Posted on Wednesday, October 1st, 2014
Everything's coming up picture perfect... because a very special Bullet Sunday on Tuesday FOUR HUNDREDTH ANNIVERSARY "WHAT'S IN YOUR CAMERA BAG" EDITION starts... now...
• Sony NEX-6 Camera. This is my main shooter, which I reviewed here back in May, 2013. Because it's a mirrorless camera, it is small, light, and perfect for travel... yet maintains the photo quality of a bigger, heavier DSLR. The one big caveat is that it doesn't have a full-frame sensor, so there's a crop factor for any full-frame lenses you attach. This actually ended up being a benefit on my recent trip to Africa, because my 70-200mm FE lens becomes a 105-300mm lens, making it much easier to zoom in on animals in the bush...
There's not much I don't like about the NEX-6... except the start-up time, which is kinda slow and did cost me a shot or two. Otherwise? A wonderful camera that is capable of delivering great photos. Will probably trade it in for a full-frame sensor camera before my next big trip (hopefully the successor to the Sony A7r.
16.1MP • ISO 100-25600 • $748 (discontinuted) • ★★★★☆
• Sony A7s Camera. I bought the latest Sony mirrorless camera specifically for night-shooting on my Africa trip. I knew there would be game drives in the evening, and wanted every possible advantage in getting clean shots. The A7s is made for this kind of shooting with its high ISO full-frame sensor, and gave me images I would have had a very hard time getting with any other camera. This post-sunset shot, for example, was taken in near-darkness. It was so dark that I could barely see, and didn't know what I had captured until after I looked at the camera's display...
Yes, things get a bit grainy when shooting at those monster ISO levels, but at least you get a shot...
For red-light safari drives in total darkness the A7s really shines, giving me shots that my NEX-6 couldn't hope to touch...
The A7s loves low light and, quite by accident one night, I discovered what this would mean if I shot the night sky...
The ability to shoot in near-blackout conditions comes at a price, however. The sensor resolution is a meager 12.2 megapixels. This will turn off a lot of photographers who equate megapixels with photo quality, as a 4240 x 2832 image seems weak compared to the 7360 x 4912 you'll get out of other cameras in this price range. But all the pixels in the world can't save a shot if your camera records a big black blob, so it was a trade-off I was happy to make. And after looking at the amazing photos I managed to get, I have zero regrets. The A7s has terrific video capabilities, but I'm not a video shooter, so I'm taking Sony's word for it.
12.2MP • ISO 100-102400 • $2,499 • ★★★★★
• Sony DSC-HX50V. As a backup-backup (hey, how many times will I get to go on safari in Africa?) I needed a camera with some reach to it, and started shopping for ultra-zooms. The field has gotten really competitive, and finding the right camera was tough. Ultimately size was the deciding factor for me, and Sony's pocketable HX50V fit the bill perfectly. Sure, I would sacrifice some zoom (it's 30x when others in this arena are at 50x), and not being able to shoot RAW was disappointing, but it's a camera I could slip in my pocket and have with me at all times that I'd barely notice.
Turns out the image quality is quite nice (for JPEG) so long as you don't zoom too much, and the HX50V is a capable little shooter that I was happy to have on me for those times my camera bag was back at my tent. But ultimately I regretted my purchase for one big reason... no eyepiece viewfinder. The only way to compose a shot was to use the display on the back, which is completely obliterated in bright light! Under the African sun this camera was rendered totally useless. I couldn't see a damn thing to compose a shot, and was shooting blind any time I was out of the shade (even when setting the screen to max brightness). If you buy this camera, I hope you'll only be shooting indoors or in overcast conditions, because that's all its good for. Still, it DOES have a GPS... which is more than I can say for the much more expensive Sony's listed above. I took an occasional shot with this camera just so I could use the GPS info to geotag my other photos, and it worked pretty great for that... meriting an extra star.
20.4MP • 30x • ISO 80-3200 • f/3.5(W)-f/6.3(T) • $325 • ★★☆☆☆
• Sony FE 70-200 f/4 OSS E-Mount Lens. Go with a cheap zoom lens to get the reach you need... or go with a quality zoom lens and crop the reach you want? It's a question that every photographer has to grapple with at some time in their lives. In the past I've just gone for the cheapest zooms I could find because I don't use them very often. But for my Africa trip, I decided to invest heavily in a good zoom because the quality of the image was what's important to me... even if I wasn't as close as I'd like to be. And since Sony only makes one E-mount zoom with any reach to it, the FE 70-200mm, my decision was made for me. I reviewed the lens back in August, and have only one thing to add to this remarkable addition to my camera arsenal... WHY IN THE HELL DOESN'T SONY HAVE A SWITCH-LOCK ON THE IMAGE STABILIZATION SWITCH?!? Every time I slid this lens into my camera bag, image stabilization would slide off. So the next time I'd go to shoot a lion (or whatever) I'd end up with blurry camera shaken images until I'd remember to turn it back on. This is categorically stupid. At no time... none did I ever want the "Optical Steady Shot" turned off, yet there was no way to lock it in the "on" position. Very, vey frustrating. But, once I remembered to switch OSS on, I was getting some fantastic shots from this lens...
Sure it's big and at almost 2 pounds it's a bit heavy too... but you can't argue with the results. Crisp images, beautiful bokeh, fast auto-focus... I was very, very happy to have this full-frame wonder with me on safari, and was much relieved that I spent the money to have a quality telephoto in my camera bag. 90% of my photos were shot with it. Minus a star for the lack of an image stabilization switch lock... and for not having a bit better aperture (it's locked at a consistent f/4 though, which is nice)... but if you're an E-mount shooter, this is the zoom to get.
70-200mm (full-frame), 105-300mm (cropped) • f/4 • $1,499 • ★★★★☆
• Sony FE 35mm F/2.8 Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* E-Mount Lens. I skipped the kit lens for my A7s full-frame sensor camera because I wanted some glass that would really let it shine. Unfortunately, my choices were limited, because Sony doesn't have many options when it comes to FE prime lenses. Ideally, I wanted a 35mm with image stabilization and a maximum aperture of f/1.4... but it doesn't exist. A 35mm with NO image stabilization and a pokey f/2.8 aperture is as close as I can get. And, to make matters worse, Sony is charging a whopping $800 for it. In all honesty, I don't think the Zeiss name justifies such a heinous price tag, but what choice do I have? None at all. Yet despite the absurd cost, this lens has a lot going for it. It's small and light. It focuses blazingly fast. It's super-sharp. Color is very good. And I got some really nice shots with it...
Night sky images were mind-bogglingly great...
The slow aperture was never a problem on my NEX-6 in the sunlight nor on my A7s with its amazing low-light capabilities, but I still find it disappointing... f/2.8 on a 35mm? Who does that any more? This, along with the crazy-stupid price tag drops two stars from my rating, even though the FE 35mm is a darn fine lens once all is said and done. And yet... I keep coming back to the cost. EIGHT HUNDRED DOLLARS?!? For THESE specs? Holy crap I hope Sony gets their heads out of their asses and starts producing affordable FE lenses soon.
