Posted on Tuesday, January 7th, 2020
I really need a vacation.
Not a work trip. Not a staycation. Not a trip for a party or wedding or any other occasion. A real, honest-to-goodness vacation where I can go somewhere new, do interesting stuff, and just relax. Since the days have been cold, dreary, wet, and largely dark (given the early sunsets), I'd prefer going somewhere that's the opposite of all that.
Also adding to my desire to get the fuck out of dodge? These amazing, amazing travel journals by José Naranja. He sells reproductions that are impeccably crafted which I would love to own, but the two volumes cost $320 and $360 each...
He also sells posters of some of his most popular interior page spreads, but they ain't cheap either. A single print costs $45...
Gorgeous. Every page is a work of art.
It makes me want to drag out my hand-drawn travel maps. When I first started traveling, I drew them for each of the places I went. My favorite was a map of Japan with all the sights I saw plus all the Hard Rock Cafes I visited marked on it. It's pretty good size... probably 12 x 20... on Bristol board rendered in colored pencil, inks, and watercolor. Took me a month of most nights and some weekends to complete. No idea where it is, but it's likely rolled up with old posters somewhere.
Assuming that I could come up with the money or time to go on a vacation, I'm note sure where I would go. I still want to get to India and Peru one of these days, so maybe one of those.
But since I don't have the money or time, I guess I'll just go to work tomorrow.
Posted on Thursday, January 9th, 2020
When I first started traveling, I always went to a place with the mindset that I will likely never get to visit there again.
Sometimes it was true... but many times it was not. Places I fell in love with I would find a way to get back to. Spain is a perfect example. I wanted to see Barcelona. I went to Barcelona, loved it, then wanted to see more of Spain. So I kept going back to the country again and again and again. I also went back to Barcelona two more times. That was completely unexpected. And there are still parts of the country I am dying to see. Valencia, Seville, Toledo, Córdoba, Bilbao, Zaragoza... and dozens of others.
Italy is another example. I've been to many, many places over several trips... but there's always someplace else to see. Palermo, Como, Parma, Genoa, Bari, Catanzaro... I'd visit any of those cities in a heartbeat. I'd also be happy to return to Rome and Venice even though I've been to each multiple times.
Thanks to writing about travel journals a couple days ago, all this was running through my head when I woke up this morning and had the realization that the bulk of my traveling days are probably behind me. Now that I've got a mortgage and cats, I have more important things to spend my money and time on. I look at my travel map and think "Haven't I done enough?
And yet... there's an awful lot of open space on that map. Granted, a lot of it I probably don't need to see, but there's quite a lot I do. And probably even more that I don't realize I need to see.
So probably not this year, but maybe next year?
Assuming travel outside the USA is even a possibility in 2021. Or there's a world left in 2021.
Posted on Sunday, February 9th, 2020
It's Oscar Sunday but I just don't care, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Crapple! Given my longstanding rant against Apple being complete and total assholes by sticking their customers with shitty butterfly keyboards for years before they FINALLY thought to replace them with something not-quite-so-horrible, this one's for you. It's at the 2-minute mark...
People think this is funny... but, but I'm the biggest Apple Whore I know, and even I was seriously shopping for PCs before the 16-inch MacBook Pro was released. I hope Apple is fucking embarrassed at this, because they should be.
• Gold! I used to do a big thing on the Oscars, but I stopped giving a shit when they kept rewarding the same old crap. This year it looks like things are on a better track. Here's my list...
The love for Parasite, which would usually be thrown in the "Best Foreign Language Film" category (it still was and won there too), was a breath of fresh air. I didn't see it until last week or else it surely would have been one of my favorite movies of 2019.
• Mythical! If you haven't been watching Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet on Apple TV+, it's worth a look. Especially if you love video games. Apparently Rob McElhenney (who is at his most Rob McElhenneyist here) and Charlie Day consulted heavily with Ubisoft to get some semblance of accuracy even though this is a comedy about what goes on behind the scenes at a video game company. It shows. The show is absolute gold, and will easily make my list of favorites for 2020. It's not quite The Office or The IT Crowd, but it kinda draws from both...
The jokes come fast and most of them land well. I cannot believe that they got F. Murray Abraham. He has the perfect amount of gravitas for his part. But this is Rob McElhenney from start to finish and he's absolutely perfect.
• Starch! Wow. How come nobody told me that adding corn starch to scrambled eggs makes them taste like they've been slow-cooking for 30 minutes? This is reeeeeally nice. So creamy and rich. If you haven't tried it, these are pretty great. Also works wonders with omelettes. I will never cook scrambled eggs without it.
• NEWS: Antarctica logs hottest temperature on record with a reading of 18.3°C. That's 65°F, people. When I visited, there were many times I took off my jacket because Antarctica was too warm to have it on. I worry for the wildlife which calls this continent home. How is this going to disrupt their habitat and can they survive it?
Penguins are already having a tough time of it, and things look to be getting worse. And then there's polar bears starving in the Arctic. Troubling times for our planet.
• trAIn! Apple has put Artificial Intelligence "Machine Learning" in their iPhone and are making good use of it (especially with the camera). As time goes on, it's just going to be surreal how it changes our lives. Take for example this footage from Denis Shiryaev, which upscaled the video to 4K with machine learning and resounded it... Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat, by Auguste and Louis Lumière, 1896...
Looks old, but almost new. Here's the original footage...
We are really close to the unreal easily being mistake for the real, if we're not there already.
• Netflix Fix! And, lastly, apparently there is a God... you can finally tell Netflix to STOP AUTO-PLAYING FUCKING PREVIEWS WHILE YOU ARE TRYING TO SEARCH FOR SOMETHING TO WATCH! People have been complaining about this bullshit FOR YEARS and Netflix did nothing. Apparently somebody finally figured that customers were worth listening to... or maybe it's because many other streaming services are treating customers with a lot more respect by not irritating the ever-loving-shit out of them...
Apparently you set it once in your preferences and it goes into effect everywhere. I haven't yet verified this, but I sure hope it's true.
And that's a wrap, little golden statue dude!
