It's not every day you get to see your colon on TV!
But for me, that day was today because I had a colonoscopy. And, though you're gloriously sedated on The Good Drugs, you can still watch the ass-cam as it plays on a television.
Tonight we're going to look at something most of us take for granted... the colon. What does it look like?
And you get take-home souvenir pictures too!
So that's what it looks like! I gotta say, I have a damn sexy colon!
Colon cancer is one of the few cancers you can prevent if you catch polyps before they go bad. Turns out that I had one small polyp that was easily burned off. No telling if it would have ever became cancerous, but better safe than sorry, I suppose.
Despite the invasiveness of having a camera shoved up your butt, the procedure itself is not a big deal. As I said, you're mildly sedated, so you may even sleep through it.
No... where the problem lays is the preparation for the procedure.
For obvious reasons, you have to clean out your colon so that there's no... errr... "stuff" in the way of the camera. You start off with a no-fiber diet four days before your colonoscopy, then... ZOMFG... the day before your appointment... you have to drink 4 liters of this heinous stuff called "CoLyte" that CLEANS. YOU. OUT. Seriously cleans you out. As in "Stay-By-The-Toilet-Forever-Cleans-You-Out." As in "Turns-Your-Sphincter-To-Hamburger-Cleans-You-Out." It's so awful. But necessary. Because the benefits far outweigh the horrors of the prep.
So... once you turn 50, you should really get a colonoscopy.
Then look forward to your next one every five years...
The gravy stain? — No, that came out.
The colonoscopy prep though? Not so much. Ain't nobody looking forward to that. In the meanwhile, time to watch Real Genius again for the hundredth time.
Another year, another macOS X release. And it's called "High Sierra."
This new operating system is one of those infamous "under the hood" releases where there's few actual changes you'll notice (nothing like the "hundreds of new features" Apple unleashed with "Sierra" back in September, 2016). And, while these are always disappointing releases on the surface, there is definite gold to be found in upgrading. Maybe. Rather than review the release (plenty of more capable sites than mine will be doing that), I thought I'd just write down my thoughts and comments.
Away we go...
INSTALL ME, YOU FOOLS... Installation, which used to be a major event back in the day, has been pretty much automated by modern operating systems. Apple, in particular, has made strides to have their OS upgrades be as painless as possible. The worst part about it is the waiting (well, unless your install goes wrong, in which case the worst part is having to recover your computer... please back up first!). Depending on your internet connection speed, the download and install can take around 25 minutes (at my office on fiber with a Fusion Drive) or 45 (at home on cable with an SSD). Both times it was a piece of cake. Bravo, Apple.
EXPRESS YOURSELF... Apple added a bunch of "emoji" to High Sierra. Most of them are charming, but useless to me. Others I'll probably actually use. Like these...
Emoji are actually a big help when trying to convey the sentiment behind your words. Not that they can always avoid a confusing message... absolutely they can just make things harder to understand depending on how you use them... but society is always evolving, and perhaps this will help move non-verbal non-visual communication to a better space. Because something has to.
A BOLD NEW FILE SYSTEM... Arguably the most critical and vital Big New Thing about High Sierra is the switch from HFS+ to APFS. For the non-geek set among you, that's changing the way your Mac handles data on it's storage devices. Apple created their own new thang (Apple File System) instead of hanging on to the antiquated old thang they had been using (Hierarchical File System Plus). It is a much-improved way of handling data, according to Apple. And this time, that is not marketing hype. First of all, cloning files (which used to be slow... and even risky... with large files or a lot of files) is now almost instantaneous. To test, I duplicated a folder filled with 3.6 GB of photos. I barely had time to blink and it was done. Amazing. Really amazing. That alone makes High Sierra worth the price of admission (which is FREE, by the way). But let's not stop there...
Obviously, my experience with APFS is limited right now, but I like what I read about it. Time will tell whether it's a blessing or a curse.
TIME WON'T GIVE ME TIME... I was surprised to find that the date and time were not in my menu bar. Installing High Sierra turned them off, so I had to go into prefs to turn them back on.
SPOTLIGHT NOT SO SHINY... I fucking hate "Spotlight," which is Apple's whole-system search tool. The menu bar "Spotlight Search" is so shitty and incapable that I don't even use it. Instead I use an ACTUAL TOOL TO GET THE JOB DONE, namely "Alfred," an app that makes search act exactly as one would expect search to act. What's weird is that when you use Apple's search box in a Finder window, it's actually not bad. For some reason, they save the shittiness for hot-key menu-bar-enabled Spotlight, where you inevitably always end up scrolling down to "Show All In Finder" because the results are so fucking worthless. Spotlight can also launch apps and do other shit... including the new shit of tracking a flight for you... but ultimately it's a system that's long overdue for a complete overhaul to become a serious tool instead of a toy add-on. Maybe now that there's a Core Framework in place in High Sierra, developers will make Spotlight something worth looking at but, for now, I couldn't care less and don't use it unless Siri uses it to answer one of my questions.
SIRI? WHEREFORE ART THOU, SIRI?... Apple's automated assistant, Siri, sounds like an all new gal (or guy, if that's how you've preferenced it) thanks to an improved speech synthesizer. To me the improvement is noticeable but not revolutionary (Siri takes a back seat to Alexa's speech quality, in my humble opinion). I also think that Siri is grossly minimalistic when it comes to being a smart and friendly part of the macOS. For example? She's not HomeKit integrated. You can't tell Siri on your Mac to unlock the front door when your hooker arrives, you have to grab your iPhone and tell that Siri to do it. Why? This is some amateur hour bullshit (though that's what I've been saying about HomeKit since day one... talk about an AppleFAIL). Still, the number of things you can ask Siri to look up for you and do for you are not insignificant, and she seems to be getting more capable all the time (especially with your music). I just wish Siri felt as much a part of macOS operations as she does to iOS operations (though even that isn't as stupendous as it should be)... and stop being treated as a happy afterthought on the desktop. Microsoft's Cortana and Amazon's Alexa are eating Apple's lunch here. Sink some of those billions of dollars into giving us the next-generation AI we can all love. And fear.
HEAVY METAL DREAMS, PART TWO... Apple's graphics display technology is divvied up into several pieces, all of which handle different parts of drawing out the information you see on your computer display. One of those display technologies is "Metal" which is (simplistically speaking) an application programming interface (API) which you can use to pass off intensive graphics chores to macOS for hardware-accelerated rendering. It's actually a very impressive technology which has been greatly improved in High Sierra with "Metal 2." The tech is pretty great at doing a lot of things well... so much so that Apple has actually taken things like drawing windows in the Finder and started passing them to Metal 2 to take care of. In addition, Apple has developed new stuff for Metal 2, like a virtual reality API, which should(?) make for some interesting new apps (though iOS is waaayyyy ahead of macOS in this area). I'm not sure exactly how compatible Metal 2 is with third-party graphic cards (none of my Apple stuff can even add a graphics card) but, if your card or Mac's internal graphics is compatible, you should see some display improvements... particularly with things like intense games written to take advantage of what Metal 2 has to offer... even over other technologies like OpenGL.
OH HOW I LOVE YOUR HIGH-EFFICIENCY CODEC... Computers today are vastly superior in capabilities to those ten years ago. Hell, even five years ago. I've been around personal computers since the beginning, so I know full well how far we've come... I've seen it happen. The one area that continues to surprise me is video. Back in the day you had to buy a Mac costing thousands, add a graphics card that cost thousands, then add a video board that cost thousands... just to be able to edit video. And even then it wasn't that great in ease of use, quality, or capabilities. Contrast and compare that with being able to capture and edit full-HD video on your frickin' smartphone with absolute ease today and you can see where I'm coming from. The problem is that, as photo and video quality gets better and better, you have to have more and more space to store it. High Sierra makes a quantum leap in addressing that problem. High Efficiency Video Codec (HEVC) and High Efficiency Image Format (HEIF) are built into the OS now, and will give you much smaller file sizes at the same quality (or even give you better quality photo and video at the same size). The samples I've seen of still photos with HEIF are jaw-dropping. Fantastic quality at half (yes, HALF) the file size? Yes! Video files that are half-the size but don't look it? Sign me up! Except... not really. My iMac is relatively new, but doesn't have the ability to encode HEVC. You have to have a special hardware processor onboard which my Mac does not. Nor does my MacBook. All I can do is decode the new video formats. And, bummer of bummers, the video is a bit choppy when I look at it. Oh well. While it may not be something I can currently take advantage of, the pieces are in place for a very bright future when it comes to photos and videos on the Mac.
