Posted on Wednesday, April 20th, 2016
Long before I became an actual certified diver, I had longed to dive The Great Barrier Reef. It was just so beautiful... full of color and life in a way that defied reality. Once I became a certified diver in 1986, diving The Great Barrier Reef was at the top of my bucket list.
Twenty-five years later, I finally got to check it off my list.
And it ended up being a bit of a disappointment. Thanks to Cyclone Yasi blowing through eight months earlier, there was significant damage to the reef and, while still beautiful and amazing, it didn't live up to the pre-Yasi splendor I had seen in photos and video.
I chalked it up to bad timing and promised myself that I'd return to Australia one day after the reef had recovered.
Except that isn't happening.
If anything, the reef has only gotten worse since I visited.
In an article I read today, 50% Of The Great Barrier Reef is now dead or dying and 93% is bleached.
I don't know if there's any chance of this horrible situation reversing itself, so I guess I should be thankful that I got to see what I saw when I saw it.
Because you just never know.
So now I'm starting to think I should start being thankful for everything that I got to see when I saw it.
And I try to be.
It's the places I haven't yet seen that's terrifying me now.
Will they even exist when I finally get around to going?
Posted on Tuesday, July 5th, 2016
I. Am. Tired.
While my blog was broked, I wrote two entries addressing terrorism and violence and I'm tired.
Tired of what keeps happening. Even more tired of the certainty that it's going to happen again.
When it came to Orlando, this is what I wrote to my friends on Facebook...
I am so horribly selfish in times of crisis. Every time I try to grapple with the evils that men can do and the horrific cost that comes with it, I can only think of how crushed I would be if it were one of my friends that were taken from me. You mean everything to me, I love you, and I can't imagine my life without you. And then I remember that there are people right now facing exactly this, and my heart goes out to them. It's tough not to be blinded by hatred for those who make this world such a horrible place, but the love of my friends gets me through. If that's true for you too, I thought you should know what you mean to me. I don't say how much I love you often enough. None of us do.
Then, before I could even catch my breath, I was writing a blog post about Istanbul...
The terrorist attack on Istanbul's airport hit me hard... all the senseless violence hits me hard... but this one in particular was difficult for me to take. Back in 2007 I was flying out of Istanbul and was pulled aside for secondary screening at the airport. This is nothing new... I'm taken aside for secondary screening all the time. But this time I had horror stories of Turkish prisons filling my head, so it was a little different. There I was, being taken to a small dark room by three guys in uniform, all the while wondering if somebody had snuck something into my bag or if I was going to end up in jail for some reason. But it turns out to have been no big deal... all they did was pat me down and check my shoes. The room was more for my benefit than theirs, as I think they just wanted to spare me any embarrassment from public scrutiny (which was actually kind of considerate). The door was open the entire time, they were really nice and apologetic about the entire ordeal, and it took less than 5 minutes. I've had a lot worse from American security screenings.
And now I can't help but wonder if these three guys who were just showing up to do their job were injured or killed when the bombs went off.
I'm just so tired.
Posted on Thursday, July 7th, 2016
And so there I was with an Alaska Air credit burning a hole in my pocket (because it was expiring soon) and nowhere to go. Rather than lose it, I decided to make a quick trip... somewhere... and get away for a bit.
But where? I dunno.
At least I didn't until Book of Love... an 80's band that was on my bucket list to see live... announced they were playing a gig in New Orleans at The House of Blues...
As if I ever need an excuse to visit one of my favorite cities on earth. My flight was booked the minute tickets went on sale.
The good news is that Alaska Airlines now has direct flights to New Orleans out of Seattle. The bad news is that I have to leave home at 4:00am to make the 5:40 flight to Seattle to take it...
The good news is that once I got to Seattle, Russell Wilson was onboard!
While I was in the air half-way to New Orleans, I got an email from The House of Blues asking if I wanted to upgrade from General Admission to VIP with reserved seating and club perks. The cost? $25. Considering my airline ticket was $520 and my hotel is $160 a night, that seemed like quite a bargain, so I jumped on it.
After a perfectly uneventful journey, I dropped my crap off at the hotel and headed off to my favorite restaurant in the city... Carmo! Their vegetarian Rico open-face sandwich is a taste of heaven on earth. Pair it with their banquette bread, and it's the meal of my dreams...
I was absolutely exhausted after dinner, having gotten no sleep the night before, so rather than head out for some bar-hopping, I decided to go to bed.
At least that was the plan.
First problem was that the toilet kept making noise. A seal must have been broken or something, because water was running out by the gallon. Even with the bathroom door closed I could hear it. The water running was annoying enough that I had to MacGyver a solution to make the noise stop...
That should have been the end of it.
But, of course, it wasn't.