Posted on Wednesday, February 12th, 2020
There's a cruise ship quarantined off the coast of Yokohama, Japan due to a Coronavirus outbreak onboard. With the exception of China, the ship has more cases than any country on earth, clocking in at 175 people infected. The worry is that with so many people living in such close proximity that the virus will continue to spread. If that's the case, the bulk of the passengers may end up with the disease despite all efforts to keep it contained.
As a result, cruiselines are taking drastic measures to avoid this situation from happening on their ships. Most of them are canceling or rerouting cruises to China and other Asian countries. Some of them are denying passage to any customers with a Chinese, Hong Kong, or Macau passport. Anybody having visited those countries within 30 days, regardless of citizenship, will also be denied passage.
Needless to say, many passengers are canceling their cruising plans regardless of destination because they are worried a carrier of the Coronavirus will end up onboard.
The media, always hungry to stoke people's fears because fear is good for their business model, are all too happy to keep feeding the fire.
Not a good time to be a cruise company.
I've never been a big "cruising" person, but my mom absolutely loved it. She loved being able to go to lots of places on a single vacation. She really loved being able to go to so many different places without having to pack and unpack each time. So we ended up going on a number of cruises, including The Caribbean (twice), Alaska, The Mediterranean (twice), and The Panama Canal. They were all great, we had a fantastic time, and I am grateful to have found travel which was low-stress for my mom since that was all that really mattered...
Mom aboard the Dawn Princess in the Caribbean in 2004
Mom aboard the Norwegeian Jewel in the Mediterranean in 2007
Mom aboard the Norwegian Pearl in Alaska in 2009
Mom aboard the Disney Magic in the Mediterranean in 2010
Mom aboard the Island Princess in the Panama Canal in 2012
And, let me tell you, EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. people found out we were going on a cruise there was at least one of them telling us "I would never go on one of those because it's too easy to get sick when you're trapped with so many people on a cruise." Which may be true, but neither me nor my mom ever got sick. Not even so much as a cold on any of the half-dozen voyages we were on.
Meanwhile I've gotten sick after flying on planes, staying in hotels, or attending events where people were sick. I've also been run down by a van in the South of France, hit by a taxi in Chicago, and been run over by a cyclist in Salt Lake City. As if that weren't enough, I've been held up at knife-point in Seattle and at gun-point in San Francisco. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. I've gotten injured and had many other problems... all while not traveling on cruise ships.
Would I cruise again? Of course I would. There are pitfalls, sure... especially in China and especially now. But there are pitfalls in any method of travel. And the positives for cruise travel are really too good to ignore. Even if you're not a big "cruising" person like me.
While I am not much a "cruising" person, I am an amateur woodworker.
And nothing quite tests your resolve as a woodworker than having no budget to build something. I drew up a plan for a gift shop's children's book display and calculated the materials would cost $48 to build. I only had $10-$12 to spend. So instead of actual boards, I scrounged around Home Depot for the cheapest possible lumber. They had warped thin boards for cheap, so I bought $12 worth and just spaced them out as far as I could to hold exactly what was required securely...
It was a strange project. I didn't have the material to use pretty miter joints everywhere, so I used them only in the places they would show, then used butt joints everywhere else. ALL of the boards are curved. I just nailed and glued them into place, straightening as best I could as I went. Worked great, and I had a whopping 3-1/2 inches of board left when I was through!
Posted on Wednesday, February 26th, 2020
I was told last week that all my travel for March and April has been canceled. Today I was told that I should fully expect May to be canceled as well, and nothing is being scheduled for June. And that's just domestically. International travel has been halted indefinitely.
As much as I love the idea of not having to travel for four months, I am mortified at the thought of having to make up all the trips I'm missing. If this runs into July, I don't even think it will be possible for me to make up what I missed.
It's not like I haven't got piles and piles of work right here at home to get through.
Posted on Monday, March 2nd, 2020
It's interesting to note how quickly the organization I work with started canceling our travel due to the Coronavirus. Apparently the deciding factor was a Chinese tourist dying in France on Friday, February 14th (Valentine's Day) which showed that people were traveling with the virus, and flying on a plane with them could result in us being infected. This precipitated a discussion over that weekend, and word was handed down the following Monday, February 17th (President's Day) that all non-essential travel was effectively canceled.
For me this meant everything in March and April...
At the time, I had people saying "THAT SEEMS ALARMIST! YOU'RE NOT TRAVELING TO CHINA!" But since we're volunteers, I think the organization prefers to err on the side of caution. If any of us get infected, our livelihoods and family could be in jeopardy.
Of course now that people are dying here in the US and we're on the verge of a pandemic, nobody thinks it's quite so alarmist.
Then last Friday my May trips were canceled and all travel for June and July was removed from being scheduled...
No idea what this will mean for my other work travel, but the bulk of my flying is gone from the first half of the year. This will be weird for a number of reasons... not the least of which will be losing my frequent flier status! Which means no more free upgrades to First Class and a bowl of warm nuts after take-off. Not that flying coach has ever bothered me, but after having a really good chance of being upgraded for the past 25 years it will definitely be a change...
But the weirdest thing? Just being at home so darn much. My cats will likely be thrilled.
Sure my trips only last a couple days, but it all adds up. As does the exhaustion. Flying to Honolulu on a Monday then flying back home on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning is a routine that I'm used to, but it doesn't make it any less tiring.
And those warm nuts were a great consolation prize.
Though not for long, I'd imagine. Cue the world's tiniest violin.
And now, before I go, here's John Oliver and a sensible take on the Coronavirus from Last Week Tonight...
Wash your hands, everybody.
Posted on Thursday, March 26th, 2020
Today I was discussing an article about how Hollywood predicted a pandemic happening a decade ago. "Ten years seems like a lifetime ago. I don't even remember what I was doing back then... do you?"
The first thought that entered my head was "I barely know what I was doing a week ago!" The second thought was "Finally! My blog is actually good for something!" Because all I have to do is call up Blogography on my iPhone and there it is... on March 26, 2010 I was in Prague visiting the Hard Rock Cafe. And boy was that a great trip. Prague is one of the most beautiful cities on earth and I'm really grateful to have been able to visit...
Meanwhile, back in the plague-ridden future of today...
