Posted on Saturday, November 29th, 2003
As a seasoned traveller, I tend to be much more understanding of such airline-related mishaps as delays, cancelations, or other unpleasantness. But, after 20 years and hundreds of thousands of miles, I think I am finally close to reaching my breaking point.
For the third time in a row, Horizon has screwed up my Wenatchee departure due to "mechanical difficulties." Last time, a bird flew through the engine on the inbound flight the previous evening and nobody noticed it until it was time for us to depart (the flight was cancelled). This morning, an oxygen tank needed a new valve and, yet again, nobody noticed until it was time for us to start boarding (the flight was delayed 1-1/2 hours). WTF?!?
HELPFUL HINT TO HORIZON AIRLINES: WHY NOT TAKE A FEW MINUTES AND CHECK THE AIRCRAFT THE NIGHT BEFORE DEPARTURE SO STUPID SHIT LIKE THIS DOESN'T KEEP HAPPENING!!
Seriously, if problems like this are so prevalent that I've had three consecutive Horizon flights cancelled or delayed because of mechanical problems... don't you think they would get a f#@%ing clue and figure out that it is to their benefit (not to mention that of their outraged customers) to check out the aircraft after the final flight of the evening?
Of course this means that all my connecting flights are now screwed up (thanks again Horizon!). I had padded my trip by an extra day just in case of weather problems... but come on! This type of stupidity is avoidable! Even if it's not feasible to check the plane the night before, couldn't somebody come to the airport an hour early and check out the aircraft? Hell, you make ME come to the airport an hour-and-a-half early... if your ground crew or pilot (or whoever checks the plane over) would do the same, the stupid oxygen valve could have been replaced and my flight would have been on time. Dumbasses!
Posted on Saturday, February 28th, 2004
The weather is suh-weet today, so it looks like a ride on my motorcycle is definitely in order (after I spend an hour or two cleaning it up). In the meanwhile, a friend had asked why I haven't blogged my "Visited States and Countries" like everybody else in blog-space. The reason is pretty simple... I didn't think the map was a good color for my site. Seriously. But, in the interest of conformity, I decided to make my own map just in case there are people who can't sleep at night because they are wondering what States I've been to. Well here you go...
I absolutely plan on visiting Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont one day... no question about it. Ditto for Alaska and New Mexico (Taos!). But that run of states down the middle? I just don't know. Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Monument are in South Dakota, but everything else? Who knows, maybe one day I'll get really bored and just drive through all of them in a single run just to say I've been there (heck, MapQuest shows that if I fly into Bismarck, then rent a car and drive through all the central Sates I'm missing to Oklahoma City, it takes a mere 16 hours and 34 minutes (anybody want to share that drive with me?).
The world map for visited countries is pretty anemic, which is scary considering I've seen more of it than most people. Let's just make a list, shall we? USA, Canada, Mexico, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong (China?), Indonesia, Malaysia, United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland), Ireland, Germany, Denmark, The Netherlands, Italy, Vatican City, France, Belgium, Sweden, and Iceland.
When it comes down to it, there's really no place in the world I don't want to see... I want it all (Spain, Portugal, Greece, Australia, New Zealand, and Mainland China are first in line). I can only hope that I'll have the opportunity to experience a lot more of it before I go.
UPDATE: I now maintain a dedicated page to all the places I've visited. You can get to it by clicking here.
Posted on Saturday, February 28th, 2004
After I mentioned the idea of renting a car to hop through the States of the Mid-West in my last entry, Robert left a comment telling me that the only way such a trip would be cool is if I were to take it on my motorcycle. Though I question the sanity of attempting such a thing in the week timeframe he suggested, his itinerary does sound like an awesome road trip!
From my comment reply to Roger... Easy? A WEEK? Insanity. That would be 650 miles each day, 10 hours riding. The most I can ride on my motorcycle in a go is 5 hours (with stops!) before my ass falls off. So, unless you are volunteering to give me your cruiser, this is a two week trip minimum. I could never get that kind of time away from work. In a side note, thanks for the tip about RandMcNally.com! Ever since MapQuest dumped their "Road Trip Planner," it's been tough to figure stuff like this out. The RM planner rocks!
If only I could actually take three weeks away from my life to do something like this.
Posted on Wednesday, March 31st, 2004
Oh yeah, about that sleepy cat photo I was looking for in my last post: Cats fascinate me. They are always doing something that leads me to believe that they are smarter than most people I meet. Cats also have attitude. They hop up on your lap and demand your attention and then, without notice or provocation, they'll bite you and run off as if to say "I tire of your inadequate affections, begone with you" (which, oddly enough, can sum up most of the relationships I've had).
Last night while watching Friends, Phoebe was singing the "Smelly Cat" song, which somehow hit my brain as "Sleepy Cat," which reminded me of this cat I saw at the Roman Colosseum.
While the landmark is overrun with dozens (hundreds?) of wild street cats, it was this one in particular that caught my attention...
The sun was shining, so it was a nice day despite the crisp December air. I was walking along when I saw this cat taking a nap, oblivious to the swarming tourists around him. As I approached, the cat suddenly realized that the sun had moved and left him under a shadow. He then moved one foot to his left so he was sitting in the sun again then promptly fell back asleep. After walking around the Colosseum, I came back to where the cat was and noticed he had to move again.
My digital camera was full-up with Colosseum photos, but I deleted one just so I could get a shot of this cat. I'm glad I did, because it ended up being one of my favorites from that trip.
Posted on Friday, April 16th, 2004
It looks like The Friday Five came back for a week, only to disappear again. I hope everything is okay with Heather. Anyway, I added a few photos to my ever-growing Blogography Gallery. This time there are photos from the stunning Hard Rock Hotel in Bali. If you're looking to get away from it all, this is the place...
Somehow, I think my upcoming visit to the Hard Rock Hotel in Chicago will pale in comparison, no matter how great a job they made of it!
Posted on Thursday, April 22nd, 2004
Here I am sitting on the plane where "we have reached an altitude where electronic devices may now be used." A woman brought in a bouquet of lilacs, so I am guessing that the entire plane is going to stink like floral ass for the next 3 hours and 20 minutes. Lovely.
But that's not why I am writing this.
A gentleman just ahead of me has a comb-over hair-do than puts Donald Trump to shame. I sit here wondering how he manages to construct such an elaborate system of swirls and swoops on top of his head each morning. I'm guessing he's got at least 3 feet of hair in a carefully stacked layers, criss-crossing from one side of his head to the other and finally culminating in a fierce swirl around the perimeter. It's absolutely bizarre, yet I cannot look away. It is taking all the willpower I've got to refrain from whipping out my camera and taking a photo. This is a work of art, baby!
NOTE TO SELF: If baldness should suddenly attack, admit defeat and move on with your life.
Posted on Friday, April 23rd, 2004
My work done in the Windy City, it was time for my favorite Chicago moment...
Go to Giordano's and order a stuffed cheese pizza.
Sit at the bar.
Watch a Cubs game with the natives.
Eat good pizza and drink a beer (or three).
Be thankful that at this moment life is good.
Posted on Friday, April 23rd, 2004
While visiting in Chicago, guests of Blogography.com stay at the stunning Hard Rock Hotel downtown on Michigan Avenue. It's a wonderful restoration of the old "Carbide and Carbon Building" that looks as though the interior was swiped from the "W Hotel" chain... especially the bathroom... with everything in an upscale modern style in various shades of gray. It's a bit on the pricey side (I paid $160 at discount for a "standard" room) but no more than any of the other nicer hotels in the area.
That's part of a metal mural of The Who that runs across the wall of my bathroom. I'd give the hotel my highest recommendation if you find yourself looking for a place to stay in downtown Chicago... not quite the Hard Rock Hotel Bali, but a very nice property just the same.
Posted on Saturday, April 24th, 2004
I just returned from Detroit where I met up with Jeff from Geekable for lunch at the new Hard Rock. It's kind of boring on the outside, but nicely appointed on the inside... especially the bar, which has a really unique look to it.
During the 5-hour drive back to Milwaukee, I stopped off in Chelsea, Michigan for gas and found out that the city is home to "The World's Largest Teddy Bear" (or so they claim). He's kind of homely, but he is big...
Even more surprising than the giant bear is that the factory which makes Jiffy baking mixes is right across the street...
It's odd what you run across when you take a quick detour off the highway.
Posted on Sunday, May 2nd, 2004
Salt Lake City is an interesting place to me as it's one of those rare major cities where I simply don't know anybody. Unlike L.A. or New York or Chicago or London or Tokyo... or whatever... I have no friends in the area. I guess it's simply because I don't get here very often (which is bizarre, because it is the closest Hard Rock Cafe to where I live: 3 hours by plane, 12 hours by car). Oh well, it's nice to just kick back, watch a movie, and be alone for a while.
Northwest Airlines doesn't have a direct Seattle-Salt Lake City route (this is Delta territory!) so I took a quick 2-hour Sky West flight on a very small plane. It's kind of a boring trip but, once when looking out the window, I did see PacMan!
There are actually a lot of PacMen down there, but the one in the middle has an eye on him which was kind of nifty. After a while, I noticed a lot of cool patterns that I thought would make great "modern art" with a little help from Photoshop.
"Lilly Pads," "Circuit Board, " and "Pink Polka Dot Infusion."
Posted on Tuesday, May 4th, 2004
The Hard Rock Cafe in Salt Lake City is a bit different than other cafes in two respects: 1) Due to Utah State liquor laws, there is no bar in the cafe... instead, you must purchase a "membership" to "The Brickhouse" which is a private club upstairs where the bar resides. 2) Since the number of rock bands out of Utah are fairly limited, local flavor is a bit sparse. Despite these two small quirks, HRC-SLC is a very nice property in the historic Trolley Square area of the city.
The memorabilia is packed to the rafters, which is what a Hard Rock is all about! Sadly, some of the more recent properties seem to have forgotten this. If you look carefully, you can see the entrance to "The Brickhouse" up the stairs...
Of course, there is one famous rocker to come out of Utah... Donny "I'm a little bit rock-n-roll" Osmond! Naturally, there's a nice section of memorabilia from the entire Osmond family, but the Donnie and Marie dolls are classic...
Salt Lake City is a bit out of the way for most people, but the Hard Rock is worth the effort if you find yourself in the Southwestern USA.
Posted on Wednesday, May 5th, 2004
Of course no visit to Salt Lake City would be complete unless you paid a visit to beautiful Temple Square, home of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (more commonly known as "The Mormon Church"). Plenty of followers of the church are on hand to answer any questions about the grounds, the buildings, the church, or the Mormon faith (their kindness only reinforcing the fact that Mormons are some of the nicest people you will ever meet!). It's a great way to spend a few hours if you happen to be in the vicinity of The Great Salt Lake.
Also recommended is a trip out to the Bonneville Salt Flats, which was the highlight of one of my previous trips to the area. This dried-out lake bed pretty much spells out the sad but eventual fate of The Great Salt Lake (especially given the droughts that have hit in recent years). Looks like snow, feels like rock, smells like ass...
I want to ride my motorcycle across those flats one day... I wonder if that is permitted?
Posted on Thursday, May 6th, 2004
For years I have avoided Delta Airlines like the plague because I've heard so many horror stories about traveling with them. Well, since my regular ride Northwest Airlines doesn't have a direct flight to Salt Lake City, I decided to bite the bullet and give Delta a try. Much to my surprise and happiness, flying Delta has been a first rate experience, and I would absolutely do it again!
My favorite part of the entire Delta trip was the massive amount of information you get from them... both on the ground and in the air. While waiting at the gate, they are constantly updating information on video screens showing how many people have checked in, what the status is for standby passengers, how many seats are available for First Class upgrade, and current ETD and ETA changes. You are never left wondering what is going on (which happens a lot with every other airline I fly, especially Horizon Air, which is a black-hole for information).
Once you are in the air, EVEN ON A SHORT 2-HOUR FLIGHT, there are video monitors that are forever displaying fun stuff like trivia questions, television shows, ETA and ETD, and nifty nonsense like air speed, outside temperature and the rest.. I like the map of the travel route best (Northwest does the map thing too, but they only bother for long international flights). It sure helps kill time on a flight if you forgot to bring a book or magazine!
The fact that everything went so well, AND that Delta is a mileage partner with Northwest makes me very happy to know that I have other options in my travel planning.
Posted on Sunday, May 16th, 2004
Los Angeles is one of those cities that I used to love visiting. Cool museums, cool activities, cool places, and even cooler people. It's hard not to love the place that Disneyland calls home. But over the years L.A. has lost a lot of it's charm for me. This is partly due to a Hollywood movie deal I was involved in that started with a bang, but then died a long, slow, and very painful death (story for another time). I used to come here for fun, now I come only when I have to... work, a wedding, a can't-miss party, a funeral... those type of things. I guess you could say that I've pretty much done all I've wanted to do and seen all I wanted to see in this city.
Or maybe not... I just noticed that I am here in my hotel at LAX facing north towards the city and cannot actually see the city through all the smog...
Ummm... let's zoom in a bit...
Not much of a help. This time I'll use PhotoShop to try and enhance the image...
There it is! Wow... that's kind of scary. While I am waiting for a friend to pick me up for dinner, perhaps I should cut a mask out of the bedsheets?
Posted on Monday, May 17th, 2004
Apple has spent loads of money making sure that L.A. is saturated with advertising for their amazing iPod music player. Everywhere you look, you see posters, billboards, bus stop signage... just about everything you could think of. Then I am driving down Santa Monica Boulevard and happen across the biggest advertisement I've ever seen. Forget about how much this thing cost to print... how much did Apple have to pay these people to cover their entire building?!?
Now that's impressive.
Posted on Monday, May 17th, 2004
This was destined to be a very long day, as I had two appointments at entirely opposite ends of the map. Of course, the distance is made even worse by the phenomenally bad traffic here (still better than Seattle though!). But at least the natives know how to drive in traffic... all you have to watch out for are the tourists, which is a nightmare in itself. Indeed, driving in Los Angeles is not for the faint of heart.
My day started with a drive to my first appointment in Santa Ana which is just 30 miles away, but takes around an hour to drive. After I finish up, I've got just a quick 10 minute drive to Newport Beach and my first Hard Rock of the day...
On the way to my next appointment up near Hollywood, I make a detour to my second Hard Rock of the day. Interesting to note that though the cafe is billed as "Los Angeles," it is actually located in Beverly Hills. They've made a few changes since I was last here, including changing the paint to black and adding these bizarre "flames" which I don't think looks as classy as it used to (and what's with the two dead palm trees up there?)...
After my last appointment, I head up the 101 to Universal Studios for the "Hollywood" Hard Rock (which is actually located in Universal City). This is the journey I debated whether or not to take, because you must spend $8.00 for parking whether you actually visit the theme park or not! And you had better have the $8.00 in cash, because they don't accept credit cards and will refuse you entry if the money is not in your hand as you drive up (this happened to me once before... who doesn't take credit cards anymore?!?). I finally decide to bite the bullet and pay the insane parking fee, since I'm just a few minutes away...
Naturally, it's 5:15 when I leave Universal Studios, meaning that I'm in the height of rush-hour traffic as I head back to the car rental place. Oh well, I suppose it's worth it to say that I managed to get in all three L.A. area Hard Rocks in a single day.
Posted on Tuesday, May 18th, 2004
I am in Seattle now, which is not quite home, but it is a lot closer than Los Angeles. After a nerve-wracking 30 minutes on the traffic-soaked highways of Puget Sound, I arrive at my hotel hungry. When my work in L.A. ended early, I decided to skip lunch (having already skipped breakfast) so I could hop an earlier flight back. There are dozens of amazing Seattle restaurants within walking distance but, in the end, all I really want is a burger at Johnny Rockets (Streamliner Vegetarian, no grilled onions and no mustard). Sad, I know.
I walk two blocks to the mall wanting nothing but a bit of peace and a burger. I get the burger (amazing, as always) but no peace. NOTE TO ORGANIZERS OF THE "LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC" EVENT AT PACIFIC PLACE: I am sure that the musicians participating are all very talented in a venue with the proper acoustics, but in an open-area mall with nothing but echo from hard surfaces... YOUR "MUSIC" SOUNDS LIKE REALLY LOUD NOISE... REALLY REALLY LOUD NOISE... and is not at all entertaining or enjoyable. IT'S CRAP!! I could not eat my dinner fast enough to get the hell out of that audio torture chamber. My dinner and evening ruined, I resist the urge to pummel a lady wearing a "Little Night Music" T-Shirt on the way out.
So here I sit in my blissfully quiet hotel room drinking a D'Peach Mode and eating a Strawberry Bar I picked up from Barnes and Nobel. I should be catching up on work, but just don't feel like it (meaning that I'm going to have to get up extra early in the morning). Since there is nothing good on television, I blog...
Security!! On the joyous event of passing through airport security with my courier bag this afternoon, I forgot to remove the Hard Rock pins I purchased. This is a Very Bad Thing, because a bag filled with metal pins appears as a big unrecognizable blob when viewed through an X-Ray machine. Naturally, in these uncertain times, that meant a security inspector had to tear through my belongings to be sure I didn't have a knife or other sharp object concealed inside. I love it when that happens... you never can quite get everything back the way you originally had it, meaning that my once carefully-packed bag was now a big lumpy mess that's no fun to carry around.