Something... some thing was in my room with me. I don't know if it were paranormal activity or what, but an odd, shifting mass was dancing in my peripheral vision as I laid in bed. I kept looking in different places to make sure it wasn't my eyes playing tricks on me, but it appeared consistently in the same spot no matter what I did, so I chalked it up to ghosts. Or whatever. Unfortunately, it didn't appear in-camera even though I could still see it in the corner of my eye behind my iPhone...
Eventually it went away... or dissipated... or vanished... or whatever. But it was not forgotten. I was so pumped at the paranormal activity that I could not get to sleep and decided to go out.
Where I proceeded to drink way too much while staying out way too late.
Posted on Friday, July 8th, 2016
After staying out until midnight last night, you'd think that I would have slept in until noon.
Except this is one of my favorite cities on earth, and I was having none of it. I can sleep when I'm dead.
So I woke up at 7:00am so I could have Bananas Foster French Toast at Restaurant Stanley...
So much cool stuff is always showing up in French Quarter windows... MAKE IT SO, KYLO REN!
Despite the smell of urine, I like an early morning meander to Latrobe Park. A little peace and quiet in the city before heading back to the hotel so I can shower. Again...
Since I flew 8 hours to get to New Orleans, I reached out to a work colleague in Houston to see if they'd fly the 1-1/2 hours to meet me. This would save me a trip later in the year. Turns out they drove instead of flew, so it was 5 hours for them. I still won.
Because I upgraded to the VIP package for the concert tonight, I had to go buy new shoes to fit the dress code...
Then I decided to have a late lunch and not stop drinking until the show at 8:00. I had been craving falafel for ages, so I ate at Attiki...
And drank at Attiki. A great beer called Hoegaarden...
And then drank up and down Bourbon Street until it was time to drink at The House of Blues exclusive "Foundation Room" before the concert. The place is kind of a cross between a gay porn set and a Buddhist retreat...
And now? It's time to get on with the show...
...which I will wrap up tomorrow when my brain is back in my head.
Posted on Saturday, July 9th, 2016
The Book of Love concert last night was pretty darn great... even though, technically, it was only half the band. Ted and Susan were there, Lauren and Jade were not. This was problematic on some tracks... like Alice Everyday... where Lauren sings a fairly critical part of the song. But it was filled by audience participation, which was actually kind of nice.
Song selection was pretty much what you'd expect. Boy was there...
And their biggest hit, I touch Roses, was there for an encore as well.
All in all, a pretty great show, and one more 80's band I've seen live that I can scratch off my bucket list.
After dinner I went to Coop's Place for an amazing veggie burger and some Jägermeister, which is a pretty good way to end a day in New Orleans, I think.
And when it comes to starting a day in New Orleans, it doesn't get much better than beignets at Cafe du Monde...
Which is how I started my day at 6:30am.
From there I spent my time wandering around The Quarter until I had to check out of my hotel. After checking out of my hotel, I spent my time wandering around The Quarter drinking...
And then... it was over.
I picked up my backpack at the hotel... hopped a ride to the airport... climbed into my First Class seat upgrade... then proceeded to keep drinking until landing in Seattle.
Where I somehow managed to find my flight home.
Where my cats were glad to see me.
Posted on Sunday, July 10th, 2016
Lose not your faith in Blogography, fair human! Because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Broked. As if it weren't painfully apparent, my blog wasn't as fixed as I had thought it was. I honestly don't know what to do about it short of a complete re-install, and I ain't got time for that. But anyway...
• Book. As a massive fan of the original cartoon, I anticipated hating The Jungle Book live-action remake. Well, I watched in on the plane ride home and loved it. Just incredible stuff. Where did they find the kid who played Mowgli? Amazing young actor. The fact that they got Bill Murray as the voice of Baloo is just icing on the cake...
It's my understanding this was filmed in "real" 3D and is not a converted 2D movie. Looks like I have another 3D Blu-Ray to add to my shopping list.
• Umbrella. Before I got on the plane, I wandered through the French Quarter yesterday and had to hide under some trees in Jackson Square when a downpour started. That's when I saw a group of ladies caught in the rain who were squealing. A guy passing by handed them his umbrella. After several rounds of thank you's, this happened...
"Oh we gonna have to keep you now!"
"Sorry ma'am... Im already taken."
"Well I can see why. God bless you young man!"
And off he went into the rain without his umbrella. Then this...
"He was just like Batman!"
If I wasn't in New Orleans, one of my favorite places on earth, that would have made my day.
• Wrong. Kim Davis Asks Court to Dismiss Marriage License Appeal. Looks like somebody doesn't want to go down on the wrong side of history as a hateful bigot that refused to do her job. Well, I have news for you... that's ALL you're going to be remembered for as long as people remember who you are you pathetic farce. You'd think that this would serve as warning for other bigots out there, but I think we all know that's not true.