MACHINE LEARNING FOR FUN AND PROFIT... While actually kind of a hard mix of exciting and scary all in one, "machine learning" is a technology that's going to revolutionize our lives. Or doom all humanity to extinction. One of those two things. Apple is buying into the former by introducing the CoreML API, which allows complex data analysis and categorization. From that, it can extrapolate the data to make "intelligent guesses" as to how the data should be interpreted and acted upon. Or something like that. The end-result is smarter software (some of which is going to happen in ways we can't even dream of) and more capable tools. At least that's the goal. The one thing that Apple got right in their version of "machine learning" is that it's not an internet-enabled technology. It all happens on your Mac or iPhone out of privacy concerns. Time will tell how much use Apple or third-party developers get out of CoreML, but it certainly makes for some exciting future prospects.
GOING ON A SAFARI... I have mixed feelings about Apple's web browser, Safari. On one hand, it's blazingly fast... and even faster now in High Sierra (seriously, you'll notice!). On the other hand, it fucks up way too much. Take for instance Facebook. Holy shit... everybody is on facebook, so you'd think that Apple could get it right for that one particularly critical site. Nope. You get everything from input errors to zoom display errors and everything in-between. Now, admittedly, this may be Facebook's fault for the way they code their site... but should that matter? Apple's job is to make their browser display sites the way they need to be displayed and they are not doing that. That's entirely on Apple. New to Safari with High Sierra are features like "enhanced pop-up blocker" which is supposed to do a better job of blocking annoying windows that sites love to generate with ads and shit. Which would be great... if it actually worked. Try to make a reservation at Hilton.com and they still manage to have a fucking "Room Key" pop-up window appear behind your fucking browser window so when you've made your fucking reservation you have to close another fucking window that you didn't fucking want. Yeah, it's fucking Hilton's fucking fault... but fuck Apple anyway for getting my hopes up that they could stop this fucking bullshit. Apparently Apple has also made privacy improvements in the way websites can track you, which is nice I suppose, but I wanted the pop-up window-blocking they fucking promised me. I mean, holy fucking shit... macOS has to be told to generate a window, and you're telling me that there's no way to stop this shit?!? Get the fuck out of here.
TAKING NOTES... Notepad can now make tables. Wheeee. It can also pin notes to the top so that it doesn't get dropped in the newness list when you write/modify a different note. About damn time.
MAIL CALL! ARE YOU THERE MAIL?... If I had to pick one thing that makes me crazy about Apple, it's that they just don't seem to give a fuck about what the end user wants. THEY decide what you want... and how you'll use it. Nowhere is this more apparent than their email app, Apple Mail. It used to be that you were able to select the mail server to use for sending your email within the message itself. Now? You have to go into prefs and turn servers off and on. And even that doesn't always work, despite being a huge time-waster and a fucking horror show of an inconvenience. Sending attachments as "Windows Friendly Attachments" was an option for a while, but never fucking worked, so now it looks like Apple abandoned it (apparently you can command-line a way of not sending embedded attachments, but sometimes I want embedded attachments, so that's useless to me). The list goes on and on. Apple Mail is a steaming pile of shit that's almost impossible to use in a way that makes sense or is in any way capable. And yet... despite a dozen alternatives... it's the one that works best with the Mac, and so I am stuck with it. Needless to say, Apple doesn't give a flying fuck about professionals who need a capable email app, so Mail still gets fuck-all in High Sierra. I mean, yeah, it gets better compression of your email archives... and I think it's supposed to have better search or something... but things that matter? Nope. And don't hold your breath that it will ever fucking happen. That's Apple in a nutshell. For fuck's sake... I know you want to keep things simple, Apple, but at least give power-users a fucking option to have options in the prefs, otherwise you're never going to be taken seriously. Meanwhile over at Microsoft, Outlook is embarrassing the fuck out of pitiful Apple Mail in countless ways.
MESSING WITH MY PHOTOS... Apple used to produce a sweet piece of software called "Aperture." It was a wonderfully intuitive and capable photo editing tool that also maintained a photo library for you. No, it wasn't Photoshop but, for photographers, it was a powerful way to manage and improve your photos. But then Apple dumped it, leaving their thousands of dedicated users to switch to Adobe Lightroom or some other tool that wasn't Aperture. I was incensed at the time. I was so mad that I started seriously thinking about moving to Windows and giving up on Apple the way that Apple had given up on me. Cooler heads prevailed and I stuck around, but I'm still pretty pissed about it. Apple's replacement "Photos" was a meager cataloging tool that didn't impress me in the least. With High Sierra, Apple has finally added basic editing tools like the iOS version has... and even added some tools that iOS doesn't have yet. Like a "healing brush" which allows you to edit out unwanted bits of a photo and have it magically fill in. Like taking a beach shot and erasing those tiny people spoiling your beautiful image. Photos is much slower than Photoshop as you add more and more edits, but at least you can do it... and do it fairly well as long as you're not asking too much. Overall, it's nothing that's going to make me switch from Adobe LightRoom (and a pale, pathetic shadow of Aperture) but for the casual photographer that just wants to make their photos look pretty, these are some welcome additions.
THOU SHALT NOT HAVE ANY OTHER APPS THAN 64 BIT... Any of your apps still 32-bit? Well, unless they get upgraded to 64-bit apps, High Sierra is as far as you go, since 32-bit will be unsupported after this. If you're clutching some old app you love that's been discontinued, you may want to buy an extra Mac now that you can keep in perpetual High Sierra Land to run in.
And so... here we are. The end.
Well, at least we're at the end of all the things I want to comment on when it comes to High Sierra.
Ultimately, I don't know whether to recommend an immediate upgrade. Given that the showpiece of this macOS update is file system changes that are massive and incomplete, it may be worth it to wait a while. At least until Apple gets APFS working on Fusion drives. Your data... especially if you don't have a good backup strategy... is the most endangered thing about your Mac, and dicking around with the system which controls all that is dangerous territory. And it's an update you really don't have to take. At least not yet. Partly because there are no absolute must-have features that make the risk worth the reward... but mostly because the biggest benefits aren't even available to all Macs, only those with hardware new enough to take advantage of it. Heaven only knows I don't want to end my comments on High Sierra with a "meh," but that's pretty much where I am.
What's not so "meh" is what happens in future OS releases that build upon the under-the-hood technologies that Apple is banking on now. APFS? Metal 2? CoreML? HEVC and HEIF? All things that could have big, big payoffs in the years ahead.
Assuming Apple will still give a fuck about the Mac by then. The way things are going, they could just abandon it and go all iPhone/iPad all the time.
What a shame.
I am going to do something I rarely do here at Blogography.
Post a comic created by somebody other than myself.
But I just can't help myself. This is such a brilliant, fully-realized piece of work that it must be posted here. Hat-tip to Levni Yilmaz for his genius. If you want to support his work, visit his website here or sponsor his animation project over at Patreon.
I've always pictured our current situation in this country as more of a train wreck, but... pretty much nailed it, yeah.
Tonight is when the clocks get set back in the USA for Daylight Saving Time ending. You would think that I'd be happy because it means an extra hour of sleep, but I most decidedly am not. First of all, dicking around with the clocks is just plain idiotic in 2017. Second of all, my cats... who don't give a crap what a clock says... will be in my room at 6am tomorrow wondering why in the hell I am not getting my ass out of bed to feed them. What am I supposed to do? Explain to them that they will have to wait an hour because of stupid Daylight Saving stupidity? I suppose I could try, but odds are THEY WON'T UNDERSTAND ME BECAUSE THEY ARE CATS!