Googled!! When I went to my first meeting yesterday, I was greeted like an old friend and immediately engaged in a conversation about motorcycles and the hazards of riding one. At first I had thought that I was accidentally wearing a Harley-Davidson T-shirt to the meeting, because... well, I don't exactly look the "biker" type. That's when the conversation takes an odd turn...
ME: How did you know I ride?
HE: Oh, I Googled you last night to prepare for the meeting.
ME: Uhhh... really??
HE: Yeah, doesn't everybody? That's how I found your blog.
ME: Ah. Well, I guess I know what my next entry will be about!
I always figured that something like this would eventually happen (which is why my blog has a rather vague, blurry look at my life), but I was not prepared for that moment it actually did (hello Aaron!).
Win a Harley!! When I went to the Hard Rock Cafe Hollywood yesterday at the Universal Studios CityWalk, I saw the Hollywood Harley-Davidson store and wandered in by habit. Out front they were raffling off five amazing motorcycles (honestly, I would love to have any of them!) as a benefit for Bikers Against Drunk Drivers. I bought $20 worth of tickets and, while filling them out, asked the guy manning the table if there was a "Bikers Against Stupid Drivers" organization... he, naturally, knew exactly what I meant. Everybody who rides a motorcycle would. Anyway, if there was ever a time I wanted to be lucky in my life, this is it.
Oooh... speaking of Harley-Davidson... one just roared by. Sigh. I miss my motorcycle. Knowing it will be another week-and-a-half before I can ride it again just makes it worse.
I think I want to go home now.
Posted on Tuesday, May 18th, 2004
There are certainly worse views you could have outside a hotel window. At least if I wake up and forget where I am, it will be fairly easy to sort it all out...
Posted on Friday, May 21st, 2004
Yesterday when I walked over to photograph my Theme Thursday entry, I took a quick 5-minute walk through Pioneer Square, one of the many great places in the beautiful city of Seattle. I have several fond memories (like go-go dancers at Doc Maynards!) and a few not-so fond memories (like being held-up at knife-point!) from this area of the city. If you are into architecture, this is the oldest area of Seattle, and filled with amazing old buildings.
The heart of Pioneer Square is Occidental Square, a beautiful little park with a leafy canopy of green above it...
A friend introduced me to the J&M Cafe and Card Room (the oldest bar in Seattle) which is home to my most favorite shooter drink... The McNasty! While it's not the same as ordering up a tray of McNastys with a bunch of friends, you can make this yummy concoction at home... fill a shot glass half-way with hot coffee. Add Sambuca Liquor and then float a little Bailey's Irish Cream on top... fantastic!
Not many people realize that UPS (United Parcel Service... those delivery guys in the brown trucks) was started in Seattle. At the very spot that UPS began, they have created this amazing little oasis in the middle of Pioneer Square and called it "Waterfall Garden." When work-related stress takes me to the breaking point, just ten minutes sitting in this amazing little park can work wonders...
One of my favorite places in the Square is the Elliott Bay Book Co. In a day and age when wonderful old book shops are being replaced with online behemoths like Amazon.com, places like this are a true treasure. The eclectic and well-informed staff has littered the shelves with small cards pointing out their favorite books and other items of interest, which makes browsing here a real treat. I try to support this nifty store by buying a new book every time I visit...
Sure the Space Needle and Pike Place Market are worth visiting in Seattle, but if you ever come to this wonderful city, you owe it to yourself to wander through historic Pioneer Square and discover all of its wonders for yourself.
Posted on Sunday, May 23rd, 2004
I'm beginning to hate hotels. I can't go to the restaurant because the season finale of Alias is on in just 15 minutes. So I'm off to find a vending machine for dinner. Unfortunately, the machine on my floor is broken. I decided to go to the lobby because the gift shop is open until 10, but they are closing an hour and 10 minutes early (change the damn sign idiots!). So I go up a floor, but there's no machine... I go up another floor to use that one and it too is out of order.
What the hell? Sure this is just a Holiday Inn, but it's a nice Holiday Inn. Things like this shouldn't happen. I shouldn't have to waste twenty minutes buying a snack. When I finally find a working machine on the 4th floor, I find pork rinds mixed among the over-priced goodies for sale. Who in the hell eats pork rinds any more? Who would want to?
So here I sit eating crap that's not pork rinds and watching Alias. As usual, the show kicks ass. It's only been running for 5 minutes and there is already more action happening than in an entire hour in other so-called "action" shows. Oh goody! Marshall just got shot! I hate Marshall! DIE MARSHALL, DIIIEEEEEEEEE!! Yeesh, the opening credits haven't even come up yet! This rocks!
Oooh... now Vaughn has caught up with his very naughty wife. You've been a very bad girl Lauren... I have a feeling this is not going to be pleasant. Yes! Beat her evil ass with the crowbar! Again! Again! DIE LAUREN, DIIIEEEEEEEEE!!
Bummer, Alias is over now. As usual, a terrific cliffhanger ending for the best show on television.
Sigh. I've read that ABC will not start the fourth season of Alias until JANUARY 2005! That sucks, but the good news is that they plan on airing 20 weekly episodes with no interruption. This will be a pleasant change from the way ABC keeps pre-empting the show this past season. And hey, anything is better than cancellation.
I have to get up at 5am for my first flight. Usually this wouldn't be a big deal because I only sleep from around midnight to around 5am anyway, but all this travel has messed-up my already messed-up sleep schedule. I've been sleeping from around 2am to 7am as of late, and so I can only imagine what an unpleasant day I have awaiting me. I should have just gotten it over with and bought the pork rinds.
Posted on Monday, May 24th, 2004
The nice thing about central Pennsylvania is how green everything is. It's kind of like Ireland... but not. I look outside my hotel window and think how nice it would be to ride my motorcycle off into the cool green countryside...
Of course, I could be looking out over the Mohave Desert and still think how nice it would be to ride my motorcycle, so I guess that's nothing new.
UPDATE: The cicadas are out! You can hear the buzz of the forest reverberating through the air.
Posted on Tuesday, May 25th, 2004
My first opportunity for any real sleep tonight is completely ruined by thunderstorms. The lightning is lighting up the night sky with an eerie pink glow that makes it look as though the heavens are on fire... all while thunder is booming so loudly that you would almost swear it is striking inside your head. This is pretty cool, so I have mixed feelings on not being able to sleep. I guess the only thing I can do is leave the curtains open and try to enjoy the show.
Posted on Wednesday, May 26th, 2004
Alrighty then... pop quiz hot shot... You are in New York City, home to some of the greatest restaurants the world has ever known. You are vegetarian, and know that some of the most creative veggie cuisine on earth can be found within a 10-block radius of your hotel. You are hungry for dinner, and are here for one night only... the world is waiting outside your door... where do you go to eat?
Well, if you are me, you go to McDonalds at Times Square! The only place in the world (that I know of anyway) where you can get the amazing McVeggie Deluxe Burger!! Delicious! I had two of them. If I was staying another day, I'd eat two more for dinner tomorrow (after probably having had another for lunch). Why in the hell McDonalds doesn't roll these out to the rest of the chain I will never know. It's not the best veggie burger in the world, but it tastes great and would be a welcome option for fast-food seeking vegetarians.
As I was leaving, I see this on the front of the restaurant...
AAAAAAAAHHHHHH! What do you mean "it's back?!?" Where did it go? Why would you ever remove it? All I can say is that it is a darn good thing you brought it back for my visit or I probably would have freaked out... badly.
Of course, no trip to New York is complete for me unless I drop by and see what new pins they've got at the Hard Rock...
And, naturally, there's always a stop at Pick-A-Bagel, my favorite New York City bagel shop (which I blogged about previously)...
Boy don't I wish I had a couple more days here. One night in NYC is definitely not enough!
Posted on Wednesday, May 26th, 2004
I always seem to luck out in arriving to places just when something interesting is going on. Happy accidents... like being in Boston right in the middle of the Tall Ships coming to town... or arriving in London just at the Impressionists World Tour exhibit has arrived... or coming to New Orleans on the day of the Louisiana Purchase anniversary. Of course, in any larger city, something interesting is always going on. In New York today, it is the first day of "Fleet Week" (an annual event where the Navy and Marine Corps flock to New York City for the public to meet Sailors and Marines and see the ships).
In honor of the occasion, New York City's Finest are everywhere. Police cars are swarming through the streets in large groups of 5 to 15 cars and gangs of police are a huge presence in popular places like Times Square. Everywhere you look there are police and military personnel... even in front of the main recruiting office of NYC...
New York is an interesting city any time of the day, but I love it at night (especially in Times Square). With the exception of Tokyo, there is no more exciting place to be after the sun sets...
And then there's always my beloved McDonalds Times Square, home of the McVeggie Deluxe!...
One of my favorite buildings at night is Radio City Music Hall because it casts such a nice glow on the street. This photo may look like I somehow altered it in Photoshop, but this is straight from the camera, which is pretty cool...
Sigh. Just looking at these photos I really do wish I had another couple of days in the city.
Posted on Thursday, May 27th, 2004
An open letter to the inconsiderate dumbasses "partying down" on the 42nd floor of the Hilton Towers New York outside my hotel room at midnight last night: I realize that getting older must be a traumatic experience. I'm going to be there soon enough, and understand your pain... I really do. You are getting older, but don't want to be older, and so you compensate by acting like you are in a college frat house whenever you get away from home even though you are pushing 50.
That being said, there is no reason that I should have to suffer because of it. When you walk through the halls of the hotel screaming "WOOOOO HOOOOO!" and laughing hysterically at anything your drunk ass perceives as funny (which, apparently, is everything)... you don't look "young and cool" your look "old and stupid."
So next time you feel the urge to act like a daft prick and disturb the peace and serenity of those around you at obscene hours of the night... why not try acting your age instead? You are on the executive level of the Hilton on a Wednesday night, not a beach house in Ft. Lauderdale during Spring Break weekend.
In other news: My ride to Newark International this morning at 6am was sure interesting. My cab driver decided to cram his way into a toll lane after coming off the New Jersey Turnpike. Unfortunately, he did so right in front of a very impatient person and got broad-sided by a van. To make matters worse, the lane he fought so hard to enter was an EXPRESS-PASS lane and he didn't have one.
This is going to be an interesting day, I can just tell.
UPDATE: It turns out my day is not a total loss... Aint It Cool is reporting that Wonderfalls, one of the best television shows ever (that was stupidly cancelled after only a few episodes!), is being prepped for a DVD release by the end of the year!
Posted on Thursday, May 27th, 2004
The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood, Florida is an impressive property, and it isn't even done yet! Apparently they are adding another 1000 rooms, a shopping court, and Hard Rock Live venue as well. In comparing it with other HR Hotels I've been to, it kind of falls short... for now. It doesn't have the grandeur of Las Vegas, the class & history of Chicago, the fun attractions of Orlando, or the sheer magic of Bali going for it, but it is still a heck of a fun place to spend your time...
When I arrived my "King-Style" pool-side room wasn't ready, so they upgraded me to a "Ruby Suite" at no extra charge. The room is amazing, but pretty ugly... I like "eclectic" but the hodgepodge of random colors, patterns and textures is a bit overboard...
The sense of humor that makes Hard Rock resorts so entertaining is everywhere. This is my favorite...
Sadly, the cafe is built into the hotel instead of being a separate building. I hate it when they do this, because the cafe does not have a separate identity outside of the hotel...
The interior is kind of boring... just a square room... but the nifty slatted rafters and the HUGE memorabilia wall is great...
I'm not much of a gambler, but it would be a shame not to go play the slots while I am here, so I suppose I am off to lose my hard-earned money. Wish me luck.
Posted on Thursday, May 27th, 2004
Well, I spent $40 and somehow ended up with a total of $218.04, so I am guessing that I must have won, though I have no idea how I won. The "slots" here are pretty lame... as in that they are not actually "slots" at all. They are BINGO machines. All the spinning wheel graphics are just for show, because whether you win or lose is based solely as to whether you "daub" your virtual "BINGO card" faster than other players. So, if you get a BINGO, the wheels come up with a winning combination. If you don't BINGO, you sit there and watch the wheels spin, knowing they won't display a win because you've already lost.
It's all pretty stupid, and not very entertaining. I'm guessing Las Vegas has nothing to worry about if this is their competition.
Fortunately, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino of Hollywood, Florida does have a really nice pool area, so you can enjoy the place even if you don't like their crappy imitation slot machines...
Today was a pretty boring day. Originally, I was here to work, but that got cancelled... so now I am just killing time until I'm off to Tampa tomorrow. Tough life, I know.
Posted on Friday, May 28th, 2004
The route I took to Tampa this morning was across "Alligator Alley" through the Everglades. About a third of the way through, I thought I would stop at a rest center and take a look around. There were two other people there as I walked up to the muck-covered water...
Woman: Where are the everglades?
Man: You're looking at it.
Woman: I don't get it. It's just a big swamp!
Man: Uhhh... yeah.
I am still trying to figure out what she was expecting to find. I think it's kind of nice... croaking frogs, dragonflies, and all...
Of course, this being Florida, there is a "Waffle House" at every exit. I remember them for having passable food at cheap prices. This time when I stopped, they had passable food at typical prices... no better than Denny's or something. Still, you just can't beat the cheesy atmosphere! I found a good one this time...
Onward to Tampa!
Posted on Friday, May 28th, 2004
So here I am at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa! This is a "vacation day" for me today, as I am trading it for next Monday's holiday (Memorial Day) at work. The reason I am here is to visit with a friend in New Port Richey this evening, which is over an hour away. Sure I could have gotten a hotel much closer, but it wouldn't be a Hard Rock now would it?
As with the hotel in Hollywood, they have somehow messed up my reservation. Furthermore, there was some arguing with the reception desk over my Hard Rock Pin Club discount of 10%... his response?
"I am sorry, but we are not affiliated with the Hard Rock."
Now, to fully appreciate this absurd comment, you have to know that he was standing next to a card with a Hard Rock logo, wearing a Hard Rock name badge, while handing me a welcome kit with Hard Rock written on it. How in the hell they could be "not affiliated" with the Hard Rock is a complete mystery to me. It isn't until I hand over an e-mail I received with "SAVE 10% AT THE NEW HARD ROCK HOTEL AND CASINO IN TAMPA" that he confirms I have my discount. Odd.
While smaller than the Hollywood property, I think I like this one better. Like last time, I was supposed to get a pool view, but again did not. I did, however get a nice corner suite upgrade with a lovely view of the Tampa skyline. When I actually visited the pool, it is pretty small (and not nearly as remarkable as all other hotels), so I guess I have nothing to be upset about after all...
This Hard Rock Hotel has music lyric quotes everywhere, even in the elevator, which I thought was cool...
The rooms are a bit eclectic, but much nicer-looking to me than the mixed-up Hollywood decor...
The merch store has this sweet Harley sitting in the window... I think I want to steal it...
They don't have motorcycle helmet laws here in Florida, which is kind of bizarre to me. I can't imagine being foolish enough to bomb down the highway with no protection for my brain.
Posted on Saturday, May 29th, 2004
The Hard Rock Vault Orlando is a kind of museum which features some of the organization's most precious and valuable memorabilia. Since every cafe in the chain is home to some pretty amazing stuff, I was always curious to know how it could get any better. The building itself is far-removed from the hotel and cafe in Orlando, and sits off the incredibly congested International Drive, just south of Universal Studios.
The building exterior is funky and dramatic... but mostly decorative, it would seem. As far as I know, there is nothing up in that inverted pyramid...
A ticket costs $15 and gains you admission to the "hub" where photography is permitted...
I have to hand it to them, they did a pretty amazing job of cramming a heck of a lot of stuff in that room in very inventive ways. It makes me wish that the city of Cleveland would hand over their lame "Rock & Roll Hall of Fame" to the Hard Rock and let them make it much, much better. Nobody can take a load of old crap and make it come to life with warmth and interest better than the Hard Rock. It makes the "Hall of Fame" look cold and boring by comparison.
A cool piece that I almost missed is Elvis' Green & White Harley-Davidson motorcycle! The story is that he gave it to his chauffeur as a gift, and it was eventually sold the the Hard Rock. What a beauty...
After wandering around the exhibits for a while, I was called for my tour into the actual "vault" where no photography is allowed. Since I was the first (and only?!?) visitor of the day, I was all alone on the tour which was very cool. There are 5 different rooms, each themed differently. The first room is the Punk Room, which I loved. The second was the Dressing Room which had some of the more outlandish costumes from rockers of the ages. The third was the Psychedelic Room (just like it sounds, mushrooms not included!). The fourth was pretty much all the Beatles Room (incredibly cool... my favorite piece being the back of the cereal box that Lenon wrote out the lyrics for Help on!). The last was an Elvis Room (complete with those stupid Vegas lounge singer duds he wore late in life).
If you have any interest in the history of Rock and Roll, the Vault is an absolute can't-miss opportunity, though I think the $15 entrance fee is a bit stupid, as I don't think very many people are going to be willing to pay that. They should have the entry be free, and then clean up on merch sales.