• Sodium. A friend of a friend closed his restaurant last December. Recently when he was asked if he would share some of his favorite recipes and he did. Then somebody asked him how in the heck he made his burgers taste so good. His answer? Butter and salt. Saturate the buns in butter before grilling them. Just before flipping, salt and pepper the patty (his restaurant had a touch of garlic powder in the mix) then flip and add more salt. Sodium nightmare? Yes. But restaurants don't have to post Nutrition Facts, so that's how he made his burgers taste great. And so I gave it a try with my Boca Burger patties. *AMAZING* The abundance of butter and salt totally takes them to the next level. High blood pressure, here I come!
• Doloris. When you're watching every episode of The West Wing for the hundredth time and you've JUST gotten over the fact that Mrs. Landingham died... only to have her pop up in a flashback in the episode Bartlett for America. Gets me every time. Boy do I miss this show.
And I'm outta bullets.
Posted on Sunday, September 11th, 2016
I had been to New York City four or five times previously for work, and had done all the "touristy" stuff I wanted to do. Then one trip I decided to take my mom with me so she could see the big city, which meant I ended up doing all the touristy stuff all over again. Since I was not a Broadway fan, I had never seen a show and had no plans of doing so... but my mom thought a trip to New York would be incomplete without "The Broadway Experience" and so I relented. Problem was... good seats at a show were expensive, and I didn't have the money for good seats. I fretted a bit about my mom's first Broadway show being seen from the back of the theater, and mentioned it to a co-worker. She told me about TKTS, a place where you could get half-off same-day shows that had seats left. I was also told that the Times Square location could get a bit nuts and I should try the location at The World Trade Center. And so the next morning, off we went... where I got us third-row seats, center-stage for "Miss Saigon." Since we were already there, I suggested we visit "The Top of The World"... which I hadn't planned on doing since we had already been up The Empire State Building. It ended up being a pretty great day... got to see NYC from the top of the Twin Towers... went to a couple cool museums... ate lunch at the Stage Deli... visited Central Park and the world-famous FAO Schwartz toy store... all topped off by the lavish stage production of Miss Saigon.
Years later, 9/11 would happen and I'd be forever grateful that fate took us to The World Trade Center for theater tickets so my mom got to see The Top of The World. She wouldn't have another opportunity.
And this is why I can't think of The World Trade Center without hearing "Last Night of the World" from Miss Saigon in my head, and the irony of it all is not lost on me.
Fifteen years later. The song still haunts me.
Posted on Friday, November 4th, 2016
Hey! This is PART THREE of THREE PARTS updating everybody about my cats.
While I love Jake and Jenny and wouldn't trade them for the world, there's one small problem that becomes a big problem when it comes to them allowing me to have them live with me. And that would be when I'm not at home. Travel is something I cannot avoid, which means there are stretches of time that food won't be put out and litter boxes won't be cleaned.
The easiest solution is to have a friend or neighbor drop by twice a day to take care of things. But it's kind of a burdensome thing to have to ask somebody. And so I went looking for automated solutions that would cover me for short trips away. Longer trips would still require a cat-sitter, but those are far and few between.
IMPORTANT UPDATE! AS OF OCTOBER 1, 2018, FEED-AND-GO HAS CEASED OPERATIONS. THEIR CLOUD SERVICES HAVE BEEN SHUT OFF. THESE FEEDERS NO LONGER WORK! Bad enough that the company had to close AND shut down their servers, rendering the feeders useless. But it's reprehensible that they didn't bother to notify their customers... or keep their website up with a message to warn their customers... or push out an app update which warns their customers. Because otherwise there is NO WAY TO KNOW that the cloud service has been shuttered. The blue network light on the units still glows blue! Luckily I test the units every time I haul them out, otherwise my cats wouldn't have been fed FOR THREE DAYS. What a bunch of pig-fuckers. They are perfectly content to let YOUR PET STARVE rather than warn you their product no longer works. I can only hope that some genius electronics expert out there will come up with a circuit board replacement that will allow the feeder to be programmed directly, instead of relying on a cloud service that's been shut down.
The first thing I looked at was an automated feeder.
There are "gravity feeders" that are basically a never-ending buffet of food that keeps replenishing itself until it runs out of kibble. This would be problematic for Jake, because he would eat and eat and eat all day long. They also have gravity feeders that are portion-controlled and timer-driven... but when I bought one for Spanky at my old place, it would clog up and a neighbor had to keep checking on it. I wanted something that wouldn't jam and also allow me to verify that the feeding took place.
Enter the Feed-and-Go automated, web-enabled pet feeder...
I bought two. They work flawlessly. There are six compartments that rotate through the feeding window. That means you have five days (in addition the day you leave) to be gone with once-a-day feedings. If I'm gone for three days or less, I put half-portions in the cavities and set it up for twice-a-day feedings so there's some variety. I had concerns as to what happens if the internet goes down... but each feeder stores a schedule locally, so it's all good. Pricey as hell... but good.