I've been pleasantly surprised to see the many authors, artists, filmmakers, and other creative types releasing their works to the public so everybody has distractions to keep them occupied while coronovirus-quarantined. One of my favorite discoveries has been a "Free Movie of the Week" over at Oh You Pretty Things. Last week was the documentary Helvetica, which was great. And now they are streaming Objectified through Monday. It's a documentary about designers and the objects they create for us. The draw for me was Jonathan Ive (formerly of Apple fame), but everybody in it is interesting. And the little stories around the objects being discussed are fantastic. You can watch it for free through Monday. Highly recommended.
Stay safe, y'all.
Posted on Sunday, May 31st, 2020
I don't even know what to say... but here's a new Bullet Sunday anyway...
• BLM! Despite being so crestfallen about the state of politics in this country that I'm trying not to blog my rage on a daily basis... something needs to be said. I fully believe that an unarmed citizen should not be dragged from their car by the police and get choked out on the street... all while crying out because they can't breathe as other citizens are telling the officers they they're killing somebody. For nine minutes. That's not law enforcement, it's murder. And when the murder disproportionately targets Black Americans? Well, that's why people are protesting. And I support the protesters 1000%, because this shit has got to stop. And, quite honestly, I don't understand why everybody can't support the protesters. I mean, my God, Black Americans have been trying to get attention to their plight via peaceful protest forever now. And no matter how they try to protest and bring awareness, they get criticized for it. Can't kneel at a football game (even though a veteran advised you it was a respectful way to protest) because people don't like it. Can't try to mention what's happening in an award speech because people don't like it. Can't have a sit-in. Can't have a march. Can't hold a rally. Can't carry a sign. Can't write an article. Can't make a movie. Can't do anything without pissing people off who don't want to be reminded of the horrific systemic racism which plagues us (and from which they likely benefit). Well, too fucking bad. Your "inconvenience" is what's going to lead to change. That's how shit gets done in this country. Just ask those who took part in the Boston Tea Party.
And, lastly, for the love of everything holy, STOP EQUATING PEACEFUL PROTEST TO LOOTING! The vast, vast number of people protesting are not looting a damn thing. As more and more information comes to light, the looting and violence are being started not by protesters, but by others for their own ends. Which include Far Left Anarchists, Far Right White Supremacists, and The President of the United States of America. They want to watch the world burn so they can start something new. Black Americans just want to be able to walk down the street and not get shot by the people sworn to protect them. Don't get me wrong... I support the idea of a police force. And I believe that officers on the front lines should have the tools they need to do their job and stay safe. But the grotesque militarization of our police has only served to escalate violence, and the lack of training for de-escalating situations before they turn violent is woefully inadequate. Instead we've got rogue police officers acting like judge, jury, and executioner. That's heinous. That's wrong. That needs to stop. Today. And a lot of police officers agree, which is why they are joining up with the protesters. It's their community too, and any officer true to their mission should be supporting peaceful protest of law enforcement abuses.
And now I'm going to go scream for a half-hour.
• Predictable! And meanwhile, this is happening...
I’ve been called a lot of names & accused of a lot of things by ER patients but it’s surreal to have a patient accuse me of falsifying their COVID result - bc they don’t believe the virus is real - as I’m actively trying to keep them from dying from multi organ failure from COVID pic.twitter.com/gyv9HQfL0F— Ryan Marino (@RyanMarino) May 20, 2020
• Misbehavin'! One of my favorite TV shows from 2019 took me completely by surprise... it was The Righteous Gemstones starring John Goodman as a mega-church televangelist pastor. And one of the best bits to come out of that show was the performance of a song called Misbehavin' by the wife of John Goodman's character and her scheming brother...
I've watched that video at least a dozen times. And if your curious about how the song came about, here's an article for you.
• From My Ranch To Your Kitchen! I've not been cooking much lately because I just haven't felt up to it. But yesterday I decided that I really need to start using the ingredients I've purchased while they're still good, so I started looking for ideas. Then somebody on Facebook reminded me of one of my favorite cooking channels on YouTube... De mi Rancho a Tu Cocina. Sure, she cooks most everything with meat, but it's fascinating. And, thanks to Google's auto-translation subtitles, you can actually follow along fairly well when you turn them on (CC button) and select "auto-translate" in the settings (gear button)...
Great stuff. Love her. It was this channel that convinced me to give a recipe with tomatillos a try with my Martha Stewart recipe box subscription.
• Armchair Traveler! So many museums and cool places are putting up virtual tours and I'm absolutely loving it. But the best one I've seen so far is the Statue of Liberty, which is sensational. You can go around and inside of it and look around 360°. Here's just a sampling of what I saw when I virtually-visited...
In the day time. But there's also night views from the exterior...
Having been up the Statue of Liberty a couple times, I fully admit that the dizzying heights and cramped quarters aren't something you can reproduce virtually, but at least you can get a taste of it. This is a view inside the crown...
The photos I just posted (courtesy of the National Parks Service) really don't do the experience justice. Head over to their site to see for yourself.
• Dates! One of my favorite vloggers, Johnny Harris, has yet another cool video up. This time he's exploring the International Date Line and why it's the way it is...
This wouldn't be the first time Google Maps has screwed up. A decade ago there was an error which caused Nicaragua to invade Costa Rica. So even though Google Maps is often viewed as a definitive source of information because it's so heavily used, it really shouldn't be. Always check your sources. And if you can't get enough Johnny Harris, check out this fascinating video about Swiss neutrality.
Stay safe, everybody.
Posted on Thursday, June 18th, 2020
I've been watching a lot of old television shows while I work lately. Though "old" is relative here, because shows from the late 80's aren't exactly ancient. But the world sure has changed a lot in 35 years. Well, it's changed quite a lot in four months, but... yeah... 35 years is a considerable stretch.
Back then you could still smoke on some domestic flights over six hours (the last flight I was on with smoking was a flight to Hawaii in 1986). Smoking wouldn't be banned in restaurants and bars until 2007. But you can still smoke in many Las Vegas casinos because children aren't allowed there.
Las Vegas started re-opening from lockdown on June 4th.
And, now, just like clockwork two weeks later, they've experienced the largest daily spike in COVID-19 infections since the pandemic began.
A big chunk of the blame is being pinned on smoking.