Though... the are very smart cats, apparently.
A couple times I've come home and found the television powered on in my bedroom. Each time I didn't think I had left it on, but maybe I'm going senile. On Thursday when I got out of the shower, I head to my bedroom and see my TV on again. This time I KNEW I didn't have it on, so I figured that it is somehow turning itself on. When I go in to turn it off, I notice Jenny laying on my bed staring at the television. I then look at my nightstand and see the AppleTV remote. Suddenly... 2 + 2 snaps together in my head. The AppleTV remote is so overly-sensitive that it will activate if you so much as fart on it. It would be easy for a cat to step on it... even bump it... and turn on the TV. JENNY IS TURNING ON THE TV SO SHE CAN WATCH IT! Except she hasn't figured out how to start up a video, so she ends up staring at the AppleTV menu. Then she gets bored because there's no action, and leaves. Which would be fine, except she doesn't turn the TV off when she's done. I dunno... maybe she comes back when the screensaver activates? Who can tell with her. She's a very private feline...
After the TV incident, one of my Facebook friends was joking about the cats finding the thermostat control. I laughed it off... as anybody would... BUT THEN I CHECKED ON MY CATS WITH THE SECURITY CAMERAS ON FRIDAY AND I SEE THIS?
Yep. That's Jake. Messing with the thermostat.
While Jenny watches.
That same morning while I was getting ready for work, I find Jenny biting at her back-right claws over and over again. She was walking on that foot just fine earlier, so I go into a panic thinking that something is wrong with the nails. Then I film her in case the vet wants to see it. THEN I Google the issue only to find out that nothing is wrong... she's just giving herself a pedicure...
She hops down and walks away, her foot looking perfectly normal. I wonder how long until I stop panicking at absolutely everything my cats do that's new to me?
Jake has been especially friendly lately. Though I think it's because he likes my body warmth, since he's been sleeping on my chest while I work and watch TV almost every night. Unfortunately, my need to sing along to 80's music is not compatible with his ability to sleep (which is substantial).
Thompson Twins' Hold Me Now...
I can't be an easy roommate to live with.
Snow may be here but be of good cheer, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• RAGNAROK! I haven't seen Thor: Ragnarok yet because life has been insane lately... but I will be doing so sometime soon. I hope. If you haven't seen it yet and want a spoiler-free experience, DO NOT watch the video below, which is somewhat spoilery, but hilarious...
Of course, the commercials are more spoilery than this, but, yeah.
• Tokyo! There are many places on this earth I feel at home in when I visit. Tokyo is one of those places. Which is strange, because it's a city on my list that's very much removed from my "normal." Maybe I lived there in a past life? I dunno. But I love it there. And because I love Tokyo, I also love films which feature the city (Lost In Translation is a great example). And now there's a short film called The Tokyo Project...
If you have HBO and a half-hour to kill, I highly recommend it. Clever story. Beautifully shot. Well worth your valuable time.
• Miyazaki! One of the many, many reasons I love Miyazaki films so much is the incredible attention to detail that goes into every frame. I watch them over and over and over because the wealth of details is something to be savored. Here's an Instagram by en93kitchen that focuses on the food in his films, and shows a side-by-side comparison to actual food that's been prepared to look like what's in the movie...
• Busted! Despite the fact that "Mr. Plinkett" is a fictional character (played by Red Letter Media's Mike Stoklasa) the movies analyzed under that monicker are, for the most part, spot-on. His reviews are as insightful as they are entertaining, and I've spent a lot of time watching the Red Letter Media YouTube channel. The latest Mr. Plinkett in-depth was for the Ghostbusters 2016 reboot. A film I mostly hated, but could never really articulate why. Luckily, I no longer have to try. It's nearly an hour long, but balls-on accurate and worth your valuable time...
That fact that the review also includes smart analysis of what made the original Ghostbusters so damn brilliant is just a bonus.
• What Happened? So... essentially you can take Hillary's book, rip out the pages, insert this Politico story, and then read What Happened for reals I guess? My loathing for Hillary Clinton is well documented. The fact that I was forced to vote for her because I didn't want a Trump presidency is something that enrages me to this day. The more information that comes out about how there is nothing "democratic" about the Democratic Party should shock nobody. That's the way politics work in this country. What should shock people is that nothing will be done and nothing will change. Ever. We just don't want it badly enough.
• Dip! I swear... Eric Trump discovering Fun Dip on Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update" is one of the best thing I've seen all week...
It's the end of bullets as we know it...
The big news of the day is the rumor that Twenty-First Century Fox is in talks to sell off most of the company to Disney. Not exactly groundbreaking, as movie studio consolidation has been ongoing over the years... except one thing.
Disney is the corporation that owns Marvel Comics and, more relevant to the point, Marvel Studios.
And since Twenty-First Century Fox had bought the Marvel movie rights for X-Men, Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer, and Deadpool (and subsequently crapped out a series of shitty X-Men films and even shittier Fantastic Four films plus an awesome Deadpool movie) buying the studio would mean the potential to fold these stellar properties into the Marvel Cinematic Universe proper. I mean, look how frickin' incredible bringing Sony's Spider-Man rights into the Marvel cinematic fold ended up being?
What could possibly top Avengers: Infinity War? I dunno. But Avengers vs. X-Men might do the trick, if handled properly.
Because a part of me wonders if merging the X-Universe with the Avengers universe would be a good thing. First of all... the entire concept of "mutants" would have to be woven into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Until now, they haven't even existed. The creation of mutants could easily be dropped into the fourth Avengers film... maybe Thanos explodes and the energy washes over earth and mutates a bunch of people... but would that be too much in an already crowded universe of characters? Maybe. Then again, to finally... finally get a decent X-Men film after years of mostly shit would sure be a treat. I am just not convinced that they shouldn't remain separate, even if Marvel takes over the property.
The Fantastic Four, on the other hand? No such reservations. Integrate them into the MCU as soon as possible!
In the comics, The Fantastic Four was Marvel's first "super team" and is literally the cornerstone of their entire integrated super-hero-verse. Their footprint looms large over everything that came after, and it has always amazed me that with such a wealth of material (over 50 years' worth!) that we can't seem to get a FF movie that's worth a shit.
My hands-down favorite version of The Fantastic Four was Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo's take which began with an arc called "Imaginauts." In an effort to make them more than Just Another Super Hero Team, Waid/Wieringo imagined them as a team of explorers who happened to have super-powers, and their relationship as a family was put front-and-center. It was entertaining as all get-out. And, despite being one of Marvel's oldest franchises, it felt fresh, new, and exciting. As the MCU passes 10 years of existence, isn't an infusion of fresh, new, and exciting what they need to carry them into the next 10 years?
Marvel hardly needs counseling on how to handle their movies... I mean, holy crap, they just keep getting better and better... but please. Can we pretty please finally get a Fantastic Four movie that lives up to their potential? We've been waiting for so long.
Checking in on the cats via the security camera system is always a mixed bag.
Most times, they're sleeping or looking out the window. No big deal.
But other times? Not so much...
Okay... let's unpack all that's wrong with what's going on here.
First of all, Joy the RoboMop has violated her "boundary" and has left the kitchen to mop my hardwood... something that's fine, I guess, but not what I wanted her to do.
Second of all... do you see those neatly-stacked, carefully-sorted piles of dirty laundry? Oh... neither do I... my cats tore into it and made one giant mess out of it all. Glad some cats and robots are having fun breaking all the rules today.
Lastly... Where are my frickin' cats? I have checked every camera and haven't seen them! My guess is that there was a loud noise and they're hiding under the couch or under the bed or something. Either that or they've totally escaped, and now I have a new adventure awaiting me after work.