FEED-AND-GO SMART PET FEEDER: $199 from Amazon.
But what about the litter box?
I did a lot... and I mean a lot... of research. But every time I read the reviews on those litter trays that essentially drag a rake through the kitty litter to clean the box, there were always horror stories. Rakes getting jammed. Rakes getting clogged with poop. Rakes bending out of shape if two clumps of pee were fused together or if a clump fused to the bottom of the tray. They just didn't seem very reliable.
And then I came across the Litter Robot...
This thing is frickin' magic.
Because it uses gravity to do its dirty work, there's no rake to clog or break. The bottom floor of the unit is a flexible rubber sheet that pops out of place as the dome rotates, so even if a clump gets fused to the bottom, it's still getting cleaned out. I had some problems with the weight sensor at first... but after dumping the litter and re-calibrating, Litter Robot has been operating flawlessly ever since.
And my cats love the thing. They took to it immediately. All I had to do was put the Litter Robot in the same spot where the old litter tray was located, and boom goes the dynamite. Which was a pleasant surprise, because they are generally fearful of entering a space where they can't see a way out. I was more than a little worried that they would be too afraid to jump in. But, hooray, that was not the case. I have two other litter boxes in the house. I took one out, but left the the one upstairs so there's a box on each floor. They hardly ever use it, preferring to go downstairs so they can use the Litter Robot instead. I guess they like the privacy of the dome... and the fact that the box is always clean and ready to go.
The best part? Even with two cats, it only needs to be cleaned every five to six days. In other words, its schedule is the same as my Feed-and-Go pet feeder! Changing out the bag is easy, and I always dump in a Red Solo Cup of fresh kitty litter to replace the litter that was clumped and removed. So far, the litter inside looks like its staying clean. But, for sanitary reasons, I'll probably replace it anyway every two to three months.
The not so best part? Magic comes at a price.
I bought the larger "Open Air" model to accommodate my cats' claustrophobia. It's also the most expensive model (which I recommend it because I think it's how a cat would be most comfortable). So prepare to chop off an arm and a leg. But... damn... I could never... and I mean never go back to scooping out a litter box again. This product is just too perfect. I recommend buying direct from the manufacturer because you get free shipping and a 90-day money-back guarantee.
LITTER ROBOT OPEN AIR: $449 from Auto-Pets.
After I ended up being so thrilled with the Litter Robot, I ordered a few accessories. First was the Litter Robot Ramp, which will make it easier for the cats to reach the box when they're older ($50 from Auto-Pets)... next was the Litter Robot Fence, which helps keep the kitty litter in the box (and should come with the unit instead of being an add-on ($25 from Auto-Pets). And, of course, you'll need replacement drawer-liner bags ($50 per 100 bags from Auto-Pets). You can use any clumping litter in the Litter Robot, and I top off with Arm & Hammer brand litter because it's always on sale at Safeway. But I ended up buying the "official" Litter Robot litter too, as it comes pre-measured to perfectly fill the tray when starting out or when replacing old litter. Pricey, but very convenient ($46 for two, 10-lb. bags from Auto-Pets).
And there you have it. An automated solution that can cover my being gone for up to five days! It ran me around $1000 for both Feed-and-Go feeders, the Litter Robot, and Litter Robot accessories... but that's a small price to pay for the peace of mind I get when having to leave my Jake and Jenny at home alone. Luckily I already had security cameras installed so I can check in on them as well.
And did I mention that the Litter Robot is frickin' magic?
Posted on Wednesday, November 16th, 2016
When I woke up this morning I immediately grabbed my laptop so I could take a look at the weather in the mountains. Last night the forecast was for snow, and I didn't know if this would affect my trip over the mountain passes.
The top of the pass webcam was completely obliterated by snow...
Fortunately, the drive over wasn't bad at all. The roads were bare and wet and no trouble to drive on...
Here's hoping I have this kind of luck for the drive back.
Posted on Friday, November 18th, 2016
I love tattoos. LOVE them.
Had I started getting tattoos earlier in life, my arms would already be covered and I'd be starting in on my back and (probably) my legs. We have no choice as to what genetics are going to deal us in the card game of life, but being able to permanently make visual changes with tattooing is a wonderful freedom I'm fully onboard with.
So I took a cue from the culinary world and deconstructed me as a Buddhist monk on a lotus into separate pieces... which ended up fitting the space perfectly and turned out exactly as I had hoped. Which I knew it would, because that's what you get when you hire somebody as talented as Michael Dematty to ink your work...
As with all my tattoos, I drew them up in DaveToon black-and-white style. The "om" enlightenment at the top was written in Tamil (one of the oldest languages on earth) so it would look different from the om in my more traditional "om mani padme hum" tattoo that's already on my inner arm...