Posted on Saturday, May 29th, 2004
I have already been to this hotel a couple of times and absolutely love it... staying here is not only really cool, but it has the added benefit of moving you to the front of the line at Universal Studios attractions, which comes in handy. Today I have to get back to Ft. Lauderdale for my flight in the morning, but I thought I'd at least stop by, take a look, and maybe buy a few pins...
Here you can see what a real resort pool should look like...
I found this photo from my previous trip... I like the rooms here better than either Hollywood or Tampa (but not as well as Bali)...
If you are even remotely a fan of the Hard Rock and plan an Orlando vacation, this is the place to stay!
Posted on Saturday, May 29th, 2004
The only thing I really had on my list for Orlando was the Hard Rock Vault, and so I was left with five hours to kill. There are a lot of things to do in Orlando, but most of the things I'd want to do I have already done on previous trips. I then remembered that Universal Studios had just installed the new "Revenge of the Mummy" roller coaster a few weeks ago, so I thought that would be something interesting to do. Unlike Disney, where the rides keep getting lamer and lamer, the Universal stuff always seems to be pretty cutting edge.
Admittance Ticket: $58.00
Spending $70 to ride one ride in 100-degree heat on Memorial Day Weekend when the crowds are the worst that they can possibly get: Priceless
Actually, thanks to Universal's "Single Rider" line, I was able to ride the thing twice in under 20 minutes which was pretty sweet!
The ride itself is excellent. Short, but really excellent. I think "Mummy" is meant to compete directly with Disney's "Space Mountain," as it too is a "dark" roller coaster ride. The difference is that Space Mountain hasn't changed in decades, and Revenge of the Mummy is fresh, hi-tech, thrilling, and a great run! Highly recommended. IMHOTEP! IMHOTEP!!
Since I didn't spend all day waiting in line at Revenge of the Mummy, I decided to see what else was new since I was at Universal Studios last. About the only thing left was "Shrek 4-D" which is a film that bridges the gap between Shrek and Shrek 2 rather nicely. Problem is... A) I had to wait in line for TWO HOURS AND TWENTY MINUTES!! which was excruciating (Universal is over-selling their "express pass" and "priority club ticket" badly). B) I am not a Shrek fan... the humor is dated very quickly, the animation is crap compared to Pixar, and I've had more than enough of Mike Meyer's ridiculous Scottish accent. And, C) The reality effects consist of spraying water in your face and moving the seats... and neither one of these are done as effectively as their amazing "Back to the Future" ride. On the other hand, the 3-D effects were pretty top-notch...
After blowing nearly 3 hours on Shrek, I decided that anything else I waited for had better be worth it! Unfortunately, nothing at Universal Studios really did it for me. The good news is that I could upgrade my ticket for $20 so I could be admitted to "Islands of Adventure" where I could ride my most favorite roller coaster ever, THE INCREDIBLE HULK...
Again, thanks to the Single Rider Line, I was able to ride twice in under 25 minutes! Man, I love that coaster! I've been on dozens, and this is the one that gets my blood pumping the most. Something about the way they shoot you up that Gamma Chamber provides a sphincter-puckering moment that's hard to beat when you drop off the other side. Nothing at Disney even comes close to touching it.
And, of course, the most excessive Hard Rock Cafe Orlando is just outside the gate...
This has been a really expensive day. Only three rides and it cost me nearly $100.
Posted on Sunday, May 30th, 2004
I just got an e-mail with the observation that I pretty much hit all corners of the USA this month. I hadn't really thought about it but, after plotting it out on a map, see that she is right! No wonder I am so tired. Of course, I also got an e-mail from a guy claiming that I am making this all up... that my travel schedule is "unrealistic" and I am not fooling anybody with my "imaginary travel tales."
Bizarre. Just how do you respond to somebody like that? I'd like to think if I were going to make up lies about myself I could certainly be more inventive than this (remind me to tell you about the week I spent with Elizabeth Hurley in Costa Rica after escaping from an alien abduction and inventing an anti-gravity toaster). Unfortunately, it's all true...
A pity that I didn't get to see a heck of a lot along the way. Oh well... I'm going home...
Posted on Sunday, May 30th, 2004
Just one more early-morning flight tomorrow, and I am home.
I hope I get to stay there for a while.
I used to think that Mt. Fuji was the most beautiful mountain I've ever seen in person... but something about seeing Mt. Rainier (and knowing that I am one step closer to home) makes it a pretty beautiful sight just now.
Posted on Sunday, June 27th, 2004
I'm off to the Seattle-side of the state. Since I have to take a bunch of crap with me, I'll be driving my car instead of riding my motorcycle. I hope I remember how.
Before I forget (again)... this is for Jill:
The reason the little photos in my sidebar for "Hard Rock Moment" and "Travel Picto-Gram" change every time you visit is because I wrote a little script to randomly display them. If you "reload" the page a few times, the photo you want to look at should appear again. The image you are referring to is from Glendalough, which is an incredibly beautiful area south of Dublin in Ireland. You're right, one day I should add them to my gallery but, until then, here are a few showing the Celtic crosses you wanted to see...
Normally, I don't care for organized tours because I prefer to explore places on my own. But my hotel (the historic Shelbourne Hotel in St. Stephen's Green, Dublin) gave the "Wild Wicklow Motor Coach Tours" their highest recommendation and, after taking it, I would have to agree. If you are in Dublin and want to see a bit of Ireland's amazing countryside, this is the way to do it.
Posted on Friday, July 2nd, 2004
A last minute trip to Beaverton, Oregon where the weather isn't nearly as nice as back home. I finished my work here way early but, due to the holiday weekend, can't get a flight back for 6 hours. So here I sit on standby. Beaverton is just outside of Portland, and is considered the "technical corridor" of the state. It's also home to Nike, though I don't think they actually make anything here in the USA anymore, so it must just be corporate offices or something?
It's a sad story how companies like Nike can spend millions on advertising and endorsements, yet won't spend a dime to manufacture here so local people can have jobs. It's a pity too, because I love my Nike boots, and have owned the same pair for nearly a decade. It's probably about time I get something new, but this time perhaps I'll look at a company like Chippewa or Schnee.
Sigh. According to MapQuest, I could drive home in just 5 hours if I had a car...
I think I want a donut.
UPDATE: I managed to get on an earlier flight out of Portland after all because I paid full-price for my ticket! Security at PDX is pretty stupid though, and nearly caused me to miss my flight. The line almost crosses the entire airport, which is ludicrous considering only half the inspection lanes were opened. Any time it takes over 30 minutes to get through security, there is a serious problem that needs to be addressed.
Posted on Tuesday, July 6th, 2004
Back again to Salt Lake City. Today I managed to squeeze in an hour in-between jobs so I could visit Temple Square and play around with my new wide-angle lens for a while. Having such a lens certainly makes it easy to fit large structures in the frame. Unfortunately, I forgot my polarizing filter back at the hotel, so stray light on a bright day like today has a tendency to wash things out somewhat. Playing with curves in Photoshop helped to get a bit of the contrast back...
My previous photos of the Assembly Hall barely managed to fit the building in the shot, but now I have the option of adding a little scenery around it to better place the structure in context. The building itself is a beautiful example of gothic architecture, so it's a bit of a shame that it's obstructed by so many trees, but it does make for a peaceful setting...
Unfortunately, the lens does have a few pitfalls... shooting really wide causes some freaky distortion (especially at the corners), and there seems to be a bit of a lens flare problem that creeps in from time to time (even when the included lens hood is attached). I suppose you could look at the bright side and consider that you can use these "features" to your advantage and get some interesting shots out of it...
I can't wait to head south this weekend, because I'd imagine this lens will do astoundingly well with the scenery there!
Posted on Thursday, July 8th, 2004
This is the first Theme Thursday that I have actively planned for, which is kind of cool. Given the theme of wings, I made an effort to be sure that each of my three flights on Monday were seated next to the window, behind the wings of the plane. Since I had my new wide-angle lens with me, it was pretty easy to ensure that the wings were in every shot along my journey.
Leaving the small airport at Wenatchee, Washington...
Passing Mt. Rainier on the way to Seattle (Mt. St. Helens is in the back on the right... and perhaps that is Mt. Adams back on the left?)...
Leaving Seattle, and passing over Mercer Island after a plane change...
Leaving Boise, Idaho after another plane change (and asking for a seat on the opposite side of the plane)...
And approaching my destination of Salt Lake City, Utah (where six years of drought seem to be taking its toll)...
Usually, I would not have to take three flights... I can get a direct flight out of Seattle to Salt Lake City. But, because of the Independence Day holiday, flights were full and it was far cheaper to make a quick stop in Boise (which is along the way anyway).
Posted on Friday, July 9th, 2004
After my work had finished in Salt Lake City, I rented a car and took a 4 hour drive south to the city of Moab, which is famous for its spectacular location among three parks that contain some of the most beautiful scenery you will ever find: Arches National Park, which preserves numerous naturally occurring archways that have been eroded into their present shape over millions of years. Dead Horse Point State Park, with one of the most incredible scenic vistas I have ever beheld... rivaling even the Grand Canyon. And Canyonlands National Park, which picks up where Dead Horse Point leaves off, a features even more spectacular scenic overlooks.
If you are a photographer, the entire area is a dream come true! Just a few shots from yesterday and today...
Boy, having a wide-angle lens and a polarizing filter came in handy this trip!
And, lastly, before I forget... for anybody visiting the area, a company called "Canyonlands by Night & Day" gets my highest possible recommendation if you are looking for excursions into the beautiful countryside. I took both their "Land Before Time" 4-wheel drive tour and their "Where the Wild River Runs" jet boat tour and found them to be exemplary in every respect. When visiting these kinds of places, it's often difficult to know which company to choose, because there are so many and all of them advertise being "the best" (and sometimes end up being complete crap) but I got very, very lucky in finding this one. My only regret since I got here is that I don't have more time so I can sample some of the other adventures they offer (or do the two I've already done all over again).
Posted on Saturday, July 10th, 2004
The wonderful thing about having a digital camera is that there's no film to waste, so you can shoot absolutely everything and sort it all out later. Usually, I keep only a quarter of the shots (or less) that I take and trash the rest. But Southern Utah is proving to be an exception. I took 552 shots in Moab and kept 170, which is about a third. I guess having a good subject gives you a better ratio of keepers.
Today, after a long drive to the other side of the state, I stood in awe of the miracle that is Bryce Canyon National Park and shot 232 photos in under 4 hours. Now that I sit here looking through them, I can only find 17 shots to toss out. Sure many of them look the same but, thanks to a lucky break, there was a layer of clouds out today that caused nifty tricks with the light... so it seems everything I shot turned out amazing. I mean, how in the heck can I possibly delete cool stuff like this:
Obviously I can't. Every blasted one of them looks like a bloody postcard. I have found a photographer's Nirvana.
Posted on Sunday, July 11th, 2004
I have to travel a lot (as you might guess if you stop by this blog even rarely), and more and more I am growing to despise it. Not because I miss my motorcycle (though that's a part of it), but because of the frightening number of dumbasses that are out there traveling. Stupid, inconsiderate asshats that feel the entire world revolves around them, and everybody else in the world is just window dressing for the drama that is their life.
On my recent boat trip, one woman kept bitching constantly that she "wasn't seeing anything good" because she was on the "wrong side of the boat." After two full hours of her whining, the boat turned around for the journey back, and she was still complaining that "all the interesting sights are on the other side." I was sorely tempted to ask this incredibly stupid bitch if she realized that she was looking at the exact same view she was complaining about not seeing for the ride up.
On a recent flight, I had just settled into my window seat, hoping to catch up on some sleep when an obnoxious woman next to me pretty much demanded I trade seats with her because she "wasn't comfortable in a center seat." When I politely refused, she actually called a flight attendant to complain that I was being difficult!! Fortunately, she was relocated away from me, because she was desperately in need of being punched in the face, and I was quickly getting to the point of "helping her out."
There are dozens of other examples I could cite from my recent travels, and I am at a total loss as to why people are becoming more self-centered, rude, and selfish every day. All I know is that I am getting really weary of having to deal with them because travel is already tough enough.
I am home for four glorious days before taking off again, and plan on fully appreciating every minute.
Posted on Wednesday, July 14th, 2004
A while back I had participated in The Glovebox Project, and found a 32MB memory card that came with my tiny Canon PowerShot camera. I couldn't fit very many photos on it, so I immediately purchased a much larger card to replace it. Today I finally decided to see what photos (if any) were on the old card, and discovered just two, both shot by me of me in a mirror...
This is me in Reykjavik, Iceland on September 27, 2003. I have no idea why I took it. I think I was jet lagged and, in my delusional state, was thinking I would start participating in The Mirror Project, but never did. Oh well.
The photo would have been far more interesting had I taken it three days later after I had busted my chin open while having entirely too much fun in Stockholm.
Posted on Sunday, July 18th, 2004
When you travel as often as I do, things are bound to go wrong from time to time. I've long since learned to accept this, and find it pointless to get angry or upset when disaster strikes. Today, en-route to Milwaukee, my connection in Detroit was missed due to a severe weather problem. It's unfortunate, but hey, there's not much you can do about it -- so while other people were standing in line bitching and screaming, I just quietly waited my turn to be re-booked.
So now I am flying out of Detroit in the morning and am stuck here for the night with no access to my luggage (fortunately, I always have a pair of clean underwear and assorted toiletries in my carry-on bag for just such an occasion). And, since I obviously won't be needing my reservation at the Holiday Inn at the Milwaukee airport this evening, I called to cancel it along with my rental car. It turns out that canceling the car was no problem at all, but the hotel reservation was another story.
They refused to cancel it because I booked the room over the internet.
It didn't matter that it is not my fault I cannot be at the hotel and have to cancel. It didn't matter that I placed the reservation directly on their web site (instead of some third-party site like Orbitz or Expedia). It didn't matter that I was going to re-book at another Holiday Inn property here in Detroit. It didn't matter that I am a Priority Club member. It didn't matter that I have stayed at this hotel dozens of times before... they "can't cancel or refund my deposit because it is 35 minutes past the cancellation deadline."
What a bunch of dumbasses.
I measure a company not based on things going right... that's what's supposed to happen. Instead, I measure a company by how they help you out when things go wrong. And so now I know. When shit happens, don't expect Holiday Inn Milwaukee Airport to give a crap. And that's fine. Lesson learned. I will never stay at their f#@%ing piece of shit hotel ever again. Furthermore, with the exception of reservations I've already got booked, I am going to start taking my business to other hotel chains (which is kind of sad, because I like Holiday Inn, and many of them are independently owned... meaning a lot of Holiday Inns are losing my business through no fault of their own).
It's tough having to travel all the time. When things go wrong, it's even worse. When companies you like and trust screw you over because of some idiotic technicality, well, you've pretty much reached rock bottom... and you're down there alone and far from home. The last thing you want is for the Holiday Inn Milwaukee Airport to start shitting all over you as you try to climb out of the mess you're in, but they apparently have no problem with it. Thanks so much.
Posted on Monday, July 19th, 2004
So here I am in Milwaukee, finally. I figured since the Holiday Inn Milwaukee Airport is charging me for the room I never got to use, I might as well stop by, have a shower, catch up with my e-mail, take a nap, and get into some clean clothes before heading off to work. It's a shame I will never be staying at this hotel again, because it's pretty sweet.
All in all, this trip has really sucked so far. And while you might think that being stuck in Detroit without my luggage would be the worst part, you would be wrong. The worst part is being stuck next to a woman on a plane who does not know how to shut up for five hours. They won't let you take a gun on board a plane, so I wonder how else you could get rid of somebody annoying?
I dunno... do they let you take "pet" anacondas on a plane? I see people bringing their yappy little dogs with them on the plane all the time, so perhaps an anaconda would be okay?
It's not that I am anti-social or anything... really, I do like people. But some people need to understand that it is not necessary to talk continuously for hours on end to complete strangers (especially when said stranger is not allowed to be part of the conversation). This woman was insane. Even the most simple question requiring a yes or no answer would take five to ten minutes for her to reply. A perfect example:
Flight Attendant: Would you like a glass of water?
Noisy Woman: I brought water with me but it's gotten warm. Is that water cold? It is? Well then I would love to have a glass of water. Oh my gawd, I drink SOOOOO much water! Ha ha! I drink so much water that people must think I am part camel! But I love a glass of cool water! Doesn't everybody love a cool glass of water? Most people would rather have soda or coffee or something, but not me! Oh my gawd, it's water water water water for me! So once you've finished getting everybody else a glass, be sure to stop back by me because I'll be wanting more water! Ha ha ha ha haaaaaaa!
Flight Attendant: Uh. Okay.
Posted on Tuesday, July 20th, 2004
It never fails. The universal laws of airline travel demand that once things go wrong, they will continue to go wrong. First I get to Milwaukee a day-and-a-half late because my flight ran into weather problems. Now I am trying to get home, and the odds are not looking so good.
