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Vegas Redux, Day Two

Posted on June 21st, 2017

Dave!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).

And yet...

My colleagues wanted to eat in Paris, so there goes my vow not to eat at expensive restaurants...

Paris, Vegas

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...

Le Car Rental Sign at Paris, Vegas

After lunch I was walking back to my hotel and spotted BETTY WHITE SLOTS as I was walking through the casino!

Betty White Slots at the Aria Hotel in Vegas

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...

M&M's World, Las Vegas

M&M's World, Las Vegas

The Caramel versions are okay. From the advertising, I had thought the caramel would be more liquid, but it's actually firm and chewy...

M&M's World, Las Vegas

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!

Hershey's World, Las Vegas

Hershey's World, Las Vegas

And, of course, there's Chocolate Liberty...

Hershey's World, Las Vegas

I was pleasantly surprised to see that they completed The Park adjacent to New York New York. It's pretty nice!

The Park, Las Vegas

The Park, Las Vegas

And... other than some hotel hopping for dinner, that's all she wrote on Vegas today.

   

Vegas Redux, Day One

Posted on June 20th, 2017

Dave!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...

  • Aria
  • Bellagio
  • Caesars Palace
  • Excalibur
  • Luxor
  • Mandalay Bay/Delano
  • Mandarin Oriental
  • MGM Grand
  • Monte Carlo
  • New York New York
  • Sarahara (now SLS/The W)
  • Venetian/Palazzo
  • Wynn/Encore

The thirteen left to go...

  • Bally's
  • Circus Circus
  • Cosmopolitan
  • Flamingo
  • Harrah's
  • Linq
  • Mirage
  • Paris
  • Planet Hollywood
  • Stratosphere
  • Treasure Island
  • Tropicana
  • Vdara

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 Hilton Las Vegas in Google Maps StreetView!
The old Hilton sign (which was at one point the largest freestanding sign on earth... maybe still is!).
Images ©Google Maps

The Hilton Las Vegas in Google Maps StreetView!
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 Westgate Las Vegas in Google Maps StreetView!
The revised sign, now Westgate. Still home of Benihana's though!
Images ©Google Maps

The Westgate Las Vegas in Google Maps StreetView!
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...

Nacho Daddy Dinner!

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...

Jenny Catching Bugs on the Catio!

And that's Vegas for you. Now I should probably get some work done or something.

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Nothing, with All That it Entails

Posted on June 7th, 2017

Dave!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...

XXX

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.

   

Trains in Absentia

Posted on May 30th, 2017

Dave!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?

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Bullet Sunday 507

Posted on May 21st, 2017

Dave!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...

Laura Palmer... She's Dead, Wrapped in Plastic!

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...

  • The Salish Lodge, Snoqualmie (The Great Northern Hotel).
  • Reinig Bridge, Snoqualmie (Ronnette's Bridge).
  • The Roadhouse Bar (Bang Bang Bar), Fall City (The Roadhouse Bar).
  • Kiana Lodge, Poulsbo (Blue Pine Lodge & Dead Laura Beach).
  • Mar-T Cafe (Twede's Cafe), North Bend (The Double R Diner).

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.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

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..."

   

A Map of Places

Posted on May 10th, 2017

Dave!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...

Dave's Travel Map

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!

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Travel Day

Posted on May 5th, 2017

Dave!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...

Lil' Dave's Mind is Blown

Do people actually fall for this?

Anyway...

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.

And so...

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.

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