Annnnnnd... guess it's time to start thinking about my next tattoo...
Posted on Saturday, November 19th, 2016
Live music is a treat I don't get to experience often enough. Mostly because I almost always have to travel to get to it. This trip to San Francisco was all about getting to finally see a Mustache Harbor show... of which my long-term friend, Jester, is a part.
Last night was the first of two sold-out shows at Bimbo's 365 Club, and it was glorious...
Jester as "Ace Fontana" singing to a legion of Mustache Harbor fans on SPACE NIGHT!
Fantastic show. And a pretty great way to spend an evening. Needless to say, if Mustache Harbor is ever playing in your neck of the woods, they are well worth checking out.
Because who wouldn't want to experience a band brought together by their astrological signs and a love for vintage soft rock and sweet staches?
Posted on Sunday, November 20th, 2016
Guess Bullet Sunday is just going to have to wait, because I've got one last day in San Francisco...
Which started rather late, because I was wiped out from a late night of enjoying the smooth, soulful, vocal stylings of Jester and Mustache Harbor for their second sold-out show at Bimbo's 365 Club last night.
It was every bit as awesome as Friday's show, where we were once again transported to OUTERRRRRRR SPAAAAAACE...
WE LOVE YOU, ACE FONTANA!!!
Jester as Ace Fontana as Ace Frehley — ©2016 by Tananarive Aubert Photography
I had two things left on my San Francisco agenda, which Jester was willing to accommodate... 1) A FALAFEL WRAP SANDWICH... and... 2) FORTUNE COOKIES FROM GOLDEN GATE FORTUNE COOKIE COMPANY...
After that it was off to the airport so I can rest up before tomorrow's early morning flight.
Thanks a million times to Jester for making everything in my San Francisco holiday possible!
Posted on Friday, December 2nd, 2016
Back in September of 2004, I posted the BBC's Fifty Things To Do Before You Die List. For some reason it popped in my head this morning, so I thought I'd revisit it 12 years later and see how things have changed.
Boy howdy. I've been busy.
I marked the updated places in blue and added new comments in italics...
Of everything left on this list... walking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru is probably the most likely after my Antarctica expedition has been checked off next year. Something I've always wanted to do... but it probably won't happen until after I've been to India.
Posted on Tuesday, December 6th, 2016
Traveling for work is something that people who don't travel for work will never truly understand. It's not like going on vacation where you excitedly pack your bags and skip off the the airport looking forward to fun and adventure. It's more like a necessary evil that inconveniences your life as much as possible. A drudgery in repetition that you endure over and over and over until you're numb to the horrors that a life of travel dumps on you.
Something I had forgotten about. Probably because this past year I haven't been able to travel much, and had blocked it from memory.
And now I have cats.
Cats who can sense when I'm getting ready to leave, and decide that's the perfect time to go bonkers on me.
Knowing I had to get up this morning at 3:00am, I went to bed last night at 8:00. Usually the cats follow me up to my bedroom, pass out on me or the floor when I close my eyes, and that's the end of it. But not last night.
Earlier in the day Jenny had caught a bug out in the catio and brought it in the house. Not my favorite thing, but it makes her happy, so I resist my urge to go running up with a paper towel, put the bug out of its misery, and flush it down the toilet. She batted it around for five minutes or so, happy to have something new to do. At which point Jake came sauntering in the room and ate it.
Jenny did not take it well.
She cried because the bug was gone, then ran back out to the catio to catch another one...
Alas, after over a half-hour of waiting, no bug came. So she decided to come in from the cold and cry about it. A lot. She cried as she laid on my lap to get warmed up. She cried as I got up to go to bed. She cried as we climbed the stairs. She cried as I crawled into bed. Then she sat next to me and cried as I turned off the lights to try and get some sleep...
After I didn't cough up another bug for her to torture, she wandered off. Jake decided to take her spot since she kindly warmed it up for him. Thinking all the problems in Cat World were solved, I closed my eyes.
For all of twenty minutes.
So there I am in bed dozing off at 8:30 when all of a sudden BOING! BOING! BOING! BOING! BOING! Jenny has discovered one of the few door-stops left in the house. Apparently she decided if she didn't have a bug to play with, this would do. Jake hears it and goes running to investigate. Now they are taking turns BOING! BOING! BOING! BOING! BOING!
I think I finally managed to fall asleep around 10:00.
Five hours later I'm getting ready to head to the airport. Snow had been falling, so the drive was a bit more treacherous than usual. But I make it with plenty of time to spare. Here is my view at 5:00am from my seat on the plane...
Exhilarating, is it not?
Once in Seattle, I have my morning Qdoba burrito and wait for my flight to Reagan National Airport in Washington DC. As we leave, I am thrilled to be parked next to the one plane I really want to fly on before I die... Alaska Air's Salmon Thirty Salmon!
