquerque. Those lazy hotels where they just slap a few pieces of rock memorabilia on the walls, change a few door-handles to be guitar-shaped, hang a logo above the door, and call it a Hard Rock...
Nope, despite outside appearances, the Palm Springs hotel was actually really well done. Much more than just a coat of paint and some superficial decorations. The lobby was beautifully themed with rock instrument sculptures, a lot of music-themed details, and a surprising amount of memorabilia. The design is beautifully eclectic and authentic Hard Rock, featuring a full lobby bar, a restaurant, and a merch shop... all really well done.
The reception desk...
The very nice bar in the lobby area...
Lobby staircase and FUN...
Memorabilia case at the entrance...
But the biggest surprise? They actually put some effort into theming the rooms! Many times they don't even bother with a hotel conversion, but it looks as thought they gutted everything and made it be Hard Rock style...
The only disappointment in the conversion was the pool area. Not only is the pool tiny, there was no effort to make it look very Hard Rock. They half-heartedly spray-painted a few Banksy-inspired murals on a couple walls and that's about it...
Overall a pleasant surprise. This is a great hotel... and a great addition to the Hard Rock family. The staff was terrific. Everything is clean and impeccably-maintained. The location is fantastic, just one block off Palm Canyon Drive downtown. Even the pricing seems comparable with similarly-equipped hotels in the area (i.e. a bit expensive). I enjoyed my stay very much.
In keeping with the growing trend of screwing your guests, of course there's a fucking "resort fee" you have to pay at checkout. The Hard Rock Palm Springs charges $30 per day, which is definitely on the high-side. It includes the usual... local calls nobody will ever make because they have fucking mobile phones and don't know anybody local... access to the gym which nobody will bother with because they're on vacation... access to the pool, which you've been getting free at every hotel since the dawn of time... internet access, which should be included in the room cost anyway... basically, bullshit amenities that are valued a hell of a lot less the $30 a day. I'd give you a complete breakdown of what it includes but, of course, a complete breakdown cannot be found on the hotel website because they want to camouflage this fucking bullshit charge as much as possible. I dunno. Maybe it also includes parking, which helps justify the cost IF you have a car... but $30 a day still seems fucking insane.
I only stayed for one day and didn't have a car, but I did get a ride to the airport and use the internet, so I'm trying not to be sore about paying $30 for nothing (seriously, if you still charge for internet, you're a fucking nickel-and-diming douchebag of a hotel). I could not stay here longer than two days without feeling as though I were being seriously ripped off. I would not.
But this is how it works now. Hotels want to grab people with cheap-ass room rates on the discount sites, but don't actually want to give their customers a discount. Hence the "resort fee" bullshit.
If you're looking for a nice place to stay and don't mind being violated with a mandatory fee for shit you won't use, by all means give the Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs a look.
And I've always liked flying through SFO before. It's great... until you have to change terminals.
Thanks to flights being late, my connection was NOT two doors down... but instead across the entire airport at the International Terminal. Which is fine. I've got the time. Kinda. EXCEPT YOU HAVE TO EXIT FRACKIN' TERMINAL SECURITY TO GET TO ANY OTHER TERMINAL! LIKE THIS IS THE FRACKIN' 1950's WHEN YOU DIDN'T HAVE TO GO THROUGH AN INQUISITION TO GET THROUGH SECURITY.
But that's not all. There's a Japanese toy exhibit in Terminal 3 that ends TODAY! (Thanks to James for the heads-up). So now, because we're late AND I HAVE TO GO THROUGH SECURITY TWICE... I may very well miss my flight. But I just don't care.
So I rush through the toys, run my ass off to get to the International A Terminal Security, then get to the gate as they're boarding.
This would have been so easy in most other airports where exiting Security is not required to change terminals. But not here. YOU SUCK ASS, SFO!!!
Except... Toys! How cool is that?
Very cool indeed. Good Bye, Kitty.
My drive to work is only five minutes long.
Coming and going each day I see more ridiculous crap on the road than should be possible in such a short commute... and yet, every day I am reminded that nothing is "impossible." People wandering all over the road because they're busy talking on mobile phones. People driving off the road because they're texting. People driving at insane speeds for a residential area. People driving half the speed limit and not giving a shit that they're backing up traffic. It never ends.
And today I saw a woman KNITTING WHILE DRIVING.
I shit you not.
She was all "knit one, pearl two" with her hands and somehow steering using her forearms pressed against the wheel.
I need to get a mountable video camera and start a YouTube channel.
For the longest time I've been dismissive of those who say that Apple has gone downhill since Steve Jobs left us (praise be unto His name). As a Certified Apple Whore, I pretty much have to, right? And besides, as great as His Steveness was, Apple has always been more than just one man. Steve Jobs didn't do it all alone, and the people who helped to make Apple into such a remarkable company are still around. So, yeah, Apple isn't going to be the same... but it couldn't possibly be the horrific disaster that all the nay-sayers keep insisting: "APPLE IS OVER!" "APPLE CAN'T SURVIVE!" "POST-JOBS APPLE IS DOOMED!" What nonsense!
As time goes on and the user experience with Apple products degenerates to complete and total shit, my opinion has been changing.
Don't get me wrong... I firmly believe nobody is doing it better... but the detail-oriented Apple that made me commit my eternal servitude over the past decade simply doesn't exist any more.
Let's walk through an example, shall we?
I perfectly understand the need to prevent random people from walking up to my computer and charging a bunch of crap to my Apple ID. Really I do. But having to enter my password four times? What kind of sadistic fucking asshole made that happen? And how badly would Steve Jobs explode over what a shitty user experience that is? I'd rather just buy a physical book at Amazon with their One-Click shopping.
This problem goes much deeper than just inconveniencing customers to enter their password over and over and over and over again... it encourages people to pick simple, short, easy-to-remember, passwords. Which is pretty much the opposite of what you want, because those are the passwords that are easiest to crack. What you want is people using heinously complicated passwords that are very difficult to crack. But to get this to work, you have to make it so the password only has to be entered rarely. The password should be remembered by the system and auto-populate whenever you want to buy something. Of course you have to secure the system with a password... otherwise you're back to square one. But THAT is the kind of stuff Apple figures out so well. Like the fingerprint scanner on the iPhone, for example.
So where is it?
And since one example doesn't build a compelling case, here are a few more things off the top of my head that have been bugging the shit out of me with Apple's "User Experience"...
Holy crap... and that was just the stuff off the top of my head. Had I put some actual thought into this list, it would be ten times as long, I'm sure.
And there's my problem with Apple. In the past, I would expect that insane shit ruining the Apple experience would eventually be fixed. Now? I honestly don't know. There's obviously people in charge of these problem areas. But is Tim Cook obsessing over making sure these people are getting things to work exceptionally well like Steve Jobs was? Or is he being distracted by shiny things to buy with Apple's massive bank account? Early after his take-over, I was willing to give him the benefit of doubt. But now? We're going on three years and I'm starting to worry.
I want... need... Apple to be insanely great.
Anything less isn't Apple.
I'm not 100% sure where or what... but at least I know when.
1/3 of a year.
So close. Yet so very, very far away.
Time to put down that mommy... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Maternal! The happiest of Mother's Days to all the moms out there... including mine!
And if you're looking for an inspirational story for the holiday, look no further than this one.
• Chaz Darling. It has been increasingly difficult for me to accept the fact that The Colbert Report is ending this year. The show has some of the smartest commentary on on current events to be found anywhere, and it's been getting better and better as The End approaches. The May 8th episode was one of the best ever, and is well worth taking time to watch. If you don't have time for the full show, this interview will show you what you're missing...
Miss you already, Stephen T. Colbert. And congratulations to Larry Wilmore, whose new show "The Minority Report" will be filling the Colbert Report's shoes in January.
• Melting. Well, this is a conflict for somebody who loves cool art... yet finds all life sacred. Though, if they have to die, this is probably less cruel than gassing them or lighting them on fire?
Poor ants. But at least they didn't die in vain... those sculptures are pretty amazing.
• Hamster. Hot on the heels of last week's TINY HAMSTER EATING TINY BURRITOS comes TINY HAMSTER EATING TINY PIZZA!
I want Tiny Hamster Eating Tiny Quiche to be next... but, in all honesty, I'd take a tiny hamster eating a tiny anything, really.
• Free? Freedom of religion. It was good while it lasted.
• CANCELED. Two shows I really enjoy... Community and Enlisted... have been cancelled. And it doesn't end there... The Crazy Ones, Suburgatory, Raising Hope, and Killer Women have also been axed.
What bums me out is not that something I liked watching is gone... it's that the networks will undoubtedly replace them with total shit. Or some idiotic new reality show, which is worse than total shit.
• PICKED UP. Along with the myriad of cancellation notices, there were two bright spots amidst the gloom...
First there's Constantine, based on the comic book Hellblazer, which actually looks pretty darn good. Obviously they're trying to cash in on the supernatural success of The Walking Dead, but it seems as though this show is going to have a tough time within the confines of major network television...
Then there's Gotham, which is the "before Batman" equivalent to Smallville. Not really my cup of tea, but it looks as though they're at least trying to be interesting with the material...
Yeah, I'll give them both a whirl. As a comic book fan, I pretty much have to.
Until next week...
As I've repeated many, many times... visiting Antarctica has been a dream trip of mine for decades.
So I'd really like to know why it is that any news that comes from there is bad news? And today it was the worst news of all.
Yeah, NASA is saying that it could be centuries before massive chunks start breaking off fast enough to cause sea level to rise significantly, but massive chunks always seem to be breaking off the seventh continent. And who knows... the news coming from Antarctica could be even worse tomorrow.
So I guess it really is time to shit or get off the pot.
Either I make it to Antarctica in the next year or two, or I risk having to remove it from my list completely.
Guess I'll be robbing a bank or selling a kidney one day soon.
Fun trip to the eye doctor today.
Apparently my astigmatism, which has been growing progressively worse over the past six years, has done gone missing. Evaporated. Disappeared. Since I totally blamed my worsening eyesight on society's indoctrination by The Gay Agenda™, I figured I'd be completely blind by now since Washington State (and a bunch of other states) passed marriage equality and Michael Sam got drafted into the NFL as its first openly gay player.
But instead... my eyesight actually improved after Washington State (and a bunch of other states) passed marriage equality and Michael Sam got drafted into the NFL as its first openly gay player. So I guess I had it all backwards. Once marriage equality goes nation-wide and an NFL player's sexuality isn't considered news... I fully expect to get Superman's X-ray vision. Or his heat his vision. Or his microscopic vision. Or his telescopic vision. One of those visions. Maybe all of those visions.
Wow, Superman sure has a shit-ton of super-visions!
I guess that's why he's Superman.
But putting aside the fucking insane people who belief that The Gays are responsible for everything that goes wrong in the world... many happy congratulations to Michael Sam!
And his boyfriend, surely...
For the life of me, I cannot comprehend why two guys kissing caused a chunk of Americana to lose their fucking minds. Turn the channel and you've got people murdering each other... people abusing drugs... people having drunken sex... The Kardashians... and yet it's two guys kissing that makes people want to shoot their television and boycott ESPN?
"BUT, ZOMFG! THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!"
Kids only think that something is a big deal if adults make it into a big deal for them. If your children are freaking out, it's because you're making it happen. Don't go all homophobic crazy, and Michael Sam's kiss is just another kiss in a parade of thousands of kisses that happen on television every day.
Maybe people will finally be able to see that with their super-vision once we finally get an openly gay president.
Blerrrrgh! I feel like crap.
It was a crazy day but none of it is really blogable, so I guess I'll finally answer this list of "Fifty Original Questions For You" that a reader sent to me... which they found at Liz From The Internet.
And here we go...
Travel costs, which have always been kinda expensive... but not prohibitively so... have been skyrocketing at a steady clip. Every time I turn around, the price for a trip goes up. Airfare keeps rising. Meals keep rising. Local transportation keeps rising. And hotels? Hotels are absolutely nuts. Even if you use Priceline and Hotwire to save money, lodging in most major cities is insanely pricey if you want to stay at a nice property in a decent location.
For my trip to Chicago today, I started adding things up and nearly passed out. Compared to six years ago, this trip will be almost double the cost. You read that right, double. Even the little things... like a bottle of Coke at the 7-11 (99¢ to $1.79) have gotten out of hand, and it all adds up...
I'm seriously starting to wonder if traveling for work is even worth it any more. If a huge chunk of the money you earn is pissed away on flights, hotels, and food... it seems a lot of effort for very little return.
And so I consider settling down and traveling less.
But then I happen upon the best fucking veggie burger I have ever had tonight, and begin to think that maybe it's worth it after all. I'd never be able to get something like this back home.
Or maybe I just need to move to Chicago.
Inflation, it's a bitch, yo.
My entire day was a build-up to returning to the restaurant I had eaten at last night to see if the veggie burger I had eaten was as good as I thought it had been.
Because when you've eaten the best burger you've ever had, you want to be sure, right?
Especially when you look back through your Facebook feed and see this...
And so, I went back for another late-supper veggie burger...
And it was indeed the best damn veggie burger I had ever eaten. Again.
I'm told that it's soy-based, but they add in roasted sweet red peppers, a bit of jalapeño peppers, and shredded beets (which makes the patty look blood-red when you bite into it). I still have no idea where the bun comes from... but it's got a texture that's amazing and a bit of sweetness to it.
Anyway... if you're ever in Chicago and have a hankering for a really good burger, 25 Degrees looks like it's the place! Though, fair warning, it gets really loud, as there's a bar in the middle of the room.
They also have locations in Los Angeles, Huntington Beach, and Bangkok.
But I have a feeling Chicago will always be my favorite.
What was supposed to be a "free day" ended up being a full-on work day from start to finish.
Which wasn't a terrible thing, because my seasonal allergies are back. The transition from Winter to Spring and Spring to Summer are always a miserable few weeks while my body adjusts to the changes. And I always seem to get nailed when I travel... I swear I could feel the assault on my eyes and sinuses the minute I stepped off the plane.
Thank heavens for Fluticasone, which at least makes it so that I can breathe.
And now, thanks to Wikipedia, I know how it's synthesized...
But still, better living through chemistry, I always say.
No more waiting for your ship to come in... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Blinded. This is a great story... it's short and awesome and worth your time and it has nice photos and you should read it. Sometimes things that seem irreparably broken just need a little TLC to make it through. That probably goes for people too...
• Blinded Deux. And I can't post that wonderful story without being reminded of this wonderful story...
Remarkable how animals can fall between the cracks like this. That probably goes for people too. Again.
• Movie! Just a happy reminder... The LEGO Movie will be available at the iTunes Store tomorrow...
Though I was not happy with the way they wrapped it up at the end, The LEGO Movie has still been one of the best movies this year so far.
• Thrice. Today was the annual board meeting for THRICE Fiction Magazine, so I packed up and headed west to the wilds of ChicagoLand Suburbia to meet with our intrepid Editor at Large, RW and his lovely wife. After much exciting talk about future plans for everybody's favorite literature magazine, we were off to Lynfred Winery for some remarkable Sangria Blanc. Which was followed by delicious possibilities for food porn at Restaurant 1913 in Roselle...
Insider Tip: The "Pizzettes" are to die for. I had the Spinach + Artichoke with Herbed Ricotta... heaven on a wooden serving board...
I dare say it's a dining experience worth the 45 minute train ride out of Chicago proper.
• Selfie! Alex Chacon has been living my dream... traveling the world on a motorcycle... for three years now. The video highlights he's released from his journey is the most epic selfie ever created...
You can find out a lot more about Alex's travels at his The Modern Motorcycle Diaries site.
And that's a wrap from beautiful Chicago!
Well today was pretty much a crap day.
In that it was a gorgeous day out and I had to stay inside working.
The only time I could escape was for a quick lunch downtown after making a trip to Dick Blick. Much to my surprise and delight, Chicago has been flooded by Pret A Manger, so I indulged in one of their Mediterranean Salad Wraps. Oh how I love Pret's fresh approach to fast food. They've only just arrived on the East Coast... but their move on Chicago has me hopeful that they'll reach Seattle eventually.
In other news that's unrelated entirely...
Is it just me... or is $50 a shockingly inadequate amount of money to pay for puking in somebody's taxi? It costs at least that much to take a taxi from O'Hare to the city once you add a tip! I mean, come on, if somebody puked in MY taxi? Ain't no way $50 is going to cover it. The smell alone would make me puke all over my own cab... so there's at least $100 in charges right there.
Vomiting in a Chicago taxi is such an incredible bargain so far as entertainment is concerned, that I'm almost tempted to try it. Here's hoping that if I'm drunk enough to puke in a taxi that I'm drunk enough not to feel any shame afterwards.
Because isn't that the real price you pay?
Today started out so badly, but ultimately ended up being a really good day.
Mostly because I got to go to a huge candy show with Jenny (of RunJenRun fame) and then drop into a sugar coma.
And because I got to make my own custom box of Tic Tacs...
I called mine GREEN PASSION... and it's a mix of Green Apple and Passion Fruit...
After work I went out for dinner and saw that Disney is pulling out all the stops to promote Angelie Jolie's Maleficent...
Trump Tower Chicago is such a pretty building. But I guess The Donald must have run out of money because only the "T" and the "R" are up on the building... and only the "R" has the lights on...
On the way back to my hotel, I spotted these two lonely Safety Men... guarding nothing...
But at least they have each other.
Which is nice, because then it started to rain.
Which made sleeping a bit of a challenge.
As if insomniacs didn't already have it bad enough.
My last day in Chicago.
A pity I had to spend my entire morning working.
Well, not my entire morning. I was able to take a minute to meet with the Hot Coffee Girl herself for a meet-up at Hancock Tower. They have a new attraction called TILT! where you get to stand against a window, then be tilted at a 45° angled off the side of the building...
Not so scary as if they laid you out at a 90° angle, but still very cool.
They don't let you use a camera or a phone to take pictures... apparently they are worried about the safety of the glass (WTF?!?), but this is kinda what you see if you look straight down...
A little heart-stopping but, again, still very cool.
After checking out of my hotel and returning to work for a while, it was time to head home (with The Spirit of St. Lewis working my flight!) on a new Alaska Airlines livery for me... the Portland Timbers plane!
Layover in Portland. Layover in Seattle. A quick flight to my local airport. Then a half-hour drive home. Well, it would have been a half-hour... if not for having to wait for a stupid train.
I hate trains.
They always end up blocking my route no matter what time I'm trying to get somewhere... even past midnight, like tonight...
And as if that wasn't bad enough, you have to listen to their stupid-ass train whistles at all hours of the day and night.
Oh well. At least I'm home in my own bed at last.
Wish I was tired enough to fall asleep.
All things considered, I'd rather be back in Chicago.
Even with all their thunder and lightning...