If you bother to mask-up at all, you have to remove the mask to smoke. You're constantly handling something that's going into your mouth. And, if you're a smoker, you're far more likely to cough than a non-smoker. It's a recipe for both getting infected and infecting others.
Just like people will undoubtedly be flocking to movie theaters when they reopen. AMC, the largest US chain, will reopen on July 15th. Surprisingly, they will not require masks if they aren't already required by the state a theater resides. Apparently they don't want to "get political."
Which means you'll be in an enclosed space for two hours with unmasked people who may be infected.
The only movies I really want to watch in theaters are Marvel movies (so they dont get spoiled), but I guess I'll be waiting for home video for the foreseeable future. $14 popcorn and rude theater-going assholes I can deal with. But a potential COVID-19 infection?
Yeah, no thanks.
Having to fly again will be terrible enough. But that's something I'll have to do. Movies and slot machines though?
Yeah, no thanks.
Posted on Monday, July 13th, 2020
I've flown somewhere every year since 1983. Today it hit me that this may very well be the first time in 37 years that I go nowhere. And I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it.
On one hand, it has been SO nice to not have to drive 2-1/2 hours to the airport... deal with airport security... sit on a plane for hours... stand in line at the rental car counter... sleep in weird hotels... live out of a suitcase... not to mention, well, this right here... and... the travel part of travel pretty much sucks.
On the other hand?
I've been stuck at home instead of out exploring the world.
Every place I had on my list to see before I die suddenly doesn't seem as important as it once was. Except possibly India. I am very upset that I haven't got to visit yet and something inside of me dies at the thought of never seeing it. I would also like to visit Africa again. But other than that? It's not so much places as it is people I will miss. I have friends scattered around the globe, and there are more than a few I'd be very sad not to see in person again one day.
In other news...
I passed on the movie Last Christmas last year because A) It only got 47% on Rotten Tomatoes... and B) I suspected I knew how the story ends up just from watching the commercials. — I was right about the story, but Rotten Tomatoes got it wrong. Maybe it's the Hallmark Christmas movie lover in me... but I thought this was a really good film. I love Emilia Clarke and the incomparable Michelle Yeoh, but had only ever seen Henry Golding in Crazy Rich Asians. His fantastic performance in that film was no accident. He is crazy charming in this movie. And it's not like you can go wrong building your soundtrack around George Michael...
A nice mid-month surprise for my annual Christmas in July movie marathon!
Posted on Thursday, September 17th, 2020
I am a huge, huge, massively huge fan of Johnny Harris.
If you read my blog with any regularity, you know who Johnny Harris is even though you may not be able to place his name. The guy is a remarkable travel blogger whose videos I have watched over and over and over again. He is the one person I can point to and say "I want to see the world like that!" Given how much travel I've done over the years, that's a pretty bold statement, but it's 100% true.
The best outlet for his work is the series Borders which was published by Vox. At least it was. The series has ebeen canceled... even though the new season (Borders USA) was mostly shot already...
Borders, which sent Johnny to interesting border zones between countries, was an exceptional look at the world and its peoples. I learned so much from this series and it actually changed the way I travel and what I do when I'm out of the country.
So... needless to say, I'm completely gutted at the news.
All is not lost, however. Johnny has been posting on his personal channel and has some very cool stuff there (he's a map-lover like I am and his map videos are amazing). His latest? This piece of brilliance...
I hope you'll give Johnny's videos a look because they're really something special.
And if you like what you see, you can help support his work via his Patreon for as little as $3 a month. A pittance given that it keeps him making really cool videos that are as good as anything you'll find on television.
So... no more Borders.
That always sounded like such a good thing for the people of planet earth. At least until now.
Posted on Sunday, September 20th, 2020
The country may be on the brink of fascism, but you've got bigger fish to fry... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Long! Ewan McGregor has made two documentary series about long-distance motorcycle trips... Long Way Round (London to New York City, 19,000 miles) and Long Way Down (Scotland to Cape Town, 15,000 miles). Both were really good series, and I was happy to learn that Apple TV+ had another series being released... Long Way Up (Ushuaia to Los Angeles, 13,000 miles)...
It was weird watching Ewan and Charley arrive in at Malvinas Argentinas Ushuaia International Airport, which was where I landed for my Antarctica expedition, and be able to say "Hey! I've been there!" The series is notable for a number of reasons, the biggest being that this time they are using electric motorcycles! Indeed, most of the show is dealing with running out of electricity and not being able to charge (25% is being cold, 25% is actual journey). The first three episodes dropped on the 18th and now they are releasing the rest of them, one each week. If you like motorcycles or travel or really cool people having amazing adventures... or, if you're like me and love all three... this is the series for you. All it takes is an Apple TV+ subscription!
• RGB! Very sad to hear of the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Her dedication to the law and this country resulted in a lot of good things. Even sadder at the thought of a Supreme Court Justice landing in The Court who will strip rights from women... from LGBTQ persons... from minorities... from the poor... from the disenfranchised... from anybody who doesn't fit into the singular mold of making sure that straight, white, wealthy, Christian men are the only people who have rights and protections in this country. But, alas...
• Minutes! I've stumbled across a YouTube channel called "minutephysics" that's pretty great. And it all started when I saw their video on masks this past week...
The entire channel is gold, and you can check it out right here.
• Yo! And, on that note, WE GOTTA YEET THIS VIRUS, YO!
• Closer! Because I rotate through my streaming services, I didn't get to Sundance Channel in 2019 so I could watch the second season of So Close when it debuted. Instead I got to it late... which worked out okay because I saw it at a time I needed to see it most...
In the first episode, there's a laugh-out-loud moment that really got me into the new season. But then it crashed right into showing just how big a mess that Michael and Kate are. Again. And if you thought that Michael was screwed up the first time around, you haven't seen anything yet. Because it's not him being deaf or gay that defines him... it's that he's a fucking disaster. A bomb just waiting to explode all over everybody. Again. And I had gotten to the point where I was going to stop watching because we've seen this all before. But I stuck with it. And then they kinda used that to take the show into an interesting place and I was hooked. By the time we were at the final episode I was in love with the show and wanting more. Again. Except... NOT IF WE'RE JUST GOING TO END UP BACK WHERE WE WERE FOR THE THIRD TIME! For the love of God, get these people to a healthier place and grow their characters from there. Anything else is just more of the same and we're bored of it. You can watch This Close on The Sundance Channel.
