Posted on Wednesday, January 26th, 2011
Annnnnd... I've avoided it for as long as I possibly can. Time to pack my suitcase so I can get up at 3:30am and catch my 6:00am flight.
I really hate packing.
See you on the other side of the Atlantic...
Posted on Thursday, January 27th, 2011
For those who don't fly very often... i.e. people who jet off on vacation every other year and make an occasional trip home for the holidays... air travel can be a mystifying, frustrating, and altogether torturous experience. I try to keep this in mind when people feel the need to say something like "OH GAWD! YOU'RE TRAVELING AGAIN?!? I DON'T KNOW HOW YOU DO IT! I WOULD DIE IF I HAD TO FLY AS OFTEN AS YOU DO!" To which I usually reply "Well, eventually you get used to it."
But the truth of the matter is that the travel experience for a frequent flier can be considerably different than that of somebody who doesn't travel much.
It would have to be, or else those of us who fly 180,000 miles a year would be blowing our fucking brains out.
Fortunately, most airlines understand that frequent travelers have a different set of needs and an entirely different mind-set from the huddled masses, and work really hard to make their travels as pleasant as possible. Mostly in the hopes that their best customers stay their best customers.
So now I am going to give a list of the top-five reasons my constant travel isn't quite as horrible as it might sound. I've only gotten "elite-plus" status at Alaska Air and Delta (two airlines I love more than chocolate pudding), but I'm guessing the experience is similar for other airline's frequent flier programs...
The last couple of years have been relatively "light" travel years for me, which means I only accumulated around 150,000 miles annually. That's still a lot, but pales when compared to those heady days of 2002-2006 where I flew over 200,000 miles annually and held top-level elite status at three airlines. But I still get treated very well, so that's the real reason I don't mind flying so often. It's just difficult to explain all that when somebody says ZOMFG! I DON'T KNOW HOW YOU CAN STAND TO FLY SO MUCH!!"
Though today I was kind of lucky to be flying at all because of the weather. Fog blanketed Seattle this morning, which added an air of eerie spookiness when we landed...
Things weren't looking too much better after sunrise...
It's not so bad out now, so hopefully I won't have any problems getting to Europe today.
Well, unless the airplane should explode into a massive ball of flames and fall in the ocean as I'm crossing the Atlantic. That kind of thing can totally put a damper on your trip no matter how many frequent flier miles you have.
Posted on Friday, January 28th, 2011
As I type this, it is 12:30am Saturday, January 29th in Cologne, Germany.
Since I woke up at 3:30am Thursday, January 27th in the US Pacific time zone, this means I have been awake for 37 hours straight. And yet I am still not tired. I tried to sleep on the plane, but ended up watching The Social Network again (a little more boring that the first time, but still awesome), Salt again (liked it even more the second time around), and Scott Pilgrim Saves the World again (which sucked even more the second time around, because whiny, dorky Michael Cera is NOT lady-killer slacker hero Scott Pilgrim... AT ALL. This movie could have been sheer perfection if the lead role weren't so hideously miscast).
The flight from Seattle to Amsterdam via Delta Airlines was bliss. I wasn't upgraded, but the plane was so empty that I had almost an entire row to myself, which was super-sweet. Except for the not-being-able to sleep thing, it truly was a flawless experience. As was my connection at Schiphol, as usual. Looking out the plane-window at sunrise, it was looking like a glorious day in DutchyLand...
Except... it was freezing cold. Even after the sun was out. Much like it would be when I finally ended up in Cologne. As I landed, I noticed that Gowalla had rolled out their new flight-tracker status updates, which is wickedly cool...
Not shown is my flight from Wenatchee to Seattle... probably because Wenatchee hasn't been considered an airport yet?
Anyway... after checking in at my hotel and then getting some work done, it was time to head up to Essen for some dinner with friends. While waiting at the train station, I ran across an awesome poster... I just love good advertising! That's the hugely tall Cologne Cathedral buried in snow there...
"Ihr Beitrag zum klima? Mehr Bus & Bahn fahren!"
Dinner was with my fellow Hard Rock Cafe fans, Marc & Mechthild... with vegetarian pizza hand-made by Mechthild herself, which was as beautiful to look at as it was delicious...
Easily the best pizza you'll find in all of Germany. You may commence being jealous now.
But the truly unexpected surprise of the evening was the beautiful salad that was served. I still have no idea what kind of greens these were... or even if there's a US equivalent... as I had never seen them before. Marc & Mechthild called them "winter salad," as there doesn't seem to be an equivalent name for it in English (they looked!). The greens appear to be some kind of thick four-leaf clover type-thing, tasting buttery and sweet. There's absolutely no bitter notes in the flavor at all, which made the whole thing taste like frickin' candy when tossed up with a lovely vinaigrette. I shit you not, CANDY...
If all salads tasted like this, I'd be eating a lot more fucking salads!
After-dinner conversation was all Hard Rock Cafes and world travel (two of my favorite subjects!). The time went flying by and suddenly it was 11:00 and time to take the train back to Cologne. The evening was loads of fun, despite the fact that I really should have been dead from lack of sleep. Praise be to the power of the internet for continuing to find me wonderful friends around the globe!
And now it's 12:56am here in Cologne, which means I've been awake for 37-and-a-half hours straight.
Still not tired.
I have no idea what my deal is, but I sure don't want to be around when this lack of sleep catches up to me!
Alas, I have no choice...
Posted on Saturday, January 29th, 2011
Work ended a senses-shattering three hours early, leaving me a little free time to goof around Cologne today. Having been to the city many times, I'm very much at home here, and so it's an entirely different experience than visiting a place you've never been before.
But before I get to that, I'd like to observe a moment of silence for my newly-dead Kenneth Cole dress shoes. Tonight I pulled out all my work clothes so I'd be ready to go in the morning. As I was shining my shoes, I noticed that one of them had somehow split in the back (I'm guessing my suitcase must have been crushed in transit? Or perhaps when the TSA opened my bag to inspect it, they really, really hated my shoes?). Anyway... all attempts to repair them were met with failure. So now I guess I'm going to attend work in sneakers. That'll look special.
On to my favorite things in Cologne!
No matter how many times I see the massive Cologne Cathedral, it still takes my breath away.
The light, airy, doughy inside makes "doghnuts" taste like shit by comparison!
I could eat this delicious bits of deliciousness until I asploded!
While not the same as the Dutch patatjes met, my favorite, they're still inanely delicious!
The line was crazy-long... it took me 8-10 minutes to get mah frites!!
The delicious and refreshing regional beer... usually served in tiny glasses, not steins, so you have to order lots of them.
And, lastly, since you have to pay for all this shit...
My photo turned out blurry, so this is not me. I found a photo of Neil Patrick Harris using a Geldautomat at Wincor Nixdorf.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I've had my fill of doughnuts, fries, mayonnaise, and beer for the evening, so I'm going to go to bed and hopefully get some sleep this time. Last night I managed to nap a mere two hours after being up for 38 straight hours, so I'm thinking I kind of have to sleep or I'm going to turn go brain-dead. ZOMFG! Do you think that's what happened to Sarah Palin?
Previous adventures in Cologne...
Posted on Sunday, January 30th, 2011
I just realized that I blew past my 4-year anniversary of Bullet Sunday back in October. NO CAKE FOR YOU!
• I DO COCAINE! Today was not the best day. I'm still not sleeping properly, which has me wondering why I haven't collapsed from exhaustion. Must be all that cocaine Coke I'm doing drinking. It all started when I woke up at 4:30am (after falling asleep around 1:00am). On the way to the bathroom I smacked my foot into the cupboard closet. Getting into the shower tub, I smacked the other foot. After getting dressed, I walked hobbled the five nine minutes to the tram stop... where I just missed my tram. Since there's a limited schedule on Sunday, I had to wait 22 minutes for the next one. In the cold. And of course I didn't wear gloves or a coat over my sport jacket, so I froze. To get relief for my busted-ass feet, I sat down on the bench... which is metal. Cold metal. Worried that my ass might freeze to the seat, I decided standing was better no matter how painful. My troubles weren't over once I boarded the tram, however, because when we got to the next stop there was a delay. Which means I missed my connecting tram. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
• I TAKE PICTURES! Trying to take my mind off my frozen ass, aching feet, and the fact that I was now going to be ten minutes late to work instead of twenty minutes early, I took pictures of the frost that had accumulated on the tram stop glass. It's kind of strange... kind of beautiful...
• I MOURN CHOCOLATE CHICKENS! On my way back from work at the candy show yesterday, I spotted a very cool giant chocolate chicken that some company had put on display. I wanted to take a photo, but my iPhone was somewhere in my backpack and I was too lazy to retrieve it. Instead I made a mental note to go back today and snag a shot. Much to my horror, THIS is what awaited me...
"HOLY CRAP!" I shrieked like a five-year-old girl, "THE CHICKEN... SHE'S MELTED!" And then, realizing there were other people in the room, I looked at my feet and whispered "I will avenge you, my fallen chocolate comrade." Apparently, shining a nice hot bright light on a hollow chocolate chicken is paramount to disaster. Oh well, it's sadly comforting that somebody is having a worse day than I am.
• I WORK LIKE A DRUNKEN SAILOR! Though my day may have personally sucked ass from walking on two aching feet for the better part of 8 hours... from a work standpoint it was quite rewarding. I was busy all day long and the hours flew by. But then I stopped to grab a sandwich for lunch and the world came to a halt when a man and a woman sat down at the table opposite me.
They were the single most perplexing and rude eaters I have ever encountered.
I am not exaggerating when I saw hogs have better manners.
At first I was mortified. The display was so horrendous that I lost my apetite and could barely choke down my sandwich. But, after a while, my revulsion turned to fascination. How in the hell does something so anti-social and balls-nasty ever develop? Such filthy manners simply cannot occur in nature... it's as if they were trained to be this nasty. Despite myself, I used my iPhone "Voice Recorder" to capture the sheer horror of the sounds (I'd have recorded video, but I never want to re-live that terror). This is what I witnessed...
Scarred for life, I eventually had to walk away. There's only so much of this you can take if you ever want to eat again.
• I CURSE LIKE A BEE! My iPhone has the ability to roam globally on the world's GSM network. AT&T partners with a number of different carriers in most places and offers (relatively) affordable data-roaming packages that work extremely well. EXCEPT IN GERMANY! As I blogged previously from Berlin, data and voice service on my iPhone with AT&T's roaming partner "E-Plus" sucks copious amounts of donkey schlong. When I got a call from Marc yesterday at the train station, the call quality was so bad that I couldn't make out what he was saying. Data is an absolute joke, because I've used up 75% of my megabytes and have nothing to show for it. Web pages don't load. Emails get stuck while downloading. 3G drops constantly and won't re-connect... I usually have to end up rebooting my phone two or three times just to make a Gowalla check-in, because a reboot is the only way I've found to get data back. And all the while you are struggling to get any kind of data connection, your expensive allotment of megs is running like water. I know that AT&T's is not responsible here (I have zero problems in every other country I've visited), but I still blame them. They shouldn't advertise that you can roam in Germany when, for all intents and purposes, you can't. I have screenshot after screenshot after screenshot showing the problems, so hopefully I can get my money back...
• I EAT SOMETHING I CALL DINNER! Instead of making the long trek to my favorite fried-potatoes-and-mayo place (again) for dinner, I stopped at a nearby kebob shop for greasy potato goodness. Unfortunately, they tasted awful, and I had my fill half-way through. I thought I might go drop my stuff at the hotel then go back downtown for a proper dinner, but I was tired and the trams run infrequently on Sundays. Soooo... I ended up eating candy samples for dinner (since I'm not a buyer, I generally don't take any samples at the candy show, but some companies give them to you anyway). Needless to say, it will be interesting to see how much sleep I get while fighting this sugar-high and nightmares of food-smacking whores. Anything over two hours would be a gift.
And that's all she wrote.
Tomorrow. Cologne. I'll go to Cologne, and I'll think of some way to get my appetite back. After all, tomorrow is another day!
Posted on Monday, January 31st, 2011
One of the down-sides to working in a time zone eight hours from home is that you essentially put in two full work days. First there's eight hours on-site, then there's another eight hours as your original time zone gets to work and you're inundated with another round. Mondays, as you might imagine, are the worst. And so I do what I've been doing for years now, knock off work early on Mondays so I can decompress for an hour or two before starting in again. It may not cut down on the amount of work to be done, but at least it keeps me sane.
While at the candy show today, I dropped by to see if the chocolate chicken had been replaced but, alas, she hadn't. If anything, she's gotten much worse now that the beak and eyes have melted away. This is what I'd imagine a chicken with the ebola virus would look like...
Today was yet another busy day working, which was nice. The problem is that I am so exhausted by the end of it that there's really no time to see much of Cologne except the inside of my hotel room. It would be sacrilege to not pay a visit to the Hard Rock Cafe here, but I just don't have it in me. Tomorrow is my last day in the city, so I suppose I'll force myself to make the effort. In the meanwhile, I find a great deal of money can be saved on meal expenses by accepting kind offers of food samples from the vendors at the candy show. To avoid going into a sugar coma, I pass up the vast majority of opportunities, but how can you say no to a freshly-made Dutch poofenwafel? You can't...
A hot and delicious Stroopwafel fresh from the grill and filled with warm caramel goodness.
While wandering back from lunch, I happened across a vendor with this piece of awesomeness splashed across the outside of their show booth...
It looked like some kind of sweet metal band cartoon for kids, which is exactly what the world has been missing.
Turns out it's an animated show based on a wildly successful film franchise and book series here called Die Wilden Kerle (which translates into "The Wild Soccer Bunch"). From what I could understand, it's basically a German version of the American Bad News Bears movie but with soccer instead of baseball. All I know is that I want one of those awesome one-eyed monster logo
Annnnnnd... time to try and get some sleep.
Posted on Tuesday, February 1st, 2011
So very tired...
The weather in Cologne today was odd. It was dreary and cold, but not the kind of cold that lands on you... it was more a general cold around your immediate vicinity. Sure I could see my breath and needed a jacket, but wearing gloves was too much, and my hands were perfectly fine without them. I'm a real weenie when it comes to having cold hands, so this was kind of freaky. In a good way.
What was decidedly not freaky was that they finally replaced the chocolate chicken! Isn't she awesome?
As today was my last day in Cologne I had intended to try and wander around a bit, but I was just too exhausted and had entirely too much work to do. So instead of eating dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe, I just bought some pins and a T-shirt while breezing through after work...
It's a fairly small property, but has all the classic Hard Rock fixin's so I really like it here.
Alas, I didn't have time to hang around, so dinner consisted of glorious Patatjes Met "Pommes Frites mit Mayo" with a delicious Spritzringe and a Coke back at my hotel room for dessert...
While I was walking to the tram stop so I could get "home" I noticed some interesting things:
ONE: HINDENBURG! After the movie Titanic made a gazillion dollars, I remember asking when somebody would get around to making a modern movie drama about the Hindenburg tragedy...
Apparently they now have, as I've seen the posters around Cologne...
"Ein Traum von Ruhm" - "A Dream of Glory"
TWO: MADONNA! I've lost count of the number of times I've walked through Neumarkt, but this is the first time I can ever recall seeing this Madonna & Child statue glued to one of the buildings on the Eastern loop. While I'm sure it must have been beautiful at one time, it's kind of creepy now that pieces have fallen off and it's been partially eroded by pollution and the elements...
THREE: BANNED! I never take food or drinks onto the tram anyway, but I found it funny that fries and mayo are specifically banned on the signage (along with coffee and Kölsch/beer)...
And now I suppose I should probably pack my suitcase. I've got a long, strange journey ahead of me tomorrow, and the last thing I want to have to do when I wake up is pack before rushing off to the airport.
Posted on Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011
It must be karma. I write about how travel really isn't that bad for me just six days ago... then today I proceed to have one of the single worst travel days I can remember in twenty years. Seriously, I sit here wracking my brains trying to come up with something that went right today... just one little thing that I can cling to... and there isn't anything.
• I check out of my Cologne, Germany hotel and have to pay nearly $100 for internet over 5 days. $100 for something that was supposed to be free...
And yet, no amount of discussion when I checked in could dissuade them from charging me for internet. Even calling up their own website did nothing to forward my cause. Since I had to have internet for work, there was nothing I could do but pay it.
• It snowed last night. My suitcase wheels keep getting gummed up with slush, so I end up dragging my suitcase for ten minutes to the tram stop. On the plus-side, this cleared the sidewalk for everybody else.
• It's foggy at the airport, and so my flight out is delayed. This is very, very bad, because...
• I have flown into Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport once. Every other time I've visited the city, it's been by train. I have never had to transfer planes there, so the total nightmare that ensued was entirely unexpected. After landing, LATE, the plane ended up racing around the airport for a good twenty minutes before we got to the gate. My arrival into Terminal 2-G necessitates exiting security and taking a long bus-ride though the French countryside so that I can get to Terminal 2-D and go back through security. By the time I finally got to the gate, they were already boarding the plane. So much for a bathroom break on my nonexistent 1-hour-40-minute layover. I can't wait to do this all over again on my way back.
• You know those flights that are so bad that having the plane go down in flames would actually be preferable to enduring it? Yeah.
• It will come as no surprise that my luggage was lost when I finally made it to Málaga, Spain. I can only imagine that it's still making the trip from Terminal 2-G to Terminal 2-D at Charles de Gaulle. Here is the "Passenger Kit" I got to survive on until my bag (hopefully) arrives tomorrow...
• I try to arrange pickup from my airport hotel's courtesy shuttle only to find out that there isn't one. This comes as a bit of a surprise, because it clearly stated that this is a feature of the hotel on their website...
I guess hotels can write whatever the fuck they want to on their website and not have to deliver.
• Since there's no shuttle, I end up taking the bus. Except the bus driver ignores my stop request and so I have to back-track with a 25 minute walk along a busy highway.
• This same noisy highway runs directly by my hotel. Which would ordinarily be a problem, except there's a major construction project next door with trucks, bulldozers, and lots of other heavy equipment, so I can barely hear the highway noise. Since it's now 7:00pm, I can only guess that the construction runs around the clock. As if all that weren't bad enough, the hotel is apparently trying to "camouflage" the noise by blasting elevator music in the hallways at full volume. Thank heavens I have earplugs, though I sincerely doubt they'll do much good against the full-on audio assault in this room.
And there you have it. A day where absolutely everything went wrong. I can only hope that things improve tomorrow or else I may never want to travel again.
Posted on Thursday, February 3rd, 2011
It should come as no surprise that I love Spain. Since I've started this blog I've been here in 2005, 2007, 2009, five months ago in 2010, and now today. It's probable I'll be visiting again next year because there's still so many places left I want to see.
This is my first visit to the Costa del Sol in the south of Spain, and it kills me that I am only here for two days. Tomorrow I plan to explore Málaga proper, but today was spent down the coast in Marbella. I had hoped to get on some kind of tour so I could go in-country and see a bit of beautiful Ronda but, alas, it wasn't meant to be. Maybe when I eventually get around to visiting Seville and Granada I can manage to see the city then.
Anyway... I awoke to a weather map that looked like this...
Coast of the sun indeed. Just yesterday I was schlepping my suitcase through the snowy sidewalks of Cologne.
Marbella is a major vacation city of the Costa del Sol, and home to many famous and extremely wealthy people. As a playground for the über-rich it also includes a marina complex, known as Puerto Banús, which was my ultimate destination today because it's home to the Hard Rock Cafe Marbella...
The rest of the day was a delicious mish-mash of good food and cool places to walk though in Puerto Banús...
And onward to Marbella...
Just a few photos from a beautiful day in a beautiful city!
And now off to bed before my legs collapse. I spent entirely too many hours walking today.
P.S. My suitcase was at the hotel waiting for me when I got back from dinner. As always, everything seems to work out in the end. Though all I really know for sure is that I'm glad to have clean underwear again...
Posted on Friday, February 4th, 2011
Another flawless day on the Costa del Sol with blue skies and a slight breeze to keep it from getting hot.
I had some work to do in the morning, but rushed through it so I could make it out to Málaga proper for lunch (TAPAS!!).
After lunch I decided to climb up to Gibralfaro Castle then work my way down to the Central Historic District. The climb itself was kind of nuts, and I was wishing I had just taken a taxi or tour bus to the top. Instead I ended up tired and with blistered feet. Oh well. The city was a lot of fun to explore, and the perfect weather didn't hurt either.
Just a few of the hundreds of photos I took...
Would have been nice to have even one more day... but I'm grateful for the few days I had.
Posted on Saturday, February 5th, 2011
Today was a "wasted" day spent traveling. It all started when I woke up early so I could catch the hotel courtesy shuttle to the airport for my 7:00am flight. Except the hotel LIED about having a courtesy shuttle, so I instead paid a taxi €15 ($20) for a three-minute ride to the airport. I would have walked, but it was pitch-black and I'd have to travel over two ditches and through a construction site to get there. When I had attempted it previously, I had barely made it there alive in broad daylight, so I figured my life was worth the $20.
The flight from Málaga to Paris was uneventful except, of course, having to deal with Charles de Gaulle airport once I arrived. Since I was avoiding the dreaded Terminal 2G this time, I thought it would be smooth sailing. Except it wasn't. Getting from 2D to 2F still required exiting and re-entering security, which is stupid as fuck. At least I had time to use the bathroom this time. Barely.
If forced to choose between a kick to the balls and having to transfer planes at Charles de Gaulle Airport, I'd have to give it some serious thought.