At Milwaukee this morning, three flights in a row were cancelled or delayed due to mechanical difficulties. That sure makes you feel safe when entrusting your life to Northwest Airlines! THREE FLIGHTS... including my own to Minneapolis.
After my flight was delayed indefinitely (hydraulics problems), they re-booked me on a different flight to Minneapolis. The connecting flight to Seattle is very tight (just 15 minutes) but they tell me I should be able to make it. Well, I probably could have except we had a small problem landing...
Apparently, there was another plane on the runway, and the pilot didn't feel like landing on top of him, so we almost landed, then took off again. I sure hope the dumbass traffic control moron was fired for that. Even with the additional 10 minutes required to circle back around the airport, I still had a shot of getting to my Seattle flight on time...
By the time we finally got to the gate, my chances were very slim, but it was still possible... until they couldn't get the jetway to move to the door, wasting yet another precious five minutes!!
What the hell? Not only does Northwest have problems keeping a schedule, but all their planes are breaking down, nearly running into each other on the runway and, assuming you ever get to where you are going, you can't get off the plane because the jetways are busted (this is the third time that's happened)?!? As if the security, tiny seating areas, and overcrowding weren't sucky enough?
So now I am stuck in Minneapolis. I may get out at 5:17... perhaps 7:18... or maybe not at all today. This is not the first time that Northwest Airlines has completely screwed up a trip, and probably won't be the last. Oh well, it's still better than my luck with United.
Next time I'm flying Hooters! That way, when things go wrong it won't suck as bad because at least you will have Hooter Girls to entertain you.
Posted on Sunday, July 25th, 2004
So long suckers! I'm off to meet up with some friends in the U.K., and then I'm off to Germany (and the Netherlands) with a fellow Hard Rock fanatic for a run through a good chunk of Europe's Hard Rock Cafes. After months of non-stop work and business travel, I am pretty happy to finally be getting a bit of a vacation...
I will be blogging the run daily but, since I am not sure if I will actually have internet access each day, posting to Blogography may be infrequent for the next couple of weeks.
Posted on Monday, July 26th, 2004
Back to London. It may be the fact that I am here on vacation instead of work, but I really love this place. The best part is that since I've been here a half-dozen times before, I've already got all the touristy crap out of the way. Those long lines for the Tower of London I saw as I came into the city proper can be safely ignored. Nope, this time I can just happily wander the city, visit with friends, and take in a museum or two. No Big Ben. No London Eye. No Buckingham Palace. No Tower Bridge. No Westminster Abbey. No Harrods (okay, maybe Harrods). No Changing of the Guard...
Sure the weather could be a little nicer, but there's always lunch at Pret.
Posted on Monday, July 26th, 2004
Shop. Surprisingly enough, the rather nice London hotel I'm staying at has just about everything (including complimentary copies of "OK!," "Time Out," and "Hello" magazines so that I can keep up with the latest exploits of Posh & Becks)... everything except a bloody clock. Since I do not wear a watch, there's a sense of timelessness happening in my hotel room that's a bit disconcerting. So my first official purchase of my first official day of vacation is a small alarm clock from Dixons. Not that I actually plan to set the alarm on it mind you.
Pricey. Boy London is expensive! To muffle the shock of how much I am paying for everything, I simply imagine myself paying in US dollars instead of British pounds. That way, I am not thrown into fits of terror over having just paid $9.50 for a cheap-ass clock, and instead find serenity in the illusion of having paid a much more reasonable $5.00. No matter where I go now-a-days, the US dollar is in the toilet (heck, you don't have to leave the USA to figure that out!). Who can I blame for this?
Pret. In asking the doorman (wow, it's been a while since I've stayed at a hotel with a doorman!) where the nearest Pret was, he was very much amused. Turns out Neil is right... Prets in London are like Starbucks in Seattle (well, not just Seattle anymore, those things are everywhere). This is good though, because I really want a Pret Egg Sandwich for breakfast.
Bike. The first thing I see when I step outside the hotel is my motorcycle... same make, same model, same color. Except some guy I don't know is riding it and there is a license plate the size of your head attached to the back. England should really get more stylish (and smaller) plates... these big-ass yellow things mess up the streamline look of my the bike!
Eat. Dinner with my friend was nice. Until some woman at the next table decided to take out her mobile phone and chat loudly for the next twenty minutes. This is apparently a universal rudeness problem that crosses international borders without mercy.
Snack. I could spend hours wandering through little shops to see the new varieties of candy bars and crisps (chips to us Yanks) that have come out. Compared to the Brits, we Americans are positively boring with our snack choices. I passed on the "Lamb & Mint" flavored potato crisps, but enjoyed the "Sour Cream & Sweet Pepper" flavor I tried. As far as candy bars go, the "Mars Delight" is my new best favorite... a sugar-cookie wafer roll, drenched in caramel, then covered in milk chocolate. Incredible. I'll be taking a case of these home with me (odds are we will never see them in the States... I am still waiting for the Aero bar).
Git. Apprently, I am not in London as I thought. I am making it all up. Yet another e-mail from the guy who thinks that the travels I document here are complete fiction. I suppose that I could take a photograph of myself with today's paper while standing in the top of a double-decker bus that's parked in front of Big Ben with Her Majesty the Queen standing next to me... but you'd probably think I Photoshopped it wouldn't you? Wow. In today's age of technological wizardry, how do you prove you are anywhere? I continue to find it utterly bizarre as to why I would lie about something like this. Why read anything I write if you honestly think it's all a bunch of fabrications? And the next time you decide to tell me I'm lying, could you just post a comment instead of bothering me via e-mail?
Wasted. My hotel's terrific West End location is completely wasted on me because I don't much enjoy the theater. However, there is something intriguing about a production called Jerry Springer: The Opera, which has been getting rave reviews. Life just keeps getting stranger.
Sleep. I don't really get jet-lag... never have. I'd imagine it's even less of a factor when you consider that I don't sleep much anymore. But spending 14 hours on three flights today has pretty much wiped me out and my hotel is blissfully quiet, so I am hoping to sleep very well this evening. My back could use the time to heal.
Robbed. Hmmm... typical charge for an internet connection at a hotel back home: US $6.95 (or free!). Price here in my London hotel: US $27.50. Holy crap!! Good night from the most expensive public internet access I have ever purchased!
Posted on Tuesday, July 27th, 2004
News: Today's complimentary copy of The Guardian was found hanging in a plastic bag on my door handle this morning. The top story making front-page? A legal battle for the patent of a breath mint. They look like Life Savers candies (with a hole in the middle) but here they are called Polos, and their manufacturer is trying to patent their unique shape. I figure that if breath mints are front page news, I can skip everything else, assume that all is well in London, and head out into the city.
Breakfast: Was at Pret, of course. They make the food I wish I could make if I had any cooking talents at all.
Hasselhoff: While riding the London Underground (subway) this morning, I saw something even more disturbing than yesterday's mention of Jerry Springer: The Opera. A poster advertising that David Hasselhoff is headlining the production of Chicago here. Frightening.
Lunch: The absolute coolest thing about having a blog is that you sometimes get to meet the people who read it in real life. Today I was treated to a wonderful lunch in South Kensington by a new blog-acquainted friend, and was given the most charming compliment I think I've ever received: "You are like a cartoon character come to life! I want to poke you to make sure you're real." (after which she poked me in the arm with her finger). Of course, everything sounds charming when delivered in an English accent, so it certainly seemed like a compliment. In any event, it's always nice when somebody validates your existence (especially in lieu of the accusation I received telling me I am lying about being here in London). After lunch we wandered through the neighborhood where she pointed out this amazing old tile building that's called "The Michelin Building." Sure enough, there's the Michelin Man on the front! Heaven only knows what he's doing, however:
Has he constructed a martini out of motor oil? You're guess is as good as mine. Hmmm... after a Google search, I found this page, which explains the Michelin slogan at the time was "These tyres drink up obstacles." Pretty slick.
Nothing: With touristy activities removed from my schedule, I planned to do as much "nothing" this afternoon as possible. Most of my "nothing" was spent wandering aimlessly through the surrounding areas of my hotel. I ended up taking a photo of Big Ben after all because, well, it's Big Ben and is an incredibly beautiful structure...
But my favorite sight of the day was that of a young boy with a bright red ball enjoying the sunshine on the lawn outside of Westminster. His happy playtime fun was an interesting contrast to the war protesters just a block away. Ah the wisdom and innocence of youth. Perhaps if adults made room for playtime every once in a while, this world wouldn't be in quite the mess it is now...
My motorcycle is pretty popular here, as I keep seeing it around the city. Here is one that's actually parked, so you can see what I mean about the enormous license plate that riders are forced to hang off the back of their ride...
If I knew how to hot-wire a motorcycle, I'd undoubtedly be rotting away in a London prison just now.
Posted on Tuesday, July 27th, 2004
This evening was my first time without plans since I arrived, so I decided to explore a bit by night and get some dinner. London, like any large city, is abuzz with activity at all hours. Here in the West End, most of that has to do with people heading off to the theater... Hasselhoff is in town, after all.
I took a few photographs to see how my new lens does at night, and ended up with a freaky set of images, where the sky looks completely drained of color, while objects in front of it appear normal. I have no idea if this is an effect of the lens, the camera, the scene, or a factor of all three. To me, the result looks a bit fake, like the sky was desaturated in Photoshop or something, but it wasn't... what you see is exactly what I got:
I cannot decide if I like this rather odd-looking effect or not. I think I will take my other lens out tomorrow night and see if things look more "normal."
Posted on Wednesday, July 28th, 2004
Telly: One of my favorite things about Britain is their wonderful television programs. I'm completely addicted to shows like Red Dwarf, Coupling, Monarch of the Glen, Nevermind the Buzzcocks, etc. Last night I was watching a documentary about how the police deal with growing alcohol-related problems in club districts. It was absolutely fascinating, made even more intriguing by the fact that it was completely uncensored. Every curse word (and there were a lot of them being screamed by belligerent drunks) was fully audible, with no "bleeping" whatsoever. Afterwards, I was treated to such programs as "World Sex Records" and "When Sex Goes Wrong." Both of which were amusing anecdotes masquerading as soft-core porn. Yet, back in the States, Janet flashes a titty, and the world is ending? What a bunch of uptight asses we Americans are.
Help: On my morning pilgrimage to Pret for an Egg & Fire Roasted Tomato breakfast sandwich, I walked by an armored bank van that was sounding an alarm while a recorded message from a very proper English lady was calmly speaking: "Help. This car is under attack. Please call the police. -- Help. This car is under attack. Please call the police." Nobody paid a bit of attention to it, which makes me wonder if the van really were under attack, would the security couriers inside actually expect any assistance to be forthcoming? Nobody pays attention to a calm voice... they need to hire some frantic woman screaming "AAAAHHH! CALL THE COPPERS YOU BLOODY IDIOTS... WE'RE BEING ATTACKED!!! AAAAAAAHHHH!!! HELP US FOR GOD'S SAKE!!!! And instead of an alarm, why not use recorded gunshots? That would get people's attention.
Addiction: On my way back to Pret for a second Egg & Fire Roasted Tomato breakfast sandwich, I accepted the fact that I have a serious problem. But honestly, until you've had one of these things, you simply have absolutely no idea. It's probably best that they stop serving them after breakfast or else I would probably have another two for lunch. Pret bastards... I already had my hands full with my Cheesy Fiesta Potato addiction back home.
Gallery: Spent most of my day today wandering through London's fine art galleries (one of the best reasons to come to the city really). My favorite is always the Turner Collection at the Tate Britain, and I never tire of viewing it. His beautiful works span the gamut from historic to surreal...
Map: Every single time I come to London, I forget to bring along my pocket city map, and end up purchasing a new one. I've got quite a collection of them brewing back home. It's not like I need the map to find common places around town, but every once in a while I end up wandering too far and like to know that I have some help handy.
Posted on Wednesday, July 28th, 2004
There's a restaurant in Piccadilly Circus (here in London) that I like called Biagio Ristorante Pizzeria (on Rupert). Sure it's got great authentic Italian food and the atmosphere is top-notch, but the real reason I eat there is because it reminds me of the infamous Kirstie Alley "Bellisima" sketch from Saturday Night Live.
Waiter: "You like-a the small salad with-a you pizza no?"
Dave: "Um, no thanks."
Waiter: "It's-a very very good the small salad."
Dave: "I'm fine thanks."
Waiter: "I bring-a you the small salad!"
Dave: "Uh, okay."
Waiter: (Here is where I expect him to say...) "Bellissima seniore!" (and then lick my face).
Naturally, he doesn't, but I brace myself just in case!
Of course, if you haven't seen the SNL sketch, all of the above makes absolutely no sense to you. If you have seen the sketch, you will understand the supreme effort it takes to keep from laughing while placing my order at this restaurant (if you are really wanting to know what I am talking about, rent the The Best of Adam Sandler: Saturday Night Live DVD and you can see it for yourself).
Posted on Thursday, July 29th, 2004
After the raging tragedy of metal and plastic that is the Hard Rock Belfast (which looks like a slick sports bar masquerading as a Hard Rock), I was a little bit nervous about visiting the new Hard Rock Dublin. Turns out I needn't have worried. The Dublin location is quite nice, returning to the classic design formula that we know and love.
The exterior is a bit boring, but acceptable, and fits in nicely with other classic properties of the chain...
Though the dominate materials are the lush dark woods that define a Hard Rock, there's still a few modern touches, like the glass and brushed aluminum area dividers. As you can see, the memorabilia is a bit sparse, and there is no massive "museum wall" anywhere that makes up for it, which is about the only real downside here...
The interior looks quite intimate and small until you realize that you're only seeing half the cafe. A small bar and larger seating area is downstairs, extending underneath a nicely appointed merch shop that, unfortunately, suffers a bit from traffic congestion near the counter area...
Oddly enough, the architect has chosen to not repeat the glass and metal in the lower dining room. Everything here is classic Hard Rock, though the memorabilia is still lacking...
The staff is eclectic, hard working, and very friendly (much like the city itself!), and I very much enjoyed my dinner here. It would be nice if they could cram in a bit more "stuff" but, other than that, I wouldn't change much. I can only hope that one day Belfast will have a cafe more like this one so that the Emerald Isle will have two good cafes, both in Northern Ireland up north and the Republic of Ireland in the south.
Posted on Thursday, July 29th, 2004
Lovely: I'm going to start saying "lovely" a lot so that I might fit in with the English natives a bit better. This general-purpose word is used for just about any occasion, and I've heard it in the oddest of places. Everything is lovely. Get a new job? That's lovely! Spill your tea? That's lovely (in a sarcastic kind of way). Aliens invade Trafalgar Square? Lovely! I would not be at all surprised to overhear a conversations like this:
Woman: Excuse me sir, do you realize that your head is on fire?
Man: Lovely. I'll just nip over to that fountain and douse it out. Cheers.
Woman: Cheers then.
Cheers: The one word that should never be adopted by visiting American tourists is yet another general purpose word: "cheers," which can mean everything from "thanks" to "excuse me" to "good bye." This morning as I was having breakfast, I overheard some (probably) Americans trying their best to fit in by injecting "chee-erz" in their conversation. They sounded like complete asses because there is no "ee" or "r" in the English "cheers." I think you need a British accent to pull this off, because anything else just sounds silly.
Trippin': For my flight over to Dublin this morning, I took a shockingly cheap RyanAir flight out of Luton Airport (which my friend Perry informs me is pronounced "Looton" and not "Lutton" as one would expect). It's amazing how all of Europe is so easily accessible at such reasonable prices... fares are advertised as low as .99 Euros ($1.20) excluding taxes and fees, which bring the total up to around 17 Euros ($20) each way. Can you imagine flying from Seattle to L.A. for $20? Heck, can you imagine flying ANYWHERE within the States for so little?
Whiskey: I started my day walking down the shopping district of Grafton Street, continuing on along the River Liffey until I got to the "Old Jameson Distillery" which provides an in-depth and informative tour. These people take Irish Whiskey very, very seriously.
Whiffey: Speaking of the River Liffey, we're at low tide and it smells like a sewer. I'd imagine it can best be described much like somebody who ate curries and lager all night, then shat on your carpet the next morning before your dog came along and vomited on top of it. Not the most pleasant scent to remember from your Dublin visit...
Guiness: My second alcohol-related activity of the day was a visit to the Guiness factory & storehouse. The self-guided tour was pricey (13.50 Euro with a free pint at the end!) but interesting. Is there a bar in all of Ireland that doesn't serve Guiness?
Brogue: I need to start speaking with an Irish accent, because everybody here sounds cool. I'll bet I'd be twice as interesting a person with an Irish brogue.
Posted on Friday, July 30th, 2004
In the immortal words of Vincent Vega: "It's the little differences. I mean they got the same shit over there that they got here, but it's just, just there it's a little different."
I have long maintained that the good old USA has no culture of its own and, with the exception of fast food, baseball, Hollywood movies, and handguns, I still believe it to be true. Any cultural identity we might have is a patchwork of other nationalities that American immigrants bring with them and adapt to our rather unique society. Keeping that in mind, nothing fascinates me more than how what little culture America does have seems to be migrating to other countries.