Can you imagine how boring my life would be without cats and robots?
It's going on a year since my last tattoo. Granted, it was a good one... the biggest I've had done yet... but I'm getting antsy for some new ink.
Problem is I don't know what I want. And I'm not sure where I want it.
This is where I'm at now...
My right arm... my Buddhist arm... still has a couple more pieces to go on my forearm, but I'm feeling a little off-balance so I'll probably wait. My left arm... my pop culture arm... has only two pieces. I know I want icons on my inner-upper arm (Batman symbol, Red Sox symbol, Apple symbol, Buckaroo Banzai logo, etc.) and something pirate-themed on my lower outer-upper arm (Bad Monkey fighting a giant octopus keeps popping in my head). If I keep with my arms, it will probably be one of those two things.
I don't think I want anything on my chest or back. At least not right now.
My lower legs are always an option, though I'm not sure what I'd want to do there. I've thought maybe there could be something comic book related or Invader Zim related or, most likely travel related... but it's tough to think of how I might present it in a way that will work with what I've started with.
Oh well. I've got time. I don't like traveling in the winter, so it will probably be Spring before I get back to my artist in San Francisco.
At which time I'll probably just get "LEGEND" tattooed on my forehead.
I have several trips to make over the mountains in the next two months. Generally, this is not a big deal because the highways department does a pretty good job of keeping the roads cleaned off. If you have winter tires, drive carefully, and take it slow, there's not much to it.
The problem is All The Other People because, unfortunately, the highways department can't keep them cleared off the road.
My drive over this afternoon was fairly typical, with too many people not paying attention and driving like maniacs. Dangerous any time, yes, but with snow and pouring rain? Double danger. And you just know that if anybody ends up getting hurt or killed, it won't be the idiot who is responsible... it will be somebody like me who is trying their best to keep out of their way.
Also fairly typical.
One down, nine to go...
It is tempting... so very tempting... to say that Thor: Ragnarok is my favorite film to come out of Marvel Studios. Except... how can it be? Surely my favorite film is the first Avengers movie. Isn't it? I mean, that was the prize. That's what everything had been leading to. Finally, at long last, we had a super-hero team movie that actually worked. That was actually good.
And yet... holy crap was Ragnarok amazing. Hilariously funny, but not so farcical that the action beats and serious bits fell flat. Game-changing, but still completely faithful to the source material. Different in feeling and tone from the Marvel we're accustomed to, but still familiar and wholly entertaining.
Thor: Ragnarok is the complete package.
There are precious few things about this movie I don't love. A short list, just to name a few things off the top of my head, that I love most...
I have no idea what the coming Avengers: Infinity War means for Marvel's original character base. Iron Man? Captain America? Thor? will any of them even survive it? If Thor does, they could do a lot worse than to invite back Ragnarok director Taika Waititi (who says he'd love to do another one).
Time to update my "Y2K Super-Hero Comic Book Renaissance" scorecard...
The Avengers... A+
Avengers: Age of Ultron... A
Batman Begins... A
Batman Dark Knight... A+
Batman Dark Knight Rises... A
Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice... D
Big Hero Six... A+
Blade 2... B
Blade Trinity... B-
Captain America... A+
Captain America: The Winter Soldier... A+
Captain America: Civil War... A++
Daredevil (Director's Cut)... B+
Doctor Strange... A
Electra Woman and Dyna Girl... B-
Fantastic Four (2005)... C
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer... D
Fantastic Four (2015)... D+
Guardians of the Galaxy... A+
Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2... 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-
Spider-Man: Homecoming... A+
Suicide Squad... D
Superman Returns... C+
Thor: The Dark World... B
Thor: Ragnarok... A++
The Wolverine... B
Wonder Woman... A
X-Men 2: United... D
X-Men 3: Last Stand... F-
X-Men Origins: Wolverine... D
X-Men: First Class... B
X-Men: Days of Future Past... B-
X-Men: Apocalypse... D+
Happy Veterans Day, everybody! Thanks to all the men and women who have served or are serving now.
I've been over the mountains since Thursday, letting my robots take care of my cats. For the most part it's an arrangement that works well. Sure my cats miss me, but not enough to keep out of trouble. Like climbing on the kitchen counters so I have to clean and disinfect them when I get home...
Since the kitchen counters are now the only place the cats are not allowed, it's where they seem to rebel the hardest when I'm gone.
Speaking of not being home...
Jake kept going missing from the security cameras when I checked in. I thought he found a new place to crash in the guest bedroom, but it turns out that wasn't the case at all.
Before I left, I washed a rug and set it across the downstairs bathroom vanity to dry. Jake must have walked across it and sunk it into the sink. Making the perfect place to sleep...
Whenever Jake isn't sleeping on my lap, now he's sleeping in the sink.
I guess I have to buy a new rug since Jake's claimed this one.
Which won't get any complaints from me. Lately Jenny likes to sleep on my arm so I am trapped...
But you can't be upset when you have a cat this adorable...
The drive back across the mountains was uneventful and snow-free (though I had my snow tires put on just in case). Exactly what you want a trip to be when winter has come.
The first thing I did when I got home was to put together a new IKEA wall-cabinet I bought so I have somewhere to put my keys and stuff next to the front door. My cats decided to help...
Good thing they're so cute. They're completely worthless when it comes to assembling furniture.
Until next Caturday then...
Put on that winter jacket, because winter is here along with an all new Bullet Sunday, which starts... now...
• Save It! I hate, hate, HATE the messing with the clocks twice a year. Daylight Saving Time ended a week ago, but my cats still haven't fully adjusted. Hell, I haven't fully adjusted yet either. At some point somebody has to end this madness.
• Canes! Back when I was traveling to L.A. twice a year, I decided to take an early run to Disneyland to get a handmade candy cane at Christmastime. It was insanity. The line to get one was crazy-long (now I guess they just hand out wristbands or something?) and they are really expensive ($10 when I bought one... probably $15 now!). And yet... a freshly made candy cane during the holiday season? Magic! Worth every penny! I'd buy one again... though the standing in line to get a wrist band is kinda a waste of Disney-Time! And speaking of raising canes at Disneyland, I just found this cool video...
I wonder how tough it is to make your own candy canes at home?
• Reveal! After watching a show on the beautiful restoration of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel, I became more than a little obsessed with the art of restoring art. And why I've been captivated with art dealer Philip Mould's Twitter feed where he's been sharing some restoration photos like this one...
Amazing. I need to see if I can track down a blog where they keep track of stuff like this.
• No Wonder! This is incredibly fucked up.
• It's a Wonder! This, on the other hand, is incredible.
• Dance! This is the best thing I've seen on the internet this week, even though it's four years old...
Except bats eating grapes. It doesn't get cuter than bats eating grapes...
There. I can face another week now.
Time for a hot chocolate, I think. See you next week... I'll be the one bringing the bullets.
When I put in my two cents on Thor: Ragnarok, I mentioned that I was questioning if it were my new favorite Marvel Studios movie. Ultimately, I decided it just couldn't be. When The Avengers came along, it was my every comic book fanboy dream come true on the screen. The magic from that movie hasn't gone away. Yet.
But then I had somebody ask me... How would you rank the rest of the Marvel movies then?
Well, this is how... at this moment, anyway...
Interesting to note how some movies rank higher when I grade them, but lower when compared to other movies in the list. Iron Man 2 with an A- rating, for example, comes in below Thor: The Dark World with a B rating. On its own merits, Iron Man 2 had so much to love with Black Widow and Rhodey coming onboard. But it's just not as good a story as what we got with Thor: The Dark World (though, admittedly, not by much).
But what's even more interesting to note? There is not a clunker on that list. I love all the films. Marvel is firing on on cylinders, and the movies they release just keep getting better and better and the universe they're building continues to grow.
And they show no signs of slowing down. Still to come? Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and The Wasp, Captain Marvel, Avengers 4, Spider-Man 2, and Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3.