And then choose the kick in the balls, because that's a pain which will eventually end.
Weather at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam was mostly gusting winds, which had been canceling flights all morning. Fortunately, I made it out and arrived only 20 minutes late because...
DutchBitch drove to the airport for a quick meet-up, where she bought me some DutchyLand deliciousness...
Since I had missed meeting up with Dutchy when she was last in Florida, it was nice to get caught up for an hour-and-a-half. I also had to tell her about the sphincter-puckering landing my plane made into Amsterdam. I've flown in some pretty crazy shit and don't scare easily, but the wind was so bad that I thought for sure we were going to crash into the runway and explode. What an awesome way to die that would have been. DutchBitch promised to toss some patatjes met out onto the flaming remains of my plane if the worst were to happen, so at least I would have died happy.
Alas, our chat was over far too quickly, and it was time for me to catch my flight back to Cologne. This time the flight was fine. My luggage didn't get lost in Paris. And my airport hotel which promises a courtesy shuttle actually has a courtesy shuttle. So I guess it's all good in the end.
Until tomorrow when I fly back home...
Posted on Sunday, February 6th, 2011
Blargh. Two days of travel have left me more dead than usual. On to the bullets while I still have a will to live...
• TequilaCon. Unfortunately, there will be no TequilaCon event in 2011. In previous years, we've been extremely fortunate that the stars have aligned and everything has come together to make for an awesome event... but it just isn't happening this year for one reason or another. So rather than forcing together something mediocre, calling it "TequilaCon," and leaving people disappointed, we've decided to take a pass this year. The last thing anybody wants is to go to the time and expense of attending TequilaCon only to have it not live up to the high expectations set by previous years. As for the future... who can say? So long as there is tequila somewhere out there in the world, the possibility for a new TequilaCon will always be there. In the meanwhile... thanks for all your support. May your limes be juicy and your salt be salty until next we meet. Jenny, Brandon, Dave2, Vahid, and Mr. Tequila...
• Mayo. One of these days I'm bringing an extra suitcase with me so that I can pack it full of creamy delicious Dutch mayonnaise. I would have tried to smuggle a jar back this trip, but US Customs are real tight-asses when it comes to bringing superior food products into the country. The bastards.
Please note that I was NOT the person who opened the jar of mayo on the right, ate a few spoonfuls, then put the jar back on the shelf. Not that I could blame this person, but it wasn't me.
• Seriousness. But in all seriousness, who the fuck would open a jar of mayo in a grocery store, eat some of it, then put it back? If I looked, would there be slices of bread, cheese, and ham missing too? Did somebody make a fucking sandwich at the store? What the hell?
• Honestly. I mean, truly... honestly... what the bloody fuck? Did somebody obsessed with the creamy deliciousness of Dutch mayo realize that smuggling an entire jar was impossible... but smuggling a handful down their pants might work?
• Obsessive. Okay. Okay. Okay. I'm honestly not getting all obsessive over this, but these are the things that keep me awake at night, people. WHAT HAPPENED TO THAT MAYO?
• Foreigner. This morning as I was waiting to board my flight home, I made my way to some website where a video was available. After clicking on the video, I got an error message saying "I'm sorry this video is not available in your country." This left me dumbfounded and more than a little pissed off. I don't think that people should get to put videos on the internet unless the entire internet is allowed to look at them.
• Easy. One of the many movies I watched on my way home was Emma Stone in Easy A. It wasn't that this was a film I was dying to see, but it was one of the last things available that I hadn't already seen at least twice. Much to my shock and horror, I actually enjoyed this movie. It unapologetically borrows from a lot of those great 80's flicks like Sixteen Candies, Pretty in Pink, Say Anything, and the like. And does so pretty well. It always shocks me that quality films of any genre end up being made in this day and age... but for something in the teen angst/romance genre that doesn't completely suck? Miraculous.
Olive Penderghast is a forgettable nobody high school student who decides to embrace her newfound infamy as "school harlot" once a false rumor about her losing her virginity spreads throughout the school. Hilarity ensues. Not only is Emma Stone flawless as the witty and lethally unflappable lead, but they somehow managed to assemble a genius cast including Stanley Tucci, Thomas Haden Church, Patricia Clarkson, Malcolm McDowell, and a surprisingly appropriately cast Lisa Kudrow. If you're looking for some mindless fun (that's actually fun), here's your film...
• Hard. As opposed to the total shit-stain of a movie called Life As We Know It. I mean, holy crap, does Katherine Heigl actively search out the shittiest, most pedestrian, predictable, ridiculously stupid scripts in the gutters of Hollywood to find her movie projects? How many sublimely idiotic spit-take reactions to the foul smell of baby poop do we really need? Wasn't Three Men and a Baby enough? Are we doomed to see it replayed in a movie every three years until the end of time? Granted, I fast-forwarded through most of this film as redundant pap, so perhaps some of the nuance was lost on me... but what the fuck?!?
Annnnnd... I'm spent.
There are plenty more bullets left in me, but my fingers stopped working about ten minutes ago. Just three more hours layover until I get to go home and (hopefully) sleep.
Posted on Monday, February 7th, 2011
Annnnnd my suitcase was beat to shit this past trip... zippers busted off, a nice gash in the side, and a handle half-way torn off. So now I am faced with the unenviable task of buying new luggage. This rates somewhere between getting a root canal and having chronic diarrhea on my Fun-O-Meter, so I'm really not looking forward to it. There's just something awful about spending big money on something the airlines actively try to destroy that makes me want to scream. I've toyed with the idea of buying cheap-ass bags, but the idea of having them fall apart so I end up chasing my underwear and toothpaste around a luggage carousel scares me more than the high price tag of the good shit.
As I am not an overly-sentimental kind of guy, I am trying my best not to get too sad over losing my travel companion from the past seven years. My faithful Samsonite roller bag has been around the world with me a dozen times, has been lost and recovered way too often, and always seemed to hold more crap than what physics would seem to allow.
Anyway... I have narrowed my choices to the folowing pieces...
Nickelodeon Spongebob Squarepants "Smile Face" Roller Tote...
Disney's "Pop" Mickey Mouse Rolling Travel Bag...
Sanrio Hello Kitty Pretty Pink Polkadots Wheely Suitcase...
Briggs & Riley "Transcend" Expandable Upright Suitcase...
Right now I'm leaning towards the Briggs & Riley bag because it comes highly recommended as a tough and durable choice for the frequent traveler. A pity it doesn't come in a more exciting design, but I guess that's the trade-off you make for getting a suitcase that's going to last a while.
I've got a couple of weeks to decide, so my fingers remain crossed that I can find Batman luggage before I have to purchase. I'd imagine there's few things cooler than pulling a Batman suitcase through the airport.
Posted on Friday, February 11th, 2011
Posted on Monday, February 21st, 2011
Today is Presidents Day, a public holiday meant to coincide with the birthday of the first president of The United States of America: George Washington. Except his birthday isn't until tomorrow on the 22nd. But since that would be an inconvenient date from a retail business perspective, they move it to Monday every year. This way stores can have Presidents Day Weekend Sales to encourage people to spend whatever money they haven't already spent for Christmas, New Years, and Valentine's Day. And if you don't have any money left, I guess you're expected to use your credit card and go into debt (or, more likely, more into debt).
I had no intention of doing my duty and fulfilling my retail obligations today, but on my way over the mountain passes this afternoon I was told that Helly Hansen was going out of business in Seattle. Needless to say, I was compelled to drop by. I love Helly Hansen gear and since everything is 40%-50% off, I didn't have any choice in the matter...
Me in Edinburgh 1999, wearing my favorite Helly Hansen jacket.
I bought it in 1997 and am still wearing it today, 14 years later. THAT'S QUALITY!
Unfortunately Fortunately, they didn't have much left in size Large, so I didn't get the massive spending spree I was expecting. Still, I found a nice windbreaker, a couple hats, and some awesome gloves, so it was worth the trip. I also stopped for a meat-free burger at Johnny Rockets (woooo!) while I was there, so I guess it was a win-win Presidents Day for me after all (even though I had to work this morning).
And so now I'm in Seattle for a day.
Perhaps longer. A winter storm hit in the mountains tonight and is expected to dump a shit-load of snow and ice on the passes. Since my car can't use chains (no, I didn't know that when I bought it) I may be stuck.
My thoughts are with the people of Christchurch tonight. The shocking images coming out of the earthquake there are just gut-wrenching. I wish everybody a speedy recovery from such tragedy, and hope to visit your beautiful country one day.
Posted on Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011
Last night I got -zero- sleep.
It seemed like all the horrors of the world just wouldn't let my mind slip into oblivion... instead I was endlessly occupied with the events in Libya, The USA, New Zealand, Yemen, Bahrain, and the rest. There seemed no way to let it all go. Instead I just laid there feeling restless and helpless all night long.
When all I really wanted to do was go home.
But I was slammed with work all day long and, when it was time to leave, I found out I couldn't. The passes were either closed or a hellacious mess, and the weather was just getting worse. After four people at work started Googling maps and pass reports, the general consensus was that my best option was to drive to Portland and make a run up the Columbia Basin tomorrow.
So here I am in Portland, feeling exhausted and destroyed...
My hetero life-partner suggested I have pizza and beer at Rocco's... where philosophers & aliens meet!
Then it was time for the awesomeness of Powell's City of Books, where I spent WAY too much money,
Not on this particular book... though I wanted to. Badly.
Then Vahid just had to remind me of Mio Gelato. The bastard.
Stracciatella gelato and Powell's Books... the perfect combo.
Classy third-floor entertainment for gentlemen!
Time for... VOODOO DOUGHNUTS!! Where good things come in pink boxes.
A maple bar and voodoo doll doughnut for dessert!
For those who have never had the orgasmic pleasure of eating at Voodoo Doughnuts, here is the carousel of awesomeness which awaits...
And so now I think I will take my aching head and tired body to bed even though it's only 8:30.
Please please please let me get home tomorrow...
Posted on Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011
And so my journey home continues... this time with pretty pictures!
Since it would still be less time to drive back to Seattle and go over the mountain passes, the first thing I did when I got up this morning was check the pass reports. One was closed. The other was "chains required" (and my car can't wear chains, even though I am legally required to carry them). And sooo... I had no choice but to continue the massive detour I was on...
This is how I usually get home. Travel time: 2hr 10min...
This is the detour I had to take. Travel time: 9hr 15min...
Well... technically it's 9 hours and 15 minutes. With my overnight stop in Portland, it actually took me 16 hours and 35 minutes to get home.
And thought the long, long drive sucked ass, there were some cool things to see along the way. My first stop? THE BRIDGE OF THE GODS! In ancient times, there was a natural stone bridge that crossed the Columbia River. Native American legend says that the bridge was put there by Manito, The Great Spirit, because he was sympathetic to the hard time people had crossing the river. A mural at the foot of the bridge shows what this looked like...
But due to a jealous rivalry between mountain gods, the bridge was destroyed (you can read all about it here). And so in 1920 we had to build our own bridge, which looks like this...
From there, I continued onward, eventually crossing the Columbia River into the small region of Maryhill, Washington. The place is kind of famous because of a World War I war memorial here... STONEHENGE! And unlike the old and busted Stonehenge in England, the Stonehenge here in Washington is new hotness...
There are a lot of wind turbines in the area...
The drive up through the Columbia Basin's county roads was pretty lonely. Most of the time I was the only driver on the road. Still, there was some nice scenery to be had...
And then, before I knew it, I was home. Exhausted and wanting to die... but home just the same.
Pretty as it was, I don't want to do this drive again any time soon.
Posted on Tuesday, March 8th, 2011
I've been keeping tabs on the Kilauea Volcano eruption in Hawaii quite closely. Not because I own property there or anything, but because in the three times I've been to The Big Island I drove up the volcano and didn't see shit.
Well, that's not entirely true. The last time I was there, it was venting vog (volcanic fog). Which I guess is kinda cool. But it's a far cry from lava shooting 80 feet into the air like what's happening now.
Here's a photo I took when I last visited in 2008...
And here's the Kilauea Volcano today...
Okay, I exaggerate. That's a photo of a nuclear explosion. But still, why can't the cool shit happen while I'm there? How awesome would it be to be standing on a volcano when it erupts?
Maybe one day I'll get lucky.
Posted on Friday, March 18th, 2011
Because I'm traveling on a restricted ticket, I ended up with an extended layover in London. Not that I'm complaining... I love London, and visit every chance I get (which would be a lot more often if the US Dollar wasn't rubbish against the British Pound). It's just that it's tough to be here when I don't have any personal time to hang out with friends that live in the area.
Hopefully next time.
Thanks to a patient taxi driver and London's excellent public transportation system, yesterday I managed to get a big chunk of the city's "Featured Spots" stamps collected from Gowalla. Then today before dinner I finished off the two remaining spots I needed. Some of the fringe locations (such as Wembley Stadium and the Prime Meridian of the World), will have to wait for next time, but I got all the biggies from the city and surrounds (you can click on them to see what they are)...
I maintain that Gowalla makes for an excellent travel guide when visiting larger cities, because the most popular tourist spots always seem to get "Featured" status. Out of the above stamps, I've been to these places multiple times. I admit it was kind of nice to be visiting them again not as a tourist, but as a collector! Thanks, Gowalla!
One place I haven't been to multiple times is the new Apple Store in Covent Gardens! It's the largest Apple Store on planet earth (at least until the New York Grand Central location is built). It's also incredibly beautiful, as Apple did an amazing job refurbishing the building. What I love most is how, from the outside, you can't really tell its an Apple Store at all...
Somebody just bought a new iPod!
No giant sign or anything... not even a glowing Apple logo... just elegance and class through and through. They discourage picture-taking inside, but Apple's official site has some beautiful photos you can look at.
The exact opposite of elegance and class would be the massive outpouring of tacky souvenir crap that's been unleashed in "honor" of the upcoming royal wedding. The stuff is everywhere. Plates, cups, notepads, stickers, cards, books, pencils, platters, postcards... you name it. I would not have been at all surprised if you could buy hemorrhoid cream with Prince William and Kate Middleton printed on the tube...
Something tells me this stuff doesn't have Her Majesty The Queen's approval.
I started out my day with the best breakfast in London at Pret...
It's heaven on a baguette!
The Egg & Roasted Tomatoes Baguette is so amazing that I ate a very light dinner last night so I'd be hungry enough to eat two. My biggest fear is that one day I'll come to London and they won't be making them anymore. For lunch I went back so I could have the Carrot & Humous Crunch Baguette. For dinner I went back yet again so I could have a Mozarella & Pesto Toastie. As usual, every single thing I've ever eaten at Pret has been delicious. And I love that they have so many vegetarian-friendly options. I keep hoping that Seattle will get a Pret, but in the USA it's just New York, DC, and Chicago for now.
Every trip to London I rave about how much I love the Johnston typeface which is used on all of the city's public transportation logos and signage. It's highly readable, yet somehow manages to be sublimely beautiful at the same time. Every time I see it, I fall in love all over again...
Hands-down my favorite sans-serif font of all time. If I ever redesign my blog, this is the typeface I'll be using.
The weather in London has been pretty much shit. It's been windy, cold, and rainy all day long. Seattle has a reputation for rain, but I've found London to be a much drearier place, weather-wise...
Still surprised when I hear tourists call this "London Bridge"... IT'S TOWER BRIDGE, YOU GITS!
The good thing about this is when the sun comes out in London, it's glorious (just like Seattle). I've had my share of beautiful London sunny days, so the weather hasn't bothered me too much.
And that's all she wrote from London. Tomorrow morning early, early, early I head back to the airport for my connecting flight. I'm hoping for better weather at my final destination. If I wanted cold, windy, and wet... I would have stayed at home.
Posted on Saturday, March 19th, 2011
British Airways gave me the best that I could possibly hope for on any trip: an uneventful flight.
And so here I am in Venice, Italy for a few days. Partly because there's a new Hard Rock Cafe here. But mostly because I watched a television program on New Orleans where some scientist guy reminded everybody that Venice is sinking into the sea and could be wiped out if a big enough flood were to strike despite our best efforts. This freaked me out a little bit, because last time I was here the city was just recovering from a small flood. With all the recent natural disasters plaguing the world, I thought it a good idea to see Venice again... just in case.
It breaks my one rule for my annual birthday trip (to see a place I've never see before), but I love Venice, and heaven only knows when I'd find time to visit again. Besides, I've already been someplace I've never been to this year, so I guess it's all good.
And I managed to get that 136th Hard Rock visit too...
The cafe itself is small. Very small. Tiny even. But it is beautifully appointed, and I was thrilled that the new "hipster-lounge" decorating style that's been plaguing new Hard Rocks around the world has been mercifully downplayed here. It's decorate more like a "classic" Hard Rock, which is nice. The location is superb, just off the Piazza San Marco, so hopefully the tourist trade will keep this property alive for a while.
And I'm off to watch the sun set from the Rialto Bridge. That's an experience that never gets old.
Posted on Sunday, March 20th, 2011
It's Bullet Sunday from Venice, Italy!
• Merger. Apparently AT&T and T-Mobile are merging. How could this possibly be a good idea? One shitty network plus one crappy network does not make a good network. It just makes a shitty network crappier. And here I thought things couldn't possibly be any worse with AT&T.
• Foo. I have never understood people's infatuation with Glee. But even more inexplicable is being made to feel crazy because I don't like the show. Now, at last, I'm not alone. Just when I think that Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters couldn't possibly be any cooler than he already is, this happens. Thank. You.
• Lunar. I haven't been able to see the SUPER MOON from here in Venice despite having clear skies. I don't know if I'm looking in the wrong place or if the moon doesn't shine in Venice or what. I'm a little sad about that, because I was looking forward to getting a photo of it. MOON FAIL!
• Venice. Speaking of Venice, it's absolutely stunning here. Clear blue skies and cool air. A big improvement over my previous trip where it rained every day...
You can never have too many statues on a building!
St. Mark's Square is under construction.
But the beautiful frescos are still available for viewing.
Climbing up the balcony of St. Mark's Basilica.
GAH! THE SHIT IS FALLING APART HERE! WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!
The Bridge of Sighs... now disgustingly brought to you by Toyota!
Look! It's TRON!!
Honestly, it's one McDonald's too many...
The Church of Health!
Pretty pink street lights.
A naked boy and his dead frog statue. Awesome?
Visiting the neighboring island of Murano.
Cracking angel statue.
Mustard-colored building in Murano.
Sunset over the Grand Canal from the Rialto Bridge.
Rialto's nighttime view on the Grand Canal.
Annnnnd... I'm spent. No more bullets left this fine Sunday. Time for pizza!
Posted on Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011
The quintessential "Venice Experience" is to take a gondola ride. I've never done it because the cost is outrageously expensive... about $120 for 35 minutes. For that kind of money, I'd rather take a ride of an entirely different kind.
But, alas, Venice is sinking and all that, and I didn't want to regret that I never rode in a gondola when I had the chance. So I didn't think about the money and decided to go for it.
Worth every penny.
It may be touristy and trite, but it really is the best way to experience this remarkable city...
The gondoliers have a fairly tough job that requires quite a bit of skill...
If you're ever in Venice, save some money for a gondola ride, it's worth the price.
There are two problems which plague a photographer in Venice. 1) Everything is leaning or warped or crooked, so trying to line up shots can drive you a little crazy. And 2) The stupid pigeons are everywhere and mess up a surprising number of shots you're trying to take. I've got dozens of photos that ended up being bird photos...
When I was last in Venice, I went to the top of the Campanile Bell Tower where I got this incredible panorama shot of the city. But it was rainy and dreary, and I longed to take another panorama in better weather. Like today. Which was sunshine and blue skies as far as the eye could see.
The problem is that something has changed since I was here last. There are heavy metal grates in place, so I couldn't really move my camera enough to take a panorama. I don't remember how I did it last time. Perhaps the grate is new? Or maybe they used to allow you to climb the stairs up past the observation deck and that's closed now? I can't figure it out. I guess I should be thankful that I've got one, even though it's in bad weather. Oh well. It's still a nice view...
After goofing around St. Mark's Square for a while, I decided to explore the area north of Rialto. It's there that the only McDonald's in Venice is located, and I wanted to use their free WiFi. Except the WiFi wasn't working, so I ended up going to Mickey-Dees for nuthin...
Annnnd... I'm done playing tourist for the day. Time to seek out the perfect Venetian restaurant for dinner.
Posted on Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011
In an effort to "go somewhere I haven't gone before" while on my annual birthday vacation, I decided to head to the small island of Burano today. I've never gone before because there's always so much to do in Venice that it doesn't seem worth the trouble. But I've heard nice things about the place, so today was the day. First I walked to St. Mark's Square so I could find a water-bus to take me to North Venice. Then I found a ferry to make the 40 minute lagoon crossing to Burano.
The total journey took me about an hour, and ended up being well worth the trip.
Burano is mostly a fishing village, but it's heavily geared towards tourists. Just like Murano is famous for its glass, Burano is famous for its lace. I thought I might pick up a tiny sample as a souvenir, but even a 4-inch doily of authentic Burano Lace was $50, so I took a pass.
Instead I wandered around looking at all the pretty multi-colored houses on the island...
And, of course, have some stracciatella gelato...
Apparently the house colors are strictly regulated by the city government. If you buy a house on Burano and decide you want to paint it, you have to ask for permission. After getting permission, you are given a few color choices which are selected for your location. Hopefully one of these colors ends up being something you like, or else you're shit out of luck.