The flight is okay, despite my ending up in a middle seat because I had to book with the plane mostly full.
While I have flown to Washington, D.C. many times, I have never changed planes there. Turns out that Reagan National Airport is just fine if that's your final destination. But a total pile of shit if it's not. In order to get from B Concourse to my next flight on C Concourse, I HAD TO EXIT SECURITY, WALK A MILE, THEN GO THROUGH A SECURITY CHECK ALL OVER AGAIN. Which is buckets full of stupid in a day and age when security procedures are such a major cluster-fuck. Come on, Reagan National, get your shit together.
And then... one additional plane-ride later... here I am in Portland, Maine.
Where it's cold.
Which makes the fact that I am tired and hungry that much worse. But at least my luggage arrived this time. After getting to my hotel, I decide to eat at the restaurant there so I can have some fries and Maine blueberry pie before turning in. The waiter asks if I want my pie with my fries or after. I answer "Definitely after, thanks!"...
I'm guessing this is indicative of how the rest of my trip will go?
Posted on Wednesday, December 7th, 2016
How's Maine? Maine is cold.
I didn't have a car until noon, so I skipped breakfast at the hotel and decided to have pizza at Otto in downtown Portland. They make a Butternut Squash and Cranberry pie that is one of my favorite things. And it totally delivered...
While eating I got to watch a woman let her baby stab the wood table repeatedly with a fork. When she noticed me watching, she took the fork away.
Then gave the baby a knife to stab the table with.
I don't know that it was an improvement, but okay.
On my way back to my car I saw two pumpkins on the sidewalk, assumably waiting to be tossed in the trash...
I guess the magic of pumpkin spice has passed. They look to be in great shape, so somebody should totally save them and make pie.
The hour trip north was boring, which is the best you can hope for when driving in Maine during winter. After checking into my hotel, I look out to see that the Androscoggin River has once again closed down for the season.
Here was my view from last year, around this time...
And here we are now...
Exciting, I know.
Since there's not much to do while I wait for my job to start, I've been getting some work done and catching up on Facebook. It was while looking through the latter that I ran across a video of Christmas tree shearing. It's fascinating to watch. Relaxing even. Very zen...
Depending on size, these guys can shape 2,000-2,500 trees per day! They don't say how many ninjas they could slash their way through. Oh well.
As exhausted as I am, I suppose I should take a nap before starting work at midnight.
Or search YouTube for more Christmas tree shearing videos.
One of those two things.
Posted on Thursday, December 8th, 2016
When traveling for work in winter, I have to take precautions that I usually wouldn't when traveling in not-winter. Primary of which is arriving early and staying late.
You arrive early in case there are weather delays so you will still get to the job on time. You stay late in case work runs late and you don't miss your flight. It's a bummer because it means your travels are extended, but it beats the consequences when things go wrong. The consolation I have is that if the job finishes on-time (ha!) or early (ha! ha!) you can always catch an earlier flight.
Except when you can't.
Which is me today.
I'm done with work so I can fly home tomorrow. This is great news because I had been planning for it all along. The nice thing is that catching an earlier flight, which can be quite expensive for infrequent travelers, isn't such a big deal when you have status with the airline. But all of that means nothing if they can't find a flight to put you on. Since I've got three flights home this time, it just proved too difficult to get all of them lined up within a reasonable time. My best option had me leaving a day earlier, but arriving home only five hours earlier. Nineteen hours stuck in airports? No thank you.
And so now I'm majorly bummed that I can't go home. Usually I'd try to make the best of it, but I just don't feel like going out into the Christmas shopping crowds of Portland or driving anywhere in the snow. Maybe I'll change my mind tomorrow... but, in the meanwhile, it looks like I'm stuck.
< Insert Frowny Face Here >
The first thing I do when I get up each morning is check my security camera footage so I can see what the cats are up to. I have no idea how many other times during the day I check on my cats, but it's a lot. This is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, I know that Jake and Jenny are still alive and haven't burned the house down. On the other hand, I miss them and am powerless to fix any problems that come up.
Like Jenny seemingly not being able to decide where to sleep last night. Usually, she sleeps with me. But since I'm not there, I have to watch her wander from spot to spot all around the house for hours. Eventually I thought she had settled on a donut bed I leave by the stereo...
But she gave up on that too. Eventually, after more wandering, she headed upstairs. She must have found somewhere to sleep there, because she didn't come back downstairs all night.
And now she doesn't want to come back downstairs at all... even when the pet feeder activates. Jake heard it this morning and came bombing down to eat. Jenny peeks around the stairwell corner at the top, but doesn't come down. I set a motion alert, which texts me 40 minutes later that she's finally coming down. Except she doesn't. She stops at the bottom...
Eventually she turns around and runs back upstairs.