This all hit me at lunch today. A friend had recommended that since I am a huge Johnny Rockets fan, I should try the Irish equivalent which is called Eddie Rockets. So there I sit in a diner that is so American I can almost forget I'm in Ireland when I look up and see a sign advertising "chilli." For a reason I cannot fathom, there is an extra "l" in there. Whether this is unique to the Irish, or something all Euro English-speaking nations have adopted, I'm not certain (dammit, if you're going to steal our native cuisine, at least spell it properly!). Anyway, all illusions I have of being back home have just been shattered, and I start to think about the many other small differences I've noticed over the past few days...
Cold. When you order something "cold" in the US, it arrives cold... ice cold. When you order something "cold" in Europe it arrives un-hot, which is to say that it's not very cold at all. Even the ice here doesn't seem as cold as it does back home.
Walk. Europeans walk everywhere, all the time, at great distances. This is quite a contrast to lazy-ass Americans who will pull the car out of the garage if the distance they need to travel is over four blocks. If it weren't for those who exercise, I wonder if Americans would bother to walk anywhere at all?
Smoke. All Europeans smoke... just not all at the same time (though, often enough, it may seem that way). If you see a European who is not smoking, it's because they have run out of cigarettes, run out of matches, or are under the age of 5. This morning I was nearly run over by what I swear was a 10-year old smoker on a skateboard.
Funny. Americans used to have a terrific sense of humor, but then the Age of Lawyers descended and now everything has to be "politically correct" (aka "boring"). Fortunately, that doesn't seem to have happened over here... yet.
Goth. I pretty much think that anybody dressing up as a goth looks ridiculous. For reasons that escape me, the Irish goths seem to be able to pull it off.
ATM: The cash machines over here are queued a minimum of five deep at any given time. If there's an ATM without a line in front, it must be broken.
Fat: It used to be when you ran across an overweight person walking down the streets of Europe, you could safely assume one of two things: A) It's an American tourist... or... B) It's a Japanese sumo wrestler. This is no longer the case. Thanks to the importation of the American diet of McDonalds, Burger King, and Kentucky Fried Chicken, the person in question may very well be a native. I've never been so proud. GO AMERICA!!
Music: In walking down Grafton Street this afternoon, I noticed that 100% of the street musicians here are more talented than 50% of the "musicians" on America's top 100 Pop Charts.
Posted on Saturday, July 31st, 2004
Pub: Around 11pm last night I decided to run through the local pub scene for a few hours and found it to be even crazier than I had imagined. Nobody, it would seem, parties like the Irish on a Friday night. On Grafton Street there are quite a few rickshaw-type carts that you can hire to haul your drunk ass from one end of the road to the other (it being far too crowded in the daylight hours for them to operate). The highlight of my evening was watching two drunken blokes who had stolen a cart evade both the police and its owner as they escaped to St. Stephens Green. "Get the fook out of the way! We'll fookin' run yeh down!" It was all in good fun, but I'd hate to have their hangovers this morning.
Tomb: I had fully intended to do as little as possible, enjoying my last day before the imminent Hard Rock Run Europe 2004, but one look out the window changed all of that. Unlike the previous two days, the sun was out and it was shaping up to be a beautiful day. After yet another escape into the Best Shower in the Universe®, I headed down to the concierge to see what interesting diversion might be available in the seven hours I had left. Since I had already taken a run through Wicklow in a previous trip, he suggested a trip to Newgrange. It is here you can tour an ancient tomb that predates even Stonehenge and the Egyptian Pyramids (dated at around 5000 years old). It was an interesting diversion for a few hours while I waited for my flight...
(No, the Teletubbies were not at home)
Busted: While waiting in line at the Dublin airport to head back to London, some irate guy behind me decided to start yelling because there was only one check-in window available. He'd run up to the poor bloke at the counter and start screaming in his face "GET ORGANIZED! YOU'VE GOT FIFTY PEOPLE IN LINE WAITING!" and then walk back to his embarrassed wife and daughter. The second time he ran up and started screaming "OPEN ANOTHER WINDOW YOU BLOODY IRISH!!" and then walked back again.
This time, he was overheard by a pretty customer service agent who came over to see what all the trouble was about. It was at this point the idiot went too far... he started screaming at the poor girl, and then grabbed her. There was an audible gasp from the crowd, and several people (including myself) were heading over to get him off of her when his wife and daughter stepped up and started pleading with the enraged moron to let the girl go.
Which he did, thankfully.
But then he turned and slapped his daughter across the face. Hard. "Oooooooooh!" went the crowd that was now in a state of total shock. By this time, the police arrived and eventually arrested the freak as the crowd started applauding. As he was drug off in hand-cuffs, I couldn't help but wonder what kind of wait he has ahead of him to get on that flight now. If he had just shut up and stood in line, he would have had his boarding pass quite a while before. I do feel sorry for his wife and daughter, not only because they have to put up with his childish and violent behavior, but also because they're now pretty much stranded on the trip alone (or maybe that's a good thing?).
Posted on Sunday, August 1st, 2004
HRC Cologne: A quick hop with the most excellent (and amazingly cheap) GermanWings airlines, and Perry and I were off to the beautiful city of Cologne. Our first stop on Hard Rock Run 2004 was (naturally) the Hard Rock Cafe there, which is a fairly nice dual-level property with an enthusiastic and helpful staff...
We had planned it so that we could attend the Pin Club Meeting that was going on today and finally meet the famous Hard Rock personality Jens Beckmann (shown here with Perry)...
The turnout at the meeting was better than at any other I had seen, and had guest-traders from all over (including Shanghai, China, believe it or not!).
Dom: Just down the street from the cafe is the breathtaking Cologne Cathedral. Its massive size and enclosed location makes it very difficult to take a photo that does it justice (they are repairing it as well, so the scaffolding didn't help either). The structure itself is just amazing...
Now it's off to Amsterdam.
Posted on Sunday, August 1st, 2004
Onward to our second Hard Rock of the day in Amsterdam. It's a nice 2-1/2 hour drive from Cologne (plus a little while spent in confusion while navigation through the city streets). This is a great cafe that has a premium location on the canal. It was a beautiful day with boats cruising up and down the waterway and flowers in bloom (which was quite a change from my previous visit in the dead of winter). If only I had remembered my polarizing filter...
As always, the staff was terrific. Here we are with Vellah from the merch shop, who was quite happy with the custom pin and laminate souvenir we gave her. I look either really smug or half asleep here (probably a little of both)...
Tomorrow we're off again with a five hour drive south to Munich.
Posted on Monday, August 2nd, 2004
I just spent 52 Euro (US $62.50) to fill up the 54-liter (14 gallon) gas tank of our small rental car. Would everybody in the US who keeps complaining about the high cost of gasoline please shut up.
Posted on Monday, August 2nd, 2004
Black: The five hour drive from Cologne to Munich was made a bit longer by a slight detour towards Baden-Baden so we could see the beginnings of the Black Forest. Like you might imagine, the trees are a very dark shade of green, making them appear black in the shadows. Sadly the trees we saw looks scraggly and dying, an effect of acid rain (which scientists estimate has damaged over half of the trees in the entirety of the forest). We should have taken time to see a bit more into the forest, because it sounds as though it might not be around much longer.
HRC Munich: The Hard Rock here is kind of boring on the outside, but is pretty sweet inside. Memorabilia isn't quite as packed in as I'd like, but there's still a pretty good assortment. Unlike many cafes, this one has a rather large dining room that's entirely open...
Concerto: On the way back from the cafe, we ran across a group of astoundingly talented musicians playing classical selections in a building underpass. The acoustics were as good as any concert hall, and a large crowd had gathered to listen. What a great way to end our first evening in Munich.
The drive down made for a short day today. Tomorrow it's more of Munich and off to the wonders of Neuschwanstein!
Posted on Tuesday, August 3rd, 2004
I've been to more than a few places in the world and seen a lot of cool stuff in my travels but, at the moment, it all kind of pales before the grandeur that is Neuschwanstein (New Castle of the Swan). This is the "fairy tale" castle which inspired Disney for the various castles in their theme parks. Of course, the Disney versions cannot begin to match the location in which the original sits, where every view takes your breath away...
The castle was the pet project of King Ludwig II, who never got to enjoy it much, as he was certified insane and unfit to rule, then died a few days later. It's my humble opinion that somebody who could orchestrate something so wondrous was probably just misunderstood, and not insane at all. In any event, once he died, all work on his various projects (including Neuschwanstein) were stopped. The rooms that were completed are magnificent, so one can only imagine one the completed palace would have ended up looking like.
As wonderful as the castle is, I was a bit saddened by the poor horses that are forced to haul heavy carts filled with tourists up and down the steep walkway all day long. We were tight on time, and calculated the horse carts were fastest to avoid missing the tour, but I regretted it after just moments of starting out. I didn't want to take the carts back down, and so we hiked the 15 minutes over to the bus stop (which had much better views anyway). If you ever visit, do yourself (and these poor beasts) a favor and take the bus.
Posted on Tuesday, August 3rd, 2004
After Neuschwanstein, we noticed that we were awfully close to the Austrian border, and decided to dip down into the country just to say we've been there.
Mission accomplished. No sign of the annoying Von Trapp family singers.
Posted on Tuesday, August 3rd, 2004
Olympic: Our first stop after spending the morning gawking at Neschwanstein was spent at the Olympic Stadium, home of the 1972 Olympic Games. For 1.50 Euros, they let you in to inspect the well-kept grounds. It's pretty darn special, and I like how the seats are painted to match the green of the grass so as not to pose a distraction...
Beamer: Also in the area is the BMW Museum, which is fairly small, but houses a nifty collection of various BMW cars and motorcycles from over the years...
Tower: They also have a tower you can ride up to see the city from on high. It's also a great location to view the BMW World Headquarters Building, which is one of the coolest modern structures I've seen (would you expect anything less from BMW?)...
Tomorrow it's a long five hour drive to Berlin.
Posted on Wednesday, August 4th, 2004
Driven: As we made our way to Berlin, we passed mile after mile of traffic piled up behind a serious accident on the A-9 back to Munich which made us seriously happy we weren't heading in the opposite direction. Of course, karma has a way of balancing life, and so we ran into serious congestion due to poorly planned construction detours. Our five-hour journey quickly became seven hours, which took a huge chunk out of the time we had available in the city.
Rock: The Hard Rock Berlin has the distinction of being my only truly horrible HRC experience. in my previous visits, both the food and the service were abysmally bad. This time they seemed to have managed to get their act together a bit, because both the service and our dinner were fine. The cafe itself is pretty sweet, so I'm glad they're improving.
Charlie: About the only thing we had time for on our sightseeing list was a visit to the Checkpoint Charlie Museum for the Berlin Wall. It's a great museum (but unbearably hot) filled with fascinating memorabilia of a country divided. I particularly like the displays showing the ingenious methods East Germans used to escape to the West. The wall has long since gone, but you can purchase souvenir chunks and see a panel that's been preserved here...
Tomorrow it's an early flight back to London and the bulk of our Hard Rock visits throughout England and Wales.
Posted on Thursday, August 5th, 2004
Cor blimey guv, the shift box is on the wrong side of the bloody car!!
I chickened out... Perry get's to drive whilst we're in the U.K.!
Posted on Thursday, August 5th, 2004
I am fully aware that the good old US of A is not very popular in the global community right now. If you travel outside of North America, you can just "feel" it, and it's not very difficult to understand why. We've got a president invading countries in direct opposition to the United Nations and the advice of our allies, and doesn't seem to think much about how our actions affect the world outside our borders. On top of that, so many Americans I see while visiting other countries are horribly obnoxious, so even the first-hand contact foreigners experience does not leave a very good impression.
So, yeah, I get it.
But you know what? That is a pretty poor excuse for rudeness... especially when you are paying somebody for a bit of verbal bashing about your country of origin.
Today Perry and I were picked up from the airport (after coming back from Berlin) by the guy running the B&B we had stayed at near the airport. As we were flying (and I am talking literally flying, because the bloke drove so fast) back to pick up Perry's car, I was treated to a verbal lashing about how the "daft Yanks have gone mad after 9/11" and how stupidly we are handling airport security etc. etc. I am guessing he had forgotten I was an American, but maybe he didn't care. In any event, I'm such a smart ass, I immediately had three things pop into my head to say:
In the end, I didn't say anything... what's the point? But it's kind of a downer that I was a a guest at his B&B and ended up paying him 80 pounds ($150 US) so he could be a total prick.
Hmmm... maybe I am a daft Yank after all... I just noticed that this is my 500th post to Blogography! Who knew.
Posted on Thursday, August 5th, 2004
Our first stop whilst back in England was the Hard Rock Cafe London so we could visit with the "Lovely Rita," on "Rita Day" (which is the first Thursday of every month). Rita is the first waitress from the cafe back when it began, and now serves as an official ambassador for the organization. Unfortunately, this particular "Rita Day" was Rita-less, as she was away on holiday. Both Perry and I had met her previously, but it still would have been a hi-light of our run to have our photo taken with her.
The front of the cafe has been boarded up (again)... not for remodeling this time, but actual repairs. Apparently part of the front facade has fallen off of this grand old building. Given that this is the "original" Hard Rock Cafe, and the oldest in the chain, I guess it shouldn't be entirely unexpected. No big deal though, I had plenty of other photos from previous trips.
From the cafe, we made our way across the street to the Hard Rock Vault London. Unlike the spectacle that is the Orlando version of The Vault, this is an actual vault which was used when the building was formerly a bank. Also unlike the property in Orlando, if you ask Jimmy the tour guide really nicely, he'll also let you take a closer look at the goods (including the original guitar that Eric Clapton hung on the wall, which started the entire Hard Rock Collection in the first place -- it's the red one in front)...
That's me with Jimi Hendrix's custom Gibson Flying-V guitar, insured for a cool two million pounds sterling (about $3,700,000 US!). Needless to say, actually being able to touch rock-n-roll history makes this a more personal experience than what you get when visiting Orlando.
Next up was the Hard Rock Casino over in Leicster Square. It's more like a personal gambling club than an actual Vegas casino... small and intimate (pretty much just a few slot machines, and some gaming tables, with the clear favorite being roulette). Even so, it's a pretty nice place...
Now we're off to the new Hard Rock Bar in Bristol.
Posted on Friday, August 6th, 2004
Bristol (at the Western-most edge of England) is home to the first Hard Rock Bar. We had actually stopped by last night, but it was jam-packed and a band was playing, so we didn't get much of a chance to look around. As this is a bar, food-stuffs are at a bare minimum, but we were told that they did open up for a limited breakfast menu at 8am, so here we are. They advertise wireless internet access from British Telephone, but it's pricey and isn't worth a crap... the speed is painstakingly slow, and drops out constantly (even though I am getting full signal strength).
All that aside, it is a pretty cool property. I think it's kind of nifty that the Hard Rock is coming up with new ways to promote their brand, even in cities like Bristol that may not be able to support a full cafe...
Onward to Cardiff in the neighboring country of Wales...
Posted on Friday, August 6th, 2004
Many people don't really understand the difference between England, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom, and it's hard to blame them because it is a bit confusing (even for those living here). With that in mind, I offer this quick guide to the British Isles...
All that being said, the Hard Rock Cafe Cardiff is located in Wales of Great Britain of the United Kingdom (and has the distinction of being the first Welsh cafe). My heart sank as we approached the entrance, because it sure didn't look like it was going to be much of a Hard Rock at all. It looks more like a hole in a wall...
Looks can be decieving. Once inside, I was very pleasantly surprised at how nice this property turned out. The restaurant branched out into three separate levels, including a fantastic bar and even a terrace with outdoor seating in the back...
A wonderful, wonderful Hard Rock, and well worth the trip to lovely Wales.
Posted on Friday, August 6th, 2004
Continuing north, we stopped at the nicely appointed Hard Rock Cafe Birmingham and then onward to our last stops for the day at Manchester. While we had both visited these cafes on previous occasions, the new Manchester Hard Rock Casino would be new. As it turns out, it's very much like London's casino (more like a private gaming room than anything Vegas has to offer), but a bit larger with some video games tossed in the mix...
The entrance doesn't look like much, but it is perfectly located in the trendy Printworks complex which was really hopping this Friday night. Tomorrow our run comes to an end, with final stops in Leeds and Nottingham.
Posted on Saturday, August 7th, 2004
The Hard Rock Cafe in Leeds is a bit hard to figure out. It's not a bad cafe, but it a bit of a departure from the Hard Rock formula with a cold look of glass and steel instead of the warm and inviting brass and dark woods we've come to expect. It's not quite the embarrassment that Belfast turned out to be, but could have been better had they worked on it a bit more...
Next up... the very last stop on our Hard Rock Run in Nottingham.
Posted on Saturday, August 7th, 2004
When I visited my first Hard Rock Cafe in Maui back in 1986, I had no idea that it would lead to an obsession that would carry-on for over a decade. For the past 18 years, I've included Hard Rock visits on my travels wherever I can, and have seen some wonderful parts of the world that I probably never would have travelled to if not for the Hard Rock Cafe. When Perry and I planned this run through Europe, I knew that my 100th visit would occur at the end, and worked the schedule so that it would be someplace special, namely the beautiful cafe in Nottingham, England (home of Robin Hood!)...
