Posted on Sunday, January 8th, 2017
There's hope for 2017, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• WALL! And so now The American People are going to have to pay for President Pussy-Grabber's idiotic Mexico border wall. As if there were ever any doubt. Can I just have the $25 instead? Giving everybody in the US $25 would be just as effective as this HYSTERICAL LEVEL OF DUMBFUCKERY would be in protecting the country. Look, it's not going to work. It's not going to stop drugs. It's not going to stop illegal immigration. And it's FUCKING IMPOSSIBLE TO BUILD THIS BULLSHIT IN THE FIRST PLACE... JUST ASK ANY ARCHITECT! — And Trump's 8 Billion price tag is a joke. It's going to run billions over that in costs AND EVERYBODY KNOWS IT. And the price doesn't even include the outrageous cost of maintaining such a wall... which is BILLIONS more. This is absolutely one of the most stupid fucking things I have ever heard of. It's a security blanket for total morons, and we're all going to have to pay the price. And if you honestly believe that Mexico is going to reimburse us for the final cost of something that doesn't even work? You need a serious reality check.
• Home! I'm a big fan of unique houses, and just when I think I've seen it all, something cool like this comes along...
Yeah... I'd have figured out a way to have a bathroom up there, but other than that? What an awesome place to call home!
• LARSENNNNNNN! I head to Antarctica for a photography expedition in 324 days. After wanting to visit for decades, I finally decided to throw finances to the wind and go this year because every time I see Antarctica in the news, it's because another chunk of the ice shelves is breaking off. And scientists are saying another massive chunk is about to go...
A map of Larsen C's iceberg by MIDAS/Swansea University/Aberystwyth University
Now I'm just hoping that enough of Antarctica holds together for me to see it come December...
• This is It! If you're into cheesy Norman Lear comedies from the 1970's, then have I got a treat for you. Netflix has used that same framework to delve into contemporary issues by remaking One Day At A Time with a Cuban twist. It's a glorious trip back in time that's about as well-done as comedy gets...
As if that weren't enough, they had Gloria Estefan remake the theme song with a latin twist...
I really, really hope that this critically acclaimed show gets a second season. There's a lot more to be said.
• Maui! I was saddened to learn that the Hard Rock Cafe in Maui closed this past week. This was my very first Hard Rock, and is what got me into traveling the world to visit 165 more of them (and counting!). It had the perfect location at the end of Front Street in Lahaina, and was about the most laid-back cafe you could hope for when vacationing in Hawaii. From my DaveCafe blog...
While vacationing with friends in Maui (circa August 1990), we were wandering around Lahaina looking for a place to eat. As we came to the end of the Front Street tourist shopping district, one of us spied a place called “Hard Rock Cafe” in an unassuming building across the street. It sounded like fun, so away we went.
Little did I realize how my life would change after that moment.
At the time I remember thinking “The Hard Rock Cafe is such a great idea… it’s like eating in the middle of a Rock-n-Roll museum!” I hadn’t seen anything like it, and was so impressed I bought a couple pins at the gift shop. When we went back to Lahaina a few days later, I ended up buying a denim jacket that I still have today.
When I got back home, I discovered that there were 22 other Hard Rock Cafes around the world. But none of them were in Seattle, which is why I hadn’t heard of them before. Some were in places I might visit one day (San Francisco, New York, Chicago)… but others seemed like impossible destinations I’d never see (Reykjavik, Stockholm, Singapore).
How wrong I was.
As time went on, I started traveling more and more, and managed to see some Hard Rock Cafes along the way. Pretty soon I found myself traveling to places specifically to see the cafes there. By that point I was becoming obsessed, and set a goal to visit 50 properties before the end of the year 2000, 10 years after my first visit in Maui. That I did in December of 2000 when I vacationed in Rome, Italy. I always thought that once I reached my goal, that would be the end of it all, but I was wrong again. I kept going, visited properties around the globe and adding to my growing collection of pins, T-shirts, and glassware.
I owe a great debt to the Hard Rock Cafe for exposing me to places I probably never would have seen if not for their restaurants, hotels, and such. Amazing places like Warsaw, Poland… Bali, Indonesia… and Lisbon, Portugal (to name a few). Even nifty places here in the USA that I never would have gone to if not for checking another cafe off my list. I may go for the Hard Rock, but I always stay for all the other wonders these places offer.
And there are still so many places yet to see.
You will be missed...
And, while we're on the subject...
The original Hard Rock Cafe in Las Vegas (in front of the Hard Rock Hotel) has also closed. Probably because they opened a second cafe on The Strip, and there wasn't enough room for two of them. This is a shame, because the original had a much better "Hard Rock feel" to it... as opposed to the "Hipster Lounge" style that they've got going now.
Ah well. Progress and all that.
I'm outta bullets, so have a good week, everybody!
Posted on Monday, January 30th, 2017
It's going to be a long four years.
Posted on Tuesday, January 31st, 2017
It's going to be a long four years.
Posted on Wednesday, February 1st, 2017
It's going to be a long four years.
Posted on Thursday, February 2nd, 2017
It's going to be a long four years.
Posted on Friday, February 3rd, 2017
It's going to be a long four years.
Posted on Saturday, February 11th, 2017
After winter storms closed down the mountain passes, I honestly didn't know if they would be open for my drive over today. Fortunately, they were not just open... but in beautiful shape... which made for an uneventful journey for me...
Well... not really though. There was this car driving 45 in a 60mph zone, which had a lot of people pissed off. And since the jerk wouldn't pull over, cars were making dangerous passing gambits to get by. At one point the asshole behind me (fifth in line!) tried to pass, but then had to cut in front of me to avoid hitting a car. After slamming on the brakes so I wouldn't plow into him, I laid on the horn for entirely too long.
I can be an asshole too.
Posted on Tuesday, February 28th, 2017
And so here I am back in California for another quick work trip. Though, unlike my previous trip to San Diego which was a breezy nine hours, I'm sticking around Los Angeles for a couple extra days to decompress a bit. I haven't had a vacation in over a year, so it's the least I can do.
The good news is that the weather is supposed to be beautiful for the length of my stay. Given the flood of rains that have been pelting SoCal, that's a pleasant surprise.
The bad news is that I couldn't fly out yesterday, so I had to take an early morning flight to make my meeting...
"Alexa? Set an alarm for 3:30am."
"I've set an alarm for 3:30am."
"Alexa? Kill me now."
I don't sleep very well these days, but I do like laying around in bed. Even if I'm working in bed. Having to drag my sorry ass out of bed at such a heinous hour makes me stabby.
Just ask my cats.
Not that they're happy about it either.
Jenny brings me toys every morning as some kind of tribute. I think that she thinks she has to bring me stuff so I'll get up and feed her. Some mornings she brings one toy... other times she'll bring a half-dozen. The hungrier she is, the more she seems to bring.
This morning when I got up at 3:30 to take a shower, Jenny flew into a panic and ran downstairs to start dragging toys up to me. Since I wasn't in my bedroom, she was confused as to what she should do, so she started making a pile in the upstairs hallway...
Poor thing probably thinks she overslept!
Though my cats definitely have a better sense of time than I do, so who knows what goes through her fuzzy little head.
After having made sure that the Litter-Robot was emptied, the Feed-And-Go was filled, the television was turned on with the brightness lowered, and the extra litter boxes were set out, I was off to the airport.
Two flights later, and I was back in L.A.
A city for which I have mixed feelings.
Way back in the day, I worked on a project here over seven months. It was nice money, but having to fly back and forth every other week was tough. Even tougher was having to deal with the business behind showbusiness, which was awful to a mentally-debilitating extreme. Turns out I just wasn't cut out for the Hollywood lifestyle... nice as it was to live it for a little while.
But hey... after work I get to go to Disneyland, so there's that.
Posted on Wednesday, March 1st, 2017
I was supposed to fly home today since work is done, but I decided to stick around and hang with Mickey Mouse instead. The last time I was in Disneyland was four years ago. A lot has happened since then.
And I don't just mean that The Pirates of the Caribbean ride is closed for repairs... though that is irritating since it's my favorite theme park ride ever, and the Disneyland version is better than the Disney World version by a long shot.
No, what's happening is a shockingly large expansion of the park to include the new "Star Wars Land" that's being built just above Frontierland. You can catch glimpses of it from the top of the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride and the Splash Mountain ride, but Nearmap has an aerial view that reveals the true scope of the project...
Image copyright NearMap... CLICK HERE FOR FULL RESOLUTION
To give you an idea of just how huge that is, I've draw it on a Google Map of the entire park...
It's a safe bet that eventually "Rivers of America" will be made back into a loop so that the river rides and Tom Sawyer Island will be running again... but they're probably having to make adjustments to keep Star Wars Land separated off from Frontierland so the illusion of being in a "world" won't be spoiled.
Even so, that's a massively huge addition to Disneyland. I figured that since Disney World has so much land available that theirs would be big... but Disneyland? Who knew? The end result is probably going to be double the size of Tomorrowland, and they've still got room for future expansion.
Here's some concept art from Disney showing what Star Wars Land will look like...
Yeah... definitely returning to take a look at that.
But I first need to get back to Disney World because they've got "Pandora: The World of AVATAR" opening up in May.
In other news... The Disneyland Main Street Electrical Parade is back. As I was leaving the park last night, I heard the music start up. It's the same music they used for the parade when I first visited Disneyland in 1976. The minute I heard it, I was ten years old again. The floats look to be the same as well... but, hey, that was forty years ago, so I could be mistaken. Interestingly enough, the parade doesn't seem dated at all.
Given that this is February, the crowds at the park were surprisingly dense.
I usually stay at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel (one of my favorites, because it reminds me of the Wilderness Lodge at Disney World), but that was booked solid. The Disneyland Hotel was likewise unavailable. I thought I might finally get to stay at Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel, but that was a no-go as well. Why aren't all these kids running around in school?
Pirates of the Caribbean being closed wasn't the only disappointment. Tower of Terror is closed as well because it's being re-themed as a ride for Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy movies. Prepare yourself for Joe Rohde and his absurdly stupid earring...
On one hand... it's upsetting that Tower of Terror will be no more. It was a great ride that perfectly integrated The Twilight Zone into the narrative. On the other hand, it will be nice to have something new... and it will feature movie characters I love.
Guess there's always Tower of Terror at Disney World... but that ride was never as good, because so many of the cool features of the Disneyland version were abandoned (such as the elevator car leaving the shaft to venture out into the hotel).
One transformation which has already been completed is "Space Mountain" becoming "Hyperspace Mountain" back in 2015. Decked out with all-new Star Wars theming, it is an even more awesome experience than before. I rode it last night and was surprised at just how well it works. They try to make it seem as though you're in a high-speed space battle, and you actually feel it. Sure, the glimpses of Star Wars elements are brief... you're on a roller coaster after all... but they've added laser blasts and other nifty things to really sell it. That alone was worth the price of admission.
And speaking of the price of admission...
Holy crap is Disneyland expensive. Usually I get free tickets from work, but that program ended back in January. I went to buy my own tickets and nearly fell into shock. I was going to get three days for $315, but four days was only $20 more so I thought "What the hell?" and did that. Even two days is a whopping $244 (Park Hopper), so you might as well go full boat. Especially if the park is busy, as you'll spend most of your time standing in line.
And now... time to go out and enjoy the lovely weather they're having here. Though it still gets cold at night, the days are ll sunshine and clear skies. A nice change of pace from the overcast skies and snow back home.
Posted on Thursday, March 2nd, 2017
My favorite theme park attraction of all time was Universal Studio's Back to the Future: The Ride. It was absolutely flawless in execution and felt like an essential part of the Back to the Future movie trilogy in a way that other movie tie-ins can only dream of. Alas, it was gutted so as to install a ride for The Simpsons which is only half as good... so if you never got to ride it, you're out of luck.
Many people find it surprising that my favorite didn't come out of Disney, since they are the company that popularized the entire concept of a theme park. No, they weren't first, but they came along and did it bigger and better than anybody else ever had... partly in thanks to having such an established brand with a multitude of characters and properties that translated perfectly into attractions.
That being said, I decided to rank my favorites from both Disneyland and Walt Disney World into a single list. Partly because I want to make sure I don't miss an attraction for my time here... but mostly because I don't feel like working tonight...
Time will tell if this list changes after the new Pandora: The World of AVATAR and Star Wars Land projects debut. I would certainly hope so.
Posted on Friday, March 3rd, 2017
Last night at a wonderful early birthday dinner with friends, I had told them how proud I was that I finally managed to get Jake and Jenny trained to not jump on the kitchen counters. Yes, Jake still wanders into the kitchen from time to time but, thanks to sticky mats, his days of climbing over my kitchen counters was over.
And then... less than an hour after getting back to the hotel... I get a motion alert on my iPhone that there's movement in the kitchen. A quick check of the security cameras and, sure enough...
I rewound the footage to see what made Jake suddenly revolt, and was surprised to see that it was actually Jenny who was the instigator. You can see her beady little eyes reflecting in the dark on the refrigerator return before she makes a spectacular leap across to the kitchen counter...
Jake hopped up a minute later...
I thought Jenny had hopped back down, but nope... she was over digging in the sink...
Eventually I started talking to them from the speaker on the security camera, which was all kinds of confusing for them as they started looking around trying to find out where I was. Jake seemed to think I was on the ceiling, but Jenny seemed to figure it out eventually...
What's weird is that A) The motion alarm did go off, which usually scares them away, so apparently they are immune to that now, and B) My yelling at them to get off the counters through the camera speaker was equally ineffective. Eventually I rang the doorbell, which finally did the trick.
Guess I need to figure out how to tie the motion detectors to the doorbell when I get home.
It also looks like I will be disinfecting my kitchen counters when I get home.
I was pretty much Disney-ed out half-way through yesterday. But the hotel kicks me out in an hour... my ride to the airport isn't here until 3:30... and I have another day left on my park ticket... so I guess I'm going back to Disneyland again today. Oh well. There are certainly worse ways to spend an afternoon.
Still... vacation goals achieved...
Until next time, Disneyland.
Posted on Saturday, March 4th, 2017
Traveling when you've got pets back home is the worst.
Not only are you missing your pets while you're gone, but you're worrying about any trouble they might get into as well. And so, even though I have spent a crazy amount of time cat-proofing my house and making sure there's no trouble they can get into, I'm still checking the security cameras several times a day...
...so I can watch them get into trouble.
Yesterday I posted about them jumping on the kitchen counters where they know they're not supposed to be.
But that was just the tip of the iceberg...
• Jenny dragged most of her toys upstairs, as expected. She also dragged up an iPhone cable, which one of the cats conveniently bit in two. No idea where she got it.
• I left my Hanes hoodie hanging on the back of a chair. It was pulled down, scratched up, chewed on, and dragged around the house.
• My upstairs office is now officially the cat's play room. I've had to pull all of my stuff out because they love to "play" with it. The only thing I had left in there was a desk, book case, and a box of envelopes. Now all I have is a desk and a book case.
• I'm working on a family photo collage in my stairway. Since it's an odd-shaped wall, I've used masking tape to section off where the photos go. Jake ripped down every bit of it he could reach.
• Which was a prelude to him ripping down a "DO NOT LET CATS OUT!" sign that's been in the catio for months. Apparently he's been hating it for a while and suddenly decided he'd had enough. So then, without hesitation...
When I got home last night after midnight, the cats went crazy ove me. Which was nice. Until Jenny decided she needed petting at 1:00am.
Neither her nor Jake have ever bothered me while I'm sleeping, so I'm guessing that she's just making up for lost time?
Anyway... today they had calmed down to their normal(?) selves and spent most of the day outside in the catio because it was just too beautiful out to be inside.
When I left, the weather was like this...
L.A. was like this...
Now that I'm back? This is the view the cats have from their catio...
Looks like I brought California skies back with me.
Which is great, because this snow can just go away any time now.
Posted on Sunday, March 5th, 2017
Pull out your Mickey Mouse ears, because a Very Special Disney-centric Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• I'm Going to Disneyland. Now that Disneyland has no "off-season" and is hellishly busy all-year-long, there's really only one piece of advice I can offer: Don't make your Disney vacation all about standing in lines. Stay multiple days... divide up the attractions you want to see so you're only standing in line for them part of every day... then get the hell out of the parks to have an actual vacation. Go see what else L.A. has to offer (which is a lot)... or just hang around the pool at your hotel. Spending the whole day in a massive crowd at Disneyland is just guaranteeing that you'll need a vacation from your vacation.
• Princess Vader. I honestly can't decide whether this is the coolest thing ever, or just pain wrong...
All I know is that Disney's marketing of Star Wars is way off the charts.
• Reimagineering. Earlier this week I brought up the new Star Wars Land additions coming to both Disney parks. This is on top of Disney World getting a Pandora: The World of AVATAR "land" in Animal Kingdom. New stuff at the Disney parks is always great... but I can't help but wonder when rides like Jungle Cruise and Haunted Mansion will get an upgrade. Surely there's a way of remaining true to the original concept while enhancing the attractions with today's technology? Otherwise I have to wonder how much longer they can last. The parks (particularly at Disneyland) do not have infinite space to expand, so the worry is that even "E-Ticket" attractions will eventually be eliminated in favor of something fresh to keep the crowds coming.
• Grey Stuff. Yesterday I mentioned that I checked-off one of my life goals at Disneyland... eating Grey Stuff Gâteau (which they spell "Gateâu") and Gaston's Brew. Nobody seems to know what that meant. Well... "Grey Stuff" is something served to Belle in Beauty and the Beast...
This is what the real-life version looks like from The Red Rose Taverne in Disneyland's Fantasyland (a temporary restaurant re-dress in celebration of the live-action Beauty and the Beast movie coming in March...
It's a white chocolate mousse that's been tinted grey then heaped on a small red velvet cake that has raspberry in it...
It comes piled on a shortbread cookie that seems to have a rose drawn on it?
It's not too bad. The cookie is dense and bland rather than buttery and flakey... and the whole ordeal is too sweet for me... but it's totally edible. Gaston's Brew, on the other hand, is excellent. It's apple-mango juice that's topped with a passion fruit foam "head." Something I'm going to have to try and make at home.
• Magical Morning. One of the benefits of buying your ticket to Disneyland online is that you get a free "Magic Morning" on tickets for three days or more. "Magic Morning" means that you get into the park an hour before opening. In my case, that meant 9:00am instead of 10:00am. This used to be available only to registered hotel guests at one of the Disney hotel properties... but now anybody can get it. The problem being that now anybody can get it. Which means the park gets just as crowded just as quickly as it would without magic morning. Sure you might get one or two rides in at a reduced wait time, but it's hardly the deal it used to be. I got to ride Space Mountain in 20 minutes instead of 60... but after that the lines were right back to normal. Bummer. I'd be pretty pissed if I were a hotel guest counting on this perk.