Tonight I really need to get caught up on some work, so there'll be no more fun for me until dinner. I really should try and get some sleep as well.
Posted on Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011
Seven years ago, I received an email from a young man because he had nobody else he could turn to. It saddened me that somebody so young had such an unnecessarily difficult life... but it broke my heart that a stranger on the internet was the only place he felt he could turn to for a friendly word. Hurting and alone, his entire existence was that of suffering and hatred just because he happened to be gay. Through no fault of his own, for something he could not change even if he wanted to, he was mercilessly teased and bullied day in and day out.
His story changed me in a way I can never explain. But hearing somebody's hopes and dreams revolve entirely around escaping their miserable life is a soul-crushing experience that should change you.
Sadly, since that time, things have not gotten better. The rash of suicides among gay youth making the headlines these past years is a constant reminder how even being perceived as gay can have tragic results. At a time when just being a kid can be confusing and painful enough a burden, being bullied can be that final straw that removes all hope from a young life... maybe even one you know. And, sadly, it doesn't end there. Even if they manage to survive their youth, the violence, intolerance, and hatred never disappears.
This has to change.
And it will change if we want it to. And a big piece of the puzzle that's been missing is to change the attitudes of those that often end up doing the bullying: young straight men.
Enter Straight But Not Narrow...
It's wonderful that there are organizations like The Trevor Project available to assist after the damage is done, but it's organizations like Straight But Not Narrow which will (hopefully) start to change the way society views our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender friends and neighbors. And it's about fucking time...
Some of the bravest, kindest, most decent and honorable men I know happen to be gay. Who they date or who they fall in love with makes no difference in their moral character. None. But anybody who would persecute them for who the are has serious character deficiencies regardless of what justification they try to use to back-up their hate...
Everybody has their own beliefs. Everybody has their own opinions. And that's fine. That's America. But if what you say fosters hatred towards somebody so vicious that it can lead to their death... then you have no place in a society which was built specifically to insure the pursuit of happiness for all its citizens.
I can only hope that the voices of those in the Straight But Not Narrow project (and other organizations like it) can eventually drown out the voices from hateful pieces of shit whose only goal is to tear us apart because of our differences. It's these difference... and the right to be who we are... which should be binding us together.
Make a difference. Make your voice be heard.
Posted on Friday, March 25th, 2011
I don't celebrate my birthday, which is part of the reason I like leaving the country every year... it's a lot harder for your friends and family to throw a party or make a big deal over it when you're not around. That being said, the outpouring of birthday wishes from everybody is such a wonderful thing that I wish it could be my birthday every day! It's hard not to be happy when your email in-box, text messages, Facebook, and Twitter are jam-packed with well-wishers wanting to congratulate you on surviving another year. My hetero-life-partner even wrote a blog post for my birthday which, considering he almost never blogs anymore, was a really great end to an amazing day.
Which, oddly enough, was 31 hours long, since I started the 24th in London (7 hours ahead) and flew home to re-live a big chunk of my day all over again. I guess if it can't be your birthday every day, crossing time zones to make the one day you get last longer is the next best thing.
The flight home was somewhat torturous thanks to The Most Boring Man In The Universe sitting in the seat behind me. Seriously, this bastard rambled non-stop for nine-hours-and-twenty-minutes, loudly (LOUDLY) going on and on about mundane shit that even my iPod at full volume could not obliterate. Since he had an English accent, it was if I were trapped in the most horrifyingly boring documentary ever. I still have no idea how the poor person he was talking to the entire time kept from killing herself. I would have dashed my brains out on the seat-back tray after the first hour.
Coming back the USA was about as painless as it's ever been. I used to loathe going through border control and customs because the agents were always such assholes. But they truly have been improving over the past couple years, which makes foreign travel so much nicer. It's as if they knew people hated them and their hostile, shitty attitudes and decided to try being more pleasant. This time, I actually felt welcomed back to my own country, which would have been impossible for me to even dream of just five years ago. Having to wait less than ten minutes in line was also a nice bonus... especially after having suffered through Heathrow's 25-minute wait at border control twice. You'd think that one of the world's busiest airports could have more than two measly desks open for plane-loads of passengers, but apparently they just don't give a fuck. I kept looking for the sign saying VISIT THE UNITED KINGDOM AT YOUR PERIL, YOU FILTHY FOREIGN BASTARDS! But, being British, they're much more subtle about it. They just make you suffer a long wait in silence to show their disdain for your existence and their contempt at your desire to set foot on their soil.
But at least I didn't have to give my fingerprints, retina scan, and a stool sample like foreigners visiting these United States of America. I guess that's something.
My birthday also happens to be the birthday of Mac OS X, which turned ten years old yesterday! It's odd how Apple's OS is so young, but seems to have been around forever. I usually celebrate the occasion by booting up an antique Macintosh running an old, old, old version of Mac OS, just so I can appreciate how far we've come. The problem is that last year when I did this I actually came across some old features that I miss in the "modern" OS, so I'll probably skip this year. Nothing quite so sad as longing for technology advances from twenty years ago. What I wouldn't give to have each of my fucking folder windows remember their fucking Finder view selection and fucking sorting preference every fucking time I fucking open them... but, alas, that's only possible with technology from fucking 1990. Nothing like taking giant steps backwards as you head into the future, eh Apple?
And now I get ready to face my Friday, knowing full-well that there will be no Matt & Kim concert at the end of it. It's times like this I wonder how I manage to go on day after day, but I've got another birthday coming up next year where people will (hopefully) take the time to once again send happy thoughts my way... so I'll just hang on to that for the next 365 days* and see where that gets me.
*Usually, I'd be waiting 364 days, but 2012 is a leap year, giving me a whole extra day before my next birthday. How much does that suck? Thanks a lot crappy flawed Julian calendar system!
Posted on Tuesday, March 29th, 2011
And... here I am in L.A. for one day only.
Though the city has not-so-pleasant memories from when I was working here, I do still love it quite a lot. Probably because it's one of those places I've been to so many times that I've long-since worn out all the "touristy crap" and can just relax and do the things I like to do.
The trip got off to an ominous start. After the cabin door had been closed on the small aircraft, some guy yelled for the flight attendant because he wanted off the plane. He claims the reason was a text message from his lawyer. But the pilot was new to the job, and those of us at the front of the plane could hear every word of her pre-flight conversation with the co-pilot. Phrases like "You know what I'm doing, right?" and "How do I fly out of here?" don't exactly inspire confidence.
And so we were delayed while the guy got off the plane, which was too bad for him because the take-off was unlike any I've ever had from our small airport. Rather than doing a high-banking turn as usual, she did a lovely, lazy spiral. This afforded us an amazing view of the valley that I have never seen in my 25 years of flying out of here...
After a transfer at SeaTac (Seattle) I was off to the City of Angels. After working all morning in my hotel room, I knew exactly where I wanted to go for lunch... PINK'S HOT DOGS!
After all, it comes Betty White recommended...
And their "Patt Morrison Baja Veggie Dog" smothered in fresh guacamole, onions, and tomatoes is worth the effort to get here. The veggie dog itself is better at America's Dog in Chicago, but the fresh California toppings at Pink's are fantastic...
The reason I came to L.A. was located in Hollywood, so I passed the time walking the Walk of Fame. A couple times ago when I was here, Michael Jackson had died. This time, it was Elizabeth Taylor's star that was covered in flowers...
The weather was flawless. A cool breeze with flawless blue skies...
Right up until nighttime, when the sunset was pretty amazing on Hollywood Boulevard...
But the real awesomeness was yet to come...
To be continued...
Posted on Wednesday, March 30th, 2011
Last night I saw an amazing show by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark at The Music Box L.A.
All the expense and trouble of getting here melted away as the band slammed through a sensational set list of their incredible music. And, because I had bought a "VIP Package," I got to attend a soundcheck and meet the band before the show even started. This was an incredible experience, and made a great thing even better...
The soundcheck ended up being fantastic, but the concert itself was amazing. One of my favorite new bands, Mackintosh Braun, opened up for them, which was like extra frosting on your cake.
I thought it would be impossible for any band to even get close to the energy from the Matt & Kim show I attended last week in London, but Andy, Paul, and Co. played their guts out for an enthusiastic crowd that absolutely loved their performance...
When I met the band, I gave them crap for not playing Seattle. They said that they had been asked to tour the States again, and Seattle would definitely be included next time. Which is like chocolate pudding on top of your extra frosting on top of your cake. I can hardly wait!
Since this was the final show on their tour, Andy took a minute to send out some thank you's. One of them was to their record label, Bright Antenna, for sponsoring this tour in the first place. Apparently no concert promoter would back OMD because they didn't think people would show up. Of course, the band went on to not only sell-out every single show, but they even added an extra one. Which also sold out...
Congrats to Andy, Paul, Martin, and Malcolm on a great album, a great tour, and for having such great fans.
And now it's time for how I got here...
Along with Depeche Mode and the Thompson Twins, the holy trinity of my favorite 80's bands is completed by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (more often known as "OMD"). Other bands like a-ha, Pet Shop Boys, and Duran Duran came along to snag my attention, but my DM, TT, and OMD came first.
As a massively huge fan of their work, I was thrilled when OMD released a new album last year, History of Modern, that was as good as anything they've ever done. It ended up being my pick for "Album of the Year," so you can imagine my delight when I found out that they were touring the USA in March.
Except there was no stop in Seattle, and I was gone for a big chunk of the shows because I was in London and Venice. A part of me was gutted that I'd miss the tour, but a part of me was also relieved because I'd be flat-broke when I got back from Europe.
And then they added an extra Los Angeles date six days after I returned from London.
I was sorely tempted but, the cost of the flight, hotel, food, and tickets was more than I could spend, and I've already seen OMD live several times.
But then Mackintosh Braun announced they would be the opening act.
Keep in mind, THIS is what my favorite albums list looks like for 2010...
With Mackintosh Braun added to the ticket, there was no way I could miss this show. I had just seen Matt & Kim. I had flown to New York for a-ha's farewell tour. The chance to see tracks from four out of five of my favorite albums of 2010 performed live was too much.
And so I decided to throw responsibility to the wind, spend a chunk of money I don't have, and fly to L.A. for one night only for an opportunity to listen to some great music. And since I was already going for broke, I went ahead and got the VIP deal. In for a penny, in for a pound, I guess.
What was especially cool was that Ian and Ben (Mackintock Braun) hung around in the lobby after the show so I could tell them that they were the reason I flew to the show. They were genuinely grateful, and a couple of really nice guys. If you haven't listened to their stuff, I highly recommend it.
And so now I fly home. Poor, but happy.
Which is as it really should be, I suppose.
Posted on Thursday, March 31st, 2011
I just came back from London & Venice, then left for Los Angeles.
Now I'm back from L.A. and am heading off to Las Vegas.
Apparently my travel layovers are no longer in airports, they're at home. It's like I've gone back in time twenty years and I'm living out of a suitcase again. Except now I actually have a suitcase and can afford to stay in accommodations where I don't have to worry about getting stabbed in the middle of the night because somebody wants to steal my socks.
Though I did have my personal shampoo stolen while staying at a Holiday Inn just five years ago.
I suppose it was all my fault for stepping out to Taco Bell so I could try the new "Crunchwrap Supreme" that everybody was talking about. Except I had them substitute rice for the beef, so I guess it wasn't actually the same Crunchwrap Supreme that everybody was talking about after all. Still tasted good. Though it's probably impossible for anything with this much saturated fat content to taste bad. Especially when it's cheese-flavored saturated fat...
NOTE: Actual product will bear no resemblance whatsoever to this photographic fantasy.
Purple background is optional, and my not be available at your local Taco Bell.
I'm sure there's a life lesson here somewhere. I just can't decide if it's that you should never eat at Taco Bell... or you should never travel with your own shampoo and instead just use the crappy free stuff they give you at the hotel.
All I know is that they will let you take a full-size Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme through airport security. Try that with a full-size bottle of shampoo and you'll end up having it confiscated.
I'll leave it up to you to decide which is the bigger threat to National Security... but something tells me that the TSA has it all backwards.
Posted on Friday, April 1st, 2011
It seems like only yesterday I was on my way to Vegas for the TequilaCon 2010 Planning Posse Event. But time, she flies. That was September, 2009. Seventeen months ago.
Alas, Vegas is calling once again...
I can't even guess what kind of crazy crap will be posted here while I'm in Sin City (if anything) because I plan on drinking 96% of the time. The other 4% will be spent sleeping. Or puking. Or both (hopefully not at the same).
That leaves only 2% of my days for blogging and 8% of my time for trying to figure out where I just went wrong with the math there.
Running at 110%, that's me.
Posted on Saturday, April 2nd, 2011
It's all a blur so far.
Except when I stopped drinking long enough to go to a show.
For years I've managed to avoid the horrors of Cirquel Jerque de Soleil. Circuses and clowns and crap are not even remotely entertaining to me, and mixing them with acrobats only makes things worse. But, alas, free tickets were included in our travel package, and so tonight was the night. We went to The Beatles' Love because I figured that even if I hated it, I'd at least be able to enjoy the music...
As expected, I thought the entire show was boring as hell.
I simply don't "get" Cirque de Soleil. A song will start and a bunch of different people will come out and start doing inexplicable crap. Somebody's pulling a cart across the stage. Somebody else is jumping on a bed. Somebody's smashing a wall. Somebody is yelling. Policemen go by on roller skates. A woman in a window frame floats down from the ceiling. Eventually the Ku Klux Klan shows up (no joke). It's just a bunch of random shit going on while Beatles music plays, none of it making much sense... even when the connection to the music was obvious.
Sure, the technical side of the show is amazing. The stage changes and moves in a wide variety of different configurations. There's a part of the show where parachute silk flows out over the audience like billowing waves. Some of the set-pieces are very cool. But none of this was entertaining enough to keep my interest.
I guess I should have kept drinking. Maybe then it would have all made sense.
One more day left in paradise...
Posted on Sunday, April 3rd, 2011
It's a Vegas-infused edition of Bullet Sunday!
• Classy. The most interesting aspect of Vegas is the people who show up here. People-watching is so good that could almost be a full-time activity. Hang around long enough, and you'll see it all. Drunks walking out into traffic. People puking in trash cans. Women walking through the casino in a bikini. A pickup full of cats that says "Pussy Wagon"... it's all going on in Vegas. But the best thing I saw this trip was a woman walking down The Strip in leopard print pants, a halter-top, hooker-high heels, and makeup so thick it was probably put on with a spatula. This alone wasn't unusual because half the women here look like that. But throw in the fact that she was nursing a newborn baby, and it doesn't get any classier!
• Cups. I swear, every time I come to Vegas, the drinking cups are bigger. First there was the "Big Gulp" cup. Then there was the long-neck cup. Then there was the "Yard Glass" cup. Now there's the 100-oz. Cup which is SO long (over 4-feet) that it comes with a neck-strap. I suppose next time I come to Vegas, there will be 200-oz. cups that come with a pull-cart to lug it up and down The Strip...
What I love is the little "Always Drink Responsibly" signs displayed where you buy these things. How could you possibly drink anything this massive responsibly? The entire purpose of buying one is to be irresponsible.
• Gambler. I'm usually pretty lucky when it comes to gambling (even though I don't believe in luck). But not this trip. I won a grand total of $17. On an "investment" of $200. I am officially poor now.
• Fremont. I'm always surprised when somebody comes back from Las Vegas, I ask if they visited Fremont Street in the "old town" and they say "no." It's such a shame, because it's such a fun experience. A lot to see and do in a rather small area...
And, of course, there's the giant-screen ceiling of the covered-walkway that spans a big chunk of the area. This time we got to rock out to Queen and Kiss, which was very cool because the sound system is great. If you ever end up in Las Vegas, don't miss a chance to visit. It's worth the $20 cab ride...
• Stargate! They will make just about anything into a slots game. TV Shows like Survivor and Sex In The City are popular, and this time I saw one I hadn't seen before based on Stargate SG-1...
Seems a little sci-fi geek esoteric for Vegas, but it ended up being a good game (even though I didn't win any money)! There really needs to be a slots game based on Top Chef or Project Runway!
• Bloody! The perfect Bloody Mary is a difficult beast to track down. Usually because so many place make such bad ones. Imagine my surprise when it was suggested to go to Rainforest Cafe if you want a good Bloody Mary... and they were absolutely right! It's a good mix that's not too spicy and not all watery. AND it comes with potato chips on top! Genius!
• Eat! The best place to eat in Las Vegas? EARL OF SANDWICH at the Miracle Mile Shops in the Planet Hollywood Resort! The franchises are hard to find unless you live in Texas or Florida, and the shop in Las Vegas is the only location in the Western USA. Probably the best sandwich I've ever had. So good I went both days...
Right next door is Pink's, which is funny since I just went there when I was in Los Angeles this past week...
Annnnnd... that's a Vegas weekend in bullets. Well, the parts I can talk about anyway. Because what happens in Vegas...
Posted on Monday, April 4th, 2011
And, just like that, my weekend in Vegas is over.
It would have been nice to have a few more days just to kick back at the Bellagio's pool and relax but, alas, I have to go back to work since I didn't win a million dollars gambling.
But this morning there was time to do Just One More Thing before heading to the airport, so it was decided we would go to the Shark Reef Aquarium at the Mandalay Bay Resort. This was a good call, because I haven't been there in nearly ten years (when it first opened, I think) and love me a good aquarium...
A fun way to spend a morning, to be sure.
And now I get to sit at the airport for three hours on layover while I wait for my flight home.
Not such a fun way to spend an evening, to be sure.
But, knock on wood, I get to stay home a full three weeks before heading out again, so that's something.
Posted on Tuesday, April 5th, 2011
It's snowing like crazy in the Cascades. Again.
I am so done with snow now. But it sure makes flying over the mountains pretty...
But my concern is driving over the mountains. With the passes all messed up, I'm cut off from civilization.
By car, anyway.
Stupid expensive plane tickets.
Posted on Sunday, April 17th, 2011
I can't believe it's the two-hundred-and-twenty-seventh episode of Bullet Sunday! That's like 60% of a full year's worth!
• Needle! Today is the 50th anniversary of the ground-breaking for Seattle's Space Needle. Originally created for the 1962 "Century 21 World's Fair," it quickly became a symbol of the city (if not the entire Pacific Northwest). What I love about the structure is that it doesn't look dated despite its classic 1960's styling. On top of that, it's a beautiful cornerstone of the Seattle skyline and a cool tourist attraction...
I've visited dozens of times, and the view from the top still takes my breath away. If you'd like to read more about the history of Seattle's landmark, there's a nice wrap-up at Wikipedia.
• Happy! What's kind of a mash-up between Friends and Coupling but somehow manages to be uniquely hilarious television in its own right? It's Happy Endings! I have to admit, I thought the whole "group-of-six-friends-half-girls-half-boys" sitcom concept had been played into the ground (usually to horrible effect). But I was dead wrong. Happy Endings is funny, funny, stuff. The premiere episode is available for FREE on iTunes and well-worth your time to check out...
• Proof? On the other end of the spectrum... the new television drama Body of Proof is just so bad. Dana Delany is great as a surgeon-turned-medical-examiner, but just about every other character on the show is total crap. The writing is so lame that it's almost comical. It's as if they set out to make everybody be intentionally annoying and unwatchable. I was hoping for another
• Collectorz. If you're a Macintosh whore who wants to enter your comic book collection in a computer database, you're pretty much screwed. Years ago I used a program called "ComicBase" which was originally created for Macs, but then they switched to Windows and dropped development for the Mac version (nice!). Over the years there's been a few new programs for Mac, but they haven't been very feature-rich. Enter "Comic Collector for Mac OS X" which is coming May 17th. It looks fairly complete and very affordable ($29.95 or $49.95 for a "pro" version)...
It pulls data and cover images off their web server, and allows for quick and easy barcode entry. In anticipation of its release, I've been using a trial membership for their companion "cloud" service: "Comic Book Collector Connect." It's a little cumbersome for adding comics, but still very cool. What's sweet about this company is that even if their OS X software sucks, I can still use the online Connect service to index my collection (unlimited access and database size for $19.95 a year!). If you're a fellow Mac whore with a comic book collection, check it out.
• AirPrint. One of the more serious omissions from iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, etc.) was printing. Apple finally addressed this a while back with a technology they call AirPrint. The problem is that this "feature" is half-baked at best. First you either have to buy an AirPrint-Enabled printer or find a 3rd party solution which makes your non-Airport printer be recognized by the iOS. And then the fun begins... figuring out which apps can actually print worth a crap. Most don't. Apple's "Photos" app, for example, doesn't allow you to fill the page with your photo when you print it. Instead, it prints a tiny image in the middle of the page. Other apps print okay, but the lack of control over orientation, scale, and placement is a serious detriment. Only apps which are specifically designed for printing (like Pages, Numbers, and Keynote) seem to produce expected results. This is kind of embarrassing for Apple. Usually they don't release something until it's polished and functional, and AirPrint isn't there yet. Still... it is a promising glimpse of the functionality that devices like these will need in a "post PC world."
Annnnnd... now it's time for the new Burn Notice movie... The Fall of Sam Axe! As a huge fan of Bruce Campbell, it's must-see TV.
Posted on Thursday, May 5th, 2011
I always hesitate to tell people when I'm working in Hawaii.