• Criminal! And speaking of television... I absolutely love happening across a show I’ve never heard of before and finding something really good to watch. Criminal: UK is fascinating, and the stories and guest stars for each episode are great! Worth a look of you’re into this kind of show...
I binged every episode, and am looking forward to watching the other versions of this show... Criminal: Germany, Criminal: Spain, and Criminal: France.
• Conspiracy! Sometimes you see something float by on Facebook and feel it to your very soul...
Pretty much how it goes.
And that's all she wrote, true believer.
Posted on Thursday, October 1st, 2020
With television production shut down and the new television season pushed back for the foreseeable future, I've been turning to YouTube for entertainment while I work. There's just so much to experience. And since everybody else is probably in the same boat with running out of stuff to watch, I thought I'd go through some of my favorite YouTube channels that I watch regularly. I did this a while ago but wanted to update after I learned that Great Big Story is shutting down.
Channels I watch because I want to learn something. There are so many brilliant educational channels that it blows my mind, and I'm regularly linking to them in my Bullet Sunday posts. When I'm alerted that Veritasium has a new video available, I drop everything and watch immediately. Derek Muller breaks down science like nobody else, and his latest video is the kind of stuff I obsessess over...
Channels I watch because I just think what they do is so fascinating. Baumgartner Restoration is just video after video of Julian Baumgartner restoring fine art... mostly paintings. That alone would be amazing to me. But it's the things he develops to be able to do the work that blows my mind out of the back of my skull. He did a SIX PART SERIES on restoring a painting which was painted on wood. But before he even got to the point where he was working on the actual paiting, he had to use his engineering and fabricating skills to build a special table to do it...
Baumgartner is like some kind of renaissance guy who can do everything. And he has one of the most soothing voices and most agreeable personalities of anybody I've ever seen. There are few things I can watch which will calm my mind faster than Julian working on his latest project. Another brilliant channel for watching somebody make magic happen? My Little Bakery is filled with Nadia's incredible icing artistry and has to be seen to be believed. I mean...
Another fascinating thing to watch is Calligraphy Masters which was originally for learning calligraphy, but also features beautiful lettering art I can't get enough of. And then there's the cool stuff that Mark Rober does, which is about as fascinating as it gets.
Channels I watch because I love woodworking and home reno. My favorite hobby is working in my garage wood shop and doing my own home renovation. YouTube has been invaluable in learning how to do all this stuff. The channel I look at first is always Home RenoVision DIY where Jeff will give you all the dirt on how to get professional results from your projects and save money while doing it...
Another person doing God's work for learning renovation and home improvement is skateboarder Ben De Gros at Vancouver Carpenter. For pure woodworking, Peter Millard is another great channel. And I love Fix This Build That as well.
Channels I watch because I want to keep up on tech. My favorite tech blogger is Marques Brownlee. The guy is smart as hell, has a subtle funny streak that makes him fully relatable. He reviews the stuff you want to see, but doesn't get bogged down in too many details nobody cares about. I didn't see his Apple Watch Series 6 video before I bought mine, but I was livid when I finally got to see it because HE HAS THE WATCH I WANTED TO BUILD THAT APPLE WOULDN'T LET ME! A Project RED watch with a black band...
Marques may not want a red watch... BUT I DID! Except I couldn't get it with a black band. =sigh= If you're looking to majorly geek out to tech, Linus Tech Tips has been around forever and sometimes goes reeeeeally deep into the nuts and bolts of it all. And then there's Unbox Therapy, which is exactly what it says in the title.
Channels I watch because I want ideas for new things to cook. But many of them I watch because I just like to watch cooking channels. Especially foreign cooking channels where you can turn on auto-translated subtitles and see how masters of their craft work. Like De mi Rancho a Tu Cocina...
And if you love pasta, the artistry found on Pasta Grannies is remarkable...
Channels I watch because I want to be more informed on Current Events. All media is biased. All of it! but when you recognize their biases you can use that to expand how you see the world. I'm not saying I'm going to watch Far-Right assholes or Far-Left assholes... that's just torture. But I'll tune into channels by those on the Right or Left if I think that they have something to actually say on a subject and aren't just parroting extremist talking points and don't consider their views to be above the facts. David Pakman is highly opinionated towards the Left, but not beyond all reason. Somebody who is labeled as Right, claims to be more Left, but strives to ride down the middle and distill information wherever it lands, is Joe Rogan Experience. Rogan gets a lot of hate from both sides, some of which is justified, but he has thoughtful commentary and does a really good interview. Here he is with Pakman and some fantastic discussion that really needs to happen...
There was another interview with Pakman which was equally good and equally important from this year (and highly disturbing in hindsight). Seriously. Tune into that.
Sure, Rogan skates on the edge of conspiracy theory sometimes, but the guy got me to change my mind on Bernie Sanders, and that ain't nothin'...
I love that there are conversations which can make me look at a person or an event or an ideology in a different way... or even change my mind. Joe Rogan's show is really good at this kind of thing. Even though I definitely don't always agree with him or his guests, I keep watching.
Channels I watch because I want to challenge how I see and live. I know that Russel Brand can be problematic. The guy has some views which I consider to be naive, impractical, and just plain bonkers. And yet... he is one of the smartest, most caring, most insightful humans on this planet. And he's hilarious. And it's because of this that I tune into every one of his videos. A third of the time I have to bail because the discussion is not something I'm interested in exploring with him, but the other two-thirds? Fascinating stuff. Take this short 12-minute video where he discusses the presidential "debate" fiasco we just endured...
Yep. Yep. Yep. I mean, Russel is more "big picture /slash/ in the grand scheme of things" here than he might should be... if you believe in a woman's right to choose (to throw out one example) then there is a huge difference between President Trump and Joe Biden getting elected. But is he wrong that our political system is primarily interested in self-preservation over addressing the needs of a diverse population and that the big-picture items won't change much because it's all run by people who only care about money? Fuck yes, he's right. Or, to be more accurate, he's not wrong. And it's not just politics and the hideous crap going on in the world today. Russell has a number of videos on self-help and personal growth that can be inspiring and helpful. Another channel along these lines is Rich Roll. It's not like he's going to convince me to adopt a 100% plant-based diet or become an endurance athlete, but Rich has some very good insight on living a healthier, most enlightened life and I enjoy hearing his thoughts.