• The Sign. I could spend hours just wandering around Disneyland looking at the beautiful signage that's displayed everywhere. It's not as fun as Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, but it certainly beats standing in lines all day. My favorite signs are in Adventureland. So many beautifully-carved pieces...
But it's not just the extravagant larger signs that are given such detail. Even small signs... like numbers on a door... are beautifully themed for the area they occupy...
Even throw-away signs from an exit queue are painstakingly designed...
And every exterior sign is beautifully-crafted, of course...
So... next time you're at one of the Disney theme parks, stop for a minute and look for the signs. They're an attraction all on their own.
And now? Heigh ho, heigh ho, it's off to work I go...
Posted on Friday, March 10th, 2017
Every once in a while it hits me just how much travel has changed since smartphones entered the scene.
The biggest change for me has been eliminating maps and guidebooks. It was something I put off for the longest time, because I absolutely love maps and guidebooks. Especially printed maps. You can get lost in a destination before you even arrive just by unfolding a map. But the benefit to having everything on a phone you're already carrying cannot be understated. Nor can the built-in GPS, which makes getting lost almost impossible now. I'm not completely convinced that's a good thing... I've discovered many a treasure while lost in foreign lands... but it sure makes getting around a lot less intimidating.
Then there's getting rid of boarding passes. How liberating is that? I never realized just how awful it was being chained to a printed boarding pass. Even when we got the ability to print them ourselves, it could still be a burden. Especially if you're out of toner or the hotel's printer is broken (which happens more times than you'd expect!).
And how about music and videos? Two pieces of equipment you no longer have to stuff in your backpack.
And then there's travel apps.
There truly is an app for just about everything, and collecting the best travel apps is an obsession that I've been occupied with since apps first appeared.
Probably my most favorite... by a long shot... is a genius app called FlightTrack and, to a lesser extent, it's companion app called FlightBoard.
FlightTrack siphons your travel itineraries off TripIt and keeps track of your flights for you (or you can manually add them to your list). When you travel a lot, that's already a godsend... but it does so much more. If you have access to internet while inflight, you can also track your progress from the map screen...
In addition, it pushes gate changes, flight status, and other useful information to your phone's messaging system... this is also a godsend when you have a tight connection and need information fast...
The companion app, FlightBoard gave you access to an airports flight board so you can get information on all the inbound and outbound flights. I used this a little bit for finding alternate flights... and a lot for picking people up from the airport...
Pretty amazing, right?
Except both apps are now dead.
Expedia bought both apps from Mobiata, then purged them while I was in the middle of my L.A. trip last week. The apps worked on the way down to California... but on my way back it was non-functional. A visit to the Mobiata website told the story...
There is never an easy way to share disappointing news. So it is with great appreciation and respect for your many years of loyalty that we share the difficult decision we’ve made to sunset our FlightTrack 5 and FlightBoard apps.
For many of you, this isn’t surprising news. We haven’t provided much maintenance or improvements to either app over the past year. Regardless, you haven’t faltered in letting us know how much you love the apps. Although this is sad news, our hope is that over the past eight years the apps have served you well during your many travels.
So why are we doing this? The travel market is a rapidly changing place and companies, big and small, must constantly be able to innovate in real-time and predict market trends. Recently, Expedia’s mobile team conducted a critical assessment of the growing market demand for travel app products that offer one-stop shopping, itinerary management, and unique, customizable experiences.
Expedia, our parent company, is dedicated - as are we - to delivering this kind of mobile experience. To this end, we are bringing Mobiata’s passion for combining beauty with technical excellence to the Expedia app. Our goal is to contribute to creating the most visually stunning and useful travel app in the world. Don’t be surprised if you see a little bit of our FlightTrack and FlightBoard ingenuity appearing in the Expedia app down the road.
Needless to say, this sucks.
I have looked through every app claiming to have similar functionality, and none of them come close to the beautiful design and functionality that FlightTrack had. Just as my travel got a little bit better with FlightTrack in my life, it just got a little bit shittier now that it's gone.
I wonder which brilliant app I use will be bought out, shitted on, then purged next?
Posted on Wednesday, March 15th, 2017
The cats know when I'm leaving.
Packing the suitcase. Emptying the Litter Robot. Filling the cat feeder. Cleaning and filling the water fountain. It all adds up.
And once they realize what's happening... they stick to me like glue...
Follwing me everywhere right up until I walk out the door...
Nobody lays down a guilt trip like cats do.
And I'm off.
Posted on Thursday, March 16th, 2017
I'll visit San Francisco at the drop of a hat for any reason at all. It's just an hour-and-a-half flight out of Seattle, which means I can get there from Redneckistan in around four hours. Wrabel has a show at the Rickshaw Stop? Sign me up!
One of the many nice things about San Francisco is that I never have to worry about playing tourist when I'm in town. I've been here so many times that I'm over it. Another nice thing is that there's a lot of vegetarian fare to be had in the city.
I've been wanting to try this Singapore-based burger chain called "Vegan Burg" but never wanted to venture out to The Haight to actually do it. Today was finally the day for a Cracked Pepper Mayo Vegan Burg. It's a beautiful presentation and a decent alternative to other veggie burgers, but I'd have rather have gotten my regular Johnny Rockets Streamliner (no grilled onions). The Vegan Burg is kind of boring. The only thing notable about it is the crispy texture... which I'm not sure I liked. Bun is decent. Seaweed fries were okay. The mango lemonade, however was weak. Oh well. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Then it was time to meet up with Jester and friends for the show...
Which absolutely did not disappoint.
If Wrabel shows up in your neighborhood, go. Just go.
In addition to being a brilliant songwriter/musician, Wrabel is massively entertaining. He tells stories. He interacts with the audience. It's just non-stop wonderful from beginning to end...
He says he's working on an album. Hopefully to be released later this year.
Posted on Friday, March 17th, 2017
And that was San Francisco.
Jester dropped me off at the airport and, before I knew it, I was on my way home. Via Virgin America Airlines, which I hadn't noticed on my ticket until yesterday... but, now that they're merging up with Alaska Airlines, I'm guessing this will be happening with greater frequency.
SFO had a display of Ouiji boards on my concourse, which was interesting but surprising. Given how freaked out some people are by them, you'd think they'd avoid putting such an exhibit in a public space like this. And yet...
The trip home was nothing exciting, which is the best kind of trip to have.
The cats were, of course, excited to see me. Jake was all over me from the minute I walked in the door, and needed a lot of attention before he settled back into normalcy. Or whatever passes for normalcy in a cat.
Jenny was a bit more reserved... until bedtime.
Then she decided to make up for lost time by bringing me a toy as a welcome back present. Or so I would imagine...
I started to pet her, but she was more interested in television, as usual...
So I guess we're good.
Nobody tell her that I'm leaving again tomorrow...
Posted on Saturday, March 18th, 2017
And now I'm off again.
Of course the cats figured it out, they always do.
Jenny was particularly upset by the news. So much so that she thought it a good idea to prevent me from packing my suitcase...
I distracted them with kitty treats and... away I went.
The drive over to Seattle was pretty bleak for March. Usually we're in almost-Spring mode here by then, but not this time...
Oh well. The roads were pretty much clear, which is all that really matters.
Las Vegas, here I come.
Posted on Sunday, March 19th, 2017
Long Island Iced Teas Drank: 3
Gambling Tally: Down $22
Time To Bed: 3:00am
My friends and I arrived in Las Vegas at 1:30pm after a quick 2-hour flight from Seattle.
We had a late lunch at my new favorite restaurant in the Fremont area... Nacho Daddy, which is amazing from top to bottom. Great service, great music, great atmosphere, really great nachos, and incredible drinks...
I decided that my drink of the trip would be the Long Island Ice Tea, due to the high alcohol content. The last thing I was to do is be sober in Las Vegas.
Most of my friends went to "O" the water show by Cirque du Soleil. Since I am completely baffled by the appeal of Cirque, I took a pass and met up with some other friends who were in town.
After that there was much drinking and gambling until the wee hours of the morning.
Which sounds uneventful enough, sure. Except... the hotel had to be evacuated twice. Both times because somebody was vaping in their room. Apparently the smoke detectors in The Golden Nugget cannot distinguish between smoke and vapor, so this "happens all the time." At least according to the security guard on the sidewalk.
If vaping sets off your building evacuation alarm three times a day at all hours, perhaps it would be prudent to alert people to this fact when they check in so vapers aren't constantly evacuating the hotel. Just a thought. Because... seriously... this is some outlandishly stupid shit.
In better news... WONDER WOMAN SLOTS!!!
And just to prove that they can make a slots game out of anything... HOUSE OF CARDS SLOTS!!!
Though, I have to say... Orange is the new Black slots would be m favorite of the night. Who knew?
Posted on Monday, March 20th, 2017
Long Island Iced Teas Drank: 6
Gambling Tally: Up $108
Time To Bed: 2:30am
I was awakened around 9am by a security alert on my phone, which turned out to be Jake wandering around the kitchen. I yelled at him through the camera speaker to get out, but this ended up backfiring in the worst possible way. Both cats came tearing into the kitchen when they heard my voice... assumably because they thought I was there. Yeah, I felt pretty terrible for the rest of the day.
I ended up loving Nacho Daddy so much yesterday that I headed there for lunch again today. Since it had just turned noon, I was just in time to start in on the Long Islands for the day...
Dinner was at Margaritaville on The Strip, after which we headed over to The Luxor for one of my favorite shows, Blue Man Group, which I've seen in various places five times previously. They added a bit of new material since the last time I saw them (in Orlando, I think) which is always nice. Heck of an entertaining show (as always) and I highly recommend checking them out if you have the opportunity...
After the show, we headed back to Fremont to finish out gambling for the day. And to visit Nacho Daddy for my last Long Island of the day...
And now... a missive on The Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino Las Vegas...
This is my third time staying here, the last time being in 2009. I had zero complaints my previous visits. The Old Town location is great. The staff is great. The rooms are clean. What more could you want?
Turns out it's quite a bit.
Like not having to evacuate the hotel twice in one day.
Yesterday while I was relaxing before dinner, the hotel speaker system started screaming for people to evacuate the building. I waited to see if it were a false alarm, but eventually made my way down the stairwell to the outside of the building as the alarm continued. Where a bunch of us waited. And waited. And waited. Eventually I asked a passing security guard what was wrong and how long it would be before we could go back to our rooms. "DIDN'T YOU HEAR THE ALL-CLEAR?!? Uh. No. No we did not. There are no speakers outside to hear it. I then asked what happened "Somebody vaping on the 7th floor. Happens all the time."
Which turned out to be true. Because it happened again at 2:00am.
And I found out it had happened earlier before we even arrived as well.
Just a thought... if vaping sets off your building evacuation alarm three times a day at all hours, perhaps it would be prudent to alert people to this fact when they check in so vapers aren't constantly causing the evacuation the hotel. When I checked in, nobody told me vaping wasn't allowed inside. Nothing on my welcome card mentioned it either. I don't vape, so no harm no foul on me. But for others? Seriously... this is some outlandishly stupid shit.
And speaking of outlandishly stupid shit at The Golden Nugget...
This being Vegas, you have to pay $30 a day in "resort fees." This gets you...
So essentially I was forced to pay $30 a day and got jack-shit for it. I already hate "resort fees" with a passion... and the hotels who rip you off with them... but The Golden Nugget is just beyond a shithole for not delivering any value with theirs. Will not be staying there again.
And I don't know about gambling there again either. Over half of their automated cash-out/ATM machines were broken...
Looks like you're standing in line forever at the understaffed cashier window.
Oh... and the fee for withdrawing money from their ATM when you find a working one? SIX FUCKING DOLLARS. Thanks, Golden Nugget... you pile of crap.
Posted on Tuesday, March 21st, 2017
Long Island Iced Teas Drank: 4
Gambling Tally: Down $82
Time To Bed: 1:30am
Another day, another couple rounds of Long Islands at Nacho Daddy...
Today's plan was to relax, and so I did.
Until it came time to zipline down Fremont on Slotzilla.
In case you don't know what that means, somebody documented the experience for you...
Since I've been skydiving, bungee jumping, and zip-lining before, this was a piece of cake. But I admit that my heart skipped a beat when that door dropped from eleven stories to reveal what you're about to do!
A very cool experience for $45 that I would gladly do again.
And... another trip to Las Vegas is over.
Posted on Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017
Is there anything worse than hanging out at your hotel waiting for your flight home once your vacation is over?
Probably lots of things are worse than that.
But when you are sleep-deprived and drinking for three days straight?
No. No there most certainly is nothing worse than that.
But on the plane I watched possibly the greatest Las Vegas movie ever, The Hangover, so I guess it's all good...
This movie fascinates me no matter how many times I see it. It came out of nowhere and was just so good. Sure it was followed by two crappy sequels, but that first one? Magic. Everything about it was perfect... from the story to the casting to the jokes. I've lost track of the number of times I've seen the film, but I laugh every time.
Which is a good thing, because my vacation is done.
Posted on Friday, March 31st, 2017
Eight months from now, assuming everything goes as planned, I will be heading out to fulfill my lifelong dream of traveling to Antarctica.
I haven't really thought about everything I have to do before the trip is underway, but it's something I know needs to be planned out. Soon. And, in an effort to get my head around it, I made a first step by purchasing some notebooks to document my journey. Specifically, the Field Notes Expedition Edition notebooks, which I have in my nightstand...
These notebooks are made out of some kind of indestructible "paper" that is waterproof, tear-proof, nuclear-bomb-proof, and so on.
But the coolest thing about them? They have maps of Antarctica on the backs!
Photo taken from JetPens, which sells the notebooks here!
Now I just need to make my final payment. Book my airline tickets. Book my hotel stay over. Buy my expedition clothing. Get a waterproof bag for my camera equipment. Buy a second camera body. And about a gazillion other things.
Eight months and counting...
Posted on Monday, April 10th, 2017
There are few businesses I loathe more than United Airlines.
They are a shitty, shitty company and just about every experience I've ever had with them has been a bad one. I stopped flying them because they lost my luggage twice in four flights and were unbelievably shitty to me as I attempted to get it back. Then, after nearly a decade, I finally flew them again. Not only did they lose my suitcase right out of the gate and treat me shitty for it... they then charged me to check it back home, even though I never got to use it my entire trip.
I detest these fuckers. Absolutely detest them.
Which is why I experienced zero shock when I saw that they had forcibly removed one of their paying customers from a flight they overbooked...
Now... before we go any further...
Most all airlines overbook their flights whenever they can.
The reason being is that they know that a certain number of people will cancel flights or change their ticket or arrive too late to make their flights or whatever. They're just trying to make sure that planes go out full, because that's what needs to happen for them to make money.
It's for this reason that I heavily advocate getting a seat assignment in advance and checking in for a flight the minute you are able to do so. That way, you're all set in the event that a flight is oversold. It will be somebody who didn't get a seat or check in early that gets left behind in an oversell situation (assuming the airline can't get volunteers to take a later flight).
Or so I assumed.
From the looks of things here, the guy had his seat assignment. So I honestly don't know what's going on. If United knew they needed crew on the flight, why didn't they handle this fiasco before boarding took place? You simply do not remove somebody from the plane like this. If you oversell a flight, you deny the person who didn't get a seat assignment and then lavish money and gifts on them out of compensation... before boarding.
But this is the fuckers at United Airlines we're talking about, and so...
...not a big surprise that this is how they decided to handle the situation.
United Airlines Hates You.
And guess what? Every time you fly with this heinous shithole of an airline, you're empowering them to keep hating on you... along with every other person flying with them...
Find a different way to fly.
Posted on Tuesday, April 18th, 2017
This morning when I stepped into the shower, my foot hit the cold tile and I immediately had a flashback to my vacation in Fiji. This is not unusual... most people have experienced sights or smells or other sensations which trigger memories. But usually it's a memory that makes sense. And I could not for the life of me figure out how my foot stepping on cold tile could be associated with Fiji when everything in Fiji is hot. At best, the apartment I stayed at was cool. Nothing in it, including the tile, was cold. So what they heck?
It was an hour later as I was packing up my junk to go to work that it dawned on me...
Last night I had finally gotten around to watching the movie Steve Jobs which was a fascinating (albeit fictional) look at my all-time favorite personal hero. And while people who knew Steve said that it didn't reflect reality and the character in the movie seemed far more hostile and cruel than the Real Steve Jobs (especially later in life where he mellowed quite a bit), it was nevertheless an entertaining movie. Michael Fassbender was a compelling and charismatic Jobs and, much to my surprise, Kate Winslet completely nailed playing Joanna Hoffman. Getting Seth Rogan to play Woz and Jeff Daniels for John Sculley was just icing on the cake. Loved the movie. I give it five stars.
And so... Fiji.
I had been snorkeling with sea snakes and sharks then cruising with dolphins. The boat had just returned to the shallows where I was getting ready to trudge across the mud-flats back to shore. My iPhone, which was safely stored in a waterproof tote, came into cellular range and beeped. There was a text message waiting for me. A text I dreaded, because it was likely bad news. Eventually I made it back to the scuba shop and fished my mobile out of the bag.
My feet were still wet. I was standing in the shade on terra cotta tile made cold thanks to a box fan blowing on it.
Posted on Thursday, April 20th, 2017
The reason I want to be obscenely wealthy is not to buy a bunch of expensive crap.
If a billion dollars were to suddenly drop in my lap, I don't know that I would get a new house. Or even a new car. Living in a palace and driving a Ferrari just don't interest me. Neither does accumulating a lot of expensive crap. So long as I can afford a laptop, a nice camera, and an iPhone... I'm pretty much done.
No, the reason I want to be obscenely wealthy is so I don't have to work and can spend the rest of my life traveling the world.
Not that I haven't found a way to travel the world now... but there are experiences that require time and money I will never have that haunt my travel dreams.
Take, for example, Tristan da Cunha
Located in the middle of nowhere in the South Atlantic, this small island is one of the most remote places on earth...
It's so remote that the only way to get there is by ship. Which takes six days.
Luckily, ships are making runs to Tristan da Cunha somewhat monthly out of Cape Town (though the dates of departure/return are not set in stone and can move depending on numerous factors). The return passenger fare is under $700 USD, which is a pretty decent price, all things considered. I would not count on luxury digs, however, as the two ships currently making the run are a fishing ship and a cargo ship.
And there's more!
Space on the two ships is limited. And non-resident tourist passengers have the lowest possible priority. If somebody is sick and needs to get off the island for medical reasons? You get bumped. If somebody on official island business needs to leave at the last minute? You get bumped. If somebody on the island decides they want to holiday in Cape Town? You get bumped. What this means is that you can schedule a trip to arrive at Tristan da Cunha on May 22nd then return to Cape Town on May 28th... and end up leaving on June 2nd and returning August 23rd (or longer!).