Not knowing what's going on... I scrub back through all the security camera footage. Nothing. Then I check the exterior cameras to see if somebody is outside making noise. Indeed there is. The snow plows are running. And Jenny is apparently scared of the noise they make.
Tonight I checked at feeding time again, and it's the exact same story...
She made it down an extra step, but still runs right back up before she hits the floor. The snowplows weren't running then, so I can only guess she's still scared from this morning.
I'm assuming eventually she'll get so hungry she overcomes her fears and makes it to the feeder.
Until then I'll spend my time being sad that I can't fly home tomorrow.
Posted on Friday, December 9th, 2016
I wish I could say that my ambition showed itself today but, alas... I still had no desire to drive anywhere or fight the Christmas shopping crowd, so most of my day was spent catching up on sleep and working. An entire waste, I know, but this was never a vacation trip.
I did venture out for lunch and again for dinner though. So I guess that's something. For the walk back to my hotel I had my camera with me, which is always fun...
And now... I pack. For tomorrow I take the long journey home.
Posted on Saturday, December 10th, 2016
I didn't have to be at the airport until 12:30, which meant I could wait to pack my suitcase this morning and relax a bit before taking my three flights home.
It also meant that I had time to stop by The Maine Mall for lunch. Which would usually be at Johnny Rockets... but they changed their buns to these small crusty things (even when you ask them to ditch the shitty "healthy wheat" bun that now comes on their veggie burger)... so this time I ate at Qdoba. Never thought that would happen.
Flights were uneventful. Even if I did have a layover at shitty Washington Reagan National Airport, which makes you exit security to change concourses. Landed back home at 12:10, got my suitcase by 12:30, cleaned off my car by 12:45, was at my house by 1:20am.
Where my cats were happy to see me. So happy that I had to distract them with treats so they'd leave me alone long enough to unload the car.
Needless to say I was exhausted and decided to go straight to bed.
Which is where I stepped on this...
It's... a rabbit foot?!
I rush back down to the guest room and, sure enough, this happened...
Okay then. The cats knocked one of my rabbits off the shelf. Sad... but nothing super-glue won't fix.
The question is... how?
I was careful to not have any tall furniture near the shelves that the cats could climb up. The headboard is under the shelves, so they can't be using that. Or can they? Hell if I know. Obviously I don't have security cameras in my guest room... but I'm tempted to put one in there temporarily so I can see what in the hell they're doing in there.
Besides scratching up my new chair.
Welcome home, me.
Posted on Monday, December 19th, 2016
Today I had to make a last-minute trip to San Diego for a quick work project happening tomorrow morning. I'll essentially be in San Diego for nine hours to do 15-20 minutes worth of work. But it's very important work which will end up benefitting people who could really use it, so I don't mind so much. I've gone much further for much less.
I took this as an opportunity to test the new "download" feature for Netflix, which allows you to view programs and movies without an internet connection. It works in that I could view downloaded content offline... but it's kind of flakey. Siri kept activating over and over and over again, even when I turned her off (iPhone just switches to Voice Command) and the video kept pausing randomly, even though I never touched my iPhone to make it happen. I have no idea if this is a problem with Netflix, or possibly my headphones somehow sending commands, but it was incredibly annoying.
I'd be beside myself if I didn't have anything to complain about while traveling, so I guess this is as good as anything.
Posted on Tuesday, December 20th, 2016
And... I'm home.
Except I almost wasn't, because when my plane landed one of the mountain passes was a complete disaster with chains required and the other was closed. This would have meant adding 1 to 1-1/2 hours to my trip... except the pass miraculously opened up ten minutes before I reached the turn-off.
While there are many ways to get in and out of Redneckistan, there are only two that really make sense when heading to the coast are the two main mountain pass routes.
Stevens Pass (2-1/2 hours) is usually very well maintained in the winter because there's a big ski resort at the summit and they want people to be able to get to it. You're deposited quite a bit north of Seattle, but it's a quicker run so you can usually arrive in a similar time-frame. The major downer is that Highway 2 is a 2-lane affair with not a lot of opportunities to pass slower traffic. Get behind a truck driving 10 miles per hour under the speed limit and you'll be stuck for a while...
Blewett and Snoqualmie Passes (2-1/4 hours) create my preferred route to Seattle. Once over Blewett (a 2-lane highway), you merge onto I-90, which has a 4+ lanes of traffic and a speed limit of 70mph...
Quincy/Vantage/Snoqualmie (3-1/2 hours) is an alternate route you can take when Blewett Pass is closed (which happens surprisingly often). This was the route I was going to take today... until Blewett opened back up at the last minute...