Because nobody ever truly believes that it's actually possible to "work" in Hawaii. Their idea of "working in Hawaii" involves a Mai Tai on the beach or something. I know this, because any time I am forced to tell somebody, they always end the conversation with "Have fun!
Except Bad Robert. When I mention "Hawaii" to Bad Robert, the only thing he has to say is this...
"Dude! Hawaii? I'm never going to Hawaii. It's out in the middle of NOWHERE! Have you ever looked at Hawaii on the map? There's nothing out there, man. Just ocean. Shit could happen and nobody would know. The island could sink or get blown up by a volcano, and ain't nobody coming to rescue you, because there's nobody out there. Good luck, man. I hope you make it."
All drama aside, he's absolutely right. Hawaii is one of the most remote places on earth...
And one of the most beautiful.
Which is why I'm not just flying over for work, then heading right back. I'm staying the weekend and goofing off a bit. Because it would be downright irresponsible to come all this way and not try to have a little fun.
In the meanwhile, there's work. So I suppose I should try to get some sleep so I can function in the morning.
Hope your Cinco de Mayo was a good one!
Posted on Friday, May 6th, 2011
Today was mostly a work day, but I did get some time to goof off in Honolulu and do some of the things that made me not mind dragging my ass across the Pacific to be here. This pretty much boils down to three things...
#1 PUKA DOG!! Originating on Kauai, Puka Dog eventually opened up a shop in Waikiki (UPDATE: Puka Dog is now Hula Dog in Oahu, still Puka Dog in Kauai. UPDATE 2: Hula Dog in Waikiki was CLOSED when they tore down the International Marketplace! SUCKS!! Check Hula Dog's website for their locations). I can say without reservation that this is my favorite meal in all of Oahu. Just like Chicago, which has a hot dog to call their own, Puka Dog is a hot dog done Hawaiian-style, and they are amazing...
Don't let the line scare you... Puka Dog is worth the wait!
They are also very different and uniquely Hawaiian in oh so many ways...
The way you order is kind of "Soup-Naziesque" but they don't treat you too badly if you goof it up. But it's pretty hard to goof up if you follow the steps on their menu board. For example, I order like this: "I'll take a Veggie, Hot, Mango, Lilikoi on White, please!" But, no matter how you order, you're getting an amazing meal that's unlike anything else on earth... in a very good way...
Left is a dog in the hole. Right is down a few bites so you can see all the condiment goodness within!
#2 KISSES!! Everybody loves Hershey's Kisses. Those little foil-wrapped pieces of deliciousness are truly a treat to behold. And then Hershey's took it to The Next Level and introduced Kisses with almonds, caramel, and peanut butter in the middle (among other things). BUT... only here in Hawaii can you get Hershey Kisses with Macadamias in the middle! They are everything you'd dream they'd be. And at $5 a bag, they'd better be...
#3 NEW HARD ROCK!! As anybody who follows this blog already knows, I am incredibly disappointed with the "new-style" Hard Rock Cafe properties. Instead of the old-school method of cramming every available surface with awesome Rock-n-Roll memorabilia, they instead put a few meager pieces in glass cases and scatter them on a few walls. So when they moved Honolulu's Hard Rock from the old location to the new one in Waikiki, I was horrified at the idea of it being a shitty "new-style" cafe. And it is. Kind of. Because while there isn't a tremendous amount of memorabilia, it is more than usual. And they DO have this awesome ribbon of guitars running up the wall and across the ceiling of this beautiful, beautiful restaurant...
Approaching the all-new dual-level Hard Rock Cafe at Waikiki!
Pretty sweet, eh? And, on that note, I am about ready to pass out, so I'm off to a night of (hopefully) sweet slumber.
BUT, BEFORE I FORGET...
I ran across proof positive that President Obama was BORN AMERICAN, BABY! Because if it's in a children's book, it must be true, right?
Posted on Saturday, May 7th, 2011
Honolulu is just a big city like most big cities except it has a really excellent location.
If you're into big cities then you really can't do much better in Hawaii than here, and I recommend it highly as a place to eat, shop, play, and (if you're lucky) work. The problem is that a big city is not really what people want to see when they visit beautiful Hawaii. Myself included. For this reason, I avoid Honolulu like the plague. I'd much, much rather spend my time just about anywhere except here. This usually means I end up on my favorite island, Maui, or taking side-trips to Kauai or The Big Island of Hawaii. I only come to Honolulu when work brings me here or I am changing planes or something.
For a very long time I had been treating the entire island of Oahu as if it were Honolulu.
All that changed one year when a colleague drove me to Oahu's East Shore for dinner and I was shocked to see that after you get outside of Honolulu, it's an entirely different world. Oahu is just as beautiful and amazing as the other islands... it just happens to have a big city on it.
So this trip I decided to not bail on Oahu the minute my work was over. Instead, I decided to stay here a few days and explore a bit.
And what better place to start than iconic Diamond Head?
It was a nice cool overcast day... perfect for hiking up Diamond Head!
These cool thistle-like things were everywhere.
Looking down at Honolulu from the top.
The websites I looked at for Diamond Head had me worried to hike it with my messed-up back, but it was actually a pretty easy hike. I rewarded myself with a bag of fresh-cut pineapple spears when I made it back down to the visitor center...
Yes, it was insanely delicious, just as you'd expect.
Almost as cool as Diamond Head itself is how you get into the crater through a tunnel bored into the side...
It reminds me of the Big-Foot alien's tunnel on The Six Million Dollar Man!
After that, it was time for fresh-n-hot malasadas at World-Famous Leonard's Bakery...
Kind of a Portuguese version of a doughnut... but without a hole.
After stuffing my face with malasadas and getting sugar all over my rental car, I was going to go find a comic book shop for FREE COMIC BOOK DAY, but decided to consult Gowalla to see if there were any cool spots to visit. First on the list? Beautiful Byodo-In Temple...
The rainy weather actually made for a prettier visit with the fog in the mountains.
Then I decided to continue driving around Oahu's North Shore. Here I stopped at a number of different lookouts and beaches, with one of the more interesting being Chinaman's Hat Island...
The island is that blip on the right-hand side there.
A better view of Chinaman's Hat.
Despite being fairly close together, the many beaches each seem to have their own personality...
One of the more famous stops was "Sunset Beach" which was fairly empty now but, during the Winter, is overflowing with surfers. That's when some of the biggest and best waves on earth arrive...
Eventually I got tired of beaches and made my way to world-famous Matsumoto's General Store... one of the best places on the island to get a shave-ice treat...
I got "The Hawaiian" which had a colorful variety of tropical syrups on top.
The shave-ice wasn't enough cold sugar for me, so I stopped off at the Dole Plantation for a Pineapple Whip. If I were hungrier, I would have got for the Pineapple Whip Float, which is drenched with delicious Dole pineapple juice...
Even though it was still fairly early in the afternoon, I was getting tired and decided to head back to my hotel for a nap. But then I saw The Bishop Museum was on the way, so I had to stop and take a look. It's a beautiful, beautiful museum which does a great job of documenting Hawaiian history...
The Bishop Museum is SHARK EXTREME!!!
Once back in my room, I suddenly realized I was hungry. Since I was dead-tired I thought I might just order in room service, but decided I couldn't resist the urge to have yet another Puka Dog! This time I downshifted to "Spicy" garlic-lemon sauce instead of "Hot" because I wanted the Maui Sweet Onion Relish to shine through. This made a good thing even better...
Delicious Puka Relishes on tap!
And now... I'm done. Time to kick back and read a few blogs before bedtime. All-in-all it was a pretty great day. Despite the off-again-on-again rainy weather, Oahu treated me pretty well, and I'm glad I took the time to get to know her a little better. Hopefully tomorrow will be just a fruitful.
Posted on Sunday, May 8th, 2011
Hope all the mothers out there had a great Mother's Day.
Today's bullets will be fired from Part Two of my "Get to Know an Island" series: OAHU EDITION! Since yesterday was spent exploring the North Shore and Central Valley, today I decided to head West and take a look at the Leeward region of the island...
• End of the Road. Rather than having to continuously cross back and forth across Highway 93, I decided to head all the way to the end of the road, then stop at all the spots I wanted to see on the way back. And when I say "end of the road," I mean that literally. The pavement stops and, though a dirt road with craters in it goes on around the point, it's pretty much inaccessible unless you've got a really tough 4-wheel drive rig (which I didn't)...
• How I Roll. And what rig DID I end up with? A KIA Soul. It's not a bad ride, per se, but it does have one horrible flaw that can make it a terrifying thing to drive. MASSIVE FUCKING BLIND SPOTS IN THE BACK CORNERS! So not exaggerating here...
Yes, you've got mirrors, but if you want to confirm that there's nobody sneaking up behind you in your mirror's blind-spot, you can't. I guess those giant hamsters that they use to advertise the Soul on television must drive using The Force or something.
• Kaena Point State Park. Anyway... at the end of the road is Kaena Point State Park, which is actually a very nice place to visit. There's a beautiful aqua-colored tidal pool there...
And a pretty sweet beach...
• Kane'ana Cave. About two miles outside of the park, there's a giant cave you can wander into. When I visited, there was a hot dog stand across the street...
It's not very deep... but it is pretty darn big.
• Beach Culture. I stopped at a few different beaches along the West Coast of Oahu. Many of them were absolutely beautiful. As I understand it, the waves get pretty insane during the winter months, but things were fairly calm today...
• Pearl Harbor Historic Sites. On my way back to Waikiki, I decided to stop at Pearl Harbor to see the new visitor center there. When I was here last time, they were just starting construction, and I decided to make a donation. They ended up putting my money to good use, because the new center is just beautiful...
If you ever make it to Honolulu and have even a passing interest in history, this is a must-see.
• USS Bowfin. As I arrived around 4:00, there was only an hour until closing time. This meant there was no chance of visiting the USS Arizona Memorial... or the Missouri... or the film center. This didn't bother me, because I've already been through them more than a couple times (and with much better weather!). But I didn't want to leave without doing something, so I toured the USS Bowfin Sub Museum and Park. The submarine itself has been beautifully restored, and has a very cool steampunk look about it on the inside...
Annnnd... that was enough for today.
Except a stop at Ala Moana Center so I could visit their awesome food court and get me some falafel. As expected, it was totally delicious and worth the wait.
Posted on Monday, May 9th, 2011
A second day of bullets for double damage!
Today's bullets will be fired from Part Three of my "Get to Know an Island" series: OAHU EDITION! Since yesterday was spent exploring the Leeward side of the island, today I decided to head East and take a look at the Windward region of the island...
• Nu'uanu Pali Lookout. I had just been here two years ago but, since it was along the way, I decided to stop again. This is actually a pretty gruesome place... it's where King Kamehameha the 1st and his army drove a bunch of their enemies off a cliff into this here valley...
It's a lot nicer when the weather is good, but I was still glad I stopped.
• Kailua Beach State Park. And here it is... the best beach I've seen on all of Oahu: Kailua Beach. It's absolutely stunning, and on-par with my favorite Maui beaches. The surf seems fairly mild, which is why a bunch of para-surfers and wind-surfers were out and about...
The sand is powder-fine and beautiful...
The park is in a residential area, which is kind of a nice surprise. The lack of hotels and resorts means that the beach isn't completely overrun like Waikiki. I'm guessing it's pretty crowded on the weekends, but on this Monday morning there wasn't a lot of people there. All I know is that if I wanted some beach-time when visiting Oahu, it would be Kailua and nearby Lanikai Beach all the way.
• Makapuʻu. Across from Oahu's "Sea Life Park" (where you can swim with dolphins and stuff), there's a strip of rocky beach that's a great place to look for crabs, fish, and other critters that call the place home. Typical of Hawaii weather, I was able to look North and see a rain storm moving in...
Then look South and see sunshine...
It was kind of nice to see blue skies, because it's been on-again-off-again raining my entire trip.
• Halona Blowhole. And so now I've finally seen a blowhole. This is a geological formation where a sea cave has an opening above it. When waves flood the cave, water is blown out of the hole. Hence the name...
The volume of water that can shoot up is huge and makes a big impression in person. But in photos it's the smaller plumes that look more interesting.
• Lanai Lookout. I'm guessing the reason that this place is called "Lanai Lookout" is because you can see the island of Lanai from here. This seems odd, as I would expect that Molokai would be in the way... but whatever. I didn't see anything. Except interesting land formations and some pigeons chilling out and watching the waves...
• Hanauma Bay. This is the only place other than Pearl Harbor and Nu'uanu Pali that I've been to in Oahu outside of Honolulu/Waikiki on one of my previous trips. If you like to snorkel, this is an amazing place to do it...
Unfortunately the bay has been ravaged by the masses of tourists who flock here. I'm surprised that the damage hasn't ruined the place completely, but there's still an abundance of marine life to be found. Park rangers are trying their best to educate people about how to minimize their impact, but the thousands of people who show up every day (except Tuesday) do take their toll. I worry that eventually they'll have to close down popular places like this in order to let nature recover a bit, but I suppose that's better than the alternative.
• Diamond Head State Park. This is a very nice park, but parking is crazy. Even on a Monday afternoon. Cars are piled everywhere, so eventually I just waited for somebody to leave and got a spot next to the Amelia Earhart memorial that's there...
A lot of surfing going on...
And here's the lighthouse I was looking down upon from the top of Diamond Head two days ago...
• Puka! Since I had a late 9:00pm flight, there was time for one last dinner in Waikiki. Despite having eaten there three times already, I could think of only one place I wanted to go... PUKA DOG!!
Despite the $7 price tag, it remains my favorite meal on the island. Soooo good and a fitting finale to my trip.
Annnnnd... that's it for my trip to Hawaii. I am really glad I took the time to explore Oahu and see some of the many great things the island has to offer. Unfortunately, one thing it doesn't offer is free wi-fi at Honolulu International Airport, so I'm afraid this entry won't be posted until I get home. Stupid airport.
Posted on Tuesday, May 10th, 2011
I flew out of Honolulu last night at 9:30pm and arrived back in The States at 6:30am this morning. I think I got a short nap in there somewhere, but most of my time was spent watching iTunes episodes of my favorite new television show... Happy Endings... even though I've already seen all of them a dozen times. The show is so good that I just can't help myself.
The lack of sleep wouldn't have been a big deal if I didn't have a three-hour drive home followed by a five hours of work. Alas, I did have a three-hour drive home followed by five hours of work, which meant I spent most of my day being mostly-dead.
And, now that I am home and fully-dead, it's time to put the blog away and go to bed.
Posted on Tuesday, May 24th, 2011
As I was driving over the mountains to the airport, I got a call from Bad Robert asking if I was going to be around this weekend since he was planning on coming into town. "Nope, sorry, I'm off to Chicago today," I said. "Chicago?" Robert replied. "I hope you're not staying in any hotels while you're there!" Not able to figure out where he was going with this, I decided to just ask him. "Of course I'm staying at a hotel! Why shouldn't I stay in a hotel?" After an uncomfortably long pause, he said "Oh... nothin'... I just saw on the news where hotels are having all kinds of bed bug infestation problems."
Any guesses as to what I've been thinking about as I type this from my hotel bed?
That's all I need... yet another excuse to not sleep.
I swear, I can FEEL the little bastards crawling all over me.
Posted on Wednesday, May 25th, 2011
My day in pictures...
Yes. They are real. They are delicious.
"Hey Ferb, I know what we're gonna do today!"
So shark extreme I just can't stand it.
Of all the times to be a vegetarian...
Just don't put it in the microwave.
BODDINGTONS!!! (oblique Friends reference).
Not my photo. Not my inappropriate dessert.
Posted on Thursday, May 26th, 2011
There's something profoundly sad about being in an amazing city like Chicago and having to be stuck indoors working all day long. Even though the weather outside was pretty crappy.
Though I did manage to escape for an hour so that I could have falafel for lunch at a place that Farnsworth recommended last night called BenjYehuda (which, as Mr. Shiny points out, is undoubtedly named after the famous Ben Yudea Street in Jerusalem). It was fantastic falafel to be sure... BUT, it was the greasy bag of super-crispy fries that made this a lunch to be reckoned with...
As I mentioned, the weather during my lunch hour was pretty crappy. Cold, windy, misty, and a little rainy all at the same time. This made for a miserable walk to the falafel shop from the L-stop, and an interesting conversation as I waited for the crosswalk signal to change...
STRANGER: Geez, man, where's your coat?
ME: Eh, I don't need a coat when I'm walking.
STRANGER: Well, you're stopped now! Are you crazy?
ME: Maybe. But what about that guy across the street? He's in a short-sleeve shirt.
STRANGER: Yeah, but he looks cold like he's supposed to. You don't. That's crazy.
No more crazy than any other pedestrian in Chicago, I'd argue.
Mostly because you have to be crazy to be a pedestrian in Chicago in the first place.
Yesterday on our way back from the candy show, the shuttle bus had to make a detour because a woman was laying in the middle of the street. Presumably because she had been hit by a car. I was not the least bit surprised after I was nearly killed while crossing the street five years ago... the drivers here can get pretty dangerous. I didn't see anything about it in the morning paper, so hopefully the woman was okay.
After work it was time for dinner at my favorite pizzaria in Chicago, PIZANO'S! They have a thin-and-crispy buttercrust pizza to die for. As usual, I ate too much, and am now a little bit miserable. Which is no fun when I've got another 4-5 hours of work to do.
Especially when I'd rather be going to the opening night premiere of The Hangover 2. Sure it looks like it's going to be more of the same, but The Hangover was one of my favorite comedies in a long time, so I'm okay with that.
Alas, back to work I go...
Posted on Friday, May 27th, 2011
When you walk through downtown Chicago, there's yellow banners on the streetlights saying "GODO GOOD" along with giant banners on buildings... and I even saw a metal "GODO GOOD" sculpture in a sidewalk planter. It's all part of an urban art installation that's a collaboration between artist Kay Rosen, the Chicago Loop Alliance, and the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago...
What's a "Gohdoh?" OH... that's supposed to be GO DO!
An unfortunate font choice... all I see is GOOO GOOO!
As an art installation, I think it's kind of boring and obvious, but I do like the overall message behind it, which is encouraging Chicagoans to do 100,000 good deeds by summer (which you can read about at their website).
The only problem is that I'm a cynical bastard at heart. So every time I see all those banners, there's just one thought that goes through my head. How awesome would it be to hijack the installation to at least try to make things a little more interesting...
This would at least make people feel good.
Meh. I just think this sounds funny.
It's what he does.
Our country's only hope, really.
It's 2:30am and my brain is mooshy... if you can think of a better hijack with your fresh brain, feel free to leave it in the comments...
Posted on Saturday, May 28th, 2011
I had plenty of work to get done today, but what fun is that? Especially when there are awesome people in Chicago who are willing to hang out with me on a Saturday.
So I finished up what work I could, then headed out to meet with @kapgar for big fun in the city. We started out by going to the Chicago Art Institute, home of an incredible variety of priceless works of art...
After bumming around the galleries for a couple hours, we headed our for lunch with @ChicagoLeah. The weather was a bit foggy, but at least it wasn't raining...
Lunch was, of course, at America's Dog... home of the delicious Chicago-Style Veggie Dog...
From there it was off to the LEGO Store to see what's new. As it turns out, there's all kinds of new stuff, including the awesome ALIEN CONQUEST series. The sets are all about capturing humans and doing all kinds of horrible stuff to them. Like eating their brains...
From there it was time to meet up with @HotCoffeeGirl, a long-time blogging friend I've never met in person... until today... so that was a lot of fun.
And now it's back to work for a little while as I kill time before going out to see a movie.
Not a bad day to be me, that's for sure.
Posted on Tuesday, May 31st, 2011
The flight from Chicago last night was relatively uneventful. My connecting flight out of Minneapolis had some kind of seat-map fiasco that caused a bunch of drama, but I was oblivious to it all because I was focused on playing Ticket to Ride and listening to Foster the People's new album, Torches.
The drive home over the mountains this morning, however, was a drama-fest of epic proportions. There was driving rain, road construction, car accidents, traffic jams, and never-ending dumbassery that lasted three hours and fifteen minutes. A full hour longer than usual.
Now that it's all over, I just want to sleep.
And ride a unicorn.
Posted on Thursday, June 30th, 2011
Things did not go especially well for me today.
It all started this morning when I woke up and realized that I had packed my reading glasses instead of my glasses glasses for my trip to Spokane. Blind as a bat, I stumbled to my suitcase for a fresh pair of disposable contact lenses only to find... nothing.
My worst travel nightmare had just come true.
I was sure I had packed a bunch of lenses, but they were nowhere to be found. This meant I was, for all intents and purposes, blind. I would be unable to drive. Unable to work. Unable to do much of anything. About all I could do was call my office back home and have some lenses FedExed to me, then sit in my hotel for another day waiting for them to arrive.
How in the hell could this have happened? I travel professionally! I am way past this kind of amateurish bullshit!
Except I have been working day and night for the past two weeks and am completely exhausted both mentally and physically. Something eventually had to give and, unfortunately, this was it.
So what do I do now?
The only thing I could do... completely disassemble all my possessions. Unpack every last item from every last piece of everything I had. Sometimes I stick a spare lens somewhere "just in case," and now was the time to hope against hope that a stray contact would somehow be found. And it was. At the bottom of my suitcase rattling around with an old camera memory card.
Half-blind would have to be good enough.
But luck favors the foolish, and I managed to find another stray lens tucked in my notebook pocket after I got to work.
So it's all good, right?