35mm (full-frame), 50mm (cropped) • f/2.8 • $799 • ★★★☆☆
• Sony 10-18mm f/4 OSS E-Mount Lens. I shoot a lot of wide angle, so this lens was purchased alongside my NEX-6 on day one. I absolutely love it. Small and light for a wide angle. Really sharp. Great color. Quick to focus. Image stabilized. And all at a reasonable cost! As if that weren't enough... even though it was designed for the cropped sensor on Sony's NEX cameras, it works amazingly well on my full-frame A7s if you limit the focal range! Amazing! This lens fulfills the promise of mirrorless cameras, and proves Sony doesn't need Zeiss (or Zeiss' absurd price tag) to give their customers a great lens. And though I didn't get much use out of it in Africa, it's the one lens that's always in my camera bag...
If you've got an E-mount camera, this is the lens to own. Fantastic for landscapes, yes... but I use it all the time for just about everything (the wide angle distortion is very easy to correct in Photoshop). Thank you, Sony.
10-18mm (cropped) • f/4-f/22 • $849 • ★★★★★
• Apple 11-inch MacBook Air. I'm using an iPad more and more for things like email and web browsing, but when it comes to photography, there's simply no substitute for Photoshop on a Mac. My MacBook Pro excels at running Photoshop, but is way too big and heavy to tuck in a camera bag. Fortunately, Apple has a diminutive solution that tucks easily in my bag, and it runs Photoshop just fine thanks to the 8GB memory option...
Until Microsoft manages to come up with a "Surface" tablet/PC hybrid that's worth a crap... or Apple comes up with a MacBook Air that has a retina display touchscreen I can give five stars... this will certainly do.
1.7GHz i7 • 8GB RAM • 256GB SSD • $1,250 • ★★★★☆
• Transcend Information USB 3.0 Card Reader. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough room in the MacBook Air 11-inch model to fit a card reader, so you need to buy an external one. This Transcend model takes advantage of the USB 3 speed of my MacBook and accepts SDHC, SDXC, microSD, microSDHC, and microSDXC cards. Cheap, compact, and does the job. If they could remove the micro card compatibility (that I'll never use) to shrink it even further, I'd give it five stars.
$7 • ★★★★☆
• B+W Kaesemann XS-Pro Circular Polarizer. I have UV haze filters on all my lenses to protect the optics, but I stopped using "creative" filters ages ago. Between in-camera functions and Photoshop, I just don't need them. But every once in a while, it's handy to have a circular polarizer in your bag. B+W makes my favorite filters... pricey, but high-quality, so all I had to decide was whether or not I would go with the Kaesemann variant or not. Ultimately I went with Kaesemann, despite the added cost, because they don't "gray things up" like a traditional polarizer can. The only time I ended up using the thing in Africa was when I was shooting through a helicopter window...
It helped take the glare of the sun off the water, which was nice, but the shake of the copter coupled with the lack of image stabilization on my lens kinda sabotaged my efforts to get great shots. Oh well.
Kaesemann XS-Pro, MRC Nano Filter • $89 • ★★★★★
• VisibleDust Hurricane Blower. Dust and moisture are the enemy of photographers who rely on clean, dry optics to get the best image quality. Having a blower on-hand is essential, and I was using it several times a day while in Africa. At home I have a Giottos Rocket Blaster, but I wanted something a bit smaller to take with me, so the VisibleDust Hurricane got the job. Works great.
$14 • ★★★★★
• LensPen Lens Cleaner. The only lens cleaner I use. Has a good quality brush on one end and a concave lens swab coated with a carbon compound (from the lid) on the other. Works perfectly every time.
$10 • ★★★★★
• SanDisk 32GB Extreme Plus UHS-1 SDHC Class 10 Memory Cards. It took me a while to settle on a memory card manufacturer I like best, but once I got my hands on the SanDisk Extreme Plus line my camera storage of choice was found. They're tough, reliable, and blazingly fast... yet don't break the bank. Which is good, because I've stopped re-using memory cards. They're small size makes them all too easy to slip into a safe deposit box, thus providing the perfect backup of your precious memories. Sure you can save money by going with a cheaper card, but is it worth taking the chance something will go wrong and you'll lose all your photos? Not to me. There's higher-capacity versions of the Extreme Plus, but 32GB stores more photos than I can manage as it is, so I don't want to go bigger.
$38 • ★★★★★
• Oben TT-100 Table-Top Tripod. This tiny tripod slips easily into my camera bag, but still manages to secure my camera perfectly. Unlike some smaller tripods, the Oben has a ball head which made it really handy to get the perfect angle for a shot. A great product... I just wish it was a bit easier to tighten and manipulate.
$35 • ★★★★☆
Add some extra camera batteries, a couple of battery chargers, a ballpoint pen, a Sharpie marker, and some unscented wipes to keep everything clean, and I'm done!
As for what camera bag I use? That's another story...
Posted on Thursday, October 2nd, 2014
While I was half-a-world away, my new iPhone 6 was delivered. Now that I'm back, I've had a little time to play with it. And since I have a blog, I'm obligated to tell everybody what I think.
So here it is.
Aesthetically? The iPhone 6 is a beautiful phone. I love the way the glass marries to the case. It feels really good in the hand. It looks sexy in a way most phones can only dream of (including my previous favorite, the HTC One). Too bad it has to go in a case to cover that up.
I'm not a fan of the larger size in my hand and would have preferred a phone the size of my smaller iPhone 5. That being said, the "display zoom" feature which makes everything bigger on the 6 is wonderful. So much easier on my eyes and far easier to use. Except... things do not seem as sharp as they have been on previous models, even when display zoom is off. Would a higher pixel density help with the lack of sharpness?
Apple's "reachability" feature which drops the top-half of the screen down with a light-double-tap of the home button (so you can reach it one-handed) is a nifty feature. I can't seem to get in the habit of using it, but appreciate that Apple at least tried to compensate for the biggest inconvenience that a bigger phone saddles you with.
I am not liking the on/off button being moved to the side. It was more intuitive on the top.
Yes, the phone is very thin. I would have gladly endured a bit more thickness if it would have meant a bit better battery life but... still, the battery life isn't terrible.
Performance is stellar, and it's the snappiest, smoothest phone I've ever used.
I'm disappointed that the sound hasn't been improved much over previous models. It's 2014. Is stereo too much to ask for? Especially on a phone this big?
The camera is fantastic, but it would have been nice to have had the optical image stabilization of the 6+ over the less capable digital stabilization in the 6. Also? While the image the camera produces are nicer overall, the contrast seems weak and inconsistent. Physically having the camera protrude from the back of the phone is a bit of a design flaw (though most people will eliminate this problem by putting their phone in a case).
And, speaking of cases...
I went with the Speck CandyShell Grip...
It's a nice enough case and the rubberized grip is very good. But I really, really hate two things about it... 1) Why in the hell do manufacturers insist on plastering their name all over your frickin' phone? Nobody cares and it's just lame and stupid. And 2) the photo of the product looks like the case is a matte color, but it's not. It's insanely glossy which looks absolutely terrible once fingerprints and smears get plastered all over it. If Speck were to take their damn name off and use a matte plastic, this would be a killer case. As it is? I'm not digging it. At all.
Overall, I'm happy with the iPhone 6.
No, it's not a critical leap over the previous generation, but call quality seems a bit improved in low-signal areas over iPhone 5, so I'll definitely take it.
Ultimately it's a phone, after all.
Posted on Friday, October 3rd, 2014
I have post-vacation depression.
Fortunately I go on another vacation in one week.
Posted on Saturday, October 4th, 2014
I ran out of room for souvenirs of my travels years ago.