Portland/Central Basin (7-1/2 hours) is the grueling route you take when all hope of getting over the mountain passes is lost. Yes, there are White Pass (5-1/2 hours) and Crystal Mountain (4-1/2 hours) routes you can take, but the odds are very good they'll be either closed (or more trouble than it's worth) if the main passes are closed. I'd rather just bite the bullet and drive home free and clear if it seems that's a better option than waiting out the weather (you can read about one of my times traveling this route right here)...
You can, of course, always fly in/out of Wenatchee (assuming the airport isn't closed) if you don't mind having to abandon your car in Seattle until you can find a way back to it. I've done this at least twice, because sometimes not driving at all is the best option.
Posted on Wednesday, December 21st, 2016
UPDATE: Delta Airlines has released a statement about the two guys who claim to have been kicked off the flight because they were speaking Arabic... "Upon landing the crew was debriefed and multiple passenger statements collected. Based on the information collected to date, it appears the customers who were removed sought to disrupt the cabin with provocative behaviour, including shouting. This type of conduct is not welcome on any Delta flight. While one, according to media reports, is a known prankster who was video recorded and encouraged by his traveling companion, what is paramount to Delta is the safety and comfort of our passengers and employees. It is clear these individuals sought to violate that priority."
Since this guy has a history of pranking airlines (and also lying about it), it's very likely that they were kicked off the flight for cause. Which is really too bad, because lying about being a victim of racism and bigotry only makes it harder for those who are actual victims of racism and bigotry to be believed. And heaven only knows we've seen enough of that in recent years.
Regardless as to whether they deserved to be kicked off... and, to be clear, if they were disrupting the flight they absolutely should have been... I can't help but wonder if they would have been treated differently (pranks and all) if they were white.
I was once on a post 9-11 flight out of LAX where some kind of evangelist dressed in a suit and tie was screaming about Jesus as he boarded the plane. While the flight took off, he was praying... loudly. He was asked more than once to lower his voice so he wasn't disturbing other passengers. Which lasted all of ten minutes before he started loudly preaching about Jesus again. Nothing happened to him. He was mostly left alone. He walked off the plane without incident. He was white. But if this had been a Middle-Eastern guy screaming about Allah and talking about Mohammed? He would have probably been restrained... at minimum. Then likely arrested upon landing. Assuming they didn't make an emergency landing and have him arrested before he even reached his destination.
So... food for thought.
Horrible racist, bigoted crap was happening before Donald Trump was elected President of the United States of America.
I'm betting it will be happening a lot more often now.
Two guys were kicked off a flight because one of them was speaking Arabic to his mom. Apparently it made a woman and her husband in the row ahead of him "nervous" and he was told he should be speaking English. In Trump's America, this kind of stupid, xenophobic bullshit is justification for swift action.
Action Delta Airlines was apparently happy to engage in...
If people speaking a different language upsets you... THEN DON'T GO OUT IN PUBLIC, ASSHOLE! If being around other people on a plane upsets you... THEN DON'T FLY, ASSHOLE! This is just the tip of the iceberg. If I were there and saw what happened, they'd end up kicking me off the fucking plane too.
Hope you're prepared for the day only people with blonde hair are allowed to fly.
In other Delta Airlines news, this landed in my in-box...
Delta partnership change
As of April 30, 2017, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan members will no longer be able to earn or redeem miles on Delta flights. Don't worry, though–thanks to our acquisition of Virgin America and ever-growing list of global partners, it's easy to get where you want to go.
I may die of un-shock.
Delta was never a true "partner" to Alaska Airlines. They shit all over Alaska every chance they got, then decided to set up camp in a Seattle hub in an attempt to force Alaska out of our airport. Interesting to note how they employed this same strategy in Memphis circa 2013... setting up a hub to drive other airlines out, then pulling the hub once the deed was done. After all went down getting in and out of Memphis became difficult and expensive, and the city still hasn't fully recovered from the damage Delta did.
And speaking of damage...
No word yet as to whether Delta is going to allow only English to be spoken on their flights.
Posted on Saturday, December 24th, 2016
And... today is my last trip of the year.
Let's get this show on the road...
UPDATE: Roads were in terrific shape. Getting over the mountains was a piece of cake.
Happy holidays, everybody.
Posted on Monday, December 26th, 2016
The first thing I did when I woke up this morning was check the mountain pass reports to find out if I will be able to get home. Much to my surprise, Stevens Pass was bare and wet, though the afternoon forecast was for snow. So I made plans to leave at 11:00, thinking that my drive back would be a piece of cake.
And it would have.
If the hundreds of people also wanting to get back over the mountains weren't all leaving at the same time to beat the snow.
Which meant that even though the roads were perfect, I still had an additional 40 minutes of travel time. Which was crappy, yes... but at least I didn't have to chain up.
And thus ends my last trip of the year.
When I finally got home the cats were ecstatic to see me. I was ecstatic to see a bathroom.
And speaking of cats...
And now? Bed.
"Alexa, play George Michael..."