What I thought would be a private celebration of an event nearly two decades in the making, ended up being quite a bit different thanks to some sly planning on Perry's part. It turns out the cafe celebrated with me. They gave me a cake along with a T-Shirt signed by the entire staff! What an incredibly memorable way to mark my 100th Hard Rock visit (I turned the cake sideways so you could see the HRC logo that's behind the "100" candles)...
A huge thank you to my very good new friend (and fellow Hard Rocker) Perry and everybody at the Hard Rock Cafe Nottingham for such an amazing, amazing event. I can't imagine a better (or more surprising!) way to celebrate such a crazy pursuit. The Hard Rock has always been so much more than "just a restaurant" to me, and things like this remind me why I love it so much.
Posted on Sunday, August 8th, 2004
Today was supposed to be a great day. Perry had invited me to a Chelsea tribute match which would have been my first opportunity to attend an English football game. Not knowing how long it would take for me to get to the grounds, I decided to leave a full hour early just to be sure I wasn't late. I'm staying at a hotel way out in the docklands, and am completely unfamiliar with the area, so I ask the concierge what's the best way to get to the city.
That was my first mistake
The guy kindly told me that I should go to a station that was out to the main road and to the right, so off I went. After a quick hike to the main road and ten minutes walking "to the right," I don't see a station... underground, rail, or otherwise. So I stop a couple of guys walking along the bridge and am told them the station name I was given. They look at me like I was from outer space and tell me that they've never heard of it. The nearest station is the Royal Victoria back the way I just came.
Thinking I must have misunderstood the concierge, I walk back to the light rail station and spend the last bit of cash I have to purchase a day ticket. Once I've got the ticket, I walk over to the platform for the city and find it barricaded. The line is closed so you have to take a bus...
I waited for the bus for 20 minutes at the location specified and it never came. I've wasted almost 40 minutes now, and figure I'll just go back to the hotel and take a taxi. Problem is that I don't have any cash left, so I have to find a "cashpoint" (what they call ATMs here). I find one in the lobby and, despite the fact that it is displaying the "Plus" logo from my card, it refuses to accept it. So now I have no money, a useless rail pass, and am running out of time.
By now I am pretty desperate, and go back to the concierge for help. All I want to do is get to the city in time for the match... can he help me out? Is there a bus, a different train, a shuttle, ANYTHING to get me into the city for the game? Apparently, the answer is "no." If I don't have cash for a taxi, there is nothing he can do.
And so here I am. I could walk a couple of miles to the "Canning Town" station, but there's no way I could get to Chelsea in time. The only thing left I can do is call up Perry and tell him the bad news.
I suppose that I have no real reason to complain. The past two weeks have been amazing, and I should be content to have had such a great vacation. If something had to go wrong, better it should happen at the very end rather than in the middle somewhere. But still, it's kind of depressing that my last day in London has to be spent trapped at a hotel.
UPDATE: Since I pretty much had to have taxi fare in the morning to get to the airport, I made my way to Canning Town and, since there was staff available, asked about the no-bus at Royal Victoria. He assured me that the busses may be slow, but they are running, and so I shouldn't have a problem getting into the city. Sure enough, I did eventually make it so I could find a cashpoint, get some dinner, and see Perry off at King's Cross Station, but it was no picnic. Busses that run late, trains on wrong tracks, lack of staffing, and no re-direct signs to let you know where to go were typical. I've come to the conclusion that London Docklands Light Rail sucks ass.
Posted on Monday, August 9th, 2004
I'm back home now and don't really know what to do with myself. All I do know is that I don't want to be traveling again for a while if I can help it. I also don't want to be around lots of people (dumbass tourists in particular) for a bit. I certainly don't want to unpack my suitcase and wash my laundry. Oh, and I really, really don't want to look at the mail that came while I was gone. Gee... maybe I should make a list of things I actually do want to do rather than focus on the negative side of things...
Yep, that'll about do it.
Posted on Friday, September 10th, 2004
It's astounding to me that in this modern electronic world, we still rely so heavily on printed pieces of paper. Today I've been trying to purchase tickets to Korea for a work trip next week only to find that nobody will sell them to me. Apparently, for the route I need to take, paper tickets are required and nobody is "willing to risk" sending them out with such short notice (isn't that what Fed-Ex is for?). Perhaps I should just forge a ticket...
Of course, in this day and age of homeland security paranoia, there's probably a death penalty for even attempting something like this.
UPDATE: Finally got my ticket (and boy was it expensive!), but now I have to drive into the neighboring city of Wenatchee to pick it up. Bleh.
Posted on Monday, September 13th, 2004
I just found out that Northwest Airlines and its KLM and Continental partners have joined up with the SkyTeam Alliance. This is a pretty big deal for me (or any other Northwest Worldperks member) because now I get mileage credit for flights with AeroMexico, Air France, Alitalia, Czech Air, Delta, and Korean Air. I'm guessing that this is to better compete with United Airlines and their Star Alliance.
The ironic thing here is that the more airlines Northwest adds to their list of flying partners, the less likely I am going to be choosing Northwest to actually fly with. Over the years, the quality of flying Northwest in coach has declined badly. Seats are tiny with no leg room for anybody over 5'6". They don't show movies or any in-flight entertainment except on trans-Pacific or trans-Atlantic flights. And, the latest blow... they no longer accept special meal requests. They should just cut the pretense of offering meals altogether and offer a paid menu so people can get something they can actually eat.
I sympathize with the fact that airlines are having to cut costs wherever they can to stay competitive. But things are getting so bad that I am seriously questioning the choices they are making... especially when they drive consumers to choose other airlines or other methods of travel. I'd gladly pay $50 extra to have a little leg room and something decent that I can eat. I wonder how many others travelers feel the same?
Posted on Tuesday, September 14th, 2004
I just don't know what it is about travel anymore. Everything seems to always go wrong for me! Today I'm headed out for a few days work in Korea. My flight from Wenatchee to Seattle went just fine, but when I got to Seattle all the flights to L.A. were cancelled or delayed (apparently there is a power outage at LAX or something). Anyway, eventually they release my flight with only a half-hour delay, so things are looking good for me making my Korean Air connection to Seoul.
Except Alaska Air had to go and do something stupid.
We're out on the runway but not going anywhere. A half-hour passes, and now I'm beginning to worry about making my connection at LAX. Naturally, they don't bother to tell us what's going on, we just sit there uninformed. And then FINALLY they announce it: we can't take off because the head count doesn't match the number of tickets they pulled.
Uhhh... excuse me?
How in the heck can something so amazingly stupid happen? There's a computer at the gateway, I always assumed that it was there to keep track of who boarded. The flight was totally packed with only three empty seats, so you would think that they could just call the gate and find out which seats were supposed to be vacant and go from there.
But oh no. We have to GO BACK TO THE f#@%ING GATE so they can get a passenger list and take roll call. Yes, that's right, we have to take a paper list and check off names to figure this shit out. Which leaves me with a few comments for Alaska Air:
UPDATE: I just barely made it to my flight with 2 minutes to spare (I hate that you have to leave and re-enter security when changing terminals at LAX!). I nearly killed myself doing it, but at least I don't have to spend the night in the terminal building. I think the odds of my luggage making it to Korea are pretty much zero, however.
Posted on Thursday, September 16th, 2004
As expected, my luggage missed the flight. This is exactly the type of thing you want to hear after having spent twelve hours packed in an airplane cabin. When this happens with USA-based airlines, you are forced to stand at the carousel waiting for a bag that's never going to come... with Korean Airlines, they phone ahead and leave you a note so that you don't waste your time. Just one of a hundred reasons that I'll always choose an Asian-based airline over a crappy domestic airline: the service is vastly superior in every respect. And here's the real kicker: Korean Air was cheaper than anything Northwest or United had available.
Fortunately, I have a clean shirt and some fresh underwear in my carry-on backpack.
Unfortunately, it's raining in Seoul today and I really want my toothbrush.
Posted on Thursday, September 16th, 2004
As I blogged a while back, Skype was finally released for Mac. It's a pretty cool service that lets me chat with other Skype-using friends around the world for free. And, while that's great and all, today I discovered the real power of Skype: SkypeOut. This incredible feature allows you to make calls to actual telephones in several countries around the world for just .02 a minute!!
So, while it used to be very easy to rack up hundreds of dollars in International calls if you weren't careful, now calling home is cheaper than sending a postcard! The strange part is that the quality of the connection is better than using the telephone... even with the crappy little microphone that's in my laptop. I placed a half-dozen calls, and every time the connection was crystal clear.
I still think Apple's iChat's video conferencing is a better way to keep in touch (being able to see the person you are talking to adds a lot to the conversation) but, if the person you're contacting doesn't have a computer, SkypeOut is an astoundingly good alternative (not to mention really cheap!).
Posted on Thursday, September 16th, 2004
Usually when I have to travel across the world for work, I make sure to add on some personal time so that I can see the sights or visit friends or go take in something new. On this trip, for instance, it would have been great to add on a quick hop to Hong Kong or Thailand or Cambodia... just a little something extra to make the 20 hours it took to get here worthwhile. Unfortunately, given the short notice for this trip, there was no way to arrange any additional time away from work (and, even if I could, last-minute travel is really expensive).
Since I'm only going to be in Korea for 2 days, I decided to leave my big camera at home and just take my little digital compact model. Unfortunately, I forgot to transfer my 512meg memory card, and all I could find in the bottom of my suitcase was a tiny 16meg card that I save for emergencies. On one hand, it's better than nothing... on the other, I can only fit seven photos on it!
So here are seven shots of my afternoon in Seoul, wandering around with a friend from work and meeting her friends in the city. This first shot is from my hotel room window. The sun is finally coming out, so it might actually be a nice day...
Here's a shot from a taxi window on our way to the Hongik University District. I couldn't resist a sign that says "Donggyodong!"...
The area around the University is crammed with small clubs. I would have really liked to have gotten a look inside this one...
I had a big breakfast and didn't feel like eating lunch, so that meant we didn't have to find a vegetarian place. Most all traditional Korean restaurants have a burner built into the table where they cook your food right in front of you using tongs, chopsticks, and a pair of scissors to dice up those tricky baby squid tentacles...
Cartoon characters are a popular way to advertise goods and services here. The cartoons that amuse me most are those of fish, chickens, squids, cows, pigs, and other assorted animals inviting you come eat them because they taste so good...
Older sections of town are based on original market streets from hundreds of years ago that wander off in all directions. Trying to find someplace in these areas can be a real challenge, even for the natives...
As I noted in my blog entry for a previous Korea visit, the motorcycle of choice here is a Korean brand called Daelim. Most models are fairly generic, but they do have some nice-looking variations. This is a "Daelim Daystar" I thought was a fairly nice ride (but surely they could have come up with a more badass name than that!?!)...
So that's my first "half-day" in Korea. Tomorrow is mostly work, then I'm flying back home. I think I'm exhausted already.
Posted on Friday, September 17th, 2004
Last night after a long day of work, we returned to the city and decided to walk around Insadong so I could buy a few souvenirs to take back with me. This famous shopping area of Seoul is kind of a divide between the old and new of the city, and packed with tourists and natives alike. As night began to fall, we wandered towards the "new side," which reminds me a lot of Tokyo when the bright lights and lively signage is ignited...
After shopping, we decided to go see a new movie from China called Shi mian mai fu (which translates to House of Flying Daggers). I've been dying to see Hero but that film had come and gone to Asia over a year ago (even though it is just now making it to the States) and House of Flying Daggers looked as though it might be similar in a Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon kind of way... especially since they both star the astoundingly talented and beautiful Ziyi Zhang...
I didn't have much trouble following the story even though the film was in spoken Chinese with Korean subtitles. Unfortunately, I think I would have enjoyed myself more if I didn't understand the story! While the film is beautifully shot, has some kick-ass fight sequences, and features Ziyi Zhang being as captivating as ever... the tale itself was mostly laughable with boring stretches that send you into a coma.
The plot basically involves a young blind girl (Zhang) who works as a dancer, but is suspected by two policeman-friends to have secret ties to a team of revolutionaries known as the "House of Flying Daggers." Once she is captured, the police guys decide that they should rescue her, and a bizarre love story filled with inept surprises, mind-boggling plot twists, and over-the top drama ensues. At one point I had to resist the urge to stand up and scream "would you people just die already!" because there is only so much drama I can take in one sitting. Even so, I'll probably buy it on DVD so I can relive the scenery and fight sequences.
Oh well. All-in-all it was a pretty good way to spend my last night in Korea. After breakfast, I'm packing up and heading home.
Posted on Saturday, September 18th, 2004
Turns out I had a bit of extra time this morning before catching the airport shuttle, so my friend decided to brave the rain and take me to Bongeunsa, which is a Buddhist temple in the city. Sadly, most of the temple was destroyed during the Korean War (along with many other ancient structures and historic places) but it managed to survive, and is still being restored and expanded to this day. A courtyard featuring a giant stone Buddha is set away from the main temple and is surrounded by trees. This is kind of cool, because Buddha appears to be floating out of a small forest as you make your way there. As with most all statues of the Enlightened One, I am always moved by the look of calm and peacefulness depicted on his face (even with the rain pouring down around him!)...
Across the street from Bongeunsa is the Coex Mall complex, which has an "Apple Experience Center" in the middle...
Everything about the place (both inside and out) looks exactly like an official Apple Store, so I can only guess that it is sponsored by Apple in some part. Seems kind of silly that they don't just call it "The Apple Store" since that's obviously what it is. Sadly, they did not have a new model iMac to look at, nor the new aluminum wide-screen display (which was funny, because they had a poster advertising it hanging in the window).
Posted on Monday, September 20th, 2004
Security: The big news in travel this week is the impending "update" to airport security, which allows TSA screeners to more thoroughly pat-down people with suspicious bulges in their clothing. To alleviate fears about possible misconduct, the TSA assures passengers that any pat-downs will be performed by screeners of the same sex. That's terrific, because having the "suspicious bulge" in my crotch patted down by another guy while the entire airport watches makes me feel so much safer about flying.
20/20: Lucky us! Barbara Walters has an exclusive interview with child-raping piece of shit Mary Kay LeTourneau this Friday on 20/20! I hope I can overcome my compulsion to watch. Can somebody remind me again why it is that she isn't still in jail?
Incredible: Yet another trailer for The Incredibles is out. I can't possibly express how badly I want to see this film, which looks like it just might be the best thing Pixar's done yet. Having Samuel L. Jackson as a super-hero doesn't hurt, but having Brad Bird (of Iron Giant fame) writing and directing is the movie's biggest asset.
Stonebridge: The number of blog visitors I am getting because of the ass-hats at Stonebridge Life Insurance continues to grow. It would seem these idiots are still harassing people with their never-ending telemarketing calls. Tired of the constant hang-ups, victims are entering the phone number from Caller-ID into Google and getting my blog entries bitching about it here and here. Pathetic. At what point is the FCC going to step in and bitch-slap Stonebridge Life for this abuse?
Miami: The ads for the season opener of CSI: Miami are saying that "one won't survive." Is it too much to hope that David Caruso's character is the one to die? I would actually watch the show if he weren't on it because I like Emily Proctor. Why not put her in charge?
Emmy: For the most part, I think the Emmys completely suck. Rarely does the person or series most deserving of the honor ever win... heck, most of the time they aren't even nominated. Where is Wonderfalls? Dead Like Me? Angel? And sure Scrubs was nominated for best writing (and lost) but it deserved so much more, because it is easily the funniest sitcom running right now. And don't even get me started about Sharon Stone winning over Betty White for best guest appearance. Still, a few nice things happened: Drea de Matteo, The Daily Show, and James Spader all deserved those wins.
Posted on Friday, September 24th, 2004
Years ago while watching a sunset on a Maui beach, I turned to a friend and said "I'm really glad I saw this before I die" to which she replied "well, scratch it off your list then." That's when I became acquainted with the fact that some people make a list of things they wish to do before they die in order to be assured of experiencing everything they want out of life before death comes a calling.
I decided to make my own list in a little notebook I found, and came to this realization: it would be pretty depressing to lay on my deathbed clutching a list that still has a bunch of items left unchecked.
I don't need that kind of failure looming over me, so I figured out an entirely new approach: Don't add anything to the list until you've already done it. Brilliant! That way, no matter when you check out, the list of things to do is certain to be complete and you can die a success!
So, here it is... a transcription of my list of things I want to do before I die (all of them done, of course) in no particular order. A few of the more personal and, ahem, "questionable" items have been removed to prevent offense and embarrassment (yours, not mine)...
NOTE: I moved my list to a separate page so I could find it easier when it needed updating. You can visit my List of Things To Do Before I Die (That I've Already Done) right here.
Posted on Tuesday, October 19th, 2004
On the road again, this time to Seattle for a few days work. I've made the 2-hour drive so many times that it's easy to zone out along the way, but every one in a while you see something out of the ordinary. This time it was a bizarre lighting effect coming from behind the mountains... shafts of heavenly radiance reaching upwards. Sadly, it didn't capture very well on my little pocket camera, but it's still an impressive event...