At least there I could get a decent veggie dog.
Remember how excited I was over the upcoming Ant Man movie by Edgar Wright?
So, yeah... that's no longer happening.
"Marvel and Edgar Wright jointly announced today that the studio and director have parted ways on Ant-Man due to differences in their vision of the film. The decision to move on is amicable and does not impact the release date on July 17, 2015. A new director will be announced shortly."
That ugly bit of news was the cherry on the shit sundae of a day, and I'm not sure what this means for the film. Sure, it's still got Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas in starring roles... but what made this such a highly anticipated event for me was that Edgar Wright writing and directing Ant Man. It was such a perfect pairing. I can only guess that Marvel wanted a more serious take on the material than Wright had planned. Which is bound to happen when it's occupying the same universe as such massively lucrative properties as Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and The Avengers.
Ant Man, after all, IS an Avenger, and that's a billion dollars in bank that I'm sure Marvel is nervous about jeopardizing.
But I have to wonder if Marvel's efforts will ultimately be wasted when people get tired of all their "Cinematic Universe" films becoming too much the same and stop going to see the films. Ant Man skewing a bit more funny and wacky was a good thing.
Alas, given Marvel's stellar track record in film adaptations, it's really hard for me to be too critical.
I just hope I can say the same thing after Ant Man is released.
And here's another one of those meme things.
They really dried up for a while, but now they keep getting sent to me. Lucky break, I guess, considering the only thing I did on this fine Saturday was work.
If you're in the USA, I hope you're in serviceable condition this three-day holiday weekend... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• SOLAR. FREAKIN'. ROADWAYS! This project is so mind-bogglingly awesome that I really want to believe it's going to happen. Until I remember that all our fucking politicians are in the pocket of fucking oil industry billionaires who will undoubtedly stop at nothing to make sure it doesn't happen. No... our government will finally decide to allow something like this when we're finally OUT of oil, and there's no more Big Oil teat for them to suckle... at which point we won't have the energy to do it, but whatever...
The project has reached their funding goal... but you can still contribute and they can still put your money to good use. Click here to donate in the next six days.
UPDATE: An interesting look at why this idea is fantasy...
• The R-Word. And so this happened...
50 Senators Call On NFL To Change Redskins' Name.
Look, it doesn't matter what the intent is. It doesn't matter the context. It doesn't matter what legacy has been established. It doesn't matter how "respectful" you are. It doesn't matter what tradition and history mean to the team. "Redskins" is a historically hateful, dismissive, disrespectful, racist, and wholly offensive term for Native Americans. Period. It hasn't changed meaning. It hasn't been "taken back." It hasn't "moved past" its vile history. It is just as hurtful to those of Native American heritage today as it has always been. So why is this even a debate? Why has it taken THIS long? I mean, I KNOW this country's history of treatment for its Natives has been atrocious from the very beginning, but how can it ever be too late to start changing that? Despite our tragic history's best efforts, THESE PEOPLE EXIST! And there is no possible reason, context, intent, or excuse where "redskins" is an acceptable term to be used for anything. Then. Now. Forever. That there are people who can't even see how horrifically offensive this word is to an entire people and their culture only goes to show just how ugly it really is. And it needs to stop.
• Assholes. Hearing crazy shit from assholes like Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh doesn't phase me any more. They say outrageous crap every day in order to shock people into paying attention to them, and I'm just done with it. But when it comes to everyday people? People who say outrageous crap for no other reason than being assholes towards their fellow human beings? That still freaks me the hell out...
Look, I've already written about the idea of people being forced to participate in activities that violate their religious convictions... but this is getting insane. Does nobody learn from history? Does any of this sound familiar? What's the next step? Do we just round up all the gays and the Jews so they don't accidentally offend somebody's religious sensibilities?? Seriously... what the fuck?!? I mean, THIS is the thinking of ignorant America now? I can't help but wonder how many surviving World War II vets are losing their ever-fucking minds right now. Exactly how far does this crap have to go before people wake up and just learn to live together?
• The Talk. Helpful video advice for parents...
I don't know what to say about this other than "genius." And holy shit.
• BIG! Well, since The Incredibles 2 has finally been announced, but is undoubtedly still years away, it seems like Marvel stepped up to the animation plate to fill the gap with little-known comic book property Big
Looks adorable. Baymax is the cutest thing to come to life since Schmoo.
And... unlike the rest of the known Universe (aka "The United States of America"), I have to work tomorrow, so until next week.
To all those who sacrificed their lives in service of their country... and to those who served and are still serving... many thanks from a grateful nation.
Last year I remember seeing on the local news how Seattle-native Capt. Will Swenson was the first Army officer to receive the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War. I was recently reminded of his service when this YouTube video started making the rounds again. Reminding us to remember those who've fallen...
And so we do.
The TWO HOURS of sleep I managed to get last night made for an agonizing day. By the time I got home I was so exhausted that I decided to have a cheese sandwich and take a short nap.
I woke up four hours later at 10:00.
Since I don't sleep but four or five hours a night, this has completely screwed up my sleep cycle. I'm still exhausted, but my body thinks that it has already slept for the day, so now I am going to be awake the rest of the night.
I am tempted to go buy a fifth of Jägermeister and drink until I pass out to get me back on track. But something tells me that trying to work with a hangover would be slightly worse than trying to work while sleep deprived, so I think I'll take a pass.
Instead I'll just look for a very big hammer.
How long have these V.A. Hospital scandals been screwing over our veterans? The first one I remember was laid at the feet of President George W. Bush back in 2007 when he somehow forgot that people get hurt in wars, and you have to prepare for that when you go to war. Then came President Obama with his flowery speeches from 2009 to 2012 at which time we were promised that he "will not be satisfied until we get this right."
And what happened then?
And all we've gotten... ALL we've gotten... have been lies and more scandals.
I don't know whether our politicians just don't give a shit about the men and women who risked their lives to serve their country, or if the problem is just so huge that nobody knows how to handle it.
Well, lucky for Congress and the President, I'm here to help.
Because, seriously, WHAT THE FUCK?!?
Politicians have no problem spending untold GAZILLIONS sending our troops to fight and die in their special-interest-sponsored wars... but come up short when it comes to their care. Injured soldiers are returning home to outrageously shitty health care doled out at a glacial pace which is provided under horrendous conditions in a situation so unfathomably bad that SOLDIERS WHO SURVIVE A WAR ARE KILLING THEMSELVES BECAUSE THEY CAN'T GET DECENT TREATMENT!
Fire the Veterans Affairs Secretary. Find somebody who can get the best value for the money and knows how to run a hospital network. THEN HAND HIM A BLANK CHECK AND GET THE JOB FUCKING DONE! I don't give a shit how much it costs. What's a few more billion on top of the millions of billions we've already spent on these wars? Is the health care of our veterans really where you want to skimp on budget? No. No it is not. This is one area where you want to back dump trucks filled with money up to the Veterans Affairs Office and just flood the fucking place with obscene amounts of cash. It's the price you pay for going to war. It's what you do when the people who put their lives on the line for you are hurting.
I'm sick and tired of the bullshit politics that have made this situation drag on for so absurdly long. I'm pretty sure that untold thousands of veterans are beyond sick and tired. Stop pointing fingers. Stop passing blame. Stop making speeches. Stop being such unbelievable pieces of shit to the Americans who least deserve it. Just stop it...
And so I flew to Tampa today.
But before I could catch my flights, I had to drive over the mountains, which was surprisingly un-cheery for this time of year...
Good news everyone... SeaTac International Airport has a Metsker Maps outlet! Cool!
I don't recall much about the flight to Cincinnati or my connecting flight to Tampa. I choose to believe this is a good thing. About all I remember was that it was a close connection. I landed (late) but my second flight was across the aisle, so I walked off one plane and directly on to the next.
I also remember arriving at Tampa to find a couple fighting about whether they were going to take a taxi or an airport shuttle. The wife didn't want to spend the money for a taxi. The husband didn't want to wait for the shuttle to show up. The wife announced that she doesn't like how he throws money away. The husband said that throwing money away on a trip to Florida was her idea, and he didn't complain about that.
The wife told her husband he was free to get back on the plane and go home.
Instead he made a growling noise, then hailed a taxi.
One of the few remaining bands on my 80's Must-See-List is The Smiths... but since that reunion probably isn't happening any time soon, getting to see Morrissey (whose early solo stuff I love) is the next best thing.
And since he wasn't coming anywhere near The Pacific Northwest and Seattle on the tour for his upcoming album World Peace Is None of Your Business, it meant I had to travel to see him. Off to Tampa I go.
I didn't eat much at all yesterday, so I woke up hungry this morning. I really wanted a falafel for lunch, but found out the mall across the street had a Grimaldi's, so my lunch plans were set.
But first... X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST!
It's no secret that I think Bryan Singer's original two X-Men films were crappy and boring... and that Brett Ratner's third film, the horrendously shitty X-Men: Last Stand, is one of the worst comic movies of all time. Nor is it a secret that I loved the Matthew Vaughn prequel film X-Men: First Class, and was thrilled that the X-Men franchise was finally getting a decent movie.
Which is why I was mortified when Matthew Vaughn dropped out and Bryan Singer returned to direct the First Class sequel... X-Men: Days of Future Past. And the fact that Singer was not only dragging his original X-Men back into the franchise... but he was also going to take a dump on a classic and beloved story from the comics... well, the movie had "disaster" written all over it. And that's pretty much what we got. In typical Singer fashion, inexplicable shit happens that has no regard for the characters, the source material, nor movie continuity. But back to the film...
In the future, mutants are almost extinct thanks to giant robots called "Sentinels" which hunt them down. In a last-ditch effort to save both mutants and humans, Wolverine's mind is sent back in time to his younger self so he can change history and save the world. The way he does this is to have Singer pull a new super-power out of his ass for Kitty Pryde, which makes no fucking sense, but oh well. What follows is kinda boring in stretches, but has some really good action sequences, so all is not lost, I guess. The best thing about the film is amazing performances by Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy... plus a killer sequence featuring the mutant Quicksilver (who looks fucking stupid, but is performed wonderfully). Overall, it's a decent flick that (wisely) abandons past continuity in an attempt to tell an entertaining story. I wish it was a better, tighter story which respected the source material more, but you can't have everything when it comes to an X-Men film, apparently. I give it a B-.
THEN it was time for pizza. I had them make a Da Vinci pie ala David's of Spokane... in a New York pizzeria... in Tampa... which was kind of strange. But it tasted great...
THEN, after working for the afternoon, it was time to make my way down to St. Petersburg for the show. Where I ran across this guy as I headed into town for a quick dinner...
The Morrissey concert, which was playing at the Mahaffey Theater, was worth the trip. Mostly. The opening act was Kristeen Young, who had moments of brilliance interrupted by ungodly screeching and instrument abuse. I can kinda describe her music thusly: Part Tori Amos. Part Pat Benetar. Part hog slaughterhouse. Part car wreck. Part piano being shot out of a cannon. All accompanied by drum and guitar pounding. I don't know what to make of it, actually. Not my thing I guess. She was followed by an interlude filled with all kinds of bizarre crap before Morrissey took the stage...
As for the main event? Moz sounded amazing, his band was very good, and he played a nice selection of songs. Sure, I wish he had done a lot more tracks from The Smiths and his earlier solo works, but even his later stuff sounds like classic Morrissey, so I enjoyed every minute...
All the way, Morrissey was Morrissey. He told us of his disgust that a sinkhole at LEGOland was more newsworthy than Syria or the death of Maya Angelou. Had a discussion with some people from the audience what they thought about it. And he accompanied Meat is Murder with a horrific, graphic, bloody video showing the atrocities that happen to poor animals in the meat and dairy industry. He also took time to give a thbpt/raspberry to the people in the audience who "weren't listening" after thanking those who did.
The crowd was a little dead, which explains why he played just 17 songs with a single encore compared to the 19-20 he's done in other cities. No matter... the show was well worth the trip and price of admission.
Now if only I can manage to see New Order in concert...
Today was a free day to hang out with The Certifiable Princess and her husband, which is the absolute best reason to visit Tampa.
They were nice enough to take me to lunch in Tarpon Springs at Rusty Bellies, home to my favorite potato salad on earth. And what's better than a bowl of the World's Best Potato Salad?
How about TWO bowls of the World's Best Potato Salad!
It's Mr. Rusty! Who is apparently into canibalism...
Who's got crabs?
Decided to try BIRTHDAY CAKE M&M's when we stopped at a drug store. They don't have cake in them or anything, it's more like cake flavoring added to regular ol' chocolate M&M's. Not horrible, but not very exciting either...
After an afternoon of big fun at CP's granddaughter's dance recital, it was off to Ybor City for dinner and good times...
Dinner was at a terrific restaurant called "Bernini's," which featured a beautiful pizza oven...
Across the street was a bar called... wait for it... BAD MONKEY!...
They even had giant Bad Monkey Jenga...
The Red Sox were trouncing Tampa Bay, which was nice...
Then it was time to wander down 7th Avenue to see what's happening on a Saturday night. Turns out it's quite a lot.
Mr. Empanada was hoppin'...
The Columbia Restaurant with its beautiful tiles was glowing...
The rest of the evening was spent walking around and doing some window shopping...
And... that's a wrap!
Now I should probably attempt to get some sleep, seeing as how I have to get up at 4:30am o I can get to the airport for my flight home.
Don't press that back button... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Leaving. And so my quick trip to Tampa has ended and I'm flying home today. Early. Way too early. Because I'm just not smart enough to stop booking early flights. But at least it's ultimately my choice. I feel sorry for these puppies who didn't have a choice but to fly...
Poor pup. At least he has decent legroom.
• Movies. While looking for something to watch on Delta's entertainment system, I ran across THIS hot mess...
Holy shit! How messed up is that?!?
I settled for watching Veronica Mars for the fourth time...
Or I would have if I could have found the movie playing. Delta is just a big ol' tease.
• I'M BATMAN! Already clearing a space on my Fall schedule...
Two of my favorite things on earth are LEGO and Batman. To have them combined in something so awesome gives my life meaning.
• Man-ual. If you're a fan of the Iron Man movies, you NEED to get The Iron Man Manual. It's a book... but not really a book. It's meant to be a dossier prepared by Tony Stark's computerized butler, Jarvis. The result is more "scrap book" than anything else, and it's really well done. Pages have tickets, post-it notes, schematics, drawings, and other movie prop goodies pasted to them. As if that weren't enough, the book is jam-packed with info from the films, including a complete look at all the various armors...
Surprisingly good book and a must for Iron Man fans. You can get a copy here.
• ILLOGICAL! ILLOGICAL! Watch the video to continue... but the video cannot be loaded... but you have to load the video to continue but...
Thanks a heap, SeaTac Free WiFi!
And... my plane is going to be landing in a few minutes, so I'll be shutting down now.
I came back from Tampa too soon.
Or not soon enough.
Despite driving 2-1/2 hours directly from the airport to work and then putting in six hours at the office before going home yesterday, I was still swamped today. I was so buried that I ended up working from 4:30am to 1:00am.
Needless to say, writing in my blog is the last thing I want to do after 20-1/2 hours of work.
Well, maybe not the last thing.
But close to it.
Because my entire day yesterday was spent catching up on work, I had the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference keynote running... but couldn't pay very close attention to it.
And so... today's the day I get to channel my inner Mac Whore and talk about new happings at everyone's favorite fruit-named tech company. If the thought of that bores you, here's your chance to escape! But don't come back until the day after tomorrow, because that'll be Part Two.
OS X YOSEMITE
The successor to OS X Mavericks, OS X Yosemite, was presented by Craig Federighi, the Senior VP of Software Engineering at Apple...
The guy is incredibly charismatic and engaging... reaching to near Steve Jobsian heights with his presentation skills. He's also darn funny, injecting wit and humor into his speech at a breakneck pace.
The look of Yosemite is very much a continuation of iOS7. All aspects of the OS from the controls to the icons have been simplified, saturated, and flattened. In addition, transparency effects have been liberally sprinkled all over the interface elements. Which is something I'm not thrilled about because I find it unnecessarily distracting. Hopefully users will have the ability to disable the transparency like they currently can with the menu bar.
Federighi seemed especially proud of the new look for Yosemite's trashcan...
Personally, I don't give a shit what the trashcan looks like... I only care that it works. Which it currently does not in Mavericks. It will show as "empty" even when there's files inside. Hopefully somebody bothered to fix this incredibly basic and incomprehensibly ignored bug.
After talking trash, we moved on to the system font, which is no longer Lucida Grande. I don't know what the new typeface is called, but it's very pretty and easy to read. And as exciting as that improvement is, the next improvement is something I've been begging for... DARK MODE... where the menu bars and menus are darkened so they don't distract from what you're working on...
The window model for Yosemite continues to add functionality for title bars and devote more space to content, which is nice. Apple has also changed the way window controls work... with the green button now taking the window full-screen. Something I could get behind if they WOULD ONLY HAVE AN OPTION TO KEEP THE MENU BAR VISIBLE! I frickin' hate going full-screen because fighting the disappearing menu bar drives me insane. I need to be able to see my clock... my battery level... the date... all that important stuff that's so handy to have available... at a glance.
Notification Center is getting the ability to add widgets, which will finally make it useful to me.
Spotlight, Apple's search system for OS X, is getting an upgrade... and this time it looks more than just cosmetic. All I care about is that it's not a flaky pile of shit like the interface is now (How many times do you end up launching the unintended result? For me, it's practically daily). The addition of Sherlock-esque internet data for searching is a welcome throwback.
Next up, Apple puts the smack-down on DropBox by releasing an online storage option of their own called iCloud Drive. I don't know how it will be an improvement over DropBox, which makes cloud storage so drop-dead easy, but I'll definitely be taking a look.
Federighi then took a look at Yosemite's update for OS X Mail... currently the most-hated app I use every day. It is a buggy, slow, and overall shitty email client that looks downright embarrassing when compared to what Microsoft has going on with Outlook. He promises that they have worked very hard to make improvements with the basic functionality, which would be very nice. A new feature for Mail is "Mail Drop," which allows the seamless sending of files up to 5 gigs via iCloud Drive.
Safari is a world-class browser, but Apple's not resting on their laurels. They've added a number of new features for convenience, speed, and improved battery life... but the standout for me is being able to spawn separate windows for Private Browsing instead of it being an "all or nothing" game.
And then came the first surprise of the day... something Apple is calling "Continuity"... which works towards providing a seamless experience between MacOS X and iOS. The crowd erupted in applause when Federighi announced that FINALLY you can "Air Drop" between MacOS X and iOS. This omission has been categorically absurd and, if I had been in the audience, I would have been screaming "IT'S ABOUT FUCKING TIME!"...