So to visit, not only do you need to have the time and money to sit around Cape Town waiting for a ship... you also have to have the time and money to sit around Tristan da Cunha waiting for a ship.
OR... you can try to book a cruise ship.
Apparently there are cruises that sail the South Atlantic from time to time. They run between Ushuaia (South America) and Cape Town (Africa). They last two weeks and cost over ten thousand dollars... so, again... time and money required.
OR... if you're a billionaire?
I'd imagine you could go wherever the hell you want. Charter an entire ship to get to/from Tristan da Cunha if you want to. The world is your oyster.
And that's the reason I want to be obscenely wealthy.
Posted on Friday, May 5th, 2017
And so I'm off to Denver.
But first I had errands Seattle-side, so I had to get up early for the drive over. Which wasn't easy, because I could not get any sleep last night. No idea why. Can't even blame it on the cats, because they were fast asleep at the foot of the bed.
I finally got up at 5:30am because I was tired of staring at the ceiling... giving me plenty of time to shower, pack, and head out the door at 7am.
Drive. Errands. Falafel Lunch.
And then... then, as I'm headed to the airport, I get the alert that my flight has been delayed. Then another alert. Then another alert.
Rather than sit at the airport for two hours, I head to the giant new IKEA that's nearby. They made it huge. But it's still crowded and the parking still sucks. Hopefully they are putting new and improved parking in the space that the old IKEA used to be (one it's been torn down).
As I get yet another alert, I notice that with each new email Delta lists the revised original departure time as the previous revised departure time, which is kind of hysterical...
Do people actually fall for this?
Finally I just go to the airport for lack of anything better to do.
Once our delayed, delayed, delayed flight has boarded, there's some kind of problem with the service jetway, so we can't leave.
Once that's been handled, we still can't leave.
Because the TSA thinks there's two more babies onboard than there actually are. Which has the flight attendants literally walking the aisles looking for "hidden babies." I shit you not.
But eventually we're off... hidden babies and all... though my plans of having dinner in Denver have been destroyed.
Oh well. Off to the hotel it is then.
I go to the check-in desk only to find a male employee talking about setting up a blog (on Blogger!) with one guest... and a female employee looking at hairstyles with another guest on her mobile phone. The female employee finally says "Are you trying to check in?" and starts handling it... ALL WHILE CONTINUING TO DISCUSS HAIRSTYLES WITH THE OTHER GUEST! The only words she says to me are "Do you want me to go get you a couple bottles of water?" and "Here's your key" and "The wifi login is your last name and your room number." AND THAT'S IT! She barely even looked at me... then immediately hopped around the counter to play with the guest's hair to show her how she could get the style she wanted.
Now that's service! Not for me, of course, but for the lady wanting a new hairstyle and the guy wanting to set up a blog.
Hopefully I sleep better tonight than I did last night.
Posted on Sunday, May 7th, 2017
It's good to be home, because an all-new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Travel Day! Last night I was going to head into Denver for some dinner and bumming around after Howard's birthday party, but made the mistake of "laying down for a minute" and decided I'd rather order out pizza and watch TV. After pizza, I decided to pack up my crap, iron tomorrow's clothes, and get everything ready to go for today. Always a smart move, because I just love being able to roll out of bed, shower, and head out on a travel day. Why I don't do this more often I will never know. I guess that deep down I prefer the mad dash of getting ready in the ten minutes before my ride arrives? Who can say?
• Home! When I arrived back home today, the first thing I did was start unpacking. Jenny felt threatened by dirty clothes flying and retreated to her basket...
Jake kept trying to crawl all over me, so I grabbed his favorite blanket and finally gave in while I was sorting laundry...
Laying down was a mistake, as I fell asleep almost immediately. When I woke up, Jenny had joined in and I was covered in kittens. There are certainly worse homecomings.
• Things to do in Denver. Side-by-side on the Denver "Things to Do" rack at my hotel...
But which to do first? Hmmmm...
• Hope! As a huge fan of Greek mythology for as long as I could read, I've always had a soft spot for Wonder Woman. When George Pérez reinvented the character in 1987 by jettisoning decades of bad choices so she could be tied even stronger to her Greek mythological origins, Wonder Woman quickly became one of my favorite super-heroes. Which is why I've been awaiting her big-screen debut with absolute dread given the horrendously shitty movies DC has been churning out lately. And yet... there's hope...
Not bad. Not bad at all. I guess we'll know for sure on June 2.
• Spidey! And lest we forget that Marvel has a super-hero film of their own coming out this summer...
I mean, holy shit. I liked the first two Tobey Maguire films okay, but this... THIS... is Spider-Man! He moves like you'd expect Spider-Man to move, and it's a glorious thing to see. Cannot wait for July 5th!
• Neutrality 2. I have said pretty much all I have to say about the pig-fuckers in our government wanting to sell-out the internet to big media companies. But now that our corrupt asshole of a president is mounting a new assault, all I want to do is explode with rage. Here's a more rational response...
How the American people can be SO FUCKING STUPID as to put up with this FUCKING BULLSHIT is beyond me. But, hey... the American people elected a pussy-grabbing Cheeto Jesus as president, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised.
And I'm fucking done.
Posted on Wednesday, May 10th, 2017
I updated my travel map while on the phone this morning.
The thing was getting way too complicated for me to manage manually, so I switched to Google My Maps a while back. What a cool piece of tech that is. Makes it so easy to keep track of the places I've flown into, stayed at, or been. Granted, it's undoubtedly not 100% complete because I've forgotten a lot of places... but it's close enough.
In all honesty I don't know whether I should be amazed that I managed to get to this much of the world... or horrified that there's so many places I've yet to visit...
If you want to play with the interactive version to see how nice Google My Maps is... just head to my Map Page. Or sign into your Google account and make a map of your own!
Posted on Sunday, May 21st, 2017
We're going to need some more coffee, because a very special Twin Peaks edition of Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Twin Peaks! "She's dead, wrapped in plastic."You had to be there. Because no words I can write could ever encapsulate just how jaw-dropping amazing it was to be alive when Twin Peaks was first unloading onto an unsuspecting world...
Nothing like it had ever aired before... and, though many attempts have been made to imitate it, nothing has since. The mystery of who killed Laura Palmer is still lighting a fire in the imaginations of people around the globe even today. Though the second season faltered without the guidance of David Lynch, I still love every episodes and have viewed them numerous times.
• Made in Washington! "That gum you like is going to come back in style." While the fictitious city of "Twin Peaks" is located in Eastern Washington near the Canadian border, many of the real exterior locations were filmed in my home state as well. After I fell in love with the show, I made an effort to visit many of them...
A list of places I've sought out...
Filming for the new series took place in Washington again... it will be interesting to see if they came up with any new locations for me to visit.
• The Secret History of Twin Peaks! "The owls are not what they seem." In anticipation of the new episodes dropping today, Twin Peaks co-creator Mark Frost released a book tie-in last summer detailing the "secret history" of the town of Twin Peaks...
If you are a hardcore Twin Peaks fan, I don't need to tell you that this book is essential reading. Not only does it provide an expectedly bizarre history of the region (seriously, Frost tosses in Lewis & Clark, Sasquatch, aliens, and everything else you can imagine... along with some things you can't), but the book also fills in a few details of what happened after the original series ended. Much of the information is superfluous to the story... and it's a tough read if you are not familiar with the show... but I enjoyed it as a tasty side-dish to the main course, and am looking forward to the second volume, Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier, releasing October 31st.
• Twin Peaks: The Return! "I'll see you in 25 years." When it comes to doing weird shit on film, art house cinema has been doing it since the dawn of cinema. Some of it goes mainstream from time to time but, for the most part, it's a niche product that doesn't go anywhere. What made Twin Peaks so different and revolutionary is that the series managed to blend the weird shit of an art house film with an actual story that everyday people could find entertaining. Sure it digressed from time to time... but, overall, things were always moving. Interesting stuff was always happening on-screen to drive the story forward.
Now, a quarter-century later, Twin Peaks returns...
Something I've been waiting half my life to see.
But here's the problem... David Lynch and Mark Frost have gone full-on arthouse and, if the first four episodes are anything to judge the series by, it's a steaming pile of shit. An absolute disaster that's weird just to be weird. And, unlike the original series, there's precious little else. Absolutely everything is weird shit. And it drags on and on and on. Take the third episode for example. The entire first half of the show is Agent Cooper trying to escape from The Black Lodge where he's been stuck since the end of the final episode. It's all complete nonsense, boring as shit, and does nothing to support what's come before. As for the second half of the episode? Dale Cooper meandering around South Dakota acting weird and doing weird shit. Only in the final five minutes does the story lurch forward again.
If there's a bright spot to be had, it's appearances by the original cast and a continuation of the original story... as scattered and slow as it may be. And I'm beyond thankful that Miguel Ferrer (FBI Agent Albert Rosenfield) and Catherine Coulson (Margaret, The Log Lady) managed to film scenes before their deaths. Unfortunately, it's all for naught, because Twin Peaks and everything that made it so amazing is barely here. And, unless things get radically better in the remaining episodes, I'm sorry they brought it back.
• The Sound of Twin Peaks! Twin Peaks would not be Twin Peaks without the music of Angelo Badalamenti. He created one of the most recognizable theme songs ever to grace television, and his Lauara's Theme added atmosphere to many moments in the show...
Another artist, Julee Cruise, became a household name from her performances on the show. David Lynch is continuing this tradition by ending the episodes with musical performances. My favorite from the new series is The Chromatics, singing a beautiful song called Shadow...
How very Twin Peaks!
And that's a wrap! "When you see me again, it won't be me..."
Posted on Tuesday, May 30th, 2017
After an early two-and-a-half-hour drive over the mountains for work this morning, I came to the conclusion that the horrific condition of public transportation in this country (particularly on the West Coast) is something Americans should be terribly embarrassed over.
I mean, seriously. our options here are so bad they might as well not even exist. Which explains why our roads are so badly crowded... everybody is in their car, despite the high cost, because public transportation can't get them where they want to go. At least not easily.
Take for example my situation this morning.
If our train system was anything like what you'll find in European or Asian countries, I'd walk to a local train that would take me to the neighboring city of Wenatchee where I'd board a regional train to Seattle. I'd then find a local train that ran out of Downtown over to West Seattle. Done.
But, in reality, I can't catch a local train. The tracks run right thought town, but there are no local trains, thus no local stops. So I have to drive to Wenatchee and hop a train there. Except the ONE train that runs from the station each day boards at 5:35am and doesn't arrive Seattle until 10:25. That's nearly 5 hours for something I can drive in half the time. Even worse, there is no train from downtown to West Seattle. I'd have to find a bus, assuming one even exists.
And so I end up driving, because that's the only real option available to me.
There have, of course, been multiple attempts at adding high-speed rail systems to Washington State. Usually they focus on the Western corridor from Vancouver, BC to Seattle, WA to Portland, OR. But sometimes they study plans for a route that runs Spokane to Wenatchee to Seattle too. Whether or not these trains ever happen is anybody's guess. But it's just too good of an idea to pass up, so hopefully one day.
Spokane to Seattle in under two hours? Wenatchee to Seattle in under an hour?
Where do I sign up?
Posted on Wednesday, June 7th, 2017
Work has been killing me as of late, which means I don't have time for anything but working. Part of it is my fault... I volunteered for a project I really shouldn't have with all I've got going on... but blame doesn't much matter when deadlines are looming.
And so. Work. Nothing else.
Well... nothing except trying to get my year-end vacation arranged.
Last night I built the flight itinerary that gets me to Buenos Aires. It was such a long process with so many pro/con decisions to weigh that I ultimately left it so I could take a look with fresh eyes this morning. When I woke up, I was more confused than ever, so I decided to leave it until lunch. At noon I waded through it all again but still couldn't decide what I wanted to do. The plan was to take another look tonight after dinner, but the thought of looking at it again was filling me with dread. So while I was waiting for my computer to run a backup up this afternoon, I logged in, booked the flight as it was, and will just trust it will all work out. If not, I guess I'm stuck in South America for a while...
8,600 miles of flying. Which is not quite as bad as the 10,600 miles it took to get to Johannesburg on my last big vacation.
But, still... quite a lot of flying.
Posted on Tuesday, June 20th, 2017
And so I'm off to Las Vegas again. This time for work.
The drive over the mountains was blissfully uneventful. Many times, I was the only person on the road. Which is kind of a weird feeling. Like every other human on earth had vanished or something.
My flight was delayed three times, which is getting to be the new normal. The exact same thing happened with my last flight to Denver. This wouldn't be so bad... I mean, I've had it a lot worse than an hour... except the delay happened at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which is one of the shittiest airports on earth. Not only is everything broken all the time, but they prioritize shopping kiosks and storefronts over passengers needing a place to sit down. Thus most every gate has grossly deficient seating, leaving everybody standing or sitting on the floor. It would be great if the Port of Seattle would one day remodel the airport so it's not total shit and at least attempts to provide for customer comfort... but, alas...
This trip I'm staying on The Strip. This means there's a lot more options for dining I like, but I've seen all the hotels many times over so I am quickly coming to prefer staying in Old Town. Oh well. I get to add another hotel to my checklist of "Strip Hotels I've Stayed At," which is now at half...
The twelve left to go...
I've stayed at off-strip hotels in Vegas as well... most notably The Hard Rock Hotel and the Hilton, which is no longer a Hilton and has since changed its name to "Westgate."
INTERESTING ASIDE: Google Maps has secretly(?) preserved the memory of the Hilton as it used to be. When you use StreetView within the Hilton Circle, the images are as they used to be...
The old Hilton sign (which was at one point the largest freestanding sign on earth... maybe still is!).
Images ©Google Maps
You can still see the Hilton logo-mark in the upper left on the actual hotel there.
Images ©Google Maps
And yet, if you take one step out of the circle, you get an updated view of both sign and hotel...
The revised sign, now Westgate. Still home of Benihana's though!
Images ©Google Maps
The revised branding on the hotel itself has also been updated.
Images ©Google Maps
Time for cheap eats!
My last trip, I was eating daily at Nacho Daddy off Fremont. I was happy to see that there's another Nacho Daddy on The Strip around the corner from Planet Hollywood. Thus, dinner has been secured...
Well, I did my best to try and go with cheap eats. Unfortunately I had four Long Island ice teas, which ended up being $36 added to my $8.50 in nachos. Dooming myself to be poor, I guess.
After Jake's escape from the catio Sunday night, I'm understandably freaked out that my cats will find another way to escape my house... this time while I'm over 800 miles away and can do nothing. So I have been checking in on them at least once an hour. Jake has grown frustrated with the catio since his escape route was blocked and is sleeping inside. Jenny, on the other hand, is out there catching bugs and eating them. So... business as usual, then...
And that's Vegas for you. Now I should probably get some work done or something.
Posted on Wednesday, June 21st, 2017
Since I didn't have work until 10:00 this morning, I decided to sleep in. At least that was the plan. Ultimately I decided to study my work notes and make sure I was 100% comfortable with the material. Sure it's kind of a lame use of time when in Vegas, but there's not much else for me to do. In order to save money for my vacation, I've vowed not to gamble, not to see any shows, and definitely not to eat at expensive restaurants (which is my Vegas Kryptonite).
My colleagues wanted to eat in Paris, so there goes my vow not to eat at expensive restaurants...
I gotta say... as somebody who has been to France-Paris many times, American-Paris is clearly the superior Paris. Not once in France-Paris did I see scantily-clad ladies walking around offering free cocktails. Not once! Also... American-Paris is air conditioned. BONUS: No people speaking weird French as you are wont to find in France-Paris and lesser parts of Canada. Except... the signage is still all in French, so most of it is just incomprehensible gibberish to me...
After lunch I was walking back to my hotel and spotted BETTY WHITE SLOTS as I was walking through the casino!
Holy cats! I'm guessing I'll eventually be breaking my vow not to gamble. How can I resist not giving Betty White a spin? We shall see.
I had time to kill before dinner, so I wandered over to M&M's World so I could try the new CARAMEL M&M's that have been advertised. And, oh, there's that M&M's race car I keep seeing...
The Caramel versions are okay. From the advertising, I had thought the caramel would be more liquid, but it's actually firm and chewy...
Across the street in New York New York is Hershey's World. Not as much fun as the M&M's, but still kinda cool. Especially for Reese's and Twizzlers fans!
And, of course, there's Chocolate Liberty...
I was pleasantly surprised to see that they completed The Park adjacent to New York New York. It's pretty nice!
And... other than some hotel hopping for dinner, that's all she wrote on Vegas today.
Posted on Thursday, June 22nd, 2017
Today ended up being a longer work day than expected, which means I didn't have time for the nap I wanted needed. Oh well. Vegas, and all that.
One of the reasons that swapping assignments from July to June worked so well is that Perry, my partner for Hard Rock Run Europe 2004, was in town! I hadn't seen him since 2009's Davedon Event, so it was nice to catch up. We met up with some Hard Rock Cafe pin collectors at Gordon Biersch which was featuring imported German Kölsche, one of my favorite beers...
After saying goodbye to Perry and his lovely girlfriend, I wandered on The Strip a bit until it was time to head to Old Town Vegas for a ride down the zipline at Slotzilla!
Yes. Yes. I just did this back in March.
But not really.
And let me tell you why.
When I finally made it to the top of Slotzilla for my zipline experience three months ago, I was told I had to take my glasses off unless I bought a strap. Which took me completely by surprise, because nobody had mentioned it to me when I bought my ticket. There I was. Handing over my credit card. While wearing glasses. And nobody said shit about getting a strap.
So I ended up flying down Fremont Street at 35 miles an hour with everything being blurry. Pretty. But blurry.
I loved it, so I swore the next time I was in Vegas I would do it again. But this time I would bring my contact lenses with me so everything would be in focus. And so I did. And it was great.
Though... it's debatable whether it was better than my first time. I'm going to go out on a limb and say it wasn't. It was so much more surreal and beautiful when it was a blur!
Oh well. It's an amazing experience no matter how you see it...
Highly recommended if you find yourself in Las Vegas.
After my midnight flight, I headed back to my hotel on The Strip so I could get some sleep before leaving in the morning. When I left for dinner, something big appeared to be going on at T-Mobile Arena, but it was vacant by the time I got back...
And... that's all she wrote. See ya 'round, Vegas...
Posted on Friday, June 23rd, 2017
Despite not having to get up early (my flight wasn't until 11:55am), I couldn't seem to get back asleep after waking up at 4:00am.