Of course not. Work was extended another day. And while I had extra clothes packed "just in case"... I was fresh out of lenses. Which meant I had to go buy a lens case and some saline so I could re-use my only pair. All I can hope is that I don't accidentally drop one down the sink or something.
But it wasn't all bad news today. I did get to have the best pizza on planet earth...
That just about makes up for everything.
Even when the power adapter for my laptop blew out.
Posted on Friday, July 1st, 2011
After getting off work at 1:30am this morning, I drove back to my hotel half-dead. Not from the hour, but from having to work in-between work while working on work. It wears on you after a while.
So I get to my room, flop on the bed, then take out my disposable contact lenses and drop them on the nightstand so I can toss them in the garbage in the morning.
Then, after an unknown length of time, I suddenly remember that I don't have any replacement lenses or eyeglasses with me. Shiiiiiiiiiit! Adrenaline pumping I lunge out of bed and scramble to find the lamp. I somehow manage to retrieve my shriveling lenses and run to the bathroom where I oh-so-carefully attempt to rehydrate them with the saline I had bought earlier. Are they going to be wearable in the morning? Who knows. All I can do is let them soak overnight and hope.
I then headed back to bed so I could...
... STAY AWAKE ALL NIGHT ON AN ADRENALINE HIGH WORRIED THAT MY CONTACTS ARE RUINED AND I WON'T BE ABLE TO SEE TO DRIVE HOME.
And how was your night?
Eventually I give up on sleep and roll out of bed at 5:30am.
Heart pounding, I make my way to the bathroom and put my contact lenses in.
The are not at all comfortable, but they work.
So I get caught up on still more work for the next six hours with my scratchy eyes, then call in an order for a giant-size Da Vinci pizza from David's for my drive home. Yes, I've been eating pizza for breakfast, lunch, and dinner... but it's the best pizza in the universe, so what can you do?
Half with tomatoes to eat now. Half without for later so they don't get slimy.
The 3-1/2 hour drive home was agonizing*, but delicious...
Mmmmmm... yummy road pizza!
And so here I am. In eyeglasses at last. Blogging about my day.
Because I just can't help myself.
* Seriously, agonizing. I'm trying to recall a worse road trip I've ever taken, but I can't think of one. 3-1/2 hours driving through the middle of NOWHERE with burning eyeballs on NO sleep while physically and mentally exhausted? All the pizza in the world isn't going to fix that, no matter how amazing it is.
Posted on Thursday, July 7th, 2011
My blog died last night.
And a part of me was wanting to let it go.
That lasted about fifteen minutes. Then I started freaking out at the prospect of eight years of Blogography being flushed down the toilet. So I started going back through all the steps I took to upgrade my database to see if I could figure out what went wrong. When that didn't pan out, I started pouring over my backups to see if I could reconstruct the data. No luck. So I gave up.
Today I looked at it on my lunch hour, but gave up again. Then after work I finally called tech support.
An hour later, everything was back to normal.
Just in time for me to start packing my suitcase...
I've got a loooooooooong day ahead of me tomorrow.
Posted on Friday, July 8th, 2011
Despite delays, more delays, and a 55-minute wait for my luggage... it was pretty much smooth sailing...
I love it when cool stuff like this goes viral.
Posted on Saturday, July 9th, 2011
Sometimes I feel like the luckiest person alive.
And though I tend not to use the word "adore" very much... Anissa Mayhew, whom I adore and love more than chocolate pudding... was in attendance after too many Davelantas past. We missed you.
Missed you bad.
It's hard to believe that it was two whole years ago you were nibbling on my balls* at The Cheesecake Factory you naughty minx you...
And then this year, as if to prove that we can't have an Atlanta blogger meet without somebody being in the hospital, Geeky Tai-Tai decided to get pneumonia.
Hope you're feeling better, Geeky Tai-Tai!
*Deep-fried macaroni-and-cheese balls... get your mind out of the gutter, people!
Posted on Sunday, July 10th, 2011
Tonight's the night!
Posted on Monday, July 11th, 2011
I don't know that I believe in ghosts. Though I am certainly open to the possibility.
Which is why I was thrilled when my good blogging friend, Heather (aka Coal Miner's Granddaughter), invited me to an investigation last night with the Paranormal Georgia Investigations team to "one of the most haunted places in the world"... Waverly Hills Sanatorium! And while I'm not sure I witnessed anything paranormal, it was a heck of a lot of fun. Especially since Avitable and The Muskrat were there too.
The place is most definitely creepy at times. Even when illuminated...
So you can just imagine what it looks like when it's dark.
For October, the place is dressed up for Halloween to make a haunted house. There's plenty of spooky paintings on the walls left over...
I tried my best to be a good investigator by putting all my energy into my senses so I could best seek out anything unexplainable. This is kind of overwhelming, and resulted in my mind going all fuzzy for the first couple of hours, but eventually everything kind of mellowed out and I was able to maintain focus and be hyper-observant of my surroundings without too much effort...
Along the way, there were plenty of "what was that?" moments. Including an extended conversation with a spirit that was messing around with a flashlight (though it was entirely possible it was just an extended conversation with a flashlight). I wanted quite badly for ghosts to be involved in our hunt (and maybe they were!), but even putting that aside, the actual technical side of the investigation was absolutely fascinating.
And, as if that wasn't enough, I got to see my very first lightning bug!
I was bringing up the rear of our team, hanging back in the shadows looking for anything out of the ordinary. As I was walking down the hall, I saw a green blinking LED light. At first I thought it might be one of the K-II EMF meters we were using but, when I got up to it, I saw it was actually a little bug blinking on and off! I wasn't able to get a photo of him glowing, so I've Photoshop-simulated what I saw...
Now, for people who live in the South and see this all the time, it's probably not a big deal. But I was over-the-moon thrilled since I had never seen one before. And it was different than I expected because I had no idea that they would be so bright! As the night went on, I saw quite a few of them blinking on-and-off, which was very cool indeed.
When I got back to the hotel at 4:00am, I was entirely too tired to do much of anything. But this morning I started looking at my photos. Very, very carefully. I was looking for any odd shadows or (gasp!) faces and apparitions like I had seen in the photos we were shown at Waverly. For each photo I would use Photoshop to open up the shadows and then examine each of the RGB channels for anything mysterious. It was a tedious process, but I took the time to go on the trip, so I wanted to put the time into doing things right.
As I got to the photos where the sun was going down, I found this image...
Kind of nifty composition and contrast, but nothing terribly special. I then opened up the shadows and suddenly noticed two green spots. Naturally, I was thrilled, thinking that I had managed to catch two lightning bugs in mid-glow...
But when I zoomed in, it wasn't lightning bugs at all. It was just flawed pixels on my camera sensor. As anybody who has done work on digital photos knows, occasionally you get spots in Red, Green, or Blue because those are the colors which camera images are broken down into so they can be recorded. The spots are usually so small that they go unnoticed and, if they are noticeable, I just fix them in Photoshop, so it's not a big deal. My camera's most noticeable sensor flaw is a red dot which appears along the bottom-center in every image I take... even going back months...
But, when I scrolled around this particular image, I started noticing RGB spots everywhere...
The spots were so numerous that I thought I might have damaged my camera sensor somehow, because in all the time I've owned it, I've never seen so many of them. But, when I went to earlier and later images, the new spots were nowhere to be found. It was only on this image. And while they show up most everywhere, I picked out some random spots to enlarge here...
I just spent the past two hours going back through image after image of everything I have on my laptop, and the new spots never appear in any other photograph. It's as if the number of flaws on my camera's sensor increased fifty-fold, then went back to normal. Or not. I dunno.
And while I would never claim that this is any kind of evidence of paranormal activity... well... it is something that I cannot explain. Maybe it's a natural phenomena which happens under certain lighting conditions. Maybe some camera function I had in place is to blame. Maybe it's dust. Maybe somebody has a perfectly good non-paranormal explanation. But a cursory Google search turns up nothing. So, again, I dunno.
Because even more so than before I went ghost-hunting... my mind is open to anything.
UPDATE: I was asked if the "RGB Snow" formed a pattern of any kind. If it does, I certainly can't see it. Below is the image where I've enlarged the spots by placing a dot on top...
Some of the brighter white spots I put a grey dot on top of. Those are probably dust, but they are brighter than any any spots I saw on other photos. There may be pixel problems in the bright areas, but I think they'd be masked by the light.
Posted on Tuesday, July 12th, 2011
Yeah, yeah, it's Bullet Sunday ON TUESDAY! What can I say, this has been a crazy week with a lot going on. Fasten your seat-belts...
• Billboard! Speaking of Sunday... we left Atlanta, Georgia around 8:00am for the long 6-hour drive up to Louisville, Kentucky for some ghost-hunting. It was, for the most part, an uneventful drive. I spent most of the trip watching for billboard signs. This may seem crazy-stupid to most people who try their best to ignore billboards, but I'm from Washington State where they are illegal, so I find them fascinating...
A huge number of signs are for fireworks stands. Often times these places are open 24-hours, which is even more inexplicable than the fact that you can make a living selling fireworks. How often does one have a fireworks emergency at 2:00am?
Billboards for Jesus were also very popular. These I don't understand... they give you a message, but no follow-up? No church you should visit? No advice to read The Bible? Nothing? I guess these are just reminders in case Christians forget or something?
Just in case you're driving down the highway and decide you need a gun on the spur of the moment? Or maybe you left your firearm at home and need to pick one up along the way to grandma's house? I'm guessing it's more likely there for men on their way home to a cheating wife or women on their way home to a cheating husband.
Some billboards need a little extra attention. A life-size dinosaur apparently does the trick.
While technically not a billboard, I thought this was kind of nifty. A Christian cowboy who wants everybody to know that he's a Christian cowboy perhaps? Note that the horse is not kneeling down. Obviously he's some kind of satan-worshipping atheist or something.
• MEGA! On Tuesday morning, our group decided not to rush back to Atlanta and instead decided to hang around Louisville for the day. First stop? MEGA CAVERN! It's an impossibly massive man-made cavern that has actually been back-filled so that the ceiling isn't 90-feet in the air and they can actually run a business there. Tourists, of course, can also go on a tram ride around the place...
Into the mouth of the MEGA CAVERN!!!
Before going on the trams, there are signs like this to make you feel safer about descending into the bowels of the earth.
At one time, MEGA CAVERN was designated a massive fallout shelter in the event of nuclear war. The dioramas they had depicting life underground was so depressing that I'd rather run to ground zero and die a quick death.
But, if you think a miserable life underground would be better than death, then you're in luck! For $10,000 per person, you can reserve a spot!
• Slugger! And, of course, what would a visit to Louisville be without a visit to the Louisville Slugger factory and museum?...
My, what a big bat you have!
Just like MEGA CAVERN, the museum using dioramas to help explain their history.
SEATTLE REPRESENT! Even if it is just a creepy lifelike statue of Ken Griffey Jr.
You can see famous Louisville Slugger bats from all kinds of baseball players old and new... including Babe Ruth!
• Balls! If you ever find yourself in Louisville at Fat Jimmy's Pizza, his Hot Buttered Balls are highly recommended!
And that catches me up through yesterday. Tomorrow? PART TWO! Which will hopefully get me caught up through today. Or one would hope.
Posted on Wednesday, July 13th, 2011
And here's the finale of my "Bullet Sunday on Tuesday" post from yesterday...
• Corvette! One of my favorite museums on the planet is the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky. While I am not a gear-head nor am I a Corvette owner, I have had a long-time love affair with these rolling works of art for as long as I can remember. This is not my first trip to the museum, but my fourth, and they seem to have added on since I was here last...
If you're ever in the area, I give the National Corvette Museum two thumbs up.
• Wreckage! On the way up to Louisville this past Sunday, we saw two wrecks. One was quite severe, with the car flipped completely over the guard-rail, standing almost vertical. For the life of me I couldn't figure out how it happened, because it appeared that the car hit the railing head-on, which was impossible. Coming back yesterday afternoon, we saw another vehicle run off the road at a bizarre head-on angle. This time a fuel tanker!
Since you could smell the gasoline, I was shocked that they were still allowing traffic through. It seemed as though the truck could have blown at any minute (though that might be something that happens in the movies more often than real life). But however it managed to hit how it did, I can't help but wonder how it happened. Are people playing video games on their iPhones while they drive? Texting? Sexting? What?!? All these weird accidents are making me near-terrified to drive anymore. If they can hit the guard rails so hard to bust through or flip over, heaven only knows what would happen if they ran into my car.
• Work It! I spent my entire day locked-up in my hotel room working. The only time I left was to eat dinner, which was at the hotel restaurant. As expected, it was awful. For some reason they just can't seem to put good eateries in hotels. This is borderline-tragic for frequent travelers who don't have time to go hunting for an outside restaurant, since it means you're eating a lot of crappy food over the years. I know I've certainly had my share. I'd like to promise myself that I won't make this mistake ever again, but I know better. Pepto-Bismol here I come...
And now I'm caught up to today. Sometimes miracles happen.
Posted on Sunday, July 17th, 2011
I write this knowing full-well that I won't be able to publish it until Monday since I don't have internet. Oh well, I guess it's bullets on delay.
• Marriott. Playing Priceline Roulette for an airport at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Aiport South region almost always results in one of two properties... Westin or Marriott. Though I seem better suited to the Westin, the Marriott has a lot going for it (best hotel shuttle ever!), so I wasn't at all disappointed I ended up here on Friday night. About the only thing I don't care for is the hotel restaurant. Not that it's bad... I've never gotten sick there or anything... I'm just not partial to the food. So I Yelped for nearby restaurants, and found one right at the back of the hotel. In fact, I could see it out my window. Pulling it up on Google Maps it looks like this...
Simple, right? Just walk out the back of the hotel, cut through the tennis courts, then cross a street.
Well, no. Not really.
• Entrapment, Part One. The tennis courts were closed and gated off for some reason. No big deal, I'll just walk around. But, no, the back gates to the hotel were locked off completely...
Irritating, but I guess that's how you keep random people who are not hotel guests from using your pool, so okay.
• Entrapment, Part Two. Since I can't go through the hotel, I'll just go around it, right? WRONG! There's a big ol' locked fence at the back of the hotel lot!
• Entrapment, Part Three. So this means the ONLY way to get to a restaurant that's within spitting distance of the hotel, is to completely exit the hotel property and walk all the way around...
Which sucks, right? But that's not even the worst part. Not only does the Marriott block you from leaving their property out the back... THERE'S NO FUCKING SIDEWALKS SO YOU CAN ESCAPE OUT THE FRONT EITHER!!
Here's your sidewalk, muthafucker! All six inches of it, bitch!
What the fuck? I mean, seriously, WHAT THE FUCK?!? All I can think of is that they don't want you to leave unless you drive out. Any attempt to walk out of the fucking place means you either have to climb a fence or walk down a dangerous driveway with no sidewalks and cars bombing up and down at reckless speeds all day long. How fucking stupid is that?
• Dinner! And so I finally manage to get to the restaurant... Joe's on Sullivan... after wandering around the Marriott's property for a half-hour trying not to get run over and killed. How was it? Well, the service was decent. The food was okay, though my "black bean burger" was falling apart so badly it was hard to eat and the potato salad tasted like it came from a can. But, overall I was happy to have made the effort to get there.
Until I started getting cramps on my way back to the hotel...
• Distress. By the time I managed to get back to my room, my stomach was in turmoil and I was sweating so bad that it was dripping down my face. All I wanted to do was lie down, but I had to take a quick detour to the bathroom so my intestines and stomach could explode... FOR THE NEXT SIXTEEN HOURS! In all honesty, I have no idea where it all came from. I'm confident I crapped and puked my entire body weight three times over, but it would not stop. Any attempt to keep down medication was futile, because it would just come right back up. And then, just as I was considering calling for a ride to a hospital... I passed out. When I woke up, I was really queasy, but at least I wasn't leaking bodily fluids any more.
• Stung. Since I got off work early and had an entire Saturday free, my plan was to spend the day in downtown Atlanta goofing off, then go to Johnny Rockets for dinner. Around noon yesterday, I pulled myself together and took the hotel shuttle to the airport so I could ride MARTA rail into town. But I didn't make it any further than the airport. I was feeling so awful that just the thought of 25 minutes on a train was enough to make me want to die. So I got a mini pizza from the airport atrium, then went back to the shuttle stop... WHERE I WAS STUNG BY A BEE! Right on my hand. Which caused my finger to swell up like a baloon. Could things get any worse?
• Worse. Why yes, things can get worse! I get back to my hotel room so I can finalize the next issue of Thrice Fiction Magazine (which is amazing... you have no idea) only to find that typing with my bee-stung hand is excruciating. On top of that, lunch seems to have made me sick all over again, because I can barely sit upright without feeling like I'm going to puke my guts out. So there I am... laying in bed rolled in a ball, typing one-handed on my laptop on a Saturday night.
• Worser. I could go into greater detail, but suffice to say that my Sunday went like this... 1) Wake up sick. Still. 2) Find out my headphones are broke. 3) See that my finger isn't swollen anymore, but it aches worse than ever. 4) Have to sit next to a gum-smacking whore on the hotel shuttle back to the airport. 5) Find out my flight is delayed, and I might be missing my connecting flight in Seattle. 6) Somebody opens a can of fish on the plane, which already smells like somebody peed on the floor. 7) Arrive with time to spare to catch your connecting flight, but find out it's clear across the airport. 8) Finally make it back home, but find out your luggage didn't. 9) Arrive home and find out that the internet isn't working. 10) Finally get to my own bed after a week of very little sleep, only to find that I can't fall asleep. Best. Sunday. Ever.
And on that happy note, I suppose I should take some drugs to see if I can force myself to sleep. That aught to make for a fun Monday-morning at work...
Posted on Monday, August 15th, 2011
Nothing quite like losing 15% of your retirement fund in less than two months. So happy I pay a bunch of experts to manage my money! Something tells me I would have been better off investing my money in hookers. Sure it uses my long-term asset for a short-term investment with no long-term payoff... and comes with some really heavy risk factors... but at least I would be stimulating the local economy.
And my penis.
What's odd is that my retirement plan is fairly low-risk. I can't imagine how much I would have lost were I still in the high-risk/high-yield program I was in just five years ago.
And don't think I'm not grateful that I at least have something left in my retirement account. There are many, many people out there who are not so lucky. Stupid economy.
So, yeah, I'm a little worried about my retirement.
But that's quite a ways away. And, as of today, is even further away than it was last month.
The more immediate concern is my upcoming vacation. I haven't worked out all the details yet, but if the US dollar gets much worse, my travels are going to take a turn for the worse...
On the other hand, I would be meeting new and interesting people.
Posted on Wednesday, August 17th, 2011
The drive to Spokane is not a particularly pleasant one.
It's long, it's boring, and it's filled with more nothing than a person really wants to deal with. So whenever I have work there, a wave of dread washes over me. Don't get me wrong... Spokane's a terrific city... I just hate the drive.
But there is a reward at the end of this tedious journey. Because Spokane is where the Best Pizza in the Universe can be found. The mind-numbing hours of driving through vast open spaces isn't so bad knowing that a couple slices of my favorite pizza ever will be waiting for me. It's pretty much all I can think about the entire trip...
David's Pizza's Masterpiece... The DaVinci!
But there would be no pizza waiting for me today.
After nearly three hours of mind-numbing boredom, there would be no reward for the drive.
As usual, I don't pass GO, I don't collect $200... I don't even check into my hotel room... I head straight for David's Pizza only to find...
It's just gone.
And as I sat there in my car staring at the mounds of dirt and rubble that used to be one of my favorite places on earth to eat... I just didn't know what to do with myself. Life had suddenly become meaningless and impossible.
Apparently they will be opening up at a new location "soon," but that doesn't do me much good now.
Now that I am abandoned and pizza-less.
Now that all I have to console me are memories.
Posted on Friday, August 19th, 2011
Today I had to make the long drive back home from Spokane.
WITH NO DAVID'S PIZZA FOR THE ROAD!
Oh how I used to love road pizza. Remember road pizza? I remember road pizza. Nothing makes a long drive fly by like road pizza. Except perhaps Jägermeister and cocaine. But Oprah says you shouldn't drive while drunk and high, so I guess that wouldn't work.
Except Oprah doesn't drive at all. She has a chauffeur drive her ass around! So who the hell is Oprah to tell me that Jägermeister and cocaine is a bad substitute for road pizza? She's probably drunk and high in the back of her stretch limo all the time! If I had Oprah-money, I know I would be.
I really miss road pizza...
Mmmmmm... yummy road pizza!
Don't miss Oprah though.
Last night I went to Famous Ed's, which is a sports bar run by the same people that run David's Pizza. They had my beloved "Da Vinci" pizza, so I ordered up a pie...
It looked kind of like David's. It had a taste that was reminiscent of David's, but... not so much.
For one thing, they added clove garlic to it, so the subtle flavors in the pesto were destroyed. For another thing, the feta cheese had too many crumbs, so it was also too salty. Something was off with the crust too. Not that it was a bad pizza per se, but it just wasn't David's.
Oh well. Better than nothing, I guess.
Hopefully they'll re-open at their new location soon and the universe will go back to normal.
And I can go back to having my road pizza.
Posted on Tuesday, August 30th, 2011
As I was looking through my email in-box this morning, I happened across a message that, from all appearances, was spam. After all, how many real emails do you get where somebody is offering you an all-expenses-paid trip out of the country? And all I had to do in return was write articles about my journey and take some pictures (i.e. what I always do when I travel). Talk about sounding too good to be true! Free travel would have to be at the top of my dream list!