But Apple didn't stop there, because next came a new feature called "Hand-Off." This nifty bit of tech means your Mac and your iPhone (or other iOS device) now has proximity awareness of each other. You can start composing an email on your Mac, then hand it off to your iPhone so you can keep composing as you walk out the door. Additional features, like being able to answer an incoming call from your iPhone on your Mac or use your Mac to make calls through your iPhone is dead-sexy. That Federighi demoed this by calling a "new employee" — Dr. Dre — was just the icing on the cake.
And there's where Apple wrapped up their look at just some of the new features that will be available with the new MacOS X.
The beta for Yosemite has been released to developers already. Non-developers can join the beta program later this Summer. Then everybody will be able to grab a free copy come Fall.
Tune in tomorrow when I unleash my commentary on Part Two of the keynote... with iOS 8.
"Android fragmentation is turning devices into a toxic hellstew of vulnerabilities."
— Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, ZDNet
This is the second half of my notes on Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference keynote, this time focusing on what's coming down the pipe in iOS 8. And something else entirely, which was an unexpected surprise.
To start things off, Apple CEO Tim Cook was back on stage to drop some rather startling statistics on iOS update adoption vs. Android update adoption...
89% of iPhone users are on the latest version of iOS. A mere 9% of Android users are using the latest version of that mobile OS. For developers, this is a pretty big deal. If you are counting on new OS features for the functionality of your app, you have to be assured that your users have a version of the OS which has those features. From the looks of things, Android developers are going to be very slow to implement new stuff in their apps, because the vast majority of their users are on some older version where they are unsupported. Add to that the heinous fragmentation of the Android OEM variants, and Apple has made a very good case for developers to choose iOS as their platform of choice.
After Tim Cook's intro, Craig Federighi comes back to show everybody what end-user features and improvements we can expect with the next update.
One area where iOS has always been pretty horrible is dealing with interruptions. Get an alert, and you have to dump out of whatever you're doing to deal with it. iOS 8 takes a big leap forward by allowing you to handle common interruptions (like text messages and calendar alerts) without leaving the app you're in...
This is very cool, but it would be pretty useless if it were restricted to Apple-only interrupts. Fortunately, interactive notifications are available to 3rd-party apps, which is fantastic for people like me who communicate primarily through Facebook Messenger or other non-Apple services. What remains to be seen is how far the interactivity goes. Can developers customize the controls available to best fit their apps? Or does Apple limit interactivity to internal iOS buttons and text fields? Time will tell.
Taking a page from Windows Phone 8, iOS 8 now has some people-centric additions... like being able to access frequent and recent contacts on the app-switcher page. A terrific use of some wasted space...
Unfortunately, the usefulness of this feature is hampered by Apple deciding how you can interact with these people. Right now you can text, call, or Facetime with them... but there's no option for Facebook messaging or a slew of other 3rd-party apps that people use to keep in touch with the people in their lives. So, ultimately, a step in the right direction... but not a very big one.
Next up was a beautiful new grouped tabs interface for Safari on the iPad...
I do three things on my iPad... 1) Watch movies when I travel... 2) Read comic books... and 3) Surf the internet. The area in most need of improvement is Safari for web browsing, and it's nice to know that Apple is at least trying to make it a better experience.
One of the most exciting pieces of news at the keynote was Apple's announcement of an improved keyboard... now with predictive text. As you type, words appear above the keyboard where iOS is trying to guess what you're typing. Kind of like what happens now as words appear above your input cursor while you type... except now you get more than just one word, which should be a lot more productive. iOS doesn't stop there though... it also tries to predict words you'll use in response to emails based on the content and whom the email is from! The keyboard learns context, and tries to be smart about how it assists you...
As if all that weren't enough... Apple is now going to allow you to install alternative keyboards! This means terrific technology like Swype, which allows you to slide your finger from letter to letter in a word... and Fleksy which has an amazing word-guessing algorithm and cool gesture controls... can be installed and used system-wide. This is fantastic news, because now users can test keyboards and find the one that will allow them to type the fastest.
And then, AT LONG LAST, Apple has finally given some love to their texting app, "Messages." I don't know what the heck took so long, but now we can finally manage users on group messages... and even dump out of a conversation if you want. If that's too extreme, you can put a thread on "do not disturb" so it won't keep buzzing your phone. Even better, iOS 8 has even more ways to communicate... allowing you to share your location, and even add voice memos and quick videos...
Now if Apple would only get off their ass and give the same attention to VOICE CALLS. I mean, come on... PC call center software has been around for decades which allows you to do simple things like record custom voicemail messages and selectively route callers... why in the hell is iPhone so far behind in this? It IS, after all, primarily a PHONE, isn't it? Oh well, I suppose I should be thrilled that we at least get to block a caller from calling again... how long did we have to wait for that?
And then we have HealthKit... Apple's portal to managing all your health apps...
The ultimate promise of the idea is that one day you will be able to monitor various aspects of your health (like blood pressure and the like) which can automatically be transmitted and monitored by your automated analysis software and you doctor. If there's a problem detected, your doctor's office can then contact you to get it sorted out. It's a fantastic idea. In theory. In reality, I wonder how many doctor's offices are going to implement this stuff any time soon. I also wonder when we're going to get Apple's "iWatch" which will have health monitoring and syncing that makes HealthKit actually useful. Who knows.
From there we moved on to photo storage (in iCloud, of course) and the idea of Apple's "Smart Adjustment" technology which gives you the ability to perform comprehensive edits that are smart enough to do a lot of "behind the scenes" work to give you much better photos with little effort...
It will be bundled with iOS 8 and be added to Yosemite in 2015. Which is great and all... but I have to wonder where this leaves Aperture, Apple's high-end photo editing and storage software. How will it be able to handle edits made in iPhoto on iPhones, iPads, and Macs? Will they integrate, or be a separate set? Will flattened edits in Aperture be saved out so that devices reading from your iCloud Photos can actually view them? All of this is up in the air. And since Apple won't comment on future software (natch) it's tough to tell if Aperture is even going to be around in 2015. This is very, very frustrating... but so typically Apple. I honestly don't expect them to tip their hand and tell people what's happening with Aperture... but it would at least be nice to know that it's still going to be around.
A surprise to no one, Siri is being updated...
I use Siri all the time, so naturally I am thrilled to have improvements to his/her functionality. What bums me out is how far behind the Mac version is to the iOS version, and no mention has been made as to whether or not any love is going to be spent improving the Macintosh side of things. I would hope so, because the crappy dictation functionality on the Mac is pathetic. Why Apple can't keep up with the iOS side of things is a complete mystery. Why can't you ask Siri questions on a Mac like you can on an iPhone? It makes -zero- sense. And yet here we are.
And here's where things start to get interesting.
Very interesting, if you're a developer.
First of all, Apple is going to finally allow permission-based data sharing between apps. Something that is long overdue and will makes for some incredible extended functionality possibilities. Sure, the functionality will be limited so as to keep data safe... but this is such a massive leap in the right direction that I find it hard to not get excited at the prospect.
Game developers will get up to a massive 10x speed bump in their apps thanks to a new technology called "Metal" which allows them to get closer to the raw power of the iPhone/iPad processor than ever before.
And, lastly, something that took everybody by surprise... a new development language called Swift that takes the best parts of past programming languages and marries them to modern programming concepts while leaving all the antiquated baggage behind...
Without being able to see it and play with it, there's no way I can really comment on how useful Swift might end up being. But it certainly sounds promising. And powerful. And easier to use. And smart. I can't wait to take a look.
And that was that.
No new hardware. No new AppleTV. No new iWatch.
Just some interesting new features and a promising new future for Mac developers. Which is what I guess we should expect from a Developer's conference.
So I guess I'll try not to be disappointed with the lack of new toys.
I have been a lot of places and seen a lot of horrible traffic. Every major US city has some traffic problems due to the sheer volume of cars and trucks and things that go on the roads. But there are definitely cities worse off than others. Los Angeles is pretty much the gold standard for horrible traffic. San Francisco isn't much better. Boston has ensnared me more times than I can count. Some of the worst traffic I've ever seen was spotted as I was trying to drive into Atlanta one day. New York is an obvious target but, to me, never seems to be as bad as people think.
But, in my humble opinion, none of these cities compare to Seattle.
Seattle traffic is hellaciously bad and in a league of its own.
Most of the reason is simple geography. The bulk of Seattle is surrounded on three sides by water... Lake Washington to the East, Lake Union to the North, and Puget Sound on the West. You can't add "ring roads" around Seattle to alleviate congestion because there's no place to put them. The rest of the problem is just the sheer volume of vehicles on the road. Auto density in Seattle is absurdly high, and no matter how the city tries fix the problem, people love their cars too much to give them up.
And the problem isn't limited to Seattle, as the traffic there bleeds out into surrounding areas as people do whatever they can to avoid driving in the city.
Which makes driving to SeaTac airport a real crapshoot.
Technically, the drive takes 2-1/2 hours for me if the traffic isn't horrible. But since the traffic almost always is horrible and you never know how many times you'll have to stop for road construction, I leave anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes early. Most of the time I'm glad I did. But today the traffic was merely "bad" and not horrible at all...
18 minutes to drive 12 miles is practically lightspeed so far as Seattle traffic is concerned.
And so here I am, sitting at the airport with two hours and 45 minutes to kill before my flight. If only I had known, I would have stayed in bed an extra hour.
But you just know the day I sleep in is the day that a truckload of fish overturns on the 405 and backs up traffic for an hour.
The good news is that I have plenty of time to eat at Qdoba for breakfast. Sure the line is always long but, unlike Seattle traffic, it moves fairly quickly.
A short trip to Pittsburgh and one of my favorite people on earth!
Usually I stay at the Sheraton, which is across the river to the South side of the city. It's next door to the Hard Rock Cafe, which is usually the reason I'm here (like the pin event I attended last year). But this time I stayed at the Westin downtown, which is an older hotel... but still a nice one. And my favorite part of the hotel is the lobby where they have a mosaic of Pittsburgh in the floor that's just fantastic...
Despite the low resolution, it's surprisingly recognizable.
It's PNC Baseball Park! LET'S GO BUCS!
Becky and my first stop was for lunch at Market Square... and margaritas...
That'll be $46 please!
One time I got incredibly sick off of tequila and had to stop drinking it. Ever since then, I've hated even the smell of it. Recently I discovered it's not tequila I hate... it's cheap tequila I can't stand. Spend $10 a shot on the good stuff, and a margarita is about one of the most refreshing and delicious drinks on earth. The bad news is that a tall margarita with two shots costs $23 each. But it's money well-spent, because it tastes amazing. So now I'm going through kind of a tequila renaissance.
The weather was so beautiful that we walked down to the Three Rivers Arts Festival to see what was going on...
Smack dab in the middle there... it's THE MOON! Don't believe me?
HOW ABOUT NOW?!?
Market Square is directly across from PPG Place, "The Crown Jewel of the Pittsburgh skyline"...
It's like a castle or Camelot or something... if it were made of glass.
There's a LOT of glass around. Nearly 1 million square feet, in fact...
Click the photo to embiggen the image...
It's very shiny...
The glass is so shiny you can see yourself in it.
PPG Place also has Ketchup Dinosaur...
And a Disco Dinosaur...
Eventually we met up with The Verdant Dude himself, B.E. Earl, for a crawl down Carson Street in the South Side. Starting with Jack's...
So many signs... I don't know where to look!
Ah, there you go then.
Then we stopped at the Rowdy Buck, where I was tempted by a Pickleback, but the combination of whiskey and pickle juice sounds like it could be toxic...
Ride 'em Cowgirl.
After dinner at Piper's Pub, Becky took us up Mt. Washington for a view of the city...
Annnd... I'm going to drop into a beer-induced coma now.
Today was all about the Pittsburgh Pirates.
But first it was all about tailgating in the parking lot, which seemed to be a great excuse for people to eat a lot of cheese...
I promise there's a burger under there somewhere.
If nothing else, it turned out to be a beautiful day to stand in line for the toilet...
It's only a matter of time before tailgaters start bringing their own toilets.
And then? LET'S GO BUCS!
Today I am tattoo appropriate!
The game was against the #goddamnbrewers. Last night the Pirates slaughtered Milwaukee 15 to 5, so everybody knew that the Brewers would be out for blood. And though my heart will forever belong to the Boston Red Sox, there's nothing quite watching a home-game and rooting for the Bucs, because PNC Park is easily one of the most beautiful ballparks in the country with some of the most devoted fans in baseball. I love it here...
Lovely weather for a bloodbath, I think.
Oh... and if you look up, the moon was out again...
Why is it that the moon always photographs smaller than it looks in Real Life?
And here's the obligatory panorama shot...
Yes, you can totally click on the photo to embiggen the image.
Seats directly behind home plate? Yes please...
Hoping for another run from Neil Walker.
The game may have been a bust for the Bucs since they lost 3 to 9 (I overheard the term "shit the bed" more times in the last hour of the game than I've heard in the past year), but I got to spend time with one of my favorite people on earth, so it was all good...
That's right... bask in our adorableness!
After the game was a concert by the Goo Goo Dolls. I pretty much lost track of them after Dizzy Up The Girl, but they played a lot of their older (i.e. more popular) stuff, so it ended up being a pretty great set...
"PLAY IRIS! PLAY IRIS!"
"SERIOUSLY, DUDE, PLAY IRIS! PLAY IRIS! PLAY IRIS! PLAY IRIS!"
After a terrific day at the ballpark, Becky took us to the original Primanti Brothers, which is a Pittsburgh dining institution...
How about a sandwich at Primanti Bros.?
Now THAT'S what a greasy spoon diner looks like!
The eatery has been featured on television several times, mostly due to their unique sandwiches. They use this amazing thick-cut French bread, pile it high with a number of different meat choices, and always top everything with a scoop of coleslaw, French fries, and tomatoes. I had a Double-Egg & Cheese, skip the coleslaw, which was delicious. But it looked a little boring compared to everybody else's sandwiches... like Becky's, which is the kind of thing you're supposed to order here...
Mine Egg & Cheese Sammy on top. Becky's Monster Sammy on the bottom.
And... that's the end to one fantastic Saturday in Pittsburgh.
Take time to be kind... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Window. My first time visiting Pittsburgh... back in 2002... I flew into the airport, rented a car, then headed into the city. Unlike most cities where you can see the buildings in the distance and know what you're getting into, Pittsburgh is hidden. Mt. Washington obscures the skyline so you have no idea what to expect until you drive through a tunnel that leads to the city. And for somebody like me who was expecting a run-down, dirty, old steel town, it's a spectacular surprise. Which I've finally managed to film on my fourth try...
Pittsburgh is a beautiful city filled with terrific architecture and lots of green spaces. That it has one of the most amazing reveals of any city on earth is just the icing on the cake.
• Hard Rock. The bulk of my Sunday was spent kidnapping Becky and driving to Ohio so we could visit the new Hard Rock Casino and Hard Rock Cafe in Northfield Park, Ohio. Sadly, it's a franchise property, so it's not in the same league as other Hard Rock properties, but they still did a very nice job...
I ended up winning $40 on my first pull in a slot machine, so that pretty much paid for the cost of getting here... how cool is that?
• Bridge. On the way back to Pittsburgh, Becky navigated us to Banks Covered Bridge, which is near Wilmington Township, Western Pennsylvania...
It's a nice old bridge that's in really good shape... having been "rehabilitated in 1999, 110 years after it was built in 1889.
• Bridge Deux. Not far from Banks Covered Bridge is McConnell's Mill Covered Bridge, which has a state park built around it...
The bridge is unique in that it uses something called a "Howe's Truss" in its construction... something that's apparently rare for Pennsylvania bridges.
• Meal. After an afternoon of excitement, it was back to Pittsburgh for dinner. This time to the Squirrel Hill neighborhood, where even the hipster mannequins are battling receding hairlines...
Killer goatee though. Apparently that's the default facial hair configuration in the greater Pittsburgh arean.
And now? Time to lapse into a coma of relaxation...
Today was a Pirates night game, so I decided to work in the morning.
Well, that's a lie... I decided I had to work in the morning.
But I did escape into the city early enough that I could finally... finally... visit Point State Park. Something I've been meaning to do for years, but never seem to get around to. It's called "Point State Park" because this is the point at which the Ohio River, the Allegheny River, and the Monongahela River converge...
Apparently the area has quite a history, because the comemmorative medallion for the park says "Point of Conflict... Point of Renewal... Point of Confluence."
At the very tip of the park is a giant fountain...
Prior to being a State Park, the French had built a fort here called Fort Duquesne...
The French ended up destroying their own fort rather than let the English Army take it back in 1758.
After visiting the park, I wandered around the city a bit because art is everywhere...
This "future city" is one of my favorites because it's as if Mary Blair were channeling The Jetsons!
Even trash is an art opportunity for Pittsburgh... like with this awesome RecycleBot...
One of the best pieces of art I saw all day was on a construction screen for a new taco restaurant that's going in downtown. Absolutely beautiful...
Oooh... Chaka Khan is in town next week for Pride!
And now? Time to get excited for the Bucs!
As usual, Pittsburgh closes down the Roberto Clemente Bridge so people can park downtown and walk across to PNC Park for the game...
There are statues of famous Pirates from days past scattered around the ballpark. Here's Becky posing with Willie Stargell's...
The weather wasn't as glorious as it was for Saturday's game, but it's a night game and it didn't rain, so we couldn't complain...
I, of course, had to have my $5 Cracker Jack. Which somehow tastes better than it does when you buy them for 99¢ at the supermarket...
The Pirates have a lot of activities scattered between innings. The first major non-baseball event is a giant bird shooting hot dogs out of a gun into the crowd...
Which is almost as entertaining as Andrew McCutchen hitting a home run. Which happened just seconds after this photo was taken...
The next non-baseball event of note is the Pierogi Race... where people run around the outfield dressed as giant pierogis...
While nothing compares to how beautiful PNC Park is in daylight hours... I have to admit it's a great-looking ballpark at night too...
After the Pirates beat the Cubs 6-2, we headed back over the Roberto Clemente Bridge and downtown... where I saw that I missed a piece of the fantastic taco shop construction stand. Around the corner is Holy Mary, Mother of Taco!
And that was that. So sad to be leaving Pittsburgh so soon... but oh so happy that I had such a fantastic visit!
As usual, my flight home from Pittsburgh was insanely early. The up-side being that between my ass-crack-of-dawn flight and the time change from Eastern to Pacific, I arrived back in Seattle at noon. The plan was to see a movie... maybe have dinner with a friend... possibly exchange the power adapter for my laptop... all the little things I never seem to have time for anymore.
But nooooooo... I grabbed a quick lunch, checked into my hotel, then called it a day.
Or so I thought.