So when people ask "What did you bring back from Africa?" I'm not sure what to say, because the only thing I could fit in my bag was a small purple hippo carving (I liked his smile). There's also an elephant placemat, but I only bought it to wrap around the purple hippo to protect him on the way home...
Other than that? A T-shirt and a few pins from the Hard Rock Cafe Johannesburg.
Boring, I know.
But I did take a couple thousand photos. Those are the best souvenirs of all, right?
Oh... I almost forgot about that elephant head that I got to hang above my television. I've named him Fluffy.
Posted on Sunday, October 5th, 2014
Put down that pumpkin spice latte... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Fall? Somehow Autumn got here and I missed it. Time to get the blankets out of storage, I suppose.
• Astrophotography. After my happy accident in discovering astrophotography in Africa, I spent my evening Googling about it. Turns out there's an entire site devoted to the hobby called Lonely Speck. Very cool. Ironically, there's a review of my new Sony A7s camera there... for astrophotography...
Image by Ian Norman of Lonely Speck
Now I wished I lived in an area where there's no light pollution so I can shoot the stars.
• Tasty! And now... BIG CATS EATING MARMITE!
Borders on cruelty to animals, I say.
• Kick Drum Heart. It's not the chase that I love....
...It's me following you.
• Gum! Ooh! Please! Please! Please! Let this be happening.
SHE'S DEAD! WRAPPED IN PLASTIC! Again?
• Fall Season. And so here's my assessment of the new Fall shows so far...
And... I'm spent. No more bullets for you.
Posted on Monday, October 6th, 2014
And it's about time.
Posted on Tuesday, October 7th, 2014
I don't get it.
I just don't get it.
Posted on Wednesday, October 8th, 2014
Three years ago I was in the Australian Outback. On my first night there, I stared up into the stars because they were so bright I couldn't stop myself. Almost immediately I saw a bright object soaring across the night sky. "Was that a comet?" I asked myself. A few taps on an astronomy app on my iPhone later I found out it wasn't a comet... it was the International Space Station.
I wonder if there are people on there right now?
And at that moment, I came to full realization just how insignificant humanity is to The Universe.
It reminded me of a line from Alan Moore & Dave Gibbon's Watchmen where Laurie Jupiter is trying to convince the god-like Dr. Manhattan to save an earth that's on the brink of nuclear war...
Today I got that same feeling of humanity's utter insignificance... but it came from watching the news... not looking up at the heavens.
People are so horrifyingly terrible to each other on this planet that more and more I think the universe is better off without us. Certainly better rid of us before we are technologically advanced enough to head out and spread our poison beyond this solar system.
Star Trek this ain't, and I'm more than a little sad about that.
Thank heavens tomorrow I'm leaving for one of my favorite places on earth.
Posted on Thursday, October 9th, 2014
Time to decompress in one of my favorite places on earth.
Which is not hard to do... they don't call it "The Big Easy" for nothing.
Laissez les bons temps rouler.
Posted on Friday, October 10th, 2014
A typical day in New Orleans.
If there is such a thing here.
Starting the day out right with beignets at Cafe Du Monde...
A walk through the French Market... Halloween-style...
The power of voodoo! Who do? You do!
Paying respect to the local Saints...
One of the many cats of New Orlean's many shops...
It's the new drink here!
Incredible Mac & Cheese at St. Lawrence... home of divine food!
Tattoo No. Six. It's been my motto for decades. Of all the quotes I've ever heard, who knew it would be a line from Buckaroo Banzai that would end up defining my life? Thanks to Electric Ladyland Tattoo for the ultimate New Orleans souvenir.
I love it. But still wonder if I should have gone with my second choice...
After another dinner at Coop's, it was time to wander Bourbon Street for an evening of debauchery, drunkenness, fist-fights, and famous acts of love (not by any of us, of course... so far as you know)...
And... it's 1:45am. Since the bars close in 15 minutes, I guess I'll just call it a night.
Posted on Saturday, October 11th, 2014
But let's start off with my morning, shall we? Because that was spent at Cafe Du Monde, and it doesn't get much better than that...
But the morning actually began at my hotel, where I am residing in Room No. 1...
And this is the courtyard where the housekeeping staff yells their head off each morning while you're trying to sleep...
Lunch was at my favorite place for falafel in New Orleans... Attiki (which I've written about here)...
Shopping in the French Quarter, when... CREEPY BABY!!!
A walk through Jackson Square...
Dinner at my favorite restaurant in the city, Carmo...
As a vegetarian, eating at Deanie's Seafood wasn't in the cards for me. But the huge portions were entirely too alluring for the meat-eaters...
And then? Bourbon Street madness!
I was quite proud of myself for getting to bed before 1:00am... but was dragged back to Alcohol Central by a friend who was in town at 1:30am. A couple of Hand Grenades and two-and-a-half hours later, my Saturday night was over.
As was my liver.
Posted on Sunday, October 12th, 2014
A Sunday in New Orleans.
I knew I probably wouldn't make it out to Surrey's this trip... home of my favorite Bananas Foster French Toast in New Orleans... so I went to my second favorite version at Stanley. No banana cream cheese filling, but you do get toasted walnuts and a scoop of vanilla ice cream!
After a delicious breakfast, I happened upon the best pair of tennis shoes ever...
Yes. Yes that really is a shiny silver Teddy Bear head sewn on the tongue of a shiny silver pair of shoes. Awesome.
Then it was time to head to The Garden District with Certifiable Princess and her husband. I'm pleased to report that Anne Rice's old house is still standing... as is that gnarly set of old trees out front...
Accidentally ran into a street parade...
Saw a new angel decoration I hadn't seen before...
And... LUNCH!!! I seem to be experiencing a Mac & Cheese renaissance this visit, so there you have it...
Across the street from lunch at The Rum House are some nifty shops...
Then it was time for a classic St. Charles streetcar ride...
After resting up for a bit, we headed back to Bourbon Street for fun times... AND PIZZA...
... AND SHADOW PUPPET JESUS...
...AND BEIGNETS... from Cafe Du Monde, of course...
And tomorrow's my last day...
Posted on Monday, October 13th, 2014
It doesn't matter how long I spend in New Orleans, it's never enough. Five days or fifteen, I'm always left wanting more.
Which is a good thing, I suppose, as it keeps me coming back.
I didn't have much time to goof around in the city, but I made time for my last plate of beignets and hot chocolate...
When I was ready to go to the airport, New Orleans was under a tornado warning. By the time I arrived and had boarded the aircraft, the skies were turning black and it looked increasingly unlikely that I would be going home... or anywhere else...
But then something weird happened. The first storm-front passed over the airport and there was a break forming before the second storm-front arrived. We managed to get cleared for takeoff during that tiny window of opportunity...
Once we got above it all, it wasn't too bad in the clouds...
Seattle was just as big a mess as New Orleans.
Roads were awful. Heavy rains with poor visibility. Yet there are still people who want to run in the middle of a busy street with dark clothes on (nearly hit somebody trying to cross International Blvd. NOT in a crosswalk)... and people who want to merge into your lane without signaling or waiting for an opening (yet they honked and were pissed at me?)... and people passing you doing 80 in a 60 zone with horrible visibility, then suddenly swerving into your lane so they don't run into a car they didn't notice (nearly ran right into them). Thank heavens I am not driving home tonight... I've had enough near-death experiences for one evening, thanks.
Posted on Tuesday, October 14th, 2014
The drive home from Seattle-side was uneventful. Mostly.