Channels I watch because I want to see people being human. It's really easy to get disassociated from humanity even when there's not a pandemic. It's not good for us. It's not healthy for us. It's not fun for us. But it happens. So there are a few channels I subscribe to simply because I like to watch and feel more connected to people. Yes Theory is a good example. The crew there do things and go places and ponder ideas that are just so very... human, and I love to see it. Take a look at this video where Thomas visits the least-visited country on earth to see what I'm talking about...
God I love videos like this. How can you not? The crew's latest video is where they paid somebody to be their friend for 12 hours. The result was wonderful...
And there you have it! Some of my favorite YouTube sites! And I didn't even get to those sites that I watch just to be entertained. I guess that's a list for another time.
Posted on Friday, October 9th, 2020
Phenomenally gifted musician Eddie Van Halen died this past Tuesday at the age of 65.
As I seem to do any time somebody passes away at a younger age than my mom, I immediately count my blessings that I had her for as long as I did. She died at 73, which still seems awfully young, but it's eight years more than Eddie's son had. Had my mom died in 2009, there would have been no Disney cruise through the Mediterranean... no cruise through the Panama Canal... no trip to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos... no trip to Africa... not to mention countless other memories I have from that precious time I got with my mom that Wolfgang Van Halen did not get with his dad. And my heart is crushed for him thinking about it. Though I'm sure he probably feels lucky he got the time he did when he thinks about those who lost a parent even younger than Eddie.
All this was weighing on my mind this morning when I was getting ready for work. So I took a half hour to look through the travel books I made for my mom from our trips together. I haven't thumbed through them in over a year because it was just too painful. But now? Still painful... but not so much that I have a total melt-down just taking them off the shelf. Now they're just page after page of fantastic memories that I am overwhelmingly grateful to have had. I got to travel the world with my mom... how cool is that?
On the afore-mentioned Disney cruise through the Mediterranean in 2010, one of the ports of call was Civitavecchia, Italy. This was the stop for an hour-long drive into Rome. Since we had been to Rome three times prior, I asked if she wanted to hang out on the ship instead of heading into the city. She, of course, wanted to see Rome again. Not only was she adventurous like that, but I am fairly certain it was one of her favorite places on earth. Never one to pass up an opportunity to eat at Alfredo alla Scrofa, my favorite restaurant in the world, I made the arrangements and off we went...
On the bus-ride I asked what she wanted to do in Rome besides lunch and the only thing she said was that she wanted to go The Colosseum. For whatever reason, she loves the thing, and we ended up going every time she was in The Eternal City...
I thought it might be fun for her to toss another coin in the Trevi Fountain. It's said that if you have your back to the fountain and toss a coin with your right hand over your left shoulder, you are guaranteed another trip to Rome. She did this our first trip together and here we were on our fourth, so it must work, right? Here she is trying to figure out which hand you use over which shoulder. If there were an audio recording you'd hear me saying "Other shoulder, mom!"
Alas, we never made it back to Rome again, but I'd hardly blame it on the fountain since it worked really well that first time.
With hours left to kill we went to The Vatican. I had never been on the roof of St. Peter's Basilica, so I thought we might as well take a look rather than getting lost wandering in areas I wasn't familiar with. But before that we went inside to kill more time. The church is stunning in a way the vast majority of architectural structures are not, so you simply can't see enough of it. My favorite thing there is Michelangelo's Pietà, one of the most sublimely beautiful works of art you'll ever see. It depicts Mary holding her son Jesus after the crucifixion...
I was explaining to my mom that Michelangelo was just 23 years old when he started work on it, and the piece was considered controversial because he depicted Mary as a young woman instead of somebody far older as had been customary. This has always been fascinating to me, and I noted that her face wasn't contorted in anguish because this would add creases and folds that would age her. My mom nodded and replied "She still looks sad to me." When I told her that I thought Mary looked more serene in her grief than sad, mom said "But she does look sad. She may be the mother of God, but she's still a mother who's lost her son. How else could she look?"
And there's no debating that. I was looking with my eyes... my mom was looking with her heart. She tended to do that a lot. Probably because it was a talent she had baked-in. I, on the other hand, have to work at it.
But not when thumbing through my mom's travel photo books. Looking with my heart is all there is.
Rest in peace, Eddie Van Halen. Your music was a voice for the generations.
Posted on Monday, October 12th, 2020
I woke up in a haze and, for a quick second, didn't realize where I was. Maybe I was having a flashback to when I was globe-hopping in back-to-back-to-back trips and would forget where I was because the time changes and lack of sleep mess with your head. I've told the story of how I woke up once in a blind panic because I didn't know where I was or how I got there. Everything was unfamiliar and weird. It was the most scared I have ever been, and I didn't figure out what was happening until I turned on the television and saw a cooking show with adorable children using sharp knives and boiling water. They were speaking Japanese, at which time I remembered that I was in the small city of Fujikawa. I had been to a couple cities in Europe for vacation, flew to the East Coast USA for a meeting, flew back to Seattle so I could trade suitcases and get clean clothes, then immediately flew to Japan for work. It was exhausting stuff, but I was young and could handle it. Apparently now I'm decrepit and have trouble waking up in my own bed.
Don't get old, people, nothing good can come of it.
Tomorrow is Amazon Prime Day and another Apple Event.
I'm hoping denim goes on sale so I can afford jeans in the former and that the low-light capabilities in the new iPhone Pro make it worth the trade-up on the latter.
I'm optimistic but expecting disappointment.
Such is life when you don't know where you are and how you got here.
I'd argue that this is my new normal... but, when I really think about it, that's the way it's always been.
Posted on Wednesday, October 14th, 2020
Thanks to my volunteer work, I am accustomed to working with people who have unfathomable wealth. And while I can't speak for all of the vastly wealthy persons on earth, those I've worked with for charitable causes have also been unfathomably generous.