Since every hotel in Seattle I could afford was full-up, I had to stay far south of the city in a remote hotel that's not very accommodating to the business traveler. Or any traveler, really. My room smelled like a combination of vomit, mold, and burning hair. I thought that was about as bad as it could get... until I found out there was no WiFi. All internet access is via ethernet cable.
Except modern computers, like my MacBook Pro, don't have an ethernet port.
Which meant I had to drive to the Apple Store so I could purchase a $30 ethernet-to-thunderbolt adapter... AND some ethernet cable with an RJ45 coupler so I could extend the cable to the bed so I could at least work comfortably.
Dinner was at Subway, because apparently I hate myself.
But don't go being finished feeling sorry for me yet...
When you exit the bathroom in my hotel room, you turn right to head back to your bed. If you walk straight ahead, you end up in the closet. Which happens to be behind by a giant door that's entirely covered by a mirror. In the daylight, this is not a big deal. But in the middle night when the room is dark and you're half asleep... some kind of optical illusion happens where you can't tell it's a mirror. Which meant I ended up walking into the thing not once... but twice! The first time I hit with the side of my face. Lesson not learned, the second time my nose smashed flat into it. I hit so hard that I thought for sure I broke it, but apparently my nose will live to smell another day.
Which is in two hours.
What are the odds I can get a little sleep before my alarm goes off?
Since I didn't get around to seeing a movie yesterday, I made sure that tonight was the night. My intent was to see Million Dollar Arm since everybody I know that's seen it says it's a must-see movie. Unfortunately, it wasn't playing at the SouthCenter AMC, so I ended up seeing another movie that was on my radar... Edge of Tomorrow, starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt.
In the near-future, Earth has been invaded by hordes of vicious aliens who slaughter humans at a horrific pace... eventually taking over most of Europe. They seem unstoppable, but a glimmer of hope arrives when a new battle suit technology emerges that allows a woman named Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) to almost single-handedly win a victory at the new "Battle of Verdun." Confident that an army of humans in battle suits can win the war, Earth's allied commander General Brigham decides to send Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) to record the battle for a propaganda campaign to get more people to enlist in the military. This horrifies Cage, a former ad exec who has absolutely no combat experience. In a last-ditch effort to avoid going into battle, he attempts to bribe the General.
This does not go over very well.
Cage is arrested, branded a coward and a deserter, busted down from a Major to a Private, then sent to the front lines of the war, where things are definitely not going as planned. In his first battle he is killed within five minutes.
But then, just like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, he wakes up to start the day all over again.
Eventually he gets pretty good at being a soldier, and all humanity might just have a chance...
The movie is highly entertaining with terrific performances and some unexpected humor. The visual effects are incredible, and almost worth the price of admission alone.
But, alas, the story itself makes little sense. There is no internal logic at all. You never fully understand how the characters know what they know about the aliens or how they work. The mechanics of how time resets is equally inexplicable. It's as if the filmmakers are saying "Well, it's aliens..." as a catch-all excuse to explain away every senseless plot device. As a sci-fi geek, I was hoping for something... more.
That being said, Edge of Tomorrow is still a really good movie experience and well worth your valuable time if you're into this kind of thing.
Just be sure to turn off your brain when you enter the theater so you don't think too hard about what you're seeing.
It's Throwback Thursday!
Ah to be young and carefree again.
Today I had the great joy of calling a customer service line for assistance with a product I purchased.
Of course I'm lying... because having to endure "customer service" today is far from a joy. With rare exception, I hardly ever have a satisfactory experience. Most every time I call or write, it's as if they don't listen to a word I'm saying. Maybe they're overworked. Maybe they just don't care. But whatever the reason, I might as well be talking to a brick wall...
It's days like today that I wonder why companies even bother with customer service in the first place.
I haven't been to a Mariners game in six years.
Would have been great if the Mariners had won.
Hope your dad wanted a half-dozen bullets for Father's Day... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Fathers. And, speaking of Father's Day... happiest of holidays to all the dads out there... especially mine!
Wow! I look so young in that photo!
• Radio. Growing up in the 70's and 80's the voice of music was Casey Kasem. He was also the voice of our cartoons, as he was Shaggy in Scooby Doo and the voice of Robin in Super Friends! I was sad to hear that Mr. Kasem passed away today...
"Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars..."
• Feline. Three marines saved some kittens in Afghanistan, bringing us one of the best things I've read all week...
The story is worth a look over at Love Meow.
• Halloween. In what looks to be the best thing to happen to Halloween since Tim Burton's A Nightmare Before Christmas, here comes Guillermo del Toro's The Book of Life...
Absolutely beautiful. I can't wait.
• Dreams. Kevin Costner and other cast members assembled in Iowa at the Field of Dreams movie site to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the film. Needless to say, I am pretty crushed that I didn't get to go...
Photo copyrighted by the Associated Press
Yep, still my favorite movie of all time.
• Bat-Cave. My second choice for a place to watch Field of Dreams? THE ULTIMATE BAT-CAVE THEATER, OF COURSE!
Photo courtesy of Elite Home Theater Seating
When a friend sent this link to me, I poured over the photos for a long time. The detail and thoughtfulness that went into planning this room is amazing. It feels very authentic to the style of the Christopher Nolan trilogy of films, though I can't fathom the $2.5 million is will cost to implement. If only I had too much money to know what to do with it.
Now we return you to your previous Father's Day activities...
Today was sure a good day for videos!
Starting with the international trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy, which is shaping up to be a must-see film. This pleases me, because I was highly skeptical when Marvel announced it was on their development schedule. The comic book has all kinds of weird ties to the "galactic" side of the Marvel Universe, which needs a lot of subtext to be fully understood.
It also features a talking raccoon.
But with each new sneak peek and trailer that gets released, I love the idea a little more.
Especially the talking raccoon...
Can you imagine if we get an Avenger or two in the sequel? Holy crap is Marvel doing absolutely everything right in their film properties.
My love of The Daily Show is well-known. A lot of that has to do with Jon Stewart's genius delivery of the "news" stories he reports. But he's not the only talent on the show. His supporting reporters are all pretty darn good. One of the best was John Oliver before he left to do his own show... Last Week Tonight.
Now he's even better.
He is able to distill complex topics to bits that are as easy to understand as they are funny. His latest story on Fifa is an excellent example...
His take on Net Neutrality, one of the most important topics in this country today, was genius...
The YouTube Channel for Last Week Tonight is well worth a look.
In music news... OK Go has done it again. They've crafted an incredible video for their latest track, The Writing's on the Wall...
What's great about OK Go is not just that they know how to make uniquely great music videos... but that the music they put in those videos is really great too. This song has been stuck in my head from the minute I heard it.
If you've ever wondered what would happen if Trey Parker and Matt Stone's brilliant Broadway musical The Book of Mormon were mashed-up with Trey Parker and Matt Stone's brilliant cartoon South Park... well, wonder no more. Simon Chong has flawlessly animated exactly that...
I'm no fan of musicals... but The Book of Mormon was absolute genius, and this just makes me hope that we eventually get a movie version of the show.
The Brian Williams rap mashups that have been appearing on Jimmy Fallon are amazing because they're so brilliantly crafted. The latest installment for Baby Got Back is no exception...
In case you hadn't seen it, my favorite of all of them is Rapper's Delight...
If you can't get enough, here's a link to more.
And lastly... such a cool rescue catch by Brock Holt of the ever-awesome Boston Red Sox...
How sweet was that?
See? A pretty good day for videos!
"It's not like anybody is blogging any more."
"I still blog every day."
"Good lord, why?"
When marriage equality was put on the ballot here in Washington State, there was much hand-wringing and doom and gloom speak against it. Then it passed. And, for a while, the doom and gloom escalated to a fever pitch. Those who opposed marriage equality forecast utter ruin for Washington, saying that God would punish us for defying His definition of marriage.
And so I braced myself for plagues of locusts, fire raining from the sky, cats and dogs sleeping together, and Seattle sliding into the ocean while the Columbia River dried up... but it never happened.
That was back in 2012.
Now I sit waiting for the nut-jobs to climb out of the woodwork every time a natural disaster happens so they can say "SEE! I TOLD YOU SO!" Which, of course, they do. It seemed that every story on the internet about the recent tragedy at Oso had at least one comment blaming the mudslide on Washington spitting in the face of God by passing marriage equality.
Why God waited so long to show His displeasure is never explained. I mean, if marriage equality becoming law was so offensive to The Almighty, you'd think He would have acted immediately... sending a massive earthquake to rip our state apart (or whatever). But He didn't. Despite being omnipotent, I guess God likes to think these things over and dole out punishment little bits at a time?
And it never works the other way, does it? Thomas Peters spent every waking moment railing against marriage equality... until he had to take a break because of a horrific swimming accident that left him paralyzed. But was this considered God's punishment for Peters' bigotry and homophobia? No. No it was not. That Peters signed up for Obamacare when his National Organization for Marriage employers (assumably) dumped him off their insurance was not seen as ironic either... despite him railing against The Affordable Care Act as well.
Hypocrisy: It's what's for dinner.
Actually, with these people, it's for breakfast and lunch too.
Today the National Organization for Marriage took the money they saved by canceling Thomas Peter's insurance... along with a shit-ton of money from supporters who inexplicably donate despite NOM's non-stop parade of failures... so they could organize their "March for Marriage." An event to condemn marriage equality which was headlined by such luminous visionaries as Mike "The End is Nigh" Huckabee, Rick "Piece of Shit" Santorum, and Brian "We Must Continue the Fight so I Get Rich" Brown.
Chalk up another pathetic embarrassment for NOM...
Look, it's over.
Marriage equality is becoming a reality in more and more states. The momentum is undeniable. People are coming to realize that adding marriage for same-sex couples doesn't in any way affect "traditional marriage," so they want their gay friends, co-workers, and family to have the same rights they do. And as the homophobic bigots continue to die out faster than new ones are created, the pool of people willing to deny rights to gay couples is rapidly diminishing.
So rather than spending money in a losing battle on the wrong side of history supporting hate, it would be nice if organizations like NOM would put it to better use. Like spending it to feed the hungry and heal the sick. Since most of their money has religious ties, I'm guessing that's what Jesus would want anyway.
Oh... no... according to The Bible, that's exactly what he would want!
Funny how things all work out in the end.
Today I was hungry enough to take a late lunch and decided to walk over to the local barbecue restaurant. Not the best option for a vegetarian, but I really like their tater salad and ribbon fries. As I was crossing the street to get there, I noticed a heavy-duty pickup truck from a local tire company was approaching and not stopping. After having been run down by inattentive drivers on more than one occasion I’m overly-cautious playing pedestrian, and stopped half-way across the street. At the last second, the driver saw me and slammed on the brakes. Hard. This caused all the equipment… and a couple of tires... in the truck bed to go flying forward, smashing into the cab. The sound was horrific. A lot of metal-on-metal action. I'm thinking some stuff had to end up broken... possibly including the rear window of the cab.
I spent all of my lunch feeling bad about what happened, even though it wasn't my fault. Heck, had I not stopped, I could have very well been run down in the street (again). I don't know if the guy was talking on his mobile... texting... daydreaming... or what, but he clearly needed to be paying more attention. I was in the middle of the street for heaven's sake. And I am still trying to figure out how he didn't see me until the last second. Perhaps I have an unknown cloaking device like Predator, and that's why drivers don't see me. Scary.
Lunch was good though...
And I managed to get back to work without dying, so I'm calling today a win.
"Don't grow old, Pyotr, nothing but pain and disappointment wait for you there."
"I will try, grandfather! Truly I will."
"I promise, grandfather!"
"Good!" said grandfather with a cackle that quickly collapsed into a fit of dry, hacking coughs.
Seven hundred and forty-six years later "Peter," as he was now known, thought back on his promise and cursed his grandfather roundly. Turns out it's not growing old that leads to pain and disappointment, it's existing.
Though, to be honest, that may have been seven hundred and forty-six years trapped in the body of a six-year-old boy talking.
It must be Sunday... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Paws. It won't be easy to watch... but if you care about our furry feline friends, you'll want to see The Paws Project, now available to stream on Netflix. It documents the horrifying effect of declawing cats, which is far worse than taking off a nail on a human. It's more like taking off the finger-tips down to the first knuckle on a human...
Declawing is just awful. And yet there are still veterinary hospitals that promote it because it's profitable... even though there are far more humane alternatives. Hopefully this barbaric practice will be outlawed nation-wide if enough people start speaking up about it.
• Pledge. I have no idea where this photo comes from. But it's genius, and every time I run across it I love it even more. Because: 'MURICA!
I've finally decided to blog it so I can look it up easily every time I need a laugh.
• Silence! As if this video wasn't already freaky as hell with the sound...
Of course, anything featuring Jagger and Bowie is bound to be freaky as hell.
• Kare! As a huge, huge, mega-huge fan of Susan Kare's work, I was thrilled when Foodiddy sent me this link...
I wish she would have had time to go a bit deeper into her creative process, but this is a must-watch video for anybody interested in graphic design.
• Cozy My Ass. Of all the "Hitler Dubs" floating around out there, THIS is by far my favorite: Hitler tries to rent an apartment in San Francisco...
• Perry! I've grown so accustomed to Texas Governor Rick Perry being a raging douche that the insane shit he says doesn't phase me any more. Comparing homosexuality to alcoholism... while repugnant, ignorant an fucking stupid... is a relatively mild offense for him. I'd argue his pathetic attempt to write that off as a mistake after doubling down on it is even more ridiculous. Regardless, Funny or Die has a brilliant commentary on this particular bit of Rick Perry idiocy...
Can you believe the piece of shit is probably going to run for president again in 2016?
And... that clicking sound you here is me out of bullets in my blog-based six-shooter. Until next week...
ZOMFG! IT'S TACO NIGHT!
And here's my recipe...
You. Are. Welcome.
There comes a point when you just can't function any longer.
I worked last night until 1:00am... woke up at 4:30am to work some more... took a quick nap from 7:30-8:00am... got cleaned up and went to work at 9:00am... came back home to work at 5:30pm... now it's 9:30pm and I've hit a wall. My brain just won't work any more.
Which is unfortunate, because I'm not even half-way through all the things I really needed to get done.
I either need to clone myself or seek a medically-induced coma.
The good news is that I had grape Kool-Aid and a cheese sandwich for dinner. I had been dreaming about them all day long. And now... it's just five hours until 4:30am rolls around again. It would be nice if I could sleep for most of that but, well, you know...
Luckily, I don't require my brain to blog.
For me, EVERY DAY is National Chocolate Pudding Day.
But today is the actual day DAY, so now everybody else gets to celebrate by eating the earth's most perfect food!
I've been a fan for a very long time...
You would think that stores would have chocolate pudding on sale today so I could stock up but, alas, no.
I will not let that diminish my holiday, however.
It's Throwback Thursday!
Ah to be young and demonic again.
So Apple has stopped development on Aperture, their professional-grade photography organizer and editor.
As somebody who has invested an incredible amount of time and money in Aperture, I am understandably pissed off. But not the least bit surprised.
This is par for the course with Apple and their professional software. They build something incredible, eventually lose interest, then either dump it... or downgrade it to the point that so-called "professionals" are left behind. I've been through the whole thing before with Final Cut Pro and DVD Studio Pro.
You'd think I'd have learned my lesson by now, but nope!
I've stuck by Aperture despite the fact that Apple hasn't released a significant update in four years. I've stuck by Aperture despite the fact that Adobe's competitor, Lightroom, has been getting continuous upgrades and improvements all that time. I've stuck by Aperture despite the fact that Apple has such a profoundly shitty track record with the "Pro" apps.
No, I have no idea why.
I also have no idea what, exactly, Apple is thinking by discontinuing their Pro photography app (Aperture) and their Consumer photography app (iPhoto) in favor of something new (Photos). I'm guessing their new baby is going to land somewhere in-between, in which case it's going to be too much bloat for the consumer and too little capability for professionals.
So what's the play here?
What's Apple up to?
Where's the hook?
Well... the hook is that Photos will be iCloud-based and able in integrate with Photos running on iPhones and iPads. All your photos are syncing all the time. As are your edits. If that weren't enough, apparently Photos will be smart enough to catalog proxies based on your device's capacity. The bulk of the data is kept on iCloud... including RAW originals... and the pricing looks excellent.
That's quite a hook.
Assuming it works. And when it comes to iCloud, you can never really tell.
The full feature list of Photos isn't going to be known for a while yet. Will it be "professional" enough to be a worthy successor to Aperture? Who the hell knows?
So, in the meanwhile, I'll just carry on being pissed at Apple.
I'm starting to get used to it.
Last night I thought of an episode of The West Wing while watching the news and thought I'd watch it. Television rarely gets that good any more, and it would make nice background noise while I worked.
From where I'm sitting on the couch, my complete collection of The West Wing on DVD is about 10-feet away. But the idea of getting up, taking the season set off the shelf, finding the DVD, walking to the DVD player, turning on the DVD player, putting in the DVD, going through the menus, then pushing play... all of it seemed entirely too much effort.
So I turned on Apple TV clicked a few buttons and found The West Wing on Netflix.
After I was done with the episode I wanted to watch (The Stackhouse Fillibuster), I decided to start watching the entire series all over again from the beginning, because that's just what happens when you try to watch one episode of The West Wing. Never mind that I've seen the entire series at least three times, there's nothing better on TV.
And, because Aaron Sorkin television is more addictive than crack (or so I'm guessing), I'm sure The West Wing will be followed by yet another viewing of Sports Night and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.
Because there's nothing better on TV.
Which is something I've been saying a lot over the last couple years.
Put on your Sunday's finest... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Home. I am fascinated by the trend of "micro-living"... otherwise known as really, really small houses. Over the past couple years I keep seeing more and more stories of people giving up on larger homes, simplifying their lives, and moving into tiny places that are perfectly livable thanks to amazing design choices. It's all very zen, and appeals to my desire for living a less complicated life. Now it looks like apartment living has gone micro too, and an article on "The Karl" shows that micro-apartment complexes have some terrific advantages over micro-houses... like communal rooms on the top floor with space that can be used for socializing... something that's tough to do in a micro-home. I have to say, I sure like the floor plan...
Small. Yes. But it's got everything you need, really. I mean, you're not going to raise a family in there, but for a single individual or a couple just starting out, it's perfectly livable. If you're in the city, most of your time will be spent at work and out with friends... all you really need is a place to sleep, poop, change clothes, and eat a meal every once in a while. I don't know that I would want to go quite this small... but the idea of it all intrigues me.
• Onziem. John Oliver has very quickly become an essential voice on world affairs, and it's shocking to see just how easily he is able to take a serious look at complicated issues while adding a comedic slant that in no way diminishes the gravity of the issue. Tonight Oliver had a fascinating take on the horrific level of hate that has been exported to Uganda by US assholes (USholes?)... PLUS an interview with the amazing Pepe Julian Onziema.