Oh well. It gave me time to iron so I didn't have to fly home wrinkled.
In regards to my Leaving Las Vegas... I love McCarran airport. Unlike the majority of US airports, it's very efficient and has been optimized to move people in and out as quickly as possible. TSA PreCheck line backed up? THEY OPEN ANOTHER PRECHECK LANE! WHAT A CONCEPT! And... ZOFG... plenty of gate seating! For all other airports I arrive 2 hours early because even with PreCheck you never know. With McCarran I am perfectly comfortable arriving 45 minutes before flight time knowing I'll be at the gate 15 minutes later and, not uncommonly, walking into the plane ten minutes after. I wouldn't hate travel so much if this was the normal at airports.
The flight home was great.
The drive home, however, was brutal.
True to form, WSDOT can’t concentrate their efforts into QUICKLY completing a single project... they have to sprinkle resources on several projects, which means they all drag on forever. On I-90 East, they have ripped out huge chunks of the highway and just left the holes there, meaning three lanes of traffic become one on a busy Friday where half of Seattle is headed over the mountains.
Which translated into 45 minutes added to my drive time home.
I'm guessing it's going to be left that way all weekend long. And I just don't get it. Light it up, double-shift that shit, and GET. IT. DONE!
How the hell is it that I am constantly seeing videos from other countries where they will replace an entire fucking bridge in two days... or replace an entire fucking intersection overnight that fell into a sinkhole... or rebuild a fucking washed out road in ten hours... WHEN EVERY DAMN PROJECT IN WASHINGTON STATE TAKES MONTHS TO YEARS TO COMPLETE?!?
It wouldn’t be so bad if they would focus on one project and GET. IT. DONE! But they don’t. New projects keep popping up all over the place while old projects sit incomplete. You don't stop for construction ONCE on your journey... you stop FOUR TIMES. I'm guessing I-90 is probably going to be fucked up for weeks... and apparently nobody at WSDOT gives a flying fuck that it’s summer vacation season and NOW is when the roads need to be fully operational. Why would they? It would seem there are -zero- consequences to having everything torn to shit all the time.
And speaking of never-ending construction...
When I pull into my driveway, I notice that my new ultrasonic mole repeller isn't doing the job.
On the contrary, the mole seems to be taunting me by DIGGING NEW HOLES RIGHT AROUND THE ULTRASONIC STAKE!
Ugh. No idea what my next step will be there.
And... apparently there was a power outage while I was gone.
The horrible part about it is not that all the clocks have to be set... but that the Litter Robot DOES NOT COME BACK ON WHEN THE POWER IS RESTORED. How fucking useless! I mean, seriously. WHY? They sell a battery back-up, but I always assumed that it was so your Litter Robot would run while the power was out. I don't care about that... but I care quite a LOT that it just stays off permanently if there's a power interruption.
And so... the Litter Robot was filled. The two back-up litter boxes were also filled. So nasty. And I feel terrible. Especially for Jenny. She is pretty particular about wanting to poop in a clean box. She will hold it and hold it until she can't anymore, and is forced to use it. I can't believe that she didn't poop on the floor. I would have. And so now I have to buy a $40 battery just to make sure Litter Robot works after an outage. This is on top of the already outrageous price for the unit and the accessories I had to buy that should already have come with it.
I ordered the battery so this won't happen again... but, wow. Still feel terrible. I should have been checking the security cameras to make sure it was running.
And with that... time to catch up on all I missed. Good thing I have a weekend coming up...
Posted on Saturday, July 1st, 2017
Well, hey there... it's Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation!
Many congratulations to our lovely neighbor to the north...
And thank you for not taking a cue from your confused neighbors to the south and building a wall to keep us out. I don't know what I'd do without an occasional bag of TimBits.
Posted on Thursday, July 27th, 2017
As I was deplaning at Boston Logan International Airport after a 5 hour and 20 minute flight from Seattle... I noticed a fly buzzing out the door alongside me. "Huh," I thought, "I wonder if he realizes that he's 2,500 miles from home?" Followed by "I wonder if it even matters?" I'm guessing that flies in Seattle are the same as the ones in Boston, so it probably doesn't matter. It's not like he's going to spend the rest of his days trying to find his missing family and friends. He's just going to go on doing his fly stuff, whatever that is, blissfully unawares that he's been transported in space and time.
Must be nice.
Because I am not definitely not blissfully unaware of having been transported in space in time. I am fully cognizant that my friends, family, and cats are across the country from me. I'm also painfully aware that I spent over five hours trapped on a plane with a bunch of people who reminded me of why I hate people.
I booked an off off-site hotel to save money because I figured it would only be 9pm Pacific Time to me when I landed. Except... after the flight from hell, it is definitely feeling like it's the midnight Eastern Time that it actually is. And I just want to go to behhhhhhhhd.
Posted on Friday, July 28th, 2017
The cost to fly into Portland, Maine during high tourist season is astronomical. Far, far cheaper to fly into Boston and drive north than to pay for the convenience of terminating at PWM.
And so... that's exactly what I did.
Even though the last time I did this, I nearly died.
The route from Boston to Portland is fairly straightforward and takes less than two hours...
Unless you're me.
I had time to kill, so I took the crazy 3-1/2 hour back roads route to see some bits of New Hampshire I hadn't seen before. And avoid tourist traffic. And avoid a bunch of tolls...
All in all... a lot more time on the road than I had patience for, but it was all worth it because Barbara's Maine Blueberry Crisp at Flatbread Co. was waiting for me when I arrived...
Other than my grandmother's apple pie, there is no dessert on earth I would rather have than this right here. Totally worth a five-and-a-half hour flight followed by a 3-1/2 hour drive. If you're ever in Portland during blueberry season, stop in and pray it's on the day's dessert menu.
After a late lunch, I had 45 minutes more in my rental car until I arrived at my job-site.
And now... since work starts at 5:00am tomorrow morning, which means I have to get up at 4:30am... I'll be taking my leave of you this evening. Good night! Blueberry dreams to you!
Posted on Monday, July 31st, 2017
I've been (mostly) awake from 4:00am last Friday. As the hours all blend together, I'm finding it hard to wrap my head around what day it is. Or where I'm at.
This morning I drove from Maine to Boston so that I can fly out tomorrow morning. Early. The plan is to try and get some sleep, but first... falafel lunch and a movie.
Because you just cannot resist Charlize Theron...
Before I even get to Atomic Blonde... the soundtrack is frickin' amazing (seriously amazing, and the story behind the soundtrack is interesting as well).
The movie is a spy-thriller that takes place during the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and here's (most of) the German-infused/inspired-pop tracks from that era that they picked...
Since I have bought almost all of those songs already, I don't even need to buy the soundtrack... I just need to make a playlist! One song I just had to have was HEALTH's cover of Blue Monday, which wasn't better than the New Order original, but it had a different "feel" I really liked.
As I mentioned, this is a spy-thriller set in Berlin in November 1989 just as the Berlin Wall is about to fall. An MI6 agent is killed by a rogue KGB operative who steals "The List" off him which contains all allied field agents operating in The Soviet Union and Europe. Charlize Theron plays Lorraine Broughton, one of MI6's top spies, who is being interrogated about her actions in Berlin to recover "The List"... meaning that the bulk of the movie is being told in flashbacks.
TEN DAYS EARLIER: Lorraine's contact in Berlin is MI6's top operative there, David Percival (played by James McAvoy). Working together (and even against each other), the movie is a cat-and-mouse game against the Soviets to find "The List" and identify "Satchel," a double agent for the Soviets who betrayed the MI6 agent that was killed. Along the way there are some nice twists and turns that kept me interested... but I have to admit the penultimate "twists" could be seen coming from miles away. The final "twist" was not something I anticipated, but it didn't really have any effect on the story, so it honestly didn't matter much. The film, while pretty great, could have been SO much better had they only made it so that the final moments were an interesting payoff for everything that came before. It wasn't.
That being said, I still recommend Atomic Blonde because the action sequences and soundtrack are just too perfect. And Charlize Theron is beyond kick-ass in every way possible. I would not mind at all seeing a sequel if it gets me more Lorraine Broughton!
If I had a negative, it would be that director David Leitch, who handled most of the movie with such brilliant ease, showed himself to be a fucking hack of the lowest order when he injected a Wilhelm Scream into the action. When are directors going to learn that the gig is up on this bullshit? Everybody knows what to listen for and, when they finally hear it, the sound effect immediately takes them out of the movie. Criminally stupid, and yet directors are still being idiots about using it. I wish studios would forbid Wilhelm Screams until the end of time.
And that was that.
Using the awesome Boston Silver Line, I headed back the the airport and my hotel for an epic nap experience. I would have loved to have gone to the Red Sox game at 7:00, but lack of sleep would have made that impossible.
Oh well. Next time, Boston. Next time.
Posted on Thursday, August 3rd, 2017
I had an appointment over on The Coast, which meant an early run across the mountains. Thanks to WSDOT and their endless construction at numerous spots, it wasn't the smooth sailing that I had hoped for. Thank heavens I left an extra hour early.
The trip back was much of the same.
Except I made the mistake of logging on to Facebook before leaving, where I received some gut-wrenchingly awful news. I decided to stop at Denny's for lunch rather than risk driving while in a state of shock.
It didn't help.
But I did get fries and a Coke out of it, so I guess that's something.
Posted on Thursday, August 17th, 2017
Rather than focus on the hideous events from another tragic day in this country, I thought I'd search for something positive about the good ol' USA that doesn't fill me with overwhelming dread and embarrassment.
I didn't have to go far.
I recently got a notice that Rob Decker is having a killer sale through the month of August on his incredible US National Park posters. There are many people/companies creating these, but Rob's are my hands-down favorite (he studied under Ansel Adams!). He bases the designs on his own photography, and crafts them in the style of the old-time WPA Federal Art Project posters that were made in the 30's and 40's. They are magic...
Artwork © Rob Decker
Artwork © Rob Decker
Artwork © Rob Decker
All of these gorgeous 13×19 posters are signed/numbered limited editions and usually retail for $30 each (which is a total bargain)... but with his sale, you can pick them up for as low as $20 each!
Talk about something Americans can be proud of... our incredible 59 National Parks are national treasures and truly showcase America the Beautiful. I visit them whenever I can, and have plans to visit more in the near future. Here's my list with a check next to the park posters I own (click on a National Park to visit its Wikipedia Page)..
|National Parks I've Visited (17)||Planning to Visit 2017-2020 (10)||Have Not Visited Yet (32)|
|Acadia ✓||Death Valley||American Samoa|
|Arches ✓||Glacier ✓||Badlands|
|Bryce Canyon ✓||Joshua Tree ✓||Big Bend|
|Canyonlands ✓||Kings Canyon||Biscayne|
|Capitol Reef||Pinnacles||Black Canyon|
|Crater Lake ✓||Sequoia||Carlsbad Caverns|
|Everglades ✓||Shenandoah ✓||Channel Islands|
|Glacier Bay||Wind Cave||Congaree|
|Grand Canyon ✓||Yellowstone||Cuyahoga Valley|
|Great Smoky Mountains ✓||Yosemite ✓||Denali|
|Haleakala ✓||Dry Tortugas|
|Hawaii Volcanoes ✓||Gates of the Arctic|
|Mount Rainier ✓||Grand Teton|
|North Cascades||Great Basin|
|Olympic ✓||Great Sand Dunes|
|Zion ✓||Hot Springs|
Just for fun, I mapped them all out in Google Maps here...
Rob plans on eventually releasing posters for all 59 National Parks, so hopefully Hawaii Volcanoes, North Cascades, and Redwood will be added to my collection soon!
In the meanwhile, I rearranged my stairwell wall so I can fit my recent purchases into my collection...
Annnnd... my wall is full now! As I visit more National Parks, I guess I'll have to add any new posters to my office the cat's room walls.
Posted on Friday, August 18th, 2017
A terrorist attack in Catalonia.
Including Barcelona, a city I love and have visited multiple times.
You'd think I'd have found the words to properly express my sadness at these ongoing tragedies from terrorism by now, but I don't think they're ever coming. It just continues to break my heart, and it always hurts to know there is such evil in the world.
But it hurts worse when places I love suffer for it.
And I love entirely too many places on this earth.
Thank you to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for your statement on the terrorist attack. It's nice to know there's a true leader left in North America.
Posted on Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017
It was an article talking about how Antarctica is a fraud. It's not a "continent" at all... instead it's just a wall of ice around the edge of a FLAT EARTH DISC to keep the oceans from spilling off the side. The sun and moon are much, much smaller than the earth and rotate above the "disc" like yo...
Image attributed to The Flat Earth Society. Really. It exists.
This is not the first time I had heard of such a thing, but I always thought that stuff like "The Flat Earth Society" was a joke. I mean, how could it be anything except a joke? We have visible, reproducible evidence that the earth is a globe which can be witnessed with our own eyes! Astronauts have been off the planet and have seen the earth is a globe! We have actual science that proves how the earth globe works! We have frickin' satellites orbiting the planet to give us technology magic like GPS and shit!
And yet... it's no joke. An increasing number of people are tossing reason right out the window and actually believe this crap.
Then I started seeing flat earth dumbfuckery pop up again for the eclipse yesterday. To some people, the eclipse was seen as "irrefutable proof" that the earth is flat. They don't take time to understand how reality works, so they come up with stuff like "THE SHADOW IS MOVING IN THE WRONG DIRECTION!" and "NASA IS TELLING YOU TO WEAR SPECIAL GLASSES SO YOU CAN'T SEE THE TRUTH!" as their "evidence."
What's most fascinating to me is the flat-earther's blinding hatred of NASA.
Over and over and over again I read how NASA is lying to us and everything they produce has been faked and photoshopped. Of course they think the moon landing was a complete hoax. How could they not? The reason they think NASA is faking everything is that they get tons of money from the government to explore stuff in space, and if they told the truth... that there is no stuff in space to explore... they would be defunded and shut down. No explanation as to how NASA manages to keep their thousands of employees on a leash... or why Russia, Japan, China, and other countries are cooperating with the NASA 'lie" when there's no reason for them to. But it's not like reasonable thinking is going to get you anywhere with somebody who thinks the earth is flat.
Aside from the common sense of a globe-shaped earth given all we know, observe, and study, I have yet to figure out how flat-earthers think that eclipses can be predicted by science if they reject all the science that allows eclipses to be predicted. I mean, seriously... how can NASA tell you in advance when and where an eclipse is going to occur if they are faking the science that gives them the information?
Here's a segment of a list maintained by Time and Date that lays out eclipses for all of 2019...
Scientists are able to release stuff like this because our solar system has been modeled. It's not some wild guess that they're making... if you go to the places they say there will be an eclipse at the time they say there will be an eclipse, you will see an eclipse. It's that simple.
I have scoured the internet trying to find an eclipse schedule as released by a flat-earther, but it doesn't look like there is anything. You're just supposed to take their word that the earth is flat even though they can't explain how astronomers are dead-accurate about the science of eclipses... and offer no explanation or "predictions" as to when eclipses on their pancake earth are going to occur.
Oh well. When I set sail towards Antarctica this December, I'll be sure to take photos of the giant ice wall.
And if you never hear from me again, you can assume that the flat-earthers are right and I've fallen off the edge.
Posted on Sunday, September 3rd, 2017
Don't let smoke inhalation get you down, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• FIRE! Once again it would seem that the Columbia Basin is on fire. This is the view I had on the drive over the mountains...
• Chase! My... My... My pants! Jake chases Jenny. Jenny chases Jake...
It's the circle of life up in my house.
• Tolerance! A short but bittersweet article that's worth a minute of your time: The Christians Making Atheists. The decline of Christianity in a nutshell. But, in reality, it could also hold true for other religions that attempt to hide their bigotry in the guise of religion.
• Fresh! This is what happens when you travel a lot and keep forgetting to pack deodorant...
That's a lot of money tied up in antiperspirant products!
• Thrice! Hey! Did I happen to mention that the latest issue of Thrice Fiction has been released, and you can read it online or download it for FREE?!? Well, you totally can! Just visit the Thrice Fiction website!
If you like fiction and like to read... it's worth the price of admission. Which is FREE!
• All That We Share! Nice to know that while this country is tearing itself apart that other countries are making an effort to keep it together...
Viva la Denmark!
Have a good Labor Day weekend, everybody.
Posted on Tuesday, September 12th, 2017
I've been coming to Spokane for work for decades. There are a lot of memories in this city for me.
Most memories are easy to recall here because so much of the city is unchanging. Spokane is a relatively big city that feels like a town. Small businesses in old brick buildings go on for generations. Today I passed by a block of these buildings and remembered that it was where I had my first driving accident. I was coming up to a stoplight when the driver behind didn't stop in time and bumped into me. After we pulled over to survey the damage (surprisingly, there wasn't any) he said "I'm so sorry. I was trying to answer a call on my cell phone." Back then mobile phones were a new technology and I had never even seen one in person. I remember being surprised that Spokane even had cellular service. I was shaken, but sympathetic towards the man's plight because he let me hold his bulky cell phone. It might as well have been magic to me, I was so fascinated by it. I was tempted to ask him if I could make a call, but I knew the pay-per-minute rate of the day was astronomical, so I reluctantly handed it back without comment.
This was not the first time I was rear-ended in Spokane. The second time I was coming up to a stoplight next to Safeway and a woman plowed into me. This time there was damage... albeit minor. I got insurance money to repair my bumper and it looked good as new. The second and third times I was rear-ended, I took the insurance money and went on a trip. Because eventually my priorities shifted. I'd rather travel than have a nice car.
The hotel I stayed at last night is a beautiful restoration property in downtown Spokane. Everything from the public spaces down to the paint on the walls of my room is lovely. Except... holy crap is it noisy.
There is a central atrium where people gather, and everything from quiet conversation to children screaming echoes throughout the entire hotel. And when those children are running around screaming until 2am? Just try sleeping through that. Then... then... there's the air conditioning. Every time the air starts up, there is a loud "snap" followed by a huge "bang." It literally sounds like somebody is trying to break into your room every time it goes off. Especially as you're attempting to drift off to sleep at 3am.
And so I am sleep-deprived and exhausted.
Which made for a fun day at work, I'll tell you whut. I'd best describe my demeanor as "punchy."
C'est la vie.*
Work went exceedingly well and, before I knew it, it was time to grab lunch at David's Pizza (my favorite pizza in the known universe) and head home.
Which was a much better journey than yesterday.
Yesterday's drive across Washington State's Central Basin was long and boring as always... but augmented with the excitement of asshole drivers. The speed limit is 70mph. I drive around 75mph. Occasional I would pass a truck doing 60mph only to have some asshole jam on up to my bumper doing 90mph... who then flips me off when I jet back over to the right-hand lane. Sorry that I interrupted your illegal driving speed, asshole. In what universe do I deserve to be flipped off for that? If I had psychic powers, I would be telekinetically ripping off middle fingers, no lie.