I'm sure there's some kind of fancy scientific term for this stuff, but I just call it "cool."
Posted on Saturday, October 23rd, 2004
Flying from one corner of the United States (Washington) to the opposite corner (Florida) is an all-day affair that becomes more annoying every time I take the trip. The initial flight out of Wenatchee leaves at 9:00am and, after connections through Seattle and Detroit, deposits you in Ft. Lauderdale International Airport at midnight. Accounting for the 3-hour time difference, that's still a 12-hour day. I could have flown to Tokyo in less time.
More jolting than the time change is the temperature change... but not in the way you think. It's far, far colder here in Florida than back home. But how can this be? I'll tell you: air conditioning. Floridians air condition all public spaces to sub-zero temperatures. So when it was time to head out to Sawgrass Mills (a huge outlet mall here), I was sure to wear a long-sleeve denim shirt and full-leg denim jeans. As it turns out, I should have worn a snow parka and thermal underwear because I still ended up being so cold that my legs are cramping up.
Only in Florida.
So now I sit here doped up on Advil in front of my hotel room television, sick with hope that the Boston Red Sox will kick some ass tonight against the Cardinals. Please. Please. Please.
Posted on Sunday, October 24th, 2004
I've never had any real desire to go on a cruise before... being trapped on a big metal boat with a couple thousand morons just never seemed like my idea of a good time. But hey, it's something new to do, so here I am cruising the Caribbean. As I have already found out, there are some things about cruising that you don't learn on the Love Boat. But life is never like television is it?
The ship I am on... the Dawn Princess is pretty sweet. Since I had no plans to sit around in my cabin all day, I booked the cheapest stateroom I could find. As long as it had a bed, I'm happy. Well, not only does it have beds, but there is also a bathroom with shower, a refrigerator, a good-sized closet, a desk, an in-room safe, and a television. Not bad at all. I've certainly stayed in much worse on dry-land. On top of all that, there's a pool on board!
Nice ship, nice accomodations, nice food, exceedingly nice crew. But all is not perfect in paradise...
1) Embarkation was a disaster. Not at all organized and incredibly stressful to all involved. Being screamed at is not the best way to start a vacation. One guy tells you to go. So you go. Then get yelled at by another guy for going. They should really do something about this, because pissing off customers before they step foot on the ship is pretty stupid.
2) Thanks to the hurricanes that ravaged the Caribbean a few weeks ago, a few ports of call have been cancelled. This sucks ass because I don't really give a crap about hanging around the ship, it's the land excursions that interest me. One of the stops, Grand Cayman, I was really looking forward to but it was trashed in the storms, so what can you do?
3) When I called ahead, I was told that wireless internet was available for laptops. Unfortunately, what they fail to mention is that it only works with their laptops. This means there's no internet at all unless you rent a $30 an hour laptop or use a $30 an hour PC in the business center... and, even then, the connection is glacialy slow and incredibly flakey. This is a huge problem for somebody like me who needs reliable internet access to function! Don't count on a FridayQ this week. :-(
Tonight there was a welcome show which was definately skewed to the older demographic. Who else could be entertained by butchered Ricky Martin tunes? WE CRUISE! WE CRUISE! (sung to the tune of She Bangs! She Bangs!) was made bearable only by the addition of the Dawn Princess Dancers (finally... babes on board!). It's good, cheesy, American fun (which happens to be registered in Great Britain to avoid those pesky American ship regulations).
There's an unfathomable nine days left in my vacation. NINE DAYS! I hope the weather holds out, because today was about as perfect as it gets. For anybody wanting to cruise along, you can take a look at the Dawn Princess Bridge Cam.
Posted on Monday, October 25th, 2004
After an excellent dinner at the onboard pizzeria last night, I decided I wanted to go to the buffet for dessert and ended up eating a plate full of miniature cream puffs glued together with whipped cream and covered in chocolate (I don't think that I've ever been so happy eating before, so I suspect that there was crack cocaine in there as well). All of your meals are included in the ticket cost, so you can eat until you pass out if you want. Sadly, some people actually attempt this and it is not a pretty site. I guess this would be called "getting your money's worth," but when it involves gaining 20 pounds in 10 days, I think I'll pass.
I continue you be dumbfounded at how super-terrifically nice the crew is onboard the Dawn Princess. You may be saying to yourself "hey, it's their job to be nice," and you would be right... BUT, you have to understand the conditions under which these people do their jobs: a big chunk of the customers are crotchity old farts who enjoy nothing more than abusing the staff. I am certain that if I was working here, I would go insane and start beating their old asses. But the workers here carry on with a smile, stalking the halls like Stepford Wives, wanting nothing more than making your vacation completely perfect in every way.
Most of my morning and afternoon was spent on-deck, lounging around the pool and reading a book. Later in the day they held an art auction that was pretty impressive. Major name artists at incredibly reasonable prices (a signed Picasso etching for just $8000!). Unfortunately, even "reasonably priced" is a bit out of my reach, but it was still fun to watch.
During the auction, there was a "code red" announcement in which a passenger required emergency medical attention. Given the average age of the people onboard, this must happen a lot.
Tonight is a "formal dining night," so people are wandering around in evening dressed and tuxes. But not me. That's too much work for vacation. I'll instead carouse the buffet and retire so I can be up bright and early for our first port of call in Cozumel.
Posted on Tuesday, October 26th, 2004
A big part of cruising is accepting the fact that your schedule can and will change. Yes, it sucks ass, but that's the way it is and the sooner you accept it, the better your vacation will be. Such is the case with an excursion to the Tulum ruins in Mexico today. It was supposed to leave the ship at 7:00am, but didn't leave until 7:35am. The tour was supposed to last until 2:00pm, but ended up lasting until 3:20pm. We were supposed to have 3 hours in Cozumel after the tour, but then it was changed to just 1 hour, then it was extended to 2-1/2 hours, and finally ended up being a little over 1 hour total. Bleh.
Anyway, after a 45-minute ferry ride to the mainland from Cozumel, we reached Tulum, which is an ancient Mayan city whose ruins still exist today. There's no funky step-pyramid as I had hoped (crap!) but there is a cool sacrificial altar, a bunch of nifty old buildings, and a few really pretty beaches. The weather leaving Cozumel was sublime but, by the time we reached Tulum, a flood of torrential rain was unleashed (apparently we disturned the rain gods or something). Eventually, the skies started to clear and it was pretty sweet (unbeknownst to the rest of my group, I tossed a particularly annoying woman off the cliff as an offering to the sun gods)...
The ferry ride back to the island was balls-nasty (apparently, now we have somehow offended the sea gods). Breaking waves battered our boat something fierce, and a few people ended up blowing chunks (none near me, fortunately!). Surprisingly, the choppy waters had no relation to the weather on dry-land, where the skies were sunny and calm (thank you sun gods!).
The poor fellow who required emergency medical attention yesterday was air-lifted back to the States, and is apparently doing okay (according to a message from our Captain). Kind of nice that nobody has died yet.
Tomorrow we were supposed to be stopping in Grand Cayman. But, since the island is apparently closed, it will be yet another day at sea. Perhaps I'll take up ceramic painting or something?
Posted on Wednesday, October 27th, 2004
HOLY CRAP! CONGRATULATIONS BOSTON RED SOX!!! WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS AT LAST!
Gaaah! I just now looked at my blog from this crappy loaner laptop and was "thrilled" to discover that it is rendering all wrong? I hope that this is the fault of the proprietary browser software that they are using here. Anyway, today was by far the most relaxing day of my vacation so far... with no land excursion, I found nothing to do except lay on the Lido Deck all day and read a book. To make up for such inactivity, tonight's dinner was had in the uber-fancy "Florentine Restaurant" onboard. They serve a pretty mean Fettucini Alfredo, which is not surprising considering all the food on the cruise so far has been excellent.
The interesting thing about a cruise is the facts and figures you are left to ponder. For example, I estimate that 75% of the passengers onboard are senior citizens. Going further, I am estimating that 40% of the passengers are obese, 50% of the remaining overweight, and a paltry 10% being somewhere in the vicinity of their target weight. The upshot of it all: most of the people you encounter are old and fat. That, in itself, is not disturbing. It's when said persons are lounging around the pool in Speedos that you begin to see where the problem lays.
That's for the passengers... the staff, on the other hand, are all relatively young, fit, very hard-working, and foreign (I dare say that if the Romanian contingent onboard were to fancy an idea of mutiny, they could easily overtake the ship). I'm sure that most of the customers onboard don't give a second thought to those that service their every need, but I can't help it...
All my curious musings aside, I am slowing becoming accustomed to life onboard ship. Things that seemed odd to me just two days ago are suddenly perfectly normal. This leaves me with the biggest question of all: Will I be able to adjust back to "real life" once the vacation has ended?
Posted on Thursday, October 28th, 2004
The light from the full moon glistens over the water like a dance as I walk along the abandoned boards of the Lido Deck (after yet another fabulous meal onboard the increasingly wonderful Dawn Princess). I can't help but think to myself what an excellent opportunity this would be to dispose of a dead body... just drop it overboard and who would be the wiser? Despite the moonlight, it's pitch black out, and I have this wide-eyed innocence going on that is only accentuated by my sun-kissed face! Bwahh ha hah! I am diabolical, even on vacation.
As for the rest of the day? Jamaica, mon! The ship pulled in for a very brief call at Ocho Rios, Jamaica this morning at 9:00am. The weather was amazing, and I was looking forward to the "Island Highlights and Dunn's Falls Excursion" I had signed up for. As it turns out, the "Island Highlights" part was pretty lame... first there was an uneventful drive up "Fern Gully," followed by a boring garden walk, followed by a bullshit "shopping expedition" at a duty-free marketplace. Whoopee. I could have done all of this stuff back home.
Fortunately, the excursion was completely redeemed by the Dunn's Falls finale. You form a human chain with your fellow shipmates and climb through the rushing waters, step by step up to the top of the falls. Big fun and a little bit challenging, which was a nice change of pace from riding around in a bus all day.
And that was it. Come 2:30pm, it was back to the ship. I was a bit sad that we didn't get to see very much of Jamaica... no white sand beaches... no Jamaican rum at a local bar... and no reggae music at a local club. Oh well. It's hard to complain when everything else is ever so lovely.
In other news: I have become addicted to cinammon-flavored Mentos. I've spent a small fortune on the buggers ever since embarking (I'm up to two packs a day now, and heaven only knows what will happen when I have to go cold turkey come next Wednesday).
Tomorrow is another day at sea before continuing onward to St. Thomas.
Posted on Friday, October 29th, 2004
First, an apology to everybody that I am unable to post a FridayQ today. I write the questions weeks in advance so that I am never in danger of missing a Q, but the Internet onboard is highly restrictive, and there's simply no way for me to do it. I am only just barely able to post to my blog because of time-outs and proxy errors (last night I attempted to post my entry for nearly a half-hour before giving up, $15 poorer for the attempt). The only thing more difficult than posting to my blog is reading other blogs. Since the custom browser they're using seems to be loading all graphics first, I can rarely get pages to load completely enough to read anything at all. Hopefully all is well in the world.
Today was another "day at sea" but with a twist... it's incredibly windy out. Trying to read a book on deck is a dangerous endeavor because the book is either being whipped out of your hands or smacking you in the face. There's only so much of that kind of punishment I am willing to endure, so I spent the next couple of hours painting a ceramic bowl. Unfortunately, I decided to go all artistic and paint a beach scene using tiny dots of paint. Unfortunately, tiny dots take a long, long time to paint. So now I have a bowl that is in no danger of being completed anytime soon. I'll be lucky if it's finished by the time the cruise is over.
Tomorrow it's an afternoon in St. Thomas. Since St. Thomas is part of the Virgin Islands which, in turn, is a U.S. territory, there is a mandatory inspection of all passengers whether you are going ashore or not. They do not go into any details as to what this "inspection" will entail. I am hopeful that a look at my passport will be enough but, for all I know, everybody could be getting a rectal cavity search. The things we do for Homeland Security.
Posted on Saturday, October 30th, 2004
Today started off as "disappointing," then escalated to "good," then descended to "utter crap," before turning back to "pretty good" again.
Immediately after disembarking in St. Thomas (of the U.S. Virgin Islands), the rain came down like a flood with drops the size of golf balls pelting anybody brave enough to walk the streets unsheltered. But, by the time I reached the Hard Rock Cafe St. Thomas, the sun came out and burned away the clouds leaving blue skies in its wake. Elated due to my good fortune with the change in weather, I took the "Paradise Point" sky-tram ride up to an overlook of the island's only city: Chalotte Amalie...
After a leisurely descent down to the waterfront, I ran back to the ship so I could change into my swimsuit and prepare for the highlight of the cruise: HELMET DIVING!! And that's when everything turned to crap. Due to "unsafe conditions," the dive had been canceled. This sucked major ass, because I had been looking forward to it for the past six days.
Trying to make the best of a bad situation, I instead ended up going on an "Island Highlights Tour" that wasn't too bad. After that was over, I still had time to kill, and decided to take a taxi over to Megan Bay Beach where I had a kick-ass milkshake at "Udder Delite" (which the Chicago Tribune claims is a must-experience event). I gotta hand it to the Tribune, they know their stuff. The chocolate shake I had was perfect in every way, and would probably be illegal back home...
After returning to the ship, the day ended on a high-note as everybody onboard the Dawn Princess got to see our sister-ship (the Sun Princess) depart St. Thomas. It was an amazing site, as the white ship looked beautiful against the setting sun...
And now we're off to the final port-of-call before returning home: St. Maartin.
Posted on Sunday, October 31st, 2004
Happy Halloween! Our port-of-call today is an interesting island that is claimed by two countries and two governments. The north is "Saint Martin" and part of the French West Indies (France), while the south is "Sint Maarten" and part of the Netherland Antilles (The Netherlands). Both countries happily coexist in peace and proudly proclaim themselves of "one island, two countries, one people." Even so, making a telephone call from the French side to the Dutch side is an international call, despite the fact that the island is only 37 quare miles.
Today was yet another "Island Highlights Tour," but at least there was an "almost-submarine-ride" in the middle (albeit a kind of lame one). The countryside is nice (this is a tropical island after all), but it's not quite in the same league as St. Thomas.
Near the end of the tour we stopped at the border between the two countries laying claim to the island. There was a protest of some kind going on that I didn't quite understand. I took a photo of the sign so I could try to figure it out once I got back to the ship, but no such luck...
Also in port today was the Royal Caribbean ship Empress of the Seas. As we were leaving the dock, I was wishing that I had a bullhorn so I could talk a little trash to them... something like "EMPRESS OF THE SLEAZE SUCKS ASS!" or perhaps "DAWN PRINCESS RULES THE EARTH! ROYAL CARIBBEAN CAN KISS OUR AFT!!" And, since this is pirate territory, I'd then pull out a cannon, blow a hole in the side of their ship, light it on fire, and then pillage the smoldering remains for treasure.
Pirates kick ass. I think that I want to be a pirate when I grow up.
Posted on Monday, November 1st, 2004
ACK! PLAGUE SHIP!! For the past week, it would seem that everybody onboard has been coming down with a cold, including the crew. Everyone around me is sneezing and coughing. Fortunately, I have my trusty bottle of Zicam with me, so the worst I got was the sniffles for a couple days. Hard to believe that there is talk about removing Zicam from the market, because it's the only thing I've ever found that lets you fight off a cold. Without it, I'd probably coughing and sneezing along with the rest.
The next two days are at sea with nothing to do. Well, that's not true... there are lots of activities to keep you occupied onboard... I am just not interested in any of them. I'm also not interested in laying out on deck and getting skin cancer, even though it's a lovely day for it. I've gotten more of a tan than I usually do on trips like this, but it will undoubtedly disappear by the time we've docked in Ft. Lauderdale Wednesday morning.
So I suppose I'll start going through all the photos I've taken, finish reading my book, and then attack the ship and take it over. I bought a pirate flag while I was in St. Thomas, so now all I need to do is get my hands on a cutlass sword and an eye patch and the Dawn Princess will be mine. I suppose that I should also find a yardarm to hang the captain from, and a gangplank to rid myself of anybody who opposes my commandeering of the vessel. Being a pirate would be a lot easier if I knew what a "yardarm" was, however.
I haven't yet decided what to rename the ship once I've taken her. I kind of like Dawn Princess... especially when it is pronounced by the British officers onboard, where "princess" becomes two words "prin - cess." But that's not a very fear-inducing name for a pirate ship at all. One could hardly pillage the high seas on the Dawn Princess, even when "princess" is pronounced as two words. Right now I am kind of leaning toward Deathbringer or perhaps Notorious Princess if I should decide to remain affiliated with Princess Cruise Lines.
Hmmm... before attacking the ship, I think I'll have an ice cream on the Lido Deck.
Wish me luck!
(errr... luck taking over the ship, not luck eating the ice cream which I can manage just fine on my own)
Posted on Tuesday, November 2nd, 2004
Of all the luck! As I was making preparations to commandeer the ship and take to the high seas as a pirate last night, I learned that the Dawn Princess is going into dry-dock for several weeks once we reach port. Apparently, she's needing to have some work done. There goes my big plans for a career change.