This is essential viewing material...
Be sure you watch Part 2 of the interview.
• Fraud. And speaking of John Oliver...
Turns out that "Dr. Oz" actually is the fraudulent piece of shit everybody thought he was all along...
Shocker. I still don't understand why people listen to raging douchebags like this asshole in the first place. Wasn't his motivation for crap like this totally obvious from the start?
• Amy. As if I didn't already have enough reasons to love Amy Adams... here's another one. I've been able to swap my seat a couple times when I've spotted a soldier flying alone, and it's about the best feeling you can have. The first time I gave up my seat it was to a young kid flying back for deployment after a visiting his wife and young daughter (which I leaned from overhearing a conversation he was having with a man next to him). After getting his name off his uniform, I went to the ticket desk and had the gate agent make the swap. I thought it was an anonymous deal, but he wanted to thank me so he waited in First Class after we landed where a flight attendant pointed me out. It was such a little thing for me... but it meant the world to a soldier who was headed back to a job nobody wants to do but, for whatever reason, risks his life to accomplish.
• Falafel. The grocery store here in my little corner of Redneckistan is now selling falafel mix... something I've attempted to purchase locally for years...
Given its Middle East origins, I am sure this will be taken as a sign that sharia law will be enacted any minute now. Oh well... I no longer have to buy falafel via mail order or when I'm in Seattle, so I'll take it.
• LEELOO DALLAS MULTIPASS! I love The Fifth Element. Seriously one of my favorite films of all time. And I loved Gary Oldman in the film, where he played the villainous Zorg brilliantly for all his oddities...
Which is why I was truly hurt when Gary Oldman decided to trash the film in a controversial interview he had in Playboy. Fuck you, Gary Oldman... The Fifth Element was one of the most interesting roles you've ever played!
Enjoy what's left of your weekend, everybody.
I'm a big fan of the television show Community.
When NBC decided to cancel the show after its fifth season, I was understandably upset.
YAHOO! TO THE RESCUE! — Thanks, Yahoo!
In other entertainment news, a trailer for The Skeleton Twins was released today. It looks pretty great. If nothing else, the soundtrack sounds terrific...
Secret by OMD!
Holy crap does than bring back memories...
I miss the 80's.
"House committee no longer requires public travel disclosure."
Read it. If you dare.
Politicians once again vote themselves accountable to nobody for anything. Exactly what our founding fathers intended for political office, I'm sure!
Yet dumbfuck Americans sit back and let bullshit like this keep happening instead of doing what they should be doing... which is either A) Demanding transparency in who's buying off our elected officials... or B) Lighting their shit on fire.
I hope I'm alive to see our government razed to the fucking ground and rebuilt without all this disgusting corruption that has choked the shit out of the democratically-represented republic we were supposed to be.
To all the traitorous douchebag assholes on the House "Ethics" Committee who made this pile of crap happen... fuck you. Seriously... fuck you, you fucking fucks...
Susan W. Brooks, (R) Indiana
Michael E. Capuano, (D) Massachusetts
Yvette D. Clarke, (D) New York
K. Michael Conaway, (R) Texas
Charles W. Dent, (R) Pennsylvania
Ted Deutch, (D) Florida
Trey Gowdy, (R) South Carolina
Patrick Meehan, (R) Pennsylvania
Pedro R. Pierluisi, (D) Puerto Rico
Linda T. Sánchez, (D) California
You have all betrayed the public trust so that you can further attempt to betray the public trust. The people whom you pretend to represent... the people who fucking VOTED for you... deserve to know who's PAYING YOU to be their bitch.
So enjoy your lobbyist-sponsored vacations while you can, you unbelievable pieces of shit.
Which will probably be forever, because Americans just don't seem to give a crap.
As if it hasn't been obvious, I've been having a really tough time staying positive lately.
After nearly two decades of successfully working to rid my life of fear, uncertainty, and doubt, it feels like I've taken a massive slide backwards. I find myself second-guessing every decision I make. I question every action I take. And this has awakened a fear I haven't felt in years. At times it completely overwhelms me, and I have no idea where it's coming from or why.
If I were a normal human being, I'd undoubtedly seek professional help.
But I just don't think therapy is a good fit for me.
What I really need to do is to move to Antarctica.
Instead I managed to get tickets to see David Sedaris when he's in Seattle this November. If that doesn't fix me up I don't know what will.
Until then, I'm trying to smile a lot.
My obsession with Elizabeth Hurley is well documented.
Which is why I was chuffed to bits too get a personal non-apology apology from her and Newcastle over the idiotic reaction to their truly funny "If We Had Won" campaign that surfaced when moronic "patriots" couldn't take a fucking joke. I mean, seriously, if obviously tongue-and-cheek ads by a BEER COMPANY from one of this country's strongest allies is offending you, maybe it's time to pull the flag pole out of your ass and just throw yourself off a cliff you miserable bastards.
Or just have a beer and relax maybe.
Anyway, here is Elizabeth Hurley in all her brutally hot glory...
And, in case you hadn't seen the original "terribly offensive ads," here's an example...
ZOMFG! SO OFFENSIVE! BUT NOT AS OFFENSIVE AS THIS!!!...
And, be still my heart, Elizabeth Hurley getting filthy...
The whole campaign can be found here.
Geez. Now I could really use a Newcastle.
If Americans want a real reason to get mad at the Brits, HERE IT IS...
HOW CAN HOT TAMALES MAKE YOU SAD? What a complete wanker!
O beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain, For purple mountain majesties Above the fruited plain! America! America! God shed his grace on thee And crown thy good with brotherhood From sea to shining sea! O beautiful for pilgrim feet Whose stern impassioned stress A thoroughfare of freedom beat Across the wilderness! America! America! God mend thine every flaw, Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law! O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife. Who more than self their country loved And mercy more than life! America! America! May God thy gold refine Till all success be nobleness And every gain divine! O beautiful for patriot dream That sees beyond the years Thine alabaster cities gleam Undimmed by human tears! America! America! God shed his grace on thee And crown thy good with brotherhood From sea to shining sea!
Happy birthday, you crazy bastard!
When my television died a couple years ago, I didn't want to buy a new one because it was rumored that Apple was coming out with an iTV. So I borrowed a television from my brother until iTV was released. Needless to say, I'm still waiting. And then my brother's television blew up in a cloud of smoke (literally) earlier this week, leaving me television-less with no iTV to replace it. Time to buy a new TV, I guess.
I don't have hours to be researching televisions, so I went to Amazon, put in the specs I wanted (1080/60p, 33-43", Wi-Fi internet connectivity, web apps for Netflix and Amazon streaming, 2014 model) and got one result... the Sony KDL40W600B. I've had excellent luck with Sony gear in the past and the price was under my $500 budget, so I bought it...
Design & Construction
The screen size is 40' (diagonal) which is a good size for a smaller room like mine. Being Sony, the design is predictably clean and minimalistic. The narrow plastic bezel around the display is just under
User Interface & Remote
Proving for the millionth time that Apple is the only company who knows how to build a decent user interface and simplify a remote... Sony's KDL40W600B is pretty crappy in both arenas. The on-screen menus are poorly designed, inconsistent, laggy, and frustrating. Couple that with a shitty remote and using this TV is a near-painful experience. Once you get used to the baffling idiosyncrasies of the menu system they're serviceable, I guess, but the same cannot be said about the remote control. It fails in most every department. It's uncomfortable to hold. The Volume and Channel buttons are inexplicably at the very bottom, so you get thumb-sprain trying to reach them. For some stupid reason, the number keys (which are rarely used) are given a primo spot under the navigation keys. As if that wren't bad enough, the navigation keys are surrounded by six "function" buttons that are all-too-easy to press by accident when moving around the crappy menus. What a piece of shit.
Inputs & Internet
The television comes with four... four... HDMI ports, which is pretty sweet. The down-side is that you only get one component video input. If you have a lot of pre-HDMI gear, that's probably a deal-breaker. Things are rounded out by a single composite video input (for that one piece of old, old gear you've got hanging around). On the audio side, you get a couple analog ports, a sub-woofer port, a headphone port, and a digital audio port). And lastly, for handling audio and video media, you also get two USB ports (v2, alas). Internet connectivity can be via the ethernet port or my must-have feature: WiFi. The WiFi set-up is dead simple because is can be automatically configured via your wireless router's WPS button (my Apple "Time Capsule" doesn't have a WPS button, but the "Connect Wireless Printer" option in the AirPort Utility worked perfectly).
Ultimately, the only thing I really care about is the picture quality. Fortunately, this is where the KDL40W600B's LED LCD panel shines. The display is evenly lit, super-sharp, and gorgeous. The blacks are nice and dark which makes for beautiful contrast in the image. With some tweaking of the manual controls, I got the color just how I want it, and I couldn't be happier with the fidelity. I've seen some LED-based televisions that looked terrible when there was quick motion on the screen, but this Sony model has none of that thanks to a host of proprietary technologies onboard. The only down-side to having such terrific video is that non-HD content looks a bit crappy, but you can't fault Sony for that. I wanted very much to not get a 120hz (or higher) set, because I hate the artificial "look" of it. I thought that would be impossible, but this set was 60hz which was a huge plus for me.
Given how thin and compact this set is, there's no room for a good set of speakers. This is just bizarre to me, because it seems like it would be a no-brainer to add 3 or 4 inches to the bottom of the set for a proper audio experience... but, alas, no. And it's not just Sony. A quick glance at other sets shows that they are the same way. It's as if all the manufacturers just decided to put shitty speakers in their televisions so they can sell you a separate soundbar to get the sound you want. And you will want it, because this is pretty pathetic. Overall sound is kind of tinny and weak. Even knowing this going in, I thought I'd be okay because my living room is fairly small. I was wrong. The audio is borderline unpleasant to listen to, so I'll end up getting add-on speakers when I can afford it.
I already have Apple TV, which I like a lot. But it doesn't have Amazon Prime Streaming, which sucks. There's stuff on there I want to watch while I work. So one of the requirements for my new television was that it be able to stream from Amazon, which the KDL40W600B can. It also streams from Netflix and a few other services. This is great and all, but they feel slow to navigate and a bit klutzy compared to how Apple does things (does Netflix REALLY have to ask me to choose "Netflix" or "Kids" EVERY DAMN TIME I OPEN IT? Put "Kids" in a separate app or something, because I don't give a shit about it and am tired of dealing with it). Apps are on the "Opera Browser" platform, which wouldn't be too bad except it's horribly slow and every time you dump out of them, you get an Opera TV Store advertisement. Check the weather? Opera ad. Look at Instagram? Opera ad. It's stupid and I got so sick of it that I stopped giving a crap about apps after my second day. For a set made in 2014, I'd expect much faster performance, much quicker load times, and a much better interface. Oh well. I can at least watch Amazon Prime Streaming, which is nice.
Without a doubt one of the shittiest internet services ever created, UltraViolet is a studio-owned digital movie distributor. I fucking hate UltraViolet. It's never worked properly for me no matter what I've tried. Even so, I've got movie content in there... including five movies I got for free when I bought this television. But here's the thing... so far as I can tell, there is NO way to play UltraViolet on the KDL40W600B! They don't have an UltraViolet app. They don't have a CinemaNow app. They don't have a Vudu app. The do have a Flixster app, but I couldn't find a way to access my UltraViolet library from it. This is hilarious, given that Sony is a major player in the shitty UltraViolet consortium. So... if you've got a massive UltraViolet library, I hope you have a secondary device to watch them. SCORE: F- (if you give a crap)
There are a lot of extras on this set that I either don't understand or have no interest in using. The KDL40W600B is a "PlayStation Now" device, which means you can plug in a DuoShock controller and download games from the PlayStation library to play. It sounds like a cool idea, but I've read that the games are crazy-expensive to play, so I'll take a pass. One feature I thought I might use is that "Social View" overlay. It's supposed to be able to display stuff from your Twitter feed... except mine never did, no matter how many times I verified my Twitter account. Oh well. As for the rest? Meh. I'm sure there's some things that some people will find interesting, but I'm not really interested. SCORE: C
SONY KDL40W600B CONCLUSION
If you're looking for a (relatively) inexpensive television backed by Sony quality with terrific image quality, this may be it. Video is beautiful. Audio is pretty bad. Design is a bit on the cheap side, but looks pretty good. The remote is total shit. The user interface is almost as bad. Apps are painfully slow for a 2014 model television, but at least it can stream Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon without issue. There's a lot of extras and crap, but the ones I was interested in using seemed more trouble than they're worth. My reason for buying this set was to watch TV and streaming services, for which it's perfect, so I'm quite happy with my purchase.
If you're wanting more info, here's a link to the Sony KDL40W600B on Amazon.
It's a great day to stay inside and surf the internet all day... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Drone! Most of the time I am not a fan of the successor to RC helicopters... RC drones. When they're not making an annoying whine as the scream across the sky, they're blowing stuff up. But every once in a while, somebody finds a good use for drones that makes me forget all about the negatives. This viral video of a drone flying through 4th of July fireworks is one of them...
WARNING: It may not be all fun and games, however, as this link will tell you.
• Evian! Speaking of viral videos... how in the heck did I miss this one?
Guess this is the inevitable next step from stupid talking baby and talking animal commercials?
• Proud! During San Francisco Pride, Burger King sold a "Proud Whopper" in one of their restaurants along the parade route. Not surprisingly, I heard about the outcry before I heard about the burger. People were saying things like "I'M NEVER EATING AT BURGER KING AGAIN!" and "STOP CRAMMING HOMOSEXUALITY DOWN MY THOAT!" (ahem). Which is about as fucking stupid as it gets, because this was not a nation-wide project. It was specifically made for a single event in one restaurant in a localized area where the event took place. The only way you'd have "homosexuality crammed down your throat" would be if your were there for San Francisco Pride... and, even then, you could choose to have a plain-old Whopper if you wanted. Burger King never forced you to eat a "Proud Whopper" at all. Putting the usual homophobic idiocy aside, the idea of it all was actually pretty cool. Especially when people found out what a "Proud Whopper" was...
Exactly. Which is why seeing the insane reaction to a completely innocent publicity stunt (which had a positive message for everybody) just reinforces my disgust at what my LGBT friends have to deal with every day. Which I'm guessing is something like this...
The only thing that gives me hope for the future is that people like this will soon be dead and their absurd bigotry will one day be dead with them. Until then, I guess everybody can just "Be Your Way."
• Horrible! The movie Horrible Bosses was a complete surprise when I saw it... namely because it didn't suck. I actually really liked it. Well-written, well-acted, and funnier than it had a right to be. Largely thanks to one of Jennifer Anniston's best movie roles ever as a truly horrible boss. I had no idea they were making a sequel, but here it is...
Can't wait! I just hope that it doesn't go all The Hangover on us and do a crappy rehash of the first film in the sequel... then shit the bed in the third one.
• Democracy? It will come as no surprise that I'm completely disgusted with the state of government in this country. Politicians are bought and paid for every damn day, which has effectively destroyed any chance of true democracy in this country. It seems an insurmountable problem. But then I saw something that has me intrigued...
Surprisingly, MayDay US reached their $5 million goal. Whether or not it can make any difference against politicians backed by unlimited funds remains to be seen... but it's worth a shot, I suppose.
• Shark! After the idiotic crap that tainted Shark Week last year, I was kind of soured on the idea. Then I see this ad...
SHARK EXTREME! Oh Shark Week, how can I quit you?
And now I get to go to work! How awesome is that?
Well that sucked.
Turns out that this is the only thing that mattered today...
Seriously, that's the only thing.
On days where I do nothing but work, there's never much to blog about.
So I'm starting a new category here at Blogography to make my life easier. Whenever I have nothing to write about, I'll just toss out the best and worst things I've seen that day. Which will usually be YouTue videos I watch while eating lunch at my desk.
Bullet Sunday it ain't... but, eh...
The best thing I saw all day...
Miyazaki-san may have retired from Studio Ghibli, but his fingerprints are still on everything they release. Absolutely beautiful animation.
The worst thing I saw all day...
You have to watch it all the way through to appreciate the true horror of it all. Seriously, who wants to listen to this crap? Was the crowd actually digging it? Or were they waving ironically? What has humanity done to deserve this?
Now I have to get back to work. At 11:36pm.
I'm pretty sure I know what I did to deserve that.
I've been fortunate to have seen a big chunk of the world in my life of travels... but it seems there's always somewhere else to go.
HuffPo Travel has assembled The Top 50 Cities to See in Your Lifetime, which is the kind of list I live for... even though these things are usually geographically biased or don't reflect my travel interests. That being said, this one is actually pretty good. I would put Edinburgh, Scotland over a lot of the cities on it, but still... pretty good.
Mostly because I've only been to half of them...
Given that Spain is one of my favorite places to vacation, I'm hoping I get to Seville and Granada eventually. India and Nepal have long been dream destinations, so Kathmandu, Varanasi, and Jaipur would be next on my list.
But Budapest and Vienna have Hard Rock Cafes, so...
I'm nothing if not predictable.
It's Throwback Thursday!
Ah to be young and posessing a flashy wardrobe again.
And so... it's fire season again.
Some places have hurricanes. Others have floods.. tornados... earthquakes... name a disaster. Everybody has something. We have wildfires. They got scary close to where I live back in 2004. This time it's a slightly less worrisome 15 miles away near Entiat.
Local photographer Frank Cone has some amazing shots in his Flickr Photostream of the flames...
Entiat Wildfire Image by Frank Cone ©2014
Entiat Wildfire Image by Frank Cone ©2014
I feel terrible for all the animals that will die... and those who survive only to be homeless and hungry.
Thanks to the firefighters who, as always, put their lives and safety on the line doing a dangerous job to protect people and property in harm's way.
Today is going to be a little different.
I need you to watch a short 30-second commercial.
Please pay attention, because there will be a test afterwards...
Thanks for watching "Beggin' Party Poppers." Here we go...
Thanks for playing!
Smoke is in the air and so are bullets... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Spoilers! Since I have no desire to see yet another flaming pile of shit Transformers movie that's not about Transformers, I jumped right on io9's "Spoiler FAQ" for Transformers 4. Sounds just as heinous as I knew it would be. Even if you have no interest in this turd of a film franchise, Rob Bricken's comments are pretty epic. If you want an entertaining read that encapsulates everything that's wrong with modern movies, it's an article absolutely work reading.
• Don't Come! But... but... I've already been to Belgium!
Antarctica has been at the top of my travel destination list for years. Now I just don't know. Tourist crowds? In freakin' Antarctica? Blargh.
• Murder! I would like to add my outrage to all those people condemning dinosaur hunters for murdering these magnificent creatures...
Photo © Universal Pictures
What a bastard! NOT COOL, STEVEN SPIELBERG!