There was that time the car ahead of me ran off the road while texting or eating or whatever the hell it is that people do while they're supposed to be paying attention to the road. At first I thought maybe they had a heart attack or something, so I pulled over and started getting out of my car to help... but by the time I got one foot on the ground, they had already recovered and blown past me.
When I got home, I was positively unshocked to find out that I had no internet. If I had a nickel for all the times it goes down, I'd probably have enough to pay my internet bill.
After work I was entirely too tired to troubleshoot my internet, so I decided to go through all the photos I took on my trip and delete all the crap I don't need. As I was culling photos to keep, I ran across this one...
That's the back of my car on the left... I have no idea what's going on there on the right. I don't recall taking this photo, nor do I know if it's a combination of two images... or (more likely) something that got shot while rapid movement was going on.
Regardless, it's actually pretty cool. Add some filters and you've got instant art!
Guess I need to experiment with my iPhone and try and create something like this on purpose.
Maybe I could do it while driving. Apparently that's all the rage now.
Posted on Wednesday, October 15th, 2014
Travel has made me seemingly incapable of releasing Bullet Sundays on Sunday, so hold onto you calendars... because a Very Special ALL NEW ORLEANS EDITION of Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Why? New Orleans is one of my favorite cities on earth and tied with Chicago for my favorite American city. And the reason for that has nothing to do with the debauchery that everybody seems to equate with the place. Yes, New Orleans is a city built for fun, but there's so much more to it than a drunken romp down Bourbon Street. There's the amazing architecture... the mind-boggling array of incredible restaurants... the friendly and welcoming locals... and a list of activities and attractions that makes it a vacation-worthy destination unlike any other. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
• When? Heat and humidity make summers a tough sell for visiting and, to be honest, September and October are more of the same (on my trip last week, afternoons were pretty miserable). Oh yeah... as if that weren't enough, this is also the hurricane season! However... for obvious reasons, this is when prices are at their lowest... so you can stay in the French Quarter for a reasonable price. If you'd like to be more comfortable without breaking the bank, your best bet is late November through January when temperatures drop 20 degrees and the humidity isn't so stifling. Prices skyrocket from Mardi Gras (usually in February) through Spring, and for good reason... it's the absolute best time of year to visit. My favorite visits to New Orleans have been late March through mid-April.
• Where? When people think of New Orleans, they're probably thinking of "The French Quarter" with all the French-style buildings overlooking famous places like Bourbon Street or restaurants like Pat O'Briens. But there's also The beautiful Garden District, colorful Faubourg Marigny, or even the Warehouse District and downtown area to consider when picking a hotel. How to choose? Most of your decision will come down to cost. My favorite place to stay in the city is the French Quarter, led by Soniat House (made famous by one of my favorite movies, Undercover Blues) which is a beautiful and unique property in a quieter area of the Quarter. It's pricey (bordering stratospheric in the Mardi Gras/Spring season), but is a New Orleans experience unlike any other. If you must have that prime Bourbon Street location, check out The Royal Sonesta Hotel or Bon Maison Guest House, both of which I enjoyed. If you want hotel points, I've also had great stays at The Four Points by Sheraton on Bourbon. A more fantastic chain hotel choice is the wonderful W French Quarter on Chartres Street. My recent trip I stayed at the inexpensive Inn on St. Peter, which is actually a fairly nice property at a decent price (despite the shitty internet and noisy staff). My final French Quarter pick is Hotel Mazarin, which was wonderful in every way. Outside of the French Quarter is where you'll find good hotels at a bit nicer price. I'm a big fan of Hotel Modern, which is half-way between the French Quarter and the Garden District, and just a quick streetcar ride away from either! Speaking of the Garden District, two of my picks from staying there are Hotel Indigo and (believe it or not) The Hampton Inn, both a great experience... and right on the St. Charles streetcar line! An overlooked neighborhood of the city is Faubourg Marigny, which is a shame. This colorful and funky neighborhood is outside the craziness of the Quarter and has a unique charm all its own. If you are into B&B's, this is the place to go... starting with the amazing Auld Sweet Olive B&B. This is not a "hotel" by any stretch of the imagination... it's like staying a a friend's home where their only mission is to make you feel at home. Probably one of the best lodging stays of my entire life.
• What? When it comes to what to do in The Big Easy, there's dozens of options no matter where your interest lays. Obviously, it's an architecture fan's dream come true, with amazing French and Creole architecture lining the city streets from one corner of town to another. In fact, my favorite activity in New Orleans costs absolutely nothing... wandering. I could roam the streets of this city for days and never be bored. If you're into museums, you simply cannot top the World War II Museum, which seems to get bigger and better every time I visit, and a must-see if there ever was one. Nearby is the very nice Louisiana's Civil War Museum. Other great historical/educational selections include The Cabildo, The Irish Cultural Museum of New Orleans, The Amistad Research Center (at Tulane), The Pharmacy Museum, and even The Southern Food Museum! If you're into art, NOLA has a small but fantastic smattering of museums for you, including The New Orleans Museum of Art, The Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and The Contemporary Arts Center. Interested in all things Mardi Gras and want to see how they build all those amazing floats? Then Mardi Gras World is for you! And that's just scratching the surface... Streetcar and Riverboat rides will let you see the city from a new perspective. New Orleans cemeteries are world-famous, and taking a cemetery tour is a must. Like a good zoo? New Orleans is home to the terrific Audubon Zoo plus the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, plus The Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium. Want to get a feel for the "Old South?" Beautiful restored plantations mask the horrors of slavery just outside the city... including the famous Oak Alley Plantation (made famous for appearances in Interview with a Vampire and Primary Colors). It goes without saying that if you appreciate live Jazz music, New Orleans is your city... there's loads of venues where you can catch the best Jazz acts going (including Preservation Hall). And that's just for starters! Churches, theaters, and parks are plentiful and worth a visit. If you're looking to buy some art, the galleries on Royal Street is where to go. Want to learn how to cook Southern-style? There's a school for that. The choices just go on and on and on. There's something (and everything!) in New Orleans for everyone.
• Who Dat? When it comes to food, New Orleans has so many amazing options that you could build an entire vacation around nothing but eating. Especially if you are into seafood and cajun cooking. Vegetarians have it a little rougher, but all is not lost! One of my favorite restaurants on earth, Carmo, has excellent vegetarian options. Attiki has some decent falafel and Mediterranean selections for the non-meat-eater. And, of course, there's Cafe Du Monde for beignets and hot chocolate (or chickory coffee, if that's your jam). This recent trip I had the chance to eat at Coop's Place, which has some amazing food (along with a great veggie burger)... all served with a snarky attitude that will make you appreciate new levels of sarcasm and abuse! I also ate at St. Lawrence (home of divine food!) which was a bit pricey, but the food and service were fantastic. If you're into famous chefs, Emeril Lagasse has a place here... as does Paul Prudhomme. The most famous restaurant in the city (and home to Bananas Foster) is Commander's Palace... which is all kinds of amazing, if you can afford the price tag. My previous trip to New Orleans included a visit to St. James Cheese Company (thank you TripAdvisor!) which was an amazing Garden District surprise that blew me away (the Gruyere Grilled Cheese with Caramelized Onions is heaven on a plate). Boucherie doesn't have a very vegetarian-friendly menu, but the chef invented a very nice meal when I inquired. The desserts are to die for. And, lastly, no visit to NOLA is complete without Bananas Foster French Toast. My favorite is at Surrey's... which has banana cream cheese stuffed inside the toast... but a close second is Restaurant Stanley, which ups the game by adding toasted walnuts and a scoop of ice cream in lieu of a cream cheese filling. My suggestion? Try both places and find your own favorite! And if all these vegetarian options are this amazing... can you imagine what's in store for meat-eaters? Seriously one of the best places on earth to dine.