And, if rumors are to be believed, we may actually finally get a Black Widow movie after 2019, so.... bonus points.
With all the crazy shit that's going on in this country right now, I'm afraid to turn on my television, look at a newspaper, or even go online. I've been beaten down and just don't want to hear it any more.
The bad news is that bad news is unavoidable now.
And so I'm reading all the Tarzan books again, starting with the brilliant original, to take my mind of everything...
Yes, it's a bit dated... the thing was published in 1912 for heaven's sake... yet it's surprising just how well it holds up. Incredibly imaginative and engaging fiction that's very different than so many of the stupid "Tarzan" movies that were inspired by it. The Lord of the Jungle is far from the grunting ignoramus he so often gets portrayed as on the silver screen and television. He's smart, crafty, and can be oddly devious when the need arises.
Much like the apes who raised him.
If you've never read the original book that started it all, I highly recommend giving it a read. It's just the ticket for escaping these trying times.
I'm off to Maine and I didn't think to pack last night.
Luckily, my flight is a red-eye flight and so I had time to stuff some clothes into a suitcase and drive over to Seattle with plenty of time to spare. Mostly because I didn't want to drive over in the dark, so I left early. Which meant I ended up with five hours to kill.
I decided to start off with a quick sandwich at "KidFuckers"... a restaurant chain I hate supporting, but it was on the way and easy, so a foot-long veggie and cheese sub it was.
My colon, which I recently found out is perfectly healthy, decided to punish me for my food choices just 45 minutes later. I was sick, sick, sick. Apparently from food poisoning. And if you have to be sick while away from home, I highly recommend the bathrooms at REI, which are large, clean, and usually unoccupied.
Instead of shopping for last minute gear for my upcoming vacation, I instead spent three hours in a parking lot eating Imodium and Pepto Bismol.
Then another two-and-a-half hours sitting in the airport trying to recover. I'm still not there yet, but maybe five hours in a plane hurling across the country will fix me up?
One can only hope.
I should have listened to my cats and stayed at home.
My flight landed at Boston Logan International Airport at 5:30 in the morning. Needless to say, I was not able to sleep on the plane. I never can for some reason unless it's drug-induced. Problem is that sleeping pills make it impossible for me to deal with time changes, so I'm better off just doing without. I was tired, but the drive up to Portland (which I refer to as "Other Portland" since I am a West-Coaster and "Portland" to me is in Oregon) was dark, cold, and boring.
I arrived around 8:00am, which is way too early for hotel check-in (at least it is here in the USA... everywhere else on earth they always seem happy to check me in if I arrive really early so long as they have a room available). Since I was still not feeling well after being sick yesterday, I tried to book a cheap hotel room in Boston to get a few hours sleep, but they won't let you retroactively check-in yesterday so you can just stay the current morning. At least not online. I tried calling a hotel, but that was confusing for everybody involved and I gave up.
And so breakfast it is then.
Followed by three-and-a-half hours sitting in the hotel lobby trying not to fall asleep. At least not before I finally got a room and took a three hour nap.
Rather than go into a coma I decided on an early dinner.
There's a lot of things to love about Portland. The transitional period from Fall to Winter is definitely not one of them. It's windy. It's bitter cold. It's rainy and wet. And there is puddles of water everywhere in Old Town, which means you end up drenched from passing cars no matter how careful you try to be.
Other Portland is, however, a food paradise for me because they excel at three of my favorite foods...
I opted for a B.GOOD veggie burger because it was the shortest walk and many ice cream parlors are closing early in the wintertime. Not that ice cream doesn't make an awesome dinner, mind you.
I should have pushed my way through and not taken a nap because now I'm not tired and probably won't be able to sleep tonight. Oh well. I've got a day to recover because work doesn't start until Saturday.
My work, which was supposed to start on Saturday was moved to Tuesday. So much for trying to catch an early flight home. Which is actually not such a terrible thing, because it gave me a chance to check another U.S. National Park off my list... Acadia*.
I wasn't able to leave Portland until 11:00am so I didn't make it to Bar Harbor until 2:00pm... three hours later. It's a boring but easy drive that goes by in a 70mph blur. Once I got to the park and checked into my super-cheap lodging (it is off-off season here now, so everything is either closed or cheap) I only had two hours of daylight left so I made a run for the Bass Harbor Head Light (or "lighthouse" to non-natives).
So far as lighthouses go, it's not a very impressive one. But it's at a killer location.
I decided to bypass the lighthouse keeper's quarters and head down to the shore before the sun set. A very rocky beach is not something you want to be navigating in the dark...
I passed this poor tree which has seen better days. He fell over and cracked in two over another equally unlucky tree...
The area is kind of like a real-life game of Myst, with cool wooden stairs leading down the cliffside...
Good thing I wore my hiking boots. The rocks would be a lot tougher to climb over in tennis shoes. That being said, they sure are some beautiful rocks with the fading sun kissing them...
On the right-hand side there you can spot a buoy bobbing in the water. It has a bell on it that dings softly as the wind blows. This adds a kind of nice atmosphere to the whole scene.
And then there she is... the Bass Harbor Head Light...
After goofing around the rocks for a while, I made my way back up and around the keeper's quarters to get up close and personal with the actual lighthouse. As I said, it's not particularly impressive, so far as Maine lighthouses go...
And yet... such a pretty location...
Unless you need to use the bathroom...
Pretty high on my bucket list is to come back to Acadia when the leaves are changing. If the trees are this pretty without them, they must be amazing in the Fall...
The drive back to my hotel was replete with quaint photo opportunities of coastal Maine living. I could only nab one of them before the sun was gone...
Not bad for my first two hours in the park!
Hopefully the weather tomorrow is as accommodating (and rain-free) as it was for me today.
*Acadia which, to my horror, I keep hearing pronounced outside of Maine as "Arrrcadia" for some reason. "Arcadia" was the Duran Duran splinter group. If you want to talk about one of the most beautiful parts of Maine, you have to drop the "R" when you say it.
"Hey, you're half-way there!" I said.
"Ugh. Is it worth it?" he replied.
"You get to see a giant rock hanging over the edge of a cliff and a glorious view of Jordan Pond, so I'd say it's worth it." I said, trying to sound enthusiastic.
"Hmph. Okay..." he huffed, as he walked past.
Yesterday I shot everything on "Full Auto" because I was tired. Today I thought I'd get creative and use my own camera settings. It's a decision that would come back to bite me in the ass* but dems da breaks. Still. I did play around with HDR** a bit, so that was fun.
But before we get to all that... first a word about squirrels.
I love the little guys. They're industrious, clever, cute, and move like magic. And they're everywhere in Acadia. I took tons of photos of them all day long, which is easier said than done given how skittish they are and how quickly they move...
Needless to say, photographing squirrels through the underbrush is a manual-focus affair.
My first stop this morning was Sand Beach. You know that sand beaches are rare in Maine when they are inevitably called "Sand Beach." Sure enough, as advertised, there's sand...
From shortly after Sand Beach there's a trail that wanders along the coast for two miles. I did a walk-drive kind of thing. Sure the rocky coast is pretty, but it looks much the same as the rest of Maine's coast, which I've seen a lot of. Occasionally there's a a small difference. Like a seagull wandering into the shot...
Another thing that was different? Something... I don't know what to call it. I was wandering along the rocks when I spotted what I thought was a tiara or some kind of jewelry bauble glinting in the sun...
Turns out it was ice. Weird ice that had somehow formed to look like pearls! Crazy stuff I've never seen before...
Another animal (other than squirrels) there's a lot of in Acadia right now? Deer. I know this because they kept bolting in front of my rental car. Not just once, but three times. I was driving 35mph (the speed limit) which is probably too fast given that these creatures would have had to have been scraped off my grill if my reflexes were any slower...
My next stop was Jordan Pond. It's home of the Jordan Pond Restaurant, which is famous for popovers that are apparently more addictive than cocaine. I wouldn't know, because the restaurant was closed for the season (like most things in Acadia just now). The pond, however, was open...