• Shawn! Started out my day listening to Jay-Z and found myself Googling him to see what he's up to (besides Beyonce). Ended up watching about 20 Jay-Z interviews on YouTube. He is awesome in all of them. This is probably my favorite. Not many people can out-Letterman Dave Letterman...
It's nice how Jay-Z feels the need to keep reminding us that he's cooler than 99% of the people on earth.
• Pepe! Click here for some wisdom from a true leader... President José "Pepe" Mujica....
Photo © The Associated Press
They saved the most telling quote for last on the secret to happiness...
"To live in accordance with how one thinks. Be yourself and don't try to impose your criteria on the rest. I don't expect others to live like me. I want to respect people's freedom, but I defend my freedom. And that comes with the courage to say what you think, even if sometimes others don't share those views."
Sounds oddly familiar... a pity politicians in this country aren't so forward (er, backwards?) thinking when it comes to imposing their criteria (or, more likely, the criteria of the lobbyists who have bought them off) on the people they claim to represent.
• Thanks! Have you thanked your parents today?
And, to the woman hosting this video... marry me?
Now I suppose I should try to get some rest before The Week From Hell rears its ugly head. Blargh.
For those who took time to "Ask Me Anything" this week, here are your answers.
As an FYI, I only had to delete one question (because it was about another person and not directed to me). This was unexpected, as I thought going 100% anonymous would have invited a lot of hateful crap. As it were, I only got a few questions by people who thought they were asking hateful crap. Thanks for surprising me in a good way, internet!
Sorry, I'm too busy to blog.
BUSY WATCHING THE HOTWIVES OF ORLANDO!
This parody of all those idiotic "Housewives" shows is über brilliant.
When you step outside into the 106° F (41° C) blast furnace that is my home, the heat is the least of your worries. The air is filled with smoke and ash from the wildfires in the area, which makes breathing a bit of a chore.
The skies sure are pretty though.
Beneath the smoke that's rolling across the horizon, there's a golden glow that kisses the landscape until the sun goes down...
Too hot to sleep.
Too smokey to sleep.
Too sweaty to sleep.
Too tired to sleep.
I could really use some sleep.
I'm a big lemonade fan.
Especially on a warm day when it's made from freshly-squeezed lemons.
I sometimes find myself eating at restaurants not because of the food they serve... but because they serve up a great lemonade... Hot Dog on a Stick comes to mind.
In the summer I buy lots of lemonade... mostly the quality brands that are made with real sugar instead of shitty high fructose corn syrup. My favorite brands in my neck of the woods are Simply Lemonade and Newman's Own Lemonade. Though I usually add a little water to them because they're a bit too strong. If you can find it, one of my all-time favorites is Hubert's Lemonade. It's fantastic, but I can only seem to get it when I'm in California...
Sometimes when I'm feeling really ambitious, I'll buy lemons and make my own lemonade...
DAVE2'S DELICIOUS LEMONADE RECIPE
Juice the lemons until you have 1-1/4 cups of juice. They will squeeze easier if you roll them roughly on your countertop for a while before cutting them open. Dissolve the 1 cup of sugar in 1 cup of hot-hot water (if your tap water doesn't get hot enough, you may have to use your stovetop... I microwave until boiling then dissolve the sugar in it). In a glass pitcher, combine the sugar-water and lemon juice. Add 5 cups of chilled water (if you like stronger lemonade, cut back on the water). Serve over ice or chill and serve cold.
The problem is that homemade lemonade is a pain in the ass to make.
So when I saw a product called Minute Maid DROPS that will make regular old water taste like lemonade, I was all over it...
ZOMG YOU GUYS! THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST DISGUSTING THINGS I'VE EVER TASTED! It makes a glass of water taste like lemon-scented toxic waste! I think it has to do with the vomit-inducing sweetener they've got going on... "stevia and sucralose." I have no idea how they're made, but I'm guessing it involves invoking the devil.
Anyway... whatever this stuff is, it's NOT lemonade. Legally it shouldn't even be allowed to be labeled "lemonade."
And now I'm sad, because it will be years before I can erase the memory of this horrific shit and not have it taint future lemonade experiences.
Hopefully I'll find a use for this crap so I'm not out $4.79... maybe it's good for cleaning the toilet or something.
The wildfire situation here is quite dire. Again.
Around a hundred people lost their homes in the Pateros region of Washington State. Highways are closing down all over the place. Local businesses are losing loads of tourism dollars during their busiest time of year.
And with more lightning strikes in the forecast, there doesn't seem to be an end in sight.
The flames aren't landing on my doorstep... yet... but the air is so full of smoke and ash that you don't want to leave the house without a mask on. Which seems like such a petty thing to complain about when houses are falling like dominoes... but it's miserable. There's only so long you can live in smoke before it drives you a little crazy.
I don't know how the firefighters manage it day after day.
But bless them for doing so.
Here's hoping some relief comes soon.
Because travel is so heinously expensive now-a-days, I am costing out every single job to make sure that I don't end up losing money. So, for example, if an offer comes up in Tokyo that I can squeeze into my schedule, I don't immediately say "yes" as I used to. I say "maybe" then start researching expenses. Especially with a city like Tokyo which tends to be massively pricey anyway.
First stop is my email confirmations from past trips for hotels, transportation, and such to get a general idea of what I've paid before. Which, in this case, ended up being a waste of time. Turns out the last time I was in Tokyo was in 2003, and I didn't start archiving confirmation emails until 2004. This was more than a little shocking, because I could have sworn I was in Tokyo sooner than that... five years, tops.
Naturally, I can barely remember details from a trip that happened over a decade ago, so questions begin to pop up. "What was the name of that hotel I always stay at?" Hell if I know. I think my co-workers called it "Pajama Hotel" because it had pink and white stripes like pajamas. But Googling that doesn't seem to produce a name.
But it does get me a photo from Flickr...
Photo © Jean-Michel Volat, from his Flickr stream.
Yep. That's the place. Time to play detective.
The photo is tagged with a location of Kojimachi 1 Chome. But the minute I call up that neighborhood in Google Maps, I know it's wrong...
The hotel was nowhere near the Tokyo Inner Loop, and I know the train stop wasn't Hanzomon. On top of that, I knew there were a pair of small streets across from the hotel where I'd go to eat, and they weren't there.
Thinking the GPS was off, I zoom out a bit and... BINGO! The name "Akasaka Hotel Tokyu" sounds really familiar...
Jumping to Google Street View so I can wander around and... there it is...
Five minutes to find the answer to a rather strange question. Thank you, internet.
Much to my surprise, the hotel I like is reasonably priced. Unfortunately, the airfare is absurd. Crazy absurd. So I have no idea if I'll be going to Tokyo or not.
Oh well. I've got a pile of clothes I should probably wash instad of jetting across the Pacific Ocean anyway.
Time to get weird... because a Very Special Weird Al Yankovic edition of Bullet Sunday starts... now...
Unless you've been hiding from the internet and all known media this week, you've undoubtedly heard that Weird Al has a new album out called Mandatory Fun. And to promote his latest release, Al is releasing one new video each day for eight days. As usual, they are absolutely brilliant. And it got me wanting to take a look back at my all-time favorites. Not an easy task when most every video the man makes is great, but here's my Top 12 in order of release...
• I Lost on Jeopardy (1983). I laugh every single time I see the video for I Lost on Jeopardy, which is amazing considering I was not a fan of the Greg Kihn original that it is parodying. It doesn't hurt that Don Pardo pops up at the end... and Greg Kihn himself closes out the video...
• Like a Surgeon (1985). Weird Al parodying Madonna's Like a Virgin had huge potential to go terribly wrong, but ended up being the video that confirmed Weird Al's early brilliance. Like a Surgeon was smart, funny, and came from an idea suggested by Madonna herself...
• Christmas at Ground Zero (1986). This non-parody track is just too funny... telling the ultimate horror story, but in the peppiest way possible. I especially love the video for Christmas at Ground Zero because it went all retro with a nifty throwback to Cold War paranoia...
• You Don't Love Me Anymore (1992). Okay... this is hands-down one of my favorite Weird Al songs. That he managed to come up with such a great video for You Don't Love Me Anymore (itself a parody of Extreme's video for More Than Words) is just too good. Adding a cameo by Robert Goulet is beyond good...
• Jurassic Park (1993). I never knew that I needed a Claymation parody of MacArthur Park in my life... but then Al came up with the amazing Jurassic Park and I wondered how I ever lived without it. This song is particularly great in how it manages to reach a sympathetic note while still being funny...
• It's All About the Pentiums (1999). I'm a bit surprised that Puff Daddy allowed a parody of It's All About the Benjamins but, much to his credit, he did. This resulted in a computer geek's dream anthem, It's All About the Pentiums, which proves without a doubt that there's no subject Al can't sing about...
• Close But No Cigar (2006). The song is clever but not a favorite. Until Al got John K. to animate Close But No Cigar, at which point it became genius...
• White & Nerdy (2006). A love letter to geeks everywhere, White and Nerdy pretty much sums up my life from high school onward. As if that weren't enough, it's a really good parody of Chamillionaire and Krayzie Bone's Ridin'...
• Perform This Way (2011). A scathing parody of not only the hit song Born This Way... but the absurdity of its creator, Lady Gaga. On both counts, it's dead-on. So much so that it pretty much transcends "parody" to become art in its own right.
• Party in the CIA (2011). I rather liked Miley Cyrus' Party in the USA, and was happy that Weird Al parodied it with Party in the CIA. I was even happier when I saw the gorgeously animated video he released for it...
• Word Crimes (2014). Robin Thicke ruled the summer last year with his misogynistic song Blurred Lines which glamorizes rape culture. How Weird Al thought to turn it into a genius commentary on bad grammar with Word Crimes I'll never know. But he did, and I love it. My favorite track off of Mandatory Fun...
• Foil (2014). This catchy parody of Lorde's Royals starts out as amusing but mundane... then takes a genius left turn off the deep end by diving into government conspiracies and the Illuminati. I only wish the song were longer, as it seems to cut short at the end...
And... that's a wrap! You can tell that Weird Al has a darn good videography when some of his most popular videos (Eat It, Gump, Fat, Amish Paradise, Smells Like Teen Spirit, etc.) didn't make my list.
No. Just no.
Second verse, same as the first.
Third time's a charm.
After what I can only describe as "The Week I Wish Never Happened," I was more than a little thrilled to be getting the heck out of Dodge.
So this morning I packed up my crap for a drive over the mountins to catch a flight out of Seattle for Knoxville, Tennessee. This is a city I have driven by four or five times, but have never actually spent any time in. Hopefully there will be a little time for that tomorrow, but right now I am so tired I can barely even think about it.
The trip wasn't bad at all. Even my layover in Detroit was fairly painless. Mostly because I had loads of news coming out of ComicCon in San Diego all day long to distract me. Now-a-days it's more about comic book movies than actual comic books, which is fine by me. Especially all the amazing stuff coming out of The House of Marvel, which has been one amazing cinematic feat after another since the first Iron Man movie.
And they're really upping the game with the next Avengers movie... Age of Ultron... which looks epic...
If I die before this film is released in May of next year, I will be very disappointed.
And so here I am in Knoxville, which is pretty much just a landing point for my real destination: Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The city is kind of a resort area that built up around Dolly Parton's theme park, Dollywood, and there's all kinds of interesting things to see and do.
But I'm not here for the attractions. The Hard Rock Cafe in Gatlinburg (one of my favorites) closed up shop and moved up the road to Pigeon Forge, so I decided to check it out with some friends who came from Chattanooga. From the outside, it's nothing special. They painted it purple, but it's still incredibly boring. No giant guitar. No unique Tennessee-inspired architecture. Nothing very special at all...
As expected, the interior is inspired by the newer-style Hard Rock "hipster lounge" design aesthetic I loathe. The good news is that they toned it down a bit so it's not quite so douchey. No giant flowing curtains and other crap obscuring the joint. Inexplicably, there's a lot of ropes hanging above the bar. If this were a port city, that might make sense... but Pigeon Forge is about as land-locked as you can get, so I guess it's some kind of S&M-inspired tribute to Fifty Shades of Grey or something...
Holy crap do I miss the "old-style" cafes that were packed to the rafters with rock memorabilia! These newer cafes are style over substance, and all you get are a few scattered pieces of clothing... a few guitars... maybe some hand-penned lyrics or something. It's as if the people designing for the chain now have no fucking clue what the Hard Rock is supposed to be about...
Case in point... they had one of Dolly Parton's dresses hanging on the wall. And while they do have a plaque below the piece explaining its history, there's no photo of Dolly wearing it... or note from Dolly about it... which is what you'd likely find in an old-style cafe where they were more interested in the memorabilia telling a story instead of a merely using it as a design accessory...
After parting ways with my friends, I decided to wander down the street to The Titanic Museum. I was curious to see how it stacked up to the "Titanic Experience" I visited in Orlando.
It certainly looks really impressive...
But then, tragedy struck.
I noticed a sign saying "no photos or video"...
Disappointing, but not a deal-breaker. Yet. Before buying a ticket, I head to the gift shop to see if they have a souvenir guide to the museum. If I can't take pictures, a book will have to do.
Except they don't have a guide book.
Fuck. That. There's the deal-breaker.
I am sick and tired of museums who don't allow you any way to re-visit your visit. Don't want me taking photos? Fine. But sell a fucking guide book so fifteen years from now when I want to remember my visit I have something to actually remind me. I visit a ton of museums, and it's not like I can remember every damn thing I've ever seen in them.
So screw the Titanic Museum. I am done supporting this kind of crap.
My friends recommended that I visit the Pigeon Forge Gem Mine before I left, which sounded interesting...
What you do is buy a bucket of dirt that has a random assortment of gemstones and other goodies hidden in it. There are al kins of choices, depending on what you're interested in, and the prices range from $15 to $200...
I bought a more modest bucket that was like $20 or something...
Once you've paid for your dirt, you take a seat at a water trough where you can start mining for your treasure...
After dumping a couple scoopfuls into your screen box, you shift it in the trough so that the dirt washes away...
That leaves you with gemstones, agates, fossils, and other interesting stuff...
Once you've finished your bucket, you can go inside to have them evaluate your haul. This can take a while. There was only one "assayer" on duty, and she spent twenty minutes with one person who must have been mining for days because she had bags and bags of rocks...
Luckily, I was in no hurry, so I visited the... uhhh... "Gem Museum" they had...
Eventually my name was called and I got to learn what all I had. Which was nothing too spectacular, really. I rather like the nice piece of amethyst I found though (the purple-ish thing at the top)...
I also got some nifty minerals, a couple fossils, and a really cool agate (on the far left).
If you want, the shop will clean up your pieces, polish them into something pretty, and make it into some jewelry for you in 24 hours. I wasn't interested in spending any more money, so I took my bag of rocks and left.
Overall, the Pigeon Forge Gem Mine was a pretty cool experience, and a good waste of time (I was there for just over an hour). Some people were spending hundreds of dollars on bucket after bucket, so you could probably make a day out of it if you wanted to.
But don't be there too long, or you'll miss out on the many dinner theaters going on. There's musical theater. There's church theater. There's Hatfields vs. McCoys theater. There's all kinds of dinner theaters. There's even Lumberjack Feud theater, which looks like it would be a total bloodbath...
I wasn't sticking around for dinner theater, but I did want to stop at the souvenir shop where Jesus saves...
It's a junk-lovers dream come true, as they've got every kind of crap you can think of...
But I didn't have time for shopping (or paying $3.50 to see the live bears they keep out back), so I headed back to Knoxville... where I finally decided to venture into the city, which is quite nice...
The highlight of my visit was the Mast General Store, which was a lot of fun...
I ended up finding some really nice shirts on sale, so I bought a bunch to take home...
I could have bought a lot of things, but I only have one small suitcase, so I had to pass. I did grab a bag of bulk candies, however...
And there you have it. My one day in Tennessee. In a few minutes I'll be off to the movies and then calling it a night so I can pack up for my flight out tomorrow.
After I've eaten all my candy, obviously.
It's lobstah time... because a Very Special Bullet Sunday from Maine starts... now...
• Jet. You might find it interesting to know that Portland, Maine doesn't have an airport... they have a jetport! So I guess if you have an old-style prop plane, you're just going to have to land somewhere else. Only jets get the privilege of landing in Portland!
• Waterfront. Unlike so many fishing waterfronts that have been reimagined as tourist attractions or shopping destinations... Portland's waterfront is still in use by the fishing industry. This affords some excellent photographic opportunities which, alas, were lost on my because I didn't pack my camera. iPhone to the rescue!
It's a cool place to explore... assuming the smell of rotting fish doesn't offend you.
• Flatbread. For dinner I decided to stop at Flatbread Company, which was recommended by my hotel. This ended up being a fantastic choice, as I loved absolutely everything about the place. Exceptional service. Amazing food featuring local organic ingredients. And a very good beer selection...
I had a flatbread with zucchini, summer squash, maple glaze, and a bunch of other stuff I don't remember. Dessert was a Maine blueberry crisp with vanilla ice cream and maple-sweetened cream.
If you're ever in Portland, Flatbread Company gets my highest recommendation.
• Cobble. Old Downtown Portland is a really nice place. Some of the streets are still in cobblestones, and there's a wide variety of shops and eateries to visit...
If you're an ice cream lover, Portland has you covered. There are a lot of shops here selling it (I only ate at two of them, swear)....
Turns out "The Other Portland" (if you're a west-coaster) is worth a trip. Can't believe I haven't been here sooner.
• BatMaine? Gotta love any city that's selling a decal like this one...
• Lucy. I am a huge fan of filmmaker Luc Besson. I am a huge fan of Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman. So a movie combining all three of those things should be amazing, right? Enter Lucy...
After some ridiculous circumstances involving a new synthetic drug end up giving Scarlett super-human abilities, she decides to make the best of the situation by passing her massive knowledge about life, the universe, and everything on to all mankind. An evil drug lord is having none of it, however, and decides to pursue her so he can have the drug for himself. Along the way there are some terrific action sequences... mostly involving Scarlett being awesome with her newfound abilities. It's all a bit cheesy, sure, but it's fun. And then things start to fall apart in the third act. Badly. Instead of escalating the cool super-human action to a grand finale, the film takes a massive detour into some kind of metaphysical artistic statement that is really unsatisfying and senseless. Lucy was ultimately disappointed to me because the ending sabotaged the whole movie.
So... it turns out that all the best stuff from Lucy is in the trailer. The movie might still be worth a rental, but I don't know I'd recommending paying the money to see it in a theater.
And... bullets begone! Seeyou next Sunday.