And that's a wrap.
And only the tip of the iceberg.
My passion for New Orleans really knows no bounds. I've been to the city a dozen times. I hope to visit dozens more. It's that one place I feel completely at home whenever I go, and wandering her streets is one of my most favorite travel experiences of all time. If you haven't been, then you owe it to yourself to find out what all the fuss is about. If you've been before, then you know exactly what I'm talking about, and should be planning a trip back!
Laissez le Bon Temps Roleur! And be sure to watch Undercover Blues, if you haven't already...
Posted on Thursday, October 16th, 2014
Another Apple event?
Apparently this is for all the crap they didn't want mucking up their big iPhone 6 slash Apple Watch event last month.
So what's on-deck this time around? Let's take a look, shall we? Needless to say, there will be spoilers for those who haven't seen the broadcast.
• iPhone 6 Launch! Before Tim Cook takes the stage, we get to look at the hysteria surrounding the launch of the iPhone 6 from around the world. Holy crap. As big of an Apple Whore as I like to think I am, even I felt this was way, way over the top and embarrassing. It's not a cure for cancer, people... it's a frickin' PHONE. Albeit a pretty phone. That's too big. I want the same size iPhone I used to have. Not surprisingly, it's the biggest iPhone launch ever, because aren't they all?
1. ZOMFG, WHITNEY, IT'S A PHONE! ZOMFG, BRITTANY, THIS IS THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE!
2. There may be genocide in Syria... BUT iPHONE, MUTHAFUCKER!!!
3. SECOND MARKET VICTORY IS MINE! SEE YOU ON eBAY, BITCHES!
4. YOU, SIR, ARE A FUCKING iGENIUS! I'd like to book some one-on-one training!
As if that weren't enough hype, Apple dusts off Walt Mossberg for one of his idiotic quotes designed to make people think that Walt Mossberg is still relevant to tech journalism when all it does is reaffirm that Walt Mossberg will continue to say anything he has to in order to keep Walt Mossberg firmly implanted up the collective asses of giant tech companies so as to give the illusion that Walt Mossberg is relevant to tech journalism.
• Apple Pay! Heaven help me, I'm actually excited about being able to pay for things with my iPhone and not have to lug around a crap-ton of antiquated credit cards, debit cards, reward cards, and the like...
Even more exciting is the online component to Apple Pay, which will hopefully bury those PayPal fuckers (THAT STOLE MY MONEY!) once and for all. The privacy component sounds great (no need to turn over your card number or any personal information)... at least until naked pictures of me end up on the internet. Guess we'll find out Monday.
• Apple Watch! For the first time in a long time, Apple has announced a product that I'm not immediately wanting to buy. Sure, Apple Watch looks great, and it seems a handy thing to have (assuming you own an iPhone)... but until I see one in person, the idea of having a giant klutzy bangle strapped to my write holds little appeal...
Naturally, it's better-looking than anything else on the market... but I was hoping Apple would figure out a way to make a thinner profile... put the battery in the band or something... to make it not be such a boat anchor. Oh well. Maybe Apple Watch 2.0.
• iOS 8.1! In addition to iPay, Monday's update will also include a beta for iCloud Photo Library. WHEEE! THAT TOTALLY MAKES UP FOR KILLING OFF APERTURE!
But if they finally... FUCKING FINALLY... allow you to AirDrop files between OS X and iOS devices... I'll be happy.
• MacOS X Yosemite! I've been using the beta. I'm not too impressed. Yes, there are some nifty features (I am really loving being able to use my Mac as a speaker phone... and being able to send an SMS from your Mac through your iPhone is fantastic)... but it's just so damn ugly. Hideous day-glow colors I thought had been abolished in the 80's permeate absolutely everything. Tacky, distracting, and just inexplicably bad GUI. Perhaps I'll get used to it. But I doubt it.
• Continuity! The ability to seamlessly transition from your iPhone to your iPad to your Mac is a pretty killer feature. The problem being that it doesn't always work the way you'd expect it to. Much like the early days of iSync, it would seem that Continuity has a ways to go before it actually becomes the user nirvana it claims to be. Bonus points to Apple for getting Stephen Colbert onboard for his Supreme Commander of Security bit though.
• iPad Air 2! Not a lot of new features and improvements here. Certainly not enough to get your average iPad Air user to buy the latest model. And yet... LOOK HOW THIN IT IS! IT'S THINNER THAN A PENCIL! TWO iPAD AIR 2's ARE THINNER THAN THE ORIGINAL iPAD! THEY'RE SO THINNNNNNN!
The bonded, glare-resistant display sounds nice. Wish they'd update all their other shit to have less glare on them. A speedier processor is great if you're playing a lot of games and such. Using an iPad as a camera is weird to me, but a lot of people do it, so I suppose they'll appreciate the camera upgrade. Adding Touch ID is a no brainer, as iPad Air 2 can be used for Apple Pay.
The ridiculous thing here is that, like with the iPhone 6 before it, Apple doesn't start the base model with 32GB. $499 for 16GB? Absurd. And then it jumps all the way to 64GB... WTF?
• iMac Retina 5K! Okay... this... THIS... is frickin' incredible. Phil Schiller's presentation pretty much said it all... for the entry price of $2,500 you get a mind-bogglingly beautiful 5K display that's cheaper than most 4K displays... and a computer thrown in for free...
Forget the Mac Pro... THIS is a photographer and graphic designer's wet dream...
Once I got used to the Retina Display on my MacBook Pro, it's almost painful to use a machine that doesn't have a Retina Display. Assuming I can ever afford to buy this, I won't have to.
WANT SO BAD!
• Mac mini! Kind of a wacky product to still have around. I mean, sure, when you were trying to get Windows users to switch, it made sense to have a cheap Mac that could use your existing monitor, keyboard, and mouse... but now? Well... I suppose there's still an audience out there given that Mac mini is half the price of an iMac... but it's really not the best way to experience a Mac, and I'm surprised Apple is still dredging the bottom of a dying computer market.
Then again... market share is market share, and Apple is about the only computer manufacturer out there still able to be in it at a profit, so what do I know?
UPDATE! The internet is having a field day over the fact that the new Mac mini no longer allows user-upgradable RAM. A valid concern, to be sure... and I really hate what this says about the disposability of computer equipment that can't be upgraded... but, again, this is the bottom-feeder Mac of a dying PC market. Can't really blame Apple for cutting every possible corner they can to keep prices at a point that the audience for this item expects?
Annnnd... that's a wrap...
Kind of a lackluster event, so far as Apple is concerned, but it does solidify the ideal that Apple has their shit together when it comes to creating a complete line of products that will integrate into every aspect of your life. They're not just a computer company... or even a tech company, really... Apple is a lifestyle company.
Now if they'd just come out with their own television and DVR service for my lifestyle, I'd be really happy.
Posted on Friday, October 17th, 2014
After Apple discontinued their Aperture photo software, Adobe promised to deliver a plugin for their competing "Lightroom" product that would allow you to import your Aperture library into Lightroom.