But just because I am accustomed to it doesn't mean that I am used to it. You never get used to being next to that kind of wealth. When you get to a certain financial level, money loses all meaning. You don't look at price tags. You don't care what something costs. You know you can afford it regardless of how much it is, so you don't have to care.
One of my many functions was to assist donors and their families before and after my meetings. Mostly in Las Vegas. Arranging for translators. Making reservations. Looking into custom experiences. Finding transportation. Researching people, places, and things. I pretty much had to do it all. Or at least be in charge of finding the people who could actually do it. Some of my friends familiar with my work assumed this made me a "Vegas Insider" but nothing could be further from the truth. Sure I could drop a name to jump a line from time to time, but unless you have millions upon millions of dollars, I really can't help you. Anything I might have an inside track for would be way above your price range.
I never minded being on-call 24/7 to assist absurdly wealthy people with their desires, questions, concerns, and problems. As somebody who loves adventure and likes to travel, it was like visiting an entirely new world. I got to see things most people probably think they know from watching TV shows and movies, but the reality is wildly different. At least most of the time it is.
I could blog for months about all of the stuff I arranged or was witness to. Mind-blowing stuff. Funny stuff. Inexplicable stuff. Obscene stuff. Crazy stuff. In the decade I spent volunteering, I saw it all. For obvious reasons, I can't talk about any of it. People entrusted me with discretion, and the last thing I would ever do was break that trust.
I can give some examples though!
On one of my last trips I had to work with a store to arrange for a jewelry purchase to be securely transported. I never found out what the purchase was (the translator /slash/ personal shopping assistant I worked with would only mouth the words "holy shit" when I enquired) but you just know that hundreds of thousands of dollars (millions of dollars?) was on the line to require that kind of fuss to be made. I was so nervous about it that I personally oversaw the loading/unloading.
On another trip I had to arrange shipment of a painting. And, no, I didn't walk it across the street to Kinkos. The gallery just needed me to provide details, gather information, contact a customs broker... that kind of stuff. And then I had to sign off on it all. The insured price was just over $6 million. I broke out into a cold sweat and asked to know what I was signing for. The agent took me to a private viewing room where the work was still set up for examination. Once I saw it, my legs turned to jelly. "Is the artist who I think it is?!?" I somehow managed get out. "Oh yes."
Many times I was asked to arrange for dining and show tickets and other mundane things. Except it is never really mundane when you do it for the people I was assisting. Restaurants and shows which are fully booked or sold out to me suddenly because no problem for them because money starts getting involved. And while I was forbidden from accepting gifts or anything (the sole exception being additional donations, of course!), I did get to experience life behind the golden curtain from time to time. I would receive permission to attend a private dinner... or an event... or otherwise indulge in a life far removed from my own. After a culinary tour I thanked my host because the vegetarian courses were some of the best food of my life. "I'm so happy you enjoyed it!" they replied. Later I found out that the chef who prepared the food and accompanied us was world-famous. I also found out that the cost per person for the event was $7,500 plus expenses. For 16 people. I was aghast... until I found out the $120,000 was all donated. Then I was aghast in a different way.
Since the pandemic shut down my volunteerism and my travel, I don't know if I will ever again get to drift through the private world of the über wealthy. Something tells me I might be done... even if the organization I work with starts up once more. That kind of travel and that kind of work takes a toll on you after a while.
Instead I get my unobtainable wealth fix like everybody else does... by watching TV shows and movies!
My obsession right now is Island Hunters...
It's like House Hunters and House Hunters International but instead of choosing from three houses to buy, these people are choosing from three islands.
Now, right off the bat I have to say... the people on this show are not what is considered "über wealthy." They have budgets, which is something truly über wealthy people just don't have.
But they might as well be über wealthy as far as I'm concerned. Because you won't see me touring million-dollar islands and being all worried as to where I can put the caretakers and servants so they don't intrude on my experience! And I certainly have never had to figure out where to build a helipad, that's for sure.
The show is kinda bonkers.
Island #1 is the right size, on-budget, and has a nice beach... but neighboring islands are too close and the existing house is not at all adequate and would have to be torn down so something more acceptable could be built!
Island #2 is under-budget with fantastic views, but is smaller and undeveloped... so it would take money and time before it was ready for construction and the house would only be 3,000 square feet.
Island #3 has gorgeous beaches, plenty of land, a great dock, and a home which would work with extensive renovation... but it's over-budget.
WHICH ISLAND WILL THEY CHOOSE?!?
I am really hoping that one day I'll be watching an episode and the buyer says "I just can't decide... so I want to buy all three!" because that's more in-line with what an über wealthy person would say.
Wealth is wasted on the wealthy. Wealth should really be given to somebody like me who knows how to spend it properly! So if any über wealthy person out there wants to make sure their money is spent right, my email address is in the sidebar of every page!
Posted on Friday, November 6th, 2020
There's a feature in iOS 14 where you can have a "photo widget" on your home screen. It pulls photos from my phone that I see every time I wake it up. Most of the pictures displayed are of my cats because most of the photos on my phone are of my cats. But there are occasional photos of my travels... or my friends... or my mom and my family... or scenery I thought interesting enough to capture. Every once in a while it pops up with a photo I transferred from my "real" DSLR camera to my phone.
This morning when I woke up it was a penguin from my epedition to Antarctica...
I remember taking this shot with perfect clarity.
You are instructed not to approach within a certain distance of any wildlife... like six feet or something. But it's okay if wildlife approach you. It's not like if a penguin walks up that you have to turn tail and run away or anything like that. This happened to me a couple times. The first time was at Hydrurga Rocks where the above photo was taken. The penguin was bobbing along as penguins do when I dropped down to take a photo of him. He stopped, looked my way, then hopped over within a couple feet...
I would have offered him a fish if I had one on me, but I did not, so he gave me a once-over then wandered away...
And so I found myself thinking about this penguin for a good chunk of my morning. What's going on with him? Is he still around? Still healthy? Hasn't been eaten by a seal or something? How long does a penguin live anyway? What's the life of a chinstrap penguin?
Turns out the Chinstrap Penguin AKA Pygoscelis Antarcticus can live for up to 20 years.
So maybe he's still around. Swimming in ice-cold waters. Hunting for fish. Sunning himself on rocks. Doing whatever other penguin stuff that penguins do.