Jordan Pond is so pure and clear that it's used as a drinking water source. Which means you can't swim in it or have pets near it. The sun was not at an optimal angle for me to photograph the clarity, but I gave it my best shot...
An interesting feature of Jordan Pond is the sea-foam (pond-foam?) that had frozen at the water's edge...
After goofing around at the pond photographing a lot of squirrels, I headed to the Big Event of the day... a hike up the Bubble Mountains.
If you scroll back up to the first photo of Jordan Pond I posted, you'll see two twin "mountains" in the background. Those are the "Bubble Mountains" and are easily hike-able. The trail is tricky in parts and has a bit of a rise, but pretty simple overall. The trees along the way had lost all their leaves but were still pretty to look at. I can't fathom how beautiful they must be in the Fall...
The trail itself was interesting for two reasons. First, water forms around the rocks embedded in the trail, which then freezes, expands, pushes the dirt away, then melts. Leaving all the rocks in little holes...
Second of all, water also freezes in crystalline shapes all along the trail. You see it everywhere, and it's really cool to look at...
I decided to hike the "South Bubble Mountain" because it has a feature that's entirely too cool. "Bubble Rock" (also known as "Balanced Rock"). When you cross the crest of the trail, the rock isn't that impressive. Looks kind of like a massive baked potato...
But then you climb around to look at it from a different angle, and it's a different story...
Uh. Wow. Definitely worth setting up an HDR photo so I could shoot into the sun and still see it...
If you keep going past Bubble Rock, there's a great view back down to Jordan Pond. That's where I met the ladies from the blog Love Maine Adventures who were soaking up the view and taking photos. They asked me to take a photo of them with their camera, which I did. Then I decided since I was shooting HDR that I would ask to experiment with them and shoot some "people HDR" photos, which are tricky because everybody has to stand perfectly still. They were nice enough to grant my crazy request and did a great job...
I was going to call it a day because the trail down to the Jordan Pond overlook had CAUTION signs on it. But Love Maine Adventures encouraged me to risk my life and give it a try because they said it really wasn't that dangerous. Turns out they were right, it wasn't. And the view was great...
As I headed back down the mountain, I took once last look at Bubble Rock as I passed... and saw something strange. Right beneath the rock was my rental car all the way down in the parking lot! If you scroll back up to the second Bubble Rock photo I posted, you can actually see it there... I just hadn't noticed! Here's that same photo, but zoomed in...
When I got back down to my car, I looked back up and took a reverse-angle shot. You can just make out Bubble Rock through the trees. It's smack-dab in the middle of this shot...
Curious to see if I could see Bubble Rock around the trees, I hopped in my car to backtrack so I could take a look. Sure enough, when I zoom in on maximum...
And, hey... if you zoom in even further, there's people there!
And thus ended my second day in Acadia. Time for a nap!
*The last time I used my camera, it was so I could photograph the eclipse back in August. In order to do that, I had to cover the lens with a piece of plastic that blocks out much of the light, then shoot at an ISO of 64,000. In a rookie mistake, I never reset my camera, and I didn't notice until I was half-way through my adventures today. Luckily, I shot some of the photos on "Full Auto," because a nice chunk of the photos from today where I tried to get creative were ruined because they were shot at grainy 64,000 ISO. Keep that in mind as you pour through all the photos in this entry. There could have been a lot more of them!
**High Dynamic Range... a photo technique where you blend photos together so that bits that are too dark and bits that are too light are evened out. I talked about it here.
Since this was a work trip and my work is indoors, I didn't really equip myself for outdoor adventures. So when I woke up to pouring rain and realized neither my jacket nor my hoodie were waterproof, hiking in Acadia had to be scrapped and I needed new plans for my Sunday.
I didn't want to stay in my room all day so I decided to drive somewhere interesting. But where? Someplace far away so most of my time would be in a dry car instead of the wet outdoors. At first I thought I'd head inland in hopes of better weather. But the weather service said it was raining there as well. Bar Harbor is the furthest north I've been in Maine... so maybe up the coast? I decided to Google the area, which is known collectively as "Down-East" (or "Downeast") to see what's there.
And that's when I saw it.
Two hours and twenty-one minutes north of here is the USA's easternmost point... West Quoddy Head Light (lighthouse). I've already been to the southernmost point of the Continental USA in Key West, Florida, so why not?
I decided to head UP* the DOWNeast to go to the EASTern most point in WEST Quoddy.
That's more than a little confusing, but okay. Off I went. The drive isn't that bad, but the gusting wind and driving rain meant it was slow-going. And when I finally got to West Quoddy Head Light? I don't know what "gale force winds" means**, but this is probably what they are talking about. There were times I was almost blown over while trying to walk it was so bad. The rain was relentless, which meant I had to seek cover to wipe off my camera lens ever 60 seconds. Plus? The sun was blotted out, so it was dark.
All in all? Probably not the greatest idea I've ever had, but I made it. Achievement unlocked. Apologies for the blurry photos but... rain and all that...
In case there was any doubt as to your standing in the easternmost point in the USA, they have a gravestone(?!) to make it official...
Interesting to note that the door to the lighthouse was open. I thought that maybe somebody was working there so I was going to shout "Hello?" but decided it'd be best not to scare anybody if they were up there. Which seemed doubtful because mine was the only car around. One thing was for sure... I was not going to go climbing up for a look when the lighthouse tower is not open to the public. Something tells me that's an invitation to getting shot...
I tried to photograph the ocean, which was not looking friendly at all, but the wind kept knocking me off balance. Only one photo really turned out (rain splotches and all). Alas it's not that interesting to look at...
With nothing else to do, I got back in my car and headed back down (up?) to Acadia. Guess my day was over.
My room back in Bar Harbor overlooks a brook. A brook where ducks like to hang out at all hours. For the most part they're quiet, but every once in a while a fight will erupt and much quacking will ensue. When I got back, there were far more ducks than usual with far more quacking going on...
Annnnnd... the end.
I suppose now I should plan a trip to Northwest Angle, Minnesota so I can check off the Contintental US northernmost point. Then I need to take a hike to Cape Alava in my home state of Washington so I can check off the Continental US westernmost point. It seems the completist thing to do, doesn't it?
*People in Maine would never say they were going "up the coast" like this. To them, up is down because Downeast is up. I found this out when people at my work kept saying things like "You came down from Boston today or yesterday?" and "When are you headed back up to Boston?"
**Turns out these were probably not "gale force winds" after all because Wikipedia says that a "gale" is 39 to 54 mile-per-hour winds. Well, whatever. They were very strong winds, that's for sure.
Today I was going to sleep in and get some work done before heading South to my job-site. But when the heavy rains blew my schedule apart yesterday, I had to move all the things I had planned for then to today. Everything worked out pretty great though, because the weather was beautiful.
My day started with a 5:30 wakeup and a drive up Cadillac Mountain. Six months out of the year (including this month) this is the place which sees the first rays of run in the whole USA. And so, if you're in the USA... there's a pretty good chance I saw the sunrise before you did!
The park has been surprisingly vacant since I got here. I rarely see other people. But there was quite a crowd for the sunrise show... 25... maybe 30 people. And here's the bizarre part. Many of them... at least half... left the minute the clouds started to glow like this...
Now, granted, it was bitter, freezing, awful cold up there. I was numb from my head to my toes despite wearing two shirts, a hoodie, and a winter jacket. It was so bad that I couldn't even feel my fingers after ten minutes.
And yet... what's the point in getting up early and driving up a mountain to see the sunrise if you don't wait for the sun to actually... uhhh... rise? That's when the good stuff starts to happen. We had cool clouds that obscured the sun nicely, so the sky was changing from minute to minute as the sun made its journey. Here we are as the clouds start to catch on fire...
And here we are when the sun had finally hit the sky. Amazing. But most people missed it, because there were only about four people around me by this point...