Yesterday the plugin was finally released.
Today I spent just over five hours performing the import. Only to find that -zero- photos had actually been imported.
Posted on Saturday, October 18th, 2014
There are many ways I could spend my Saturday that would be considered "perfect."
99% of them involve being anywhere but here.
The remaining 1% definitely do not involve being at work.
And yet, here I am.
Posted on Sunday, October 19th, 2014
Put down that pumpkin spice latte, you coffee house hipster... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Bureaucracy. If watching this video doesn't make you want to execute every bureaucrat asshole in Washington D.C. responsible for dreaming up this bullshit, then you're not watching it correctly...
Wouldn't it be great if our politicians got off their worthless asses and actually fixed stupid shit like this? Well, don't hold your breath, they're too busy getting reelected to do anything actually useful.
• LEGO. As a lover of all things LEGO, I have to say that even imaginary LEGO makes me happy when it's as well done as this...
Images by JimmyLegs50
• Dora. I had a little crush on Dora from I Married Dora. I had more than a little crush on Mirage from The Incredibles...
I was very sad to learn that the amazing actress responsible for both those characters, Elizabeth Peña, passed away earlier this week. She will definitely be missed.
• Hooks. As if losing Elizabeth Peña wasn't tragic enough... sublimely talented SNL veteran Jan Hooks also passed away this past week...
A terrible loss for her many fans... including me.
• Reverse. One of my favorite bands, Mackintosh Braun released an EP titled The City Below in anticipation of their new album Arcadia, due in 2015. My favorite track off the EP was posted to SoundCloud and is worth a listen...
You can pick up The City Below at the iTunes Music store.
• Equality. Progress sometimes happens...
And that's a wrap. Kinda nice to have Bullet Sunday actually land on a Sunday for once.
Posted on Monday, October 20th, 2014
I'M UPGRADING MY iPHONE! NO TIME TO BLOG, MR. JONES!
CHECK BACK TOMORROW, NEVERMIND!
Posted on Tuesday, October 21st, 2014
As a Certified Apple Whore I'm probably more critical of Apple than their harshest detractors. I don't know why that is, except I'm so used to things being awesome when it comes to Apple products that I'm pretty upset when things go wrong.
And it seems as though things go wrong more often than not lately.
As an example... I'm positively outraged that I still can't stream my iTunes movie and television purchases to my laptop or iPad/iPhone. Unlike every other media content provider on the planet, Apple doesn't allow streaming (except to their Apple TV device) and forces you to download video content in order to watch it. This is stupid as hell, makes no damn sense, and means iTunes is grossly inferior to alternatives like Amazon, Google, and Ultraviolet by a huge margin... but Apple simply doesn't give a shit. You do it their way or not at all.
You would think that past idiocy like this would prepare me for any new failures that Apple racks up, but I assure you it does not.
This was only confirmed today when I flew into an apoplectic rage when the two new features I've been waiting, waiting, waiting for in the just-released iOS 8.1 update don't actually work as advertised...
The idea is an intriguing one. Instead of using a credit card to pay for purchases, you use the credit card information stored on your iPhone 6. Why bother? Well, there's three very good reasons, actually...
Adding a credit card to Apple Pay is pretty easy. You type in the card info (or take a photo of the card to enter it automatically), then confirm the added card via email, text, or phone call. When it works, it's pretty painless. My Chase Bank Disney Visa even brings up a photo of my physical card design so I recognize which card I'm using...
Once added, credit cards appear on PassBook along with everything else...
Except... it's not a flawless process by any means. For reasons unknown, my Citi card added just fine, but all subsequent attempts to verify it have failed. I've been trying for two days now...
Needless to say, unverified cards are unusable, even though they show up in PassBook just the same. I don't know if this is an Apple problem or a CitiBank problem, but it doesn't matter... in the end it's an Apple problem because they obviously didn't test this crap as thoroughly as they should have.
UPDATE: Eventually I just deleted the card and started over. This time, the only option I had for verification was to call a toll-free number and tell a computer the name of my favorite teacher. Alrighty then...
And then, of course, there's those credit cards that aren't supported, like my US Bank FlexPerks account...
Now, I'm assuming this is not Apple's fault. I'm assuming that they presented Apple Pay to USBank along with all the other major credit card issuing banks, and USBank decided not to make it a priority.
Which is insane.
A major, major player like Apple comes up with a new method of making payment that DOESN'T cut credit card companies out of the picture... and US Bank is not onboard for launch? Like I said, insane. But hardly surprising. Do you know how long it took USBank to add chips to their cards? Years. Years of waiting for them to get off their asses and add a chip so I could use my card in Europe. Here's hoping that Apple completely removes credit card companies from Apple Pay within five years. Like record labels, they will NOT be missed, and technology will proceed much better without them.
According to Apple's FAQ, if a merchant requires you to give them your credit card number, you are to instead give them your "Device Account Number." Problem is, if you have "Display Zoom" turned on, you can't see the number and can't swipe to get at it. Most times when this happens, I am able to copy the information and paste it somewhere to look at it. Not with Apple Pay. I guess the only way to get my "Device Account Number" is to turn off Display Zoom first...
Now, I gotta ask... who the hell is beta-testing this shit? ANYBODY?!? Because every damn time Apple releases something, I find a half-dozen bugs within a day or two. Every. Damn. Time. Surely Apple can't be this inept, so the only conclusion I can draw is that they know about most of the bugs they ship, and just figure they'll get to them when they damn well feel like it. In the meanwhile, their customers have to put up with this bullshit. But anyway...
Once set up, how is it to actually use Apple Pay? Easy. Just hold your phone next to the NFC (Near Field Communication) terminal and your iPhone 6 will automatically come alive and ask you to approve the transaction with TouchID (and allow you to change to a different card than your default, if you wish). You then get a confirmation that the payment was made and a confirmation of the transaction on your card's "info" panel...
All of this is, of course, is entirely dependent on whether the merchant in question A) Has Apple Pay. B) Know what it is and how to process it. and C) Has it up and running. I tried four locations that were listed as Apple's "partners" and the result was a mixed bag...
So... 50/50 with only one of the two successful transactions working exactly as intended. Not bad for second day after launch, I guess. The one thing I didn't do was attempt to return something to the store, which is supposed to be a real mess. I can imagine that may take a while for stores to train their employees how to handle.
UPDATE: One interesting thing... as I mentioned above, my Device Account Number doesn't show up because I have Display Zoom enabled. But on both my Walgreen's and McDonald's receipt, it says "VISA ACCT" followed by four digits that are not from my credit card. I'm guessing this must be my DAN, so I've made note of it.
Ultimately, Apple Pay has amazing potential. If every transaction could be as utterly painless, seamless, and blazingly fast as my experience at Walgreen's was, I would never pay with any other method ever again. Which, of course, can't happen until all the bugs are worked out and every merchant gets off their ass and implements a NFC processing system... so we're a ways away on that. But still, the future of payment is here, it's really great, and it's Apple Pay.
AIRDROP & HANDOFF/CONTINUITY
For quite a while now, Apple has had a technology called "AirDrop" on their Mac OS and iOS devices. This wonderful feature allows you to transfer files between machines with very little effort. Except... not really. Despite being named the same, AirDrop on Mac OS was an entirely different system than AirDrop on iOS, and they were completely incompatible. This was stupid with a capital D, and Apple should have waited until they got Mac OS/iOS interoperability before unleashing unfinished shit. Well, that day has finally come with Mac OS Yosemite and iOS 8.1. Except not really.