Amazingly, the offer turned out to be legit. They found my blog, liked my travel writing and photography, and wanted me to be a guest corespondent for them... all to a really cool destination.
Alas, I couldn't work the trip into my schedule.
Needless to say, I was bummed the rest of the day.
Not that I have cause to complain, mind you. I already travel quite a lot... it's just having to pass up on something FREE that's bothering me.
Posted on Wednesday, September 21st, 2011
And so it begins...
Nothing like having the crap scared out of you at 2:30am.
Since it seems impossible for me to sleep more than three hours anymore, I decided I might as well check in for my flight to Sydney. I go to the airline website check-in page, as usual. I log in and pull up my flight, as usual. I verify my passport info and enter my emergency contact, as usual. Then I get an error saying that I can't be checked in because travel to Australia requires a visa.
Well, no shit. I paid my $20 AUD to get an Electronic Travel Authority, which is a nifty kind of "electronic visa" that doesn't require a visit to an Australian diplomatic office to submit an application. An ETA is able to be pulled up by airlines directly, so there's no need for a visa stamp in your passport.
Except apparently Delta's online check-in system can't access ETAs.
At least I hope that's the problem. I'm going to try and stay optimistic that I can go to the airport ticket counter and they can pull it up there. If they can't, then hopefully they can use my ETA receipt to get me processed, or else my vacation is over before it begins.
Wheeee! The travel drama has already started, and I'm not even at the airport yet.
Catch you on the other side.
UPDATE: Well, it took some computer trickery, but they finally managed to find my ETA visa. Guess that means I get to go to Australia now.
Posted on Thursday, September 22nd, 2011
Hello from the future.
I am posting this entry a day early because most of my September 22 will be spent in a metal tube being hurled across the Pacific Ocean.
And not in a good way.
To understand why the flight to Australia sucks so bad for me, it's helpful to remember that, despite what you might have heard, the earth is round. Airplanes use this little-known fact to their advantage when plotting a course so that they fly the least amount of miles in the shortest amount of time. This kind of thing is known as "The Great Circle" routing. As an example, if I were flying to Amsterdam over in DutchyLand, the pilot would fly over Northern Canada and Greenland like so...
Awesome map courtesy of the The Great Circle Mapper!
The above journey is about 4900 miles (7890 km) compared to the over 6000 miles (9650 km) it would take to fly along the latitude lines straight across a map...
Map courtesy of Google Maps!
The problem with Australia is that there's no "Great Circle" route to take. This can be confirmed on The Great Circle Mapper by typing in my SEA-LAX-SYD route like so...
Since the curvature of the earth can't help us here, it's about 7500 miles (12050 km) from LAX to Sydney direct.
Which is a 15 hour flight.
And considerably longer than my previous longest flight of 5030 miles (8095 km) from Istanbul to Newark.
I suppose it wouldn't be too bad if you were flying in "World Business Class" with lay-flat seats you can sleep on... but to buy an upgradable ticket would have cost me three times as much money plus a big bundle of airline miles. So I booked a coach ticket and used my frequent flier status to get a free upgrade to Delta's new "Economy Comfort Class" seating. It apparently offers 4-inches more legroom and 50% more recline over the "Economy Discomfort Class" seats you get from a regular coach ticket.
Still not a fun way to spend 13-1/2 hours, but it's better than nothing.
But the important thing to focus on is that I'm off to Australia, which is someplace I've never been.
That plus a handful of sleeping pills might just keep me sane for the flight Down Under.
Posted on Friday, September 23rd, 2011
Better living through chemistry, I always say.
In theory, adjusting to the 17-hour time change in Sydney is a piece of cake. That's such a huge amount of time that you can quite nicely compress a full day into it, which means your internal clock doesn't need much of an adjustment. Just force yourself to stay awake a bit longer than you normally would, get a full night's sleep in the middle of your flight, then arrive in Sydney the next morning as if nothing happened.
I took a fist-full of sleeping pills just to be sure.
And ended up getting five hours of quality sleep, which is two more than I normally get. So not only did I land in Australia fully acclimated to the time change... I also felt better than I have in months.
For the past week I have been checking the weather forecast in Sydney. As the day of my trip got closer and closer, the weather outlook got worse and worse, ending with overcast skies and rain for the entirety of my stay. So imagine my surprise when I land to beautiful blue skies and an abundance of sunshine. So instead of spending my first day relaxing, I met up with my long-time blogger-friend Kazza and headed out into the city.
First stop was Sydney Tower for panorama views of the city...
Then it was off to the Opera House (of course)...
From all the photos I had ever seen, I had thought that the Opera House was smooth concrete painted white. It's not! It's tiled. Beautifully tiled...
Next it was off to walk across the world-famous Sydney Harbour Bridge...
You can climb up one of the pylons for terrific views of the harbor...
Amazingly, you can pay big money to climb up and over the bridge like these guys...
Across the harbor and under the bridge is Luna Park, made famous by its scary clown-face entrance...
We wanted to kill time until dark for some night photography, so we ate dinner at a really good tapas restaurant...
And then back to the harbor at night...
By the end of the day, the clouds and rolled in and the weather turned cold and incredibly windy, so I was grateful that I had at least one perfect day in Sydney.
I'm sure tomorrow will be perfect too... but with less nice weather.
Posted on Saturday, September 24th, 2011
Well, the crappy weather I was expecting yesterday finally decided to make an appearance today. Not that I am in any way complaining... I am so very grateful for yesterday's unexpectedly beautiful weather that I'll gladly suffer through a little rain.
After meeting up with Kazza we headed east to visit St. Mary's Cathedral. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed in the beautiful interior, but the exterior is quite nice as well...
Impressive. Most impressive.
The nun looks pretty bitchy, but...
...she gives all the kids an iPad, so she can't be all bad.
From there we were off to Mrs. Macquarie's Point. There's an interesting story behind the name, and it's a great place for spectacular Sydney Harbour views, even in the rain...
Yes. Mrs. Macquarie's Chair is just as comfortable as it looks.
A Rainbow Lorikeet... they're everywhere.
Still a pretty sight, even in the rain.
Heading back towards the city you run right through the Royal Botanic Gardens...
Leaving the Asian Gardens section of the Royal Botanic Gardens.
Inside the Royal Botanic Gardens Greenhouse at the Tropical Center.
The Fern House atrium at the Royal Botanic Gardens.
It's Springtime in Sydney, so all the flowers are blooming.
Bats are hanging around everywhere... mostly sleeping, fighting, or drying their wings.
This is called a "Cockatoo," but I call it "Fucking Bastard Bird"... vicious, nasty, and total destruction with wings.
From there it was time to take a ferry across the harbor to Manly...
It's the world-famous Manly Ferry!
Cruising by that Sydney Opera House. Again.
Walking down The Corso towards Manly Beach.
Manly beach. Where only manly men dare swim in the rain.
Everything in Manly is pretty manly...
...especially the Manly menus, where they make cute little kangaroos into fajitas.
After returning to Sydney, it was time to visit the Queen Victoria Building, which is a real jaw dropper. Certainly the best-looking mall I've ever seen...
Not wanting to get drenched, it was time to visit the Queen Victoria Building!
Seriously beautiful everywhere you look. This is an entryway.
Center atrium at the Queen Victoria Building.
Awesome diorama clock at the QVB.
The sexiest damn mall you'll ever see.
It was as we headed toward Darling Harbour that the rain decided to get serious...
Rain pours down on the bridge across Darling Harbour to the Harbourside Mall.
But that's okay, because I was more interested in visiting my 138th Hard Rock than the weather. Unfortunately, Sydney's new Hard Rock is yet another "Hipster Lounge" travesty, but it's massive size means you get to see a lot of memorabilia even though it's pretty spread out...
Hard Rock Cafe entrance.
Welcome to the cheesiest hipster lounge you ever will see!
The Hard Rock Cafe Sydney's so-called "shrine" to INXS.
Not the most intimate and cozy Hard Rock property I've been to. The place is massively huge.
Leaving Darling Harbour at night.
Something I didn't know: Sydney has a monorail. It was a convenient way to escape the rain and head back into the city...
Hey, it may cost $5, but that's still cheaper than a ticket to Disneyland.
Another perfect day Down Under... albeit with police horses waiting in my hotel lobby...
No. They weren't there to arrest me. I think.
And.... I guess it's time to log-off and go charge every piece of electronics I own. It's shocking how much gadget crap it takes to be civilized now-a-days.
Posted on Sunday, September 25th, 2011
Today was finally my chance to take it easy, which meant visiting a few museums instead of walking all over Sydney again. Luckily Kazza was kind enough to head back into the city to map out my morning, so all I had to worry about was keeping dry until the rain finally let up this afternoon.
The Australian Museum is a massive repository of the critters which inhabit the continent. There's also a special exhibit for Aboriginal art that's pretty great...
The way Native Australians "see" the world is endlessly fascinating to me.
Seal vs. Penguin... FIGHT!
Not a happy kitty. Probably a little upset about being shot and killed.
Most all the exhibits are dead, mounted, and stuffed... but there are some exceptions.
What would a museum be without dinosaurs?
A pity dinosaurs are extinct... some look like they'd make a fun pet.
Yeah, seeing one of these monsters would have me totally losing my shit.
Not all the insects shown are some scary shit... just most of them.
Fun with dead people in the "Skeletons" exhibit.
Ride 'em cowboy. The most disturbing thing about this? No ears on the horse.
The Art Gallery New South Wales is a fairly traditional art museum with a smattering of impressive works by popular painters... but it also has a beautiful selection of Aboriginal art which makes it uniquely worth visiting (alas, none of it photographical)...
It's amazing how museums never seem to run out of paintings.
Ape Girl with scary hand monster. How charming.
Demon angel with bat wings, snake, and lizard. Rock on, little dude.
Rabid Dog Pack vs. Wild Boar... FIGHT!
The National Opal Museum is a small exhibit which is mainly a front for an opal jewelry store, but it does still manage to give some insight into how opals are created and crafted...
Apparently dinosaurs made the opals. Or became opals. Or something.
Now dinosaurs help you purchase beautiful opals from the many jewelry showcases!
Pretty! As in "pretty fucking expensive."
And thus an early end to my last day in Sydney. I was just too drenched and tired to do anything else. Maybe when I swing back this way I'll have some better weather.
Posted on Monday, September 26th, 2011
Alas, there's no wi-fi at Uluru (aka Ayers Rock) to upload any photos. Guess that gives me something to do when I get back.
P.S. If you never hear from me again, it's because I was carried off by an army of bugs in the middle of the night. One thing they don't tell you in the travel brochures is that The Outback is overrun by bugs. Lots of bugs. A massively huge number of bugs. A vast array of bugs in astounding numbers. Bugs!
Posted on Monday, September 26th, 2011
Alrighty then. Now that I'm back to civilization, bugs didn't carry me off, and I have internet once again... I suppose it's time to start getting caught up on my trip to Uluru (aka Ayers Rock).
After a 3-hour flight from Sydney I landed at Ayers Rock Airport, then hopped the bus to the Ayers Rock Resort where my tour group was waiting. After purchasing my $25 park ticket, we headed out.
Surprisingly, the first stop we made was not Uluru, but Kata Tjuta... another giant rock formation in the neighborhood...
A photo can't do it justice, but that's all I got for you.
Yes, it's really that red. My camera is set to "vivid color" and has a polarizer, but this isn't Photoshop trickery.
The trail for the "Valley of the Winds" walk.
Saying goodbye to Kata Tjuta as we leave the area.
Next it was at last time to head to Uluru for the sunset...
A dingo ate my baby! Then boarded this bus...
Uluru as the sun is low. Note the haze in the background.
That haze is actually smoke from bush-fires in Central Australia. Scary, but makes a pretty sunset!
Uluru turns purple after the sun goes down... which doesn't show too well in this photo.
From there it was back to camp for dinner and an early bedtime. Tomorrow, it's time to get up-close-and-personal with Uluru.
Posted on Tuesday, September 27th, 2011
At this point, I'm into day two of being covered with flies all the time. No mosquitoes, thank heavens (I was told that's the biggest problem when visiting Uluru), but more bugs than you'd ever care to encounter. After a while, you kind of get used to them swarming you constantly, but you never get used to the flies crawling on your face. Particularly up your nose and on your eyes (where I guess they're searching for moisture or something).
As the tour had us viewing Uluru (Ayers Rock) at sunset last night, they had us viewing Uluru at sunrise this morning. For which I had to get up at 4:30am. It was nice, but not 4:30am-worthy spectacular...
And to prove I was there at that godawful time of morning, a photo of me ready to go back to bed after sunrise...
And then it was time to hike all the way around Uluru, which was a fascinating 2-1/2 hour journey. The rock looks completely different depending on where you view it. Some areas are sacred and not allowed to be photographed, but I picked out a few of the hundreds I was allowed to shoot...
Once my blisters had blisters and I had made my way around the site, it was time for a visit to the Uluru Visitor Centre which was a look into some aspects of Aboriginal culture. Most of their way of life is highly complex and secretive, but even the basics are fascinating. What I found particularly interesting is how their stories and teachings are place-sensitive. Meaning that you can only speak of some events at the place where they happened. If a story takes place at Uluru, but then moves to a different location, you will only hear about the part that's at Uluru. In order to hear the rest, you have to travel to the place where the story continues. Also, men and women live completely separate lives, so all aspects of a story can change depending on the sex of the person telling it. Remarkable.
The tour ended after lunch, at which time I decided I hadn't spent enough money (ha!) so I signed up for a helicopter flight over Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) and Uluru (Ayers Rock). It was kind of a bummer, because most of your time is spent getting there and back, but what precious little time you do spend at the sites is pretty impressive...
Some cloud cover had rolled in, which made the already deep red color even deeper. Those are some very sexy rocks.
This area of Central Australia is known as "Red Centre" which is not quite an accurate description as of late. Over the past two years, unprecedented rainfall has caused the ground to really green up. This makes the rocks look even more foreign and strange, but in a good way.
My original plan was to take in some kind of sunset dinner at Uluru tonight, but I am pretty much Uluru-ed out now. I'm also thoroughly exhausted with blisters in places on my feet I didn't even know I had.
And so... my vastly overpriced bed in my massively overpriced hotel room is calling...
Posted on Wednesday, September 28th, 2011
My flight didn't leave until late afternoon so I took the opportunity to sleep in late, explore the resort, and have a nice lunch.
I didn't really need a third day at Uluru, but seeing this area was so important to me that I booked it anyway... just in case the weather was bad, my flight was delayed, or some other unforeseen circumstance interfered with my plans. I've been traveling way too long to expect everything to go perfectly (even though it really did). Even so, I actually wish that I had more time so I could visit Kings Canyon and see Alice Springs, but there's more to Australia I have yet to explore.
Before leaving for the airport, I went to the hotel lookout for a last glimpse of Uluru...
...and said my goodbye to that magnificent giant red rock.
Posted on Thursday, September 29th, 2011
After an early-morning flight sitting next to a little French kid so adorable that I wanted to take him home with me, I arrived in sunny Cairns (which is a pleasant change from the crap weather in Sydney).
After checking into my hotel, it was time to meet up with my friends Wes and Karen, whom I haven't seen in over a decade. They drove down from Port Douglas to have lunch and wander around a bit. This made for a nice afternoon since I had done -zero- research on the area, and had no idea what Cairns was about. First surprise was that the city proper doesn't have a beach. It sits on a mud flat...
As you head north, a beach does appear...
But it's not like you'll be doing any swimming there...
Luckily, the people of Cairns have an awesome water park right off the mud flats to compensate...
In what little I've seen of Australia so far, I've fallen in love with the "no worries" laid back atmosphere. But Cairns takes it to an entirely new level. The city is so laid back that it's almost as if even the locals are on perpetual holiday. And it's completely contagious. Right now I'm finding it very hard to give a crap about anything. Far easier to just be happy and see where the day takes you.
This attitude could be a real problem if I don't find a way to turn it off once my vacation is over.
Posted on Friday, September 30th, 2011
Not quite the awe-inspiring experience I was hoping for.
Even before I became a certified diver, I've longed to dive The Great Barrier Reef. It just seems like one of those things that everybody should have on their bucket list. And while my actual dives were nice, it was a fairly underwhelming day. At first I thought it was just me, but my German table-mates felt the same way. I guess we can chalk it up to overly-high expectations?
Or maybe not. Because when I spoke to the dive master, he had mentioned that our first dive site "Coral Gardens" used to be amazingly beautiful. But it was wiped out by a cyclone eight months ago. This begged the question "Why in the heck don't you dive someplace else then?" but I don't know enough about the region to even know how widespread the damage was*.
But oh well. Not every dream is going to turn out as we had hoped, and I've been luckier than most.
I still had a good time. I haven't been diving in well over a decade, but it all came back to me really quickly. I don't know how, but I had forgotten what a wonderful experience diving is. It's about as close to flying as mere humans can get, as you are neither sinking or floating... you just are.
I bought a new underwater camera for the trip, but didn't end up taking many photos. After I almost missed seeing a turtle because I was concentrating on my camera, I thought I'd put my attention to better use. There's just so much to see.
Here's a few snapshots I took before retiring my camera...
Sadly, no sharks made an appearance.
I know people think I'm joking but, having swam with sharks before, I was really hoping to see one. They are absolutely fascinating to watch. And, no, I'm not saying I wanted a man-eating Great White to drop in... just a regular shark would have been fine.
Though the nachos I had for dinner tonight were so bad that I found myself kind of wishing I had been eaten by a shark so I could have avoided the suffering.
For some inexplicable reason, Aussies mix the salsa into the chips & cheese when they make nachos (instead of serving it on the side). This makes absolutely no fucking sense, because the chips on the bottom end up a soggy, inedible mess...
Seriously, what the fuck? I've been testing out a lot of unusual dishes since I got here, like this delicious pumpkin-feta pizza from last night...
But the terrible "nachos" have been my first disappointment. Blargh.
No worries. I'm sure tomorrow's dinner will be awesome.
*Speaking of damages... I was shocked... shocked... at how many people were sick on the boat-ride out. No less than six people were puking their guts out non-stop. Thankfully, I don't get sea-sick, but the sight of so many people hurling was not an easy thing to take in. Fortunately, there are barf-bag stations all over the ship...
And while I really do feel sorry for those people whose day was ruined because of sea-sickness, I find it odd that people don't find out if they are prone to getting motion-sick before paying big money to head out on the open ocean like this.
No worries. I'm sure the rest of their vacation will be great.
Posted on Saturday, October 1st, 2011
While trying to fall asleep as American tourists were fighting on the balcony below mine last night, it suddenly occurred to me that I have no idea what's going on back in the USA. I haven't once bothered to look at a news site, glance at a paper, or watch TV news since I got here. For all I know, President Obama resigned after declaring war on Canada, and Lindsay Lohan did her patriotic duty by stepping up to run the country after staging a military coup where she firebombed Montreal*.
I'll bet Seattle never gets a Tim Hortons' now. Thanks a lot, President Lohan.
I had just three goals here in Cairns.
There are quite a few ways to visit the rainforest. Most involve tours, and I really, really hate tours. I also really hate renting a car, getting lost, and driving into a crocodile den where I get eaten as an appetizer. So I decided to split the difference by ignoring my fear of heights and taking the "Skyrail Buckets of Death" up over Daintree...
The controlled-burn fires in the area really smoke up the horizon.
Skyrail is (of course) the longest tram line system in the world. Which means the terror never seems to end. Indeed, you can't even see the end of the damn thing from high up in the buckets...
WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIIIIEEE!
Along the way there are stops you can take to see the local sights. Like Barron Falls...
Apparently during monsoon season the falls overflow and is quite an impressive sight.
But the main attraction once you reach the end of Skyrail is the village of Kuranda. There's all sorts of stuff to see and do here with plenty of eateries and shops to keep you busy. I was told more than once that the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary was worth a stop. I thought it was included in my Skyrail ticket cost, but that's not the case... it costs $18 AUD to get in. EIGHTEEN DOLLARS! I very nearly skipped it, but had four hours to kill, so I bought a ticket. And wow, was I ever glad I did...
Some of their wings were so raggedy that I was surprised they could fly at all. Poor butterflies.
After lunch I got a little bored with Kuranda and headed back to the train station for my trip back to Cairns.
And so there I was waiting to board the train back to Cairns when I hear this shrieking coming down the stairs. It's a woman dragging her offspring down the steps to the station. The little hellion is obviously not hurt, he's just being a little brat. But that doesn't stop a woman on the platform next to me from saying "Oh, the poor dear, I wonder what's wrong?" Whereas my first instinct is to douse the little shit in holy water and scream "THE POWER OF CHRIST COMPELS YOU! THE POWER OF CHRIST COMPELS YOU!" in an attempt to perform an exorcism. On the brighter side, the station is pretty nice...
Established 1891... and still going strong.
Probably the best-maintained rail station I have ever seen, which is very cool.
I think that's a representation of the giant snake that the Aboriginal people believe carved out Barron Canyon?
I paid extra money (too much money, probably) for the "gold service" which allows you to sit in the luxury compartment with free drinks, free snacks, and a souvenir gift (a pin and a pen). The car itself was quite beautiful, and very probably close to 100 years old...
The chairs are probably new, but the interior is carved wood. They don't make 'em like that any more.