As if that wasn't enough awesomeness, the islands off-shore looked fantastic as they all lit up with the rising sun...
And yet... by this point, there was only me and one other person to see it. What a shame.
After driving back down Cadillac Mountain, I headed to Schooner Head Overlook. There is a cool feature called "Anemone Cave" down below, but it's a sea cave and can only be accessed at low tide. Since that was at 5:30am this morning, and it was already 8:00 by the time I arrived, that experience was not meant to be. But I did get to see some cool (and, assumably, very expensive) houses. The one of the right is almost invisible because it looks like rocks...
A quick drive later and I was at "Thunder Hole." This is a really cool coastal feature that is more impressive the less close you get to it.
Let me explain...
There's a narrow inlet in the rocks where waves crash in, causing a huge plume of water and a crashing noise that sounds like thunder. Apparently, the plume can go up to 40-feet high. But, at that volume of water, the park closes off access so you have to watch (and listen) from afar. They close off access in four stages depending on how much water is heading in. When I visited, stage one was closed off, so I had to watch from up at stage two...
Alas, stage two doesn't sound a lot like thunder... but it's still fun to look at...
My last stop within Acadia National Park was "Boulder Beach."
I actually tried to find it when I was here on Saturday, but couldn't. Last night I read up on it and found that I just hadn't gone far enough down the path (the lovely, lovely pine-tree path that smells incredible!). You have to keep walking until you spot it from the trail like this...
Now, admittedly, I was a bit disappointed when I saw this. "It's just a bunch of rocks!" I said.
Turns out that to truly appreciate this for the marvel of nature it is, you have to climb down and make your way across the large rocky stones at see it up close and personal.
All the stones have been worn smooth over the eons by the pounding surf, then deposited on the shore...
It's looks like something out of the movie Alien. Smooth egg-shaped stones on both directions...
Many of them are bizarrely smooth and egg-shaped... or even round. Amazing, amazing stuff. And impossible to wrap your head around how many thousands of years it took for them to turn out like this...
Almost as cool as how it looks? How it sounds. Every time the waves recede, the rocks are sucked out with it... then rolled back onto shore. If you turn the volume way up when you watch the movie I recorded below, you can kind of get an idea how awesome it sounds in person. It's very deep... kind of like the thunder I was expecting to hear at Thunder Hole...
And... the end.
The bad news? My time at Acadia National Park had come to a close. The good news is that I get to check off another park from my Big List of National Parks I've Visited! Sixteen down... 43 to go!
After packing up my stuff and checking out of my hotel, I stopped by Somesville on my way off Mount Desert Island. It's home to a pretty wooden bridge that's a popular tourist spot...
Now that's really the end because I've got work waiting for me.
That was one busy weekend.
The main road through Acadia National Park is "Park Loop Road"... which is one-way for a big chunk. This can make planning a travel itinerary tricky because there's no backtracking if you miss a turn or blow past an exit.
Fortunately Google Maps makes it easy to enter a bunch of stops then rearrange them until you have a simple plan instead of having to take multiple loops around the island trying to see everything. With the exception of not finding "Boulder Beach" the first time around, Acadia was relatively painless to navigate.
And now, because I am definitely returning one day, I'm going to post my maps so I can remember how I saw what I saw...
Portland to Bar Harbor to Bass Harbor Sunset...
Bar Harbor to Sand Beach to Jordan Pond to Bubble Mountains...
Bar Harbor to West Quoddy Head Light...
Bar Harbor to Cadillac Mountain Sunrise to Schooner Head to Thunder Hole to Boulder Beach to Somesville to Portland...
And that's that.
Interesting to note... when I line up all the maps and multiply them all together, you can see how I hit most every major road in the park... with the exception of Route 102 up the West Coast and a couple chunks of Route 3 in spots. Not sure what I missed, but it might be worth finding out for next time...
Thanks, Google Maps!
If you ever visit Acadia and Mount Desert Island, you're bound to run across the sprawling campus of "The Jackson Laboratory." This massive facility employs 1,300 people and is dedicated to "...investigating the genetic basis of cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's and many other human diseases and disorders" (according to their website).
What's weird is... I had actually heard of them prior to my visit.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA) waged a war on them earlier this year for their (mis)treatment of laboratory mice (Jackson Laboratory reportedly breeds and ships over two million mice per year to other laboratories around the world... their website has a whole section devoted to it). The conflict ended up in my newsfeed more than a couple times. PeTA alleges that a whistleblower came to them with information on how the mice were being tortured and killed. Jackon Laboratory denies it all. Lather, rinse, repeat.
It's a tough argument to weigh in on.
On one hand, whatever we can do to eliminate things like cancer and Alzheimers sooner rather than later is a very good thing.
The the other hand... torturing animals to get there is a horrendous thing.
If I had Alzheimer's and was told the cure would involve thousands... tens of thousands... hundreds of thousands... of mice being forced to live a life of torture and pain, would I take them up on it? I honestly don't know. I would like to think not.
But if somebody I loved had Alzheimer's?
As I've probably mentioned at least a dozen times on my blog, I love maps. I used to buy maps of places I never intended on going just to look at them. I would buy guidebooks for the same reason. Maps allow you to travel without ever leaving your home.
Then online maps came along with technologies like "Google Street View" and everything changed. Suddenly maps were a hundred times more useful for armchair travelers because you could actually drop yourself into a map and look around...
Talk about an armchair traveler's dream come true!
I mean, yes, there's nothing like visiting Paris, wandering the city streets, and seeing the Eiffel Tower in person... but, if that's out of reach for whatever reason, isn't this the coolest possible alternative? You can go most anywhere in the world this way!
Yes, even Antarctica...
Having access to satellite imagery is also very cool.
While driving around Acadia and Mount Dessert Island, I was driving Route 204 when all of a sudden it jags way out, then resumes course...
Wonder what THAT'S all about? Somebody didn't want to sell their farm? Well, thanks to Google Satellite View, it looks like somebody didn't want to sell their store...
And Google Maps isn't resting on their laurels... oh no... they're always adding cool new features. As I was leaving the US "Eastern Most Point" at West Quoddy Head Light, I noticed that Google noted I parked there. I'm guessing so if I walk away, I can find my car if I forgot where I parked it?
It was miles and miles before It dropped off, so I guess it's good if you're hiking or something...
Or wanting to vandalize a McDonalds and not wanting to forget where your getaway car is parked...
I'd imagine that the advent of VR (Virtual Reality) is going to be a huge game changer in map technology. At least I hope it will. Being able to more "literally" drop into a map would be an incredible thing.
Not incredible enough to stop be from traveling.
Preparations for my pending vacation have been insanely expensive. I thought I was making it less painful by buying clothes for my journey ahead of time (I started nearly a year-and-a-half ago), but then I went and lost 17 pounds, so all that did was add more expense as I had to replace clothes I'm now swimming in.
But the harder pill to swallow is that I have no money left over for Black Friday clothes shopping, which is one of my favorite things. I loathe having to spend money on clothes (and good quality clothes are pricey), but today is when all my favorite brands go on sale and I can chop 60% or more off my budget for the year. Oh well, just my luck I'd buy a bunch of stuff, lose more weight, then have saved money on clothes I can't wear.
But it's hard to feel sad when next Friday this time I will be in Argentina awaiting the start of my trip.
Though, to be honest, I am a little sad. I just got home to my cats... who were so happy to see me after a week gone... and I'm going to be leaving them again...
Yeah, if there's a downside for being 8,000 miles away from home... this would be it.
Life has gotten pretty much back to normal after my having abandoned my cats for a week.
Jake acts like he missed me the most... he's been crawling all over me since I got back. He also meows from downstairs when I'm upstairs and waits for me to answer so he knows I haven't left again. If I don't answer, then he meows again until I do. Why he can't just haul his furry butt up the stairs to check in person I don't know. Maybe because he's not a person.