On my way home I stopped at a mini-mart gas station outside of Quincy (home of the best corn in the nation!) to fuel up and grab something to drink. When I went up to the counter to pay, a kindly elderly gentleman leaning on a cane (surely 90+ years old) was in line ahead of me. He was buying a single ice cream sandwich... nothing else... with a credit card. He talked in a whisper, but I could hear him tell the cashier that he couldn't open the package on his ice cream and asked him to do it. They cashier grabbed a pair of scissors and did so, after which the old man said "thanks." He then had to put away his credit card, put his wallet in his pocket, grab his ice cream bar, and shuffle off to destinations unknown. The process took forever but I actually found it fascinating to watch and didn't mind at all. We'll all be there someday, if we're lucky.
Or unlucky, depending on your perspective.
After paying for my Gatorade and a Coke, I pass the old man eating his ice cream sandwich when a thought flashed through my head.
"Holy shit! He's not driving is he?"
I was beyond curious to know if the empty car parked by the mini mart was his, but didn't want to wait ten minutes to see if he drove away in it... or if somebody else was driving... or if he was being picked up... or if he actually walked to the mini mart from somewhere miles away.
After starting up the car, I noticed the MAINTENANCE REQUIRED light had come on. Apparently all those oil change email notices that I had been ignoring had come home to roost. And so I detoured to Jiffy Lube to take care of that, because heaven only knows when I'd ever have time to drive there again. Hey, it was on my way home anyway... so might as well.
As I pulled into Jiffy Lube, I noticed that the air quality in Wenatchee was more smoke-filled than I had seen it all year. This made me very concerned for my cats, so the first thing I did when I got to the waiting room was check my security cameras...
OF COURSE they're both outside. Why wouldn't they be?
And then I noticed movement in the corner of the security camera. What the heck is THAT, I wondered.
Oh... it's just a GIANT FUCKING MURDER SPIDER DISPOSING OF IT'S DEAD LOVER'S BODY!!! I think I actually said "Holy shit! out loud when I zoomed in...
THE HORROR! I mean, come on... she just dumped the dead body into her web and went back to hiding in the door frame...
To say I was in a panic is an understatement.
My cats were outside in the catio WITH A GIANT MURDER SPIDER! And since GIANT MURDER SPIDERS are always poisonous, their fate was in serious doubt. Because there is nothing... nothing they love more than to play with bugs. If either one of them saw the thing... my guess is that I would arrive home to a cat in respiratory failure because it had been bitten and poisoned.
So I wait for an agonizing 20 minutes while my oil was changed.
I drive home through work traffic, which is another 30 minutes of torture.
I get home, tear into the house, lure both kitties in from the catio, close off the catio door so they can't get back out, run and grab the bug spray from the garage, run around the house to the catio door, then soak... soak until dripping... the entire upper corner of the frame.
Eventually a tiny little spider crawled out, fell to the ground, and died.
"Huh. I guess when a little spider is close to the camera lens on a security camera, it only looks like a GIANT MURDER SPIDER.
And then I feel so awful. If I had known it was just a little spider, I would have left it alone. I am not a spider murderer. If I find a spider in my house, I catch it and take it outside. I try to console myself with the fact that she murdered her little spider-boyfriend after mating, then dumped his body without a care, but it didn't work. Then I tried to console myself with the fact that the little spider won't be laying millions of eggs which would hatch and fill up my catio with tiny spider babies. Somehow, I was able to make my peace with being a spider murderer after that.
Of course... there's nothing to say that she didn't lay those millions of eggs before she dumped the body.
Which means millions of spider babies intent on revenge for the death of their mother. That's all I need.
* Will it impress you to know that I can spell "C'est la Vie" without having to Google it? No? Okay.
Posted on Tuesday, September 19th, 2017
UPDATE: Since the two emails I sent never went anywhere, I commented on a post by AAA on Facebook. They have since refunded my money. I still for the life of me don't understand why they wouldn't just call the hotel and take them up on their offer to change the date of my reservation. That's all I wanted. That way, everybody would have won, and they wouldn't have had to refund anything. But oh well.
Whatever you do, Do NOT make hotel reservations with AAA. I had booked some hotels for a trip to Glacier National Park after my work was done in Spokane last week. When the park ended up besieged by wildfires that caused road closures and cancelation of all the activities I had lined up, I had to change plans. Despite the fact that my hotel reservations were non-refundable, I didn't have any trouble canceling one of my bookings for a full refund and getting an 80% credit on another booking for a future date. Since there was nothing I could do about the fires changing my plans, the hotels stepped up and did the right thing.
Then there was the booking I made in Coeur d'Alene for the trip home. I called the hotel, explained the situation, acknowledged my room was non-refundable, but asked if they could please change my reservation to two days earlier. I may not be able to go to Glacier National Park, but I could still hop over to Coeur d'Alene for a day after work was done.
The hotel was sorry about my trip being ruined, and said they would be happy to change the reservations for me. Except they couldn't, because it was made through AAA's system. They said that if I would contact AAA and have them request the change, they would be happy to accommodate me.
So I contacted AAA.
And received an email telling me that not only can't they change my reservation, THEY WON'T AUTHORIZE THE HOTEL TO MAKE A CHANGE TO THE BOOKING! They do say that the hotel can make a change at their discretion... but the hotel can't do that because the reservation is not in their system. The hotel would essentially have to make a second reservation for $0 and then have a second reservation for me that they would have to honor if I were a jerk who insisted on showing up. Needless to say, they can't do that.
So... the company that I rely on for help with things go wrong is the company telling me that they won't help when things go wrong? I complained to the main AAA site and was told I will be contacted. That was a week ago... and nothing.
Well fuck that.
So I guess I'm canceling my AAA membership that I've had since 1996 (and was on my parents family plan for a decade before that). Let's see... $92 a year for 21 years is $1932.00 I've paid to AAA and don't think I've ever used their roadside assistance. I have gotten a guidebook or two though. Coming up on a $2000 relationship that's been destroyed thanks to a $110 hotel reservation. Alrighty then. Guess I won't miss it. I think my VISA card has roadside assistance anyway.
If you have AAA, might want to check and see if you have roadside assistance on your credit card so you can dump their asses before they fuck you over too.
Posted on Thursday, September 21st, 2017
It's funny what you remember as you're looking through old travel photos.
As an example...
I took a Mediterranean cruise that was incredible. Wonderful visits to Barcelona, Tunisia, Malta, the Italian coast... all amazing sights with plenty of amazing memories. But what I also remember? When I was waiting in line at the airport check-in how I overheard a passenger at the adjoining counter say "Sorry"... because the airline agent was trying to pull his suitcase around the podium, but it had a wheel missing and made a loud scrrrrape across the floor. The guy standing behind him said "Jeez, might want to buy some luggage that'll stay in one piece!" He said this while looking up to the ceiling, directing his words to nobody in particular.
Except any idiot could tell who he was talking about.
The man with the broken suitcase turned around and said "It was all I could afford."
I thinks about that moment a lot. And a part of me wonders... Where was the guy with the suitcase going?
Was he on his way to some exotic location for a vacation?
Was he flying for a job interview?
Was somebody in his family sick and he was rushing to be by their side?
I don't know.
All I do know is that he was doing the best he can to get by with his busted-ass suitcase. And if he was having a happy day because he was going on vacation, he didn't deserve to have it ruined by somebody being an asshole. And if he was having a sad day because this trip was to go to a funeral, he didn't deserve to have it made worse by somebody being an asshole.
Which begs the questions... why are people compelled to be assholes to people they don't even know?
If we could answer that question, we might all be able to get along with each other better.
We all have our baggage, after all.
Posted on Saturday, October 14th, 2017
I pulled my Halloween wreath out of storage tonight only to find it had gotten crushed when a box of books ended up on it somehow.
Buying nice wreaths in-season requires more money than I have spare cash to purchase, so I decided to upgrade my "Fall wreath" with a $3.50 addition. I rather like it...
My quick trip over the mountains revealed that winter is indeed here. More snow than last week to be sure...
So long as the snow stays in the mountains for a while, I'll be okay. I am absolutely not ready to have it start snowing here at home.
And... time to unpack.
Posted on Thursday, November 9th, 2017
I have several trips to make over the mountains in the next two months. Generally, this is not a big deal because the highways department does a pretty good job of keeping the roads cleaned off. If you have winter tires, drive carefully, and take it slow, there's not much to it.
The problem is All The Other People because, unfortunately, the highways department can't keep them cleared off the road.
My drive over this afternoon was fairly typical, with too many people not paying attention and driving like maniacs. Dangerous any time, yes, but with snow and pouring rain? Double danger. And you just know that if anybody ends up getting hurt or killed, it won't be the idiot who is responsible... it will be somebody like me who is trying their best to keep out of their way.
Also fairly typical.
One down, nine to go...
Posted on Wednesday, November 15th, 2017
I'm off to Maine and I didn't think to pack last night.
Luckily, my flight is a red-eye flight and so I had time to stuff some clothes into a suitcase and drive over to Seattle with plenty of time to spare. Mostly because I didn't want to drive over in the dark, so I left early. Which meant I ended up with five hours to kill.
I decided to start off with a quick sandwich at "KidFuckers"... a restaurant chain I hate supporting, but it was on the way and easy, so a foot-long veggie and cheese sub it was.
My colon, which I recently found out is perfectly healthy, decided to punish me for my food choices just 45 minutes later. I was sick, sick, sick. Apparently from food poisoning. And if you have to be sick while away from home, I highly recommend the bathrooms at REI, which are large, clean, and usually unoccupied.
Instead of shopping for last minute gear for my upcoming vacation, I instead spent three hours in a parking lot eating Imodium and Pepto Bismol.
Then another two-and-a-half hours sitting in the airport trying to recover. I'm still not there yet, but maybe five hours in a plane hurling across the country will fix me up?
One can only hope.
I should have listened to my cats and stayed at home.
Posted on Thursday, November 16th, 2017
My flight landed at Boston Logan International Airport at 5:30 in the morning. Needless to say, I was not able to sleep on the plane. I never can for some reason unless it's drug-induced. Problem is that sleeping pills make it impossible for me to deal with time changes, so I'm better off just doing without. I was tired, but the drive up to Portland (which I refer to as "Other Portland" since I am a West-Coaster and "Portland" to me is in Oregon) was dark, cold, and boring.
I arrived around 8:00am, which is way too early for hotel check-in (at least it is here in the USA... everywhere else on earth they always seem happy to check me in if I arrive really early so long as they have a room available). Since I was still not feeling well after being sick yesterday, I tried to book a cheap hotel room in Boston to get a few hours sleep, but they won't let you retroactively check-in yesterday so you can just stay the current morning. At least not online. I tried calling a hotel, but that was confusing for everybody involved and I gave up.
And so breakfast it is then.
Followed by three-and-a-half hours sitting in the hotel lobby trying not to fall asleep. At least not before I finally got a room and took a three hour nap.
Rather than go into a coma I decided on an early dinner.
There's a lot of things to love about Portland. The transitional period from Fall to Winter is definitely not one of them. It's windy. It's bitter cold. It's rainy and wet. And there is puddles of water everywhere in Old Town, which means you end up drenched from passing cars no matter how careful you try to be.
Other Portland is, however, a food paradise for me because they excel at three of my favorite foods...
I opted for a B.GOOD veggie burger because it was the shortest walk and many ice cream parlors are closing early in the wintertime. Not that ice cream doesn't make an awesome dinner, mind you.
I should have pushed my way through and not taken a nap because now I'm not tired and probably won't be able to sleep tonight. Oh well. I've got a day to recover because work doesn't start until Saturday.
Posted on Friday, November 17th, 2017
My work, which was supposed to start on Saturday was moved to Tuesday. So much for trying to catch an early flight home. Which is actually not such a terrible thing, because it gave me a chance to check another U.S. National Park off my list... Acadia*.
I wasn't able to leave Portland until 11:00am so I didn't make it to Bar Harbor until 2:00pm... three hours later. It's a boring but easy drive that goes by in a 70mph blur. Once I got to the park and checked into my super-cheap lodging (it is off-off season here now, so everything is either closed or cheap) I only had two hours of daylight left so I made a run for the Bass Harbor Head Light (or "lighthouse" to non-natives).
So far as lighthouses go, it's not a very impressive one. But it's at a killer location.
I decided to bypass the lighthouse keeper's quarters and head down to the shore before the sun set. A very rocky beach is not something you want to be navigating in the dark...
I passed this poor tree which has seen better days. He fell over and cracked in two over another equally unlucky tree...
The area is kind of like a real-life game of Myst, with cool wooden stairs leading down the cliffside...
Good thing I wore my hiking boots. The rocks would be a lot tougher to climb over in tennis shoes. That being said, they sure are some beautiful rocks with the fading sun kissing them...
On the right-hand side there you can spot a buoy bobbing in the water. It has a bell on it that dings softly as the wind blows. This adds a kind of nice atmosphere to the whole scene.
And then there she is... the Bass Harbor Head Light...
After goofing around the rocks for a while, I made my way back up and around the keeper's quarters to get up close and personal with the actual lighthouse. As I said, it's not particularly impressive, so far as Maine lighthouses go...
And yet... such a pretty location...
Unless you need to use the bathroom...
Pretty high on my bucket list is to come back to Acadia when the leaves are changing. If the trees are this pretty without them, they must be amazing in the Fall...
The drive back to my hotel was replete with quaint photo opportunities of coastal Maine living. I could only nab one of them before the sun was gone...
Not bad for my first two hours in the park!
Hopefully the weather tomorrow is as accommodating (and rain-free) as it was for me today.
*Acadia which, to my horror, I keep hearing pronounced outside of Maine as "Arrrcadia" for some reason. "Arcadia" was the Duran Duran splinter group. If you want to talk about one of the most beautiful parts of Maine, you have to drop the "R" when you say it.
Posted on Saturday, November 18th, 2017
"Hey, you're half-way there!" I said.
"Ugh. Is it worth it?" he replied.
"You get to see a giant rock hanging over the edge of a cliff and a glorious view of Jordan Pond, so I'd say it's worth it." I said, trying to sound enthusiastic.
"Hmph. Okay..." he huffed, as he walked past.
Yesterday I shot everything on "Full Auto" because I was tired. Today I thought I'd get creative and use my own camera settings. It's a decision that would come back to bite me in the ass* but dems da breaks. Still. I did play around with HDR** a bit, so that was fun.
But before we get to all that... first a word about squirrels.
I love the little guys. They're industrious, clever, cute, and move like magic. And they're everywhere in Acadia. I took tons of photos of them all day long, which is easier said than done given how skittish they are and how quickly they move...
Needless to say, photographing squirrels through the underbrush is a manual-focus affair.
My first stop this morning was Sand Beach. You know that sand beaches are rare in Maine when they are inevitably called "Sand Beach." Sure enough, as advertised, there's sand...
From shortly after Sand Beach there's a trail that wanders along the coast for two miles. I did a walk-drive kind of thing. Sure the rocky coast is pretty, but it looks much the same as the rest of Maine's coast, which I've seen a lot of. Occasionally there's a a small difference. Like a seagull wandering into the shot...
Another thing that was different? Something... I don't know what to call it. I was wandering along the rocks when I spotted what I thought was a tiara or some kind of jewelry bauble glinting in the sun...
Turns out it was ice. Weird ice that had somehow formed to look like pearls! Crazy stuff I've never seen before...
Another animal (other than squirrels) there's a lot of in Acadia right now? Deer. I know this because they kept bolting in front of my rental car. Not just once, but three times. I was driving 35mph (the speed limit) which is probably too fast given that these creatures would have had to have been scraped off my grill if my reflexes were any slower...
My next stop was Jordan Pond. It's home of the Jordan Pond Restaurant, which is famous for popovers that are apparently more addictive than cocaine. I wouldn't know, because the restaurant was closed for the season (like most things in Acadia just now). The pond, however, was open...
Jordan Pond is so pure and clear that it's used as a drinking water source. Which means you can't swim in it or have pets near it. The sun was not at an optimal angle for me to photograph the clarity, but I gave it my best shot...
An interesting feature of Jordan Pond is the sea-foam (pond-foam?) that had frozen at the water's edge...
After goofing around at the pond photographing a lot of squirrels, I headed to the Big Event of the day... a hike up the Bubble Mountains.
If you scroll back up to the first photo of Jordan Pond I posted, you'll see two twin "mountains" in the background. Those are the "Bubble Mountains" and are easily hike-able. The trail is tricky in parts and has a bit of a rise, but pretty simple overall. The trees along the way had lost all their leaves but were still pretty to look at. I can't fathom how beautiful they must be in the Fall...
The trail itself was interesting for two reasons. First, water forms around the rocks embedded in the trail, which then freezes, expands, pushes the dirt away, then melts. Leaving all the rocks in little holes...
Second of all, water also freezes in crystalline shapes all along the trail. You see it everywhere, and it's really cool to look at...
I decided to hike the "South Bubble Mountain" because it has a feature that's entirely too cool. "Bubble Rock" (also known as "Balanced Rock"). When you cross the crest of the trail, the rock isn't that impressive. Looks kind of like a massive baked potato...
But then you climb around to look at it from a different angle, and it's a different story...
Uh. Wow. Definitely worth setting up an HDR photo so I could shoot into the sun and still see it...
If you keep going past Bubble Rock, there's a great view back down to Jordan Pond. That's where I met the ladies from the blog Love Maine Adventures who were soaking up the view and taking photos. They asked me to take a photo of them with their camera, which I did. Then I decided since I was shooting HDR that I would ask to experiment with them and shoot some "people HDR" photos, which are tricky because everybody has to stand perfectly still. They were nice enough to grant my crazy request and did a great job...
I was going to call it a day because the trail down to the Jordan Pond overlook had CAUTION signs on it. But Love Maine Adventures encouraged me to risk my life and give it a try because they said it really wasn't that dangerous. Turns out they were right, it wasn't. And the view was great...
As I headed back down the mountain, I took once last look at Bubble Rock as I passed... and saw something strange. Right beneath the rock was my rental car all the way down in the parking lot! If you scroll back up to the second Bubble Rock photo I posted, you can actually see it there... I just hadn't noticed! Here's that same photo, but zoomed in...
When I got back down to my car, I looked back up and took a reverse-angle shot. You can just make out Bubble Rock through the trees. It's smack-dab in the middle of this shot...
Curious to see if I could see Bubble Rock around the trees, I hopped in my car to backtrack so I could take a look. Sure enough, when I zoom in on maximum...