Today was supposed to be a stop at Princess Cays, an exclusive resort island owned by the cruise line. Unfortunately, the island was destroyed by the hurricanes, so it's going to be another day at sea. It's really too bad, because a last port-of-call before the cruise ends would have been pretty sweet. As it is now, I'm definitely ready to get off the ship.
Anyway, I have no idea if other cruise lines are as spectacular as Princess, but here's my pros and cons of cruising after taking this first trip:
So, now that it's over, would I cruise again? Absolutely. And I would definitely recommend Princess Cruise Lines which was exceptional in all respects (except getting on the ship). Next time it will probably be a cruise to Alaska for me, because Princess seems to have some amazing excursions there.
Posted on Wednesday, November 3rd, 2004
So here we are back in Ft. Lauderdale! Getting off the ship was a bit problematic because the idiots at immigration/security/customs held us on the ship for TWO-AND-ONE-HALF FREAKIN' HOURS this morning with absolutely no explanation. That's amazingly stupid considering that most of us have planes to catch (thankfully I was smart enough to book my flight with plenty of time in the event of just such a screw-up). Who I really felt sorry for was the crew of the Dawn Princess who had to deal with an increasingly hostile crowd of passengers wanting to disembark. There was nothing they could do about it, of course, but that didn't stop a lot of crotchety old farts from trying to make their lives miserable.
Surprisingly, here at Ft. Lauderdale International Airport, there is a free guest account for wireless internet access! I have no idea if that is intentional or accidental, but it sure is nice of them. All airports should have free internet considering the crap you have to go through when traveling now-a-days.
Anyway, first thing I do is check my email and find out that my web host has suspended the script that allows Blogography visitors to leave comments. Apparently, I received thousands of spam comment hits to my blog, which pegged CPU usage and forced them to put a stop to it.
I don't get it. I really don't.
I use a spam blocking plugin called "MT-Blacklist" that prevents any spam comments from ever appearing. Why hit me with thousands of spam comments when they will never show up in the first place? I knew that comment spammers were lowlife bug-f#@%ers... but who could guess that they are so astoundingly stupid as well?
Until we're allowed to shoot spammers DEAD, this is never going to stop... you realize this don't you?
Anyway, I guess when I get home tomorrow I'll have to see if there is something I can figure out so that I can turn comments back on. If anybody has any suggestions, let me know.
UPDATE: Well, comments are back on... at least for the time being. Sadly, entries that are older than 14 days will automatically have their comments closed. Furthermore, ALL comments will be moderated from now on, meaning that any comment you care to leave will not appear until I have manually approved it. One thing that hasn't changed is that your email address will NOT be shown if you should choose to leave it (so I can contact you privately). Anonymous comments are still welcome as well (assuming you aren't leaving spam or being nasty).
Posted on Friday, November 5th, 2004
I just finished up my remaining travel reservations for the year.
That I know of.
There's a few days that aren't yet spoken for, so I'm sure something will come along to fill them up. All-in-all it's been a relatively tame year for me (probably because I wanted to spend the summer on my motorcycle). I still managed to reach "gold" status in my frequent flier plan (over 50,000 miles flown), but that's a far cry from the 100,000 I've had to travel in previous years. Usually, I couldn't tell you where I've been and what I've done because it's all just a big blur. But this past year was entirely blogged... so now I know exactly what happened...
And now I'm off to Chicago. One down, four to go...
Posted on Saturday, November 6th, 2004
This is a day in my life.
And, just for fun, I plan on bloggging the entirety of it (with BONUS pictures!). I'm not sure how exciting it will be but, since most of it will be spent traveling, "stuff" is bound to happen.
So, if your voyeuristic tendencies are such that you might enjoy spending the day with me in Chicago, by all means read on in this extended entry (click the link below the photo)...
→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Posted on Sunday, November 7th, 2004
Chicago is a great city. I love Chicago, honest I do. Search for "Chicago" on this blog and you'll see that I have nothing but good things to say about "The Windy City" whenever I visit. But O'Hare International Airport sucks ass. It's a big mess, sure, but the biggest problem? NO WIRELESS INTERNET ACCESS!!! I mean, come on! Are they the only major airport left in America that doesn't provide wireless? Crazy. I need to talk with the mayor or something.
So now I get to sit here with nothing to do but watch some absurdly rude girl chew with her mouth open while talking with her mouth full on her mobile phone. Loudly. I can here her disgusting smacking all the way across the lobby, and I can't imagine how gross it must sound on the other end of that phone call.
Anyway, now that my job obligations are over, I get to go home for three glorious weeks. Three whole weeks to catch up on my work, unpack my suitcases, ride my motorcycle (please don't snow... please don't snow), and just r-e-l-a-x for a while. After that, I've got only three more trips (that I know of) left until January rolls around and then I'm back in Germany again (this time I need to look into visiting the BMW factory where my motorcycle was "born" - I've always wanted to do that).
... Time Passes ...
Gack! Now that I am home, I've changed my mind. It's COLD here! I want to go back to somplace like Cozumel, where it was warm...
Of course, being able to ride my motorcycle year-round is also a bonus.
Posted on Tuesday, November 9th, 2004
It seems like only yesterday that I was waxing poetic about finally having three solid weeks at home with nothing on my travel schedule (actually, it was two days ago). Naturally, such optimism is immediately rewarded with the news that I have to be in Salt Lake City next week.
If I were to say that universal forces are conspiring against me, would I be labeled as paranoid?
Posted on Friday, November 26th, 2004
NonSeattle: Well, this day has started off to be the suckiest suck to ever suck a suck! I switched some flights around which (apparently) required that paper tickets be mailed to me. Except I never got them. So the first hour of my day was straightening that mess out. I barely made the plane out of Wenatchee with 5 minutes to spare (after they were nice enough to re-open security for me). Seattle, here I come.
Seattle: Breathtaking views of the snow-capped Cascade Mountains on the way over. Nauseating view of a woman blowing chunks at SeaTac International upon arrival (juuuuuust missed the bathroom by that much!). Poor girl. Bad enough to be sick and having to travel... even worse to toss your cookies all over the terminal.
NonEntertainment: Alaska Airlines needs to change out the videos on their DigePlayers. This is the third flight I've take with them this month, and I've already seen everything on it.
Entertainment: Fortunately, I didn't need a DigePlayer for entertainment, the elderly couple behind me were more than enough. The husband was apparently deaf, which meant that the wife had to SCREAM everything. Such classics as "WHAT?" -- "I SAID, DO YOU HAVE TO USE THE RESTROOM!!!!" were haunting me the entire trip. Apparently the old guy is blind as well, because she started reading (screaming) to him from the in-flight magazine at one point. It would seem that once you pass 90 years old, you just don't give a crap if you irritate people around you (probably because you're too busy worrying if you're going to "give a crap" in your pants?). Hey, since I probably won't live that long, more power to ya'.
NonChicago: The amazingly unhelpful gate agent for Alaska Airlines tells me my connecting flight is "probably at Terminal 1 or Terminal 2." Oh well, my 4-1/2 hour layover allows me plenty of time to find out where I'm supposed to be. It also allows me plenty of time to meet with a friend while I'm here at O'Hare. She landed 20 minutes ago, but is hanging around to say hello (she had just returned from Thanksgiving holiday, where she spent the entire day fighting with her sister). After a drink with her at Chili's, I stick around for dinner and have one of their excellent "Black Bean Burgers." Ever since Boca Burger changed their recipe and starting being all nasty-ass wet & slimy, I'm always on the look-out for good vegetarian alternatives to hamburgers. Oooh look... their security personel use little Segway scooters to zip around the airport!
Chicago: Seems like I was just here last week (oh wait... that was Salt Lake... Chicago was two weeks ago). O'Hare is not really Chicago, but I blogged my entire day last time I was in the city proper, so I've always got the memories. If only I had time to run into town and get a slice at Giordano's. Now I'm off to Louisville, where I'll be arriving just before midnight. Wheee.
Posted on Saturday, November 27th, 2004
"We're the sixteenth largest city in the US" she proudly proclaimed, leaving me slightly dumbfounded. I understand keeping track of the top 10, that's only natural, but who could possibly care about number sixteen? Unless there are sixteen places on the list, in which case you would be last, which would then mean you probably wouldn't go around bragging about it would you? Oh well. "That's great" I reply, not really meaning it.
Anyway, here I am in Louisville. Which is pronounced "Loo-eee-vhil" with a silent "s"... unless you live here, then it would be "Loo-uh-vhil," for reasons that escape me. Something to do with the regional dialect of a southern accent, I'd imagine. For my international friends (or domestic friends that just don't care), Louisville is in the northern part of the state of Kentucky, and is probably most famous for The Kentucky Derby horse race and Louisville Slugger baseball bats. I'd buy one to take home with me, but I doubt they'd allow it on the plane. That's really too bad, because my extracurricular activities could only benefit from an authentic Louisville Slugger...
I arrived near midnight at the famous Seelbach Hilton (opened 1905), which is a magnificent old hotel right in the middle of the city. I love old hotels (The Menger in San Antonio, The Shelbourne in Dublin, The Vance in Seattle, etc.) because they have a history. Stuff happened here. F. Scott Fitzgerald loved The Seelbach (and, if the legends are true, was also kicked out of here after a drunken brawl). People and events at this hotel were inspiration for his most famous book, and one of the greatest novels of all time: The Great Gatsby. Al Capone was a frequent guest, and eight U.S. presidents have visited (draw your own conclusions). As I said, stuff happened here...
After waking up very late, I made my way to Hard Rock visit #103 just across the street (Muhammad Ali Boulevard, which was probably named something different back in 1905) in the "Fourth Street Live" complex...
The exterior is nothing really special, but the inside is kind of cool. The entire cafe is laid out in an arch around the bar, with stone-wall accents and plenty of memorabilia packed in every corner...
While dining, I struck up a conversation with another couple of Hard Rock fanatics on their 17th visit and was asked to join them for lunch. Just one of the many reasons I love being a part of the Hard Rock community is the nice people you meet, and this visit was made even more special because of it (and here's another opportunity to plug my Hard Rock fan site... DaveCafe.com).
Directly across the way from the Hard Rock is a really cool bowling alley called "Lucky Strike Lanes," that is stylish to the extreme. So stylish, in fact, that there is a dress code enforced... "Dress to Impress" the sign says. I have no idea what that means, but just by looking through the windows I can see that this would be an awesome night out with a group of friends. Nothing is quite so entertaining as getting drunk and throwing heavy balls with your closest mates...
And now I'm off to wander the streets of Louisville for a few hours before I hop on a plane to enchanting Milwaukee. I'm trying my best to be optimistic, but am told that low clouds at O'Hare (my connecting flight) are causing delays of 60 minutes or more. I can't wait.
Posted on Saturday, November 27th, 2004
Look at me, I'm stuck in Chicago!
And boy is it a mess. The bad weather has caused all kinds of insanity, and most of the terminal is filled to the brim with people who have been cancelled or delayed out of their flight. People crying. People yelling. People beating the heck out of their kids. As I sit here typing this, a young girl in a Spongebob Squarepants shirt is being screamed at by her mother because she has to go to the bathroom. And when I say "screamed at," I mean that her mother can probably be heard two terminals away. I sympathize that you are stressed because your flight was cancelled, but didn't you expect this kind of thing when you decided to have kids? Ooh... ooh... now you've made the little girl cry. Way to go you stupid bitch, was that the results you were looking for?
My flight was supposed to board at 5:50. But 5:50 came and went, and no announcement was made.
The flight was to leave at 6:15. Now 6:15 has come and went, and still no announcement.
Why in the heck don't they keep people informed? Even if you don't know anything, get on the loudspeaker and announce "the flight has been delayed, we'll give you more information when we have it." Acknowledge that the f#@%ing flight exists so that we're not standing around wondering if it's been forgotten, cancelled, or whatever. But oh no. Apparently the team of four gate agents has better things to do... like play with their hair, tell jokes, and stare into space. What a bunch of dumbasses. Delays and cancellations don't bother me that much, it's part of the game. Idiotic gate agents who don't do their job bothers me very much!
FINALLY it's 6:30, and they've just announced a delayed departure of 7:00. Now wasn't that easier than having people come up and ask "what's going on with the Milwaukee flight" again and again and again and again? THAT'S WHY THEY GIVE YOU A MICROPHONE, DUMBASS!!
And now 7:00 has come and went...
UPDATE: Finally made it to Milwaukee nearly two hours late. But my luggage is mysteriously absent...
UPDATE: By some miracle, my suitcase actually arrived on the next flight. There's enough stickers plastered on the luggage tag to choke a horse, but it's here.
Posted on Sunday, November 28th, 2004
I've been to Milwaukee many, many times before. Once they start recognizing you on the Miller Beer Brewery tour, and you've been to the Harley Davidson factory a few times... well, there's not much more I really want to do here. I came in a day early so that I could compensate for typical winter airline delays but, since that only amounted to a few hours, I've got nothing (it isn't helping that this is a Sunday). So I've decided to stay in my hotel room and work for a while, then go eat frozen custard.
Posted on Monday, November 29th, 2004
Summary: November and December are terrible, terrible times to be traveling because everybody else in the world is traveling at the same time. My advice? Don't do it. Tell your family you won't be home for the holidays and just save yourself the aggrivation. Anyway... I worked all through the night, and was able to complete my job in Wisconsin this morning (two full days early). Since I have butt-loads of work and a mounting personal emergency back home, I decided to fly back early so I can get my life straightened out.
Alas it's not to be.
Or maybe it is, I don't know yet.
I flew Alaska/United to Milwaukee but, since all flights for the next four days are booked solid on the Chicago-Seattle leg, I can't fly Alaska back. No problem, I have pretty big clout with Northwest, so I manage to get a ticket (even though their flights are sold out too - being a good customer has its privileges). And here's where it gets interesting: it's cheaper to buy a round-trip than a one-way fare to Seattle. So now I have an unused half of my original ticket from Milwaukee to Wenatchee, and am going to have an unused half of my current flight from Seattle to Milwaukee. Something tells me I can smoosh all that together and get a round-trip ticket out of the deal but, since four different airlines are involved now (Alaska, United, Horizon, and Alaska), it's anybody's guess as to whether or not this will ever work out.
So now I am stuck in Minneapolis because the flight I was on is overbooked by full-fare paying customers or something. It looks like I can get a later flight but, knowing my luck, I'm not holding my breath.
UPDATE: Not only do I still not know if I am making this flight, but now they are announcing a delay so they can change the tires on the airplane! (because heaven only knows you don't want the tires going flat when you drop on the runway). For some reason, I always thought they did stuff like this during routine maintenance schedules. I guess I thought wrong. Apparently, they must instead be sticking a penny in the tread after each landing (when you can see Lincoln's entire head, it's time for a new set!). Wacky!
Posted on Monday, November 29th, 2004
At first, my lovely experience with the new TSA screening rituals was ripe for Anonymous Letter #002. Since these "letters" are graphical, the text doesn't register as text, and search engines will gleefully pass it by (thus leaving such rants for you, my dear reader, and not for casual internet searchers).
But I am so f#@%ing pissed off right now I truly don't give a crap what happens.
To preface: my flight out of Minneapolis was delayed for an hour while they changed the tires on the plane (which gives me staggering new levels of confidence in NWA's regularly-scheduled maintenance, but I digress). You would think, since Northwest Airlines pretty much OWNS the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, that they would expedite such a delayed plane with all expediency so that people with connecting flights might have a prayer of actually making them. But no. What's the best thing to do to a plane already delayed for an hour and fifteen minutes? WHY, DELAY IT ON THE RUNWAY FOR ANOTHER HOUR OF COURSE!! Talk about f#@%ing stupid.
But what do I care, I make it to Seattle with a full hour-and-a-half to spare, which is a good thing considering I have to exit security, claim my luggage, run to the opposite end of the airport to check in with Horizon Air, then make my way back through security. I don't flinch when the underground shuttle gets stuck and we wait for ten minutes for the door to close. Likewise, I don't get upset with my bag is 3rd-to-last off the luggage claim carousel. I've still got an hour to grab my ticket and make my way through security and everything will be okay, right??
Well, given the GROSS f#@%ING INCOMPETENCE OF THE TSA STAFF, maybe not.
And before anybody jumps on my ass, please understand that I am in no way directing my anger toward the TSA individuals working tonight... that's just stupid. The fact that they are badly trained, poorly supervised, and have procedures that are ineffective (at best) and ludicrous (at most) could hardly be said to be their fault. So, if you feel like reading a long rant about everything I perceive to be ASTOUNDINGLY STUPID with my TSA extended inquisition examination (sprinkled with liberal amounts of foul language), then all means click the link below...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Posted on Friday, December 31st, 2004
My annual drive over to the Seattle-side of the state for New Years celebrations was fairly uneventful because the roads were bare. This is quite a change from last year where idiots were sliding all over the pavement and cars were piling up everywhere. Even so, the mountains were cloaked in snow and fog which made for a pretty sweet view on the way up the pass...
Everybody have a happy (and safe) New Year.