That would be nice.
I know thanks to climate change things are getting tough for arctic and antarctic wildlife, so it's nice to think that he's doing okay.
Or she's doing okay? Males and females look exactly the same and the only way I could ever tell was if they were next to each other since males are larger than females. Which is probably why they are the ones who end up fighting over pebbles to build nests? I should probably look into that one of these days. Maybe the next time a penguin pops up on my iPhone home screen.
Wouldn't want to misattribute penguin outrage.
In Washington State, so long as your ballot is postmarked by Election Day, it will still be counted even if it arrives at the polling station up to 20 days after Election Day. Obviously we are not a battleground state... WA is about as blue as blue can get thanks to the massive progressive voting block on the Seattle-side of the mountains... but, technically, our election is not over until November 23. So when I hear people in Washington going on a tirade because votes are still being counted in other states... it takes all my willpower to keep from telling them to take a seat. If we were a battleground state deciding the election and the vote was close, WE would be potentially delaying things for weeks. But it's all good. The Office of the President doesn't transfer until noon on January 20th.
Save your human outrage for something else.
Posted on Tuesday, November 10th, 2020
I am fortunate that my home is fairly energy efficient. It must have pretty good insulation to keep the heat out, because I barely have to run my air conditioning in the Summer. The Winter is a different story. It gets so cold where I live that the heat has to run often just to maintain a temperature of 72º F when I'm home. My smart thermostat drops to 70º F while I'm at work and 66º F when I'm sleeping. The cats don't seem to be much bothered, but they have heating pads to sleep on if things are too chilly for them. As for me? I wear wool socks and extra layers... and I have a heated throw for my couch and a heated blanket for my bed. It's not ideal, but it aves me a lot of money on my energy bill. And it works.
Except when it doesn't.
At around 2:30am I woke up with terrible leg cramps. And I was freezing.
Apparently the heated blanket on my bed has died.
The coldest I've ever been was not Antarctica. Not even close. The coldest I've ever been was at a Berlin train station in the middle of Winter. It was so cold that I couldn't feel my legs... and my fingers and toes (once I managed to heat them back up) were tingly for days. The second-coldest I've ever been was on top of Cadillac Mountain in Maine waiting for the sun to rise. That one was on me. I just had to get photos from the first place to see sunrise in the United States. Worth it though...
This morning was nothing that bad. But it sure felt like it. And so I guess I need to order a new hot blankey. This is a no-brainer purchase because the money saved on my power bill will pay for a new blanket in just one month. I toyed with the idea of trying to repair it, but I think an electric blanket is one of those rare cases where that isn't an option. It's just my luck I would screw something up in the electrical system and the blanket would burst into flames in the middle of the night.
Slightly worse than waking up cold, I think.
A shame it couldn't have failed closer to Black Friday though.
That's also just my luck.
Posted on Wednesday, November 25th, 2020
You can't stop progress. Or whatever passes for progress now-a-days.
Seattle has some iconic landmarks... The Space Needle... Pike Place Market... The Seattle Public Library... it's a unique city with a unique and interesting history (and if you want to know just how interesting, then the book for you is Sons of the Profits: There's No Business Like Grow Business. The Seattle Story, 1851-1901).
One landmark which Seattle recently lost was the Elephant Car Wash sign. I've seen it many, many times driving into the city... usually on the way to The Seattle Center. The sign has been there since before I was born...
Image taken from Google Maps Street View
Image taken from Google Maps Street View
But now it's been taken down...
Image by Alan Berner / The Seattle Times
It was inevitable that it had to come down one day.
But it seems strange that I've outlasted it. At least at this location. It's being moved to permanent display at the Museum of History and Industry. I am trying to picture driving down Denny Way and it not being there.
Maybe it would be best if I just circumnavigate the location in the future so I don't have to?
That way I can stop progress just a bit. If only in my head.
Posted on Thursday, December 17th, 2020
Last night it snowed. Not a ton, but enough to turn the world white here in the foothills of the Cascades.In the Northeast, of course, it's another story entirely. Which means even if there wasn't COVID happening, I'd likely be unable to get to my annual December work trip in Maine. Assuming I could even fly into Boston and the roads are open, there's still a matter of 2-4 inches of snow falling per hour... followed by rains which will freeze at night. Not a pretty scenario.
Back on my 2014 trip, similar conditions were brutal, and it took a half hour to scrape the ice off my rental car and get the tires free from having been frozen to the ground...
But I can't complain too much. Being stuck in Portland in the bitter cold gave me the opportunity to go exploring with my camera and I got some really nice shots that trip because so few people were out braving the weather...
It will be interesting to see how my travel goes in 2021. Now that the charity has shuttered and work travel has halted indefinitely, it's entirely possible that I'll take just one or two trips a year for vacation or visiting friends and that's it. Quite a change from the dozens of trips I was making each year pre-pandemic. Though when you consider I had zero flights in 2020, even one flight will be a huge change from where I'm at now.
Oh well. I guess the frequent flier status and upgraded seats were good while they lasted. I had 5 years of good status followed by 25 years of amazing status and nothing lasts forever. Still... I will surely miss getting International upgrades. Domestic flights are no big deal. Seattle to Hawaii is just over 5 hours. Seattle to Orlando is around 6 hours. I can tolerate just about any seat for that long. But those 11+ hour flights? Having legroom and comfy seats makes a world of difference.
2006-2013 were my best travel years. When both you and your mom (who has zero status) regularly get upgraded to World Business Class for international trips... you know you are flying a lot of miles. An absurd amount of miles...
Those were the days.
In other news... hate comments continue to trickle in because I dared blog about the movie Dashing in December and showed a photo of two gay cowboys dancing together. I hardly ever read hate comments and delete them the second I know what they're about... but this morning I awoke to a comment which merely said "YOU WILL BE DAMNED!" and I had to really appreciate the artistry in that. A comment short enough that I had read the entire thing before I realized it. If I were to respond to this kind of idiocy (and I don't) it might be along the lines of "Settle down there, snowflake! It's not like I posted images of the gay cowboys kissing!"
Well I'll be damned. I actually did do that!
Please keep your hate comments short and to the point.