And, hey... if you zoom in even further, there's people there!
And thus ended my second day in Acadia. Time for a nap!
*The last time I used my camera, it was so I could photograph the eclipse back in August. In order to do that, I had to cover the lens with a piece of plastic that blocks out much of the light, then shoot at an ISO of 64,000. In a rookie mistake, I never reset my camera, and I didn't notice until I was half-way through my adventures today. Luckily, I shot some of the photos on "Full Auto," because a nice chunk of the photos from today where I tried to get creative were ruined because they were shot at grainy 64,000 ISO. Keep that in mind as you pour through all the photos in this entry. There could have been a lot more of them!
**High Dynamic Range... a photo technique where you blend photos together so that bits that are too dark and bits that are too light are evened out. I talked about it here.
Posted on Sunday, November 19th, 2017
Since this was a work trip and my work is indoors, I didn't really equip myself for outdoor adventures. So when I woke up to pouring rain and realized neither my jacket nor my hoodie were waterproof, hiking in Acadia had to be scrapped and I needed new plans for my Sunday.
I didn't want to stay in my room all day so I decided to drive somewhere interesting. But where? Someplace far away so most of my time would be in a dry car instead of the wet outdoors. At first I thought I'd head inland in hopes of better weather. But the weather service said it was raining there as well. Bar Harbor is the furthest north I've been in Maine... so maybe up the coast? I decided to Google the area, which is known collectively as "Down-East" (or "Downeast") to see what's there.
And that's when I saw it.
Two hours and twenty-one minutes north of here is the USA's easternmost point... West Quoddy Head Light (lighthouse). I've already been to the southernmost point of the Continental USA in Key West, Florida, so why not?
I decided to head UP* the DOWNeast to go to the EASTern most point in WEST Quoddy.
That's more than a little confusing, but okay. Off I went. The drive isn't that bad, but the gusting wind and driving rain meant it was slow-going. And when I finally got to West Quoddy Head Light? I don't know what "gale force winds" means**, but this is probably what they are talking about. There were times I was almost blown over while trying to walk it was so bad. The rain was relentless, which meant I had to seek cover to wipe off my camera lens ever 60 seconds. Plus? The sun was blotted out, so it was dark.
All in all? Probably not the greatest idea I've ever had, but I made it. Achievement unlocked. Apologies for the blurry photos but... rain and all that...
In case there was any doubt as to your standing in the easternmost point in the USA, they have a gravestone(?!) to make it official...
Interesting to note that the door to the lighthouse was open. I thought that maybe somebody was working there so I was going to shout "Hello?" but decided it'd be best not to scare anybody if they were up there. Which seemed doubtful because mine was the only car around. One thing was for sure... I was not going to go climbing up for a look when the lighthouse tower is not open to the public. Something tells me that's an invitation to getting shot...
I tried to photograph the ocean, which was not looking friendly at all, but the wind kept knocking me off balance. Only one photo really turned out (rain splotches and all). Alas it's not that interesting to look at...
With nothing else to do, I got back in my car and headed back down (up?) to Acadia. Guess my day was over.
My room back in Bar Harbor overlooks a brook. A brook where ducks like to hang out at all hours. For the most part they're quiet, but every once in a while a fight will erupt and much quacking will ensue. When I got back, there were far more ducks than usual with far more quacking going on...
Annnnnd... the end.
I suppose now I should plan a trip to Northwest Angle, Minnesota so I can check off the Contintental US northernmost point. Then I need to take a hike to Cape Alava in my home state of Washington so I can check off the Continental US westernmost point. It seems the completist thing to do, doesn't it?
*People in Maine would never say they were going "up the coast" like this. To them, up is down because Downeast is up. I found this out when people at my work kept saying things like "You came down from Boston today or yesterday?" and "When are you headed back up to Boston?"
**Turns out these were probably not "gale force winds" after all because Wikipedia says that a "gale" is 39 to 54 mile-per-hour winds. Well, whatever. They were very strong winds, that's for sure.
Posted on Monday, November 20th, 2017
Today I was going to sleep in and get some work done before heading South to my job-site. But when the heavy rains blew my schedule apart yesterday, I had to move all the things I had planned for then to today. Everything worked out pretty great though, because the weather was beautiful.
My day started with a 5:30 wakeup and a drive up Cadillac Mountain. Six months out of the year (including this month) this is the place which sees the first rays of run in the whole USA. And so, if you're in the USA... there's a pretty good chance I saw the sunrise before you did!
The park has been surprisingly vacant since I got here. I rarely see other people. But there was quite a crowd for the sunrise show... 25... maybe 30 people. And here's the bizarre part. Many of them... at least half... left the minute the clouds started to glow like this...
Now, granted, it was bitter, freezing, awful cold up there. I was numb from my head to my toes despite wearing two shirts, a hoodie, and a winter jacket. It was so bad that I couldn't even feel my fingers after ten minutes.
And yet... what's the point in getting up early and driving up a mountain to see the sunrise if you don't wait for the sun to actually... uhhh... rise? That's when the good stuff starts to happen. We had cool clouds that obscured the sun nicely, so the sky was changing from minute to minute as the sun made its journey. Here we are as the clouds start to catch on fire...
And here we are when the sun had finally hit the sky. Amazing. But most people missed it, because there were only about four people around me by this point...
As if that wasn't enough awesomeness, the islands off-shore looked fantastic as they all lit up with the rising sun...
And yet... by this point, there was only me and one other person to see it. What a shame.
After driving back down Cadillac Mountain, I headed to Schooner Head Overlook. There is a cool feature called "Anemone Cave" down below, but it's a sea cave and can only be accessed at low tide. Since that was at 5:30am this morning, and it was already 8:00 by the time I arrived, that experience was not meant to be. But I did get to see some cool (and, assumably, very expensive) houses. The one of the right is almost invisible because it looks like rocks...
A quick drive later and I was at "Thunder Hole." This is a really cool coastal feature that is more impressive the less close you get to it.
Let me explain...
There's a narrow inlet in the rocks where waves crash in, causing a huge plume of water and a crashing noise that sounds like thunder. Apparently, the plume can go up to 40-feet high. But, at that volume of water, the park closes off access so you have to watch (and listen) from afar. They close off access in four stages depending on how much water is heading in. When I visited, stage one was closed off, so I had to watch from up at stage two...
Alas, stage two doesn't sound a lot like thunder... but it's still fun to look at...
My last stop within Acadia National Park was "Boulder Beach."
I actually tried to find it when I was here on Saturday, but couldn't. Last night I read up on it and found that I just hadn't gone far enough down the path (the lovely, lovely pine-tree path that smells incredible!). You have to keep walking until you spot it from the trail like this...
Now, admittedly, I was a bit disappointed when I saw this. "It's just a bunch of rocks!" I said.
Turns out that to truly appreciate this for the marvel of nature it is, you have to climb down and make your way across the large rocky stones at see it up close and personal.
All the stones have been worn smooth over the eons by the pounding surf, then deposited on the shore...
It's looks like something out of the movie Alien. Smooth egg-shaped stones on both directions...
Many of them are bizarrely smooth and egg-shaped... or even round. Amazing, amazing stuff. And impossible to wrap your head around how many thousands of years it took for them to turn out like this...
Almost as cool as how it looks? How it sounds. Every time the waves recede, the rocks are sucked out with it... then rolled back onto shore. If you turn the volume way up when you watch the movie I recorded below, you can kind of get an idea how awesome it sounds in person. It's very deep... kind of like the thunder I was expecting to hear at Thunder Hole...
And... the end.
The bad news? My time at Acadia National Park had come to a close. The good news is that I get to check off another park from my Big List of National Parks I've Visited! Sixteen down... 43 to go!
After packing up my stuff and checking out of my hotel, I stopped by Somesville on my way off Mount Desert Island. It's home to a pretty wooden bridge that's a popular tourist spot...
Now that's really the end because I've got work waiting for me.
Posted on Tuesday, November 21st, 2017
That was one busy weekend.
The main road through Acadia National Park is "Park Loop Road"... which is one-way for a big chunk. This can make planning a travel itinerary tricky because there's no backtracking if you miss a turn or blow past an exit.
Fortunately Google Maps makes it easy to enter a bunch of stops then rearrange them until you have a simple plan instead of having to take multiple loops around the island trying to see everything. With the exception of not finding "Boulder Beach" the first time around, Acadia was relatively painless to navigate.
And now, because I am definitely returning one day, I'm going to post my maps so I can remember how I saw what I saw...
Portland to Bar Harbor to Bass Harbor Sunset...
Bar Harbor to Sand Beach to Jordan Pond to Bubble Mountains...
Bar Harbor to West Quoddy Head Light...
Bar Harbor to Cadillac Mountain Sunrise to Schooner Head to Thunder Hole to Boulder Beach to Somesville to Portland...
And that's that.
Interesting to note... when I line up all the maps and multiply them all together, you can see how I hit most every major road in the park... with the exception of Route 102 up the West Coast and a couple chunks of Route 3 in spots. Not sure what I missed, but it might be worth finding out for next time...
Thanks, Google Maps!
Posted on Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017
If you ever visit Acadia and Mount Desert Island, you're bound to run across the sprawling campus of "The Jackson Laboratory." This massive facility employs 1,300 people and is dedicated to "...investigating the genetic basis of cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's and many other human diseases and disorders" (according to their website).
What's weird is... I had actually heard of them prior to my visit.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA) waged a war on them earlier this year for their (mis)treatment of laboratory mice (Jackson Laboratory reportedly breeds and ships over two million mice per year to other laboratories around the world... their website has a whole section devoted to it). The conflict ended up in my newsfeed more than a couple times. PeTA alleges that a whistleblower came to them with information on how the mice were being tortured and killed. Jackon Laboratory denies it all. Lather, rinse, repeat.
It's a tough argument to weigh in on.
On one hand, whatever we can do to eliminate things like cancer and Alzheimers sooner rather than later is a very good thing.
The the other hand... torturing animals to get there is a horrendous thing.
If I had Alzheimer's and was told the cure would involve thousands... tens of thousands... hundreds of thousands... of mice being forced to live a life of torture and pain, would I take them up on it? I honestly don't know. I would like to think not.
But if somebody I loved had Alzheimer's?
Posted on Thursday, November 23rd, 2017
As I've probably mentioned at least a dozen times on my blog, I love maps. I used to buy maps of places I never intended on going just to look at them. I would buy guidebooks for the same reason. Maps allow you to travel without ever leaving your home.
Then online maps came along with technologies like "Google Street View" and everything changed. Suddenly maps were a hundred times more useful for armchair travelers because you could actually drop yourself into a map and look around...
Talk about an armchair traveler's dream come true!
I mean, yes, there's nothing like visiting Paris, wandering the city streets, and seeing the Eiffel Tower in person... but, if that's out of reach for whatever reason, isn't this the coolest possible alternative? You can go most anywhere in the world this way!
Yes, even Antarctica...
Having access to satellite imagery is also very cool.
While driving around Acadia and Mount Dessert Island, I was driving Route 204 when all of a sudden it jags way out, then resumes course...
Wonder what THAT'S all about? Somebody didn't want to sell their farm? Well, thanks to Google Satellite View, it looks like somebody didn't want to sell their store...
And Google Maps isn't resting on their laurels... oh no... they're always adding cool new features. As I was leaving the US "Eastern Most Point" at West Quoddy Head Light, I noticed that Google noted I parked there. I'm guessing so if I walk away, I can find my car if I forgot where I parked it?
It was miles and miles before It dropped off, so I guess it's good if you're hiking or something...
Or wanting to vandalize a McDonalds and not wanting to forget where your getaway car is parked...
I'd imagine that the advent of VR (Virtual Reality) is going to be a huge game changer in map technology. At least I hope it will. Being able to more "literally" drop into a map would be an incredible thing.
Not incredible enough to stop be from traveling.
Posted on Friday, November 24th, 2017
Preparations for my pending vacation have been insanely expensive. I thought I was making it less painful by buying clothes for my journey ahead of time (I started nearly a year-and-a-half ago), but then I went and lost 17 pounds, so all that did was add more expense as I had to replace clothes I'm now swimming in.
But the harder pill to swallow is that I have no money left over for Black Friday clothes shopping, which is one of my favorite things. I loathe having to spend money on clothes (and good quality clothes are pricey), but today is when all my favorite brands go on sale and I can chop 60% or more off my budget for the year. Oh well, just my luck I'd buy a bunch of stuff, lose more weight, then have saved money on clothes I can't wear.
But it's hard to feel sad when next Friday this time I will be in Argentina awaiting the start of my trip.
Though, to be honest, I am a little sad. I just got home to my cats... who were so happy to see me after a week gone... and I'm going to be leaving them again...
Yeah, if there's a downside for being 8,000 miles away from home... this would be it.
Posted on Sunday, November 26th, 2017
This may be the last Bullet Sunday you're going to see for a while (depending what my internet is like in Argentina), so indulge yourself in an all new Bullet Sunday, which starts... now...
• Save It! I have spoken out a lot on this blog about net neutrality and how crucial it is to the free and open internet we all enjoy. Most Americans agree. Every time killing it is brought up, there's a huge backlash and the FCC backs down. But our current government doesn't give a flying fuck about honoring the wishes of its citizens, nor does it care about selling out the internet and fucking us over. All Trump & Co give a shit about is stripping power and liberty from the people and giving that power to big business so the rich get richer and have more control over our lives. And so... prepare yourself for the end of the internet as we know it. I don't wish harm upon any living thing... but I sincerely hope that FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is repaid in spades for the evil he does.
• Dogs! Back before I was headed to Africa, I Googled for photography tips and was introduced to Will Burrard-Lucas. He is a nature photographer unlike any other, and the shots he gets are mind-blowing. Getting to actually meet him on my upcoming photographic expedition will be a real honor. One of his most recent posts was of African wild dogs photographed in South Luangwa National Park, Zambia. It's incredible...
I was beyond lucky that I got to see these dogs in the wild when I was in Zimbabwe. My driver told me that his previous charges were a documentary film crew that searched for these beautiful pups for two weeks and didn't get to see a single one of them.
• Save It! Hey FOX "News"... stuff gets distorted on a curved reflective surface... YOU UNBELIEVABLE FUCKING PIECES OF IGNORANT SHIT!!! Fuck you sideways forever for propagating this bullshit...
There are people saying that this is "conclusive proof" that we never went to the moon because it's not just an astronaut's reflection in the curved surface of a helmet... it's a stagehand on the "set" from when it was being faked here on earth. Just when I think that FOX "News" couldn't possibly be a bigger pile of shit, here it is. No wonder people who trust FOX "News" and use it as their only source are as stupid as a box of fucking rocks.
• 73! Vogue's 73 Questions videos are some of my favorite things on YouTube. Yes, it's staged and rehearsed, but you do get to know some nifty facts about interesting famous people. My hands-down favorite is Lupita Nyong'o...
And today I found out that Aziz Ansari has one!
And, of course, you can't watch the Vogue 73 Question videos unless you bask in the glory that is Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour...
• Vera! I wouldn't watch Touched by an Angel... but Della Reese will always be "Vera" from Harlem Nights to me. I love that character as much as I could possibly love any movie character, and it was ALL thanks to Della...
Rest in Peace, Miss Reese... you will be missed.
• Crisis! Holy crap...
I'm more excited for this than I am to see Justice League. For the hundredth time... put the people in charge of the TV DC Universe in charge of the Cinematic DC Universe! The mind boggles at the possibility of what they could do with a big-screen budget given the amazing stuff they come up with for television every week.
• Family Values! It's like fucking clockwork. Some asshole is always getting caught with his dick in a place he tells OTHER PEOPLE they can't put their dick into. Any time I see some rabid homophobe ranting against homosexuality, I just assume it's because they're overcompensating. 90% of the time, it's true. Case in point... "State legislator Wes Goodman (Republican, obviously) has resigned after admitting he was busted having sex with a man in his office. The married conservative Ohio state lawmaker was known for his anti-LGBTQ stances." Because of course he was. Aren't they always? Hypocritical bullshit like this is getting so very tired.
• Quo! And, lastly, I leave you with the hellish buttfuckery that's become our status quo...
Time to start packing...
Posted on Tuesday, November 28th, 2017
It seems like I just got back home.
And now I'm leaving again.
Tomorrow morning I'm off to Argentina followed by a trip to the bottom of the earth (unless you're a flat-earther nut-job, in which case I'm off to the giant ice wall at the edge of the world). I've been looking forward to this trip for decades... have been planning it for a year-and-a-half... and yet I'd be lying if I said I wasn't sad to be leaving. I'm actually really broken up about leaving because my heart aches at the thought of abandoning my cats for 16 days.
Especially when Jenny is laying next to me here acting all adorable...
Of course they're not really abandoned. I've got a cat sitter checking in... neighbors checking in... friends and family checking in... a local security system... an internet security system... a home security monitoring service... they'll be well looked after.
It's hard not to worry.
Be well, my furry friends.
Posted on Thursday, November 30th, 2017
A long, long, very long day of travel. First a horrific one-hour-and-forty-minute drive to the airport in the rain, which was only 32 miles away. Then a four-and-one-half-hour flight from Seattle to Atlanta. Capped off by a ten-hour flight from Atlanta to Buenos Aires. Blergh.
The first flight out of Seattle was a little nerve-wracking because they changed the departure to 20 minutes later than originally planned. THEN after leaving the gate, we had to drive back to a gate to remove a passenger for additional security screening (whom we subsequently left behind). Then they kept saying "We should arrive close to our original arrival time" which wasn't true, because they kept referring to the revised arrival time, which was already 20 minutes late.
Ultimately we landed in Atlanta and I made my way from the A Gates to the F Gates just as they were boarding my flight to Buenos Aires.
That flight was not so great (even though my bag made it to the plane with time to spare).
First of all, there were at least six people on the plane coughing and sneezing their heads off. Travel while sick if you must... but at least have the decency to dope up so you're not coughing and sneezing on a plane-load of people making them sick. Heaven only knows what plague I'm going to end up with thanks to these assholes.
Second of all, the flight was plagued with mishaps. At one point a flight attendant dumped an entire cart full of First Class glass dishware, busting everything to shit. Luckily it was all dirty dishes, but still. As if that wasn't enough damage, a flight attendant later dropped an entire tray of glassware in the same galley section. But the highlight had to be when we heard "Is there a medical doctor onboard?" announced over the intercom. Yikes.
And yet... overall... all things considered... a pretty uneventful flight.
The most eventful incident was blowing by Lake Titicaca...
And then... at 9:00am tomorrow morning... we landed safe and sound.
Only time will tell if I've caught some kind of disease from the flight.
Posted on Friday, December 1st, 2017
So here I am for a single day in Buenos Aires... what to do, what to do, what to do?