But if you were to ask me which cat actually misses me the most, that would be Jenny. As usual, she runs upstairs when I go to bed so she can hang around and get petted while I watch TV... but she rarely sleeps there. Now, however? When she's done getting petted and has had enough television, she paws at my arm until I lower it so she can wrap herself around it and fall asleep...
Guess she wants to make sure I don't take off in the middle of the night?
The interesting thing about having nobody home except the cats to any dirty dishes is that the first load tends to be pretty light when I get back...
If only they were responsible enough to load the dishwasher themselves, I wouldn't have to hire a cat sitter.
Well... they would need opposable thumbs to pick up the dishes, I think.
And to be three times larger so they'd have the strength to pull the door down.
And not gorge themselves on all the food in the first day so they don't starve.
Okay... a cat sitter it is then.
This may be the last Bullet Sunday you're going to see for a while (depending what my internet is like in Argentina), so indulge yourself in an all new Bullet Sunday, which starts... now...
• Save It! I have spoken out a lot on this blog about net neutrality and how crucial it is to the free and open internet we all enjoy. Most Americans agree. Every time killing it is brought up, there's a huge backlash and the FCC backs down. But our current government doesn't give a flying fuck about honoring the wishes of its citizens, nor does it care about selling out the internet and fucking us over. All Trump & Co give a shit about is stripping power and liberty from the people and giving that power to big business so the rich get richer and have more control over our lives. And so... prepare yourself for the end of the internet as we know it. I don't wish harm upon any living thing... but I sincerely hope that FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is repaid in spades for the evil he does.
• Dogs! Back before I was headed to Africa, I Googled for photography tips and was introduced to Will Burrard-Lucas. He is a nature photographer unlike any other, and the shots he gets are mind-blowing. Getting to actually meet him on my upcoming photographic expedition will be a real honor. One of his most recent posts was of African wild dogs photographed in South Luangwa National Park, Zambia. It's incredible...
I was beyond lucky that I got to see these dogs in the wild when I was in Zimbabwe. My driver told me that his previous charges were a documentary film crew that searched for these beautiful pups for two weeks and didn't get to see a single one of them.
• Save It! Hey FOX "News"... stuff gets distorted on a curved reflective surface... YOU UNBELIEVABLE FUCKING PIECES OF IGNORANT SHIT!!! Fuck you sideways forever for propagating this bullshit...
There are people saying that this is "conclusive proof" that we never went to the moon because it's not just an astronaut's reflection in the curved surface of a helmet... it's a stagehand on the "set" from when it was being faked here on earth. Just when I think that FOX "News" couldn't possibly be a bigger pile of shit, here it is. No wonder people who trust FOX "News" and use it as their only source are as stupid as a box of fucking rocks.
• 73! Vogue's 73 Questions videos are some of my favorite things on YouTube. Yes, it's staged and rehearsed, but you do get to know some nifty facts about interesting famous people. My hands-down favorite is Lupita Nyong'o...
And today I found out that Aziz Ansari has one!
And, of course, you can't watch the Vogue 73 Question videos unless you bask in the glory that is Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour...
• Vera! I wouldn't watch Touched by an Angel... but Della Reese will always be "Vera" from Harlem Nights to me. I love that character as much as I could possibly love any movie character, and it was ALL thanks to Della...
Rest in Peace, Miss Reese... you will be missed.
• Crisis! Holy crap...
I'm more excited for this than I am to see Justice League. For the hundredth time... put the people in charge of the TV DC Universe in charge of the Cinematic DC Universe! The mind boggles at the possibility of what they could do with a big-screen budget given the amazing stuff they come up with for television every week.
• Family Values! It's like fucking clockwork. Some asshole is always getting caught with his dick in a place he tells OTHER PEOPLE they can't put their dick into. Any time I see some rabid homophobe ranting against homosexuality, I just assume it's because they're overcompensating. 90% of the time, it's true. Case in point... "State legislator Wes Goodman (Republican, obviously) has resigned after admitting he was busted having sex with a man in his office. The married conservative Ohio state lawmaker was known for his anti-LGBTQ stances." Because of course he was. Aren't they always? Hypocritical bullshit like this is getting so very tired.
• Quo! And, lastly, I leave you with the hellish buttfuckery that's become our status quo...
Time to start packing...
Honestly, I don't condone violence (well, except punching Nazis in the face, because that's what Captain America would do)... but I have a deep-in-my-soul feeling that everybody at Apple who is involved with the colossal fucking failure that is their "HomeKit" home automation technology should be executed.
By firing squad.
Without a blindfold.
It's the only way that tech companies are going to learn that you can't unleash half-baked, non-working, pile-of-shit tech on an unsuspecting public without paying the consequences...
I can run my entire home from my iPhone... except my locks. The only thing I can do with my locks is either remote-lock or remote-unlock. Because apparently anything more complex than that overwhelms HomeKit and it just goes non-responsive. My whole lock goes offline until I can get home and hold my phone next to the lock, thus bypassing HomeKit entirely.
The only thing I have that's Apple HomeKit enabled is my locks. The only home automation I consistently have trouble with is my locks. And I don't blame Schlage, because anything you submit for HomeKit has to be approved by Apple.
This is squarely on Apple's doorstep, and somebody needs to die.
And if Steve Jobs was still in charge, somebody probably would.
It seems like I just got back home.
And now I'm leaving again.
Tomorrow morning I'm off to Argentina followed by a trip to the bottom of the earth (unless you're a flat-earther nut-job, in which case I'm off to the giant ice wall at the edge of the world). I've been looking forward to this trip for decades... have been planning it for a year-and-a-half... and yet I'd be lying if I said I wasn't sad to be leaving. I'm actually really broken up about leaving because my heart aches at the thought of abandoning my cats for 16 days.
Especially when Jenny is laying next to me here acting all adorable...
Of course they're not really abandoned. I've got a cat sitter checking in... neighbors checking in... friends and family checking in... a local security system... an internet security system... a home security monitoring service... they'll be well looked after.
It's hard not to worry.
Be well, my furry friends.
This entire day has been nothing but shitty from start to finish.
I'd ask for a do-over, but just my luck it would end up worse than the first time around.
What I really need is a drink... a lot of drinks. But it's cold out and I'm too tired to make that happen. So I guess I'm just sitting here watching TV sober and hoping I fall asleep soon so it will all just end.
A long, long, very long day of travel. First a horrific one-hour-and-forty-minute drive to the airport in the rain, which was only 32 miles away. Then a four-and-one-half-hour flight from Seattle to Atlanta. Capped off by a ten-hour flight from Atlanta to Buenos Aires. Blergh.
The first flight out of Seattle was a little nerve-wracking because they changed the departure to 20 minutes later than originally planned. THEN after leaving the gate, we had to drive back to a gate to remove a passenger for additional security screening (whom we subsequently left behind). Then they kept saying "We should arrive close to our original arrival time" which wasn't true, because they kept referring to the revised arrival time, which was already 20 minutes late.
Ultimately we landed in Atlanta and I made my way from the A Gates to the F Gates just as they were boarding my flight to Buenos Aires.
That flight was not so great (even though my bag made it to the plane with time to spare).
First of all, there were at least six people on the plane coughing and sneezing their heads off. Travel while sick if you must... but at least have the decency to dope up so you're not coughing and sneezing on a plane-load of people making them sick. Heaven only knows what plague I'm going to end up with thanks to these assholes.
Second of all, the flight was plagued with mishaps. At one point a flight attendant dumped an entire cart full of First Class glass dishware, busting everything to shit. Luckily it was all dirty dishes, but still. As if that wasn't enough damage, a flight attendant later dropped an entire tray of glassware in the same galley section. But the highlight had to be when we heard "Is there a medical doctor onboard?" announced over the intercom. Yikes.
And yet... overall... all things considered... a pretty uneventful flight.
The most eventful incident was blowing by Lake Titicaca...
And then... at 9:00am tomorrow morning... we landed safe and sound.
Only time will tell if I've caught some kind of disease from the flight.