I'm just going to set aside that since my iMac doesn't have Bluetooth LE, it is incapable of connecting in any way with my iOS devices...
I can, however connect with other, newer Macs, but this involves entering an "Old Mac Compatibility Mode" on a more recent Mac to work. And once you are in that mode, you have to dump out in order to use the current AirDrop with "iOS devices and newer Macs" again...
About as elegant as buttering a slice of toast with a hammer, but I'm assuming there's some kind of technical reason for it. But, hey, at least there's an option here. When it comes to getting files from an iOS device, I'm back to emails and DropBox.
But what about those Macs which have Bluetooth LE and are compatible with AirDrop 2.0? Well... I have good news and bad news.
The good news is that it works. Except... not really.
Connecting my MacBook Pro (mid-2012) with my MacBook Air (Early 2014) and iPhone 6 works nicely. Though there was some confusion at first as to what I was AirDropping with because all it shows is the device's owner. In order to know which device you've got a connection to, you have to connect to two or more devices at the same time, then the information pops up...
No. I have not one damn clue as to why Apple doesn't help you out with that info when there's only one device connected. Maybe it's aesthetically displeasing to the spirit of Steve Jobs or some crazy shit like that. With Apple, you can never tell. But anyway...
Going Mac OS to Mac OS works perfectly. Going Mac OS to iOS works as expected. But going from iOS to Mac OS? No joy...
AirDrop is clearly connected... I can verify that on the Mac side in two places. But iOS simply will not acknowledge that it's part of an AirDrop network no matter what I do. I've rebooted my phone. I've disconnected and reconnected various devices in every order I can think of. I can send files TO my iPhone... but can't send a damn thing FROM my iPhone. At least to a Mac. To another iPhone 6 it works fine. I have verified in Apple's support forums that I am not the only one having problems. A lot of people are having problems. To which I have to say (again) who the hell is beta-testing this shit? ANYBODY?!?
Oddly enough, "Handoff" or "Continuity" (or whatever the hell Apple is calling their iPhone to Mac to iPhone to Mac app transfer service) only works in the opposite direction... I can hand off composing an email or looking at a web page from my Mac to my iPhone with no problem at all. A little icon of my current Mac activity shows up on the lock screen of my iPhone 6 (opposite the camera icon), I swipe up on it, login with Touch ID, and I'm picking up exactly where my Mac left off, as advertised...
But the opposite direction? No joy. No matter what I do, nothing will ever handoff from my iPhone to my Mac. To which I have to say (again) who the hell is... well, you get the picture.
So Handoff, like Apple Pay, has some problems that need to be ironed out. Why Apple doesn't test thoroughly enough to iron them out before release is a complete mystery to me, but here we are. You'd have thought that Apple would have learned their lesson after the utter disaster that was iSync, but... well... apparently not.
The frustrating thing here is that Apple is developing these awesome technologies that are actually useful. Apple Pay, Air Drop, Handoff... all terrific, terrific stuff. On paper. In order for me to be impressed, Apple needs to make this shit work in reality. Apple Pay is close. AirDrop/Handoff isn't even in the ballpark.
I'm confident that one day things will get hammered into place. Apple has too much to lose if it doesn't. The only question is... how soon?
I want the future now.
Posted on Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014
According to Apple, my fingerprint is acceptable proof of my identity. With my fingerprint and Apple Pay, I can purchase thousands of dollars worth of merchandise at a wide variety of stores. Apple Pay's entire existence is predicated on the concept of my fingerprint being secure, immutable, infallible validation of somebody who is authorized to make charges to my credit card.
If I have to restart my phone, suddenly my fingerprint isn't good enough to make a $2.99 purchase from Apple's own App Store?
In all seriousness here, Apple... go fuck yourself.
This stupid shit has got to stop.
By continuously asking people for their damn password for no good reason, you encourage people to choose easy to remember, easy to type, easy to hack passwords. You force people to ignore good security practices. And when people have their accounts hacked and their personal, private photos "leaked" onto the internet... you have the balls to say it's not your fault... that people need to choose stronger passwords... which you make entirely too difficult for them to do.
If my fingerprint is good enough to buy $1000 worth of shit at Foot Locker, it's damn well good enough for me to buy a three-dollar app in your own app store... even after restarting my frickin' phone.
Or is there something inherently risky about fingerprint security that you're needing to tell us now that Apple Pay has launched?
Posted on Thursday, October 23rd, 2014
Last night I went to see The Skeleton Twins starring Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader... two SNL alums I like very much. I like them so much, in fact, that I actually went to see this movie it in a theater. Which I almost never do any more. The theater experience is absolute shit now-a-days because people are awful.
I wanted to see the movie ever since I saw the trailer...
It's hard not to see a movie that features the song Secret by OMD, which fits perfectly into the film...
As did the Starship song Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now, which was actually written for a different film entirely...
I'm just going to get this out of the way... The Skeleton Twins is a slow film. It's a slice of life drama that takes forever to go nowhere, but the journey is so well crafted that it doesn't really matter.
Maggie and Milo are twin siblings who haven't spoken in ten years because an incident in their past tore them apart. But when they both (unsuccessfully) attempt suicide on the same day at opposite sides of the country, they come back together to she if healing their relationship can heal themselves.
And that's pretty much all there is to it.
This is a dark comedy with some truly funny moments... but I don't know that I'd classify it as a "funny" film. Even so, I liked it quite a lot. Definitely worth a rental on video.
Posted on Friday, October 24th, 2014
Hasn't been working so far...
Maybe I need to sacrifice Justin Bieber to a goat or something.
Posted on Saturday, October 25th, 2014
Not the best of drives over the mountains, but it could be worse. Could be snowing.
Which is probably waiting for me when I have to go home.
Such is the month of October in the Pacific Northwest.
Posted on Sunday, October 26th, 2014
Good thing I passed the 21-day ebola incubation period this week... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• EEEEBOOOLAAAAA!!! And speaking of everybody's favorite virus... the amount of sheer ignorance I see on a daily basis regarding Ebola is just mind-boggling. That's to be expected, I suppose, because people react poorly when they're frightened. But having news sources contributing to that ignorance... assumably to keep everybody scared enough to keep watching their show or reading their paper or listening to their program... is disgusting. It's so bad that I can't even look at the shit anymore (seriously, it's even worse than election coverage). Somebody wake me when this is over so I can tune into the world again. Well, until the next wave of bullshit hits, anyway.
• WTF?!? And speaking of dumbfuck idiots contributing to ignorance...
Pat Robertson should be institutionalized. The amount of crazy he unleashes in any given week is more of a public health risk than Ebola.
• Lincoln. One of those rare moments that SNL actually made me LOL...
Jim Carrey's still got it.
• Jane! I really, really wasn't wanting to add a new show to my television schedule, however...
Jane the Virgin (modeled after a Latin America telenovela) is so crazy over-the-top that I had no hope for it working, but it somehow does... and it's funny. Well worth your valuable time to take a look.
• Ridiculous! I don't care who you are, you know you've made it when you get to appear on Sesame Street. Aziz Ansari, one of my most favorite entertainers, just joined the club...
Nothing makes you feel like a kid again more than talking to a Muppet, I'm sure.