After surviving an insane taxi ride into the city, my soon-to-be-cabinmate and I decided to walk around the neighborhood while we waited for our hotel room to be ready.
Coincidentally enough... La Recoleta Cemetery, which happens to be one of the biggest attractions in the city, is directly across from the hotel.
The reason it's famous is not only because it's eclectic and beautiful... but a lot of famous Argentinian people are buried there. Like Evita herself, Eva Perón (the real version, not the Madonna version). And, sure enough, there she was...
The cemetery itself is quite large (spanning several city blocks) and, as I said, is eclectic. A variety of architectural styles fill the place and something gothic and ornate can sit right next door to something stark and modern. You could spend a day wandering around the place. We breezed through in about an hour...
Found a pretty cemetery cat...
Then it was time for a walk around the corner to Hard Rock Cafe No. 167 for me...
Before we knew it, 2:00 had rolled around and the hotel was ready to receive us. And I wasn't kidding about the cemetery being right across the street... as this view from our balcony will attest...
When the dinner hour arrived, we opted to take the hotel desk advice and eat Argentinian empanadas at a local restaurant. I opted for cheese and onion and corn and onion, both of which were delicious...
Wish I could say the same for our dinner companion, which was right above my head...
And that's pretty much the extent of my day in Buenos Aires. Which isn't a lot, but probably to be expected after traveling for the better part of 20 hours on no sleep.
Posted on Saturday, December 2nd, 2017
It's pronounced "OOSH-WHY-YA"... but not really. There's a subtle accent thing going on somewhere in there which the locals make sound prettier than that.
As to what it is? At 54°56′ South longitude, it's the Southmost city I'll probably ever visit, that's for sure. Further south than Johannesburg in South Africa... even quite a bit further south than Sydney, Australia...
Flying in amongst the jagged mountain peaks as you land, you can't help but think "Oh, man... I hope that the pilot brakes in time so we don't accidentally go scooting off the end of the world...
The city itself is small, as you'd expect... but, at the same time, it's also much larger than the tiny village I was picturing in my head. I mean, it's big enough to have a Hard Rock Cafe (bringing my total Hard Rocks visited to 169)...
It's a fairly recent property, so it's one of the newer "hipster lounge style" cafes (which I hate) but at least they tried to work in more memorabilia than some of the latest Hard Rocks...
The surrounding mountains make the city a pretty one, and there's two jagged peaks in particular that keep popping up when you look eastward from anywhere in town...
The skies, as you see, are a deep blue. The local church in town decided to paint their building to play off the color beautifully...
Since the expedition boat to Antarctica leaves on Monday whether you are here or not... whether your luggage is here or not... I decided to play it very safe and arrive two days early (hey, when you're spending this much money to get here and equip yourself, better early than the alternative). This means we have an entire day to fill up tomorrow. And since we've pretty much seen all there is to see in Ushuaia, I guess that means we're heading out into the Tierra del Fuego region of Patagonia. Maybe. It's going to be Sunday, and I have no idea what that means in this part of the world.
Posted on Sunday, December 3rd, 2017
Because killing an entire day in our hotel room was not an option, last night was spent Googling for things to do in Ushuaia. Four-wheeling around Patagonia seemed like a fun thing to do, but there were no available spots. Then we discovered "Tren del Fin del Mundo" (Train of the End of The World). Originally used to transport prison labor to the countryside to collect timber, it eventually became a tourist attraction that runs into Tierra del Fuego National Park. Not everybody can say they've ridden "the southernmost functioning railway in the world," so plans were made.
We didn't know how many tickets would be available for the limited number of runs that the train makes, so we hired a taxi and got there plenty early. We were, as it turns out, the first ones to arrive at 8:30. You can ride the train one-way or round-trip for 800 pesos "tourist class" or 1400 pesos "First Class." We opted for the latter because the extra $30 US gets you a private compartment with drinks, a croissant sandwich, and souvenirs. Money well-spent...
And when it comes to the Train of the End of the World... you're not just First Class... you're First Class As Fuck. It's engraved right there on your seat...
The train itself is of the narrow-gauge variety, and looks like something you'd ride at Disneyland...
While charming, in its own way, the train ride itself is not overly-spectacular. Other than bragging rights of having ridden the southmost train on the planet, it's kinda slow and boring... despite the narration that tells you about the history of the train as a prison labor transport. On the trip into the park, you do get to stop at La Macarena Station, where you can climb steps up to a small waterfall though...
The main attraction along the way, if you can call it that, is the wild horses that live on the plains of the park. Apparently some of them escaped from local gauchos and started breeding, so now they're everywhere...
The nice thing about us having hired a taxi instead of going on a bus tour is that our driver warned us about the train being a bit boring. So instead of riding it back to the station, we hired him to wait for us at the end and take us further into Tierra del Fuego National Park.
Our first stop was "The Post Office at the End of the World" which sits on Lake Roca. Alas, it was Sunday so the office was closed... no passport stamps or postcards from the southernmost post office... but it was still nifty to look at...
Our next stop was Lake Acigami, which is so cold, windswept, and choppy that you can't swim in it. All you can really do is look at it...
The waves off the lake are so strong that they've carved out the area where they reach...
From there we continued on Route 3 to the literal End of the Road at the End of the World...
If you look at Google Maps, you'll see exactly where the road ends and The End of The World Begins. If you had the time, you could start at the end and drive all the way to the beginning in Alaska, which is 17,848 kilometers (11,090 miles) north...
As you can kinda see in this satellite image, there's a wood-plank pathway that leads out to The End of the World...
There is a large viewing platform where most people walked to, then turned around and walked back to the road. But if you look at the Google Maps satellite image above, you'll see that the large viewing platform is NOT the "End of the Earth"... for that you have to keep walking until you reach a smaller platform...
I won't lie. The view is pretty great, even though our beautiful blue skies were starting to cloud over...
I took a panorama shot of "The End of The World" with my crappy pocket camera... it's cool, but really doesn't do it justice...
Before heading back into town, our driver wanted us to see two things.
First was a beaver dam. No beavers... just a dam that the parks service keeps around for tourists to look at. The walk to the site is quite nice...
But the dam area is pretty much gutted...
The last thing he wanted us to see was the tiny wild orchids that grow in the area. I'd never seen orchids grow in the wild, so that was actually interesting to me. Turns out they are almost impossible to photograph because the wind is always blowing. I gave it my best shot though, and this is as good as I was able to get...
And... that was that. Back to Ushuaia we went, where we wait to be whisked away to our expedition orientation dinner.
For tomorrow we set sail...
Posted on Monday, December 4th, 2017
We were kicked out of our hotel room at 10am, but couldn't board the ship until 4pm. This resulted in a lot of sitting around, but also lunch.
The M/V Ushuaia was formerly a research ship (and is still registered that way if you look it up on a marine tracker), so luxury accommodations aren't really what you're getting when you sign up. Welcome to my new home in Cabin #210...
Still, it's a nice ship and she'll be on her way in mere hours...
The M/V Ushuaia has internet via satellite. It's slow and unreliable, but available if you want to pay for it. I've decided that, for this trip at least, I really don't. I want to completely unplug from events back home. I don't want to know what stupid shit President Trump said... I certainly don't want to know if he started a nuclear war with North Korea. I just want to forget all the bullshit for a week and be at peace.
Here's hoping for smooth sailing over the most violent waters on earth.
Posted on Tuesday, December 5th, 2017
And so... not the smooth sailing I was hoping for.
The open sea has proven so treacherous that the ship seems to be floating on its side from time to time. You look out your portal and you can see your own wake. Naturally, this has caused a lot of discomfort for a lot of people onboard. As for me? I don't get seasick, but I put one of those patch things behind my ear just in case.
Unfortunately the patch can't prevent a door from slamming on my finger.
I went to leave the cabin just as a big wave struck the side of the ship. This swung the door back with my hand still attached. Ouch. My right ring finger now has a pretty big chunk of skin ripped off of it.
It's surprising how simple things like sleeping, opening a door, brushing your teeth, and going to the bathroom become a major ordeal when attempted on rough seas. During breakfast this morning, a wave struck the ship and rolled it pretty hard. All the breakfast plates, glasses, mugs, and utensils went flying. It was then I learned that each season over half of the dishes on this ship have to be replaced. The cost of doing business in the Antarctic, I suppose.
And it's not just the dishes that are breaking... regardless of how careful you are, the potential for injury on a trip like this is huge.
Yesterday a guy tripped on a busted sidewalk in Ushuaia and couldn't board the ship because his ankle was jacked up. Then this morning during some particularly turbulent seas I heard a man screaming in the hallway. I went out to see if I could help and ran into somebody who told me that a man had just fallen down the stairs and broke his leg. Turns out he has a very bad compound fracture and has to be air-lifted to a hospital. We were going to head back to Ushuaia to drop him, but there's a hurricane-force storm to the north which means we can't. So... we are making a detour to the only nearby place a plane can land... King George Island.
Considering the seas are as violent as they are, I would not be surprised if there end up being more such accidents.
In better news... we saw our first iceberg today. It was kinda tough to get good photos when the ship was rocking and rolling, but I did my best...
And Antarctica is still a day away...
©2017 Google Maps
More rough seas ahead, I'm sure.
Posted on Wednesday, December 6th, 2017
Today the ship arrived at our detour to King George Island so the passenger who was thrown down the stairs yesterday could be air-lifted to Chile for surgery. The hope is that his circulation wasn't badly damaged by his compound leg fractures. If it was, he could lose his leg. The ship's doctor thinks he's going to come through fine despite the serious damage, so fingers crossed.
I can't fathom how much a med-evac for something like this costs. Tens of thousands of dollars, certainly. The flight-time alone out of Puente Arenas is 5-1/2 hours each way. Fortunately, the expedition group requires that you have comprehensive insurance for just such an emergency, so at least the poor guy won't have to mortgage his house after he gets out of the hospital.
But I'm ahead of myself...
Today was the day that we officially crossed into Antarctic waters. I think people were more excited about being in calm waters than they were about becoming "Antarcticans." Being able to walk without being thrown around is kinda a big deal.
King George Island has bases from countries around the world. According to Wikipedia, there are research stations here from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Ecuador, South Korea, Peru, Poland, Russia, Uruguay, and The United States. Chile's base "Frei" has the landing strip where the med-evac will happen. I snapped some photos of buildings and a helicopter, but have no idea which country they belong to...
I am told that there is an annual marathon that is run here. Cannot fathom trying to run in the heavy winds that blow through this area of the world, but I guess it's bucket-list accomplishment if you/re a runner.
And... today's progress...
©2017 Google Maps
After we've confirmed that the med-evac plane has reached "the point of no return" and will definitely be coming to pick up our passenger, we're headed into the Gerlache Strait and further down the Antarctic Peninsula.
Posted on Thursday, December 7th, 2017
Yesterday's excursion had to be canceled in lieu of the medical evacuation, so this morning's landing at Hydrurga Rocks is my official first time stepping foot on Antarctica soil. So far as landfalls go, we couldn't have asked for nicer weather. The skies are a stunning blue-on-blue color that, I'm guessing, comes from having pristine, pollution-free air. As if that weren't enough, temperatures were above freezing, so I stripped off my jacket the minute I stepped off the Zodiac Raft.
This place is famous as a breeding ground for chinstrap penguins, and they are everywhere...
It's breeding season, so rocky "nests" are being built pebble by pebble in order to create a safe space until the eggs hatch...
The penguins are accustomed to humans, and will walk right up to you if you're not moving around too much. This guy wandered up next to where I was sitting and just stared at me for a good ten minutes...
In the water, penguins are graceful swimmers who can move with precision and skill. On land they are clumsy creatures that seem to fall over a lot. Watching them walk is adorable and high entertainment...
Bonus... there were also seals!
Not a bad first landing, that's for sure!
After we got back the the ship, the beautiful blue skies we had enjoyed all morning started to turn...
Guess the weather was good while it lasted.
And... today's progress...
©2017 Google Maps
Posted on Thursday, December 7th, 2017
Since it's summer here at the bottom of the globe, the sun never truly "sets"... it just kinda dips below the horizon for a while. If we were closer to the Antarctic Circle, we wouldn't even see that, because the sun pretty much hangs around all day long in December.
Tonight we took the zodiacs out for a spin so we could see some icebergs in the evening sun. Which usually doesn't feel much like "evening"... except this time it did. The clouds that rolled in this afternoon just kept piling up, blotting out much of the sunlight. Add a misty fog across the water and this is about as "nighttime" as you're going to get right now.
And it's sublimely beautiful.
The atmosphere coupled with the buttery light of the sun peaking through the clouds was a photographer's paradise, and I shot hundreds of photos of glacier ice... all of them amazing. Picking favorites to post here was no easy chore. But I whittled it down to a dozen shots just to keep this entry a reasonable length...
Amazingly enough, we found some wayward gentoo penguins hanging out on the ice...
And... here's where we ended up today...
©2017 Google Maps
Here's hoping the weather improves a bit for tomorrow's landings.
Posted on Friday, December 8th, 2017
Despite the fact that we're in the Antarctica summer months, it's still feels very much like winter here. Snow is everywhere and the skies are overcast and gray. It's also fairly chilly, but ultimately warm enough that I find myself stripping out of my winter coat. A fleece with my thermal underwear is more than enough.
Today's first excursion was at Cuverville Island, which is prime breeding ground for the gentoo penguin. We're told that 5,000 pairs of them breed here annually, which is a lot of penguins...
The penguin eggs are a delicacy for many predators. Skua birds just love to swoop down and make a quick meal out of an unattended egg...
Global warming is endangering breeding beaches, forcing the penguins to seek higher and higher ground. This is unfortunate, because they move quite poorly on land. In the water they are graceful and fast, on land they are awkward and clumsy. They're constantly falling over as they try to make their way from one spot to another...
To make things easier, penguins navigate the landscape via "penguin highways" that are created from endless birds walking the same paths over and over again...
Penguins are curious creatures with odd behaviors that are fun to speculate over. This penguin, for example, just stood in one spot for the longest time with his flipper out like he was directing traffic or something...
Which might have come in handy for these penguins that ended up "stranded" on an iceberg...
My favorite thing to to do is watch dirty penguins head to the water...
Where they swim around, get cleaned up, and have a bite to eat...
Then return as clean penguins, drying themselves in the breeze...
And... that's all she wrote for Cuverville Island. Time to navigate the icy waters back to the ship...
And... here's where we are now, very close to our last landing...
©2017 Google Maps
Later today we're making our first landing on the actual continent of Antarctica instead of the surrounding islands as we have been. More than a little excited for that!
Posted on Friday, December 8th, 2017
And lo did the weather gods smile upon us, for today's second excursion to the actual continent of Antarctica exceeded my dreams.
When the ship pulled into the harbor, you immediately knew something special was going to happen because the water was so calm. It was like a massive mirror reflecting everything you see...
It kind of messes with your head because you're seeing double across the entire horizon...
As we headed out in a Zodiac to our landing site, the ice in the water started out pretty small...
But kept getting bigger and thicker the closer we got...
By the time we made it to shore, it was all ice...
Everywhere you looked, there was gorgeous scenery begging to be photographed. And if this were the only day I had in Antarctica, I would have been perfectly fine with that...
Yes, those are penguins laying there if you zoom in...
There's a couple rookeries nearby where penguins hangs out...
They're building nests by hauling pebbles around...
Except pebbles are lacking, so they're pretty much just stealing them from each other's nests. Which results in arguments, as you'd imagine...
And so... yeah... Neko Harbor. A pretty great end to a pretty great day...
Everything I see after this is gravy.
Neko Harbor is a backtrack through Andvord Bay from yesterday, so our progress is a little backwards...
©2017 Google Maps
The weather seems to be clouding up again, so I'm guessing tomorrow won't be as nice as today. Which is totally okay... if every day were this perfect, my head might explode.
Posted on Saturday, December 9th, 2017
The gods of Antarctica giveth... and the gods of Antarctica taketh away.
Yesterday's excursion to Neko Harbor was everything I could have hoped for when it comes to photographing Antarctica... a non-stop parade of beautiful blue-blue skies, water so calm it was like a mirror, and a gorgeous location to shoot at.
Today? Not so much.
Our first excursion to Orne Harbour this morning was canceled because of nonstop sleet and zero visibility. Our second excursion to Bancroft Bay went ahead as scheduled, but even my best photos couldn't hold a candle to my worst photos yesterday. Especially with the snow coming down. I tried to photograph some birds as we left the ship, but it was tough to focus through all the white stuff in the air...
There was a bit of excitement because some whales were spotted while we were out. The krill they were eating must have been near the surface, because they didn't do much except show their tails...
After taking a lot of photos of water where wales used to be, we continued further into the harbor to look at glaciers and icebergs...
If there's one thing that Antarctica has, it's an abundance of icebergs.
And then... time to head back to the ship...
And... today's progress...
©2017 Google Maps
Tomorrow is our last day of exploring Antarctica before heading back across The Drake. Hoping for a great finale to the trip!
Posted on Sunday, December 10th, 2017
Up until today, we've seen whales a couple times... but, for me, it's always been at a distance. They've always been off in the distance, and the best shot's I'd get would be of a tail... or maybe some spray... but nothing terribly impressive.
Then today as we were (ironically) headed towards "Whaler's Bay," a pair of whales came right up to the ship to say hello...
And they were there playing around the ship for a long, long time. Over an hour. After I took the above photos, I went back to my cabin, took a shower, and uploaded my photos. After all that I saw they were still there, so I grabbed my iPhone to shoot some video. It goes on for eight minutes, so I trimmed it so as not to bore you to death...
An unexpected bonus for this trip, to be sure. We didn't even have to leave the ship!
Posted on Sunday, December 10th, 2017
Last night we were provided a lecture about whaling in preparation for today's first excursion to Deception Island and "Whaler's Bay." It's home to an abandoned "whale processing center" where tens of thousands of whales were butchered for their parts (and oil, of course). Not a subject or a location that appeals to me, but I tried to make the best of it. There was a spooky fog out, which made things slightly more interesting than it would have otherwise been to me.
"Deception Island" is actually the caldera of an extinct volcano. You enter the caldera by passing through a narrow channel of high winds which sailors have named "Neptune's Bellows."
You can kinda see how insane it is to navigate inside the caldera by looking at this satellite image I grabbed from Bing Maps...
©2017 Bing Maps / Earthstar Geographics
But pass through we did, at which time we found ourselves approaching Whaler's Bay...
The ruins of this tragic site are still around...
It wasn't just the past, death was everywhere in the present too...
Far more interesting to me than the remnants of death was some penguins on the shore...
There was also a bird that was looking most perturbed...
And... our progress so far today...
