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There But for The Grace of God…

Posted on February 2nd, 2018

Dave!This past week a guy from Berkeley died while snorkeling off the Southern coast of Maui. The ninth such tragedy in two weeks. It happened off Maluaka Beach, which is in front of the (former) Maui Prince Hotel, which became the (former) Makena Beach Hotel, and is now condos or something. Back when I was traveling to Hawaii for work, I stayed at the Maui Prince many times. I've snorkeled off Maluaka Beach many, many times. In fact, it was off Maluaka Beach where I learned to SCUBA dive.

It's one of my favorite beaches on earth...

Maluaka Beach, Makena, Maui

Maluaka Beach, Makena, Maui

   
Needless to say, hearing about people dying someplace you've been to many times gets you thinking.

        The Boston Marathon bombing was on a street I've walked down many times.

        9/11 happened in a building I've been up many times.

        The Vegas shooting was in an area I've been through many times.

The list goes on and on. Floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, fires, terrorism... it's all happening somewhere, and sometimes it happens in places you know. Having to reconcile happy memories with tragic events is a struggle.

As is life, I suppose.

   

Dave17

Posted on December 31st, 2017

Dave!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.


JANUARY

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...

President Obama Photo by Pete Souza
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza


   
FEBRUARY

Took my cats to the vet for the first time, something I am definitely not looking forward to doing again in the New Year...

Jenny Hides

Jenny Hides

Jenny Exam


   
MARCH

Went to Disneyland for work, then ranked my all-time favorite Disney attractions.

Cali Weather

   
• 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.


   
APRIL

• Said goodbye to Lil' Spicey...

Lil' Spicey's Last Press Conference

   
Built a built-in desk... for my cats, apparently.


   
MAY

• Flew to Denver to celebrate my good friend Howard's 50th birthday with the Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2!

Baby Groot


   
JUNE

• Built new built-ins for my bedroom closet, which turned out amazing...

Dave's Home-Built Closet Organizer!

   
• Had one of the biggest scares of my life during The Great Jake Escape...

   
Back to Vegas again (for work this time).


   
JULY

Said goodbye to my long-time blogging friend, Anissa.

   
Welcomed Carl the RoboVac to my family...

Eufy RoboVac 11 vs. Jake!

   
Flew to Maine for blueberries (and for work).


   
AUGUST

Said a painful goodbye to my good friend and long-time blogging buddy, Howard.

It's Howard!

   
• Lived through Raccoonageddon.

   
Live-blogged my photographing the eclipse (with my cats).

Total Eclipse Uneclipsed Sun Shot!

   
Read The Nashville Statement so you don’t have to.


   
SEPTEMBER

Lived through another round of wildfires in my neck of the woods.

Smokey Drive Home

   
Built a tunnel for a bird to escape my home before my cats could murder it...

   

   
OCTOBER

• 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...

Lil' Dave in his fire truck

   
Added Joy the Mopping Robot to Carl the RoboVac and my growing family.

Jenny Eyes Joy Suspiciously!

   
Got my cats into the Halloween spirit...

Skeleton Cats


   
NOVEMBER

Had a colonoscopy... and posted photos of my beautiful colon (you're welcome!).

   
• Flew to Maine and finally visited Acadia National Park...

Bass Harbor Head Light Visit

   
Visited the Eastern-Most Point in the USA at West Quoddy Head Light on a bad weather day...

West Quoddy Head Light Lighthouse

   
• Was first in the USA to see the sun rise at Cadillac Mountain...

Sunrise from Cadillac Mountain in Acadia

Sunrise from Cadillac Mountain in Acadia


   
DECEMBER

• Flew to Buenos Aires and visited Evita at Recoleta Cemetery...

Recoleta Cemetery View

   
• Took in the view at The End of the World...

End of the Road at the End of the World

   
Headed out across The Drake Passage in some of the roughest seas on earth...

M/V Ushuaia in The Drake Passage

   
• Fulfilled a life-long dream when I finally set foot on Antarctica for the first time...

Penguins at Hydrurga Rocks

Penguins at Hydrurga Rocks

   
Photographed Antarctica icebergs at "night"...

Glacier Icebergs

   
Explored the lives of penguins...

Cuverville Island Gentoo Penguin Bath

   
• Had one of the most amazing days of my life when I stepped foot on the seventh continent...

Neko Harbor, Antarctica

   
Got up-close-and-personal with some whales...

   
More penguin photography at Half Moon Island in Antarctica...

Half Moon Island 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.

   

Eve’s Day Drive

Posted on December 24th, 2017

Dave!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...

Mountain Pass Drive

Mountain Pass Drive

Mountain Pass Drive

Mountain Pass Drive

Mountain Pass Drive

Alas, my visor-clip broke apart half-way through, so I missed recording some of the glorious snow-filled wonder.

Catch you after Christmas!

   

Better Living Through Pharmaceuticals

Posted on December 19th, 2017

Dave!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.

And yet...

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.

And so...

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.