• Maintenance! There's no easy way to seque from Sesame Street to... whatever this is... but did you know they made a sequel to D*CK MAINTENANCE? "Why pay two guys in a van to come suck your d*ck when you can do it yourself?"
And, if you haven't seen the original...
And, on that note, I'm stopping with the bullets so I can go buff my d*ck.
Posted on Monday, October 27th, 2014
Every once in a while...
...everything comes up Milhouse.
Posted on Tuesday, October 28th, 2014
It never ceases to amaze me how a city known for its rain consists of a population who has no idea how to drive in the stuff.
Today my commute to work which is usually 30-40 minutes took a mind-boggling 1-hour 45-minutes... assumably because motorists lose their damn minds any time it rains more than a sprinkle.
Google's traffic map was lit up like a Christmas tree with accident reports this morning, leaving me no clear route to take. So I bit the bullet, headed to the heinous mess that is the 405, and sat in traffic for over an hour. Absurd.
Though I did get free entertainment when somebody drove clean off the road for no reason other than they were probably texting or brushing their teeth or slicing strawberries for their oatmeal, or whatever the fuck it is people do that causes them to drive off the road.
Hey! Here's an idea... maybe if people would pay attention to the damn road when weather conditions are less than optimal and allowed a little more room between cars and slowed down a bit and sliced their strawberry garnish at home... everybody could get to work only ten minutes later than usual instead of an hour plus.
Just a thought.
Posted on Wednesday, October 29th, 2014
Tired of playing the game.
Ain't it a cryin' shame.
I'm so tired.
Posted on Thursday, October 30th, 2014
I hate to sound like a broken Apple-bashing record here but, in all seriousness, things have gotten so overwhelmingly bad that I'm feeling as frustrated with Mac OS and iOS as I ever was with Windows.
First of all, quality control is total fucking bullshit. I am running into bugs within minutes of installing updates... MINUTES! And these are not esoteric one-in-a-million-users bugs, but problems so basic and ordinary that I cannot fathom how they get missed when Apple is testing their shit (they DO test their shit, don't they?). So far as I know, my set-up on my iPhone, iPad, and Macs are fairly typical. I am not running any hack software of any kind. I am not on a custom network or using a VPN. I am not using terminal tweaks or altering the system software at all. I'm just trying to get through my damn day without a crash or running into some idiocy that makes my life difficult. But that's almost impossible now-a-days with even the simplest of tasks.
Like using email.
I have four email accounts. One personal IMAP account. One work IMAP account. One charity work IMAP account. One ThriceFiction IMAP account. All four are synced using Apple's iCloud. Except they're not. If I make changes to an account... or add an account on one of my devices... or delete an account... or change any account information... it's supposed to sync up and make changes on all my devices. But it doesn't, and I have no fucking clue why. Not that Apple makes it easy to figure out what you're doing with your accounts anyway. In what has to be one of the most inexplicably stupid-ass design flaws ever, there is no single place to go to manage your accounts. There are THREE. The first two can be found in the Mail menu...
There's the "Accounts..." option, which opens up a panel from the System Preferences.
There's also an "Add Account..." option, which opens up a sheet on your main mail window. This is ten flavors of stupid, because you'd think that if you wanted to add an account, you'd click on the "Accounts..." menu option and just add it there (which you certainly can). But Apple has it as a separate menu item, duplicating functionality for no reason that I can tell.
And then things get really strange.
Click on "Preferences..." and you now how account management options in a third place...
WHAT THE BLOODY FUCK?!??
Seriously, what in the hell is going on here?
Does Mail have its own set of accounts separate from the system preferences accounts? Or are they pulling from the same place? If they're the same... GOOD LORD, WHY ARE THEY IN TWO PLACES? If they are separate, are they all syncing with each other? Which ones are synced to iCloud? How do I control what goes where? Does the "Add Account..." option in the Mail menu add to the system prefs or to Mail? Or both? This is absolute madness. To duplicate shit in multiple places, each with different interface, is utterly confusing and just bad design. This is the type of stupid shit I have historically expected from Microsoft... but Apple?!?
And the idiocy doesn't stop there.
Apple is known for creating wonderfully handy and useful ways of doing things which are so great that people switch platforms just to take advantage of how well thought-out a computer experience can be. One of my hands-down favorites is the ability to switch SMTP email servers within a Mail message from email to email. As somebody who travels often, this is an absolute godsend, because some servers I use don't work remotely. Elegant, simple, and infinitely useful...
So guess what Apple eliminated in Mail for their latest OS, Yosemite?
Yes. The ability to switch the SMTP server on the fly is now gone. If you have multiple servers associated with an account, Mail will just keep trying all of them until it finds one that works. The problem there is that my default server WILL LOCK ME OUT if they get too many network errors. This means that I now have to remember to go into email preferences and change the default SMTP server before I compose an email when I am on the road. Which I often forget to do, which means that I get locked out of my work connection over and over and over again.
This is just fucking insane.
Why did Apple remove such an astoundingly handy feature?
Did it clutter up Mail's composition window too much? Did they think it was too confusing even though it didn't even show up unless you allowed more than one SMTP server to be used? Was it simply forgotten when they were re-coding the app for Yosemite? Who the fuck knows? And it's not like there's any way you can call up Apple and ask them. At the very least you'd think that Apple would put this as an app preference instead of deleting it entirely, but I've come up empty looking for it.
And don't even get me started on the hideous mess of trying to get SMTP servers assigned in iOS. Just look at this bullshit...
Any idea why servers are showing up multiple times? If there are different settings between the duplicates, any idea how to tell what's different between them? Not even an Apple Genius could figure that one out.
I am so frustrated dealing with Apple idiocy like this every single day that I'm about ready to fucking burn all my Apple crap and become a luddite.
Not that they'd give two shits. Apple knows what's best for you, even if they don't, and if you don't want to accept that you can piss off because they've got billions of dollars and don't have to care.
Which makes two of us.
Posted on Friday, October 31st, 2014
No trick-or-treaters again this year.
I'd feel bad about it... but I only bought candy I like, so the big winner of the evening is obviously me...
I remember when I was in my final years of trick-or-treating. It was a war. Complete with a battle-plan that involved maximizing the area covered and minimizing the amount of time to cover it. We knew which houses to go to for the good stuff... and which houses were a waste of time and to be avoided. We alternated being "runners" who would run ahead to the next house and ring the bell so that the door would already be open when the rest of the group arrived. We had parents lined up to drive us to the "good candy neighborhoods" and timed everything so that the houses that tended to shut down early were hit first. And of course we had two sets of cloth candy bags that wouldn't rip like the crappy plastic bags most kids used.
He who had the best battle-plan got the most candy.
And Halloween back in my day was all about the candy.
Until I was too old for trick-or-treating. Then it was time for a new generation to take over.
Except Halloween was too good to last.
Big city problems invaded suburbia. Poisoned candy came along. Candy with razor blades appeared. Frickin' HEALTHY "candy" debuted. Trick-or-treating suddenly became dangerous. Even worse, "fun-size" candies kept getting smaller and smaller and smaller, so even if you could find actual candy, it wasn't worth your time. And don't get me started about the houses handing out toothbrushes or stickers or any of that crap.
So now Halloween is more about dressing up than getting maximum candy.
Which is sad for the child-me who once loved the holiday.
But reason to celebrate for the adult-me who is sitting here with a big bowl of U-NO bars all to myself.
Happy Halloween, everybody!