The train ride down is pretty special. Most of the time you're clinging to the side of a cliff where the onboard entertainment system beguiles you with awesome facts like "This section of the railway was the most difficult to build because the rock kept crumbling away." Not exactly something you want to hear, which is why I wanted to scream "HOLY CRAP! WHY ARE YOU TELLING US THIS NOW?!? But I just gritted my teeth and enjoyed the views...
The train makes a quick stop so everybody can look down Barron Canyon... from the West this time.
In all honesty, this photo doesn't do it justice. This canyon is SUPER MASSIVELY HUGE!
Stoney Creek Falls, which seems like it's at the half-way point to Freshwater Station.
The bridge over Stoney Creek Falls on the opposite side of the train.
Once I got to Freshwater Station, my Skyrail ticket included a transfer back to my hotel via bus, which was nice. Now I'm hungry, but don't dare risk a dining experience as crappy as my "nachos" last night here at the hotel. Since I have an early, early, early flight, I guess I'll just go hungry.
And dream of Tim Hortons doughnuts.
*And don't think that they didn't have it coming. Lindsay Lohan may spend most of her time drunk off her ass in a cocaine-fueled frenzy, but she knows the strategic importance of a first-strike scenario where the French-Canadians are concerned.
**Okay, I'll admit that visiting the Daintree Rainforest was not actually on my list of goals. But you can't fly after diving for at least 24 hours, so I had to do something.
Posted on Sunday, October 2nd, 2011
I have ranted endlessly over how stupid Daylight Saving Time is. In this modern age of electricity and fanciful inventions LIKE THE FUCKING LIGHT BULB, there is no reason to be docking around with the clocks. Just split the difference, have everybody move forward by a half-hour one final time, then leave the clocks the hell alone.
Never was the dumbassness of stupid Daylight Saving Time made more clear to me than this morning when my iPhone woke me up at 3:30am so I could get ready for my taxi to the airport at 4:15am. Except when I got down to the reception desk to settle my account, they were all confused because it was only 3:15am. Why was I an hour early?
Well here's why... in their infinite wisdom, Queensland, the state where Cairns is located... does not practice Daylight Saving Time. Bravo for them. Well done. Except New South Wales, where apparently my iPhone is getting its time data, does observe stupid Daylight Saving Time, which went into effect at 2:00am this morning...
And I thought the USA was a mess.
The upshot of all this is that I lost an hour's sleep for nothing.
And the best part of all? I get to go through all this bullshit yet again when I get home. Because stupid Daylight Saving Time in the USA ends November 6th and stupid Washington State still practices stupid Daylight Saving Time... unlike more enlightened states like Hawaii and Arizona.
When I am Supreme Ruler of the Known Universe, stupid Daylight Saving Time is the first thing to go.*
*After the entire cast of Jersey Shore, obviously.
Posted on Sunday, October 2nd, 2011
After finally making it to my flight out of Cairns, I landed in Brisbane two hours later. From there it was a 35 minute ride to my hotel, followed by another hour and 10 minutes on a train, followed by yet another 30 minutes on a bus... before I finally made it to the Gold Coast and the Hard Rock Cafe Surfers Paradise.
The Gold Coast has a feel very much like Miami Beach, with loads of high-priced properties and plenty of beachfront. When I arrived, the weather was flawless, with blue skies and warm sunshine tempered by a slight breeze...
The cafe itself is a beautiful older property with loads of cool memorabilia to look at...
After having lunch and looking around the cafe for a while, I headed to the beach only to find that the clouds had started moving in...
By the time I had wandered around for a while and made it back to the Hard Rock, the weather had taken a drastic turn...
That's quite a difference considering it happened in under four hours!
Luckily, the skies were clear once again when I made it back to Brisbane.
And now that Hard Rock #139 is out of the way for me, I suppose I'd better see about unpacking my suitcase.
Posted on Monday, October 3rd, 2011
Today was doubly lucky for me as I got to meet with one of my long-time blogger friends, Mooselet, and visit the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary!
Koalas, like most animals, are adorable when they're babies. Unlike most animals, koalas stay adorable no matter how old they get. So, as you can imagine, visiting a sanctuary which has 104 koalas on the premises is guaranteed cuteness overload.
And it didn't disappoint.
I've seen koalas in zoos before, but at a distance and in a very different setting. The experience you get at Lone Pine Koala sanctuary is something entirely different...
Koalas are mostly nocturnal, so you see a lot of sleepy guys in the daytime.
Baby koalas are, as you'd expect, a veritable explosion of cuteness.
This guy is about as relaxed as you can get when it comes to sleeping in a tree.
Everybody starts to wake up.
Baby koalas get to hitch a ride wherever they go. Must be nice.
Looks kind of like he might be koala surfing on momma there.
Koala cuddle cluster. You find yourself saying "Awwwwww!" a lot at this place.
Talk about cute overload! (I'm the one on the left).
Lone Pine has more than just koalas though... they've got all kinds of animals, reptiles, and birds around...
Crocodiles have a killer smile.
RUN, TURTLE! RUN YOU FOOL!
Tasmanian Devils, which I just love, are highly endangered and will be extinct in the wild soon.
Wombats are too adorable. Like fuzzy piglets or something.
Feeding a kangaroo. They're amazingly polite about it.
A wallaby and a kangaroo hanging out.
A momma kangaroo with a joey in the pocket!
Joey on the lookout.
I CAN HAZ CRUNCHY FOOD PELLETS? NOM! NOM! NOM!
Soggy bats try to sleep through the rain.
After rain broke out at the koala sanctuary in yet another bizarre weather change (there were flawless blue skies when I arrived this morning), Mooselet was nice enough to drive me up Mount Coot-tha for a look over the city...
After lunch, the rain started letting up, which made for a nicer view of Brisbane...
Pretty much the perfect way to spend a vacation day... thanks for coming along, Mooselet!
Posted on Tuesday, October 4th, 2011
Despite every single day being jam-packed, I can honestly say that this is one of the most relaxing vacations I've ever had. Then today I ended up in Fiji, which somehow ends up being even more relaxed and laid back than Australia.
And why Fiji? Well, there's a Hard Rock Cafe here I haven't been to... but I've actually wanted to visit ever since I first heard Lister wax poetic about his dreams of Fiji on Red Dwarf.
So when it came time to plan my vacation, some hard choices had to be made. And because I didn't have six weeks available to see everything on my wish list, I eventually drew a line through Sydney and split my vacation options into two choices, North or South...
Not that I don't want to see Perth and The West, but that's another ballgame entirely.
Ultimately, I went with the North itinerary because it fit better into the two weeks I had available and was quite a bit cheaper. Adelaide, Hobart, Melbourne, Canberra, and New Zealand will have to wait until next time.
And so Fiji it was. It's a short three-hour flight out of Brisbane, so why not?
Especially since Hard Rock #140 was within my grasp...
It's a really nice old-school two-level property that's pretty impressive. I look forward to visiting again when I have a little more time to explore their memorabilia collection.
In the meanwhile, it's time to put a little vacation into my vacation...
Posted on Wednesday, October 5th, 2011
I walked out of my apartment this morning and had sweat pouring down my face before I could take a half-dozen steps. By the time I had walked across the road to meet some friends for breakfast, I was soaking wet. The heat and humidity were already a lot more uncomfortable than I'm happy with, and the day hadn't even started.
Luckily, I'd be spending most of my day at sea, where at least the wind would keep me from melting...
Arriving at the reef...
Time for a snorkel...
After snorkeling, we headed to "Plantation Island" for lunch and to goof off at a resort. By the time we got there, clouds had moved in and it was overcast. This caused a couple people to be quite upset... saying "THE CLOUDS ARE RUINING OUR HOLIDAY!!" I just smiled politely while being secretly thankful that the clouds would muffle the direct sunlight that was killing me. It was still hot, but at least I wasn't melting.
After lunch it started raining, which caused even louder protests from the peanut gallery. I just secretly laughed to myself because, at last, it was cool enough to be comfortable again. Besides, Fiji is so fucking beautiful that it still looks amazing... even in the rain...
Unfortunately for me, the cloud cover did nothing to filter out the burning rays of the sun. I should have reapplied sunscreen after I was done snorkeling, but with the rain and all, I thought I'd be safe.
Er... Not so much...
I am frickin' Lobster Boy here.
Oh well. I'm in frickin' Fiji, and it's going to take a lot more than a sunburn to ruin that.
Posted on Thursday, October 6th, 2011
Yesterday's rain decided to continue all through the night and, when I woke, it was still going strong. This put my snorkeling trip into doubt, as first I got a call saying it had been canceled... then I got a call saying it was clearing up and was on again.
And thank heavens.
My second trip out was even better than the first.
When I arrived at the dive shop, I was greeted by SCUBA-Cat, who was not very impressed to see me...
The tide was still out. This meant a lengthy trek out to the boat. Our guide had a little extra equipment to carry, but he was a real trooper...
This snorkel had quite a bit more interesting things to see than my last one. Like a SEA SNAKE!!!
After two really good snorkels at some impressive locations, it was time to head back. But guess who decided to show up...
A LOT of dolphins! They were racing along with the boat for a good while...
Doesn't get much cooler than that! Quite a send-off, really.
The tide had come in quite a bit, but there was still a long walk back to the SCUBA shop...
Back on dry land, I decided to have some lunch at the resort restaurant. Look who finally decided to get interested in my presence...
Unfortunately, neither my toasted egg & cheese sandwich nor my fries were cat-appropriate. But the sun was shining again, which was kind of nice. But really, really, melt-your-head-and-set-your-hair-on-fire hot. That's the tropics for you...
And now its time to pick up some souvenirs and crap so I can head back to Australia tonight. Three days in Fiji... no matter how much you fill them... is hardly enough. I could have easily spent my entire two weeks here and never been bored.
Sigh. Yet another awesome place I have to find time to get back to before I die.
Posted on Friday, October 7th, 2011
This morning I woke up and realized, just like that, my vacation is over.
Well, not really, because I had today in Sydney... but since I've been going balls-out non-stop since I arrived, this day was set aside to decompress and relax before my flight home tomorrow.
My loooooooooong flight home.
Though since it was blissfully cool outside (despite the beautiful sunshine and blue skies) I did go say goodbye to Sydney Harbour...
Yeah, yeah... they're iPhone photos! I'm done lugging around my camera gear for a while.
I also stopped by the Vintage Cafe (where Kazza and I ate my first day here) for some more of their mind-blowing marinated peppered cheese and bread...
The rest of my day was spent unpacking everything I own, then re-packing it in a way that wasn't insane (as it quickly becomes if you're living out of a suitcase for this long).
Looking back, this was a pretty darn spectacular vacation. I crammed in quite a few awesome things into two weeks. Probably more than I should have. I also got to spend time with some really great people, which is about the most awesome thing of all.
And now I wish I didn't have to go home.
Not because Australia and Fiji have been so great I don't want to leave (though that's also true), not because I don't miss my friends and family (which I absolutely do), and not even because I don't want to go back to work (I'm actually anxious to start working again)... it's because of the awful political hate parade that I know is awaiting me back home.
I dread coming back to it so much that I feel physically ill just thinking about it.
Over the past two weeks I can't tell you how nice it's been to not be inundated with all the bickering, hatred, lies, disrespect, persecution, and general asshattery that's become typical of our political landscape in the USA these past couple of years. I am just done with it.
At least as much as I can be.
See you on the other side of the Pacific.
Posted on Saturday, October 8th, 2011
As I write this, I am sitting in the beautiful Air New Zealand lounge at Sydney International Airport. Very soon now, I will be hurling back across the Pacific Ocean to go home.
But I'm not thinking of my impending trip yet to come, my mind is set on October 6th. Which was still October 5th back in the USA. Time, like all things we experience and attempt to describe, is relative to the observer.
After a run with the dolphins the boat headed back to Fiji and dry land. As we approached the shallows, my mobile phone came into cellular range and I heard a muffled "beep" telling me that a text message had arrived. I ignored it while I loaded up my gear and went trudging to the shore. I had intended to check my new text as I waded back, but the sandy floor was squishy and slick with plant growth. This made the risk of slipping and dropping my iPhone into the ocean a bigger risk than I was willing to take.
So inside a waterproof pouch which sat inside a waterproof bag, my iPhone waited.
As did I.
And it was a torturous wait because I rarely get texts. Especially when people know I'm out of the country. On those rare occasions when I do get such a text, it's almost always bad news.
My mind was not in a very happy place when I finally got back to the Scuba Bula shop. A part of me wanted to continue ignoring the text for fear of what it might say but, as you can imagine, this is really impossible.
Of the hundreds of nasty scenarios that went through my head, a text from my brother telling me that Steve Jobs had died never entered my mind...
As I said, texts always seem to bring bad news.
One of my heroes for the past 27 years was gone.
As anybody who has read this blog for any length of time can probably guess, I was devastated.
I tried to avoid the crush of chatter online, but you couldn't be online without reading about it. And so much of it was beautiful and touching and everything one would expect. But not all of it. A common thread emerged mocking those who were grieving by saying "How can you be so sad and pathetic? You didn't even know him!"
Which is wrong, of course. So very wrong.
Just as you can come to know an artist by their art... Steve Jobs was probably one of these easiest people on earth to get to know through the products Apple makes. And though a great many people contribute to the design, manufacture, and experience that makes these products intrinsically "Apple"... Steve Jobs' fingerprints are on everything. It's his beautiful, singular vision that drove the company to it's massive level of success and created legions of fans worldwide.
As I type this blog post on my MacBook Pro while uploading television episodes for the flight to my iPad and charging my iPhone, I know Steve Jobs. He surrounds me every day. I spend more time with him than I do anybody else.
And so I grieve as I would for any friend who has passed on.
And I remember, because it's impossible for a Certified Apple Whore to forget.
I'm sure this is not the last thing I'll have to say, but it is the only thing I can say right now.
I've got a plane to catch so I can travel back in time.
Posted on Tuesday, October 11th, 2011
After skipping two Bullet Sundays while I was on vacation, my plan was to get back on track this past Sunday. Alas... it wasn't to be. So here we are with a very special, never-before-seen, extremely rare, hopefully never-to-be-repeated BULLET SUNDAY ON TUESDAY!
And I think I'll make it easy on myself by going back through my comments and emails from the past couple weeks to do a Q & A kind of thing from the questions that I got asked. If I missed one, let me know.
• Isn't it awesome that you have blogging friends as far away as Australia? Yes. Oh heck yes. Since the vast majority of my travel is done alone, I can't overstate how grateful I am that I have friends to keep me company no matter where I go. Any time I feel like giving up on my blog, I remember all the great people I've met through blogging and just can't. It's the reason I keep going.
• Certified diver? Is there anything you don't do? That's what I asked myself after taking skydiving lessons! I like to try cool stuff, and SCUBA diving was just one more thing to check off my list. I really do love it though, so I wish I could afford to do it more often.
• Why aren't you being paid to take vacations and photos, yet? I dunno! Somebody should be paying me to go on vacation! But then I worry that vacations would become all about work, and I'd need a vacation from my vacations.
• I want to hold a koala! What does their fur feel like? Is it soft? Koala fur is thick and kind of coarse and wooly... but still kinda soft. For really soft fur, however, you want to pet a kangaroo. Kangaroos have baby-kitty-soft fur! This is actually kind of bad news for them, because they get made into glove liners and slippers and such.
• Do they sell Fiji Water in Fiji? Oh yes. The bottled stuff is everywhere, and no cheaper than if you bought it here. Of course, you can get "Fiji water" from the tap for free, so that's where I drank all of mine from.
• Loving this trip. Now please tell me about that boat ride. The sail from Fiji was on a 50-foot yacht called Pelorus Jack. It was most definitely not a calm day at sea, which meant a couple people got pretty sick. Call me a sadist, but I actually enjoyed the rough ride, as it made for a more exciting trip! In my opinion, the boat was overcrowded, but it still beats those giant catamarans that head out with so many people that they're practically hanging off the edges. Surprisingly, they allowed me to stand on deck despite the choppy seas after I explained that I had been on sailboats before and was comfortable doing so. I was expecting them to say that I had to stay seated for insurance purposes (or whatever), but they were completely cool with it. For that alone, it was an awesome sail.
• Aren't sea snakes really venomous? So I'm told. But, like so many things in the wild, they really don't bother you unless you bother them first. So long as they are not provoked or feel threatened, they'll pretty much just avoid you. That being said, our dive guide picked one up and held it for a bit before letting it swim off. He later said that a bite wouldn't have been fatal to him, so maybe this particular snake has a weak venom or doesn't make very much of it. When diving, I never touch a damn thing. There are a lot of things that can seriously hurt or kill you. As an example, the cone shell is said to be so poisonous that that the venom in just one of them is enough to kill 700 men. Fire Coral isn't lethal, but it is so painful that you'll wish you were dead. The biggest threat to people on Australia's coasts are deadly Box Jellyfish, but they weren't in season when I was there.
• Nothing BAD happened this trip? Who are you and what have you done with Dave2?? Well, sure, problems came up... I just didn't want to dwell on them while I was on vacation. If forced to make a list, it would go something like this: 1) The V-Australia checkin at Sydney's domestic airport is fucking insane (even though I like the airline itself) and I had to seriously resist the urge to kill on several occasions. 2) The people on my first Fiji sailing cruise had -zero- respect for the ocean, and trampled everything they could stomp their fins on. 3) I hate... fucking hate... Brisbane's airport, easily one of the most traveler-hostile airports I've ever experienced. 4) I paid ridiculously high prices for internet access, yet it sucked most everywhere I went. 5) I need to remember that late-night flights are are so much better than early-morning flights, and the $25 I saved only to be exhausted two days in a row just isn't worth it. Other than that, it was a pretty uneventful trip... at least where bad things are concerned.
• How expensive is "expensive?" As in Australia? Very expensive. At least if you're using the US dollar. When I go on vacation, I don't go crazy with spending money... I don't have that kind of bank... but I do budget generously for expenses. The last thing I want to do is fly all the way to Australia and not be able to afford to do or see stuff. So I save money and then set a budget. But this vacation was one of those rare times where my budget was totally inadequate. I blew through my initial funds before I even left the USA while booking airfare and hotels. So I dug deeper into my savings and increased my budget for the actual trip. But it still wasn't enough. When I got home I had a whopping $1300 in credit card debt. It's depressing, but it happens. My consolation is that I had an incredible trip and definitely got my money's worth.
• Now that you've crossed both Greece and Australia off your "list of places you most want to visit," where to next? It won't happen right away (I'll have to financially recover from Australia/Fiji first!) but eventually I need... need... to visit India. And I'm not quite "done" with Australia, as I want to do a Melbourne-Adelaide-Canberra-Tasmania run with New Zealand at some point. But I'm not picky, really. Anywhere I haven't been yet is somewhere I want to go.
Annnnd... that's a wrap! Hopefully next Bullet Sunday will actually be on a Sunday. Fingers crossed.
Posted on Saturday, October 22nd, 2011
I was looking at internet news sites this evening to see what was happening in the world, and came upon a story about the "Occupy Sydney" protest in Australia. As soon as I saw the photo, I realized "hey, that's next door to the hotel I stayed at!
If my vacation was two weeks later, I might have been mistaken as a protestor and got the shit beaten out of me by the police! How brutally cool would that have been?
Thank you Google Maps Street View!
And then later on this evening I read where an American diver was killed in a shark attack near Perth.
If my vacation was two weeks later and had taken place across the country, I might have been mistaken as an appetizer in shark-infested waters! How lethally cool would that have been?
And then.... then... even later this evening I read where a woman outside of Ballarat, Australia had drunken sex with four underage boys.
If my vacation was two weeks later and had taken place in a time paradox whereas my 12-year-old self were thrust forward to the year 2011, I might have been victimized by a piece of shit alcoholic pedophiliac sexual predator with low self-esteem problems! How disgustingly cool would that have been?
Guess I really did have the perfect vacation.
Given the alternative.
Posted on Friday, October 28th, 2011
It turns out the entire front bumper has to be removed from my car in order to re-attach my license plate frame. Since I have neither the tools nor the time before heading to the airport, all I could do was strap the license plate directly to the car with zip-ties. Hopefully it will stay attached long enough to get me to Seattle and back, because I really can't afford the $125 fine. And since the po-po are handing out tickets like candy in order to keep paying for their jobs, the odds of getting fined now are higher than ever.
Not that my luck gives me very good odds to begin with.
I've got 15 minutes to pack a suitcase and hit the road.
Where it will be raining. Just like it's raining in Seattle. Just like it's raining at my layover. Just like its going to be raining at my destination.
Guess I'd better take a jacket.
Posted on Saturday, October 29th, 2011
And so it's time for my annual late-October trip to Orlando.
Except I begged to have my meeting relocated to Tampa, because it's home to the only Hard Rock Cafe in the USA that I haven't visited yet. Fortunately, my begging skills are unparalleled, so I got my wish and here I am.
The last time I was here was to visit the new Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in May 2004 (and to see some friends in the area). The following year I virtually visited the city when I tried to figure out where a mystery photo had been taken, but that doesn't really count. So... it's been a while.
Anyway, for some odd reason the hotel/casino complex launched without a Hard Rock Cafe. That was remedied in December of last year when, after nearly seven years of waiting, a cafe was added and opened its doors. Or maybe it wasn't added and just ended up replacing some other restaurant, I don't know. What I do know is that it's big. 17,500-square-foot big. I also know that it's one of the "new-style" cafes with very little actual rock-n-roll memorabilia, which is a shame. All that aside, it's still pretty cool...