   

The Seventh Continent

Posted on December 18th, 2017

Dave!And so I updated my Travel Map last night.

I've now step foot on all seven continents, which is pretty cool bragging rights...


Dave's Travel Map

   
I've also come one step closer to finishing off my travel bucket list. Two down. Eight to go...

  1. Africa. Who doesn't want to experience an African safari? Who doesn't want to see elephants, gorillas, lions, rhinos, giraffes, and the dozens of other amazing creatures that can be found there? This is another one of those trips that requires a massive stack of cash to do right.
  2. Antarctica. The reason I haven't been to Antarctica yet is solely a matter of money. I don't just want to float by on a cruise ship... I want an actual expedition, and that costs an absurd amount of bank. I'm hopeful I can get it figured out one day soon, because I don't know how much longer I'll remain healthy enough for such an adventure.
  3. India. It seems insane that one of the destinations I most want to visit on earth is still on my to-do list. I think the problem is one of time and logistics. There are simply so many places in the country I want to visit that I can't decide on an itinerary that would fit in a two-week period. I'll get it sorted eventually, I suppose, but every time I've tried in the past I get mired down with the fact that I need five weeks to do what I want to do, and no way to take that much time off.
  4. New Zealand When I visited Australia two years ago, I drew a line through Sydney and created a trip north (including Fiji), and a trip south (including New Zealand). I ended up going north because the southern trip would take a week longer and an additional $1600... both of which I didn't have. But that southern itinerary is still there. I still want to do it. I just need the money and the time. Again.
  5. Peru & Galápagos Islands. Machu Picchu is a bucket-list item that I've been dreaming of for decades. The Galápagos Islands is also on my list, and seems like an easy pairing for one trip.
  6. Jordan & Israel. There are many reasons I want to visit Jordan but, naturally, seeing Petra before I die is probably the biggest. And since it would be insane to go all that way and not visit Israel, another place I've longed to see, this is a dream trip.
  7. Brazil. Visiting Rio de Janeiro, Fernando de Noronha, The Amazon Rainforest, Ouro Preto, and dozens of other places in Brazil is kind of a no-brainer. But I want to see Iguazu Falls. Badly. It's just such an amazing spectacle on movies and television that I cannot fathom how amazing it would be to see in person.
  8. Moscow & St. Petersburg. This is a pretty simple trip to plan... just call up a company who does river cruises (like Viking) and sail from Moscow to St. Petersburg while enjoying all the amazing stuff in-between. Easy! At least it's easy if you've got lots and lots of money.
  9. Norwegian Fjords. A cruise along the coast of Norway through all the beautiful little fishing towns and jaw-dropping scenery seems like one of the most relaxing vacations ever. And I blame my obsession with experiencing it on Disney's Epcot. They show a movie after you go on the "Maelstrom" ride in "Norway" that shows just how amazing such a trip would be, and I've been dreaming of it ever since.
  10. Nepal. Always wanted to go. Still want to go. Need to find a way to go. Have never put enough time into figuring out how to go. Really must 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.

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Bullet Sunday 534

Posted on December 17th, 2017

Dave!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.

Penguins!

   
• 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).

SmartWool Sock!

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...

Antarctica Neko Harbor

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...

  • Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets — I went into this movie with such huge expectations... it was to be the spiritual sequel to The Fifth Element for heaven's sake. But it let me down in so many ways. Watching it again with zero expectations let me enjoy it for what it was, and I may actually kinda like it now.
  • Atomic Blonde — I loved this movie so hard. Between the Cold War spy plot, perfect 80's soundtrack, and Charlize Theron kicking abundant amounts of ass... it was too good to be true. It only improves on second viewing.
  • The Mummy — THIS is what was supposed to kick off the new, improved, and unified "Dark Universe?" So bad. So groan-inducing awful. Tried too hard to capture the fun of the Brendan Fraser version and failed miserably. Really hated it.
  • Logan Lucky — Smart. Funny. Surprisingly good entertainment.
  • Ghost in the Shell — As a huge fan of the original manga and animated series/film, I was let down by this ScarJo movie spectacle. On second viewing, the problems are still there... but the amazing visuals are too. I don't hate it. I just wish it could have lived up to its potential.
  • Power Rangers — It starts with a bull masturbation joke and just gets progressively worse from there. The TV show reveled in its cheesiness... the movie tries to take it seriously and failed utterly. Nothing makes sense. Everything is stupid to the point of being offensive. I'm embarrassed for everybody involved.
  • John Wick: Chapter Two — Really wish I saw this in the theater. The original completely surprised me with how good it was. This one was just as good despite my high expectations. The ending sets us up for a third installment that promises to up the stakes yet again... I'm ready.
  • Alien: Covenant — While not the disappointment that Prometheus was, it still falls way, way short of being Alien-worthy.

   
And... no more Antarctica for you. Or for me. See you next week.

   

Day Sixteen: ATL -> SEA -> Home

Posted on December 15th, 2017

Dave!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.

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