I've been to Maine before. But not really. I crossed the border back in 2005 just so I could say that I've been here, but a quick hop to Kittery doesn't really qualify me to say that "I've seen Maine." So when my travel plans went as scheduled and I ended up with a free day, I figured I might as well jot out to the coast to see a few lighthouses and stuff.
Except I awoke to find that all of Maine was pouring rain and fog. I scoured the internet for lighthouse webcams, but all of them pretty much looked like this...
The radar weather map looked a bit cleaner up north, so I started combing every webcam I could find up the Maine coast to see if there was anywhere with decent weather. After a long time of having no luck, I happened across a camera for "Pemaquid Point Light" (they don't call them "lighthouses" here). It was rainy, but not overly foggy. It was an hour-and-a-half drive through a torrential downpour, but oh well. Off I went.
The entire trip was pouring rain... right up until I got to the road that led down to the lighthouse...
But then... a miracle. As I was turning into the park, the rain just stopped. Still a bit overcast, but kinda clear. No need to wear a garbage bag after all!
Behind the lighthouse is a cool rock formation that funnels out to the ocean...
What's cool about this particular lighthouse is that you can climb up in it...
Inside the lightkeeper's house is a small museum...
By the time I was ready to leave, blue skies were starting to appear...
After asking for some advice as to another lighthouse I might try, I was told that a lot of people seem to head off to Marshall Point Light from here, so off I went. Surprise surprise, it started to rain again...
It took a lot longer than I thought (Pemaquid Point and Marshall Point look so close on the map!), but it was a nice drive. Lucky me... the rain started to let up just as I pulled into the parking lot. Again...
Wanting to buy a post card, I stepped into the gift shop for a minute. When I went back outside, the blue skies had followed me!
The rocks here are really cool to look at...
Overall, a very nice lighthouse with some beautiful scenery surrounding...
Click the panorama to enbiggen.
While in the gift shop, I saw a map that showed another lighthouse that's publicly accessible not too far away. So off I went to Owl's Head Lighthouse... this drive in much nicer weather...
And thus ended my exploration of Maine's coastal roads and lighthouses.
Interesting to note that the geography here makes everything much farther away than you'd think. Pemaquid Point and Marshall Point are not very far away from each other as the crow flies (about 13 miles). But to navigate there in a car is just over 50 miles and a 1 hour, 15 minute drive...
Map courtesy of... who else... Google Maps!
Dinner was back in Portland at Flatbread Company, because I just couldn't help myself. The blueberry desserts are just too incredible. This time? Blueberry-Topped Poundcake...
Hopefully tomorrow I'll get the chance to explore a bit more... but it's a work day, so fingers crossed.
I had a scary amount of work piled up today, so exploring Maine wasn't really in the cards.
I did take a quick run out to Popham Beach State Park after lunch to clear my head, however. I had wanted to visit yesterday, but the unrelenting rain made that a dreary proposition.
Luckily today was a different story...
The southern section of the beach is a beachcomber's delight...
One of the cool things about Popham Beach is that there are islands off the coast which you can walk to during low tide...
And now it's time to gear up for a 30-hour work day.
26 hours straight on 3 hours sleep.
That's gotta be some kind of record... even for me.
And... time to head home.
But not before I see one last lighthouse... and perhaps the most famous in Maine due to its proximity to Portland... Portland Head Light State Park.
All things considered, it's a nice lighthouse. Albeit a little more crowded than the others I visited this trip...
I was once again astounded at the photo quality I was getting from my iPhone... and it's a 5, not even the 5S. The detail it manages to pull out of a scene is nothing short of amazing considering it's coming out of a frickin' phone...
Inside there's a small museum ($2 entry) that has an interesting look at the history of the lighthouse. And how it works...
Time for a mad dash to the airport jetport so I can make my flight. While waiting for my plane to board, I noticed there were displays of Maine's famous products on display... some of which I never associated with the state. Well, except "Tom's of Maine" which I kinda had figured out...
And away I go...
Originally, I was going to stay in Maine over the weekend so I could bum around the coast and see cool stuff. But then I consulted my calendar only to be reminded that my 30th High School Class Reunion was happening, so I flew back last night. I had thought that I'd just drive the 2-1/2 hours back home when I landed at midnight, but that would have been impossible after 26 hours of work.
So the solution was easy, right? Grab a hotel at SeaTac International Airport and head home this morning.
Except hotels in Seattle have been escalating in price at a jaw-dropping rate. Every time I try to get a decent room at a decent price, I fail miserably. Just two years ago I was able to Priceline an airport hotel for $89. Last year it was tough, but hotels could be found for $119. This year?
Yes. You are seeing that right... $533 (AT DISCOUNT!) for a
Going with my AAA discount, my best bet for a 3-Diamond property was the Crowne Plaza for $309...
Horrified at the thought of paying $309 for a three-star property, I decided to wait until the last minute in the hopes that something would open up on Hotwire or Priceline.
When I landed for my layover in Atlanta, I lucked out... The Courtyard Marriott dropped their AAA rate to $218. Yes, it was $100 more than I was paying for a superior three-star hotel last year, but it's the best I could do.
I know I've written about this before, but the cost of traveling is quickly becoming unaffordable for the average traveler. Sure, special events in Seattle (like Seafair) are going to drive up prices... but there seem to be "special events" going on all the time. Or it's cruise ship season. Or there's show opening. Or there's a conference in town. Unless you're incredibly flexible on timing and able to spend a huge amount of time searching for calendar pricing, it's a game you can't win.
In many ways, high school seems like a lot longer than 30 years ago.
Probably because the ordeal wasn't this amazing thrill-ride of awesomeness for me that it seems to be for so many people. Not because I didn't have friends, good times, or memorable experiences... I did... it's just that I didn't want to live there. Everything I wanted in life was nowhere to be found during "the best years of your life," and so I didn't just walk away after graduation... I ran.
I put high school behind me.
Then I started over.
And at no time did I have any kind of longing for going back.
But this weekend I did go back and it was okay.
A surprising number of people showed up. A surprising number of people didn't. Most people ended up exactly as I imagined they would. A few surprised me. But everybody was nice to everybody, which is what happens when your high school days are 30 years past.
And everybody had a story to tell... that story being the story of their life.
Which is what made the whole thing worthwhile, I suppose.
Don't worry about the temperature... because it's a dry heat and Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Ghibli. From the "News So Horrible You Want to Scream" department... Studio Ghibli announced that they will be closing down their animation studio. Later this was changed to "evaluating closing down their animation studio." Either way, the production company responsible for some of my favorite films of all time is not going to be making another animated feature any time soon...
To say I am absolutely gutted is an understatement. Mainly an outlet for animation god Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli has produced some of the most stunning animated works of all time. Even with the retirement of Miyazaki-san, I was still looking forward to new movies by the team responsible for such cinematic genius as My Neighbor Totoro, Howl's Moving Castle, Spirited Away, and Kiki's Delivery Service.
I'm very sad for a world where Studio Ghibli isn't in the animation business.
• Black. And speaking of black cats (like Jiji, the cat from Kiki's Delivery Service), I was shocked to read an article about how black cats are being rejected at animal shelters because they don't take good selfie photos. This is a horrifying prospect given that black fur is really common on a cat, and there's always going to be plenty to go around.
• School. We support religious freedom! You are free to be any flavor of Christian you want to be! Holy crap what a repugnant dumbass.
• Bouncy. Hey, kids! Jump on my crotch!
• Berlin. When I was in Maine, I saw that they had yet another piece of the Berlin Wall on display in Portland. I remember thinking at the time that every major city in the world must have a piece, because I see them quite a lot when I travel...
And now I'm really regretting that I didn't make a point of photographing all the pieces I've seen. So many of them offer a fascinating insight into those Cold War days.
• Chocolate. This video of cocoa farmers getting to taste chocolate for the first time is one of the best things I've seen all week!
I find it fascinating how the farmers had no clue as to why foreigners wanted to buy cocoa beans... and had never been given the opportunity to share in the fruits of their labor. Just the way the world works, I guess.
• Whoopie. And speaking of chocolate... while visiting Maine I had my first "Whoopie Pie" which is nothing like the "Moon Pies" I'm used to. They're massively huge and very, very sweet...
I wasn't able to eat but half of it over the course of a day. My teeth were shaking with each bite. The gift shop at Portland Light Head had a Whoopie Pie book...
And... I'm out of bullets. Guess I'll have to shoot ya next week.
My brain feels mooshy.
Which would be a lot more fun if it was alcohol induced instead of exhaustion.
I was supposed to drive to Spokane tonight, but Fate intervened and moved my work a day forward.I don't know if I'm supposed to repay this kindness by sacrificing a goat or what, but I sure am grateful.
A night of sleeping-pill-induced slumber awaits.
Cannot. Seem. To. Catch. Up. On. Sleep.
No matter how tired I am, I lay down to try and get some rest only to have my brain explode all over the place with every thought imaginable racing through my head. You'd think at some point my mind would give up and pass out but, alas, no.
And so I drove across the state for work... three hours of pretty much this...
All while fighting nausea and exhaustion. Thank heavens for Coke and Slayer.
After arriving in Spokane, I dropped by Pita Pit to get my falafel on...
I love you, Pita Pete!
Well, that's kind of a lie... I actually checked into my hotel before heading to The Pit. Which was not exactly the experience I had hoped for.
As always, I Pricelined hotels when looking for a place to stay. After searching "Express Deals" for a property downtown, there was a 3-star for $105 and, much to my delight, a 4-star available for $120. Normally I'd just take the 3-star, which would have been perfectly fine... but there's only one 4-star hotel in all of Spokane, and it's well worth the $15 extra per night... The Davenport.
It's a hotel with a history. And it's absolutely beautiful. Truly a grand dame of an old hotel that was pretty much condemned back in 1985... but eventually sold, rennovated, and re-opened in 2000.
So I accepted the $120 price, got my reservation at The Davenport, and drove to Spokane happy.
Three hours later, there I was waltzing up to the receiption desk when I am told that my room is not in The Davenport... but instead in The Davenport Tower, which is an entirely different building across the street. Apparently riffraff who arrive via Priceline are not allowed in the "real" hotel, but are instead shunted off-property. This pissed me off more than a little bit, because it's akin to a bait-and-switch operation. They lump two different hotels together, trade off the 4-star reputation of the original, then send you to a different hotel when you get there. Don't get me wrong... the Davenport Tower is a very nice hotel and well-worth the $120 price I paid... it's just not THE Davenport. Had I known this would happen, I would have taken the 3-star option and saved the $30 (total).
I really don't understand how travel sites allow this. These are TWO SEPARATE HOTELS, and should be treated that way.
Anyway, I loaded my luggage back into my car, drove around four blocks of one-way confusion, then checked into Davenport Tower... which has a bizarre kind of "safari" theme throughout.
I guess this shows that anytime something is "too good to be true," it probably is.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to attempt to fall asleep while paintings of zebras and leopards stare down at me.
I have to wonder if JJ Abrams has seen Guardians of the Galaxy yet... and, if he has, did he shit his pants at the thought of his Star Wars installment having to follow it? Because Guardians of the Galaxy is quite possibly my favorite sci-fi film since The Empire Strikes Back. It's that good.
And I just can’t quite wrap my head around that statement, because there have been some really good sci-fi films since Empire. Alien, Aliens, Blade Runner, The Terminator, Terminator 2, The Matrix, Stargate, Serenity… even the recent Star Trek remakes and cartoons like WALL-E… all great films. So how is this possible?
I think it’s a combination of two things.
First of all, it’s a fantastic film. Surprisingly awesome in almost every way. Really funny when it needs to be. Story, cast, special effects, direction, cinematography, characters, music, score... all great.
But mainly I think it’s because I’ve been living with The Marvel Universe comics for what seems like forever. There’s something about seeing The Nova Corps... Thanos... Ronan & Nebula... Drax the Destroyer... all these cosmic comic characters... each come to life on-screen in a way that has completely captivated me. Not an easy task, I assure you, but Marvel seems to be making it look easy as they keep knocking it out of the park in comic book movie after comic book movie. And, I fully admit that I was a doubter when Guardians was announced because it just seemed like such an unlikely property to make into a good film. It’s got a talking raccoon, for heavens sake! But writer/director James Gunn (along with co-writer Nicole Perlman) figured out how to make it work. Actually... no... they not only “figured it out,” they completely and totally nailed it in a movie so near perfection that I am still having trouble believing it exists...
Twenty-six years ago a young Peter Quill watches in horror as his mother dies, then runs away from the hospital in a futile attempt at escaping the trauma life has thrown at him. At which point he’s abducted by aliens. So far as openers go, it’s kind of lame, right? What are the odds? But, of course, there’s much more to it than all that… you just need to have patience to get there.
Fortunately, James Gunn makes the wait easy.
Now a grown man, Peter lives his life as a rogue thief. His time spent roaming the galaxy, breaking hearts, and trying to stay out of trouble. But trouble always seems to find him, and when he steals an artifact that some Very Powerful People are after, his life becomes a lot more complicated. Action, adventure, and hilarity ensues...
To discuss the plot is to spoil the film, and I'm just not willing to do that. This is a movie you must see on the big screen. Don't wait for DVD... see it BIG. The eye-popping visuals demand it.
I will, however, discuss the cast. Which is flawless. Chris Pratt as Star-Lord is note-perfect. He encapsulates everything you could possibly want Peter Quill to be. He headlines the movie so effortlessly that even the most unbelievable parts of the film seem anchored and believable. And it's all gravy from there. Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Lee Pace... just amazing performances all the way around. And Bradley Cooper (the last person I envisioned as the voice of Rocket Raccoon) owns the role and steals every scene he's in.
If I have one quibble, it would be that the ending is over-the-top schmaltzy, predictable, and cheesy. But I don't think the film suffers too much for it, and I think Gunn explained it away in a way that kinda works.
Guardians of the Galaxy is a beautiful-looking film with a great story... and funny! It gets an easy A+ from me, which means it's time to update the score card...
The Avengers... A+
Batman Begins... A
Batman Dark Knight... A+
Batman Dark Knight Rises... A
Blade 2... B
Blade Trinity... B-
Captain America... A+
Captain America: The Winter Soldier... A+
Daredevil (Director's Cut)... B+
Fantastic Four... C
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer... D
Guardians of the Galaxy... A+
Ghost Rider... C
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance... D
Green Hornet... D
Green Lantern... C+
Hellboy 2: Golden Army... A
Incredible Hulk... B
The Incredibles... A+
Iron Man... A+
Iron Man 2... A-
Iron Man 3... A+
Jonah Hex... F
Kick-Ass 2... B-
Man of Steel... F-
Punisher War Zone... C
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World... C
Spider-Man 2... A
Spider-Man 3... D-
Amazing Spider-Man... D
Amazing Spider-Man 2... D-
Superman Returns... C+
Thor: The Dark World... B
The Wolverine... B
X-Men 2: United... D
X-Men 3: Last Stand... F-
X-Men Origins: Wolverine... D
X-Men: Days of Future Past... B-
X-Men: First Class... B
Last night was not a good night.
I decided to "play it safe" and have a veggie burger for dinner at Robin Robin instead of eating someplace more exotic. This resulted in four hours of food poisoning so bad that it had me wondering if I had contracted the ebola virus. I think my spleen liquified and blew out my butt at hour three. Not surprisingly, sleep was very tough to come by, and having to go to work in a zombie-like state was no fun at all.
Driving the three hours home in a zombie-like state was even worse.
But the trip was worth it for two reasons.
1) Yokes Grocery carries Yoo-Hoo...
Nectar of the gods!
2) You can still get David's DaVinci Pizza at Famous Ed's...
Best road pizza ever!
And then it was time to head home, though the urge to go car shopping was strong...
Hey dawg, WE FINANCE!!! Thanks, Poochie!
The drive home was agonizing, because I was never able to go the speed limit. There was always somebody driving slow in the passing lane who wasn't passing anybody...
I'm glad that you've found your "final answer" in Jesus... really I am... maybe if you pray hard enough,
JESUS WILL ANSWER AND TELL YOU TO STAY OUT OF THE PASSING LANE IF YOU'RE NOT PASSING SOMEBODY!
Then you've got trucks passing somebody, but not fast enough to keep the cars from piling up...
Can't say I blame him... the motorhome WAS GOING 52 IN A 70MPH ZONE!!!
Driving frustrations and ebola aside, I made it home in one piece, so I guess that's all that really matters. And now I've got leftover pizza for breakfast. Life is good.
Well this day definitely did not go as planned.
All I need now is to have my hard drive crash and my car explode and I think I'm pretty much done. Sometimes you have to know when to just give up.
The weekend's coming up. I guess that's something to look forward to.
Sure I have to go to the office... but at least I can play music as loud as I want.
Usually I avoid mid-season television because it sucks copious amounts of ass. Customarily, it's the time of the year where shows that are too terrible for the New Fall Season are dumped. But that hasn't been true for years now. Plenty of good shows end up in the mid-season, as networks are finding out they can flourish when the competition is low...
Extant (Wednesdays 10pm on CBS)
Halle Berry plays an astronaut who arrives back on earth pregnant after 13 months in space. Alone. On a solo mission. As if that weren't enough intrigue... she is married to a robot scientist who has created them a robot son that's starting to act strangely. Not enough freaky for you? Halle's dead first husband keeps showing up. The show is well-written and acted, but the reason I am compelled to watch is that I'm dying to know how all this crazy shit is going to fit together. Is it going to be brilliant? Or is it going to be a steaming pile of crap like Lost?
Satisfaction (Thursdays 10pm on USA)
I don't even know why I tuned into this show because it's absolutely not the type of thing I'm interested in. But the previews looked unique, so I decided to give it a shot. Wow. What happens when a man with the perfect life finds out his wife is hiring a guy for sex? Surprisingly, the answer to his problems and the solution to his dissatisfaction with how things have turned out in his idyllic life. Satisfaction caught me completely by surprise, and I have high hopes they'll be able to push the premise in interesting directions.
The Strain (Sundays 10pm on FX)
Leave it to Guliermo Del Toro to create a modern vampire epic so good that it's hard to believe that it's on television. Blending just the right amount of horror and suspense with thrills and breakneck pacing, The Strain is an entertaining show that relies on using predictable elements in unpredictable ways. The result is well worth your valuable time, though it's hard to tell how long they're going to keep the premise feeling fresh.
Outlander (Saturdays 9pm on Starz)
Thanks to the unprecedented success of Game of Thrones on HBO, it only seems to reason that other premium-priced networks would be investigating fantasy dramas of their own. And Starz has landed on a series based on the very popular Outlander books by Diana Gabaldon. It's 1945 and a World War II nurse named Claire Randall has been transported back to Scotland in the year 1743. Though already married in 1945, she ends up forced to marry Jamie Fraser... a Scottish warrior fighting a war and traversing a dangerous world. Though the romance angle isn't really my thing, I have to admit the series in really well done. Here's hoping show-runner Ronald D. Moore doesn't fuck it up like he did Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica.