At the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino!
The new cafe has its entrance off the casino's main floor.
You actually walk through the bar to get to the dining room.
The bar itself is very cool... despite having no rock memorabilia.
The dining room is massive, and even has a stage.
A big restaurant has a big kitchen! The horseshoe above says "Who Do You Love?"
But even cooler than checking another Hard Rock of my list? I got to meet up with the amazing Blondefabulous for lunch!
After my adventures in Hard Rock Land, I returned to the airport to finish up work stuff, then went back to my hotel so I could take a nap before dinner.
At which point I then risked my life to eat at Earl of Sandwich.
In a day and age when places are sued because they don't have handicap accessibility, I am regularly shocked at how many places have no pedestrian accessibility at all unless you drive there by car. Like so many places now-a-days, The International Plaza (home of Earl of Sandwich) can't be reached by foot... even though it's pretty much across the street from my hotel...
A) I walk to the end of the road... NO CROSSWALK.
B) I see there's a crosswalk on the other side of my street, but there's NO CROSSWALK to get over to it.
C) Once I survive running to the other side of my busy street, I can finally cross over to The International Plaza... except the sidewalk stops, and there's no place to walk to get there.
D) Miraculously, there's a crosswalk to the Northeast, so I cross back across my street so I can climb through bushes to some grass and not have to walk on the road. But eventually I have no choice, because there's nowhere else to go. I then nearly get hit by traffic... twice.
E) After dinner, it's dark. I don't want to risk walking on the road, so I exit on the other side of the mall where there's a sidewalk.
F) The sidewalk doesn't go out to the road, so I'm screwed again. I once again climb through the bushes to grass so I don't have to walk on the road.
G) Once again, NO SIDEWALK and NO CROSSWALK. I end up having to walk along the shoulder of a dark, busy road so I can get back to the only crosswalk I know.
H) Still no crosswalk on my street, so I walk down the road to cross in the hopes I might be more easily seen if a car comes bombing down the road. Nearly get nailed by a motorcycle.
I mean, seriously, this is insane. Why in the hell can't we WALK anywhere anymore? Do they really expect me to get a taxi so I can just cross the street? That's just stupid. Public places should be legally required to be publicly accessible by pedestrians. How hard is it to add a frickin' sidewalk when you put in a road?
But whatever. As I have blogged many, many, many times, Earl of Sandwich makes the best frickin' sandwich on earth (which only makes sense considering their family invented the thing back in 1762). Their Veggie Sandwich (hold the Roasted Red Peppers) is pretty much worth risking your life over...
And now that work is over, the Hard Rock & Blondefabulous have been visited, and I've eaten Earl of Sandwich, I guess my work here in Tampa is done. Tomorrow I fly back to Seattle...
Don't you just love crossing the entire country for a single day's adventure?
Posted on Sunday, October 30th, 2011
This has been a pretty bad day, travel-wise. And since I pretty much spent the entire day traveling, that pretty much sums it up. But, rather than bitch about it, I decided to go elsewhere looking for bullets.
• Early Flights.
• Late Departures.
• No Gate Crew.
• Sitting on the Tarmac.
• 15-Minute Layovers.
• Rude Assholes.
• Undisciplined Children.
• Broken Escalators.
• Out-of-Service Elevators.
• Ugly Weather.
• Nasty Traffic.
And... that pretty much sums it up.
Posted on Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011
Exhausted after a long day at work, our intrepid hero decides not to drive home in the dark while it's raining and snowing. Far better to drive home in the daylight tomorrow morning when it's raining and snowing and the mountain passes are crowded with people who have no idea how to drive in the winter.
At least with the sun out, the aliens won't be out looking for people to probe in the dead of night.
Good night fellow insomniacs!
Posted on Thursday, November 17th, 2011
And so tomorrow I'm flying to Atlanta.
Assuming the snow that's been forecast doesn't close down the airport. That would be a huge problem for me. On the bright side, being stuck at home would mean I could stay in bed all day. I've been working from the time I wake up to the time I go to bed every day for the past three weeks, so I could use a break.
Hopefully all will go as planned, in which case I'll just have to take my break on the plane. I've become addicted to digital comics, so I've got a bunch of those loaded up on my iPad... along with episodes of the Hey That's My Hummus podcast... so I should be good to go.
Well, maybe not "good" to go... probably more like "good enough" to go.
In other iPad news, one of the best iPad games ever, Ticket to Ride, has been shrunk down to fit on the iPhone with Ticket to Ride Pocket. It only has the USA map, and internet play is absent, but it's a very good translation (and you can still play against somebody on iPad/iPhone/iPod locally via Wireless or Bluetooth!). I thought the game would be hard to play on the small screen but, thanks to the iPhone's Retina Display, it's actually quite easy...
If only I had time to play it.
And now it's probably time to pretend I don't have insomnia and go to bed.
I've got a long day tomorrow.
Posted on Friday, November 18th, 2011
...an incredibly crappy day.
My biggest fear when flying out of the valley this time of year is that the weather will turn bad and close the airport. The forecast called for snow, so I went to bed last night not knowing if it were going to be enough snow to crap all over my travel plans.
Then this morning I woke up and saw that not only was there no snow falling, but we actually had blue skies! Sweet! No worries then!
Until I got to the airport and found out that Horizon Air canceled my flight to Seattle because "the inbound plane was experiencing mechanical difficulties."
Uh huh. The far more likely scenario is that a plane on a much more popular and profitable route experienced mechanical difficulties, and so our plane was pulled to service that route. Thus screwing everybody in Wenatchee trying to get to Seattle for their connecting flights.
I used to fly out of Wenatchee for all my trips... probably two to five flights a month. But eventually I gave up because I got sick and tired of the numerous delays and cancellations. Without reliable service, how the fuck can I plan for anything? Far better to drive over to Seattle so I can be confident of making my flight than to rely on Horizon Air to get me there. They've failed too many times. But I didn't want to miss getting back in time for Thanksgiving at my grandmother's house, which meant I needed to fly.
So for the first time in a long time I booked a ticket on Horizon Air and, naturally, got completely and totally fucked for my trouble.
Weather cancellations are understandable... expected even. But mechanical? AGAIN?
And so I had to haul ass over the mountains in an attempt to make my flight.
Which I did. Barely.
So much for an easy and relaxing travel day. Usually one has to be taken hostage during an armed bank robbery to experience this kind of stress.
It's all my fault of course. This is what I get for living on the outskirts of civilization.
Posted on Saturday, November 19th, 2011
I'm in Atlanta 3-5 times a year now, so I stopped doing the whole "Davelanta" blogger meet-up thing. I was getting paranoid thinking about everybody going "Shit! Dave's going to be here AGAIN? Wasn't he just here a couple weeks ago?!?" So instead I just Blog/Tweet/Facebook when I'm going to be in town and let people "opt-in" if they feel like meeting up... or "opt-out" by pretending they never saw it.
Except I found out that some people never saw it for reals and got left out, so I feel bad. Maybe if I sent out an email telling people when I'm here and asked them NOT to come, they wouldn't feel obligated to show up, but would come anyway if they really wanted? I dunno. Miss Manners doesn't offer any advice for this kind of stuff.Anyway... I did end up having a terrific evening with The Muskrat, Whipstitch, and Coal Miner's Granddaughter tonight. We did the usual catching up and talking about what's going on in our lives, but this time there was an entirely NEW activity... reading aloud your favorited tweets. That ended up being good for all kinds of laughs because, apparently, the tweets that most people mark as a favorite are the funny ones. Good times.
Muskrat, that magnificent bastard, showed up sporting his Movember mustache. This means it must be time for an update as to how Lil' Dave is doing...
As always, if you can donate a few bucks to a very worthwhile cause, please visit The Muskrat's Movember Donation Page. Every little bit helps!
And now, I get to revel in the joy of doing nothing, because my work has been moved from Sunday morning to Monday night. Sweet! Doing nothing is one of my most favorite things to do!
Though I think everybody knows the odds of me actually doing nothing are fairly slim.
Sometimes I hate being me.
Except when I get to have dinner with awesome blogger friends like tonight. Then it's pretty awesome being me.
Posted on Sunday, November 20th, 2011
Today is Bullet Sunday.
But I'd rather take a bullet than pay the $12.95 plus tax that my hotel wants for internet, so I guess that the Bullets will have to wait until tomorrow.
For the life of me I can't understand why cheap-ass hotels offer FREE internet, whereas nicer hotels make you pay... and pay dearly... for it. I guess because they can get away with it.
Well, fine. But not from me tonight.
Posted on Monday, November 21st, 2011
It's Bullet Sunday on Monday from the great state of Georgia!
• Hurt! After arriving at the gate of Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, I was pulling my backpack from the overhead bin when some guy decided he simply couldn't wait for me to get out of the way... and pulled down his pack right into my face. He had some kind of wooden easel or tripod attached, which ended up scraping across my eyelid. So now I've got a good cut there that's nice and swollen. His excuse to being such a dick? "Sorry, I've got a tight connection." And if my eye would have been poked out? Well, he's got a tight connection, so sorry about that. I swear that manners and courtesy go right out the window when people get on an airplane. The really terrible part? This is not the first time somebody has nailed me while retrieving their crap.
• Dino! Since my work was pushed back until late Monday, this left me all day Sunday to goof off in Atlanta. I started out by visiting The Fernbank Museum of Natural History, as suggested by Coal Miner's Granddaughter and The Muskrat...
It's a very cool museum... though a bit expensive at $17.50. As a holiday bonus, a group of young girls were dancing Christmas-themed ballet amongst the dinosaur skeletons in the main atrium. I wish I could say that was the oddest thing I've seen in a museum but, alas, no.
• Shop! From the museum I went to the Lenox Square Mall so I could go to The Apple Store. Along the way, I passed the shameless PC-based copy that is The Microsoft Store. Inside there were a handful of customers and a small group of employees. Once I got to The Apple Store, however... madness. Dozens of employees were helping wall-to-wall customers. The place was packed. And while there were a lot of people just looking, a good chunk of them were buying, as customers were leaving the store with Macintosh computer boxes and Apple-logo bags at a steady clip.
This is kind of an odd turn of events given the sorry state Apple was in just fourteen years ago. I remember a time when there was a very real possibility that Apple was going to fail...
Microsoft isn't going to lose their massive PC market share over Apple any time soon, but it's nice to see how well Apple is doing now-a-days after being an underdog for so long.
• Pig! In previous years coming to Atlanta during the holiday season, I was introduced to Priscilla The Pink Pig. It's a train ride for kids that is put on by Macy's each year. As you might imagine, it's a very big deal. And, if you must know, I'm kind of obsessed with The Pink Pig...
One of these years I'm going to ride that pig. Probably because my love of Invader Zim demands it...
• Eat! Copasetic Beth and Houston's Problem were kind enough to join me for dinner at The Varsity. For anybody unfamiliar with this Atlanta institution, it's "The World's Largest Drive-In Restaurant" located near Georgia Tech. Their menu is pretty limited and not very vegetarian-friendly, but they have a "Frosted Orange Drink" that I love, so I end up eating there every once in a while...
What makes the place interesting is that employees accepting orders will start screaming "WHAT'LL YA HAVE? WHAT'LL YA HAVE? WHAT'LL YA HAVE? at the top of their lungs when they're ready for their next customer. The first time I ate here (again with Copasetic Beth and Houston's Problem), the woman at the counter yelled "HAVE YOUR ORDER IN MIND AND YOUR MONEY IN HAND" at me as I approached the counter. For people not accustomed to it, this can be a little intimidating. But, given the sheer volume of customers streaming into the place, they have to do what they can to keep the line moving...
With practice, I now know to pass over my $5 while saying "GIMME A REGULAR F.O. AND FRIES!" so I don't get an eye-roll by not being ready and not knowing how to order properly...
It's like an Orange Creamsicle in a cup, and oh so delicious!
• Sew! When I was fairly young, my grandmother taught me how to sew. She figured I should know how to hem a pair of pants or repair a tear if I had to. I was never really good at it, but I did manage to use what skills I had to make Halloween costumes and stuff...
Since sewing is a handy thing to know how to do, I've always wanted to take a class so I could be better at it. The problem is that enrolling in a class requires you to be at a certain place at a certain time and adhere to a class schedule in a way my work and travel makes impossible. Enter Whipstitch and her e-courses, which allow me to take a "virtual class" which is a lot more flexible. The reason I bring this up is that you can now pre-purchase any of the 2012 courses (including the Sewing Basics class I'll be taking) for just $99... which is up to 45% off the regular price! If you've ever wanted to bone up on your sewing skills... or learn something new with the skills you already have... you can get all the details over at the Whipstitch Blog!
And now I should probably try and get some rest since there's no telling what time I'm going to be woken up for work.
Posted on Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011
Work ended hours earlier than I thought it would at 8:45pm. This was a pleasant surprise, and meant I could drive back to Atlanta tonight and not have to worry about heading back tomorrow on the day of my flight. But my injured eyelid was killing me... I had been up since 4:00am and was exhausted... and it was raining hard with lightning strikes... so I decided to just grab me some dinner and go to bed.
At least this was the plan as I pulled into a 24-hour restaurant.
After being ignored when I walked in the door, I was finally told to grab a table and they'd be right with me. But nobody was right with me. Everybody wandered off. I tried to get the attention of the one girl who was left, but she just rolled her eyes at me and walked away. I'm a fairly level-headed guy, but After TEN FULL MINUTES of being completely ignored, my anger was at the boiling point.
I said "SCREW THIS!" and walked out.
Which I have only done twice in my entire life.
Fueled by rage, I was no longer hurting. No longer tired. No longer giving a shit about the pouring rain. I just wanted to get the hell out of Dodge.
So I packed up my shit and drove the hour-forty back to Atlanta.
One of the reasons I love The South is the genuine Southern hospitality here. These people aren't faking it. Most of the time I feel like family when meeting total strangers because they're just so dang nice. I expect to walk into a restaurant and feel like I'm at home because that's how it's been every other time I've eaten at a restaurant here.
So when bullshit like this happens, I'm understandably pissed off.
On the way back I stopped off at a Waffle House in the city of Griffin and had me a couple fried egg sammies, which were delicious. And served by a friendly, attentive, hard-working staff...
I tipped well. Not being ignored puts me in a generous mood. And now I am taking my generous mood to bed, where hopefully I can sleep-in tomorrow morning.
I'm taking an Excedrin PM, so my fingers are crossed...
Posted on Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011
And so this happened...
Sitting next to a gum-smacking whore for 5-1/2 hours is the flight of my nightmares.
When the Delta Airlines Lady in the safety video is telling everybody what to do in case of emergencies, somehow this wasn't covered.
Posted on Saturday, November 26th, 2011
Hey! Avitable and I are helping The Muskrat raise money to fight prostate cancer during Movember... and giving YOU a chance to win an amazing prize package! Read all about it in yesterday's entry!
The weather on the mountain passes was so good this morning that I headed home a day early. Seeing "no restrictions with bare roads" on the WSDOT report was a far cry from the winter storm warnings that were in effect just a few days ago...
And I'm home.
Hopefully that will be my last trip of the year.
Posted on Saturday, December 31st, 2011
For those who only read one of my posts each year... or anybody wanting a recap of the past year here at Blogography... this post is for you! I've jettisoned loads of the usual junk so this entry is "mostly crap" instead of the "total crap" they usually are.
Overall, it was an okay year. Launched a new magazine. Got to escape the country and go to Venice, Spain and Australia. Got to meet one of THE BEST BANDS IN THE WORLD, Matt & Kim, in London. Didn't kill anybody. And any year you don't have to kill somebody can't be all bad, right?
• Wrote an essay on Violence and America.
• Decided that I needed a new zodiac sign.
• Explained why it doesn't suck to be me when it comes to travel.
• Had an amazing day in Marbella, Spain.
• Ate some PATATJES MET!!
• What the world needs now is Unity and The Golden Rule.
• Had to take an unexpected detour that ended up being worth the inconvenience.
• Was horrified by the monsters who believe that a child lucky enough to have two daddies who will love and cherish him forever is unacceptable... but a child who is orphaned, unwanted, or unloved is somehow better off. Little Samuel is home at last.
• One of the biggest events of my year: launched Thrice Fiction Magazine.
• Took a break for a vacation in Venice, Italy.
• Had the absolute best birthday of my life when I got to hang out with Matt & Kim in London!
• Oh yes. Now that he's home, it sure looks like having two dads for parents is ruining poor little Samuel's miserable life.
• As if meeting Matt & Kim wasn't amazing enough, I got to see OMD in concert AND got to attend their rehearsal before the show!
• Found out that Donald Trump is nothing but a big liar on the Pee-Wee Dave Show.
• Gave a behind-the-scenes look at how the cover of Thrice Fiction came to be.
• Speculated that I'm not the only one whose life has been put in danger by a baking addiction.
• Went to Hawaii for work... and my Puka Dog addiction.
• Wondered for the hundredth time why Americans aren't rioting in the streets when they have so many good reasons to do so.
• Everybody panic... IT'S THE END OF THE WORLD!
• I'm corrupting America's youth, one breakfast at a time.
• Had some Photoshop fun in the face of a riot on "Don't Give a Fuck Day."
• Showed some love for National Chocolate Pudding Day.
• This year, a Very Special Davelanta.
• Went ghost-busting at the most haunted place in America.
• My sleep routine leaves a lot to be desired.
• Was traumatized to find out THIS happened to one of my favorite restaurants on earth.
• Took a short break for some hero worship.
• Saved a baby and pondered the fickle finger of fate.
• Finally managed to take that Trip to Australia that I always wanted.
• Hiked around Uluru (Ayer's Rock) as the Lord of the Flies in the Australian Outback.
• Fulfilled a life-long goal of diving The Great Barrier Reef.
• Um, yeah... went sailing in Fiji.
• Took time out for some EXTREME snorkeling with sharks and sea snakes in Fiji... then hung out with dolphins.
• STUPID DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME explained on Guy Fawkes Day.
• A deer tale... a feel good story if there ever was one.
And that about wraps up 2011. Not a bad year, I guess. And you?
Hope your 2012 is a good one, and thanks for reading!
Posted on Sunday, March 11th, 2012
If it's going to rain in The Caribbean, it's usually just for a bit in the morning until the sun comes out and burns the clouds away. Which is why I'm at a complete loss as to why the ship's itinerary has it docking in Oranjestad, Aruba (an independent part of the Netherlands) at FRICKIN' SEVEN O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING when it was pissing down rain... then leaving at 12:30, just as blue skies were arriving. If I were a sun worshiper coming to enjoy one of Aruba's magnificent beaches, I'd be pissed.
But I'm not, so I don't get all bent out of shape. Heck, cloudy days with a little rain make for some beautiful photos, so I'm perfectly fine with that kind of weather.
Which didn't come until 9:30am, meaning I spent a couple hours getting drenched. Because the rain rolled in just moments after docking...
Visiting the "California Lighthouse" (named for a ship that sunk off the coast here) was a wet experience indeed...
But after a while the sun started breaking through and even the dogs were coming out...
By the time I arrived at "Baby Natural Bridge," the rain had completely stopped and the skies were clearing...
"Baby Natural Bridge" is a land formation where the water has eaten away at the base of a big rock, creating a bridge...
The original "Natural Bridge" was bigger than "Baby Natural Bridge," but it collapsed into the ocean back in 2005. It's the black busted rocks you see on the right there...
And here's a better view...
In the above picture, the waterline used to extend all the way up onto the sand there. But when Natural Bridge collapsed, it blocked off the ocean. Apparently, tourists used to walk across the bridge all the time so, luckily, it fell apart in the early morning when nobody was around to get hurt.
There's a few places on the island where giant boulders randomly appear for no reason that geologists understand. This makes them a tourist attraction, and you can even climb on top of one like a mini Stone Mountain!
And, of course, my last stop had to be the Hard Rock Cafe Aruba, so I could pick up a shirt and a few pins...
AT LEAST I WOULD HAVE BOUGHT A T-SHIRT IF THE SHOP HAD ANY OF THEM... ABSOLUTELY ANY OF THEM... IN A SIZE LARGE!! How incredibly stupid do you have to be to run out of the one souvenir that everybody wants in the most popular size on earth? It's as if the management at this Hard Rock just said "Fuck it! We don't want the cash!"... and then set a huge pile of money on fire in the middle of the fucking restaurant. I mean, seriously, selling souvenir shirts and pins at a Hard Rock is like printing money. You get guaranteed sales at a massive profit margin, and so it makes zero sense why any Hard Rock would ever... ever... run out.
Unless they were purposely trying to run themselves out of business.
With an hour left to kill, I wandered down the colorful streets of Oranjestad...
And, as you can see, blue skies struck with a vengeance... just as the ship was leaving port.
And that was the first port excursion on my cruise. A welcome event after two days trapped on a giant boat at sea.
30 DAYS DRAWING CHALLENGE: Draw the Turning Point in Your Life...
While there are many turning points in my life, the biggest would be a visit to Thailand back in 1998. My entire outlook on life was completely changed. Suddenly all the things that once seemed so critical to my happiness became trivial and petty. Some of this came from studying Buddhist teachings... but mostly it came from the beautiful example set by the Thai people themselves. It was as if I had been sleepwalking for decades and suddenly started to wake up as to what was important in life.
It doesn't get to be more of a turning point than that.