©2017 Google Maps
One more stop today then a couple wake-ups across The Drake Passage until vacation is over.
Posted on Sunday, December 10th, 2017
The weather outside continued to be dreary, so I was questioning whether or not I would even bother with the excursion to "Half Moon Island." Ultimately I decided I might as well go. It would be something to pass the time before two days on The Drake Passage.
What a pleasant surprise.
Unlike Whaler's Bay, which wasn't my thing... Half Moon Island has beautiful topography and an abundance of penguins to photograph. It was the perfect way to end my last day in Antarctica...
BONUS SEALS ON THE BEACH!
Our progress today...
©2017 Google Maps
And... the end. A treacherous trek across The Drake followed by three flights over three days, and my vacation is over.
Something tells me I'm going to need a vacation from my vacation.
Posted on Monday, December 11th, 2017
Yesterday's afternoon excursion was the end of my Antarctic adventure. I've turned in my life vest, and there will be no more landings on the seventh continent. And yet... there's still two days on the Drake Passage until I can begin my journey home.
The ship's doctor passed out "seasick pills" with dinner last night, so we knew that it would be a rough ride for the crossing (projected 9 to 12 meter waves rather than the 6 meter waves we had heading out). Rather than test the limits of my immunity to seasickness, I went ahead and took a pill. There's not much to do onboard anyway, so I might as well be doped up so I can sleep...
Now my life is all about risk assessment until we reach Ushuaia. As in... "Do I risk dying on the toilet just now... or should I wait a half hour in the hope that the waves will ease up and I can pee safely?"
I couldn't hold my phone during the worst of it, but this is pretty much the entire day...
Thinking back on this trip as a whole... I wish it would have been two or three days longer. It takes such a huge amount of time and money to get to Antarctica, that the actual time spent there seems to fly by in a flash by comparison. We did lose a day for the emergency medical evacuation... and lost a half day due to bad weather... but, even so, I wish we went further south to see more than we did. To the Antarctic Circle at least. Something to keep in mind if you ever decide to book a trip to Antarctica of your own.
That being said... what an amazing adventure!
Even with the huge effort and expense it takes to visit, this is easily one of my most memorable, most unique, most special trips I've ever taken.
Will I ever visit Antarctica again? Probably not. Unless it's radically different itinerary, my afternoon at Neko Harbor was perfect in every way, and all the Antarctica I need for a lifetime. But I've learned to never say never, so perhaps there's another trip in me one day.
Heaven only knows there's plenty of Antarctica left to visit. But, alas, one step closer to home...
©2017 Google Maps
Assuming I survive the rest of these crazy rough seas... holy cow.
Posted on Tuesday, December 12th, 2017
The captain took pity on us and tried to circumnavigate the storm rather than head straight into it. Still... a very rough night. The trick is to prop up the sides of your mattress so that you can wedge yourself in the middle. Not the most comfortable way to sleep... but better than being tossed around like a rag-doll all night.
We've been told that we'll reach calmer waters around 5:00pm, which would be a nice treat before I have to make the long journey home.
This morning I tried to organize my junk for packing. Which is easier said than done when the waves are crashing into the side of the ship. One minute you're reaching for a pair of socks... the next you're being tossed against a wall.
The hardest part of packing is seeing all the crap I brought but never used.
I was told that waterproof over-pants would be trashed and I should have at least two. I brought three. I used one. Same for heavy waterproof gloves. Told I needed two, brought three, used zero. It was never cold enough to wear them. When I used any gloves at all, it was just the thin liners. And then there's a pile of scarves, balaclavas, and fleeces that I never touched.
If I had this to do all over again, I would have a different packing strategy. Prepare for the worst weather possible... but not over-pack as I did this time. I could have easily left a third of this stuff at home and been fine. Live and learn. I'm just glad I didn't rent parka, pants, and gloves as originally planned. That would have been a ridiculous level of overkill.
And now... a good night to you, for tomorrow we make port...
Posted on Wednesday, December 13th, 2017
And... survived The Drake Passage to arrive back at Ushuaia this morning. The ship was kind enough to feed us breakfast before kicking us off, but it was the same breakfast buffet from the past nine days, so eggs on toast with a bowl of corn flakes wasn't a very exciting way to start my day.
Most of my morning was spent being very concerned that we'd only have 90 minutes from the time we arrived at the airport until our flight left. I was assured... twice... that this would be plenty of time because "it's a small airport." Which was odd assurance since small airports are notoriously understaffed. Add to that the fact that Aerolineas Argentinas is flying several very large planes into this "small airport" and I was understandably concerned.
I should have trusted my instincts and taken a taxi to the airport rather than wait for the bus they had scheduled.
Huge lines. Precious little staff. A long wait to get through security. And a mad dash to find out where in the hell our plane was because it wasn't at the gate we were told. It was an awful, nerve-wracking, terrible way to end my vacation.
But we made it... and it was a good flight... so all is well and I'm back in Buenos Aires now.
Posted on Thursday, December 14th, 2017
If I were smart, I would have flown the 9:18pm flight out of Buenos Aires yesterday instead of today. Except... I really, really didn't want to go from the ship to a flight to another flight to another flight to a long drive home all one right after another. And so... a night in Buenos Aires... followed by a long day in Buenos Aires. Albeit a beautiful day to be sure. As I could see from the window of my hotel room...
Traffic to the airport was insane, taking almost two hours. Good thing I left five hours early for my nine-and-one-half hour flight!
One. More. Flight. To. Go.
Posted on Friday, December 15th, 2017
Naturally I was unable to sleep for the 9-1/2 hour flight from Buenos Aires to Atlanta, which meant I was beyond tired when I finally made it back to the USA. That I had to follow that with a 2-hour layover, a 5-1/2 hour flight to Seattle, and a 2-1/2 hour drive home... well, let's just say I've taken "exhausted" to a new level entirely.
The good news is that I get to see my cats at the end of it all.
Posted on Sunday, December 17th, 2017
It's time for a Very Special Antarctic edition of Bullet Sunday, which starts... now...
• Go! Antarctica is a pricey trip, but it's not the horrific monetary spectacle you might think. Not including airfare, you can take the same ship I did... have the same type of experiences I did... for as little as $5,000 in Antarpply's 2018 season. I went via Muench Photography Workshops, which was quite a bit more expensive... but it had world-class photography instruction with people like Will Burrard-Lucas, which made it worth the ridiculous cost. If you've always had a hankering to see the bottom of the world, it's worth saving your pennies to do, and doesn't necessarily have to cost $15,000 for a great experience... penguins and all.
• Darkness! The strangest part of being back to the Real World? That it gets dark. Something that barely happened when I was in Antarctica. The fact that it starts getting dark around 4:00 and is pitch-black by 5:00 just makes it all the stranger. I've gotten used to light at 10:00 at night!
• Photography! My most used lens was a 24mm-70mm. It worked for glaciers, icebergs, and wildlife that was near me. My second most-used lens was a 70mm-200mm... which I really, really wish was a 70mm-400mm. Fortunately, my 200mm lens optical quality is excellent and I had massive 42.4 MP images I could easily crop into... but things would have been much easier if my telephoto had more reach. I also took a 10mm-18mm ultra-wide angle which I used occasionally. I didn't use any other lenses I took.
I highly recommend having two camera bodies on you. That way you can have both zooms handy and be sure to capture most anything at a moment's notice. You also have a backup body in case one fails, which is pretty much essential isn't it? You aren't going to go all that way and not have a camera!
I took a monopod because it was easier to pack than a tripod. I never once used it. I imagine that you could set up for taking shots, but there was plenty of light to go handheld 100% of the time, and the flexibility was critical towards getting my best shots.
I fretted over condensation accumulating when I came from the cold outdoors to the warm indoors ruining my cameras. Was never a problem (heck, my glasses never even fogged over). It was suggested that I take a plastic zipper-bag to put my camera in so that the condensation forms on the bag and not my camera. After spending weeks finding one big enough, I never had to use it.
I bought a massive dry-bag that I could put my whole camera bag into so my gear would be safe during a Zodiac landing. Thing was... I never took my entire camera bag. Just my two cameras and their lenses. Which meant my dry-bag was massive overkill. I should have bought a smaller one and just wrapped my cameras in towels or something.
I took circular polarizing filters. Never used them. They might have been handy to cut glare on the water when the whales turned up... but they were just a hassle every other minute of the day, so I ignored them.
• Un-Borrowed! I needed a backup camera body, but couldn't afford to buy a full-frame one to take with me. So I decided to rent one from BorrowLenses.com. I received an email telling me that I could pick it up at Kenmore Camera the day before I left. I went to pick it up and it wasn't there. I called and found out there was a mess-up of some kind with UPS, and it wouldn't be arriving until after I left for the airport. Their attitude was absolutely shitty. First of all, they would never give me a tracking number so I could find out if it was THEIR fault or UPS's fault (of course they blamed it on UPS). Second of all, they did nothing... NOTHING... to try and make the situation right. It was all "Oh well... stuff happens!" No offer to buy a body from Kenmore Camera and rent that to me. No offer to express ship to my hotel in Buenos Aires. No attempt to find an alternative. No offer to try and find a rental company in Argentina. Absolutely NOTHING. They didn't care about helping me out in any way, despite their promise to have the camera available on the date I requested.
And so... I had to spend $1400 I did not have to buy a camera I did not want. Especially since I could have put that money (if I had it) towards a new Sony a7R mark III. Such a crappy situation. I mean, what choice did I have? What was I going to do? Go on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Antarctica without a backup camera? Impossible. Thanks for absolutely nothing, BorrowLenses.com for being a total piece of shit.
UPDATE: I complained on Facebook. Borrow Lenses refunded my money and gave me a credit for future rentals. They were apologetic about the situation (this time) which has me wondering if I just got the wrong customer service agent... or if they only act this way when called out publicly?
• SmartWool! There was a lot learned on my expedition to Antarctica. The most surprising? How fantastic SmartWool socks are. I have been wearing them ever since I got back and have had warm, comfy feet despite cold temperatures in my home town (and a history of cold feet).
Don't know how I'd get through winter without them now that I know about them.
• Warmth! As it turned out, I worried way too much about being too cold. As it's summer in Antarctica and global warming is actually a thing, it was never all that cold. Certainly not even close to how freezing cold it was on Cadillac Mountain when I was waiting for the sun to rise in Acadia last month! I usually ended up taking off my winter coat on land excursions and just wore my fleece, waterproof pants over jeans and long underwear. Only a couple of times when the sun was clouded over and it was snowing did I double up on long underwear and wear my coat. And, despite buying hand-warmers and spending two days in Ushuaia finding Zippo lighter fluid to put in them, they went unused. So glad I didn't rent an arctic parka and snow pants. I would have never put them on. I guess what I'm trying to say is... prepare for the worst. Make sure you have enough clothes to stay warm if the weather is terrible. Have layers and layers available so you can build the outfit you need to be comfortable in cold weather. But... don't obsess over the idea that you need to buy Antarctic-winter-level expedition gear to stay warm. Unless something goes really sideways, you just won't need it (and if things go that sideways, your landing will probably be canceled anyway). I'd recommend following the advice you'll get from your ship if it conflicts with my experience... but it really shouldn't.
The only thing that ended up being a little cold was my feet because the rubber boots you get from the ship for the landing are not well-insulated. My SmartWool socks with liners made sure it never got that bad. On cold days where I'd be in snow for long periods, I doubled my SmartWool socks, and... problem solved (seriously, those socks are amazing).
One final tip... it was highly recommended that I get two or three pair of Merino Wool long underwear. The stuff is soft (not scratchy) and does a really good job of keeping you warm. Best of all? It doesn't trap odors, so you can wear a pair for several days and not smell like a locker room. Which is what I did... except... I bought some inexpensive disposable men's underwear (which seem very much like cotton panties... or "manties") as a fresh daily barrier to help keep my long undies clean. Worked great. Took up practically no space in my suitcase. In the end, Merino Wool is a bit pricey but so worth it. I bought two pair of the mid-weight tops/bottoms directly from Minus 33 and was very happy with it. I loved that it was so thin that I could double it up on colder days and be toasty warm.
• Sun! The sun reflecting off the snow and ice is pretty harsh. Take good sunglasses (and, if you wear glasses, get good prescription sunglasses). And, oh yeah... TAKE SUN SCREEN! I had a friend tell me that he got sunburned pretty bad on his Antarctica trip. So I took Banana Boat SPF 30 and applied it liberally to my face. Wore it every landing we had. Still got burned. So... take a higher SPF than 30 if you want to avoid sunburn!
• Expectations! I was warned many times to keep my expectations in check. Antarctica is wildly unpredictable on all fronts, and having lofty expectations is almost certainly setting yourself up for disappointment. All you can really do is get excited for the possibilities... then roll with whatever comes your way. I mean, just look at my trip! We had to cancel one of our landings so we could detour to have somebody airlifted to Chile for a medical emergency. We had to cancel another landing because of bad weather. And yet... everything worked out. I was just thrilled to see what I got to see and do what I got to do...
And, seriously, it could have been worse. It can always be worse!
• Inflight Movies! With nearly thirty hours in planes that had a rather large film library, I was able to watch a few movies to occupy my time getting to Buenos Aires and back...
And... no more Antarctica for you. Or for me. See you next week.
Posted on Monday, December 18th, 2017
And so I updated my Travel Map last night.
I've now step foot on all seven continents, which is pretty cool bragging rights...
I've also come one step closer to finishing off my travel bucket list. Two down. Eight to go...
I used to be pretty obsessed with making it to everyplace on this list. Now? Not so much. Sure, I'd still like to visit all of them... but I'm not going to feel a failure at life if I don't make every destination. Except India. I really, really want to make it to India before I die.
Posted on Tuesday, December 19th, 2017
While unpacking from my vacation, I found a strip of pills given to me by the doctor onboard the Ushuaia for motion sickness. When crossing The Drake Passage I took one the night before hitting rough waters, but didn't find I needed them for the two days of trauma that followed, so I never used them. I thought I gave them all away, but apparently I did not.
I had no luck using the Pill Identifier at Drugs.com (my go-to site for identifying mystery pills), so I typed in what information I could find from the partial package I had... "Janssen" and "ugero" and "75"... which resulted in Stugeron 75 MG Tablet...
Stugeron is a medicine that belongs to the category of antihistaminic medications. It is used to treat problems associated with the inner ear and the brain. This medicine is used to treat dizziness and sickness associated with motion sickness.
Apparently this is a better drug for motion sickness than the Promethazine I had requested from my personal doctor. When the ship's doctor had us bring any medications we were going to use to dinner to show her, she just kind of chuckled and shook her head "no" while handing me the Stugeron. Needless to say, I took her word for it, because I'm guessing somebody serving on a ship would know what works best.
Ah the wonders of modern pharmaceuticals!
Which is a strange thing for me to say given my raging hatred for "Big Pharma" and the way they manipulate doctors into over-prescribing their over-priced crap.
Gabapentin, which I like to refer to as "The Miracle Drug," has been life-changing for me. After being plagued with ever-worsening "restless leg syndrome" for years, I finally got relief (and a good night's sleep) once I consulted Dr. Google and found that people were getting good results with Gabapentin. I begged my doctor to let me try it and, 600mg a night later, my quality of life has improved so profoundly over the last couple months that I am almost moved to tears just thinking about it.
Not all drugs are all bad all the time. Sometimes they are a necessary part of life that you just have to accept and be grateful for.
And I am.
Even though I still wish drugs were cheaper, doctors wouldn't be so quick to throw a bunch of drugs at every problem that walks through the door, and Big Pharma would be forbidden from influencing doctors and politicians with their endless supply of money.
Time for Gabapentin and bed now.
Posted on Sunday, December 24th, 2017
And so... I'm heading over the mountains for a short holiday vacation.
All week I was a little apprehensive because the weather forecast kept changing, but it ended up being a beautiful day with bare roads and pretty scenery. A piece of cake drive to be sure...
Alas, my visor-clip broke apart half-way through, so I missed recording some of the glorious snow-filled wonder.
Catch you after Christmas!
Posted on Sunday, December 31st, 2017
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! As customary, I've jettisoned loads of the usual junk so this entry is "mostly crap" instead of the "total crap" they usually are.
2017 was far from ideal. And yet... compared to the bucket of never-ending suck that was 2016, it was a vast improvement. So I can't really complain.
• Said goodbye to President Obama, a president that I never learned to truly appreciate until the total disaster that's now occupying The White House moved in...
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
• Took my cats to the vet for the first time, something I am definitely not looking forward to doing again in the New Year...
• Yesterday I listed my favorite albums of 2017. Last March I listed my all-time most hated songs that everybody else seems to love.
• Flew to San Francisco to see one of my favorite new musical artists, Wrabel, with my (literal) rockstar friend Aaron.
• Headed to Las Vegas, where I finally ziplined down Fremont Street, among other things.
• Said goodbye to Lil' Spicey...
• Built a built-in desk... for my cats, apparently.
• Built new built-ins for my bedroom closet, which turned out amazing...
• Had one of the biggest scares of my life during The Great Jake Escape...
• Back to Vegas again (for work this time).
• Flew to Maine for blueberries (and for work).
• Lived through Raccoonageddon.
• Live-blogged my photographing the eclipse (with my cats).
• Lived through another round of wildfires in my neck of the woods.
• Built a tunnel for a bird to escape my home before my cats could murder it...
• Wrote "Second Amendments and Horse Shit" which surprised some people, I'm sure.
• Had some extra money that came my way and wrote about what I did with it... which included getting some old negatives scanned...
• Added Joy the Mopping Robot to Carl the RoboVac and my growing family.
• Had a colonoscopy... and posted photos of my beautiful colon (you're welcome!).
• Flew to Maine and finally visited Acadia National Park...
• Visited the Eastern-Most Point in the USA at West Quoddy Head Light on a bad weather day...
• Was first in the USA to see the sun rise at Cadillac Mountain...
• Flew to Buenos Aires and visited Evita at Recoleta Cemetery...
• Took in the view at The End of the World...
• Headed out across The Drake Passage in some of the roughest seas on earth...
• Fulfilled a life-long dream when I finally set foot on Antarctica for the first time...
• Had one of the most amazing days of my life when I stepped foot on the seventh continent...
• More penguin photography at Half Moon Island in Antarctica...
• Used Apple's new "iPhone Update Plan" so I could buy an iPhone X and post my thoughts on the astoundingly expensive thing.
And there you have it, the year that was the major events in my 2017.
Well, the ones I shared on my blog, anyway.
Thanks once again to my cats, family, and friends for making life bearable through the not-so-great times. Though, I have to say, closing out the year with my bucket-list trip to Antarctica certainly had it ending on a high note.
Here's to a good 2018, everybody.