And that's it so far. I'm still trying to decide on shows like Welcome to Sweden, Finding Carter, The Divide, and a few others.
Life is way too short to spend on bad television.
Downgrade that hurricane... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• DC LEGO! This November, all of DC Comics' covers will feature LEGO characters in celebration of the release of LEGO Batman 3!
They look pretty great...
You can see a completely list of the upcoming covers here.
• Bats Three. And, speaking of LEGO Batman 3... footage has been everywhere since ComicCon. IGN, for example, has a look at the many playable characters in the game...
Can. Not. Wait.
• Global. Well, it was good while it lasted.
• Daily. This video so perfectly sums up my day...
I'm the cat in this scenario, obviously.
• I am GROOT! Hey! It's baby dancing Groot!
Yeah. You just know a toy version of THAT is coming...
Annnnd... I'm off. That weekend was way too short.
I was very, very sad to hear that Robin Williams died today.
I first became obsessed with his comedic antics on Mork and Mindy... then followed his career right up through The Crazy Ones, a fantastic television show that had the good sense to reign him in a bit, which is always when he's at his best.
But there's one role that will forever cement Robin Williams as a favorite performer of mine... The Genie on Alladin...
You will most definitely be missed, sir.
If you've never suffered from severe depression... if you've never stood by helplessly as somebody you care about battles depression... if you've never made an effort to understand what depression is or what it does to you... then please, for the love of God, shut the fuck up about it. Your ignorant commentary adds nothing to the conversation and only serves to make things worse for people living with this drastically misunderstood mental disorder.
Because if I hear one more asshole like Shep Smith (who obviously knows jack-shit about depression) call Robin Williams "a coward" for killing himself, I'm going to lose it.
With depression you don't kill yourself because you're selfish or weak or a coward... you kill yourself because a non-stop feeling of utter desolation means you can't muster any self-worth and feel as if everybody you care about would be better off without you. That's the opposite of selfishness... the opposite of weakness... the opposite of cowardice. It's having the strength to choose ending your life in order to give those you love a better one.
Which is crap, of course, but that's the way your brain works when you have severe depression.
So comparing this disorder to "being sad" is ludicrous. It's not sad. Everybody gets sad from time to time because they're given a reason to feel sad. Depression is feeling sad to the point of despair for no reason and every reason with no end in sight. It's feeling completely lost without knowing why. It's feeling utterly alone when surrounded by people who care about you. It's the agonizing feeling of not being able to justify your very existence. And it is unrelenting. It simply does not stop. It overwhelms your every thought every minute of every damn day.
And unless you've been through it... or had to watch somebody endure it... your mind just can't comprehend what it's like. So stop it. Stop acting like you have a fucking clue.
"How could Robin Williams be depressed when he had millions of dollars?" — Money can't buy your way out of depression when nothing you can buy will bring you happiness.
"How could Robin Williams be depressed when everybody loved him?" — All the love in the world can't make you feel loved if you don't feel deserving of it.
"How could Robin Williams commit suicide and make his family suffer like this?" — When you feel that your depression is a burden to ones you love, suicide seems like the greatest kindness you can offer them.
Again. This is a mental disorder... you can't apply logic or rational thinking to explain it away.
And if you don't want to sound like a complete and total bastard, you'll stop trying.
What's it gonna take?
I loathe shopping.
I've never enjoyed it. If given the choice between going to the mall or getting water-boarded, I'd probably take the water-boarding. Especially during the holidays (at least the first time... as I've read that being water-boarded is seriously no fun at all). Now-a-days I rarely go to a mall or physical store to shop, I buy everything on the internet. And while I still loathe shopping, at least with online shopping I don't have to put pants on.
But that's not the only difference.
The biggest difference to me is that online shopping comes with customer reviews. When shopping at Amazon (my online store of choice) I have immediate access to the opinions of other people who have purchased the item I'm looking at. This can be a big plus. Except sometimes the reviews are paid or planted to make a product sound better than it is, in which case it's a huge detriment. They can also be sabotaged by people with nothing better to do than trash perfectly good products for petty reasons. But, overall, I trust reviews to even out and paint an accurate picture of what you'll be getting.
And, for the most part, this trust is not misplaced.
But what happens when it does?
I really like my current camera bag, a Tamrac Velocity 7x, but it's now too small to hold all my equipment and it screams "I'M A CAMERA BAG!!!" which probably acts like a beacon to thieves looking for an easy score. So I decided to buy something new. Which isn't an easy feat because no photographer I know has found the perfect bag. But this doesn't stop them from battling to the death in promoting the bag they prefer while brutally cutting up bags they don't. As you can imagine, this makes researching which bag to buy incredibly difficult. But I put in the time anyway and eventually landed on one which looked perfect for me.
Enter "The Brixton" by Ona Bags...
Photo from Ona Bags featuring photographer Colin Hughes
First of all, it's one of the best-looking camera bags I've ever seen. It looks like a high-end messenger bag and doesn't say "I'm a camera bag" at all. Sure, for the sake of the cows that died to make it, I wish it didn't have leather accents, but at least those poor animals can rest in peace knowing that their hide was used to make something so beautiful.
But, when it comes to baggage, I'll take functionality over beauty any day, so how well does it work as a camera bag?
Well, according to all the reviews I read, it was the most amazing thing since sliced bread. Honestly, I had a hard time finding anything bad that was said about it. Photographers loved the thing. So I did my best to ignore the TWO HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-NINE DOLLAR PRICE TAG, and placed my order with B&H Photo.
I was so thrilled to have finally found the most perfect camera bag ever made that I was walking on air for days.
And then it arrived.
Yes, it is indeed beautiful... but holy shit is it a cluster-fuck of disasters...
That last bullet requires some explanation...
As you can see, instead of pointing down, the buckle prong faces upwards. This means the damn thing is pointing out ALL THE TIME! The first time I noticed this, it was because I squeezed by a $1000 wood filing cabinet only to see that The Brixton left an ugly gash in the finish. The next time I noticed it, I dropped my arm to my side where the bag was resting and got punctured (no blood, but it left a mark and hurt like a m#th@f#c%er).
This is a huge, major, massive design flaw.
BUT IT WAS NOT MENTIONED ONCE IN ANY REVIEW I READ! NOT ONCE! What the fuck?!?
Did I perhaps get a defective product or something? I jumped to Ona's own website to see if I could find out. Sure enough, right there in their own marketing photos, the little buckle prong is sticking out all over the place!
Did nobody at any point during product testing notice this problem? Nobody?! I'm the only one who has been poked and left gashes in furniture? Seriously?!
I just don't get it.
There's a lot of things to like about this bag, but it's so deeply flawed that I just can't comprehend the universal praise it's getting. In order to make it work for me, I'm going to have to...
My regret is not that I have to modify this bag so that I can use it effectively. That's bound to happen with something as varied and subjective as photography gear. It's that I paid TWO HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-NINE DOLLARS for something that didn't have a lot of thought put into it. Or maybe it did, and the designers made bad choices. I dunno. It's just maddening that no reviewer mentioned any of the shortcomings that come with owning Ona's "The Brixton."
Oh well. Eventually, with modification, it should be a good bag for me. I sure like the way it looks. And it could have been worse.
I could have paid $430 for the all-leather version.
I hate shopping.
"Please calm down."
So there I was fueling up at the mini-mart when I see a woman drop a can of soda as she's fiddling with her keys. This causes the guy sitting in the car next to her to scream "YOU ALMOST HIT MY CAR YOU DUMB BITCH!"... and I'm left wondering two things...
This had me wondering two more things as I watched the woman drive away...
And this had me further wondering...
This didn't happen today. It happened years ago.
But I still think about it often. Mostly as I struggle to stay positive and be sure I have a kind word for everyone when things go wrong.
I also think about it when I see things like this...
The guy made a mistake. But he didn't drive off and abandon the other driver... he admitted his error and stopped to be sure the person that he ran off the road was okay. And even when faced with her anger, he didn't shy away... he tried to calm her down so she wouldn't be driving in such a crazy, rage-fueled state of mind.
What a decent human being he is.
Which has to be tough in the face of a racist piece of shit like this psychotic bigot. I mean, I know she's angry, but really?
If this gentleman can keep his cool and maintain kindness while enduring this kind of crap, there's no excuse for me... her... or anyone... to act that way. No matter how upsetting the situation may be. Nobody should have to endure that kind of abuse.
So try to hold on to kindness in a world that's anything but kind and maybe somebody will do the same for you.
Nothing quite like having something horrible replaced with something even more horrible. But isn't that the way it always goes?
About the only thing keeping me sane right now is the volumes of incredible wisdom that's been accumulated in our world's philosophies and religions. I always thought that studying "religion" over the years was just a hobby. Something to supplement my travels and better understand the people I meet on this earth. But after decades of reading, discussing, and debating the material, I've come to realize that it's all become a part of me. And my life is so mud richer because of it.
Dealing with hardship is nothing new.
People far smarter than I have been writing on how to deal with hardships for centuries, and all that knowledge is out there... free for the taking.
Sadly, most people will never take advantage of it. Maybe they don't have the time. Maybe they think it's all crap. Maybe they are told that any texts outside their own faith are evil. Maybe they feel that anything tied to a religion is stupid. Maybe they're not open-minded to foreign culture and philosophy. Whatever the case, it's a real shame.
There's just so much beautiful wisdom out there waiting to be shared.
Time to find some shade... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Theif! If I were going to be a master criminal. This would be my jam.
You can't change the world
But you can change the facts
And when you change the facts
You change points of view
If you change points of view
You may change a vote
When you change a vote
You may change the world
The media controls us. It's what they do. Sadly, nobody seems to care... they're too busy feeling what they're told. But the ones we should really be worrying about is not the media... it's who controls them.
• Baddies?! Comedy is at its best when it has some harsh truth to it. This bit from Mitchell and Webb has been in my mind a lot lately...
Doesn't hurt to stop from time to time and evaluate your situation. You might not be where you think you are.
• Yossi! As I was digging through Netflix for background noise while I worked, I was shocked to find that there is sequel to the Israeli film Yossi & Jager (which I talked about here). Titled Yossi, it picks up ten years later. Shattered after watching his boyfriend die in his arms, Yossi Gutmann has buried his life as a gay man and put all his energy into becoming a cardiologist. Depressed, lonely, and with no social life to speak of, everything changes one day when the mother of his former lover appears at the hospital...
So rarely does a sequel live up to its predecessor. This is an exception. I was really glad a reader had recommended the original film, and even gladder to have come across the followup. In many ways it not only provides closure for Yossi... but also the audiences who came to care about the character. Since this is a foreign film with subtitles... AND gay cinema... it hasn't gotten much exposure in its two years of release here in the States. That's a shame, because it's a good story regardless of your nationality or sexuality.
• Sunny! Wow. Be safe out there. And carry SPF 50...
The sun is your friend. So long as you're wearing protection.
• MMMMMEEEEEAT! According to Popular Science, there's a tick whose bite can make you severely allergic to meat. Obviously a sign from God that we're all meant to be vegetarians. Why else would something like this exist? No confirmation from Pat Robertson on that yet though...
Photo from the Center for Disease Control
If this becomes an epidemic, it's good news for cows. And pigs. Maybe chickens and turkeys... I don't know about birds. Bad news for fish and sea creatures who'll have to take up the slack. Really terrible news for carrots, I suppose.
Annnnd... I need to reload.
I never thought I would see The Thompson Twins perform live again. Since they are one of my favorite bands of all time, that's kind of a bummer.
But now, miracle of miracles, Tom Bailey (the lead singer and primary songwriter behind the band) is going on tour. Where he will be performing some of my most favorite songs. It seems too good to be true. It's all going to go all wrong, isn't it?
But then a video was posted of his pre-tour warm-up show...
I Can't wait to see the Retro Futura tour next month. And who knows? Maybe next time he tours, Joe Leeway and Alannah Currie will join him. Wouldn't that be something.
That's not a question. It would totally be something.
Another summer. Another issue of THRICE Fiction Magazine!
As usual, I'll be discussing the artwork that went into our latest issue. This may or may not include spoilers for the stories, so I urge you to download your FREE copy of Issue No. 11 and give it a read before continuing.
This time around we are very fortunate to feature another beautiful cover by Katelin Kinney...
Even though I do composite photo work like this for a living, Katelin has a way of making it seem like magic to me. I've stopped asking her how she constructs these images for us because the magic is more fun.
For a look at the first half of the art included in this issue, read onward in an extended entry...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Welcome to PART TWO of a discussion about the art that's running in the latest issue of THRICE Fiction Magazine!
If you haven't read PART ONE yet, you should do that first.
And if you haven't downloaded a FREE copy of our August 2014 issue... then you should definitely do that first because, WARNING... SPOILERS MAY ENSUE!
Okey dokey then.
I've said before that laying out an issue of THRICE Fiction is like trying to put a puzzle together where you don't have a box lid to see how it's supposed to end up looking when you're done. Not once have I just dumped all the stories into Adobe InDesign and said "Perfect! I'm done!" Not even close. I move things around over and over and over again... trying to come up with a "flow" between stories that makes for a cohesive reading experience from cover to cover. At least once every issue I'll wake up in the middle of the night and freak out because I suddenly realized I've got the page order all wrong. This issue took a little longer to figure out than most, but I was fairly confident in the layout when it was "finalized" back in June.
It didn't last, of course. Right before release I had a couple of discussions that convinced me I needed to move things around... again. Which wouldn't be a big deal if I wasn't so obsessive about having some symmetry between pages on a spread. Getting that sorted out takes a serious amount of time.
And even though it delayed our release by a few days, I think it was time well-spent. We hope you'll agree.
To read PART TWO of my ramblings about the art of THRICE Fiction Magazine No. 11, read onward in an extended entry!→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
It's a good time to be a Thompson Twins fan.
Frontman Tom Bailey is touring with some other terrific 80's acts (including Howard Jones and Ultra Vox's Midge Ure) on the Retro Futura Tour. And a Thompson Twins 2-disc set Remixes and Rarities is due to be released in September.
As if that wasn't enough, he sat in with The Roots on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon this evening...
Please... please... please... let Tom be inspired to release some new Thompson Twins material after the tour is over. And then tour again.
To mourn the passage of Apple's Aperture photography cataloging and editing software, there was a discussion thread where people are posting the first photo they ever imported into the program.
Aperture was released in 2005, but the first photos I imported were those I took after having gone 100% digital in 2000. Up until that point, I always took a film camera with me on my travels because I wanted to make sure I had a reliable fallback in case the digital photos turned out horrible (which they often did back then).
But then the Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-D700 camera was released. Suddenly I had an unbelievable 2.8 megapixel sensor that could produce dazzling
And here's the first photo from that batch to be imported into Aperture...
That's a picture of Akihabara Denki Gai ("Akihabara Electric Town") in Tokyo, Japan.
Today I shoot in RAW format and take three bracketed exposures for every image. That eats up a hefty chunk of memory but, with 32GB and 64GB SD cards so common (and getting cheaper every day), it's not a big deal. Back in 2000, however, I was constantly switching between Medium Quality (
As for Aperture?
Now that it's been discontinued, I've resigned myself to the fact that my last import into the program will be my upcoming trip to Salt Lake City. After that I'll be switching to Adobe Lightroom.
If I'm feeling nostalgic, maybe I'll be sure that the first image I import into Lightroom will be the same first image I imported into Aperture.
And so it begins.
For years now, I've been debating whether or not I should pull entries from my first two blogs (DaveWorld/DaveSpot and DaveBlog) and fold them into my third (and current) blog... Blogography. There's also a chunk of entries I saved from the first go-round of Blogography before it got rebooted in April 2003.
The problem is two-fold.
1) All my entries from "back in the day" were written at a time when I never even considered strangers wanting to read my crap. Entries were created for my friends and family only, and contained a lot of personal information I wouldn't dream of putting on the internet today. Obviously anything I re-post now would have to either be heavily edited or rewritten.
2) For the longest time I couldn't get it out of my head that posting old entries to my current blog was "cheating." I'm the first to admit that doesn't make much sense... but George Lucas fucking around with the Star Wars films over the years has freaked me out on the idea of mucking with the past. HAN SHOT FIRST — BLOGOGRAPHY BEGAN IN APRIL 2003!
But now, thanks to some encouragement from y'all, I'm over it.
The first entry I've decided to retro-post is from December 2000 when I visited Rome for the first time. It pretty much had to be re-written from scratch, because a lot of the original text was written through the perspective of a recent break-up with my then-ex-girlfriend. It was not a happy time, and the trip to Italy was a fortunately-timed escape from heartache.
You can read the entry by clicking here.
After all is said and done, I'm liking the idea of retro-posting more and more. I'll definitely be doing more as time permits.
Pull up a seat to the campfire... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Doctor! While I felt Peter Capaldi did a great job as the new Doctor Who, I was a bit disappointed in his debut episode. I'd like to blame it on all the build-up, hype, and anticipation pushing my expectations too high... but I honestly feel that had nothing to do with it. I was just bored. Bored. Bored. Bored. It was a boring episode.
I'd have thought they would start this series out with a bang, but that didn't happen... at least in my humble opinion. I don't know what they're waiting for, but here's hoping next episode ramps things up to where they need to be.
• Thrice! Did I mention that the latest FREE issue of Thrice Fiction has been released? Well it has! And you can download it at absolutely no charge from our website!
Plenty of good stuff to be found within. Hurry up and get your copy before we come to our senses and start charging thousands of dollars for it!
• Star-Lord! My man-crush on Chris Pratt continues. I love it when famous people use their celebrity as a force for good instead of being self-centered assholes like so many seem to be. And kudos to Marvel for not starting up a lawsuit when Chris visited a children's hospital in-character as Star-Lord...
Photo from @Twitter
What an awesome guy.
• Bunga! If you've got an upcoming journey to or through Europe, be forewarned that Iceland is ripe for yet another volcanic eruption. Mt. Bardarbunga is poised to blow. The potential for disaster being even larger than the previous explosion of Mt. Eyjafjallajokul that messed up travel plans for millions of passengers as flights were delayed and canceled left and right due to unsafe ash content in the air.
It's always something.
• Tom! I hate to be the All Thompson Twins All The Time Channel, but I'm a huge fan. And this is a really good interview...
Original Photo Uncredited
• Human! And lastly... this video is titled Restore Your Faith in Humanity. It's aptly named...
Annnnnd... no more bullets for you. See you next week!
After what I can only describe as "Shitty Monday," it's the little things that make me want to keep going.
Like the news that Funko will indeed be making a dancing Groot Bobble Head toy from the amazing, must-see-in-theaters Guardians of the Galaxy movie.
Sadly, he's not available until January, but he is